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Fantasticoe 1991

A Walk Home from the Opera

Bill Crumley

     Nicholas loved the opera. He attended twice a week. The man was forty-five years old and was the city's most respected druggist. The opera was as much a passion to Nicholas as making love was to others. He lived the roles of the players, especially the lead man. To him they could do no wrong. The owner of the opera house knew the show was good if Nicholas came out with eyes that were puffy red from crying.

     The druggist was not exactly the stereotypical lead male part. Standing five and a half feet tall, his reddish-gray hair retreating from its war with baldness, and wearing trifocals, his part might have been cast as the court jester instead of the lead man's role. Still, he lived his life through what the lead man did or might do. He was a hopeless romantic.

     Every morning was the same. Nicholas used his best cologne, and spent most of his money on clothes that he thought would attract the eye of some beautiful lady. His will never faltered. She had to be out there. The thought of him rescuing his damsel from terrible danger and the two of them floating away on the wings of love was the reason he got up every morning. Well, the second best reason. She would have to love opera almost as much as she loved him.

     It was Tuesday night and the opera company in town was debuting its performance for the week. Nicholas liked his city's opera company. It may be small, but this was the starting point for many great performers.

     After he came home from work, Nicholas always put on his best blue suit and black shoes to go to the opera. His blood was tingling and warming his veins. He felt like he had just met his true love and was moving in close to touch his lips to hers. He felt vibrant and alive, even the old hag that comes in every other day complaining about why he charges so much for her prescription did not bother him.

     He danced with his imaginary partner throughout the house, fluttering about like a young boy. In front of the icebox he stopped and dipped his young future maiden and awaited her sweet kiss from the full luscious lips he always dreamt about. He stopped in mid-kiss when he realized he was being watched.

     Looking in the window was his old friend, Victor, who was laughing so hard his eyes were beginning to bulge. After his reddened cheeks returned to normal color Nicholas opened the door and let his friend in.

     Victor was holding the city newspaper. The headlines read, "Second Body Found, No Answers Yet." Nicholas went on to read that both victims had their throats torn out in similar fashions.

     He had heard two old women whispering earlier today in his pharmacy. They were holding a newspaper and having a very heated discussion. He couldn't resist and went over to eavesdrop. He caught the word "vampire" before the old women caught him and began to scold him.

     Nicholas went on to read that the town was still functioning normally, but residents were not to travel at night alone.

     Nicholas knew that the menace of vampires threatened periodically. His grandmother made sure that he knew the precautions as well as the back of his hand.

     The two friends argued for nearly one hour. Nicholas would not be swayed. The opera was tonight, he had to go. Besides, tonight he had the feeling that he would meet the woman of his dreams. After assuring Victor that he would be safe, his friend left for home.

     Nicholas thought about what the old women were whispering about as he watched Victor leave. He then went into his bedroom. Two minutes later he came out with a cross. It was jaggedly sharp on the long end and looked quite formidable. His grandmother had given it to him when he was sixteen to be used for such an occasion.

     On his way out the door, Nicholas had a thought about holy water. He dismissed it, placed the cross inside his coat, and journeyed light-heartedly out into the night.

     The opera house, he noticed, was not packed like it usually was because of the danger, but he did not care. Tonight was his, he even got to sit in the front row. The performance went perfectly. Nicholas felt like he was in another world. His gaze never left the lead player and his female counterpart. He drank up every word, every note, and was so excited he had to run to the bathroom twice to empty his bladder.

     The finale cumulated with the lead rescuing his maiden from certain death and the evil character being vanquished.

     Nicholas burst into tears at the lovely voice of the maiden. "You have saved me, courageous knight. I will love you forever."

     Nicholas thanked the players with his applause and also with his tears. He shook the owner's hand and took his leave for home.

     The night was utterly beautiful, every star seemed to wink at him. He kept thinking tonight he will meet her. He stared into everybody's face he met, hoping it would be her. The quest for his love along the way home coupled with his enjoyment of the night took him past his desired path. He decided to keep walking. This way was much more scenic.

     Nicholas was happily engulfed in his thoughts when a high pitched scream ripped him back to reality. He stopped dead in his tracks and listened for any sound. From a block away, the sounds of a scuffle destroyed the silence. Fear of the unknown seared at his soul and he hastily walked away. His head wheeled around at the sound of a terrified scream of a man. Silently, he put away his fears and sprinted to help.

