Worn around the edges, yet dreaming of vampire strippers, Professor Michael Haddux drove his dilapidated black 1985 Buick Le Sabre into the parking lot of Tarantula Lil's. It was getting late, approaching midnight, and a full moon shone brilliantly overhead like a fluorescent clock. His heart racing with nervous excitement, Michael had decided to risk his good reputation in the academic community for one night at the club that Time magazine had described as the wildest and dirtiest strip club in America.
"This could be a delightfully enjoyable, even bloody night," murmured Professor Haddux to himself as he parked out back of the club, turned off the ignition and climbed out of his car. Because of recurring nightmares and severe episodes of depression, he hadn't slept well for days. He thought that he vaguely remembered having taken his medication that morning.
Adjusting his bright red tie, he walked toward Tarantula Lil's, the new topless-bottomless nightclub on the corner of Oakey and Western Avenue in industrial Las Vegas. Though not difficult to find, this club--a hangout for dealers, prostitutes, gangbangers, and real estate salesman--was one most people avoided like the plague. It was said that packs of hungry dogs roamed the streets adjacent to the club. Seeking extreme measures, Michael was hoping that this titillating environment would bring him out of his depression.
Tonight, the professor noted that the blood-red moon hung seemingly suspended a few feet from the furiously blazing neon sign that for miles around served as the club’s landmark. As he walked toward the music pounding helter-skelter through the club walls, the professor imagined that he could reach up and touch the moon.
An English professor with a special interest in Pynchon and Nabakov, Michael was mesmerized by the flashing green and black neon sign that extended 100 feet in the air from the club roof; at the top of the sign, a few feet from the moon, a metallic spider clung to its symmetrical web. From the web, red neon droplets flowed, cascading like a bloody waterfall onto the top of the club and to the street below. For Michael, it was like something out of a delicious nightmare, the symbol of a universe collapsing upon itself and creating a progressive degeneration toward evil.
As he approached the dark entrance, he was bathed in the moons crimson glow. As tired, possibly even delirious as he was, the thought thrilled Michael, and he raised his arms in praise to the full-moon, imagining a river of blood winding its way through the dark labyrinth of history and into his heart. He felt strangely energized, temporarily redeemed from the exhaustion that had consumed him for days. The club’s reputation for evil didn't faze the professor. In fact, the rumors of demonic activity—a wonderful fiction, he thought, sort of like the law of entropy--pulled on his dark soul like a magnet, fascinating him. Going to the club was like being literally drawn into a novel by Anne Rice. It was a stimulant. He remembered that two months ago a local high school principle had been beaten to a black and blue pulp in the unlit parking lot behind Lil's. The principle’s nude body had been found one morning in a green and black dumpster just beyond the rear door; the man’s body had been mutilated, the face an unrecognizable puzzle of slashes, double-puncture marks extending from head to foot. The object possibly of some occult sacrifice, the body had been nearly drained of blood.
And, as he lit a Camel filter cigarette, put it between his lips and continued his walk, Haddux excitedly recalled that it was here, two years ago, that one of the most memorable out-door executions in the recent history had been carried out as the decapitated body of a local under world kingpin--an Asian-American who had cornered the drug and pornography business revolving around Tarantula Lil's-- had been found dangling at the end of a long black cable tied to the metallic spider. The man’s body, a grappling hook through the back, had been fried a crispy black. Perhaps, thought the rummy Haddux, I am half in love with easeful death.
Particularly intriguing to the professor were rumors that Tarantula Lil's was a rendezvous for vampires. No academic in his right mind believed in vampires, but Haddux had never considered himself sane. Certainly, recently, he had been right on the edge. On many occasions in the past three or so years, during a full-moon—in fact for the past week--he had sensed himself undergoing an inexplicable transformation.
