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Zombie Drift 8: Ethan Benoit

Eight: Ethan

Ethan Benoit had eyes in the back of his head. He also had them on the sides too. To some it would seem he was a paranoid individual, but he preferred the term “Vigilant.” One of his main life lessons was this: Be aware of everything going on around you. He came by this lesson the hard way and lost someone special in the learning. And while there wasn’t anyone special nowadays, he was vigilant, part as his penance, part because he was paid to be.

The life of a bodyguard didn’t come easy to him. He didn’t enjoy being responsible for someone else, but it’s all he knew to do now. After losing Veronique. The one time he’d failed to protect. And now all that was left of him was the vow never to let it happen again. He would forever be on guard, aware of his surroundings, potential trouble, and routes of escape, if the need should arise to retreat.

He was all these as he made his way to the ship’s Bridge. He hated leaving the others behind in the Starlit Lounge, but he had gauged it was one of the safest places to be topside. For one, it could be closed and locked down so others couldn’t get in. It was also in the center of the ship, meaning it wouldn’t be the first target of an attack. He wasn’t sure why he was thinking this, these tactical thoughts. Perhaps it was imbedded from his training, a natural by-product of his experience, but when one doesn’t know what is happening it was a good mode to be in.

He walked briskly to his destination. He’d been on plenty of ships before. He knew his way around. It had been a cruise ship like this where he’d lost Veronique, his bride to never be. It had been pirates then, intent on taking control of the ship and ransoming off its passengers. Veronique had been the first casualty and the last person the pirates ever killed. Ethan’s hands were stuffed in his pockets as he walked across deck, but if he pulled them out and dared to look at the open palms he knew his memory would show the blood of those who took her life. Perhaps it was his imagination, but his hands would never be clean again and his heart would forever be a hardened place.

He skirted around other passengers. No one paid him any mind thanks to the tourist attire he’d chosen to wear this morning. He passed by a girl in a large lounger writing in a notebook. She gave him a hard look, probably because he was nearly walking on top of the scantily clad blonde in front of him. Despite the fact the woman was in a bikini that appeared to be made of two pieces of string, he paid her no mind. She wasn’t Veronique. No one was. If anything, he just wanted the wannabe super model to get the hell out of his way.

An Asian boy stood at the starboard railing. He looked lost in thought and didn’t appear to be a threat to anyone. In fact, it almost looked like he wanted to jump overboard. It almost made Ethan stop, but he kept going. He’d hadn’t made it far though when a scream sounded in the air. In a split second he accessed the situation: alert the ship’s captain to things going on ashore or go to the aid of the screamer. He ran back the way he’d come. The notebook girl he’d passed just a minute ago was now at the starboard railing hauling the Asian boy back onto the ship. Ethan wasn’t sure he’d fallen or jumped, but he wasn’t the only one who noticed their plight. Others had been alerted by the girl’s scream. But in typical fashion, no one went to see what was wrong. Only in America would a crowd of people see someone in distress and instead of helping, pull their cellphones out and film it.

Ethan reached the girl and boy as they looked back over the railing and down into the ocean. “Hey, is everybody alright?” he asked. “What happened? Are you….” He stopped. Looking down into the sea, he saw what had made the young lady scream. There were several bodies in the water and they were all clambering for the side of the ship. Right away he knew this wasn’t a case of people overboard for it appeared they had been in the water a very long time. Their clothes, their very flesh was eaten away in places, revealing exposed muscle and bone. One who was desperately trying to claw the metal of the ship was missing an eye. Another had opened its mouth, it jaws making snapping noises, as if trying to chew something that wasn’t there.

He had seen this before. Not just on the television and Instagram. Yes, this was all connected it seemed, but something horrible was happening in the world. He’d seen something like this years ago in Haiti. He’d been there in service to a pharmaceutical company who wished its visiting officials around the clock protection from the area locals who had made threats to the company for harvesting plants from the region. Plants that were sacred to their shamans. After a few attempts to stop the company, other means had been implemented and one of the Witch doctors had sent zombies against them. Those zombies had been living men though. These that were in the water were definitely dead, or had been at one time.

“What are they, sir?” the girl asked Ethan hopefully. He couldn’t give her any hope, but before he could answer, she said it herself, “zombies.”

He couldn’t lie to her, even if it did cause a panic. “It would appear so. They are on land too, I think.”

“Oh my God,” the Asian boy said, and they looked at what he was pointing at. One of the dead things, having given up on trying to get on the ship, had attacked another. He was biting down on the others head. Even from where they stood, they could hear the crunch, and then several voices shouted, “Man overboard! Man overboard!”

Looking to his right, Ethan saw other passengers gathering at the railing. Many were pointing at the bodies in the water and crying out, “Somebody help them!” They obviously weren’t observant enough to see there was something wrong with those thrashing about in the waves against the ship. Suddenly there was a sound of a winch and pulley and he looked to the left. A lifeboat was being lowered down. Inside there was a crew member in a life vest.

“No!” Ethan shouted. “Stop! What are you doing?” He ran to where the guy was operating the lowering system. “Bring him back up!”

“Sir, you’ll have to step back! There are people in the water!”

“Those aren’t people! Those are….”

Just then, the pulley jerked, nearly ripping from where it was attached onboard. One of the zombies had managed to climb onboard the life boat and was grabbing at his would be rescuer. The crew member started yelling, trying to throw the thing off of him. He got the message really quick that these weren’t people in need of saving. But it was too late. The lifeboat was now touching water and two more were trying to scramble aboard.

Ethan shouted at the winch operator. “Pull him up, damn you!”

