Brian Redfield awoke in a tight, dark place. He felt incredibly weak. His head, stuffed with wool. His legs, lined with lead. His neck throbbed. A part of him was surprised that he wasnt dead yet. He vaguely remembered some guy coming up to his truck window and asking to be what? Invited in? After that, there was a lot of black and red and sharp things. Then he remembered driving the truck again, but he was going in the wrong direction. The voice that whispered in his ear had told him to go back to the Lot, there was someone they had to pick up. He remembered being vaguely anxious that this mysterious someone wasnt that nice young girl he had given a lift to. That experience seemed years past, but brought fresh pain to his heart.
Now he thought of that young girl again, and that one thought seemed to trigger something within his mind and body, like a plug being pulled out of a drain. He felt a curious, stinging energy invade his limbs, a burning heat that came from his heart and pumped outwards. The side of his neck felt like it was on fire. He felt an ache in his stomach, the kind of ache you feel after youve eaten far more than you should have, and the food has expanded your belly to the point of stretching rarely-used muscles.
I think it may be time to get up and see whats what.
I hope that girls okay.
* * *
Pulling a Benedict Arnold, are we? How creative that isnt.
Bens face had changed to his true, vampire look, but the gun was still pointing at Buffys head.
I saw how you handled those fools. Im beginning to like this life or should I say death. In any case, I doubt that you have much of a defense against conventional weaponry. Like, say, bullets?
What, are you scared of a little Barbie Girl like me? Not man enough to fight a woman? Youre the first vampire Ive ever met who wimped out on a fight. Well, thats not true, but
The Ben-vampire smiled for the first time. Im the first vampire youve ever met with his brains intact.
Buffy put her hands on her hips. The stake in her right hand tapped impatiently against her leg. So I guess youre just going to shoot me?
No room for a sequel if the hero dies.
Who said you were the hero?
You should attend a few more script rehearsals.
Is this the banter you were missing a few minutes before?
I still think its a bit one-sided.
Where would you like it in the heart, or in the head?
Behind them, the coffin that Ben had been sitting on shifted. The top swung up, making a creaking noise that momentarily distracted the vampire; his head moved slightly to the right in an instinctive motion, and without hesitation, Buffy flicked her stake underhand-style, aiming for the center of his body.
The heart sounds good.
An explosion of vampire dust followed the impact, and she danced out of the way of the falling gun. It went off when it hit the ground, the bullet impacting the far wall. If she hadnt moved
Dodging bullets is definitely not my style. Buffy picked up her stake and went over to the open coffin. She looked in. Blinked.
Laid out in the coffin was the not-quite corpse of the trucker that had picked her up the day before. Not quite, because he was still breathing. And his eyes were still moving.
Strength gone. His voice sounded tired and afraid. I pushed open the lid. But that was it.
That was enough, she said warmly. What happened? What are you doing down here?
They wanted my truck, he replied with difficulty. The tingling heat that had infused his body only seconds before was now fading fast, along with, he suspected, his lifeforce. They didnt say why. Im scared. Where am I?
Youre in the basement of the Marsten House. You cant remember anything else?
The Marsten House?!? Oh, God, oh my God. There was a man. Outside my window. He bit me. In the neck. The trucker began to cry.
Buffy leaned over and saw two distinct puncture-holes. Oh, no. When he dies Not worth thinking about. Not yet.
Its okay. Ill take care of you. She winced inwardly at the double meaning of that last sentence.
He reached for her hand with the last of his ebbing strength. Please, tell me, whats your name?
Buffy, he repeated wonderingly. Are you an angel, Buffy? I see a white light around you.
She smiled, stroking his forehead. Im no angel. Whats your name?
Brian. Im going to die, arent I?
Her smile wavered slightly, but she knew she had to tell him the truth. Yes, Brian, you are. But its okay, I wont leave you. Her eyes started to fill with tears, and she blinked them back.
If I turn into one of them He paused.
Will you He couldnt finish.
I will, Brian, dont you worry.
* * *
Wheres your faith now, my boy?
Mark found the Holy Water from his backpack and pulled it out.
I got a bottle of it right here, Father. Want some?
Father Callahan snatched the vial from Marks hand and squeezed it in his fist. Steam rose from the vampires hand, an acrid smell filled the room, but Callahans gaze never wavered, even when the vial exploded in his fist.
Dont mind if I do.
