We came out of the corridor and into an immense cavern. Once it may have been a big open space, but now a large enclosed maze had been built within it. Using old timbers from the mine, the vampire army and their mindless human servants had been busy. But what was the point of it all? What was the goal of this creaky wooden labyrinth?
We were ushered up to the entrance, where they commanded we stop. They tried to be menacing about it, showing their teeth and growling as if the sound would intimidate us. It worked with me, but I could tell my companions were unimpressed. Maybe their numbers caused Haru and the others to hold back, or perhaps they were just waiting for the right time, but either way it goaded the wall of enemy vampires on. It made them confident, which wasn’t a good thing.
As we stood there at the head of the labyrinth, they snapped their teeth, the sound of it echoing into the chamber. Soon there was another sound, almost in response, coming from within the maze. According to Greek mythology, the labyrinth was originally constructed to house the Minotaur, a fearsome beast. But this wasn’t the noise of a monster. It was the quiet echo of hard heel shoes tapping across cavern rock. Click, clack, click, clack, it repeated as it drew closer to the entrance.
I wasn’t scared, though the footsteps were slow, methodical, and designed to creep us out. One could imagine the sound as being that of sharpened talons dragging across the floor. But I knew better. I had heard the sound many times over before. In the hallway at school, the principal’s office, walking up and down the aisle at school assemblies, quietly observing the students. And suddenly it dawned on me. This was the very same sound Miss Lazenby must have heard when she was led down the steps to the boiler room to meet her horrible death. And then into view it came. The visage of evil once hidden, now brought to the fore by her vampire master. Flanked on either side by two large dogs, she stepped out of the labyrinth and smiled maliciously.
“Hello Nora,” Miss Thomas spoke. “It looks like summer school might not be an option for you after all.”
I didn’t know what to say. Out of all the school staff I could imagine as vampires, Miss Thomas wasn’t one of them. She was always so prim and formal. And though the late Miss Lazenby had been much the same way before Ryo turned her, Miss Thomas had a new look and manner that were disastrous. Unlike Lazenby, who seemed to blossom and discover her late sexuality under Ryo’s power, Miss Thomas had gone mad. Hair disheveled, clothes in disarray as if she had been chewing on them, dirt and blood dotting her face like crimson freckles, she looked like a lockdown patient from the psychiatric hospital my dad had been in. The strangest thing was, despite her apparent insane look, she thought she was ravishing. She primped her hair, which seemed to had fallen out in places. She had attempted to apply makeup with the results of a three year old. And when she looked at Haru next to me, she seemed to think she was the most attractive woman in town.
“We haven’t met,” she said, “But I’m charmed to say the least. If you’d like we could…”
“Shut up,” I said. I’d never been much of a jealous person, but no girl, woman, fleabag, whatever, was going to touch my Haru. I’d knock all the teeth out of her head for just thinking so.
“What do you want?” Haru added, putting a hand over my balled fist.
Thomas sighed, as if she were disappointed. “Very well, have it your way, young man.” She looked behind her at the entrance of the constructed labyrinth. “Through this maze and out the other side, you will find your floozy friend.” She looked at me, as if she were going to add something rude, but Haru cleared his throat and it brought her attention back. “But in order to make it through,” she giggled, “There will be puzzles to solve. I do wish you luck. Really.”
“Why are you doing this?” I asked. “This isn’t you. This is..”
“It’s me now,” she declared. “And soon the whole town will be remade and I’ll be mayor.” She lowered her voice a little. “He promised.”
“Who promised?” Luhan asked. One of the dogs growled at him. He growled back, perfectly mimicking the beast. Chi stood in front of the other dog, ready to put up a defense should it lunge towards us.
“The Master,” she cackled in a loud voice. “The Master has made promises to all who follow him.”
“So do presidents, but you don’t ever get what you want. This is going to end badly for you.”
“Such big words for a little girl. You won’t say that when you go through the labyrinth.” She smiled and stepped to the side. “So go…”
“No,” Haru commanded. “You’ll take us to the master.”
It wasn’t a request. Haru’s voice was commanding, and I knew he was using vampire powers of persuasion. She almost obeyed. For a moment, she gritted her teeth and scraped her high heels on the floor, as if fighting her own will. But then something else came over her.
“Nice try. But my mind is under his protection.”
“More like it’s in his pocket,” Chi answered.
“Oh, Miss pretty something something, was have a task for you too, don’t you worry.” She looked at Luhan with pure malice in her gaze. “And as for you…”
There was a rustling sound behind him and we all turned. A young vampire had broken away from the wall and was charging at him low. In his hands, a sharpened stake. There was a desperate look in the youth’s eye as if he felt taking Luhan out would change the game in their favor. Luhan met him and easily disarmed the would be attacker. He shoved him back towards the wall, but then there were other stakes in other hands. The new vampires had all been given the weapons, and from the maddened look in their hollow eyes the instructions were clear. Kill us all if we did not comply.
Chi jumped in front of Luhan, prepared to defend him. She glanced around the cavern trying to discern a means of escape. The stake wielding vamps didn’t know the meaning of strategy. They charged forward, stabbing the air as if they didn’t even know where we were. Chi met them head on with a flurry of moves, disarming them as she made contact, and in some cases knocking the assailants out with blows similar to the one she’d given Amanda Trump the first day I’d met her.
Luhan was like a whirling dervish, moving into the crowd fast and low. Sweeping their legs out from under them, many went down, but the sheer numbers were almost impossible to deal with. A stake grazed his arm, another got him in the leg. He pulled it out and stuck it in his assailants leg instead. Then Chi was snatching him up, pulling him out of harm’s way. She swung him over onto her back and looked to the labyrinth. There was only one avenue of escape.
“Go, “ she urged Haru, who had taken a defensive stance in front of me should the marauding vamps get past our friends. “Into the tunnel!”
Miss Thomas howled in delight. “Yes! Yes! Into the tunnel!”
Haru didn’t want to, and neither did I for that matter, but there was no other choice. He grabbed my hand and we ran through the entrance into the near darkness. I looked back to see Chi with Luhan on her back jump onto the top of the labyrinth in an effort to escape. Some of the vamps attempted to follow them, but being new vampires they didn’t quite make the jump.
Miss Thomas screamed, “Safe Journeys!” And then stopped as if remembering something she was supposed to do. “Oh, I almost forgot.” She released the dogs from their chain.
To Be Continued…
“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.