CW: mild adult content
“Would you mind? Val?” said Charles, casually waving an empty glass in the young man's direction.
Attentions focused momentarily as the group waited to see what he would do. Cindy’s eye’s, deliberately dilated with just the smallest drop of ecstasy, reflected silver in the strobing club lights.
Val checked in the act of replacing the stopper on a small bottle, his long, white fingers poised. With a small smile he slid it into an inner pocket and took the glass.
Cindy’s hand tightened slightly on Jennifer’s arm. The music was so loud, and so deep, that the cross she wore as a pendant jangled between her breasts, a pleasant little buzzing sensation as the molly intensified.
Charles gathered them up with a vague motion of the hand. The clique were as well practiced as Navy Seals in nonverbal communication; a natural consequence of the club life. Cindy, Penny, Jennifer...
Jennifer breathed in slightly and pointed questioningly with her nipples at the slim, retreating back. Draped in slits from her slender shoulders, the shimmering blouse was only barely clinging to her chest, like a mountaineer with two fragile pitons.
Esteban managed, ‘That’s his affair; if he finds us, he finds us; fate takes a hand,’ with only a tick of a waxed eyebrow.
Jennifer giggled in agreement, pressing long red nails to her perfect face as Penny tipped an oversized hip towards a mostly hidden door. The groove of a well toned abdominal muscle sliced along her midriff and under the waistband of her vintage DKNY jeans. It tied her together, made it perfectly obvious that she was naked under her clothes, that the ensemble, which had actually taken a careful hour and fifteen minutes to select, had been just... thrown on.
“Booze, more booze, it’s my birthday,” shouted Charles, as they burst ostentatiously through into the 21 clubs inner recesses and the cacophony lost its treble. The doors closed behind them.
“Yes sir,” said Jose. The bartender spoke without moving his lips as well, with eyebrows and subtly.
Leaving the glassware at the end of the bar, the man slid down to intercept the throng.
Charles crackled up to the polished granite slab, the energy of the night flowing around him in glitz and magic. Gazing into the mirror, he liked what he saw. The girls swarmed round; they had always done that. Jason was there, and Esteban, who had changed his name for the stage but who was still just as good as ever. The club was in full roar, but this was their space, their privilege. Charles twisted, taking them all in with a sweep of his expansive hand.
“Here you are,” said the young man, holding up a tinkling glass.
No one had seen him come in.
Charles frowned, but took the drink.
“Thanks,” he said, automatically, surprised that words were audible, that they could speak and be heard there, in that room. It felt as if he were in the ocean and had put down his feet after a paralyzing roller to discover the sandy earth much nearer than he had expected.
“Who are you again?” he said.
“The name is Val,” said the dapper young man.
He was wearing a black jacket, the cuffs turned back, dark slacks and leather boots, but nothing about him seemed to shimmer at all. Even in the quietude of the VIP bar the air still hummed, the bass notes forcing Jose to separate his hanging glassware.
“You’re cute,” said Cindy blandly, blinking to rehydrate her dilated eyes. She made a nearly subconscious motion to the bartender and something fruity was instantly in her hand.
“No, I am not,” said the odd young man. “I am invisible.”
Instantly, the group fixed on him.
“I haven't heard self-abnegation in years,” Jason drawled.
“Self-abnegation; what’s that?” whined Jennifer, stretching until her mountaineer nipples strained at their moorings.
“It’s… just a word,” said Jason, caught out.
“It means, ‘self-denial, the denial of self,” said Charles, with growing interest, finally taking a sip. He gasped and drew in his breath.
“A while since you have had a drink with no fruit juice?” suggested Val, with a wry smile.
Charles grinned sheepishly. Cindy and Jennifer peered over into his clear glass as if at an anatomy lesson, eyes rounded and lips curled.
Charles shifted slightly to block from view the row of tall glasses lined up on the bar. They were already filled with a pink slush; cherries and fat wedges of pineapple.
