So. He’d come for me. The seemingly endless days of Abacus Jones brought down to a brawl in a runaway train car with a vampire as my opposer, and me without either my armaments or my hat. Goddamn if it didn’t chap me in my britches.
“So, ya come for me? Well I ain’t about to oblige your request there monster. If you come for me then you know I ain’t about to be taken down by no mummified vampire. I’m Abacus Jones, demon and monster killer, and you chose the wrong day to fuck with me!”
I didn’t wait for him to make the first move, I just started charging for him. No knife, no nothing except my own two hands. I knew they wouldn’t be strong enough to take him out, not that kind of monster, but if this was all that I had, then this was what I was going to use. He was slower, so the fight was already more in my favor than I thought it would have been. That knife wound a few minutes ago was still keeping him a little off the mark, and I got a number of punches in before he finally avoided one. He shoved his leg hard into my chest, and if I wasn’t what I was, I’d probably lost a couple of ribs into my lungs somewhere. Still, it took the wind out of me.
I backed off, and luckily he kept to himself and didn’t come for me. Can’t say it was smart on his part, but it didn’t bother me any to recover.
“You’re a tough bastard, I’ll give you that, vampire.”
“And you…you are nothing like I have heard.”
“Yeah, I get that a lot you know? It’s all on accounta this soulless situation I have. You monster folk always expect me to be frail like a regular fella, and I can’t say it bothers me the look on y’alls face when you figure otherwise.”
“No. I mean that you are not as capable as I’d previously believed.”
“Well that hurts, vampire.” It really did. It actually hurt in my chest, and not just the part he’d leggedme in.
“Quite honestly I believed you would be far more formidable than this flailing idiot you are proving to be.”
“Idiot?! I’ll have you know I’ve taken out more vampires than you’ve probably turned. You ain’t no different than a one of them.”
“Yes I have heard these stories of your feats. And perhaps in the past you have been successful in dispatching one of mine, but not today. You are feeble, careless. I could have killed you three times now.”
“And if you’d been human you’d already be dead. You forget about that knife I got stuck in your chest a minute ago? That wasn’t a lucky shot you know. I get it though, you are a fast little shit, but I’ve put my time in, and I can put you down just the same as any other of your kind I done in the past.”
“Even without your gun? Or even a single weapon? No, I don’t think you could. I believe I have misjudged you. But no matter, such things don’t matter where we’re going.”
“You ain’t takin me to Hell, Vampire!” I went for him again, but this time he was ready and stuck out his leg for a swift takedown into my belly. But I wasn’t gonna fall for it, no, I slipped just right of it and bear hugged him to the ground as I collided with him. We hit, and I let go to roll away just as his arm comes down smashing the wood beneath and putting a hole in the floor of the train.
I hop up, and he’s already there, his arms to his sides, fingers jagged and looking ready to tear into me. But I ended up exactly where I aimed, right over by that discarded knife. I wasn’t weaponless anymore.
“So you can fight, a little. Was all of that really just to get back to the knife?” He softened somewhat, and his fingers went straight and relaxed. “This is marvelous then.”
Okay, that took me off guard. And when he started laughing like a drunk man that pushed over a sleeping cow, I started thinking that this was strange. If this was death come to collect, it was creeping me the hell out.
“Come, Abacus Jones, it is time enough we depart.”
“You think I’m just gonna come quietly? You are dumber than your years being around shoulda made ya. Musta dumbed you down something serious.”
“You don’t understand, Jones, you have no choice.”
“I got a choice long as I got consciousness.”
His face went sour, solid. Guess I’d have to fight this one out as long as I could. But I’d formed a plan. Get the knife in him again, keep him subdued for a spell, run to the end of the train away from him, and disconnect the train car, if I could. It’s all I could think of with short notice like this. If I couldn’t do it, then I’d best be outside when I have to fight him again. All I’d need out there is rip some of his bandages off, expose him to the sun.
I looked past the monster at Raek’s subdued and dropped body. He was still passed out, and being as big as he was, I couldn’t be bothered with getting him out if I ended up disconnecting the cars. I told myself he’d do the same to me; leave me to rot, to get my blood drained by a life eating monster. It didn’t make it feel right, but if I stayed, tried to protect him without having anything more than a knife, we’d both be goners. But my thinking didn’t make me feel good about myself, so I knew that as soon as I could, I’d try. Damn my eyes.
The vampire started to say something again, but I didn’t give him a chance to really get anything out, I ran at him, knife cutting through the air at my side. He was at the ready, I knew he would be, so I done the only thing that I could think would work: I tripped. Now it wasn’t a real one mind you, but it was convincing enough that it took the grip out of his legs, and made him go limper than he should if he hoped to avoid what happened next.
Luckily he didn’t. I grabbed at his legs, he fell back and I pushed hard off the floor to bound on top of him and once again drive the blade deep in his chest. I got it in good this time, even drove it through him into the wood below. He coughed up his dying blood, that dark thick stuff he’d be needing a replacement for now. I didn’t take any more time to enjoy what I’d done, I hopped up, tucked myself under Raek’s broken left arm which just flopped over my shoulder in a disturbing ly loose way, and started the slow push to the exit at the back of the car.
