To Fear the Dawn: Chapter 27
Vidcund remained at the vampire’s residence to keep watch, despite Pascal and Lazlo’s attempts to get him to leave with them. He was completely exhausted, but he found he could not go. The police were in an uproar; it had not been agreed that the vampire could remain at his residence, and now the authorities were discussing the best way to get inside in order to remand him into custody.
All Vidcund knew was the vampire had spirited Charity away again, and there was no way he leaving until he knew she was safe. For all he knew, the monster had Turned her again and would take them both far away where they could not be found.
Vidcund was worried he could lose Charity forever. The thought appalled him.
“Isn’t there any way we can get in there now?” he asked frantically. “What the hell are we waiting on? Permission? Get a chopper in there and get her out!”
“Easy, Curious,” Larry Mace said soothingly. “With all that water, there’s no place for a helicopter to land in there. We’ve got construction crews coming in at first light to tear down the retaining wall, but until they get here, I’m afraid there’s not much we can do except watch.”
“First light?” Vidcund said, horrified. “By then it could be too late!”
“I’m sorry, Curious,” Sergeant Mace said. “It’s all we can do.”
Vidcund walked some distance away and sank down on the ground wearily. So tired... He lay his head down on his knees, wondering when the last time he’d had a good night’s sleep had been. I can’t even remember, he thought drowsily. It’s been so long...
The next thing he knew, he was feeling a warmth on his back, it suddenly seemed too bright, and the sounds of heavy equipment were permeating his fog of sleep. He sat up and blinked in the sunshine. Damn it! I fell asleep... what did I miss?
He jumped up, stretched, and started walking around the perimeter of the property, looking for Sergeant Mace. He noticed water flooding the road, and saw the construction crew had several heavy-duty pumps working, draining the moat somewhat before they tried to tear down the wall. The industrial sound of the pumps was horribly loud, and Vidcund had to shout to be heard.
“Anyone seen Larry Mace?” he yelled to one of the construction crew.
“He went to get some food!” the construction worker yelled back. “Be back in a while!”
“Any idea what’s going on in there?” Vidcund yelled to the construction worker, jerking his head toward the wall.
“No!” the worker yelled back. “We just got here ‘bout a half hour ago. Gotta drain off some of this water before we can do anything!”
“How long before we can get inside?” Vidcund shouted, beginning to think it was really annoying having to scream over the sound of the pumps.
The construction worker gave Vidcund an it’ll-be-much-faster-if-you-stop-bugging-u
Damn it, Vidcund thought, walking back over to where he had been sitting. With a sigh of resignation, he sat back down again. Much as he wanted to just burst in there and find out what the hell was going on, he realized everything that could be done was being done. He just had to wait.
His cell phone rang, and it was Lazlo, wanting to know if anything had happened yet.
“No,” Vidcund replied in a tired voice. “Nothing yet. They’re still working on draining the moat to get inside.”
“Do you want us to come down there?” his brother asked.
“You don’t have to,” Vidcund told him. “That would just be three of us down here doing nothing.”
“Okay,” Lazlo said. “In that case, I think me and Pas’ll head to the lab. Start to get the cure mass produced. You know, we have to get it out to those that need it.”
“Good idea,” Vidcund agreed, and hung up with his brother just as Larry Mace came walking excitedly into view.
“They’ve got the water drained enough at the other end to knock through the wall,” Larry told him. “You coming?”
“Hell, yes.” Vidcund replied, and followed the police officer to where an enormous excavator was beginning to eat away at the stone wall.
The sound was deafening, and no one tried to make any kind of conversation. Slowly, bit by bit, the wall was broken away, and suddenly, there was a rush of water, the wall crumbled, and there was a gaping maw all the way to the ground. For the first time, they could get inside. It was terribly swampy, but they could get in.
Ignoring the sandy mud sucking at his boots, Vidcund began to push forward, but Sergeant Mace held him back. “Where do you think you’re going, Curious?”
“I’m going in!” Vidcund said, exasperated. “Isn’t that why there’s a big hole in the wall?”
“You’re not doing anything until the backup gets here!”
“Backup?” Vidcund said in an annoyed voice. “For what? A coffin containing a sleeping vampire? Sergeant, I’m telling you... if that monster is still in there, he’s well under cover by now and would do more harm to himself if he came out than he would to us!”
