A Tale of Dread

Darlene and Vampra

By Carl R. Merritt



        It was Saturday night, and as a result of being the unluckiest person ever to play the game of poker, Sergeant Sam Baker found himself assigned to guard duty at the tomb instead of Marc Lamas.  He had been looking forward to staying home and watching the movies with his beer and chips for company, but instead, Baker was now reading a magazine with an automatic weapon at his side.  As far as the sergeant was concerned, the only interesting thing that had happened all night was when Abe scared the hell out of him a few hours earlier.  Apparently, the ghoul thought Sam was becoming a little too relaxed during guard duty and had decided to do something about it.
        Funny thing about Moore's Lake, he thought, remembering the trouble with the mercenaries the month before.  You're either bored to death, or else all hell is breaking loose.
        "Feel like some company, Sarge?"
        It was Darlene, the benevolent and very beautiful vampress.  Figuring she must have read his mind and understood how depressed he was, Sergeant Baker put the magazine away and stood to greet the lovely creature.
        "Good evening, Darlene!  Sure!  I'd love someone to talk to!  But you're not going out to feed tonight?"
        "No, Bret brought me some blood from the stockyards this afternoon.  That'll do Gail and me for a few nights."
        Baker knew that Darlene was referring to Bret Talman, the ex-cop who, at one time, had the responsibility of tracking down and killing her.  Now, however, after discovering Darlene wasn't the "menace to society" she was made out to be, he was her most loyal companion.  Buying cow's blood at the stockyards for Gail . . . Vampra . . . and Darlene was just one of his many contributions.
        "I don't see how you can live on just cow's blood, Darlene.  The way I always understood it, I thought all vampires had to have human blood.  Vampr... Er, Gail sure seems to prefer it."
        "She never recovered from the time Vince had us under his control.  I think with time, Gail can be turned around.  I hope so anyway."
        Vince!  Darlene's old master!  Boy, If I had been a cop back then...  But then again, I wasn't there.  I don't know the whole story of what he'd done to the two girls...
        "Would you like me to tell you about it, Sam?"
The fact that Darlene could read his mind always caught Sergeant Baker off guard. He knew it was something he'd never get used to. Deciding simply to accept it, he replied, "I'd love to hear all about it. Shoot."

        In 1973, the world was a different place.  Free love was not quite a thing of the past, fast cars were still around, along with an occasional hippie or two.  It was a time when music had meaning, though sometimes difficult to understand exactly what that meaning was.  It was a time Darlene and Gail Holland would always cherish . . . the time when they were alive.
        It was a Friday night in early September.  A 1969 Camaro was speeding along State Route 35 nearing the small farming town of Jamestown, Ohio.  Gail, along with her cousin Darlene, were on their way to meet up with their boyfriends, Tom and Alan.  They were to rendezvous just outside the town at an old abandoned farm house located just a few miles off the main drag.  Their plans were simple.  First, see if the place was suitable for a Halloween party they were planning, and if it was . . . call it quits for the night and party all night long.  They all knew that there was no one around for miles to complain about the music.
        "Darlene!  Will you please slow down!" Gail pleaded, watching the speedometer creep past 100 miles per hour.  "You know I don't like this!  Is that why you do it?"
        "Soitenly!" Darlene responded in the best imitation of Curly she could muster.  She had always liked The Three Stooges and tried to duplicate their speech and jokes as often as possible.  "Look, cuz, I've got control of the car.  There's nothing to worry about."
        "That's what all crazy drivers say . . . just before they plow into a tree, or something!" Gail replied, considering the possibilities of what would happen if she reached over and turned off the ignition.  Darlene would probably lose control of the car if I did that!  "Darlene, please slow down!"
        With an impish grin, Darlene replied, "Soitenly!"  Without warning, the brash young woman jammed on the brakes and slid sideways into a long, gravel-paved driveway.  "We're here anyway," Darlene said, just barely managing to control the car and stop it from skidding into an old wooden fence.
        "DarleneLook out!"
        Barely seeing the movement in the headlights, Darlene swerved the car off the driveway, missing Tom Sanders . . . Gail's fiance for the past two years.  The high performance Camaro went down in a ditch, its front end burying itself in loosely packed dirt.
        Tom came running up to the car, his friend Alan Trusty just a few feet behind.  Alan, Darlene's latest conquest . . . just one of many over the past few months . . . slid to a halt beside the driver's door and, with a worried look on his face, asked, "You two all right?"
        "We're fine," stated Darlene, glancing over at Gail to make sure.  "But my car!  Look at the front end!"
