Kitty Rocks the House Page 40

This week, I literally pulled my topic off the shelf and hit the ground running.

I watched Matt through the booth window, waited for him to cue up my intro with the theme song I’d used since the start: CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising.” As relevant now as it ever was. The music made the rest of the world disappear, so that nothing existed but me, my microphone, and the show. It felt like flying.

“Good evening, and here we are again. This is Kitty Norville and you’re listening to The Midnight Hour, where we spend a couple of hours talking about all the things that no one else will. And probably shouldn’t. It’s a good life, isn’t it? I have something very special on deck tonight. Christmas or winter solstice–associated holiday of your choice came to the studio early this year, and I got a present. I don’t know who exactly to thank for this, but let me take a moment to express my appreciation to my mysterious benefactor. Thank you, sir or madam. I love it. Now, what is it? Dear listeners, I’ve been sent a vampire crystal skull.”

A month or so ago, I’d received a package in the mail. I got a lot of mail, most of it junk, but this one had intrigued me. The brown paper wrapped box didn’t have a return address; the postmark said Texas. Since the package didn’t smell like a bomb or vat full of anthrax, I went ahead and opened it, and there it lay, nestled in a cloud of Styrofoam peanuts. A crystal skull, milky white, a little larger than a grapefruit, rounded and stylized, with deep-set eye sockets and distinctive, sharpened fangs where its eyeteeth should have been. It had been living on a shelf in my office ever since, waiting for the perfect opportunity. Like this one.

I set the skull on the table in the studio right next to my monitor and studied it as I talked. It stared back at me with hollow eyes that reflected and scattered the dim lights in the studio. Was it winking at me? “Is it a gift? A curse? Am I supposed to investigate it? Debunk it? Is it a kitsch object from a Mexican flea market? Or are the stories true, and crystal skulls aren’t just the plot device in a couple of unfortunate movies? Are these artifacts the source of some great ancient power possessed by the Mayans, the awesome gift of travelers from the stars, the key to the lost city of Atlantis? Or someone’s idea of a joke? Before I tell you what I think, I’m going to open the line up for calls. You’ve been sent not just any crystal skull, but one with sharpened canines. What do you do?” The lines lit up. Likely, people had called in before I’d even started talking in an effort to get into the queue and didn’t have a thing to say about crystal skulls, vampire or otherwise. But someone with an opinion would get through. I checked the monitor, found a likely victim, and pounced. “Hello, you’re on the air.”

A confused-sounding woman said, “So wait, does that mean that vampires have crystal skeletons?”

I winced. “That’s a good one, I hadn’t actually thought of that. But no, I don’t think so. I think vampires have bones like the rest of us. Just really old bones. Next call, please.” I hit the line.

“It’s got to be a fake,” the male caller said.

Well, yeah, I figured that pretty much went without saying. In the course of my research I’d found crystal skulls for sale in a rock art catalog. But that wasn’t the way to keep a show going.

“Why do you say that?” I said, trying to sound genuinely curious.

“Because vampires weren’t even in North America until a couple of hundred years ago, so a real Mayan crystal skull couldn’t possibly have anything to do with vampires, since the Mayan empire was in decline before then.”

“Five hundred, but yes,” I said.

“What?”

“European vampires arrived in North America about five hundred years ago, but I see your point.”

“How do you even know that?”

“How do you?” My tone was cheerful, which probably confused him.

Flustered now, he said, “I just know it, okay? So it has to be a fake.”

“Let me see if I’m understanding you correctly. When you say it’s a fake, you’re not saying that it’s fake because crystal skulls aren’t really mystical artifacts, you’re saying it’s fake because it’s the skull of a vampire. And if it wasn’t, it would be real?”

“Exactly,” he said, pleased with himself.

Well, this ought to be interesting. “Now when you say ‘a real crystal skull,’ what exactly do you mean?”

He sounded put out. “You don’t believe this is real, do you? Why did you even bring it up?”

“Look, someone sent it to me, I’m not the one who brought it up. Well, I am. But I wouldn’t have brought it up if someone hadn’t sent it to me.”

“You’re dealing with powers you don’t understand!” he said.

“I get that a lot,” I said and clicked him off the air. “I did a little research of my own, and here’s what I found. Historical records—Mayan, Aztec, or otherwise—show no trace of crystal skulls as part of their worship, and the famous ones that form the center of current mystical belief all seemed to have appeared on the scene in the mid to late nineteenth century. Despite claims to the contrary, they appear to have been manufactured. By plain, nonmystical human beings. Now, I’ve seen some crazy stuff in my time and I’m willing to entertain the notion that some crystal skull somewhere might have some of the powers its adherents credit to it. But personally, I have to file this one under crop circles. They’re just too easy to replicate using nonmystical means. I’ve got another caller ready to argue with me. Clare, hello.”

“Hi, Kitty, thanks for taking my call. I just want to say, there’s an alternative that I think your previous caller hasn’t considered.” She had a light, matter-of-fact voice that made me brace for even more bullshit than usual.

“And what’s that alternative?”

“That there are vampires among the aliens.”

I had to think about that a moment. “You’re right. I hadn’t considered that. I mean, generic sci-fi horror movies notwithstanding.”

“It makes perfect sense—immortal vampires are the best choice to travel the long distances between the stars. They’re the ones who would come to visit us here on Earth.”

Was it wrong that the concept sort of did make sense? “You seem to have a lot of good ideas on the topic,” I said, rather nonplussed. “So I’ve got this vampire crystal skull. You think it came from outer space?”

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