Chapter 12

Seymour has given me an idea. But even with his inspiration, and mine, even if everything goes exactly as planned, the chances of it working are fifty-fifty at best. In all probability much less than that. But at least the plan gives me hope. For myself and Ray. He is like my child now, as well as my lover. I cannot stand the thought that he is to be snuffed out so young. He was wrong to say I would give up without a fight. I fight until the end.

There is a concept NASA is entertaining to launch huge payloads into space. It is called Orion; the idea is revolutionary. Many experts, in fact, say it won't work in practice. Yet there are large numbers of respected physicists and engineers who believe it is the wave of the future in space transport. Essentially it involves constructing a huge heavily plated platform with cannons on the bottom that can fire miniature nuclear bombs. It is believed that the shock waves from the blasts of the bombs detonating--if their timing and power is perfectly balanced--can lift the platform, steadily into the sky, until eventually escape velocity is achieved. The advantage of this idea over traditional rockets is that tremendous tonnage could be shot into space. The primary problem is obvious: who wants to strap themselves atop a platform that is going to have nuclear bombs going off beneath it? Of course, I would enjoy such a ride. Extreme radiation bothers me no more than a sunny day.

Even with my great resources, I do not have a nuclear bomb at my disposal. But the idea of the Orion project inspires a plan in me. Seymour hit the nail on the head when he said Yaksha must be placed in a situation where he thinks all three of us will perish. That will satisfy Yaksha. He will then go to Krishna believing all vampires are destroyed. I theorize that I can build my own Orion with dynamite and a heavy steel platform, and use it to allow Ray and me to escape while a secondary blast kills Yaksha.

This is how I see the details. I let Yaksha into my house. I tell him that I will not fight him, that we can all go out together in one big blast. I know the possibility will entice Yaksha. We can sit in the living room around a crate of dynamite. I can even let Yaksha light the fuse. He will see that the bomb is big enough to kill us all.

But what he will not see is the six inches of steel sheeting under the carpet beneath my chair and Ray's. Our two chairs will be bolted to the steel sheet-- through the carpet. The chairs will be part of the metal plate--one unit. Yaksha will not see a smaller bomb beneath the floor of the plate. This bomb I will detonate, before Yaksha's fuse burns down. This bomb will blast my amateur Orion toward the wide skylights in my ceiling. The shock wave from it will also trigger the larger bomb.

Simple. Yes? There are problems, I know.

The blast from the hidden bomb will trigger the larger bomb before we can fly clear. I estimate that the two bombs should go off almost simultaneously. But Ray and I need rise up only fifteen feet on our Orion. Then the blast from the larger bomb should propel us through the skylights. If the two bombs are more than fifteen feet apart--ideally twice that distance--then the shock wave from the hidden bomb should not get to the larger bomb before we have achieved our fifteen feet elevation.

Our heads will heal quickly after we smash through the skylights as long as we are in one piece.

The physics are simple in theory, but in practice they are filled with the possibility for limitless error. For that reason I figure Ray and I will be dead before sunrise. But any odds are good odds for the damned, and I will play them out as best I can.

I stop at a phone booth and call my primary troubleshooter in North America. I tell him I need dynamite and thick sheets of steel in two hours. Where can I get them? He is used to my unusual requests. He says he'll call back in twenty minutes.

Fifteen minutes later he is back on the line. He sounds relieved because he knows it's not good to bring me disappointing information. He says there is a contractor in Portland who carries both dynamite and thick steel plating. Franklin and Sons--they build skyscrapers. He gives me the address of their main warehouse and I hang up. Portland is eighty miles away. The time is ten-fifty.

I sit in my car outside the warehouse at a quarter to midnight, listening to the people inside. The place is closed, but there are three security men on duty. One is in the front in a small office watching TV. The other two are in back smoking a joint. Since I have spent a good part of the night thinking about Krishna, hoping he will help me, I am not predisposed to kill these three. I climb out of my car.

The locked doors cause me no problem. I am upon the stoned men in the back before they can blink. I put them to sleep with moderate blows to the temples. They'll wake up, but with bad headaches. Unfortunately, the guy watching TV has the bad luck to check on his partners as I knock them out. He draws his gun when he sees me, and I react instinctively. I kill him much the same way I killed Ray's father, crushing the bones in his chest with a violent kick. I drink a belly

full of his blood before he draws his last breath. I am still weak.

The dynamite is not hard for me to find with my sensitive nose. It is locked in a safe near the front of the building, several crates of thick red sticks. There are detonator caps and fuses. Already I have decided I will not be taking my car back to Mayfair tonight. I will need a truck from the warehouse to haul the steel sheets. The metal is not as thick as I wish; I will have to weld several layers together. I find a welding set to take with me.

There are actually several suitable trucks parked inside the warehouse, the keys conveniently left in the ignitions. I load up and back out of the warehouse. I park my Ferrari several blocks away. Then I am on the road back home.