A stake right about now would be a good idea. Mark jumped back, hand thrust inside the backpack, searching for a nice, wooden stake to
A pair of strong, cold hands took him by the shoulders and flung him across the room. He crashed into the wall head-first and lay still. Father Callahan chuckled as he approached Marks unconscious body.
This would be a far more enjoyable experience for me if you were awake, but vampires cant be choosers. Callahan bent down.
The door crashed inwards, impacting the floor with a BANG! Dust billowed up from the floorboards. The vampire turned to see a very angry young girl step into the room.
I just had to stake somebody that I liked. Now I get to stake somebody I dont.
Callahan straightened, taking a step over to his left so he was standing in the center of the pentagram. Ah, yes, the young girl Ben has been telling me so much about. Since you are here and he is not, I can only assume that what he knew about you wasnt enough.
Buffy held the stake casually in her right hand. I get that a lot. I dont suppose you could do me a favour?
What would that be, my child?
Just close your eyes, and in a few moments, itll all be over.
The vampire smiled widely. I couldnt possibly go without a fight.
I was hoping youd say that. As she uttered that last word, Buffy leaped for him and hit an invisible barrier. She bounced back, dazed. She shook her head to clear it, and advanced again, reaching out as she stepped closer, and That invisible barrier. Which seemed to correspond to
The pentagram, very good, my dear. What is that quaint little Boy Scout motto? Be prepared? I have been preparing for many years now, studying the black arts, gathering my strength. It is unfortunate that you disposed of Ben, but Mark will make a wonderful right-hand vampire. So quick and graceful.
Buffy was at a loss. What do I do now? I dont know any magic spells. God, I wish Willow was here. Or Giles. Gathering your strength for what?
Did you know that this house has been a conduit for great evil for decades now? How appropriate that we begin here. How inspiring.
Hey, digressosaurus, stay on topic, okay? Why did you need Brians truck?
The vampire laughed. Why, how else are we to travel this great land of ours converting people to our faith?
Your faith? Oh Youve got to be kidding. Not another lets take over the world guy. Can you get any more cliché? I suppose you planned to go from town to town, biting people, building an army of the undead as you go?
Yes, that was the idea.
Well, I guess its just as well that I stop you right here, before you get all delusional with the grandeur.
The former priest raised his arms and began chanting in a strange language. Buffy stepped back. Oh, this cant be good.
Nixes kanti falta polnos bitra!
A sharp, stabbing pain hit the Slayer in the gut and she doubled over. Dropping to her knees, she groaned. It was like she had swallowed a glass vase whole, and then been punched in the stomach, shattering the vase into a thousand tiny shards. She heard Giles voice speak in her head. The pentagram is what gives him his power. Get him to come out of the pentagram! The pain was intense, blinding. She coughed suddenly, and watched a drop of blood hit the floor. That came out of me.
Im so sorry that you cannot join us, little girl, but women are such a liability.
Buffy raised her head, blinked back the agony, and said, Come here and say that.
The vampire clapped his hands together in applause. Such spirit! No, Im sorry, but I would rather wait until you were dead. Safer that way.
Within her stomach, the ball of pain seemed to grow, stretching outwards. Buffy found it hard to think; her mind was totally occupied by the screeching nerve endings.
Behind the undead priest, Mark stirred.
He remembered flying through the air with the greatest of ease, and landing into something unyielding. Now his eyes were trying to open, and he didnt like what he saw. The vampire was standing with his back to him, grinning evilly at Buffy, who was starting to curl up on the floor in obvious agony. Past her, against the far wall, was his cross. What can I do without the cross? Then he saw where he was inside the pentagram. The cross would have been useless. He heard Father Callahans voice speak in his head: Faith is nothing without love. Faith is
What is Faith? Faith is believing in something or someone without proof. Faith is absolute trust. Faith is hope. Faith is love.
Faith is nothing without love..
Who do I love?
I loved my parents. I loved Ben Mears like a father. I loved my comic books, and monster figurine set, and telescope.
Thats who I loved. Not the same question.
Who do I love?
I love I love
Buffy was feeling a strong urge to black out, and it was getting harder and harder to ignore it. Father Callahan stood there, patiently waiting for her to die. It was all so unfair. Her ears picked up a sound, a murmur. She focused her eyes on Mark, who looked like he was still alive after all. He was saying something, but what it was, she couldnt hear. Then Marks eyes snapped open, and his hands came up to grab the vampires ankles.
Mark yelled, I love God! With all my heart!
And he glowed like the cross, the brightness shooting up his arms, into the vampires legs and up his body, until the light exploded through the creatures head.
