Authors: Andrew Domonkos
The wedding was quick and painless.
It was done at a drive-through in Vegas.
Drake played a game on his phone as Elvis went on and on from his window on matters of loving tenderly.
Abby pouted in the passenger seat, wearing a cheap wedding dress and staring straight ahead.
They handed over their ID’s and Elvis mumbled some legal sounding words, waved his ringed fingers around, and handed them a printed document.
Drake paid him and gave him a meager tip.
very much,” the man grumbled, and Drake punched the gas, turning out of the chapel lot and onto the big busy strip—Abby’s complaints drowned out by the roar of the V8.
When they came to a red light Drake looked over at his sulking bride.
“Would you knock it off?
We don’t have time for a big to do.
be back in Denver tomorrow for the funeral.”
“Babe, why do we need to go to that?”
“I barely knew them.”
“You don’t have to do anything.
Us adults have obligations though.”
Drake ignored her and glanced at the rows of casinos, each promising riches at the pull of a lever and the roll of some dice.
He had taken some time to improve his financial situation while he was in town.
Vegas could be a tough town, if you didn’t know what cards everyone was holding.
“But what about the honeymoon?” Abby asked pointedly.
The question didn’t seem to hit its mark so Abby yelled, “Am I talking to myself ?
Her new husband’s habit of ignoring her was not something she intended to accept.
“He was like a brother to me,” Drake said finally.
“We fought together more times…” he looked over and could see Abby had already lost interest and was staring off at an advertisement for perfume that was plastered over a bus stop.
He couldn’t understand why someone would ask a question so emphatically if they had no interest in the answer.
It was downright infuriating.
If it wasn’t for Damon, he would destroy her in some alleyway and never look back.
But the clan needed her family’s connections.
“When we get back you can lounge around in the mansion and feed on the servants for all I care.
I leave after the funeral to attend to other matters.”
Don’t tell me you have to go chase after Zara and her little friend.
, what a waste of time.
Just let the cops find them.”
Drake sneered at her.
“Humans don’t find our kind.
Drake turned the car onto Route 66 and the two rode in silence as the busy glow of Vegas faded in the rear view mirror.
Over the desert a moon hung and cast a lonely blue light over the vast desert.
Drake had driven about an hour before he abruptly pulled the car off to the shoulder in the middle of nowhere.
He looked up at the dark hills.
He saw a little white adobe house high on a ridge of the desert that was lit up by moonlight.
Lights were on inside the house and a jeep was parked outside.
Abby awoke from her nap and looked around, before noticing Drake’s face was glaring and ugly, and he was staring at something out in the hills.
“What is it?” She asked timidly.
Drake smiled at his new wife.
“Your dinner,” he said coldly.
Sam looked down the ladder at Casey.
“C’mon kid, keep up.”
Casey scoffed at him.
“Kid? I’m 160 years old last time I checked.”
A kid,” Sam laughed, pulled himself up the last rung and onto the flat surface that wrapped around the Lost Valley water tower.
Casey lifted himself up too, and stood next to Sam.
He handed him the bottle of wine and Sam took a long swig.
Sam was a little taller than Casey, with dark hair cut short in the style of some eastern European men.
Casey looked every bit the cowboy in his jeans and weathered boots and Stetson hat.
Aside from the hat, which he had bought new, most of his clothes were the same he was wearing 80 years ago.
Sam dressed in a more modern fashion, donning a hooded jacket and dark black jeans and combat boots.
And it wasn’t just Casey’s dress that harkened to a different era, but also the way he talked.
Where Sam had adopted a more reserved, neutral way of speaking, Casey still clung to that wild west drawl, and even though Sam had told him many times to try to adapt the diction of the age, it was hopeless.
Sam still used the slang he had picked up while running with the John Kinney gang.
“Look out there.
What do you see?” Sam asked.
“I can see the old mill where I took Jenny Sanders and…”
Look harder,” he grabbed hold of Casey’s chin and turned it.
