LENA: “Vampires can’t cross running water. I’m sure you’ve all heard the stories - from the people who managed to cross the bridge, and the dangerous, frenzied, starving creatures left trapped on the other side.” (show on greenscreen; doesn’t have to be vampires, per se, just scenes from those old medieval tapestries. Who’s going to care?)
THEO: “But Lena, a lot of people don’t live by rivers anymore. What can they do if they suspect a vampire infestation? After all, the stories about how to kill them didn’t quite pan out.” (sounds cheesy)
LENA: (make sure you sell it!) “That’s why we’re here. Vampire Authorities: Maze Plumbing - VAMP, for short - will box any suspected vampires in with an intricate design of pipes carrying fresh, 100% holy (not technically true, but we had a priest bless the city supply, so they can’t sue us if it’s not) water. They won’t know which way to turn once we’re done with them!”
(Greenscreen showing 3-D engineering diagrams of those pipes, weaving in and out of each other. Looks professional, looks cool)
THEO: “And you’re sure this’ll trap those pesky vampires?”
LENA: “Of course it will! It’s been tested in some of the worst vampire infestations in the world (greenscreen changes to map of Eastern Europe, with stakes driven through to represent vampires. Doesn’t work, but looks cool) and given a 100% success rate! (for a given definition of ‘success’, DON’T SAY THAT OUT LOUD)
THEO: “Sounds like the thing for me! And, cheap too! All you pay for is the pipes - much less than those so-called “catchers”, who'll put you in the hole for thousands of dollars.” (greenscreen change? I don’t know what you want me to do here, since we don’t want to put them here + give them advertising space)
LENA: “You don’t even have to worry about the water bill!”
LENA & THEO: (yes, you have to say it in unison. People like it!) “VAMP is here for you, when the stakes are high or you’re finding vampires a real pain in the neck! Call now, at 1-800-826-7473, for a quote free of charge!”
(we promptly run out of advertising money)
“I am not saying that on a real, actual, television screen,” gripes Lena di Biancar, a bundle of not-actually-steel pipes slung over her shoulder. “I don’t care if it just came off the printers, stick it back until it doesn’t make me want to roll my eyes into my head.” She wields the metal rods like clubs, a dark stain smeared on the leftmost a testament to their varied uses.
Alex Olvirsson gives her the type of pleading look normally reserved for failing musicians demanding one last time on stage. “Come on - we’ve got to pick up business somehow, and all of your ideas involved threatening people. Like vampires do!”
“I didn’t threaten to take their blood,” she says with a shrug. “Just that it’d be outside their body.”
“Nobody’s going to give us any money if they think they’re not going to keep their blood!”
She turns to the door, swinging the pipes behind her with such careless abandon that, while they miss Alex by fractions of an inch, they continue past and slam into the wall. The dent there is currently extending their office space by about a cubic foot, completely rent-free, and she mentally adds a few inches to that estimate. “Sorry,” she says, clearly not, “and people will give us money. They’re doing that right now, soon as we get to the site.”
“Only because I talked to them,” she mutters.
Theo is waiting for them in the shade of an abandoned office building, cross around his neck and blueprints spread on the ground. “Alright, I have…good news and bad news,” he starts, giving the impression that the ‘good news’ only exists as a counter to the bad, and it, in fact, would be considered ‘bad’ if not for the presence of the ‘worse’.
“I’ll show you bad news,” Lena smirks, giving the type of smile they’d be contracted to contain if it had fangs. “Have you seen what she wants us to say-?”
“What’s the bad news, Theo?” she asks, pulling her professional tone and shooting a glare at her. It’s less effective than it might be, given the other woman is half a foot taller and carrying their entire metal stock with ease.
His gaze jumps between the two of them before he gives it up, shrugging. “Well. The bad news is we’re not dealing with one. They abandoned this building ’cause the developer didn’t get the light flow he wanted on this side of town, but that made it prime territory for vamps to move in. We’ve got a nest.”
Pipes clatter to the ground. “I’m out.”
“They’re paying us more, though,” he adds. “Ten times the old contract, because there’s…ten times the vamps.”
A drawn-out silence, the reflections off shattered glass throwing dollar signs into her eyes. “I’m…in,” she says uncertainly. “You’re not just saying that-?”
“Means every word,” Alex says, glad it’s at least distracting from her commercial. Even the attendant at the printers told her it felt like ‘a used-car ad at 3 AM’, and three hours later she still doesn’t have a good rejoinder. “Our employers do, anyway, and it’d be a shame to leave them hanging.”
Theo nods, picking up the papers and kicking the pipes back towards Lena, who watches them roll against her foot with mild interest. “We planning an indoor or outdoor installation?”
It’s her decision - it’s always her decision, now, since Lena would only pick the most dangerous option. Outdoors is safer, but if there’s too much floor in the way, it won’t trap them. Indoors is risky, means getting up close and personal, but…for ten times the money, for professional editors or cinematographers- “Inside. I want an hour, no more.”
The windows block out the sun, which seems slightly counterintuitive to their purpose. She hates it, for the sole reason that as the Bearer of the Flashlight™, she has to be in front. The first one to die if the vampires find them, a floor beneath the nest, and all she’ll be remembered for is a startup company still underground and underwater, and a shitty scriptwriting career that got her laughed out of the FedEx.
“It should…be right about here,” Theo says, counting out his steps. “Can I see the flashlight? I think we’re right under them-“ A rustle from above, dust falling from the ceiling- “but it’s a little dark.”
“Dark, huh?” She tosses him the light, wincing as it misses his hands and clatters on the floor. “Sorry.”
