Sunday Archive: In This Darkness, Part Three
Melissa pulled him into the crowd and threaded her way to a tight circle of conversation. McGavin recognized the man and the woman from the basement steps, but the others in the circle were complete strangers.
“Everyone,” Melissa said, “This is Lance McGavin. A new friend of mine.” She winked at McGavin playfully.
A general chorus of hellos greeted him, then Melissa faded back into the party and left McGavin alone with these people.
“Howdy Lance!” said a tall man beside McGavin.
“Where’s your shotgun?” the bland-faced man from the basement stairs asked.
“Upstairs,” McGavin answered. “Just a Colt with me now,” he patted the .45 hiding under his jacket.
“So, how do you like running a hotel,” a small, bald man asked.
“It wasn’t so bad till the world ended,” McGavin replied sharply.
“Indeed…indeed…” the bald man replied as if in answer to a thoughtful anecdote.
“It’s a nice place, that’s for sure…” the tall man said, looking at the vaulted ceiling. McGavin began to stare incredulously; what was wrong with these people?
“I bet you’re glad to have someone to celebrate New Years Eve with, Lance.” The bald man chirped.
McGavin just wasn’t ready for inane conversation. He looked around at the gathered faces in bewilderment. “Don’t you people know what’s going on out there?”
“Yes we do, Mr. McGavin,” the bald man replied. “But that’s no reason to be anti-social.”
“This is a New Years party, Lance,” the tall man said, “a chance to relax and enjoy yourself.”
“We deserve to have some fun,” the man from the steps said.
“We, especially,” his woman muttered, but she was silenced by glares from the others.
McGavin looked at each of them in turn, “How can you turn your backs on all that have died – on the supernatural – ”
The tall man interrupted him with a loud cough and raised his glass in the air. “A toast, for Mr. McGavin.” The others turned their attention to the tall man as he continued. “I’m afraid it’s rather simple. All I have to say,” He sloshed the champagne in his glass and stared at it blissfully, “is rather poetic. In this, our darkest hour, may we strive to see the light. Let us be not memory; but living, breathing, feeling things.”
“Amen,” the man from the stairs said as everyone but McGavin toasted their companion’s glass.
“It’s an exciting night, Mr. McGavin.” The woman from the stairs said.
The bald man nodded, then engaged the woman in a conversation about her diamond pendant.
The man from the stairs and the tall man began to discuss pointless gossip; the partygoers had lost all interest in McGavin. He stood there for a while, silent, awkward, and looking at these people’s faces with undisguised loathing. Then he drifted away and pushed through the party – heading back for the stairs. He paused when a small hand grabbed his arm and he swung around as if to face a would-be attacker.
McGavin looked into the face of the pale redhead that had stopped him. She was short, yet very well proportioned, coming to his shoulder and looking up at him. McGavin followed her alabaster skin down her perfectly formed arms, then down her chest to the golden locket suspended between her breasts. The design of the locket was the same as the diamond pendant worn by the woman from the stairs – a simple pyramid. The redhead’s eyes, a dark green, mesmerized him. Her ballgown and satiny gloves were a light sky blue. This woman was unreal – made for pleasure and reaching a level of perfection that was angelic. Then McGavin glanced up into the party and realized what he had noticed all along: All of the women possessed such unnaturally perfect features. McGavin had seen many a beautiful woman before, but nothing could rival this gathering.
“You seem to be out of place,” the redhead said.
He turned and looked at her. She held him captivated, speechless.
“I’m Maureen,” she said at last, “Melissa sent me over.”
Melissa certainly knew how to be a good hostess. “What, is she trying to keep me occupied?” McGavin asked, the spell broken. He looked around the party suspiciously for any sign of Melissa. Having been alone for such a long time he didn’t realize that his words hurt, or even notice the flicker of pain that drifted across Maureen’s face. But she answered him as if unflustered by the comment.
“Yes, perhaps she is Lance…”
McGavin reached out and took Maureen’s hand, shaking it warmly. “Well, why not? It is her party after all, yes?”
Maureen smiled, somewhat renewed. She allowed McGavin to guide her over to the foot of the staircase where it was a little less busy.
“You know anyone here?” he asked her softly.
Maureen shook her head, “No, not really. Except Melissa.”
McGavin grabbed a couple of glasses from a passing tray of champagne, handing one to Maureen and then placing that free arm around her shoulders. It’d been nearly a year since he’d even touched a woman and contact with her warm skin sent a shiver of desire along his spine. Primal urges shuffled to the front of his mind and took charge, letting him know that this creature beside him was overwhelmingly a woman. She accepted the champagne graciously and cozied next to him when she felt the comforting arm across her shoulders. Then McGavin started the wheels turning. He prompted her about her life, got her talking casually with him as he listened sensitively. In the end, she was really a very intelligent girl. Quick, light-hearted, always ready with a smile. She was from Oregon originally, an ugly turn of events involving some deadbeat had brought her down here. She didn’t talk much about the last five years and that was okay. Nobody could.