The guy was frozen. He didn’t know what to do. His training hadn’t included this scenario and as such he was at a loss. “I…I….,” he stammered.

“Oh fuck it,” Ethan muttered and kicked off his shoes, climbing up onto the railing. It was too far to jump he knew. The impact would take the breath out of him. So he swung himself over and grabbed hold of the pulley. This is going to hurt like hell, he thought. For a brief moment his mind whispered, don’t do it. Let the man die. But then that part of his conscious that asked him what would Veronique do kicked in. He slid down the pulley, the cables burning his hands the whole way. By the time he neared the end, they had started cutting into his palms.

The lifeboat was built for twelve or more. Ethan should have landed squarely in the middle but the idiot manning the winch above finally came to his senses and hit the up button. The boat rose to meet him with two zombie hanging on the side and two more in the boat itself. The one man crew was holding his own with an oar, pushing the flesh eaters back away from him. Ethan landed a little to the side and it caused the boat to tip just a little. He strong armed the other zombie and it flipped off the boat back into the water. Still, the two zombies hanging off the side decided to clamber in.

The guy with the oar swung it at one of their heads but it managed to grab the makeshift weapon and pull it out of his hands. Tossing it aside it grabbed the man and started to pull him towards his slavering mouth. The guy screamed and there was a loud pop , followed by an equally loud hiss. The zombie’s head exploded in a shower of red sparks. It fell backwards into the water, its head glowing red like someone had stuck a colored sparkler in its mouth and lit it.

Ethan stood there, the flare gun he’d gotten from the emergency box in the lifeboat still discharging smoke from its barrel. Three more zombie rose from the depths and climbed aboard.

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift. Paul D Aronson. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Zombie Drift 7: Yeong

Seven: Yeong

New Yeong never liked his stage name much. Loosely translated into English, it meant “New person of courage,” and right now he didn’t feel that way. Instead he felt alone. Completely. He hadn’t enjoyed the getaway trip aboard the St. Fitzgerald. Even mixed drinks and and pretty American girls didn’t distract him from the fact he didn’t even know who he was anymore. In fact, for most of his twenty years he had no idea who was Yeong, himself or the management company that had created his persona and image. Ever since he was twelve, and his parents signed the contract, he’d been trained to be a K-pop star. Handlers decided nearly everything for him. His life was like a big road map to stardom and they’d kept him on the route with no room for deviation. Even this trip didn’t give him much personal space, as there were handlers on board with him. They might have been in separate rooms, but they were like an endless presence helping him pick out meals, clothes, and even activities to do while on board. That’s why the first thing he wanted to do, the first organized thought, was to jump. Maybe then he would find himself, even if only for a few seconds before he hit the water and drowned.

Yeong couldn’t swim. Well, he could as long as his feet could touch bottom of the pool. But in the ocean he had no doubt he’d sink. He’d stuffed as many coins in his pants pockets as he could in an attempt to make him heavier. He’d also grabbed two paperweights from the desk in his cabin. And while everyone else on board was wearing sandals, sneakers, or even going barefoot, he had donned the heaviest shoes in his luggage, a pair of black dress shoes he had modified with steel taps on the bottom to help him sound out dance moves while practicing. He found it fitting they should go to the watery end with him.

He stood with one foot on the starboard railing. Looking out over the vast ocean he wondered how many people had chosen to go this way. If one were to scour the seabed how many drowned corpses or skeletal remains would be discovered. Such a morbid thought, and he felt horrible just thinking it. Feeling a twinge of guilt, he turned his head to see if anyone were watching him. Most people were engrossed in other things. All except one. It was a girl. She had dark hair and eyes and he couldn’t help but think how pretty she was. He saw she had a book In her lap and a pen in her hand, and he remembered the days he sat in his company owned apartment jotting down verses and things about girl he would never know. What was she writing about, he wondered. The thought passed when she quickly looked away, and he thought that perhaps the darkness inside him had scared her. Maybe she could see the large devastating hole that had almost engulfed him, except for these last few rungs of a ship railing.

He put his other foot up on the railing and returned his gaze to the waves. If he was going to do this, it would have to be soon. They were getting close to the ship’s home port. Soon they would be docking and everyone would be disembarking and going about their lives, reuniting with loved ones, kissing those they had missed while they had been on the cruise. A tear fell from his eye. There was no one like that for him. Sure, there were tons of fans back home who would do anything for him, but there was no one to cling to in lonely moments, to kiss every time he walked through the door. There was absolutely no one who could save him from this pale shadow of living. He stepped up another rung. And then another. He threw a leg over the top of the railing. He took a deep breath. Hesitated for a moment. He wanted to turn around and take another look at the cute girl in the lounge chair. If he was going to do this, he wanted something pretty to be the last thing his eyes would take in. But he didn’t turn. He just closed his eyes and pushed off from the railing.

For a moment there was a feeling of weightlessness, as if he were just hanging in the air, his body waiting to drop. And then gravity took hold. He began a prayer for his own soul, knowing he would never get it all out before hitting water. Suddenly there was a jerk. Gravity must have changed its mind because he was being pulled up by the collar of his shirt. Perhaps the gods had taken mercy on him. He was dangling in the air over the side of the ship, but they had hold of him. Whatever God had spared him, he wanted to know. He craned his neck up to see. It was the girl. She had hold of his shirt in both hands and was trying to pull him back up . A look of desperation was on her face as if she knew she couldn’t hold him for long. His shirt began to rip. He could feel the fabric coming apart in her hands.

