Babysitting for Vampires E02P03
Babysitting for Vampires
by Meg Merriet
Episode 2 Part 3
A putrid scent rose off his saliva as he dragged his jaw across the floor, crawling toward me. I jumped onto my suitcase and unzipped it, whipping out two fully loaded squirt guns. Every stream of holy water seared a red welt into his flesh.
The demon kept coming, crawling like a fleshy spider, his joints no longer acting like those of a human being. I jumped up on the couch, screaming. It was all over now.
Suddenly the tapers flickered on and the candelabras flew at the demon’s head, propelled by telekinetic force. He shrieked as his cloak caught fire and flailed in terror. The fire cast a shadow on the ceiling, the shadow of a small, winged creature flapping frantically. It was Paul in the form of a owl. An iron cage hung in the middle of the room like a chandelier. Paul flew into the bottom of it, knocking it one way and then the other. It rocked and in time the chain slid off the ceiling hook. The cage came falling down and collided with the thrashing, burning man.
I jumped down from the couch and headed for the basement, screaming, “Paul! I need your blood to get into the panic room!” The owl swooped down from the ceiling and led the way down the dark rickety stairs. At the bottom step he transformed back into the teenage boy and hurried to the huge metal door, sliding his finger into the receptacle and under the rusty needle. A screen lit up on top as it processed his DNA. I heard a soothing beep and the vault door slid open like a knife through butter.
“Ladies first,” Paul said.
“Yeah, right.” His mother would kill me if I was stupid enough to let him lock me up in there and try to take on the monster in the living room by himself. I threw my water guns inside, grabbed a tuft of his black mullet and shoved him in ahead of me. He plopped down on a velvet armchair in the cramped, colorless chamber. There wasn’t much inside, just electronics, computer monitors, the chair and a mini-fridge. I closed the door behind us. The titanium bars slid into place inside the mechanism. Nobody was getting in and nobody was getting out.
Paul started drinking transfusion bags the same way I would be eating potato chips, if this panic room had anything aside from a mini-fridge full of blood. When he wasn’t talking about videogames, he was quoting obscure philosophers and chuckling at me derogatively when I didn’t recognize the names. He talked about how vampires had to isolate themselves to be safe from hunters, and how this has made immortality boring. He could only read so many books. Even the “picture shows”—as he called them—and videogames were starting to feel repetitive. Same old philosophies, same old stories, over and over for eternity. After being trapped in this room with him for three hours, I felt that I could relate.
I watched the vampire hunter on the observations screens while Paul kicked his feet up on the mini-fridge and sank into the armchair. The hunter had managed to put out the fire and now he appeared to be on a cellular phone.
“He can’t leave until nightfall, now that I’ve burned away his day cloak,” Paul said. “He’ll call in reinforcements to help him rip this vault open like a can of sardines.”
“Can of sardines is right,” I muttered, surveying the room for a place to sit down. “I’ll try Gentry again.” I picked up the phone on the wall and dialed his number. It rang and rang and rang to no avail.
“It’s daytime. All the vamps have gone to bed.”
“Why don’t either Gentry or your mother keep a cell phone in their coffins?”
“That would be so annoying, people constantly calling and texting you, interrupting your sleep for every little emergency.”
“Um, yeah! Welcome to 2014.” I hung up the land-line and crouched over my knees. “Can you just turn into a owl and go nest so I can have that chair?”
“Robin, you are possibly the most inconsiderate person I’ve met in the last hundred years or so.”
Perplexed, I scoffed, “Oh really?”
“How can I regale you with stories from my fascinating life if I’m an owl?”
“Well I could use a nap and there’s nowhere for me to lay down.”
“How can you possibly sleep right now?” He sucked the last bit of blood out of his transfusion bag, making a rude noise with his straw.
“There’s nothing we can do until nightfall anyway.”
“Yes, when that vampire and his friends tear this vault apart, drink you dry and stake me through the heart. Can’t wait!” The sarcasm was unnecessary. I ignored him and curled up on the floor against the cold metal wall. “Why don’t you share something of yourself with me. There’s got to be something in your dumpy human life that’s moderately interesting. Maybe you’re a bipolar yogi who collects animal skulls?”
“I’m an orphan,” I said.
“Now there’s a good start! It’s so Oliver Twist!”
