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Karaoke Night at McKinley’s

Written by MackTheMouse2 :: [Friday, 04 March 2005 17:44] Last updated by :: [Monday, 08 April 2013 22:42]

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Karaoke Night at McKinley’s

 

by Charon MacDonald

 

 



 

WRITTEN FOR SGI WORKSHOP 1.2

 



 

 

We had just singed a huge contract and we were celebrating! Drinking and shouting and laughing in our favorite pub, McKinley’s. Our collective third home. Our first, of course, being our real homes, second, the office where we worked, ate, lived, loved, and slept, and finally, third, here – where we drank. My hair was dyed green in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day right around the bend. And for sure, we were getting an early start on the drinking.

 

Laughter and cheers went up as the brave (but only semi-talented, and far under-inebriated) amateur lead singer for Ichabod's Crane came down off the stage, to be replaced by a bright-faced boy.

 

That was McKinley’s – a mix of cultures, a blend of all different sorts of patrons, laughing and smoking, hollering and drinking in this crowded little pub on a crazy full moon night.

 

Our table was as good a representative of the wide mix of clientele as any other. We had men and women with a melting pot of ancestries. Europeans, Mexicans, Asians, and Native Americans, for starters. At our table sat marketing researchers, corporate lawyers, upper administration, IT reps, an office intern – a whole mess of people glad as hell that the ink on the contract was dry. All of us who’d worked on the project and sold our ideas, sold ourselves to the department store.

 

Serious drunkards (men and women alike), namby boys with their spritzers, the one true Irish among us well into his pints, our poor intern huddling over his beer and taking just frequent enough sips that we’d leave him alone, the marketing team getting well and truly hammered after an enforced dry spell – and me, trying a new vintage of wine from upstate. I’m a graphic design artist. Like everyone else at the table, I declare that I and I alone do the hard work. But in my case, it happens to be true.

 

Because we’re an advertising agency. ‘At New Thoughts, image is everything’. And if you work with this crew, so is happy hour, karaoke, and green hair.

 

The laughter and shouts died down some while the boy sang his heart out to Springsteen’s Born To Run. I took some time out from celebrating (drinking) to relax (not drinking) and listen to the kid. He really didn’t have a deep enough voice to pull the performance off. But that didn’t stop him from thinking he was Bruce himself, reincarnated. He really hammed it up. I’m sure in his mind, he was a legend, a singing god. Luckily the crowd was drunk and loved it.

 

Time to take a minute out to talk about myself. I’m Susan Whitman, resident of the best city on Earth, The Windy City by the Bay, home of cable cars and Ghiradelli chocolates, I speak of course of San Francisco! I’m thirty-three years old, but I had a late start on education, so my rise up the ranks of the cutthroat advertising world is (in my opinion) more remarkable because of it. I’ve got dark brown eyes, green hair, well, right now it is – but when it’s not dyed, it’s brown too, kept short to frame my face.

 

I live by myself in an apartment that overlooks the water and, if I go on my balcony and stretch, the Golden Gate. I live by myself –by choice – because even though I have an awesome job that brought me great friends, I’m sort of a loner by nature.

 

I left the family home to go to ‘the city’. I’m the only one of us that ever did – drawn, I guess, by the bright lights, fast paced world of business, and the lure of technology. The family homestead is in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas, where electricity is a luxury and we work for food, clothing, and trade-able goods instead of money.

 

But I was different. I wanted computers, video games, movies! Flashing lights on a glowing box – and I wanted to make pretty pictures that other people would like, appreciate, and want to buy.

 

Maybe I should introduce myself again while this poor deluded –but energetic – boy launches into Born In The USA.

 

My full name is June Susannah Whitman-Carter. I was born into a poor but strong family. Clannish to the extreme, distrusting outsiders, resentful of government –especially the tax man – and confused by technology. Anything more complicated than the engine on a pickup truck, a whiskey still, or a telephone dial lay outside our realm of comprehension.

 

I grew up with a huge family but I knew early on that I was in some way different from them. Their ways were not mine and my choices … I upset a lot of people, you see, and their constant resentment made me decide to leave instead of stay – and change who I felt I had to be. Now I’m seen as the Crazy Aunt, the outsider, and even though I’m an Elder of the clan by virtue of age, do you think they ask my advice on family problems?

 

Oh, good, the boy’s getting off the stage, laughing and taking the applause as his due. I turned back to the crew and shared in clinking our glasses together in a toast “to the elusive beast of McKinley’s Karaoke Night – practice.”

 

It was a great night, surrounded by my friends, my co-workers, my true family, and all the OTHER obnoxious drunks which happen to frequent this culturally clashing neighborhood pub. It was a full moon night for sure, all the crazies were out, and I was glad to be one of them. McKinley’s was packed, and the atmosphere was charged with excitement and celebration. Everyone who was here, no matter how drunk or sober, just fit right in.

 

And then I saw her. The one who didn’t fit right in.

 

Dark hair, the color of night, with eyes to match. Pools of liquid shadow, even under the stage lights at the karaoke mike. She had a strange feeling about her, of solitude, of grace, of quiet danger. I’d never been around anyone who’d given me a feeling like that before.

 

Her presence on the stage fit the room like sliding on a glove – a full, soft, grip that enfolds each person as if they were alone and pulls tight, leaving no openings for defiance. At least, that’s how she felt to me. She was like a dark hole in the room where something lay in wait, watchful but uninterested with those who moved through the space nearby. It was as if I was watching an undercover cop, or maybe even a Fed. Something about her felt like one of those agents from a movie, silent, dark, and unconcerned with the small lives around her. She might move in the same world as they did, but she didn’t live there. A purpose behind her … that might as well be unknowable …

 

To tell the truth, it was both scaring and exciting me.

 

Who – and what – was she? Why was she here? If she wasn’t a regular, there were only two ways past the bouncers when the club was this packed. One of those wouldn’t work tonight – I knew the bouncer at the door. He was gay. And as for the other, I didn’t see police lights flashing out in the street.

 

So how had she gotten in here? She looked like she was only in her late teens, but the aura of power that surrounded her felt ancient, a danger for which we had no name.

 

Her clothes told me little – fancy but pure black, throughout the whole ensemble, down to her expensive boots with solid, thick heels. A dress with at least two layers, creating a pattern by mixing separate designs. My professional interest was peaked, too. I love good visuals. She was exquisite, a cute upturned nose, lovely long lashes, full firm breasts with a shadowed cleavage I felt drawn to, and as she bent to adjust the mike, my breath caught in my throat.

 

That was the other reason I left the farm, and the main reason I came to San Francisco. I’m a lesbian. You can imagine how the family felt about that. We, even during our get-togethers, during our trips to cousins’ farms … never did we womenfolk fool around with other women! Oh, never – not even when there weren’t men about!

 

Let me tell you, as much as living out here in the modern world is hell sometimes, living with my family and their prehistoric fears and attitudes was sheer torture.

 

I’m a very attractive woman, and I have cousins that were wasted on my brothers. They tore me up inside, just looking at them – and knowing that not only could I never have them, if I ever tried they’d be disgusted and I’d lose what friends I had.

 

San Francisco was a blessing, even if being in the big city is hell on nights like tonight.

 

The dark, voluptuous, lovely, solitary, dangerous mystery girl finished with the mike and took a seat, then changed her mind and stood, pushing the stool away with an extension of her leg –oh, those legs! The move carried such casual grace I just melted, and it scared me how quickly I was being captivated by her. The thought of losing sight of her once she came down off the stage filled me with dread–almost as much as the thought of losing her forever in the crowd.

 

Or for that matter, the thought of a poor voice. It seemed impossible that this vision, a glamorous girl in darkness and leather and lace, would have tones that weren’t spectacular. But she was so different than the rest of the crowd, the very air of McKinley’s itself, that anything felt possible – good or bad.

 

At some unseen signal, she gripped the stand in one exquisite hand, and cupped the mike with the other as the music started with an electronic chime. Then synth-guitar chords and drum riffs started as the girl fast-spoke techno metal lyrics in a smooth voice that flowed from within that slender throat, causing ears to perk up and heads to turn, as her performance began to sweep over the drunken crowd.

 

Lose my head to the chemical freeway

Comin’ up on overload

In a mystic new dimension

Purify and sanctify me

What, so I’m in no endgame

Move my piece right off the board

Losing sure is easy – so I am no more …

 

Amazing. A voluptuous goddess of the night, a fantasy in designer clothes, a shadow from beyond the normal world, was standing at a karaoke mike in an Irish pub and belting out technopunk like she was born to it. It made me wonder what other surprises she might hold. I had to find out.

 

The way she slowed down and harmonized the chorus almost caused me to cry. There was some meaning there, a hidden part of the song, some verse from her soul finding life within someone else’s very different words.

 

But I’m not broken, in my dream I win

In here I’m nothing, a Cosmic Castaway …

 

She was the best McKinley’s had had on stage in a long while. Maybe ever. The crowd was taking note of it. I growled. Hands off, people. I saw her first.

 

I really shouldn’t drink on nights like this. I get too caught up in things, lose control, get too intense. My and my table of friends were all staring as the dark-haired beauty started talking fast once again to match the speed of the music, as the metallic sounds blasted out behind her.

 

In my head I’m a chemical dreamer

Speed up to burnout mode

Comin’ up in the fifth dimension

Beautify, don’t crucify me – yeah

So I need no mind game

Poisoning my lonely soul

Losing sure is easy so I am no more

 

And then the chorus again, where she leaned forward into the microphone, using the artist’s words to give life to an inner pain. She couldn’t be that deep, that hurt. She was a teenager. She’d barely lived.

 

But I’m not broken, in my dream I win

And I take over, ‘cause I’m no loser

And I’m in and you’re not, bad dreams don’t stop

But I’m all screwed up, a Cosmic Castaway, yeah

A Cosmic Castaway, yeah, a Cosmic Castaway …

 

I’d stop her bad dreams. I’d show her she wasn’t broken, wasn’t screwed up … I disgusted myself. Geez. She was probably a rich kid, slumming, who’d go home tomorrow and laugh with all her friends about how some old lady desperately fawned all over her.

 

I had another drink, slamming it back in one gulp. Old lady. As if. I dare you to find another thirty-three year old with a body as killer as mine. Go ahead, try, but I won’t wait up.

 

She was on to something new – a mix of rhythmic talking with strong emphasis but also somehow soothing, like how she sung the chorus. It drew me in and snuck off with my soul.

 

And I want

But have not

Bad Dreams

Lust Thoughts

In here

With no pain

You hurt me

Again

And I want

But have none

I should beat the alien

But here

I’m

No One

A Cosmic Castaway – yeah

The Cosmic Castaway – yeah

The Cosmic Castaway – yeah

The Cosmic Castaway …

 

The song ended very up-tempo, and I was on my feet, applauding like most of the other people. She smiled slightly, looking almost embarrassed, and let go of the microphone.

 

“Hey, what’s your name?” Some guy shouted as she bent to retrieve her leather jacket (which was of course, black).

