Chapter Two – Fateful Night
Kimmy grips her sword a little tighter waiting for Laila to, what? Move? Yell? Attack? What will happen now? She stares at Laila’s back and holds her breath.
Finally, Laila looks skyward and sighs. She slings her sword to the left and right before sheathing it with an additional flourish. Her shoulders slump and she sighs again. Kimmy watches intently as Laila flips her long hair back across her right shoulder and tucks it behind her ear. Kimmy finally takes another breath.
“That was interesting.” Laila turns around and walks toward Kimmy.
“Just an adviser, huh?” Kimmy asks.
“Well, it has been quite a while since I used a sword that much.”
“It is like riding a bike, apparently.”
“Sorry I couldn’t do more. But they realized you were the true threat.”
“No, you did more than enough. I saw right away I could focus on my fight and not have to worry. You have had a lot more training than these guys did. So they lost their natural advantage.”
The conversation screeches to a halt and Kimmy blushes. To cover her embarrassment over the mutual admiration society, she walks over and picks up one of the tablets.
“What do we have here, Professor?”
“Please, Colonel Roberts, call me Laila. I am not much for honorifics.”
“Okay, then please call me… Kimmy, I guess. So few people use my first name, and it’s really weird to hear myself say it.”
“Kimmy, then. Let me take a look at one of these.” Laila picks up a tablet.
She runs her fingers across the glyphs. “The language is vaguely Sumerian, but much older. I am sure humans did not write this!”
“You mean aliens?” Kimmy blurts out.
“No!” Laila rolls her eyes. “I mean demons did, you doofus.”
“Doofus? Is that one of those professional anthropological terms?”
Now it is Laila’s turn to blush. Kimmy didn’t know vampires could blush.
“I am sorry. It is a figure of speech I picked up from my students. Words and phrases catch my ear and find their way into my vocabulary.”
Kimmy stared at Laila’s pointed ear. It was perfectly shaped. There were tiny droplets of sweat on her neck where the hair was tucked behind that ear. Kimmy’s eyes widened as she realized where her thoughts were going. If this were one of the visual novels she enjoyed playing, she would be making a choice on how to proceed from this point. But no text appeared in the air and all thoughts of play dissolved when the memory of Laila’s fangs popped into her head. Kimmy couldn’t help but shudder a little.
Laila looked at Kimmy and then over toward the sunset. “It will be dark soon. The temperature is already dropping. We should pack up and get out of here. There is a sliver of moon, so I will have plenty of light. We can stop when we get too tired.”
“Sounds like a plan. You said it’s old, but what do all these chicken scratches say? My briefing from General Hammond was short on details other than physical description.” Kimmy picks up one of the tablets. It is heavy so she sits on the ground to inspect it.
“It will take some time to decipher two of them. The third is easily recognizable as a poem about Lamashtu and Pazuzu.” Laila sits down beside Kimmy. She reaches over and runs her fingers across the hieroglyphics.
“Whoa, as in Lamashtu, the first vampire, Lamashtu?” Kimmy asks wide-eyed.
Laila pulls her hand back and straightens up. “That is correct. Another boring poem about their boring doomed love. Shakespeare told it much better.”
“Shakespeare also told it thousands of years later. Language skills were more developed. Plus he didn’t have to carve his plays into stone.”
“Whether the story is Pyramus and Thisbe, Romeo and Juliet, or Lamashtu and Pazuzu, I do not enjoy these tales of doomed love. How is that possibly romantic?”
“C’mon, Laila.” Kimmy says as she taps Laila on the arm. “You’re immortal. That must skew your perspective on relationships.”
Laila turns and glares into Kimmy’s eyes, “You are a gamer, yes?”
“Y-yeah.” Kimmy is stunned, prey caught by the gaze of a predator, “Wh-when I have time.”
“There are no immortal objects in this game. The universe itself is finite. I can and will be killed eventually. Every day that I beat the odds, the odds stack higher against me. And you have no clue how high that stack is right now.”
This is not at all what Kimmy expected to hear and it breaks the spell. She blinks twice and looks down. “I know. I’m not a doofus, in spite of what you might think, Professor. I actually learned a poem once, in boot camp: ‘Pierce the heart / remove the head / done and dusted / vampire’s dead.’ See? I know stuff.”
Kimmy turns her head back toward Laila and meets her stare. This bold move would have been much more effective if Kimmy hadn’t then swallowed nervously and rather loudly.
At that Laila flips her hair back over her right shoulder , tilts her head back, and laughs. “Ha ha! Okay, Roberts, I think the adrenaline has finally worn off. We’ve lost our forward momentum and can camp here tonight.”
Kimmy stood up, brushed the sand from her shorts, and looked back at Laila, “I said you can call me ‘Kimmy”.
“I will try. But that is a child’s name and you are a full grown woman.” Laila put a noticeable emphasis on that last word.