“Yes, perhaps,” he admitted, “but today, I am a man!”
Bracing himself, he imbibed another stiff sip.
“This… vodka?” he ventured.
Val shook his head.
“Tuica,” he said.
Esteban took the glass and eyed it closely.
“Never heard of it,” he said, suspiciously.
“He’s never heard of it,” said Charles.
Penny dipped a finger and put it in her mouth, the movement an extension of her entire body.
“Fruity,” she said, moving the word through her whole mouth.
“Is from the plums,” said Val. “Romanian. I bring it here... especial.”
“Plums? Like saki?” said Cindy.
Val shook his head.
“Is that what you got in the little flask?” demanded Jennifer.
For the first time, Val looked surprised. He reached for his breast pocket, hesitated, then continued, drawing out the intricate little bottle. The cap was a brass wolf’s head. He proffered it and it was clear he was saying, ‘You see, it would never fit in this.”
“What do ya got in there?” breathed Cindy, leaning closer, her pendant wafting away from her body.
Val took a small step back.
Cindy smiled deeply, smoldering her eyes.
“What ‘cha… got… in there?” she asked again, the corner of one purple lip ticking up.
Finally, Val nodded, slightly.
“Is my private elixir,” he said.
“It’s a drug?” said Jennifer, Jason and Cindy, all at once. They giggled and did not look at each other.
“If you wish.”
Suddenly, Charles broke in.
“Where did you come from, anyway?”
Val looked at him, his black eyes glistening silver.
“You saw me by the door of the club. You thought you would have some fun, remember?”
“Well, yes, by the door,” said Charles. “You, you looked lonely...”
Val shook his head.
“You were bored,” he said.
“I don’t usually,” Charles said, haughtily. “Esteban pointed you out. Hell, it’s my birthday.”
“And I do not usually allow people to see me,” said Val, his voice pitched so low that only Charles could hear it.
“Hey, I’ve seen something like that before,” interjected Esteban. He placed a hand on Val’s wrist, only to snatch it quickly back.
“I like ‘em cold,” said Penny, sidling her hips into Val’s leg and pouting in a little girl’s voice, “Let me have a taste, sweetie. Just one little taste.”
Cindy laughed darkly.
“Gimme, gimme,” Penny said.
“You would not like it,” said Val. “Is not for you.”
“No, definitely not,” said Esteban, grabbing Val again, above the turned up cuff, and moving the vial away from Penny’s eager hands.
“What is it, what’s going on?” demanded Charles.
He felt befuddled, the music playing tricks with his heartbeat, all the alcohol they had drank swirling undiluted through his swollen veins. He couldn’t think. Somehow, the room had become empty. It was only them.
“You may have some… Cindy. If you really want,” said Val, disengaging his arm and shoving Esteban hard. He seemed to fly across the empty room. They did not hear him hit the wall, but he sat down thickly and did not move.
“Take off your necklace,” said Val. “And I will give you a drop.”
“Don’t do it,” said Jason. Charles shook his head dumbly.
Cindy was breathing hard.
“You want me to get naked?” she said, the sultry act stuck half on, and half off.
As if in a dream, Cindy lifted the cross from between her breasts, feeling it pendulum, and slid the long chain over her head. It felt as if a great weight were leaving her shoulders, an encumbrance, without which it was easier to breathe.
Charles took a half step away. Cindy leaned closer. With great precision, Val unscrewed the wolf head cap. He tipped the vial, an improbable amount, and a single, crimson drop slid thickly onto his fingertip. It was dark, more viscous than water, a negative element that seemed to pull light in, hurting the eyes, even as it challenged them, a subtle thing from a nether place.
Cindy's lips parted in a little gasp and, in a lightning quick movement, Val grabbed hold of her neck with one strong hand and shoved the other into her mouth.
She might have screamed.
“Oh my god!” screeched Penny, cringing back, her hands over her face.
Cindy jerked away, a peculiar look on her face, makeup smeared. Something, it might have been tears, began to ooze from her left eye, leaving a black furrow over her trembling cheek.
