Summary: Alisa Perne is the last vampire. Beautiful and brilliant, she hunts alone, living among humans, living off humans. But someone is stalking her. Someone wants her dead. And Alisa has a choice to make – to keep a long held promise or protect the mortal she seems to be falling for.
Tagline: This time someone is hunting her…
Oh god, here we go. Five years into recapping on Devil’s Elbow, and I’m finally spending an entire year focused on my favourite of the 80s and 90s teen horror authors, Christopher Pike. I’m saving my absolutely favourite books for the end of the year, but first, I’m taking on The Last Vampire series, which is significantly longer now than the first time I read it.
Note: There’s a lot of religion throughout this, particularly centered around Krishna and Vishnu. I do some basic research as I read, but I have very little knowledge here. My guess is that Pike’s taking a ton of liberties. I think that reading this as an adult, it’s going to smack of cultural appropriation, so keep that in mind when you read the book and this recap.
I loved this series growing up, especially the first book, but oh my god, does it get weird. So weird. Complicated and twisty and fun, but weird.
Though I’ve reread a lot of my Pike books often, this is not a series I read more than the first couple books obsessively, so I’m excited to go through the entire thing again.
2018: The Year of Christopher Pike. Let’s do this.
I am a vampire, and that is the truth.
Well hello, Alisa.
I love how she goes through the vampire stories and mythologies that are not true: no ash in the sunlight, no crucifix cringing, no controlling wolves, no flying through the air. And the big one: no making another vampire just by having the human drink her blood.
Predators like her, she can jump so high it’s almost like flying, and blood fascinates her — she is often thirsty.
Alisa Perne sheds names ever few decades and is never attached to them, and this name is no different. She’s short and muscled and looks to be eighteen, but her voice and expressions make people realise she’s older than that (though they can’t contemplate how much older).
Pike spends a couple of pages with this first person description that is really over the top and kind of delightful for it: Alisa calls her hair like silk, her eyes not just like sapphires but “sapphires that have stared long at a volcanic fissure”; she’s muscled but “not unattractively so.” It very much reads like a mix of guy’s idea of how a woman would describe herself and that weird thing some writers do with first person POV characters where they have the character overly describe themself, as if that’s a thing people do. (It’s weirdest in diary-format books, but still pretty weird like this, too.)
Despite all of this, I loved the book growing up and am still super entertained by it now.
Anyway, she drinks blood because she craves it, but she eats normal food as well, and digests it, and needs it as much as anyone else; she breathes, and her heart beats; her hearing is strong, and so is her sight, and only getting better as she gets older; her immune system fights off all disease, she heals very quickly.
She thinks that if she were stabbed in the heart she might die, because it’s difficult to heal around an implanted blade. But no one can get close enough to stab her, because she is strong and fast and a master of all physical attacks and defenses. I mean, I guess when you’ve lived as long as Alisa, you learn shit just to stop from being bored.
Alisa loves to fight and to kill, and she is unapologetic about it (at least at this point, I can’t remember if that changes later); it’s one of the things I love best about her. As is why she’s killing less as time passes, not because she doesn’t love it as much, but because there’s no real need for it and modern society’s punishments for murder are a waste of her “precious but endless” time. I love you, Alisa, you immense snob.
She won’t tell us to whom she’s talking, but does say that she’s telling all this information because it is time, though she doesn’t know time for what.
And finally, we get some action, pages into the story.
Alisa is visiting Detective Michael Riley; he called her a few hours ago and said she had to come to his office to talk about vague things. Vague, threatening things, based on the tone of his voice.
Riley has a grumpy secretary he’s not paying very well and his own office at the back of the building; is Riley a detective or a private investigator? Not clear, though I’m leaning on the latter right now.
Alisa becomes even more curious when she notices that he’s carrying a heavy revolver and must think her dangerous. She’s not worried, but she does sit where she has a straight line on him if he pulls the gun.
Her impression of him is that he’s been working hard, long hours with crappy food, and that he’s probably taking speed to keep up with his work. She wonders if he’s chasing her; while she can feel people’s emotions, she can’t read their minds. She thinks he has been chasing her, though, because he looks a little satisfied now, his prey caught.
As confident as she is, she is feeling a little uneasy, too, which is interesting, because she’s already made it clear that the gun won’t really kill her.
She soon realises that he also has a gun under some papers on his desk, and he’s taping the conversation (she can hear the faint scratch of moving metal and plastic, which is amazing).
Oh, sure enough, he is a private detective, and he’s been researching her for months, ever since she moved to Mayfair. He’s traced her back to Los Angeles where she lived in a 4,000 square foot mansion (two swimming pools, tennis court, sauna) worth $6.5 million, and she has as much property, if not more, in Europe and “the Far East.” She has no record of a family anywhere, and tons of investments; her history makes her look far older than she appears. He won’t tell her whom his sources are or why he’s researching her. He claims that he discovered her all on his own, but she thinks he’s lying and that someone asked him to look into her.
And then he tries to blackmail her, because when you’ve discovered a megarich woman with no family, that is exactly what you do. There’s no way at all this looks like maybe she killed every single person who had a tie to her so she could have the money for herself. (He doesn’t have to know about the vampire part to know that blackmailing someone that rich and powerful is going to blow up in his face.)
He tells her that he’s set something up so that if he dies or disappears, the police will come looking for her, but again, even without the vampire part, someone who has that much money and that much property in so many different countries really isn’t going to be too worried about the police, especially after you tell her about your plan.
Also, she’s certain he’s lying about that, too.
She flat out tells him that she’s willing to pay him $1 million if he tells her who put him on her trail. Damn, dude, take that money. That’s worth it. Stay out of the power plays going on around you.
They argue a little, she starts using her voice to intimidate him further, and then she tells him to reach for his gun, because he’s going to die and she assumes he’d rather die fighting. She tells him she’s five thousand years old, which is pretty goddamn old even for a vampire in books like this, that she’s a vampire, and that he has pissed her off.
He believes me. Suddenly he believes every horror story he has been told since he was a little boy. That they were all true: the dead things hungering for the warm living flesh; the bony hand coming out of the closet in the black of night; the monsters from another page of reality, the unturned page — who could look so human, so cute.
He reaches for his gun. Too slowly, much too.
Alisa attacks then and kicks him once, crushing the walls of his heart and the bones of his chest. Goddamn, Alisa. (We learn that when she feels threatened, she views the scene in slow motion but moves in a flying blur.)
He’s dying, but not quite dead; she is gentle with him now, and he tells her that a man named Slim sent him after her. He dies before he can tell her more about Slim, and she regrets killing him so quickly, but she’s impetuous when she’s angry. You’d think after five thousand years, she’d have that temper under control.
She can’t find anything in his files that might be useful except for his home address. She decides that all his important records are on his computer, but doesn’t think she can get into it even though she knows more than most experts. Why the fuck wouldn’t you be able to get into it, then? That doesn’t make any sense, Pike.
This is basically a setup so she can go find his son, who she thinks knows the access code.
Alisa cleans up the office quickly; though she could dispose of Riley’s body in the ocean off the Oregon coast, she chooses instead to carry him deep into the woods. She’s not worried about the body being found or about being caught out for the death, but she is worried about Slim: Who is he? How did he find her? How did he know to warn Riley that she was dangerous?
Alisa does not pray as she buries Riley.
Who would I pray to anyway? Krishna? I could not very well tell him that I was sorry, although I did tell him that once, after holding the jewel of his life in my bloodthirsty hands while he casually brought to ruin our wild party.
