Read Poppy Z. Brite - 1992 - Lost Souls Online
Authors: Poppy Z. Brite
had just come from New York City where they were able to
their appetites every night on blood rich with strange drugs, where a hophead
chick they met had let them sleep the days away in her East Village apartment
until they grew careless and left a shredded mess in her bathtub. Kinky stuff
was fine, she said, but she wasn’t into death. And there were gore stains on
her only set of towels. She had still been trying to decide how to get rid of
the body when they sneaked out.
Twig, and Zillah were good at sneaking out. They had plenty of practice at it:
Zillah had taught Molochai and Twig how to act nonchalant, how to wipe the
blood off their faces and control their passionate breathing before they left
the scene of a kill. Without his guidance, Zillah reflected, they would both
have been dead several times over, probably with stakes driven through their
little hearts. It was true that Zillah was a hundred
and the others only seventy-five; even so, they were just teenagers by the
standard of their race. Zillah remembered the depthless eyes of Christian, his
quiet, almost painful dignity. How old would Christian be now? Three hundred
years? Four? But even when Christian had been a mere babe of fifty, Zillah
found it hard to imagine him acting as stupid as Molochai and Twig.
they were his charges. They took orders without question, and in return they
expected Zillah to take care of them, to do their thinking for them. They had
perhaps half a brain between them. They knew Zillah was the smart one. But they
were good fun.
had met them at an elegant garden party in the roaring twenties, a Great
affair with paper lanterns and drunken
croquet games on the lawn. Molochai and Twig were huddled in a corner of the
garden making fun of the women’s fancy dresses.
a waiter came by with a tray of champagne flutes, they would reach out and grab
two glasses apiece, one in each hand. When Zillah approached them, they were
too drunk to recognize him as one of their own, but they liked his pretty face
and his natty suit of white linen.
led him into the big house, thinking they were luring him to his death, and
tried to attack him in an upstairs parlor decorated entirely in animal skins
and trophy heads. Zillah threw them across the room, hoisted them up, and
cracked their heads together beneath the eternally roaring jaws of a stuffed
lion. Then he opened a vein in his wrist and tenderly gave them to drink. After
that they were his forever. Or nearly so.
miles outside the town, they gave up on finding the doughnut shop that Molochai
thought he remembered once seeing along this highway. They stopped at a
filled a big bag with candy and Hostess cakes. Twig chose a package of sliced
bologna and stocked up on cheap wine.
cashier watched them with an absorption that bordered on awe, readjusting her
heavy ass on the stool behind the register, pushing at the colored plastic
barrettes that held her stringy hair in place. When Zillah’s eyes met hers, she
felt her insides go runny. The unfamiliar territory between her legs twitched,
had moles on her face, and she was vastly overweight, and she figured she would
reach forty untouched by a man. But something in his green eyes made her feel
the way she used to when she would look at the Playboy and Penthouse magazines
that were sold in the store, before she told herself she wasn’t interested and
started going to church again. Something in his eyes made her wonder how it
would feel to let a man lie on top of her, to push his thing inside her. She felt
for her pack of Moms, lit one, and sucked the smoke up hungrily, watching the
black van pull away, wondering if that green-eyed angel would ever return.
again, Twig peeled off slices of bologna and
stuffed them into his mouth, tossing his head like a feeding leopard as he
swallowed, hardly chewing the soft meat. Molochai gulped sticky mouthfuls of
cake and cream. Zillah licked at a sliver of bologna, nibbled delicately around
the edges of a Twinkie, sipped from the bottle of Thunderbird. None of them
we be in DC by tonight?” Molochai asked, licking chocolate off his fingers.
stared at the road. “Shit, we’ll be there in an hour. But you can count on
staying hungry till way after dark.” No one bothered asking why. They knew
where the best city pickings were–in the clubs, in the alleys, under the
Molochai managed a sticky smile, thinking of nights in the city. “So we stay in
DC for a couple of nights. Then what?”
thought. “We could check out California again. You liked the ice cream shops in
that’s so far. And the whole desert in between us and it. Nothing to eat.
Nothing to drink. No people. No blood.”
closed his eyes, stroked his eyelashes with the tip of one shiny black nail.
“We could drive down to New Orleans,” he said. “We could visit Christian.”
eyes lit up. “Christian! Remember Christian?”
“Good old Christian!”
but he might still be tending bar. Free drinks!”
everyone’s blood full of wine and beer and whiskey.”
Chartreuse,” said Zillah.
paused for a moment, tongues tasting a memory of altars, of the Garden of Eden.
go see good old Christian.”
old Chrissy,” said Molochai.