“Oh,” Larry considered, “I keep forgetting.”
“So, screw the backup,” Vidcund said in a dismissive tone. Again, he turned to the opening in the stone wall and gingerly began to step forward. He sank terribly into the soft earth, but found he was able to move. Larry hesitated, then followed.
Slowly, they made their way toward the building, even more imposing than Vidcund remembered from his teenage years. The water had made a mark on the stone at the very bottom of the first floor, and all the landscaping that had once surrounded the foundation was drowned and dead, the dripping skeletal branches glistening in the sunlight.
A rank smell of mold, mildew, and rotting vegetation rose up all around them as the sun became higher and the area began to steam. Vidcund found it hard to believe he had been so cold just a short time ago. Now he felt he was in the middle of a sauna.
Desert-born, he was not accustomed to humidity of any type, and the steamy atmosphere, with heat shimmering all around him, along with the sucking mud and smell of decay served to make him feel as though this was nothing but a nightmare.
He plodded on, pulling his feet slowly through the mud, seeing the writhing, flopping bodies of small fish that had been left bereft of water when the moat had been drained. Larry Mace trudged along beside him, both of them panting hard, not speaking.
Suddenly, a heart-wrenching scream rent the still, steamy air.
“What the hell...” Larry Mace said, looking at Vidcund, but Vidcund jumped and tried to run forward.
“That was Charity!” he said in a strangled pant. “We have to get in there, now!"
Somehow, they made it to the stone steps that led up to the enormous front door. The steps had been covered in water; pools still lay on their surface, but they were navigable. Of course, the door was locked, but that didn’t deter Vidcund for long. As teens, he and his brothers had always gotten into this building using a door down on the ground level. Once an entrance for service personnel, the small door had been almost completely hidden by shrubbery and hence, was generally forgotten about and always seemed to be unlocked.
Jumping down from the steps, Vidcund fought his way through the mud to where he remembered the small door was. Yes, there was what was left of the bushes, now dead and decayed, and behind them, an earth-covered door with a small rusty knob.
This door led directly into the basement of the edifice, and Vidcund hesitated just a moment before pushing the dead branches aside and opening it wide.
It was much drier inside than he expected, although the smell of mildew was stronger than ever. Stepping through the door, he beckoned to Larry Mace and the two of them slowly made their way into the almost pitch-black interior. After the bright sunlight outside, it seemed doubly harder to see, but Vidcund relied on memory to help him locate the narrow stairway that led up to the first floor.
They could hear sounds of sobbing coming from above them and increased their pace. Up the rickety steps they raced, and through the ancient and dusty kitchen. The crying continued. It sounded as though it was coming from outside. They followed it, and soon found themselves in front of a door leading out onto a veranda. A door, Vidcund realized, that faced east.
Slowly, he opened the door and found Charity, wearing only underclothes, kneeling on the veranda beside a mound of ash, weeping piteously.
She heard the door open and looked around, but did not seem at all shocked or surprised to see Vidcund standing there. Her tear-filled silver eyes met his, and she whispered, “It’s over. It’s all over.”
Vidcund stepped close beside Charity and helped her to her feet, relieved to find her alive and unchanged. She did not pull away, but continued to shudder with sobs. Looking down at the pile of ashes in front of them, Vidcund suddenly understood what she meant.
Charity nodded slowly and Vidcund held her tighter. “My God, Charity. What happened?”
“He’s dead,” Charity managed through her broken sobs. “He knew this world had no place for him any longer and he chose to take his own life.” Burying her face in her hands, she sobbed hard. “There wasn’t anything I could do for him, and now he’s gone.”
Vidcund held her a while, letting her cry against his shoulder, while Sergeant Mace looked around the house. Satisfied there was nothing else to see, he asked Vidcund to take Charity off the veranda, as it would need to be cleared until the coroner arrived.
Gently, he asked Charity if she wanted the vampire’s ashes.
“Yes, I would like to have them,” Charity whispered. “To remember him by.”
“Come on, Charity...” Vidcund said quietly. “You don’t need to be here any more. Let’s go home.”
“Home?” she asked in confusion.
“Home.” he answered firmly. “With myself and my family, where you belong.”
