The Choice: A Short Story
"Is there anything I can get you to make you more comfortable, my dear?" Karl---with a 'K'---Langdon said to the woman that made him love her.
"What I need," the voluptuous Arabella Valpraise said, "is to get out of here. My freedom would make me more comfortable. What is this? You have no right to hold me here like this!"
Karl Langdon shook his head. "We've been all over this, my dear. To earn your freedom, you must choose."
"That's right, sweetheart," said Karl Langdon's companion, one Lazarius Sempell. "What's it gonna be, him or me?" He rotated his right-hand thumb toward his own chest, and then at Karl Langdon to his right.
"Let me go," Arabella said
Karl lit a cigarette and narrowed his eyes at the woman behind the bars. "Don't you even want to express regret at having misled us? Which of us do you love? Him? Me? Both? Neither?"
"I played around," Arabella said. "I'm a player. I'm sorry I hurt both of you. But what you're doing to me is dangerous and criminal. If you let me go right now, I'll chalk the whole thing up to the actions of men whose hearts I broke; and I won't say another word about it, to anyone."
Lazarius belly-laughed. "You think we're heartbroken?"
"You still don't understand, my dear," Karl said. "You are about to make one of us the happiest man in the world."
"And the other man?" Arabella said.
"Easy come, easy go," Lazarius said. "Those are the breaks. That's the way the ball bounces and the cookie crumbles and the world turns, and all that good stuff."
"Is that you, Lazarius?" Arabella rose from the cot and came to the front of her cell, grasping the bars.
"Is what me?"
"Mr. 'that's the breaks.' Mr. 'that's the way the ball bounces,' Mr. 'that's the way the cookie crumbles,' 'and all that good stuff'?" She said. "If you're so casual, what are you even doing here? Why not make things easier for me and leave me to Karl?"
Lazarius cracked his knuckles. There was tension in his eyes and forehead, that he either couldn't and didn't want to conceal. "You mean, the way you made things easier for me?"
Arabella sneered at Lazarius. "You don't really want me. You only want me because your hated rival, Karl, wants me. You're such a child. You're pathetic. Do you hear? Pathetic!"
"Feisty, ain't she," Lazarius said to Karl. "That kind of fire would make a worthy addition to the werewolf clan."
"She would honor the vampire nation no less," Karl said.
"What will happen if I choose?"
"I don't understand, my dear," Karl said. "The one you choose will turn you. You will either be by my side, forever, as my queen of the night. Or you will spend eternity as Lazarius's queen of the hunt."
"Queen of the Hunt," Lazarius said. "I like that."
"I mean will the other just let the matter drop?"
Karl said, "The peace between our two great covens have come at great sacrifice and struggle. It will not be broken over this matter."
"Let me go!"
"No," they both said.
"You'll never get away with this."
"Of course we will, my dear," Karl said.
"Some of my best friends are members of the police force, fire department, prosecutor's office, legislature, and the courts," Lazarius said, "from the werewolf clan."
"As are mine from the vampire nation."
"What if I say that I don't love either of you? What then? I choose 'none of the above.' Let me out of here."
Lazarius sighed. "You still don't understand. Either you're not as quick upstairs as we gave you credit for, or--"
"Or you're being deliberately obtuse," Karl said.
Lazarius jerked a thumb at Karl. "Yeah, what he said. The only way you're getting out of there, sweetheart, is either by being turned by one of us or in a body bag. There ain't no third option."
"You know, my dear, I wish there was some other way... the Persephone option perhaps..."
"What's the Persephone option?" Lazarius said.
"Persephone, in Greek mythology, daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess, Demeter, and goddess of the Underworld," Karl said. "She was abducted by the god of the underworld, its king, Hades, to be his consort. The compromise that was worked out was that she spent six months down below with Hades and the other six months of the year above ground with her mother, Demeter. Therefore she is both goddess of the underworld and goddess of vegetation and the harvest."