No, I think, Krishna would not listen to my prayer, even if it was for the soul of one of my victims. Krishna would just laugh and return to his flute. To the song of life as he called it. But where was the music for those his followers said were already worse than dead? Where was the joy? No, I would not pray to God for Riley.
Not even for Riley’s son.
So … this is going to be weirdly religious, isn’t it? Also, if she’s five thousand years old and apparently deeply familiar with Krishna, I have some questions about her being a white woman. And why that emphasis on “not even for Riley’s son”? She hasn’t met him yet. Why is that set on its own line for emphasis? Makes it seem like we should be surprised or care more that she wouldn’t pray for him, but she hasn’t even met him. We haven’t even met him. Why the fuck would we care?
So many questions.
She takes the picture of Riley’s son home with her, though, and wonders why he looks so familiar to her, why she is sad at the thought of killing him.
Oh, god, all of that was one chapter. This recap is going to last forever.
More talk about all the things Alisa can do: she needs no more than two hours of sleep, sunlight affects her but doesn’t hurt her the way Bram Stoker wrote, she read Dracula in ten minutes and has a photographic memory with perfect comprehension, she visited Stoker once in 1899 and he had a bit of a crush on her, and on and on and on.
Goddamn, Alisa is the most powerful character to ever character, she’s visited everywhere and knows everyone and done everything. I know this can be a problem in vampire writing, but my god, it’s annoying, and that includes here, when I adore Alisa generally, but can’t stand the way she’s described a lot of the time.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about it just rings as a guy writing a woman and not knowing how to do it quite right. There’s just something off about it, maybe in the physical descriptions? It frustrates me that I can’t figure out exactly what is bothering me.
Alisa does research into how Riley found her and got information about her accounts and houses, but none of her agents seem to know anything about it. She then gets herself enrolled in Mayfair High School as Lara Adams. Oh my god. OH MY GOD. I’d forgotten this ended up with a vampire in high school storyline.
At least Alisa has a good reason; she’s trying to befriend and get information from Riley’s son, Ray. Yes, his name is Ray Riley. Oh boy.
There’s a bunch of stuff about how she’s thirsty and doesn’t need to drink that often and how, of course, drinking blood doesn’t turn someone into a vampire, she has to exchange blood through a sort of transfusion in order to make them change.
She does not make vampires these days, though, and that is intriguing.
She hunts down in California, a pleasant, lonely long-distance truck driver. She drinks from the often. That is truly terrifying to me, that they would make such great prey. And of course they would, even if you leave out the vampire part. It could be days before anyone knows they’re gone, especially in the 80s and 90s. Maybe even longer than that, depending on whether they’re in between runs. UGH, this gives me feelings.
(It also makes me want to write some horror about it.)
She drinks from him at a hotel later, and he is hypnotized by how it feels, like he’s being caressed from the inside out with the tips of her nails. That’s quite a description, very visceral.
The next morning, Alisa is Lara and she’s in Mr Castro’s history class with Ray Riley.
Lara outfit: fashionable cream-colored dress with an embroidered hem four inches above her knees to show off her legs, wavy blond hair long and loose on her shoulders, no makeup or jewelry.
Alisa thinks Ray is beautiful, but “his inner character pushes through his natural beauty and almost makes a mockery of it.” I am not actually sure what that means.
He’s talking to his girlfriend, Pat, a scrawny girl who lights up around Ray. Alisa likes both of them and hopes that Pat won’t be an obstacle, because Alisa hates to kill young people.
When Alisa introduces herself to Ray and shakes his hand, she can tell that his blood is healthy; she can smell blood through people’s skin and tell if they have serious ailments. So if you can smell it, why is the description of this tied to you touching him?
Oh, look at that, Alisa was there the day Marie Antoinette was beheaded (though she didn’t know Antoinette personally). The guillotine actually bothers Alisa; she’s been hanged and crucified and survived, but if her head was cut off, she’d die. Good to know.
There’s some interesting talk here about how history is remembered for specific events but not for the feeling of the times, and the feeling is what Alisa thinks is important.
In gym, they’re studying archery, and we get a bit more of Alisa’s backstory, which includes Arjuna, Krishna’s best friend, the greatest archer of all time; he killed more vampires than any other mortal, with one bow, in one night, because Krishna wanted him to do it.
So that’s intriguing!
The highlight of class is that Alisa meets Seymour Dorsten, and the second she shakes his hand, she knows he’ll be dead in less than a year. (UMM. I thought this was tied to smell, not touch. Pike! COME ON.)
They joke around about Seymour’s name sounding like a nerd name, but he embraces his nerdery. Alisa spends some time showing off with her archery; her mood is frivolous, but she doesn’t care. She’s enjoying Ray and Pat and now Seymour.
While a lot of this is ridiculous, I do love the personality we’re seeing of Alisa. She’s so withdrawn into herself, but she’s also clearly lonely and not wanting to admit it to herself. All the life she’s lived and yet a couple of classes with teenagers and she’s showing more spark of life than we’ve seen in her even while feeding.
They talk about how their talents bore them and they are interested in other things; Alisa is talking about archery at the moment, but really this could have covered everything, and Seymour is great at math, but it bores him, and what he cares about is writing, particularly horror stories.
Alisa has a sharp, strong feeling of deja vu, something she hasn’t felt in centuries. Both Seymour and Alisa feel like they’ve met each other before. Seymour is one of the humans who can sense that she is different, not human. She sees Castro in the distance, stroking a student’s hair, and considers shooting him, but, as if he really can sense what she’s feeling, Seymour tells her not to do it.
They spend the rest of the period talking about horror stories, and she loves that Dracula is his favourite story. Little on the nose, Pike, but sure, let’s roll with this. It’s cheesy and delightful.
Alisa asks Ray to help her move some stuff while her parents are out of town, and talks him into doing it that night. As she stares at him, trying to convince him, she realises that he’s one of those rare mortals she could love. Apparently, she has not loved a man or a woman in centuries (…I’m so rocking with bisexual Alisa), and of the people she’s loved, she never loved them as much as she did her husband, Rama, before she became a vampire.
And she finally figures out why Ray looks familiar; he has Rama’s eyes.
Oh, lord, this is going to be a thing, isn’t it? Reincarnation, and the spitting image of lost loves, and all of that overly dramatic stuff. It makes me roll my eyes and smile all at the same time.
Ray says he’s been going out with Pat for a year, and Alisa tells him that a year can pass quickly. The reader gets the aside that five thousand years don’t, they stand long and weary and wary.
In biology, the teacher makes a comment that interests Alisa, that chlorophyll and red blood cells are practically identical except that magnesium replaces iron in chlorophyll. Alisa thinks that in the evolutionary chain, only one atom separates her from Ray. Oh lord, here we go. (I do like some pseudoscience in my supernatural fiction, though, and this series is probably why. Well, this and Pike’s book, Monster, I think.)
Alisa thinks of vampires as an accident, though, a horrible mistake.
She’s moved into a new place to make sure Ray doesn’t recognise her address when they get into his father’s files. It comes furnished, and she easily moves the furniture into the garage so it will be there when Ray arrives.
She lies down to rest, knowing that the people she’s met have cut deep into her already. One day in high school, and she’s already having feelings. She wants to dream of Krishna, but instead, she dreams of the devil, Yaksha, the first of the vampires. And she is the last.
(Odds of her not being the last: really fucking high.)
Ah, here we go, backstory that explains this blond haired, blue eyed protagonist descended from the vampires of India. This is still complete bullshit, but sure, okay, rolling with it. Even though it flat starts out like this: We were the original Aryans — blond and blue eyed. We invaded India, before there were calendars, like a swarm of hornets in search of warmer climates. We brought sharp swords and spilled much blood.
