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Three Years

Bob didn’t really think the three girls were going to fuck him. But if they’d been three twenty-something males who’d knocked on the door of his isolated backwoods house after dark, he likely wouldn’t have invited them in.

As they filed in, he had misgivings. Then he saw the girls’ fangs extrude, the planes of their faces subtly shift.

A tide of horror rose and blocked his airways, horror at his fate as well as his stupidity. Also something akin to ecstasy: Holy shit, they’re real! They really are real!

They beat him up some, enough to demonstrate their superhuman strength. Then the two dark-haired girls ripped his pants and underwear off while the tall cheerful blonde cupped his genitals in her icy undead hand. The girls explained that if he didn’t cooperate then Cassy, the blonde, would tear his nuts out. The nuts tried to retreat back into his graying pubic fuzz, without success.

“Let me ask you something,” sneered one of the dark-haired girls—the other two called her Krista. She had a thin hard mouth, like a hatchet cut. Cassy was the scariest of the three, because she was the one holding his nuts in those chilly talons, but Krista struck Bob as the nastiest. “You believe in vampires. You must—you co-founded a militia devoted to our destruction. You must know there’s a possibility of vampires gunning for you, thanks to this militia. And yet when three strangers show up after dark, you invite them in. I mean, are you fucking retarded?”

A fair question. Maybe they’d cast some sort of glamour? They didn’t seem to think they’d cast a glamour, though…. Anyway, he knew better. He’d had a dream of a world infested with vampires, a world in which he could be the scourge of said infestation. He’d poured money and endless time into this dream: co-founding the Christian Hygiene Militia, outfitting it, recruiting, sifting through the recruits to weed out the really crazy ones. But here, at the moment of truth, he’d failed to believe in his dream. Happened all the time.

Empty beer-bottles and fast food containers and pizza boxes littered the house. Even so, the girls found his smartphone easily. They demanded the security code to unlock it, Cassy encouraging him with some totally unnecessary balls-squeezing.

But he balked when Krista said, “Now, you’re gonna call your boyfriends and set up a meeting of that militia, over at y’all’s compound. For tonight; say, three-thirty.”

It took Bob a second to work up enough spit to say, “I … I can’t do that….”

“Sure you can! You’re a founding member.”

“No, I mean, I….” He wanted to say that he couldn’t betray those guys, his buddies, some of them his cousins. But the feeling of Cassy’s hand on his testicles and the certainty that she would indeed rip them off made such a claim feel hollow and absurd.

He looked at the third girl, the one who hadn’t said much, the one with the chapped, eczema-dusted skin. Maybe, just maybe, her relative silence meant she wasn’t as enthusiastic as her companions about torture and carnage. Trying to lock eyes with her, he whined, “Please … y’all don’t have to do this….”

She recoiled, furious. “What do you mean?! You were trying to kill us! Who the fuck do you think you are?!”

Krista laughed. “You tell him, Stacy.”

“Come on, make the call,” said Cassy, giving his balls a remarkably painful squeeze. “And don’t forget, if you do anything funny, I’ll do something hilarious.”

So he left a voicemail; all the senior brothers of the Christian Hygiene Militia would call in and check the messages once per hour till midnight, as usual. That was the system they’d set up, just in case. They’d hear his voice, his rank (he’d made up the ranks himself), the correct password (mene, mene, tekel, upharsin). They’d follow his order to roust up the brotherhood and get them on the grounds by three-thirty in the morning.

Right into these vampire bitches’ trap.

Krista took the phone away from his ear and pressed the button to disconnect. Fat, oily tears were rolling down Bob’s ruddy, unshaven face. “My buddies,” he croaked, “my buddies. I can’t believe I did that. How could I have done that?”

“Totally natural,” said Krista. “Survival instinct.”

“Yeah,” said Cassy, “you were just trying to save your own life, is all. The only thing hard to understand is that you thought it would work.”

“Aw, no! C’mon, you fuckin’ bitch, I did what you said….”

Cassy squeezed his penis and testicles to paste and leaned in to chomp his salty, bristling neck. She sucked hard, and he didn’t last long.

He was dead but his blood was still hot. Cassy pulled her sticky red face away with a gasp and said, “You guys want some?”

“I’m not putting any of that Christian shit in my mouth,” spat Krista, with the kind of bitterness sometimes born of early theological disappointment, sometimes of a childhood spent in a terroristically religious household.

“Well, I’m hungry,” said her cousin, Stacy, and leaned over Bob’s neck to suck.