During these periods, he experienced bloody hallucinations, found himself incredibly thirsty, desired bloodied steak, had visions of himself having sex with some horned female creature from the deep. During the past week, knowing he was swirling into a psychotic vortex, he felt he could see and talk to the dead alone at night, a realization that brought him back to his psychiatrist's office. Indeed, Haddux revealed during the most recent therapy that on top of a serious chemical imbalance he had a severe vampire fixation, likely the product of a cultural psychosis fed by vampires movies and vampire literature.
As he opened the heavy black glass entrance door, Haddux was overcome by the hypnotic music, the rhythm and beat of something clearly Satanic pounding intrusively into his soul, and he tingled with manic excitement as he stood in the darkness just inside the entryway, allowing darkness to fill him.
Two topless gorgeous but deathly pale redheads, obviously twins, stood in front of him. As one, the girls smiled and said, "Good evening, sir, and welcome to Tarantula Lil's." Paying the required ten dollar entry fee, Haddux strode into the room of exotic dancers, the atmosphere a mixture of alcohol, cigarettes, and rock, and slowly, but with great ease, glided to a table just below center stage.
Smoke hung in thick blue clouds in the darkly reddish air of the club, swirling with a life of its own, and he hungrily watched the three black dancers on the stage before him. One girl had a huge live green python wrapped around her neck. Looking around, he saw that there was one stage in each of the four corners of the room, each occupied by a single nude dancer surrounded by men of all ages, some sitting and staring at tits and pussy, some standing in an effort to get closer and maybe grab a little touch.
It was just as he had ordered his fourth Bloody Bill from the gorgeous, scantily clad cocktail waitress that a tall girl with dark blue eyes, blood-red lips, flowing black hair, a white transparent top, and a short green and white plaid dress approached him. She had a flower tattooed on one arm. She smiled and, gently, sweetly, sadly asked, "Mind if I sit down?" The girl’s eyes were dancing pools of dark blue that made Michael quiver with uneasiness.
"My name's Charlie," the girl began, offering her hand to shake and sitting in the chair right next to Haddux.
Professor Haddux finally took the girl’s warm, soft hand in his own damp hand, nervously brought it to his lips to kiss, and replied, "And my name's Michael." Relatively new to the striptease scene, Michael wondered how to strike up a conversation with the girl and considered asking her if she had ever read Conrad' Heart of Darkness.
He was saved the effort when the girl casually pulled up her blouse to expose the darkest nipples he had ever seen. Then, like a brick against the head, it struck Haddux that he had seen the girl before, possibly in the pages of one of his favorite novels. His feeling of unease grew, and he wondered if he should leave.
"So, whaddya do for a living?" the girl asked, getting up from her chair and plopping herself down onto Haddux's lap. She put an arm around his shoulders and drew his head near to her. She rested the other hand between his legs. Wide-eyed, he examined her gorgeous nipples.
"I'm an English professor at the local college," he stated, increasingly apprehensive. For some reason, he knew she knew his profession. He wondered if she were a former student.
"Really?" the girl asked, her face seeming to glow in the dark place. "Oh, my, how interesting!" At that moment, smiling, curious, she made Michael think of medieval paintings of angels, and Michael didn't believe in angels.
The two of them said nothing for the next five minutes. Fighting extreme nervousness, the result no doubt of fatigue and failure to stay on top of his medications, he stroked her hair and occasionally touched a nipple with his tongue, attempting to generate euphoria within himself. She giggled in turn and gently massaged him. "Relax," she whispered.
"So where have I seen you before?" Haddux stuttered, breaking the silence. Her presence was still unsettling, and he was now starting to sweat. "You look familiar."
"Where do you think you've seen me before, stud?" Charlie responded, playfully, almost knowingly.
"How about at church?" he tried to joke, his heart racing. "That old Pentecostal thing on the corner of Bruce and Lamb."
"Well," began Charlie, laughing, "I may go to church from time to time, but I ain't Pentecostal."
"How about in a Saturday evening bowling league?" Michael teased again, hoping to make himself relax.
"You kidding? " came the amused response. "Only morons bowl."