Violent and bloody colonization, good times, good times.
Anyway, by the time Alisa was born in 3000 B.C. (this reminds me that I don’t see a ton of B.C.E. in fiction even today; I wonder when that will become the standard over B.C.), they were no longer enemies but part of the culture. She was born Sita in Rajastan, a small village already getting sand from the desert to the west. Sita’s dear friend was Amba, which meant mother in their language. Amba was a good woman, and the mother of all vampires.
Well that’s nicely dramatic.
Amba was seven years older than Sita, but they were still close, and loved to sing together, mostly bajans, joly songs from the sacred Vedas. (Bhajans? It’s spelled bajans, though.) Sita’s skin was browned by the sun, Amba’s dark because of her Indian grandfather, and though they looked nothing alike, their voices were one.
Then disease came. It hit about half of the village, but Sita did not grow ill even though she also drank from the polluted river. Amba got sick first, vomited blood the whole last two days of her life while Sita sat with her and watched her die.
Amba was eight months pregnant at the time, and refused to tell anyone, including Sita, who the father was. After she died, her body should have been taken to the cremation ground and offered to Vishnu and her ashes then thrown in the river, but an Aghoran priest had recently come to the village, and he had different plans.
Aghora was, apparently, the left hand path, the dark path, and no one would have listened to the priest had they not been in a panic over the plague. He claimed the plague was the result of an evil rakshasa, a demon, that was offended by their worship of Vishnu. The only way to free the village from the rakshas was to call forth a yakshini to eat the rakshasa.
Bringing something bigger and badder in to eat your original problem always works out perfectly, I’m sure.
A number of them, Sita included, are reluctant to do this, because if God couldn’t protect them, how could a yakshini; they also feared what would happen once it ate the rakshasa, because yakshinis had no love for humans. But the priest swore he could control the yakshini, and the village went along with his plans.
He invoked the deity into Amba’s corpse, because of course that is where this is going. How heartbreaking for her friends and family. He even had a number of other bodies to use; Sita thought he was attracted to the fact she was pregnant when she died.
Sita was too young to attend the ceremony; none of the women were allowed anyway. So, was Sita too young or was she left out because she was a girl? Two sentences, and we have two different reasons that aren’t exactly contradictory, but leave the impression that she would have been allowed to attend if she was older, but oh wait, never mind.
She was worried about what the priest will do to Amba’s body, so she sneaked closer to watch. The priest plus six men (including Sita’s father) anointed Amba’s naked body with clarified butter, camphor, and wine, and then the priest began a long, repetitive chant that sounded nothing like the bajans Sita and Amba loved to sing. Each time the priest finished a verse, he hit Amba’s belly with a long, sharp stick.
Well that’s creepy as shit. And it gets worse. Eventually, her belly starts to bleed just as if she was still alive. The men freak out; Sita does not believe that she’s alive again, because Sita sat with Amba’s body for hours after she died, and she knows that Amba is still dead.
A dark cloud went over the moon and the wind carried the stink of decay and waste, as if a huge demon was breathing down on the ceremony. And something had come. The fire shrank to red coals, smoke filled the air, and the men cried out in fear.
The priest laughed and chanted even louder — until Amba sat up and his voice failed.
She was hideous to behold. Her face dripped blood. Her eyes bulged from her head as if pushed out from the inside. Her grin widened over her teeth as if pulled by wires. Worst of all was her tongue; it stretched much longer than any human tongue could, almost a foot, curling and licking at the air like the smoking snakes that danced beside what was left of the fire. I watched it in horror knowing that I was seeing a yakshini come to life. In the haunting red glow it turned to face the priest, who had fallen silent. No longer did he appear confident.
The yakshini cackled like a hyena and reached out and grabbed the priest.
The yakshini licked the priest and every where the tongue touched skin, it tore that skin away. It then breaks the priest’s neck. It stares around at everyone watching, from the men to Sita herself where she’s hidden, and then Amba’s body lay back down.
The men want to cremate both bodies now, but then there’s movement in Amba’s stomach. Sita’s father cut the infant from Amba’s body even though Sita actually revealed herself to beg him not to do it. Her father was angry but patient when he explained that the priest paid for his evil karma with his life, but if they did not try to save the child, they would create their own evil karma. He told her it was like a friend whose mother died giving birth, but Sita argued that Amba had been dead since dawn, and nothing living could come out of her. It was the yakshini moving inside her.
This is creepy as fuck. I already find pregnancy and baby bellies creepy (there’s a living creature inside there, moving and eating and being a parasite), and this is even more terrifying.
Sita’s father gave her suggestion some thought, because he sometimes asked for her advice. SHE’S TOO YOUNG TO FUCKING ATTEND THE CEREMONY BUT HER FATHER ASKS HER FOR ADVICE?! ALISA HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE BESTEST BEST WHO EVER BESTED, HUH?
Finally, the choice became hers: if she truly felt it was evil, she could strike it dead. She was appalled by that, because she was a child and he wanted her to commit an atrocious act, but he’s actually done a wise thing here, because she’s not sure, in that moment, whether it was the right thing to do.
Sita named the child Yaksha because it had the heart of the yakshini.
Sita’s aunt, who had no children of her own, raised Yaksha. He grew faster than any other child, and by the time Sita was fifteen, he was physically her age, even though he had been born only eight years earlier. (WAIT SHE WAS FUCKING SEVEN AND HER DAD LOOKED TO HER FOR ADVICE MORE THAN ONCE?!)
Sita tried to avoid Yaksha completely, but around that time, he started to go out of his way to talk to her. She found him hard to resist; he was a great beauty, with long, shiny black hair, blue eyes, a powerful face, a beguiling smile. Every time she stopped to talk to him, he gave her a gift (a spoonful of sandlepaste, a stick of incense, a string of beads). But she liked more than just his beauty; she liked his intelligence, too.
She feared him too, though, and sometimes was reminded of the yakshini’s sly smile.
The next year, when Sita was sixteen, one of the men who had witnessed Yaksha’s birth disappeared. No one blamed Yaksha then. The next year, two more vanished, and even Sita’s father began to wonder about Yaksha. By the time the fifth man was killed, he did not just vanish. His body was found, gored to death as if by an animal, with no blood left in his corpse. Because yup, that’s totally a normal thing for a wild animal to do to a grown human.
Sita begged her father to tell people about Yaksha’s part in everything. Yaksha was ten at that point, and looked twenty, and was basically the leader of the village. Sita’s father still had a fondness for Yaksha, and had watched him grow up with pride.
Instead of telling anyone, Sita’s father took Yaksha for a walk so he could ask him to leave the village quietly. But Yaksha returns alone. The only thing found of Sita’s father is a lock of his hair by the river, stained with blood. At the ceremony honoring his death, Sita broke down and told everyone about what happened at Yaksha’s birth, but no one believed her.
Two years after her father’s death, Sita met Rama, the son of a wandering merchant, and fell in love. They married under the full moon beside the river (and yet there are no werewolves). The first night they slept together, Sita dreamed of Amba, who looked like she had been when they sang together but talked of dark things and warned Sita never to touch the blood of the dead.
Lalita, she who plays, was born within the year, and Sita’s joy was complete.
That lasted only a year, though. One moonless night, she was woken by the sound of nails scraping over a blade, and found Yaksha outside her house. He grabbed her by the throat and accused her of betraying him. She said he betrayed her by killing her father and all those men; he said that some of them were with him still, in a special way. Her father was dead because he would not join Yaksha, but not all of them.
