Prompt: Vampires and werewolves are exposed to the human population, and so the military begins a cleansing operation using their weaknesses. The story follows a vampire woman trying to live through the cleansing.
Life was nothing but painful contradictions. That was the the new truth they had to embrace. A silver chain would take your freedom, but convince everyone you weren’t dangerous. A necklace of garlic would dampen your powers, burn your skin, and mark you as an outcast. If you accepted these you wouldn’t be killed.
Leila and Frederick could not accept them. It had been five years since the opening of the box, the coffin of the long-forgotten historical figure Elrem the Tainted. With the study of his strangely-preserved body came the accidental release of… something from within his chest cavity. A spore. A curse. Nobody really knew, for even studying it infected you. From an infection sprung forth the old forms of fear, the parasitic contagions that eventually became tales of demons and monsters.
There were many forms of infection, but the two most common of Elrem’s children were werewolves and vampires. Millions were killed or changed before the world believed once more. When they did they brought back the monster hunters, but this time they weren’t professors, priests, or occultists. They wore fatigues. They had standard equipment; they were much better at identifying and killing because they had instruction manuals, videos, and a citizenry armed with phone cameras.
Leila and Frederick had to pretend to be vagrants, and even then they were suspicious, as most vagrants had been the initial prey of Elrem’s brood. After four months on the run they came to a church. It was evening, the sun sunk as if drunk, and in the weak light the vagrant monsters spotted the glowing windows of the small sharp steeple.
They didn’t have to knock, because the doors were propped open. Leila could barely contain her relief. Frederick had no trouble with closed doors, but Leila could not take shelter without an invitation. An open door in a church was an implied one. Nobody had to say anything, or even look at her pale drawn face. She sucked on the ends of her fangs nervously, trying to figure out which expression was best for hiding them.
The two quietly walked in and sat in the back pews. Even though the air was full of mirth, the monsters still felt the itch in their stomach lining, the natural recoiling rejection of a shameful beast under god’s eyes. They distracted themselves by watching. The congregants were all standing, clustered around the pulpit, as a child was baptized in a gold-painted font.
A few heads looked back and saw them, but didn’t seem suspicious. Eventually one woman, an assistant preacher, came back to them, her long purple robe fluttering against the carpet. She sat down next to them, unafraid to let her billowing clothes touch their own.
“Are you here to worship?” she asked, her wrinkly smile nothing but earnest. “All are welcome, especially today as we inaugurate some of the young, show their minds the brightest parts of the light of god.”
“Are there dark parts?” Frederick asked with half a growl and half a chuckle. Leila nudged him with a sharp elbow to quiet him.
“What he means to ask,” she fumbled for the rest of the question, “is what happens when a wicked person is baptized?”
The preacher looked at them, and in that moment they realized she saw through their disguise. Frederick’s nails grew and turned gray inside his jacket pockets. The hair on the back of his neck stood, then grew.
“I think you’re asking what would happen if one of Elrem’s was baptized,” the preacher said without judgment or harshness. “The lord is a cure for all things, but the cure would surely be painful, especially if it came from this font. We get our holy water from the river just out back, and it has been treated with the industrial blessing barrels of the Crossing Guard.”
Leila almost bared her fangs at the name. The Crossing Guard. The men and women in fatigues, metal crosses upon their shoulders, garlic and silver upon their belts. The hunters. The troops. The crusaders that could never be morally assailed, especially when the words that tried came from between fangs.
The preacher was about to say something else, but one of the church’s windows exploded into shards of colorful glass. Everyone shouted and ducked, nearly dropping the baptized child before the huddle absorbed her. Another window. Another. The very wall was splintered. Leila and Frederick duck under the pews. They knew the sound of the blades flying overhead, cutting through one side of the building and out the other.
One of the favorite tools of the Crossing Guard: the scissor crosses. They were metal bars, locked in the middle, and fired out at high velocity in large numbers. They tore through buildings, at head level, decapitating any vampires or werewolves in their path. The cross shape insured that any partial beheadings on vampires resulted in death.
They must have been followed. So much for the Crossing Guard being the protectors of the flock. They didn’t care who was in that church, just that Leila and Frederick had entered. Apparently they didn’t trust their god to handle the threat.
They did have reason to worry. Frederick saw his last chance to feed. He wriggled out of his clothes as a giant wiry black dog, slinking under the pews towards the crowd. They couldn’t go anywhere with the blades still flying overhead. He snatched someone from the edge and broke their arm in a single bite.
Leila was not his friend. They had traveled together out of necessity, occasionally feeding together, but his actions now filled her with rage. The woman had not thrown them out. She had offered shelter, which was often just as vital as food. She flew forward, body not touching the carpet or the bottom of the pews, and knocked him away.
She drew her own fangs, eyes going as empty as pearls from the shells of Hell, and bit into his furry neck. She used the ancient power to drain him in moments, his legs kicking like a puppy running through a nightmare. When she looked up she saw the horrified faces of the congregants. The infant bawled. The crosses still flew.
She weighed her options: human shields, bat form, hypnotism… They all felt hollow. The strategies were empty syringes; they could only result in death at some point, for somebody. Leila dropped the wolf corpse and wept. Nobody else would die at her hand, at least not tonight. The Crossing Guard would take her. They would burn her at the stake and sell the ashes.
Something touched Leila’s forehead. The assistant preacher’s wet finger, just dipped in the overturned font. It burned, but Leila held her position, fingers clawing at the carpet. She let the woman finish. Her own tears suddenly felt warm, like there was actual sunshine in them.
“Baptism is only a chance at rebirth,” the preacher whispered to her. “You are not just a vessel for holy water. You must clean yourself with the water, be the one to move the rag and carry the soap. Go now. In his eyes, you at least have a chance.”
The other congregants encouraged her with nodding heads. Leila sniffed back the tears and nodded. She was gone in a puff of smoke, off into bat form. She dodged the scissor crosses and flew out the open window, past the Guard and all their toys. She plunged into the river, where they would not search for her.
It was indeed full of holy water, but her baptism gave her a brief shield. When she broke the surface she would have a chance to gasp for air. Maybe it would be a real gasp, in a chest with a beating heart. Maybe she would have to wait. Somebody still believed in her, believed she wasn’t constantly choked by the mummified hands of Elrem.
Her second chance burned deeper into her forehead, lost in the million other chances of the river.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by LiorX during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!