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HALLOWEEN STORY PART ONE                              Take me home, delicious heart.



by Christopher Shelton and Kelly Martin






   The alleyway was silent other than the distant yowling of a stray cat in heat and a rumbling from a corroded pipe. The humid air couldn't even be bothered to ruffle Vitus' hair as he was dying.
   He knew it, he was dying-- for good this time. He couldn't move his eyes anymore. The last bit of moisture in his veins dribbled out of a nostril and began matting into his hair. He was too far gone to even lose his mind and lick the coagulated spatters of his own gore. He let his consciousness slip away. The world really wasn't fair. No matter how many times he tried to convince himself otherwise, it really wasn't.


   A soft whistle echoed off the battered walls. It was some old song, twenty years out of date.
Not that there was anyone living to appreciate it.  







   The Glass Stem was still open as the night drew on and on. The musicians were getting tired and their instruments were screeching and squawking like dying birds. The club was darkest this time of the month, when the bills were stacking up and the owners couldn’t afford to bring the cleaners in for a few days at a time. It was better that way. What the patrons couldn't see couldn't hurt them. (Unless they slipped in it.) The floor was sticky and grimy with unidentifiable fluids, and the air was dank and salty. Only the diehards stayed this late. Everyone else was sensible enough to get liquored up and bug off to a better scene. Only the most pathetic drinkers remained scattered at their own tables, their heads floating in the darkness like drunken eggs in oily puddles. Only these lonely desolate chaff remained, who didn’t care about health hazards or ambiance or company.

   Outside the club was a small area for the workers to smoke, a distance away from their diseased patrons. Sometimes grimy sex acts happened here, against the rough brick wall. The ground was sooty and covered in a thousand splotches, whether from spit, chewing gum, phlegm or more sordid body products. The area was fenced in with rusting slats that penetrated the crumbly earth. Just beyond the fence was a sparsely grassed ditch, filled with trash and broken car parts. Bar employees tossed broken appliances over the fence and they lay rusting in the drainage water. An old refrigerator must have been deemed un-repairable, and it leaned against the fence still full of rotting food. The door hung open like a slit throat and it bled a stream of wriggling maggots. The air was stagnant and humid on this summer night. The sluggish wind pushed weakly at the grass, hardly able to move it. It only succeeded in swirling around the same fetid scents like a spoon in a tea cup.

   Four figures sloshed through the brackish water, and another stood on the chunky earth above. A woman stood on the embankment in a ragged cotton shift, adjusting her cheap wig. She bent down, the faint wind barely tugging at her pink dress, flapping the ragged strings at its hem. She sorted through a pile of bloody bodies at her feet, rifling through their suit jackets and digging into their pockets. The five corpses were becoming stiff as the night wore on. The hot summer air didn't help. Their skin was darkening and becoming blotchy, pooling with blood. 


     “Hurry up Irene,” one of the bald men in the ditch called, “we haven't all day fer ya to do yer shoppin'.”
   “I'm just lookin' for hankies, I need one and them rich types always got a pritty one.”
   “Nasty. Don't dig around like a mutt. We already got their rings,” a thinner man with pointed ears shuffled in the water. “I don't like gettin' soggy."
   “Oh fine,” the woman wiped her hands off on her dress. Most of the blood was dry by now but in the jostling the corpses leaked again from their various wounds. The woman picked up the body of a man  much larger than herself, his herringbone suit torn open through the middle, and black with dried blood. She hoisted the body over her shoulder like a large bag of laundry, and tossed it into the ditch below. The men scattered to avoid the splash of muddy water as the corpse fell with a loud 'ploomp.'
   “Doll, don't be cross! I'll buy you a damn hankie,” the thinner bald man said, rolling his eyes at his pale, hairless brothers. 


