I know it’s been over a month since I’ve been by to see you, and I apologize, but you know how it is, I’ve got to prepare for the holiday. Anyway, I’m writing to let you know I met a very interesting person last week in Louisville. Georgia, that is, not Kentucky.
I was walking through the streets, scanning through the people’s minds to see who’s been naughty or nice, or to find out what the children want, when I saw a man staring at me. He was of average size, and wore a light brown beard. Looking at me, he went pale and his eyes grew. When he realized I saw him staring at me, he turned and quickly began to walk away. Curious, I followed. He turned a corner onto a street on which there were no other people. I took advantage of this and used my supernatural speed to catch up with him. I put a hand on his shoulder and he spun around, his fists up as if he were preparing for a fight.
I looked into his eyes, as to soothe him. “I mean you no harm. I just want to know why you’re so frightened of me.”
He stepped back and put his fists down. “What makes you think I’m frightened of you?”
“The way you were looking at me.”Also, I could smell it on him. “Can I buy you a drink somewhere we can talk, Mr....?” I could have found out what his name was on my own, but I didn’t want to freak him out any more than he already was.
“Foster. Call me Kyle.”
“Okay, Kyle. I’m Nick Dasher.”
Still on his guard, he shrugged.
I smiled, boring my eyes into him, making it easier for me to persuade him to do as I ask. “Relax, Kyle. I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk. So can I buy you that drink?”
His shoulders slumped. “I’m afraid I’d need more than one if you want me to talk about why I was afraid of you.”
I shrugged. “I’ve got money and plenty of time. Where’s the nearest bar?”
We went to the closest pub and I ordered two shots of whiskey. We both gulped down our drinks, then I asked him again, “Why are you so frightened of me?”
“I’ve seen someone like you before.”
“Really? What do you mean, someone like me?”
He took a deep breath. “Mister, you’re gonna have to get me a hell of a lot drunker to get me to talk about that.”
I smiled. “Okay, if that’s what it takes.” I requested a refill for him, then asked him, “Do you live in the area?”
“No. I’m visiting a friend; a relative of child I help take care of.”
“One of yours?”
He smirked and asked lowly, “Would you believe me if I told you that people like me can’t have children?”
I replied, “Would you believe meif I told you I was over two hundred and eighty years old?”
At first he did a double take, then he eyed me up and down and finally gave me a pensive glance. Then he said,“With all I’ve seen in my life, I just might.”
I smiled. “Where are you from?”
I smiled, thinking of my life as Rudy Kringle. I didn’t want to tell him I had lived there, though. It would have led to too many questions. “I’ve been through there before. What do you do, Kyle?”
“I used to be a reporter. Now I manage a community center.”
“How long have you run the center?”
He gulped down another shot and asked the bartender to leave the bottle. “I didn’t say I ran it; I said I manage it, for a friend who’s getting along in age.”
“Is he the one I remind you of?”
“I’m confused. Illuminate me, please.”
He sighed. “Ever hear of something called the Odic force?”
“No. What is it?”
He paused, trying to think of the best way to word it. “The easiest way to describe it makes people with that gift sound really bad.”
“I’ll keep an open mind and won’t assume anything bad about them.”
He chuckled. “Okay. We, people with the Odic touch, are called psychic vampires.”
I perked an eyebrow. He wasn’t a vampire like you and me, I didn’t sense it on him. But there was definitely something about him that set him apart from other mortals. “Really? Why are you called that?”
“Because we feed off the psychic energy of others in order to keep ourselves healthy. There’s a lot more to it, involving auras and higher plains of existence, but I don’t want to bore you with that nonsense.”
“It doesn’t sound like nonsense to me. Please, elaborate.”
He sighed. “If it weren’t for the fact that you remind me of Ted, I’d never have said a word about it.”
“Who’s Ted, Kyle?”
He downed another shot. “He was one of us; one of the Odic Center nine. There were always about nine people there at a time, though now there are ten.” He paused. “Anyway, people with the Odic touch can see auras. Inside the aura is where the spirit is kept. The spirit gives away secret details about a person’s life. We can block our auras from others and even block our own sight, but after what happened with Ted six years ago, I don’t trust anyone that shields his aura from me.”
“Is that why you’re afraid of me? Because my aura is shielded somehow?”
Kyle knocked back another whiskey. “I don’t know. There was this guy named Ted Boutwell. Everyone with the Odic touch has some genetic default, an illness. We didn’t know it until it was too late, but Ted’s illness was schizophrenia. One night, his wife announced that she was pregnant, and... well, as I said, our kind can’t have children. Anyway, that made him suspicious, so he looked inside the auras of his wife and brother-in-law and saw that they had been cheating on him and his sister. He burned his arm and went to the Odic Center to heal himself. While he was out on the astral plane, the voices in his head took control of his body.”