Wordlessly, Charity nodded. Vidcund retrieved a robe from the bedroom, threw it over Charity’s shoulders, and slowly, they left together. He was finally able to bring Charity back with him as he’d been wanting for so long, but as they walked out of the vampire’s house he couldn’t help but notice her tormented, anguished expression.
It made him wonder just how high the price had been.
It doesn’t matter, he thought. She’s coming home.
Due to the tireless efforts of the Curious brothers and their teams at the laboratory, it wasn’t long before mass amounts of Vamprocillin-D were in the hands of the authorities. The Curious brothers had been horrified at all the residents of town that had become vampires... all the ones the police had listed as “missing,” and also many others.
With the help of several volunteers, including Nervous Subject and the two older Grunt boys, they began to distribute the cure at hospitals and police precincts after sunset.
In droves the afflicted came, and, one by one, they all gladly took the antidote.
The healing of Strangetown had begun.
Charity, back at home with her Curious family, was facing a healing process of her own. Unfortunately, it seemed to be advancing much more slowly than the rest of the town’s.
She was wan and pale, refusing to eat and sleeping far too much. The brothers tried to do all they could, finally realizing that as much of a return to normal life as possible was the best remedy. They wisely decided to bring the children back from their sister’s home, and that helped enormously.
Charity couldn’t believe how much she had missed the children, and was so thankful they all still remembered her and weren’t upset with her for disappearing as she had done. She spent a lot of time with them, and slowly she began to come out of the veil of depression that had covered her since Reginald’s death.
Yet still she wasn’t completely well. No kind of food seemed to agree with her, and she found herself falling asleep nearly every time she sat down.
“Do you think it’s some kind of residual anemia?” Vidcund asked Pascal worriedly one Saturday afternoon as they watched Charity sleeping on the couch. She had just sat down to read a story to the twins ten minutes earlier, and had fallen asleep that fast, the book slipping out of her hands.
“I don’t know,” Pascal said thoughtfully. “She can’t keep hardly any food down, either. I wonder if being a vampire changed something in her digestive tract... maybe she can’t tolerate regular food any longer.”
Vidcund shook his head. “I don’t think so. None of the other restorees have had that problem. In fact, it’s been the opposite. They all want to do nothing but eat. Making up for lost time, I suppose.”
“Well, I’m worried about her,” Pascal said. “It’s been nearly a month. She ought to be getting back to normal by now. I know she’s upset, but really, that creature’s death was the best outcome to … ”
Pascal was interrupted by his youngest brother coming home from the lab.
Lazlo had been doing some final analysis on some of the restorees’ body tissues to complete their research reports, and the sound of the door also woke Charity. She sat up, rubbing her eyes wearily.
“Well, I have to say, it was definitely the vampirism causing Nerv to shoot blanks,” Lazlo said jovially as he walked in, flinging clothes right and left on his way to the shower. “I tested his latest sample today and all I have to say is damn!” Lazlo shook his head in disbelief. “Not only that, I noticed a cage full of pregnant rats. What did you do, Vid?”
Vidcund grinned. “Oh yeah, that. After I gave the formula-D to the rats and saw it worked, I decided to test fertility on them the good old-fashioned way. I put a male in with the females before I left the lab that morning.”
“Well, trust me, they’re fertile,” Lazlo laughed, then headed for the bathroom. “and so is Nervous. Now he just needs to find himself a chick and spread some of that love around.”
Charity stood up suddenly and frowned at Vidcund. “Wait,” she said. “Let me understand this. After you gave those rats the Vamprocillin, you put a male in with some females and now the females are pregnant?”
“Yes,” Vidcund said, still smiling. “I thought the little guy deserved it. He’d been through hell.”
“And they couldn’t get pregnant before?” Charity persisted, still frowning.
“Well, no...” Vidcund said. “They would mate during the research period, but there were never any young. We’ve determined the vampirism itself caused infertility, based on that and a few other tests we performed.”
“Oh, my God!” Charity cried, a look of comprehension washing over her face. She began to laugh and cry at the same time, and her hands flew to her lower abdomen as tears streamed from her eyes. “Oh, my God... that’s it! That has to be it!”
“What?” Vidcund asked, alarmed. “What’s ‘it’? What are you talking about?”
“I think I’m pregnant!” Charity cried.
To Be Continued...