        The Camaro was indeed a mess.  The hood was bent up in the middle, the black plastic grill was smashed and both front tires were pointed outward at different angles.
        Darlene wasn't too worried about the damages.  Her parents were rich.  The spunky girl knew that with just the slightest bit of reprimand, her dad would have the car repaired and she would be back on the road in less than a week.  In the meantime, there was always Alan's Chevy Nova to run around in.  But as she looked around, up towards the old farmhouse and over by the barn, Darlene had a sudden feeling that she may have reason to start worrying.
        "Uh, Alan . . . where's your car?"
        "My sister has it!  She dropped us off here about a half hour ago.  Tom and I thought we could get a ride out of here tomorrow morning with you!"
        "What are we going to do now?" Gail asked, hysteria evident in her voice.
        Darlene was never one to worry about such trivial details as being marooned out in the country with a couple of good looking fellows.  At least not when she still had a trunk full of malt liquor and Boone's Farm wine.  "You guys prefer apple, or strawberry flavored wine?" she asked, popping open the truck.  "I've got it all!"
        Tom and Alan were constantly amazed at Darlene's ability to buy alcohol while only being twenty years old.  However, both were well aware of how she managed to accomplish it.  With Darlene's fabulous looks - five feet six, 115 pounds, long black hair nearly down to her waist, a smile that would melt a man's heart and a body most women would kill for, she merely flirted with the young sales clerks until they submitted and sold her whatever she wanted.  All this was totally unnecessary, of course, because Gail, six months older and already twenty-one, could have bought the beer and wine.  But that just wasn't Darlene's way.  She would do things the way she wanted, or not at all.
        "What goes best with Oreo cookies?" asked Tom, who was in charge of bringing the food for the little party.
        "Milk," Darlene replied, giving the handsome, well-built, but very dull young man a look of disapproval.  Handing a few bottles of wine to Gail and loading up her own arms, Darlene said, "Come on.  Let's go inside.  You boys grab a couple coolers of beer and meet us in the house . . . the kitchen."

        The house was in nearly total darkness the two girls noticed as they went in through the front door.  The only light came from a sliver of moonlight that seeped in through a broken slat in one of the boarded up windows.  After their eyes had adjusted, however, it was adequate light to see that the old house looked as though it had been vacant forever.  Gigantic cobwebs hung from the ceiling and walls.  Dust covered everything.  But the two girls noticed something else right away also . . . a terrible odor.  The smell of death was everywhere.
        "What died in here?!" Gail asked, covering her nose with the fabric of her sleeve.
        "I don't know, but it must have been recently.  When the boys get in, we'll have them search around a little bit.  If we can find a candle or something, maybe they can find whatever it is and get rid of it.  Probably a dead rat, or something."
        Continuing on towards where they thought the kitchen should be located, Darlene and Gail found themselves bumping into strange objects and were engaged in a constant battle to keep the cobwebs out of their faces.  Twice, they had nearly dropped the wine they were carrying, but eventually, they found the kitchen.  With a small amount of relief setting in, they set everything down on one of the counter tops and tried to get a good look at their surroundings.
        "There!  That's better!" Darlene announced after flicking on a lighter she had in her pocket.  "At least now, we won't be walking into any more walls."
        "Why do you carry a lighter?  You don't smoke, do you?"
        "Don't ask questions you don't want to hear the answers to, Gail.  Now help me look for a candle, or anything else we can keep burning for a little while.  This lighter won't last forever."
        If anything could be said of Gail, it was that she was resourceful.  Within two minutes, she had found an old pressure cooker and some cooking oil.  After ripping down a set of dusty curtains, she ripped the fabric into thin strips and fed one through the hole in the lid of the cooker.  Filling the bottom with oil, she secured the lid and said, "We've now got an oil burning lamp.  Give the wick a light, will you?"
        The makeshift lamp barely gave off enough light to see by, but for the girls, that was enough.  They were about to go exploring some more when they heard a dull thump followed by a moan from the other room.
        "We're in here, guys!" Darlene cried out as she went to offer them some light with her lighter.
        "Damn!  It's dark in here!  Now I wish we would have thought to bring flashlights!"
        When Darlene found Tom and Alan, she saw that they were carrying a lot more than just two coolers of beer.  They also had all the stuff they had brought with them, including a battery powered radio, blankets, a grocery bag full of food and lastly . . . a Coleman lantern, the one Alan used for night fishing.
        "All right!  Now we can really have some light!  Which one of you two thought to bring that along?"
