I’m writing to give you a warning. There’s a maniac out there with a death wish for all vampires. His name... Well, his name is Abraham Van Helsing. I know it sounds crazy, but let me explain.
Jerry Tolbin was a spoiled little boy whose parents obeyed his every wish. I didn’t visit him very often because he was such a brat. To make a long story short, he relied on his parents for everything. Then five years ago, when Jerry was sixteen and waiting on his folks to give him a new car for Christmas, they were both killed by a vampire. Jerry tried to stop it by throwing a ceramic lamp across the room at it, but the vampire caught the lamp and smashed it over the boy’s head, giving him two jagged scars, one slanting down between his eyes all the way to the right side of his jaw, and the other across his left cheek and under his nose. Not a pretty picture. I saw the scars myself.
I was on my way back from a co-worker’s New Year’s party, and suddenly this young scar-faced man stepped out in front of me on the dark street. He wore round spectacles and a black fedora, with a black suit. In his right hand was a gasoline can. I had a feeling what he planned on doing with that gas can, so I stopped in my tracks.
“I know what you are,” he said. His speech was slurred and I could smell whiskey on him. Apparently the fact that he had just turned twenty-one only added fuel to his fire.
I usually don’t pry into someone’s mind without their consent, but when I see someone who intends to do me harm, I’ve got to know my opponent. So I looked inside of him. I saw endless rage and the deaths of several vampires.
I saw him track down the very vampire that had given him those scars, while the cuts were still fresh. He had avenged their deaths mere weeks after they died. But that wasn’t good enough. His parents were the only thing that mattered in his life, and when the vampire took them away from him, Jerry only had one reason to keep going: revenge. I saw him killing vampire after vampire in his mind, wrestling them into the sunlight, drenching them with gasoline, pounding silver crosses through their foreheads, as if that did any permanent damage. I saw all of his hatred and little else. I barely got his name out of him. “Jerry Tolbin,” I said.
“No, not anymore. I’ve had my name legally changed. I’m Abraham Van Helsing now.”
I almost laughed at him. Instead, I said, “Listen to me, Jerry, I’m not the vampire that killed your parents. I’m a nice guy. I give to the children every year.”
“A generous bloodsucker? How stupid do you think I am?”
“Well, you did change your name to Abraham Van Helsing.” I meant that as a joke, but apparently he didn’t take it as such. Finally I said, “Think back, Jerry. When you were six years old you wanted a bike, but your parents told you they didn’t think Santa would fit one in his sack, while they really meant they couldn’t have afforded one. But on Christmas morning, there was the bike, and they were just as surprised as you were. That was me, Jerry. I’m Santa Claus!”
He laughed. “If you think a stupid story like that is going to spare your life, you’re wrong!”
“How would I know about the bike then, Jerry?”
His emerald green eyes sparkled as he shook his head. “You can read my mind, I know all about your powers!”
“But think about it, Jerry: was the bike incident really on your mind when I mentioned it? Why would I pick that one event if it wasn’t true?”
He paused for a moment, actually thinking about it. But then the hate took over once again.
The man calling himself Van Helsing unscrewed the cap from the gas can and sloshed a good bit of it my way. I leapt out of the way and ducked behind a stone pillar. I reached into my pockets and retrieved a pack of matches. And I waited.
When he was close enough, I lit a match and flicked it onto his right hand, which he had soaked with gasoline during his attempt to kill me. His hand lit up and he squealed and dropped his can. Once he was defenseless, I grabbed him by the shoulders and looked him in the eye.
“Listen to me, Jerry. Right this second, I’ve got the opportunity to kill you. But I’m not going to. It’s because I’m not evil like some of the others you’ve encountered! There are others like me who don’t mean any harm to anybody!”
For a moment it looked like he understood. Then he grabbed me by the hair with his flaming hand. I screamed and let him go. He then turned and ran. I put the flames out on top of my head, then instantly re-grew the hair. So no permanent damage was done. Still, it hurt pretty badly.
This guy is fairly incompetent as a vampire killer, but he has killed some of us before, so we best not let our guard down. I hope to see you soon. Happy New Year.
Running into that Van Helsing goober made me think of a few other times I’d been tracked down by self-proclaimed vampire hunters. You must be thinking that there can’t possibly be many of those, considering the fact that no one in the real world believes in vampires any more. But you’d be surprised. Actually, most of the would-be slayers existed in the late 1700s and 1800s, and more often than not, their victims weren’t really vampires. It was similar to the witch trials, but I’d rather not think about that.