“The higher level on which we can travel without our bodies. A person can live forever as an astral being if he wanted to.”
I found that to be fascinating. Isn’t that the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard, Ernest? A human on a higher plane that feeds on the energy of others, and can live forever in “astral”form! I thought that was amazing. It’s quite possible that the things we perceive as ghosts are actually these Odic vampires’ astral forms. It’s fantastic! They’re like the missing link between humans and vampires, a mortal that can heal itself and live forever if it is inclined to do so, not limited to live in darkness or forced to kill for blood! I hate to be so trite as to quote the movie Blade, but they have all of our strengths and none of our weaknesses! “So what happened when Ted went on this astral plane?”
Kyle sighed. “His body stood up and walked outside, his spirit removed. He drove back to his house, picked up a meat fork, and rammed it through his wife’s heart. When he woke up, the police were surrounding him and he had no idea what had happened.”
“So how is it that I remind you of him?”
He sighed again. “When Ted was in the astral level and he walked back to kill his wife, he was completely void of astral life. There was no spirit in him. It was like watching a moving corpse.”
He laughed hysterically. “You want to know what’s scary? I’m sitting next to someone who’s exactly the way Ted was at that moment! You’re dead inside, a walking corpse, and you want to know why I’m afraid of you? Now you know.”
This made me shiver. I had considered us soulless, but we still have feelings, we’re not dead inside! But... we’re not like people. We lack a certain lust for life. Maybe that’s what Kyle saw in me, the lack of mortality.
I tossed a twenty dollar bill on the bar and thanked Kyle for his time. “I’m sorry I frighten you so. If there was anything I could do to get back my spirit, I’d do so. But there are things about myself I can’t reveal.”
He nodded. “I’d rather not know. Thanks for the drinks.”
I’d like to go back to Augusta and pay this Odic Center a visit. Are you game? I’m dropping this letter off during my Christmas journey again, and I’d like it very much if you came to see me on Christmas day. Perhaps we can go to Augusta together. Anyway, the sun is about to come up, so I have to get to bed. See you soon, Ishtar.
I really messed up by taking Ernest to the Odic Center. I had no idea what it would lead to.
We got there last night, though it was difficult to find the place. I suppose they have it out of the sight of“normal” people for a reason.
As I drove, Ernest played one of his Bob Rivers and Twisted Radio Christmas CDs. It was slightly amusing. He came to one song, “Jingle Hell’s Bells,” a parody of both AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” andThe Sound of Music’s pseudo-Christmas song, “My Favorite Things.” Ernest grinned at me and said, pointing at the CD player, “This is my favorite Christmas song!”
I laughed and shook my head. “This isn’t a Christmas song. This is a parody. The lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.”
“Sure they do! They’re saying, ‘Ho ho ho!’ And at the end he says, ‘Jingle Hell’s Bells!’ ‘Jingle Bells’ is a definite Christmas reference.”
I shook my head. “It’s as much of a Christmas song as Gremlins is a Christmas movie.”
Ernest’s jaw dropped. “Gremlinsis a Christmas movie! It’s about how the gifts we give can sometimes trigger disaster if not properly cared for!”
I shook my head, deciding that it was best not to argue with him.
We drove on until we finally saw a building with a sign on the door that said, “Odic Center.” It was a very plain looking place, brick on the bottom, cream wood on the top. A large brown metal door wore the only sign announcing the place’s title. There was a great hole in front of the building, I assumed a tree had once been there but was removed when the original center had exploded. There was a red Camaro in the lot, but it was alone. Until we parked my Cadillac beside it, that is.
I knocked on the door, hoping that Kyle wasn’t there, and I was pleased to see that he wasn’t. The door was opened by a pretty blonde girl, about twenty-four years of age. She smiled at us. “Hi! Merry Christmas! How can I help you?”
I smiled back at her. “Merry Christmas. I met Kyle the other day and he told me about this place and your interesting gift. I was just curious about you all.”
She gave me an odd look. “Why are you blocking?”
I shrugged. “I can’t help it. We don’t know how to ‘un-block.’”
She grimaced. “Well, because of what happened with Ted a few years ago, Kyle doesn’t like people coming in if they’re shielding from us.”
Ernest stepped in front of me and grinned at her. “We don’t mean anyone any harm. It’s just that we don’t meet anyone else that society deems vampires very often. We’re eager to meet you all. Especially pretty young things like yourself.” He took her hand and kissed it. “I’m Ernest Bronson.”
She giggled. “I’m Judy Jenkins.”
He grinned again. “Now I have a name to match the face I’ll be dreaming about tonight.”
She blushed. “Stop!”
