“Well, there’s ten minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”
I snorted. Karen always said that after sex, even if it was a marathon session.
Well, a marathon session in my opinion.
I try not to overestimate things when it comes to sex.
That was her way of letting me know she was done and it was time to move on. That’s why she drove me crazy and made me mad and made me deliriously happy, all at once.
Cray-Cray Tuesdays had gotten off to one hell of a start.
She hates when I call it that, but there’s a reason.
Let me explain.
So, the particle collider at CERN was offline again. That’s not an uncommon thing for us to go through. New experiments, upgraded techs or sensor; hell, I think everybody remembers the time some rodent chewed its way through the wires. When that happens, they leave a skeleton crew in charge of all the sensitive stuff that’s still number-crunching. They leave us.
That would be: me, Janov, Marcus, Bev, Canto and, of course, Karen.
Let me tell you, there are only so many games of solitaire you can play without going nuts.
One fine impossibly boring day, Karen decided that someone needed to keep our spirits up self-elected herself as the Number One purveyor of Fun. There was Group Game Night, Potluck Thursdays, Movie Madness Fridays; Humpday was usually one we reserved for ourselves. Then there was Theory Tuesday.
This came from answering too many e-mails from citizens who thought CERN was going to punch a hole in the universe.
Karen decided to take the theories ‘seriously’. She’d mock one up with slides and graphs and dozen page dissertations. About wormhole gods and alternate dimensions made of left-handed socks and the quantum breakdown of hermetic ritual magic. If she could find it on the internet and link it to something pseudo-rational, she’d dive right into it and then challenge us as her captive audience to prove her wrong.
You don’t want to know what would happen to you if you skipped out on one of her lectures. We learned through painful, prank-filled experience it was better to attend.
I was in the middle of the unpleasantness of a divorce. My fault, actually. Too much time spent in a lab and with Karen to value life outside work. Bev, Canto, and Marcus were the serious drinkers of the group. I honestly don’t know how they ended up coming to work sober. Janov was our lovable troll. Full on neck-beard, pale as hell, gruff, hated anything involving going outside or hanging out in groups, and truly seemed to have an appreciation for the mad hours of our work.
It was probably because of Janov that Karen decided that her theory du jour would be vampirism.
Much like Marc, I could only take about ten minutes of it in and, probably, dozed off in the middle of it. It was staggering, even for her. I remember Janov was fascinated by it. She had come up with a very different view on vampirism and I apologize if I can’t do it justice but I’m only really going through her notes right now and it’s a lot to take in, even if I ignore the blood spatter on the pages.
Her theory, in short, was that life exhibits mathematically predictable behaviors inherent in a restricted flow state, with consciousness, showing a distinct pattern of stacked currents under pressure, creating an emergent form which we called ‘intelligence.’ Vampirism, according to her, was demonstrably an altered and unstable form of this flow pattern, more potent than the standard model but, like any stronger current, more prone to catastrophic failure. To put it another way, Vampires leaked and if they didn’t do something about it, they’d pop.
In order to maintain coherence, they needed to institute a covalent bond with a more stable unit of flow, patching their own life force with one similar to theirs. Canto snarked back that if it was all so ‘scientific’ why the fangs and the drained blood? Karen’s response was that it was an instinctual behavior, much like how cats break the neck of their prey to cause an instant kill. In this case, a vampire would have to keep the prey alive but not struggling, and bleeding a creature out is a very, very reliable way to do that. Also, perhaps it was a secondary supplement or just tasted good. That got a general ‘ew’ from the audience, until Bev reminded them that blood sausage was a ‘thing’ in cuisine.
Janov asked where Karen thought vampires came from and she posited that it was an emergent feature, like ADHD or high blood pressure or neanderthals; something that could probably be found in a vanishingly small amount of the population in their ‘junk DNA’, which was an understudied field. The next question I’ll never forget because it seemed strange to me even at the time. Janov asked if the theory could have any practical applications, like how to detect vampires. Karen confidently answered that since it was a flow state, there would be variances that would make the vampire notably different from human norm; once you had a baseline — human vs. vampire — the rest of the process would be academic.
After that, Karen and I found an empty office space and started Humpday a little early. I wish, in hindsight, that I could have kept her there, that the first thing I would have seen after I drifted off for a nap was her. But, Karen being Karen, she was up and on to the next project.
I got up, hungry, and decided I wanted a bite to eat.
I found Karen in the cafeteria freezer.
I know I wasn’t supposed to find here there. If I’d gone in an hour earlier or later, she wouldn’t have been there. She’d have been taken away by the person who killed her.
She had been bled out.
I noticed that
Maybe I’ve seen one two many horror movies but my first instinct wasn’t to warn anybody or to call out. It was to go to security. The guard there was missing (presumed dead), outside lines cut, monitors off. But really, that was just a matter of feeds. It was easy enough to patch the systems over to a laptop. They were meant to be resilient, after all. Marc was missing. Canto was dead. Janov was feeding off of Bev.
Janov. What a goddammed cliche.
Sad to say, tropes exist for a reason. Janov, I knew, was probably stronger than me and maybe had a host of other abilities I never dreamed of. Like every prey since the dawn of time, I felt death closing in.
I had a plan, though.
Janov was a data guy. He always had been. He didn’t know the ins-and-outs of CERN like I did. He didn’t know, for example, that maintenance tunnel C-A49 led straight into the main loop. He didn’t know that, once in the loop, someone who was outside could lock all the doors, effectively sealing him inside, at least temporarily.
Long enough for step two.
He’s inside there now.
He thinks he’s going to kill me.
He’s not the one in control here.
Experiment 4291733 used deuterium and tritium; hydrogen isotopes. It was never intended that most of the atoms would be released at once, sent through the loop at near the speed of light to slam into their counterparts. To do something like that would be the equivalent of a very small fusion bomb. For a few moments, the inside of the loop would become hotter than the sun, damaging billions in sensitive equipment.
I wonder how Janov will fare in those conditions.
I’ve located him in the tunnels. He can hear the humming of the Loop. It shouldn’t be too long now. Karen’s notes are an interesting read. I hope the police will believe my explanation, and believe in her.
A real live vampire.
I can’t hear him, but he just hissed at the camera, fangs out and visible. I’ve got it on video.
The board is green. Experiment 4291733 is ready to deploy. I hesitate over the button to activate the experiment, for just a moment.
Then I say Karen’s name and I press it.