Boy, I wish Richard Warner were alive to see the pain in the neck I’ve got now, pardon the vampire pun. He at least would find it interesting what happened to a familiar face from Atlanta, and I don’t mean the prick that killed him. This is the only day I’ve got to myself. My new... I guess I can call him a roommate, knows about my Christmas gig and promised to leave me alone all day today, so I’ll finally be able to record the strange but true story that led to our being together. To tell this story appropriately, I’d have to go back to October, the twenty-fifth to be precise.
It was just after three in the morning and I was roaming the streets looking for prey. I spotted one man, drunk, who couldn’t walk straight and was having a devil of a time keeping from falling down. So, I decided that this was my man. Blood with a high alcohol level isn’t the best tasting in the world, but it does give you a buzz. It doesn’t get you so drunk that you can’t fly straight, as in the George Hamilton movie Love at First Bite, but it can make you quite giggly.
I walked up to him and asked if I could be of some assistance, putting an arm around his shoulders. He thanked me, and pointed to a dark house up ahead, telling me it was his and that we were almost there. I thought that this was to my benefit. If I could get him inside and off the streets, there would be no witnesses to his demise.
He dropped his keys four times before I offered to do it for him. I found the right one, unlocked the door, and helped him inside. I think he thought my intentions were sexual in nature, for he embraced me when I held his head back and bit him. He was so drunk that he didn’t even realize he was dying. Which is a good thing. I wish all of my victims were ignorant to their own deaths, excepts for the evil ones, of course. Jacob Futterman, the burglar I killed the night George Bucher died, and Thomas Bucher are three that I would gladly kill more than once and would want them to be aware of it each time. And though I didn’t directly kill Erik Potter and let him know that I, a vampire, was going to kill him, I’d gladly kill him again too.
As I mentioned, this guy was reallydrunk. I had gotten a buzz from drunken guys before, but even the drunk guys couldn’t get me inebriated. This guy was beyond drunk. He was intoxicated to the point of knocking on Death’s door with alcohol poisoning. He had imbibed an immeasurable amount of liquor. There is not a word in the English language to describe how drunk he was. He had been struggling to walk without falling, and I’m surprised he wasn’t crawling. On an episode of The Simpsons I saw once, they used the term “Yeltsined.” I don’t even think Boris Yeltsin had ever discovered the amounts of liquor that this man had ingurgitated. His blood was practically pure grain, and after feeding on him my feet felt like they weighed a ton each. My hands were numb. I was seeing double. I took one step toward the door and fell flat on my behind, a fact at which I burst out laughing. So, I decided to sleep it off on the floor.
I crawled behind the couch thinking that that way, when the sun came up and shone through the living room window, I would not be exposed to it. I didn’t notice, however, that the living room of this house didn’t have a front window. What can I say, I was drunk. Also, so that if Mr. Pure Grain had a roommate or a live-in family member, they wouldn’t spot me and freak out. My senses were too dulled for me to be able to deal with another victim on this particular night. So I slept, hidden.
On that afternoon of October 25th, I woke up behind my victim’s couch and listened. I heard nothing. If anyone had lived here and discovered Mr. Pure Grain’s body, the house would be crawling with cops, very busy cops making lots of noise. Still, I was on my guard. I carefully came out from behind the couch and looked at the clock. It was a quarter to six. It would be dark soon and I could leave. Good, I thought. The sooner the better.
I walked into the kitchen and washed the dried blood off of my face. I had gotten a little on my shirt, but I didn’t think anyone would notice before I could get back to my apartment and change. If I had looked out the kitchen window, I probably would have caught it, but I was hung over. I checked the clock again as I wasn’t wearing a watch (I wear one all the time now), and seeing that it was exactly six o’clock, I opened the front door, turned the lock, and slammed it behind me only to notice too late the mistake that had been made.
It was late October. Mr. Pure Grain was exactly the type of person who wouldn’t set his clocks back for Daylight Savings Time right away. If at all. His clock read six o’clock, but it was only five. The sun was still up.
The front door of Pure Grain’s house faced the west, where the sun was now positioned, so I couldn’t escape it. I turned to the door and pushed and pounded, but I was hung over, so I was already weakened. And the sun was making it worse.
Suddenly I heard a voice from behind me say, “Hey! Dasher! In here!”
I was panicking, so as soon as I heard “hey,” I turned, hoping the person was offering me assistance. It was a young black man, about nineteen years of age, wearing a gray sweater, jeans, and an American flag bandana on his head. He was holding open the door to an abandoned warehouse or station house of some sort and signaling me to come in. I staggered over to him as quickly as I could and entered. He shut the door and I sunk down to the ground, reveling in the darkness.
“Thank you,” I said. “I left my keys inside and locked myself out and I have sensitivity to sunlight. I’d forgotten to set my clocks back for Daylight Savings Time and—”
He laughed. “Cut the crap, Dash, I know that wasn’t your house. I followed you there last night.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You followed me? Who are you? Do you work for Van Helsing?”
“Van who? Naw, man, I don’t work for anyone. I’ve just been watching you for a long time. I saw what you did last Christmas. You disappeared into thin air. I followed you since then to find out why. I know you’re a vampire.” He smiled. “And you’ve been working as a volunteer Salvation Army Santa this year. I think it’s neat and all, how you make people think you’re all generous to the kids. Is that how you lure them in? By playing Santa?”
