Monday, February 18, 2013

Chekhov's Vampire (Act 3 Scene 2)

I sleep lightly, but awaken with a start all the same. Checking my watch tells me it is seven in the morning now. Nothing has changed as far as I can tell, which leads me to enact phase two of my plan: destroy the computer servers. Calmly, I drink some coffee, get some oatmeal from the pantry and begin making it in the pot on the hot plate. Once I have eaten all the oatmeal i want and drunk a few cups of cold coffee, I gather the pot, pan, two chair legs, my knife, and the EE, carrying them all into the computer server room.
At first I am systematic in my destruction. There are twelve servers in the room, six on each wall, proceeding to the first serve across the room by the original door I entered through, I use the little screw driver tool on my pocket knife to open the casing and pull out all the hard drives with my bare hands. I continue thus for the next four servers, before I start to get a little angry. I doubt Butch would let his prisoners near the computer servers if they were absolutely essential to his set up, but the fact that he seems to be completely ignoring my activities irks me.
At the sixth server, I take the pot and pan and begin smashing the crap out of the thing. It is not terribly effective, the pot and pan dent the casing and server rack, but do not damage the hard drives, as little bits of residual oatmeal go flying out of my pot. After a while I turn my wrath on the already destroyed server hard drives, and pulverize a couple before getting a grip on myself and returning to the more effective method. By noon I have finished my work. I stand in the doorway back to the kitchenette and survey the damage with a twinge of pride. Bits of hard drive and wiring lay scattered throughout the room like toilet paper that's been attacked by a kitten. Returning to the kitchenette with everything of value, I acquire a few sharp metal bits from the server destruction which I plan to embed in the wooden chair legs somehow to make them a more effective weapon. Removing the canned goods, I allow the door on the server room to swing shut. The door stays closed once it is closed and I open the remaining door off the kitchenette.
I am shocked at what I find there. It is a bedroom and tiny bath room about the same in dimensions as the server room and pantry, but what shocks me is the number of beds, two bunk beds are pressed against the wall. The suite of rooms I am in is designed for four people. I should have realized it earlier, after all everything in the kitchen is designed for four people, but the thought of Butch intending to kidnap whole families and keep them down here disturbs me. He could have been doing it for years already; I have never seen even this far inside his bunker, who’s to say what else is down here.
I utilize the toilet tucked away in the corner of the room before returning to the central room. I do not bother propping the door open with cans, the next phase of my plan is to see if Butch will move me from the suite I am currently in if given a chance. Eating some canned stew and drinking the rest of the coffee, I harvest some supplies from the pantry. I am not convinced that Butch has a good reason to keep me alive for a prolonged period of time, so I plan to take a small amount of food wherever I go in the compound. Tying off the sleeves in my jacket, I am able to store several cans of soup, along with a spoon. A couple of bottles of water from the pantry, the can opener, and my various weapons go into the torso of my jacket allowing me to pick it all up and carry it in one hand, my other hand has a broken chair leg, just in case.
Unblocking the pantry door I allow it to swing shut behind me. I investigate the shelves at the opposite side of the room where I expect another door is hidden. The shelves are not as deep here as they are along the walls, I run my fingers along them looking for a joint or a hinge. I do not find anything, the wood grain seems solid and continuous, but I grasp s shelf and give it a good yank anyway. It advances towards me straight out from the wall about three feet away from its original position the shelve slides to my left, revealing a long, collapsible, metal pivot hidden behind the shelf at the top. A few cans fall off from the abrupt movement, and I slide behind the shelf and push open the door it reveals.
This leads me into another sleeping chamber, identical to the one in the suite of rooms I just left. As the door closes, I note how seamlessly it blends into the concrete wall and stare around at the other walls suspiciously, they could all be hiding secret doors for all I know. I move through the room into the kitchenette and try the door to the left. It is another computer server room, great I think, no wonder he does not care if I break them, but I set to work anyway.
I am more careful in my disassemble this time. The servers all have blinking lights and wires and things, I think they are working doing something, although for all I know they are dummies set here to distract people like me. I also examine the walls much more carefully. The metal casings are about the size of a door, and based on my estimation, another small square room should fit between this server and the one in my previous suite of rooms. Perhaps, Butch has little hidey holes no one else can access and that is how he moves around. Of course, such rooms would not be connected, they would be enclosed by the server rooms on two sides, the kitchenette, and the original room with the table, so it eliminates that possibility a bit.
