Chapter 9: Ari Levin, August 2, Year 1

A vampire can jump thirty or forty feet at a time; it makes tracking one a particular challenge. It was clear that the vampire had circled New Zion, but I was having a hell of a time finding where it went afterwards. It was a couple of hours before sundown, and I was thinking about calling it a day. Then I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up

The human brain has three evolutionary levels. At the lowest level, our survival instincts—fight or flight, aggression or submission—come from the primitive reptilian brain. Next up the evolutionary ladder, the paleomammalian brain is responsible for motivation and higher emotions. The cerebral neocortex is the most recent evolutionary addition; it gives us language and rationality.

Every second of every day, our senses gather more information than our conscious mind can possibly process. Our reptilian brain filters all the incoming data looking for danger. Its only job is to keep us alive, and it uses hunches, intuition, and ‘gut feelings’ to communicate its findings to our consciousness.

The reptilian brain is not intelligent per se, and it often gives false alarms. Focus on a false alarm and you waste time; ignore a real alarm and you’re dead. When my lizard speaks, I listen. I dropped, rolled to the side, brought my weapon up and scanned my surroundings as I tried to figure out what my subconscious had picked up.

The average vampire shouldn’t be out and about during the day. Every one of them in this time zone should still be asleep and under cover, but this vampire very clearly wasn’t your average, mindless, instinct-driven predator. If there actually was a day running, intelligent vampire out there, it could be anywhere right now. I could think of half-a-dozen easy ways it could shield itself from the sunlight and camouflage itself at the same time.

I scanned the hills around me. There was a slight breeze coming from the west; it was cool against my face and brought the faint scent of sagebrush. I didn’t see or hear anything unusual, but I still felt like something was targeting me.

Odds were high that this was just a false alarm. If there actually was something out there, it was much more likely to be a sniper with the crosshairs on me than it was an intelligent vampire. The itch I got between my shoulder blades wasn’t my reptilian brain trying to communicate; it was just nerves.

It was definitely time to head home. I started back the way I’d come, and a quarter-mile on the hair on the back of my neck relaxed. As far as I could tell, nothing was different. I still had no idea why; it was annoying as hell.

I got home with no problems and no further alarms. I was distracted all through dinner.

Being married to five women at once should be Hell on Earth. My senior wife Alice is the main reason it is not. She’s the oldest and the most intelligent of my wives, although intelligence doesn’t always correlate with people skills. Alice has enough of both to keep my household peaceful, happy, and running smoothly. I’m a proficient manipulator; the best I can tell, Alice seldom has to manipulate anyone. Instead, she’s a genuinely kind, loving, and caring woman.

Without her, I’m sure I could have kept my household peaceful, but there’s no way I could have kept it as content.

Those who can do that which I cannot impress the Hell out of me.

When we first got married, my wives would come to my room to serve me. When we found out Esther was pregnant, her sister-wives had a party for her, and to make that day extra special, Alice asked me to go to Esther’s room. Then came Catrina’s birthday; I went to her room to make that day special, too. Within a few weeks, I was going to my wives’ rooms more often than not. For the last three months, I’ve been going to my wives’ rooms as a matter of course.

I spend one night a week with each of my five wives, and I get two nights a week off. It isn’t a hardship to sleep with a different willing woman every weeknight, but if I had a choice, I would spend most of my nights with Alice.

Women are born with the innate ability to make men miserable. Every single idiot I’ve ever met who actually tried to dominate the women in his life has been a bitterly unhappy bastard who’s too stupid to realize why he’s so bitterly unhappy. Even in the most ass-backward, misogynistic, male-dominated societies, smart men respect and fear their wives.

Every smoothly operating marriage relies upon a balance of customs, courtesies, and polite fictions. My wives enjoy believing they can manipulate me; who am I to deny them such harmless pleasure?

I took a deep breath and knocked on Alice’s door.

As soon as she opened the door, I stepped in and kissed her. She froze with surprise for a split second—I’m usually not this aggressive—and then melted in my arms. Her tongue darted in my mouth as I kicked the door closed behind me. I carried her to the bed like a bride and laid her down carefully.

For most of my adult life, my body has been the primary tool that I depend on to stay alive. Accordingly, I maintain it like all the rest of my essential tools. Even with my change of vocation, my situation isn’t stable enough to get complacent. I’ve kept my fitness up enough to keep a six pack stomach. She gave me a little half-smile as I stripped, but she still said, “Ari, the lights are on.”