This offended me. It had never occurred to me that someone could see a vampire playing Santa Claus as a way to lure in children to feed on them. It was a disgusting idea. “Piss on you,” I said. I was still partially inebriated, so I felt I had the right to brag about who I was. “I am Santa Claus. When you saw me disappear last Christmas, it was so I could travel the world as a mist and visit each house to deliver a toy to the good little boys and girls. And now that you know that, I don’t see any reason to let you live.”
He held up his hands, “Hey, man, I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m new to the whole vampire thing, that’s all. I think it’s cool, that’s all. Besides, you’re too weak to kill me. And I just saved your life. You were out in the sun and I got you inside, remember?”
I looked at him warily. “Who are you?”
“My name’s Terry Deeds. My friends call me T-Dog.”
I scoffed. “T-Dog?”
“I grew up in a neighborhood where hip-hop is the preference, everyone’s got a nickname like that. Ain’t you got a nickname?”
I laughed. “I have thousands of nicknames. Father Christmas, St. Nick, Kris Kringle-”
He held up his hands. “I get the point.”
“You said you’ve been watching me for a while. Why?”
“I used to live in the same apartment building as you. I lost the lease around Christmas time last year.”
“You live alone?”
“I’m over eighteen. My folks died when I was six. Car accident. I lived with my grandmoms after that, but she died just after my eighteenth birthday. Cancer. I ain’t got nobody, which is one reason I’ve been following you.”
“Because you’ve got nobody,” I repeated. “What, you want to be my friend?”
He smiled. “If you want. But the reason I’ve been following you is because I want to be a vampire.”
I sighed and shook my head. “No.”
He slumped. “Why not? I’d be feeding you, right?”
“You don’t want to be a vampire. Pardon the pun, but it sucks. I hate it and just about all of my friends hate it. You might think it would be a great thing because you’d never have to die like your parents and grandmother, which I’m sorry about, but you’ll meet some people that you’ll care about. And you’ll have to see them die too. All of your friends will die before your very eyes.”
He shrugged. “So I’ll give them the option of becoming vampires too.”
I laughed. “You can’t just make everyone you like a vampire to suit your own needs! There are their loved ones to consider too! If they wanted to be immortal and they wanted all of their loved ones to be immortal, and all of them wanted their loved ones to be immortal, there wouldn’t be any mortals left for us to feed on! We’re a very low-key race of beings and I’m not the guy that’s going to change that, and neither are you.”
He sighed. “Fine, I’ll just live with outliving them all. But I really want to be what you are. I’ll even give you a hand with your Christmas work! I don’t want to die, ever! I’d give anything to be a vampire!”
“Look, you’re young. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Go meet a wonderful woman and get married. Have some children. Have some grandchildren!”
“I don’t want to have grandchildren! Nineteen is as far as I want to go!”
He was really starting to annoy me.“Look, even if I was considering helping you out, I’ve never turned anyone before, I’d be afraid of not doing it right.”
“It’s a risk I’d be willing to take!”
“You’d be willing to die for this stupid wish of immortality?”
“But you just said you didn’t want to die. Now you’re saying you’d be willing to die.”
He grimaced and shrugged it off. “I’d be willing to risk my life to let you try to turn me. I don’t think it would really kill me though. You’re afraid of not doing it right, but I think it would be okay! Let’s try!”
What he didn’t realize is that I knew he’d die if I bit him because I wasn’t about to create another vampire. I would have purposely drained him dry. But my conscience started to get to me. This kid had a rough life and he was begging me to make it better. I couldn’t just kill him. He had saved my life, after all. So I said, “I’ll think about it.”
He grinned. “You will!? For how long?”
“I don’t know. But don’t get your hopes up too high. I’m not very optimistic about the idea and since you saved my life, I don’t want to bite you.” I looked at the shadows on the wall and the ground to see that the sun was gone. “It’s dark now.”
“You’re still weak. Will you be okay to make it back to your apartment?”
“Yeah. Thanks again for helping me.”
“No sweat. Just... think about what I said. Okay?”
I had no intention of doing so. My mind was made up. “Okay. You know where I live, so come by some time.”
“Just remember, I work from seven to three every night except Saturday and Sunday, and on those days I travel.”
“Right. I’ll remember! I’ll see you later, Dash!”
Before I could comment on being called Dash, Terry was gone. I was hoping I wouldn’t see him for a while, but I had no such luck.
I could hardly get rid of the guy. He came around my apartment just about every night after work. Most of the time it was after I’ve fed, so I’d show up covered in blood and he’d go on talking as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Finally I tried to give him a hint. I asked him if he had a job or college, something he had to do other than hang around me.
He said, “I keep trying to get a job, but none of my applications go through. They keep getting pushed aside. I’m thinking if I had vampire persuasion powers, I could get a job like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.
I laughed. This time it was him giving a hint. “Haven’t you ever had a job?”
He slumped his shoulders. “Yeah, but I got fired. I was working drive-through at a fast food joint and this jerk came around. He gave me all this crap. So I jumped through the window and punched him a couple times. After that, I can’t seem to get a job where I’d be working with people.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“If I was a vampire, I’d track down that prick in the Corvette and rip his heart out. Show him yellow eyes and fangs. Scare him before killing him.”
“Is that what this is all about? Getting revenge on someone for ruining your life?”