"True," said Haddux, intrigued by the girl’s quickness. "How about the bookstore? Did you work in a bookstore? Maybe an adult book store."
"No books for this chick," said Charlie.
Smiling, Michael played his trump card: "Uh, how about in my dreams...or would it be your dreams? Did I see you in last night's dream?"
Obsessed with nightmares as with vampires, Michael was sure of the answer.
The long stunned silence, the widening shock in the girl's eyes, suggested to the professor that he had struck pay-dirt. And, sure enough, he knew that he had seen this woman in his dreams last night, the night before that, and the night before that. His blood froze as he finally recognized her by her gentle dark eyes, her long raven hair, her flower tattoo, and her dark nipples.
In this dream, the world was ending, the night sky a frightening display of exploding stars, run-away meteors, and an enormous black hole that hung just above the planet. The overriding fear was that the sun was going to explode.
In the dream, Michael had seen himself suspended by a cable from the tower on top of Tarantula Lil's, a grappling hook through his back. Swaying in the steady desert breeze, he realized that he was dead as a door nail, a burnt-to-a-crisp person.
He remembered that it was midnight as he hung suspended, dead but quite conscious, and the metallic spider at the top of the tower had extricated herself from her web and was slowly making its way toward him. In the dream, terrified, he had forced his eyes shut, and when he had opened them again, he had seen dozens of spiders, all climbing down the tower and headed in his direction.
The nightmare didn't end there. Like a thief in the night, trailing a blue and golden cloud, an explosion of light, Charlie--or someone who looked like her--had come flying out of the night sky, her yellow cloak billowing about her, huge wings clearly visible. Completely nude, she had come in response to his screams.
In the dream, as he had looked up at Charlie and behind her, he could see the black hole widening and drawing near, threatening to swallow them. In the midst of the high howling winds, his eyes fixed on Charlie, he had heard the singing of angels, had begged her to help him, and had wept uncontrollably. She did nothing. Absolutely nothing. He wondered, in the dream, if she were going to eat him. It was at this point that he always awoke, sobbing.
Boundaries between the fantastic and the real having disintegrated, Michael recalled looking in the dream into the girl’s darkly penetrating eyes, the same eyes that now looked into his at Tarantula Lil's.
"I saw you in my dreams," he muttered, unsure of what to say beyond this. He knew his therapist would have reminded him that this was no way to start a conversation. He suddenly felt his tiredness catching up to him.
"That's right," she assured him.
"You're an angel?" Stunned silence prevailed.
Then, "Maybe," she said.
"Or a devil?" he asked.
"What do you think?" she responded, almost offended.
Perhaps, he thought, I am hallucinating, a probably reaction to mixing alcohol with anti-psychotic drugs. "But angels and devils don't exist," he asserted, trying to maintain control. "Vampires don't exist. The devil doesn't exist."
She stared at him knowingly. "You're sure of that, baby?" was all she said.
"And what are you here for, to save me...?" Michael knew that if this woman considered herself an angel, the answer would likely be yes.
"Of course?" she stated, simply.
He gazed into her eyes and took a long sip on his drink. Maybe, he thought, she just wanted to play him for the sucker and take his money. He didn't know what he thought. Suddenly, he wanted rest from the anxiety this woman seemed to bring.
"Look around you, study the dancers, watch the main stage," she said, kissing the tip of his nose, "and maybe you'll see it."
See what? he wondered. He hated conversations like this, those that pushed him to the boundary between sanity and insanity. Suddenly, he could feel the black ice of panic rising to the surface of his conscious mind as he considered her words. It was the panic he had fought every night for the last week. He took a deep breath and tried closing his eyes. In his mind, he caught an image of himself drinking this girl's blood.
He rambled as if under a spell. "Sometimes," he said in a barely audible voice, words tumbling from his mouth, "I think I'm a vampire. I see a shrink about this, what, delusion." Why the hell am I saying this? he wondered. He was now shaking.
