Sunday, January 22, 2012

Akeldama - Chapter 9 (continued)

This is the second half of chapter 9 from Akeldama.  In it, Maxwell, the vampire that freed the main character from his torture, has followed his own leads on enemy activity to Los Angeles.  Please enjoy.

UNTHINKABLE (continued)
            Maxwell disliked being around this many people, even if he was hidden on this roof by shadow of the tree.  Were he human, he might have worried about being in this part of Inglewood, but these small pests were unlikely to affect him.
            Even after 11pm the street was alive.  This was gang territory, and their music blared over speakers that were too loud to do anything but let the sound reverberate.  Maxwell could see several folks leaned up against the small chain link fence at the edge of the yard, most with a bottle in their hand.
            Occasionally a small fight would break out, but nothing more than some pushing and shoving.  The gang-toughs would deal with the disruption and then go back to their drink.
            It was here that Maxwell could smell blood.
            There was tons of fresh nectar on the street, and with its history of violence, Maxwell could understand why Los Muertos would choose places like this to feed – there was a healthy supply and they were less likely to draw attention.
            Dmitri was closer to the action since his special abilities let him approach without worry.  Maxwell could signal his associate when he needed to.
            It was pleasantly cool, but not frigid as it had been in Kansas.  Maxwell had chosen to wear a simple dark shirt and slacks.  He continued to watch the people mingle, fight, and drink.  A few cars rolled by, the occupants occasionally shouting out of the windows.
            It was a change in the wind that first brought a new scent to Maxwell, stale and lifeless.  He perked up and could distinguish six of them making their way down the street – five males and one female.  The woman had dark brown hair to match her eyes, in contrast to the very tight white top and leather mini-skirt she wore.  The men were non-descript, just looking like anyone else, three of the five with sunglasses on. 
            He looked at the spot by the large oak tree where Dmitri was located.  He saw dim blue light as the Russian flashed his eyes, showing that he’d recognized the enemy’s presence.  They would have to remain out of sight if they were to track these pests back to their nest.  Maxwell refocused himself and did what he could to filter out the chatter from below.  After a while, he could hear snippets of what he was sure was the enemy.
            “…you know.  I so fucking hungry I gotta get…” said a heavily Hispanic accented voice.
            “…they’re here, we pretty much screwed, but I ain’t seen…” said another.
            “Nah man.  Ain’t nobody seen one in more than a week.  I think they go…”
            Maxwell heard the words but didn’t understand the context.  It was obvious they were looking for food, but it was also obvious they were more hesitant than he ever thought Los Muertos would be.  His dealings with them showed aggression and confidence that crossed into arrogance, not cautiousness and trepidation.
            “…it quick, maybe we take some back you know.  Nobody even know we’re here, comprende?  Besides, probably just stories.  Ain’t nothing to…”
            “I don’t know.  Carlos disappeared a few weeks back, and they say he ran into one, you know.  He’s not a guy…”
            “…mean nothing.  They just trying new places to eat.  That, or they be scared.  It not like…”
            “You know, man, fuck this.  I’m hungry.  We gotta get us some grub or…”
            Again, Maxwell was confused – this was just not Los Muertos’ usual attitude.
            “Let’s do it.  You know, these stupid shits won’t know what hit them, k?”
            Maxwell watched the street, his own bloodlust up as drooled in anticipation.  He hoped he could control himself.
            All six of the enemy vampires walked down the middle of W. 80th Street, each scanning for a target.  It didn’t take long before a target approached them.
            A man in his late 20s walked up.  He had on baggy denim jeans and a checkered shirt unbuttoned in the front, exposing the white tank top underneath.  Maxwell could make out a .38 in the back of his pants.
            “Yo, who da fuck are you?  You show up on our turf, you got to pay respect.  So just go back…”
            He never got to finish.  The closest vampire reached out quickly and broke the man’s neck, turning it 180 degrees.  Someone screamed as the gang launched themselves into the crowd.
            Maxwell had only seen an attack by Los Muertos on tape before; never in person.  He could hear blood hitting the street like rain, but part of him was disappointed in the viciousness of it all.  There was no subtlety, no precision.  The enemy didn’t select prey – they just slaughtered.
            One of the vampires leaped through the air and landed on the back of a woman who was trying to run.  He pinned her to the ground and tore into her neck before turning her over to get at the throat.  Maxwell shook his head at the randomness.
            They’d taken eight or nine before there were no more people on the street.  Maxwell heard screams in the distance, but the vampires appeared too focused on eating to care.  He disliked the scene, because even though he’d gotten out of control in his younger days, Los Muertos did this just because they could.
            A couple of victims were still gurgling when Maxwell noticed a change in the air, like it had gone dead.  Even sound no longer echoed.  A hollow wind blew through the street.
            That was when Maxwell first spotted him few hundred yards away.
            The new figure moved east from Crenshaw, wind blowing its open trench coat at the bottom.  Even at this distance, Maxwell could tell the newcomer was Asian, and its arms hung loosely at its sides, hands drawn into talons.  A head of black hair matched its eyes, which looked like pools of deep, rich oil.
            “Oh shit,” said one of the Los Muertos vampires, voice shaking.
            Another one looked up from the body it had by the fence and stared in the direction of the latest arrival.  “Is that one of them?” he asked.  After another second, he released the grip on his victim and said, “Let’s get the fuck outta here!”
            The newcomer raised his arms to his sides, looking almost like a condor.  The wind changed direction and got progressively stronger.  Thin bolts of blue lightning came from the newcomer’s fingertips, tracing the edges of the fences and bouncing off of the vampires on the street.
            One of the vampires that tried to run was gradually pushed back towards the unknown visitor, like he was fighting a hurricane.  The lone female vampire who had been crouched over the top of a corpse was clawing at the street in a vain attempt to stay in place, but the wind eventually pushed her back too.