“No. I told you, I don’t want to die. But killing that prick would be an added bonus. Come on, Dash, you can’t tell me you’ve never used being a vampire to kill somebody for revenge.”
I stiffened my back. “Maybe once or twice. But that’s no reason to leave mortality behind. You can get revenge as a human too, you know. You just have to know how to plan. That makes you a better person, being able to sabotage a person without killing them. Or, of course, you could just take a gun and blow his brains out.”
“No. I want him to see that I’m a vampire. An immortal. A creature that’s above him.”
“Vampires are not better than humans, Terry. We have weaknesses that you do not. You think we’re better because we live forever, but if you ask me, that’s a weakness in itself. I lost my wife and child and several friends by being a vampire. I can’t go for a stroll in the park on a bright day because the sun could kill me. I have to kill people to survive! Do you think I enjoy killing? It’s not an easy thing to do. There are more drawbacks to being a vampire than advantages, I assure you. And one more thing, Terry.”
“Don’t call me Dash.”
He smiled thinly. “I won’t call you Dash if you start calling me T-Dog like the rest of my friends.”
I laughed. “Dash it is then! Sorry, Terry, but nothing could make me sink to the depths of having the word ‘T-Dog’come out of my mouth!”
“Have it your way, Dash. And despite the disadvantages, I’m not changing my mind. I still want to be a vampire. I have no one to stay mortal for. I’ve never been crazy ’bout the sun. And I’ve seen my share of killing out on the streets, I’m sure I could do it, especially if I had to feed. You can’t change my mind.”
I sighed. “I’m sorry to break it to you, Terry, but I haven’t changed mine, either. I don’t want to bite you.”
He got very visibly angry. “It’s my life! You shouldn’t be the one to dictate how long it is!”
“When you’re older and have found someone you love, you’ll be glad I was looking out for your best interests. This isn’t like a tattoo or piercing, just a trend that you want when you’re young that you can have removed when you get tired of it. This is forever. And that doesn’t mean until you get old and die, because with this you don’t get old and die. I’m almost three hundred years old. Do you think you can last that long?”
“I don’t. You’re better off the way you are.”
He walked to the door, still pissed off. “Fine, I’ll find another vampire!”
I laughed. “Good luck!”
I didn’t see him again until the after the first of December, three weeks ago.
On Monday, December 4th, a pounding came at my door. I looked at the clock to see that it was only five-thirty in thafternoonAll my shades were drawn and the windows were blocked, so I didn’t see any harm in rising during daylight hours (though at five-thirty, it was almost dark anyway). I was tired though.
I shambled over to the door and asked, “Who is it?”
He called back, “It’s T-Dog. I brought someone with me, he says it’s important that he sees you.”
I sighed. “I had hoped you wouldn’t tell any of your friends about me, Terry. Who is it?”
A familiar voice called back, “My name is Kenny Newfish.”
Kenny Newfish? The reporter that caught Rich Warner and me flying over Atlanta! The guy that tried to swim with Nessie! But at the time I was annoyed. I thought he was there for a story about a vampire, a story Terry had given him. “You brought a reporter to see me? That’s bad business, Terry.”
To Kenny: “You’re a reporter?” Back to me: “I didn’t know what he did for a living, Dash!”
Kenny said, “I’m not a reporter anymore. I don’t know how you knew I used to be one, but I’ve been out of work for over a year.”
I snorted. “And this is just the story you need to get back on top, huh?”
“I’m not here for a story. I’m here begging you for help. I’m desperate. And soon it’ll be dark and no one will be safe.”
I tilted my head. I had no idea what he meant by that.
Terry said, “Look, I met him at the bloodmobile. We got to talking about similar interests, horror and stuff, I told him I knew about vampires, and he told me his story. I didn’t believe it at first, but then he showed me something. Let us in so he can show you.”
I sighed, then unlatched the door. If it had been anyone other than the man who had caught me flying on video, I probably wouldn’t have. Then again, that remark about no one being safe after dark really got to me. I just might have.
When I saw Kenny I was surprised. He had really let himself go. Not that he was fat, in fact he was scrawnier than he had been in Atlanta. He looked like an anorexic Willem Dafoe, not that there would be much of a difference. He hadn’t had a haircut in a while, nor had he been shaving regularly. He was starting to show his age, mid-forties, by getting gray in the stubbly beard on his neck. His hair was long so that it tickled his shoulders. His arms hung down so that he could scratch the backs of his knees without stooping. I noticed he had a slight limp, but he didn’t carry a cane.
I gestured to two armchairs and sat down on the sofa. “So, what are you doing here, Kenny?”
He sat down and took a deep breath.“I had transferred out of the city for my job, but moved back here because I heard of a doctor that specialized in... a field that I thought... might help me. I had already lost my job, so I had nothing to lose by coming here.”
“Why did you lose your job? People loved your news of the weird.” I smiled. “Especially that bit in December a couple years ago about the flying men over the World of Coke.”
He laughed. “You remember that, then?”
“First answer my question.”
“Okay. After it would get dark, I’d stop answering calls and pages. I’d completely disappear until the next morning. That’s not good for a reporter because the best news happens at night.”
“So, you’ve lived in Atlanta long?”
I looked at him sideways. “What did Terry tell you about me?”
“He said that he was an expert on vampires and even knew one. I said that only a vampire could help me. So... when he brought me here to see you, I assumed that you were the one that he knew.”