“No!” gasped a voice.
It was Esteban. He was up, swaying like a drunken man.
“No,” he cried. “It’s only for the king!”
“What are you talking about!” screamed Charles, fumbling backwards.
Esteban swayed towards them, one hand holding his chest.
“That- that vial! I’ve seen it before, the markings… he’s Romanian, Charles, he’s… he wasn’t in the mirror. He wasn’t in the mirror!”
Screaming, Jason dashed to the door, wrenching on the handle in a frenzy. He threw his weight against it. But, it had been fastened shut, and the music played on. No one could hear them.
“Do you know, who you are?” said Val.
The timber of his voice had grown deeper still, a rumbling growl which filled every corner of the room. He seemed to have become, primal, a beast, as he waded through the stools, reaching out to take Charles' quivering face in his long, cold fingers, claws scratching red lines over his cheek.
“N… no?” managed Charles, twitching his head from side to side, willing himself to stand, to not lose control of his functions. His back was against the bar.
“You... are no one!” growled Val, bringing his face closer.
His lips parted and Charles could see the sharp teeth, smell the feted, undead breath. Val’s eyes faded, now silver, now black, now no color at all, and Charles felt himself losing his footing in this world.
“It’s your grandfather,” shouted Esteban.
He wrenched a sheaf of papers from his jacket, brandishing them in the air as if they were a torch.
“It was your birthday present… for your birthday… I was going to tell... your great grandfather, it, he, was... Van Helsing! The great hunter of the supernatural! And he, that creature… the vial, Charles! It’s the property of the king, only the king can…”
Penny came to life and lunged towards the two at the bar, snatching up Cindy’s discarded crucifix. With a squeal of terror she thrust it out before her, into Val’s side. Her hand seemed to freeze.
Val stood as if turned to stone. An eternal moment passed, then he rotated his perfect head and looked straight at her. His eyes were magic, his voice the stuff of night.
“No, no, my dear,” he said, almost tenderly, and took her breast in his hand.
Steam rolled from his body, the air about him chill, like that above a vast, primordial morass. His fingers were cold, and strong. Goose flesh rippled like a web up Penny’s body, from her naked breast across her neck, along the perfect lines of her stomach. She seemed to feel a puncture, as if the man were indeed a spider, his hand injecting her with poison. Penny could not move. Unheeded, the crucifix clattered to the floor.
Jennifer was on her knees.
Cindy lay motionless, her eye’s open. She imagined she could see… everything. She could feel herself… unalive, the beautiful colors in her blood, the sounds of another world, some other existence, juxtaposing with the thin present.
Jason stood where he had fled, paralyzed, as if waiting for an executioner.
“It would never have worked with me,” said Val, turning his eyes slowly from Penny’s rabbit stare to refasten on Charles’.
“Nothing you could have done would have held sway over me. You understand that, Charles, do you not, before you die. No man could defeat me. Not, that you are a man. You? You are a child, a boy in a grown up body. You do understand. I am not a Count, no servant of the darkness. I, am the king. I AM THE KING!”
The words were a roar, though his voice had not raised. They thundered into Charles’ chest like a lion’s deep rumble, catching up on no part of him, passing through and through, canceling him out and washing him away. The coldness overcame him and Charles fell, forever, over and over, into the darkness.
The lights changed.
And the music stopped.
Esteban leapt to his feet, rushing to Charles’ prostate body. He was joined an instant later by Jose, who had popped up from behind the bar like a jack-in-the-box, white medical satchel in his hand. Val, having seized hold of the falling body with both hands to control its descent, sprung back, out of the way of the two men. Tearing off his jacket, he flung it to the ground.
There was a clatter from the bar as Penny began to sag through the stools.
“Catch her!” shouted Jose and Esteban at once.
Val started forward to assist, but at his motion the girl came back to life, sending the remaining stools bouncing, pell-mell, across the floor as she floundered through them to reach the bar. She clutched at it like a holy relic.