He asked if Sita wanted to join him, and she told him no. When she called him evil, he slapped her, angry and proud. He gave her two options then: join him and be his wife and become like him or she and her family would die.
Yaksha made her promises and nipped her ear; when that happened, she liked it more than all the pleasure Rama gave her in the middle of the night. It felt as if every drop of her blood turned from red to black and she became invincible. Oh, Sita.
To save her family, she said yes, and he took her and changed her. As she died, Yaksha became her lord and she cried for him instead of for Vishnu. As she died, she forgot her god, screamed in wicked pleasure, and embraced the son of the devil.
Sita: overly dramatic.
Meanwhile, back in the current plot, Alisa has gotten far more impatient as she gets older; while she can sit perfectly still and be content if nothing is happening, when she wants something, she wants it immediately. This is why she already considers the teens her friends, though they’ve just met. She ends friendships just as quickly.
Ray’s knock wakes her up, but the dream of Amba, Rama, and Yaksha lingers, leaving her sad and slow. They have a little banter (that isn’t really all that charming or funny, but I like them both enough that I’m rolling with it).
Alisa turns the talk to his father by offering for him to spend the night; Ray doesn’t flinch under her scrutiny the way his father did. They talk a little while they move furniture, and Alisa learns that Seymour and Ray are friends, too. Ray speaks highly of him, and how he’s the smartest guy in school and will graduate at sixteen. He’s an incredible writer, too; his stories are dark but beautiful. One is “The Second Hand” about a character who lives in the space between moments of time and finds there is more going on there than in normal time. He lives the last hour of his life, but it takes a year for him to live.
Alisa tells him to call her Sita, surprising both of them; it brings with it sadness for her, because no one she cares about has used her real name in thousands of years. She then admits that she lied about her parents being in Colorado, and that really her father is dead, he was murdered, and she misses him quite a bit right now.
Ray is sympathetic and says that if anything ever happened to his father, he would be devastated.
Alisa feels shitty over this, actually, which drives home how much she’s allowed herself to care already. He reminds her more and more of Rama, not just Rama’s eyes, but his voice, the silence between the syllables of his words. That was what initially attracted Sita to Rama, and it is what she likes in Ray, too.
This is not going to go well at all.
They finish up after midnight and drink more wine together. He is thirsty then, though the wine doesn’t help; she is thirsty too, and the wine doesn’t help her either. She wants his blood and his body. Blood and sex are entwined, though she does not mate and kill. But sometimes people involved with her get hurt, end up dead, and she doesn’t want anything to hurt Ray.
Oh, honey, I’m pretty sure killing his father is going to be one of the worst hurts you could have caused him.
The writing is so overly dramatic and kind of wonderful because of it.
He looks down at me, and he feels as if he is falling into my eyes, into bottomless wells of blue, twin skies behind which the eternal black of space hides. The realm of the yakshinis.
See? Cheesy and overly dramatic and yet also chilling and wonderful.
He continues to remind her more and more of Rama, and she wonders if Krishna’s words about love could be true:
Time cannot destroy it. I am that love — time cannot touch me. Time but changes the form. Somewhere in some time it will return. When you least expect it, the face of a loved one reappears. Look beyond the face and–”
Odd, but I cannot remember the last part of it. I of the perfect memory.
Geeeeee, how fucking convenient.
They end up naked in the hot tub together, after some back and forth that includes the above (Alisa’s internal thoughts are quite a bit more interesting than their actual dialog), and yup, queer!Alisa is a go, she’s had thousands of lovers both male and female, but sex is still exciting for her.
Thousands and thousands of year, and she’s still excited about sex and violence and blood. I love that about her.
She massages him and flirts in her blunt way; he’s taken aback by her, but they end up making out anyway (“kissing a vampire is not like kissing a mortal. Many men and women have swooned just from the brush of my lips. […] Yet there is the painful side–my kiss often sucks the breath from a person, even when I don’t intend it to.”), until Ray struggles to breathe and falls into her, holding her.
Eventually, he tells her that he likes her, calling her Sita, and that one sentence undoes her in ways that his talk of wanting her body and being intrigued by her mystery do not. She finds it charming and heartbreaking, and I adore her so.
Alisa takes him inside, but instead of having sex, they sit around to finish the bottle of wine (…how many glasses are you getting out of that bottle, Alisa? There’s already been four, which is more than I tend to get, though I suppose I do pour heavy) and talk about Ray’s life: he wants to go to Stanford to study physics and art, he’s worried about money, he loves modern quantum mechanics and abstract art, he works at a supermarket after school. God, I’m starting to have a bit of a crush on him, too. (Alisa holds my heart, don’t worry.)
Eventually, Alisa brings the talk around to his dad again, and convinces him to go check his dad’s files because he’s worried about him. At the same time, we learn that mostly Alisa stays in warmer climates, and isn’t sure how she’s ended up in Oregon. She wonders if it has something to do with Ray, but she doesn’t believe in destiny or miracles. She doesn’t believe Krishna was a god, or if he was, she doesn’t believe he knew what he was doing when he created the universe.
She holds so much contempt for him, but she can’t stop thinking about him.
Inside the office, Alisa notices that minute drops of blood have seeped into the cracks between the tiles, and though they are invisible to mortal eyes, she knows the police will find them. She has to do a more thorough cleaning.
She also clocks the password, which is RAYGUN, a childhood nickname for Ray. Oh, god, my heart.
Ray quickly finds the file for Alisa Perne, and she distracts him by saying she heard someone outside the building, and he goes to check, but closes out of the files first. Still, she’s got the password now, and quickly sets about copying the file. To give herself more time, she uses two paper clips to jam the lock.
She leaves only the first page in the file and though Ray is somewhat suspicious of how small the file is, he is also tired, and they end up leaving.
At home, alone, Alisa reviews the file. Mr Riley investigated her for three months before calling her, and he’s been corresponding with a Mr Slim. She says there is an email address for him, but no phone number, and then literally the next sentence says that the number indicates an office in Switzerland, so … yeah.
Mr Slim claimed he was a lawyer for a variety of wealthy European clients, and said that Alisa was far more dangerous than she appeared and Mr Riley should not contact her directly for any reason. He even managed to track all her financial holdings back to one law firm in NYC, Benson and Sons. I have my doubts that someone as savvy as Alisa is supposed to be would actually use one law firm for all of her accounts under different corporations. That’s sloppy work, even if they handle Alisa’s account and no other, as Mr Riley suspects.
Mr Slim and Mr Riley have a falling out because they are withholding information from each other. Eventually, Mr Riley tracked down a violent act in her past. Five years ago, she killed Mr Samuel Barber, who had a habit of peering into her windows and saw things she didn’t want anyone to talk about. Mr Riley doesn’t want to believe that Alisa killed him herself, but he does think she hired someone to kill him. Which is basically the same damn thing.
Alisa is glad that she decided to steal the file, and considers burning down the entire building. It would be easy enough, but she’s worried it would call Mr Slim’s attention to her even further.
Ah, we’re back to the Swiss email address, not phone number. She sends Mr Slim a message directly and says that she wants to meet him in person to discuss whatever is on his mind. She gets a response in ten minutes from Mr Slim, who wants to meet that night. They agree to meet at the end of the Water Cove Pier in an hour.
(Have I mentioned lately how much I love piers in horror stories, especially vampire stories? SO DAMN MUCH.)
Alisa arms herself with two guns and a knife, because apparently all her great strength and speed makes weapons useful still. Heh. (I once played a Vampire the Masquerade campaign with a vampire who clung to her weapons, still, no matter what else she could do.) She’s confident and has escape plans in place; in five thousand years, she’s never met her match. UMM. Alisa. Yaksha sure the hell was more than a match for you, for one thing.