        "I did," replied Alan.  "I figured since we were going to have music, you might want to dance after you've had a few.  I just wanted to make sure there was enough light to watch you shake your little... "
        A gut wrenching scream stopped Alan in mid-sentence.  It could only have been Gail.
        The two boys dropped everything in their arms and all three ran to the kitchen.  As they entered the semi-dark room, they saw their friend sitting in a corner, whimpering . . . frightened out of her mind.
        "GailWhat's wrong?"
        Darlene got no verbal reply, just a pointing of a finger from her cousin.  Gail was trying to indicate another doorway on the other side of the kitchen.  Looking through the other exit, all anyone could see was another wall.  They thought the door might lead to a hallway, though it was hard to be certain on account of it all being so dark.  However, they all noticed one thing about the darkened doorway . . . with all the cobwebs and shadows, it looked very foreboding.
        Seconds passed . . . no one said a word.  Finally, it was Tom Sanders who spoke first.  "I'll go check it out.  It's probably nothing, just Gail's imagination again, but I'd better go make sure anyway."
        "We'd better both go," Alan insisted.  "I know how much you care for Gail, and how much she thinks of you, but that's no reason to go 'macho' on us.  If there is something out there, two of us stand a better chance than one."
        "I want you to stay here with the girls, Alan.  They'll feel better that way."
        "Bullshit!" Darlene swore, blasting Tom with not only the word, but a punch to the arm for emphasis.  "Gail and I will be fine!  Who knows what Gail saw over there!  It just might be something dangerous!  Take Al with you!  Take Gail's homemade oil lamp with you also!  And for Pete's sake . . . be careful . . . both of you!"
        Fear was already taking a hold in Tom's stomach and he really didn't want to argue.  So with Alan at his side, he took the crude lamp and headed for the far doorway.  Moments later, they both vanished amidst the shadows.
        Darlene kept her eyes glued to the far doorway for a few moments, hoping for a fast return of the boys.  After about a minute, when they still hadn't come back, she was about to call out when she heard Gail starting to mumble.
        "Gail," she began softly.  "I want to know what you saw.  Come on.  It'll be all right.  Just tell me what frightened you so badly."
        Gail put a quivering lower lip to her teeth.  When no sound came forth, Darlene assumed that her cousin was simply going to start biting her lip again, like she always did when she was scared out of her mind.  But then, Gail started to utter something that Darlene couldn't quite understand. "Va.. Vam... "
        "Gail.  It's all right.  Really.  Take a deep breath and tell me what you saw.  Please."
        Even before Darlene could grasp the full meaning, there was a scream from somewhere on the other side of the house.  Darlene knew it had to come from either Tom, or Alan.  She couldn't tell which one.  But there was one thing she was very certain of . . . that scream . . . it cut off too suddenly.  Darlene just knew down to her soul that whoever it was that screamed . . . was now dead.

        Alan and Tom crept along the hallway very slowly, the lamp held out in front.  Neither wanted to be leading the way.  There was something very sinister about this old house, something that was so evil, it could be felt.  It was almost like a presence . . . a ghostly presence.
        "Yep.  This place will be perfect for our party," Tom remarked, frightened to the point that he felt like hiding under some blanket.
        "Shaddup!" Alan hissed.  "You want whoever it is to hear us?"
        "If there's anyone else here, they know all about us already.  Remember Gail's scream?"
        Yeah, Al remembered it all right.  Just the thought of it made his spine shiver.
        Continuing along the corridors and rooms of the old house, both boys tried to see through the darkness, but saw nothing but creepy shadows, cobwebs and dusty old furniture.  Every so often, they thought they saw some movement, but if there was anything there at all, it was too quick to be identified.  Also, Tom and Alan had the feeling that they were being watched.  They both kept glancing around nervously, expecting at any moment for something to come rushing out of the shadows and grab them.
        "Man, that smell is getting worse!" Tom whispered.  "I say we give up on this crap, grab the girls and get the heck outta here!  Walk back to town if we have to!"
        Tom was seriously considering the idea when they saw her . . . it. A vampire.  A female vampire.  They could tell she was a female right away . . . she was as naked as the day she was born!
        Both boys stood frozen in fear as they stared at the creature.  She was old, perhaps nearing fifty.  Dried blood was smeared all over her neck and upper chest and, even though her mouth was closed, they could still see the two canine teeth protruding between her lips.  She had gigantic leathery wings, tipped with what looked like claws at the top.
        But it was her eyes that held the two boys captive.  Her eyes, black as coal in the dim light, were as evil looking as anything they had ever seen.  No, not only evil . . . feral.  Wild . . . frenzied.  Her stare was hypnotic, freezing the two boys in their tracks, totally disallowing their desire to run . . . their will to survive.
