Bright Light Fright >>>>>[ Sunday Morning; Callum and Georgie ]<<<<<


I came awake slowly feeling aches and pains in all my joints. I opened my eyes, dreading the stabbing light that I just knew (by Sod's Law) would have leaked through a gap in the curtains and be ready to send laser beams through my optic nerves and into my brain. Instead, all I saw was darkness, cool, blissful, darkness. Lacey was pressed tightly against me, her arm draped across my stomach, her head resting on my shoulder, a beatific smile on her angelic face. She was heavy, heavier than I'd remembered her from last night, almost dead weight. Could someone fall so deeply asleep as to be almost comatose?

My eyesight became accustomed to the darkness. Why was it so dark? We'd fallen asleep with the television on. Even if the channel were dead, there'd still be enough static on screen to light the room, like in the movie Poltergeist. It was too much for my sleep- , alcohol- and sex-addled brain to work out. I'm getting too old for this shit, I thought.

One pain above all the others impinged itself upon my senses: an intense burning sensation in my bladder. I had to get up. It took a long while to disengage myself from Lacey. Her arm had locked over my torso making any movement on my part rather difficult without waking her. I managed to slide out of her bed and kneel on the floor.

My next challenge of the day: stand up. By pressing down on the bed, I managed to get myself into a semblance of the vertical. The room was spinning so much that the next thing I did was very nearly the stupidest thing I have ever done: unsure if I could actually turn around, I took a step backwards, away from the bed. My foot hit one of my boots, left carelessly on the floor. I stumbled and the floor seemed to lurch upwards into the back of my head. Pain shot through my whole body again. I swore viciously, turning the air blue, then realised that I'd wake Lacey so restrained my language. Over the course of the next five minutes, I managed to roll over onto my stomach, then get onto all fours, kneel, and finally stand.

"I'll give you credit for resilience," said a quiet, feminine voice from the darkness across the room.

I reeled and the floor spun up to try and hit me again. Hah! I managed to block it with both hands and fell on all fours. I heard the sound of a blanket being thrown off and caught a glimpse of a black-dressed figure charging across the room. Jesus! I tried to dodge, failed and hit the floor again.

"Resilient, yes, but very stupid, too," Georgie said as she helped me into a sitting position, propping me up against the bed. Her warm fingertips pressed against the bump on my forehead then traced a line down my cheek to the side of my neck, where she prodded gently.

Woozily I managed to say, "Gotta go to the loo." Georgie helped me stand and walked me across the to the small bathroom.

I was about to close the door when Georgie said: "You'll probably need these when you come out." She handed me my jeans, unembarrassed as she surveyed me, naked in the bathroom doorway. I managed a wan grin, too tired, confused, weak and in need of bladder-relief to be embarrassed myself. "I'll put the kettle on," Georgie said, smiling kindly.

As soon as the bathroom door was closed, Georgie checked the flat, making sure there were no chinks in the small room's armour of darkness. The curtains were tightly closed and sealed with velcro strips; the stuffed woollen python that formed the front door's draught excluder was wedged tightly against the foot of the door; and Georgie methodically smoothed more velcro strips around the door frame. Finally, she covered Lacey neatly with the duvet. Georgie kissed her own right index finger and pressed it gently to Lacey's lips. Sleep well, lover, she thought.

Georgie played home-maker while Callum was in the bathroom. He made a lot of noise. She heard him throw up, retching until his stomach was empty. There was silence for a while and, concerned, Georgie knocked on the bathroom door.

"Cal? You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, be out in a mo. Do you know if she has any toothpaste?"

Georgie stifled a giggle at that comment. "Behind the bathroom mirror, I think." She was rewarded with a pitiful clattering, then the noise of gargling. "Coffee or tea?" she asked.

"Coffee. Lots of it. And Anadin if there's any."

Georgie couldn't prevent herself giggling at that one. "I'll see what I can do."

I emerged from the bathroom wondering if I looked as bad as I felt. The look in Georgie's eyes confirmed the worst.

"Sit down before you fall down," she ordered and I did as I was told. She handed me a blue mug filled with hot coffee and a yellow packet of lifesaving Anadins. "Careful with the coffee. You've just stripped your stomach lining with all that throwing up and the coffee will be like acid. Similarly with the Anadins. They might make your head feel better but they'll punish your stomach." She stopped her lecture and smiled. "My Mum's a nurse and I couldn't count the number of times I've heard that little speech, either to my Dad, my brother or to me." She sipped her tea. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I've got 'flu," I replied with a shiver. "How did you get in?"

"Lacey gave me a spare key. I've often slept over, particularly when Matt and I have been fighting. I got here about five this morning. I switched the telly off before I crashed out."

"And how's Matt?" I asked, remembering the state he was in the night before.

Georgie stiffened. "With a bit of luck, he'll be feeling even worse than you are right now." She paused, letting her anger drain away, then said: "What do you remember about last night?"

I tried to summarise: "Getting drunk; loud music in the Gloc; bullshitting with the regulars and the bar-staff; usual Saturday night, really. Meeting Lacey and you, that was different. Weirdest thing: Lacey seemed to hi-jack my thoughts. After you and she disappeared to the Ladies, I could barely stop thinking about her. Then we came back here." There was an embarrassed silence. "I don't need to draw you a picture, do I?"

Georgie laughed. "No. Believe me, I have a rather clear idea of what went on. But, continue. What else do you remember?"