“You assumed correctly. I was one of those flying men that night. The other was my friend Richard Warner. He was behind that series of murders that also took place that evening, where people were being snatched out of crowds and had their throats ripped out?”
His face widened in recognition and he nodded. “I remember that! I refused to cover it because I thought murder was too commonplace and every other network was covering it! If I’d known it was the work of a vampire, I would’ve thought twice about it.”
“People with their throats ripped out and a guy flying, I’m surprised you didn’t put it together.”
He laughed. “That’s brilliant. Maybe after this is all over, I can put together a piece about vampires and get my job back. Where is your friend now?”
I grimaced. “Buried in his back yard. He was killed that same night. Flying on TV isn’t a good idea if you’re a vampire who just killed five people.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” I looked at the clock.“You said that when it gets dark, no one will be safe. What did you mean by that?”
He took a deep breath. “I’m nervous about it. Um, okay, about a year and a half ago I got a call from a small town in Virginia called Fury about sightings of a hairy biped in the hills. I assumed it was Bigfoot, and as you can recall, I lived for stuff like that. Aliens, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot... the occult. It’s my bag. So I took a cameraman to Fury and we started looking for the creature.” He leaned forward and started trembling. “Unfortunately, we found it. It was the night of a full moon, so there was plenty of light. I was in front, and all of a sudden, I heard this thrashing behind us. I looked, and this thing jumped at us from out of nowhere. It slashed at Bobby, my cameraman, with these huge claws, sent his guts flying out of his belly and they hit a tree with a splat.”
“Ugh, there’s a lovely image,” Terry said with a look of disgust on his face.
“The thing jumped on Bobby and buried its face inside of the hole its claws had made, eating. I didn’t make a sound. I was frozen stiff. I finally got up the nerve to take a few steps backward. I stepped on a stick, and it heard me. It looked up from Bobby and snarled at me. I don’t think it would have done anything to me if I’d stayed still, or have kept moving slowly, but I panicked. Its snout was covered with Bobby’s blood and I didn’t want it to do that to me, so I turned and ran to the nearest tree and started to climb. I reached a limb that was pretty high, and I thought I was out of reach, but the thing jumped and it was able to get me!” He rolled up the pants leg of his right leg, the one that he had been limping on. It looked as if there was a chunk of flesh missing from his leg, but it was otherwise amazing.
I furrowed my brow. “There’s no scar. It’s smooth.”
“I know. So you don’t believe me? You think I was born with my leg misshapen like this?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know what to think. So what happened after it bit you?”
“I passed out, clutching the limb. I’m lucky I didn’t fall out of that tree, but it was a wide branch and I was straddling it pretty good. When I woke up, it was morning and both the monster and Bobby’s body were gone. There was no proof whatsoever as to what had happened, except for the bite on my leg and the busted camera that Bobby had dropped. And blood on the ground, of course. On the walk to town, I got to thinking. I knew I’d be committed if I told them the truth. So I lied. I told them we were attacked by a pack of wild wolves. I took them to the spot where we were attacked, showed them the camera, the blood, the bite on my leg, and they seemed satisfied. I told them that while I was passed out in the tree, they must have dragged Bobby’s carcass off in the woods to finish eating it. They organized a search party to find his body and kill the wolves. They did kill some wolves, but they never found Bobby. There were most likely some rumors spread about me, people saying I killed him and disposed of his body. But I don’t care. I know what really happened.”
I nodded. “The creature. Was it Bigfoot?”
He shook his head. “It was a werewolf.”
I almost laughed, but the serious tone of his story prevented me from doing so. “There’s no such thing as werewolves.”
He countered. “There’s no such thing as vampires.” Had he known my true persona, he probably would have also said that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.
I sighed. “Granted. But no one’s ever seen a werewolf. How do you know it was a werewolf that attacked you?”
He got angry. “How do you know it was a vampire that attacked you and not the benevolent fairy of immortality? When a monster renowned throughout mythology shows up and bites you, you can pretty much figure out what it is! It looked like a werewolf! Not like the Wolf Man, or an American werewolf in London, but... like the werewolves in Dog Soldiers. You know, like the form of men but with the heads and characteristics of wolves. Kind of like Egyptian idols. Men with the heads of jackals. But this thing was a wolf with the limbs and posture of a man. No tail or anything corny like that.”
“And it wasn’t wearing clothes?”
“Trust me, a werewolf learns to stop wearing clothes when the sun begins to set. It ruins the wardrobe. The shoulders and legs change form, so the clothes would rip under the pressure.”
I felt my mouth go dry. “You did a lot of studying about them after your encounter?”
He sighed. “I didn’t have to. After I was bitten, I started to change. I became a werewolf.”
This time I did laugh. “That I don’t believe.”
“Why not? A vampire bit you and you became one. A werewolf bit me, and I became one.”
“Because I just don’t believe in werewolves!”
Kenny looked at the clock. “The sun will be down in about twenty minutes. You’ll believe me then.”
“So why did you come see me? You moved back here to see a doctor about this problem, couldn’t he help?”
“No. He’s an expert in lycanthropy, which is a mental disorder. He thinks this incident is all in my mind. He also thinks that I killed Bobby and that I should turn myself in to the authorities. He wants me to undergo hypnosis so that he can prove that he’s right. I refuse to let him.”
“Imagine for one moment that you’re a werewolf. It’s daytime. A doctor hypnotizes you to take you back to a certain night. Making you think it’s nighttime. That could be bad. Very bad.”
