The monthly church board meeting started without any undue fanfare, the most unusual thing being the location where they met. Two dozen others sat on wooden chairs arranged facing a small platform, where a tall, thin man in bib overalls stood facing them behind a simple podium. Brother Andrew banged his wooden hammer and called for order from the room full of church leaders. The entire scene was lit by a row of kerosene lanterns.
“Silence please,” he said in a soft, commanding voice. “I know that we are not accustomed to having our church board meeting in a barn, but the agenda calls for a bit of accommodation. Let’s begin with prayer.” The others quieted down and bowed their heads as Brother Andrew’s voice took on a fervent, almost sing-song tone.
“Unser Gott,” he began. “Thou knowest all, and canst seeth our hearts and minds. Forgive us our trespasses. Lead us in thine way. Deliver us from evil. Amen.”
The others echoed his last word, and Brother Andrew opened his eyes, raised his head, and took on a businesslike tone again.
“Now, I know that we have an important agenda to discuss tonight, but we need to observe established process. The first order of business is to review the minutes from last month’s meeting. Sister Hannah, will you be so kind as to hand out copies of the minutes to the rest of the board members.”
Brother Andrew paused as a young woman, clad in a long dress and bonnet, handed out the single sheet of paper to each member seated before him. After a long period, he cleared his throat and said quietly, “Are there any questions? No? Then I would entertain a motion to accept the minutes as read.”
“So moved,” came the words from Brother Matthew in the front row.
“Is there a second?”
“All in favor, please raise your right hand.” Brother Andrew looked out over the board as almost everyone raised their hand. “All opposed? No? Then the motion is carried.
“Now, is there any old business….”
Brother Andrew was interrupted by a young man, barely out of his teens, who stood in the back row.
“Excuse me, Brother Andrew, but it is pretty important that we get on to the issue of discussion tonight. Can we skip over the old business?”
“Brother Michael,” Brother Andrew said, a disapproving tone coming into his voice. “There is plenty of time to get to the business at hand. And there is much to be said for propriety and order. The good book says, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’”
“Actually, that particular phrase comes from Charles Goodrich, a minister much like yourself,” said a voice coming from a young woman standing in the shadows at the back. “It’s not the Bible, but pretty close. Written about 1827, I believe.” The young woman stepped forward and a hush went over the room as they saw her. She was as much out of place here as these homespun church goers would have been at a cocktail party. She was dressed head to toe in mottled grey leather, with a utility belt on her hips and knee-high black boots. She held a small black box in her hand in front of her as she addressed the crowd.
“Young woman, you are invited here as a courtesy,” Brother Andrew said curtly. “The time to discuss your item of business has not come yet. I would encourage you to hold your tongue until you are called upon.”
“My order of business is a matter of life and death,” the woman said. “Surely you can put aside other agenda items for tonight.”
“Whether this item is life and death is still to be determined by this church board,” Brother Andrew said. “But if you do not observe proper decorum I will have you removed from this meeting.”
“Pardon me once again, Brother Andrew,” Michael said from the back row again. “But Margot is right. We can’t wait to deal with this threat. It IS a matter of life and death.”
Brother Andrew sighed. He was a man of order, and when order broke down, he felt out of control. He was rarely out of control, but this, apparently, was going to be one of those nights.
“Very well,” he said finally. “With the board’s indulgence, we will move directly to item number three on the agenda.”
Brother Andrew had everyone rise from their seat and walk back to the rear of the barn, where something very large was covered by a heavy tarpaulin. Michael and the young woman known as Margot untied each end and dropped the tarp, revealing a large recreational vehicle beneath it. A couple of the women in the crowd gasped as they saw the big bus-like RV. It was painted a mottled grey, the same color that Margot was dressed. Brother Andrew had seen similar sports vehicles on the road, and recognized that this one was different. Instead of large windows on the front, back and sides, it had metal bars covering the glass area. The walls looked like they were armored. He noticed also that the tires were made of some kind of thick, highly durable material that looked like it could withstand the impact of a charging bull. All in all, he recognized that this vehicle was not used for vacation purposes. It was meant for battle.
“I realize that having one of the English’s vehicles here in our community is unorthodox,” Brother Andrew said. “But these people need our help.”
“Actually, Margot is the one offering help to us,” Matthew said. He turned and watched as Margot climbed into the driver’s seat of the RV and started the engine. A puff of smoke came from the exhaust, and one or two men coughed in the group. A few seconds later, she drove the vehicle forward. Brother Andrew watched the predictable look of disapproval wash across the faces of the board members.
The door slammed and Margot reappeared from the driver’s compartment. “We parked the wagon here as a precaution,” she said. “Both so it wouldn’t be seen by prying eyes, and to help keep the vamp contained.”
“Excuse me, but did you say vamp?” Sister Hannah asked, raising her hand meekly. “What is a vamp?”
Margot and Matthew looked at each other, then nodded. While Margot explained, Matthew went to the corner where a block and tackle was attached to the wall. He began pulling on the ropes and a large heavy metal door began sliding across the floor, revealing a dark pit beneath.