It is after two when I reenter Mayfair. Ray is sitting by the fire as I come through my front door. He has changed. He is a vampire. His teeth are not longer, or anything silly like that. But the signs are there--gold specks deep in his once uniformly brown eyes; a faint transparency to his tan skin; a grace to his movements no mortal could emulate. He stands when he sees me.

"Am I alive?" he asks innocently.

I do not laugh at the question. I am not sure if the answer is something as simple as yes or no. I step toward him.

"You are with me," I say. "You are the same as me. When you met me, did you think I was alive?"


"Then you are alive. How do you feel?"

"Powerful. Overwhelmed. My eyes, my ears--are yours this way?"

"Mine are more sensitive. They become more and more sensitive with time. Are you scared?"

"Yes. Is he coming back?"



"At dawn."

"Will he kill us?"

"He wants to."


"Because he feels we are evil. He feels an obligation to destroy us before he leaves the planet."

Ray frowns, testing his new body, its vibrancy. "Are we evil?"

I take his hands and sit him down. "We don't have to be. Soon you will begin to crave blood, and the blood will give you strength. But to get blood you don't need to kill. I will show you how."

"You said he wants to leave this planet. He wants to die?"

"Yes. He is tired of life. It happens--our lives have been so long. But life does not tire me." I am so emotional around Ray, it amazes me. "I have you to inspire me."

He smiles, but it is a sad smile. "It was a sacrifice for you to save me."

He takes my breath away. "How did you know?"

"When I was dying, I could see you were afraid to give me your blood. What happens when you do? Does it make you weak?"

I hug him, glad that I can squeeze his body with all my strength and not break his bones. "Don't worry about me. I saved you because I wanted to save you."

"Is my father really dead?"

I let go of him, look into his eyes. "Yes."

He has trouble looking at me. Even though he is a vampire now, a predator. Even though his thought processes have begun to alter. He didn't protest when I told him about the blood-drinking. But his love for his father goes deeper than blood.

"Was it necessary?" he asked.


"Did he suffer?"

"No, less than a minute," I add gently. "I am sorry."

He finally raises his eyes. "You gave me your blood out of guilt as well."

I nod. "I had to give something back after what I had taken."

He puts a hand to his head. He doesn't completely forgive me but he understands, and for that I am grateful. He still misses his father. "We won't talk about it," he says.

"That is fine." I stand. "We have much to do. Yaksha is returning at dawn. We cannot destroy him with brute force, even with our combined strengths. But we might be able to trick him. We will talk as we work."

He stands. "You have a plan?"

"I have more than a plan. I have a rocket ship."

Welding the sheets of metal together so that we have six inches of protection does not take long. I work outside with the arc gun so that Yaksha will not notice the smell when he enters the house. He will have to come into the house since I won't go out to him. Cutting a huge rectangle in the floor to accommodate the metal plate, however, takes a lot of time. I fret as the hours slip by. Ray is not much help because he has not acquired my expertise in everything yet. Finally I tell him to sit and watch. He doesn't mind. His eyes are everywhere, staring at common objects, seeing in them things he never imagined before. A vampire on acid, I call him. He laughs. It is good to hear laughter.

As I work, I do not feel Yaksha in the area.

It is fortunate.

My speed picks up when I bolt the two chairs to the plate and recover the plate with carpet. Here I do not have to work so carefully; the skirts of the chairs cover much. When I am done, the living room appears normal. I plan to use an end table to hide the detonator to the bomb I will strap beneath the steel plate. I bore a long hole through the table and slip in a metal rod that goes through to the metal plate. I hide the tip of the rod under a lamp base. I place a blasting cap at the bottom end of it. When the time comes, I will hit the top of the small table, the rod will crush the blasting cap, and the first bomb will go off, sending us flying.

The other bomb should go off as well, almost immediately. I keep coming back to that point in my mind because it is the central weakness in my plan. I hope we will be high enough to take the shock from the second bomb from below so the plate will protect us.

Attaching the bomb beneath the plate takes only minutes. I use twenty sticks of dynamite, tightly bound. I place fifty sticks, a whole crate, beside the fireplace in the living room, next to the most comfortable chair in the house. That seat I will offer Yaksha. We will live or die depending on how accurate my calculations are, and how well we play our parts in front of Yaksha. That is the other serious weakness in my plan; that Yaksha will sense something amiss. For that reason I have instructed Ray to say little, or nothing at all. But I am confident I can lie to Yaksha. I lie as effortlessly as I tell the truth, perhaps more easily.

Ray and I sit in our special flight chairs and talk. The bomb in the crate sits thirty feet away, directly in front of us. Above us I have opened the skylights. The cold night air feels good for once. Even with them open, we will still strike glass as we rocket by. I warn Ray, but he is not worried.

"I have already died once today," he says.

"You must have had your nose pressed against the glass to fall with it."

"I didn't until just before he raised his flute."

I nod. "He glanced at the house then. He must have pulled you forward with the power of his eyes. He can do that. He can do many things."

"He has more power than you?"


"Why is that?"

"'He's the original vampire." I glance at the time-- an hour to dawn. "Would you like to hear the story of his birth?"

