Zombies From Space... And Vampires
Drip the drops of golden light in the black of night.
Nineteen-year-old Aria Danes peered up from the line scrawled in her notebook. The rain rolled down the window of the mobile home, and the orange of the street lamp reflected through the droplets streaking the glass. Aria sighed and gazed at the clock. Two o’clock. Her father would be done with his shift soon.
The diner was always dead this time of night.
“Cost more to keep the lights on and the staff there than it ever was worth,” her father frequently grumbled. “My father boasted a twenty-four-hour diner for forty-eight years as did his father before him. Ain’t gonna change that now.”
Her father quoted the words of his employer all too well. Aria would chuckle and her father would slip the baseball cap on his balding gray head and, giving Aria a hug, would head off across the parking lot to work.
Aria loved the mobile home. It was cozy, ideal, and practical. With just her and her father and a constant set of wheels under their feet, they were always ready to go...if ever they could save enough to get gone. Her father, Richard Danes, was a down-to-earth, hard-working average man of forty-something. He had spent the last ten years trading strands of hair for the wisdom it took to raise his small family, which was always only Aria. Their mother had taken off years ago and died, all before Aria had learned how to miss her.
She wasn’t missed as Mr. Danes was always there to be whatever it was that Aria needed that day. Their existence was simple and, at nineteen years, all Aria wanted to do was get gone from the small one-light town and move on to bigger places.
“Go to college,” Mr. Danes would nag with a smile. “Be something better than me.”
Matching his grin, Aria always retorted, “I am something better.”
Before he could argue, Aria would go back to her dreams set to the songs on her iPod.
Aria sat up from the window at the sudden tap on the glass. Through the black and orange streaks of rain, her father smiled up at her. Aria opened the window.
“I’ll be along later than I thought,” Mr. Danes said. “The boss wants to go over staffing tonight.”
“Tonight?” Aria whined.
“He says it will be nice and quiet then. Best time.”
Dejected, Aria nodded.
“What are you still doing up, anyway?” Mr. Danes asked.
Aria shrugged. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“Well...” Mr. Danes looked back at the diner to hide his smile. “Too much like your father.”
Aria leaned out of the window and kissed the top of his head.
“Right,” she said. “Night, Dad.”
The rain was picking up again.
“You’re not going to sleep, are you?” Mr. Danes asked.
“Nope.” Aria flashed him her favorite grin. “Too much like my father.”
“Stubborn,” he said, turning back to the diner. “I’ll see you when I’m done.”
The rain had most definitely started up again. A downpour was well on its way.
“Bye, Dad,” she said.
Mr. Danes waved good bye and, crouched under his coat, ran through the muddy parking lot back to the diner.
Aria fought the mobile home window, which had jammed again. The thing was always sticking. The wind picked up and, just as Aria gave the window a punch to dislodge the misaligned frame, a sharp whistle cut through the night and the rain suddenly stopped.
Richard Danes had just made it to the end of the parking lot where the diner’s cheap fluorescent lights flickered. He looked back at the mobile home. The window forgotten, Aria leaned out of the window and cocked her head to better see the sky. It was too black, as if something had sucked out the light of the moon and the stars. Not even the outline of storm clouds was visible in the dark.
“Dad?” she called.
Dumbfounded, Richard looked around as if trying to determine where the rain had gone. He held a hand to his face, shading the street lamp light from his eyes to improve visibility.
“Dad?” Aria called. “What’s happe—”
A second sharp whistle silenced Aria. Clasping her ears, she fell back, cringing against the sound as she lay huddled on the floor of the mobile home beside the foldout dining room.
Just as quickly, the shrill whistle stopped and the downpour continued.
Aria pulled herself to her feet and peered out the window. The rain fell as if nothing had been there moments ago to disrupt the downpour. Everything continued as it had before. Her father was gone.
“Dad?” Aria called over the rain. She gazed at the diner. The lights had gone out. It was silent. Everything was just too wrong. Worry pulled her nerves and Aria hugged herself against the gnawing fear that dug at her gut.
Her pace increased with her rising panic as she made her way through the mobile home to the driver’s cabin. Pushing open the door, Aria studied the parking lot for any sign of life.
Shadows moved in the distance. Aria strained to see through the rain and night at the movement ahead. A kind of distant gurgling followed and before Aria could scream, a kind of thing, ragged and limp, slogged through the mud. Its arms hung at its side like rags.
The stench hit her nose and, as she opened her mouth to scream, a cold hand clamped down around her and held her mouth closed.
“Not a word,” a man’s voice muttered in her ear. “Not a sound.”
His cold slender fingers caressed her cheek as she breathed deep the stale scent of death.
“You don’t know what that is, do you?”
Aria nodded. A strand of hair fell to her face.
“You do?” The man sounded surprised. “You know then what it will do if it gets you?”
The walking limp thing slogged toward Aria, who fought the hand keeping her in place. The man holding her ran a cold cheek against hers and breathed deep, as if smelling Aria.
“Nothing quite whets the appetite like frightened female,” he said.
