Home > The Coffin Club (Vampire Kisses #5)(14)

The Coffin Club (Vampire Kisses #5)(14)
Author: Ellen Schreiber

But as I milled through the crowd, an even darker mood began to wash over the club like draining blood. I spotted members in white T-shirts with the black word POSSESS, in homage to Jagger`s tattoo, having private meetings, whispering, and passing messages.

Raven! I heard a familiar girl`s voice call. It was Onyx. Her hair was styled in long pigtails, with spiderweb bows. She and Scarlet raced over to me.

I`m so sorry we pretended not to know you at the art festival, Scarlet apologized.

Will you ever forgive us? Onyx asked.

We have to keep a low profile when we`re in the mortal world, said Scarlet.

Me too, but sometimes I forget, I said.

I couldn`t acknowledge that we`d met here, said Onyx.

I understand, I replied. What was I thinking?

But I did feel sad. As much as I didn`t fit in Dullsville, I was still me--24-7. I didn`t really know what it meant to hide part of me--or all of me--from others, like Onyx, Scarlet, Jagger, and Alexander did on a daily basis. While Alexander thrived on isolation and Jagger on his menacing ego, they all were truly outsiders. I realized more than ever that for many of the vampires like Scarlet and Onyx, this club was their only lifeline. There is so much going on, Scarlet said, her voice rife with concern.

Can`t you feel the tension? Onyx asked. The club`s about to explode!

I know--there`s something I`ve got to tell you... I began.

Something`s going down tonight, Scarlet interrupted.

It`s going to be a late night tonight, if you need to crash here, Onyx offered.

You sleep in the club? I wondered aloud.

Scar doesn`t, Onyx began. She lives in town. But I hang here when I visit. That`s what`s so cool about the club and why we`re hoping it doesn`t change.

Would you like to see my crash pad? Onyx asked proudly. We can tell you more there--

Yes, I declared enthusiastically.

I was curious to see what kind of sleeping chamber Jagger had set up for the club members to entice them to Hipsterville.

Once again, I was guided through narrow winding catacombs, past chambers, hallowed graves, and tombs. Everything looked familiar, and at the same time I knew I`d never been down these tunnels before. We finally stopped in front of a gray metal sliding door. Onyx opened the portal. Never in my life had I imagined such a vampire dwelling.

The windowless room was the size of a warehouse. It was a funeral director`s dream come true. One coffin after another lay on the dirt floor, perfectly lined up--ten coffins across. But what was even more macabre were the coffins suspended above them, hanging from the ceiling by steel wire, like cryptic hammocks.

With a slam, the portal closed behind us.

I waited for the coffin lids to pop open and fang-flashing vampires to yell, Surprise! But nothing happened. I must have appeared unusually pale because Scarlet placed her bloodred- fingernailed hand on my shoulder. Don`t be startled, she reassured me. It`s just a fire door.

Let me show you my coffin, Onyx said excitedly.

I wasn`t sure how their owners could tell them apart because they all appeared identical. We walked by the vampires` beds to the front of the room.

This one is mine, she said, tapping on the top.

On one side was a black onyx stone, outlined in white. She lifted the coffin lid. Inside were red and black plaid sheets, a comforter and matching pillowcase, a black iPod, and a black UglyDoll Ice Bat.

She closed the lid casually, as if it were a life-size guitar case.

When I`d pictured becoming a vampire, I`d never imagined this--sleeping among strangers like in a youth hostel for the undead, just for the chance to wake up, dance, and be with other vampires. Was this the life I`d be leading if I joined the Underworld? To remain forever in a hidden identity--or to risk it all to be known around mortals?

It was time I told Onyx and Scarlet about the crop circle and what I`d overheard.

We were wrong--I was wrong. About Phoenix. He doesn`t want to expose the club. He wants us to remain peaceful.

You`re kidding, Onyx said in disbelief.

Scarlet`s eyes grew red with rage. Then it`s just been Jagger...all along.

Yes! He and Phoenix confronted each other out by the crop circle. Jagger`s been inviting vampires here under the guise of a safe club to hang out in, but all the time he was planning on gathering enough members to take over the town.

He duped us all along! Scarlet exclaimed. We must do something before he ruins the club--and us! Onyx ordered.

The portal opened. It was Scarlet`s blond date and he appeared very concerned. There you are! He charged over to Scarlet. Something`s going down... He paused when he saw me. I`m afraid we are going to lose the club.