"I would like to hear all your stories."

I smile. "You sound like Seymour. I visited him tonight while you slept. I gave him a present. I will tell you about it another time."

I pause and take a breath. I need it for strength. The simple work of a terrorist has exhausted me. Where to begin the tale? Where will I end it? It doesn't seem right that it could all be over in an hour. Right--what a word choice for a vampire to make. I who have violated every injunction of the Vedas and the Bible and every other holy book on earth. Death never comes at the right time, despite what mortals believe. Death always comes like a thief.

I tell Ray of the birth of Yaksha, and how he in turn made me a vampire. I talk to him about meeting Krishna, but here my words fail me. I do not weep, I do not rave. I simply cannot talk about him. Ray understands; he encourages me to tell him about my life in another era.

"Were you in Ancient Greece?" he asks. "I was always fascinated by that culture."

I nod. "I was there for a long time. I knew Socrates and Plato and Aristotle. Socrates recognized me as something inhuman, but I didn't scare him. He was fearless, that man. He laughed as he drank the poison he was sentenced to drink." I shake my head at the memory. "The Greeks were inquisitive. There was one young man--Cleo. History does not remember him, but he was as brilliant as the others." My voice falters again. "He was dear to me. I lived with him for many years,"

"Did he know you were a vampire?"

I laugh. "He thought I was a witch. But he liked witches."

"Tell me about him," Ray says.

"I met Cleo during the time of Socrates. I had just returned to Greece after being away for many years. That's my pattern. I stay in one place only as long as my youth, my constant youth, doesn't become suspicious. When I returned to Athens, no one remembered me. Cleo was one of the first people I encountered. I was walking in the woods when I found him helping to deliver a baby. In those days that was unheard of. Only women were present at births. Even though he was covered with blood and obviously busy, he took an immediate liking to me. He asked me to help him, which I did, and when the child was born, he handed it to the mother and we went for a walk. He explained that he had worked out a better way to deliver babies and had wanted to test his theories. He also admitted that he was the father of the infant, but that was not important to him.

"Cleo was a great doctor, but he was never recognized by his peers. He was ahead of his time. He refined the technique of the Caesarean delivery. He experimented with magnets and how they could restore ailing organs: the positive pole of the magnet to stimulate an organ, the negative pole to pacify it. He had an understanding of how the aromas of certain flowers could affect health. He was also the first chiropractor. He was always adjusting people's bodies, cracking their necks and backs. He tried to adjust me once and sprained his wrists. You can see why I liked him."

I went on to explain how I knew Cleo for many years, and spoke of his one fatal flaw: his obsession with seducing the wives of Athens' powerful men. How he was eventually caught in bed with the wife of an important general, and beheaded with a smile on his face, while many of the women of Athens wept. Wonderful Cleo.

I talk of a life I had as an English duchess in the Middle Ages. What it was like to live in a castle. My words bring back the memories. The constant drafts. The stone walls. The roaring fires--at night, how black those nights could be. My name was Melissa and in the summer months I would ride a white horse through the green countryside and laugh at the advances made to me by the knights in shining armor. I even accepted a couple of offers to jostle, offers the men later regretted making.

I speak of a life in the South during the American Civil War. The burning and pillaging of the Yankees as they stormed across Mississippi. A note of bitterness enters my voice, but I do not tell Ray everything. Not how I was abducted by a battalion of twenty soldiers and tied at the neck with a rope and forced to grovel through a swamp, while the men joked about what pleasure I would give them come sunset. I do not want to scare Ray, so I do not explain how each of those men died, how they screamed, especially the last ones, as they tried to flee from the swamp in the dark, from the swift white hands that tore off their limbs and crushed their skulls.

Finally I tell him of how I was in Cape Canaveral when Apollo 11 was launched toward the moon. How proud I was of humanity then, that they had finally reclaimed the adventurous spirit they had known so well in their youth. Ray takes joy in my pleasure of the memory. It makes him forget the horror that awaits us, which is part of the reason I share the story.

"Did you ever want to go to the moon?" he asks.

"Pluto. Much farther from the sun, you know. More comfortable for a vampire."

"Did you grieve when Cleo died?"

I smile, although there is suddenly a tear in my eye. "No. He lived the life he wanted. Had he lived too long, he would have begun to bore himself,"

"I understand."

"Good," I say.

But Ray doesn't really understand. He misconstrues the sentiment I show. My tear is not for Cleo. It is for my long life, the totality of it, all the people and places that are a part of it. Such a rich book of history to slam shut and store away in a forgotten corner. I grieve for all the stories I will never have a chance to tell Seymour and Ray. I grieve for the vow I have broken. I grieve for Yaksha and the love I could never give him. Most of all I grieve for my soul because even though I do, finally, believe that there is a God, and that I have met him, I do not know if he has given me an immortal soul, but only one that was to last me as long as my body lasted. I do not know if when the last page of my book is closed, that will be the end of me.

Darkness approaches from outside.

I feel no light inside me strong enough to resist it.

"He is coming," I say.

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