“I want to see you.” It was the truth. Even in a frumpy pioneer-style dress and hair up in a hideously ugly braided bun, Alice is an attractive woman. At night and out of her FLDS uniform, with her hair down and something lacy on, she is truly beautiful.

At thirty-four, Alice could easily pass for twenty-two. Her pale blonde hair hangs to the small of her back; her blue eyes, narrow waist, long legs, and disproportionately full breasts are the stuff of my adolescent fantasies.

She sat up as I got on the bed. I gently pushed her flat on her back and started slowly kissing the side of her neck. From time to time, I nipped her skin with my teeth.

She arced her back and lightly moaned; she very obviously wanted more. I nibbled at the outer margins of her breast as she tried to maneuver her nipple into my mouth. I held her down and slowly caressed the inside of her thigh. She shivered as I drew close to her mons.

I clenched her nipple between my teeth hard enough to make her cry out as I lightly ran my fingers over her lower lips.

I sucked at her breast, and after a particularly loud moan, I brought my lips to the nubbin above her labia. I gently sucked and licked until she shook.

After she stopped shaking, I entered her. Then I immediately started formulating my plans for the vampire hunt. I did this for two reasons. First, I really needed to figure out how I was going to hunt this vampire. Second, getting a woman all hot and bothered and then stranding her is NOT a recipe for domestic bliss; I needed to distract myself so I wouldn’t finish before she did.

When I was younger, I’d go through chess moves in my head to help me last longer. Thinking about the person or thing that might have been watching me earlier was just as distracting. The idea of an intelligent vampire is farfetched, but not that much more farfetched than a zombie apocalypse.

Truth be told, I’ve been getting a little bored lately. I haven’t had a real challenge for too long. A thinking, planning, day-running vampire intrigued me; a hostile human shooter in my own backyard somewhat less so. I hoped it was an intelligent vampire; it’d be good to go up against something new.

My reptile brain might have sent me a false alarm, but even if there’d been nothing out there during the day, some kind of vampire had clearly been scouting New Zion during the night. I wondered if it’d come back again tonight. If it did, I wanted to be waiting for it.

The risks of going out at night to look for a vampire were obvious—so obvious, I was almost certain no vampire would expect a human to be hunting it. I had a suppressed M24A3 sniper rifle with a night vision scope that’d be perfect for an extra special surprise greeting for any vampire I found. Going outside tonight was going to be a blast.

Without realizing it, I’d sped up my thrusts. I was on the verge of losing control. When I froze, Alice began twisting her hips as she pushed and pulled against me. It became impossible focus on the vampire or think about anything else but Alice. I thanked the god I didn’t believe in as she shook again and I exploded in her depths.

I looked deep into her eyes. “I love you.”

The smile she gave me as she replied “I love you, too” almost made me regret I had to lie to her. Wait … there was no ‘almost’ about how I felt. Maybe it was just because I was in a good mood, or … no, dammit! It really felt like I was in love with my senior wife. I thought I’d been taking enough breaks from role-playing keep my head straight, but you become what you do; that’s the main pitfall of working deep undercover.

I caressed Alice’s face. To give her credit, she makes it extremely easy for me to pretend I love her. It’s obvious now that taking occasional daylong breaks from my role-playing is not cutting it.

For most of my adult life, dangerous men have actively tried to kill me. It isn’t all that big of a deal to throw zombies and vampires into the mix. The intelligent vampire—if it exists—or enemy sniper probably aren’t a major threat to New Zion. There shouldn’t be much that one sniper or one super vampire can do against our nighttime defenses.

Going out tonight wouldn’t be enough to clear my head. I had to prepare for a much longer excursion.

As I rolled on to my back, Alice turned to face me. I couldn’t believe how much I wanted to tell her again that I loved her. I really, really needed a vacation from playing a loving husband.

Alice played with my hair. It felt good. She broke the silence first, “Ari, you’ve been distracted all evening.”

Most people break eye contact when they start lying. I forced myself to look directly into her eyes and to stay as close as possible to the truth, “You’re right. I have been. I have to leave New Zion for a spell. I can’t tell you why or for how long. It may be a few weeks. It could be several months.”

Her eyes widened with surprise then she asked, “When are you going to leave?”

“As soon as possible.”

Chapter 10: Ari Levin, September 9 to 11, Year 1