 

One hand holding the jacket’s collar, she leaned toward the mike. “Melody.”

 

She sounded reserved now, almost shy – as if the person who sang was a completely different girl. But through the nervous tinge, I still felt the depths of shadow, of distance between her and the crowd.

 

That part of her hadn’t gone anywhere.

 

I quickly made my way to the bar and told the bartender (who knew me, the girl-crazy me, the ‘non-office’ me … ) to get her a drink on me before anyone else did. She grinned at me and nodded. I hung out at the bar, hoping and praying …

 

“Sing again …” This was a regular that I knew, a poor guy who used to be a chemical engineer but lost out when the new safety regulations closed the plant. Better for the environment, even anti-farm technogeek me can’t argue that … but worse for him. McKinley regulars help him out. Drinks, food, company, and hope. He sounded sad now, though, touched like I was by the haunting inner pain of this schizophrenic singer. I couldn’t hate him for making the request –because as desperately as I wanted, needed, to meet her, to talk with her … he’d lost so much more than I had that I couldn’t begrudge him a few minutes of my life. She looked out across the crowd to where he was sitting.

 

“Maybe … maybe later.” Her jacket all bunched up under her arm, Melody jumped down off the stage and disappeared into the crowd.

 

I bit my lip hard enough to taste blood.

 

Stay here? Wait for Nikki to serve her a drink and point out the person who’d bought it –me – or dash for the front door so she’d have to go through me to leave?

 

Melody appeared out of the crowd, almost at my arm. My heart skipped a beat, I swear. Somewhere, somehow, in the press of bodies between here and the stage she’d found space to put on her jacket. I tried not to stare but this time it really was her clothes that drew my attention. The jacket fit tightly on her, at odds with the rest of her stylishly tailored outfit. As if made for someone else, who’d been smaller, and pulled close around her like armor.

 

I really tried not to stare. She had incredible eyes, the cutest nose, and an arch to her neck that led to this little hollow at the base that I longed to kiss and lick.

 

Before she could place an order, Nikki put a drink in front of her and smiled. I tried to look away – to pretend this WASN’T possibly the most meaningful moment in my life. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Melody’s lips turn into a tiny smile. Nikki, sweet girl that she is, gave credit where credit is due – and pointed my way … Big, big, tips were in her future.

 

And then there she was, that mystery pressing in on me again. I felt closed in, engulfed, by this talented girl and her aura of endless dark. The clothes, except for the coat, fit the teenage girl image. But there was that something that lay beyond the buxom beauty that only I could see. Something which set itself as far apart from pub-goers as a megacorp president in his lofty tower. I felt again the sense of a person who moved through a world separate from my own.

 

She stood silently among the jostling crowds. The room seemed noiseless around her –and me – with the sounds falling away to leave the two of us alone. She stood still, not … waiting but just … inert – untouched by me, or McKinley’s, or the scene.

 

I tried to smile a sexy smile. I was more nervous now than I’d been the first time I’d dared to find out if Margaret Williams, our middle school prom queen, would kiss me back. She had. And knowing that I was beautiful to other girls had changed my whole world. I owed two wonderful secret years to her – and the times we’d enjoyed, discovering each other, would never be forgotten.

 

Melody stuck her left hand in her pocket, her right hand still extended holding my drink, and gazed quizzically at me.

 

“Hi.” I had so many better pickup lines.

 

“Hello.” She cocked her head, long wavy dark hair spilling down over one leather-clad shoulder. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t get to bury my face in that hair and smell her scent, to kiss her neck, to slip my tongue behind her ear. To kiss those lips.

 

“Do … you … you were great up there. Something … something this pub has never seen. Do you want to talk?” I was losing it. Melody was seducing me perfectly without even trying. Her jacket fell open as she raise her arm to sip my drink, to drink from me … to taste … me. The sight melted me inside.

 

As if I wasn’t, already.

 

She had this little silver chain around her neck that gave me pause, but there wasn’t a crucifix attached – and so what if there was? Some goth girls love to wear symbols of the anti-religion. The naked chain was long and loose, trickling down into the valley between her firm hills which thrust out from within the top layer of her dress.

 

“Do you want to sit down?” She asked in a casually indifferent voice.

 

“Yes, but …” Wait … how? What I saw wasn’t possible. Not tonight. There was a table, empty, only a few feet from the bar. With two chairs. She waited. I had the disquieting feeling that she was watching me, gauging me. As something other than a possible sexual partner. Something chilled me and cooled my ardor. This was no ordinary girl. In no way, shape … or seductive form. I moved over and slid into the seat, cautiously inviting her to take the place opposite me.

 

She sat down elegantly and I could see her hips move under the folds of her dress as she crossed her legs. I was able to get back out of this new mood just long enough to wish the table wasn’t there, and then I felt stillness descend on the pair of us – as if the world had receded, the sounds and life of the party being drawn away down a long hall. I came alert suddenly, jolted to a state of readiness for action.

 

Melody, the natural temptress, gazed at me from under long black lashes as I watched her in return with a narrowed hazel gaze.

 

“What are you?” We both asked at the same time.

 

After a moment, we both laughed – and the wall had been broken. Her menacing nature seemed less present, and I can only imagine what she must have been feeling from me up until that point – but now she looked much more relaxed.

 

She had the most vibrant laugh. The pain she’d shown during her song had obviously abated. I resolved to make her laugh as often as I could and after that secret promise, the smile which found its way to my lips felt so natural that it could always have been there.

 

“Can I get you anything?” Melody asked, swishing her glass meaningfully.

 

“Yeah, I’ll have some. Hey, Nikki? Wild Sex, please.”

 

Nikki nodded and started to work.

 

Melody smiled and licked her lips. “Sounds great. What’s in it?”

 

Oh, what an opportunity.

 

But … I didn’t want to use any of my lines on her … I didn’t know why. “I don’t really know. But it tastes wonderful and it’ll keep you warm all night.” Okay, maybe only a little line …

 

A tiny little shy smile this time teased her lips, and I knew I had scored at least SOME points.

 

“Are you going to sing again?” I asked with some intensity. It would be a shame if she didn’t.

 

“I … I might have time for one more.” She seemed sad, just for a moment, but recovered quickly – or hid it well.

 

“Do you have somewhere to go?” I glanced at the clock. Barely even eleven.

 

She nodded solemnly. “Yes.”

 

“School night?” I didn’t want to break the law. No, scratch that. I WANTED to … but I really shouldn’t. What was fine when I was fourteen or fifteen isn’t fine today when I’m thirty-th … older.

 

She smiled a ghost of a smile and wet her lips before setting her glass down. “No, but I can see how you’d think so. I’m older than I look.”

 

I nodded. “You’d almost have to be. If you’re not twenty one … well, let’s just say it’s very difficult to get in here. How did you, anyway? I know the bouncer’s gay. And you didn’t kill him …”

 

She slid backwards in her seat, resting her head against the high top of the chair’s wooden back. “I have my ways. I guess this is the point where we should introduce ourselves.”

 

I nodded, slowly, and glanced around at all the people standing so close to us.

 

She followed my gaze. “Don’t worry,” and that strange muting felt thicker between us and the crowd, “they won’t hear anything – or won’t notice what they hear, anyway.”

 

“Will Nikki still give me Wild Sex?”

 

Melody laughed – the sound of her laughter was like bells. “I don’t know,” she teased, “will she?”

 

“Maybe. If I get her really drunk first. Never mind. I’ve had enough to drink already. Who … what … are you?”

 

She picked up her drink again, and with the glass in one hand, took a sip, gave an elegantly shallow bow, then handed the Irish Mist to me with formality.

 

“Melody Van Rhysen, of the New York Van Rhysens, heiress … and vampire. And you?”

 

I didn’t speak for almost a minute. When I did, it was only after a deep swallow of whiskey, and then I could only mumble due to shock. “June Susannah Whitman-Carter. Werewolf.”

 

We both stared for a moment, each of us caught completely off-guard. Vampire … and Werewolf.

 

I beat her to speech by a bare moment. “I thought you were only in Europe!”

 

“I thought you were extinct!” She replied, without pause.

 

I grinned and licked my lips. “Not by a long shot. Not from your kind’s lack of trying.” That is, according to the family histories and legends. Strange as it may seem, coming from a werewolf, I never really believed the stories about vampires were true.

 

Her face fell. “I wasn’t part of that.”

 

I shrugged. Those were ancient stories – the history of a family I didn’t truly belong to anymore.

 

“Can we … talk in peace?” She asked in a whisper that I shouldn’t have been able to hear in McKinley’s on a Friday night. Her powers, however she did it, were truly impressive.

 

“I only come here seeking peace.” I quoted from VNV Nation – my favorite ‘under a deadline’ music for the office or when I’m working at home.

 

She smiled weakly and reached forward to take back her whiskey glass. Even knowing, as I did, what she was … I still let my fingers brush against hers as she slipped the glass from my hand.

 

Was that another tiny smile I saw, just before her lips were hidden by the glass? Or just my imagination? She set the empty glass down on the table and sighed, content and warmed by the Irish Mist.

 

“What was it you wanted?” The raven-haired beauty asked me as she stood, showing off an incredibly smooth and firm length of leg.

 

“Wild S … Sex.” I stammered, nervously.

 

“Sounds like fun. I’ll join you.” She merged with the crowd, leaving me alone at our table.

 

Oh. My. God.

 

Why did this have to happen on a full moon night?

 

I should have stayed home … On nights when the moonlight streams down this intense from the sky, our blood runs hot – and wild. Inner desires take hold of the flesh and the flames of our passion sear this frail mortal world. Powers never meant to be contained are set loose and the body is fueled with a purpose that cannot be denied.

 

In other words, werewolves way more than double our strength, stamina, and sex drive.

 

I have great self-control, even when drunk. We all have to learn that very early on. ‘Walking through a world made of sand and straw’ is the age-old phrase. Every werewolf, from when they are born has the strength of at least five humans of their age. When I was nine, I lifted my uncle off his feet in a hug. By twelve, and by myself, I could tip over a cow. When I was fourteen, I was sneaking into the weight room at our county school – and one handed, curling over four hundred pounds. Our parents, when they even let us go to school with humans at all, never let us play sports or get into fights.

 

Being a werewolf means being careful every minute of the day not to destroy these weak human creations of glass, wood, metal, and stone. Have you ever tried to use less than a tenth of your strength to hug someone you love, or open a locker in those last few seconds before class, or pedal a bicycle up a hill, or slam on the brakes when you’re driving a car? When you could easily splinter a girlfriends’ bones with your arms, tear the metal door off it’s hinges with one hand, crush the frame of your bike between your legs, or put your braking foot through the floor of a car?

 

At fourteen, when I discovered that I wanted to be with girls as much as any of my brothers did, I was as strong as twenty human girls, or as strong as a dozen boys. No human could have stopped me if I had decided to take what I wanted. Steel bent in my young hands and stone crumbled to powder between teenaged thighs.