   “It’s the principle Trower! I hate to waste…” she shifted in her over-large fur coat, which sent out a puff of loose hairs. She pulled up the body of a lanky woman by her arm. The corpse’s dress ruffled and elegant but its original color completely unidentifiable.
   “Thatta girl…” Trower accepted the body like Irene was delivering a parcel. He unceremoniously dumped it into the water next to the other corpse. The other three bald men shuffled, bored but unwilling to help in the dull chore. Their clothes were dark and ratty, accessorized by oddly fancy details like an expensive wool scarf and fresh kid gloves now mottled dark by the filthy water and blood. Trower had just begun to drop a corpse wearing soft gray gabardine trousers, when he lurched, flaring his nostrils.
   “Wot now.” Irene muttered.
   “No no no…” Trower whispered, “Bad trouble. Let’s go.”
Trower gave the other men a serious look, shaking his head. With a sweeping movement of his arm, his black coat became more tattered. With the shreds of fabric seeming more like feathers, he hopped up. In a blurry movement, like a raindrop had smeared his image, he became a thin, ragged crow and flapped off into the sky. The others shrugged and joined him. Irene lingered a moment, sniffing at the air until she found the scent he’d noticed— A certain man’s cologne; like bay rum and tobacco. She leaped, twisting in the air, her threadbare dress turning from pink to black, like her body had become ink which soaked into the weave. Then they were gone. Two bodies remained in the pile, one half dragged down the embankment. 


   A man in a natty tweed suit stepped out of the Glass Stem. He paused, sniffing the air, his hair carefully pomaded into complete submission. A woman followed behind him, her eyes heavy with resigned irritation.
   “Can’t enjoy a simple meal,” she muttered. The man held up a thin, elegant finger.
   “Rats,” he said, “can’t enjoy a meal with rats scrabbling at your feet.” 



   “Demetri,” she continued, ignoring his concentration, “you have a way of ruining any leisure time with business.”
    She rolled her eyes, and followed him as he walked purposefully to the rusted fence. He stopped short of it, pulling his lips together tightly in a concealed expression of rage. With a small step back, he jumped up, barely brushing a foot on the top of the fence and landing on the other side with a small thump. His companion was not impressed by the gravity defying maneuver, which made him seem like a smartly dressed cat jumping on a tall bureau. Not wanting to exert herself or risk snagging her silk dress, she simply faded into a vague shadow cast by the building, and emerged on the other side of the fence intact. Her brother was already fuming about the corpses.
   “Rats! Pigs… No. Insults to both,” he shook his head fiercely. “Look at this mess! Toss a bunch of bodies into the ditch, and look Francesca—” He gestured to the darkening water. “They weren’t even hungry, just bored and greedy for more trinkets to hawk!”
   Francesca shrugged, her big dark eyes completely impassive to her brother’s ire.
   “What’s it matter?” she said, carefully arranging her high-heeled feet to avoid the mud. “It’s just picking up candy wrappers left by unruly children— a mild inconvenience. Why get so riled up about it?”
   “It’s insulting. They are not my children. I don’t need to have my personal business interrupted to clean up after them.” Demetri gestured broadly, his face pinched up in frustration.
   “Are you sure it’s not little Vitus plucking at your heart strings? Is he ever so convincing in his little moral theories? ” Francesca asked, letting a little smirk curl her lip. 



   “For that—” Demetri gave her a pointed look, “you can deal with this chore. Don’t send your cleaning bill my way, dear Sister.” 
She sneered after him as he set off to deal with his own unspoken chore. She knew she'd rather torch these corpses any day than deal with Demetri's task. He didn't seem to mind though, sometimes he seemed to even enjoy it.




  Vitus Whitestone hadn’t known this much freedom since the days he still breathed. He liked to imagine it was his own doing, but he knew Demetri had the biggest part in extracting him from Angela’s grip. He'd nearly grown used to spending all his time hiding from the horrors with his books. It was a surprise when Demetri began asking to see him. He hadn't spoken more than ten words to him for the first few years. Perhaps it had taken him that long to get over the resentment about Henry. Vitus didn't blame him, he'd had plenty of time spent to consider his actions.
   With Demetri's help he'd been able to achieve a lot more freedom. Angela was not easy to convince, but if anyone could do it, it was Demetri. He was always full of philosophy too; ways to deal with the strange guilt and terrible things they saw. He needed that, he had never been very brave even in life. It was only recently that he was setting out on his own. It was a different world from the one he’d known as a youth. He’d been dead nearly fifty years; he would be a stodgy old man by this time. Even his books were out of date.

