Living Dead Girl
by J. Darksong* * *
I’ve never been a big believer in fate, or kismet, or all of that destiny shit... but I’m thinking of becoming a convert.
Seriously, though, life, to me, has always seemed like nothing more than a bunch of random occurrences without rhyme or reason. A grand cosmic clusterfuck. Kind of a bland and bleak outlook, I suppose, but I think my own perspective of things was kind of... unique.
I suppose, being dead naturally tends to give one a rather sour outlook on life.
Or, perhaps, more accurately, I should say, undead. There is actually a difference. I wasn’t floating in the aether, after all, a disembodied spirit, wafting around on the breeze, haunting people and shit. Nor was I among the angels, looking down on the wretched SOB’s that still inhabit the mortal plan. And I wasn’t down THERE either, locked away in the bowels of a fiery pit. Not yet anyway... I’m still a bit unsure on how that works when you’re technically stuck in between. I certainly hadn’t been part of the church before my death, so I was pretty damn sure I wasn’t heading up when someone finally managed to dust my walking, talking, bloodsucking shell.
Of course, even though being a vampire sucked—literally and figuratively—I wasn’t quite ready to stop existing just yet.
At any rate, back to my earlier statement on fate or destiny, or what have you. First of all, you have to understand the situation. I’ve been a River City resident since before there technically WAS a River City. I was born back in 1814, back when the ‘city’ was merely an outpost for traders and trappers on their way to do business in the larger established cities in Oregon state. And I died a mere twenty years later, at the end of a knife wielded by a psychotic bastard too fugly, and too stupid to take ‘no’ for an answer. It was then, at the moment of my death, that I met my Master.
You might say that him showing up then and there proves the whole ‘fated encounter’ bullshit... that if things hadn’t aligned at just the right way at the right time, I wouldn’t be who and what I am today. And I’d say, ‘so what’? From my perspective, yeah, he was my fucking knight in black bat-furred and midnight armor. But honestly, if it hadn’t been me, it would have been some other young girl that received the gift. Curse. Whatever. Master admitted to me that he’d been looking for someone, a companion, and honestly, if he hadn’t spotted me when he had, it would have been someone else.
Yeah, my Master definitely knew how to make a girl feel special.
At any rate, after giving me the choice—bleeding out and passing on to whatever awaited me in the afterlife, or spending eternity with Him, I chose the latter. It kind of reminds me of that scene in the second Pirates of the Carribean movie, which I recently saw... the one where what’s-his-name, um... Squidward? Squiddy has a bunch of sailors lined up and asks them if they fear death... offering them the chance to forestall the judgment and spend 100 years before the mast, or some junk. I think one Christian guy, with a cross on a chain around his neck, said no. The others were like, ‘Hell yeah! Not dying? Even if I look like a weird fish monster, gimme some of that!’ So that was basically me... just with a whole bat motif instead of seafood.
Fast forward to roughly two hundred years later. The small little outpost has become a bustling metropolis, with more than half a million people living here. It’s busy, it’s crowded, it’s loud and noisy, and completely utterly crazy! People with special powers and abilities, some so strange and exotic it makes a simple vampire like me seem pretty much mundane.
And that’s the thing. Master taught me very early on the importance of staying concealed, flying under the radar, and keeping oneself hidden. I’m pretty young, in the grand scheme of things, a ‘mere’ two hundred years old, but I know all about the ‘bad ol’ days’, with the mobs carrying pitchforks and torches, the vaunted vampire hunters with their stakes and garlic and holy water, and all that. You see, for all of our strengths, our biggest weakness—other than the whole stake through the heart thing—was believing we were invincible. Just because we were no longer alive didn’t mean we couldn’t still die, after all.
Bottom line, I had a purely ‘live-and-let-live’ philosophy. I kept my head down and kept to myself. As long as you weren’t up in my grill, causing me grief, then I had no problem with you. I never went looking for trouble. I avoided it.
But sometimes... it’s unavoidable. Sometimes trouble comes looking for you.