 

Let me tell you, I made Margaret very happy over those two satisfying years. In ways that no human boy or girl could ever hope to repeat. And our strength grows steadily throughout the years – until you’ve become an Elder, usually around thirty. Right now, as a full adult in my prime, I can dead lift two tons over my head, and curl with one hand almost a thousand pounds.

 

Actually, right now, under the full moon’s light, my trim five foot nine body could lift over twelve thousand pounds. Easily. If I got angry –or excited – I could throw cars around, kick through brick walls, and with a flick of my wrist, snap steel chains.

 

And all that power was seething, blazing inside me, as I sat –drunk and green haired – in my favorite pub, waiting for a chance to try and seduce a vampire. What a world.

 

If it hadn’t been for our finalizing and signing the business contract that day, I would have stayed home. I should have anyway, honestly. If I lost control or got too wasted for even a minute of a full moon night, I could ruin my entire life. Not to mention my favorite bar.

 

Where was she? Impatiently, I began to growl.

 

I kept my fingers perfectly flat on the table and forced myself not to even press hard. My hands would go right through the flimsy oak and then there’d be surprise, questions, and maybe even screaming.

 

A few breaths, slow and regular, from my yoga class helped bring me down. I had to think about this whole situation – A vampire. What did I actually know about vampires?

 

Family legend said they drained blood from their victims, sucking the life right out of them. They could vanish into the night and only their smell left a trail. If we weren’t in wolf form, one could walk right by us, cloud our senses, and we’d never know they were there. Fast, both in land speed and reaction time, able to get out from under our jaws in the blink of an eye.

 

And STRONG. Recent vampires, up to a few centuries old, were equal to two or three of our young. Or any single Elder – good thing I was one. But these were only stories. I was at the peak of the lunar cycle, my absolute strongest unless I shifted into the full beast form, and her aura of casual menace still scared me. If I was wrong, if our legends were wrong, and this turned bad … how would we be matched? Their kind had hunted mine out of the Old World, or so the history goes. In return, we fought them out of the New. But now, I had met one.

 

Worse, she claimed to be part of a family structure in the Northeastern US. That was near my old stomping grounds. It rankled me, deep inside.

 

Even if she was the loveliest person I had seen in my whole life.

 

I needed to know her, to learn her story, to see the girl –or woman – lying beneath that dark and dangerous beauty. That night, it was the sight of the moon as much as her that drove me mad with desire. I hadn’t been with anyone but myself during the full moon for a long, long, time.

 

A vampire. Fast, powerful, elegant, voluptuous and sleek. Mysterious – and deadly.

 

She might –just – be strong enough to survive me. I had to find out.

 

Arms fell on either side of me, dark hair fell around my face, and sweet breath blew in my ear.

 

“You look so very far away. What are you dreaming of?”

 

Two cold drinks slid across my hands and were set on the table. Melody had returned. She was close, so very very close. Her presence lit a fire in my soul. Her hands caressed mine, so very gently, the brush of petals of a midnight rose. But only briefly, as she straightened and walked past me to sit back down in her chair.

 

“Took you long enough,” I growled and chose one of the two drinks.

 

She looked down at the surface of the table. I must have been meant to hear her tiny whisper. There was no other excuse for why I made out her words in the chaos of the pub. She had not yet again dulled the voices, the music, the life of the crowd from impacting our area.

 

But when she whispered as if speaking only to herself, I heard those five words in perfect clarity.

 

“I almost didn’t come back.”

 

For our kind’s ancient enemy, for an undead shadow stalking the night, for a hunter who stole human life … I felt a sorrow that I longed to take and drive away.

 

“I’m glad you did.” I touched her hand, and raised my drink in salute. She slowly picked up hers and raised it hesitantly in reply. The smooth hand lying under mine didn’t move at all.

 

“To chance meetings.” I grinned.

 

“To fate.” She amended, in words still tinged with that sadness, and we both had Wild Sex.

 

“Mmm … I love this stuff.” Melody announced, wiping her mouth with one dainty finger – and with a show, sucked the droplets off with those perfectly kissable lips. She was mercurial, for sure.

 

“Where do you come from?” She asked me with tense eagerness, her sadness now utterly gone.

 

“Near Buffalo Point, Arkansas. In the Ozarks. You said you had family in New York?”

 

A flicker of pain darted across her face, then escaped. “There are other …” The hush suddenly fell across the crowd, as we ventured from light conversation into dangerous territory. She pulled her hand out from under mine. “… vampires throughout the New England area. I have … ‘relatives’ … but they are not family. I’m …” She took a slow breath and then another sip of her drink. “I am a traitor, in their eyes, and I was cut off, and thrown out. Too many unpopular ideals. Too few allies, and in the end … when I spoke out against their practices, they were ready to punish me. When my chance came, I ran away.”

 

“I’m … I’m sorry. I know what that’s like. I ran away from home, too … I know what it’s like to be hated by your kin, and to live on your own.”

 

We sat in silence for a little while. Then she raised her glass and said, bitterly, “to family.”

 

I nodded and added my glass to the air above the table. “Hell, I’ll always drink to that.”

 

We sat in silence again, surrounded by a crowd held at some distance by application of her strange abilities. The presence of danger around her had not changed – I felt nervous, with a force seated across the table that could coolly move through the crowd and kill, maim, destroy with little or no effort.

 

Though, it was true the same could be said for me. But I knew who and what I was and was comfortable with it. I didn’t know her kind at all, truly. What she was capable of, what physical power she held within that voluptuous teenage form, or the extent of her mental powers and subtly menacing presence.

 

My eyes fell on the drink she held with both hands.

 

“I thought you were dead. How can you drink?”

 

She blinked, obviously not expecting this question, or not expecting it yet.

 

“We’re between the two worlds. Life – and death. We can cry, sweat, bleed, drink, eat … but food doesn’t satisfy us.”

 

“Only blood does.” I interjected.

 

She smiled a wicked little smile. “Actually … it’s sex.”

 

I nearly spit out my drink. Coughing, I put a hand to my mouth. “You’re … you’re kidding, right? What about the blood?”

 

“Oh, well, sometimes there’s blood …” She flexed her fingers, then grinned – letting on that she’d just made a joke. “It’s life force we need, really. But it’s drawn out best, most fully, when the other person is aroused, fully … engaged, and having the time of their life.” Her eyes met mine and long lashes lowered until only little slivers of a new moon night gazed back at me.

 

“Blood is the medium, not the goal. We’re really more succubi or incubi than ‘vampire’. The movies have it wrong. Blood taken in terror, or while the person’s asleep, is next to useless for fulfilling our needs. No, I’m afraid we’re stuck having to have incredible sex almost every night of our life.”

 

I was ready to take that table between us and throw it through the roof, bask in the moonlight – and take her, then and there.

 

She smiled wickedly at me and nonchalantly sipped her drink again.

 

“Sex every night. I’d like that.” I commented, idly. Keep it together …

 

She sipped at her drink again, avoiding adding an immediate reply to that comment. I felt a door shut, and the sad girl replaced the seductive tease.

 

“It’s not …” Melody looked away. “It’s a curse. Do you know what it’s like to never be fully sated unless you draw out every last breath, every heartbeat, from your partner? To want that last ounce of life, to always hunger for more … to be surrounded by fragile little lives, so easily taken, so easily swallowed, consumed – and even one moment of intense passion could crush these people, one real orgasm, one strong blast of ecstasy just … kills?”

 

“Have you …” I hadn’t, but yes, I knew that fear.

 

“No, never.” As she turned back toward me, her liquid eyes blazed with an inner fire. “I spoke out against those that do. I argued against our … private practices … the … sick things some of ‘us’ do.”

 

“Your kind can’t ALL be bad? Can they?” I’d rather not change the topic away from sex, but more than anything, I wanted to give her a chance to talk about her pain.

 

“No …” She traced the rim of her glass with one fingernail. “In fact, there was one … that I could have loved. But …” Melody shook her head, waves of dark hair cascading down about her pretty face. I could see tears grace those cheeks with their presence for the first time that night.

 

“Do you know what it’s like to be so close to someone in body and spirit?” She asked. “To have sex until you’re both too tired to even think anymore? When we feed on other succubi and incubi instead of humans, their life force doesn’t fill our needs … Can you imagine what it’s like to share amazing sex with another goddess of desire for hours – and still be hungry inside? To know that no matter how much you care, how well you can fulfill their dreams and how wonderful they are to you … you need to ‘see other people’ ?” Melody’s tears were flowing freely now.

 

“… that you can NEVER be satisfied no matter WHAT you do? And that your partner feels the same way … it was horrible, June. I wanted so much for her to be my only, to be her only … and night after night, we’d feel this nagging urge that grew and grew until we HAD to grab someone else – and only some other person, someone who could never be part of our lives … only a stranger, a pretty toy … would satisfy.”

 

“No, I don’t.” I admitted. “But maybe I’ve just never had amazing sex.”

 

She looked right at me, sniffed, and then laughed a short choking cry.

 

Melody slipped back into her chair. Somehow, throughout all the emotion – on both sides – our glasses, table, and chairs had survived. And the crowd hadn’t noticed a thing.

 

“That’s a handy trick,” I commented, “There’s days at the office I’d like to be able to do that.”

 

“Do what?” She said in a small voice. Melody sniffed again, and used a bar napkin to wipe her eyes. I gave her time to compose herself before I continued. I didn’t like seeing her cry. I liked the shy, inquisitive, laughing –and sexy – Melody more.

 

“Whatever you’re doing to the crowd.”

 

“Oh.” The noise swelled for a moment, the crowd seemed to press in on us, then the noise and closeness faded away. “I’m not really doing anything TO them. It’s a hunting trick – to show people what they want to see, to tell them there’s nothing here and to stay away, but it’s more a feeling I give out that they react to … but what can YOU do?” She leaned forward, eager to know more about me. Her breasts bulged out on the tabletop, barely restrained by those intricate layers of lacy dress.

 

I tried to look instead into her vibrant dark eyes.

 

I can do a LOT of things – I thought – and you’ll love every one of them …

 

“Nothing this fancy. I’ve got very good hearing and vision, an acute sense of smell, and I can jog faster than a horse’s gallop. I’m tough enough to survive being shot – and I heal fast without any scars. If I want to, I can work hard for a few days without getting tired. And, of course, I can turn into a wolf.”

 

“I’d like to see that,” she murmured, “if I get the chance.”

 

I smiled at her. “I promise. And there’s one other thing.” I leaned forward, my own breasts pressing against the table top. Meeting another woman even a little bit like me was causing my nipples to be hard and erect. They scraped against the tabletop, sending delightful shivers through my body down to my moist pussy. I was growing really turned on by the thought of showing her what I could do.

 

She listened, attentively.

 

“I’m as strong as any two or three dozen men.” I was close enough to kiss her, our lips only inches apart. Her eyes widened and I smugly preened a little under her astonished gaze.

 

“That’s more than me …” She whispered in awe. Melody licked her lips and a quiet predator’s hiss escaped past her moist tongue. “But I can get even stronger after I feed …” Her little nose looked adorable under those inviting eyes and above that devilish smile.

