A Night In The Life Of A First Responder, Post-'99
As the sun started to set on New York city, the city seemed to literally hunker down. Shop owners in the run-down parts of the city slid heavy metal screens down over their windows, locking and barring their doors, checking their personal weapons for any signs of wear or damage. People started moving in crowds, keeping closely together in well lit areas. Buses and taxis were filled to capacity, a few people even carrying stakes on their person in the open.
"Damn fools are gonna make a mistake," Office Johansson said, watching one such individual run for the bus near Times Square just as the doors closed. "Now we're gonna have to deal with stake regulation, aren't we?"
"Nah, not necessarily," his partner, Officer Rayez said, sipping at his coffee. "Stakes are just pieces of wood, it'd be like trying to regulate bats or knives."
"Fair enough," Johansson whispered, sipping at his coffee. "So did you hear about that raid in the nightclub over in Queens?"
"Yeah," Rayez said. "Still can't believe that vampire had gotten away with it for so long."
Johansson nodded as he sipped at his coffee. Ever since '99, new measures had been taken to root out undead activity, and the nation didn't like what was in it's deepest underbelly. Stories were abounding from all over the country. Washington State Police were leading a manhunt through the Northwest forests for a clan of vampires assisted by a tribe of shapeshifting wolves. Drug cartels that seemed indestructible were suddenly being picked apart with their leaders found and staked. Philadelphia had turned into an undead/human battleground.
The Feds had done little to help. Despite the FBI being hurriedly tasked with watching out for supernatural threats inside the borders, Johansson had seen their special unit tasked with vampires try and root out a nest in Midtown, and nearly wind up dead, or worse.
Never mind the fact that there was another protest scheduled that night. "So when's it supposed to start, again?"
"Ten minutes," Rayez said, looking at his watch. "I think I already see them now," he said, pointing out a group of people gathering around a streetlight, looking around with scared faces, but determined.
"I can't believe they'd want to do something like this," Johansson said. "They really think a point like this is gonna carry?"
"You'd be amazed what people will support," Rayez said. "I can't believe it either, though. A vampire rights movement." He laughed aloud in the car. "What next? A freaking ghost's rights movement?"
"Think it's true, though? That not every vampire out there is bad?" Johansson said, looking at the gathering crowd.
"Please," Rayez scoffed. "One, they need human blood to survive, blood that can be used to save people who are still alive. Two, they've usually got to kill for their blood, and that turns people into zombies, or more vampires. And third, and possibly the best reason that we should be staking those bastards left and right, is that they are completely and utterly insane."
"I'm not arguing those points," Johansson said. "But why not try to send them somewhere they won't bother us? Like the Sahara or something, a place where they can't get the blood they need in enough quantities?"
"You going soft on me or something?" Rayez said, looking at Johansson suspiciously. "C'mon, you know what those monsters did to us. Only makes sense we pay them back just as much."
"What about their fan clubs?" Johansson said, pointing to the crowd, the unaffiliated civilians backing away, as the sun fell at last. "They're still people."
"They're people, yeah, and we can't arrest them for sheer stupidity," Rayez said. "But we do have to save them from the thing they think won't kill them."
"That's if that rumor about a real vampire coming here is true at all," Johansson said. "I still can't believe what we're ordered, though."
"Hell with that, the bastard even moves one inch towards someone not in his fanclub, I'm drilling him a new hole in his head," Rayez growled.
Almost instantly, a group of police formed at both ends of Times Square, as the protestors started raising signs and banners for their cause. "VAMPIRES ARE PEOPLE!" "BLOOD OF THE WILLING, READILY GIVEN!", all phrases given by the supporters of vampire rights.
"I hate this," Johansson said, glaring at the crowd, as mounted police and officers in riot gear formed a perimeter around the group.
"I know, I know kid," Rayez said, barely keeping his own rage in check.
Suddenly, the radio burst to life. "Charlie 1-3, Charlie 1-3, report of possible hemophage activity on 72 West and Columbus, all other units occupied, please respond, over."
"This is Charlie 1-3, dispatch, we are en route," Johansson said, Rayez bringing a pair of stakes and mallets up from the back. Making their way past Columbus Circle, packed thanks to the protest, the pair parked a few yards ahead of the intersection. "Dispatch, see if you can't round us up some backup, fast, over."
"Roger, Charlie 1-3, be advised, all available units being kept in reserve for the protest, over."
