Chapter Sixteen: Guest of Honor
Night was approaching from the west as Robert Berry heaved his large cumbersome frame through an emergency access hatch to the roof of the now besieged Subway restaurant in Effingham. Over the last several hours he and Jim Rivers had tried unsuccessfully to explain their current arraignments with no success to the survivors they'd met. He struggled to comprehend the idiocy of people. It was a fact that they refused to accept the very real existence of Vampires. Even as they dodged flesh hungry zombies these nut jobs still had to hold onto their delusions. Below the dead fought like ants on a crumb to gain access to the small restaurant. First Robert scratched his head then went about absent mindedly picking at the dirty dressing covering the wound on his throbbing arm. Of course he had to consider the source as most people in the restaurant voiced nothing but pure hatred for him. Attempting to save himself by tossing the mother of the town’s former high school football star and current Deputy Sheriff to a horde of rampaging zombies was apparently frowned upon. Once they were back barricaded in to cramped confines of the trendy deli shop. Ali Doubi the stout African shop owner unlocked the doors putting his wife and children at risk to protect the remaining townspeople. He huddled in the rear of the restaurant with his wife, adult daughter and teenage son. The Doubi family had been fixtures in Effingham for over twenty years and they owned the humble brick building which was currently keeping them all from being eaten alive by the living dead. Robert became public enemy number once again after Jim inadvertently mentioned the death of Deputy Somerset and Robert’s "accidental" role in said event. Ally Somerset the Deputies chestnut haired six year had been inconsolable by her mother Sherry. The child's wails drove the horde outside crazy with blood lust. They did what they could to sooth her but to no avail.
Robert sat on the building glancing at the stars breathing in the crisp air a simple pleasure compared to the stale air and unwashed bodies amassed on the ground. He mulled that word “alone” over. After all he had been through starting out by himself when the dead came to the Windy City. He found Val and she found him together they’d managed to survive. Now Things were so bad and as usual from his own making he damned near missed Trevor. "Aww God..." he mumbled softly the closest he could come to a prayer. He realized that if the moon rose and Trevor did not appear he was dead, Val was dead and so were they. “You know...." Coming from behind him a voice tinted with a slight hint of southern drawl. The wiry man from below continued "They all say I should shoot you once I gets up here." Tossing a Camel Cigarette between his lips with ease and extending the pack in Roberts’s direction. "No...Thank you…” Robert politely refused as Cleo lit up his smoke. The slender farm hand sporting a bald head, beet red skin along with an impressive double barrel shotgun this time extended his hand. "Cleo Miller and you are Robert.......um Berry I believe your friend said." Robert nodded and shook the man’s hand with his well worn paw after placing the pistol in his waistband. With a deep sigh "yes… that's me..." Cleo took a seat next to Robert "Robert Berry the consummate loser, wrong choice maker, and all around asshole at your service!" Cleo grinned and much to Robert’s chagrin revealed a set of nearly perfect full set of white teeth. "There go all my redneck teeth jokes..." thinks Robert to himself. “Waitin' on your friend I assume huh....the vampire that is" Cleo smirked. One thing Robert hated was being mocked. He had to admit it if it wasn't for their chance meeting and seeing it for himself. Even after the onslaught of the living dead Robert wouldn't have believed in vampires. "Yes and no my friend…” he bowed his head to his chin "Trevor...." "That's the vampire guy right!?" Cleo interjected holding up a finger. The fetid wails and growls wafting up to their ears from the zombies below "Yes, that's right." Robert continued just above a murmur "Trevor is the least of my concerns..." he was choking up he felt pain grip his heart. For he had no idea he came to care for Valerie Couts as much as he did, she was the only bright spot in an otherwise dead dismal world. "Val was with him when I saw her last after the coach crashed. If he is by some miracle alive then so....so is she, and that my friend is who I am truly waiting on." Cleo took a deep drag from his smoke cherishing the stale smoke before exhaling it the white chemical cloud danced about in the breeze before vanishing. "Hum … wow so you’re not some unfeeling heartless asshole like they all say?” Cleo paused for effect "or is that only when its some one you care for?" Coming into the lean man’s personal space bubble just above a whisper "You know what I did was right .... Those things bite you... you die... you come back and you kill others...." Robert scolded. Cleo shook his head before mashing out his cigarette butt "agreed one hundred and ten percent Mister Berry. However Susan Lane was anemic an here be the kicker....mauled by a horse two days ago at a rodeo in town, and your are indeed right bout Tim Somerset he was bitten by one of'em, but was a fuckin' hero yesss … sir and you why my friend....your a murder plain and simple." Robert threw his head back he was weak all over his body refused to obey any command his breath came in heaping gasps. Robert Berry began to dry heave as even his stomach revolted against him. Rolling to his hands knees mercifully Robert began to spew bile and vomit over the pebble tiled roof. "Jesus!" he cried out "My God..." choking back tears and thick strand of saliva laced vomit. Robert Berry curled himself into a ball as Cleo Miller climbed back down the hatch his damage done. Robert Berry realized as he lay shivering alone watching the sun finally release its hold on the sky. The darkness slowly enveloped the town as night fell. Trevor's words rang true they weren't that different at all except Trevor would do anything to ensure his species survival. As Robert would do anything to ensure his own. "I don’t know how in the name of God I can face him. Hell I can’t face any of them for that matter!?” He thought pushing up on all fours. The black of night at his back shrouds a gift wafting down from the Heavens.