Right on time, a white limo pulls up; a man and a woman get out first. Both are armed and hard and ready to fight and kill. Alisa assumes the man is Mr Slim, because he is clearly the leader. She can hear a second limo parked out of sight, and decides the odds could be twenty to one against her, if both cars were full.
She hesitates, until she’s in the sights of six sets of cross hairs. She’s afraid, for once, but her fear is still manageable. She can take a bullet or two and survive as long as they don’t hit her directly in the head or the heart.
Mr Slim doesn’t know she’s a vampire, and is a little embarrassed by the precautions that they had to take in order to abduct her. He’s taking orders from someone else, and Alisa knows that she needs to meet that person, too.
She decides to go along with it, though she knows that they will try to kill her eventually. As more and more people point automatic weapons at her, her fear actually starts to rise. She thinks of Krishna, then, though she’s not sure why; he told her that she would have his grace if she listened to him, and in her own way, she believes she hasn’t disobeyed him.
They take even more extreme precautions. They have thicker cuffs for her wrists and ankles, a black eye mask, and the people riding in the car keep their guns out, though only the woman keeps one aimed at her. (She’s the smart one, clearly.)
Alisa can’t break the metal of the cuffs, but she can hop faster than a mortal can run. She might be able to grab a gun before they killed her, but the woman might put a bullet into her head first, and also, the second car will open fire on the first car if anything goes wrong.
Alisa talks them into stopping at a gas station bathroom. Slim and the woman are the only ones who go into the bathroom with her, because they have suddenly turned into idiots. (No, this is believable, they underestimate her despite their orders, but still.)
Alisa stuns the man, then viciously kills the woman, tearing out her eyes and cracking her head open. She gets Mr Slim to unlock her cuffs, and then they have to break out a side wall to avoid the killers out front. She drags Mr Slim into the woods. A bullet hits her in the butt, but she can ignore the burn. (There may be an obsession with butts going on; there’s a needless point about a butt in Weekend, too.)
Once she has him alone, she tells Mr Slim the truth about who and what she is, and makes him tell her about his boss, who is Rick Graham, who, two years ago, sent them after someone who fit her description. Mr Slim’s team works out of Switzerland, but Rick travels constantly, though Mr Slim doesn’t know why.
OH DAMN. I think I’ve just figured out what’s going on here with the phone number and the email. This is a newer copy, and it has been updated. Before, everything was done via fax, and there are still too many references to faxes and fax numbers, though some of it has been updated to email instead. That’s sloppy updating. (This realisation brought about because Alisa tells him she faxed him in Switzerland earlier that night, but she emailed him earlier.)
Mr Slim describes Graham as a tall man with long dark hair and frightening pale blue eyes. And Alisa freaks. the fuck. out. Well, for her at least, which means internally. She thinks it is Yaksha, though she has heard so many stories that he is dead.
Alisa drinks from Mr Slim to kill him and buries the body underneath the stream, where police seldom look. She runs off in another direction to avoid the police, and considers calling Seymour. It is a terrible idea, she knows. She can hotwire a car. She’s soaked in blood. And yet she calls him anyway.
Alisa changes in front of him, thinking that he deserves a show, and he doesn’t ask many questions. He’s a trusting lad, that Seymour. He dreamt of her, he says, and tells her about his dream, which was of her on a battlefield fighting a whole army of demons. She stuck out her tongue at the demons, and terrified them; it was purple, bloody, long, and looked like she had taken a bite or two out of it. She made a loud sound in the back of her throat, nasal, and all the demons fell over dead.
The tongue part reminds her of the yakshini of course, and she now knows for sure that Seymour is supernaturally sensitive and, somehow, has linked up to her, formed an intuitive bond with her. He feels like a younger brother to her, or a son.
In five thousand years, she has had no child but Lalita before she was a vampire, and yet.
Oh, there’s more to the dream: she went through the battlefield crushing demon’s heads with her feet, sometimes cutting a head off to make a necklace out of them. And, if she found some still alive, she would drink their blood. The demons began to decay when she was done, and the sky grew darker still. A huge bird circled overhead, and it frightened Alisa (or, well, Lara, to him), and no matter how she raised her sword or made that sound in her throat, she could not hurt the bird and it came closer and closer.
She’s shocked enough to say, out loud, that it hasn’t happened yet, and then asks if it was a vulture. He thinks it was. Alisa hates them, because they are a symbol of a forsaken ending.
Alisa believes that Seymour can see the present, so why couldn’t he see the future. Yaksha is circling closer to her, hunting her. She’s afraid, but sure she can use her old tricks to stop him. After all, Krishna said she would have his grace if she obeyed him, and she has; she doesn’t know what he promised Yaksha, though she doesn’t think he got the same promise.
She thinks Krishna must have told him the opposite of what he told her. Which is still not clear at this point, though I’m remembering things.
They then talk about Seymour being sick. She asks if he’s afraid of dying, and tells him he has AIDS, which is not a surprise to him. He got it from a batch of donated blood, even though it was after all donated blood was tested for HIV. He’s fairly calm about this, calls himself a statistic. He admits he’s afraid, but he tries not to think about it, tries to focus on doing the things he wants to do.
She asks him to write a story about her one day, and promises to read it if she gets the chance.
Alisa returns to her mansion by the sea, and says that she hasn’t described it before because a house is just a house to her, she does not fall in love with them. She does describe it now, though it is unimportant, except that she gathered art for centuries, though she’s brought none of it to America with her.
Oh god, another one of those Best of the Best thing, because she’s also the most accomplished pianist in the world. She rarely writes music, though, because her melodies and songs are always sad; she does not think of herself as a sad vampire.
She’s worried more about Ray than herself at the moment, because of course Yaksha knows about him. She goes to Ray’s house and finds Pat there. She tries to send Alisa away, but Alisa, of course, cannot be cowed.
Eventually, she gets Ray alone, and he admits that he knows she tampered with the file, because the size changed while he left her alone with the computer. She tells him that Mr Riley was investigating her, and a dangerous man sent people to abduct her earlier; now she thinks that Ray is in danger.
Alisa dances around the truth about his father as they go to her ocean house, but does say that the dangerous man coming for them, angry at his father, has killed before. At the house, she sets her security system, but knows it will not stop Yaksha, who is at least twice as strong and fast as her, and probably far more powerful.
Ray wants a gun, she refuses to arm him; he wants to know why they don’t run instead of waiting for the man to come to them, and though she’s been considering it, she doesn’t think she can successfully run from Yaksha if he has her in his sights, as he does now. She tells Ray he can go, and admits that he doesn’t know why she brought him to her house.
Ray isn’t sure that they’re friends, which hurts Alisa, but she still admits to him that she cares more for him than she has cared for anyone in a long time. She’s older than she looks and lonelier than she was willing to admit to herself, and when she met him, that loneliness eased. She’s his friend even if he doesn’t want to be hers.
Oh god, Alisa, my heart.
He reminds her so much of Rama, though they do not look alike, and she wonders if Krishna was actually right, if their souls are the same. If souls exists. If they do, she doesn’t think she has one.
Ray kisses her hand and says that sometimes when he looks at her, she doesn’t look human, she looks carved from glass, old but always new. He doesn’t flat out ask if she’s really a vampire, though, because he knows she will tell him the truth and he doesn’t want to hear it.