 

“When I’ve satisfied my hunger, I’m almost five times stronger than normal.” Melody’s eyelashes fluttered at me, as she reveled in her superior might. “If I came at you after I’ve fed, I’d be twice as strong as you – or more. Then I could take you.”

 

She didn’t need to feed to take me. She’d had me at ‘Hello’.

 

“Oh,” I remarked, “don’t be so sure, Melody. There’s a full moon out tonight.” I was really enjoying these little claims to power. “The full moon brings out the wild side in our blood. I’m about … oh … let’s see …”

 

For a change, she hung on my every word.

 

… yum …

 

“… about four times stronger than my normal. That would make me about twice as strong as you after you feed. And so, what, I’m about ten times stronger than you right now?” I leaned back and played with a lock of my hair. “So, really, you wouldn’t have much chance at all … – if – I wanted to get you.”

 

“Maybe I wouldn’t fight back.” Melody’s bare leg drifted past my jeans.

 

“What’s the fun in that?” I challenged, trying desperately to figure out if her warm thigh pressed against mine had been real – or my starving imagination.

 

She smiled and looked at the stage, thinking about something. Then she turned back to me.

 

“So how does someone become a werewolf? I’d want to be one – if I wasn’t a vampire. Were you bitten?”

 

“No, I was born. I don’t know where that idea came from. We’re all born, but it takes two werewolves to have a child. We trade around a lot so we don’t get brothers marrying sisters, and so on. Or … they do, back home.” I felt a flash of pain at what I’d given up. Love, family, a son or daughter. “We can’t have kids with normal people … Anyway,” I concluded quickly, “we’re not bitten, we’re born.”

 

She looked sad again, but this time it was sympathy –for me.

 

“That might be better than you know. My kind … we do create others by biting them. Draining the life out of them.”

 

“So you ARE dead.”

 

She shook her head mutely. Waves of dark hair fell about her face and she pushed them away with a smooth gesture. Melody finished off her drink in one long swallow before adding an explanation to her silent reply.

 

“No, we’re still alive. We were dead, but we come back to life. Some of our kind believe we’re the proof of the existence of the soul.”

 

Now it was my turn for widened eyes. “That’s a tall claim.”

 

“Yes, but … I’m not the only thing we can raise.” Her voice was very quiet and was filled with pain. “When a vampire kills a human, they raise as a vampire. If we drain them dry, I mean, not if we … kill them in any other way. Then they just die. Only if we suck all their life out will they come back to life. But … there’s also Zombies and Ghouls.”

 

“The ‘Living Dead’.”

 

“Not … Zombies are humans fed our life force. Slaves, with no will of their own, until the energy we gave them runs out. Zombies are the living dead … and ghouls are … the dead, living.”

 

I felt confused by the distinction – but I had a terrible feeling that while vampires were bitten, and zombies were enslaved, something much more awful happened to humans to turn them into ghouls.

 

I was very, very, right.

 

“Ghouls …” She shivered in the grip of some past terror. The feeling of danger that surrounded her became much more pronounced, almost palpable to my heightened senses. The crowd never noticed, but I could feel my hackles rise in response to the menacing aura radiating off her at full force …

 

… Her anger felt like the times when I’d been bullied at school, as a teen, and stood and took it and hated because if I’d fought back – I’d have killed them all. Or when an ex-girlfriend of mine had been raped by one of her ex-boyfriends and I couldn’t just go tear his throat out to make things right. The sheer fury that welled up inside her showed me part of what lay under the sensual, captivating, Melody.

 

“Ghouls,” she continued through clenched teeth, “are what comes back when you put life into the long dead. The flesh is restored, they come back with the same hunger as ours and part of our power … and they remember some of who they were. Even if they’ve been dead for a hundred years. What, I ask you, could do that except the soul. And what right could we possibly have to do that to a soul?”

 

I swallowed. I wasn’t a good Christian, or Buddhist, or Hindu – or any religion – but raising the dead belonged only in myth, or horror movies. “You can raise the dead?”

 

She nodded, eyes shut tight, and those lovely lips twisted by pain.

 

“Have you-”

 

“No!” Melody shouted, eyes snapping open. “HELL, no! Haven’t you listened? I HATE them! I hate anyone who brings them back!”

 

“I’m … I’m s-sorry.” I stammered. “I know you wouldn’t.”

 

“Then why-” She clenched her fists.

 

“I’m sorry. I’ve been told stories … old … horrible … I’m sorry. I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

“Hurt me …” She laughed a bitter laugh. “You can’t hurt me. There’s nothing left … never mind, I’m sorry. Those stories are true. I don’t believe in forcing our life energy on humans or into the dead. Keeping slaves – or monsters. I’m sensitive.”

 

“I know,” I whispered, “forgive me.”

 

She looked deep into my eyes, and finally nodded. “Only if you forgive me for snapping at you. I’m sorry. You’ve been a good friend.”

 

I hope we’re not just friends …

 

My hand reached out and took hers, fingers intertwining. I squeezed, gently, careful not to cause her any further pain. “I’m here for you.”

 

Even if we were incompatible, like vampires’ affairs with their own kind – or if I never got the chance to find out – I still wanted to give her the support she needed right now.

 

Her other hand covered mine.

 

“… the difference … between a vampire and a ghoul … they don’t have to sleep by day … which makes them very powerful. But …” It took her long moments to force out the words. We clasped hands until she could speak. “They can only feed on pain, fear, torture, and death. And that’s what makes them dangerous.” I squeezed her hand again in mute reply.

 

Melody looked down at the tabletop. “When you die … you’re supposed to stay dead … damnit … you’re supposed to stay dead.”

 

I brought her hand slowly to my lips and kissed her fingertips, then the barest brush on the back of her hand, and a soft touch to her wrist. When she looked up, I said “I’m sorry things were so bad for you.”

 

She smiled weakly and caressed my cheek. I nuzzled her hand like … well, a dog.

 

And it felt wonderful.

 

“Tell me about yourself, June. Please.”

 

I took hold of her hand again and gave her palm a kiss before our hands returned to the top of the table. “I’m a Bay City resident, I take the bus or BART everywhere – by choice, mind you! – I have a good job … I’m a graphics designer at New Thoughts, an ad agency. I was out with friends tonight, celebrating over a major client we just signed, I don’t have any pets, I love walking along the coast just southeast of the city, um … eating chocolate, and chasing the pigeons in the park. I’m thirty-three, and my natural hair color is brown.”

 

She smiled and squeezed my hand. “I didn’t think it was green.”

 

I wanted this magical moonlit night to never end.

 

“I guess … I should tell you who I am.” Melody said with regret. She seemed so downcast, sad and ashamed, empty of joy – even her hand felt cold and limp.

 

“You don’t have to tell me anything you’re not comfortable with.”

 

“No … it’s what I’m not comfortable with that you most need to know.” She slipped her hand out of mine. I could have held on, and no force she possessed could have pulled us apart – but I felt she needed to be by herself. As much as she could in McKinley’s on Friday … alone, for this part of the story.

 

“I didn’t always look like this.” Her hands waved briefly in the air, tracing her curves, outlining her perfect figure. “This comes with the little death. I’m just saying this so you have a better idea of who I was. I dropped out of school when I was fifteen. There didn’t seem to be any point to go. I wanted to be a musician, a singer, a pop star – like Hillary Duff, or Britney Spears. School wasn’t teaching me anything I wanted to know. So I got out and tried to make contacts in the music biz. I did … anything they wanted, for a chance. I worked parties, keeping the guests entertained, for the host. I never met anyone who could make my career … and soon … far too soon, I was hooked on coke. My life fell apart – and my dream … I never found my dream. Will never, now, unless I’m only a nightclub singer. I ended up working the streets as much as, no, more than the parties. And that’s where she found me.”

 

Melody’s hand touched her slender neck, her eyes so distant … And she started, once again, to cry.

 

“Celeste. My siren. The one that I begged to take my life away. No, don’t look at me like that – it’s not as bad as it sounds. I … I didn’t regret … I only do, now. Then … I was in love, with music, with magic, with the night. She had … power. And she was –so – beautiful. Hair more ebony than mine, lips …”

 

Melody closed her eyes, a faint smile drifting across her face. Some of her tension drained away. This must have been her lover, the one she wanted to stay with – but had to leave.

 

“She took me from the streets and brought me back on high, back to those wonderful parties. And for a while, in between seducing girls into joining her business, I sang. I forgot the men I’d been with to support my habit … I lived for the women who wanted my services … and I was paid very well, and could pick my clients. Then she gave in to my pleas … and one night as I shared her bed, she killed me. In repayment for the ecstasy …” She sighed, fondly, remembering a time when she had been happy.

 

“I loved the feeling … to know that I had made someone I worshiped so happy … to know that she returned my passion … and she, like all vampires, was an expert at bringing pleasure with all parts of her body – fingers, lips, breasts, and tongue. Dying at the height of ecstasy … I hope you never feel it … and I hope that you do.”

 

I hoped so, too. Maybe not dying – but if sex with Melody would be that wonderful, I could give up and lose myself under her care. I remembered years ago, Margaret Williams and I lying in each others’ arms, tired and warm, and so satisfied, so at peace … that if I’d drifted off to an endless sleep while she held me … it wouldn’t have caused any regret or fear in my mind.

 

Maybe that wasn’t what she meant. I still thought I understood the feeling.

 

“Go on.” I urged, softly.

 

She smiled warmly, and let her fingers run through soft dark hair.

 

“I lived, and loved, with her for a while. No, it wasn’t love. It was a young girl’s crush. My need. My burning need. For a home. For love. For a future. For a partner. And for sex – you know how teenagers are.”

 

“Boy, do I. I was one, too – and I’m not that old, Melody.”

 

She laughed, and once again it was as musical a sound as any song from the stage. Her hand enfolded mine. “PLEASE don’t take that wrong – I was trying to explain myself, why I was that way …”

 

I smiled gratefully. “Hey, I’m still that way a lot of the time.”

 

“Enough!” She playfully slapped my hand. The tabletop splintered and cracked. I felt the heat in my blood begin to rise at the thought of a lover as strong as me. Oh, the things we could do … together.

 

“Go … go on …”

 

“There’s not much else to tell that you haven’t heard already. Lust … was not enough. No matter how much I wanted to please her, to fulfill her every desire, we drifted apart. And I went back to bringing in new talent for her – and, now, pleasing any woman I wanted. And … still taking those women who could pay. I guess I’ve never gone back to men. And … I don’t miss them at all.”

 

“I think I’m in love. Marry me.” I was only half kidding, if I was joking at all.

 

“You’ll feel different in the morning,” Melody replied, “let it pass …”

 

I sighed, and made a big show of disappointment. Somehow, no matter WHAT, I was going to get her number – or follow her back to her hotel. “So … your body changes, you live for sex, and you need sex to live. I see – all vampires are pornstars.”

 

“Porn star. Call girl. Prostitute. I was … and yes, we all might as well be … Melody Van Rhysen,” she mused dejectedly, “Lesbian Vampire Hooker.”