"Arise dear Robert there's no need to kneel." Trevor's words echoed like bullets as he touched down with Val in tow. Drawing his wings gracefully back the young vampire intentionally went for the dig before Robert could offer one up. "Robert!" she yelled moving from Trevor's grasp throwing herself to the ground covering Robert‘s body with her own. "Val I....." the husky man stammered sitting up with Val in his embrace. "I thought I'd lost you guys!" Clearly Trevor was taken aback by the unintentional emotional out pouring. "Why Robert…” he began "It appears that you have missed me, or are you in such dire straits that even my appearance it better than whatever alternative you face?" Robert stands up without letting Valerie go in the process. “Fuck you Trevor!” Robert shouts defensively. Smiling the athletic young ancient creature sighed "Ahh that's better my friend much better." Trevor brushes away pieces of the demolished coach from his hair dismissively. Finally releasing the young woman from his bear hug "how did you guys survive?" inquired Robert. With glee Val starts to explain how they came to be locked in the lavatory of the wrecked coach. Val tucks a wayward tuft of hair behind her ear. “Trevor grabbed me pulling me into the restroom which was thankfully completely sealed from sunlight.” “Depends on who you asked” Robert thought to himself. “He braced himself against the door and kept the zombies out all day Robert!" She was blushing and the jealousy rose like acid in Roberts’s throat. "Alright we need to plot our next move my friends as it is down to us three again." Trevor spun walking to the edge of the small roof peering down at the unending tidal surge of deadly puppets beating at the structure. "How did you come to draw such attention to yourself you must have every one of those vile abominations with twenty miles stalking you." Trevor Clevantes stood momentarily mesmerized by the horde and their pack like behavior. The zombies in the rear tear at those ahead of them to get closer to their prey. This process was repeated over and over as the living dead whipped themselves into a frenzy bent on satisfying the only instinct they had left to feed on human tissue. "Well that's where you’re wrong leech." Robert was oozing sarcasm. "Not only are Jim and Li still alive those survivors the cop was talking about are all down there hold up all fourteen of them!" Trevor moved back from the ledge "really I thought the Deputy said there were fifteen survivors." "Well shit happens." The garbage man interjected clearly nervous "the bottom line is we now have our own little clan o' survivors we have to deal with.” Puzzled Trevor spoke in a little more than a hushed tone pulling his charges closer. “We must be very careful how we broach the subject of me being a vampire prince and all. For even in this day and age some of your kind might still find it tough to swallow. No pun intended of course." Robert motioned to the hatch "well you see I.....we already told them about you and Val." "How did they take it?" the vampire quizzed as he peered into the small rectangular opening. "They of course didn't believe us… me and Jim that is" at that moment the only thing that hid the blush rising in the man’s face and neck was his dark skin and the vacant black night. "Well there's a shock!" snorted Trevor "So then Robert you first that you may properly introduce us if you please." Robert strode over to the hatch internally infuriated that no matter what he tried the chalk white leech always made him feel as if he were his personal man servant.