Lazarius put his hands in his pockets and sighed. "So, what's that got to do with the price of tea in Brooklyn?"
Karl said, "I wish we could both bite her, at the same time, and, somehow, she might obtain both vampire and werewolf essences; and thus, perhaps she could be a werewolf, by your side for six months out of the year, and then, as a vampire for the other six months of the year, be my consort. That is what I was thinking by using Persephone as an example."
Arabella was at a loss. She had spent her whole life believing that werewolves and vampires were creatures of fantasy. What could one do or say in the presence of creatures, whom, themselves, are supposed to be the objects of fantasy, who fantasized?
Lazarius grinned. "I never knew you had it in you. That's kind of kinky when you think about it." To Arabella he said, "Don't worry, sweetheart, if we both bit you at the same time, you'd die instantly."
"That would be preferable," she said.
"You would choose death over eternal life," Karl said. "I can't believe that."
"Immortality is a gross parody of life," she said. "It means outliving all my family, all my friends, anyone I've ever known--"
"And coming into a new, greatly enhanced, magnified life, a new family, and a love that will never die," Karl said.
"Why do you want me? There must be thousands, millions who want the 'gift,' you're both offering. There must be at least that many women, vain enough to want to stay young and beautiful forever."
"And you don't?" Lazarius said.
"And that is precisely what makes you so superior, my dear," Karl said.
"Sure, there are thousands, millions who know of the vampire and werewolf covens," said Lazarius, "who know the truth beyond the mythology, and who want in, who want to be turned and be made immortal. A lot of them will get their chance and be turned. But I have to let you in on something, sweetheart. Most of those people tend to be losers, with nothing really going on in their lives; but getting themselves turned doesn't usually change them though. They usually just go from being losers as humans to being losers as immortals."
"You see, my dear, our covens cannot reproduce ourselves sexually. We have to turn humans to perpetuate our species. We want, as far as possible, and as circumstances allow, to turn people of quality. We don't want to bring in the 'dregs of humanity,' so to speak, though that is a perfection that is not entirely achievable," Karl said.
Karl and Lazarius waited, in case Arabella wanted to respond to this. But she said nothing. What was there to say? She stood there, gripping the bars, struggling valiantly to hold on to her dignity.
The vampire lord and werewolf master regarded her. Lazarius with expectation and curiosity. He wondered if she had the inclination and/or guts to kill herself, if given the chance. Karl had more room in his heart to pity her---well, not 'pity,' exactly, for a woman like Arabella has never been pitiable in all her life. He felt sympathy for her dilemma; but he was no more inclined than Lazarius to release her but that she made the choice.
"Look, sweetheart," Lazarius said. "Baby, we all know that you slept with Karl, hoping he could do something for your movie career," Karl was something of a 'mogul' in the industry, his cover in the human world. "and you slept with me hoping that I could do something for your singing career." Lazarius also happened to be a 'mogul,' in the music industry of roughly equivalent status to his counterpart, Karl, in his passing-for-a-mortal modality. "Don't get me wrong, baby. Nobody's blaming you for using what you got to get what you want. Too bad for you we were more than you bargained for."
"But now you must choose, my dear. There is no other way," Karl said.
"Karl!" Arabella screamed.
"Go to hell!" she said.
Karl, always the refined, cultured gentleman, made no other reaction than to gently rub his chin.
"How 'bout me, 'my dear?'" Lazarius said. "What do you want me to do?"
"Bite me!" she screamed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
"Bite me!" Arabella held her long hair away, exposing her throat. She was crying, as though that would inspire any pity.
Lazarius unlocked the jail cell door with a key and entered. His eyes shone and his fangs protruded, as well as the talons from his hands. But he did not will himself to full transformation.
Over his shoulder Lazarius said to Karl, in a voice several octaves lower and quite feral, "I told you we were made for each other."
He moved on her. Took her by the shoulders and prepared to take the first bite.
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