"Burn To Shine"
W.B. Vogel




"C'mon, baby, let's go!" Eddie said, slapping a cap on his head as he slid behind the wheel of his 1969 Cadillac that was as black as the desolate night. This was the road trip from Hell. They could never stay anywhere for too long. There were too many questions to answer, and too many bodies to be buried. Fact was that Eddie's baby was insatiable, but that was part of her charm. At least that was what he told himself as he raced daylight across the highways of the western U.S.

They were currently getting the hell out of Dodge from the small town of Shilum, Utah. It was a hell of a life that his love had given him. But he was crazy about her, and she was the same way about him. Even Death could not separate them; it had not.

The engine roared on the Caddy as Eddie gave it the gas. Under all of that din he could hear a rumble from the back of the car. It was coming from the trunk. His eyes stared at the rearview mirror looking towards the backseat. "We're almost there," he said, "I know you're starving, Gracie. But we're almost there." He was worried that she would be upset. She could get very ugly when she was displeased with him. This was what scared him about her the most. The strange thing was that is was this fear that excited him the most as well. There was no life for him before he met her.

It had all become a chaotic blur, this strange love that they shared. There was a morbid poetry to it all. But even now there were times when he would have doubts. Love, sex, and death had all been mixed together into an oily, bloody mess that seemed to have no grim reasoning. What kind of love was this? Was this Hell, or just some damnable dream that he found some sick, twisted form of perverse pleasure in? He could no longer tell. If this were love then what was the price he would eventually have to pay? There are only so many hours in a day, and there is only so much blood to be spilled.

The road wound before him like his tormented thoughts. He had to focus; this was not the time to be dream driving. The idea of Gracie having to scrape his brains off of the asphalt with a razor gave him the chills. What would she do then? Who would be there to protect her? He shook his head briskly like a dog, trying to shake off the thought like so much cold rain.

Eddie loved Gracie so much that it hurt. Sometimes it did in the strictest sense of the word. She made him hurt inside and out, every agonizing inch of it. He would die for her, and he often wondered when he would. By her or because of her it made little difference in the end, he was a void without her. There was only perfect emptiness.

She was his life.

The loud thud from the trunk of the Cadillac broke his chain of thought. Eddie looked up and said, "Soon, baby, soon. Relax, we'll be there soon. There are just another few miles ahead. Then there'll be a bed, clean sheets, and us." She was running low on patience...

"The dead travel fast." Those words often rang through Eddie's head like a church bell. "Not fast enough" was his usual reply. Never fast enough.

Soon the sound of sirens was the only thing that Eddie could hear. Rapidly pulling up behind him was a Utah Highway Patrol prowler, and he was being signaled to pull the Caddy off of the road. Over to the right the car slowly edged until it was off of the pavement completely, and came to a stop.

"Great, just great!" Eddie groaned, "I've had it this time." He slammed his head down on the steering wheel. This was it, he was sure that the chase was over.

He could see it all in vivid brutality. Gracie wandering through the wilderness until sunrise. The exit wound in his forehead, and the technicolor brain splatter on the windshield shimmering like a kaleidoscope macabre. The officer's face on the television, his book sales, and the contract negotiations for the movie rights. It would be a cheap made-for-TV movie too.

"Take a breath, man! Get a hold of yourself," he told himself. His mind was still a clatter. He could hear Gracie screaming at daybreak in the back of his mind like a banshee's wail. The thought of it made him wretch in pain.

The officer strode stiffly towards the car. He reveled in his authority and it was evident that he believed himself to be in command of any and all situations. Eddie was still worried.

The patrolman flashed his light in the Cadillac's window and said, "Sir, please exit the vehicle." Eddie complied without saying a word. "Spread your legs, and place your hands on the roof of the car." The officer patted Eddie down, making sure that he wasn't armed.

"What is this about, officer?" Eddie asked. He figured that the relative calm with which the patrolman had acted with thusfar that he wasn't in serious trouble.

"Follow me to the rear of the vehicle," the officer replied in an abrupt tone.

"Certainly," Eddie said. This made him a little squeamish, but he tried not to let it show.