   He wandered in the south end of Harlan, among the squat brick buildings and the musty smells of the sticky sidewalk. It was a good time of night; quiet.  He was maybe a little hungry, but he put that urge off. It was too much work talking to girls to bother to do it more than he needed to.
   He stopped his stroll abruptly, the sole of his shoe squeaking. Blood. Dead blood. That wasn’t a good smell to pick out of the swirling mire. Ten thoughts occurred to him at once, nine of which involved ways to get home the fastest. He shook his head at his cowardice. He was a damned immortal, so it was time to start acting like one. He followed the scent, trying to look resolute by hiding his nervous hands in his pockets.



   The alleyway reeked with the heady scent of old blood. It was like the filthiest butcher shop conceivable with its spoiled wares on display, dripping and gnarled. Pale corpses were pinned through with bits of rebar, rammed all the way through solid walls. Like a huge, gory butterfly collection strewn about. Vampires, their innards were dark and dry like week old carcasses, but the blood on the ground was still fresh and liquid. They didn't move any more-- they were dead, for good. A dark movement fluttered just around the corner. Vitus dashed that way, feet skidding through smears of blood. He caught only a glimpse of a burst of black which dissipated into the air. Three flapping crows disappeared into the sky. In the corner of the ghastly alley, a thin figure stood casually. It moved towards him and sighed -a familiar smell.
   “Oh well. I'm bored of chasing them.” Demetri gingerly removed his soiled gloves. His shirt was remarkably spotless given the condition of the environment.
   “Demetri! How… why would you do this?!” Vitus dropped all sense of stoicism with the familiar face, letting his large eyes get even larger and knotting his eyebrows up in a disturbed expression.
   Demetri shrugged. “It was deserved. Believe me.”
Vitus turned his head from the corpses. “Sometimes... sometimes I'm not sure if I should believe you!”
   “Oh little Vitus. You know as well as I that they aren't humans. They're murderers, grisly, terrible murderers!”
   --And you aren't? Vitus thought, biting his lip. Demetri didn't seem disturbed by his accusations.
   “You should have seen the mess they left. Innocents, they killed complete innocents. All unarmed of course--”
   “--Okay. Fine. It's just... is this really necessary? It's not right, it's.. it's...”
   “What do you suggest I do instead? Let them murder and thieve unchecked? Wonder what the murders will be like when they know no one is going to stop them?”
   “I don't know, couldn't you just... Hasn't anyone tried to just talk sense with them?
Demetri rolled his eyes like he was discussing finances with an infant.
    “Dear, that is preposterous but almost charming. If you have such a desire to reform the disgusting, why don't you learn to do it yourself?”

   Vitus cocked his head, his pale eyes darting around as he thought. “That's... actually a good idea.”


   Demetri watched the young lad sprint off into the night. He brushed his suit off with a furrowed brow. “What does he mean by 'actually a good idea..?' "  




   Vitus followed the scent of the escaped crows, running around buildings and over fences like a common cat burglar. More accurately, with his nimble jumps and balancing-- a common cat. He scanned the sky for birds-- a rare sight this time of night. Like good humans, they slumbered as well. All around, pigeons, sparrows, finches... they slept invisible to the naked eye in trees and bushes. At last he spotted three crows huddled together on a telephone wire. Their dark feathers betrayed no heat, no breath. Vitus moved slowly as a blurring, silent shadow. They didn't seem to notice him. He realized he had no plan other than to approach them. What was he going to say? What COULD he even say? These vampires had witnessed their friends being brutally killed, and nearly were killed along with them. He just had to let them know that he understood their situation, and sympathized.

   He watched from the corner, waiting for a brilliant plan to avail itself. Eventually, the three crows flapped to the ground. Before they even landed they swooped and stretched, transforming into thin, dark-garbed humans. Their faces were solemn but intense, their features carved deeply into their pallid skin. They were silent, staring off into the night in some intense, unspoken emotions. Vitus knew he had to approach them now, while they were earth-bound. He spoke from his invisible position, all vague shadow-- his voice seemingly emanating from nowhere at all.

   “Excuse me--”

In a second they were taking flight again, not waiting for him to finish his proposal.
   “Wait!” He dashed ahead with unnatural alacrity and snatched a black bird already on the wing. “Stop! I just want to talk!”
    The bird in his hands thrashed and cawed abrasively. The small bird's fellows returned, swooping in an arc and dropping out of the sky with hateful faces and clawed fingers. 



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