by backfromspace

They came for Rebecca Alsbeth-Romanie eighteen months after she gave birth to her fifth child. Her undeath was not an unhappy one, though it was short-lived; she had been twenty-seven years old at death, three weeks from her birthday, and she was dust on the living room carpet before she saw twenty-eight.

It's a documented fact that vampires always go first to those they were close to in real life. Rebecca's first victim was her husband, who she did not see fit to make a vampire for reasons that can best described as completely random. His body was discovered oozing unpleasantly all over the kitchen table, shirt torn open, pants around his ankles. Law enforcement danced around that bit quite a lot during the invetiable inquest, but no one ever thought to question Rebecca. After all, she'd been dead and buried for two days, and the police aren't gibbering idiots.

The natural question to then be asked, at least in the eyes of the law, dealt with the fate of the tragically deceased couple's brood. Only the eldest was old enough to be in elementary school, and there were strong family ties on the Alsbeth side, so the decision was made to put all five with the maternal grandmother, a wiry old woman named Janis who lived in a trailer home but upgraded to her daughter's house to care for the children.

Money was very scarce after the two funerals, and the Alsbeth-Romanies had never had cash to burn, so Janis fed all five children on beets and a single box of Cheerios for both days of unhappy adjusting. Janis's body underwent a great many profound changes during this period, changes which she chalked up to a reviving maternal instinct as she clawed loosely-boarded barns open to steal squash or potatoes. Her back, which hadn't functioned very well since she threw it out in a limousine with a very high-paying customer close to thirty-five years ago, was suddenly capable of supporting the weight of stacks of two-by-fours the size of her grandchildren. She felt stirrings below her stomach, sometimes, pains she hadn't felt since her late fourties, which lingered on the long walks home but dissipated the second she crossed the threshold to the house.

She cooked food to last (in the kitchen, under the shadow of her grandchildren's dead father), not to taste, and worked her suddenly arthritis-free fingers through stacks of clothes soaked through with warm water and bleach to make a living. The bleach, which had always irritated her skin, seemed below affecting her now; it was if the world had merely been waiting for her to attack it to take all the pains of old age and give her strength she only half-remembered but often missed.

Then, nearly one month after her death, Rebecca returned.

She pushed open the gate, walked right up to the door, knocked. The sun had only just set, and light lingered still in the spartan yard. Her son Michael, aged 5, answered the door. When he saw her, he stuck his hand in his mouth and refused to speak. It was, in fact, her daughter Marie, aged 4, who invited her in. "Why arnt you comminin?" she asked, the words crashing into a jumble. "Cominside, Mama!"

She did.

Janis found her crouched over Marie's body, blood dribbling from her full lips and from a tiny puncture on her chin. Marie's eyes glowed unpleasantly as her mother's blood dripped softly into her mouth. Somewhere behind Rebecca, Michael's limp hand stuck out from under a smashed dresser. There was rubble everywhere, chunks of wood and furniture scattering the room. Rebecca looked up at her mother and smiled.

Janis walked slowly into the kitchen, pulled out the butter knife, and walked into the babies' bedroom. Kyle, aged three; Martha, aged two; Baby Janis (Martha's delayed twin), aged eighteen months. All three were awake and silent, watching her slow progress around the room.

None of them had marks on their neck, none of them had blood on their lips. Janis, feeling no relief, pulled the cross off the wall and turned, walking back out into the front room as slowly as her progress to the bedroom had been.

Rebecca was waiting, a tired-looking Marie cradled affectionately in her arms. "Hullo, Mama," she said, her voice stirring memories deep in Janis' heart that somehow failed to penetrate. "Marie's very sleepy. I think it's time she went to bed."

Janis' arm lifted of its own accord, presenting the cross. She felt her legs position themselves, the butter knife slip into position. She wasn't holding it like a butter knife, not even like a carving knife; there was no way to cook with the blade pointed down from the fist. She held it prepared to stab.

Rebecca laughed. "Don't be silly, Mama," she said, circling slowly around towards the bedroom door. "You don't know how to use that."

The muscle in Janis' jaw tightened, but she did not speak. The cross inched forward, Rebecca inched back. Marie still in her arms, blocking her entire torso. Michael's hand pulled at the edges of Janis' peripheral vision, but she didn't dare take her eyes off her daughter. The bedroom behind her was ominously quiet.

She darted forward, acting entirely on instinct, and buried the butter knife to the handle in her daughter's forehead. Rebecca's arms flailed, but Marie's weight dragged her down, and she collapsed into a heap on the floor. Janis beat the butter knife in farther with the cross until the cross splintered in her fingers and only the tip of the handle was visible outside. Blood pooled down around Rebecca's head, coursing over her eyes and down the curve of her cheeks.