Anyway, there have been a few who came closer to success than Jerry Tolbin/Abraham Van Helsing. During the Prohibition, there was a crazed preacher named Barney Gogle who thought that bootleggers were vampires. I have to admit, I ran my share of shine back in the day, but I was no Capone. Anyway, Gogle was obsessed with sending the evil-doing living dead back to Hell where they belonged. Armed with his ever-present Bible and a thousand sermons, he tried to rid the world of me by way of God. But I was once an apprentice preacher myself and he was a man of hypocrisy. He loved whores, and he even got violent with a few of them. Still, he thought he was doing God’s work. You should have seen the look on his face when I corrected one of his sermons, directly quoting the Bible. I think he nearly wet his pants. Needless to say, Barney never came close to putting my immortal life to an end. Eb Horne, on the other hand, is another story altogether.
The year was 1852 and the place was Charleston. A former slave named Eb Horne had inherited a plantation in Augusta and a fair sum of money from his master, a bounty hunter and slave catcher named Beaumont Brown. Back in those days, that was a name that earned respect from the whites and fear from the blacks. You’re probably thinking that the man was a scumbag because he advocated slavery, but from what I saw through Eb’s memories of him, he was a decent guy. He just had his priorities messed up. He felt that slaves were personal property, and if that property were to up and vanish, it was his job to return it. He was so sure of this belief that he even had his black servants convinced that it was true.
Whether you agree with Brown or not isn’t the point. In 1850, he was in search of the biggest bounty ever placed on a slave’s head. Forty thousand for a woman named Harriet Tubman. To hear Eb tell it, the trail was a bloody one. It seemed that wherever Tubman went, a bloodthirsty monster was close behind. Dead slaves were bled dry all along the trail. It was too much for Eb to stomach, so he asked his master to give up. But Brown was relentless, he had to get that bounty. He freed Horne and continued his search, only to disappear. Eb believed that Beaumont was killed by a vampire. They had been on its trail, finding the corpses of its victims, and if Brown had actually caught up with it, it most likely did kill him. Whether it did or not, Eb Horne certainly believed so.
I was living in Charleston as Clark Moore at the time. I’d been feeding off of hookers and slaves. This drew Horne’s attention. One night in a tavern called Bookman’s I ran into him. He was a wrinkled old fellow, in his early sixties, gray hair on his head. Not much of a threat in appearance. In fact, if you were to stand Eb Horne next to the brutish Jerry Tolbin/Abraham Van Helsing, you’d definitely choose the latter over the former as the more formidable opponent. But that wasn’t so.
A large slovenly plantation owner didn’t like having a black man in the same tavern with him, and he was shooting off his mouth about it.
Very casually, Horne said, “I was freed two years ago by my friend, Beaumont Brown.”
A hush fell over the crowd. Feeling ignorant, I asked, “Who’s Beaumont Brown?”
Every eye turned toward me. Horne smiled thinly. “Only the best bounty hunter there ever was.”
“Was? What happened to him?”
Horne shrank down at the bar. “I don’t like talking about it. Makes people think I’m foolish.”
“I won’t think you foolish,” I said.
He nodded. “Beau was killed by a vampire.” A few chuckles went through the pub at this statement.
“I believe you,” I said.
“Really? Good. Most people think I’m crazy. In fact, that’s why I’m here.”
He leaned closer to me and whispered,“There’s a vampire in this town.”
My eyebrows went up. “What makes you think that?”
“Whores and slaves have been turning up dead with their throats ripped out and their blood drained.”
“Could be a wild animal,” I said.
He replied, “It is a wild animal. It’s a vampire.”
I licked my lips, then paid for my drink and said my goodbyes to everyone there. This was the first time I had ever seen anyone show interest in tracking vampires before, and it made me nervous. I guess that’s what gave me away.
As I was walking down the street, Eb Horne drove past me in a horse-drawn buggy. In his trailer was a mound of dry hay. He stopped the horses, the turned around to face me. Before I knew what was happening, he had flung a noose around my neck and was yanking me toward his cart.
As he pulled with his strong right arm, he lit a match with his left hand and tossed it into the hay, which quickly became a conflagration. Once the fire was high enough to do me great damage, he put all of his weight into pulling that rope around my neck.
“You won’t be killing whores or my people anymore!” Horne yelled as he dragged me closer to the flames.
Looking back, I see that there was a very easy way out of this, but when you’re panicking, it’s hard to focus on a solution. It wasn’t until I saw the smoke rising from the flames that I realized I could vaporize and make my escape that way. And so I did.
I let my molecules go loose and that rope went clean through me. I drifted as far away as I could. Needless to say, my life as Clark Moore was over after that. I had to leave Charleston because it was widely spread that I was a vampire. I became Noel Kriss after that, but he only lasted another twelve years, thanks to the Civil War.