 

“Sounds like a bad movie.” I admitted.

 

“It feels like a bad movie. One I’ve lived too long. Five long years of vampire society. Of parties and … games … And now – life on the run. I want to just give up. To let …” She fell silent.

 

“To let …?” I held onto her hand, to give support, to touch her skin and feel those strong fingers under mine. Our fingers intertwined. My purpose was to stop her from pulling away – as she wanted to do.

 

“To let them catch me. To let them … finally … kill me.”

 

“Kill you? They’re trying to kill you?” This sad, tormented, girl who wasn’t much older than she looked was being hunted by her own kind?

 

“Yes. They’re outside. Nearby. I don’t have long – and then I need to go.” Her voice was a gentle murmur, her eyes soft and sad for a friendship that would never be more than two night-loving women talking in a neighborhood bar.

 

“No. Stay. Please! You don’t have to go out there.”

 

“If I don’t, they’ll come in and kill you all.” She squeezed my hand. “I’m glad I met you. I couldn’t let them … When the time comes, I’ll go. I love your bar, I wish I could meet your friends.”

 

“Oh, Melody.” And I, the tough old aunt, the crazy artist … I cried. The tears wouldn’t stop. “But what if I-”

 

“No. Don’t. You’re stronger than me, but they are Old. And there are many of the younger ones, I can feel it. I’m … I’m their enemy. You’re not. I came in here to sing a last song … that’s all.”

 

“Why can’t you run? hide? Your family, I mean your human family …”

 

She shook her head, nocturne hair swishing about her throat. With her own tear-filled eyes, Melody met my gaze. “I can’t run anywhere. This is as far as I could go. I can’t get help from my family – I left them a long time ago. They wouldn’t even know me now. I’ve changed too much.”

 

“Stay. Please.”

 

Melody stood slowly and looked at the clock for an eternity. Then she walked around the curve of the table and rested the curve of her hip along my thigh. “Make room.” She whispered, gazing down at me.

 

I carefully, so carefully, pushed my chair back and Melody slid into the space between my legs. Her dress caught on the table edge and the hem of her skirt slid up an inch or two. Bare leg showed underneath, sweet young skin, and firm strong thighs.

 

My heart pounded in my chest and I took a deep gulp of air. My nipples were hard, tenting my blouse. I could see hers were, too. Her hands rested on the top of the table as she sat on the very edge. Her ankles crossed, creating a line between her legs where smooth skin met – and I longed to dig my fingers in and feel her powerful legs pressing tightly around me. To kiss my way up to her cleft and bury my face in her pussy.

 

To grab her ass and squeeze with all my might. If someone had to kill her – let it be me! To kill her with ecstasy … I looked up, barely able to see her face past the rondure of her chest, as she leaned back and rested on her hands.

 

“June, touch me. Your hands on my hips. Your fingers under my dress. Caress me, kiss me. Please. I’ve never needed this more than I need it right now. Give me one last moment, one … last time.”

 

I didn’t resist.

 

Would you?

 

I slid my hands around her waist, stroking her flat, firm, stomach with my thumbs. Squeezing her – with all the strength in my fingers – and drawing out a gasp. Lifting the edge of her multilayer dress and drawing my fingernails along the inside of her thighs. Feeling the heat blazing from her black-clad cleft.

 

Whoever said vampires were dead, cold, creatures was so wrong …

 

She shuddered as my nails stroked her and I heard the crack of splintering wood. Nobody was paying us any attention –and I wasn’t watching them – but how long could she hide us from the crowd. Oh, screw it, I can always find another pub …

 

I slid my hands around the masterpieces of her teenage thighs and cupped her unbelievable ass. Those perfect globes were so firm under my grip that I lost control – I squeezed hard enough to cause a cry of pain from my ravenous lover – and only reluctantly did I let go. Her hands were clenched into fists, nails digging into her palms. I rose out of my chair and leaned forward, crushing my body against her. The heavy leather jacket she wore fell open and as our breasts mashed together, blazing sparks shot up my spine.

 

I gasped in delight and looked down at her face. Melody’s sweet lips were pressed tight together, barely muffling an intense moan of pleasure. With one hand on the table (only for balance), I slipped the other into that lovely forest of long, straight, darkness that fell down from her head to reach the table. Her hair felt just like I’d imagined – smooth and silky, falling through my fingers with just the resistance of tall grass in a breeze. I raised my face and kissed the hollow of her throat, the intoxicating scent of her body giving me a feeling of light-headedness.

 

I stared at the twin mounds looming out of the neckline of her dress and the shadowed cleavage between them, then ducked my head and gave each perfect rise a tiny kiss. She sat up then, and soft but incredibly strong fingers caressed my cheeks and drew me up to her for a kiss. It was heavenly, moist lips pressed together in a desperate embrace, tongues darting and playing first in my mouth, then hers. I gripped the back of her head and pressed the attack, while one of her hands slipped under my blouse, digging the tails out from the waistband of my jeans.

 

The weight of both of our bodies was effortlessly supported by one of her elegant hands against the table. Her fingernails scraped my back, pain so indistinguishable from pleasure, rising higher and higher under my shirt toward my shoulder. I broke the kiss long enough to utter a savage growl. “God, Melody-”

 

“Shh!” Her sharp hiss cut me off, and her palm, now flat against my back pulled me toward her with provocative force. I feared for the table – any second we were going to hear another crack, and go sprawling to the floor.

 

Fine with me.

 

I nibbled at her lip with my teeth and her tongue licked along the curve of my cheek and I kissed her behind the ear and she teased a hand deep under the waist of my jeans-

 

-then the table did snap, and we fell to the floor.

 

The people near us turned to look. Oops. Well … so what?

 

“Damn, girls, get a room.” Someone said with humor and awe.

 

Melody laughed and pushed aside the bits of the wooden tabletop that had been demolished by our passion. We helped each other up and to our feet. While she brushed herself off, I stuffed my blouse back into my jeans.

 

An employee made his way through the masses to look at the wreckage. “Jesus, what happened?”

 

Standing there amongst the debris, I tried to look nonchalant, and as confused as everyone else. “Hell if I know – we’re not going to have to pay for this, are we?” Melody laughed quietly as I tried to talk our way out of it. Damn this weak mortal world. Not that I have another one to go to.

 

The frantic need of the moment was broken, and we found another table nearby, while the first one was cleared away. Melody’s mental powers, I was sure. Since there was an employee right there, I gave him an order for two Beamish Stouts – bitter Irish import beers, something I guessed that neither as street whore or high society ‘entertainer’ she’d ever had reason to try.

 

We sat, silent and motionless, until the beers arrived. The mood of our evening had changed from sadness through hate and pain into lust, and now into that awkward silence of a first date. We’d gone further than I’d expected (but a lot less than I’d hoped) and now the weirdness of our evening was finally settling in. Now that we’d slowed down a little … it was hard getting started on anything again.

 

She thanked me for the beer but left things at that. I tried to take a step back, to take a look at what I was going through. A captivating girl comes into my life for the length of a song, we meet, I find out she’s a vampire, a former prostitute … and, like me, a lesbian. We talk about life, and our families, and then she tells me about the sick things her kind does for kicks … and, probably, to maintain their power.

 

Worst of all, beyond the fact that she’s been hurt and betrayed and used for the last six years, is that when she spoke out against her family they considered her a threat to their secrets. Even her former lover didn’t try to protect her. Thankfully, before they could hurt her any more, she ran. But she’s just said that the other vampires have caught up to her and in numbers she’s sure she – or we – can’t fight.

 

Now she’s trying to pack all she can into her last few moments of life. And she’s also sure she doesn’t want me to leave with her – and throw my life away.

 

“To family.” Melody murmured and raised her pint of beer. I clinked my mug against hers. Very, very, carefully since we didn’t want anything like a repeat of what had happened to our table.

 

“To family.” I echoed her words and the bitterness behind them. I couldn’t help but sigh as I looked at her – I would’ve helped her escape if possible … but I didn’t have a car, and the front and back doors were undoubtedly being watched. Even if we got to the streets, what could we do? Vampires were supposed to be stronger and faster than werewolves, although a werewolf of my age (which is NOT old) is the equal or superior in power to a new vampire like Melody.

 

I would have offered to stand with her, but she’d made it very clear that the ones who came out to kill her were each my equal –or more – and in large numbers.

 

The sad girl had returned, replacing the wonderfully seductive one I’d very quickly grown to love. She ran a finger around the rim of her glass mug, beer mostly untouched.

 

Mine was half-gone. I needed to get drunk. I dreaded what would happen if I didn’t. I feared what would happen if I did. Life was not fair.

 

I enjoyed my hobbies. I loved my career. I had great co-workers and friends. And now it all felt pointless. If a wonderful person with hopes and dreams and talent like Melody was taken by the streets, turned into a crack-addict whore, and then was brought into an elite society of power, and ended up hunted by assassins for speaking out for human rights, and against abuse of that power … I’m not even sure where I’m going with that thought.

 

Oh yeah –

 

-then what’s the FUCKING POINT?

 

It made me long for the farm, and the simple life I might’ve had. And that depressed me more than I can say.

 

“I can’t finish this.” Melody said and set down her beer. “They’ll come in soon if I don’t leave.” Her voice was a saddened murmur; the crowd, to us, all but completely hushed.

 

“I don’t want you to go.”

 

“I have to.” She looked around at McKinley’s – the bar, the karaoke stage, the crowds. And smiled. “I like this place. I don’t want you all to die. And they’ll kill every one of you.”

 

I ground my teeth together.

 

“Isn’t there ANYTHING you can do? Isn’t there anyone you can turn to?”

 

She shook her head, eyes closed. “No.” A mere whisper.

 

I let out a long hiss of frustration.

 

Melody opened her eyes again and stood. I got up, too.

 

“It’s been wonderful meeting you,” she said politely, “and I wish we had more time together.”

 

“Are you sure I-”

 

She put a finger to my lips. “Yes. I am. Strong as you are, stronger than me,” a faint smile appeared on her face and then faded, “all that would happen is you’d die too. And I couldn’t-” Melody shook her head and stepped away from me. “I’ve got time for one last song. I already have in mind what I want to sing.” She looked around at the partying crowds, still oblivious to our presence, held unaware by her mesmeric powers. “I don’t think anyone here will understand …” She glanced at me. “Except you.”

 

“I’m …” I licked my dry lips. “I’m so sorry, Melody.”

 

She smiled faintly, the peaceful and forgiving smile of the condemned.

 

She gently curtsied to me, looked into my brown eyes, and headed for the stage.

 

I slumped back into my chair, feeling sick and miserable.

 

If I took her at her word … then going outside with her would be throwing my life away. A life she wanted me to live. If I held her here, her enemies would tear this place apart and kill everyone I knew here, and everyone else in this pub, too.

 

I laid my head down on my arms and cried. While I cried, the last song ended and a new one began. She wasn’t singing techno this time. This was rhythm & blues. The backbeat supported her voice, and her voice supported her pain.

