Chapter Eighteen – Darkness

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Alice kept the gun pointed at the vampire on the ground as she backed toward the front door to the house. Stip went behind her and fumbled in his pockets for the keys. Lights were flicking on in building all around them, people coming to their windows to look down on the fight in the streets in a way that nothing but the sound of gunfire could do. There would be police soon after. Surely someone would have called 911 instead of running straight to the window to place themselves in harm’s way.
The vampire in front of her was getting to his feet and turning to face her. Alice could see the black blood-like substance continue oozing across the snow toward him, glomming into a mass that, when it reached the creature, seemed to melt into him, absorbing through his clothing. His head was a waste of shattered skull, but Alice still couldn’t focus her eyes on him enough to see what was left of his face. The exposed bone and brain were just a blur of gore in the street lights.
Stip yelled from behind her “It’s open! Come on!”
Alice took another look at the man in the street, turning toward her and climbing up to his feet, and took aim for his head. At this distance, her odds of missing him were minimal. She looked past him at the townhouse across the street. The lights had just switched on, and she could see the outline of someone in the window. Even hitting him, a .45 caliber bullet would come out the other side with enough force to kill someone in that house.
The first shot she had taken because she hadn’t had a choice. It had been angled upward, which would be helpful, but ultimately she just had to hope that it hadn’t gone anywhere it could hit anyone. The second had gone into the ground, so there had been no danger there. Now, though. She knew he would just get up again. And there was no way to calculate where the bullet would go once it passed through him, other than right where she knew there were people.
“Dammit.” She cursed and lowered her weapon. Stip was yelling something from the porch behind her, and the vampire began to move. Alice saw it coming. The vampire took two steps and leaped at her. She threw herself sideways, rolling roughly across the snow-covered pavement and out of his reach by a hair. The vampire landed, turning toward her as he skidded to a stop. He was between her and the door, which presented a problem.
But he was also now in front of a car, which presented an opportunity.
The vampire reoriented and started to charge back toward Alice. She raised her weapon again and fired, hitting him directly in the center of his chest. The handgun’s report was deafening, and the kickback ensured she was never going to get off two shots in a row. The vampire’s forward movement was arrested for a beat, as a hole the size of Alice’s fist erupted out of its back, showering Stip’s car with bits of bone and the black ichor that served as this thing’s blood. The car alarm began to sound, and more lights on the street flicked on.
The bullet tearing through him gave the vampire pause. Nothing more. He stopped a moment as it slammed into and through him, and looked down at the hole that had opened up, and then he looked back up at Alice, and he kept coming.
He was on top of her before she knew what had happened, she tried to roll with his momentum, but they went down into the snow, and she found herself packed into the cold white. The vampire was heavy on top of her, and Alice couldn’t maneuver. Her arms were pinned between their bodies and she couldn’t find any leverage in the slippery ice and snow that just gave way when she tried to push into it with her feet, but only packed in harder around her shoulders and back as she squirmed.
The vampire atop her began to strike, bringing down his fist in a thunderous blow that rocked her head to the side and made bursts of light explode across her vision. That was going to leave a mark, she thought. Again, he raised his fist and brought it down, but Alice was not giving up. She turned her head and tucked her chin just enough that instead of crushing her nose or breaking a cheekbone, the blow glanced off her forehead and into the snow.
His momentum lifted him off her arms a moment, just enough that she was able to get her hand with the gun free. When he pulled his fist back for another strike, she hit him as hard as she could with the gun, knocking his head back. Whatever Esther might say about their ability to ignore pain and damage to their own bodies, they can’t defy the laws of physics.
Being hit in the side of the head with a heavy chunk of metal that also happened to be useful for shooting bullets was enough to knock the vampire sideways. Seeing how well it worked the first time, Alice hit him again. And a third time as she rolled on top of him. But as she straddled him and pulled back to crack his skull with the butt of her gun, she felt his hand close around her wrist like a vice. The oozing black blood that came out of him when she hurt him was still seeping through the snow back to him and congealing around him, flowing back into his chest and into the unfocused haze that covered his face. His wounds were closing as she watched.
The smell of rotten meat was overpowering, and she heard a soft chuckling coming from the monster underneath her. He reached up and grabbed her by the throat and began to squeeze. Her gun hand held in one of his hands, and her throat in the other, she couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t breathe. It was happening again. It was just like what happened in her nightmares, what happened when she lost Ed.
Frantically, Alice tried to escape him to no avail. She tried to pull her arm away, tried to twist to break his grip, to force his arm to extend, and nothing worked. She still had one hand free, and she began punching him in the head, but failed to even elicit a reaction from him.
Her vision was growing dim, and she struggled against letting the panic overtake her just as much as she struggled against the vampire who was slowly, inexorably crushing her windpipe. Alice reached over his arm to grab the gun with her free hand, fumbling to get her finger onto the trigger and her hand on the grip so she could use it. He let go of her throat and slapped the gun out of her hand. Alice gasped greedily for air, and did not see where the gun went.
He began laughing now, a throaty, coarse laugh that reminded her of the way her mom’s brother, Gary, used to take a drag off his Marlboro after telling some stupid joke, and then hack and chuckle to himself so she couldn’t tell if he was laughing or coughing. He wrapped his hand around Alice’s throat again and returned to slowly squeezing the life out of her. She struggled and kicked as he got to his feet, but it was hopeless. He pulled her close to him and spoke directly into her face, in a gravely wet voice, suffused with the stink of rotten meat. “Tell Esther this doesn’t stop until I get what I want.”
And then it was just darkness.

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