Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: Family Business
The last rays of sunlight had faded behind the hills to the west many hours before consciousness returned to Cordelia. Sentience and vitality returned to her slowly…grudgingly. She felt oddly weak and disoriented. Her thoughts were confused and jumbled as if she had sustained some trauma of the brain, though she and her kind were certainly not susceptible to such. This was…disturbing in a way Cordelia had long since been unaccustomed to feeling.
Had their haven been attacked? Was Trevor in an even more debilitated state than she? She feared he must be, else he would have tried to aid her…would be here now. Her brother was reckless, irresponsible and irrepressibly cavalier about most things but he was her other half…her twin…her companion in the life of the Chosen.
Full strength returned to her and she tensed herself for what she might find outside the shelter of her coffin. Raising the lid with swift determination, she sprang out to land nimbly some distance away. Her brow furrowed as she saw absolutely nothing out of place. Trevor’s coffin stood on its plinth next to hers, appearing as normal. She did not sense his presence anywhere within their home and that worried her considerably.
While she and her brother were twins, she was the eldest by a span of minutes. As such, the ways of the Chosen recognized her as the elder and, by extension, responsible for her brother’s conduct. Of late, he had been most difficult to oversee. She had not shared Trevor’s enthusiasm for relocating to this urban cesspool. There was far too much environmental contamination, rampant disease and…wrongness for this place to be a fitting home.
Trevor saw it, instead, as a chance to experience adventures and opportunities they had been denied in a more pastoral setting. The lights, the sounds, the masses of human cattle held an undeniable appeal to him that, coupled with his reckless nature, were a recipe for disaster in Cordelia’s opinion. He fed too often and far too carelessly. Where she cautioned discretion, he practiced excess. Where she advised stealth, he advocated grand displays of their superiority. She had been warned, by the Council, to rein Trevor in or face significant…consequences.
An unpleasant aroma wrinkled Cordelia’s nose and tugged unpleasant memories to the forefront of her mind. He wouldn’t have done such a thing! He dared not do such a thing! Sighing, she knew he had. Confirmation came seconds later as she bent, gingerly, over her coffin and sniffed the still air. Fury boiled in her as she scented the lingering stench of Holy Water!
Trevor had done the unthinkable and soaked her coffin before sneaking out to gallivant. The discovery of how he might have procured an item so anathema to their kind concerned her not in the least. Knowing, as did all of the Chosen, sprinkling such on a vampire’s coffin would enfeeble and disable them until the accursed fluid evaporate, he had done this indignity to his own sister. There would be punishment for this sacrilege and such would be visited upon him by her.
She went out into the night as a primal force of constrained rage and undeniable purpose. She had allowed her sibling too many opportunities to moderate his conduct and that was at an end. This time there would be no forgiveness, no acceptance, and no chance at contrition. There would only be punishment…swift, sudden and emphatically final.
She knew his tastes, his proclivities, his haunts and so the process of locating a single individual in a city of millions took surprisingly little time. Aided by the supernatural bond they shared, she homed in on him with the unerring skill of a consummate predator. When she was as close as she dared be without alerting him to her presence, she cloaked herself in shadows and plotted her next move.
Trevor was, typically for him, playing with his food. The human female was dressed, if such it could be considered, most provocatively and had, it seemed, proven beyond her brother’s limited capacity to resist. Her pale skin was flushed and sweaty from, what Cordelia presumed, was a heightened state of sexual arousal Trevor was so adept at inducing in cattle. Cordelia could scarce contain her disgust. In her mind, coupling with humans was akin to bestiality. They were food animals…NOT suitable partners for carnal activities.
Unable to watch this abomination continue, she knew she must act soon. Once Trevor began feeding on this one, he would not stop until he’d left her a shriveled, dying husk. She quirked an eyebrow upward, reflecting there had been far too many such bodies scattered about of late. The human constabulary had redoubled their efforts to find the source of these, thus placing her and all of her vampiric kindred at increased risk of discovery.Enough, she chided herself. The time for action was now.
Crouching low, she tensed her legs and released the energy in an incredible leap of nearly fifty feet. She landed on the trunk of the vehicle containing her brother and his hapless female victim. Her heavy boots left deep impressions in the metal as she launched herself into a dive. Seizing the woman by one slender wrist, she used her preternatural strength and a bit of good old-fashioned leverage to fling her bodily out of the car. The woman landed gracelessly but safely some distance away and lay unmoving. Absently, Cordelia noted the beast was still breathing. Her enhanced senses detected the beat of the heart within the inert form. Good…the woman would survive with naught more than a bruised body and bruised pride. All in all, a better outcome than Trevor had planned for her.
Trevor surged to his feet, his eyes glassy and unfocused. His fangs had been extended to feed and remained so, with combat being their purpose now. He roared his challenge to the sky before leaping to the rocky gravel of the drive-in’s lot. His head swiveled side to side, seeking the source of this disturbance and, in that moment, his sister struck.
Moving nearly too quickly for even one of the Chosen to track, she stopped abruptly as she struck Trevor full in the face with a backhanded blow. She followed the initial contact it with a snap kick to his knee. Though considerably more resilient than mortals, even vampires can suffer temporary debilitating injuries. As Trevor’s assaulted leg collapsed, he went to one knee, dazed and dismayed.
Though only seconds had passed since Cordelia landed her first hit, she knew Trevor had the potential to recover and meet force with force. Wasting not so much as a breath to consider her actions, she finished the deed. Grasping her kneeling brother’s neck in a steely embrace, she bent his head backwards, exposing his throat to her.
Dipping forward, she locked her teeth in the veins of his neck and tore his throat out with savage finality. Spitting out her brother’s flesh, she placed the toe of her boot to his chest in a bone-shattering kick that laid him on his back. Bending over him, she watched as the light of his unnatural existence quickly faded. Blood bubbled at his lips as he made a vain attempt to speak. His inability to complete the action bothered Cordelia not in the least as nothing he had to say mattered to her the least bit in that moment.
Confirming the human was alive, albeit still unconscious, she returned to her brother’s body. She wrestled his bulky form over her shoulder and, with bounding leaps, vanished back into the embrace of the night.
She would miss the companionship of her sibling and the special bond they had always shared as twins, but when all was said and done, the good of her fellow Chosen trumped the life of a single miscreant. She would shed no tears for Trevor’s destruction even had she still possessed the ability to do so.
Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at http://www.jeffreyhollar.com.