"Roger, dispatch, Charlie 1-3 on scene, over." Getting out of the car, Johansson adjusted the gun on his hip, taking the stake and mallet from Rayez and sliding them into his belt. Their lessons on the matter were simple; stay together, shoot if the subject was undead, and do their best to stake it to the ground. Easier said than done, but any chance was better than none. Despite the streetlights, the two still kept their flashlights out, their hands on their firearms just in case. Walking down the street, they swept their flashlights up and down the alleyways, seeing nothing on the way to Central park. On the way to Amsterdam, however, they saw a pair of legs sticking out of a small coffee shop. Running up, Johansson knelt down to the victim, Rayez drawing his weapon and calling for backup.
The girl couldn't have been over thirty, short, dirty blonde hair and frumpy clothes showing her as one of the many starving artists that called the area home. Her glasses were thrown on the ground next to her, cracked and useless. Blood was pooled at her neck, a pair of bite marks on her throat, just next to her carotid. Checking for a pulse, Johansson heard a faint whimper from the girl. "She's alive!" he shouted. "Get that ambulance here now!" As Rayez shouted into the radio, Johansson bent down and tried to keep the girl from going further into shock. "Hey, stay with me, girl, you'll be okay now."
"What happened?" she asked. "She came in to kiss me, and I just blacked out," she whispered. "She said he was going to make me happy."
Johansson felt his blood start to boil, his hands start to shake, but kept himself cool. The girl needed a cop right now, not a loose cannon. "It'll be okay, you'll get to a hospital soon. What's your name?"
"Erin…" she said, sniffling, tears forming in her eyes. "Why would she do this? She said he was going to make me happy?"
"It's okay now," Johansson said, cradling her. "Is she still here?"
"Upstairs," she whispered. "I heard her on the stairs."
Minutes later, and the girl was being rushed to the hospital, an officer inside with a shotgun just in case the girl became either one of the undead. Ever since the vampires had "come out of the coffin", a good many of New York ambulances had needed a good scrubbing of blood and brain matter for the unlucky ones. A full contingent of police had swarmed on the area, residents evacuating quickly, some survivors of '99. They knew what could happen, and they were the fastest to leave the area.
"Alright, SWAT teams will secure the building and move upwards," the captain on-scene said. All of the officers were carrying stakes and mallets, the SWAT team with a member carrying nothing else but tools of vampire hunting. "No sightings of any bats have been reported yet, so we're assuming the suspect has not yet left the premises. Breach in five."
Johansson and Rayez stood to the outer ring, doing their best to keep the news and curious from entering the area. A helicopter circled the building, the police finding that a lack of temperature worked just as well as regular body heat on a thermal camera. The reporters had already started setting up a camp, broadcasting a message that would hopefully remind the protestors that not all the fangs were pearly white.
After a few minutes, he heard the team rush in, heavy boots still audible even at the distance he was at. If he was inside, he would see the pointman rushing up the stairs, sweeping his gun around to try to catch the vampire off-guard. Stopping at the second floor, he waited at the ram was carried up. Once the door was bashed in, Johansson would watch as the team swept the rooms, finding no bodies, living or dead. So it went, floor by floor, until the very top of the building. The team didn't have to break down the door, because Johansson heard the gunfire a split-second later. "Contact, ghoul contact!" the radio blasted, as burst of fire sounded from the windows. "At least twenty of them, unarmed!" The bursts came over and over, the staccato gunfire nearly drowned away by the reporters shouting about what was happening. Again, Johansson put himself with the SWAT team, seeing the ghoul bodies drop and turn to ash after getting their heads shot up.
Then, from the corner of his eye, Johansson saw something moving in the distance. A mass of people, waving signs and banners, marching towards the police line. "Shit," he whispered, grabbing his radio. "Captain, those protestors have heard about this, they're coming our way."
"What?" the captain said, some of the reporters turning to see the protestors marching their way. "That must be a splinter, the cordon at Times Square says they're still making sure things are peaceful."
"These ones don't look very peaceful, sir," Johansson said, praying the captain was calling for more backup.
"Are they Renfields?" the captain asked, making sure they weren't enslaved by a vampire.
"Unsure," Johansson said, suddenly afraid. Renfields were strong and completely subservient to vampires, meaning that the police would have to use deadly force if need be. Mercifully, as they approached the line, they stopped, merely shouting insults instead of using their fists.