“Get away from me!” she screamed.
“Penny! Penny,” said Esteban.
Nodding quickly to Jose, who pursed his lips and nodded back, he rose, dusting his sleeves and twisting his disarranged clothing back into order.
“Penny, it’s okay,” he said.
Esteban took a step forward, but now the terrified girl shied from him as well.
“Everyone, it’s... okay,” said Esteban, turning to encompass the room, his arms out. “Really, this is just, Brian, not Val, not Vlad, just Brian. He’s a performance artist, a friend of mine from acting school. I’ve known him for three years, ever since he came to this country. That’s the cool thing, guys; he actually is from Romania. That’s what gave us the idea.”
Brian waved. No one moved.
“Look,” said Esteban, pointing, “he has a reflection. He’s not a vampire.”
“He didn’t have one before,” ventured Jason, taking a tentative step away from the locked door. He crossed his arms.
“How do you know?” said the young man, now Brian.
At his voice everyone in the room flinched, even Esteban. It was different, but the same, as if a concealing tarpaulin had been drawn over a powerful instrument of war.
“Wow,” said Esteban.
Brian smiled, popping off his claws one at a time.
“Oh, I can project,” he said. “I trained for the opera for two years.”
“But, but, the cold,” said Penny, her fingers still locked in place.
Brian pointed to where his discarded jacket lay, still in a pile. It had begun to steam.
“Dry ice,” he said, tapping the sides of his shirt, from whence came a clunking sound. “I wear specially designed padding; it keeps my skin from being damaged. Designed it myself.”
“And… and, your eyes?” said Penny.
“Cool, right?” said Brian, and this time, as he stepped up to her, Penny did not shy away. He held her in his eyes and turned his head slowly from side to side, blinking. As he did the color seemed to change, fading from silver to blue to black. Suddenly, he twitched, and one orb was rimmed with red. Penny shrieked, but Brian closed his eyes, shook his head, and when he opened them again, was back to normal.
“He’ll be okay, won’t he,” he said, over his shoulder.
“Oh, yes,” said Jose. “No problemo.”
Esteban righted the bar stools, then gathered up the strewn sheets, still lying where he had fallen.
“What are those?” said Jennifer.
“It actually is an ancestry,” said Esteban. “I got it for Charles, for his birthday, but it was sooo boring; Brian and I came up with this instead.”
“Cindy spent spring break in Europe three years ago; didn’t she go to Romania?” said Jason.
“And is his great grandfather really Van Helsing?” said Jennifer.
“Van Helsing is a fictional character; doesn’t really exist,” said Esteban, with a demure little shrug.
“Oh…” said Jennifer. “Hope he’s okay...”
She put on her pouting face. “You really scared us- you big jerk.”
And, turning to Penny, the girls began to arrange each other, tucking in and pulling out, putting themselves to rights.
“And… what about me?” said a little voice.
Every head turned.
Cindy was half sitting where she had dragged herself, a look of infinite sorrow on her face.
There was a long moment. No one said a word.
Brian crossed over to her with lordly steps, his boots echoing in the silence. Stooping, he picked the girl up from the floor. He was extremely strong. He carried Cindy to the window and sat her on her feet, looking with her, out, into the night.
“What was it?” she whispered, at last. “What was it you put inside me?”
Brian’s long fingers moved the curtain further aside, letting in the colors, letting in that other world. He breathed in, and she could hear his powerful heart.
“I did not follow you back to this country to act,” he whispered. “I did not conspire with Esteban for his sake, or his friends. I did not play this part for either of them. It was all for you. I am the king... and I come for you!”
Cindy knew, with an absolute and certain peace, that she would never see anyone in that room again.
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This was wild. Great depiction of the mood and energy of the club. I liked the two twists. Just when you thought you were safe...
Thanks for reading. It was a lot to get in the word count... I used... exactly... 3000... words (seriously ;)