"I know. You're seeing Dr. Leonora Russell right now. Try to relax, honey. Please, please, relax, Michael."
He paused, fighting panic, wondering if there were any other way she could have gotten this information. He knew there had to be.
"I go to Russell--actually, I've been to several therapists in the past several years--and she treats me as if I'm mildly, harmlessly insane."
"You're no vampire, Michael," Charlie assured him, addressing his worst fear and putting her arm around his neck and kissing him on the forehead. Her lips were warm. She also continued to caress him. "That thought is--what can I call it—an ‘unhealthy manifestation from the dark side.’" Her dark eyes blazed furiously at him when she said this.
He thought he could see a red glow coming from somewhere within the darkness of her eyes. "What?" mumbled Michael, unsure of what he had just heard, disturbed by what he thought he had seen in her eyes. Good and evil did not exist as actual dichotomies, as far as he was concerned. They were no more that literary fictions, useful for discussing novels and short stories, fabrications of the nightmare world he was nightly drawn into. "Some people call them evil spirits. They want to kill you."
"What? Why?" Michael asked, his heart pounding wildly, wondering if he were going to die, his nightmares rushing to the surface of his consciousness. He had had a morbid fear of his own extinction since childhood.
"Evil needs no reason for destroying the good. Evil always seeks to destroy the good simply because it's good." It suddenly occurred to Michael that this woman could have extracted this definition of evil from just about anywhere.
The conversation seemed disconnected, moving forward by fragments that suggested an entirely other level of conversation was going on between him and the dancer. However, this girl, he thought to himself, couldn't possibly be an angel. She couldn't be. The claim she made about herself was preposterous. Suddenly, in a burst of shrewd awareness, he knew she had been putting him on.
Michael could feel his panic subsiding as he felt himself regaining control. Breathing easier, Charlie still sitting on his lap, her gorgeous tits exposed, he wondered if he were out of his mind. He had just bought into a paranoid delusion, affirmed by someone who likely made her life turning tricks for horny men. This girl, this Charlie, was a stripper who was playing him for a fool.
"Go away, honey," he coldly and abruptly stated, glaring at the woman on his lap. He was tense as a board.
"Michael," she responded, in tone somber, "you are on the verge of a terrible mistake. You want me with you. Right here, honey. They can't hurt you as long as I'm with you. But if you refuse me, if you invite me away, I gotta go. You sure you want me gone?" She smiled. He wondered if she were laughing at him.
He was certain that she was. "Off my lap, babe," barked Michael, confidence returning. He partially stood up and nearly dumped Charlie on the floor.
"All right, Michael!" shouted Charlie, smarting from the fall, aware that others were watching. People from adjacent tables watched; the hugely muscled bouncers from over by the door started their intimidating walk though the room and toward Michael.
"It's all right, fellas!" Charlie yelled to the bouncers, pulling her top over her breasts and then holding up a right hand. "It's okay. I'm all right. This guy will leave soon enough." As the bouncers stood their ground ten feet away, Charlie approached Michael, took both of his hands in hers, asking him not to send her away. "If you send me away, I gotta go, can't return," she whispered.
"You won't be able to call me back." Her eyes were whirlpools of blue darkness; Michael felt he was in danger of falling in.
Convinced more than ever that he was dealing with a lunatic, Michael, silently said, "Please, leave. Now. I want someone else."
For an instant, stunned, Charlie stared at him, her deep dark eyes touching him, and for a second Michael got the distinct impression that he was making a mistake. But he persisted, backing away from Charlie.
With that, Charlie gave one glance back at Michael, who was smiling and cock-sure that he had seen through this woman's ploy. She said "Get out, now, Michael," and gracefully walked away. As she did so, the bouncers shrugged their shoulders, looked at him, one wagging his finger at Michael, and slowly walked back toward the entrance.
Now, thought Michael to himself, it's time to relax. Letting the music of Aerosmith fill him, he ordered another drink and looked around the room for an available dancer. He didn't have to wait long.