I nodded. “I see your point. So if you don’t think the doctor can help, why me? You told Terry that only a vampire can help. Why?”
He took another deep breath. “Terry said that his vampire friend said that vampire blood can cure all illnesses of the blood. This... werewolfism that I’ve got was transferred into my blood through that bite. The only way to cure it would be to purify my blood. And the only way to do that would be to become a vampire.”
I inhaled deeply, pursing my lips, then looked at Terry. “Did you concoct this wild tale? Maybe get me to turn Kenny here so that he’d turn you?”
Terry gave me an innocent look. “Me? Naw, Dash, I wouldn’t make up something like that! You saw his leg! I’m not that creative! I wasn’t even thinking of doing this for me, he asked me for help, so I brought him here so you could help him!”
“Sure. Get out, the both of you. I don’t want to see either of you again.”
Kenny pointed at the clock. “Twelve minutes. In twelve minutes I’ll start to change. If you’re convinced, bite me. You can turn me and cure me, if you wish. If you don’t care about my problem, you can drain me and kill me. Either way, my suffering and my endangerment to others ends tonight. But tie me down. Otherwise, T-Dog here is in mortal danger. I could rip him to shreds without even thinking about it.”
I smirked and considered telling him to go ahead, but I thought better of it. I noticed for the first time the purple duffel bag he had been toting. He handed it to Terry, who opened it up and took out several rubber straps with metal hooks at the ends. He looked at the armchair Kenny was sitting in, then back to me, and asked, “Do you have another chair we can use? Maybe a metal one? Something less nice? I think it might get messed up.”
I went into my bedroom and retrieved the metal chair that once sat here at this desk. I’ve since replaced it with a comfier swivel model. I had to. But I’m getting to that.
So Kenny Newfish (I promise you, that is his real name) sat down on the metal chair and Terry and I proceeded to strap him to it. We wrapped those straps around each foot multiple times, tied his wrists behind his back, hooked them to the straps holding his ankles tightly to the chair, then tugged on the whole works to make sure it wouldn’t move. We asked Kenny to struggle, and he couldn’t budge an inch, putting all of his strength into it. He strained against the restraints so hard that he wore himself out and lost his breath.
By the time he was safely tied down, the sky was dark blue with a pink horizon. No sun in sight. I let up the shades and since we were facing the east, he could see the moon. His eyes widened and he screamed.
I stood directly in front of him, waiting for something to happen. His eyes dulled over and the irises seemed to widen and darken. “His eyes grew,” I said to Terry. “But they’re not yellow. In all the movies I’ve seen, when someone turns into a werewolf, his eyes turn yellow.”
Blood vessels standing out in his face, Kenny sputtered, “Wolves are canines like dogs! Have you ever seen a dog with yellow eyes!? I haven’t!”
I looked at his hands. His fingernails were growing into claws. By this time Terry was standing behind me.“What are you waiting for!? Bite him before he breaks out of those straps!”
I was numb. I shook my head slowly.“Nuh-uh. He can’t break out of those straps. I don’t believe in werewolves. He’s just mentally sick, Terry. The eyes and fingernails, those things can change by the power of the mind. He can’t really change into a werewolf. There’s no such thing.”
He grabbed my shoulders and screamed,“Why is it that you think vampires can exist but werewolves can’t? Have an open mind before he rips us to pieces!”
I stared at Kenny as the stubble on his neck and cheeks darkened and seemed to spread. He screamed in pain as his jaws seemed to elongate.
“Look at that!” Terry screamed. “His bone structure is changing! His jaws are growing! The power of the mind cannot do that! Bite him before he-” But he didn’t get another word out. A metal hook from the rubber straps came flying at him at a great speed and pegged him directly on the forehead, knocking him unconscious. Which I suppose was fortunate. If he had been moving for the next series of events, he probably wouldn’t be alive now.
I looked from Terry back to Kenny to see that indeed the straps had broken. His shoulders had expanded and his legs had grown, ripping his jeans off. And I saw that it was true, Wolf Man has nards. He stood up and the mangled, bent-up metal thing that had once been a chair collapsed behind him. His head wasn’t exactly that of a wolf; his ears were in the same place, but his snout wasn’t quite as long as a wolf’s, more like that of an American Eskimo Spitz. Only I can’t imagine a Spitz being this mean. Or having teeth that deadly.
It snapped at me and growled, then raised its claws. I held up my hands and said, “Think about this, Kenny. I’m a vampire. You’re outmatched. You came to me for help, so I’m going to help you. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you. Just don’t hurt me, let me get close enough, and I’ll bite you. Then your problems will all be over, okay?”
It stepped toward me and swiped at me with its claws again and I knew that Kenny was gone. He had said that when darkness arrived, no one would be safe, and that included people he would go to for help. So I wouldn’t be able to talk my way out of this. I’d have to use my powers to get the better of this beast. I had sustained injuries during the wars I’d been in, but this creature was all brawn and claws and teeth. Physically I was no match for it. So I had to cheat. I vaporized.
It tilted its head in that look of canine stupidity that you think looks so cute on your household pet. I materialized behind it and jumped on its back, wrapping my legs around its waist, one arm around its neck, the other around its forehead. Sleeperhold. I’d learned that from watching little guys tackle giants on Ernest’s wrestling videos. I then sank my teeth into its throat, which was a difficult task because of all the hair. But, when I was living in that cave in Massachusetts shortly after my death as Arthur Tennyson, I’d fed on animals before, so I don’t suppose it was much different. It howled in pain and flailed violently, trying to shake me off, but the more I drank, the stronger I grew and the weaker it became. Finally it dropped to its knees.
