Chuck’s challenge this week: the Random Title Challenge. Always fun when it rolls around.
This challenge finds me just back from vacation at the beach, and it was a little hard to shake that from my mind, so rather than fight it, I used the image that stuck in my mind when I drew my title as the central gag in the story. Maybe it works.
The Unholy Sands
“I’m just not sure I see the need.”
Larry didn’t even hesitate, but launched into the next tier of his pitch. “See, that’s the thing. You don’t see the need, nobody sees the need. Your average vampire can overmatch a human without breaking a sweat, let alone a fine specimen such as yourself. Which is why this is the perfect weapon.” He pushed the bullet-sized glass vial into the vampire’s hand.
The vampire stared at the vial as if it were full of elk piss. “What does it do, exactly?”
“Good question. Fair question. So. The humans, right? Sure, some of them are accepting of your kind, some of them will even offer you a little of their blood if they’re really friendly. I know a few people like that, and I’m sure you do, too. I’ve even shared a bit of my own from time to time.” It was a lie, but not the biggest one he had in his bag.
Despite himself, the vampire found himself nodding along with Larry.
“But those are the good ones. Now, I don’t need to tell you that there are more than a handful of humans out there who would just as soon stake somebody like you as look at you, am I right? And these people,” he let his mouth curl around the word for disdain, and inwardly ticked a box on his mental list as he saw the vampire’s lips curl up likewise, “they have basements full of every tool they can possibly use in the fight against your kind. Closets full of wooden stakes. An armoire full of crosses. Boxes and boxes of silver bullets. I heard about a guy who became ordained on the internet so that he could bless all the water that came into the house, right there at the water main. Can you imagine? Invited a vampire over, had his wife spill some barbecue sauce on the guy’s face, offered to let him wash up, and blammo. Undead soup all over the bathroom floor.” It was a story spruced up from the truth through a hundred retellings, and it had the desired effect.
The vampire couldn’t help himself. “Ugh.”
“You’re damned right, ugh. Now, I could show you an arsenal of anti-human weaponry, and trust me, I’ve got some things in here that would make your cold heart skip a few beats.” Larry patted his sharkskin wheeled travel bag for emphasis, disguising the subtle click from within. “But there’s no need, because that right there, in your hand, is the crown jewel. May I?” He held out his hand to the vampire, watching for the sign of hesitation that would tell him the vampire was interested. It was tough to spot with vampires, but there it was, a flicker of doubt as he pressed the vial back into Larry’s hand. “Notice how it refracts the light from even the most meager of sources.” Larry held the vial aloft against the backdrop of the vampire’s moth-dingy porch light, and stepped back for full effect.
The shadow that Larry cast onto the front lawn stretched and expanded as you might expect from a solitary light source, but swirling around his shadow’s hand — the hand holding the vial — was an aura of swirling, contorting, faintly whispering blackness, blacker than the night or Larry’s shadow or the insides of the vampire’s eyelids. A hushed storm raging in the air about his hand.
The vampire blinked in shock, glancing from Larry’s hand, which grasped a seemingly harmless glass vial, to Larry’s shadow, which seemed to hold a pulsating orb of living darkness. “What is it?”
“Humans have their holy water,” Larry said. “Vamps have the Unholy Sands of Kelep’Met.” Larry held his breath for a moment. His last sale had been thwarted when his target had turned out to be something of an enthusiast in Egyptian lore, pointing out that Larry had mispronounced the word. He’d been lucky to escape with his life. This vampire, however, possessed no such knowledge, and simply gaped in accepting wonder.
Larry pressed on, edging closer to the vampire, though every instinct in him told him to keep his distance. Vamps might have been in the open, and most thought (rightly) that they had nothing to fear from humans, so they didn’t bother hurting people. But that didn’t mean you could trust them, and the illusion wouldn’t last long. “Far back, before recorded histories, before the dawn of the undead, great and terrible gods roamed the earth. One of them, Kelep’Met, drew the ire of his brothers for his devotion to the dark side of mankind, his demands for human sacrifice, his depraved games in which he would slaughter men in droves just to sate his evil lust for blood. His brothers met him in the darkest recesses of the earth and slew him, and there his blood seeped into the earth and mingled with it. This sand,” and here Larry held the vial out once more for the vampire to take, “is imbued with the darkest forces of evil that the world has ever known.”
The vampire’s eyes were locked on the little glittering capsule, icy orbs in an expressionless face. When he accepted the vial this time, he cradled it in his fingers, as if it might explode if turned the wrong way. Without warning, those cold globes snapped to Larry and he felt the frozen daggers of the vampire’s stare slice into his mind. “Tell me what it does.” The voice echoed in Larry’s head as if the night had parted and God himself had whispered in his ear.
Every pore opened, every hair stood on end, and he even felt a little tingle between his legs. Larry’s blood had been replaced with lava. The vampire’s spell would draw from him the truth, and the gig would be up. Already he could feel his mind spilling his secrets like an uncorked whiskey barrel, the thoughts cascading over one another in their rush toward his lips.
Worst it will do is annoy them, like sand at the beach. Get it down their shorts if you really want to give them a hard time. Or throw it in their eyes.
Kelep’Met is just some name I made up ‘cause I thought it sounded crazy and ominous.
Don’t look in my briefcase, it’s empty except for some silver bullets, some stakes, and the projector that makes the crazy shadows that fool saps like you into thinking this bullshit is legit.
But just as the damning truth began to rattle the air in his throat, the heart rate monitor in his ear registered the effects of the glamour and fired an eardrum-piercing shriek in his head, shattering the effect of the spell. He wanted to scream from the sound but kept his face slack, empty, a good little hypnotized monkey.
“Just let a few grains touch them, and it’ll feel like acid is burning away their skin, then their muscles, then their skeleton, like a bad acid trip they can’t wake up from. I’ve seen people tear their own flesh to ribbons trying to rid themselves of the curse. The ones that survive suffer in pain for the rest of their lives.”
Those seeking eyes flashed across his face once more, and then the vampire smiled, a horrible mask of fangs and handsome death. “How much?”
Larry licked his lips. “Twenty grand.”
The vampire smirked and then flickered — that damn moving-faster-than-the-eye-can-see thing they do — appearing now with a fat wad of bills in his hand. “I assume one such as yourself would prefer to deal in cash.”
It was Larry’s turn to grin. “Cash is great.”
Larry tucked his newly-acquired stacks of hundreds into his sport coat, then reached out for the vampire’s hand. The lifeless, chilling grasp — like shaking hands with a statue — never failed to turn his stomach, but he swallowed back the bile and smiled his winningest smile. It was easy enough, imagining the vampire’s shock and subsequent rage when he tried to inflict untold suffering on a human only to discover that Larry had taken him for a ride and vanished in the wind. He almost laughed. “Pleasure doing business with you.”
“The pleasure is mine,” the vampire grinned, his dazzling eyes flashing in the night.
Larry turned and shuffled off. The morning would dawn in a few hours, and there were a hot handful of vampires in this neighborhood. Just a few more sales and he’d have the scratch to buy his way to Borra Borra, where the less politically correct natives still did the proper thing and staked any filthy bloodsucker on sight.