She didn’t say a word, but readjusted her grip to get her hands under his armpit and haul him up more. Unfortunately he was kicking his legs under the side of the railing , causing his body to swing. “No!” she cried out. “Stop swinging!” He pulled up on him hard, bracing her body against the railing for leverage. His foot found the bottom rail and instinct made him push up on his heel. This allowed her to get a better hold of him and lift him just enough to get his other heel back on the low rail. When this happened, she yelled at him, “You have to help!”

When he looked back up into her face, all he saw were her dark, teary eyes. It reminded him of a line from one of his popular hits that went “only your ebony eyes can save me.” But then her eyes changed. They grew wide with a different kind of fear. But she was no longer looking at him. She was looking at something beyond his suspended body.

He looked down. There was a body in the ocean. A corpse floating face down. Had someone else jumped, he thought. And then the body turned over in the rolling waves. The face was something of terror, and the girl almost let Yeong go. He reached behind him with his hands and grabbed the railing. There was no way he wanted to fall down into that. The corpse’s face was scarred and serated. Blood and pus covered it with a thin, mucous like film. The clothes were tattered and seemed to be fashion from years ago. One of its arms was bent oddly at the elbow. A leg that was half missing. Thank God the eyes were closed.

Holding onto the railing with one hand, Yeong swung himself around so he was facing the railing and no longer looking at the lifeless body in the water. He scrambled up the railing, and once he got to the top, the girl helped haul him over and back onto the ship. He was getting ready to thank her when she let out a scream. Looking back down, he saw the corpse had opened its eyes and was now thrashing about in the water.

“What the hell is it?” she asked, looking at him like it was now his turn to save her.

“I don’t know,” he replied watching the creature thrash about helplessly. It didn’t even have the sense to try and save itself. All it was doing was throwing its arms and legs about as if there wasn’t a brain in its head to tell it what to do. “But here comes another one.”

They watched as another body came up from the depths to bob upon the water’s surface.

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift. Paul D Aronson. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Zombie Drift 1: Captain Walker

Zombie Drift

One: Captain Walker

Captain Charles Walker sat on the edge of the bed. Already dressed in his crisp white uniform, he took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, repeating the action twice before reaching for his cap and placing it on his head. Coming into port was always a nerve wracking experience. He preferred to be out in open waters and not have to deal with corporate bureaucrats and shareholders. He’d rather swim with sharks. It didn’t help that he was the youngest captain to be employed by Ever Sail Cruise Lines. And it didn’t matter that he’d come from a long line of sailors, including his great uncle Shelton who had guided boats onto the beaches of Normandy during WW2. This was only Walker’s second voyage as a captain, and though the trip to the usual Caribbean ports of call had been a success, coming home was always worrisome. Of course, home wasn’t really home to the Captain. Home for the ship was the port of Charleston, South Carolina, but the real home for Charles was Goolwa, a tourist town on the South Australian coast. It was there he first learned to sail as a boy on The Murray River as it wound its way into Lake Alexandrina, and indeed the ocean. And though his apartment in South Carolina overlooked the waters of the Atlantic, it was nothing compared to his childhood home.

With that memory hanging there in his mind, he stood up, adjusted his cap and looked in the stateroom mirror. He’d forgotten to shave. While it wasn’t a requirement, he knew his bosses preferred a smooth face. It was an American thing, he supposed. “Crikey,” he mumbled, using the phrase every American adored and most Australians never uttered. Walker said it rarely, but he knew he’d hear it five times or more before he ever put the ship into dock, so he might as well embrace it.

He left his quarters, shut the door and locked it. He headed down the corridor, now bustling with crew activity. Amid salutes and “Good day, sir” it lifted his spirits. He didn’t feel so lonely once he was among his crew and the scent of the ocean air. Today the St. Fitzgerald would dock into Charleston, unload passengers, pick up others, and then head up the coast where they would unload guests again, this time closer to the Nation’s Capitol. With any luck his sea legs would touch land soon and he’d be disoriented standing on a surface that didn’t sway beneath his feet.

He stepped out onto the deck to take in the full effect of the sea breeze, but before he could even take one breath, he saw Blake Travers, the ship’s Communications Officer, heading his way. The man’s yellow blond hair was a disheveled mess and the disturbed look on his face wasn’t much better.

“Morning, Cap’n,” Blake said with a salute. He was nearly out of breath and had to wait a second to continue. “Looks like Brekkie and Shine is going to be delayed .”

Captain Walker knew the young officer was trying to use Aussie slang to cover up for something. He appeared nervous, but that was no excuse to butcher his normal way of speaking. It was downright embarrassing. “How so?” he asked the young man.

“We’re getting some garbled messages from the port offices. It’s static mostly. Like there’s some kind of interference. But I caught something underneath it all. It was a message saying something about being overrun.”

“Are the docks full?”

“It could be, sir. Every cruise line likes to connect in Charleston. We will be in sight of the port soon.”

“Well, keep me informed, Travers. I need to make a few inspections be we arrive. Reps from the line are going to want to board and see what kind of fault they can find in my leadership on our second voyage out.”

“You’re a fine Captain, sir.”

Walker raised an eyebrow. “Just fine?”

“Well..uh..I mean, sir…”

The Captain smiled. “It’s okay, son. I thank you for your support and compliment. I will take it with pleasure…and possibly some coffee..”

The Com officer’s face lit up, for he was all too eager to please his chief. “Right away sir!” He saluted and dashed across the deck to a coffee station that had been set up for passengers.

