I wake up from my slumber feeling so delightfully refreshed. I'm limber and fighting shape as I stretch and open my eyes and see that I'm kissing distance from my newest pal, Father Petie. He's sitting with his hands palm-down on a table, smiling at me as I awaken, and I realize that somehow we are no longer in a sock-smelling gymnasium. We are in some dim lounge, lit by red neon.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," he says, smiling dryly, and he's so much prettier than I remember.
"Don't you mean land of the unliving?"
"I suppose I do. Care for a drink?" he asks me, and I nod my head, realizing I'm feeling fairly parched. There's a drink menu in front of me, and I see that we are frequenting an establishment called Straight Shot, a place that bills itself as a whisky lounge, though I see plenty of crafty cocktails involving gin and vodka and rum and tequila.
Still, the place seems cozy enough. We're sitting on red-velvet chairs and my face is cushioned by a pillow of stale cigarette smoke and I am quite at home in this place. It seems like exactly the questionable type of dive I might dream up, and I assume I must, in fact, be dreaming while I snooze away the Burn Time in the really real.
This is all too weird to be anything but a dream.
Here I am in a place I've never seen, whisked away, as it seems, in broadest daylight, and now this vampire priest is asking me to take a drink, and I don't know if he means whisky or the young siphon who's waiting by his side to receive my order.
"I'll take a Manhattan," I say to keep things simple, although now that I see the siphon, I realized I'm famished. I'm tempted to hop up and gauge her, but I can feel the good Faddah's eyes upon me so I stay put. This feels like some kind of test, yet I'm not sure what he wants me to do. Gauge the siphon? Leave her? I'm a little confused by all the love-thy-neighbor crap I hear his disciples spouting. Maybe he doesn't want me gauging. I can't say.
Although why do I care what he thinks? This is a dream, remember?
"This is definitely a dream," I mutter ... isn't it?
"On a diet?" Father Petie asks as the siphon disappears.
"Well, then, feast. Drink and be merry. The girl is yours. She is ours. She was put here to sustain us. We are the lords of this world, the apex predators, and soon we will claim our rightful place as mankind's caretakers."
I nod my head, enjoying what I'm hearing. Much better than Diana's drivel about staying low-key and living sustainably.
Our drinks arrive, my Manhattan as well as something tall, dark and petey for the Father Petie, who grabs our siphon by the arm and draws her down and latches onto her neck to gauge. There's something so simple in his movement, so fluid, that it seems familiar, and I feel a sense of deja vu, like I've seen this scene before.
"You seem familiar," I say. "Who are you?"
"Me?" Father Pete releases the siphon and smiles as she scurries away. "I'm The Risen King, set by Christ himself above man. You may have heard of me."
I shake my head. Wasn't ever much on the Bible — even before I was struck by a case of fangs.
"I have been on this earth for thousands of years, and I've gone by different names — Peter is one. So is Lazarus. I'm also Merlin. And Nosferatu, Dracula, Peter Pan. I have raised armies and conquered nations."
"Huh," I say, not digging the dramatic flair. As dear Chet would say, the poor guy's trying too hard. "So why are you hiding out in a YMCA locker room?"
Father Pete shrugs and takes a sip of his drink.
"I was betrayed," he says. "Five hundred years ago, I was set to take my rightful place. I was reaching across Europe when one of my lambs decided to play the role of Lucifer. He stole the Grail and led an insurrection."
Petie pauses for effect, blinking his pretty eyes at me. I take a sip of my drink.
"Our war was long and bitter," Petie continues at last, "and though I eventually prevailed, the cup was lost. My few remaining brethren died off eventually, either hunted down or burned up, and I was left to wander alone for centuries. I never gave up hope, though, that I would find the Grail again. I kept my eyes open for signs of it, and I'm glad I did, because a few months ago, I saw news reports from this city—the sudden rash of disappearances— and I knew what must be happening."
"So you found the Grail."
"And I converted my first lambs, so I begin the work again. Mankind needs us! Without a predator to thin their ranks, these poor humans will soon overrun the world. Already have. This world is just a hot, dirty shell of the one I knew centuries ago."
I yawn, nodding and blinking wearily. I'm exhausted and the last thing I need is another sermon. I'm about to excuse myself and run when Petie cuts to the chase.
"These are exciting times." he says. "But there is only one issue. I cannot afford to have a rival competing against me — I've seen how poorly that goes — which is where you come in. I need to know you are with me."
"Yeah, sure." I shrug. Sounds like a fun gig. "Though I'm not really the one you need to be worrying about."
"You're speaking about Diana." Petie glances at his hands and then back at me. "I have sent some of my faithful to talk to her as well. I would love to have her join us peacefully."
Sent some of your faithful? What the fuck does that mean? I feel a growing unease, because while I'm not Diana's biggest fan, I don't see her deciding to "join peacefully." She'll get herself killed!
"She'll come around I'm sure," I say to try to put him at ease. "Diana's kind of controlling, but she's not, like, power hungry."
"I hope you're right," Father Pete sits back. "I just want you to know that the day of your testing is at hand. Your actions and decisions will determine your place in this new world, so measure them wisely."
YOU ARE READING
(Completed) Chester is savage, stylish, beautiful ... and bored out of his mind. It isn't enough to party with movie stars. It isn't enough to eat at the best restaurants or live in a mansion or drive sports cars or control people's minds. He wants...