My destruction of these servers yields no new information about the walls of the room, as far as I can tell there are no doors leading off of the room, besides the two visible ones. I try the door I did not enter through and to my surprise, it opens. The room is exactly like the first room of the complex. Four wooden doors in a cement room with a large, wooden table and chairs at the center. This room has a full complement of chairs which means it is diffidently not the first room. This comforts me as I realize my sense of direction in this place is screwed up enough that a gentle slop to every room could have put me back in the first room without my knowledge. I wonder if Butch has thought of that, I bet he has, I bet this whole place is designed in symmetrical patterns to make it impossible to tell how far from the entrance you are.
With a sigh I sit at the table, open a can of soup, and begin eating. I thought it was a can of soup, actually it's just green beans, a little disappointed, I eat them anyway. About halfway through my green beans, the door across the table from me opens. There is no sound to accompany the opening and noticeable change in air or light pattern, my hand tightens on my chair leg weapon. A middle age man stands across from me, wearily frozen in the doorway, on the precipice of action, whether that action is rushing me or running away I am unsure.
"Hello," I say, "Want some green beans." I stick the can out in front of me, prepared to dash it in his face if the action leans towards rush.
"No thanks, I just ate some soup." he replies, motioning behind him. I glance past him, another server room, another suite of living quarters most likely.
"I don't suppose you destroyed the computers in their did you?" I ask.
"No," he laughs, "Why would I? There must be a thousand of them down here."
I raise my eyebrows in surprise at him, "Really a thousand?"
He seems surprised at my interest, "Well no, not a thousand, but a lot anyway."
"Well, I would like to destroy them, so if you don't mind, prop the door open before you sit down." I motion to one of the chairs across the table from me.
After a pause, he nods, pulls a five inch knife from his belt near the small of his back, and jams it under the door he is holding open. I take my hand off my chair leg and resume eating, watching the man as he sits down across from me at the table.
"I'm Laura."
"Alex." He does not extend a hand or make any friendly jester towards me.
"How long have you been here, Alex?" I ask still studying him, he looks more than a bit disheveled and insane, the sort of person you would avoid walking next to on a street corner.
"I don't know, maybe a week, maybe a month. It's hard to tell time down here. What about you?"
"I look at my watch, about sixteen hours." I answer.
"Wish I had a watch," Alex says, not moving his eyes from my wrist, the glint in his eyes is makes me reconsider trusting him, even the tiniest bit. "Not that it matters much anymore, time. No place to be."
"Oh I don't know," I answer, "Seems useful enough down here, can't tell time by the sun anyway."
Alex shakes his head vehemently, "I don't mean that, I mean the end of the world. It ended, that's why I came here, it was supposed to be a safe haven."
"Ah," another piece in the puzzle falls into place for me, "well, it hadn't ended sixteen hours ago."
This statement agitates Alex, he shifts in his chair and a dangerous glint appears in his eye, "No it ended. The date was right and the signs were all there."
"Did other people come here with you? When the world ended?" I ask, both trying to shift the conversation and because I want to know if there are other people.
Eyeballing me in an unfriendly, skeptical manner, Alex answers the questions anyway, "Yeah, there were four of us, but we got separated pretty early on. Actually, I got separated first so I don't know if the others are together or not. There was another woman too, a couple of days ago. I got separated from her too, the doors you know." He motions to the one stuck open behind him, an inflection in his voice and a twitch in his face forces me to believe he is lying, about the woman anyway. I can think up a number of reasons why he might lie, but as I have already decided not to trust him too far, it does not change my situation drastically.
"You're the first person I have seen down here this time, although Butch spoke through some sound system once." I repay his information with what little I have.
"Who's Butch?" He looks genuinely confused at the name, which surprises me.
I frown at him, "The guy that owns the place."
"No, it's owned by a group not one guy. The Survival Association." Alex replies in a very earnest fashion, "I am a member, you can join on the internet." He fumbles about his pockets for a wallet and pulls out a black and white business card and swings it around, tapping a line, "That's the website. They've owned this place for a hundred years, kept it up to date and stocked for survival needs."
"No, it's defiantly owned by Butch." I say firmly, I have no intention of bending on this one.
"How can one man own a place for a hundred years?" Alex shoots back.
I study him for a minute. Within a few seconds of meeting him I concluded I could take him in a physical altercation, but I would rather not have to. Assessing his mental state as insane enough to believe the truth, but not quite ready to snap yet, I just go with the truth.
"He's a vampire." I say with an unconscious shrug.
"Oh." Alex's hand drifts up to the side of his neck. I notice tiny puncture marks on his throat, great I think.
"That's it? I was expecting more of a reaction from a bomb like that." I say, shock at his lack of shock slipping into my voice.
Alex shifts uncomfortably again and licks his lips, "I think I saw him." I perk up at this statement, "A couple of nights ago, when that other woman was still around. At night, I was having the worst dream, but I heard someone moving in the room and woke up, I thought it was her. There was this guy though, he looked sick, anyway, I thought it was part of the dream at the time."