            Maxwell could just make out Dmitri bracing himself against the tree he’d hidden behind.  He wasn’t being drawn towards it.  The other vampires, however, weren’t so lucky.
            A vampire in a dark blue tank top and arms covered in various skull and crossbone tattoos was the first to reach whatever was was pulling them.  The Asian newcomer caught him by the throat and held him there like a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Soon, all six of the Los Muertos vampires were at his feet.
            He smiled at them, eyes narrowing to slits.  Maxwell watched the newcomer’s fangs grow to his chin.  Without a word, the newcomer stuck two fingers into the chest of a vampire he’d caught.  Maxwell watched in amazement as the prisoner seemed to swell…and then exploded.
            Blood and body parts hit the street with a splat.  The other vampires were all screaming, begging for their lives.  Maxwell had trouble seeing what happened next, such was the speed with which the newcomer moved.  It waded into the remaining five, ripping heads from bodies and landing punches with such force that his fist went through their ribcages.  The fight was over in seconds as the final body hit the street.  It was only then that Maxwell saw the newcomer drop something and realized it was a vampiric spine.
            A pair of police cars screamed up, sirens blaring.  They skidded in the street and blocked the newcomer’s path back to Crenshaw Avenue.  He briefly squinted while turning to look at the patrol cars, a hand shielding his face.  A pair of cops got out from each car, and he found himself staring down two pistols and two shotguns as the police used their cars doors for cover.
            “Stay where you are and put your hands up!” shouted the one of the officers.
            In a blur it was on top of the policemen, leaping over the passenger side door of the closest car and slicing an officer like roast beef.  The cop didn’t so much fall as collapsed in a mass of disconnected tissue.  The vampire(?) then jumped over the car to the driver’s side and grabbed a shotgun as it fired, directing its blast into the sky.  At that point, he took the officer’s head in both hands and twisted, quickly decapitating his target.
            Two shots rang out, but he was already gone before they could reach their mark, quickly crossing the distance between the two cars and grabbing the third officer.  Taking him by the shoulders, the vampire turned the policeman and used him as a shield when the final officer pulled the trigger on his own shotgun.  The blast caught the third officer in the chest, putting a hole in him the size of a dinner plate.
            The vampire dropped the third officer and crossed to his final victim, looking as if he’d sailed through the middle of the car.  He extended his hand, claws out, and inserted them into the groin of the final officer before pulling his hand straight up and ripping through the man.
            The final officer had a sudden look of surprise on his face as fell backwards.  However, when he started to fall, his left side went one direction while his right side went another.
            The lights on the cars continued to whirl, blue and white bouncing off of the nearby houses.  But for those lights, there was no other activity except the newcomer looking around at the street.  He stepped over bodies and emerged from the shadow of the police cruisers.  Turning back towards Crenshaw, he held out his right hand.
            That was when Dmitri was pulled into its grip.
            The newcomer lifted Dmitri off the ground and growled at him, lights glinting off of the fully bared teeth.  As the newcomer looked like he would crush Dmitri’s throat, Maxwell leapt from the roof of the house he’d been perched on and landed in the street.
            Alas, poor Yorik!  I knew him Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.
            Maxwell stood there, the knuckles on his index and middle fingers extended, waiting for the spell to take effect.  By all reasoning, the skin should have peeled quickly from the enemy’s flesh, leaving nothing but a skeleton behind.  But what happened worried Maxwell even more.
            The creature laughed.
            It was throaty laughter, deeply amused.  The newcomer dropped Dmitri and squared his body against Maxwell.  For his part, Maxwell was unsure what to do next.  He’d used up a large reserve of strength in casting the spell and was reluctant to use another so soon, but he didn’t think he’d fare well if it came to a test of strength.  Cupping his hands on either side, he brought them up in an arc.
            Kingdoms are clay; our dungy earth alike feeds beast as man.
            The asphalt became fluid and rose to envelope his new enemy.  Maxwell pressed his will, trying to loop the material around the newcomer.
            The next thing Maxwell knew, he was being showered with chunks of asphalt as the wall he’d been building shattered.  That was when the newcomer lowered his head and went straight for Maxwell.
            Maxwell didn’t even know he was in the other’s grip until he felt claws digging into the side of his throat.  The newcomer quickly forced him to his knees and Maxwell found himself staring up at the sky.
            The thing started sniffing at the top of Maxwell’s head, starting at his hair and moving to his ears.  There was no trace of anything that had once been human in the breath, and it chilled Maxwell to the bone.
            When he looked into the newcomer’s eyes, he felt like he was looking into a bottomless pit – there was no emotion, no pity, and a sense of something ancient.  His opponent smiled with mischievous confidence, fangs still extended impossibly long.
            Something else caught Maxwell’s attention –   a mark on the side of the thing’s neck.

            The newcomer let go and turned to leave.  Maxwell rubbed at his throat and tried to get off of his knees.  The newcomer slowly rose off the ground and into the air.  As it gained altitude, Maxwell stared into the night.  There had been reports of vampires that could fly, but he’d never seen anyone who could actually do it.
            He went over to Dmitri and said, “Let’s get out of here before whatever that was decides to come back.”  Dmitri nodded and leaned on Maxwell, but he gradually regained strength enough to walk on his own.
            They made their way back to the laundromat where they’d parked.  Silence stretched between them as they walked past the bodies and patches of bloodstained asphalt.  Maxwell’s thoughts were so consumed with what he’d seen that even the blood on the ground failed to arouse him.

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