Just as Thomas Bucher had killed Rudy Kringle, Eb Horne had killed Clark Moore. But I wasn’t as bitter about it then. Life wasn’t worth avenging during those years. Besides, Eb was a former slave. I wanted him to enjoy his freedom while it lasted. Freedom is rarely appreciated. When you’re a slave to time, you want others to enjoy their lives. Even if the person in question tried to kill you.
This is probably the most painful Christmas season I’ve ever had. After the minor pain of running into Van Helsing back in January, it started out as a good year. I made two new vampire friends, both of whom taught me new things about our kind... but now I’ve lost one of them. And I have a gaping, burning hole in my left hand. I’ve learned something else about our kind as well, something unpleasant.
It all started when I moved to Atlanta in February to be closer to Ernest. I got a call from him telling me there was somebody at his club that I just had to meet, so I headed down to The Slow Drip. Ernest seemed very excited to see me. He took me downstairs to see a very strong-featured dark-skinned man, young in looks, in turquoise hospital scrubs sitting at the table where the two of us had first gotten to know each other.
The man in the scrubs stood up, smiled at me, and shook my hand. “You must be Nick. Ernest has told me much about you.”
I shifted my eyes at Ernest. “Like what?”
“That, like him, you give to the children. I really admire that. I like to help people too. That’s why I took a night shift position at the local hospital. But I never imagined—“
Ernest held up his hand. “Before you get into that, tell him your name and how you came to be.”
The man in the scrubs bowed his head and grinned sheepishly. He stuck out his hand again and said, “My name is Zakes Murphy.”
“Zah-keez,” I repeated, savoring the unique name. “I like that.”
“Thank you. I am from the Dominican Republic.”
“Really? You don’t have an accent.”
“When you’ve been in the States for a hundred and six years, you tend to pick up the language and accent of your peers. Racism made it hard for me to have an accent in those early days, white men would tell me to go home. So I’d use my unique talents to adapt vocally.”
I nodded, thinking how difficult it must be to fit in both as a vampire and a victim of racism. “Wow. Were you bitten before or after you left the Dominican Republic?”
Zakes laughed an echoing cackle that sounded both jolly and wicked. I was momentarily frightened, but then remembered that he seemed to be a friend of Ernest’s and knew that he most likely meant us no harm. My friend grinned and said, “He wasn’t bitten.”
Now I understood the hollow evil laughter. It was a laugh of madness, and that’s exactly what the idea of a vampire who had crossed over without having been bitten was. Madness. “What? How can he be a vampire if he wasn’t bitten?”
Smirking, Zakes replied, “My uncle was a bokor. Bad voodoo priest. He demanded some wicked things of my mother. She refused. As punishment, he put a curse on me. Cursed me from the daylight, cursed me to feed on blood, and cursed me to roam the Earth forever without a soul.”
“You’re a vampire because of a voodoo curse? Is there any way to reverse it?”
“Only the bokor can take back the curse once he’s placed it on a man’s head.” Zakes grinned again. “I ripped out his throat with my teeth and drained him dry the same night the curse damned me. For revenge... and to make sure he never took it back. I liked the strengths it granted me. I didn’t realize the pain it would later cause me.”
“Wow,” I repeated. “When did you come to the States?”
“Twenty years after that, when my mother died. I had no reason to stay in the Republic. Everyone in my village knew of my curse and feared me. So I decided to go where I would not be feared.”
“Makes sense. And then you became a hospital orderly because you wanted to help people, huh?”
Ernest grinned. “This is where the story gets really interesting.” As if the fact that our new acquaintance had been transformed into a vampire by a voodoo curse wasn’t interesting enough.
Zakes nodded. “I worked with children at first, then last year I was in the break room and I saw a new patient being brought in. He was tied down on a stretcher, and was thrashing up and down on the bed. They were pumping needles full of Thorazine into him as if they were just pinching him, but it had no result. I looked into him. He was a vampire.”
My eyes widened. “A vampire in the hospital? No way! We don’t get sick!”
“This one tried to kill himself. His maid walked in, found him hanging from his neck with a plastic bag over his face, and he had ingested huge amounts of both sleeping pills and rat poison. They pumped his stomach and thought they were going to lose him when blood came out. They would have been surprised if they had checked the blood types and discovered that the blood in his stomach wasn’t his.”
Ernest laughed. Zakes smirked, but continued. “Tests proved that this... patient suffered from bipolar disorder.”
My jaw dropped. “Wait. Suffered from a disease? That’s impossible! Our kind don’t get ill! It’s part of the job description! The.virus, or whatever it is, kills all disease in the blood!”