I spared her the details but the feelings rushed to the surface: "She bit me ... Jesus! She bit me! ... Fangs. Georgie. Oh shit!" I couldn't believe what had happened. My hand went to the tender, purplish bruise on the side of my neck. "Is she ...?" My voice trailed off; I was too stunned to string a sentence together. I vaguely remembered seeing Lacey, transformed in front of me, her teeth like needles, aimed at my throat. What I'd hoped had been a nightmare, or the product of some sick fucker dropping an "E" in my beer, turned out to be horribly real.

"Say it, Callum," Georgie said coldly, her clear blue eyes locked on mine. "Don't deny what you know to be true. It'll make what comes next easier to bear."

"She is a vampire." I laughed loudly, heedless of waking Lacey whom I now knew was, quite literally, sleeping the sleep of the dead. "I told the guys last night after I saw her flash her fangs and they said it was bullshit." I stood and lurched towards the bed a little too quickly for my emotionally-charged state and the dim light. My foot struck the corner of the sofa and I rapidly hit the floor again.

Georgie was at Callum's side in an instant. She helped him up and laid him back on the sofa. "Rest," she said gently, taking his wrist. His pulse was hammering beneath her fingers. This was touch-and-go, she knew. If a person was reasonably fit and healthy, they should be physically able to recover from what Lacey was capable of doing. Looking at Callum, Georgie could see the effects of his recent alcohol binges: he was flabby and out of condition. Don't die on me, you idiot! Georgie prayed.

She fetched the blanket she'd slept under and covered Callum, who was shivering horribly. With a sigh, Georgie crawled under the blanket with him, holding him tightly, letting her body-heat flood into Callum's shaking form. She looked down at him, her vision blurred by tears. "Don't die on me!" she whispered repeatedly, like an urgent mantra, into his ear.

It took an hour for the shivering to subside. Georgie slipped out from under the blanket and wrapped Callum tightly in the rough wool. She turned and gazed at Lacey, apparently sleeping peacefully, almost childlike under the thick duvet. What did you do to him? Georgie wondered. The shock hit her, just then, like a physical blow to the stomach. She had felt Callum almost die in her arms! Georgie turned and staggered into the bathroom, doubled over the toilet and vomitted until her stomach was dry.

She was washing her mouth out with cold water, rinsing and spitting repeatedly, standing at the tiny kitchen sink, when she heard Callum groan. She refilled the glass, took another two Anadins from the pack, and went to sit by him. "You might want these," she said quietly, "but don't tell my Mum that I just exceeded the maximum dose for an eight hour period."

"Scout's Honour," I said, gratefully washing down the pills.

"You were never a Boy Scout," Georgie said, matter-of-factly.

"Well, you got me there," I said, then lay back on the sofa. "I feel like I've been hit by a bus. What happened?"

"I'd guess you've got a mixture of a hangover, a physically-wrecked body, extreme exhaustion, and serious emotional stress." Georgie paused in order to let her damning indictment of my lifestyle sink in. "In addition, you probably lost enough blood last night to require a transfusion. Had you actually been hit by a bus, that's exactly what A&E at the John Radcliffe would have given you. That or read you the Last Rites. I nearly had to an hour ago."

"What!?"

"I think your body had gone into shock, Cal. You were shivering uncontrollably, you looked pale, and your pulse rate was sky-high. I think I went over every prayer I've ever been taught."

"She did that to me? That little bitch over there?" I was hysterical. "Vampire, eh? Let me drag the little slut out into the fucking sunlight!"

Georgie straightened and whirled on me, her right hand catching me a stinging blow to the cheek. "Just you fucking try it, Cal! You'll have to come through me, and, believe me, boy, you're just not strong enough! I'll break you in two, shit-head!" She stood and moved across the room, planting herself in front of Lacey's bed, her fists clenched, looking murderously at me. Tears were flooding down Georgie's face.

I hauled myself off the sofa and staggered across to the Gothette, who was standing like a lioness defending her cub. Her fist pounded against my shoulder and sharp nails dug into my skin. She was screaming, over and over: "Just you fucking try it, bastard!"

Summoning the last reserves of my strength, I pushed Georgie behind me, sending the girl spinning, sobbing into the sofa, and moved towards my would-be murderess on the bed. I looked around for something to use as a stake (I'd seen all the movies) or, better yet, something I could use to chop the little bitch's head off. Nothing sprang to my attention so I resolved to make good on my threat of dragging Lacey into the sunlight. I reached for her ...

... and stopped. Images flashed into my mind's eye: Lacey laughing and giggling in the Gloc the night before; Lacey standing outside the cinema; Lacey's innocent look as she surveyed the argument between husband and wife she'd caused in the pub; Lacey's huge, beautiful dark brown eyes; the angelic look on Lacey's face when I woke up that morning.

Behind me, Georgie's sobs had become a throaty laugh but the humour was tinged with immense sadness.

"What's so fucking funny?" I asked, trying to be angry with the Gothette and failing miserably.

She controlled herself. When she spoke, Georgie's voice was crystal clear in every syllable: "You can't do it, can you? You can't harm a single hair on her head. If it came down to it, you'd give your life for her."

It was my turn to cry now. I don't know how long the tears lasted but, when they stopped, I was kneeling on the floor next to Lacey's bed, Georgie's arms around my shoulders.

"You knew, didn't you? You knew this would happen," I said. "That's why you're here this morning. How did you know?" But I already knew the answer. Georgie merely confirmed it when she showed me the faded purple bruise of Lacey's bite-mark on the side of her neck.

"Come on, Cal. Get dressed," Georgie said gently, "I'll treat you to some breakfast."