Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls (2 page)

BOOK: Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls
11.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 
          
Jessy
stood up very quietly, and then the bloodlust she had wanted so badly was upon
her. She leapt, tore Molochai’s arm away from Twig, and tried to fasten her
lips on the gash. But Molochai turned furiously on her and batted her away,
hard across the face, and she felt the pain in her lip before she tasted the
blood there, her own dull blood in her mouth. Molochai and Twig and even kind
Christian stood staring at her, bloodied and wild-eyed, like dogs startled at a
kill, like interrupted lovers.

 
          
But
as she backed away from them, a pair of warm arms went around her from behind
and a pair of large strong hands caressed her through the silk dress, and a
voice whispered, “His blood is sticky-sweet anyway, my dear—I can give you
something nicer.”

 
          
She
never knew Zillah’s name, or how she ended up with him on a blanket in the back
room of Christian’s bar. She only knew that her blood was smeared across his
face, that his fingers and his tongue explored her body more thoroughly than
any had before, that once she thought he was inside her and she was inside him
at once, and that his sperm smelled like altars, and that his hair drifted
across her eyes as she went to sleep.

 
          
It
was one of the rare nights that Molochai, Twig, and Zillah spent apart. Zillah
slept on the blanket with Jessy, hidden between cases of whiskey, cupping her
breasts in his hands.

 
          
Molochai
slept in Christian’s room above the bar with Christian and Twig cuddled close
to him, their mouths still working sleepily at his wrists.

 
          
Below,
far away on Bourbon Street, the mounted police rode their high-stepping steeds
through the crowd, chanting, “Leave the street. Mardi Gras is officially over.

 
          
Leave
the street. Mardi Gras is officially over,” each one ready with a sap for a
drunken skull. And the sun came up on the Wednesday morning trash in the
gutters, the butts and the cans and the gaudy, forgotten beads, and the
vampires slept with their lovers, for they preferred to do their roaming at
night.

 
          
Molochai,
Twig, and Zillah left town the next evening after the sun went down, so they
never knew that Jessy was pregnant. None of them had seen a child of their race
being born, but they all knew that their mothers had died in childbirth. They
would not have stayed around.

 
          
Jessy
disappeared for nearly a month. When she came back to Christian’s bar, it was
to stay for good. Christian gave her the richest food he could afford and let
her wash glasses when she insisted on earning her keep. Sometimes, remembering
Molochai’s blood smeared around Christian’s mouth, remembering Zillah’s
fragrant sperm inside her, Jessy crept into bed with Christian and sat on top
of him until he would make love to her. He would not bite her, and for that she
beat at his face with her fists until he slapped her and told her to stop. Then
she moved quietly over him. He watched her grow gravid through the sweltering
oily summer months, lazily shaped her tight distended belly and her swollen
breasts with his hands.

 
          
When
her time came, Christian poured whiskey down her throat like water. It wasn’t
enough. Jessy screamed until she could scream no more, and her eyes showed only
the whites with their silvery rims, and great gouts of blood poured from her.
When the baby slipped out of Jessy, its head turned and its eyes met
Christian’s: confused, intelligent, innocent. A shred of deep pink tissue was
caught in the tiny mouth, softening between the working gums.

 
          
Christian
separated the baby from Jessy, wrapped it in a blanket, and held it up to the
window. If its first sight was of the French Quarter, it would know its way
around those streets forever—should it ever need such knowledge. Then he knelt
between
Jessy’s
limp legs and looked at the poor torn
passage that had given him so many nights of idle pleasure. Ruined now, bloody.

 
          
So
much blood to go to waste.

 
          
Christian
licked his lips, licked them again.

 
          
Christian’s
bar was closed for ten nights. Christian’s car, a silver Bel Air that had
served him well for years, headed north. He drove up any road that looked
anonymous, along any highway he knew he would not remember.

 
          
Little
Nothing was a lovely baby, a sugar-candy confection of a baby with enormous
dark blue eyes and a mass of golden-brown hair. Someone would love him. Someone
human, away from the South, away from the hot night air and the legends. Nothing
might escape the hunger for blood, might be happy, might be whole.

 
          
Toward
dawn, in a Maryland suburb full of fine graceful houses, dark grassy lawns,
long sleek cars in sweeping driveways, a tall thin figure draped in heavy black
clothes stooped, set a bundle down on a doorstep, and went slowly away without
looking back. Christian was remembering the last night of Mardi Gras, and the
taste of blood and altars was in his mouth.

 
          
The
baby Nothing opened his eyes and saw darkness, soft and velvety, pricked with
sparkling white light. His mouth drew down; his eyebrows came together in a
frown. He was hungry. He could not see the basket that cradled him, could not
read the note in spidery handwriting pinned to his blanket: His name is
Nothing. Care for him and he will bring you luck.

 
          
He
lay in the basket snug as a king cake baby, pink and tiny as the infant Christ
in plastic, and he knew only that he wanted light and warmth and food, as a
baby will. And he opened his mouth wide and showed his soft pink gums and
yelled. He yelled long and loud until the door opened and warm hands took him
in.

 
PART
ONE -
Fifteen Years Later
 
Chapter
1

 
          
The
night wind felt wonderful in Steve’s hair.

 
          
The
Thunderbird was huge. It always drove like a fucking monster, but tonight Steve
felt as if he were piloting some great steamboat down a magic river, a river of
shimmering asphalt banked by pine forest and thick, rioting expanses of kudzu.
They were somewhere far outside Missing Mile, somewhere on the highway that led
up to the Roxboro electric power plant and, beyond that, the North
Carolina-Virginia border.

