Evil Thirst

       part  #5 of  The Last Vampire Series  by  Christopher Pike / Young Adult / Horror
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Chapter 3

Before heading for Palm Springs, I leave Seymour a message on the answering machine in our new home in Pacific Palisades. We stay in regular con?tact. It's a promise we keep to each other. I have left him before in the middle of the night without explanation and have promised never to do it again. Also, my daughter, Kalika, still walks the streets, and it is impossible to tell when she will come for us again. Seymour and I, we cover each other's backs. But I feel in my heart it will not be long before I see Kalika again. A part of me senses that she has yet to find the child, but is searching constantly for him. I have to wonder if my intuition about her is attached to the psychic thread that connects all mothers to their children.

Dr. Seter and James drive ahead of me on the long road to Palm Springs. They have an old white Volvo, I a brand-new red Porsche. James is behind the wheel. I keep only fifty feet behind, just off to their right in the fast lane. They would be surprised to know that I can hear them as they speak. Yet it is only when we have been on the road an hour that they finally begin to talk. Before then Dr. Seter had bees slipping in and out of sleep.

James: "Why are we doing this?"

Dr. Seter: "Do you think we should just ignore her?"

James: "Not at all. I'm as curious about her as you. Remember it was I who insisted upon the meeting. But. I think we should investigate her background before totting her see the scripture. "

Dr. Seter: "What harm can she do to it? She will not be able to translate a fraction of the hieroglyph?ics without hours of time. I don't care how well versed she is in the field. " A pause. "She must be older than she looks. It takes years to learn to read the way she did. "

James: "I'm sure she's older than she looks. Notice she didn't actually tell you her age?"

Dr. Seter: "What are you saying? That she has mastered Suzama's practices and managed to re-verse her age?"

James: "It's possible. She knew enough about the high initiation. "

Dr. Seter: "That's what startled me about her, too. There are few people in our group who know about that. " A pause. "She must be telling the truth. She must have another text. "

James: "I agree. But she's evasive. I don't trust her. I want full security when we show her the papyrus. "

Dr. Seter: "Of course. You've called ahead? They know we're coming?"

James: "Yes. The whole group will be there. "

Dr. Seter: "Really? Why? We don't need all of them there. The others should be on their way to San Francisco. "

James: "I told you, I don't trust this girl. " A pause. "But I have another reason. "

Dr. Seter "What?"

James: "I wonder if Alisa has direct knowledge about the child. "

Dr. Seter: "Now you're speculating. "

James: "I'm not so sure. She seemed particularly concerned about the child being harmed. " A pause. "Maybe I say that backward. I wonder if she already knows about the Dark Mother. "

I almost drive off the road. They are talking about Kalika.

My daughter? Did Suzama brand her as evil five thousand years ago?

Dr. Seter: "I didn't get that impression. "

James: "Can I say something really off the wall?"

Dr. Seter: "It's a long drive. We may as well discuss every possibility. "

James: "What if this Alisa is working for the Black Mother?"

Dr. Seter laughs: "She hardly seems, the type, do you think?"

James: "Consider. She looks like a twenty-year-old, but she appears to have the education of someone who has studied for thirty years. Also, her manner is curious. Notice the way she catches your eye, and then says things you have trouble re?sisting. "

Dr. Seter laughs some more: "I never noticed that. I think you are the one who is having trouble resisting her. "

James: "I don't know. I just hope we're not leading her to the child by letting her study the scripture. "

Dr. Seter :"But there's nothing in the scripture that points to where the child is at this time, except perhaps still in California. "

James: "To us maybe. But she may find clues in the text we have missed. " A pause. "I pray to God we're not doing anything to endanger the child further. From the descriptions I have read of the Dark Mother, I wouldn't want anyone, friend or foe, to run into her. I think that kind of evil lives to kill. "

Dr. Seter: "But you know, son, we have spent the last ten years preparing to meet her. " A pause. "It's inevitable, if we're to believe half of what we've read. "

James: "Do you really think we're the ones chosen to defend the child?"

Dr. Seter: "I wouldn't have bought so many automatic weapons unless I did. " A sigh. "I'm more worried that Alisa may be from the govern?ment than that she represents the Dark Mother. "

James: "Then why show her anything?"

Dr. Seter. "As I said, it can cause no harm. She will not have time to translate the portions of the scripture we don't want her to translate. And she will find nothing in our center the government would be excited about. "

James: "I hope you're right. " A pause. "She is incredibly beautiful. "

Dr. Seter: "I noticed. "

I find their private conversation fascinating.

The center they have referred to is a large house in an area clearly zoned for both business and residential properties. There are many cars parked along the street as we pull up. Like Dr. Seter, I am surprised that James has directed the whole group here, especially when they have a lecture the fol-lowing night in San Francisco. Yet James's intui?tions about me are shockingly accurate. He won?ders if the Dark Mother has sent me. How would he feel if he knew I am the Dark Mother's mother? I would have a hard time convincing him I'm on his side, not hers.

