All rights reserved, 2005 Valerie D'Orazio
FOR MATURE READERS ONLY (for reals)
In The Company Of Vampires Part Three
It was soon apparent that Pris had no intention of stopping at Desjardins. After helping her get rid of another higher-up that had personally insulted her on several occasions and started rumors that she fucked “Baby” Bersee to get where she was (which was impossible because Bersee was gay), the vampire set her sights on strategic rather than defensive hexes. Some followed Desjardins in the sacking department--all sorts of lovely scandals including more sexual harassment, embezzlement of funds, an off-color joke about Asians, and even child porn on a worker’s hard drive. And all of it karma come back to haunt them at the most inopportune time, in the most indiscreet of ways.
Others, a lucky few, had gentler exits--suddenly getting sweet job offers from other firms, unexpected pregnancies, a sudden urge to teach handicapped baboons how to ride specially-built tricycles, etc. And with every departure, with every going-away party or ignominious escorting from their desks by security, Pris Baxter was one step closer to what she ultimately wanted--which was to be in a position where she could live out her vampireness with impunity, without the need to hide. It was a long, multi-step path she had laid out for herself. Tara wondered if she would be there to see how it would all end.
The witch often thought about, on those few occasions she emerged from her office to steal a box of pens or buy a candy bar from the vending machine, whether the other workers were “on” to her, on to the many ways in which Tara’s presence in the halls of Dermaco was highly irregular, as were a lot of other things. Even “Baby” Bersee himself, decked out like Gene Kelly in “Xanadu,” a more liberal user of his company’s products than many women there--he who both was so friendly and so genuine and yet unintentionally made you feel like you were the living embodiment of the term “little person,” as if you weer frickin’ Billy Barty standing there, extending to you his jewel-dripping hand--even Bersee seemed completely, blissfully clueless to the fact that more and more of his employees were walking around wearing sunglasses indoors.
There were some fresh vampiric faces in the office--some new altogether and some familiar but turned. Tara pondered the ethics of turning, if it was on the same level of immorality as simply attacking and killing. Obviously the recipients of that Gift, at least at Dermaco, seemed to invite and welcome it--after all, it did seem to signify a promotion of some kind.
But what of the larger question? The one Tara tried to suppress and sweep under the carpet like Oscar Madison but that kept crawling out?
*** *** ***
Pris had left her Blackberry in Tara’s office and so the witch decided to do a good turn and get off her ass and actually do something. She had tracked the Vampire to another floor and a conference room right off Advertising. Unlike the one where “Amanda” was introduced, this room was completely closed in and a pair of black doors with silver handles greeted her. Tara wiped some sweat from her brow (this was the first time she had moved away from her computer screen and Plinko since the morning) and carefully grabbed the door handle and pushed down--
She had seen far enough into the room to notice the half-naked woman on the long table and the workers, male and female, who were holding her down and crowding her. Then a cold hand grabbed the witch’s wrist tightly and pulled her into the room with one quick motion, immediately followed by the slamming of the door and the turn of the lock.
*** *** ***
“Uh...what the fuck is going on here, Pris?”
The petite vampire with the severe black pageboy stood at the far side of the room, almost in the corner, one small white hand gripping for support the heavy mauve curtain that covered the wall-sized projection screen. That little hand held tightly to the thick textured fabric, swaying in tension; the hinge of her mouth was slightly slack, red lips frozen in apprehension. At the sound of Tara’s voice she wrenched her eyes from the terrified figure on the table--a young bottle-blond that the witch recognized from the halls--and bored them into the irises of her assistant.
Tara cringed at the golden light that instinctually flexed out of Pris’s eyes, that light that tried to short-circuit explanation, the light that sought to be so very reasonable, the light that apparently failed to assuage the mind of the chick held down to the long, oval table by a chorus of white hands, that plugged her mouth shut with cold palms, that had managed to tear off her pink suitjacket and rip open her white blouse, exposing the B-cups of her plain beige bra and nipples hard with fear--
“Pris--cut it out!” Tara growled, tearing her face away from the vampire and shielding her eyes with her arm.
“Y-you have to understand, Tara...”
Pris let out a metallic, nervous laugh.
“No worries about keeping appearances here, love--we’re all vampires.”
The witch hesitantly uncovered her eyes and quickly surveyed the others in the room. Most were familiar faces--only a few she remembered as being originally Undead. And now--the change in the faces of the formerly human, sharp white teeth clearly visible in their mouths as they congregated around the unlucky mortal female, looking upon her naked chest and neck with a degree of lust and hunger that reminded the witch of her experience with Marta and Rache, and Armand and the others. Tara could empathize (to her a strange, oft-neglected emotion) with what this victim must have been going through, what was running like a freight train in her mind, being reduced in the yes of the nominally-alive creatures to the status of a slab of sirloin--
“Would you guys be finishing her off now if I didn’t come here?!”