They have sex in front of a roaring fire, because Alisa is also the cheesiest vampire to ever vampire. While he sleeps, after, she prepares an automatic weapon and puts it under her pillow. Then she rests, because she knows Yaksha won’t come until the next night, a new night for a new kill, and thinks of Krishna, of how she’s never forgotten his face even after five thousand years.
FLASHBACK TIME AGAIN.
Yaksha and Sita traveled with two other vampires Yaksha had created, and Sita marveled over how she’d changed. She could see details of the moon, the multifaceted eyes of tiny insects, was constantly surrounded by sound, could smell everything everywhere, leap trees, crumple boulders, chase animals, etc.
And on the fourth day, her blood thirst came over her, and she thought she was dying.
She didn’t want to believe him, but had to. She also believed him when he told her that she was sterile after the change. It made her cry for Rama and Lalita, but she refused to go see them, because she didn’t want them to see the monster she had become, and she feared she would make them vampires too.
Sita refused to drink blood for a month, until Yaksha brought her a half-conscious boy with his veins already open, and she could not resist. She killed that boy, and in that action, she fell. She never loved Yaksha, but she admired him for being stronger than she was. They traveled together, in a group, killed people and went on.
The first vampire Sita created was a girl her age with dark eyes and “hair like a waterfall made from the light of the midnight sky.” (Oh dear god, I think I know where I got my love of needlessly dramatic and overwrought descriptions.) Sita thought Mataji would be her friend even though she turned her by force. (And the vampirism as rape and sexually transmitted disease continues.) Mataji never thanked her for what she became, but she did stay close to Sita for years to come.
… I want to read about their bloody, terrifying, ecstatic adventures together.
Whenever any of them created a new vampire, it made them weak for days after, except for Yaksha, who grew strong. Sita hated him, but he was kind, to her and to all he created.
About fifty years into this carnage, they heard stories of a man who was said to be the Veda made incarnate, a man who was more than a man: Krishna, who lived in the forests of Vrindavana near the Yumana River, and who was capable of slaying demons and granting bliss. His best friends were the five Pandava brothers, said to be the incarnations of minor deities.
Yaksha was, of course, intrigued, because this is how it goes for the powerful before a fall. All of the vampires were intrigued, but none of them wanted to meet Krishna. Even though they were nearly a thousand vampires at that point (holy shit, that is quite a fucking army of vampires; for some reason, the sheer size of that group never clicked for me when I read it before), they were afraid Krishna and his friends would destroy them all.
But Yaksha couldn’t stand the thought of a man more powerful than he.
Here we go.
The vampires marched on Vrindavana, making no secret of where they headed. All the people they passed were relieved, because they thought Krishna would destroy all the vampires, even though none of the people had ever met Krishna. Even the ones the vampires killed called out his name as they died.
Krishna allowed them to come into the woods before his attack came, and then the arrows started to fly, one at a time, in quick succession and perfect accuracy. Even though the vampires were fast, not a single arrow missed its target in the heart or head of a vampire. They could not catch the archer. They could not even see him.
Mataji was the first to fall.
They were able to outrun Arjuna, Krishna’s great warrior friend, eventually, but many vampires died, and the rest began to turn against Yaksha because they wanted to leave Vrindavana, if only they knew which way to run.
And then they met Radha, Krishna’s consort, whose name meant longing; she was called that because she longed for Krishna more than she desired to breathe. She was not afraid when they came across her; she was the most beautiful woman Sita had ever seen, or would see in five thousand years.
Of course, her skin is fair, because dark skinned women can’t be beautiful, apparently, PIKE.
Yaksha took her captive, and Sita was put in charge of her while Yaksha sent others to Krishna to force him to agree to meet Yaksha in single combat or they would kill Radha. Krishna, in turn, sent Arjuna’s brother, Yudhishthira, with the message that he would meet them at the place they entered the woods, and he had two conditions: (1) They would not harm Radha. (2) He got to choose the form of combat.
They got a little lost in the woods, because god forbid Yaksha ask for directions or anything (no, seriously, Krishna sent Yudhishthira to help them find the way, but Yaksha sends him back to Krishna instead).
There was a huge pit where they entered the forest; Krishna’s people were gathered there, but none of them attacked, not even Arjuna with his mighty bow.
When Krishna came out of the woods, he held everyone’s attention. He was not blue as he was later depicted in paintings; artists painted him that way because blue was symbolic of the sky which stretched to infinity, and Krishna was the eternal, infinite Brahman. He had light brown tea, not as dark as most people in India, because of course, again, we must have a goddamn light skinned character. WTF, PIKE. You set this in fucking INDIA.
Anyway, Krishna’s presence overwhelmed them all. Sita could only look away when Radha touched her brow, comforting her, and said that Krishna means love, but Radha means longing, and longing was older than love. She was older than Krishna. She knew Sita’s name, because he told her Sita’s name once, and Sita did not want to know what else he said then.
Krishna set their combat as cobras. He heard that Yaksha is the master of serpents and the sound of his flute could control them. Krishna, too, played the flute, and so he challenged Yaksha for control of the snakes, and for Radha’s life, because awesome, turn the woman into an object, a prize. I thought you were supposed to be the good guy here.
If the cobras killed Krishna, Yaksha got to keep Radha for his own pleasure (this is so fucking wrong), but if they killed Yaksha so he died or chose to surrender, he must take a vow from Krishna.
The vampires gathered the snakes, and by the next evening, the pit was filled. The other vampires are more confident now, because no mortal could last long in that pit; Sita realises that they still think of Krishna as a man, not a divine being.
Radha and Sita talked throughout the day; Radha gave her news of Rama and Lalita, who were both dead by then, but Rama’s life was noble, and Lalita’s happy. Radha told Sita many things Krishna said, including that all that are born die, and all who die are reborn.
Yaksha played songs of sorrow and pain, and his music was hypnotic, but right away, it was clear that his music was a shadow compared to Krishna’s, because Krishna played the song of life itself. Each note was a different center in the human body, and his breath through the notes was the universal breath through the bodies of all people. Each note made Sita feel different things.
None of the snakes would attack Krishna, but Yaksha’s music was able to keep them at bay to protect himself. As Krishna made Sita feel different things with his music, she knew that he would win, and the result could be nothing but the extinction of the vampires.
The fourth note is the note of the heart, and that is the note he used to carry his music toward its climax. Love became hate became fear, and fear pierced Yaksha. He trembled, and that was the worst thing he could do, because snakes only strike where there is fear.
(Is this true? I have no idea. Any herpetologists reading?)
Yaksha still refused to surrender, and instead played a frantic tune to drive away the snakes. It worked at first, but not for long, and finally the snakes began to bite Yaksha. Even though he was the first vampire, the son of a yakshini, he could not survive all that venom.
When he fell, he tried to say something; Sita thought he tried to call her name.
Krishna stopped the snakes from eating Yaksha, and had Arjuna carry Yaksha from the hope. Radha hugged Sita after Sita let her go, but went to the other women and not to Krishna. The vampires moved about, tense, but stayed to see what happened next.
Sita knelt beside Krishna, next to Yaksha, and asked if Yaksha would live. Krishna asked if she wanted him to, and she said she wanted what Krishna wanted. She was completely overwhelmed by him.
He told her that when he left the world, the age would change to a time for strife and short years for humanity. It would be a difficult time for humanity without the vampires, and Sita agreed. When he asked why she went on, she said she wanted to live.
She will live, he promised, if she obeyed his command: if she never made another vampire, she would have his grace and his protection.
Then he sent her to stand with the other vampires, because he had to talk to Yaksha alone. But before she did, he whispered to her that where there was love, there was his grace.
