French Roast Apocalypse – Chapter 04
New York City, 2010/1980
Didn’t I promise myself I’d never drink the blood of others? Dylan thought to himself. Immediately his brain responded, This blood is donated, from volunteers. It’s not like I’m eating from a fresh kill. It’s fine, and I really need some tonight.
Yeah, good work on that rationalization, brain, Dylan thought, as he stared at the Doc Sacco’s patio garden and thick vine covered lattice. The ghoul lived in a basement apartment with access to a small enclosed backyard. It wasn’t much, but he managed to grow grapes and a garden fit for fresh vegetables to make enough raw dishes for one ghoul during the summer months. The garden was enclosed by a stone wall and its centerpiece was a Bathtub Madonna. In the fall, it was nothing but dried up husks and leaves, but in the spring and summer, it bloomed with a colorful combination of flowers and vegetables that reminded Dylan of his grandmother O’Brien. Looking at it helped him to relax and a focus on more pleasant things than Anna and Paris.
“I found the perfect movie tonight,” Sacco told him while walking in with fresh glass of wine. “Angels with Dirty Faces!”
A James Cagney film. Sacco loved the old gangster movies. Dylan shrugged. He was chill enough to watch anything that night. The pastry chef kicked his legs out and tapped his wine glass. He wondered if the Cagney film was a lure into a discussion. Sacco was famous for using media to get his patients to talk. What the hell… no reason not to talk, right? “I never identified myself with James Cagney. It was Captain America.”
The ghoul smiled with his pointed teeth. “A nice opening sally. You know, it gets more difficult when your patients become counselors themselves. You haven’t come to me in months, Dylan. We’re due for a talk.”
Talking was hard. “What’s there to talk about? I’m sick of being treated like a kid. I’ve earned my stripes by being Jason’s and Liam’s pawn all these years. I even did it despite what Anna wanted for me, and she was my sire and my wife!”
The ghoul shook his head sadly. “Let’s not make it about the council tonight, Dylan. You know why you’re not on it, and it is for good reasons. You lack the wisdom.”
“Anna was on it,” he said, knowing the reply was weak even as he made it.
“Anna was wise.” Sacco explained. “And could talk circles around anyone who challenged her. She understood politics like her sire before her.”
Reggie, the man she’d left him over. No, he corrected himself angrily, it wasn’t like that. Reggie was Anna’s sire, and she believed it was necessary to find him to discover why Dylan hadn’t become a vampire after his vengeance was over. Dylan scrubbed his hand over his face and tried to focus his brain. I miss her. I want her home, where it is safe. “She saved me, doc. Why can’t they let me save her?”
The wizened face before him twisted with memory both sad and proud. “I remember that day very clearly. She had no idea what to do with you, because you killed our kind, but she insisted on keeping you anyway. Said you were a boy, and we didn’t have the right to judge you with all of our sins.”
If Sacco was trying to derail his train of thought, he succeeded. Dylan gaped at the man numbly, and thought of Anna. “She knew what she was doing,” Dylan told him flatly. “She even used Liam as an excuse to rescue me from the Red Fangs. She played their territory shenanigans like a fucking pro.”
Maybe what he needed was to talk about her? He’d been avoiding it for a while. A long while. Dylan stretched out his legs, and drained his glass. Anna was tied to so many sad memories when they first met, but she had saved him in more ways than one. Was that why he was falling apart now?
He had been eighteen, and on the run after a disastrous failure to expose the vampire influence over the American government. He’d gone from heroic monster hunter to murderer overnight. “You want me to talk about it? Again? You’ve heard this how many times? Not that it fucking matters.” He sighed, took a breath, and started again. “Bridget and I came to New York to meet with our pal Jackson; thought we could out-think the Feds and the Blackwells. Christ, we had no fucking clue, did we? Keith, the very son of a bitch we were trying to expose in Le Hunt, Kansas, caught up with us. Killed Jackson, and…” He paused, almost unable to continue, but he forced the words out, “…changed Bridget, and decided to let his goons turn me into a revenant.”
Bridget. He hated thinking about her or the day she died. It brought up so many dark feelings, anger, loss, self-loathing. The last was the worst, a feeling he hated because it was foreign to the normally cool-headed confident young man he was raised to be. Back then, Dylan O’Reily believed… no, knew he was a hero, doing God’s work. He was a monster hunter with his father, and of course, his baby sister was right on his heels with her big brain and gung-ho enthusiasm. With the help of his friend Jackson’s militia-trained experience, they should have been an unstoppable team. Unfortunately, the dysfunctional family dynamics of the O’Brien clan were their downfall.
The memories rolled in as he spoke. Harsh as they were, there was something sweet about them, because Anna was there, again…
The first thing he noticed were the slow deliberate footfalls of someone nearby. There was a soft thud, and a weak moaning a few feet away. The room smelled strongly of rotting meat, mold, and iron, though Dylan wasn’t exactly sure why; the back of his head throbbed too much to let him process much of anything, and the front of his skull including his nose ached miserably.