Walker watched him for a moment. Because of his own age, it was hard getting used to the fact of having subordinates, those that were beneath him in rank. It was just a year ago that he was behaving in the same manner, bending over backwards to please his commander so as to earn a spot at the Captain’s Table. He usually picked one or two of his crew to join him for dinner, along with a few distinguished passengers. He made a mental note to include Travers this evening just as the young man returned with the cup of hot java. Walker took a hesitant sip to avoid the burn of the fresh brew, and then let out a satisfied sigh. One could always tell what kind of day it would be by the taste of his coffee. It was going to be a fine morning indeed.

Charles didn’t even give a thought to the Traver’s news of garbled messages. Things like this happened more frequently than not. Even with new equipment outfitted on a relatively new ship, problems arose with communications from shore. He was confident the next contact would not be garbled at all, but a clear message directing them where to dock because of the heavy boat traffic.

He went back inside. Descending two levels into the ship, he came out in the deck known as Reliant. Among the crew it was called Hungry Alley, as it housed several kitchens, sleeping quarters for the galley crew and waitstaff, as well as numerous food storage rooms and walk in freezers. It was here Captain Walker checked on his friend, the ship’s Master Chef, a man simply known as Wu. An Asian-American from San Francisco, with glossy black hair forever hidden under his Chef’s hat, he and his family were residents of the St. Fitzgerald. Along with his wife and two sons , they all worked on board the ship. His wife was the hostess of The Starlit lounge, a jazz influenced bar situated on the first deck down from the top. A popular spot for adults to while away the cruise while listening to a live jazz ensemble, the lounge was one of the Captain’s favorite public places on the ship, and it was there that Wu’s two sons tended bar and knew how to mix Walker’s favorite drinks in exact fashion.

“Morning, Chef,” Walker greeted his friend. While to some it may have seemed the Australian and Asian-American made on odd pair, they didn’t know the history. Of how Wu had befriended a young, and very seasick, Charles Walker, on his very first ocean cruise. Discrete and supportive, the older man had nursed the future captain back to health and informed him the open sea was a lot harder to get used to than a winding Aussie river.

“Morning, Captain,” Chef Wu returned, before noting the cup of coffee in the commanding officer’s hand. “You know it’s an affront to us when you bring the java of mortals into our domain.”

Charles laughed. He loved the informal way in which the chef spoke to him. No salutes, or standing at attention, just the ease of pleasant company. Here among the kitchen staff he didn’t feel like a captain, but as one of them, and he liked it that way. It was the one place he could go and…

He stopped before shaking hands with his friend. He looked above his head as if he could see up through the decks and into the open sky. And though most couldn’t tell it, he could. The ship was slowing down…

TO BE CONTINUED

Zombie Drift Episode 1 . Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 85 (last chapter!)

Vampire Boys Of Summer

85: Home Is Where The Haru Is

We rounded the corner in the neighborhood, and there was my house, right next door to the one Haru and his “uncles” had moved into, and Ryo’s across the street, Mrs Winston’s actually. It was a nice little arrangement. I could see that now, with my house protected in several directions from any enemy vampires that might try to take my life. Everything was peaceful now, but if what they said was true, this wasn’t over. Another attempt to build an army of vampires and take over Chelsea Valley was inevitable, but hopefully we’d have a respite. It still wasn’t clear why Haru’s dad, if he was in fact the master responsible for all this, wanted to make this little town headquarters for a vampire takeover, but all thoughts of that disappeared with the person sitting on my front porch.

I saw her right away, and though things had been pretty strained between us since I became a teenager, it was so wonderful to see Mom again. I was out of the car before it even stopped. My legs carried me swiftly across the yard, limping and all. Mother herself was jumping from the porch to run towards me. In the movies, you see this big reunion scene, where all is well, everything forgiven, and all parties involved are laughing, crying, and clutching each other like there’s no tomorrow. Well…that’s exactly the way it was. Mother wrapped her arms around me and I allowed myself not to be annoyed with it, but instead reveled in the fact that I was loved and missed by the one who had brought me into this world.

“I have so much to tell you,” she whispered in my ear. For a moment, I wondered if she was going to say there were vampires in Chelsea Valley or that dad had been right all along. But she didn’t. Instead she spoke softly against my cheek. “I love you so much.”

I smiled. This was not something I often heard from her. But I took it gladly into my heart. “I love you too, mom.”

We hugged a little longer, and then out of the blue, mom asked, “What’s wrong with Angela?”

I turned around to see Ryo standing in the yard holding Angela in his arms. She was still sleeping, her head lolled against his chest. “Um, she had a long night,” I said. “She’s just…you know, tired…”

She laughed. “Yeah, I’d say. And who’s the gorgeous boy?”

“Yeah, that’s Ryo. He lives across the street now.”

“With Mrs. Winston?”

“Nephew,” I replied.

“Ohhhh.”

To my relief, Haru had gotten out of the car and was now walking towards us. He smiled at Mother. “Mrs. Williams,” he said. “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.” He held out his hand.

She took it and nodded graciously. “Thank you. And please thank your uncles for me again, for their hospitality and generous spirit.”

Haru raised an eyebrow. I guess this didn’t sound like the uncles he knew.

“For offering to pay for Jefferson’s funeral expenses,” she explained.

“Oh yes, Of course,” Haru replied.

I myself was in shock. Not over the offer of help, but in the fact it was the first time in years I’d heard mom call dad by his given name. I realized that I too, for some strange reason, had delegated him to just dad over the years. This made me sad because he had been much more than that. He had been my friend. But Chelsea Valley was not only missing a man the town barely knew. There were others forever gone. We’d lost a teacher or two, a guidance counselor, Students I’d gone to school with. And all for what?