“My parents died in a car accident when I was little. I had no extended family, so I became a ward of the state. I was never that great at school. I liked writing poetry, but not enough to work hard at it. I was a hostess at sixteen, a waitress by eighteen and a bartender at twenty. Five years later, my life hadn’t changed, same old scene day in and day out, dealing with the same five versions of drunk, waiting for some kind of calling as to what I’m supposed–.”
“Yawn,” Paul said. “So what happened? Gentry plucked you from your sad existence and tried to dress you up as his dead wife?”
“You know about that, huh?”
“Ha!” he cackled. “I didn’t, but I knew his wife. You could have been her twin, if you were more ladylike.”
“Hey!” I squawked, sitting up abruptly and fixing my tousled hair. “I’m ladylike!”
“I’ve known pirate women disguised as men who were more ladylike.”
My face felt like it was on fire. I narrowed my eyes at him and spat, “Well you’re the saddest excuse of a gentleman I’ve ever seen, sitting in the only chair in here with your feet up like a selfish pig!”
“I’m a Count,” he sneered derisively. “You are just one of my family’s servants. You don’t even have parents.”
I let his cruel words bounce right off my thick skin. “At least my mommy wasn’t a mass murderer.”
This comment broke through his unaffected façade. He frowned, tilting his chin down. Strands of fur emerged from the pores on his face and his arms cracked and expanded into feathery wings. He shrank down into his animal form, his nose twitching into the hard form of a beak. As an owl, he fluttered up to the arm of the chair and then hopped down to the floor, hunching up his shoulders and hiding his face. I wasted no time stealing the chair, but I watched him fold up under his wings in the corner.
The land-line rang loud in my ear, jarring me out of my sentiment. I picked up. “Hello?”
“Hello, little bird,” the smooth British voice said through the receiver. “Is everything alright?”
“Oh, Gentry! There’s a hunter. We’re in the panic room, but the hunter won’t leave and we’ve seen him making phone calls all day.”
“Calm down, love,” Gentry said. “Don’t allow your hysterics to get the best of you.”
The misogyny of this old world vampire was unbearable, but I had no time to remind him what century it was. “What do I do?” I asked.
“What kind of vampire is it?”
“There’s different kinds?!” I shouted. “I don’t know! All his teeth were sharp and when he got mad, his legs dislocated out of their joints and he crawled like a spider.”
Gentry sighed. “Evarcha culicivora.”
“Spider vampire to put it simply. There are many kinds. All vampirism came out of some form of animal nature. I, for example, am Geospiza difficilis septentrionalis.”
“Now there’s no need to ruin Beth’s weekend. I can handle a few pesky hunters, especially evarcha culicivora. I can’t leave until sunset, but I will be there as quickly as I can.”
“You don’t have a day cloak?”
“No. They only protect you for an hour or two and they’re extremely rare. Does Paul have one?”
“The hunter had one, but we set it on fire so now he’s stuck here.”
“Oh,” Gentry said, sounding sad. “That’s a pity. Well… ta!”
He hung up. I glanced over to check on Paul. The adorable little creature trembled in the corner of the room. As unpleasant as he had been, I couldn’t help but feel that he wasn’t entirely responsible for his childishness. Maybe age-stunted vampires never grew out of that. “I’m sorry. I know the history books don’t always tell the whole story.” The owl craned his neck. His golden eyes glistened with the sincerity of human sorrow and gradually he transformed back into the boy. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he huddled in the corner like a pouty child in time out.
“She’s none of the things they say she was. That awful legend about her didn’t even come into existence until a hundred years after we had fled Hungary. She wasn’t a sadist or a schizophrenic and she didn’t murder thousands of young women. Because of the war, the population was small. Killing all her servants would have been incredibly stupid.
“Father was away fighting the war when a mysterious woman came into mother’s service as a handmaiden. She said she had the secret to staying young forever, but she didn’t tell mother she was a vampire, nor explain that this trick to eternal beauty required an unending supply of blood. Mother had to feed from her servants, but she was careful with them. Good help was hard to find.
“But many young women in her employ complained about the puncture wounds on their necks and thighs. The people believed that her most beloved handmaiden was the devil himself. They tortured her until she confessed she was a vampire and had turned the countess. They gauged out her eyes, tore away her breasts with hot iron and then burned her at the stake at midnight. When the other servants saw what was done to her, they all confessed, telling wild, unimaginable horrors they had witnessed in a secret torture chamber beneath our castle. These women who had loved my mother, they all pointed fingers. She was imprisoned, but she feigned death and waited to be laid her in her tomb. Then she came for my sisters and me. My sisters would not go with her. They believed the lies and feared she would take their blood and use it to preserve her youth. I always knew these were lies. I had been mother’s favorite, her only surviving son. I knew I could trust her, and so I went with her.