        From behind the creature, seven more vampires stepped out of the shadows.  All were female and all had the same leathery wings, though some had a larger span than the others.  Three were naked, like the first vampire, but younger . . . perhaps in their mid-twenties to early thirties.  The other four, all about the age of Darlene and Gail, were dressed in what looked like leather jumpsuits.  These jumpsuits were like nothing the two boys had ever seen before.  For one thing, all of the outfits were sleeveless, backless and the legs were cut out to way above the hips.
        Tom and Alan began to walk toward the lead vampress, not of their own free will, but of her will.  She was commanding the two boys with her very thoughts to give themselves to her, to her friends.  They had no choice.  Their determination to survive was gone.  The only thoughts that occupied their minds now were those of pleasing the hideous creature, even if it meant the forfeiture of their very lives.
        There was no need for the creatures to charge the boys, the two mortals were under their control.  They simply stood there with bizarre expressions . . . motionless . . . waiting for their next victims to come to them.
        Alan was the first to reach the group of blood-thirsty, zombie-like vampires.  The instant he was within their easy reach, the older vampire grabbed him by the collar, and with incredible strength, tossed him back to the others as she continued to silently stare at Tom.
        Tom watched in horror as the seven younger vampires tore into Alan, shredding his clothes and cutting deep into his chest with their claws, sharp fingernails and razor sharp teeth.  They were stripping him, making every square inch of his flesh easily available so the entire group could feed at once.
        Tom wanted to run, wanted to scream, but it was impossible.  He was under the spell of the lead vampire and all he was able to do was watch as his best friend was being prepared as the main course for a demented group of very powerful vampires.
        Alan was being mauled.  His clothes mostly gone now, he wanted to fight back against the creatures, but it was no use.  Not only was his mind still under the control of this group of fiends, but there were too many of them and they were much too strong.  Then, without warning, one of the younger vampires grabbed him on his arm just under the shoulder and pulled . . . hard.  A large chunk of flesh ripped away from his arm.  She immediately began sucking away at it, trying to draw out every last drop of blood.  Another one, a beauty with long blonde hair, jumped on top of him, her canine teeth growing longer even as he watched.  She slowly lowered her lovely face towards his vulnerable neck.  Then Alan felt it . . . the pain . . . as her razor sharp teeth sank deep into his jugular.  Alan finally managed to scream.  It was the last sound he would ever make.

        On the other side of the house, Darlene jumped into action when she heard the scream.  She knew there was no saving the boys now and her best bet was to grab Gail and try to make it to the front door.  But Gail wasn't cooperating.  She was too scared to move.
        "Gail!  Come on!  Snap out of it!  We've got to get out of here!"
        Pulling her cousin along by the arm and using her lighter to see by, Darlene retraced her steps back to the front door as fast as she could.  Twice she had to stop and look around to get her bearings.  Ultimately, they made it with only a few wrong turns.  But in the end, it was a wasted effort.  Standing in front of the door were three female vampires, one of which was completely naked.  They appeared to be expecting the two young mortals and were prepared to stop them from leaving.
        "Oh, my God!" Darlene gasped, staring at the creatures.  "Come on, Gail!  Back the way we came!"  But the instant Darlene swung around she saw more of the vampire women behind her.  They didn't appear to be wanting to attack.  It was more like they were watching, guarding . . . maybe waiting for her and Gail to try and escape again.  We're trappedThere's no way out!
        Options ran through Darlene's quick mind one right after the other.  She knew fighting the creatures would be senseless; she and Gail were hopelessly outnumbered.  Darlene tried to think of all the stories she had heard and read about vampires, tried to remember what would kill them.
        Holy waterBut there's certainly none around hereGarlicDoesn't garlic kill a vampireWaitA cross!  Darlene quickly scanned the room for anything she could fashion into a cross.  On the other side of the living room, Darlene noticed the broken slats again on the window, the ones that were letting the moonlight in earlier.  In the far corner of the room lay the old boards.  They'll have to do! she thought.  If only we can get over there without these bitches attacking!
        As Darlene and Gail slowly inched their way across the room, Darlene maintained a very close watch on the vampires.  They were still doing nothing more than watching, keeping the two girls from leaving the house.
        What's the point in this? Darlene wondered.  They've obviously killed Tom and Alan alreadyThat scream I heard didn't come from no church mouseWhy don't they attack us as wellSuck out all of our blood?