“Come on, Krista, don’t be such a snob,” teased Cassy. Hard to say whether she knew how much Krista hated it when Cassy called her a snob. Cassy intimidated Krista; she’d seen more of the world, and had had that fancy Ivy League education, which definitely was forever out of Krista’s reach now that she was a vampire (albeit not that much further out of it than it always had been, frankly). For Cassy to call her a snob always left Krista discombobulated, and vaguely suspicious that she was being made fun of. Maybe Cassy didn’t pick up on that, but Stacy did, and when she heard the word “snob” her throat tightened nervously around the blood jetting down it.

“You don’t know these Bible Belt assholes the way Stacy and I do,” said Krista defensively. “We grew up here in the Ozarks, you know.”

Cassy shrugged. “Well, I’m not saying Billy Bob here is Mr. GQ Suave or anything.” Indeed he was not. Stretched over his large, sloppy belly was a faded T-shirt that sported a screaming bald eagle gripping a Confederate flag in its talons. A sweat-stained ballcap had toppled from his rather irregularly but substantively egg-shaped head to reveal the sparse, short gray hairs imperfectly carpeting his red scalp. It wouldn’t have been fair to judge the rest, given the ripped-off pants, crushed genitals and ravaged neck, but probably none of it had been particularly attractive even before the girls had shown up. Cassy continued: “But I don’t think it’s fair for us, of all people, to make fun of him just for being religious. I mean, we ourselves are pretty clear evidence that the universe has a supernatural element. Right?”

“Right,” said Krista, in a tone like she’d be glad if Cassy quit talking.

“I mean, if you think about it,” continued Cassy, brightly, “Billy Bob here turns out to be a lot closer to the truth about reality than the rest of this secular society.”

Krista couldn’t stand it. “These assholes haven’t been gifted with some sort of spiritual vision. At most they think saying they believe in God is a way for them to get into Heaven without ever having to do anything else. Or they don’t even believe that—they just say they do because everyone else does. Or they like to spout their shit because it lets them pretend to be stewards of women’s bodies or whatever.” She slapped Bob’s belly; it was still loose and warm enough to jiggle. “I don’t want Bob here’s hands on my uterus, thank you very much.”

“Are you talking about abortion?” said Cassy. “Because I’m pro-life, you know.”

No one said anything. Like, for a while. Gas wheezed out of Bob’s corpse with a pop, then a hiss. It sounded like a low, appreciative whistle of surprise.

“Cassy.” Stacy finally, cautiously ventured her way into the exchange. “I mean, dude—you just killed this guy, Cassy.”

“Well, sure, I mean, obviously I do not personally practice a pro-life lifestyle.” Cassy liked to hold forth, and you could hear in her voice that she was getting ready to dig into a nice big helping of that pastime. “But that’s because I’m an unethical person.”

“Stop fucking around,” said Krista. “It isn’t funny.”

“It’s just my opinion.”

“I said it isn’t funny!”

“Oh my God, Krista! Dude, we are the undead. We’re, like, immortal now. And you’re still hung up on this sort of political tribalism?”

“Didn’t you go to fucking Oberlin? Aren’t y’all supposed to be the most boys-wearing-dresses woke-ass liberal bubble there is? So how can you not see what’s so obvious to a dumb-ass skank drop-out like me?”

“Um, yup, ich bin eine Oberliner. And sure, when I was at Oberlin I favored lax abortion laws. But that was because, working under the assumption that the universe and life are immanent-frame phenomena, I was working with a process-based definition of human life…. Gosh, how can I explain?… Okay: in the absence of a soul, the essence of a human being must be the mind. And the mind is a process, temporally finite, bound by a beginning point and an ending point. Unlike the soul, which as far as we know might stretch infinitely far in both directions!…

“Let’s say, for example, that a human mind is like a Bach fugue. And the brain is like the piano. That’s the way pro-choice people ultimately frame it…. Now, the fugue might be immaterial and all that, ethereal, but it still depends on the piano for its existence. If the piano is still being built, and the fugue has never been performed or even completely written, then it’s ridiculous to talk about the fugue already existing. Similarly, if we define a human being as being fundamentally a mind, then it’s ridiculous to talk about a mind existing before there’s a brain upon which we can ‘play’ it. There’s no brain, ergo no mind, ergo no human, ergo abortion can’t be murder.