 

I been in a cave

For forty days

With only a spark

To light my way

 

I raised my head up and swiped my hand across my face, trying to get the tears out of my way so I could see her. She was singing to me. To the whole club, of her pain, of her misery. Everyone heard her, heard that pain in her song, but the only one who understood was me.

 

I wanna give out

I wanna give in

This is our crime

This is our sin

 

She grabbed the mike from the stand and pulled it free with a screech of twisting metal.

 

But I still believe-

-I still believe-

-Through the pain

And through the grief

 

I heard her. She’d taken a stand, somehow, against the horrible things one –or many – of her kind had done … and been marked for death because of it.

 

Through the lies

Through the storms

Through the cries

Through the wars

Oh, I still believe!

 

Melody screamed the word into the mike, angry and raging at her undeserved fate. While the music filled the space between verses, I saw her shudder and start to cry.

 

Those next harrowing words stripped me of my control. I saw her lose that defiance – give up her fight, there before my eyes. My vision blurred again, tears burning, too many to contain.

 

Flat on my back

Out at sea

Hopin’ these waves

Don’t cover me

 

I’m turned and tossed

Upon the waves

When the darkness comes

I feel the grave

 

But I still believe-

-I still believe-

-Through the pain

Through the heat

 

She saw me – our eyes made contact (even through my tears) – but for her, it was already over inside. She was giving the pub, my pub, one last song because of a request made earlier by another lost soul. To give a little to the world before she had to go – a gift of intense emotions – which in our world of fast food and idiot boxes, is the kind of raw, honest, emotion that has true value.

 

Through the rain

And through the tears

Through the crowds

And through the cheers

 

Oh, I still believe!

 

You could hear her pain – but you could also hear the strength of her convictions that had led her to this point in all our lives. I heard rage. Rage against those evil bastards that turned the peaceful dead into maddened beasts, and made people into slaves. I saw her standing tall even in the last minutes of her life.

 

I’ll march this road,

I’ll climb this hill,

Upon my knees,

If I have to

 

I’ll take my place

Upon this stage

I’ll wait – till the end of time,

For you like everybody else-

 

The music swept her away again, a flourish of sax and drums, and she closed her eyes. If I’d dared, I would’ve leapt up onto the stage and hugged her until those tears ended, until she could open her eyes and be able to see a goddamn future … but I didn’t want to ruin her last precious song.

 

If I’d had the power, I would’ve torn all those vampires and ghouls into pieces for hurting her. I wanted to rip their hearts out, bite out their throats, and I am NOT a violent person. Just ask anyone who’s ever told me to redo a final project at the last minute because the client suddenly changed their mind.

 

The music slowed, and Melody sang at a low pitch. The artist’s lyrics seemed written for her – or anyone else who’s ever run away and found themselves lost and alone.

 

I’m out on my own

Walkin’ the streets

Look at the faces

That I meet

 

I feel like I ---

Like I wanna go home

What do I feel?

What do I know?

 

But I still believe

Yes, I still believe

Through the shame

And through the grief

 

Through the heartache

Through the tears

Through the waiting

Through the years

 

What she sang in closing broke my heart …

 

For people like us-

-In places like this,

We need all the hope

That we can get

 

Oh, I still be-lieve!

 

Some last blast of music and then it was over, the music all faded out. Nobody clapped – not because she sang of loss and pain – but because applause wasn’t she wanted after that song. People didn’t talk to her, either, as she made her way to the exit. Whether they wanted to give her space, or were too unsure to get involved in her problems, or she used her powers to keep them out of the last moments of her life, I don’t know.

 

I met her at the door.

 

“You said they weren’t –all – bad. Can’t you call one of them? Celeste, if no-one else? Get some help from someone?”

 

She shook her head as she stood on the threshold. “I’ve been cast out of the Van Rhysens, a heiress … no more. I’m sorry, June, but I won’t get any help from my family.”

 

“Even Celeste?”

 

She nodded, gazed at me sorrowfully, then smiled, turned me around in hands that had immense strength for their compact size, and playfully shoved me back inside.

 

I looked at the inside of McKinley’s Pub – the crowded, smoky, interior. Men and women happily getting pissed on a Friday night. Young hopefuls making the moves at private tables, or at the bar. A stream of proud and foolish karaoke performers. Edward, tonight’s bouncer, with the Tshirt whose motto changed every day. Tonight’s read ‘Don’t start anything. I’m GAY. I won’t just KICK your ass.’

 

And then there were my friends, still getting hammered and celebrating the success and profit of the countless – but estimated, for billing purposes – hours of hard work we’d ALL put in over the last several weeks. The people who didn’t care about my sexual leaning, and I knew without a doubt, wouldn’t care what I had been born. The time had never seemed right to tell them – but they accepted, no, encouraged who I was and had helped me make a home for myself, in this city, and at their … our … company.

 

I spun around and headed out the door.

 

She wouldn’t get help from her family? Like hell. As of right now, she was family. She deserved this place, these people, my friends … and me. So what if the thought of winning against Master vampires was crazy? It was a full moon night. What better time to get crazy.

 

I lifted my head and let the wind whip my hair out of my face. Short, and green, moonlit and still smelling of her. The wind clutched at my clothes, brought leaves and trash skittering down the street.

 

The Windy City by the Bay.

 

My town.

 

I growled, took a deep breath through my nose, and the full moon lit my way. The ground was firm under my feet, solid asphalt and concrete, and the pounding of my legs gave me a savage joy as the blocks between us disappeared. Two blocks down, a corner taken almost on all fours, pushed off a lamppost which groaned from stress. Poor, weak, humans. Needing cars to get from place to place, guns and knives to defend themselves. I raced into an alley, and slipped out of my clothes.

 

She was getting away from me. I shifted, and followed her trail as fast as four legs would go.

 

Next corner, away from downtown. She smelled scared – but this wasn’t panic. She was leading them away. She was fast, slipping through the fragments of human time. A block here, an intersection there, a second here, a moment there. The humans never saw her – she was simply too fast for their eyes to note anything but a blur. If her mental concealment had even allowed them to see her at all.

 

She wasn’t alone.

 

I smelled four more at least, just as fast as her, and with the same distinctive scent that I knew now as vampire. Many other scents that I did not know, which were not running, but were being herded after her in cars. My sweet Melody ran outside the city before stopping.

 

I didn’t see her, I was too far behind, but what I felt from up ahead gave me an image in my mind. Melody gracefully touching down, skidding to a stop, fangs bared and eyes alight. Leather jacket as armor, close to her body, but lacy skirt fluttering in the wind.

 

Defiant and proud. Outmatched, hopeless, but resolved to fight. For revenge, for the humans, for the tormented dead, for herself – and for me. For the life she’d wanted, and the life she’d had.

 

I heard them long before I saw them, the words carried to me along the moonlight, by the ocean, with the breeze.

 

“Ah, Melody Van Rhysen.” I hated this man, his smug and pleased tone.

 

“Who else?” That’s my girl …

 

A new voice, also male. “We’ve decided to end this game. You’ve been allowed to run this far, but we tire of play. It’s growing dull being away from the city we love.”

 

“Sometimes,” Melody replied gently, “if you love something … you have to let it go.” I smelled tears on the wind, as salty as ocean spray.

 

Don’t give up. I’m coming.

 

The first voice again. Good. Yes, go on, just keep talking. I ran faster.

 

“You can see my friends here gathered with me. And you … are most definitely alone.” He laughed. “You’re not the first to think that you are better than us, the Masters. You are only the most … recent … of those ungrateful changed, born out of poverty and into Nobility-”

 

“Noble? YOU?” Melody’s mirthful laugh.

 

And a predator’s hiss answered her from that source.

 

A third male voice. “You, like all the others, don’t understand.” Followed by a fourth voice – a girl’s. “There have been MANY like you over the years,” she proclaimed, “and they have all died.”

 

“And for what?” The leader’s teasing, mocking, tone infuriated me. I hate people who play with emotions – trying to get a person to feel that somehow, all of this is their fault.

 

“For … pride?” He continued in that same tone of self-indulgence. “In the belief that we could do no wrong? We, who are masters among gods, or Gods among masters. And so far above humanity that they are nothing to us. We breathe life into their dead for amusement-”

 

“You bring back people at rest and trap them in life, hungry, ANGRY, and in PAIN!”

 

“You took them away from us! You KILLED them! You KILLED WHAT WAS MINE!”

 

“You ASSHOLE! I set them FREE!”

 

“Enough.” The second voice, calm and cool, and in charge. “In the long twilight of the soul, you did nothing. Think of that – you have done nothing that we cannot undo. For you see, in any city, in this city, the graveyards are filled with dead. We simply made more. And we have brought them here. And now my servants, those like the ones you spoke for, the ones you wanted to let rest, that you defended – they will be the ones to kill you. I, and the others, are simply here to make sure you do not get away.”

 

I guess I was wrong about the first speaker being the leader. He was just the one who wanted to see Melody suffer. This one, the calm one, was their true leader. No matter.

 

“… you … didn’t …” Melody sobbed. “You … please, no …”

 

I saw shapes in the darkness, converging on the wide open stretch of land off the highway where the five vampires stood. Ghouls. Dozens of them.

 

“Yes, I did. And the only reason they have been called from the peace of the grave is because of you.” That first guy again. Damn him. I knew it. Bastards like that love to blame the victim.

 

“God, no – just let them die.” The tortured cry of Melody’s human soul.

 

“I think not. And now, I shall enjoy thi-”

 

I tore him apart before anybody knew I was there. All four legs hit the dirt and I skidded to a stop facing my girl. Then I spit out his heart onto the ground and casually licked my fur. Behind me, his body twitched and spasmed, fountained blood from a hole in his chest, and fell over.

 

There were three gasps of shock from the vampires. No, four.

 

Melody’s eyes were upon me – a trembling gaze of shock and appreciation, for a friend arriving when all hope had been lost. She was on her knees in the dirt, dark vampiric eyes on a level with my own – yellow, lupine – and then I was in human form, gloriously naked (and unashamed) with mouth, hands, and chin covered in my enemy’s blood.

 

“He died pretty easy for all that talk about being a god. Looks like your roots haven’t gone too far.” They’d been human, once upon a time – weak and frail, afraid of bullies, and scared of the dark.

 

I, however, never had.

 

“What? H … how? GET HER!”

 

Their leader didn’t seem very cool-headed now.

 

The two others moved on me, bodies blurring to human eyes, speeds unseen except in jets or race cars, never possessed in nature by a creature that ran. They were as fast as the legends described. When they moved, no prey could escape. When they attacked, no victim could survive.

 

They were so easy to evade it was sad.

 

I leapt aside as the closest one came for me, then diving and rolling under the second’s outstretched arms, and got to my feet again as they came to a halt and wondered what went wrong.

 

“My guess is …” I smiled at their leader, a fair distance from me, “you don’t get much practice.”

 

He snarled.

 

So did I.

 

“Oh, my god. June, RUN. Please! Run!” Melody sobbed, somewhere behind me.