"You don't know this one did anything wrong!" a woman shouted, a video camera in her hand. "What gives you the right to act as executioner?"
"Vampires deserve the same treatment we all do!" a short man yelled, his face obscured by the scarf wrapped around his neck and mouth, sunglasses obscuring his eyes. "They're still human!"
It was all Johansson could do to keep from lashing out at the crowd for what they were saying. It wasn't people killing each other in '99. It wasn't Catholics, or Jews, or Muslims, or Blacks, or Gays, or anything still living. It was a freak with four giant canines and a god complex. He wanted to shout at them, beat them, remind them that when it came to saving lives, it wasn't some damn fang doing the job, it was the NYPD and FDNY saving their butts. But he held it in, controlled it, focusing his anger into his scowl. Then, from the crowd, someone shouted, "They've got him!"
Daring a look back, Johansson saw a pair of cops carrying the paralyzed staked vampire out, cuffs on her hands and legs, a look of rage and fear frozen on her face, a stake protruding from it's left breast.
"Rush it!" someone shouted, the crowd suddenly surging forward as one.
"Stay back, all of you!" Johansson and the others shouted, reaching for their spray and TASERS. The crowd didn't pause at all, and Johansson pulled his spray and let loose, careful not to get hit by his own spray. The front of the crowd dropped, writing in pain from the concentrated spice to their eyes, trampled by the crowd behind them. Grabbing his baton, Johansson and the other police started hitting the crowd back, knowing full well that the cameras were recording every second. But the crowd had been given warning, had been shouted at to stay back. Any one of them claiming brutality was just going to have to deal with it. A second later, and the sirens wailed, a paddy wagon full of SWAT surrounding the vampire, two cars following it.
Two hours later, the incident was over. The protest had gone peacefully, and dispersed soon after news had broke of another vampire attack in the area that was handled by arresting the vampire, not shooting it. The vampire was already scheduled to go before a judge, new laws in place so that undead could be tried no differently from human offenders. The girl, Erin, was fine, and expected to fully recover. Johansson and Rayez were busy writing up their report, a full cup of coffee on both their desks.
"Surprise, surprise, the fang lovers disappear after this happens," Rayez said with a grin. "Aint' that a coincidence?" Johansson kept quiet, working on his report. "What?"
"Why'd that girl decide to meet the vampire?" Johansson asked. "Why?"
"Please, it's like how it happens in the books. Girl meets vampire, girl falls for vampire, girl becomes food. Everybody kills vampire." Looking back at his computer, Rayez kept typing, turning back to see Johansson with his head in his hands. "You okay?"
"I just hate them," Johansson said. "I know I shouldn't, I know they're just working off of instinct, but fuck if I can't hate them."
"You're not the first," Rayez said, sipping at his coffee. "It's been years, and we're still feeling the hurt, man. You want to get back at them for treating us like cattle?" Johansson nodded. "Be the cop, not the monster hunter."
Smiling, Johansson gave a nod, going back to his report.
Three nights later, the men of Ladder 62 sped down the streets, geared up and ready. They could see the flames rising even from where they were, the smoke writing and snaking through the sky. Pulling up, the men jumped out and started grabbing their gear from the compartments in the back. Niels, the driver, parked the truck and went about making sure it was stabilized for when the ladder went up. A cop car was already on scene, herding people away from the flames.
"Christ, what a blaze," Tommy Gavin said, grabbing his irons, the halogen bar familiar in his hands. "Where's our backup?" he said, looking up at the building. Flames were already erupting from the windows midway up the building, smoke obscuring the upper floors.
"Not here yet," Chief Reilly said, storming over. "There's reports of survivors on the upper floors!
"On it," "Lou" Shea said, as their counterpart, Engine 99, came up behind them and started to hook up the hoses to move in from the bottom floors. At the controls of the ladder now, Niels swing the machine towards the building, a few floors above the flames. Checking their tanks and masks, Lou led the way up the ladder, Tommy, Franco, Garrity and Probie following behind him. Three floors above the flames, the smoke wasn't quite as thick, but it did make breathing a little labored. Flashlights bobbing through the smoke, the men searched the floor, old wallpaper and empty apartments all they could find. "No one here," Lou said into the radio. "Moving down."
"Hey, guys, look at this," Probie said, bending down. "I think we might have some trouble."
"Why, you just remember that it's that time of the month for you?" Franco said, Probie holding the paper up that he'd found.