Haru grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “I need to head over to the house,” he said. “Check on Tomoko and Kaito. You want to come?”

“Mom?”

“Sure, you go ahead. Now that I know you’re home, I’m going to go get me a shower. I can rest easy now.”

I hugged her. “We’ll get through all this, Mom. We have each other. We’re together. That’s what matters.”

Mother smiled. “Sometimes Nora, You’re more adult than I am.”

“Oh, mom…”

Haru looked over at Ryo, who had joined us while I was hugging mom. “You taking her home?” He asked him.

Ryo looked down at Angela in his arms. “Not yet.”

“I’ll call her mom and tell her she’s with me,” I offered.

“Thanks.”

He nodded to us both and headed across the yard. As he stepped into the street, Angela woke up. From where we stood I could still hear her voice. “Ryo?”

“Yes?”

“Am I dreaming?”

He grinned. It was that teasing bad boy smirk of old. “No, Doll. I am.”

He kissed her forehead and she peered up at him with half opened eyes. “It was a dream,” she reasoned. “I…dreamt you saved me.”

“Wrong again, sweetheart. You saved me.”

And then he kissed her for real. Softly on the lips. She closed her eyes again. This time not to sleep, but in pleasure of his kiss.

“Come on, peeping tom,” Haru said and gently tugged me from the scene.

We walked over to the car. Luhan and Chi were still seated inside. Haru leaned down at the passenger window where Luhan now sat. “You guys alright?” Haru asked. Chi nodded wearily. I could tell she was exhausted.

“Yes, we are fine,” Luhan agreed.”But we will need to talk soon.” He sighed and looked past Haru to me. “Nora Williams, You are every bit worth the fight.” Then he winked and it was back to old Luhan again. “If Haru ever breaks your heart…”

“I won’t,” my boyfriend replied quickly.

“But if he should…” Luhan blew me a kiss.

“Luhan…” Chi said impatiently.

“Okay, okay…got to go,” he laughed. “See you kiddies around.”

We watched them drive away. I turned to Haru and looked at him with adoring eyes. Since his arrival things had changed so much. He had come sweeping into my life like a whirlwind. I’d lost so much in the past few days, but had gained the type of boy I’d always dreamed about. And while Luhan may be king of the flirts, and Ryo Mr. Competitive bad boy, I knew that come what may, I could handle anything, face down any evil, as long as I had the vampire boys of summer at my side.

“Remember the thought I sent you earlier,” I asked Haru.

“Um…yeah.”

I looked at him with a teasing grin. “Race you for it!”

I took off across the yard towards his house. I looked back just in time to hear Haru yell out, “Hey, no fair!” And playfully chase after me.

Yes, we were going to be just fine…

The End Of Season One

Vampire Boys Of Summer (Re-vamped)

“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 77

Vampire Boys Of Summer

77: Kill The Master!

“Colin, please! I’ll be your queen. Just let Haru down.”

I couldn’t help but turn my eyes to my lover, dangling from a noose and gagging in his throat. He kicked his legs to keep up the momentum of the swing and though Colin assured me it wouldn’t kill Haru, I hated to see my love suffer in this continual agony. For though it wasn’t a death blow, it was still torture without relief.

“You’ll never be the dutiful queen, Nora,” Colin said. “You and I both know that. Not as a human anyway.” He looked around the room. “There’s plenty of Alphas in this group. Perhaps we’ll just turn you. See how you comply then.”

I was tired of begging. This wasn’t doing me any good. Luhan wasn’t doing anything. Chi wasn’t doing anything. Haru was on an endless cycle of being hung. Ryo was somewhere at the bottom of the lake drowning over and over again. I was now alone. No one was going to save me. I was going to have to save myself. I punched Colin right in the face.

His head snapped back and his nose opened up with a spray of blood. I was going for punch number two when he blocked me with an open handed slap. The slap was so hard my head reeled to one side and I went down.

That’s when Chi finally launched her attack. She bounded across the stage and with a swift kick to his knee took Colin down. He didn’t make much noise, just a grunt, and then he was facing her. Rage was on his face, but he knew he couldn’t take her. She was too powerful for him to take alone. He had goons for that.

They bounded across the stage, half the high school football team. It was ironic, for they were known to have picked on him too in the past. Now they were doing his bidding. And doing it well. Each one grabbed a limb. Two of them had Chi’s legs, another two had her by her arms. They swung her back and forth several times and then let her go. She sailed off the stage and into the crowd of vampires, who started pummeling her with their fists. There were too many of them. She did her best to protect her face and ribs, and they started stomping and kicking at her.

There was a loud howl, and I thought it was coming from her, but it wasn’t. It was Luhan making his own attempt to end this mad game. He was airborne, pouncing on Chi’s attackers. At first, they didn’t seem worried, but as he began to go from person to person like a whirling dervish, breaking a wrist here, snapping a leg there, they tried to regroup to take him down. But he was too fast. His movements reminded me of Taz on the old Bugs Bunny Cartoon, a spinning devil kicking up dirt as he disabled everything in his path.

Colin hauled me to his feet. “You know what? I have changed my fickle mind again. I think I will make you my queen after all.” He leered at Haru, who had stopped struggling and was just hanging there from the rope. He was right about one thing. It wasn’t killing him. But it was sapping his strength and will. Colin looked back to me, a lecherous smile on his lips . “I think we’ll consummate our union first.”

I gritted my teeth. “You touch me and you’ll wish you hadn’t,” I promised.

