Authors: Celis T. Rono
THE JULIA POE
CELIS T. RONO
Cover Designed and Illustrated by Tariq Raheem http://www.tariqart.net
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
“Dead Surround – The Julia Poe Vampire Chronicles,” by Celis T. Rono. ISBN
978-1-60264-795-4 (softcover); ISBN 978-1-60264-796-1 (electronic) .
Published 2011 by Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc., P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842, US. 2011, Celis T. Rono. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Celis T. Rono.
Manufactured in the United States of America.
Dedicated to Joseph & Emily Celis
RED AND DRIPPING, THE girl known as Poe struggled to maneuver the weather-beaten dinghy close enough to the foamy beach without getting sandbagged. The last thing she wanted was to lose sight of the shoreline and drift into the maw of the tumultuous Pacific waters.
The orange life preserver milked the last of her perspiration, and the black Clash t-shirt underneath was drenched. She didn’t dare reach for the bottle of purified Santa Monica well water in her pack out of fear of losing one of the paddles mounted loosely on the tiny craft. Whether from dehydration or perhaps sunstroke, Poe’s head throbbed excruciatingly as if an ice pick had jammed into the soft folds of her brain. Headaches and migraines were becoming more frequent companions of late.
She’d only been rowing for fifteen minutes, and the little excursion was proving more complex than she’d imagined as the taut, five-inch scar on her flushed face attested.
“Don’t know how to paddle. Don’t know how to swim,” mumbled a disgruntled Poe. “Not very bright for trying to row to Venice. Just look at the size of the piranhas surrounding this bum contraption.”
In response a ten-pound mackerel with cobalt-yellow fins bobbed up in salutation. Its theatrics 1
elicited a guttural bark from Poe’s sole companion, a tongueless, dirty-looking terrier half-buried in a blanket of tarp.
“Don’t remember these things swarming this close to the shore when I was a kid.” For her fishing excursions all she had to do was sweep her net into knee-deep water and capture a week’s worth of food.
Nature in general had regenerated to the point of excess after a toxic miasma had mysteriously eradicated most of humankind. From Poe’s now-and-then little hitching post on the Santa Monica Pier, the waters swarmed with noticeable sea life worthy of the infamous Nice and Monaco shores where the rich and uncomplicated had deemed it beneath them to interrupt a perfect tan to fish. Overly friendly fishtails slapped the shores without trepidation, and they were as commonplace as deer window shopping on Rodeo Drive or coyotes cavorting along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Poe had never been fitter or healthier since the Gray Armageddon, but she was finding rowing a hard task to master.
The dog mute-barked twice and wagged her tail under the warm tarp, startling fish surrounding the boat. Her halved tongue bathed in thirst like her companion’s mouth. Two years ago vampires had broken the mutt’s legs, cut her tongue, and left her for dead.
“We’re almost there, Pen. Water and goodies will be waiting for us,” she told the dog in her strikingly husky voice. She tugged at the edge of the tarp covering half the dog. “Too hot for this, Penny.”
Poe had a terrible habit of talking to herself and the dog. Living underground for over a decade would 2
do that to anyone. Ever since the murder of Goss and Sister Ann, her best friends and gurus, life had turned completely around. After the Downtown fiasco there was little chance for socializing again. She was a wanted woman.
“Unbelievable these vampires,” Poe said out of habit, gritting her teeth. She made a point to blame all devastation and misery on the bloodsuckers that ruled Los Angeles – and most likely the rest of the world.
She wondered what happened to the Vampire Council, the most powerful branch of the vampire hierarchy that brought order to the master vampire fiefdoms. Three out of five Council members had been killed during the most ambitious cattle rescue ever executed. More so than the Council, the fate of Quillon Trench, the master vampire whose handsome face she’d marred with garlic water, worried her. If anyone were to track her down, Trench and his crooked LAPD goons would be the hunters. He hadn’t joined the showdown at Union Station that ended in the liberation of hundreds of human blood cattle.
“Kaleb Sainvire, may I never see your dead eyes again,” Poe said half-heartedly. It always ended that way. Every stray thought through the course of these years transmuted into a Sainvire rumination. There wasn’t a day she didn’t think about the master vampire with a conscience. How many in his position would give up his privileged life to rescue human cattle bled for the consumption of the vampire masses? At the end of the day Poe shrugged her shoulders and wished Sainvire well. This was the new Poe, the one who forced herself to meditate and 3
practice yoga to control her rage. She was growing up.
Ever since escaping the deadly politics of Downtown, Poe had tried to live life to the fullest in a vampire-free setting. She moved – or was chased away – to her childhood digs in West Los Angeles, a few miles from the Santa Monica beach. Nearly crippled from the multiple beatings she’d received from vampires and their spawn for assisting in the cattle rescue, an eternity had passed before she was able to stand without sharp, debilitating pain.
Nightmares of beatings plagued her more frequently than dreams of ravenous undead sucking her dry. Vampires had immense strength and heightened senses. Some, however, packed more than run-of-the mill supernatural power. A few had the ability to fly. She’d witnessed certain dead who lifted boulders and automobiles like they were loaves of bread. A particular vampire by the name of Maple grew mallet arms in battle that could pulp limbs. Poe shivered at the remembrance of a particular dead with a tentacle for a tongue. Then there were the sun-immune not-quite-vampires, the halfdead, who sometimes patrolled her neighborhood for signs of life. Poe was sorely outmatched, and she knew it.
There was nothing for it. She had to grow some calluses. Developing tolerance to pain was a must.
