Thursday, May 20, 2010

Clowns and Vampires

My good friend Kim and I continuosly challenge each other to write short stories about absurd things that wouldn't normally go together, our first was vikings and butterflies, and if you'd like to read some of those, check out Kim's blog. Our latest challenge was to write a story about Clowns and Vampires. Stories have to be at least 1,000 words. Here is mine. Feel free to give it a try if you like.

WAR PAINT
by
Bill Wilbur


The world had moved on. Darkness and decay became the norm, where once there was hope.

At the beginning only small towns fell, and then cities and states, and eventually, as the darkness grew to unimaginable power, entire countries succumbed until the world finally became united. World wars no longer mattered when every day was a war of survival for those who remained. Of course, his father had seen it coming. He’d called it. Long before the rest of them recognized the apocalypse for what it was, his dad had pronounced the end times’ arrival and he’d been silenced for it.

But he’d been right. And Stanley supposed the joke was finally on those who claimed power. They were dead now too, or worse and all that remained was the daily fight for survival.

Stanley meandered through his fortress, feeling the weight of the new world, allowing himself a few moments of self-pity before moving on. They’d lived here once, he and Penelope, and they’d been happy. An uneasy laugh escaped him in the darkness of the room. Happiness was such a foreign and distant concept now that the word itself held no meaning.

He found himself in the bathroom doorway, staring at his reflection in the mirror. Christ he’d gotten old in a hurry. As near as he could remember, he’d turned thirty-two a couple of months ago. He looked fifty-two. Deep lines spread out from the corners of his eyes and his forehead held deep fissures created by worry and sorrow. Fighting vampires could do that to you.

He was still alive because they hadn’t known who he was or how to find him. He’d been careful to conceal his identity, traveling only on sunny days.

But somehow they’d found him.

He’d hidden his face every time he’d gone outside. Survivors soon discovered that the vamps shared a single consciousness. If one knew something, then they all knew it. That was one thing the movies and books he’d seen as a boy had never mentioned. Stanley smilled grimly. A boy, he thought. That had been a lifetime ago, when the monsters stayed at the back of the closet or tucked neatly beneath the bed.

He’d met Penelope after spending countless weeks alone. Back then, when he’d still allowed himself to hope, he’d stayed on the move. Every day he started at dawn and walked until late afternoon searching for normalcy, for a world he recognized, but that world was gone. Still he kept going, his search now focused on finding other survivors. After nearly a month, he’d discovered Penelope looting what was left of a convenience store.
They’d been cautious of each other from the start, circling one another like warriors seeking an uneasy alliance. Somehow they’d found a way to trust long enough to become friends, and over time, lovers.

Travelling together, they’d found others and soon had a mobile community, but when their numbers topped twenty it was time to settle down in one spot. Others would find them eventually and they’d soon have a small town full of people...real people.

Hope began to return.

It wasn’t long before a group of Vampires found them. The demons travelled in packs, another surprise the movies never mentioned. They moved fast and they were smart. Half our population was wiped out that first week and we learned to start hiding better and disguising ourselves. In our war paint we went out in teams and hunted them during the day. It was slow, disgusting work and it drained us both mentally and physically.

Penelope was like a machine in those days. She had more kills than anyone and Stan soon began to worry that she was enjoying the work a little too much. Her hatred grew and eventually blossomed into a mushroom cloud and all he could do was get out of the way.

Three months ago the Vampires took her. Stanley didn’t know how they’d found her, but early one morning she went out on a recon mission and never came back. They’d searched for days but nobody expected to find her. Stanley only hoped she’d died quickly and without pain but he doubted it. The vamps enjoyed causing pain.

And now they’d come for him. For all of them really.

Sometime in the night, he’d awoken to deliberate scratching at his front door. The heavy oak had been infused with garlic juice and splashed with holy water, and whatever creature scraped the words there endured considerable pain to do it.

Tonight, the crudely etched message read, bring them all. Paradise.

The Paradise, he thought. A run-down strip club in its best of days, now a pit so dark that vamps could sit inside and watch the street. Stanley opened up his makeup kit and grabbed the whiteface. He sighed deeply. What did it matter anymore? Why bother to conceal his identity now that they knew who he was? Closing his eyes, he applied the white to his already pale skin. The makeup was symbolic now more than anything. One day other survivors would come and they’d recognize the fight that he and his small group endured.

This morning at the town hall meeting he could see it in their eyes. They were tired, ready to fight or die and he suspected most didn’t care much one way or the other. Fight or die? Breathe or feed? Every man and woman in the room agreed to a single winner-take-all battle. A rumble from hell. A few of them even thought they could win.

Ringing his sad, bloodshot eyes with a bright, cheerful red makeup, he started to cry. Luckily for him the colors were waterproof. There was no hope left inside him and his body convulsed with the sobs that overtook him. When finally he’d regained control, he put on the finishing touches but he refused to redden his lips. No painted red smiles for him anymore. It looked too much like blood.

There was a knock at the door and he could see through the window the rest of the clowns standing and waiting. They all carried a shoulder bag filled with wooden stakes, but most had accentuated their arsenal with knives and swords as well.

Stanley slipped his bag strap over his head and picked up his shotgun. It couldn’t kill them, but it sure as hell slowed them down some. With a last glance in the mirror, he opened the front door and headed for Paradise.

It would be good to see Penelope one last time.


END

3 comments:

Kate said...

Enjoyed it again!
Read Samantha's blog if you have a moment. You inspired her. :)

buildingalife said...

I like it! Totally different than mine, as always Maybe years of Buffy have given me a love of the misunderstood bloodsuckers. I think this is your best of the challenges, although I still liked the original Viking and Butterfly story.

Suzi said...

I still like this one. I'm going to send you my 20 minute jump start story, so check your email :)