        Darlene made it to the wooden slats with no difficulties.  Apparently, the two mortals could do whatever they wanted, just not leave.  They want to keep us here for some reasonThey're waiting for something.
        As Darlene reached down for a couple of the old slats, she realized she had another problem as well.  She couldn't continue to lead Gail along by the hand if she was going to scare off the vampires by holding two pieces of wood together.  She just had to make Gail come around.
        "Come on, cuz!  Snap out of it!  You want to die here, or do you want to fight your way out?"  Darlene had to give her cousin three sharp slaps to the face before Gail reacted.  With her adrenaline and fear reaching new heights, Darlene slapped her once more, just to be sure.
        "Okay!  Don't hit me anymore!" Gail cried out, shaking her head to clear it.  "I'm okay now.  But what are we going to do?  How can we get past all these women?"
        "Those aren't 'women,' Gail.  They're vampires!  And all vampires have vulnerabilities!  Just follow my lead!"
        Putting two pieces of wood together to form a cross, Darlene began slowly walking towards the door, Gail just inches behind.  Seeing the cross, all the vampires either ran from the room, or turned away in fear.
        "It's working!  Gail, I can't believe it's going to be this easy!"
        There was one last vampire in the girls' path.  She was standing directly in front of the door, covering her eyes with her forearm.  Clearly, the creature was frightened to death of the cross and wanted no part of it.  As Darlene and Gail advanced upon her, she let out a ghastly scream and ran from the room also.
        "All right!" Darlene roared, her hand on the door knob.  "We're outta here!"  But as soon as she opened the door, Darlene's mouth fell open in surprise and she nearly dropped the two slats of wood.  There was someone standing there, a male vampire . . . and he was big!
        In his left hand, the vampire was carrying the unconscious body of a man like a suitcase, the human's belt being the handle.  Seeing the cross, the big vampire hissed and used his right hand to slap it aside, one of the two pieces flying across the room.  He seemed to have no fear of the cross whatsoever.  He smiled in satisfaction as he watched Darlene and Gail tremble in fear.
        Not knowing what else to do, Darlene took the remaining piece of wood and tried to use it as a stake.  With every ounce of her strength, she tried to drive it into the vampire's black heart.
        And was stopped short.
        The vampire, guessing from the start what the girl would do with the stake, simply caught it as it neared his chest.  Regardless of how much weight Darlene put into the strike, regardless of her momentum, the vampire wrenched it from her grasp as easily as if he were taking a toy away from a small child.  Then, without any sign of remorse, he backhanded Darlene in the face and sent her tumbling across the room.  With his free hand, he then grabbed Gail by the arm and held her, thus preventing her from fleeing out the door.
        Seeing the situation was under control, the huge vampire looked to the remaining women in the room.  With his mind, he ordered them to pick Darlene up from the floor.  Understanding from the amount of blood all his women had on their faces that they had already fed, the male vampire then ordered them to relieve him of his two human captives.  They were to take all three mortals down to the basement . . . to their lair.
        Darlene, still in pain and dazed by the force of the blow, could do nothing as she was being led to the basement.  Managing to look behind her, Darlene saw Gail.  The poor girl was in shock again.
        At the bottom of the stairs Darlene took a good look around.  She didn't like what she saw.  Perhaps fifty candles provided the illumination, plenty of light to see the huge, elaborate coffin in the center of the basement.  Surrounding it, were about a dozen piles of straw.  Darlene assumed that these were where the female vampires slept during the daylight hours.  Along one side of the cellar were piles of bones, some still partially clothed, others now nothing but bare skeletons.  The human remains of past meals, Darlene guessed correctly.
        Once in the middle of the room, the commanding male vampire ordered the women to restrain the two mortals with their arms pinned behind them.  After Darlene and Gail had been subdued, the fiend took a few moments to convey his demands, not with words, but with his mind.
        You may refer to me as "Vince."  From this moment on, I will be your masterYour actions will be as I allow themYour words will be as I allow themYour thoughts . . . will be as I allow them
        "Vince, I will obey," the girls said in unison, their free will gone.  They could still think, but their bodies would not obey the commands from their brains.  Truly, they were now the slaves of Vince.
        Release them!
        The vampire women allowed Gail and Darlene to stand free and unmolested.  The creatures also understood there was no further need to hold on to the two mortals.  Now that Vince had absolute control of their minds, Gail and Darlene could not even think about escaping.
        Stand ready, for I will now make you immortal!