“That’s how I used to think. But then I got turned into a vampire. Whoa! Paradigm shift! All of a sudden I was undead. I mean, here I am, still existing, and yet my body is dead. Just, like, an animated corpse. No heartbeat, all that. So, obviously, a human being is not merely a process enacted by and necessarily depending upon the functioning of a human body. Because mine doesn’t function, and yet I’m still here! This seems to strongly suggest that the essence of a human being is some element which, unlike mind, is utterly unrelated to the body. What could that be? Well, I think we have to call it the soul.

“So, if we admit the existence of the soul (which, being vampires, I think we have to do), then we have to rethink our definition of murder. In the first paradigm, ‘murder’ would mean disrupting the functionality of a human body to such an extreme degree that it would no longer be able to ‘play’ a human mind, and that mind would disappear. In that case, it would be absurd to talk about ‘murder’ before the body is sufficiently developed to ‘play’ the mind. If the essence of a human is the soul, though, then ‘murder’ must simply mean to prematurely sever the link between body and soul. And since we can’t detect the soul, we have no way of determining how or when it attaches itself to the body. But the moment of conception seems like the best guess to me. Ergo, abortion is murder. QED.”

Krista shook her head in sour awe. “I can’t believe how much you talk,” she said. “Or the way you do it.”

“Well, it’s not that big a deal. I’m still going to help you kill these Christian Hygiene Militia guys.”

“I mean, I have hardly any idea what the fuck you just said. Am I just too much of a dumb white trash piece of shit like Bob here to get it?”

“I don’t know, I guess maybe you are,” chirped Cassy, unfazed.

Stacy shut her eyes. Like a bunny trying to turn itself invisible. But not even she foresaw the violence of Krista’s reaction.

Krista bitch-slapped Cassy across the face so hard that she sent the other vampire flying through the wall of the house. All the way into the yard, to land in a tumble of rubble.

Stacy stared through the cloud of pulverized plaster at the hole in the wall, trying to process what had just happened. “Jesus, Krista,” she murmured, trembling.

Krista started to stalk toward the hole; by the time she passed through it she was levitating. Cassy was still on her ass in the leaves and drywall and brick, in the cloud-clogged moonlight. The mingled bloods of many victims dribbled from her nose and lips. She stayed on her butt, dazed. She tapped the back of her hand to her face, then held it before her to stare at the blood that had leaked there. “What the fuck? What in the serious fuck?”

“And his name isn’t Billy Bob! It’s just plain Bob!” Krista meant the words as a bellow, but they came out cracked and squeaky.

Laughter bubbled happily up out of Cassy, her bloody face and ignominious flight through the wall forgotten. That laughter caused Krista’s mood to deteriorate yet further.

“What do you care?” demanded Cassy. “It was your idea to kill the guy!”

“Billy Bob is an actual name that a person from around here might have! Not just a funny gag! A fucking joke! You just think you’re so much better than us redneck trash, don’t you?”

Cassy, busy picking herself up and slapping the leaves and dirt and plaster off her clothes and out of her hair, didn’t notice the word “us.” That was why she so nonchalantly answered: “I don’t know if I’m better than redneck trash, I just know that I can kill them.”

Cassy might not have noticed the word “us,” but Stacy had. Now her blood ran midnight-cold. Krista would think Cassy was saying she could take out Krista. It was a totally fucking ridiculous misunderstanding—but Stacy knew without a doubt it was happening, in Krista’s head. And it gave her a bad feeling about the near future.

“Well, fuck you then,” said Krista. “Go after your fucking Christian Hygiene Militia, but do it without me and my cousin.”

“Oh, come on!” Cassy sounded really appalled. “We planned this together and everything. You want to kill these guys!”

“Not with you I don’t. I don’t want to ever see your elite, skanky ass again, not unless you’ve got a fucking stake stickin’ outta you.”

“But, Krista,” said Stacy timidly. “These Christian Hygiene guys—it would be good for all of us, to take them out. Because their whole thing is killing vampires. Plus, there’ll be a lot to eat.”

Krista didn’t acknowledge the observations. “Come on, Stacy,” she said, and rose into the air. Stacy followed suit, sneaking an apologetic look Cassy’s way.

Cassy stared after them. “Seriously?” she repeated. “That’s it?”

Krista jabbed a warning finger. “If I see you again,” she said, “I’ll kill you.”

* * *

Now, Krista had always been hot-tempered, even as a mortal. And the turn to vampirism often involves a darkening of the personality; what was mere irritability in a mortal might curdle into quick-trigger homicidalism in a vampire, along with a certain decaying of the faculty of reason.

In short, whereas Stacy and Cassy might have shrugged off Krista’s threats as hyperbole, back when they were alive, as vampires listening to a vampire they took that shit seriously.