"Oh shit," Garrity said. "Is that what I think it is?"
"No doubt," Lou said, focusing his flashlight on the flyer.
"Vampire Support Group Tonight!" it read, the address the very building they were in. "Come eliminate your fears of the undead forever tonight!"
"Fuck!" Tommy shouted. "Who knows what's crawling around in here now?"
"Chief, we've got a possible undead situation in here!" Lou said into his radio. "We're pulling outside now."
"Roger, get out here, ASAP," Reilly answered. Turning, he started shouting. "Change of plans, possible undead inside! We're letting it burn!"
The men around the building quickly changed course, changing their streams to cover the buildings opposite rather than the one burning. Despite the dangers, the new plans were clear; any fire involving undead were to burn to the ground. If the men were leaving already, it was because they knew no one was inside.
As the men climbed down the ladder, Tommy dared a look back at the stairs, and faintly, heard someone crying, "Help…please…"
"Lou, upstairs!" he shouted, bringing up his mask and halogen.
"Franco, keep going, don't wait up!" Lou shouted, following Tommy up the stairs. The rotted wood creaked and moaned underfoot, Lou fearing it would collapse under him. Bursting through the door on the landing, Tommy was thankful the smoke was getting thinner. Stalking through the hall, he heard someone come up behind him. "Tommy, c'mon, we have to get outta here!" Lou said.
"No, I heard someone calling for help!" Then, from below, a loud crash sounded.
"Guys, get the fuck out, the building's going down soon!" Chief Reilly shouted through the radio. "Tommy, you hear me! Get out!"
"Help…" a small voice called again, Tommy running to the source. Near the end of the hall, he found it, a man lying halfway in a doorway on his stomach. As he ran down the hall, Tommy failed to notice the blood stains on the walls, streaks of red barely noticeable in the darkness. Kneeling down when he reached the man, Tommy felt for a pulse, finding it thread. "Lou, help me get him on his back!" Despite the fear that was coursing through him, Lou nodded, trying to help Tommy roll the man over, when a sickening sound slammed into their ears. Looking at each other, they both looked down at the man, and stumbled away.
The man's midsection was torn open, body parts and organs falling out on the floor. Inside the door, a group of ghouls feasted on the legs, numbly looking up at the two firefighters, mouthfuls of fangs opening up in hollow groans.
"Lou, go!" Tommy shouted, slamming the halogen into the man's head. Part of him was just making sure the man didn't get up to attack them, but a deeper part of Tommy knew that he was putting the poor bastard out of his misery faster. Finished, Tommy ran down the stairs after Lou, noticing that the smoke was getting thicker and thicker. Lou was at the window, pulling Tommy onto the ladder, when the ghouls reached the stairs. For a second, the ghouls looked like they were going to swarm the ladder and get out of the building, Tommy gripping the halogen tightly. Then, the stairs started to creak and groan, and gave in, dropping the ghouls down into the growing fire. Looking at each other for a second, Lou shoved Tommy outside, following seconds later, Niels slowly bringing the ladder back down away from the building. Slowly but surely, the fire burned through the apartment, the husk of the building finally collapsing.
Finally back at the station as dawn was closing in, the men collapsed into their bunks, Tommy downstairs in the kitchen, sneaking a drink of vodka from his own personal stash. Quickly putting it away as he heard footsteps, he sat at the table, acting like he was idly reading the sports page.
"I love living in a world like this," Lou said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, as he rummaged about in the fridge. "Monsters that treat us like food, a government that's lied to us for decades, really makes you feel alive, don't it?"
"Yep," Tommy said, doing his best to end the conversation quickly.
"Look, Tom, you and I both know it's only until we can come up with a better plan for dealing with these situations," Lou said, pulling out a piece of chocolate cake that he'd brought in earlier in the week. "Soon, you see, we'll come up with a way to save the building."
"What about the people inside, Lou?" Tommy said, Lou pausing in his eating.
"You couldn't have saved him, Tom," Lou said. You really think you could have with his wounds?"
"No," Tommy said, shoving the paper away from him. "Whatever, I'm going to bed."
"G'night, Tom," Lou said, still eating his cake, going into his own stash for some whiskey.
At the invitation of the author, I present "Post '99", a look at New York through the eyes of the survivors who lived through the incidents of "And Shine Heaven Now". Whatever you think of this one, please, leave a review.