I had to remember not to drain it dry. I was trying to help someone, not kill him. I don’t know what it was about him, but I liked Kenny. Maybe it’s because he gave me 15 minutes (literally) of fame in Atlanta as one of the flying men over the World of Coke. I don’t know. I’d hate to have had to kill him. Because even though South Park had long since stopped with the running gag, I’d hate to have the voices of those little retards in my head saying, “Oh my God! Santa Claus killed Kenny! You bastard!”
His heart stopped and his features slowly started to change back to those of a human. I didn’t know how long it would take for him to return, but I’d hoped it would be soon. I didn’t want the landlord to come knocking on my door with complaints of the noise (Kenny and Terry had been screaming rather loudly) and walk in to see two bodies on my floor, one unconscious and one returning to human form after wolfing out.
That’s when I remembered Terry. I took his pulse to make sure that knock on the head hadn’t killed him, then woke him up. I told him that Kenny wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while, and that it would probably be a good idea to go to a hospital. At first he was against the idea, because he was broke and had no insurance, but I told him I’d take care of it. My job doesn’t pay much or offer great benefits, but I’ve died several times over the years and have left inheritances to my new identities.
So I took Terry to the hospital (it took us two hours just to get checked in), and left him there overnight so that they could perform a CAT-Scan. But on the drive back I began to feel very strange. When I got back to my apartment building, I stopped outside and stared at the moon. It seemed brighter to me than ever before. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I wanted to... I wanted to... I wanted to howl at it.
That’s when it struck me. Drinking the blood of the forest animals had given me some of their senses. What would drinking the blood of a werewolf do to me? I ran upstairs as fast as I could to my apartment, and when I got inside I saw that Kenny had awakened. It must have been recently too, because he was still feeling his neck and looking at the wreckage of the metal chair and the broken rubber straps.
“Did I do that?” he asked.
“Yes, Kenny. You did.”
“Now do you believe in werewolves?”He turned and looked at me, then froze. “Whoa. What happened to you?”
Not liking the sound of that, I ran into the bathroom to get a good look at myself in the mirror. Yes, vampires can see themselves in mirrors. And when I saw myself, I could understand why Kenny had said, “Whoa.” My jaw had grown. I hadn’t felt it do so, I couldn’t tell by plain senses, but I could see it plainly in the mirror. It jutted out, displaying sharp, canine teeth. Hair had grown on my cheeks and neck, making me look much as Kenny had when he’d first walked in. It wasn’t good. I had been clean-shaven when I’d died, and after becoming a vampire, no hair can grow, nor can hair be removed. Remember, when Van Helsing burned off my hair it instantly grew back. So for me to now have hair where there had not been hair before was bizarre to say the least. I looked down at my hands. There were claws where fingernails had been. I gulped. “Yes, Kenny. To answer your question, I do believe in werewolves now.”
He stared at my claws, trembling.“How-how-how did you get like this?”
“From your blood, I guess. The blood of a werewolf.”
He licked his lips and looked in the mirror, then looked at the clock. “It’s still night-time. I’m not a werewolf anymore.”
I shook my head. “No. Your blood’s clean. You’re a vampire now.”
He looked as if he didn’t believe me.“Really? How do I know for sure?”
I shrugged. “Try something you couldn’t do as a mortal. Read my mind.” That was probably a bad idea, but it was the only “test” I could think of at the time.
He smiled thinly. “Okay. Here goes.”He put two fingers to his head and closed his eyes, then flew backward and fell on his backside. He looked up with wide eyes. “I’m sorry, Nick!”
I had no idea what he was talking about. “For what?”
“You know what! It’s the only thought in your head right now! You blame me for what’s happening to you! For making you a freak!”
It was true, I had been thinking those things. But I knew it wasn’t true. He wasn’t to blame. “I’m sorry, Kenny. I know it’s not your fault. All I need to do is get some new blood inside me. Some normal human blood.”
A sick look crossed his face. “Blood. I forgot about that. When I was a werewolf, I couldn’t stop myself from killing people for food, that was the main reason I wanted to end it, so that people would be safe! But... I wasn’t thinking past the me not being a werewolf anymore part. I still have to kill to feed.”
“Yes, but this way you can control who you kill. A drug dealer, a mugger, or a homeless person begging for death. Someone you won’t feel quite so guilty about. That wolf-thing killed indiscriminately, men, women, and children.”
He sighed. “True. I was a reporter, I’m pretty good at sniffing out the creeps. Shall we go together? It being my first time, I need to know what to do.”
“Look at me! I can’t go out for a hunt looking like Wolverine! They’ll get all worked up trying to run from us!”
“But we can catch them!”
I shook my head. “Adrenaline makes the blood taste bad. You want to feed on a person who’s calm. As long as I look like this, I’ll have to sneak up on someone, possibly get someone who’s sleeping. You can get just about anyone.”
“How? What do I do?”
“Mingle. Convince a young lady to come with you into the dark. Instinct will tell you what to do when you get your prey alone.”
“My prey? That makes it sound so primal. Like a lion stalking a gazelle.”