I nod, even a recently feed vampire never really looks healthy, "That sounds about right. Do you know where he came from?"
Alex shakes his head, "he was just there." A threatened look comes back into his eyes. "Have you seen him before?"
"Yeah." I figure Alex is a dangerous enough traveling companion that lying to him will not help me much, any excuse, this man just needs any excuse. "The company I work for, they hunt the paranormal, the threatening kind. Anyway, Butch does not like other vampires and he would give us information on them for a price. He had given us information and I was bringing back his reward, research material, vampire tissue."
An angry revolted look creeps onto Alex's face, "You should have been hunting him."
"So it seems. We didn't know about this." I wave around the room, "We thought he lived off pig's blood. That he was essentially harmless."
He snorts at this as his sole response.
"Tell me about the Survival Association." I ask, having finished my green beans I stand up, "And help me take apart these," I point to the computer racks behind him, "and I will tell you about vampires."
Half turning in his chair, Alex glances behind him, "Fine, you start."
I shrug and proceed over to the computers, pulling out my pocket knife, Alex follows and stands at an uncomfortable angle behind me, just out of my peripheral vision, but impinging on my personal space enough that I can sense he is still there.
Unscrewing the first casing I begin, a few sentences in, Alex stops me with a question.
"Why can't they go out into the sun then?"
"I don't know exactly," I answer, "As far as I know, all physiological processes have shut down, this includes melonine production in the skin, tissue repair for when the skin gets damaged, and DNA repair for when the UV light in the sun damages skin cells. In other words, sunlight normally damages your body, but you can repair it, once you're dead you can't repair the damage anymore. I don't think it would be a spectacular death, but the burns would cause considerable pain over time and a vampire would probably develop skin cancer pretty quickly."
"Huh." Alex grunts, "If they drink blood do they need to eat food?"
"No," I answer, "as far as I know they actually can't eat food. Not really anyway, the stomach doesn't work and won't digest it. Even if a vampire eats food, they won't gain any nourishment from it and I think it can cause problems, but I don't know."
            I have the casing off and turn to him, at this distance, my eyes confirm what I had previously expected. Butch has turned this one, he has the sickly appearance of a newly made vampire like he is just getting over a bad case of the flu.
"Pull those out and break them." I say, jabbing a finger at the hard drives.
"Why? What's the point? There are a ton of these." His tone both exasperated and accusatory.
"There hard to replace." I answer, "Especially for one guy, it lets me know I have already been here, how many rooms there are total."
Alex ponders this for a second than pulls the first hard drive and smashes it on the floor.
"If he can't repair anything, how did this guy live so long?" Alex questions.
"I don't know. I don't really know too much about how vampirism works. Honestly, Butch is the world expert on it, which is why we came to him for information."
"So why did he build all this crap?" Alex yells over a smashing hard drive.
"He's too weak to face us in a physical fight. We're trapped here, but it's also intended to wear us down physically and mentally. It's hard to keep constant sleeping and eating cycles when the lights are always on and you have no sense of time. Which reminds me, have you seen any vents in here?" I finish trying to redirect the conversation.
"Vents?" Alex frowns, "No I suppose I haven't, no cameras or microphones or anything either, but they must be here somewhere."
"Yeah," I respond, "The vents bother me most though. The air must be being exchanged somehow. So about the Survival Association."
Alex launches into a narrative of the association with a manic glint in his eyes. I am able to keep ahead of him in removing the casings from the server racks, which makes me more relaxed as I am not constantly dealing with his invasion of my personal space. The Survival Association is run mostly through the internet and sounds like the perfect human farming ground for Butch. Alex and the others that came here with him are all adults, who left of their own free will. It will be months before they're reported missing and if anyone comes here investigating, I am sure Butch will make the place look like an abandoned farm. Yet another iteration of internet scams.
After unscrewing the last casing I return to the table room and smash two chairs before helping Alex with the last of the servers. He gives me a look, but does not ask about the chairs. The first table room I was in was down one chair, now this one is down two, if Butch is really trying to mess with me I doubt he will let the system stand, but I will attempt it anyway. I try the door at the other end of the server room which leads to the kitchenette, but it won't open.
"I just came through that one," Alex says as he finishes off the last hard drive. "He never lets you back into a room you've been through."
"If you say so. I came through that door," I point to the one to the left, "and that one leads back to the front," I indicate the door across from us, "So let's try this one on the right." I pull the door and it swings inward revealing another room lined with computers.
"Are we going to smash these too?" Alex sighs.
"Yeah, but I could use some coffee first, close the door."
Once Alex lets the door into the table room swing shut the door to the kitchenette releases and I nearly fall into the room. "Want to prop this one?" I motion to the door and Alex stabs his knife between the door bottom and the floor. There are bare millimeters between them and I am a little surprised the technique works.