“In the blood, yes. But not in the chemicals of the brain. Mental imperfections cannot be cured by a vampire’s blood cells. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD... we’ve even had pyromaniacs and kleptos come into the behavioral center since I transferred to that area! All of those are mental illnesses, not diseases of the blood. Vampirism can cure any imperfection of the body, but not of the mind. Anyway, ever since that bipolar patient that attempted suicide came through the hospital and I discovered that our kind do visit the hospital, I’ve been in the behavioral ward trying to help them. Their stays in the hospital don’t do them much good, as they sleep through all the group therapy sessions in the daytime and the pills don’t help, but since I know what they’re going through, I can talk to them and see that they get straightened out.”
“Why don’t the pills help?”
Zakes shook his head and replied,“Because our blood only flows when we feed on the blood of others, and the pills need to circulate through the bloodstream. The only way a pill would work for a vampire would be if he takes it with blood, but that’s patently ridiculous.”
I smiled, though pensive. “Yeah. Ridiculous.”
We talked a while longer, and I thanked Zakes for his fascinating story before leaving. Ernest and I have seen him a few times since then, he’s a decent guy. I have to wonder, if I’m ever depressed enough to attempt suicide and am taken to the hospital, will there be someone like Zakes there waiting for me, someone who understands what I am?
It was almost Halloween when I met Richard. Just outside the city there’s a small town called Summerville, and if you know anything about the town, you know that the only thing worth knowing about it is its bridge. The bridge leads to the interstate to take you into the city, so it’s well-traveled, but that’s not why it’s so famous (infamous would actually be a better word). This is the spot where just about every suicidal person ever produced in the little town of Summerville and the surrounding areas has come to kill himself (or herself).
There isn’t even a river around, it’s just a creek. Fourth Creek, to be precise. Where First, Second, and Third Creeks are I have no idea. It’s deep, the current is wild, and there are huge sharp rocks in it like you wouldn’t believe. Whenever a person in or near Summerville is reported missing, Fourth Creek is the first place the sheriff looks. Very positive thinker, wouldn’t you say?
So I’d heard some ghost stories about a monster living under the bridge, snatching up anyone who would go to take their own life by jumping from the Fourth Creek Bridge and tearing their throats out. Their bodies would be found, drained of blood, in the creek the morning after their disappearances. Strangely enough, most of the time, the victim had already written a suicide note or had been exhibiting suicidal behavior before vanishing, so the sheriff is pretty sure that they were killed at the bridge, about to jump off. I suspected a vampire looking to kill two birds with one stone. He needed to feed, the Summerville area people wanted to end their lives. So, he ended their lives for them.
On October 27th, I drove to Summerville and parked my car on the side of the road just before the bridge. Some kids were standing at the edge of the bridge. I hung back and listened in; they didn’t know I was there.
The biggest of the three said, “Go on, Joey, step over the rail and say it!”
A scrawny lad with glasses, Joey, nodded and stepped forward. He stepped over the rail, then looked back over his shoulder at his compadres, licked his lips, gulped, and nervously croaked,“Goodbye cruel world. I’m ready to die now.”
I watched the boy’s feet very carefully. Sure enough, from beneath the bridge came a hand. It wrapped around little Joey’s ankle and my, did that boy scream! His two friends screamed as well, and they were still screaming as they ran. Joey pushed back against the guardrail and the hand released his ankle. The boy flipped over the rail and landed on his head on the concrete road, then flipped over onto his knees. But he didn’t seem fazed. He just kept on screaming as he leapt to his feet and tried to catch up to his friends. I don’t think they heard me laughing. Nor do I think they heard the laughter coming from beneath the bridge.
I walked over to where Joey had been standing and leaned against the guardrail, then said, “Trip, trap, trip, trap, trip, trap.”
As predicted, the voice beneath the bridge came back with, “Who’s that tripping across my bridge?”
I smiled. “Well, it sure ain’t the billy goat Gruff. It’s another vampire.”
A pause. “No kidding.”
“None whatsoever. Come on out, let’s get ourselves introduced.”
Before I could blink he leapt over the side of the bridge and was standing beside me. He had slick graying black hair and Sinatra blue eyes. Looked to be about thirty-seven. He wore a mustard-colored jacket, white shirt, black tie and slacks. The thing that caught my attention the most, though, was the fact that he wore glasses. Plain black frames with square lenses.
“You’re wearing glasses!” I exclaimed.
“You’re not,” he said.
“It’s just that... our kind doesn’t need them. We have perfect vision.”
He took them off and turned them over in his hands. “True. These are reading glasses. But no one needs to know that.”
“Why do you wear them?”