As Robert shimmed his girth through the hatch dropping down into the restaurant it was harder to gather which was more pronounced. The constant clatter of the undead encircling the building went up in the air like music. Masses of putrid corpses seek but the smallest opening to exploit. Versus the other obvious factor constant clatter and noise made by the group. The huddled humans appear to show no desire to mask their presence from the dead. No thought of "Hey if we be quiet maybe a few hundred of them will wander away." They just sat resigned to wait for the end. Robert was nervous but he steadied himself now he could prove them wrong. Worse case scenario "fuck'em all" he knew Trevor would honor his word, and could at the very least carry him and Valerie. Together they would find a place that was devoid of festival seating for zombies. "Folks listen" a slight stammer "they're here. My friends I told you guys about." Almost in unison all heads turned away picking up where they'd left off in conversation. Rob wouldn't be denied his "I told you so" not even Jim and Li paid him any mind. Shouting down the conversation "You know fine fuck the lot of you! I realize I made a mistake...or several, but on the roof is someone who could help us get out of here!" He scolded the self absorbed group. Autumn Wilson moved though the crowd her uniform tattered and stained with blood. Having been raised as the only daughter of a Chicago police officer autumn is completely heterosexual. She unintentionally came off quite butch to most people. Well narrow minded me with small egos among other things. She wore no make up her jet black hair pulled tight in a no fuss ponytail which still held in spite of all she’d been through recently. Deputy Wilson who's Puerto Rican and black mixed race background gave her fair skin and high cheek bones could have been a model, accountant, banker or house wife, but written into every helix of her DNA was police officer. Toned and some what curvy Ms. Wilson had long since lost all semblance of what most people call tact. Parting the crowd she speaks "look you thick bald fuck you've got to have the biggest balls of anyone I've ever met! While we can't agree on much given our current state we all have unanimously voted to shoot your husky ass and chuck you the fuck over the side of the building here before we die!" Fuming autumn thought nothing of coming nose to nose with a man who stood several inches taller than her and out weighed her by a hundred or so pounds. "Play your nut job mind games elsewhere or I'll give Josh the okay to pop your asshole out like a shucked oyster!" Glancing over Robert’s beefy shoulder autumn went silent as did all the other occupants of the Subway. They watched dumbfounded as a petite blond clumsily makes her way down though the hatch. Val felt every eye on her as a pinch of modesty returned to her attempting to straighten her rumpled and dirty clothes Valerie placed herself at Roberts’s side. Listening in from above a treacherous shrewd Trevor Clevantes gathered information which he planned to utilize when the purpose suited him. He knew much of the human race as a young vampire he was forced to study them not just as food but how to manipulate their wills to suit his. For Trevor’s loyalty was to Robert and Valerie and to a lesser extent Jim and Li only. These pawns they had stumbled upon could prove themselves useful.
His father had once taught him the "Rule of Three" which simply put meant. "There were only three types of Humans in the world." Arthur Clevantes was powerful among men and godlike among vampires when he spoke it was hypnotic impossible not to listen to. He still heard his father‘s words echo in his mind. "The first is a Sheep who will almost instantly upon seeing a vampires true form fall to their knees and swear unto you their lives and the lives of all they hold dear. These humans are the most common, abundant and useful natural resource we vampires posses. They fear us, pray to become one of use, are attracted to us, and look to us for guidance.” His well spoken father never had to raise his voice his words carried a weight that would crush most men’s tongues. “Secondly my son is the Deer no matter what they see in front of them what their petty little eyes behold can not fathom nor digest that there is an immortal god in their midst. Once you reveal the truth to them they shut down becoming worthless and in some cases dangerous. You slaughter them the only reason they exist is sustenance for you.” Trevor nodded when he spoke those words that day long ago and today on the rooftop. He found himself nodding as if he was hearing the words for the first time. That day in his father‘s court he felt privileged. “Thirdly and last but not least is the Lion fierce and unyielding upon seeing your true form they hold onto the belief that they are not inferior to you but worthy of being you equal you can not break or bend them. With these select few you use your greatest strength your mind by bringing them in to your fold using them as overseers for your Sheep or you eviscerate them in plain sight as a show of power. Thus son you further indoctrinate your Sheep while winning over a few Deer in the process.” Trevor had lived a relatively long life in human terms and in all of his travels his father’s words never left him. Nor where they ever proven wrong the only anomaly was the human child easy to frighten hard to gauge and they always spoke the truth that only youth could see. Many a vampire had the chink in their armor exposed by the pure eyes of a child. From the crying infant who screeched whenever one was near. Right down to the “mommy there’s something different about that man” of an innocent little girl passing by him in the street. Trevor made himself ready for the show.