     The two combatants were struggling deep in a poorly-lit alley. As Nicholas slowed to a jog he saw a flash of golden hair surrounding the most beautiful face he had ever seen. The nearer he got the more he could see it was streaked with terror.

     The other figure was a huge man. His hands were extremely large and his skin was unordinarily pale. His face was covered in blood. Four streaks of red were clawed into his cheek. The sounds coming from his throat reminded Nicholas of a wild beast that had not eaten for weeks. His eyes were rolling around like a crazed, rabid animal. It looked like he was about to overcome the petite, golden woman.

     A thought came to his mind. What if the woman is a prostitute and the man is just an over-anxious customer? No! His mind went back to the newspaper and the old women. The man must be the vampire! The woman must have been walking home when the demon flew down from the sky and dragged her into the alley.      She doesn't have a chance!

     He watches as a tear glistens down her flushed, innocent cheek and drops to the dungy surface. In that instant no other woman in the world existed to Nicholas, only her.

     Nicholas thought back to the opera and the lead man's actions. He thought frantically, he must help her! This is the woman he will fight for and sweep off her feet. In a panic, he looked for a weapon, nothing.

     The cross! He reached into his coat and withdrew the holy weapon. He trembled in fear at the thought of what he was about to do.

     As he approached he caught the woman's pleading screams. He felt a twinge towards the back of his brain, then it was gone. A pitiful plea of "help me" appeared out of nowhere. It was her melodic voice but she hadn't spoken it.

     The man's size was daunting, Nicholas hesitated. A scared groan bled from her mouth and jostled him back to action. The woman was a portrait of perfection. He would die before he let the demon hurt her again.

     He struck towards the perpetrator's heart but the jagged point imbedded into his chest, off its mark. The hulk screamed in pain while groping for the new enemy. The smaller man side-stepped, ripped free his weapon, and plunged it a second time. It pierced him with spectacular results. Blood exploded from the man's new wound as the cross severed the sternum and impaled through to his ventricles. The screaming stopped as the body toppled and dropped to the concrete. It trembled violently then stopped, totally lifeless.

     Nicholas whirled around and let his gaze fall upon the maiden. As she stood up, the tatters that were her dress fell away. He stood there for a moment just looking at her. His eyes ran over her body, seeking the shapely curves. He felt a yearning, a desire start to build up within himself. The beautiful body standing in front of him was the personification of his dreams and fantasies that had built up in him throughout the years.

     The woman collapsed to the pavement. Nicholas quickly rushed to the maiden's aid and knelt down to her.

     As he held her, he whispered," I've waited my entire life for you. I love you more than life itself. You never have to worry about anyone hurting you again. I am here."

     Nicholas felt a twinge pluck in his mind. It was like something was flowing over his thoughts.

     She whispered,"You have saved me, courageous knight. My heart is yours. I will love you forever."

     The black lace undergarments held his heated stare and the burning desire kept building up inside of him. She looked up with ocean blue eyes, beckoning a kiss. He shivered as his lips touched hers. Odd, he thought. Why would her lips be so cool? While kissing, she brought her petite hand up to rest on the inside of his thigh. Nicholas thought he was going to blow up. He had never felt this way, ever. His burning desire clouded his mind and his heart beat faster and faster.

     As they kissed, her puckered lips curved into a hideous smile. The hand on his thigh now moved to his back and changed. The fingers lengthened and the nails elongated and curled into horrible talons.

     Nicholas knew this was the woman he was going to spend the rest of his life with.

     These images fled as pain exploded through his head. He jumped back, screaming in pain. He watched, horrified as his lip disappeared into the ravenous maw of the woman.

     He turned to run but a taloned hand grasped the back of his head. He yelped in fear when she forced his head back, exposing his throat. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her teeth slide out of their sockets and he felt a drop of saliva sizzle on his neck.

     He realized his fatal mistake as he watched her eyes merge from ocean blue to a hideous black. He had killed the wrong person.

     A giggle of excitement fell upon his ears as the teeth entered and ripped their way through to his jugular artery.

     As he laid there, he felt a force flow through his thoughts. "You championed me. My heart is yours and yours is now mine. We will be together, always."

     A black coldness started to spread out from the wound in his neck and chased the images of what might have been from his mind. He hardly felt the woman he loved not twenty seconds ago change to a blood crazed beast. He was powerless as she sucked the life out of him.

     The last thing he heard before he died was a demonic laugh and the sound of leathery wings fading into the night.

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Fantasticoe 1991