Vampire Games (Chapter Eleven)

As I fell, as the warm desert wind thundered over me, the winged creature in the flame rushed toward me, filling my thoughts.

I shuddered violently – but kept my eyes closed as I continued to plummet.

I was bigger now, I could feel it, but I hadn't yet fully transformed. I didn't dare open my eyes, knowing the closing of my eyes, the flame, the image…and faith were all part of this process.

I continued to fall, knowing my body was changing rapidly. Metamorphosing. I also knew that the speed of my metamorphosis was contingent on the circumstance. A shorter drop would result in a faster transformation.

Now, I could feel my arms growing, elongating, feel my body becoming something greater than it was before. Denser, heavier. My awareness of my own body expanded instinctively, exponentially.

I was no longer what I was.

No, I was something much, much bigger.

Much greater.

My wings snapped taut, catching the air, manipulating air, using the air, and now I wasn't so much falling as angling.

I opened my eyes.

Before me stretched the Vegas Strip, in all of its glittering, neon, sinful glory. I flapped my wings hard, instinctively, gaining altitude. Instinctively.

Keeping to the shadows in a city that never sleeps and never turns off was no easy task. And so I took it up another hundred feet or so, flapping my wings, catching hot drafts of sinful air. Yes, the wind was warm and dry and not very different from the air in southern California. That would change in a few months. In a few months, Las Vegas would go from temperate to nuclear.

Too hot for even the undead.

I flapped my wings casually, cruising above the glittering city. I circled once around the superheated laser beam emitting from the Luxor. I continued on, moving north over a cluster of world-famous hotels. The Bellagio with its intricate fountains, the Paris and its Eiffel Tower replica, the Mirage and its gardens, Treasure Island with its pirate ship.

And one flying monster. I wondered idly if the Excalibur needed a real-life dragon. It could supplement my income.

So far, people weren't pointing into the sky and scattering like frightened rabbits before a hawk's shadow. That was a good thing, I guess.

I caught a warm updraft and spread my wings wide and hovered high above the city of sin, staring down, using my supernaturally-enhanced vision to see not only the multitudes crowding the sidewalks, but their actual expressions. Most looked tired. Most looked drunk. There were many groups of young people, no doubt celebrating twenty-first birthdays. A handful of older types wore shorts and T-shirts and sandals. One woman was walking through the crowd bare-chested, high as kite, although not as high as this kite. People stopped and stared at her breasts, but for the most part, she was ignored.

Welcome to Vegas.

I saw young men handing out flyers to strip clubs. Most people tossed the flyers aside, which cluttered sidewalks and gutters, pushed along by the warm spring breeze.

I had seen enough of the lights, the gaudy hotels, the plaid tourist shorts, the filth, the degradation, the glitter – and beat my massive wings as hard as I could and shot up into the night sky. I continued flapping them, forcing the rapidly-cooling air down below me. I rose higher and higher, so high that Vegas itself was nothing more than a pinprick of light.

A bright pinprick of light, but a pinprick nonetheless.

Here, on the outer edges of the atmosphere, where little or no oxygen existed, I flapped idly, serenely, holding my position. My mind was mostly empty. Mostly. Images of Kingsley flitted through. Of my son with his growing strength. Of my daughter who seemed to understand that something very strange was happening in the Moon household.

I would have to tell her, too, I thought. Tell them both. Everything.

Up here, far above Earth, it was easy to forget that I was a mother, that I had responsibilities. Up here, high above the Earth, it was easy to forget who I was. Up here, drifting on jet-streams and updrafts, buoyed by winds unfelt and unknown by anything living, it was easy to forget I had once been human.

The wind was cold. But not so cold as to affect me in any way. I merely acknowledged the cold, like a scientist noting the cancerous effects of the latest sugar substitute in lab rats.

I spread my wings wide and rode the wind, rising and falling, listening to it thunder over my ears and flap the leathery membranes that were my wings. I did this for an unknowable amount of time, hovering high above the Earth, correcting my altitude ever-so-slightly with minute adjustments to my wings, turning my wrists this way and that, angling my arms this way and that.

This way and that, adjusting, correcting, hovering.

Later, I tucked my wings in and shot down, aiming for the bright speck of light, perhaps the brightest speck of light ever.

Las Vegas.