Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Night 11 -- To Live and Die Again

Night 11
To Live and Die Again
Tuesday, November 17th, 1992

They drive as far and as long as they can, heading north away from Denver, hoping to avoid all their problems and pursuers. As the stars began to fade, they seek shelter at a random roadside motel, just an anonymous dump where no one would look for them. The vampires take one room, sealing themselves away in the bathroom, while Zoe and Suzanne get their own. While the vampires were forced into their own paralyzed slumber, the mortals slept fitfully, and not for long. 

Zoe gets up first, and begins feverishly going through the notes and logs that have been recovered. The answer to the mystery is in front of her, if only she can unravel it. But neither Prestor nor Liverman had any intention of writing for publication, it seems. Their notes are a mess, most barely legible and key elements of their research left out, clearly assuming anyone who read these would know what they had done. She goes through most of her own notebook, just trying to make some sense of what they were up to.

Suzanne spends her day slower, more still. Calmer. She sleeps longer, lost in dreams and nightmares, until forced awake by the sound of Zoe's scribbling and quiet curses. She is the one to head out to get them food and drinks, and herself fresh packs of Camels. Away from the demands of the group, she finally allows herself to think, to plan. She was the one who asked about what happened with Klondike, how they had escaped, if they had killed him. None of them had wanted to tell her, but she had her ways to convince them.

And what she heard both intrigues and infuriates her. So, it was possible for someone to be turned into a vampire, even without the mad doctors experiments. And there were more out there, an entire world of unearthly gods. And she had come so close. She had brushed up against that power, but had been rejected. Could that be undone? And if so, why had none of her "friends" attempted to? Daron and she had been close once, very close. But now, he seems to want nothing to do with her. Well, she can't really blame him. She hadn't understood what they were back then. It wasn't her fault, not really. And Maya, well, no one seemed to know or care if Maya's condition was contagious. And Trent was...Trent. Nice enough, at times, she supposed. And he always had a crush on her. Most boys did, to some extent. Though she couldn't imagine spending her life with someone like him. Would she have too?

Throughout the day, while Zoe works, Suzanne keeps herself busy with her thoughts, bouncing from scheming to self-pitying rage.  The two speak little to each other. Understanding, perhaps, that whatever happened next was not entirely up to them.

When night comes the coterie finds Zoe resting on the bed, attempting to nurse a headache. The mattress she lays on remains covered in notes, ranging from detailed logbooks to loose scraps of paper. A collection of vials stored in a rack stand on the nightstand. Suzanne lounges next to the open window, chain smoking another cigarette, contemplating the night sky.  An empty pizza box and cans of soda fill the trash.

The vampires stand around Zoe, looking at her expectantly. She glances up, startled at their presence. She’s flustered, tired and exhausted and barely getting by on caffeine and Excedrin. She rubs her eyes, and looks back at them. “I hate to say this, but I’m just not sure.

“Whatever these guys were working on is way above my head.  I mean, it looks like they followed all the necessary precautions and tests, but they were doing it the most bizarre way I’ve ever read about. This is more fringe science than anything real. And I don’t know even where they would have gotten some of these chemicals, they’re all so tightly restricted that they require a Federal permit. How did these guys pull this off in their freaking garage?”

“Zoe,” Trent says, interrupting her. “Is it a cure? Can it change us back?”

She sighs, and walks away from them, pacing around the small room. “I just…I don’t know ok? They keep referring to a substance called ‘Alpha,’ but never explain what it is. But it’s what they’re testing, what it can and can’t do, how it affects living organisms. I mean, I assume that what it is, it’s what makes you guys, well, you. Why you can be clinically dead and still walk and talk and everything else. See these vials here?”

She picks up the vial rack, ticking off its components. She points at the first set, each containing a red fluid, which all the vampires recognize as blood. “All right, so, see these. There’s a whole set. The first is labeled 'Serum #1/Georges.' I have no idea who or what ‘Georges’ is. The second is 'Serum #2/Neutral'—ok, great. Neutral what? Again, no idea. I think it’s a synthesized variation of the Georges, but without this ‘Alpha’ chemical. Then, we have these—Serum #3, which appears to be another variation on the Georges serum. But see this—three letters written by hand: 'M/S/V?' What does that mean? Well, here’s a hint, Serum #4-6 are all from some different source. I think he was trying to see which one would work, and how. Not the best lab procedure, to be honest. But, #4 is marked with another M, #5 is marked with T, and #6 is marked D. So, yeah, I think Mavis, Suzanne and Vince all got dosed with 3.”

“Why?” Suzanne asks, suddenly very interested in the conversation.

“I don’t know why this guy was doing anything. But, it looks like you were all supposed to be 'turned', not just you three. I guess her had plenty of access to Serum 1, and so he wanted to use that, but he also used 4-6 as a backup. I guess Serum 3 just…just didn’t work. I’ll need to do a lot more digging and testing to figure out why.”

“So, I was supposed to be turned, too,” Suzanne says contemplatively, as she blows smoke out the window.

“Fine,” says Trent. “So, serums 1 through 6 are what made us, what about the rest?"

"Well, more accurately, 4 through 6.” Zoe corrects.

“Fine, whatever. What about the clear ones? Or the powder?”

“Well, the clear ones are 'Anti-Body 1' and 'Anti-Body 2.' The powder is just marked residue. Oh, and check this out.“ She rustles through the scattered papers, until she finds the one she needs.

“Anti-Body #1 should, in all cases, destroy substance Alpha, on contact. Analysis of Residue #1, however, indicates that the resulting residue is extremely toxic.