A sudden grunt from the left forced the man to shift, coming to face a second man-shaped thing slogging through the mud. Its arms also hung like shredded rags. Its stench bit Aria’s nose. Up close in the streetlamp’s light, Aria could see the shredded remains of rotting corpse. She screamed into the hand that held her mouth as the dead thing reached for Aria. Releasing a silky laugh, the man stepped again, taking Aria with him just as the walking corpse lunged. With a swipe of his arm, a blade flew up and took the corpse’s hand with it. The man holding Aria shifted and she broke free.
Stumbling, she ran away from the man and the slogging corpse and stopped at the wall of moving shadows that limped toward her. Still alive, the armless corpse hissed at the man with the sword. Too frightened to move, she watched as the man swept his sword across the dead, taking its head with it.
“Now then,” he said, straightening his vest as a snarling body behind Aria fell on her. Before Aria could gasp, the man was beside her with his blade forced through the dead. This close, Aria could see the perfect pale skin of the man, with thick black hair sleeked back. Eyes as black as death peered down at her. Eyes that Aria fell too deeply into pinned her in place. And just as quickly as the man had moved beside her, he was down on Aria, his lips on her neck.
A twinge of pain, her body weakened, and she fell into the man’s cold arms as everything around her went black.
Aria woke in a dark room lavished in mahogany and blood red velvet. Despite the ache that strained each joint, Aria shoved back a heavy silk blanket that matched the red and sat up from the bed lined with four intricately carved bed posts. Based on the pain from her shoulder, a collection of bruises accompanied the strain in her joints.
An orange light spilled under the door and across the carpet. Distant voices in the adjoining room challenged the silence. Aria pushed herself from the bed. While she slept, someone had dressed her in a white nightgown that fell to her bare feet when she stood. Despite the lack of chains or bars, she was sure she wasn’t free. Aria crept toward the door.
Aria almost opened her mouth to answer when a second voice, smooth like the first, cut her off.
“They’ve positioned themselves globally…strategically, from the looks of things.” The second voice maintained a hint of worry. Quietly, Aria moved closer, desperate to hear every word, though they made no attempt to talk privately.
“And their progress?” This was the voice of the swordsman who had held her, back by the diner.
“They’ve already wiped out the governments, their armies, and the media.”
“Leaders, defenses, communications…all in one move,” the swordsman muttered.
“In a single night, from the looks of it. They’re taking over,” said the second. “Most cities have already been overrun. Others have been wiped out completely.”
There was a pause as the silence settled.
“How much time?” the swordsman asked.
“If we leave them to their plans?” Aria imagined a defeated shrug she couldn’t see. “Few weeks. Maybe a month. That depends on how proactive the humans decide to be.”
“Humans,” Aria breathed, then held her breath.
“Is no one left?” the swordsman said. “Has anyone made any decisions to move?”
“From the looks of it, they had no time,” the second voice said. “Everything is already gone. The Weeches were thorough.”
Aria had no idea what that meant, but the worried sick she had at the diner was back stronger than ever.
“That doesn’t leave us much choice,” the swordsman said. There was a hint of defeat in his tone. “Round them up.”
Aria bit down on her fist. Despite the barrage of questions and confusion, she was certain “them” meant humans and she was doubly sure that whoever or whatever “they” were, they were the rotting bodies that had surrounded her.
“Come out,” called the swordsman. “I know you heard every word.”
Making up her mind to stand tall, Aria pushed against the door that opened into a lavish sitting room. The rich mahogany and blood red velvet continued into this room.
A red lounger rested as the centerpiece before a crackling fireplace encased in stone. Despite the number of candelabras, wall sconces, and candlesticks, only a handful were lit. Lavishly carved sofa tables lined the walls that dripped with velvet drapes.
Strange, she thought over the obscene lack of electrical lights.
Beside the lounger’s end, the swordsman stood. Behind him a pair of tall doors rose to the ceiling: the door of her cell. Aria looked back to her host. The pair of black eyes stared back. Set within a perfectly pale complexion, Aria could now see her captor clearly. His black hair was sleeked back and hung long down his neck. He was tall and thin, but clearly strong...and powerful. She had no doubt about the power harbored within his body. That was made very clear from where he stood. Aria assessed his full height at a few inches over six foot. He towered over her own five foot four inches.
“Where is my father?” Aria asked, getting right to the only question that mattered.
“Your father?” the swordsman repeated.
“My father.” Aria’s words were dangerously close to shouting, but she held back. She wasn’t about to show him emotion. She had already decided he wasn’t worth it.
“For the life of me, I truly don’t know,” he answered too politely.
Aria decided not to push the issue just yet.
“What do you want?” she asked, forcing the question.
“A few things,” he answered then paused, taking a moment to look her up then down.
Visibly repressing a grin, he assessed her as if deciding her fit to ogle.
“Your question is vague,” he finally answered.
“Who are you?” Aria asked, slightly miffed at his admiration.
“Better.” He permitted a full grin to expand his mouth as his eyes shone with a satisfied gleam. “I am Caius.”
“Why am I here?”
“I brought you here.” Caius said this as if he had done her a favor.
“What were…” Aria hesitated. All the words that came to mind were ludicrous. Downright foolish.