“You and me, Nora. We both have found our fire. I love it!” He grabbed my face in his hands like he was going to kiss me. But instead he spun me around to face Haru. “Look at him. What makes him so special? You wouldn’t like him so much if he wasn’t a vampire. You didn’t like any other boys at school before he showed up. I think you just wanted a boy who was somebody. That everyone looked up to or worshipped. Well hey, I’m somebody now. Others look up to me. They will fear me by summer’s end when all of Chelsea Valley will bow before me.”

“They wont bow before you Colin. You are just a tool of your master. Nothing more. You are nothing. I wouldn’t waste one kiss on you.”

Something came across his face. Maybe he saw my words as a challenge, a dare. He looked out at the vampire crowd. Chi was down, under their weight. They had managed to grab Luhan, and though he kept taking some of them down, a few of them were getting their licks in too.

Colin smiled in triumph. “The master will be pleased. Whether you are my queen or not.” He shoved me away from him and I reached in my pocket for a weapon. I’d lost the stake in one of the dogs back in the labyrinth. But my fingers touched on the other item I’d brought from my dad’s kit. The vial of Holy Water.

Colin turned to Angela. The two vampire girls were still holding her up. Her legs were bent at the knees, and if they let her go, it was apparent she would collapse to the ground from weakness. He put his hand under her chin and lifted her head to look at him.

“Looks like it’s just you and me, Ang. You was my first choice anyway.” He turned to the crowd and bellowed. “Kill their master!”

It seemed like every vampire in the place converged on the spot where Luhan was. He disappeared under all the bodies.

I pulled the vial from my pocket. I fumbled with it a few moments before managing to unscrew the top. “Colin?”

He looked at me and I flung the contents into his face. Haru had told me these things didn’t have an effect on the vamps of the Far East, but for those in the Christian world, Crosses, bibles, and holy water still worked. He was right.

It splashed first across his neck, and then his face. Where the holy water landed on his skin, it sizzled and burnt the flesh to the bone. He screamed, trying to wipe it off with his hands, but where his hands touched, that burnt also, for the water had wet his fingers. He spun away, screaming, “Kill them, Kill them all! Master! Master!”

And then we heard it, like an answer to his call. It came from inside the labyrinth. The horrible beating of huge leathery wings, accompanied by the screech of a monster so terrible the labyrinth couldn’t contain it. A scraping sound like that of talons against the maze wall, grew in pitch and intensity until the screaming beast came bursting out the tunnel.

“Yes, Master! Master! Show us your glory…show us your majesty!”

The winged creature was a grotesque form of a bat. Huge and ugly, a furious beast with talons so long it slashed several vampires to shreds at it entered the cavern. It looked as if it were dripping wet embryonic fluid off its nearly hairless form, as it set down in the midst of the vampire army.

They all raised their hands in the air, trying to touch their master, to feel his power upon their own fingers. It must have freaked the beast out because it lashed out at them with claws and teeth. Hands went missing. Fingers were devoured. And for some, it clamped down with its fangs and took huge gulps of blood and tissue into its maw. The praise turned into bewildered screams as the huge bat started to use its wings to fling the army in all directions. Dust and dirt arose from the cavern floor as its long legs shuffled across it.

Legs, I thought. Long legs. Since when did Bats have long legs? So much dust was in the air I could no longer see the creature. Colin was cackling madly, yelling that his master give him his reward. I could only assume the worse. The reward would cost lives.

The dust began to clear. The sound of the huge beating wings had stopped. Had the army somehow killed the fearsome beast? As the dust settled, we all lay witness to the astonishing truth. A Man, naked as the day he was born, crouched in the dust on one knee. Muscles rippled across his back where the bat wings had been. Arms dripping wet with water and blood, he pushed himself to his feet and stretched to his full height. The talons of the beast were gone, but long sharp fingernails remained. And where the beast had had a chest of thin fur to protect its hide, this man had only bare skin and a tattoo of a moon with bloody vines that read, “Loveless.”

Continue to Ep. 78

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“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 73

Vampire Boys Of Summer

73: Through The Maze

We ran down the dark tunnel. There were no candles in the passageway to see by. The only light afforded us came through gaps in the ceiling where the roof had been haphazardly constructed. Small shafts of lights from the outside cavern painted lines upon the floor for us to see by. If there were other sections of a tunnel connected to this one, we passed them by.

Haru appeared to be heading in what he thought was a straight line, searching for the exit out the other side. We heard a faint stomping sound and shouts from somewhere behind us, but we couldn’t investigate for we could also hear the panting of the dogs amplified ten times in the corridor.

They were coming up on us fast. It was apparent to see Haru wouldn’t be able to pull me down the tunnel quick enough to escape them. We were going to have to hide or face them.

“We fight,” he said, reading my mind. I wasn’t sure about that decision. I’d never fought a dog before. I was a cat person. And these dogs were of such a size they probably ate cats as a snack. They were huge dogs, what they called Mastiffs. With massive heads and enormous bodies, they had to weigh nearly two hundred pounds each. From their jaws, dripped drool and foam, and even blood. If they managed to get their mouths clamped on a body part, it would probably be removed. As if to prove this, they came bounding towards us out of the darkness. Both mouths open they came in for the kill.

The first came at Haru. My love let go of my hand and the dog tried to take it. Haru was faster than the dog however. He grabbed a jaw with each hand, keeping its mouth open, so it couldn’t clamp down on anything. He spun around in a circle holding this gigantic beast by its mouth, and flung it against the wall. It disappeared into the darkness with a howl.