“For the same reason that Clark Kent wears his.”
I mocked surprise. “Wow! You’re Superman?”
He laughed. “Well, not the exact same reason. I do have a secret identity to protect though; that of a vampire.”
“You don’t need a disguise to keep people from knowing you’re a vampire. They can’t tell the difference.”
He grimaced. “Most can’t. But last time I was in the city there was this guy asking questions. The ‘V’ word never came up, but he was looking for us. I know he was.”
This struck a little too close to home. “This guy, did he have two scars, here and here?” I traced my fingers down between my eyebrows to my jaw and another across my cheek under my nose.
“Yeah. That’s the guy. You know him?”
“He’s an acquaintance. He calls himself Abraham Van Helsing. He’s crazy, and that makes him dangerous. I guess it’s wise of you to disguise yourself from him.” Suddenly I realized I hadn’t gotten his name. “Oh, by the way, I’m Nick Dasher. You are?”
He stuck out his hand. “Richard Warner. Nice to meet you. You want to get a drink somewhere? Odds are Joey and his pals have gotten back to town by now, which means that the sheriff will be here any second to check out the disturbance that came from under the bridge.”
“Sounds good to me. There’s my car over there. Let’s go.”
So we went to a bar and ordered mudslides and got to talking. As it turns out, Rich was a very renowned professor of English. Only he taught his classes at night, via the Internet. And most of his students were in other countries, where it was daytime, so it worked out perfectly. He loved the freedom of his job.
I was just amazed by his disguise. “I can’t get over the fact that you wear glasses. This makes three unusual vampires I know; one with an artificial tan, one who became a vampire without being bitten, and now one who wears glasses!”
His eyebrows went up. “How could he be a vampire if he wasn’t bitten?”
“He was changed because of a voodoo curse. He’s a very interesting fellow. His name is Zakes Murphy; he’s from the Dominican Republic. He’s an orderly in the behavioral ward at a hospital in Atlanta. Another interesting fact about the guy, he told us about vampires that are actually ill! He’s met several in his line of work.”
“Really? Our blood attacks and destroys imperfections in the blood, illness can’t exist. How can he meet vampires in the
“Our blood does destroy imperfections of the blood, but not of the mind. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, pyromania, those are all mental illnesses, and it’s possible for vampires to have them. Isn’t that fascinating?”
He cast his eyes down. “Yeah. Fascinating. You didn’t need to tell me that a vampire could have bipolar disorder, I know. I was diagnosed with manic depression when I was twenty-four. I thought that when I was bitten by a vampire ten years later, in 1981, the torture would end. But it didn’t. The depression was relentless. I can’t even take medication! That’s why I feed on those who go to the Fourth Creek Bridge looking for a way out. They can end their pain, but I can’t end mine. I feel a kinship with the suicidal. I’m only too happy to help them out, and since I have to feed on blood... I figured it made sense.”
I put my hand on his arm and shook my head. “Rich, I’m sorry. If I’d known, I never would have brought it up.”
“It’s okay. I’ve learned to live with it. That’s all I can do, right?”
After we finished our drinks, I took him home. We saw each other a few more times, living in the same city, and became pretty good friends. Then about a month ago, I went over what Zakes had said in my head and decided to suggest something to him. If I’d known what would come of it, I would have kept my mouth shut. But there was no way I could have possibly known.
We were just relaxing in my apartment, shooting the breeze. I felt like busting his balls a little, so I teased him about his musical tastes. He didn’t take too well to that. He could be a bit of a hot-head.
He popped his knuckles and said,“You’re lucky you’re my friend, I’ve killed for less. Especially during mania.”
I laughed and then calmed myself down. He was steering us into the exact subject I wanted to talk about. “Are you manic now?”
“No. I haven’t been manic in so long, I’ve forgotten what it feels like. I’d give anything to get that high back again.”
I licked my lips and said slowly, “I think I might know a way for you to treat your depression.”
He sat up straight in his chair.“Really? Lay it on me.”
“Zakes, the guy that suggested it in passing, called it ridiculous, but I think it would be worth trying. You know, anything, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, would be worth trying if the ends would be satisfac—“
He cut in with, “Just tell me what it is!”
I sighed and said, “The reason pills don’t work is because they have to circulate in the bloodstream. And the only time our blood circulates is when we’ve fed on someone else’s blood. So, logically, the only way to get pills to work for a vampire would be to... take them with blood.”
His face lit up and his eyes gleamed.“Yes.” The corner of his mouth turned up in this insane imitation of a grin.“Of course. Take pills with blood. It makes perfect sense!”
“Of course, there’s no telling how often you’d have to take the pills. It’s not a perfect plan. We don’t want you to go on a killing spree for blood just so you can take a pill, say, five times a day.”
