Void City 02 - Revamped Online - J. F. Lewis

1

ERIC:

WELCOME BACK TO THE VOID

If you’ve never been blown up before, I can’t recommend it. I suggest it even less if the perpetrators are using blessed shaped charges of C-4. Being atomized by that kind of firepower would have ended most vampires, but I’m not that lucky. I’m special.

In ice cream terms, vampires come in three flavors: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. I’m grape sherbet—hard to come by and much more likely to give you brain freeze. Technically there’s one more type of vampire, Drones, but they’re barely even immortal—the vampire equivalent of ice milk—and they certainly wouldn’t have survived what happened to me.

My name is Eric Courtney and up until several minutes ago, I was a vampire. Now…? Let’s just say I’m working on it.

The only good thing about being explosively deconstructed was that the sensation was new and different, two essential requirements for keeping an immortal from getting too bored. Being blown up by my best friend, having my body destroyed, and seeing my strip club obliterated weren’t what I would have chosen to shake things up, but I’ve learned to roll with the punches, even the sucker ones.

For the first few seconds I actually thought I might be really most sincerely dead. Ended. Gone for good. I hovered over the still blazing ruin of my strip club, a glowing blue specter wearing jeans and a Welcome to the Void T-shirt; unseen, unheard, and utterly unamused. The neon sign flared impressively before melting into slag. Shards of glass covered the street between the Demon Heart and the old Pollux Theater, where the Casablanca poster in the display began to wither under the intense heat, browning at the edges as it curled. I owned both buildings, having bought them inexpensively after, of all things, a fire.

Security alarms from the buildings on the block adjoining mine rang out into the night. I ran a hand over my spectral face.

How do I get my body back?

That was the first question. I’d been reduced to ashes before, but Talbot (my…bouncer) or one of my other employees had always been around to pour blood on my remains. Vampires run on blood, so blood plus vampire ashes meant poof—instant vampire, kind of like the instant Martians in those old Looney Tunes animated shorts. I had no idea how Talbot and the gang could bring me back this time, though. No ashes.

Being a ghost wasn’t all bad, at least. As a ghost, my thoughts were clearer than they’d ever been, and the hunger for blood, that ever-present inner dark that had driven me to do most of the questionable things I’d done in my unlife, was gone. It was as if, for once, my brain worked like everybody else’s; no memories seemed to hover just out of reach. Even my attitude had shifted. I’m an angry guy, but searching my feelings, I found my anger replaced by pain and more grief than I’d ever felt before, a sense of endless loss.

The world of the living was a faded watercolor painting seen through my noncorporeal eyes, blurry and surreal. Most of the Demon Heart’s side of the street burned, flames devouring the place hungrily.

Firefighters and police showed up in time to save the Pollux. Distorted figures in half-recognized uniforms sprayed water on the ancient movie palace. It bothered me that I couldn’t smell the smoke or feel the heat of the fire. Even with all the hustle and bustle, the heartbeats of the humans responding to the emergency did not echo in my ears. Instead, their voices were muted and far away.

I stared at the fire engine. They had parked it in the middle of the street, right over the spot where my former best friend Roger had been eaten by werewolves. I saw a flash of him in my mind’s eye, reduced to a skeleton, still screaming as the OrchardLake pack consumed him in his entirety. I felt a pang of guilt for siccing them on Roger, even though he’d betrayed me, but it was a brief pang. Intellectually, I knew he hadn’t really been my friend.

For the last forty years Roger had plotted my downfall, but with my memory functioning properly, it was hard not to hear his screams echoing through my brain. Worse, though, were the memories of Marilyn, watching as the explosion ripped through her, seeing her die…Her death had been Roger’s parting birthday present to me. What a pal.

At least Tabitha hadn’t been at the club when it had happened. If there’s a