“I was weak my entire life, always sick, often bedridden for weeks and weeks. Mother and I fled south to Spain where she hoped my health might improve. It did not. I was fading fast, getting thinner each day until soon I was too feeble to walk. So mother healed me in the only way she knew how.”
“How?” I asked.
“With the blood, the blood within her, the blood she had taken out of all those young virgins to preserve her beauty, she finally had a chance to use it for something meaningful.”
I pressed my hand over my lips and nodded. It was a beautiful reason to turn a child into a vampire. It was the first time it had ever made sense to me.
The monitors had gone black hours ago when the vampire hunter and his two friends discovered and disabled the cameras. We heard their machinery drilling into the floor over our heads and knew all would be lost if Gentry didn’t get here soon.
Paul assured me there were fourteen inches of concrete reinforced by steel. What I couldn’t understand was why this panic room was not equipped with weapons. Vampires had no art to their own self-preservation. They just went about their lives assuming all the needed to protect themselves was their fangs. I picked up the phone and dialed Gentry’s cell phone number. As soon as he picked up, I shouted into the receiver.
“Where are you?!”
“There was a bit of traffic out of Boston, but I should be there in twenty minutes.”
I groaned, tempted to smack the phone into the wall. “Couldn’t you just turn into an owl and fly here?”
“You should know that what you just said is incredibly offensive, and racist quite frankly. I’m a vampire, not a shape-shifter.”
“Paul can turn into an owl.”
“Curious… Anyways, I told you what kind of vampire I was.”
“Yeah. In Latin. And you took my smart phone.”
“Robin. You really must learn to rely on your own brain. The mind is a muscle and these devices hinder its use until it atrophies into mush.”
I hung up on him. My head ached from the sound of jackhammers grinding through rock. I heard them breaking through bit by bit. The sound worsened, as did my headache and our chances of getting out of this alive.
“Why do these guys want to kill you so badly?” I asked, plugging my ears.
Paul shouted over the noise, “Vampires sired in America don’t like vampires from Europe coming over and drinking from their blood supplies.”
“Really?” I almost laughed. “This is about immigration?”
“Drinking from human hosts leaves a vampire vulnerable to discovery, and there’s a finite amount of human blood we can steal from the banks! A full-grown vampire requires at least one pint of blood each evening!”
“Can’t you just drink animal blood?” I shouted.
“Yeah, but it’s totally gross!” he shouted back. The jackhammering overhead grew louder.
I picked up my squirt guns, looked at the empty transfusion bags littering the floor and then grinned at Paul. “I have an idea!” I collected the bags. Dust fell at three different pinpoints in the ceiling. I removed my socks, handing one to Paul. “Cover your mouth with this!” He did, but I worked fast with my hands to transfer the holy water out of the guns and into the transparent baggies. Out of time, I squeezed my sock over my nose and mouth. We backed into the corners as the ceiling came crashing down.
The air was misty with what looked like an explosion at a cake factory. All was silent except for a ringing in my ears. I squinted through the debris, searching for Paul. Three men jumped down into the vault, dust lifting under their black trench coats. They spoke, but my ears were too blown out to make out what they were saying. I held my breath, dropped my sock and took up with the transfusion bag, plunging a needle into one of the vampire’s necks. Then I squeezed the bag.
The vampire’s eyes went wide. He howled like hound of Hell, eyes bulging, shaking and sizzling like eggs on a hot skillet. He doubled over, hugging his knees. The one next to him grabbed him and climbed up out of the chamber, ripping the IV out of his neck and shouting outdated obscenities at me that I barely understood.
The remaining vampire was the first, the stranger from before who had carried me inside out of the snow. He grabbed me by the throat and lifted me up off the ground, sniffing around my hair. I clawed at his hands, kicking my feet through the air. Then, as if I was a fresh, juicy apple, he sank his teeth into me. My garlic had worn off. My powdery white surroundings were fading to black. I saw an elegant gray owl soar in front of my eyes. My heart lifted in my chest as the creature descended on the back of the spider vampire’s throat, punching his beak into the back of his head again and again. The hand around my throat unclenched and I fell into the rubble, skinning my knees.
I had one more transfusion of holy water. As the spider vampire fussed with the owl, I jabbed my needle into the back of his knee and squeezed God’s power into his veins. His legs quaked and his mouth expelled foam and black bile. Paul became a boy again and offered me his arm. He got me on my feet and together we climbed up into his living room where the other two vampires were waiting.
