April 21

Count Verlock’s Apocalypse (Part 2 of 3)

[…continued from April 20 entry…]

 

Count Verlock walked at night along city streets, prowled side alleys in his search for human victims. Whatever happened during the day was beneath his notice.

What did it matter if a celebrity died, if a bus or train crashed, if the price of gasoline rose by a dime a gallon?   He remained indifferent to local politics and international tensions alike.   A robbery or regime change might as well happen on the Moon, for all the effect it had on the Count’s nightly routine.

Twilight once again dwindled into dark, and the Count began stirring within his apartment lair.  He rose from a normal king-size bed…no cliché coffin as his resting place, although he kept nearby a velvet pouch of native soil, as tradition required.

As he roused himself to wakefulness, Verlock recalled his most recent feeding…a nicely dressed college girl a few nights previous.  He’d noticed that she was alone, aimless…the city bustle offering her a temporary distraction, perhaps, from an argument with her boyfriend.  He searched her mind…sought the name and image of the person she loved…the person she wanted to trust again.

Students presented a risk, with out-of-town families, local friends, and university authorities all demanding serious investigation if they disappeared.  But their blood was younger, fresher.  Free from contaminants that usually tainted the city’s more…disposable residents.  Blood from an alcoholic or drug addict did not restore as much strength to the vampire …in fact, it sometimes weakened him.  So a smaller sample from this young girl was a better option.  He would taste, rather than drain her.

In the young woman’s mind, Verlock had found the image of an older man in a close-trimmed beard.  The gentleman wore a tweed suit with patches at the elbows; his eyes stared intently through wire-frame glasses, expressing disappointment…at the wrong answer, a missed deadline, a poorly written essay.

Verlock had hurried ahead, drawing shadows around himself like a cape…sculpting the darkness into her teacher’s likeness…then waiting for the student to stumble into him.

And he had smiled at her with that borrowed face, offering the approving glance the young girl had been seeking for so long.  It was almost too easy to beckon her away from the crowd, the storefront glow, the streetlamps.

In the dark side-street, the student involuntarily tilted her head, brushed long brown hair away from her cool, pale neck.

At such moments, it was proper for a vampire to signal the victim’s fate.  Usual parlor tricks included transformation into a bat, a wolf, a cloud of mist.  Although it was not actually possible for Verlock to change his shape, he could make the victim believe anything he wanted.

He chose to reveal his true form.  Centuries of flesh aged and hardened on his face…a fossilized melting…hard lines of decay, like petrified wood creased into his skin…nose flat, lips cracked as the mouth opened with a hot gust like spoiled meat…the scent wafting rancid over his one fresh feature, gleaming white and large and sharp…those teeth…those teeth.

The girl was too frightened to scream.  She’d remember him only in her nightmares.

A fond memory, but the refreshment of that feeding was too distant.  Tonight Verlock would seek a new victim.

The vampire pulled aside one of the blackout curtains, glanced from his 7th floor unit to the busy street below.

The early glow of streetlamps and neon spotlighted the usual evening crowd.  But the people weren’t…

They weren’t moving.

And they weren’t standing, either.  They lay in piles on the sidewalk, beneath awnings, on stairs.  In the street, cars and taxicabs clustered in apparent gridlock.  It was hard to distinguish at this distance, but many of the car doors were open, drivers and passengers fallen to the street beside each vehicle.

A double-decker sightseeing bus was parked at the corner.  The passengers on the open-air deck had all slipped from their seats, and apparently had convulsed on the floor before lying still.

Were they all dead?  The Count couldn’t imagine the cause.

 

[…concluded in April 22 entry…]