I was walking home from the market after having lunch at the new Italian restaurant on Seventh street—and yes, for the uninitiated, I CAN actually eat human food, though it’s all empty calories to me, as I only gain nutrients from blood—when it happened. A metahuman battle, happening just across the street. I and several others stopped to watch, none of us anxious to interfere or get involved. And frankly, I personally would have merely continued on my way home, had the occurrence not happened on the street leading up to my apartment.
“Stop running!” a tall slender young woman wearing an orange and black jumpsuit called out., chasing after a large heavyset man with gleaming silver skin, carrying a small metal briefcase. “Hey! Hold up!” she yelled, only to yelp and dodge to the side as the man suddenly turned, smashing a fist against a blue metal mailbox, ripping it clear from its supports, sending it flying back towards the hapless heroine. Mindful of the crowds of onlookers, however, she brought up her hands even as she dodged, glowing with a soft vibrant orange color, and let loose a blast with a loud CRAACK! like the strike of a whip. Struck, the mailbox tumbled, shifting directing, and landing hard against the side of a building before coming to a stop.
I was somewhat impressed. The girl was young, still a kid, but pretty good to be that aware of her surroundings even in the midst of a battle. And well, the mask may have hidden her face, but that bodysuit did little to hide her curves. I had a definite appreciation for the fairer sex, and this girl seemed pretty damn ‘fair’ to me.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get more entertaining, however, a second mocha skinned cutie showed up, this one in a blue-green jumpsuit and sporting goggles instead of a mask. “Hey, Steelskin!” she called out, approaching from the right side, her own hands outstretched! “Watch it with your aim!” she yelled, firing out a blast of what appeared to be concentrated... water? “Got a lot of innocents around here, yanno? My partner and I are pretty tough and can take a few knocks here and there. But if you just go tossing around heavy metal objects into the crowd like that, you’ll end up hurting someone.” She fired a blast of water again, doing no damage to the metal-skinned villain... but it did manage to knock away the case he’d been carrying out of his grasp.
“Aaahh... shit!” he growled, skidding to a stop, turning back to glare at the pair of heroines, who were now standing over the discarded case. “You two little bitches are starting to piss me off!” he said, cracking his knuckles. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll turn around, walk away, and leave me the hell alone!”
The two glanced at each other, shrugging. “Sorry, but we can’t do that. They’d take away out hero licenses,” quipped the dark-skinned girl, striking a fighting pose.
“Besides,” the light-skinned girl added, “if we actually knew what was good for us, we’d never have become costume wearing heroines in the first place!”
“Grrr... mock me, will you?” he snarled, charging at the pair, arms outstretched. “I’ll crush you both like tin cans!”
Rather than a drawback, as any logical person might have, the two partners reacted, attacking in concert. The one with the water powers sent out a flood of water, not at the metal-skinned menace, but at the ground at his feet... namely the dirty, oil-soaked pavement. At the same time, the girl in the orange jumpsuit brought up her hands, which I noticed were glowing with a much brighter light than before, and let loose with a powerful blast just as the towering behemoth began to lose his balance.
I couldn’t help but wince in sympathy as the brute was knocked back, flipping over in mid-air as his legs flew out from under him, hitting the ground hard enough to cause a small shockwave. Several members of the crowd murmured in appreciation, clapping at the two heroines for taking out such an obviously strong and powerful villain. I myself gave them a perfunctory clap or two, then moved past, intending to continue on my way to my apartment. I was close enough to hear them talking as they examined the case the big guy had dropped.
“...wonder what he was doing with this in the first place, Splash?” the orange colored one was asking. “Steelskin is more of a thug, a grunt. Didn’t you say this was taken from the River City Museum?”
“Yeah, that’s true, ’Beam,” the dusky skinner girl replied, rubbing her chin lightly. “I’m sure it’s probably valuable, but unless he had a buyer already set up, it wouldn’t make much sense to go through the trouble of stealing it when there are easier places for a guy like him to make a quick buck...”
I harrumphed at that. Having ‘lived’ through some rather tough times myself after my Master had been slain, I did have a bit of sympathy for people, criminals or not, willing to do whatever it took to survive. It was a dog-eat-dog world after all. And since I was, technically, something of a parasite, living literally off the blood and sweat of others, I couldn’t help but feel a little bad for the guy.
That is, until he suddenly stood up, grabbed my arm, pulled me towards him and wrapped a beefy metal skinned arm around my neck!
