Chapter 58: Death Wish
Eli stumbled back into the room with the dining table and the trail of dead zombies. He could barely still walk, but somehow he made his way across the room to the table. He leaned up against it, trying to catch his breath, trying to stop his mind from reeling, trying to stop his vision from spinning.
He felt like he was dying. Or, perhaps, already dead. Maybe without knowing it he had become just another species of undead wandering about this necrotized planet.
Or maybe he was just too rapidly running out of the few things that made him still feel like life was worth living.
As his vision cleared, he realized that a body was lying on the floor beneath him. This body was not like the others. For one thing, its head and skull were entirely intact. For another, it had a large wooden shaft sticking out of a bloody wound in its chest.
This, he realized, had to be Michael.
“You… bastard,” he said to the motionless corpse. He staggered over to the body and dropped down to his knees. Reaching out, he wrapped his fingers around the spike and wrenched it with all his strength until it came loose.
“You bastard!” he shouted, and drove the spike back into the dead creature. “You had her and you destroyed her!” He pulled the weapon out and drove it back in over and over as he continued shouting at the lifeless vampire. “You ruined her! You hurt her! How could you do that? You bastard! You bastard! You… you…”
He dropped the spike on the ground and collapsed next to it, his chest heaving from exertion.
“How could you?” he said one last time, to the ceiling.
He lay there, exhausted, for what seemed like ages. He didn’t move, even when he heard a door open and close, and the sound of footsteps moving across the floor.
“This the last one?” a growly voice asked.
There was no verbal response, but a sound of movement that Eli took as a shrug. Two faces appeared above him, looking down on him with their shark-like teeth bared.
“Get him up,” said the one that had spoken earlier.
They reached down and pulled him to his feet. The one on the right held him while the one on his left began searching him for weapons. He immediately found the two wooden spikes, tossing each away over his shoulder as if disgusted by even the touch of them.
“What’s this?” he asked, pulling out the bottle of water from Eli’s pants.
“Water,” Eli croaked. “My water. Please. I… I’m so thirsty.”
He reached for the bottle, but the vampire pulled it out of his reach. The creature spun off the cap and sniffed uncertainly at the air above the open top. He cast a look at his companion and shrugged. The second vampire shrugged back.
“Maybe it’s poison?”
Eli’s hand snaked out faster than even the vampires expected and knocked the bottle free from the creature’s grip. The bottle itself bounced harmlessly off the crouching vampire’s chest and then fell to the floor, but the water splashed out as it went, spraying the vampire with its deadly content.
The creature fell away, hissing as steam rose up from its body. Eli used the momentary distraction and dropped to the floor, grabbing for the spike that had killed Michael. His felt it in his hand, and his fingers started to close around it.
Something like an eighteen wheeler plowed into Eli’s guts, hitting him with enough force to completely lift him off the ground and flip him sideways through the air.
He collapsed on the ground, coughing, rolling, and clenching his teeth through the pain. In the corner of his vision, through the blackness creeping into the edges of his vision, he could see the vampire that had kicked him – a kick of truly inhuman and unexpected strength – making its way over to him. He tried to will his body into action, to get up, to run, hell, even to scramble on all fours. Anything. But the pain was too great.
The vampire knelt down, grabbed Eli, and lifted him with surprising ease. Eli tried to fight. He punched and kicked, but he had little more success than a four your old would have fighting his much older brother in the same position. The vampire scowled at him, turned, and threw him over the table.
Eli hit the ground rolling uncontrollably. When he finally came to a stop he felt like all the bones in his body were broken. He didn’t move. He couldn’t move. He lay there, face down, ready to die.
His turned his face just enough to see across the room from under the table. He could see the feet of the vampire as it shifted position, preparing to leap across the table toward him.
Something moved in the corner of his vision. Eli lifted his head, looking. It was one of the spikes Aliyah had given him. Somehow, perhaps due to the brief scuffle, the spike had rolled across the floor to this side of the room. Eli saw just one chance at survival. Somehow, impossibly, he pushed himself up to his hands and knees. He stumbled forward a little until he could grab this spike. Sliding it out of sight behind himself, he stood up.
The vampire he had been fighting straightened and smiled wickedly. “So, you do still have fight left in you. Delightful.”
Eli’s response was to break into a run. When he neared the table, he grabbed up one chair by its back, and used another chair to propel himself up onto the table top. He raised the chair he had grabbed above his head and brought it down toward the vampire. The vampire did not seem concerned, but merely raised its arm to fend off the blow.
Eli let go of the chair, letting it fall harmlessly onto the vampire’s waiting arms. Grabbing the spike now with both hands, he drove it into the vampire’s chest.
The creature straightened, and stared at Eli in shock. Eli stared with equal shock back at it. The vampire put its hands on the spike and stumbled back a couple steps before falling unceremoniously onto its backside. It opened its mouth as if to say something, and then slumped over backwards and went still.
“No!” shouted the other vampire. It grabbed the table and flipped it, despite Eli still standing on it. He lifted into the air, flying one way while the table spun out spastically in another.
Eli collapsed again to the floor, and this time the last of the fight went out of him. He coughed a couple times, and felt something wet his lips. He tried to lift a hand to wipe at them, but found himself without even the strength for that.
The vampire stepped over to him. He grabbed the table when it got in his way and threw it, single handed, against the wall with so much force that it cracked and broke apart.