Before he had a chance to explain, he grabbed Scarlet`s hand, who in turn took Onyx`s. Onyx grasped mine, her soft palm perspiring. I grew even more anxious--what would make a vampiress nervous?

We entered the labyrinth of dark and narrow catacombs. It was like a Halloween haunted house, only the costumed volunteers were real-life vampires. Fanged, corpse-complexioned, blue-lipped vampires, all wearing white T-shirts, hung from the archways as we hurried through. They threatened us, licking lips, eyes red with anger, reaching for us and trying to take hold of anything, from our shirts to our skirts. Parts of the catacombs were so curvy I was afraid we`d get separated. Other turns were so dark the only thing I felt was Onyx`s hand and my boots hitting the uneven dirt floor.

When a na**d bulb eventually illuminated our path, I was sure it wasn`t Onyx`s hand I was holding anymore. When I looked up, I let out a horrible scream. A red-eyed vampire was clutching my hand, his nails as long as knives. Before I could give him a quick karate chop or stomp on his checkered Vans, Onyx got in his face, her eyes bright with fury, and yanked me away from him.

Someone jumped out of the shadows, blocking my way. Vote for Jagger if you know what`s good for you.

I had managed to leap around him when another vampire, looking down from an archway, warned, Jagger has the only bloodline worth following.

Onyx squeezed my hand and I received a tremendous tug, hurling me and our chain forward. We all spilled out and landed safely in a chamber where mystical fog permeated the air and a line of members waited, their destination unclear. We`d made it out of the catacombs.

In the chamber stood podiums cornered off by a red velvet curtain. One by one, members entered the booths as if they were voting in a national election.

Sign in, a vampire ordered, directing us to a sheet of butcher paper scrolled on a long oak table.

Onyx picked up a feather dipped in ink and wrote her name, as beautiful as calligraphy. I scribbled down Raven Madison.

What are we voting for? I asked Onyx.

The direction of the club.

The guy handed us a piece of weathered parchment paper the size of a paperback, a pin encased in a plastic container, and an alcohol swab.

Where`s the pen? I asked.

This is it, he said disdainfully, rattling the container encasing the pin.

I`m not really sure-- I began as another member routed me to a stall just behind Onyx`s.

He closed the red velvet curtain around me. I placed my parchment on the podium. Two vampire names faced me--JAGGER and PHOENIX--an empty box next to each. Underneath Jagger`s name appeared EXPAND DUNGEON. Underneath Phoenix`s were the words LOCK DUNGEON. I waited a moment for instructions, but none came. Unlike school, there were no teachers or printed directions, e.g., Completely fill in the circle, Use a number two pencil, or Press firmly.

I was in a vampire club, after all--there could be only one way to vote.

I sterilized my finger with a wipe, then took a deep breath and pricked my skin. I was so nervous, I figured I`d bleed to death, but instead not even a drop surfaced. With my other hand, I squeezed my finger with all my might. A drop of blood the size of a dot formed, then it grew as big as a pencil`s eraser. As if my finger were a pen, I marked a box with a bloody X.

I caught up to Onyx, Scarlet, and their deadly dates by the electric chair. We wasted no time in returning to the dance floor, now infused with worried clubsters. There was less dancing and more talking, huddling, and pacing. The stage was empty of bandmates or instruments.

I wasn`t sure what we were waiting for exactly--a celebration? A fight? After all, I was in a vampire club--we could be waiting for a sacrifice.

A few minutes later, Dragon took the stage holding a stack of parchment ballots. He awkwardly stepped to the microphone. He obviously appeared more comfortable confronting members by the coffin lid door than he did speaking in front of them.

He shifted back and forth uneasily and cleared his throat. The results are in, he declared, one hand in his camouflage cargo pocket.

The crowd burst into cheers. White-T-shirt-wearing members chanted, Jagger, Jagger while others shouted, Phoenix, Phoenix.

Phoenix and Jagger, flanked with their cohorts, entered the stage from opposite sides like prizefighters coming into a ring.

Jagger threw his arms up in the air while Phoenix folded his arms and hung back.

Dragon cleared his throat again. And now...what you`ve all waited for.... The Dungeon master is...

Everyone fell silent.

Then Dragon leaned into the microphone and yelled, The Dungeon master is...Phoenix!

The crowd cheered, although the members in white T-shirts were visibly disappointed.