I could hear the vampire sputtering and coughing up wet, and I knew it’d only be a few more seconds before he regained his strength and was able to pull it out. Luckily I made it to the back, shut the door, and flopped Raek’s bulk into the next car which was full of the people that had fled the other car prior, before looking back and seeing that the door was still closed, and the vampire hadn’t made it to it’s feet yet. I told em to take care of the big guy, and keep the door shut, and if I couldn’a get it done, to find a way to disconnect the train cars. If I was going out, guess I’d go out trying to be some sort of hero. Even if now, with their angry stares and distasteful looks, it felt an unappreciated effort. I shut the door on em and set my eyes downward and went to trying to dislodge the train cars from one another.
I put a hand down and started fidgeting with the device, but I had no clue how to loose the thing. A coupler, is that what it was called? Trains were somewhat new in the world still, and I ain’t never had a particular interest in learning about them. That’ll learn me. I went at hitting it, but it just hurt my hand. It was like punching at a safe…Not that I had any such experience.
I pulled at what looked to be a lever, but it was stiff, too hard even for myself. I only had moments before the vampire would be out that door. And this time I wouldn’t have any weapons.
“Abacus…” came that hazy voice from above me.
I hadn’t heard a thing. No door, no footsteps. Nothing. I slowly peeked up, my hands still gripped around the coupler. I saw his feet first, placed just in front of me. How the hell’d he get there? I never heard a thing. The door behind him was still shut too. I moved up, he’d shut his jacket and zipped it up good, probably to keep the sun off of his wounds. And then I got to his face, donning those dark shades of his that seemed to fit in his eyes socket and all around. He had me. Any move he made now could take me out. So the real question was: what was he waiting for?
“Can I help you?” I asked stupidly.
“What are you trying at?”
“What are you trying to do? Let those people go? Why? They have nothing but hate and malice in their hearts towards a thing like you and me. They would strip the flesh from your bones, burn you, hang you, and then shoot you. They are vile things. Humanity, a mere term without a fitting meaning.”
“Okay, I reckon you got a fair point there. They ain’t exactly a good-sense sort, but they are here. And honest, I just prefer em to things like you. So why not?”
“For one, I’m quite hungry. It’s twice I’ve been denied nourishment by you. And twice you’ve stricken my chest with that knife. But if this is your choice, so be it.”
I braced myself, planted my right boot as stiff as I could behind me, put my fists up like I would in a bar brawl, and waited. He didn’t come for me. He just reached down between us, gripped on the coupler, and then it released. I didn’t really notice it, but I let my body relax a bit. The car unlatched and began to fall away from the churning steam engine that had been driving it along until now. The train car fell back, further and further, but I remained face to face with the vampire. I looked down, between where my feet had been on the train car and now only the racing tracks below, was the arm of the vampire, holding me firm by my vest and shirt.
“Why’d you let them go?” I asked.
“Consider it a measure of good faith. And considering what I am, it was a considerable measure.”
“Reckon it was. But I still ain’t gonna oblidge your request. You’ll have to drag me to Hell. I ain’t gonna come calmly.”
“I wouldn’t imagine anything going to that place quietly, but as I have been trying to tell you, you misunderstand me. I have no desire to take you to that place, even if I knew how. I have come here to collect you, so that you might guide us to the great treasure: The Right Hand of the Devil.”
Shit. Thought that story was done when the Mayor’s train car got left behind.
“And what would one such as yourself need a thing like that for? Blood oasis under an eternally blotted out sun? Guess that’d be something one such as you’d be in this for.”
“Hardly. Here, come inside, we still have a while yet before arriving. If you will sit, I will tell you.”
“Guess I don’t have much of a choice. I’d like it better than dangling over these moving tracks. Course if this is a way to lull me into complacency, then I’m gonna find a way to get the heel of my boot into your nethers, as I would assume even a monster like you still has em.”
“Such a vulgar thing you are, Jones. That will not be necessary, I assure you. Unlike your last ‘partners’ I will not hold you captive. I simply need your knowledge to get me to the treasure. And I think it’ll be beneficial for the both of us. I dare say you would have desired something of the treasure as well and that the humans whom I have released you from would not have obliged such a request.”
“I say you’d be correct, but I’d a gotten free from em by the time the train stopped.”
“I saw your attempts at fleeing, quite remarkably childish. Did you really think you’d survive a fall from a moving train? I guess it’s likely seeing as what you are, but you still would have been manacled, and that man, he would have stopped this train and come after you. You would have been caught again, even if you managed to escape.”
“Alright, alright. Shut that hole of yours and just pull me in already.”