 

“Okay.” I sprinted at the enemy girl vampire, an intensely cute and nubile blond in the very pinnacle of her puberty. Under any other circumstances I would’ve tackled her, too.

 

Mid-stride, two paws turned to four, and I howled as I leapt into the air. The blond’s eyes widened in fear. The girl scrambled to get out of my way, but in that first moment of panic, she’d already lost. There’s no time for hesitation in the animal world.

 

Does a mouse wait until it’s almost grabbed by the hawk?

 

Does an antelope stand still for the lion?

 

You learn to adapt, attack back, or die. Obviously, we grew up in different circles. We learned different survival skills. I’d bet they were so old they hadn’t even gone to high school.

 

My teeth sunk into her shoulder, just under the arm. I tore the muscles apart and clamped my teeth together –hard. My four-clawed paws dug into her back, flaying her skin, and crushing her bones. Masters, maybe. Strong, yes, but too accustomed to being the only power. Never having had a real fight.

 

I grew up with two older sisters and four brothers, five uncles and two aunts, and dozens of cousins. All of which hated my love for the siren song of the outside world. And all of them were stronger than me. Try beating that, ‘upper class’.

 

She screamed and thrashed as I tore at her skin and bit deep inside her body. A kick caught my chest hard enough to crack a rib. I howled in pain and let go. She quickly got away.

 

It had been a long time since I had been challenged, too.

 

Now, the vampires had one dead, one clutching her arm and bleeding, and only two untouched.

 

In a single moment, the three that still lived, blurred and came at me …

 

… blazing motion, my teeth snapping shut on their flesh, their fists slamming into me harder than piledrivers, sparks of pain inside my mind, their bones breaking apart beneath my claws …

 

I was lifted off the wounded girl and slammed to the ground by the third male. The pavement cracked under my body – we were on the highway now. Their leader raced to the blond’s side, shouting.

 

Oh good, I got her throat. Then another thought came to me as I watched the alluring blond die.

 

What a goddamn waste. The man beside me kicked me and I felt a rib snap, a spike of pain tearing through my side. I yelped and flew backwards over twenty yards from the force of his blow.

 

I hit the ground as a human, better suited to tumbling, and rolled in a tight ball, bouncing along the rough gravel surface until soft strong hands brought me to a stop.

 

“You can’t win,” Melody pleaded, “I can’t watch you die.”

 

“I’m doing – pretty good – so far-” I squeezed out between gasps of pain.

 

“More than I ever thought anyone could.” My girl whispered gratefully. I could hear the wonder in her voice, the sweet joy of belief in a victory she hadn’t even dreamed possible … and then it was gone again. “But you’ll lose – you’ll DIE. You shouldn’t have come.”

 

I got to my hands and knees, teeth grating together with the broken bones in my side scraping against one another as counterpoint. My breath hissed between my teeth.

 

“You’re not a quitter. Neither am I.” I looked into her eyes – her expression sad and fearful, not for herself, but for me. “I had to come …” I added, wincing with pain, “you got me too worked up to just let you get away.”

 

She laughed, awkwardly, a choking sob.

 

I caressed her cheek, wiped the tears off her face.

 

“You said you would die alone, with no-one you could call on, no friends, no family … You were wrong. From the moment we met and introduced ourselves … you were my family.”

 

She broke out into a joyous sob, and I covered her mouth with a kiss. I pulled back and looked into her dark eyes, shining now with love and hope. The reflected moonlight comforted me.

 

“June …” She’d stopped wanting me to leave. Stopped trying to stand alone. For better or worse, we were in this together.

 

Until death do us part.

 

A scraping of claws on pavement – repeated, all around us.

 

I looked away from my lovely vampire.

 

“Oh. So, these are ghouls.”

 

The pain in my side was fading. It brought back long-ago memories of breaking my arm fighting with one of my brothers in the morning – and climbing an apple tree with my sisters that afternoon.

 

I heal fast … but against dozens of ghouls and two master vampires – would I heal fast enough?

 

We got up together. “I’m glad you came here to fight for me.” Melody whispered, and hugged me.

 

“I’d only come here, seeking peace.” I said in reply, and leapt to the attack. With two hands this time, fists clenched tight and strong as sledgehammers. Two feet, deadly as spears. Wolves do not do well without room to maneuver. Humans, however – for all their failings – can fight anywhere.

 

As I slammed into the first rank of the hungry dead, I sang a battlecry. Like Melody earlier, I gave voice to my inner pain, my desire, and chose a song appropriate for the time. As my hands crushed skulls, my kicks shattered ribs and breastbones, as clawed hands tore at my back and sides, I sang to give myself the will to live – words to bring fear to my enemies, and to inspire me not to die.

 

“In your dream you see me clear. I have no restraint, no fear. Powerless, I’d watched from faces I’d assumed.” A ghoul bit into my neck, pain overwhelming m – and then that monster was gone. Melody savagely kicked out and another body flew off over the horde. As it slammed into a tree trunk across the highway, she stood beside me, joining me as a fighter.

 

“You need backup,” she announced with a feral gleam in her eyes. “I’m it.”

 

I flipped my green hair up and off my face and gave a savage grin to the depths of undead. Then I crashed forward, smashing them left and right. Faster than me, Melody was a blur. Bodies were torn apart by dainty hands and her black boots were instantly stained with red as others got too close – and fell.

 

“My purpose set. My will defined. Caress the air, embrace the skies. Escape the sorrow and restraint of mortal cities …”

 

They tore into us as we tore into them. Half of the ones we put down simply got up again, the vampiric life inside them seeking to feed on our own. We tried to make each blow a killing blow, but there were so many …

 

I saved Melody from a ghoul that was trying to tear out her lovely hair and broke its neck. Like many others, it had been once been a man dressed in funeral finery. Now it was a monster, brought back from the grave to murder the living. These were created by evil. I promised Melody, inside my mind, that we’d return all these to their sleep before we’d die. I wanted so bad to give her that much before we’d die.

 

Then we were free, out one side of the hungry dead, breaking through the press of ghoul bodies into the moonlight. With a smile, I spun to face them once again. Melody was right there with me.

 

A moment later, the horde of undead were there too. My teeth flashed a savage grin and as we fought, with stronger voice I sang my victory closer to me.

 

“Give me time I will be clear. Given time you’ll understand – what possesses me to right what you have suffered-” I had to smash a clutching ghoul, before I could get back to the song. “-I’m in this mood because of scorn … I’m in a mood for total war! To the darkened skies once more – and ever onward.”

 

They swarmed over us and we were buried under the scrabbling, clawing, bodies of the dead.

 

Kicking, punching, and crushing, I found purchase on the broken back of one tiny child ghoul and leapt into the sky. Children. Children! I wouldn’t die until I had put these back into the ground – and then torn apart their masters. I knew now – this, this, was what I had been born for. What I had to do to feel satisfied with my life before I could die.

 

I landed on my feet but fell, catching myself on knees and hands. From within the fray, I saw Melody’s hands snap another ghoul neck, and then take a raking blow across her back, the leather jacket torn open from the claws of the dead. I heard a sinister laugh from the darkness and forced my battered, savaged, body to it’s feet – and kept the song alive. The masses of the creatures not currently fighting Melody reached me.

 

“So many years I stood among the thoughts and tears of those I served. Among my own, I was alone, through my own doing. All the years I walked unknown behind the faces I assumed, powerless to clear your mind of what you’d suffered.”

 

That verse was true for both of us – Melody Van Rhysen, vampire; June Susannah Whitman-Carter, werewolf. I crouched low, tore off a ghoul’s leg, and leapt through the space opened when he fell.

 

My heart pounded from fear and adrenaline – I lost sight of Melody and heard her cry out in pain. Now that I had room to move, my body was a wolf, and my fangs and claws met theirs. My fur was striped with blood, being ripped into faster than I could heal. I had no voice with which to sing so I sang only in my mind as I continued to bring them the fight. Bite off a head, tear off an arm. Get stabbed in my belly.

 

They fall again. They fall again.

 

Give me time, I will be clear – as once-human hands met lupine claws.

 

Given time, you’ll understand – I held down one body under my legs and bit a mortal wound into her neck, snapping the spine and severing the throat.

 

Two more leapt on me, digging clawed fingers into my sides.

 

What possesses me to right what you have suffered-I slammed one against a tree, splintering the old wood, and splitting the ghoul in two. The other held on, tearing holes in my back.

 

I was fighting them for her, but I realized I was also fighting to bring them peace.

 

Then I flipped the ghoul from my back and crushed her chest with one stomp of a foreleg. She twitched, limbs jerking and hands clutching, then lay still. I howled.

 

The full moon shone over me, and I growled at the two vampires who stood in my way.

 

My body was racked with throbbing pain. Wolf’s blood dripped and gushed out of me from claw-inflicted wounds, and all of my four legs were trembling. I felt light-headed, but nothing yet was spinning or blurring. In the moonlight which washed over me, I saw my purpose very clear.

 

I howled again, and toward the center of the space between us, we charged.

 

I leapt, slashing with a paw.

 

I’m in this mood because of scorn, I’m in a mood for total war.

 

My paw met a vampire head, with ten times the force a champion boxer could deliver. His head snapped around and I was grateful to see in the night, teeth fly and blood splatter. His fist thrust into my belly, where a ghoul had opened it earlier. The other landed a flying kick that snapped another rib. My teeth closed around that leg and I dragged him back with me as I crashed to the ground. I ground my teeth together again and heard a satisfying snap. He screamed in pain and punched me in the head. I had to let go and stagger backwards. The second vampire was upon me, slamming me to the ground and screaming something about making me suffer for killing Charlene.

 

The hot blond’s name had been Charlene. How nice.

 

Then he screamed in pain, and fell off me, flopping around on the ground like a wounded bird. Melody stood over him with a signpost, torn off and sharp at one end. The spike was covered in blood. I tried to laugh – the sign she’d saved my life with said ‘STOP’. I couldn’t laugh – it hurt too much to breathe, and also, I was still a wolf.

 

She stood over me, and jabbed the sharp metal point into the vampire again. I sort of saw him spurt blood and grab at the signpost, twisting the metal deeper into the wound in his panic. I wasn’t really looking at him, though, because I had one eye cocked upwards under Melody’s skirt.

 

I’m only human, even if I’m a werewolf.

 

To the darkened skies once more, and ever onward.

 

Four paws wouldn’t do it. I didn’t have the speed to match these two guys, and I could get more use out of the sharp signpost than I could with my claws. I shifted. As the vampire was pulled back by his leader, and they regrouped with what was left of the pack of ghouls, I rested, too spent to sing out loud.

 

… There is no faith in which to hide …

 

Melody kept the sign leveled at the enemy like a lance, and touched my shoulder with her free hand. “Are you … going to be okay? You’re so …”

 

“Naked?” I asked, coughing blood.

 

“No! Hurt!”

 

“And naked?” I grinned up at her, hopefully, trying to laugh inside through the pain.

 

“You’re not serious!”