        Darlene was first.  Vince advanced upon her and, after ripping away the thin, high-collared blouse to expose her neck, sank his sharp teeth deep into the soft flesh of her neck.  In her mind, she not only felt the pain associated with the razor sharp teeth, but was nauseated at the thought of becoming a vampire.  She wanted to scream, to fight back, to let the world know that she was still Darlene, not some hideous creature that would forever roam the night in search of blood.  But, of course, she couldn't.  Even as Vince's sharp canines were embedding themselves in her neck, all she could do was stand there . . . accept it.
        Vince didn't draw out much blood.  There was no need to . . . he had already fed that evening.  And besides, he didn't want to destroy Darlene's body completely.  He wanted the two mortals to become vampires like himself, not simply kill them.  As soon as Vince was sure his teeth were inside Darlene long enough for the V-virus to invade her bloodstream, he withdrew his fangs, leaving a trail of blood oozing down her bare chest.  Darlene fell limp to the floor.  In a matter of minutes, she would be dead.  The V-virus inside her body would make certain of that.  But shortly thereafter, she would then awaken as a vampire.
        Now it was Gail's turn.  In her eyes, Vince could see the fear.  She had witnessed the death of her cousin, the girl she had grown up with . . . her best friend.  Gail was also nearly certain that her boyfriend was dead.  She had heard the scream just as Darlene had.
        There was a sharp intake of breath from Gail as Vince sunk his fangs into her neck.  She felt them as they drove deeper and deeper into the soft tissue below her ear.  The pain was like nothing Gail had ever felt before, however, being under the mental control of Vince, she could do nothing.  When she felt a warm, sticky liquid running down her throat to her chest and knew her life as she had known it . . . was over.
        Gail too passed out when the terrible ordeal was over.  Her body fell just inches away from Darlene's.

        Darlene was the first to regain consciousness.  She and Gail had been placed together on one of the beds of straw, the one furthest from Vince's coffin.  Gail, just starting to move, had dried blood all over her neck.  When she moaned, Darlene saw the canine teeth of a vampire protruding from her lips.
        Using her tongue to check her own teeth, Darlene discovered hers had grown as well, but not nearly as much as those of her cousin.  Next, Darlene saw that she and Gail had been given new outfits.  They were the same type of leather jumpsuits as they had seen the others wear.  They showed a lot of leg and was not exactly the sort of thing that could be worn in public.  It was just slightly less revealing than a bathing suit. 
        "Gail!  Are you all right?" Darlene asked when she thought her cousin had recovered sufficiently to communicate.  "How do you feel?"
        Gail's look made Darlene shiver.  It was nothing more than a dull expression, the type that signaled trouble.  Total bewilderment.  "Gail, are you alright?  Say something!"
        "I . . . uh... "
        Darlene watched her cousin as she tried to get up.  Her movements were slow, unsteady.  I can read her mind! Darlene realized.  I can even understand her thoughtsPoor Gail is scared to deathI've got to help her through all this!  Darlene was just about to help her cousin get to her feet when she noticed a small amount of movement from the other side of the cellar.  It was the coffin.  The lid was opening.
        Suddenly, Darlene's mind was no longer her own.  Thoughts were invading hers.  Vince's thoughts.  He was commanding all his slaves to gather around.
        Darlene and Gail rose and walked mechanically over to the coffin.  They were soon joined by the other vampire women, some of whom were just waking up as well.  When all were gathered, the dominant vampire made his thoughts known.
        Tonight, is the beginning of a new ageWith our two new arrivals, we now have sufficient numbers that we no longer have to hide in fearNever again will we be forced to share a human's bloodNo longer will we be forced to feed on the blood of animals and hide in this vacant houseTonight, we prey as we were meant to prey!
        Darlene didn't know what to think about this.  Part of her mind, the part Vince controlled, relished the notion of feeding on human victims.  However, the part Darlene still controlled, the part that made her what she was . . . rebelled.
        Vince noticed this emotional conflict of course, and centered his gaze on the newest members of his harem.
        You . . . DarleneSo, you do not approveYou do not wish to feedYou would rather starve than take the life of a mere humanHmmmWe shall soon see!
        With the slightest of mental commands, Vince ordered four of his women to bring the human captives.  Two of the women immediately went to a small alcove in the cellar while two more went somewhere upstairs.  Moments later, the vampire women that went into the alcove returned, dragging with them the man Darlene had seen Vince carry in the night before.
        There is your meal for tonight, Darlene.  Feed!
