ME AND JACKO - by Ray O'Bannon

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I can hear Jacko scrabbling about outside the window. And I suppose it's
a bit of luck his not having an apartment key, but I know it's really just
putting off the inevitable.

You gotta realize, see, that we never meant for none of this to happen
in the first place. We was just tryin' to have a good time, that's all.
But then sometimes things kinda get away from ya, don't they? I guess if
you wanna kill vampyres, you gotta accept the risks. Or maybe I should say
odds, since that's more how me and Jacko always looked at things.

See, we're both what you might call, among other things, gamesmen. And
ever since Jacko's first night shift down at the fridge, we've been betting
on pretty much whatever presented itself, just for the sport of it, you
understand. The fridge? That's our name for the Stanton County Mortuary.
'Course, ol' Boss-man Hemmings hates us calling it that, but then he's a
crummy boss so who cares? Anyhow, night shifts at the fridge are really
somethin' else sometimes, and you never know what kinda mess they're gonna
wheel in.

So a little gaming helps you through the night, and keeps your mind off
the things you maybe don't like to think about, like the silver pins.

Now, this isn't the kinda thing you wanna spread around, but down at
the fridge, they're real strict about those pins. Everybody gets one, just
as soon as they're wheeled in. Right through the heart. You'd think me or
Jacko would have made a bigger deal about being sworn to secrecy and all,
but who were we gonna tell? All we were looking for was enough cash for
the rent, and maybe a little left to party on, and of course, make our small
nightly bets. But it turns out that the pins keep 'em down, and without
those pins, you have yourself one walkin', stalkin', genuine vampyre.

So for quite a while, we just went on with the job, and spent the spare
time betting. Card games, ball games, whether or not the next poor bugger
rolled in would be missing a face, just any silly thing we could find. I
guess it's only natural that we eventually got bored with it all, and took
to just drinking instead. And maybe that had to do with Jacko forgetting
that first silver pin, but I still tend to think it was deliberate. See,
Jacko was always more of a prankster than me, and seemed to have a
knack for not getting caught at things.

But for whatever reason, he failed to pin one, and up it came in the
middle of the night. Scared us half to death, but we soon found that
they're fairly easy to put down again, if you pop the heart. And, as it
turned out, even a broken mop handle would do the trick.

So, like I say, the first one went down easy. And as soon as it hit the
floor, it went to dust. Just dried right out in seconds, and didn't leave
anything except a reddish powder. We swept it all up and had quite a laugh
about the whole thing. And one thing sort of led to another after that.
First it was betting on who could kill one fastest, and later it was who
could kill one the slowest, but every now and then we'd make ourselves a
vampyre, and have a game of it.

Looking back on it, I suppose it was a fairly ridiculous thing to be
doing, but we always felt that we had control over the situation. One of us
would handle the stop watch, timing the game carefully, while the other
dispatched the creature. Timing began with the vampires rising, and ended
with the stake being driven through its heart and into the ground. We had
actually taken to letting the vampyres out into the nearby fields, partly
due to our preference for moonlight, and partly because the hammer striking
the stake into the soil made a more precise sound to click the stopwatch by.
Also, the dust could be left to disperse in the evening breeze, leaving us
more time for the after-game drinks.

And so we played our little game, neither of us concerned about what we
might be risking. The vampyre is generally rather weak, and its chest is
easily penetrated. The primary danger is, of course, that it might go for
your neck, but a three foot wooden stake and a ball-peen hammer are usually
adequate for keeping it back. And perhaps, this last time, I was overly
confident, but I really thought I had the thing pinned down, and all I did
was glance back to see if Jacko was ready to click the watch. Next thing I
know, the thing's off the stake and going for my throat, and Jacko's
clutching my shoulders, pulling me back. Sudden darkness, red eyes glowing
inches from mine, and the next moment a thundering roar in my ears, Jacko
screaming, and I realize I'm falling backwards. Bright flashing pain erupts
as I hit the stony ground, my last conscious thoughts straying to the
ticking stopwatch, wondering if I've lost the game.

I don't guess it really matters now, but I still kinda wish I had beat
Jackos best time, that being our last game and all. But what's done is done,
and I can hear Jacko scrabbling about outside the window. Foolish of him to
follow me back to the apartment like that, but then he doesn't know about the
shotgun in the front hall closet. Yeah, I'm gonna miss Jacko. But hey, nobody
pounds no stakes through MY heart, buddy. And as soon as I finish with old
Jacko, I'll be heading back over to the mortuary. There's something there I
need to pick up. A little box of silver pins.