“Steelskin! NO!” Splash yelled out, glancing up in shock.
“Let the girl go, now!” Sunbeam cried, hands starting to glow.
Steelskin merely laughed. “Please! Give it up, bitches! Did you think your little love tap put me down for the count? I barely even felt it!” He tightening his grip around my neck, causing me to wince visibly. “This little lady here, however... I bet she’d feel every bit of your blast if you tried to attack me right now. So why don’t you two big bad heroes BACK THE FUCK OFF before you make me hurt this innocent bystander?” he growled, causing them to take a few steps back. “Oh, and be a dear and drop my case where I can reach it while you’re at it,” he barked, earning a glare from both girls before they acquiesced. Reaching out with his foot, he slid it over to him and chuckled.
“Too bad, girls. You really should have made sure I was down for the count before worrying about the contents of that case,” he gloated. “Oh well, maybe next time you’ll know better—OOOFFF!” he grunted suddenly, eyes bulging wildly.
A natural reaction... considering that I’d just elbowed him in the gut. The clench around my neck loosened as he staggered back, wide-eyed, clutching his stomach. Then, with a loud gasp, he doubled over, before falling down, face first onto the pavement.
Everyone stared at him in utter shock. Then, unfortunately, as I’d expected, their eyes turned to stare in disbelief at me. “Nice job, ladies,” I said simply, bending down to retrieve my grocery bag containing my ‘dinner’. “Guess you did more damage to him than you thought.” With that, I turned and walked away.
I’d made it about five or six feet when I heard them sprinting along after me. Ah... dammit! I knew exerting my vampiric strength to take down that thug would end up coming back to bite me in the ass. Not that I was afraid of them coming after me to attack or arrest me. After all, I’d just helped them out of a tough spot, one they’d caused with their own naivete about the man they’d been after. I’d seen other heroes at work in my time and those two were definitely still wet behind the ears. Cute though...
“Hey! Wait for a second, willya?” the one called Sunbeam called out to me. “Please! We just wanna talk to you!”
“No thanks,” I barked back, not stopping or looking back. “I don’t feel like talking. I’m much too traumatized by my recent experience,” I replied cheekily. Only to pull to a stop finding the other girl, Splash waiting in front of me, a few feet away. I actually blinked at that. I’m pretty damned fast when I want to be. I hadn’t busted out my vampiric speed or reflexes yet, but I’d clearly left them both behind me when I’d headed for home. “How the heck did you get in front of me?” I asked, frowning.
“Oh? Does this mean you actually want to talk, now?” Splash asked, smirking, holding the metal case underneath her arm. “Because I’d be glad to share MY secret, if you share yours...” Growling, my hands clenched into fists, and she took a step back, losing the cheeky expression. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to push you or anything. If you really don’t want to talk to us, that’s fine. It’s your prerogative. It’s just... what you did back there was pretty spectacular. Could you at least tell us your name?”
I sighed. It was always harder to maintain my angry face with the cutes ones. “Tch... fine. The name’s Gwen,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “But don’t go thinking I’m one of you lot, okay? I’m not a hero. Not a bad guy, either. I just want to be left alone, okay?”
Sunbeam let out a soft sigh. “Well, that’s fair enough, Gwen. It’s kind of a shame, though. Someone as strong as you... you could probably do some real good as a costumed heroine.”
I laughed at that. “Me? Running around in public in brightly colored spandex? Uh uh. No thank you. This city has more than enough heroes playing dress up to keep people safe,” I replied, shaking my head. “I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I just want to be left alone.” I sighed. “Besides... going out in costumes like that... it’s just like painting a bull’s eye on your back—”
My eyes went wide as a sudden pain exploded in my chest, and an unexpected force shoved me back hard enough to knock me off my feet. It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened, and the slow trickle of blood pooling up from the wound, soaking my favorite black Metallica shirt only confirmed it. I’d... just been shot!
“GWEN!” Splash yelled, rushing to my side. “Oh, goddess! Beam! She’s been shot!”