The second dog was airborne in front of me. It was hard to believe that with its size it could even get off the ground. But here it was in front of me, level with my chest, foam and drool flying in all directions. But I wasn’t unarmed. I’d prepared myself for bad vampires, but troublesome dogs could be dispatched in the same manner. The stake went in between two ribs, and I hit the floor with a roll, trying to get out of its way should it drop. It hit the ground and rolled, coming back up fast. The stake barely slowed it down. And I was out of weapons. The dog pounced and landed on my chest, pinning me to the ground. Its jaws snapped towards my face and I turned my head not wanting to see what death had prepared for me. There was a loud crack, a snapping sound that I assumed was its mouth clamping down towards my head. Instead the dog let out a sharp whimper and was still.

Haru dragged the dog off me and I looked over at it. My lover in his sworn protection had broken the dogs neck. He reached down for me, his hand extended and I grabbed it, allowing him to pull me to my feet. My legs were shaky and I clutched myself to him. He wrapped his arms around me. I began to cry.

“It’s okay, my love,” he whispered in my ear. “We’re okay.”

I slumped in his arm, and he held me up, kissing my cheek and earlobe for comfort.

“I thought I was dead,” I sobbed.

“We’re very much alive,” he assured me. “Everything is going to be…”

He stopped. A new sound was coming up the dark corridor. At first like a whisper, then growing into a roar. It was the sound of anger, rage, and delirious hunger. The vampires of the labyrinth were coming. Perhaps they had grown tired of trying to get on top of the maze to pursue Chi and Luhan. Now they were coming after us, and it didn’t sound very welcoming.

Haru looked at me. “Listen to me. We’re going to have to move faster than we ever have.”

I was already exhausted and I told him so.

“I know baby.” He held my face in my hands and kissed me. “I wish my kisses could give you strength.”

I started to cry anew and he looked around us trying to seek an avenue of quick escape, but there was none. He scooped me up in his arms and started to sing softly. At first it was in Japanese, a soothing lullaby that I couldn’t understand. The words were alien in my head but carried with them a certain peace. They were words of love and devotion unmatched by any other, a promise in a foreign tongue that need no interpretation. And then the words came clear in my head. I don’t know if it was his powers, or if suddenly like in a time of meditation, an ultimate truth had come to me. But I could understand what he was singing just as plain as if it were my native English.

“I will carry you through fire. I will carry you through rain. I will carry you across centuries just to love you all over again.’

He kissed my trembling lips and we waited for the vampire army to reach us.

There is a moment where your life flashes before your eyes. At the end of all things you are forced to relive your life in reverse, swallowed up in memories and thought as fast as a bullet train. They say you see all the wonderful, life changing moments at the point of your death. There is a moment when you accept the fact that dying is inevitable for everyone. This wasn’t one of those moments.

I looked into Haru’s beautiful eyes and knew death would not part us. Not today. Nor ever. He must have recognized the same truth as he turned to look up the corridor. We could not see light at the end, but we both felt it was there if we could only get there in one piece.

Holding me in what is called a fireman’s carry, he took off up the corridor away from the approaching vamps. I knew I was weighing him down, and that because of my exhaustion it would eventually tire him as well. But he gave us his best effort. He ran through the tunnel and I clung as tight to him as I could. I lay my cheek against his shoulder. It made me remember the times we had lay in bed together, curled up lovers without a concern in the world, except each other. In those memories, time had just seemed to melt away, and I wished the same for us now, that time would disappear and leave us floating endlessly, far away from enemy vampires and their unknown master.

But we weren’t floating now. We were running. And the vamps who had once been school peers and others throughout Chelsea Valley were right behind us. The noise had rose in volume. Their shouts of rage, screams of hunger, made me shudder in Haru’s arms. And then they burst into a view, a wave of bodies as crazed and ominous as zombies. But weren’t after our brains and flesh to devour. They all wanted our blood as their first feedings. I didn’t know if they could drink the blood of Haru, as he was a more powerful vampire, but if they could get to me, and remove me from my sweet boyfriend’s grasp, it would only take minutes before….

A sound came from ahead of us, up the corridor where we had not been. It was a loud banging, followed by shouts we could barely hear above the din. “Haru!” It seemed to shout. More banging, and then we realized it was the echo that made it sound like it was coming from up the corridor. In fact, the origin was right above our heads.

“Nora!”

The shout was clearer now and I looked up. Through the slats in the ceiling, the light was blocked out by something moving overhead. Suddenly a board was ripped from the ceiling. Another board a few feet from the first was torn from its place.

“Haru!”

Chi was looking down at us. “Get back!”

We took a step backwards, as she began kicking through the boards with her boots. Pieces of wood and debris cascaded down on us, as both Chi and Luhan made a way for us to escape.

The enemy horde was close enough to touch when Haru handed me up to Luhan, who despite his small stature, had no problem hauling me through the opening and onto the roof of the labyrinth.

Haru disappeared under a dozen hungry vampires.

“No!” I screamed, trying to dive back through the hole to help my Haru. Luhan tightened his grip and would not let me go. Chi however, jumped into the darkness to join Haru in the fray. I could see her land in a crouch, pulling combatants off of him, her long nails leaving gashes in the assailants that they would long remember.

Haru fought back with a fury as well, flinging the newly created vampires off of him. Several hit the wall and went limp, though I think he held back from causing further injury because he too knew that they had once been human.

Another wave surged towards them and they both leapt up through the roof opening, as the mindless enemy tried to leap after them. I kicked one of the attackers in the face, so that he fell back down into the maze, and I felt someone grab my arm. I spun, ready to fight, swinging my arm around. Haru caught my hand. “Let’s go!”