Besides, although Cassy tended to put a glib face on things, the truth is that vampires give up quite a bit for the sake of immortality. So if someone threatens to take that from them, their guard goes up.

Stacy supposed their short fuses made sense, from an evolutionary point of view. A vampire was a creature which could only survive by murdering human beings—it stood to reason that Mother Nature should therefore endow the vampire with a predisposition to violent murder.

But Stacy knew she hadn’t had such a predisposition before the transformation. How many other parts of herself had changed, without her even knowing? Was she even the same person anymore, or had the death of her old self been the price of immortality?… But whatever. Stacy didn’t spend a lot of time gnawing on questions like these. She didn’t see the point of getting lost in the weeds.

* * *

Once they were back at the lair, Krista roughly told Stacy that she was going out and ordered her to stay put. Then she zipped out again, into the gray night sky.

For a long while Stacy mopingly obeyed. Out of fear? Well, yes. Not that she believed Krista would kill her, the way she really might do with Cassy. They were cousins, after all. However, Krista might beat the living shit out of her.

But she probably wouldn’t. And if she did … well, big deal, Stacy would regenerate. If Krista beat the shit out of her so bad she couldn’t drag herself into some bit of shade before sunrise (not that Krista had ever done such a thing, but … well … she did have quite the temper), then she knew Krista would transport her to safety. Of course, getting beaten that badly would be deeply unpleasant. But with immortality, pain loses much of its shocking, urgent immediacy.

Anyway, Stacy had a vague, bad, restless feeling. She flew to the fenced-in compound of the Christian Hygiene Militia.

Human senses never could have detected Krista, nestled in the trees. Most technology couldn’t either. But to Stacy it was as if Krista gave off a heat signature she could zero in on. Partly because they were both vampires, but mainly thanks to their kinship bond.

(The lack of that kinship bond was why, in a few minutes, neither of her old companions would be so clearly visible to Cassy.)

That kinship sensitivity was mutual; Krista sensed Stacy while she was still far away, and scowled at her as she drifted to her perch.

It was almost half-past two. Little more than an hour till they’d planned to massacre these guys. A little hopefully, Stacy said, “Have you, um, decided to wipe this militia out? I mean, we did already set up the ambush.” Although it would kind of suck to have to do it with just the two of them, without Cassy’s help. Heck, it might even be dangerous; these guys were obsessed with practicing how to slay vampires, after all. But the element of surprise should help negate that. Besides, Bob had been one of their leaders, for crying out loud, and he hadn’t exactly been super-impressive.

“I told you to stay at the lair,” said Krista.

Krista scared Stacy, but every once in a while Stacy had to stand up to her, just so she could live with herself. “You don’t get to just boss me around for all eternity, just cuz you’re the one who turned me.”

“You asked me to turn you.”

“So? You’re lucky you turned me. Who else would put up with your crazy ass forever and ever?” Until this outburst, Stacy hadn’t realized that she was not only scared of Krista, but pissed at her.

Krista grimaced and glided her eyes away. “I just wish you hadn’t come out here, is all.”

“But … why? I mean, we had Bob call these guys, they’re coming anyway, we may as well take them out. Why would you want to take all of them by yourself?…”

As she spoke, she tilted her head to look down at the camp below, and jolted with surprise. Cassy’s form didn’t blare into her eyes like Krista’s did, but the supernatural glow that limned her was enough for Stacy to pick her out, drifting in the open a few feet off the ground, even if the reciprocal glow wasn’t enough to alert Cassy to the two vampires obscured by the tree branches.

“Hey,” hissed Stacy excitedly, “Cassy’s still up for it, too!” She pointed, in case Krista hadn’t spotted their erstwhile companion. “Shit, Krista, let’s just help her. Let bygones be bygones. Seriously, who cares about all that abortion stuff now? I mean, can we even still get pregnant?…”

She gasped, almost blinded by the orange curl of flame that spurted out and wrapped itself around Cassy, dropping her to the ground with a shriek. A roaring herd of men sprang from hiding all around the perimeter of the camp, brandishing sharpened stakes and running, converging on Cassy.

“It’s a trap!” squealed Stacy, and plunged to help. Krista tried to grab her but missed; “Fuck,” she spat, and dove after her cousin.

Now, Stacy wasn’t very bright. She probably never put the truth together, never realized that Krista, in a particularly nasty bit of vengefulness, had contacted some of the other members of the CHM leadership; had clued them in regarding Cassy’s evil plan and her probable time of arrival; had directed them to the ruins of Bob’s house, so they could get a look at the guy and whet their appetites for revenge; and then had perched herself in the trees to watch them spring the trap on Cassy. Truly one of history’s all-time bitch moves, flamboyantly disproportionate to the original slight.