One of them was entirely out of commission, shivering and holding his bald head like it was about to explode. Paul was pulling me up out of the vault when the other vampire flew at him from behind with a wooden stake.
“Paul!” I shrieked. The pointed end of that stake plunged right through his back and burst out the front of his chest. I sobbed, scaling the rest of the wall in a hurry. I took the boy in my arms. His head hung back, his eyes nebulous and white. It was my duty to protect him and I had failed. I broke down, no longer caring if I died.
The vampire looming over us unsheathed a katana and swept it back over his shoulder as he prepared to obliterate me for good. In my mind, all I could think of was that sad little owl cowering in the corner, five hundred years old, and still a child at heart.
Blood spatter freckled my face. I looked up to see the vampire’s head flying off his shoulders. Gentry stood behind him, wielding a long scythe as silvery as a supermoon. He swept it behind his long coat and knelt in front of me.
“I’m sorry. I failed him,” I cried.
I stroked Paul’s dark hair, petting it back away from his face. Gentry cleared my tears with the back of his hand and said, “Don’t cry. May I?” His scythe clattered against the wood floor. He took Paul’s body from me and hugged him against his shoulder, reaching around and yanking the stake out of his back. Paul’s body animated with an electric zap and he gasped for air.
Paul shuddered, scratching his back where the stake had gone in. “Eugh! I haven’t been staked since the Enlightenment,” he coughed. “Forgot how much it hurts.”
“Robin thought you were dead. You should have seen her.” Gentry pretended to sob as he scrunched up his face and Paul smiled at me.
My hand struck like lightning across Gentry’s cheek.
“Ouch,” he said, his smile persisting to mock me. “In my day, women usually gave you a kiss when you rescued them.”
Standing up, I brushed the concrete powder off my clothes and shook out my hair. “I’m done, Gentry! This is the worst job I’ve ever had. You took complete advantage of me. There is no way in Hell any of this is worth the money you’re paying me!”
“Do you want out?”
“No,” I said, placing my hands on my hips and trying to ignore the vampire on the couch who continued to vomit up clumps of bile. “I’m too good at this to give it up, but I want a raise! And benefits!”
Gentry’s eyes lit up and he emitted a robust, wholehearted laugh. “What kind of benefits do you expect from a vampire employer?” he asked.
Paul was laughing too. “Oh! How about a dental plan where you pay your premium in your own blood?” the boy added.
“Not too much of a delineation from the status quo!” Gentry exclaimed with jubilance. They were having a knee-slapping good time at my expense, but I didn’t let it get to me. I was happy to see Paul was okay. Apparently staking a vampire only stunned him.
Gentry finished off the other two vampires, putting them out of their misery. He explained that they would never give up in trying to cleanse American soil of foreign vampires. “They’re pretty much as bad a Nazis,” he said, trying to justify everything as he repeatedly whacked the blunt edge of his size across the spider vamp’s neck.
We spent the evening cleaning up as best we could, but a little after midnight, Beth returned home, having sensed that something terrible had happened. She held Paul close and thanked me for handling the situation as I did. I was paid the remainder of my fee and Gentry offered me my ride home. He also finally returned my cell phone to me.
We drove down the snow-lined highway, listening to Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu on the radio. Gentry’s tall scythe stood awkwardly in the backseat, reflecting headlights of passing cars. We got pulled over at one point, but Gentry just transfixed the officer into believing it was a prop for a movie and we went on our merry way.
I felt warmer in the car than I had all weekend. Gentry knew a thing or two about keeping humans comfortable that this other vampire family completely overlooked. Something as simple as heat put me in a great mood. Perfectly contented, I asked Gentry if he’d found me any more jobs.
“Actually, yes,” he said. I know a family that needs a sitter during the day from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. “
“Hmm.” I leaned my head against the car window and closed my eyes. “Interesting hours for vampire clients.”
“Well, have you ever heard of a dunpeal?”
“No,” I murmured, drifting away into slumber. It had been so long since the last time I caught a single Z. My mind was too heavy with fog to worry about dunpeals or evarcha culicivora.
“They have a complicated schedule. The toddler is a very well-behaved little girl. A perfect doll.” Gentry’s charming accent melted in my ear as I surrendered to exhaustion, but I thought I heard him say, “Goodnight, Robin. Dream of handsome gardens under a clear sky.”