“Matthew was the one who suggested the old threshing pit as a holding cell,” Margot said. “The thick concrete walls and the heavy metal door looked like the best place to keep the beast. Of course, being the skeptic that I am, I decided to park the wagon on top of the door as well, just to be safe.”
As she spoke, the opening to the pit grew wider and the church board members looked down into darkness. A low growl could be heard from the darkness. Finally, Margot reached into her utility belt and pulled out a glo-stick. She cracked it between her hands, shook it up, then dropped it the 15 feet down into the pit. The church board members peered over the darkness into what looked like the subject of a nightmare.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Margot said. “I give you vampirus americanus, the North American vampire.”
Gasps escaped from several mouths as they looked down into the pit. The beast they saw below them was dressed in what looked like a shredded military uniform. That was the only semblance to a human that could be seen. Pallid skin, long nails and vicious teeth made it look more like a beast than a human. It stood on two legs, staring up at the church board members. Suddenly it leaped toward them. It was then that Brother Andrew noticed that a shackle was around one ankle and held it chained to the floor of the threshing pit.
“What…what is it?” Sister Hannah asked.
“It used to be my father,” Margot said. “We’ve been hunting vamps a long time. He was the strategist, I was the techie, and we had a team of military types that were second to none. We were the best. We hunted and killed vamps all over the Western Hemisphere. But now all of them are gone. Just old Dad and me. And as you can see…” She gestured down at the raging beast below her. “Dad’s had better days.”
“Your poor father,” an older woman said. “He looks like he needs proper medical care. We need to get him out of there.”
“I wouldn’t advise it,” Margot said. “The lot of you—of us—wouldn’t last five minutes with that thing up here.”
“Show some proper respect, young woman,” the woman said. “He may be sick, but he is still your father.”
“You don’t understand,” Matthew said. “These things aren’t human. They aren’t even alive.”
“Not alive?” Brother Andrew said, scoffing. “What are you talking about?”
Matthew opened up his mouth to explain, but paused as he saw Margot reach into her utility belt and pull out an automatic pistol. Without another word, she aimed at the vampire and fired three shots into its chest. Women shrieked, and even Brother Andrew jumped at the sudden noise of the gunfire.
“Young lady!” he shouted after a pause. “This is blasphemy! How dare you shoot your weapon off in our meeting. In our community! We are a people of peace. We do not believe in violence, in bloodshed, and especially in the call for weapons of any sort under any circumstances!”
Margot eyed him levelly, then gestured down at the still-standing vampire. Three red marks showed where the bullets had entered its chest, but other than that, it showed no indication of damage. Its teeth gleamed yellow in the light of the glo-stick.
“Well, you might want to rethink all of those beliefs,” she said bluntly.
“What are you talking about?” Brother Andrew said loudly, still upset by the gunfire. “Your father is safe and confined. What are you so concerned about?”
Margot rolled her eyes and then glanced over at Matthew. She then turned back to Brother Andrew.
“No one has asked how my father got this way,” she said.
Brother Andrew stared at her, then down at the vampire.
“There was a firefight,” she said finally. “A big one. We had cornered what we thought was the Source, the original vampire for all of North America. We had scoped it out and researched it. We knew that it would be tough, but this was an opportunity to set back vampires here in the States for years to come.
“But he knew we were coming. No matter how much you plan, this one always seemed to be one step ahead. We moved in and everyone got slaughtered. We took down our share of vamps, mind you, but it came down to the Source and Dad. And Dad got bitten.”
She looked down at what remained of her father in the pit and paused. “Dad always told me to leave the fighting to the professionals. My job was computers and communications. When things went south, I loaded up my wounded Dad and just drove—as far and as fast as I could. Until I came to your little valley out here in the middle of nowhere. Even now, I doubt I have a gallon of gas left in the wagon.”
She turned and looked out the dark that surrounded them.
“But one thing about vampires you learn is this: they have a long memory. You hurt them, they won’t rest until they hurt you even more. The Source is out there, and Dad and I hurt him. And it won’t be long before he follows us here.”
The board members stared at her without speaking, waiting for her to continue. She continued to stare out at the darkness and then finally looked back at them.
“I’m sorry I have brought this here to your peaceful valley. I know you came here to get away from the world. Unfortunately, the world has found you.”
Brother Andrew looked at the others, unsure of what to make of this strange turn of events. Finally, he spoke.
“I…I think we will forgo the usual closing song and just dismiss for tonight. There is a lot for us to think about. I will ask that Brother Moses and Brother Nathaniel stay by, as well as our guest and Brother Matthew. We will reconvene tomorrow morning in the chapel.”
The group silently left the barn and headed for their homes, most of them unsure how safe their homes would ever be again.
In the meantime, Brother Andrew stood at the edge of the threshing pit, looking down at the nightmarish creature the young woman had called a vampire. He felt, rather than saw, Brother Matthew come and stand next to him.
“It’s an abomination,” he muttered to himself, loud enough for the others to hear.
“Abomination. Demon. Creature,” Matthew said. “Whatever it is, Brother, we don’t dare let it destroy our homes and our way of life.”
Brother Andrew turned and looked at the young man who stood beside him. Somehow he knew that the peaceful community would never be the same again.