Things in the Dark Night
Catch up from Chapter 1 here.
It is easier to dislike those like you,
Than it is to see the truth,
You are much the same thing.
Before me stood the modern day vampire… a teenage girl with multi-colored hair, wearing torn jeans and a judgmental attitude.
“Morning folks…” she says as I open the front door.
“You are Mary’s babysitter?” I ask.
“Yep, that would be me.”
“She told us you showed her how to get to this floor?”
“And then she told us you are a vampire.”
“So, Hairy Cheeks, you got a problem with that?”
“Just trying to protect my daughter.”
“Got some time? Invite me in.”
“Not sure I want to do that.”
“Good grief!” She takes her index finger and pushes the door wide open. After casually walking in, she proclaims, “That threshold thing is so old school. Besides, I am your landlord, I own the whole floor.”
My wife Barbara enters the room. “What’s going on, Bill?”
“The babysitter wants to talk to us.”
“Mom and Dad…” she begins. My wife and I stare at each other in disbelief. Looks like another long night ahead. “Don’t you recognize me? I am your daughter Mary.”
Before I can speak, Barbara squints her eyes and then exclaims, “Oh my…”
“What do you see, Barb?”
Instead of answering me, she asks the young girl an odd question, “How old are you… Mary?”
“I am over nine hundred years old. After you guys died, a couple of hundred years from now, I just drifted back and forth in time. It adds up after a while.”
“How do you look so young?”
“Vampires don’t age, Mom.”
I finally get to speak, “So, you drink blood, then?”
“Gross Dad! I had forgotten how dense you can be. I live off life force. As long as I do not stay in one place for long, no one is in any real danger. Time travel really spreads it out, too.”
Barbara then asks, “So, is our little Mary a vampire?”
“No, not right now…”
“But it will happen?”
“Actually, that is why I am here. Mom… Dad, I love you lots, but you are horrible parents!” My wife and I gasp in shock. “You guys need to become more responsible. I grew up feeling like I needed to protect both of you all the time. It started slowly. When I was exhausted and needed a pick me up, I found I could just snitch a little energy from folks around me. Over time… well it became an addiction. I am here because I want Mary to grow up differently.”
We settled in the kitchen around the table and started the give and take.
“How did we die?” I ask.
My new teenage daughter stares at me in frustration. “I did not suck the life out of you. I have only done that a few times over the centuries… and believe me, the universe is better off for what I did. You guys died of old age in a world without magic.”
Barbara asks, “Too many skeptics in the future?”
“No. The opposite really. With the loss of faith in science, no one had any dreams of a better world anymore … and magic just died.”
“How did you come to own this floor? I mean, I am sure it did not even exist before our trip.”
“It didn’t. I built it on one of my trips back here.”
“You conjured it?”
“No! One good skeptic on a magic floor and the whole thing would collapse. Mom’s twinny is actually a formidable skeptic. I have to limit my exposure to her. I built this floor the old fashioned way when the building was being constructed.”
“So… you are fantastically wealthy?”
“I guess I could have been… but it was never necessary. I basically give people what they want and I get what I want.”
“You seduce people?”
She shakes her head. “You guys! It’s not like that! Technically, I am still a virgin, although there are a thousand or more souls that would swear that is not true. False memories are so great!”
“So, you delude people.”
“People delude themselves, I just give them a little nudge from time to time. They get what they want. They are happy. And I get what I want. The only downside is some of them become addicted to it and I have to leave them. The world got some great poetry out of it though.”
“Who all have you met?”
“I probably know most of the architects and artists of history. Scientists and mathematicians tend to be preoccupied. Politicians and generals tend to have unbearable egos. Bankers and other thieves are always too busy trying to steal everything.”
“What about the clergy? Do you ever visit Father Philippe?”
“Sure… but he’s now a great wizard. He really took to magic after you guys unlocked the door for him. Sort of fallen out with the church, though.”
“That’s a shame. He seemed a devout man.”
“Oh, he kept his religious beliefs. Can be interesting to talk to actually. He had too many followers… and well, you how that plays out. I asked him once why he didn’t just zap the lot and he told me that would take away their free will and he could not do that. Now he wanders the planet doing little things for those that can’t.”
“So, how did we duplicate ourselves?”
“It’s complicated. I talk to Aunty Bee… Aunt Barbara about it sometimes.”
“She knows you are a time traveling vampire?”
“She humors me. Apparently, when you travel in time, you set up little ripples that can alter the future, so the old saying ‘you can never go home’ is literally true. Should have seen the mess we came back to on the first try! Anyway, Aunty Bee says if we actually did it, we would come back in a parallel universe. I tell her that her multiverse theory is nonsense because the energy of the universe is doubled every second just to create all these extra universes. You wind up violating an energy balance in the cosmos big time. It makes more sense to me that the universe just rearranges itself when you travel back and forth. Think of it like a convention hall. You don’t need to build a new convention hall every week. You just reuse the floor space and rearrange the booths.”
“So, everything seems fairly much like we left it.”
“It’s taken years of work to get so close… back and forth… back and forth… It is amazing how much we take for granted with history! Do you know how many of your married ancestors hated each other and how many illegitimate children were added to the lineage? And male children? They are so prone to just dying!”
“Oh, Honey, we are sorry. How can we repay you?”
“I didn’t do it for you. You guys bumble your way through life and never really seem to pay the price. I did it for my Mary.”
“What I want from you guys is for you to grow up, but I don’t trust you to do it on your own, so I am here to help you out.”
“So,” I said, “You are going to raise us?”
My wife and I stare at each other in silence.
“Now, guys, the rent is due on the first.”
“But, we lost our jobs. Our alternates took them and we have no IDs and no work history.”
“Not a problem. Follow me.”
We follow teenage Mary to the door.
“Are we forgetting something?”
“Oh!” my wife exclaims and goes to little Mary’s bedroom to retrieve her. “Mary, we are going out with the babysitter, want to come along?”
We walk a few blocks to a curio shop in the local downtown. The place is called “Mary’s.”
As we enter, I ask, “I suppose you own this place?”
Little Mary is thrilled, “Wow! You have lots of sick stuff in here!”
I survey the shop and come to a different conclusion. “Who buys this stuff anyway?”
“Ordinary folks looking for a little magic in their lives.”
“So you want us to run this place?”
“Actually, I want Mom… Mary’s Mom to run this place. I have another job for you.” She hands me a broom. “Here, Fur Daddy, clean up the floor in here. And don’t shed while you’re doing it.”
Before I can protest, Barbara asks, “Where did you get all of these things? They look so authentic!”
Turning on my history background, I spot an unlikely object. “Is this really a Roman sword?”
“Yes, it’s a gladius, Furry One. And it’s not for sale. Got a whole story there.”
“Can you tell us?”
“Not today. Better when you are more prepared.” she explains with a sly smile.
“There seems a lot that we don’t know?”
“Nearly a thousand years worth!”