Janis rocked back on her heels and wiped her mouth on her sleeve. Her hand found Marie's neck; no pulse. Over to Michael's hand under the heap of furniture. It curled up when she touched it, but he had no more pulse than Marie had.

Janis walked back into the kitched and washed her hands very carefully and very thoroughly in the clean little sink. She'd put the kettle on to boil at some point in the past, and it was whistling insistantly so she picked it up, not noticing the heat, and poured herself a cup of tea. Rebecca walked in just as she was sitting down, the gaping wound in her forehead the only indication of anything that had happened out in the front room. Marie held Rebecca's hand and stared dangerously at her grandmother.

Janis sighed and pulled her knitting out of the middle of the table. "Well, come sit down," she said, gesturing at the seats. Rebecca sat at the other end of the tiny table and poured tea into a cracked blue mug, which she shared with Marie. "What are you, now?" Janis asked.

"Oh, Mama, I'm immortal now," Rebecca said, her eyes lighting up unnaturally. "I stalk the dark, and I will always be young and beautiful. Forever."

Janis didn't bother to hold back her snort of derision. "You were beautiful before, Rebecca." Her fingers went to the knitting, bunching it into flawless rows with the ease of long practicie. She thought of Michael's little hand, out in the other room. "I've already lost my child once," she continued. "But I'll do it again if she touches my grandchildren."

Rebecca smiled gently, her fingers tracing a line down Marie's cheek. "They're my children, Mama," she said. "I want them to live forever with me."

Janis' hands tightened on the knitting. "No," she said, simply. "I will break every bone in your body twice before I let you lay so much as a finger on my grandchildren."

Marie's turn to speak. She stood slowly and turned an imperious gaze over the little room, taking in the scrubbed boards and the little cabinets. "Grandmum," she said, "It feels wonderful."

She flew at Janis, then, accompanied by her mother's startled cries, lunging into Janis' torso. The knitting needles flipped out of the wool abruptly and embedded themselves firmly into her little chest. She gave her grandmother a final startled look and then disintegrated, leaving Janis covered in a layer of dust that smelled like her daughter's grave.

Janis looked at Rebecca, and there were tears in both their eyes. A moment passed of complete connection, like the old days when they'd been truly close; a pain so basic and intimate that they could not help but share it. Then sense dawned again, and Rebecca stood up carefully.

"So there is a way to kill you immortals," Janis whispered harshly, her voice betraying her. Rebecca said nothing, simply brought up her hands and went into fighting posture. "I have two dead grandchildren now," Janis continued. "If you take the other three, will they always be young and beautiful, like you?"

"Yes," Rebecca answered. "Always."

Janis' needles flurried into her daughter, scraping against collarbone and ribcage. Rebecca clawed and bit at her mother, legs wrapping around her and squeezing until she felt Janis' aging frame begin to give way under the pressure, but the old woman's needles kept probing, searching for a way between the bones. Janis' leg broke with a sickening snap, but she stayed standing, supporting herself on her other foot and staring her daughter straight in the eye. Finally, the needles drove into Rebecca's heart. The ash that sank down from where she had been mixed with the sweat on Janis' hands, leaving the old woman muddy with death.

In the bedroom, Baby Janis began to howl. Janis looked at the twin heaps of ash that had been two generations of her offspring, looked at her bloody knitting needles, looked at the once-clean room littered with its newly acquired thick patina of dust. Her leg hurt. She would have simply killed herself then and there, but there were three children to watch over still and she didn't think there was anyone else who would take them.

She pulled herself carefully to the phone and called the paramedics, who arrived and fussed around dead Michael for close to two hours before getting to the elderly woman, and by then her leg had healed itself. She told the police she'd been attacked, that the man had killed her grandson when he answered the door and that he had fled after Janis stabbed him with her butterknife and her knitting, the only concievable weapons in the house. She told them he'd dragged Marie off with him, and she had looked unconscious. For good measure, she told them he was a six-foot-tall black man. The police always took that line.

They believed her and asked very few further questions, giving only vague promises.

Fifteen years later, when she was in her nineties and Baby Janis was nearing her seventeenth birthday, Janis judged that they were old enough to care for themselves and disappeared into the night. Her body was discovered drowning in close to four feet of dust in the lobby of an abandoned hotel in Pasadena. The only items found on her person were a pair of knitting needles, still caked with dried blood.

They buried her next to her daughter.


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