He stooped over Eli, grabbing him by the lapels, and lifted him up off the ground. He kept walking until he could push Eli’s back up against a wall.
“You killed Oleg,” the vampire accused. “Now you’re mine.” He opened his mouth, baring his needle-like teeth.
Eli watched him through half open eyes, breath coming in heaves. He was too tired to fight. “Are you… the vampire king?” he asked.
The vampire jerked back, eyes going wide with shock. “Vampire… king?” he echoed. Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed. “There’s no such thing as a vampire king.”
Eli blinked with confusion. “No… such thing?” He shook his head. “But, there has to be. There has to be a first vampire.”
The vampire shrugged. “I suppose. But we’ve never called ourselves vampires. And even if we did, and there was a first, I’ve certainly never met him.”
Eli felt his heart sink. This was not the news he had been expecting. If there was no vampire king, no first vampire, then he could never break the curse, and he had come all this way for nothing.
The vampire, unconcerned with Eli’s feelings, opened its mouth again and moved in for the kill.
The vampire froze mere millimeters from Eli’s throat. Eli felt no resistance swelling up inside of him. He was ready to let the vampire bite or tear, or whatever it wanted to do. But at the words ringing through the air the creature stopped completely still as if enspelled.
“Marceau, back off.”
Marceau, the vampire, again complied to the voice, closing his mouth and pulling his head back. He kept Eli pinned to the wall and his face close, still ready to bite.
“He killed Oleg,” Marceau protested. “He deserves to die!”
“You know the rules,” the same voice, a feminine one, replied. “No turning, no killing. We capture. We need them.”
“Not this one,” Marceau growled through clenched teeth.
“Even that one,” the female replied.
Marceau looked back at Eli, eyeing him up and down as if considering going ahead with his plans. Growling, he let go and finally stepped back.
Eli dropped to his hands and knees, too weak to stand up. With some effort, he managed to lift his head and surveil the newcomer for the first time.
The first thing that he noticed was that she was stunningly beautiful.
Most of the other vampires looked like, well, like people that had been living in a cave. They weren’t especially well groomed, their faces were hard, their hair was long and wild, and skin a sickly pale.
But this vampire, this woman, was different. Her skin was porcelain white, her hair a silver waterfall cascading off her head. Her clothing was clean, and looked expensive. Her eyes glowed with a deep red in a way that should have been frightening, but somehow only added to her beauty.
Most of all, she carried herself differently. Most of the vampires slouched, like they were coiled and ready to spring. But she stood fully upright, an air of dignity and magnificence about her. She looked… like a queen.
Like a vampire queen.
Eli didn’t know where the energy came from, but suddenly he burst into motion. He blasted past Marceau, shoulder checking him so hard the vampire spun a little, losing his footing. Eli leaped over to the broken remains of the table and snapped off a wooden leg. Without stopping, he curved his run to bring him in towards the woman. He led with the table leg, holding it like a jousting knight, aiming it directly for her heart.
To his surprise, she didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned. She just watched him as he moved, a look of amusement, if anything, showing through on her noble features.
Something piled into Eli, knocking him off his feet to end up a short distance away on his back. There was a creature on top of him – another vampire that had come seemingly out of nowhere. It straddled him, grabbing at the table leg and trying to pry it from his grasp. He grabbed onto it with both hands, fighting the blur of motion for control. He kicked and bucked, anything to give himself the slightest advantage, but to no avail. A fist pounded into his chin, dazing him just enough for his opponent to finally rip free the table leg.
The newcomer vampire stood up and backed away. Eli watched it as it tossed his makeshift weapon to the side of the room, away from them all.
Eli held his injured jaw with both hands and cursed silently to himself. Something bumped into his side. He looked down.
It was the bottle of holy water.
Eli rolled over on top of it as he rose to his hands and knees. He grabbed up the bottle and held it tight against his chest. He took a prerequisite time to catch his breath, and then rose quickly back to his feet. He dove for another broken piece of wood, which happened to be the broken chair arm Amber had used on Michael.
He could hear footsteps approaching behind him and spun, swinging out his arm. The holy water flew from the bottle, splattering the oncoming vampire right in the face. It screeched in pain, covering its face with both its hands. Eli slammed the chair arm into the creature’s chest with all the force he could muster. The screeching immediately cut out.
Hardly stopping to revel in his victory, Eli yanked the spike free and ran again for the vampire queen. Again she did not seem worried as she watched him close in on her.
He slammed his feet solidly into the floor, drawing to a sudden stop just beyond arms reach. He jerked his arm holding the bottle forward, and a last little bit of the holy water flew out straight at the vampire queen.
She stepped aside, and it passed harmlessly through the air.
Reaching out an arm, she grabbed him by the hand holding the wooden chair handle. He could feel her grip crushing his against the unyielding wood. Without letting go, she turned, pulling him along with her, and sent him crashing to the floor.
As he tumbled, he lost his grip on the bottle and it spun off into the distance. His other hand, though, seemed to be broken, and he couldn’t let go of the chair arm.
When he finally came to a stop, the vampire queen let out a sigh and crossed her arms. “As fun as it would be to spend an entire day watching you try, and fail, to kill me, I do have an entire race to watch over.” She turned her head, glancing out the door she had used to enter the room. “Bring them in,” she called.
Several vampires stepped into the room, leading Jay, Aliyah, and Gabriel with them.
Once more, and for perhaps the last time that he could bear it, Eli felt his heart sink.