“Up there!” the other girl yelled, pointing up at the topmost landing of the fire escape. There, barely noticeable in the shadows of the building, stood a person garbed in a head-to-toe black and gray skintight suit, holding a sniper’s rifle. “Oh, shit, it’s DeadEye,” Sunbeam muttered, glancing around at their surroundings. “Stupid... so stupid... should have known Steelskin would be working with a partner...”
“That’s right, hero,” the surprisingly feminine voice called out from the rafters. “And that would be yours truly. Now then... if you’d prefer NOT to end up like your little friend there, I’d suggest you drop the case and back away, nice and slow. I picked the perfect ambush spot; from this vantage point you have zero cover, and I can take you out at my leisure.”
“Fucking bitch!” Splash yelled, still clutching the case. “Why did you have to shoot an innocent? She has nothing to do with this! She wasn’t even involved in this!”
“Yeah right, pull the other one,” DeadEye answered back. “I saw the way she took out Steely just now. She might not be in costume, but she’s obviously a Super... and one not to be trifled with. I just took out the biggest threat first, that’s all. Now... for the last time, drop the case,” she growled, making a show of ejecting the spent cartridge and reloading her rifle, “or I’ll simply shoot you both, then climb down and take it from your corpses.”
Glancing at each other, the two heroines let out an audible sigh. I suppose it was really the only move they could make. There was no other choice. They’d been outmaneuvered. In battle, victory usually goes to her who has the high ground. And powers or no, a perfectly aimed bullet would put those two girls down permanently.
But not me.
“You... fucking... shot me!” I growled, rising back to my feet, hair whipping wildly, despite the obvious lack of wind. My skin had gone pale, an eerie grey-white, and my eyes had turned a deep blood red. My fangs had extended, and my fingernails had sharpened into thick and powerful claws. “You fucking shot me!” I hissed, glaring up at the would-be killer, who suddenly, sensing the danger, had taken several steps back in alarm. As had my two costume wearing friends, it seemed, a quick glance showing looks of horror and fear on their faces. So be it. It’s not as if they were anything more than new acquaintances anyway. Bottom line, I was deeply and severely pissed the fuck off!
And someone was about to pay!
“Aaaaahhh! What the fuck are you?!?” DeadEye yelled, taking aim with her rifle, firing off a shot at my head this time.... only to miss as I zipped away, dodging easily, sprinting across the alleyway to the nearby wall... walking UP the wall several feet before leaping across to the opposite one. “J-jeeeezzzuuusss!!” she yelled, dropping the rifle, pulling a pair of pistols instead, firing rapidly, trying her best to hit me.
She might as well have been lobbing spitballs at me for all the good it would do her.
“Rrrrraaahhhh!” I growled, leaping atop the fire escape with her, battling away her guns before she could even blink. “You fucking SHOT me!” I growled again, grabbing her by the throat. lifting her off her feet. “Worse, you RUINED my favorite shirt! From the goddamn 1991 tour!” I yelled, slowly increasing the pressure on her throat. “But I bet you’re fucking sorry now, aren’t you, bitch?” I asked her, extending my arm, dangling her over the edge of the fire escape, her legs and feet kicking wildly, hands clawing at mine around her neck.
“GWEN! NO!” Splash yelled up at me. “Don’t do it! Please!”
“She’s not worth it!” Sunbeam called out as well. “Please! You can’t just kill her... not in cold blood!”
I couldn’t help but laugh aloud at the irony of that statement. “In cold blood?” I repeated back to them, opening my mouth to show my fangs. “Trust me, girls. My own blood runs colder than the iciest winter chill. But don’t worry... I’m not going to kill her,” I said, pulling her back over the railing, relaxing my grip and allowing her to breathe again. “Besides,” I said, tilting her head slightly to the side, ripping back the collar of her bodysuit to expose her neck. “There are worse things out there than death...”
“Aa-aa-aaahh-ooohhhhhh,” DeadEye managed, gurgling strangely as my fangs pierced her flesh. Her body shuddered in my grasp, and, from experience, I knew it was not an unpleasant one. In nearly every case thus far, all of my victims have described my drinking their blood as something akin to a long, slow, drawn out orgasm. And yes, my ‘victims’, if you could even call them that, in the rare case when I went for blood fresh from the source instead of the pre-packaged stuff, all lived, with no lingering problems or complications. I was always careful not to drain too much, despite how fucking tempting it was. My Master had drilled the importance of self-control into me over the years to the point that it was more of a reflex to stop than it was to continue.