Yet the one thing I have learned by eavesdrop?ping is that the Suzama Society is there to protect the child, not harm it. Still, the reference to auto?matic weapons disturbs me. It is true that they might come in handy should Kalika show up, but I know guns in the hands of true believers seldom get pointed in the right direction at the right time.

What is the source of James's excellent intuition? Perhaps it is a result of following Suzama's medita?tion practices. I found his reference to reversed aging intriguing. Is James older than he looks? I remember Suzama's often saying that aging is a product of lower consciousness, and immortality the gift of highest consciousness.

Dr. Seter and James welcome me warmly as I climb from my car.

"Did you have a pleasant drive?" Seter asks.

"I listened to loud music the whole way," I say, gesturing to all the cars. "Is there another lecture here tonight?"

Dr. Seter glances at James. "Many in our group have returned here to collect supplies for the re-mainder of my tour," the doctor explains. "I have to fly to the East Coast after my San Francisco lecture. " He gestures to the house. "Please come in. Would you like some coffee?"

"Thank you, no. I am wide awake. "

"That's right," James says, moving up behind us. "You're a night person. "

Inside there are two dozen navy blue suits, half and half, pants and skirts, male and female, all young and attractive. I don't get the uniform thing, especially around Dr. Seter, who seems so laid back. Perhaps it is James's idea, although he seems far from a fanatic. The group studies me as I step into the huge house. The place is orderly, the furniture traditional, every corner clean and dust free. There is a faint odor of fried chicken in the air, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. They are not vegetarians, even though Suzama was.

Staring at the innocent faces, I wonder if they practice using their automatic weapons deep in the desert when no one is around. Simply to own an automatic weapon is to invite a felony charge, jail time. Dr. Seter must be convinced the enemy is at hand to go to such extremes. Of course, who am I to judge? He has not fed the enemy another per?son's blood in the middle of the night just to get her to stop crying. My dear daughter--my, how fast she grew and how strong. She can kick my ass in a fight. That, I know from experience.

The memory of Eric Hawkins, Kalika's personal snack bar, is never far.

"Oh God, I'm bleeding! She's cut my neck! The blood is gushing out! Help me!"

But I could not help him. I was only able to use him.

A young woman about my apparent age steps forward to shake my hand. "My name is Lisa," she says. "You're Alisa?"

"Yes. "

"We hear you can read hieroglyphics?"

"Hieroglyphics and comic books have always been favorites of mine," I say. There is a murmur of laughter. "Where are you from, Lisa?"

"North Dakota. I met Dr. Seter there last year--"

"Lisa is our accountant," Dr. Seter interrupts. "I call her boss. "

The group laughs. They obviously love the man.

I am led down into a basement. Few homes in Southern California have basements, and this one is special, to say the least. As James closes the door behind us, I notice that it has a rubber seal all around it. Almost immediately I notice a change in the air pressure, and I understand why. They are worried about dust and dampness and the effect they would have on the scripture. The air in the basement is carefully filtered.

Six of the group have followed me into the basement, including James and Dr. Seter. A young man named Charles steps to a vault at the far end of the basement. In the center of the room is a large white table with brilliant overhead lights and a double ocular over-size microscope at one end. There are also a couple of magnifying glasses and loupes sitting handily by. Charles spins the steel knob on the vault, dialing the combination. His body is between me and the knob but I listen closely and in a moment I know the combination, R48, L32, R16, L17, R12, L10.

The vault pops open. Charles lifts out a pale yellow sheet of papyrus wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and carries it to the table to set down under the bright lights. The scripture is a foot across, two feet long. A rush of excitement makes my heart pound. Even through the covering tissue paper, I smell ancient Egypt!

I recognize the hieratic writing.

It is tiny, carefully crafted.

It is definitely in Suzama's cursive.

Dr. Seter gestures for me to examine it closer after he lifts off the tissue paper.

As I bend over the table, he has no idea I am about to read it much faster than he would read a large-print book. Yet James stands close beside me, his eyes on mine.

I begin to read.

I am Suzama and my words are true. The past and the future are the same to my illu?mined vision. You who read these words are warned not to doubt what is recorded lest you fall into error and lose your way on the path. I am Suzama and I speak for the truth.

The lord of creation is both inside and outside creation. He is like the sap in the flower, the space in an empty room. He is always present but unseen. His joy shines like the sun in the sky, his will swims like a fish beneath the ocean. He cannot be known by the mind or even the heart. Only the inner silence recognizes him.

He is both male and female and he is neither. To speak of him as one or the other is only a manner of speaking. In order to protect the righteous and destroy the wicked, he takes birth again and again throughout the ages.

His most recent birth was as Sri Krishna in the land of the Pandu brothers. Then and there he slew demons and granted realization to the worthy. His life lasted 135 years, from 3675 to 3810. He will be remembered as the divine personality.