Yaksha could not say what Krishna told him, but Sita learned not long after. Yaksha began to kill each of the vampires. They all fled, but Yaksha went after the others first. He killed them all before the Middle Ages, or at least that was what Sita thought, and when the Black Plague swept across Europe, she heard he was accused of being a witch and burned to ash in an old castle.
She cried when she heard the news, because he was her lord just as much as Krishna was her lord. She served both masters, light and dark, and she had seen both in Krishna’s eyes. “Even the devil does God’s will.”
She never made another vampire. She never stopped killing.
Oh, Sita. I love you so.
The next evening, Ray wakes, shocked that he slept away the entire day. Alisa tries to send him away, tells him to go to Pat, because Pat loves him and it is not safe for him with Alisa. He refuses to leave, and she brings out the big guns: she tells him that she killed his father and shows him how strong she truly is. He finally believes that she is a vampire, but keeps refusing to believe that she killed his dad, because Ray loves her and she loves him.
Insta!love. Good times, good times.
They continue to argue right up until she hears the note of a flute, calling her, telling her it is too late. A solitary figure stands by the ocean, playing a sad song. Alisa leaves Ray inside the house, telling him to pray (and that God is God, the name doesn’t matter), and soon enough, she stands near Yaksha.
When he asks if she enjoyed his song, she tells him that it was sad; it is a sad day, he says, and he wants it to end. He is tired and he wishes to die. Slim and his people were a test. She tells him to leave, but Yaksha cannot, because Krishna promised that Yaksha would have his grace if he destroyed the evil he had created. (Alisa guessed as much a long time ago, obviously.)
He left Alisa alive for so many centuries because she is beautiful and it warmed his heart to know her beauty still existed somewhere in the world — and, he says at last, because he loves her. And yet, for loving her, he cannot let her live, because he came into the world to die with Krishna’s grace.
There’s some metaphysical talk about what is god, what does that even mean, whether Krishna was a god or not is unimportant, what they knew is that he could not be disobeyed, and so they have both obeyed him.
Alisa tries to convince him to let her live because he doesn’t know what Krishna said to her, but he’s guessed that just as she did his. Alisa then calls this a paradox, because if Yaksha kills her, Krishna can’t be true to his promise to her, but if he doesn’t kill her, Krishna can’t be true to his promise to Yaksha.
Yaksha threatens Ray, and at first Alisa thinks he means to force her to kill herself, but in reality, of course, he plans to hurt Ray until Alisa is forced to turn him into a vampire and destroy Krishna’s grace on her. Because of course he is. Because that is the far more logical answer to this paradox, Alisa. You’ve been so smart up until now!
Alisa is scornful; she has often been tempted to make another vampire, but has resisted it because she would not forsake her protection, and she won’t give in now either.
And then Yaksha place one, high note, shatters the glass in the house, and Ray, pressed against a window to watch them, falls headfirst to the driveway sixty feet below.
Alisa tells Yaksha she has never and will never love him, and even if he dies with Krishna’s grace, he will never have that, which he accepts.
It’s not until she’s holding Ray as he dies that she realises what Yaksha’s true plan is, because suddenly Alisa is holding the idiot ball, what the fuck.
She tells Ray how she can save him, and we get this pretty fantastic exchange:
“Would I have to hurt people?”
“No. Not all vampires hurt people.” I touched his ruined cheek. I haven’t forgotten Yaksha’s words about coming for both of us at dawn. “Some vampires love a great deal.”
“I love…” His eyes slowly close. He cannot finish.
I lean over and kiss his lips. I taste his blood.
I will have to do more than taste it to help him.
“You are love,” I say as I open both our veins.
I love that exchange. Though it does, suddenly, strike me that if Yaksha plans to kill Ray at dawn, why in the world would she lose her protection now? Even if she loves him? She has loved before, and not forsaken Krishna.
After, Alisa is weak and tired from sharing her blood. She leaves Ray sleeping in front of the fire, his body already healed, and goes to visit Seymour. He’s been writing a story about her all day. She’s comfortable in his room, which is filled with science things except for the walls, covered in posters of classic horror films. (I kind of love Seymour.)
The story he’s writing is about a girl their age who is a vampire, and Alisa finally flat out tells him that she is a vampire. He’s not entirely on board with this as truth, but she turns the talk to what she should do, because Seymour is the smart boy with the prophetic dreams and an old enemy has come for her.
Seymour’s solution is this: if Yaksha (though he doesn’t know that’s who it is) wants to die after Alisa is dead, maybe he will be satisfied with dying at the same time. And if he can be convinced of that, then Alisa can trick him. Put him into a situation where he believes they will both die together, but she has to arrange it ahead of time so that when whatever happens, only he dies and not her.
Alisa likes that idea (and likes that he was thinking of using it in his story; I really fucking want to read his story, too, right now), but there is problems with it, because the enemy is shrewd and will be hard to convince, and she doesn’t want there to be a mistake because she doesn’t want to die.
Their talk turns to AIDS, and Alisa says it is not new, that a version existed in the past, and she saw it in action in ancient Rome, in its decline, when whole villages died, and that’s how it was stopped, because in many places, there was no one left alive to pass it on. (Made up science? Actual scientific theory? I have no idea. Anyone know?)
Alisa also admits that she’s come to help him. She wants to give him some of her blood, not enough to make him a vampire, but enough to destroy the virus in his system. She’s not sure it will work, because she’s never done it before, and it might kill him, but she wants to try, and he does, too.
She gives him blood, he, like Ray, falls into a deep sleep, and she’s pretty sure she was successful in destroying the virus without turning him. She kisses him before she leaves and whispers, while he sleeps, that if he doesn’t give her credit when the story is published, there will be no sequels.
Alisa has given so much blood and taken none in return. She’s weaker than she’s been in centuries. And yet, she has work to do.
Seymour gave her an idea, but she knows that it’s 50-50 at best, and probably much worse odds; at the very least, it gives her something to do to feel like she’s trying to survive and protect Ray — her lover — oh wait no her child — oh wait no: HE IS LIKE MY CHILD NOW, AS WELL AS MY LOVER.
Alisa talks about a NASA plan to launch big things into space, called Orion, that involves building a huge, heavily plated platform with cannons at the bottom that fire miniature nuclear bombs.
Is this — is this a real thing?
After some really quick research, yes, more or less; Project Orion (for nuclear propulsion) was a thing, and there was a 1950s nuclear propulsion project, though Russia and Germany first proposed this, separately, in the late 1800s. Apparently, the theory is still tossed around sometimes, with a focus on smaller fission or fusion pellets.
And then I went down the rabbit hole of reading about the current Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket and, y’all, I fucking love space exploration so damn much. I love astronomy. I love how the universe is so vast and we are so small and staring up at the night sky strips away all that we think we are on a grand scale, because the real scale is so much bigger.
… oh, right, back to Alisa.
Alisa points out that the primary problem is, who wants to strap themselves to a platform that has nuclear bombs going off under it. (Pretty sure the real primary problem was nuclear fucking fallout after every launch, though.)
(Alisa would enjoy that ride, actually; extreme radiation bothers her no more than the sun.)
Alas, she doesn’t have a nuclear bomb at her disposal (pretty much the only thing so far), but she thinks she can build a platform with dynamite and heavy steel and use it to escape with Ray while a secondary blast kills Yaksha.
Her plan: Yaksha comes into the house. She tells him she won’t fight but they can die in one big blast. They sit around a crate of dynamite. (Damn, vampires know how to party.) Yaksha will light the fuse. He will see the bomb is big enough to kill them all. He won’t see the steel sheeting under the carpet beneath Alisa’s and Ray’s chairs, which will be bolted to it, and a smaller bomb will be under that plate. She will detonate that one before the bigger bomb burns down its fuse. That shock wave will trigger the larger bomb. And this is her “simple” plan.