        Darlene was forced by Vince's powerful mind to walk over to the captive.  She was repulsed with the idea of taking another life, but even as her mind resisted the mental commands of Vince, her body betrayed her.  She felt her two canine teeth grow with the anticipation of tasting fresh blood.  And within seconds, with more strength than she thought possible of herself, Darlene picked the man up and slammed him on the dirt floor of the cellar.  The man was out cold.  Ripping away his shirt, she bent over the poor man . . . and sunk her teeth into the warm flesh of his neck.  I'm so sorry! she thought.  I can't stop!  Soon, with a ravenous hunger, Darlene began sucking away at the blood which flowed so freely from the wounds on his neck.
        After Darlene had drained the man, it was Gail's turn to feed.  The two vampire women who went upstairs were just returning with her intended victim.  They were forced to drag the poor mortal down the stairs because he was struggling every inch of the way.  It was hopeless, however, the vampires each had ten times his strength.  No mere mortal could hope to overpower even the weakest of vampires.
        His face was hidden by shadows but somehow, Gail had the impression of knowing him.  She didn't know why, but assumed it had something to do with her now being a vampire.
        As her fangs grew with her desire to feed, the man's face was suddenly illuminated by the candlelight.  To Gail's horror, she saw it was Tom Sanders, the boy she had hoped to marry someday.  NONot him! she begged with the last fragments of her free will.  Not himPlease!
        You will consume his blood.
        Gail had no choice other than submit to the stronger will.  Vince's mind was simply too powerful, too dominant.  With the knowledge that she was soon going to kill and gorge on the blood of the man she loved, Gail's conscious faculties began to recede into the furthest, most unreachable portions of her mind.  With every step she took towards Tom, Gail was leaving the person she used to be further and further behind.  By the time she reached her lover and the two vampires that held him at bay, her mind was gone.  Never again would she be that intelligent, unassertive, and sweet individual once known as Gail Holland.
        "Gail!  No!  Think what you're doing!" Tom cried out, almost fully comprehending what was to come.  "You don't have to do this!  You're your own person! Gail!"
        Tom was torn from the grasp of the two vampires as Gail attacked.  As her cousin watched in astonishment from just a few feet away, Gail mauled the man she had once loved.  There was a viciousness about her that Darlene had never seen before.  The now feral woman was raking deep crevices in Tom's chest as she ripped away his sweater and shirt.  Struggling, Tom tried to push Gail off, to squirm away from the vicious attack.  But it was no use, the girl- turned-vampire was all over him.
        His neck now exposed, Gail could have ended it there by simply biting Tom in the neck and killing him, but she didn't.  Growling and snarling like some wild animal, she used her sharp teeth to first torture the poor man by ripping huge chunks of flesh out of his chest, shoulders and arms.  Tom's screams of agony seemed to have no affect on Gail, nor did the blood pouring from his gaping wounds influence her to stop the torture and commence feeding.  For over a minute the gruesome attack continued and only when Tom was on the verge of passing out did Gail finally lower her canine teeth to his neck and bite.  At that point, Tom Sanders mercifully passed out.
        Still having the composure of a wild animal, Gail rose to her feet a few minutes later, Tom's dead body on the ground beneath her.  She began glaring at the other vampire women.  There was a madness in her eyes, total anger . . . a feral look that defied sanity.  The vampire women shied away from Gail, as if they instinctively knew she was not only a threat to mortals, but maybe for them as well.
        Vince noticed all this, of course, and was pleased.  It had always been his hope that one day he would have such a female in his midst.  She was everything a powerful vampire like himself could hope for, if and when he ever needed a mate.
        You are exceptional, little oneA true model for all vampiresSomeday others of our kind will look up to you, Gail.  Then Vince appeared to think for a few moments before he said out loud, "Your present name is unacceptable.  You should have a label that inspires fear in the hearts of mortals.  From now on, you will be known as Vampra!"

        "How many years were you under the influence of Vince?" Sergeant Baker asked, fully engrossed in the story.
        "Until Vince died five years later.  It was a vigilante group composed of the area farmers that killed him.  There were many deaths in the Jamestown area during those five years.  The town authorities could do nothing.  The three police officers the town had were killed during the first two months of the rampage that started after Gail and I were turned, and no one wanted to take their place.  Finally, after . . . Gail and I . . . had fed on a farming family about five miles outside of town, the farmers united, forming a rather formidable assault team.
        "Gail and I were not downstairs when it happened.  It was nearing dusk and we were upstairs preparing to fly off to feed as the farmers raided the cellar.  By the time they thought to search the house, it was sundown and Gail and I were able to turn into bats and escape.  Nearly everyone in the cellar was slaughtered.  The only vampire besides Gail and me that escaped was a brutal vampress named Athena.  Where she is now is anyone's guess."
