Did I tell you guys I was fiddling around with a vampire story? No?
Well, I am. It’s, erm. It’s not exactly Twilight. It’s more one of my gross goddamn stories with a vampire in it. I think–and I know a lot of you guys’ll disagree with me, but you know–I think that, as overplayed as the vampire thing is, there’s a lot to recommend it, especially in our modern age.
If you haven;t figured it out yet, I play with a lot of stories all the time. Not all of them get finished, or even get very far. But I like y’all’s input. Helps me know when I’m doing something right. Write. Whatever.
This is the story of John Fowler, ordinary dude and night clerk at a local corner store, at the close of his first hundred years as a vampire. He’s been, thus far, in a sort of vampire larval stage, possessing neither the Full Thirst nor the full powers of his older brethren. The question later in the story becomes, does John really want to be a fullblown vampire? And if he doesn’t, what the hell are his alternatives?
There’s also fun stuff about a vampire coven without cable, lesbian marital disputes, twin vampire hunters who call a poltergeist ‘Dad’, and a lockbox that may or may not contain the morning take.
May set records for the oldest coming-of-age MC ever written. Take that, frat pack bro comedies about men who can’t grow up.
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
As John fingered the bullet hole in his chest, Marlene the day manager lit a cigarette.
“Jesus,” she said weakly. “You gonna make it through your shift?”
John prodded the hole experimentally. The edges of the wound were crusty already, hardening. He withdrew the finger, blew away the dusty black blood that clung to it. He resisted the urge–a grossout kid urge, unworthy of a member of the eternal undead–to stick his finger in it, wiggle it around a little, and make a face.
“I should be all right,” he said. “It’s just a little uncomfortable. Do we have duct tape in the back? I think I need to make a patch.”
Marlene, a thin stream of smoke curling through her carefully painted lips, stared at him.
“On my desk,” she said. “It’s either on my desk, or it’s on top of the 7-UP crates. John.”
“What does–” she gestured with her cigarette to his chest, to the neat black hole, still smoking, in his work polo. “What does it feel like?”
“It hurts.” He shrugged. “What d’you think getting shot feels like? Just because I’m a vampire doesn’t mean I can’t feel pain, you know. I’ve just felt a lot more of it.” He poked at the hole again. “I’m used to it. Do we still have some of the old aprons back there? I should cover this.”
“Hm? Yeah. Oh. Of course.” She opened the back door, leaned in and reached around with the cigaretted hand still held outside. She returned with a work apron and tossed it to him, watching as he tied it around his waist and adjusted the front to cover his wound. “You’re sure you’ll be okay, though.”
“I’ll be fine, Mar. I’ve got spare shirts at home. Go on your damn date with Astrid and be happy you’re alive.” He winked at her. “Don’t waste all that makeup on me.”
“If you need me, I’ve got my cell.”
They stood for a few moments, looking at each other. The back alley was silent, a silence punctuated only by the shouts and music of the Pizza Palace kitchen pulsating dimly across the way. There was no sign anything untoward had just taken place here, let alone an attempted robbery. The small pile of dust which had once been Marlene’s assailant was already blowing away in the breeze.
No sign, of course, except for the blood. And the lockbox, tipped on its side against the dumpster. John could handle this much. He could mop up the blood, carry the lockbox inside. Eating humans was such a waste, always–way more blood than you could handle. You left evidence.
This one, though. This one had deserved it.
John wouldn’t particularly say he enjoyed looks of ultimate terror being flashed in his direction. He was a benign sort of guy. He didn’t particularly enjoy killing, either–the vampire bloodlust was a myth, or at least was a myth in his particular chrysalis-like stage of vampire evolution.
But this guy.
You didn’t point a gun at an innocent middleaged lady coming back from the bank. You just didn’t. John was a vampire–if anyone was supposed to enjoy separating innocent women from their lives, it was him–and even he thought it was monstrously bad form.
He liked Marlene. She was nice.
The peeling door across the way cracked open, and the sounds of a remixed Katy Perry song translated into Spanish saturated the alley. Javier, one of the chefs from Pizza Palace, poked his head around.