His next birth will be as Adi Shankara in the land of the Vedas. Then and there he will make available the knowledge of the Brahman, the highest reality. His life will last 32 years, from 6111 to 6143. He will be well remembered as the divine teacher.

His subsequent birth will be as Jesus of Nazareth in the land of Abraham. Then and there he will embody and teach perfect love and compassion. His life will last 108 years, from 7608 to 7716. He will be well remembered as the divine savior.

The scripture ends there. I look over at Dr. Seter.

"Where's the rest of it?" I ask.

"You do not need all of it to judge its authentici?ty," Dr. Seter says.

"That doesn't answer my question," I say.

"The rest of it is in the vault," James inter?rupts, close to my right side. "But we decided it wouldn't be a good idea to bring it all out tonight. "

On the road, I was briefly separated from them by a distance of two hundred feet. At that point they had their radio on and their windows up. Even I, with my supernatural hearing, could not hear what they were saying. They must have made this decision at that time. Naturally, I am disappointed not to see it all. Yet I am thrilled by what I have read. Already I am convinced the scripture is authentic. The papyrus even feels as if it is five thousand years old. I stroke it gently, making James jump.

"Don't do that," he says.

I withdraw my hand. "I know how to handle such things. I did not harm it in any way. " I pause and look at the doctor. "It is my belief that this scripture is authentic. "

Dr. Seter is taken back. "You can tell that by such a brief study?"

"Yes. This portion matches what I have. I take back what I said earlier. They're almost identical. " I pause. "It would help us if I could see the rest. "

Dr. Seter is apologetic. "Alisa, surely you under?stand what an act of good faith it was for us to show you what we have shown you. Now it's only right, before we reveal any more, that you show us at least a portion of what you have discovered. " He pauses and smiles. "I think that is fair. Don't you?"

"Very fair. May I have a day or two to deliver the material to you?"

"Certainly," Dr. Seter says. "James will not be accompanying me east. You can bring what you wish to show us here and he will have a look at it. "

"Fine," I say. "But you must look at it yourself, Dr. Seter. "

"But I have told you about my commitments on the East Coast. "

"What I have to show you will make those commitments seem unimportant. "

Dr. Seter is troubled. "I am not willing to cancel any of my lectures until I have more proof. "

"I will give you such proof before you leave for the East. Where will you be staying in San Fran?cisco?"

"At the Hilton by the airport," James says. "You can leave a message there. We'll return your call promptly. "

I offer Dr. Seter my hand. "I look forward to meeting you again soon. "

The doctor is surprised at my sudden departure. "But you've said hardly anything about what we've shown you. "

I keep my tone light "It's what you haven't shown me that I would have a lot to say about. "

James touches my arm. "I'll walk you out, Alisa, if you'd like. "

I smile. "I would like that very much. "

Outside James is a study in politeness.

"I hope you can understand our caution," he says. "We just met you tonight. While we're all impressed with your understanding of the Suzama material, we still have to take things one step at a time. "

"No problem," I say as I open my car door. "I doubt that I would have been nearly as open as you and your father have been. "

James smiles. "Actually, Alisa, you haven't been very open. " He pauses. "You can at least tell us where you found your material. "

"In India. "

He frowns. "Are you serious? Where?"

"In Sri Nagar. "

He nods. "I know where that is. In the Himala?yas. What were you doing there?"

"I had a few dreams of my own. " I pause. "How old are you, James?"

"Twenty-eight. "

"You took much younger. I am twenty-five, for your information. "

"You look much younger," he says. "Do you practice anything Suzama taught?"

I smite. "A personal question. I don't know if I want to answer that. "

"Come on," he insists.

"I'll tell you what, I'll make a deal with you. Tell me what you practice and I'll tell you what I practice. "

He gives a sheepish grin. "You're a clever young woman, Alisa. I don't know if it's smart to share too many secrets with you. "

Before I climb into my car I place my palm on his chest I catch his dark eyes once more, and for the first time I notice how deep they are, how beautiful. There is more to him than meets even my penetrating eyes. A soothing warmth sweeps over me, for him, as well as for his father. Beneath my soft hand his warm heart beats faster. He may not trust me, but I know he likes me, maybe even wants me.

It is strange how I suddenly want him. Since Ray, I have not really desired any man. Even with Joel and Arturo, it was more my love for them that bound me to them. Yet, out of the blue, James has me all hot and bothered. Seymour would be incred?ibly jealous.

"Secrets are what make us all interesting," I say, and give him a light peck on the cheek. "Have fun in San Francisco. I will call you. "

He grabs my arm.

"There is something unusual about you, Alisa," he says in a gentle voice. "I'm going to figure out what it is. "

I laugh. "And tell the whole world?"

He smiles, but when he speaks there is a serious?ness in his voice. "I have a feeling few in the world would believe me. "
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