While Kimmy goes to retrieve their camels, Laila uses her sword to poke through the remains of the vampire soldiers. Their bodies have turned completely to dust now. She finds no identifying mark or insignia other than the one with captain’s bars. No dog tags. No wallets. Only the plain uniforms and generic Army-Navy store supplies they were carrying are left. Plus the three tablets – the same tablets that she and Kimmy had come to Eridu to find. These are deep black market items which reduces the number of collectors that would have the resources to go after them. This wasn’t a top-secret mission, but it was kept to a short need-to-know list. Someone had talked.
Kimmy returns and they begin unpacking the camping gear. The small tent is quickly assembled. Laila throws the two sleeping bags to Kimmy and then brings over the food and water. She then packs one of the tablets in a saddle-bag.
Kimmy stops her. “Whoa. You’re not leaving those outside the tent. We went to a lot of trouble to get them.”
Laila tilts her head and looks down at Kimmy, “There is not a human or vampire within five kilometers. And I will know if there is. The tent will already be…” she turns her head side to side as if actually looking for the word, “cozy, with both of us in it. I do not want a these stones in there as well.”
Kimmy smiles while handing her a tablet to pack away. “Okay. You did most of the work to get them so I’ll trust you to hang onto them.”
Laila stops and takes a breath. Then opens another saddlebag. “Those soldiers… they were Ceiba’s men, were they not?”
Kimmy loses her smile. “How do you know that?”
“I’ve been to Mexico City, Roberts. Um, Kimmy. And I know what Ceiba’s magic feels like. It is powerful and sticks to their clothes as much as the exhaust fumes. You do not become the master vampire of an entire hemisphere, much less hold onto it for thousands of years, by being discreet. They reek of Ceiba on purpose.”
Kimmy thinks a moment before replying, “Yeah, well. That is not surprising. Ceiba is a huge collector of all things magic. You say he’s the master vampire of the Western Hemisphere, but vampires are only about ten percent of the population. Although he has firm control of the Mexican government, he never leaves the underground ruins of Tenochtitlan. I still find it hard to believe that the U.S. government lets him have so much power right on their border but I’m not big picture gal.”
“Well, I have been avoiding any and all contact with him for quite a long time.”
“That’s surprising. You don’t seem like the avoiding type. Wait, you live in Atlanta. Are you saying he is your Master? How does that even work?”
“NO! He is not. And it does not work like that. I mean, it does, but not for me. I am… um, well, I have no master. That is already far more vampire secrets than you should know!”
Kimmy tries to process this information, but it only becomes the beginning of a headache. She decides she’s had enough work for one day. They finish packing the tablets and Kimmy walks over to her camel to take out her “personal items kit” as she calls it.
“Hey, Laila, I’m curious. Just what is ‘a long time’ to a vampire?”
“In this case? A long time to you, not to me. I last saw Ceiba on May 10th, 1510. It was in Tenochtitlan, the day it rained blood in the Templo Mayor.” She finished closing up the saddlebags on her camel. “I was with Cortes as an adviser… an emissary of Charles V. It did not end well, as you can guess.”
“Holy cats! That’s not a long time to you? No wonder you are a professor of Ancient Cultures! How many have you actually seen?”
It’s almost completely dark by now. Kimmy can barely see Laila but she can definitely hear her stomping toward the tent.
“Wait, Laila!” Kimmy chases after her. “I wasn’t implying that you were old. Not, like, OLD old.”
“Shut up.” Laila had stopped at the opening to the tent with her back to Kimmy.
“I’m not getting in that little tent with an angry vampire.” Kimmy walks up to Laila who is still facing away.
“Shut up” is Laila’s quiet reply.
“And, hey, you called me ‘lard-ass!”
“Please shut up.” Laila says even more softly and turns to face Kimmy.
Kimmy starts to say, something, but she has already forgotten what it was because she is being softly kissed on the lips. It quickly ends and Laila rubs her cheek against Kimmy’s while whispering into in her ear, “Your ass is perfect”.
Laila puts her arms around Kimmy, sliding one hand down to the small of her back. The other hand slides down even father and both pull Kimmy into Laila. This kiss is not quick, but begins just as softly.
Kimmy drops the kit she was still holding and both are surprised by the sound. The kiss ends but neither loosens their grip on the other.
“Tent? Now?” Laila whispers.
“Oh, hell yes.” Kimmy replies.
They dive into the tent and start undressing each other. Fully unzipped sleeping bags are lying on the ground as both bed and blankets. The kissing restarts while they are still standing and continues as they lay down.
As Laila nibbles on her earlobe Kimmy is glad she is already mostly lying down. She can feel her knees weaken. But then Laila ran her tongue down Kimmy’s neck and Kimmy immediately tensed.
“No biting, okay?” she whispered.
“I promise.” Laila replied. Then her tongue began exploring parts of Kimmy’s body below the neck.