Lena pokes at the ceiling above, looking like an annoyed neighbor trying to stop a party upstairs - which, for all anyone knows about vampire nesting habits, could be true. “Feels like the right place.”
“Are you sure?” he asks, peering at the map. “Because it looks like we’re in the superintendent offices, see-“ The diagram is nigh-incomprehensible, with seventeen floors overlaid on top of each other in dashed and dotted and spiked lines. Her animation of overlaid pipes, which she’d tossed in because it looked cool, isn’t a quarter of the maze this is- “but they told us the vamps were in the break room above.”
She frowns. “And that…isn’t above us? It says ‘break’.”
“They said that, yeah, but…when they pointed it out, they said this room,” he says, gesturing to the other side. “But that one doesn’t have any offices beneath it, so it doesn’t fit.”
Still looking up at the ceiling, Lena unslings the hose from her back and tosses it on the ground. Every floor they went up, she complained again about having to unspool it, but abandoned office buildings don’t have running water. “Pretty sure this is the right place, guys.”
“Yeah, but see…if it was over there, we should have taken those stairs. Now we’ll have to go all the way around again.”
“I could call them,” he offers, fumbling for his phone.
“No data here,” she says. One of the downsides of being on the wrong side of town in an abandoned, falling-apart structure, along with literally everything else. “You’re sure they said those rooms?”
Lena whacks first Alex, then Theo (gently) with a pipe. “Guys,” she hisses, “we’re here! This is where we’re supposed to be!”
“How do you know?” he asks with a laugh. “How can you tell if we’re right under a nest of vampires?”
The pipe swings upwards, nearly missing Alex’s face as she gestures through the rafters. Something hisses on the other end, a popping, crackling sound as if she’s just stabbed a radio dish. “’Cause one of them’s looking at us.”
In the darkness, the vampire is nothing more than a blur of fangs, cast in rotating shadows by the light falling from Theo’s hand. It lands on the floor in a tangle of scrabbling limbs, eyes burning holes in the darkness as it wrenches itself to a standing position. The only thing missing is a scare chord, a dramatic zoom on the silhouetted monster.
“Well, it’s been nice,” Theo says weakly. “Lovely idea, terrible execution.”
“No, come on.” She snatches the flashlight before it can roll away, aiming it at the monster as if that will save them. “We’re supposed to deal with this, right? So let’s do it.”
He’s less than convinced. “You…uh, you founded VAMP, why don’t you…show how it’s done, then? A learning experience, right, oh no-“ Not content to ignore them while they talk, the vampire scuttles towards them, leathery wings spreading in the darkness. He screams, kicking dust into the air as he hightails it to the stairs.
Alex backs away, swinging the light back and forth. “Lena?” she calls, her foot catching on the curve of an abandoned pipe. No help there, either. “Anybody?”
Maybe she should have vetted her applicants first, but they seemed trustworthy. Or paid them more, though there’s precious few websites titled “10 Tips for Small Business Owners! One: How Much to Pay Your Employees so They Don't Abandon You During a Vampire Attack…Two: How to Write a Decent Advertisement Script.”
No. She’s studied vampires, and…even if they can’t physically die, they’re fragile. Having no blood leaves their body brittle, like snapping a twig. If the tree had been made of human flesh.
With another hissing scream, it charges, and she’s barely fast enough to snatch a pipe and bat it out of the way. A thousand thoughts battle in her head, most of them panicking in sheer, abject terror, but she ignores them. “Yeah? Too slow!”
A plan. She needs a plan, because it’s faster than her and she can’t dodge forever. They have water, pipes made of rusty iron (but iron only hurts the fae, sometimes), and…a flashlight. Zero percent of it is new, or even quality-tested in the last five years, but it’ll have to do.
On the other side of the vampire lies the hose, ready to spout running water if only she can turn it on. “Well, come on, then,” she taunts, wishing the light didn’t shake quite so much. “You want my blood, right? Gonna have to come and get it!”
Unfortunately, it works.
Somewhere in her mind, she had thought she could run around it, that baiting it would open up more space in the darkness. But it’s simply too fast, red eyes streaking towards her, and - caught in their vengeful headlights - she can’t pick a direction to run. All she can do is hold the pipe in front of her and pray it’s enough.
Even with so many limbs, vampires are not quick to turn - something about the unwavering fixation on blood. A sickening crunch and it impales itself on the pipe, the metal punching through the creature like a B-list science fiction’s analogy of a wormhole.
They stare at each other for too long, not sure what to do. “Running water,” she says, shaking her head. “Running water-“ She panics, not sure of how to keep the vampire stuck on the pipe, before giving up and dragging it along with her. It snarls, spitting and growling, but without the reach or intelligence to pry itself off.
Nobody’s ever tried this before. It should work, but it’s certainly not how any part of this is supposed to. She jams the end of the hose into the pipe, spinning the wheel to turn on the water. For a long, terrible second, they stare at each other, before it starts to flow and the vampire screeches in pain.
It lunges for her, or tries to, but the pipe has suddenly become an immovable object, and the vampire is not an unstoppable force. Running water, the one barrier it can’t cross. “It’s - it’s no maze,” she says, breathing hard, “but…it’ll do.”
“Yeah!” comes Lena’s voice from beside her. “Show that vampire!”
She turns to see the other woman beside her, something clutched in her hand. “Lena - you - you left me to deal with a vampire! I thought you’d run away!”
“You could handle it,” she says with a shrug. “I was just doing what I thought would help the business.”
“What - I’m the business!”
“Might be, yeah, but....” She spins on her heel, and Alex catches a glimpse of what’s in her hand. A camera. “We got one hell of an advertisement.”