I go into the pantry and find coffee, pull out the drip maker and get started. Noticing that every kitchenette I enter appears to have never been entered before, and I wonder at the reasoning behind including a coffee maker in every living suite. As the pot is brewing, I take the dish towel, identical to the dish towel in my first kitchenette and begin shredding it into individual threads, or as near as I can achieve with my pocket knife.
"What's that for?" Alex asks bearing down over my shoulder.
"I'm going to look for air currents." I answer, tying one of the strings off to the tip of a butter knife. I have no idea if this will work, but there have for be vents somewhere and I intend to find them somehow.
Beginning at the top of the room by the pantry door, I travel around the room sipping coffee and holding my little string. It never stirs in a breeze or moves aside from when my hand moves it. Alex watches me intently and I can feel him rolling his eyes at my back. After a while, he drops down into a corner of the room and passes out. Vampires do not need sleep, but I am not sure he knows he is a vampire yet, and he is still in the habit of sleeping. Or he is trying to put me at ease.
After the top of the room I move onto the floor, crawling on my hands and knees. Next to the kitchenette counter I hold my breath. The string deflects from its straight hang by just a hairs breadth, but I can see it. I investigate the bottom of the counter and frown at the barest joint. Running my finger over it, I feel just a hint of air rushing out from underneath. Suddenly, the joint is gone, and the whole counter rises out of the floor on hinges. I sit back on my heels and look up at an automatic rifle aimed at my face by a demented and deathly Butch.
The gun flicks out of my face, "Drop the knife." Butch croaks at Alex, who is standing with the door to the server room closed behind him his blade in hand. I am unsure which of them I am more shocked at, that Butch would decide to show himself, or that Alex was apparently sneaking up to try and murder me.
"Hello, Butch." I say casually.
"Hi," Butch mutters, "I'm surprised you two haven't killed each other already."
"I suppose that's why you put us together." I guess, it seems a little obvious now, "so we could fight it out. Make it easier on you."
Butch twitches his eye onto me, but not the gun, "Something like that. You're both rule breakers, not doing what you're supposed to."
Alex bursts into maniacal laughter at that and we both glance nervously at him.
"A choice between evil," Butch mumbles. I lunge at him before he can switch his attention back onto me. Getting a hand on the gun I push it up and away from myself, while tackling Butch down into the stairwell he came out of. We fall half a story and contact the concrete floor. Pain shoots through my left shoulder, but the brunt of my fall is broken on Butch's body. I roll off to my feet half a body length away and aim the gun at him. Pulling the trigger, nothing happens, it's not loaded.
I switch my grip on the gun so I am grasping the barrel in both hands. Alex flies down the stairs faster than I expected him to be capable of his knife brandished before him, a feral snarl across his face. Smashing the butt of the gun across his face, I attempt to dance away from his stab and do not succeed. The blade cuts my flesh, raking along the right side of my rib cage. The cut does not feel life threatening and I am imbued with adrenaline and the knowledge that my body will recover, his won't.
I smash the gun into the back of his head as his momentum carries him past me. Alex stumbles and falls to the floor, to be sure, I jam the butt of the gun strait down onto his skull. His vampiric change is still early and it does not have the same satisfying crunch as it would on a long time dead one, but I feel confident he won't get up and stab me in the back.
Pivoting, I see Butch regaining his feet. The fall damaged him even more than I expected, his left arm hangs limp and broken and he has wrapped his right arm around his ribs, grimacing in pain. I advance on him and he just stares directly into my eyes. Using the butt of the gun I clobber him once in the head, he drops like a sack of potatoes and stays unmoving. Retreating from the corpses a few paces, I watch them to be sure they stay down. Checking the gun I see that it is loaded, but the safety was still on.
"Anticlimactic," I proclaim aloud, dropping the gun. Not that it was ever going to be a fair fight; I have no idea why Butch came out to face me. The sound of my voice and the gun bouncing on the floor echo in the room and I study my new surroundings. The room is a massive concrete monstrosity. I expect I am roughly in the middle and cannot see any of the walls from where I stand. Columns and stairs branch up at regular intervals to support the weight of the rooms and earth above.
A little ways off sits a computer command center and I walk over to it. I judge it to be below the first table room of the upstairs complex, a single chair sits before a bank of computers. Behind the computers, the vampire corpse I had brought is flayed out on a table. I drop my eyes from it and focus on the screens before me. Several show camera views of at least four people and one brutally murdered woman. Moving through the screens I finally find an internet connection and log into the ITG network.
"Hey Amy," I type into a new chat with her, "I have some bad news and I'm going to need some help."

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