Only one form of martial arts came to mind: Muay Thai. She knew from her late friend, Goss, a bit about the street fighting skill that utilized devastating kicks and elbow strikes. But since he had been decapitated short of two years ago, Poe had to continue a grueling training of Thai boxing on her own. She looked to the movies,
Ong Bak: The Thai
Breaking Bone: Volume 1-3
, for much needed tutelage
As providence would have it, she found such titles ripe for the picking at her neighborhood rental shop aptly named A Video Store Named Desire.
The punishing training included squatting and flipping car tires for over two hours to strengthen the hip, thigh, and arm muscles. Poe also routinely smashed her head, fists, and shins against blunt objects, preferably wood or brick, for the generation of calluses. A quitter by nature as evident by her lengthy stay underground after her parents’ deaths, Poe nevertheless persevered as best as she could.
Never let them drink you dead
became one of her growing number of mantras.
It was the first time in her life that she’d stuck to one objective without whining or making sorry excuses. She trained for no less than six hours a day, rain or shine. She leapt and jumped like her butt was on fire to increase her range and toughen her tendons.
She clouted and kicked innocent trees, pretending they were creatures of the night. She awoke at dawn to run eight miles a day for stamina, packing various firearms in case she encountered some peskies.
For years she’d endured the life of a corpse hidden away in an underground bunker, afraid to surface above ground. Not so long ago vampires and their underlings had nearly broken her back. “Never again,” she repeated with each punch to a sand-filled bag before going to bed each night. She repeated that mantra during meditation to wind down her day.
Rowing to Venice was the first time she’d actually attempted such a bold feat away from the safety of her parents’ house. Even before setting foot 5
on the sand, it was a nearly four-mile walk from Sawtelle Boulevard to the once popular tourist destination, Santa Monica Beach. Although the City of Santa Monica and the Venice neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles were adjacent areas and had been completely accessible from one location to the other in an easier time, the vampires had since disrupted the arterial and feeder roadways with impassible debris.
Perhaps months of strict regimen had taken their toll and brought out the girl’s impulsive nature. A vise as powerful as a vampire’s had taken hold of her reason. She saw only pink and blue.
“This will test my courage,” she told Penny.
“The fluff we’re risking our lives over better be worth it,” muttered Poe, slightly seasick from the choppy waves.
The Pacific Coast Highway and general street access to the famous beach town had been demolished. Roads concaved into deep lacerations, leaving gaping sink holes and broken concrete. Cars and trucks stacked like dirty dishes as far as the eye could see acted as a bulwark against stragglers like Poe. Cemented fences with broken bottle and razor wire made them a chore to scale. These smelled like human defenses to Poe.
Venice, so close, so freaking far, was trouble.
And she was hungry.
Poe swiped at her nose dotted with sweat. “We might see some people, doggy. Cross your paws that they’re not super jerks. They don’t like me because of my tendency to get them killed.”
Her eight-year involvement with other humans hooked her forever more. It was great to actually talk 6
to someone other than the TV. During the previous decade Poe had been under the illusion that she was the last person on earth until she met the near-giant-size Goss.
She was now better off in the company of one mute, scruffy mutt in the long run, but what she would give to be able to talk to her old comrades Megan, Morales, and Joseph again. Then her mind returned to Kaleb Sainvire, the master vampire with unnerving gray eyes. How could she forget the love of her life? The vampire who chose protecting his people over her?
“Blast!” Poe burst out, maneuvering the dinghy to shore. “My arm hurts, Penny, and we’re getting nowhere. I’m a lousy boat person. We’ll have to walk the rest of the way.”
First she checked the Glocks and Walther PPKs, her guns of choice, on the various holsters found under her dark windbreaker. She had other guns in her pack, but they were all Ziploc’ed in the event she fell overboard. She slung a hefty Ruger Mini-14
assault rifle around her neck. If placed on the floor vertically, it rested just barely under her breast bone.
“We can scale the sand bars, doggy. No more water,” she explained to her pal, hating that her shoes sloshed around in sand and seaweed. Poe folded her sodden olive army pants to the knees after forgetting to hitch them up. Penny, who yelped her happiness at being off the tiny boat that resembled a canoe, ran gleefully like a young elk around her one true friend.
You’d never think two of her legs were ever
“Please, don’t let them get us,” Poe quickly prayed. It was her usual prayer to her parents, her intercessors.
To be outdoors was a welcome change. Poe was pleased to see her dog kicking up sand and racing here and there to encourage her to hustle.
Venice, the fun land of her youth, was a destination she’d dreamed of visiting for a while now. The land of dollar hot dogs, yummy ice cream, cheap socks and t-shirts, and no-neck muscle men showing their oiled wares to the gawking public simply had to be intact. Multi-story sand mazes on the beach pumped her doubts, however.
“Somebody took the time to form these,” Poe said quietly. “Graffiti’s everywhere.” She studied the words spray painted repeatedly on concrete walls, fallen billboards, and pieces of cement mounted on sandbars.
Somehow Poe didn’t think the tagging referred to the infamous Z-Boys who had elevated the art of surfing and skateboarding in the mid-1970s. Even Penny seemed to realize that something was amiss as her pep dissipated suddenly. She sniffed the air suspiciously.
“It’s okay, Pen,” she assured the dog who kept close. She naively added, “We’re almost there. Don’t worry. This place remembers me. It knows how much my family and I loved it. Nothing bad can happen.”
In silence Poe climbed the last five sandbag walls with her dog by her side. Each ascent and descent magnified her ever increasing heart rate.