I laughed. “That’s the easiest way to think of it. The world is our jungle, and we feed to stay alive.”
He nodded. “That sounds much nicer than thinking of it as hunting people and ripping out their throats to drink their blood.”
“That’s too dramatic. Do you think lions consider themselves murdering gazelles and ripping the flesh from their bones so that they can gnaw on the marrow? No. It’s feeding. What’s more natural than that?”
He considered for a moment. “I guess you’re right.”
“Okay then. Come on. Let’s go. And let’s hurry, I don’t want anyone to see me like this.”
He smirked. “After a while you get used to looking like that. You forget why the people are staring at you in fear.”
“Trust me, Kenny, I don’t want to get used to this!”
“I know the feeling. Okay, let’s go.”
We opened the door and rushed down the steps, but when we got outside and I felt the moonlight on me, a funny feeling came over me. I stopped and stared up at it again. Kenny told me to come on, but I barely heard him. That’s when I lost all control. I don’t know what happened, but I know for certain I didn’t drive off to look for prey with the former werewolf/new vampire. I imagine I scampered off, possibly using all fours.
The next thing I remember was a knocking. I woke up in the dark, not knowing where I was. By the confined space I surmised that I was in a closet. And I was right. The knocking persisted.“Who is it?” I asked.
“It’s T-Dog. And you’re lucky it’s me and not a cop. You left the front door of this place wide open, with a handprint in blood on it. The people that live here... Man... I’ve seen your victims before, but these folks don’t look like a vampire’s victims. They look like something out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
I blinked at him. “What time is it?”
“Six-fifteen. I’ve been looking for you since I got out of the hospital this morning. Kenny told me what happened. He pointed me in the direction that you ran off in, so I started looking there. Didn’t take me too long. You obeyed your appetite early on, I see.”
I stepped out of the closet to see what he was talking about. It was the most repugnant scene I’d witnessed since the Vietnam War. Somehow I thought that their hearts had stopped before the fluid transference had taken place, meaning that it didn’t matter whether or not they’d been drained dry (though in all likelihood they had been); they wouldn’t be returning.
I let out a deep breath. “I did this. I don’t remember it, but I did this.”
“The wolf-man in you did this,” Terry said. “I know you normally wouldn’t be capable of such a mess. Now come on, let’s get out of here. It’s starting to stink.”
I looked at my hands. They were covered in blood and chunks of gore, but they were otherwise normal. Fingers tipped with rounded nails instead of claws. The blood of my unfortunate victims had apparently worked in replacing Kenny’s werewolf blood. My wolfish ways must have worn off while I slept.
Terry slowly opened the front door and peeked outside just enough to see if the coast was clear. “Okay, no one’s around. Hurry, get in the back and lie down. You’re drenched in blood. If anyone sees you they’ll call the cops first and ask questions later.”
We ran to his car and I did as he bade, lying down in his backseat. He got behind the steering wheel and drove away from my inner wolf’s victims’ home. The floor and passenger seat of his car were filled with brown cardboard boxes full of various stuff. “You moving?”I asked.
“Not really. Welcome to my humble abode,” he said. “You’re now in the position I get in every night when I get ready to go to sleep. Many nights I use the parking garage of your building. I hope you don’t mind.”
Feeling guilty for reasons I couldn’t put my finger on, I shook my head. “No, I don’t mind.” At that moment, he turned up the volume of his radio, unleashing some ghastly hip-hop music. I shook my head. “One of these days, I’m going to have to teach you and Ernest both what good music sounds like.”
“My best friend, the Easter Bunny.”
Terry laughed. “You’ve got a great sense of humor, Dash.”
I smirked. “Sure.”
We arrived at my apartment building and he stopped the car, saying, “Okay, there’s an old couple walking down the street. Once they’re out of sight, we can run inside and you can change out of those bloody rags.”
“Why wait?” I asked. “I can change now, remember? Open your door.” And with that, I vaporized.
He groaned and said lowly, “I forgot you could do that.” He swung his door open and waited a moment before getting out, giving me ample time to float out and up to the venting grates of the building. Before he could even open the front door, I was in my room and materialized.
Kenny was pacing the front room when I suddenly appeared before him. He saw how blood- splattered I was and jumped.“What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack?”
I laughed. “You’re a vampire now. You can never have a heart attack.” I walked into the bathroom and washed my hands, then realized something. I hadn’t looked at myself yet. I looked up at the mirror and put a hand on my jaw. It was normal.
Kenny called out from the hallway, “I see you’ve got normal blood coursing through your veins again. You’re not... wolfish anymore.”
“And am I ever thankful for that,” I said.
“I did feed last night,” he said.“You were right, instinct took over. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. In fact... even though I probably still have a lot to learn about being a vampire... I’m going to pay a visit to my old boss in Virginia tonight. I want my old life back, on a limited basis. I can persuade him to let me work nights only.”
I nodded. “I didn’t have anyone show me the ropes, you don’t need to hang around to learn everything. Go out and discover what it is on your own. It’s more invigorating that way, I believe. But search for one of our own kind. It’s much more fun to have someone who understands to share the discoveries with.”