Slowly, he realized he was sitting. His hands felt cold and numb. Something tight held them together behind him. It burned when he moved his wrists, and blood soaked his fingers. When he tried to move his legs, he discovered they were tied down to the something he sat on.
“Awake?” a voice said, and a hand grabbed his long hair and pulled his head up. “Open those big baby blues, boy. I know you’re weak, but I didn’t take that much. Had to save some for a friend.”
Dylan couldn’t place the voice. Grudgingly, he cracked his eyes open. A glue-like substance stuck to his lashes, and he blinked several times to work it out. It was dark, and clumped to his lids. Blood. Has to be. “Bridge? You there?” His lips were parched. His mouth was dry and his throat scratched like sandpaper.
The face peering down at him was long and narrow, with a firm jaw and straight nose. Long bangs fell just above the man’s brows but the hair on his head was short and spiked. Blood smeared his red lips. He leaned closer, mouth just above Dylan’s. “She’s a deliciously feisty one, that sister of yours. I like them that way, good blood.”
The words hit him with a rush of images; Jackson falling, and Bridget in the hands of the same vampire thug that was looking at him now. Dylan felt nauseous and swallowed a rise of bile as rage rapidly took the place of confusion and pain. Despite the ache of his head, he lunged forward, and his hands snagged against the chair holding him. “You rat-faced son of a bitch!”
The monster frowned and yanked harder on his hair. “I’m not sure if you understand your situation, hunter! You’re tied to a chair, your friend is dead, and your baby sister has just made her first step into the darkside. I hold your life in my fucking hands, douchebag! You’re nothing!”
He didn’t want to believe it. Jackson couldn’t be dead and Bridget would never let herself be changed. With a tremendous jerk, Dylan heaved his body up so the chair beneath him bucked as he glared up at the narrow-faced man peering down at him. “You lying son of a bitch! You’re dead, so fucking dead!”
“Pathetic, isn’t he?” Another figure near the wall came into view. Dylan recognized him from the alley. Keith. His name’s Keith. His hawkish face turned as he stood up from a crumpled form in the corner. “Guess he’ll make a good meal for the girl.”
“Heh, she’ll be hungry when she wakes up.” The vampire holding his hair let go and stepped back. “I think you’re the one who’s dead, boy. Dylan, isn’t it? She kept calling your name like you’d come to save her. Sad, really. Think she used to look up to you.”
If he could just get out of this chair, he’d pound the creep silly. Both of them. Dylan strained against his bounds, headache hammering with every move he made.
The two vampires watched, and laughed amused by his futile attempts. “Dumb, too.” Keith said. He tilted his top hat with a thin smile. “Come on, let’s get something to eat, Luke, it will be over soon.”
They were trying to goad him into losing his temper, and it was working so far. Dylan forced himself to freeze, sit still and think as the two vampires stalked out and locked the dingy wooden door behind them. He needed to keep his head. Whatever they planned required him to be so emotional he wouldn’t be able to act. Dylan inhaled, and struggled to focus on the small form lying on the floor.
He had a very bad feeling about this. He managed to move the chair a few inches, turn it so he could get a closer look at the body lying there.
Long curls lay tangled around a very pale heart-shaped face. She still wore her pink sweater, but it was stained with spots of crimson. Her throat was heavily bruised, and dried smears of gore covered her cheeks and chin.
Dylan closed his eyes. His Bridget wasn’t breathing. She wasn’t dead either. His gut, and the mocking words of the vampires, told him she was undead.
“No.” It wasn’t a word so much an agonized squeak pushed from a throat too tight to speak, and he felt his head drop in despair. His poor little sister was crumpled like a broken doll on the floor, one of the soulless undead, destined for damnation. He didn’t want to believe it, and part of him hoped he’d wake up and find himself back in the dingy little room with Bridget leaning over him holding a water balloon. “Bridge…Oh God, no!”
The girl twitched a finger.
Panic and depression clung to his thoughts. He had failed her, he didn’t protect her as he promised. How could he let little Bridget, the girl who was afraid of thunderstorms, down?
“Get a hold of yourself.” Dylan inhaled again and closed his eyes. Yes, he had failed, but he could fix things. He could save her. Before she woke, he needed to escape the bonds holding him. He’d never allow Bridget to become a soulless monster enslaved to Jackson’s murderers.
Dylan focused on the ropes holding him. From the feel of the cord, a rough hemp rope bound his wrists. Calming himself, he twisted his hands and let his fingers probe the bindings. They were looped six times around his wrists and tightly wound about his elbows. He couldn’t feel the end of the cord or the knot.
The bindings were tight, and tied when he was unconscious. He had very little wiggle room. However, his hands were slippery, as were his wrists, slick with sweat and blood. With a little flexing, and hand and wrist rotation, he’d loosen the rope enough to give himself space to maneuver.
To his dismay, Bridget started to move and then painfully convulsed, until her entire body curled into a quivering ball. She gagged, and vomited bile, face distorting for a moment. He could feel his horror stretching his face; she was changing right before his eyes.
