Vampire 2.0 – Change of Venue

(Missed the beginning? It starts right here…)

Change of Venue

When he emerged from the chamber, feeling as though he had spent decades within, although the chronometer on his digital readout claimed it had been only an hour, Vlad was unsurprised to find Brand waiting for him.
The gargoyle was perched on a wooden stool, swinging his legs like a three-year-old and perusing a girlie magazine. The readout began spitting out details of previous issues and provided full-color displays of previous centerfolds, but Vlad banished them with an irritated thought. Good to know it could be commanded in such a way, he supposed.
Brand glanced up, managing to look sheepish as he rolled the magazine and stuffed it into the back of his waistband. He hopped down from the stool, advancing towards Vlad, already waving his hands in the air.
“Hey, Boss! You doin’ okay? You’re looking a little red around the eyes. And I mean red, like, what you need to clean up or something? Or is it some new look? The ladies love a man in touch with his emotions, you know they say that, but I don’t think that many of ’em are all that into the bleeding-from-the-eyes routine, you know?”
Brand rummaged in the pocket of his coat, producing a pair of handkerchiefs; the first he sniffed, scowled at and tossed over his shoulder. Apparently he was unconcerned about the idea that someone would have to come and collect the foul-looking rag and deposit it in the bin later. The second, after sniffing, apparently passed muster. He handed it up to Vlad.
The vampire took the proffered hanky, blotting absently at his cheeks. The crimson stains that marked it when he stopped told him that he had indeed been weeping. This didn’t surprise him; when one is forced to relive centuries of a painful existence – especially the time with his lost Elizabetha – were a few tears not to be expected, even appreciated? It was merely his nature that made the show of emotion so ghastly. There were few fluids in him beyond the blood. Or perhaps motor oil, he mused.
Brand winced, accepting his hanky back by pinching it daintily between his talons and eyeing it for a long moment before stuffing it back in his pocket. Vlad watched, faintly amused, as Brand returned his gaze to him and shrugged.
“What? It’s a good snotrag; ‘sides, dry cleaning’s tomorrow. It’ll be fine. You, on the other hand… Well, before you looked like a raccoon. A bloody one, but you know… Raccoony. You still do, I guess, just like a plastic, bloody, racc…”
Brand trailed off, coughed into his claw, and started over.
“So, Boss, you good now? A spit-shine, gas up the chopper, paint the town red, so to speak?”
Vlad moved past the gargoyle, through the short hallway that connected his sanctum to an elevator that would bring him back to the house. He had determined that what he needed – besides a few quarts of O-negative, preferably straight from the tap – was information, and his new internal systems had helpfully shown him where to find it.
Brand fell into line behind him and together they boarded the elevator. While hunting for the hidden thumb scanner – a task made more difficult by the numbness in his digits – Vlad answered the imp’s question.
“Yes. Get the helicopter prepared. And one of my suits. A nice one, new gloves and glasses.”
“A’course it’d be a nice one, Boss!” The gargoyle sounded offended that the mere suggestion of the idea that his fashion selections would be anything but nice. “What, d’ya think I am, some schmuck who’s gonna doll ya out Duck Dynasty style?”
Vlad glanced down at the imp, his digitally-enhanced and recently restored memory conjuring up images of some of Brand’s more interesting style choices. Of particular offense was the banana yellow suit – with lime green spats – that Brand had chosen to wear to the last blood drive Vlad had hosted. Pictures of that particular affair were still circulating around the internet. While Brand had never been so ostentatious with his selections when it came to Vlad’s attire, there was no proof that he might not one day commit such a faux pas.
As if sensing the run of his master’s thoughts, Brand shuffled his feet and glanced away, coughing into one talon.
“Right. I’ll make sure it’s somethin’ nice and time. But I’m tellin’ ya, Boss, you could use a little more color in the dressin’ room, you know? Everything in there is black or red or purple! I mean, would it kill ya to try some blues…? Well, I guess nothin’ is really gonna kill you, but you know what I mean…”
Brand trailed off, withering a bit under Vlad’s glance. Scratching his scaly dome, he shuffled his feet again before assuming a more businesslike stance and squaring his shoulders.
“Right. New suit, new gloves, new glasses, same colors.” Perking up, his beak stretching into a semblance of a smile, he continued. “And how much gas we need in the ride? How far we goin’? Please say Vegas. There’s a convention this week, Big Babes Bouncin’, it’ll be great, like an all you can eat buffet, maybe we can have some R&R while we’re out there, and you…”
 The elevator doors slid open with an almost-silent hiss, and Vlad silenced Brand with a quick slice of his hand through the air.
“Enough. Assume a full tank will be necessary. I haven’t decided how far we’re going yet.”
Brand’s face sank into a pout as he rolled his shoulders, massaging one of them as though it pained him. Vlad supposed it did; Brand keeping his bony wings tied down and bound beneath those ridiculous shoulder pads all day had to be uncomfortable.
“All right, you’re the Boss. But I’m tellin’ ya, think Vegas.” He paused, tapping his nonexistent chin for a moment. “Or Disneyland. As long as we don’t have to listen to the singing dollies.”
The gargoyle performed a burlesque shudder, hugging himself.
“Those things creep me out.”
Vlad watched, smirking, as Brand limped out of the elevator and went scurrying off to make preparations. Shaking his head, Vlad turned the other direction, moving towards the lab. According to the readouts, Franks’ computer systems would have the information he needed; with his so-called upgrades, interfacing with them and finding what he needed should be simple enough.

(Want more? The story continues here…)

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