After they reached the back of the Cadillac the officer flashed his light on the back end of the car and then said, "One of your left tail lights is busted. You need to get this fixed right away. Consider yourself very lucky, if I hadn't been in such a good mood I would have given you a ticket. But I'm tired, and I decided to let you off with just a warning this..."

Before he could finish his speech on the generosity of his nature he was interrupted by a loud noise from the inside of the trunk. It startled him, stepping back and drawing out his 40-caliber Glock pistol from its holster. "What in the hell!" the patrolman bellowed. "Put the key to the trunk in the lock and step back. I have probable cause to search your vehicle."

Eddie put the key into the lock as ordered. "Step back!" the officer yelled. Eddie did so, except he moved way back.

The patrolman turned the key and popped open the trunk. There Gracie was in that vast, black emptiness--limp, pale, and coldly beautiful. "You sick..."

Gracie's eyes opened. They were as black as a starless night, and her jagged smile made the officer shriek in horror. She sat up, grabbed his neck, and tore open his chest with her teeth. Pulling his 200-pound plus body into the trunk was nothing for her. After doing so she made easy work of him.

Eddie slammed the trunk shut hard, bending down afterwards to retrieve the pistol that the officer had dropped when his realization shifted from terror to excruciating pain. He slid it into his pants, his belt holding it snugly against the small of his back. "I guess it is my lucky day. Better by you, better than me."

He walked over to the prowler. Before touching it he put a pair of gloves on. Again he was blessed as this was an older model patrol car and was lacking the camera setup now in most of them. The radio was turned off; he most likely had never even called this one in.

Eddie put the car into neutral and rolled it off of the road. It continued down a steep bluff, through some bushes, and finally came to an immediate halt after hitting a huge oak tree. He followed it down the embankment, concealing it from sight by covering it with branches and leaves. It had all been just a little too easy to suit Eddie's way of thinking. He sure as hell wasn't going to leave anything else to chance. Testing his newfound luck was not something that he really relished the idea of trying on a regular basis like an acid test. Anything left to chance was an open invitation to a fabulous disaster. Eddie knew better than to risk that.

Eddie and Grace would now head south. New Mexico seemed like a nice place to visit. First, it was close to Mexico and if they needed to make a hasty exit that would be the best way to go. Second, Eddie had always wanted to see Roswell. A government organized cover-up of a UFO crash happening in the exact same year that the first jet airplane went supersonic had always intrigued him greatly. What were the odds? Pretty slim, he believed. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

It would take a couple of days to get into New Mexico. Eddie never took the direct route to get where he was going, preferring to leave false trails and random decisions as a means to confuse any possible trackers. The erratic mind is more difficult understand and predict, and Eddie had to exploit what little he had.

Soon they came across a little motel, called The Castle Inn. It was one of those backwoods places that sat on a little stretch of highway that hadn't been important since Eisenhower was President. Now it only provided service to the lost and the extremely lost, but it was exactly what these two wanted. Quaint was not the word for it, but dump definitely was.

Eddie got himself and Grace checked in. When he returned to the Caddy, he found that the trunk was standing wide open, and Gracie was gone. The heap of sucked dry bones and the shreds of officer's clothes made Eddie queasy. Gracie never wasted much. She could have at least shut the trunk. Life was often cruel, but Gracie was crueler still.

He hoped that she was in the room. He prayed that she was in the room. The door was ajar; it was as black as pitch in there. Sliding his fingers gently down the edge of the door he pushed it open slowly. Better safe than sorry, better sorry than dead...

It was dark and still. The silence was so immense that he could hear his sweat rolling down his skin like an avalanche. The veins under his flesh were ready to explode from the pressure. He hated this. He REALLY hated this.

Two arms wrapped around him like a python and tossed his struggling form onto the bed. A soft voice, seductive and warm, said, "You're mine now, and I will ravage you until there is no more." She crawled on top of him. Gracie kissed him tenderly. No matter how many times they were one it excited him, mixing fear, adrenaline, love, and spiritual union into a raging din of sensations that left him euphorically numb. Bliss was her touch.

She tore off her clothes, and then his. They made love until nearly dawn. She was warm, gentle, and loving when they were together, her soul with his in the darkness of each other's thrall. The night was gone too soon, much too soon...