 
          
Ghost
was asleep beside him, his head hung out the window on the passenger side, his
pale hair whipping in the wind, his face washed in moonlight. The bottle of
whiskey was prepped between Ghost’s legs, three-quarters empty, in danger of
tipping despite the limp hand that curled around it.

 
          
Steve
leaned over and grabbed the bottle, took a healthy swig. “The T-bird has been
drinking,” he sang into the wind, “yes, the T-bird has been drinking … not me.”

 
          
“Um,”
said Ghost. “What? What?”

 
          
“Forget
it,” Steve told him. “Go back to sleep. Have another drink.” He drove faster.
He’d wake Ghost on the drive home, to keep him company. Now he wanted Ghost to
stay asleep awhile longer; there was bad business ahead. Dangerous business. Or
so Steve liked to think of it.

 
          
Ghost
took the bottle back and stared at the label, trying to focus on it. His pale
blue eyes swam, narrowed, sharpened only slightly. “White Horse,” he read.
“Look, Steve, it’s White Horse whiskey. Did you know Dylan Thomas was drinking
at a pub called the White Horse the night he died?”

 
          
“You
told me. That’s why we bought it.” Steve crossed his fingers and tried to will
Ghost back to sleep.

 
          
“He
drank eighteen straight whiskeys,” Ghost said, awed.

 
          
“You
drank eighteen straight whiskeys.”

 
          
“No
wonder my brain is sailing with the moon. Sing to me, Steve. Sing me back to
sleep.” Just at that moment they crossed a bridge that seemed to bow under the
weight of the old brown T-bird, and Steve saw moonlight shimmering on black
waters, so he raised his voice in the first song that came to mind: “Silver
southern moon … for ten years I thought I was born of you …. Silver moon, I’ll
be back someday …. ”

 
          
“That’s
not the way it goes. I should know, I wrote it.” Ghost’s voice was fading. “Oh,
silver southern moon … tell me your sweet lies, then let me. drown deep in your
eyes ….

 
          

Somedaaay
,” Steve joined in. He and the whiskey sang Ghost
to sleep, the whiskey with its somnolent amber song, Steve with a voice that
cracked when he tried to hit the high notes.

 
          
Behind
them the river passed in silence; the lowest-hanging branches brushed the
water, and the leaves rotted on the bough. The moon spread like butter on the
black river, and Ghost’s eyes closed; with his head pillowed on the hump
between the seats, he began to dream.

 
          
They
bypassed Roxboro, but Steve saw the power plant on Lake
Hyco
,
lit up all glowing green and white like a weird birthday cake,
its
million pipes and wires and glass insulators and metal
gewgaws reflected in the lake. On the way back, if Ghost was awake, they’d
drive up there to a hill Steve knew and look out over the pastures and the lake
and all the glittering Milky Way.

 
          
An
hour or so after passing out Ghost was usually raring to go again. His dreams
gave him new strength. Or made him laugh or cry, or sometimes scared the shit
out of him.

 
          
Steve
put his hand on Ghost’s head, smoothed back wisps of hair from flickering
closed eyes. He wondered what was unfolding beneath his hand, beneath the thin
bone, inside the orb of ivory that cradled Ghost’s weird brain. Who was born
and murdered and resurrected inside that skull? What walked behind Ghost’s
eyelids, what lithe secret phantoms tapped Ghost’s shoulder and made him
whimper deep in his throat?

 
          
Ghost
often dreamed of things that were going to happen, or of things that had
already happened that he couldn’t possibly know about. These premonitions could
come when he was awake too, but the ones that came to him in dreams seemed to
be the most potent.

 
          
More
often than not they were also the most cryptic. He had known when his
grandmother was going to die, but then so had she. Though surely painful, the
knowledge had given them the time they needed to say goodbye.

 
          
Goodbye
for a while, anyway. Ghost had inherited his grandmother’s house in Missing
Mile, where he and Steve lived now. Steve had spent plenty of time in that
house as a kid, watching
Miz
Deliverance mix herbs or
cut out cookies with her heart-shaped cutters, building forts in the backyard,
sleeping over in Ghost’s room. Even now, five years after her death, Steve
sometimes thought he felt the familiar presence of
Miz
Deliverance in a room, or just around a corner. He imagined this was something Ghost
took for granted.

 
          
Suddenly
unnerved by the prospect of touching Ghost’s dreams, Steve put his hand back on
the wheel.

 
          
They
drove past a graveyard full of softly rotting monuments and flowers, an
abandoned
railyard
, a barbecue shack whose sign advertised
GRAND OPENING EVERY FRI AND

 
          
SAT
NITE. A rabbit darted across the road. Steve braked, and Ghost’s head rolled
back and forth on his thin neck so fragile, so fragile. These days Steve was
paranoid about something happening to Ghost. Ghost was
spacy
,
sure, but he could take care of himself.

 
          
Still,
Steve couldn’t help watching out for him, especially now that Ghost was the
only person he felt like spending time with.

 
          
They
had other friends, sure, but those guys mostly wanted to go out drinking and
smoke weed and talk about
Wolfpack
football at the
state university over in Raleigh. All of which was okay, even though the
Wolfpack
was always pretty shitty, but Ghost was different.
Ghost didn’t give a flying fuck about football, Ghost could drink everybody
else under the table and not get a damn bit weirder, and Ghost understood all
the shit that had gone down over the past few months. The shit with Ann. Ghost
never asked Steve why he didn’t forget about Ann and get himself a new
girlfriend; Ghost understood why Steve didn’t want to see Ann or any other
girl, not for months and months, maybe not ever.

BOOK: Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls
11.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen
Winter's Shadow by Hearle, M.J.
Bobby D. Lux - Dog Duty by Bobby D. Lux
A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre
The Seven-Day Target by Natalie Charles
All or Nothing by S Michaels