Casey shoved Sam’s hand off his face.
over the pass, what of it?
Another granger heading into town to get drunk.”
Sam shook his head in disappointment.
“You don’t feel it huh?”
He glared at Casey now. “Remind me why I turned you again?”
Casey sat down and drank some more wine with one hand and wagged a finger in the air with the other.
“I seems to recall you hooded and gagged, with an angry mob and one pissed off sheriff all looking to put a stake in you.”
Sam smiled and closed his eyes, falling into memory.
He was a clever bastard. Relentless too.”
“He relented pretty fast with a bullet in his back,” Casey said gruffly.
Sam nodded and fixed his strange eyes back on the pair of headlights that crept along a far off ridge, before they disappeared over a hill, down into the sleepy town of Lost Valley.
Casey coughed and offered Sam the bottle, “C’mon
old croaker, bend an elbow with me,” but Sam declined with the wave of a hand.
“You’re about as fun as a snake bite, you know that,” Casey said.
He got up and threw the empty wine bottle out into the darkness where is smashed down on some rocks bellow.
“I can smell that smoke.
Those fires must be going strong,” he said taking a deep sniff of the air.
“Yeah,” Sam said, but he smelled something else in the air, something ancient and grim.
Twig was not himself.
He was some other person, a much older and angrier man.
He was leading a mob somewhere, torch in hand. Yelling.
He was in a canyon with dark red walls that towered high above him on either side.
In one hand he carried a torch, in the other a heavy pistol.
They were after someone, someone dangerous.
They came to a dead end where the canyon walls were as smooth as ice and no man or beast could escape judgment up its sheer sides.
Twig saw his quarry there, hunched and his pale face aglow in moonlight.
Wounded and hissing at them, his hands like two talons.
Before he could stop them the mob poured foolishly past, a blur of scornful faces, and he shouted for them to stop but it was too late.
The cornered man with the two different eyes grinned like a shark opening its maw.
When Twig woke up, Zara had her hand on his shoulder and was shaking him.
He looked around bewildered.
He was clutching one of his stakes and gasping for breath.
Zara squeezed his hand and told him he was safe.
It took a moment for Twig to remember where he was.
They were in the truck, at a rest stop outside of Silverthorne.
A light rain was falling and semi trucks were whizzing by back on the highway.
It was night again, and an overhead streetlight cast a dull orange light down on the truck.
Twig could make out the smooth contours of Zara’s face.
She had become paler since they left Denver, and in a way that Twig couldn’t quite place, more beautiful too.
When she smiled at him now, it had a hint of seduction to it that Twig never noticed before.
“Bad dream?” Zara asked, touching him lightly on his cheek.
“Yeah,” Twig replied.
He reached under his seat and found a water bottle, uncapped it, and took a long drink.
“I was someone else.
I was chasing someone.”
“Damon?” Zara asked.
Just saying the name sent shivers down her spine.
During the ride to Silverthorne Twig had told her everything about his encounter with Damon: his frightening speed, his power…how he had batted Twig around like a toy.
While listening, Zara remembered how strong Micah had been, how she was only able to defeat him when she let all the primal anger within her boil to the surface.
If Damon or Drake came for her, she might have to summon that inner monster again.
But there was something else too.
When that presence had overtaken her, it had killed a small part of her, and afterwards she had changed.
More and more she was feeling resentful to those who would try to control her, both human and vampire alike.
More and more she wanted to lash out and teach these people a lesson.
Twig fished out his smokes and lit one up.
He took a long drag and it lit up his worried face.
He leaned his head back on the seat and blew the smoke out of the corner of his mouth.
“Not Damon,” he said softly.
“A man…he had different eyes.
We were chasing him in a canyon.”
Zara asked with a tinge of alarm in her voice.
One blue and one red.
We were trying to kill him…”
Zara sighed and touched her hair.
It surprised her when she remembered that Twig had cut it.
She looked in the side mirror and was startled by her visage.