        Sergeant Baker saw the look of regret on Darlene's face and had a sudden suspicion.  He asked, "There were some aspects of the time you spent in Vince's captivity that you enjoyed, weren't there?"
        "To be truthful . . . yes, there was.  But only one.  What I miss were the times Gail and I soared the skies at night.  No, not as bats, but in our human form, when we used our wings.  Most nights, after we fed, we would spend hours riding the air currents, miles in the sky.  Everything is so peaceful when you're that high over the countryside.  The only noise would be that of the wind as it filled your wings and, of course, made a mess of your hair.  But the best part was, during those times, Vince would respect Gail's wishes and leave our minds alone.  We were ourselves.  Well, Gail wasn't herself, she was totally mad, but she had an inner calm and was able to enjoy herself.  Those were the only times that she was even close to what she was like before she was bitten.  Yes, Sergeant, I miss the old Gail.  What she is now . . . Vampra . . . that isn't Gail.  This 'Vampra' is an abomination."
        "Darlene, you'll find some way to help her.  I know you will.  We've all seen the affect you have on Gail when you're near her.  Just your very presence calms her."
        There was a long silence between them for long minutes.  Neither wanted to disturb the thoughts of the other.  Then a question popped into Sergeant Baker's head.  He didn't know why it came to him as it did, from out of the blue, but he just had to ask.  And as always, he was surprised when Darlene answered it before he had a chance to question her about it.
        "Like I said, Sarge, I don't know where Athena is now.  As far as I know, she was last seen by Gail and me as she flew off to the West.  That was the night we escaped the vigilantes.  I'll tell you one thing though . . . wherever Athena is, I hope she stays there.  This town doesn't need the likes of her.  She was bad news then, under Vince's control.  I'm afraid to think what she'd be like with a free mind."
        "Abe!  Quit scaring me like that!" Baker shouted, nearly jumping out of his skin.  He whirled around and saw the ghoul floating a foot off the ground directly behind them.  It almost looked as though the old ghoul had a smirk on his skeletal face.  For a few moments, Sergeant Baker forced himself to calm down before he did something stupid.  It was then that he finally caught on.  "Aww, damn it, Abe!  It was you who put that question about this 'Athena' woman in my head, wasn't it?  Why do you do these things to me?"
        "I don't want to hear this," Darlene commented, glancing at the cave's entrance and seeing that daylight was approaching.  She rose and started to go back to her private cavern when she added, "Anyway, it's almost time for me to hit the sack.  I don't need to be having any nightmares."
        This stopped Darlene in her tracks.  She spun on Abe and, wanting to keep it private, shot out with her mind, Explain yourself, buster!
        Abe, having no need for such trivial matters as privacy, answered the beautiful vampress in his normal, straight-out-of-hell voice.  "HIS NAME IS MICHAEL COCHRAN.  THIS HUMAN WILL STIR WITHIN YOU THE DEEPEST, MOST INTIMATE DESIRES YOU'VE EVER EXPERIENCED.  BE PREPARED."  Glancing over at Sergeant Baker, the ghoul seemed amused at the human's reaction.
        "You mean Darlene's going to have an affair?  Wow!  Who would've thought?"
        "Thanks Abe," the vampress stated in a voice so cold it could have frozen the sun.
        Satisfied that he had caused enough disruption for one evening, the ghoul vanished, leaving both Darlene and Sergeant Baker somewhat dumbfounded.  Again, it was Darlene who broke the silence.
        "Like I said, I have to get to bed."  Then without another word for fear that the sergeant would want to inquire about Mike Cochran, Darlene turned and went back to her cavern.
        Sergeant Baker, alone and still trying to get over Abe's announcements, mumbled, "Yep.  This is typical of life in Moore's Lake.  One minute you're dying of boredom, the next . . . all hell is breaking loose!"
        Packing his belongings in preparation for shift change, Sergeant Baker no longer paid any attention to his surroundings.  There was no reason to really, not with Marcia Lewis due to arrive any minute to relieve him.  If he had been paying attention, he would have noticed Abe, or rather a ghostly silhouette of Abe, floating in a nearby crevice.  The ghoul saw that Sergeant Baker's mind was elsewhere and, thinking it might be best to teach the human a lesson by scaring him again, used his most terrifying voice and said, "YES, SERGEANT BAKER.  ALL HELL WILL BE BREAKING LOOSE VERY SHORTLY!  THAT IS THE REASON MICHAEL COCHRAN AND HIS SOULMATE ARE COMING!"
        "Damn it, Abe!  Stop that!"


The End



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E-Mail the author at: CarlMerritt@compuserve.com