He nodded. “No. That wouldn’t work. The doctor would have to prescribe me the strongest thing he’s got. One a day. Better yet! An antidepressant, a mood stabilizer, and a stimulant. The strongest of all three. One of each a day. I’ll take all of them at the same time. I’m sure the effects would take hold the same day. I’ll be a new man.”
“What makes you so sure the doctor will prescribe you exactly what you tell him to?”
He laughed. “I’m a vampire! I can make him do anything I want with the powers of my mind!”
“Not everyone is susceptible to ‘the persuasion,’ Rich. I tried it on a movie theater owner when he didn’t want to give me the reels to my favorite movie and he—“
“If I can’t persuade him to write the prescription, I’ll blackmail him. I can see inside of him. I won’t tell him how I know the things I do, just that I have proof.”
He was starting to scare me and I was beginning to wish I had never brought it up and we had just gone on arguing over music. “What if he has no dirty laundry for you to blackmail him with?”
Rich closed his eyes and when he opened them again they were red. He opened his mouth to bare his fangs. At this point, I wanted to beg Rich to stop, but he didn’t. Rich said with saliva flying out of his mouth, “If he values his life, he’ll give me the pills! Or else I’ll go after his children first! And then his wife! And then his secretary! And all of his friends! If his parents are still alive, I’ll snatch away their lives painfully instead of granting them the peaceful death of old age that they’ve earned! And if they are dead I’ll exhume them and visit their corpses upon his home! He’ll be too terrified to sleep! He’ll see me in all of his nightmares! He will give me the pills if he doesn’t want to die a slow and horrible death!”
I slapped him, hard. “Rich, stop it! You’re not yourself! You’ve become obsessed!”
His eyes and teeth returned to normal and he looked at his hands, as if to make sure they were still the same color.“I’m sorry, Nick. It’s just that I... I’ve been under this emotional torment for so long. Your suggestion is the first beam of sunlight in a dark tunnel I’ve been trapped in for eternity.” He then laughed. “Bad analogy.”
I smiled. “No, I understand exactly what you mean.”
“I hate to leave in such a hurry after making a fool out of myself, but I need to make an appointment to see a doctor. Most offices are closing now, or in about fifteen minutes, at seven, so I should hurry.”
“It’s fine. I hope you get something soon.”
He smiled wanly and replied, “Thanks, me too. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”
“That’s fine. Goodnight, Rich.”
“Goodbye for now.” He didn’t have a car and he was in a hurry, so he simply vaporized and floated away on the air.
The next day I talked to Rich on the phone and he was infuriated. The only appointment he was able to make was after Thanksgiving. He wanted his pain to end immediately. I told him it would take time, that there was also the possibility that the pills wouldn’t work, that even if they did, it might take time. He became even angrier.
I decided that until my friend got over this obsession, it would probably be best if I didn’t talk to him for a while. I bought a caller ID box and an answering machine and ignored his calls. When he came by, I pretended I was going out to find prey, something we instinctively do alone.
A lot of movies show vampires hunting in packs, ripping a group of people apart person by person. That’s not how it works if you’re out to feed. If you want to wreak havoc, you can do that, but if you want to feed, you want to enjoy the blood. If you scare your victims by attacking them in a pack, it spoils the blood, for fear tastes bad. Adrenaline is released and rushes through the bloodstream. It has a very strong, foul taste to it. When I killed Jacob Futterman, I scared him, but I wanted to. I tasted the adrenaline, yet I still drained him dry. But I wasn’t doing it for the blood then, I was doing it for revenge. So when you are doing it for the blood, you get your prey alone, you finesse them, earn their trust. Don’t get the heart pumping too much. Unless it’s an erotic encounter that gets the hormones working overtime. Pheromones taste wonderful.
Anyway, I avoided Rich and I think he got the hint because he eventually stopped coming around. Then, last week... it happened. He got his pills.
On December 18th, I was walking home from looking over the toy stores and what kids wanted most. Then I passed an electronics store and a TV display in the window was running the latest news. It was ghastly.
People were being snatched from crowds, mostly police officers and young females, only to be found miles away with their throats torn open. There had been five bodies found so far. The reports mentioned nothing of the bodies being drained of blood, and with as many victims as there were, I was pretty sure most of them would be returning from the morgue that night. All of the televisions were on different channels, and they were all running news stories about the killings. All except one, that is.