"Anti-Body #2 has a similar effect, neutralizing any concentration of Alpha with which it comes in contact. It does not form a toxic residue. The residue it forms is an interesting biological substance which will cause an allergic reaction in human beings, and in fact, in most mammals. In high enough concentrations, it could well be fatal."

“So, yeah, long story short, I think the anti-bodies should destroy whatever Alpha is.”

“Well, just 2 though, right? I mean, that’s the non-toxic one. But only if you’re low on blood,” Trent trails off, thinking.

“Low on blood?” Zoe asks, confused. “I mean, wait, can you guys get ‘low’ on blood? How does that work? But, yeah, if you had ‘less’ blood, but then you would die, regardless of how allergic it is. Everyone needs blood, right?”

Maya walks forward, and takes the vial marked Anti-Body #2 from the rack, gazing at it thoughtfully.

They all watch her, waiting. She turns, questions on her lips which fade before she can speak them. She sits on the bed, slumped over, starting at the vial. “How can I know? Will it even work? Will it kill me?”

Turning to the group, she asks them “What should we do?”

“This is your call,” Trent assures her. “Whatever you choose, I’ll back you. 100%.”

“What are you going to choose?”

“Me? No, I’m not. I don't want to take the risk. Besides, I was always crap at being alive. Now? Now I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. I guess I should wrap it up in some sort of poetry, about experiencing a new world, and the Promise of Eternity and all. But that’s bullshit. I like what I’ve become, and I don’t want to go back to what I was.”

“Great,” Daron says. “Really glad we went through all that to get a bunch of poisons that will probably just kill us anyway.” He grabs the keys from the table and turns, looking at the room. He’s supposed to grab something, a suitcase or a backpack or anything. But then he remembers that he really has nothing left, and so, with a final look at his friends, he heads out into the night.

“Wait,” Trent tries to say to him. “Shit. Maya, like I said, it’s your life, it’s your call. Whatever you want to do, ok?” And he heads outside, trying to catch up with Daron. Suzanne flicks her butt out the window then follows them out.

The door closes, and Maya and Zoe are left alone in the room. Zoe sits across from Maya, and reaches out, holding her hand. Maya instinctively pulls her hand back, alarmed. It’s the first non-violent touch since she was changed. “There might be another option,” Zoe says softly. “We have these compounds, and we have you. I might...it might be possible for me to replicate their research. Perhaps even enhance it.

“I can’t promise anything. I would need, fuck, like my doctorate and a shit ton more knowledge to start. And money. It wouldn’t be cheap, and I don’t know how I would get grants to event start paying for it. But, it’s possible. If you can wait.”

“10 years?” Maya asks fearfully.

“Just to get started. I’m not the best person for this, but I want to help you. Besides, this might just revolutionize medicine, and ‘Nobel Laureate’ has a pretty good ring to it.”

Maya has been seeking this since that first night. It’s been the one thing keeping her focused and disciplined. Now that she has it, what does she do? Does Maya truly want to try the cure? Very Likely, Exceptional Yes. She was lying to herself, or deluding herself. She wants to be human again. Does she take it now? 50/50 No. She is still Maya, still focused on doing what is necessary. And if all she had wanted was to commit suicide, there were easier ways to accomplish that. She reaches out to Zoe, taking her hand, and relieved that her friend doesn’t flinch from her grasp. “Money, you said? I might have a few ideas of what we can do about that.”

Trent follows Daron outside, calling to him just as he was about to get into Maya’s car. “Yo, Daron! You’re just going to take her car, man?”

Daron stops and turns around. “Well, fuck it, right? Figure I’ve paid for it.”

“Don’t go. Please.” Trent steps forward, hoping to meet Daron’s eyes. “Look, I’m sorry about…about fucking everything up. I didn’t know what I was doing. None of us did. And, yeah, I admit, I was wrong about things, but we can still figure this out. Together.”

“Trent,” Daron sighs. “First off, it’s not about you. Yeah, you’re a self-destructive asshole, but that’s not what bothers me. You want to go off and find more vampires and get involved in more bullshit? Fine. You do that. Me? I need to rebuild my life. I mean, you didn’t have a life, no wonder you’re so happy to be dead. But I had friends, and family. I know that sounds mean and shit, and I know you were alone, and I’m sorry as hell about your parents. But mine are still alive, and right now they’re crying over their son who died in a drunken car crash and they don’t know why, and I don’t know why. And I don’t know what I’m going to do.  But I need to figure it out.”

“I get it. You may think I don’t, but I do. If you ever get in trouble, or need something…”

“Yeah. You too. I’ll, uh, send Zoe a postcard or something when I get settled.”

They say their farewells, and Daron drives off, heading east, leaving Denver forever behind him.

“You’re going to miss him, aren’t you?” Trent turns around to see Suzanne, bathed in the yellow glow of the light post she was leaning against.

“Not very manly of me, huh? But, yeah, I am. I guess...I guess I thought, after all we had been through, that we would stick together, you know? Three Musketeers and all that. That we were, you know, family. Guess I was wrong.”

She walks over to him, laying her hand on his shoulder, looking deeply in his eyes. “You’re not alone Trent,” she whispers.

“Daron’s gone. Maya, well, who knows what Maya is going to do. And I have a bunch of pissed off vamps in Denver looking for me. Yeah, I think I’m pretty alone.”

“I mean,” she whispers even softer. “You don’t have to be alone.” She leans in, pressing her lips against his cold neck. “No one should be alone.”

And in the cold dark night, Suzanne gasped her final breath. 

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