Before dawn he awoke just like clockwork. It was almost a tedious routine by now all of the tasks that he had to finish before sunrise. Daylight was death for his love, and as long as he lived she would never suffer its vengeful touch.

All of the windows had to be completely sealed shut. Blinds and curtains were not only closed, but then were also bolstered by heavy blankets that were hung from the curtain racks. The side and bottom edges were then tightly fixed with heavy tape.

Next he covered the inside of the door with a sheet so if need be he could leave without disturbing her rest. It had only taken several minutes to do all of this for her. Practice had honed the process into a fine art. Every care had been taken, and he took great pride in it all.

He stared at her for the longest time. Truth was that he was crazy about her in every way possible. His eyes caressed every inch of her from head to toe, perusing her form the way some men admire paintings in a museum studying every line of the artist's handiwork. He would never understand her, only love her for all time.

For all appearances she was quite fragile, having finely sculpted features that were well defined, a slender but shapely build, and skin as perfect and pale as porcelain. All of this crowned by long, dark, wavy hair that was as black and shiny as her unnaturally abyssal eyes.
She was all that he had ever longed for, and much more.

In the 3 months that they had been together she had told him all. She had recounted the history of her kind...how they had been the descendents of the ancient undead who had walked this world when it was still kindled in chaos. Now all of the ancient ones were gone, except the last that was known as Taar. He was the final and the most powerful of his kind. Every thousand years her breed was summoned to pay tribute to him, and the Empire of the Dead. Each would feel the call, and be drawn to a secluded and distant city in the western Americas. Even now she could feel the cycle drawing closer as a subconscious pull led her towards a darkened horizon.

Fate had brought them down these roads. Every breath before this time had been but a continuing progression in the scheme. Ed believed this even now. How could he not love her?

Daylight was burning; Ed spent his time cleaning his guns and waiting for dusk and her embrace. His 2 Colt Pythons were done and fully loaded. He spun the chambers out of nervous habit, seeing the bullets spin by in a blurry revolution eased his mind somehow. They had never failed him yet.

Soon he would need to ditch their ride and find something with a cooler history. The string of murders, armed robberies, and general mayhem that they had left in their wake had the cops hot and heavy on their trail. They were looking for blood, and they wouldn't stop until they had it.

He wouldn't let them hurt Gracie, he couldn't. Without her he was nothing...

His eyes again scanned her body. How he wanted to hear the rattling of their souls in symbiotic spiritual ecstasy, but he did not have the heart to wake her no matter how much he wanted her. She was his poetry, his angel that had fallen from the stormy heavens only but for the love of him. His eyes closed and he dreamed the dreams of the dead.

In those brief moments of lucidity he remembered the words that Gracie had once told him. She said, "A soul must first burn in the fires of Hell to shine in the glory of Heaven." These few words had spoken deeply to him, and had been etched into his very soul. He would never forget them; he could never forget them...

There was a loud rapping on the door. "What the hell?" Eddie groaned, rubbing his eyes and face slowly with his hands. There were sirens off in the distance. Then he realized what was actually happening. "What the HELL!"--grabbing the Glock from the table and aiming it at the door. "WHAT!"

"Sheriff, open up!" called the voice from outside the door. "We're running a room check. There are fugitives about...they're escapees from the Greemore Mental Home." The sheriff had paused briefly, searching for any excuse to get into that room the easy way.

Eddie had heard that delay as sure as if it were the snap of a dead man's neck on gallows' day. It had been a poorly played lie, and Eddie had recognized it for all it was worth. He had a gut wrenching feeling that this was his final day on Earth. "Where's the warrant?" That was a stupid question. Eddie knew it. It was now just a matter of degrees and moments of pain.

Three shots rang out, missing Ed by feet, and hitting the back wall of their pay-by-the-day tomb. Eddie was now pissed beyond all belief. He fired a return salvo through the door killing the Sheriff. The sheriff's deputies opened fire. Bullets were tearing through the front wall, shafts of sunlight jutting in randomly at crazy angles like some weird abstractionism, and Gracie was already down behind the bed assessing the situation. She grabbed Ed by the pants and yanked him behind the bed too. "Don't be stupid," she screamed, "You can't kill them all."