Twig collapsed in giggles over the wheel.
passed the wine up to Molochai. “Let’s start saving our empties. We’ll need to
bottle some up tonight. Things may be quite a bit drier after DC.”
and Twig were quiet, considering the possibility of a long dry spell.
Twig shrugged and said, “Yeah, but fuck it—we’re going to New Orleans!”
turned the music back on, and they sang along with Bowie, leaning on each
other, their voices soft and lilting as they got drunker. Zillah ran his hands
through Molochai’s hair, pulling out the knots. Twig grinned as the road
stretched out ahead, long and smooth and magical, unrolling like a carpet all
the way down to Christian’s bar in New Orleans.
south again, away from the Virginia border toward home, Steve swung the car
onto a side road and drove toward the hill. The town of Roxboro usually
fascinated Ghost, made him press his face to the window trying to see all its
barbecue shacks and barbershops; its Southern Pride car wash whose sign read,
mysteriously, AS WE THINK, SO
ARE; its one dilapidated nightclub outside which dark shapes always lurked,
regardless of hour or temperature.
tonight Ghost had been silent all through Roxboro, his eyes open and vacant; he
seemed still lost in his story. Steve wanted to take him away from those twins,
those dream twins dying or dead. Too often the phantoms of Ghost’s dreams
possessed him even after he woke, claimed all his attention and a little of his
visions worried Steve as much as they enchanted him. Ever since they had become
friends, Steve had thought of himself as Ghost’s protector because he was a
year older and because so often Ghost seemed to hover precariously on the edge
lived with one foot in Steve’s world of beer and guitars and friends, the other
in the pale never-never land of his visions. Reality was often too much for
Ghost; it could puzzle and hurt him.
it seemed that Ghost consented to live in the world only because Steve was
there, and Ghost would not leave Steve alone. Please, God or Whoever—Steve
crossed his fingers on the steering wheel—please don’t let him change his mind
was so damned important, so valuable. When Ghost was along, ordinary
surroundings–a pizza joint, a lonely stretch of highways’ became strange, maybe
threatening, maybe wild and beautiful. Ghost tinged reality. And Steve
consented to let it be tinged and saw things he would never have seen
otherwise, things he did not always believe or understand. He credited Ghost
with saving his imagination from the death-in-life of adolescence.
about another time you were driving late at night, he thought, too late at
night, driving with Ghost, and he had you convinced you’d driven into the
ocean? Saw flying fish, starfish. Saw a swimming pool full of air. Maybe he’d
fallen asleep behind the wheel that time; maybe he and Ghost were lucky the
T-bird hadn’t wrapped around a tree, creaming both of them.
that was what had happened. But mostly Steve accepted the share of magic the
world had given him in Ghost, deluded himself that he, fearless old Steve Finn,
was the leader. The protector. Yeah, right.
especially now, what would life be without Ghost? He thought he knew the answer
to that one. So much shit, that’s what life would be. So much lonely, aching,
was taking cam of him nowadays. The thing with Ann had nearly convinced Steve
that his life was worthless. More than once he had found himself thinking about
death in the middle of the night. Just drive over to Raleigh and score some
barbs, then pick up a quart of whiskey on the way home. Take ‘
all at once. There’s one cocktail that’ll never give you
a hangover. But he could no more swallow that cocktail than he could have
shoved it down Ghost’s throat. Their friendship was the’ only thing keeping him
sane right now, and he guessed he owed it more of a debt than that.
the last image of Ghost’s dream—the twins lying on their bare mattress, fiat,
their beauty spent—had gotten all mixed up in his mind with the sight of the
dead kid on the roadside thirty miles behind. Both pictures drifted in front of
Steve’s face, obscuring the road. He shook his head to banish them. When Ghost
turned to look at him, Steve saw death in Ghost’s eyes, a faint pale shadow.
drive up to the hill,” said Steve. “It’ll be nice there. See the stars.”
stars were waiting for us,” Ghost said when the T-bird reached the end of the
road and pulled off. They were in a clearing thick with weeds and late-summer
wildflowers. In the tall grass, empty cans and bottles shone dully, not marring
the weird beauty of the hill but mirroring the huge luminous stars in the sky.
them stretched the road, winding all the way back to Missing Mile; before them,
a barbed-wire fence marked the break of the hill, and acres of pastureland fell
away, rolling gently down to the shore of Lake
Miles off—Steve thought it was miles, but he couldn’t be sure, the air was so
clear—the electric power plant shimmered, all green and white and dimly
roaring, reflected in the lake. It was so green here, so lush even after the
hot Carolina summer, with the tall grass and the cow pastures and the great oak
that spread its branches over the clearing.