I grabbed Scarlet`s hand. The girls wailed in delight and we raised our arms and danced.

Dragon stood twice as tall and three times as wide as Jagger.

It is time, Jagger, that you relinquish your Master Key, he demanded, and took the lanyard from around Jagger`s neck.

Dragon returned to the mike. This is one of a kind and can`t be duplicated, Dragon announced. It is the only key that can permanently lock or unlock the club, giving the holder total control.

Phoenix took to the microphone to thunderous applause and cheers while Dragon presented him with a shiny golden skeleton key.

The crowd cheered again as Phoenix nodded his acceptance. For our own survival, he began in his heavy Romanian accent, we must remain peaceful and anonymous. The Dungeon has become a perfect place for us to be ourselves. We don`t have to be violent to be vampires.

The crowd cheered with enthusiasm.

And what is most important is that we don`t look to one person as a leader. So as long as we remain on a peaceful path, I relinquish control to the real leaders of the club--you!

Phoenix high-fived his gang and stepped offstage and disappeared.

This is awesome! Scarlet yelled. Onyx and Scarlet clasped hands with me and we jumped up and down, giggling and cheering like a daisy circle. Onyx`s pigtails and Scarlet`s curls bounced like those of girls in a school yard.

Jagger hopped onstage and seized the microphone. Don`t be so ready to turn your club over to him! The noise died down and finally stopped. Everyone was confused by Jagger`s reappearance.

One of our members is a fraud! he challenged. In fact, she isn`t a member at all! We are a club of immortals and one of us is actually a mortal!

Whispers quickly spread throughout the club like wildfire. I was honestly so caught up in the moment, I gasped along with Scarlet and Onyx.

The voting result is null and void! Jagger argued. Phoenix is not your winner!

That`s weird, Onyx remarked to me. Who would want to be a mortal surrounded by vampires? Do they have a death wish?

I demand a recount! Jagger yelled.

Jagger`s gang stood onstage and examined the stack of ballots one by one.

The crowd was on edge as if they were waiting for an execution order.

Several of Phoenix`s supporters climbed onstage and surrounded Jagger`s crew.

One of these is not true vampire blood, Jagger said, waving the stack in the air.

Here it is! one of Jagger`s sidekicks hollered like he`d found a winning lottery ticket.

Jagger snatched it from his hand.

This one is mortal blood! he proclaimed. I told you! Taste it for yourself!

The confused group of immortals was now talking quietly among themselves.

I know who the mortal is! Jagger declared.

The crowd began to skeptically glance around. No one believed the person beside them might not be one of the undead. For a moment I didn`t either. Perhaps it was someone else he was talking about.

The ghastly group looked to Jagger for an answer.

Jagger was fuming with anger. The mortal is hiding among you. And she`s standing right there! he blurted out, pointing to me.

The clubsters gasped in disbelief.

My stomach caved in. At any moment the crowd of vampires was going to pounce on me.

Dragon pushed his way to the microphone. It doesn`t matter! he said, holding my ballot and the focus of the group. Phoenix has twice as many votes as you.

His already ghost white face turned paler.

Phoenix won fair and square! Dragon proclaimed.

The crowd cheered a deafening roar.

Jagger glared at them, then at me, his blue and green eyes turning fiery red. He threw the card down and stormed offstage.

One of his crew came to the microphone. We still have a mortal among us!

Calm down, Dragon said, but the white-T-shirt-wearing members grew restless.

The whole crowd turned their gaze to me, baring their fangs.

Remember why you voted for Phoenix, Dragon directed.

Scarlet and Onyx appeared bewildered.

I`m so--, I pleaded.

I thought you were our friend, Scarlet said, disappointed.

I was. I am. Just because I`m mortal doesn`t mean-- Jagger`s crew was closing in around us.

You lied to us, Scarlet argued.

Did I? I never said I was a vampire.

She`s right, Onyx defended. We liked her because she`s cool. And that hasn`t changed. In fact, she`s brave. I never would have hung out with vampires before I was turned.

I didn`t mean to--, I said to Scarlet.

Then Scarlet`s demeanor softened. It doesn`t matter to me that you are mortal, she agreed. I liked you because you are you.

The rest of the club was far less forgiving. Jagger`s crew encircled me.

She may reveal everything to the outside world, one said.

And destroy our anonymity! cried another.

She needs to make a decision!

You better turn now! one demanded.

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