He smiled. “I’ll remember that.”
be warned if you hang around Atlanta for a bit. There’s a scar-faced vampire
killer around. His name was Jerry Tolbin, but he changed it to Abraham Van
Helsing. He killed my friend, Rich Warner, the one that was flying over the
World of Coke that night, and he’s vowed to kill all vampires. Be on your
He nodded somberly. “Thanks, I will. I would have left already, but I had to wait until you came back so that I could tell you. I just had to thank you once again for ending... I hate to use a phrase so corny as this, but for lack of better wording, ‘the curse of the werewolf.’”
I laughed. “No problem.”
“Plus there’s just one more thing I have to take care of here, unfinished business, then I can leave. Thanks again, Nick.”
“You’re welcome, Kenny.”
He held out his hand. “So I guess this is goodbye.”
I smiled. “Then so it is. Goodbye, Kenny. Take care.”
Now, you may think that’s the end of the story. Kenny’s no longer a werewolf, my own exhibition of a werewolf’s behavior has passed, and now the former reporter has decided to go back home. But no, the story is not over. He still had unfinished business. Had I known what he’d meant by that, I would have tried to prevent it, but while vampires do have some precognitive powers, I couldn’t see what exactly his plans were. All I knew is that it was almost seven and I had missed the previous night at work and I couldn’t afford to be late. So I went to work, told my supervisor that there had been an accident the night before that had caused me to black out and had left my friend with a concussion, and that if he didn’t believe me he could call the hospital and check the records for my insurance and for the status of a boy named Terry Deeds. Indeed he called (insufferable prick that he is) and my absence was excused. And I thought all my problems were over. I was wrong.
After I got off work, I went to the park and found a sleeping homeless man to feed upon. After I was finished, I went back to my apartment complex. I was just about to walk through the front door when I heard a strange sound come from the parking garage. That’s when I remembered that Terry had never come up after parking his car. He had brought me home from my victims’ home and parked, but after I went inside my apartment, he never joined me.
I went into the garage and sure enough, I saw Terry’s orange Corvette in which I had been lying down earlier. As I approached it, I could see through the window Terry’s body slumped across the two front seats. The box that had been in the front passenger seat when I rode with him before was now spilled in the floor. His shirt was covered with blood.
I cried out, “Help! Somebody, please! Help!”
Then I heard a cough and a gasp. Then Terry sat up and grinned at me. “Quiet, Dash. You’re shouting loud enough to wake the dead.” He laughed hideously.
I shook my head in disgust. “What? Oh, no. Please tell me you didn’t get Kenny to bite you before he left.”
“He felt obligated to do it. After all, if I hadn’t introduced him to you, he’d still be wolfy.”
“I’m sure it didn’t hurt that you held it over his head that he owed it to you.”
“I may have mentioned it to him.”
“And he’s gone now?”
He smiled. “Yep. I don’t think he wanted to stick around long enough to see your reaction.”
I smirked. “So you got what you wanted. And it got you.”
His eyebrows contorted. “What do you mean?”
“Before he bit you or before he left, did Kenny mention a guy named Jerry Tolbin or Abraham Van Helsing?”
“No. You mentioned him before. Who is he?”
“Occupational hazard. The guy who killed my friend Rich Warner and tried to kill me twice. And if he sees you, he’ll try to kill you, too, because being a vampire comes with drawbacks. Being hated is one of them. When Van Helsing comes after you with his sword soaked in holy water, determined to send you to Hell, are you going to offer to make him immortal?”
Terry scowled. “Why didn’t you tell me that before I became a vampire?”
“If you hadn’t sneaked around my back to become one, I wouldn’t have had to, T-Dog.”
“Fudge you, Dash!” he spat as he started the ignition of his car. Only, you know... he didn't say, "fudge."
I laughed. “I thought you said you’d start calling me Nick if I called you T-Dog!”
He didn’t reply, he simply drove off. I thought that would probably be the last I’d see of him. Again, I was wrong.
He showed up a week later, telling me he needed a fellow vampire in his life to help him because his conscience couldn’t deal with the killing. Also, he wanted a place to live. So I caved in. He’s been living with me for two weeks now, and I took him under my wing, so to speak.
He is just starting to get the hang of his powers. He wanted to use them to get a job, but sometimes messages get blurred in translation, especially with a new vampire. He was sending “Hire me, hire me, hire me,” and what happened was this: The employer buzzed his secretary and said, “Charlene? Call Lee. Tell him to clear out his desk. He’s fired.” When asked why, he could only answer that it was a thought that had been nagging him all afternoon, and he assumed it must have been because of something Lee did, but he wasn’t sure what.
Anyway, the kid’s been like a shadow to me ever since, being there where I work many nights to bug me with the details of his own evening. I’ve switched from full-time to part-time at work so that I can continue being a bell-ringing Santa for the Salvation Army again. The kids always complain that I’m too skinny to be the real Santa, but I send the message to them via telepathy: I am the real Santa Claus. Then they smile at me and excitedly tell their parents that they saw me, and that the fat bearded guy sitting in the velvet chair at the mall is a phony. That always makes me chuckle.
And I’m pleased to say, Terry made good on his promise. He’s been helping me
organize lists of the most popular gift items this season. While I’m at work,
he hangs out at the toy stores watching the kids. And the teenage female
clerks, I’m afraid. While he’s not exactly a model Santa Claus figure, it is nice to have a little helper and some constant company. Maybe not a roommate; I’ll be looking forward to the day he gets a job so that he can get his own place, but having a vampire friend and helper for my cause is nice. And I can hear Ernest now, “How’s that elf of yours doing?” Or worse. Mrs. Claus.