Callahan screamed. He jerked and bucked as if a powerful electrical charge was running through his body, but Mark held on easily, his face calm and unafraid.
This is the judgment of God, Father Callahan! How do you like my faith now?
The ball of pain in Buffys stomach dwindled to nothing, and she gasped as if she had been holding her breath for days. She shielded her eyes from the burning glow, and got back up on her feet.
Buffy, said Mark. His voice betrayed the obvious effort he was making to channel the energy. Finish him. Give him peace.
She stepped up to within a foot of the vampire, who was still undulating like a whipcord.
I cant. He wont stay still. That was one reason. The other reason was that she was really afraid. This glow seemed like nothing she had ever seen before. It felt tremendously good, but she knew that such power was dangerous.
Hold him by a shoulder, Buffy. You can do it. Have faith.
She reached out, watched her hand get engulfed by the milky brightness. She touched the vampires shoulder and felt a spark, but that was all. Dimly she was aware that she was glowing now, too. She firmed her grip and brought the stake up. Father Callahan looked down at her, and she thought that she could see the man behind the demon, the man Callahan once was, brought up from the depths for this moment, this absolution.
With Your forgiveness, Lord, my sins are cleansed.
The stake sank into his chest with the ease of a swimmer diving into warm water.
Instead of exploding, Callahans body dissolved neatly into dust, and was held in place by the fiery glow. Buffy looked down and saw the light flow out of Mark and out of her and into the dust, where it made a compressed sphere of alternating white and black colours. It started to hum, a toneless sound that raised every hair on Buffys body.
She ducked down and took Marks arm.
Weve got to get out of here now!
He nodded, and she dragged him away from the sphere, which was steadily growing larger. He pulled himself up with her help, and they hurried out of the room and down the stairs. As they reached the foyer, they both could feel a terrific urgency.
What is it doing? she asked him as they stepped out the front door.
He answered between short breaths. Its sucking the evil all the evil into itself. We uh dont want to be around when its done.
They ran as fast as they could down the Marsten House driveway.
* * *
The old-timer sat at the bar and waited. Someone would come, especially now. Every time the front door would open, hed turn his head to see who it was, but so far today, they were all locals, and they all knew the stories anyway. It was a shame how fast the news spread; how was a man supposed to get some free drinks with all this gossip going around?
The door swung open, letting in a hot blast of sunlight. The old-timer turned, squinted, and knew that this was his man. Tall, tidily dressed; hell, he looked stuffy, even from across the room. A college professor, maybe, or a lawyer from down Boston or Connecticut way. Up for a weeks vacation, but he doesnt want to be here. Ratherd be at the office, suing this guy or that, making some real money instead of spending it in tourist traps like Ogunquit or Bangor. He seemed to know what he was about, though, because the professor came right up to the old-timer and sat down beside him at the bar. The guy tending bar today, Billy Jay, asked him what he wanted, and he ordered get this a gin and tonic. God, if that wasnt a iron-rod-up-the-ass, stuffy drink, the old-timer didnt know what was. And what a surprise; the guy had a British accent. The professor didnt waste any time, though.
Excuse me, but are you from around here?
Would you happen to know what transpired, uh, several miles north of here last week?
The old-timer grinned. Ayuh, I would, but perhaps you havent noticed that my glass is sorta empty.
The professor blinked at him, then nodded. Oh. Yes, indeed. Bartender? A refill for this good gentleman.
The glass was filled. The old-timer took it, slugged back a couple of gulps, and smiled. That hit the spot. Well, it all started about five nights ago, when there was this huge explosion. Felt it all the way from here, shook the building and everything. Yep, my friend, Jimmy Dupree, he says that the Marsten House blew up like it had an H-bomb in the basement. That started the fire, and I think some houses are still burnin. Reminded a lot of folks round here about the fire in the Lot back twenty years ago. But you know, until this new fire, most people said the Lot had went bad.
Now, though its like the place was cleansed or something. Used to be, you didnt go down into the Lot after dark, but you dont get that feeling anymore. Nope, now its just another ghost town.
The professor leaned forward. Was there any mention of a young girl? Blonde, attractive, but
Tough-looking, maybe? Ayuh, I may have met that girl. I told her to steer clear of the Lot, though. She seemed like a nice girl. Im sure she didnt have nothin to do with what went on.
The professor smiled oddly, and downed his gin and tonic with one gulp. Im sure youre right.
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