She knows that the physics are simple in theory, but that in practice, there is room for a limitless amount of errors, and the odds are still high that they’ll be dead before sunrise. Still, “any odds are good odds for the damned” (so dramatic, that Alisa), and she’ll play them out as best as she can.
After reaching out to her “primary troubleshooter in North America,’ Alisa heads to Portland to steal dynamite and steel (and a truck to take it back, as well as a welding set to make the layers thick enough).
When she finally gets back to the house, Ray is awake, and he is a vampire; the changes are subtle: gold flecks in his brown eyes, a faint transparency to his skin, and “a grace to his movements no mortal could emulate.” (No, seriously, ALWAYS SO DRAMATIC, ALISA. I love her.)
Despite the rush, Alisa and Ray take the time to have some more philosophical discussions on the nature of evil and whether vampires have to be evil. (Also, Ray is still dealing with that whole my love/mother (#alwayswiththeincest) killed my father thing. He says they just won’t talk about it.)
[Ray] stands. “You have a plan?”
“I have more than a plan. I have a rocket ship.”
GOD I LOVE ALISA SO MUCH.
The welding goes well, but cutting the hole in the floor for the plate takes forever, and also, Ray is so bad at it (because he’s not awesomed like Alisa yet) that she tells him to sit down and watch. I LOVE HER. She also calls him a vampire on acid, and he laughs, and they are both ridiculous and charming.
For a detonator, she drills a long hole through an end table, places a blasting cap at the bottom of it, and plans to hit the table to send the rod into the blasting cap, detonating the first bomb.
Can you picture that? Dramatic Alisa dramatically slamming her fist down on the table and dramatically setting off a bomb that sends her dramatically flying into the air. THIS IS THE BEST WHY IS IT NOT A MOVIE?!
Once Alisa is done doing all the work, she tells Ray about Yaksha’s birth and about meeting Krishna. This is well done; there’s no recapping, just a brief mention of the stories, and since we already know them from the flashbacks before (which were, yes, couched as dreams, and I could have done without that part), the pace doesn’t slow down at all. Then they talk about other people she’s met, and specifically her time in ancient Greece. She knew Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, of course. And she dated a guy that history doesn’t remember who refined the Cesarean delivery and experiment with magnets and was the first chiropractor. Because of course the people Alisa knew can only be the best of the best just like her. She was an English duchess in the Middle Ages. She lived in the south during the American Civil War and has bitter thoughts for the Yankees burning and pillaging across Mississippi.
WUT. White chick from India is the bestest best at everything ever and dislikes the north in the Civil War? UMM. Pike. The fuck were you thinking?
She got to watch the Apollo 11 launch, and though so many of her other memories make me roll my eyes (or boggle at the [I think] unintentional racism), this makes me smile. She was so proud, she tells Ray, proud of humanity for reclaiming its adventurous spirit, and that is such a perfect way to talk about how we keep reaching for the stars.
Alisa is grieving now, but not for the people she cared about and lost. Instead, she grieves for all the stories she will never have a chance to tell Seymour and Ray, for Yaksha and the love she can never give him, for the vow she broke, and for her soul, because though she now believes that yes, there is a God, and yes, she met him, she doesn’t know if he gave her an immortal soul or one that dies when her body dies.
Darkness approaches from outside.
I feel no light inside me strong enough to resist it.
“He is coming,” I say.
STINE! Now that is how you save a dramatic cliffhanger chapter ending for an important point.
Yaksha arrives wearing all black and a cape and hat. WELP. Clearly Alisa comes by her vampire dramatics honestly.
Yaksha and Alisa exchange some words, including that they “can burn together, and maybe they should have burned a long time ago,” which is gorgeous. After Yaksha lights the fuse on the big bomb (three minutes left), he tells them about a dream he had that night. He traveled to a dimension where the water sang a song no one had heard before, a song that explained everything in creation, but no living thing could recognise it for what it was, and if it was recognised and discussed and the truth brought out into the light, the magic would die and the waters evaporate.
The dream moves Alisa, and she hesitates to set off the smaller bomb.
He adds that the ocean vanished when he realised he had killed everything in the water and all he had left was the song, and then he walked along an endless plain of red dust, like the blood of something had bled into it for centuries.
He wants Sita to tell him what it means. When she says she doesn’t know his mind, he is calm, but says that of course she knows, his mind is the same as hers, and if it wasn’t, how could he know the the truth of her mind.
Yaksha says that she is not waiting to die and she is trying to trick him. He knows what she is doing and he is much faster than she is. She stops her casual (“casual”) reach for the table. He tells her that he heard the original vow (that she not make another vampire), but he could not hear the final part, and he wants to know before they die.
The fuse burns down and Alisa refuses to answer, until finally she shouts that she hates him because he steals her love, he stole Rama and Lalita and he stole Ray now, and she will hate him for eternity and if that is not enough to stop Yaksha from being in Krishna’s grace, she will hate Krishna too. She begs for him to let Ray live, and Yaksha is surprised that she loves Ray more than her own life.
She can feel pain in her chest, where that fourth note resonates when Krishna plays. It feels off key. Finally, she tells Yaksha that Krishna told her that where there is love, there is Krishna’s grace.
Apparently, he told Yaksha the same thing, and says that it must be true. He then tells Alisa to take Ray and go; she broke her vow due to love, and that is the only reason, and she must, therefore, still have Krishna’s grace. She only became a vampire due to her love of Rama and Lalita. All she does is act in love, at least when it comes to the big things. Yaksha cannot harm her. He knows Krishna doesn’t want him to.
Alisa takes him at his word and pulls Ray out the front door, which she fucking kicks open like a complete badass. But then she turns back to Yaksha. He warns her she has only ten seconds, and she admits that hate, fear, and love are all in the heart, and she learned that when Krishna played his flute. She doesn’t just hate Yaksha. She doesn’t just fear him.
She does not say the last, but he knows, and he tells her that, and they say good-bye.
Then she leaps from the porch and is thrown high into the air as if she can fly — and is pierced through the heart by a hot, sharp piece of wood. A stake.
Ray tries to pull it out, but it breaks off and he only manages half. Alisa is certain that she’s dying, there on the ground, blood pouring from her mouth and staining her hair. She tells Ray she loves him, and he tells her, Sita, he loves her too.
She believes in love, and Krishna, and his grace. She believes he meant what he said. She believes in miracles.
And she wonders, if after everything, she will die.
So earlier, when I told Stine to learn from Pike’s more careful use of cliffhangers? I WAS WRONG. THIS WHOLE ENTIRE BOOK FUCKING ENDS ON A CLIFFHANGER. WHAT THE FUCK.
I had completely forgotten this part. Goddamn it. (Also, I was picturing the ending to Monster, I think, which we’ll visit in a recap at the end of the year.) I mean, obviously I knew there were plenty of books to come, but I did not remember it was quite that dramatic of a cliffhanger.
Alisa is over the top and too powerful and ridiculously there for every major event (which is a pretty common annoyance from vampire stories), and I still have problems with the fact this whole story filled with Krishna and religion and the birth of vampires in India is all about a fucking white woman, but god, does Pike know how to tell a story. Even with all the flashbacks and too fast love story (both between Alisa and Ray and Alisa and Seymour), the pacing is great, and the story stays so damn interesting throughout. Cheesy and dramatic and weird, but so fucking entertaining.
I can’t wait for next month.