But he’d do Bridget no good if he lost it now. Forcing his fear and revulsion away, Dylan meditated on the cords. Carefully, he focused on his body and relaxed several times until he felt the binds on his elbows and wrists lose tension. It wasn’t much, but enough to give him more space to work his hands. Breathing evenly, controlled, focused, he slowly started to wiggle his hands back and forth. The raw flesh hurt, but the blood dampening the ropes made it easier to slide his wrists up and around.
Dylan wasn’t sure how long he worked his bonds but he was so focused, time both stretched and passed. There was no world outside; it was just him and the rope. Rotating his wrists and hands, he slowly felt the binding give a little, and some cord slipped over his knuckles. Swiftly, his fingers made good work of it, dragging it off his hands. Getting there.
Bridget wasn’t awake, not yet, but Dylan recognized the signs of her adjusting to the changes. The pain on her face had subsided, and her convulsions stopped. She stretched her limbs until she lay flat on her side, eyes closed, mouth open. He could see the long canines cutting into her lower lip. Running out of time.
More rope slid down and off his wrists, and he felt the bonds around his elbows slacken. Almost free!
Mobility returned with blood flow, mobility and tingling pain that he ignored. Dylan quickly wiggled his shoulders and arms. He found the ropes falling away. The last cord had just fallen to the floor when Bridget’s eyes snapped opened. His senses screamed, there was nothing left of his sister in those hazel eyes, just a crazed hungry monster.
With an effort, Dylan scrambled to his feet. A dizzy black veil threatened to wash away his consciousness, but he stubbornly shook it off and swiftly tilted the legs of the chair up and out of the ropes holding him.
Across the room, Bridget hissed. She rose to her hands and knees, and sprang like an enraged puma.
He barely got the wooden chair up before she barreled into him. But he had just managed it, and she slammed into the wooden legs of the chair. The blow sent him to the ground, the chair dumping her to the floor scant feet from him.
Without even thinking, Dylan grabbed the chair again and scrambled backward. The room wasn’t very big, the size of a small office. It gave him very little space to fight in. “Bridge, Bridge, girl, you know it’s me! Gotta get a hold of yourself.” He pressed his back into the wall, and used it to pull himself up. His legs felt like noodles, and his head was heavy with pain. But if I fall down, or black out, for even an instant, it’s over.
The girl’s head tilted, hazel gaze considering his words.
Had she heard him? A hint of hope rose in his heart. Dylan let his features soften. “It’s me, your big brother, I’m sorry, real sorry I wasn’t there for you…” His voice cracked and tears tracked down his cheeks. “Please hear me, Bridget.”
The moment passed, and her features hardened. The vampire stood, mouth open as she moved around him. There was no recognition in her eyes, only rage and hunger.
He smashed the chair against the wall with a surge of adrenalin. There was a crack as its legs weakened.
Again the girl lunged, and he swiveled the chair so she collided with its back. Bridget howled in pain and scurried back with blinding speed.
This time Dylan hammered the chair into the floor and used his foot to pry off a leg.
She came at him again, and Dylan found the chair wrenched from his fingers. His body smashed into the wall with agonizing force, and he almost blacked out. Bridget’s mouth was dangerously close to his throat and her fingers traced up his arm to rest on his shoulder. “Just a little, brother, just a little,” she murmured.
Dylan’s breath caught; that almost sounded like his sister. Bridget always did suck at self-control. He gripped the leg in his hand, and tried to move his head so his throat wasn’t exposed, but her fingers yanked his head back again.
“Fight it,” he told her. “Just a bit more, honey. Bridge, your brother will take good care of you, I promised I would. Remember when you used to climb into my bed when it rained? Took care of you then, didn’t I?”
Her lips touched his ear and traced down his neck. “Feed me.”
Dylan’s heart sank; he had hoped there was something of her left, even if he hadn’t seen it, perhaps Bridget was different than the others.
But there wasn’t, and she wasn’t, and he had no choice left.
He brought up the chair leg, and rammed it into her neck, splintered end dug deep into her flesh. The vampire screeched and pushed him away. His legs gave, and he collapsed to the floor, chair leg still in hand. The young Texan barely managed to roll so as not to hit his head again and found himself flat on his back. Across from him, Bridget touched her bleeding neck as if in disbelief. Looking at the blood, her brows narrowed. She gave a predator’s growl and sprang at him.
Just as she pounced, Dylan brought the chair leg up and thrust it forward as hard as he could. The splintered wood struck hard and he felt ribs crack, as it drove deep into her chest. Bridget screamed.
With all his strength, the boy flipped his sister over and forced the blunt wooden implement deeper into her chest. The body beneath him bucked and withered. Fingers grabbed at his and dug pale nails into the backs of his hands. Horror and the knowledge that he fought for his own soul as much as hers drove him on. He forced his weight down until he felt something give, and the stake sank deep into the girl’s body.
Black blood bubbled up and bloomed across her white T Shirt and pink sweater. The hands on his slipped away.
It was done. Bridget was dead.
Sobbing, Dylan O’Brien collapsed next to his sister’s body and wept ’til blackness took him.