Stacy probably never figured any of this out. Certainly, not in the first flush of battle. She was running on pure combat instincts.

Krista and Cassy, too. Orgiastic burst of violence—they plunged into it with heretofore unimagined gusto. Blowing their wad. They chewed through those weekend-warrior hicks, despite the barrages of wooden stakes hurled at their breasts from specially-rigged firearms; despite the flamethrowers; despite the curtain of holy water spraying down to block the entrance of the burning barn they’d been tricked into and trapped inside, which steamed through gobbets of their flesh when they hurled themselves through to escape; despite the souped-up Super Soakers with which the Christian Hygiene Militia soldiers sprayed yet more holy water at them. Where the fuck had these goddam Baptists found so much holy water?!

On the bright side, the three vampires did kill every single CHM motherfucker. Albeit at great personal cost. Like, super fucking pyrrhic.

* * *

The two cousins lay steaming in the night. The sky was still that bunchy gray, with no trace of pink. But the vampires could kinda-sorta smell the approaching dawn.

A bullet had punched a neat hole through Krista’s throat. It finally regenerated enough for her to croak, “Stacy?”

“I’m here,” hissed Stacy. She and her cousin were about equally fucked up, but in asymmetrical ways. For instance, Stacy still had eyes, whereas everything above Krista’s mouth had been massively hamburgered. Stacy hadn’t bothered speaking to Krista, because Krista had no ears anymore and Stacy had assumed she wouldn’t be able to hear.

“You think you can get back to the lair?”

“Naw,” said Stacy, trying to whistle past her thumping panic. She couldn’t lift her head to look down at her body, but she could feel the rough, sinister tickle of her leg-bone shards methodically reknitting themselves, of the mush in her opened gut trying to plump itself back into some sort of order. If she didn’t even have bones or guts yet, she wasn’t going to be regenerated enough to crawl to safety before dawn.

For a long time Stacy had tried to pull herself along the charred ground, to some shade somewhere. But there was no shade; all the compound’s structures had been burned down. She’d have to drag herself all the way out to the fucking woods. And while her one remaining thumb and six remaining fingers were strong enough to drag what was left of her arms, they couldn’t budge her charred and tattered body.

Oh, fuck, Jesus, fucking please, fucking save me, save me, please! I’m sorry, I’ll do better, just please! Jesus, come on, for fuck’s sake, please! And don’t send me to hell! Please don’t send me to hell! Her strength gave out before her terror did, so that her fingers could no longer even wiggle, much less pull.

Krista grunted, as if Stacy’s news didn’t surprise her much.

It was stupid, it didn’t matter, but Stacy just couldn’t let on to Krista how scared she was; she couldn’t let her hard-ass cousin hear what a pussy she was turning out to be. Couldn’t face the shame of it.

“Did you see if Cassy made it out?” asked Krista.

Cassy had been staked through the heart, beheaded, and Super-Soaked with holy water till nothing was left but a rank, lumpy, pink-and-black scum. Stacy had seen it happen. “I think she got away,” she said. “She looked pretty fucked-up, so I wouldn’t count on her coming back to help us. But I do think she got away, though.”

“That’s good.” Krista sounded wistful. “That stuck-up bitch can fight, can’t she?”

“She can.”

“She’s a stuck-up bitch, but she can fight.”

Why didn’t Stacy tell the truth about Cassy? Stacy told herself Because that’d be bullshit, and what she would have meant if she’d had the vocabulary was that it would have been unseemly, indecorous. Would have risked upsetting their fragile stoicism.

They lay there in silence a while. Talking hurt. The too-slow reknitting of their flesh and nerves made a constant susurration audible only in their own heads, in the slight vibrations of their skulls. The piles of corpses around them popped and farted, and more and more they could hear the skitterings, draggings, and chewings of forest critters come out to feed. (All of whom instinctively avoided the two vampires, and that hissing sheet of black-and-pink scum.) The stink of dawn grew stronger, and now Stacy even thought she might-maybe could detect a hint of rose in the sky: the fearsome, unswallowable surreality of her impending annihilation.

“Yo, Stacy,” said Krista. “How long’ve we been vampires now?”

“About three years.” Stacy thought that was a weird question, since Krista surely knew the answer.

“Three years,” mused Krista. “So that’s how long immortality lasts, is three years.”

“I guess it is,” said Stacy.

–J. Boyett


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