He pulled me in, and let me down easy, giving me an easy stare, aware that I had mobility again and probably wondering what I was gonna do with it. And I gotta admit a part of me just wanted to try and shove him off the train, or rip off some bandages, but I was tired, hungry, and I still didn’t have any weapons. And seeing as how I was going for this treasure anyway, I didn’t see any real harm in this union for the moment. I’d just have to keep a watch on my back.
We made our way into the train car and I sat on the left where the sun’s fading light was still shining. He let himself down on the right side, the shadows, and just slumped like a normal fella would. It was kind of creepy.
“I caught wind of what they were trying for in Tucka a number of years ago. I determined their time schedule, and bided my time. I lived a wandering life, a miserable life in this pit of a world. I had grown very weary of my existence, and the idea of this hand, this treasure, that it could free me of my plight, I could think of nothing else for many years. But they were only years, and as I have been around for over two hundred of them now, they were meaningless. And that I would have possibility of exiting this soiled penance, waiting was just a moment.
“Time passed monotonously, and still I waited. While I waited, I moved around, eating what I could when I needed, and then as time drew nearer and nearer, I found my patience running thin. It was at this time that I found someone else had been tracking me. For how long I could not be sure. Nonetheless, I was being tracked. I could smell them, their blood, yes, but no matter what I did, I could not find them. I walked backwards, followed my senses, it was maddening. Even at nights when I would hide from the sun, I could sense them. They were always there.
“But time was too near, so I started for Tucka, and my future. I was followed still, so I donned the wrappings you see me in now, to hopefully elude them in the day. But it did not work. I thought myself mad, until one day, one morning in the pale rise of the sun, I caught site of my pursuer. To my right, behind rock and shrub. I quickly found myself there, but they were gone. I raged, shouted, slammed my fists into rocks, and then quite simply I fell.
“I awoke that night, believing I had died for never have I slept since I was last human. My eyes opened refreshed, but hazy to a fire, roaring and close. I removed my bandages and these infernal glasses, and there they were. Sitting neatly by the fire, waiting for me. I walked over, slow at first and then my hand was around their neck in moments. At least I thought it was. They moved swift, and were on the other side of the fire.
‘Who are you?’ I shouted. But they would not answer.
‘Tell me who you are? Why you’ve been following me, or I will drink you dry!’ They would not speak, but they lifted their hand, and pointed straight in the direction of Tucka.
‘Do you know of what awaits there?’ I asked. They nodded.
“Nothing I asked afterward ever received an answer save for a nod or a shake of the head. When I asked if they wanted to accompany me, again they nodded. They were formidable, a force I cannot describe, and although I did not fear them, I allowed their accompaniment. Before the sun rose that next morning, she helped me put my bandages back on.”
“She?” I asked.
“Yes, Abacus Jones, a woman. And had it not been for her, I can tell you that my journey may not have been so successful thus far. The town of Tucka, they are a knowing group, but I was able to steal through them, and to find my way to you. I needed only to divide you from them, for they could have killed me. With her help I was able to collect most of them into the further train cars, and then loose it away. With them gone, I went to the head of the train, and took control. I left her there to keep us heading West, shoveling coal, while I tended to you. I only had to deal with the one guarding you, the big one, which proved of little consequence.
“All that was left was to convince you to join us.”
“And if I don’t?”
“I believe you will. It is in all of our best interests.”
“How you figure?”
“For her, I cannot say. For myself, I will rid myself of this inhumanity I have suffered for too long. For you, I also cannot say, but I’m certain it is important enough that you will continue this journey.”
“I reckon so.”
“Then it is settled. We will be your companions. The three of us.”
I was about to ask what he meant, that I hadn’t said I was gonna help them, when the door opened and shut swiftly, and there she was. Beautiful, pale, lond dark hair. Like a woman I’d forgotten about but never met. Her eyes sparkled darkly beneath her drooping hair, and beside her, a small boy.
“Have we arrived?” The vampire asked.
“Excellent, Mr Jones, we will be departing soon, the Red Rocks of Colorado await us. This is where the Mayor was coming is it not?”
“Well then, if you would be so kind as to let us know where we’re heading next then?”
I looked over to the boy. His hair disheveled, his eyes looking tired and his clothes tattered and worn. I didn’t care for him much. And I couldn’t figure on where he fit in. My chest tightened at the thought of it being hers. But then my eyes were on her again, that fair skin of hers, without blemish or burn. She was perfect. And then there was the vampire. I hated em, but I hated myself for being chummy with this one and kind of liking it.
“What do you go by vampire? Dracula?”
“Hardly. I am J’akur. A pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me.”
He made his way to the door, past the girl who just stared at me. It was only when the door closed I realized that we were alone. The boy musta slipped out pretty quick.
I walked over to her, and with every step I fell more intrigued with her. Her eyes just stared back, surprisingly just as intrigued. I think. And finally I was standing there next to her and looking down at her with a moderate grin, so as not to scare her off.
“So, uh, little darling. What’s your name?” I asked.
She just smiled, and as she parted her lips to tell me that great little secret kept from the vampire, everything went black. I didn’t even feel my head hit the ground.
The End Part II
And the End for now.