Dear Lord: Chapter Twenty-One Of “The Crystal Ship”

I am beginning to lose my religion. But not my belief. I still believe there is a greater power. Just not the idea that what I do will actually save me from anything.

Rites are futile. Rituals do nothing. Strict adherence to the rules leave no room for protection from harm. Or from damnation. I have realized that I cannot save myself. No matter what. Nor can I save a single soul that is in my protection.

I can only protect. And hope that they have learned life’s hard lessons in all this. But that is all. I cannot make them see the error of their ways. Or change their minds on anything.

They see me as a contradiction. I am a vampire. They know that I am. But I am trying to save their lives. Unselfishly. Because I was sent to do so by the Underground.

And yet, they have a hard time trusting me. I can’t blame them. I even have a hard time trusting myself. I suppose that is why I will go ahead and send Sara and the girls north when we reach Little Rock. I must go farther west and to the north.

I have been asked to go to Reno and check out a report of something sinister. Something I must check out myself. It is going to be hard for me to explain to them. But they will have to accept it. After all. They made a commitment where the refugees are concerned. I only promised to get them to the relative safety of Little Rock. Or the closest Underground city.

I pull Sara aside as we walk. “I will not be proceeding with you to the missions. I have been given another mission. One I must do on my own. No one else. I cannot risk you or the girls on this. Please do not argue. I will meet you at the missions when I am done.”

She is obviously sad. But understands. “Ok. I will try to get the girls to understand.”

I look at her. “It was not my decision. The Brotherhood made the decision on this one. They deem this mission too dangerous. Something about reports of sucker-babies known as Lamprey. And the Skull-terror known as Blood Skulls. As I am not usually susceptible to most forms of magic, I am the best pick for such a dangerous mission. And also, I am usually able to fight my way out of any traps set.”

I see the visible effect of the shiver that goes down her back. “I would just soon not see that. But now that you have mentioned it, I cannot un-see it. I am just going to ask that you come back to us in one piece.”

I smile. “don’t worry. I will. I can’t et you girls have all the fun.”

***

Little Rock, at last. I have said my goodbyes and am now on my way westward. I do not know what I will encounter. All I know is that the reclusive Vampire lord who had been in Denver before its liberation is supposed to be behind this new menace. A type of genetically altered or a mutated form of vampire that appears to be–in sound and appearance–a baby. That is, until its victim picks it up to get a closer look. Then, its mouth opens and a whip-like tongue comes out and balloons until its end completely envelopes the victim’s head.

Either a mixture of venom melts the flesh, or it is peeled away to reveal a scarlet, blood-stained skull that is now completed by a pair of vampire fangs. Only two witnesses have escaped to tell of this horror and they are half-crazed and kept incarcerated for their own safety. since I am not prone to mental trickery, and can sense evil, I am the only hunter they will ever ask to find out the truth.

I head for Las Vegas. Then to Reno. The once decadent state of Nevada is now the epicenter of this suspicious activity. Vampire-like creatures known as Snakes, Lamprey, and Blood-Skulls. And possibly even other monstrosities created by the Romanof lord.

He had fled Denver as the Underground advanced to the city limits. Then, he fled from Colorado altogether as we drove his forces out of the mountains and into the desert. Nothing has been heard from him until now. And now, He is spreading terror through the humans in his area by releasing monsters upon them.

***

I enter Nevada. Desolate. It has always been a desert, but the lack of life is a strange thing. Especially for all the decadence this state once proudly proclaimed.

I am met by the queerest of sights. Half-man, half-snake creatures. All Vampire. Sort of remind me of the Gorgons of Greek myth. But with a twist born of a fevered mind.

Oh, Hell. The rumors were true. These must be the Snakes. All I need now are Spiders and Lamprey to make it all complete. But I believe that Romanof will only release a few of his pets at a time.

Especially since he would rather test them against me than to sacrifice them in his own defense. I muse over the scene. These are not so horrible. Just grotesque. And unnatural. All evil.

Each Snake see me in its own turn. Rushes me. And proves as easy as its namesake to kill. Lop off the head, it dies. But lies flopping and writhing as its blood drains. Apparently not fully vampire. Or not vampire at all. I am not sure.

I continue on. And run into a nest of Spiders. These twisted forms still resemble humans, but have arms and legs grafted on to form an eight-legged hominid. I can’t tell if it is vampiric or not. all I know is it is hideous.

These prove just as easy to kill. Lop off the head and they die. I shake my head. I watch the headless, multi-legged bodies twitch. Then continue on.

Dear Lord! They are real! both of them! and they are horrifying! I have finally found the Lamprey. I find a ridge to hide behind to observe.

I watch as it begins to cry when it senses a victim near. I watch the victim reach down and pick it up. The tongue shoots out of its mouth. Reminds me of a frog or chameleon. Wraps itself around the victim’s head. I hear the ungodly screaming of the victim. And watch him fall and twitch through the change. Oh, God.

The tongue uncoils and returns to the Lamprey’s mouth. The victim’s head is nothing but a blood red skull. With fangs. The rumors were true. I rise from my hiding spot.

I have to end this. Here. Now. I draw my swords.

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