© by Gary L Morton
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Nod yourself asleep with a cotton-candy dream in your headspace, and the rushes shoot you high to a realm of orchestral music. Here you're strolling beside a jade-blue pond in a land of tall palms, watching a wealth of sunbeams in ice-crystals -- fast on their way from the heavens, glowing gold in the crowns of rolling clouds.

It all drifts slowly away from your open palm and into the blue face of twilight, so you race through these moments you've stolen, trying to tag the golden fleece of fortune before it slips away.

Beautiful feelings are ephemeral in every land, and here the night spirals down in a carousel of colors . . . so you keep on running, reaching for the heavens as an inner voice shouts, 'What freedom it is to dream alone on my own!'

Now you're on your own in cold and lonely corners, many melting forms mix aimlessly in a play of lantern light. The night has stuffed its magic deep in bleak pockets, so you turn and take a sidelong glance down an alleyway, wondering what evil will take shape.

We all have enemies, they're at large in the secrecy of the world, and if there isn't a blade flashing at your back there's a bundle of cash with your name on it, or maybe a face of blue death at your door. So you let the shapeless take form, let the hidden become visible . . . you set your dark forces free.

Now your dreams scatter from you with the lizards and the bats and your broken teeth chatter by towering stones. Forms are hideous scarecrows spattered with crimson, moving against a blur of grey-streaked ebony walls. You know how it always is on these late starless evenings, and you shuffle wearily to the Blue house hoping to work for some White. If you could put your finger on what's changed your chances would be better, but the sweat and nightmares, the bones and the cobbles, make answers a blur. Time is short when you're a lone wolf scavenging among the tombstone towers, but the shadow gangs are the first step down to the ravening mob. It's better to gamble on a vamp or the shakes, better to turn down a familiar gloom row and go for the sane.

Feet in the gutter by a sconce light flickering on a grim grease-scarred wall, you look up at a purple bruise that once was the moon. When the vamp strides up his cape is trailing ashen fog; his face is stern, having the strength of a statue among men made of rot. Yet something's not quite right - you think it is in his eyes, they've yellowed when once they shone with distinction like his pearl clasp.

He shows you the White and of course he has an elegant manner; it makes you ashamed of your stoop and your drool. He steadies you with a firm hand on the shoulder, in his eyes he says you're still human enough for use, and then he asks for a Red name.

You give him her name and say she's fresh, definitely no disease or face of blue death, one of the rare untainted ones - no withering, a princess.

As vampires always do, he smiles confidently and pulls you to him with a rough hand. "A name is not enough, take me to her!"

She lives in a small ivy-covered keep in one of the uphill circles, and sentry stones stand like cracked fists there. Poison dew is the only guard left to hinder you as you steal through the deep grass with your customer, the vampire. He's going by sense of smell now and he really has no use for you, but a deal is a deal - the Red for the White.

Phosphor-bright windows. His eyes smolder low. A sweep of dark hair, a slim gliding figure and he visibly chokes at the sight. He looks to you fiercely, and at your open palm, then he charges the oak-and-iron door and boots it down. He steps back as the thundering crash resounds in the structure's ancient hallways.

Silence comes with her, her shadows and a hint of fire. Flames lick from the end of her silver weapon. Her black dress and hair flow liquidly like silk as she poses and directs the gun's molten stream.

A fountain of fire devours the vampire. He flings his arms up, his cape lifts sending a tongue of flame over the gnarled oaks, painting the soot-fogged sky red. He's a stumbling torch when her weapon is long empty, then he falls to his knees in a cloud of hissing smoke.

Her white teeth glitter and you remember the stars as she steps out confidently to view his corpse. You see her cheeks like rouge-tinted porcelain as he springs up. He surprises her and takes her by the throat to the wall. In a tangle of ivy, she's flowing with blood. White wax crumbles, his hands fall away, and you see the crooked claws ripping her flesh. He's hungrier than fire, breaking away ribs, tearing at the heart.

Your head is spinning but there's nowhere to go, so you watch, not wanting to see him feed. He spares you now, turns and lets the Red slide down the wall. With one crooked claw, he grabs his distorted wax face and breaks the melted mask away. His scorched wig drops, there's only blood-speckled black rot . . . a nose bone, canine teeth and yellow eyes tell his story.

Now you know what has changed. With one filthy claw, he squeezes raw Red on the powdery White, and then tosses you the pouch.

"Our deal, Red for White -- not diseased," he hisses. "Don't you tell the others. Don’t tell it around. There are no vampires any more. I was the last. And this poisoned world has killed me too."

Now there is nothing but the twilight and the darkness, inhabited by hideous diseased scarecrows and the predators of animal night. The sounds of his feeding fade as you make for the bushes behind a sentry stone; there White powder fizzes through your skin and spots of red stain your wrist - you kneel, nod yourself asleep with a white candy dream in your headspace, and the rushes shoot you . . . . . . . .

------ The End -------