Esther took a ghost of a sip of her wine, creating a pause for Alice to speak, when she said nothing, Esther continued. “You have to understand what we’re facing. Tell me, Alice. What is a vampire?”
Alice leaned forward. “How do you mean? It’s a blood sucking monster. Looks human. Burns in the sun. And they have powers. Strength and speed, that sort of thing.”
Alice sighed, “Okay. I’m not an expert on vampires. Just tell me what you want to say.”
Esther set her wine back down on the table. “You’re close, but you are missing the point. What is the central essence of a vampire? They are dead,” she continued, answering her own question without a pause. “They are supposed to be dead, but instead we see them walking around, doing things. They seem strong and fast because all of the limits on a body that exist for your protection are silenced in them. They don’t feel pain, and they don’t bleed. They don’t get tired. You hear those stories about someone on PCP who kicks out the door on a police car or some mother who, in the moment of danger lifts a car off her child? Te strength to d those things was always in those people. The drugs or the circumstances were enough to life the barriers in their minds and in their bodies, to ignore the pain to do what they did. What you don’t hear about is the damage they do to themselves in the process. Those limits are there for good reasons. They keep us from killing ourselves or tearing our bodies apart. These creatures are lacking these restraints because they don’t need them. So they can display inhuman strength and speed and endurance. Do you understand?”
Alice nodded cautiously. She wasn’t used to having someone just put the answers on the table for her. Esther had a reputation for knowing these kinds of things. And she spoke with the self-assurance of someone who believes what she is saying, who has done the research, or has had the first-hand experience to know what she says is true.
Esther continued, oblivious to Alice’s reaction, “Because if you understand, then you know how bad this is, and you know why your burning the thing you fought was a useless gesture, and did nothing so grand as destroy it.
Alice’s spine straightened when she hear that, and she cut into Esther’s monologue. “Wait, what? What do you mean?”
Esther’s paused. “It’s not dead. You didn’t kill it. I congratulate you on winning a fight against one of these things, but you’re not hearing what I’m saying. You can’t kill what is already dead.”
“Maybe, but you’re just talking semantics. It’s destroyed. I saw it. There’s nothing to come back from.”
Esther shook her head. “Listen to me. It’s not just semantics. They are supposed to be dead. But they are animate. And not just animate in the sense of being ambulatory. They are instilled with all of the vigor of life. What is it that animates them?” Esther smiled as though she had just asked a very clever question.
Alice felt the annoyance creeping into her, but decided to play along. “Some kind of magic,” she ventured.
The disappointment in Esther’s voice was palpable. “No. I mean, that is simply a terrible explanation. It would take a tremendous amount of effort just to- well, I suppose some of it cou.ld come from drinking the blood…” she waver her hand dismissively. “No, it’s just… no. What animates the body is a spiritual entity that possesses the corpse. And yes, anyone with the strength to summon forth something like that will have access to formidable powers beyond the mere strength and speed of these undead. And that is a troubling prospect.”
Alice couldn’t help herself. She let the ice she felt in her blood out into her voice. “Oh, good. I was concerned that the super strong, super fast, super tough, unkillable, blood drinking monster wasn’t troubling enough.”
“You need to understand. These spirits they can restore the body. It’s part of why they drink blood. It’s a powerful fuel source to take the life from someone. They can restore anything that is done to the body. And if the body is entirely destroyed the spirit is just freed up to go find another body, usually the nearest corpse.”
Esther was still talking, but Alice wasn’t listening. She was standing up. She was thinking about Ed. She could see him with his throat torn out, lying in the tarp, surrounded by stones, just before she closed it on him and tied the tarp closed over his pale blue lips and his empty eyes and sent him into the water. She was imagining him floating downward, his eyes filling with that dark energy the thing that seemed to possess the thing that they had just killed together, his arms and legs flailing about with superhuman strength, breaking the ropes she had used to tie him into the tarp, and swimming to the surface of the water.
Alice shuddered and found herself standing at the front door to the Lucas house, her hand on the knob, a small hand pulling at her elbow.
Esther spoke, “You can’t go out there.”
Alice turned on her. “You’re going to stop me?”
Esther’s eyes narrowed. “You work for me. I need…” she glanced up the stairs. “I need you to escort me somewhere. And you can’t go out like that. You need a hat.”
Alice slowly took her hand off the door handle. She knew where she needed to go. And she knew where Esther needed her to go. The same place. “Alright. I’ll bring you with me.”
Esther came back with a hat and some gloves. Alice put them on and they stepped out into the cold and the darkness.