Vampire Boss by Emily Cane

Charly

The lights in the hall went out and I realized: this was it. My last night of freedom.

The last hurrah. The high point of the roller coaster. The one brilliant moment before things would go downhill forever. I took a sip from the bottle of beer we had picked up at the counter earlier, the cold liquid running bitterly down my throat. No, I wouldn't think about that sobering, razor-sharp clarity of impending doom. Not now. Not today. Nothing would spoil this night for me.

"About time," I shouted in Christine’s ear, referring to the opening band finally leaving the stage -- a small combo of Werewolves, who had bored the crowd to death with their shitty scratch punk for over an hour.

"Come on, they weren't that bad," my best friend stated magnanimously, also screaming at me, since the crowd around us had by now erupted into chants of: "We want the Pain! And we want it now!"

A dart of excitement pinched through me as we turned for the stage that lay now empty in front of the chanting crowd.

Finally, after all these years, I would see them live -- Pain Destruction. The band I had been pining for since I had been a teenage girl. With a glint in her violet eyes, Chris grinned back at me. My best friend was Fae, one of the many things my dad would disapprove of. My lifestyle choices, my hair color and my friendship with a Paranormal. Chris knew me better than anyone by now. And tonight, we shared that one same thought: this might be our last night together -- but we were finally where we had wanted to be years ago. In the middle of the raging crowd. Right in front of the stage. In the eye of the storm that was about to descend upon us.

We had been preparing since noon.

Chris had shown up at my door with her suitcases packed. She would be leaving the day after tomorrow. To Vancouver. To live with her boyfriend. That my best - and only - friend would be moving tens of thousands of miles away was just one more thing to add to my misery. But I didn't want to think about tomorrow. So, we had put on our favorite Pain Destruction songs, danced through my living room, putting makeup on each other and trying on several outfits before being satisfied with our looks.

We both wore black band shirts, of course. I had given Chris my favorite shirt as a farewell gift - the one with the drummer Hal’s face grinning maniacally from the chest. Chris had given me a doubtful look regarding my outfit, black hot pants and fishnet stockings along with my favorite pink sneakers, but I had insisted on wearing what I liked for one last glorious time. After two years of keeping it low - always home early, no hard drugs, celibacy in the truest sense of the word - I had more than earned this one, precious moment of ecstasy, and I wanted to look the part.

Starting Monday, it would be business attire for all eternity.

"Oh my God, here they are!"

My voice was drowned out in the roar of the crowd as the lights came back on all at once. An ear-shredding guitar riff boomed through the Chaos Ballroom. The band appeared like a compact wall of sound in the blinding light and the crowd went wild. The beer bottle flew out of my hand and shattered on the floor, but I didn't care. While the first bars of "Burn your Skulls" rushed through me and the hard guitar riffs carried me away.

"It's time to grow up," Felix had said to me a little over a week ago, as we had celebrated my passing the exam at a small Italian place downtown, one that had served a real vegan pizza. "A lot of people would kill for a chance like this."

I had nodded in grave agreement, because, of course, he was right. My big brother had always been right. I, on the other hand, had always been wrong about everything, as far as I could remember.

Two years ago, Felix had made me an offer. It mainly required me pulling myself together. I stayed away from my old life, looked for a part-time job. Finished my degree in economics. And my brother would pay for everything.

Now it was my turn to repay my debt. Come Monday, I would start at Felix's company. For one year. That was the deal and I knew it was the sensible thing to do. A lot of people were desperately job hunting after graduation. And I got a safe and secure life handed on a silver platter, like I really was the spoiled little girl my father thought me. But instead of feeling gratitude for my overprotective brother and everything he did for me, I wished that Monday would never come.

Right now, I felt the desperate need to do something reckless.

"Charly, slow down!" Chris tried to hold me back but I fought off her arm and my best friend vanished in the raging crowd behind me. I pushed through the dancing bodies thrashing to the music, ignoring the elbows rammed into my side, the painful kicks to my shins. I squeezed past more people, reached the very front, climbed over the metal barrier, somehow made it past security, past the droning monitor speakers, pulled myself up with difficulty at the edge of the stage, and came to a staggering halt.

Right on stage.

Next to me, the bassist was working his instrument with a stony expression, not even noticing that I had appeared. The other band members registered my presence with mild disinterest. After all I was just a tiny little thing with pink hair and probably a maniacal grin on her face. Just another rabid fan to climb on stage. A normal working day for them.

I was on top of the world. I threw my arms into the air triumphantly and screamed back into the roaring crowd at my feet.

From the corner of my eye, I saw three angry security guards appearing at the other end of the stage, approaching me with pissed off determination. I retreated quickly, taking a running start, and with a triumphant wail I pushed off the edge of the stage and jumped into the audience just before the gorillas could seize me and drag me away.

The crowd caught me, carrying me away in a sea of hands. I let myself fall, enjoyed the feeling of floating, of being carried, of being safe. Nothing mattered up here. All things dark and oppressive in my life were far away. Chris' departure. The life that lay ahead of me, that Felix had planned for me, Dad had always said I wouldn’t achieve and Mom had never wished for me. A useful life in a decent job. Up here I was free. I spread my arms and laughed towards the distant ceiling while below me people were going wild to the music.

"Good evening, New Hamburg," Jason, the singer, roared across the hall over the hard riffs announcing the next song. "We are Pain Destruction and we are here to Revenge! Your! Souls!!"

The song exploded across the hall and the sea of people below me turned into a screaming earthquake. I squealed as I was thrown uncontrollably back and forth, slipping and being caught again the next moment. I received a painful blow to the kidneys that took my breath away. And in the next moment the safe hands underneath me disappeared.

I cried out. There was nothing to hold on to. The crowd had thrown me off like a bucking horse and I flew uncontrollably through the air and fell into nothing.