“She was going to expose us,” Pris snapped back, her eyes watery as if she had just been hurt--hurt by the witch’s accusation, hurt by the impending chaos that lay in wait in this one conference room, chaos that threatened to ruin her and everything she built just like it obliterated Desjardins. “What do you expect me to do? Have you no idea how serious this is? For both of us?”
“Don’t lump me into this, kemo sabe.”
Pris gripped the curtain in her hand tighter, exposing the sliver of white screen beneath.
“We’re in this together, Tara.”
At Pris’s words the witch felt as if her world had been reduced to the size of a TV-sized frame, it made her silently choke on her own spit. We’re in this together. A kaleidoscope of different emotions filled her all at once--suffocation, fear, annoyance, flattery. Before she knew what happened, she had become thoroughly entangled in this vampire’s world--and by association, in the world of all vampires. And how much different was she, Tara, than that of the shaking woman held down the table, her eyes rolling in terror?
Yes, how much different--
Tara pushed past the vampires, ignoring the way they bristled and hissed around her, how they protectively closed in on their prey.
“Pris, let me get near her," Tara said confidently, folding back one of her sleeves. “You want her not to talk, she won’t talk. In fact, she won’t remember this entire damn day, if you want.”
The vampire narrowed her eyes and scrutinized the witch for any signs of dissembling.
“I’ll give her amnesia--you forget, ‘love,’ I’m a witch after all. Better start earning my keep. And have your goons put her shirt back on--going to ruin the effect if she’s got her boobies hanging out.”
Pris nodded reluctantly to the other vampires, silently communicating to the Hive, directly to their brains and overriding their protests. The suited vamps backed away from the body in profound disappointment, a few eying daggers at the witch whose approach stopped the victim in their very birth of her scream, in the first scrambles to get off the table and flee. Tara extended a bare arm and gently but firmly pushed the woman back down by her forehead, back against the mahogany surface, letting the magick pour forth, letting the energy delete the entire episode, wiping clean the magnetic tape of memory. Suddenly the woman’s face relaxed and her eyes went glassy--
“Okay, now help her up, fix her hair, and get her out the door. Walk her to a restroom if possible, and plunk her ass in a stall. I’ve built in a slight lead time with her, but she’s going to get lucid real soon.” Then the witch called out to the two vamps that ushered their former snack away with pouting, regretful faces: “And stick your teeth in your mouth, dammit!”
The other vampires, groaning and moaning as if their team lost the baseball game, picked up their clipboards and paper cups of coffee and filed out of the room. Some, realizing that they had no more reason to drink, as they were vampires, dumped their cups in the metal mesh wastebasket on their way. Pris quickly followed them out the door, ignoring Tara’s look, telling her gruffly:
“I’ll see you in my office in ten minutes.”
And the witch just stood in the empty room, noting the several overturned chairs, a sea of spilt coffee on the carpeting, some leaves of abandoned paper that had been blown across the room.
Me no speaka the English, kemo sabe, Tara thought.
*** *** ***
When the witch arrived at Pris’s office the door was closed. Tara had become wary of closed doors in Dermaco--who knew what was happening behind them, and how large the vampire population of the work staff was presently.
She knocked on the black door tentatively, and waited. A faint murmur of “wait” sounded on the other side, immediately followed by the sound of unlocking and the click of the door knob. Pris was expressionless as she bid her assistant to enter and take a seat in the small chair.
The vampire leaned back in her seat and pressed her palms and fingertips together.
“Well,” she said with a strained smile, “we’ve had quite a day today. Haven’t we?”
Tara crossed her legs and tried to appear nonchalant.
“Yeah. Well, you know...yeah.”
The two studied each other in silence. The sounds of the maelstrom outside the window were clearly audible, and became louder and more insistent as the silence between the two occupants of the room grew. The witch picked a string off her skirt. Suddenly, Pris, like a bad film edit, was sitting at the edge of her desk in front of Tara.
“Would you like a raise?”
“Why,” randomly replied the witch, shifting her eyes so she wasn’t face-to-face with the vampire’s red satin panties, “you think it would shut me up? Why go through all the trouble? Why not simply get your undead cronies to liquidate me and stuff my body in the utility closet? Then you could tell everybody that I suddenly resigned because I had to live with my ailing grand-aunt in Peoria.”
Pris was now, without a second’s warning, at the window, her back turned to Tara. She looked oddly tall when she was alone.
“You really think I’m a monster, don’t you?”
“I...I mean, Pris: how many people have you killed in your life?”
“Countless,” she answered in a low, somewhat defiant voice. “But what did you expect? A vampire to do? Hmm?”
“But what about the animals,” the witch asked, getting out of her seat. “ What about the handbook?”
“A relatively recent development,” the vampire answered, still looking out the window, her arms folded and her body doubled in the glass. “At least I’ve tried--tried without having a truly good reason to. Tried based on my own convictions and sense of morality, not slavishly following the dictates of some fairytale the humans mindlessly follow. Surely there is some room in your jaded heart to give me points for that. And while we are on the subject, Tara: how many people have you hexed in your life?”