"Hi," came a soft, almost lilting voice from behind him. He looked around and saw one of the Oriental dancers looking down at him "Would you like some company, big boy?"
"Sure," responded Michael, moving the empty chair away from the table so the new dancer could be seated. This dancer, though incredibly beautiful, had harsh gray eyes that seemed to look into him, making him uneasy again. He decided to force himself to relax.
She had long crinkly blonde hair (obviously dyed), a gorgeously thin body, small breasts, and killer legs. Michael approximated her height at 5'9". She should have been a dancer with one of Las Vegas big stage shows, he thought. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
"My name is Lucy," said the girl in broken English, easing herself into the chair, looking directly into Michael's eyes, and putting her hand between his legs. "You wanna dance, horny son-of-a-bitch?" the woman asked, moving closer to Michael and lightly kissing him on the mouth.
Something about the girl unnerved Michael, who nonetheless found himself hugely aroused. Recently, Michael assured himself, most everything unnerved him.
"You like Lucy, yes?" the girl asked, patting the bulge between Michael’s legs. "Big prick??"
"Very much," whispered Michael in a hoarse voice. As he felt himself drawn to this woman, he glimpsed an image in his mind of a bat entering a very dark cave.
"Then let's you 'n' me go to the back room," Lucy said, standing and taking Michael by the hand. Michael noticed Lucy’s long fingers, her blood-red fingernails. "You gonna be my bitch," she said.
Michael allowed himself to be led, as if he had no will of his own. He simply wanted to try to enjoy the evening. Though something about the girl urged caution, Michael couldn't wait to get to the back room where both of them could become extremely intimate. In a fleeting moment of panic, his mind filled with the image of this woman sucking his manhood and his life right out of him. Michael fought within himself, feeling himself moving to the edge of psychosis.
The back room was so dark that Michael couldn't see the hand in front of his face at first. Yet he heard people whispering, like ghosts in the attic. Unable to find his own way, he therefore allowed Lucy to guide him to a couch at the far end of the room. By the time he sat down, he was beginning to make out images of couples seated in couches scattered about the room. Lucy was next to him, one arm around his shoulders. She put her free hand between his legs and easily massaged him into hardness.
"The next songs, sweet willy," Lucy said, softly, "we dance."
"Sounds fine to me," Michael responded, feeling breathless to be in the presence of someone so beautiful. He thought of sleeping as she danced.
In a minute, the present song over, Lucy rose to her feet, removed her panties and, with the beginning of a piece by Boston, began to dance, gliding up and down his body like a snake, sitting on his lap, placing the crack of her ass over his boner and rocking back and forth. Michael relaxed, certain he had entered the gates of heaven when Lucy turned around, put both arms around him and began kissing him on the forehead, the cheek, and the neck.
As he let her make love to him, Michael put his hand between her legs and brushed her pubic hairs. Images of paradise flooded his mind when he felt a sharp prick on his neck followed by the slow flow of warm liquid.
Quickly reacting, remembering instantly Charlie’s injunction to leave, Michael sat up and ran his hand over his neck. He held his hand before him. In the dark light, Michael could make out enough of his hand to see, barely, that it was stained by something dark. Surely, it was his own blood.
"What the hell?" he asked, frightened, glancing at Lucy, who had been looking away from him. When Lucy turned slowly around to face him, terror coursed through him like electricity, and he saw that she was grinning grotesquely, her mouth filling her whole face. Then he noticed the long sharp teeth, touched at the ends with a dark stain. He knew now he had been pulled right into a vampiric nightmare.
For a minute, he stared at the face, his brain spinning from the realization that the vampire stories about Tarantula Lil's were true.
Maybe, just maybe, all things were true. If not, this woman was wearing fangs and had just bitten him on the neck, drawing his own blood. Michael didn't really know what to think.
With a sudden effort, Michael tried to push the Oriental girl off his lap and onto the couch, but he could not match her iron-like strength or grip. Easily, she kept her arm locked around Michael’s neck and used her other arm to move Michael's left arm down to his side. He couldn't budge her.