 

“It’s a full moon night. I’m sorry. I get this way. You better get used to it.” That one string of casual sounding syllables took all the rest of my wind.

 

She smiled down at me. “I promise, I will. Can you stand up?”

 

“Guess I won’t know – if I don’t try!” I stole that line from somewhere, I think one of the shows I watch on anime nation late at night. The Japanese have the warrior spirit down to an art form – literally. Hell, if a cartoon character could stand up against impossible odds … I could, too.

 

… Even truth is filled with lies …

 

I got to my feet, woozy from loss of blood, and leaned against Melody’s shoulder. Her arm swept down and supported me. She wasn’t very steady on her feet, either, so we held each other. That, that right there, is what lesbian relationships are all about. Not who’s the man in the relationship, not who’s the dominant partner … but how both of us can at different times be dominant and strong or submissive and caring. In that moment, I finally knew that I wanted to live the rest of my life with her.

 

I just prayed it was longer than a few minutes.

 

“… Doubting angels fall to walk among the living …”It was barely a whisper. There just wasn’t enough strength left in me to put any power into my battle song.

 

Then I stopped trying to sing, because I’d heard something that scared me, and from the shocked gasp from my lover-to-be next to me, I knew she’d heard it too. The leader had told the other vampire ‘bring the gasoline truck. We’ll burn them all.’ I swallowed, the iron tang of blood in my mouth.

 

“Melody, the truck …” She turned her head to look at me, still keeping the Stopsign spear out in front of us for whatever protection it would give.

 

“What about it? What can we do, now? We’ll just deal with it when it gets here.”

 

“… no … we’ll use it. I’ll stay … you go … .you’re faster than … me. You go. Make it crash. Here. Right here. I’ll keep them here. Then … light it.” The moon was keeping me alive, filling my body with silvery light, replacing my blood with magic, and turning my burning pains into a single icy roar.

 

“No.” She said quietly. “I’m not leaving you.”

 

“Yes, you are.” I stated, and tapped the sign. “Make it crash … make … a spark. I’ll keep … them here … you … give them peace.”

 

“No, June, I can’t, I won’t!” I kissed her, blood in our mouths, tongues too tired to play.

 

“Yes, you will. I love you. Go.” She was gone.

 

I turned to the master vampire and his hideous creatures. Okay, you son of a bitch. The moonlight kept me from falling to the broken and shattered roadway. In the distance, I heard an engine’s deep growl.

 

I'm in this mood because of scorn

-I'm in a mood for total war-

 

I had a growl of my own, a long time in coming. Ever since I’d first ran away. Since I left home, and embraced the pain of knowing I had no home to go back to. Since I learned to live alone, among people who did not know me, and found myself an outcast in many ways, even here in San Francisco.

 

To the darkened skies once more, and ever onward.

 

Tonight wasn’t dark. I staggered on my feet. The moon, alone, wasn’t enough. I didn’t have a chance to win as wounded as I was.

 

The monsters crept towards me, finally a little cautious about approaching a werewolf. And the monster behind them smiled wide, keeping pace with his creations, wounded – but hungry for the kill.

 

Somewhere, I found strength enough to finish the song.

 

“… I’d only come here, seeking peace … I’d only come here, seeking me-”

 

The ghouls rushed me, claws digging chunks from the pavement during their loping run. They were a lot stronger now, those that had survived. Fed off the pain, fear, and torture they’d inflicted on Melody and me. The vampire hissed and flashed ahead of the pack, intent on tearing out my heart, my throat, breaking my back – whatever he wanted to do to me. I couldn’t get out of the way in time.

 

“… it seems I came to leave.”

 

And then I changed.

 

In the full moon nights, we are stronger. Much stronger, as I’ve said before. But there’s one more thing we can do that I hadn’t wanted to tell Melody. While we aren’t too much like the legends – not exceptionally harmed by silver, heal fast but not instantly, and what I’d already mentioned to her, that other werewolves aren’t created by a bite – there is one thing that the stories tell true.

 

During the full moon, if we get pushed too far … we turn into a savage beast.

 

The vampire skidded to a stop, staring up, up, at me in horror. And tried to run away.

 

I reached out and impaled him on one clawed hand. My teeth found his throat, and I ripped his arm off with my other hand. He tried to scream and I tore his throat out. Standing eight and a half feet tall, my massive body a mixture of wolf and woman, power raged through me and my vision turned red.

 

This was the other reason I wanted Melody to leave.

 

I had no control as a full beast. The trade was: strength, size, and power … for my soul. The ghouls leapt over the broken body of the Master, and attacked me. My last conscious thought was of wolves, trying to bring down a bear. How … funny …

 

There was pain, and silver, and blood. Bones that snapped like twigs, muscles that tore like paper, and spikes driven into me one after another, each gash delivered by a little nothing that I gleefully ripped apart. A tiny little wound. But wounds that added up in the long run. And then, there was a car horn. A long loud note that pierced the red haze. And a flash of light – yellow, and orange, and red – a wall … of fire.

 

Then quiet, peace, and my tortured body felt small and light once again, almost floating …

 

“Don’t die!” Melody pleaded, soft hands cradling my face.

 

“No … worries.” It hurt so much. “I’m … tough.” I reached up, and with what little strength I had left, pulled her head down and gave her a kiss. My head fell back onto her lap … no longer floating … I was being … pulled down … so strange … to feel so weak … my eyelids … so … heavy.

 

“Don’t give up.” I whispered.

 

Melody paused, eyes shining bright with tears. She nodded.

 

“I won’t.” She whispered to me.

 

And everything went dark.

 

* * * *

 

I’m sorry that was so dramatic. But that’s just the way it all happened. Obviously, I lived – since I’m the one telling this story.

 

Three months later, and the vampires haven’t sent anyone after us yet. The cops never could explain what had happened – a tanker truck jackknifed on the road, stolen cars everywhere, a fire scorching several dead bodies. Nobody connected any of that insanity to me – and since Alice took my purse home, all I lost were my jeans, a pair of so-so shoes, and a fairly nice blouse. Melody moved into my apartment that night and neither of us has been with anyone else – or even felt the need to – this whole time. It’s a good thing I don’t tire easily because I work all day at the ad agency, we’ve gotten real busy after our first huge contract was such a success, and then after work – I usually have to share my nights.

 

Melody’s making a name for herself out in the nightclubs, following her dream on the amateur circuit. It doesn’t seem possible to get her out in the days, and until she can she won’t have a full-fledged career. But our lives keep changing for the better … so who knows?

 

She may not share my days, but she sure keeps me busy at night. When she called herself a goddess of desire and spoke about having amazing sex, it wasn’t a boast. Melody knows ways to please me that I hadn’t learned in over eighteen years as a lesbian. I’m lucky to keep up. Having a super-strong, athletic, and unrelenting partner changes everything. Add that to one who can read my moods and know exactly what I want most – soft and gentle, teasing and slow, or furious and hard … and she’s worth more to me than gold. I’m lucky to have her – and I let her know it by giving her just as much as she gives me.

 

Most of the time.

 

On the weekends, when I don’t have anywhere to go, she always makes me come more than I thought I could. After two or three massive orgasms – and a flood of little ones – I’m absolutely sated … but she gets stronger and more energized as we go. She’s an absolute terror.

 

I love it.

 

Then, three days a month, during the full moon, our sex gets better. Those days I take off work and we barely leave our bed.

 

We don’t spend every night together, though. Melody’s started getting a few ‘gigs’, and has started going to parties out here. As a guest, these days, instead of as a working girl. She’s finally gotten closer to her dream. And the sadness and pain I saw around St. Patty’s Day has gone. Instead, my Melody is a bright, powerful, vibrant tune, filled with laughter and joy.

 

Like right now.

 

She’s up on stage. Tonight’s another karaoke night at my fave pub. And she’s gotten me to take a new look at what used to be my angsty deadline music, doing things the artist never dreamed of to the tone of the song. Turning a dirge into a challenge. Making a lament over the hopelessness of life into a cry for us all to be something better than we are. She’s just ruined my music.

 

The crowd loves her for it.

 

I do, too.

 

She’s so happy and alive – and she makes a mockery of the lyrics, her mood drawing the crowd into the song she sings. The spirit of her song doesn’t match the actual words, but who cares?

 

I liked the old VNV, gothic-punk style ballads, which captured the feeling of fate, of the pointlessness of the whole human race, of the transitory nature of things. Which, believe me, fits the advertising world to a T. Now … I can’t listen to these songs in the same way anymore – and especially, this song …

 

At the end of days, at the end of time

When the Sun burns out, will any of this matter?

 

The tiny smile on her face is almost hidden by the mike. She’s singing the beginning as the artist intended. But since we’re all regulars at the pub, we know she’s only pretending to be Goth.

 

Who will be there to remember who we were?

Who will be there to know

that any of this had meaning for us?

 

I saw it! A quick grin that she couldn’t hide. Melody quickly regained her composure and carried on with the ‘dirge’. I loved her all the more for bringing her own spirit to my song.

 

But I’d never forgive her.

 

And in retrospect, I’ll say we’ve done no wrong.

Who are we to judge what is right – and what has purpose for us?

With designs upon ourselves to do no wrong,

Running wild, unaware of what might come of us.

 

Now, on the chorus, she went into action – using her whole body to carry the beat, and her hands to give life to her own meaning given to the artist’s song. She swept her hand out over the crowd, then at the very end, pulled her hand back to her chest as a fist, over her heart.

 

The Sun was born – so it shall die,

So only shadows comfort me.

I know in darkness, I will find you

Giving up inside like me.

 

Only shadows might comfort her, since she could not stand the harsh light of day, and in darkness I would always be waiting for her to find me. Melody stood on the very edge of the stage, pouring her heart, my heart, all of our hearts –all of us merged together as if one giant entity – into the song.

 

Each day shall end as it begins

And though you're far away from me

I know in darkness, I will find you

Giving up inside like me

 

I would never be far away from her, if I could help it, when she was awake – in darkness.

 

Without a thought I will see everything eternal

Forget that once we were just dust from heavens far …

As we were forged we shall return, perhaps some day-

-I will remember you and wonder who we were

 

Just the men!” She yelled into the mike, and the guys in the room belted out the chorus-

 

The Sun was born, so it shall die

So only shadows comfort me

 

The ladies!” She urged, and then wonderful women’s voices replaced the men-

 

I know in darkness I will find you

 

giving up inside like me

 

Her hand swept down, cutting them off, and she took over again. And I felt a hush fall between me and the crowd, separating me from them, isolating me among the crowd. I smiled peacefully as she looked out across the pub and met my loving gaze. As she sang sweetly to me, her gaze never left mine.

 

This verse, this part of our lives … She sung for an audience of one. Just for me.

 

Each day shall end as it begins,

And though you're far away from me

I know in darkness I will find you

giving up inside like me

 

I sighed, content, as she sang those finishing lines. I knew each day would end as it began, with both of us happily in love. And even though she was far away from me, vampire … and werewolf …

 

… in darkness, she had found me …

 

And neither of us has given up on anything since then.

 

End

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