I’ll admit it, at this point, on this fucking roof, I was really tempted to drain this absolute bitch dry, then toss her dry empty-assed husk into the nearest dumpster like a damned soda can!
But... I DID pull away. And with a soft sigh, I took a moment to assess the situation. All right, Vampiric rage subsided? Check. Victim still alive? Check. Influx of fresh blood healing my chest wound? Check. Two very nervous and anxious looking heroines that still need to be dealt with... sigh Check. Steeling myself inside, I grabbed the gun bitch underneath her arms, and leaped from the top of the fire escape, landing lightly on the pavement several feet below.
As expected, both girls drew back a step, charging up their powers, but, to their credit, neither of them attacked. A few decades ago, if anyone has seen what had just occurred, I would likely already be surrounded with a crowd carrying pitchforks and torches. So, that’s progress, I guess. Not wanting to exacerbate the situation more, I released my grip around the dazed gunman and stepped back a few steps. “So,” I said with a heavy sigh, “I suppose you have some questions—”
“Oh, you have no idea,” Splash replied, still wide-eyed and wary.
“—but that can wait for later. First things first. We should probably question... DeadEye, was it? Question Little Miss Firearms here, and see if anyone else is going to pop up and do damage to my wardrobe.” I turned towards the black-garbed shooter and frowned. “You there! Take off the balaclava. I hate talking to people when I can’t see their faces.”
“Um, sorry to disappoint, but there’s no way she’ll do that,” Sunbeam stated. “DeadEye’s one of the most notorious assassins in the country, and she never reveals her—holy shit!”
I tried not to smirk as the deeply entranced hitwoman obeyed my command, removing her mask and revealing her face. And even I blinked in surprise at the sight of her. Long honey blonde hair, blue eyes, sweet puffy bee-stung lips, and a rosy complexion that I’d kill for. The girl was definitely hot for a cold-blooded killer. It made me a bit tempted to see what else she was hiding underneath those dark, unflattering clothes of her... but I managed to keep my focus.
“Now then, um... uh... what’s your name, thrall?”
“My true name is Paris Fulton, Mistress,” she replied in a soft empty tone. The two heroines glanced meaningfully at me, and I winked.
“Tell me, Paris, do you have any other partners we need to worry about?” I asked. “Is anyone else going to come looking for you and ol’ ‘Chrome Dome’ any time soon?”
“No, Mistress,” Paris answered. “We have no additional partners. There is, of course, the buyer, an unknown female who contracted us to retrieve the stone from the museum, but it is very unlikely she would be tracking us, or know where we are.”
“Uh huh. And just what is this stone that you and your friend went through so much trouble to steal anyway?”
“It is called the Akert Stone,” Paris replied blankly, “but what it is, or why the buyer wanted it, I have no idea.”
I stood there for a long moment, saying nothing. Inside, however, I was freaking the FUCK out. “I... see,” I said after a moment, turning to face the two heroines, who merely stared at me in confusion. Apparently, the term meant nothing to them. “Okay, thrall. This is what you’re going to do. I want you to go back to your unconscious friend on the pavement around the corner and wait for the police to arrive. You’re going to confess to breaking into the museum and turn yourselves in. And you’re going to forget all about what happened here in this alley, including what happened to the stone. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mistress, I understand perfectly,” DeadEye replied with a single nod. “I shall obey.” She moved to head towards her comrade by I grabbed her arm.
“Don’t forget your mask,” I said, smirking as I tossed the discarded Balaclava back to her. “You’re already about to lose your street cred as an assassin by getting arrested. You probably don’t want to you face revealed to the general public on top of that.”
A small smile creased her lips. “Thank you, Mistress,” she said, replacing the covering before heading out of the alley.
Sighing softly, I turned back to face the other two, nodding to the case lying on the ground. “Okay. We obviously need to talk. Luckily, my place is just one block over. Come with me,” I said, talking off down the street, glancing back over my shoulder. “Oh, and bring that case with you. But make ABSOLUTELY sure you don’t open it.”