The night rolled on and the music died down somewhat. A few couples slow danced while others wandered around the edges of the lobby. A buffet table had been set up in the ballroom and a majority of the partygoers now clustered around its edges and spoke softly to each other. Otherwise, the party seemed to have stuck to the main lobby, never officially moving into one of the rooms better suited for the needs. McGavin couldn’t understand why the focus was in the lobby, as that stretched the party out and packed the people in. It seemed very awkward but, as he had said to Maureen, it was Melissa’s party after all.
It had been McGavin’s turn to share his life story, but he was finding it a little difficult to get everything in order. He found himself telling Maureen about his brother the lawyer, now dead of course, and how close they had been. Of anyone in the world, McGavin’s brother had been the only one who meant something to him. But he’d been drafted, and now he was out there on the battlefield somewhere, three years gone. That’s how things worked, he told Maureen. People die, and if only that could be accepted, then each day would become a little bit easier. Slowly, painfully, but easier none the less.
Then the redhead put down her fourth glass of champagne and grabbed his hand enthusiastically. “Let’s go upstairs,” she whispered, her smile turning a little coy as she led him up to the second floor. He had lost himself, dangerously close to a precipice in his mind. He hadn’t asked about the party, about who these people were. He had simply stopped thinking about it, caught up in the flow of this mad dream. If it was a dream, then nothing mattered. But something was nagging him, something was still there, but unclear…uncertain. His concentration was focused on Maureen, allowing her to take him up another flight of stairs to the silent third floor. She chose a suite next to where the looters lay, and then led McGavin inside. He was happy to find these rooms unoccupied. Maureen closed the door and leaned against it. “I don’t usually do this.” That’s how it always began. “I want to tell you something, Lance – ”
McGavin sat on the bed, watching Maureen carefully. “We can just skip to the physical if you want,”
Maureen blinked, her smile bewildered, “You are a man of incredible frankness, Lance. If these were different times, I think the only physical you’d be getting would be a slap in the face.”
“These are different times,” McGavin muttered.
“I need someone to take care of me, Lance… I feel that you can do that…” She lifted her skirt up along her leg, the sky blue nylons sending electrical charges through McGavin’s body. The skirt rose above her garters, which she unhooked with languid, magical motions. “Close your eyes,” a voice soothed from above that incredible pair of legs.
Though difficult, McGavin obeyed the order. He listened to the rustling of her clothes as she took them off, tiny beads of perspiration springing onto his forehead.
“Open,” her voice said, very close to his ear.
He opened his eyes and took in the glorious figure before him. His heart skipped, the air stopping in his lungs as his brain shot gibberish into his mouth. This was more than he imagined – the very image of perfection.
“What you wanted?” Maureen asked.
He watched her lips, looked into liquid eyes. “Everything I wanted…”
“Then it’s yours,” Maureen raised her arms, placing them on McGavin’s shoulders, “All of it,” her hands moved to his throat, feeling silky against his skin as they closed against his windpipe, “forever.” Then her grip tightened, pressing against his throat. Gagging, McGavin fell backward and pulled Maureen down on top of him. His eyes bulged as he flailed his hands helplessly. Even now, he was unable to hit a woman. Especially such a beauty.
Maureen looked disturbed. She struggled to hold on, renewing her grip and neatly cutting off his breath. Instincts were about to take over as he clawed at her delicate hands. Maureen, her eyes fearfully wide, leaned close to his ear, “Don’t be afraid – ” she said with sincere concern, “it won’t take long. Please – ”
McGavin’s mind flooded with terror, he lashed out with his fist and connected with Maureen’s side. She fell, her grip broken.
“Please don’t fight me – ” she pleaded, gasping and bent against the pain. Then she was up again, throwing herself at McGavin and again locking on his throat. She drove him down, her knee jamming into his stomach viciously. “It won’t hurt unless you keep fighting it!” she said through clenched teeth.
McGavin’s right arm was pinned under his body so he balled his left fist and swung for her face. But the world was starting to swim away, he missed his mark and connected solidly with her breast. She gasped, her grip weakening slightly, but she took the blow with remarkable ease. He punched again against her muscular stomach, but the little thing absorbed the blow this time without even flinching. He had managed to free his right arm, though, and the battle suddenly changed focus. Maureen was trying to pin his arm with her knee but McGavin was moving faster. Choking, gasping, he balled both fists and slammed them flat against her temples. Maureen’s head jerked and she fell to the floor, stunned.