Kenny Newfish (I’m not kidding, I swear that’s his real name) is the reporter who likes to stick to the odd side of the news. Flashing unidentified lights that could be alien spaceships, Bigfoot, missing links of evolution and dinosaur discoveries, stuff like that. He swam through the entire Loch Ness for hours with a flashlight and a camera during a live broadcast trying to find that monster. Anyway, Kenny was the only reporter who didn’t have a report about the murders. He was running a special bulletin about this amazing flying being seen hovering over the World of Coke, not too far from where the last victim had been found. The other news report said that the last victim sustained some postmortem fractures, as if her body had been dropped from a high place after her throat was torn out. Kenny would have geeked out if I had told him that the stories were connected, as the killer on all the other news channels was the same flying being that he was filming because it was a vampire. But I wasn’t about to turn in my friend. He may have been temporarily insane, but deep down inside, Richard Warner was a decent person, and I wasn’t going to let the media or the police rip him to shreds.
I traveled up to him in the form of a mist, as to not attract any attention, but I knew that once I got into the spotlight with Rich, where Kenny was filming, that would be pointless. So I came together directly in front of Rich and shouted, “What are you doing!?”
He was a mess. His hair was tangled, his face was smeared with blood, and his shirt was blackened with gore. He said, “Where’ve you been? You never call, you’re never home when I stop by... Now all of a sudden I’m on TV and you show up wanting a piece of the spotlight! Typical.”
I asked, “Rich, what has happened to you?”
“I just got up this evening and felt like flying. And digging my fangs into some flesh. Several times.” He cackled, baring his fangs, his eyes red. “Oh, by the way, I did get those pills. You were right! Taking them with blood was the ticket! I didn’t have to blackmail the doctor or threaten him or his family. He was happy to prescribe me with Lithium, and Provigil, and Remeron! California rocket fuel, they call it! I haven’t been depressed since! But the thing is, it kicked me into mania. And now I’m a murdering maniac. It’s that doctor’s fault, Nick. You know I wouldn’t hurt anyone who didn’t want to die.”
I shook my head. “I was afraid something like this would happen.”
“But I’ll make it okay! I’ll stop taking the pills! But first I’m gonna give that doctor what he deserves.” And with that, he flew out of the spotlight and toward the ritzy part of town.
I cursed. I had no choice but to follow him before some other innocent person could be killed.
Below, Kenny Newfish was amazed, alerting his viewers that not one, but two flying men were wreaking havoc in Atlanta.
By the time I arrived at the doctor’s apartment (the broken window and blood-splattered glass made it easy to find, as well as the smell of the blood covering Rich's body; vampires can easily track that smell if it's fresh), it was too late. The shrink was kicking his legs and squealing, flailing his arms as Rich squeezed his skull and drained his blood through his jugular vein.
Once the struggle was over, I asked him, “Are you happy now? You forced that man to give you a prescription, and now because of your obsession, about six innocent people are dead, and the majority of them are going to return as the undead tonight, damned to the eternity that you and I are cursed to live out. But at least you’re not depressed. I hope that you are satisfied.”
He looked up at me with fire in his eyes, blood and drool dangling from his chin. “Don’t act like you’re totally innocent in this! It was your suggestion that triggered it all! If you had the slightest idea of what it was like to be bipolar and someone told you a way to be rid of it, you would go to any lengths to get it! So don’t talk to me like I willingly put a baby in a microwave or something! I was manic! I had no control over what I was doing! I told that doctor I’d been diagnosed bipolar, he should have known what would have kicked me into mania!”
“You didn’t give him any choice,” I shouted. “You manipulated his mind and made him give you those pills! Don’t act like he could have said no!”
spat back, “He could have! He didn’t resist for one single second! And it’s not because he was too weak-minded and had no control against my powers; I didn't have to use them. He prescribed them of his own accord because he didn’t care about his patients! He got what he deserved! It’s true, I forced him because I was obsessed, but he didn’t resist because he didn’t care.” He then lowered his voice. “That’s why he needed to die. That’s why I killed him. Not just to shift the blame. I’m fully responsible for everything else I did tonight. I may have been manic and unable to control myself, but I wanted to take those pills and end the depression and it made me manic. I’m at fault. And I feel bad about the five people I killed. But not for him.”
I sighed. “This guy’s single?”
“Divorced, no kids. He lives alone.”
“Good. He looks about your size. Get a shower and borrow some of his clothes.”
He tugged at his gore-splattered shirt and looked down at it. “I like this shirt.”
I chuckled. “Take it to the Red Cross and exchange it for a nice tasty cup of juice.”
He smirked. “Nah... It’s good for another meal or two.”
The smile ran from my face. “You’d better throw it out. When we leave here, act natural. When we were flying, no one could tell what we looked like, so they wouldn’t give us a second glance on the street, unless you act all wiggy.”