The four of us ran across the top of the labyrinth. We didn’t look back, but instead kept our sights on gaining the other side. We may not have gone all the way through it, nor ran into any of the puzzles Miss Thomas had promised, but we were now running free and unhampered. Soon, with any luck, so would my kidnapped bestie.

Continue to Ep. 74

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“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 71

Vampire Boys Of Summer

71: Devil’s Hole

It was apparent the two vamps had seen us long before Luhan had said anything, but him addressing them without fear must have made their hackles rise. They got up, and the first thing I noticed were how tall they were. They could have been on the high school basketball team. First football jocks, now dribblers, what was next , guys carrying hockey sticks? Girls armed with tennis rackets?

Despite their height, they were new vampires. It was easy to tell by the starving look in their eyes. Maybe they didn’t feed the new ones right away. Perhaps they had to earn their keep before getting their first victim. If so, this made them more dangerous. Hunger and desperation do not mix well together.

One of the guys laughed. “This is what everyone is afraid of? A kid, a hottie, and two lovebirds?”

The other cracked his knuckles as if he preparing to step into a boxing ring. “Only one of them looks tough.” He eyed Chi up and down, lingering on her tight leather pants. “Tough in a I-want-your-sex kind of way, that is.” He took two steps up to her. She drilled two fists into his face.

It was so sudden, nobody had any time to react. Even the other guy was caught off guard. Even more so when Chi gave the second guy a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus. All the wind went out of him, and as he went down, he somehow ended up with a ladies’ bootprint on the back of his head.

There was a rustling sound behind us, and the three thugs who had been flanking us came running out of the brush. Haru turned to face them. These three weren’t vampires, but human servants hypnotized to protect the entrance. He met the first one with a flurry of moves to make a Kung fu instructor throw up his hands and run. This guy didn’t run, but he did fall pretty hard.

Haru ushered me to get behind him, and I noticed Luhan and Chi weren’t coming to help. They were clearing the brush and boards camouflaging the entrance to Devil’s Hole. Once cleared it looked just like I’d imagined: an ominous black hole in the ground, a shaft leading into darkness with no ladder or ropes to hang on to. How in the hell do you get down there, I thought.

Just then, Haru grabbed the second assailant, spun on his heel, and tossed him towards the hole. Luhan made sure he went in. The guy’s screams were horrible and only faded when he hit bottom, which seemed to take some time.

The third attacker tried to get around Haru to grab me. I guess he thought if he could put his hands on the potential queen, he would have some leverage. Leverage maybe, fingers no. When I bit his hand he screamed like I took them all off at the nub. He jerked his hand back and then Haru made him forget his fingers by breaking his nose. He fell backwards, his eyes swimming up in his head. When he landed on the ground I kicked him in the ribs. After all, I knew him. His name was Greg Park and he took my Barbie doll and burned her up with matches back in the fourth grade. Payback may take awhile sometimes, but it eventually catches up.

Chinatsu surveyed the area, making sure for one, the kids back at the cove hadn’t heard the commotion, and two, no one else was coming to investigate or attack. We all gathered around Devil’s Hole. I really didn’t want to go down there the way Haru’s attacker did, but sure enough I didn’t see anything to hold on to. No rungs carved into the rock, or steps leading down, just a dark passage in which you couldn’t see the bottom. You just had to hope it was there.

I sensed Haru beside me, and I turned to him to address my fears. “Don’t worry, “ he said. “Hold on to me.”

I did.

“Don’t look down. Keep your eyes on mine.”

I did.

Then he jumped into the blackness.

Any other time, I would have been screaming, but with my eyes locked on his beautiful dark orbs it felt as if I was just falling further in love and not into a dark pit. I don’t know how long we were in freefall. It was probably just a few moments, but for me it was as if I were falling forever, lost in my lover’s eyes and feeling his protective arms around me. I wrapped my legs around his waist and wished we were home in bed, rather than on a dangerous mission to save my friend and town. His eyes told me so much as we fell. They said he loved me more than anything, greater than anyone, and that I would never have to worry about losing him to someone else. His devotion was forever, just as endless as…We touched ground.

The jolt of Haru landing flat footed jostled me in his arms and his knees buckled briefly before he rose to his full height again, his eyes having never left mine.

“Nora, I want you to know something. If anything should…”

I kissed him. I didn’t want to hear what he was going to say. I knew it was bad and instead wanted to drown myself in all the love and affection I ever wanted from a boy.

“I hate to break up this impromptu make out session,” Chi said in a quiet tone, “But you’re not exactly alone here.”

Both Chi and Luhan had landed beside us, but it wasn’t themselves they were talking about. We were in a tunnel. Dimly lit by candles imbedded in crevasses in the wall. The flickering flames led the way forward. But the candles, nor the tunnel itself, wasn’t much concern. The line of new vampires on either side however were. They stood there motionless, a gauntlet we had to walk through on our way to wherever they wanted us to go. Our plan to catch them by surprise was an obvious failure. They had been waiting for us, and for the time being we were at their mercy.

None of us said a word, but walked down the vampire corridor, Haru and I first, Luhan in the middle, and Chi picking up the rear. I should have been afraid but I wasn’t. Even with the large number lining the walls, I lost count at about forty, I still felt protected from all things. Maybe Haru was creating this calm through some kind of mental process that reinforced my courage because all I knew was that if he weren’t here I would be a wreck and shaking in my shoes.

The corridor took us around a bend and up a slight incline. I could see a brighter light ahead, making me think of near death experiences and how those that had them saw a bright light beckoning them to peace. Of course, I knew peace wasn’t waiting for us. I didn’t know what we would find when we came into that light, but I was willing to bet it wouldn’t be pleasant.

Continue to Ep. 72

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