Too frightened to speak, a piece by the Blue Öyster Cult climaxing in the background, he stared at the ghoulishly grinning face before him and knew he had reached the moment of his own dying. Then, glancing behind Lucy, he noticed three or four other strippers approaching him, all with the same ghastly, ghoulish grins, all bearing their teeth, all bearing long sharp teeth. He thought he could hear them snarling. They were like spiders crawling though the black hole of his recently recurring nightmare. He noticed that no one else was seated in the room.
Giving a second effort, Michael sprang up from the couch and, determined to live to see another sunrise, bolted for the door to the dark room. Passing through the entrance to the room, he continued to run to the main glass doors, where he was abruptly stopped by the largest, most muscular bouncer he had ever seen. The guy had a ring in his nose, one in his ear, and on his left arm a tattoo of a pentagram.
Solid muscle, the man before him stood at least 6'5".
"Gotta leave," whined Michael, anxious to get around the man and out to his car and away from Tarantula Lil's.
"Gotta stay," came the big man's raspy retort. "Gotta stay for the girls' dinner," he said.
Not wanting to stick around for an explanation of the remark, Michael quickly dodged around the big man and burst through the doors into the cold autumn night. He heard howling all around him and, looking across the parking lot, saw huge mangy growling dogs moving between the cars lot toward him.
Turing away to sprint to the unoccupied street, Michael heard a loud hissing noise and realized that someone or something was near him and almost on him. Sure enough, with his next stride, he felt the huge hissing thing land on his back, bringing him crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust. Barely turning, thinking of the web overhead, he could see that it was one of the black strippers, the one that had performed with the python. Now, transformed, she was a beast, a predator, who had obviously found her prey.
As his body came crashing to the pavement, he heard the shuffling of feet through gravel and knew that more were following. Looking up, he noticed six young women, scuttling like spiders to gather around him, grotesquely grinning, their fangs visible. These were the vampire strippers of his dreams, and dream had become reality at Tarantula Lil's.
Attempting to rise, he found he couldn't move and, putting his hand to the side of his face and taking it away again, realized that he was bleeding profusely from a serious head wound. Panicked, he struggled to rise again as the girls moved over closer, put their mouths down to kiss him and then attacked him collectively with all of their strength, biting him again and again, everywhere: his head, his arms, his hands, his stomach.
After what must have been only several minutes, he could feel himself drifting out of this world as he turned his mind to Charlie. He realized that, as unlikely as it had seemed, Charlie was obviously an angel.
Bleeding profusely, his mouth foaming red, Michael sputtered, "Charlie!! Charlie!!" but it was too late as Michael looked overhead at the full moon. Once again, it reminded him of a clock; indeed, time had run out for Dr. Michael Haddux as the biggest of the girls shrieked and brought an iron-pipe crashing upon his shoulder blade and then his head.
Knowing that Charlie had left the planet, Michael sank back to the earth, watching (suddenly as if from above) the girls go to work on him, kicking him, biting him, clawing his flesh to get at his blood.
Floating in an explosion of transcendent light, Michael looked down at the dark patch where one of the girls kicked his corpse again and again to the side of the head. Floating, he wondered where and who he was.
When they had all finished drinking the corpse's blood, two of the vampire strippers picked up his legs and dragged the body to the huge green and black dumpster that sat thirty feet away from them. Then, with an effort, they lifted the bloodless soul-less corpse off the ground and over their heads and tossed it in the huge garbage container.
Surely a symbol that the end of the age had arrived, the huge green and black landmark sign continued to blaze over-head, the droplets of blood cascading downward from the metallic spider and, at that particular instant, into the dumpster and onto the body. The garbage inside the dumpster was bathed in a bloody glow.
The body would be discovered two weeks later, by a cocktail waitress, mutilated and decomposing and covered by a thick web-gauze.