Ed grimaced. "I can sure as hell take some of them with me," aiming the gun over the bed and popping off a few more rounds at his unseen foes. "We're dying by inches here." He pulled the Colts, checked that they were fully loaded, and slammed the cylinders shut. His eyes locked on Grace's. They were dying by inches, just as he had said, and it was just a matter of time.

Grace's hand accidentally passed into one of the beams of light, screaming as the area of contact immediately lit on fire and began to sear. Eddie smacked it out, but the damage had been done. Cold tears rolled down her cheeks. He just couldn't stand to watch this happen to her, he wouldn't let it happen. He'd die first.

He spun the cylinders on his Colts one last time. He knew that there would be no walking away from this one alive, and he was resolute now to meet the Maker. Gracie's eyes shimmered with glowing tears. Now was the time to die.

"I think it's time for me to step outside, and give these bastards the what for," Ed said coldly. He was ready to go. Anxiously his heart pounded as he waited to hear the symphony of the hammers' fall along with his own. What strange angels of fate were these?

Gracie clenched his wrist. "Don't go," she cried. Ed had never seen her like this before. "This is suicide."

"Baby, there's still 3 hours of sunlight. There's nowhere to run. I can die so that you can live," he said, rubbing her hand tenderly, "Besides, you have to burn to shine." Then he smiled at her.

He looked at the door angrily and roared, "C'mon, you bastards, lets DANCE!"

Grace's eyes locked on him. Then she asked, "Do you love me?"

"Always," he said. Always...

"Then live for me," Grace said, pulling the Colt pistols away from him and shoving him down on the floor. She bolted for the door.

"No!" Eddie screamed as he chased after her. A bullet ripped through Grace's shoulder, and caught him in the chest. Grace didn't even flinch. The round hit zero velocity throwing Ed backwards. The pain and shock were extraordinary.

Grace plowed through the door like a wrecking ball, shattering it into pieces. She became a torch instantly as the sunlight scorched and consumed her flesh. Bullets tore her body making her flail and shake in uncontrollable pain. Soon she collapsed into a burning heap. With Gracie's death came the death of Ed's heart. He was lost to this life.

Three more bullets ripped into Ed's chest, killing him instantly. His life was over.

The moon rose over the woods. Darkness consumed the day as it fell to the night. Two eyes opened to see a new world. Ed rose to his feet, wondering how he had gotten here. His wounds had healed without leaving the slightest scar. What magic was this? How had he gotten here?

He looked at his hands, now as pale and cold as Death's. The old Eddie was dead, and now he was something different. He was like his beloved now, eternal in the flesh incarnate. She had given him her gift, and sacrificed herself for him. He cried cold, black tears for her. Never before, or would he again spill his tears. He loved her so much that he would give her that tribute. Never again...

He raised his hands towards the heavens. "My love, I know not what fate lies before me but I know that I will forever love you. Together, we'll wander, through the centuries like these stars we're dreaming under. But my heart shall beat no more, when all that is left is this one cold glory.

No more tears for me." His blood was now as cold and dead as his dreams. For his pale immortality the price he had paid he would never truly know until the end of all.

He began to run. Shelter would have to be found soon because daybreak was but hours away. There were miles to go before he could sleep, but centuries left for him the bleed. His feet weighed hard on the dusty earth on which he ran. Even now he could feel the burning in his unnatural blood of the distant sun. But soon it would be night again and he would be free.

Grace had given, but she had also taken. His gift to her was eternity, and her's to him the pale immortality that he still did not fully understand. For each an epoch had passed, leaving but shadows of the former age, and memories.

Newly dead eyes stared at the bleak horizon. Even now he felt a pull towards a distant land. He could not understand this command, only obey it. To west he was drawn, towards an unknown city called Prophecy. Here he would find his new fate, in the realm of the last of the ancient ones. Here he would find his destiny, and the elegy of The Red and The Black.



Written by W.B. Vogel.

Copyright © 1999 A.D.


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May 12, 2001 A.D.