“Hexing’s not killing,” the witch replied sheepishly.
“It’s still the ruination of a life--only vampires do it nice and quick, and in person. Vampires are not shy in revealing themselves to their victims--they want their faces to be the last thing a human sees, the coming out to the individual--the naked display of one’s own vampire nature--being almost as important and as wonderful as the feed itself. Almost.”
Tara sighed deeply and plopped back in her chair, her head in her hands.
“Well shit, Pris--I tried to go straight, before you dragged me back in--“
“Fuck going straight!” the vampire snarled, now suddenly kneeling before Tara, her white cold hands on her stockinged knees. “We should be allowed to be who we are, to live out our own natures!”
Tara looked up and yelled in the vampire’s face.
“But I don’t want to hurt anybody!”
“But didn’t you tell me that your powers feed off of chaos? Isn’t chaos a natural part of life? Isn’t death a natural part of life? Like a tsunami or a volcano?"
The witch tore away from Pris’ electric touch and her seat and headed for the window. She felt like pushing the fucking glass and just sailing out.
“I’m--not--a--volcano! I’m a 28-year-old woman living in a fucking hotel room! You’re telling me we’re in this together, but I got other plans, Pris. I want a family and some fucking stability in my life, and I want it soon! I’m not an immortal like you are. I’m just...I’m just tired of this shit!’ She pressed her knuckles into the glass lightly. “Fuck!”
The witch’s spine shot up in energy as she felt Pris’ arm go around her waist.
“I want some stability too, Tara,” she said softly. “That’s why I’m doing all of this. It’s the best I can do. I need money. I need money in order to live this moral life, to get the supplies I need to do so. I have a competitive nature, and I need challenges and accomplishments. That’s why I’m in Business. I need to excel. I need to. And so I’m trying to do the best I can. When I see a human--an unworthy, braying, banal human especially--threaten all of this, all I built, threaten to bleat and sniffle to the human world about my true nature, holding up that nature as if it was trash, a perversion, garbage--I just get very angry, that’s all. It doesn’t seem fair. This world doesn’t seem equitable. When the wonderous ones, the ones with the gifts and the talents, when they are marginalized and forced to hide, and banality is so very treasured and encouraged to roam free--no, it isn’t equitable. And even among my clan circles, among those that share my life circumstance--even with my own brother--I had been unable to find anyone to have such a conversation with, a person that truly understands--until I met you.”
“So are we going to fuck now or what?”
*** *** ***
Tara’s past loves flipped through her mind as she stared at the ceiling and felt the cold, tight body of the vampire dry-hump her. Actually, most of the persons she categorized as “past lovers” in her mind didn’t actually give her sex. They were just strong personalities and attachments that had an extended stay in her life only to be ripped away untimely, the bond perverted and broken, the bridges napalmed. All the real fucks she got in her life were anonymous, and they had their momentary charms, but not unlike masturbation.
Where did Pris fall into this scheme? She was a vampire, so obviously things weren’t going to work out. Then again, Tara was a witch, and life was absurd, so maybe things could work out. Maybe they could grow old together in some lesbian conclave in Park Slope. Actually, Pris would never grow old. And the question had to be asked--was the vampire even the monogamous type? The Undead never struck Tara as being particularly faithful. And perhaps, in the end, this was nothing more than a good old-fashioned exchange of goods--magick for money, with sex as the lubricant. And after all--there was no margin for sentimentality in either the business or, she assumed, the vampire world--
But Pris certainly worked a good nipple.
“Oh God--Pris, that’s so good...yeah...no, not the teeth...Pris...OW!”
Tara suddenly sat up, her heavy breasts sticking out of her unbuttoned shirt, Pris crouched over her, her skirt unzipped and down around her ankles--the vampire’s eyes so deep and wide and unfathomable, like space--and a pair of long, needle-like fangs sticking out of her saliva-slick mouth.
“We could be sisters!” Pris exclaimed, lunging for Tara’s neck. The witch kicked her in the chest with her shoeless nyloned feet and scuttered across the carpet on her ass. The tiny woman huddled in a dejected, unkempt bundle on the floor, pleading to the witch with her red, thin, downturned lips. “You could be immortal! It would be the security you craved, for real!”
“Pris,” Tara answered breathlessly, buttoning up her shirt, “I can hardly handle the life I got allotted to me now. I wouldn’t know what the fuck to do with immortality. I’m not mentally built for it. When I die, I just want to be dead, you know?”
“What’s so good,” Pris whined, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms wrapped sloppily around them, “about being dead?”
Tara looked past the vampire to the metal-and-mesh bookshelf against the wall, the shelf stocked with massive, telephone-book sized tomes, binders, cosmetic samples, and Lucite awards.
“It’s just that--maybe then--I’d get some rest.”