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Indie Sneak Peek w/ Rusty Fischer


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Vamplayers  Excerpt from Rusty Fischer

Prologue
Fall 1981


It’s daytime.
Why are they out in the daytime?

Rick Springfield is singing “Jessie’s Girl,” my favorite song of the moment.

I’m crooning into my hairbrush, kissing Rick’s paper lips on his rockin’ new poster hung crookedly on my peach-painted walls.

I pass my bedroom window, putting on a show for my imaginary audience of screaming, adoring fans outside when movement catches my eye. Lots of it.

People are on the front lawn outside my bedroom window, shadowy people with yellow eyes and long claws . . . and fangs?

But it’s daytime.
How are they out in the daytime?
I should shut off my stereo, but it’s my favorite part of the song. Besides, this must be a prank, right? The electricity goes out, cutting off the tune for me. I wish that I had Jessie’s gir—
The figures are gone from the front lawn. See, some joke, huh?

My mom is in the kitchen whipping us up a quick midday snack, railing at the blender for cutting off midsmoothie. I see her standing there, still in her nurse’s uniform and fresh from work, a run in her stockings. She gazes at the soupy mess in the blender, all red and pink and white and blotchy, then at me with those big green eyes. “Do you care if banana chunks are still in it?”

It’s the last thing she’ll ever say to me.
From the kitchen door a shadow passes across her. Only it’s not a shadow; it’s a man.
A Shadow Man.
Tall, lean, dressed all in black. Blood on his lips, on his dark-stubbled chin.
Bloodlust in his eyes.

He snags Mom’s neck with long, white fangs and slides them into her jugular like a warm knife through butter.
She never screams. Not once. It seems she was more upset when Dad left us than when this guy uses her throat like a toothpick.

I shriek at the first drop of blood on her starched white lapel and run back to my room, slamming the door, locking it tight, hunting for hiding places.
I ignore the space under my bed. Too obvious.
The closet? Even more obvious.

I open my hamper, a kind of wicker trash can, in the corner beside my desk.
It reeks of my cheerleading uniform from two days ago and that wet red towel I’ve been meaning to wash all week but never have. (Because I don’t want my white panties to turn pink in case, you know, I let Randy Jenkins get to second base this weekend—or is it third? I dunno. I mean, which base involves panties?)
I stifle a gag, bury myself in warm, humid stank, and yank down the round lid, weak light filtering through.
I hear what must be Mom’s body slumping to the hardwood kitchen floor, the blender shattering, Mom’s almost rapturous sigh as the Shadow Man bites deep.
Eeww, Mom, gross.

There is a pause, a scraping, a gasp and now footsteps outside my room.
We have three doors in the hallway: Mom’s bedroom; a spare room where she keeps her sewing machine to mend my cheer uniform, chorus gown, or last year’s vampire Halloween costume (ironic much?); then there’s my room.
I’m guessing that’s Mom’s door I hear exploding in a burst of wood and doorknob, clattering to the floor in a loud, scratchy heap. I cringe and burrow into the hamper, finding that gingham scarf I’ve been searching for since last week.

Metal hangers, apparently in Mom’s walk-in closet, grate. A massive piece of furniture that must be her dresser crashes.

Footsteps in the hall again. Louder this time, getting closer, and I think it’s more than one pair.
The sewing room is next, and they make quick work of it. I say they because it sounds like more than just the Shadow Man out there now.

I’m right. My door is next. After one or both of them kick it open, I hear four feet tromping across my floor.
I chew on my damp cheer sleeve to keep from wailing. My heart is pounding; my palms are clammy; my legs are cramping from the awkward position I’m scrunched up in.
I hear the mattress get dragged off the frame and onto the floor, my closet doors tossed open. The sounds are violent, angry, powerful.

Boom!
Smash!
Crash!
The stomps advance, closer now. Drawers are jerked out of my desk before it topples over.
The hamper shakes, the top comes loose, but it’s rolling on the floor toward the creamy peach wall, apparently unnoticed.

The heavy footsteps move toward my doorway, and I spill out, still covered in dirty clothes and nonpink panties.
I see the Shadow Man leading my mom (Mom!) out my door.
I stay perfectly still.
Mom stops, sniffs, pivots.
But it’s not Mom I see. It’s Monster Mom.
Vampire Mom.

Her neck is bloody. Her nursing uniform is splashed with red down the top left side. Her hair is askew, and her eyes are yellow and filled with a wild, hungry rage that seems to blot me out, paint a target on my throat, and draw her near. She spots me here beneath my brown and orange cheer skirt, a greedy smile slithering to her face. Light reflects off the drool streaming from the sharp, spiny tips.

Of.
My.
Mom’s.
Fangs!
She doesn’t say anything to the Shadow Man, only hisses him back with a gruff, almost animal language. The noise shatters the otherwise peaceful house, shakes the glass in my window
The Shadow Man comes running, his footsteps pounding on the hollow wood floor.
I scramble to get up, the red towel, moist and moldy, wrapping around my legs, tripping me. I land with a thud on my bare wooden bed frame. It cracks; my arm smacks; the pain shoots through my elbow.

Mom sails across the room to me. Her fingernails, like claws, gouge at my skin.
“Mom. Mom! It’s me, Lily, your daughter!”
She doesn’t care, doesn’t hear. Her mouth is a gaping yaw of black and blood. With those awful, glistening fangs, she tears at my skin.

The Shadow Man leans on the doorframe, laughing, licking his lips, letting Mom do the dirty work.
And it’s so sunny out, the rays streaming through the windows. How is this happening now?
I pull back once, twice, straining my neck, yelping, my shoulders and arms growing slick with blood as Mom continues to scrape and scratch, seeking a hold on my neck.

We wrestle and grunt, the floor covered with gore. The last thing I see before Mom bites me is Rick Springfield staring down at me, black hair feathery, kind eyes sympathetic, shoulder muscles rippling just for me.
Now the ceiling shatters into a million pieces.

Men and women burst through and land on the floor.
I am spent, high and bleary like when my blood sugar gets too low and I’m about to pass out in fourth period before lunch.

A woman in a red leather jumpsuit aims a small crossbow at my mother’s heart.
I want to warn the woman not to miss, not to screw it up.
She pulls the trigger.

Vampire Mom howls, shudders, sinks to the floor.
I join her, gurgling on my own blood, my head coming to rest on the stank red towel. I can feel the blood pumping from my jugular onto it, onto the floor, onto the bed frame.
Several red jumpsuits tackle the Shadow Man and fill him with short wooden stakes until his rib cage looks like a porcupine’s backside.

The woman kneels at my side, her blonde hair in a simple ponytail, her blue eyes kind, her hands gentle. She presses gauze to my neck to stem the bleeding. Her full lips are moving. I strain to hear her and catch the end: “. . . old are you?”

“Seventeen.” I cough up blood and start to pass out. The sunlight streams in, and Rick gazes at me, not quite smiling, not quite frowning, all kinds of sexy in his white tank top.
“Good,” I hear her saying, or at least I think I do, as my eyes shut. “We need another Sister.”
All is black, no more sunlight, no more Vampire Mom, no more Springfield.
My last words are, “I don’t have any sisters.”

A voice, close enough to stir my long black hair, says softly, “You do now.”

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