“You guys okay?” he asked. “Thought I might’ve heard a gunshot a while back.”
“Slow on the uptake, ain’t you?” Marlene snapped.
“Well, shit, lady. I didn’t wanna get shot or anything.” He peered around. “Is that–”
“Lockbox,” John said. And, because it was the only thing he could think of at the moment: “it landed on a cat.”
A man, John reflected, was a remarkable thing. When provided by a trusted person with an explanation–no matter how strange–for an unlikely event, he stopped asking questions. If the explanation wasn’t reasonable enough, he started providing details of his own.
Javier, case in point, chuckled. “You and Mar so bored you’re throwin’ the lockbox around? All right. That’s fuckin’ crazy. Let me know next time and I’ll bring the guys out.” His moving eyes plotted out the lockbox’s trajectory. “You got it pretty damn far, man. You got an arm on you. Were you guys aiming for the cat, or–”
“JAVIER.” Mr. Palace’s voice boomed from the kitchen. “JAVIER. I’M NOT PAYING YOU TO CHITCHAT.”
“Motherfucker,” Javier mumbled. “See you guys later.” The door slammed shut, Katy Perry reduced once more to a tolerable volume.
Marlene, whose fingers were gripping the cigarette so tightly she’d almost broken it in two, gave John a look. “It landed on the cat,” she repeated. “Christ. You’re a genius.”
“Just experienced, thank you,” John said. He took her, gently, by the shoulders, stubbornly refusing to inhale against the olofactory orchestra that was Marlene’s use of drug store body spray. Of course, since he hadn’t drawn a breath that wasn’t for show or for the sole purpose of sighing in a hundred years, this was easier for him than it was for some people.
He wondered, briefly, how Astrid dealt with it. Of course, Astrid smoked a pack a day, so there was plenty Astrid couldn’t smell. Maybe it was a sultry hint of warm vanilla to her, as opposed to the entire birthday cake.
John sighed, his breath whistling from the hole in his lung. He turned Marlene, as gently as he could, back towards her Accura. “Go, Marlene. Enjoy your date. Make her buy you some lobster. You’ve been talking about wanting lobster for like a month.”
“It is lobster night at Crabby Chic,” Marlene said, thoughtful.
“And you’ve been wanting a night off with Astrid since she started working the new shift.”
“Well, yeah. But–”
“No buts. I’m a vampire, Marlene. I can handle a little blood and a hole in my lung. You go and have fun.” He patted her shoulder. “Just try check out the alley before you get out of the car next time, okay? You known thieves like to wait out here much past sunset.” He picked up the lockbox, gingerly, so none of the blood that now painted it got on his shirt. “And maybe it’s time to just start using a deposit bag. Toting this lockbox makes you look less safe, not more, okay? They can see the lockbox. They can’t see a deposit bag. And your life is worth more than the morning shift’s take.”
Marlene smiled a little. John smiled in return–he was worried, at first, he had traumatized her a little. He would’ve hated to do it. Marlene was a nice lady.
Of course, she’d also been working with him for four years. She was used to his shit. Had, in fact, long since passed the point where ‘they were delicious’ wasn’t an acceptable answer to the question ‘what happened to our rat problem in the back room?’.
And even now–even after witnessing firsthand her employee feeding on a human being–Marlene was still a nice lady. And the feeding–that could be a disturbing sight, John knew. The Jackson Polluck effect of the blood spatter sent most people running permanently in the other direction.
Of course, he’d also taken a bullet for her. Little bastard had been packing, which he hadn’t been expecting when he came to Marlene’s aid. Then again: that was another thing easier for him to deal with than it was for most people. And no one–no one–should have to die or fear for their lives because of the morning’s take from a shitty convenience store.
John wasn’t so ancient he had forgotten what fearing for his life felt like. In fact, it was a condition so hardwired into the human brain that he still did it occasionally. He felt silly when he remembered, of course, but it was still a default reaction.
“Go,” John repeated. “Have some fun.”
Nothing a little duct tape couldn’t patch up.