At dawn, Marv Solson broke the seals on all the shutters and let the light come streaming into his narrow little house. In the old days he’d been a night person, never getting up before noon if he could help it. But these were the new days, and he tried to make the most of each one.
The seals were a mix of wax, garlic and silver nitrate and they smelled terrible. Even Marv thought so, and he’d been living with them in the narrow little house for more than twelve years. But they had kept him alive, as everybody else in the world had died the undeath. Everybody as far as he knew. It had been ten years since he’d seen a human being: he didn’t count vampires.
He hadn’t always been alone. He’d tried to save his girlfriend Luna, too. Well, she wasn’t his girlfriend then; it took the end of the world to bring them together. When the vampire plague had started to spread he went to her and told her what they’d need to do to survive. She was skeptical at first, but he explained to her that vampirism wasn’t just a plague. It was an ecological event of a specific type which had occurred frequently before in Earth’s history: prolific superpredators. If a superpredator species bred too rapidly, it ran out of prey and became extinct. All they had to do was find a safe place and wait. She was easy to convince: he, after all, was an assistant professor of ecological biology and she was just a gullible clerk at an occult bookstore, reading books on astrology and similar pseudoscience.
After they’d been living in the little house for a year, she had agreed to sleep with him. A little over a year later, she left.
“They’ll kill you,” he said. “There’s too many of them out there. They’ll eat you alive.”
It was true: they could hear them prowling outside the little house each night, trying to get in. He painted a vivid picture of the death, or grisly undeath, that awaited her in the fang-filled darkness that stretched endlessly outside the narrow little house each night.
“Better them than you,” Luna said, and left with a smile on her face.
Sometime he wondered why she had gone. It was true that he was no prize in some ways but, as he had often pointed out to her, it wasn’t like she had another option. Also, she was just a dumb bookstore clerk (although, as he admitted in his romantic way, “hot and juicy”) whereas he would certainly have earned tenure at the state university in time, so their children had a halfway chance of being reasonably bright. Then she’d call him a jerk and–well, maybe her departure really wasn’t so mysterious.
There never had been any children and now there was no Luna: just Marv and the worlds’s largest collection of pornography. (He raided a nearby city during the long days of summer.) As an ecologist, Marv understood quite poignantly how hopeless his situation was. As a man, Marv couldn’t refrain from hoping, specifically that Luna would come back into his life. A good chunk of his nights, when he should have been sleeping, and his days, when he should have been foraging, were spent in rewriting the past and the future into a happy heroic life where he and Luna saved the human race by screwing each other like meadow voles (much more prolific than the overrated rabbit).
He was in the midst of one of these fantasies, sitting at the kitchen table staring at nothing, when there came a knock at the door. This was so often a feature of his dreams and daydreams that he wasn’t sure it was real until the knock was repeated.
A darkness seemed to pass in front of his eyes; he glanced in horror at a windup clock, afraid that he had daydreamed his way to nightfall without sealing up the house. But he saw with relief that it was only midday: the sun would be in the sky for long hours yet. It was probably just some cloud cover. Whoever was at the door couldn’t be a vampire.
He ran to the door and threw it open. And it was Luna standing there on the porch, outlined against the dim sky.
“Hi!” he said. “Welcome back. Come on in. Man, you look tired. It’s great to see you. I missed you. Sorry I’m such a jerk. Um… how’s the astrology? Are you keeping up with it?” He had never been the world’s best conversationalist even back when he was in practice, and he was long out of practice.
The thin, slightly irritated smile that Marv knew so well spread across Luna’s pale pockmarked face. “It was astronomy, Marv. I told you a million times. The bookstore thing was just a job. But none of that matters now. Not with you looking so hot and juicy.”
She’d never, never spoken to him like that before, even in his wildest fantasies. He grabbed her around the waist and began to babble his gratitude, when he noticed something funny outside.
“Hey!” he said. “I thought it was cloudy, but there’s no clouds in the sky. What–?”
“It’s an eclipse,” Luna whispered in his ear, “you jerk.” Then he felt her cold dry teeth in his hot juicy neck.
James Enge‘s fiction has appeared in Black Gate, at Flashing Swords, and previously at Every Day Fiction.