She was starting to look like a stranger.
“We should go,” she said flatly.
She didn’t want to worry Twig.
She didn’t see much of a point to telling him that she had dreamt of the strange man too.
Only she was in a forest, running with the strange man from an army.
She was the hunted, not the hunter.
She wondered if those were the only two roles left to play.
Twig started the truck and let it idle for a moment while he played with the radio.
He finally found a station that wasn’t playing country.
The chorus of
Live and Let Die
was being crooned by
Twig laughed and gave the radio a puzzled look.
He mumbled something about some things not dying on their own.
Back on the highway, they rode in silence until they turned onto an off-ramp and were soon on a dirt road.
The road was rough, the ride was jarring and it seemed to Zara to go on forever.
Twig stopped the truck where the road finally forked.
He hopped out and ran around the front of the truck towards a sign that read
with an arrow pointing towards the other road.
“What are you doing?” Zara asked through the window.
She couldn’t help but laugh a bit at Twig as he grew frustrated and started bouncing against the thing.
She could have got out and helped him—a light push from her would probably send the thing flying—but she didn’t want to emasculate him.
She knew he was having a tough time dealing with everything, and she could sense that he was having trouble reconciling with the fact that he hadn’t been able to stop Damon or Micah, or even Vivian.
The sign finally broke free from its base and fell over, taking Twig with it.
He cursed as he fell over and disappeared in the grass.
He got up and pulled several thorns out of his jacket and then returned to the truck.
“That should make it a little harder to find us,” he said proudly.
Zara looked worried and he added: “If they are even looking for us, that is.”
Twig nodded and turned the wheel, towards Lost Valley.
The main thoroughfare of Lost Valley was dusty and deserted.
Twig drove slowly through the old town, looking out into the night with tired eyes.
“Wow,” he said looking at the old western buildings.
“Wooden sidewalks and everything.
I bet this place was pretty happening about a hundred years ago.”
Zara lazily gazed out at the dark structures—a gift shop with horseshoes puzzles and wooden toy rifles displayed in the window; a little restaurant named the Silver Star; a barbershop.
Everything was closed and dark accept an old saloon where a few cars were parked out front.
A soft and lonely western tune drifted out from the place.
“I hear one banjo and I’m gunning it,” Twig said, giving the bar a suspicious look.
They drove to the end of the strip and found a three-story Victorian hotel with a row of blue pillars holding up an awning over a sizable porch.
The hotel was painted twenty different bright colors and the sign outside was purple with elegant golden letters spelling out “The Alistair.”
Under the sign a smaller sign hung that said “Vacancy”.
Twig looked at Zara with his weary eyes.
“Maybe they were worried people wouldn’t see it.”
“Looks good to me,” Zara said.
She was so sick of running and fighting and lying.
All she wanted to do was lie down on a real bed and pretend to be normal for as long as she could get away with it.
Maybe when she woke she would be back in her apartment, playing spades with her dad in their tiny kitchen and waiting for the pizza guy.
Her former life seemed less boring and sad now.
She missed her friends from school and even her homework.
She missed being herself.
They got out and stretched in the cool night air.
It was much colder than it had been in Denver, and Twig shivered even under his heavy jacket.
He looked around at the other cars in the parking lot.
There were a few newer cars with out of state plates.
There was a minivan from Utah with a donut-shaped rock formation on it, and the phrase, “Life elevated”, displayed at the bottom.
Two other cars sported plates of Oregon and New York respectively.
“Must be a nice place for people to drive across country to get to it,” Twig remarked.
“Better for us anyway.
Maybe they won’t recognize us, I’m sure we’re as famous as Bonnie and Clyde by now.”
Zara didn’t answer.
She was staring off into the hills that swelled before the mountains, at something small and distant.
After a moment of squinting Twig deduced by its shape that it was a water tower.
“What is it?” He asked in a whisper.
“I don’t know…” she said.
She looked back at him and shook her head.
“Nothing I guess, let’s just get a room.”