He nodded, then peeled the bloody shirt off of his chest with a squishy sound and walked into the bathroom.
Twenty minutes later, we exited the doctor’s apartment and made our way down to the street, which was fairly empty as it was nearing midnight. Some people were still out looking for the flying men, but most were indoors hiding from the killer, afraid that they would just be snatched out of the crowds as the other five victims had been.
No sooner did we turn down a dark street did we hear a voice from behind us say, “Yo, bloodsucker!”
We instinctively turned to see Jerry Tolbin, the man who lives to be called Abraham Van Helsing, swinging a samurai sword at Richard Warner. The blade sliced his carotid artery and slashed down across his chest to exit at his thigh. His eyes bulged as he fell to his knees, squealing in pain.
Tolbin harangued, “You made it easy for me to find you, leaving a trail of bodies with their throats torn out, and then flying live on television! Flying straight into that apartment complex so that I could follow and wait outside for you to fly out again. But when I saw you,” he pointed at me, “I recognized you and knew that I had my guys. And so we find ourselves in the situation we are now in.”
I looked at my friend and said, “Get up, Rich, don’t give him the satisfaction of thinking he’s hurt you.” Then I looked closer. There was smoke rising from the gash. “What the-?”
Rich was looking at me with pleading eyes as he said, blood gurgling out of his mouth, “I’m sorry.” He then fell forward onto his face.
I looked up just in time to see Van Tolbin charge at me with his sword. I didn’t realize that this was the weapon that had killed my friend; I still thought of the self-supposed vampire hunter and his tools as a joke, so I held out my left hand to grab the pointed end to stop him in his tracks. It didn’t quite work out the way I’d planned. The sword pierced my hand and the blade ran through it, all the way to the hilt. I screamed, then punched Jerry Tolbin to get the sword out of his grip. That’s when I noticed the burn. I slowly slid the sword out of the hole it had made in my hand and looked at the wound. Smoke poured from the puncture mark. I held the sword in my right hand and looked at it, wondering how it had the power to kill a vampire.
Triumphantly, Van Tolbin said, “I rub down the blade with a rag soaked in holy water. That sword has killed many of your kind, leech.”
I shook my head. “Holy things don’t work. Preachers have tried to kill me in the past and failed! I was a Puritan! A preacher’s apprentice! My faith is stronger than that of most who’ve attacked me with Bibles and crosses!”
He sneered. “But your faith isn’t as strong as mine, nor of that of the priest who blessed the water that met that blade. True faith is what kills you. I discovered that fact and became born again. I do the Lord’s work now, dispatching the damned.”
I yelled and swiped the sword at him.“Get out of here! I’m going to bury my friend. And if I see you again, I’ll kill you.”
He held his head high. “You have a holy mark on you now. You’ve been weakened. I’m not afraid of you. I could probably take the sword from you with my bare hands and kill you now.” He stepped forward and I swung the sword, cutting his left shoulder. He gasped and grabbed the wound.
“I told you to get out of here. And if I see you again, I will kill you. Now go.” He turned, but slowly, as if reconsidering an attack plan. So, as to speed up his departure, I jumped toward him and jabbed him, piercing his right butt cheek just as surely as he had pierced my left hand. He screamed, then when I withdrew the sword, he limped away as quickly as he could. “Go!” I shouted again. I smiled, imagining that Rich would probably have laughed at that last move.
I rushed back to the doctor’s apartment and got a blanket and wrapped Rich’s body up in it. I then took him back to his house to bury him in the back yard. As I buried him, I couldn’t help thinking that it was all my fault.
The next morning, the news reported that the five murder victims from the day before had been victimized in the morgue; their bodies had been burned in the wee hours of the morning and reduced to ashes. It had to be Tolbin. I should have known he would try to prevent them from returning. I could have gone to the morgue and waited on him and killed him then. I should have killed him after he killed Rich, but I wanted to get my friend’s body to the burial ground before it could begin to decompose. It takes about an hour for us to fall away to bare bones after death.
And so, that’s the story. It started with Zakes Murphy telling me about mentally ill vampires, unfolded with me meeting one that went insane as a result of a suggestion I made, and ended with his death. I’m about to start my worldwide journey, and if I see Jerry Tolbin/Abraham Van Helsing while I’m out and about, I’m going to kill him. I don’t know if he believed me when I told him I was Santa Claus, but he sure believed me when I told him I’d kill him if I saw him again. So if he thinks that there might even be a hint of truth to my Santa story, he’d best hide indoors all of Christmas Eve.
Rest in peace, Richard Warner, the greatest troll the Fourth Creek Bridge ever had.
snap, snout. This tale’s told out.