Ernest was twenty-eight when he was bitten, but because of his tan and bleached blonde hair, he looks about three years younger than that, so he could attract young girls such as Ms. Jenkins. He pointed to me and said, “This is my friend, Nick Dasher.”
I shook her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too.” She bit her bottom lip, as if in frustration. She didn’t know whether or not she should let us in, but Ernest was using his vampire charm to bend her will. It didn’t take much. “Come on in,” she said.
We walked in and I looked down the hallway, which led to a large recreational room filled with sofas and chairs. There was also a TV and a pool table. Along the hallway, there were doors on the left and right. I looked inside the rooms and noticed something peculiar.
“Why aren’t there any windows in the rooms?” I asked.
She shrugged. “We can’t have any disturbance when we go astral. If someone were to look in the window they’d see a body whose spirit has left and they might freak out. If our bodies are disturbed while the astral form is gone, we could die and our spirits would be stuck out there forever.”
“Damn,” Ernest said. “It must suck to live forever like that.”
I elbowed him in the ribs. I didn’t find that pun amusing.
He glowered at me, then asked, “So how exactly does one go astral?”
She shrugged again. “Everybody does it differently. Want to see how I do it?” Her eyes were bright and focused only on Ernest. I could tell what this was leading to. Well... I thought I knew anyway.
He grinned. “I sure would!”
She took him by the hand and led him through the first door on the left. Before closing the door, she said, “Nick, you can watch some TV in the meeting room if you want. I’ll tell you more in a little while.”
I smiled thinly. “Okay.”
A bit miffed at my friend’s sexual appetite, I strolled down the hall and looked through the doors. In one of the rooms I saw a coat rack, upon which was hanging the same coat I had seen Kyle wearing two days before.
I entered the room and looked around. There was a La-Z-Boy recliner, and a table on which sat an empty beer bottle, and some spare change. I assumed that this was Kyle’s room.
Just as I finished ruminating on the origins of the Odic Center, a scream echoed down the hall. I jumped, then I ran from Kyle’s room back to the door through which Ernest had previously passed. The door opened, Ernest walked out, and closed the door behind him. There was blood on his mouth.
His eyes cast down to the floor, he said,“We’ve got to get out of here, Nick, now!”
I grabbed him by the shoulders and demanded, “What the hell happened?”
He started weeping hysterically. “We started kissing and necking and she bit me on the shoulder pretty hard, so I... I...”
I sighed. “You bit her back.”
“I didn’t mean to! It was a reflex.”
I shook my head. “Jesus, Ernest. Did you kill her?”
“No! I think she’s unconscious though.”
I sighed again. “This place has seen its share of tragedies, then something like this happens. What are you going to do, just let her turn here?”
“I don’t know. Should we take her with us?”
“And what would we do with her?”
“She could stay with me at the club.”
“What makes you think she’d want to stay with you after you turned her into a vampire?”
He was still crying. “I don’t know.”
Shaking my head, I stepped past him and opened the door. There on a bean bag chair covered in blood, was Judy Jenkins, a gaping hole in her neck, blood oozing down her halter top.
I then walked back down the hall and found a kitchen next to what she had called the meeting room. I looked around for a few minutes, then found what I was looking for. Hefty bags.
As I walked back into her room with two large garbage bags, Ernest asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m not going to put her in my car like this. And I don’t want to drip blood all over the floor as we carry her out.”
“Where are we taking her?”
I slipped the bag over her head and once she was completely covered, I picked her body up and cradled her in my arms like a baby. Then I looked at Ernest and said, “You made this bed, now you gotta lie in it. We’re going to do exactly what you suggested: take her to your club.”
“What if she goes ballistic when she finds out she’s become a vampire?”
“Like I said, you’re gonna lie in it.” I handed him the other garbage bag and said, “Pick up that bean bag and cover it with the plastic. Don’t let any blood drip on the floor. If you have to, suck it up. And wash your face before you come outside, there’s a sink in the kitchen down the hall.” Sure enough, as I walked through the front door with the girl’s body in my arms, I heard slurping noises behind me.
Almost three hours later, we heard thumping noises in the trunk. Apparently Judy had woken up. I felt like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. But I didn’t stop when I heard her, I waited until we got back to The Slow Drip.
I parked behind the club, so that no one would see us open the trunk with a body in it. We quickly stepped out and to the back end of the car. Ernest’s face was clean of blood, but he still had tears on his cheeks.
We each took a deep breath as I turned the key in the trunk’s lock. The lid popped open and we witnessed fingers punch holes through the Hefty bag and arms burst through the plastic. It was like watching a caterpillar coming out of its cocoon to become a butterfly. Only this was a girl coming out of her death shroud to become a vampire.
The hole on the side of her neck was gone, but the blood was still there. She touched her throat where the wound had been and, in a daze, asked, “What happened?”
I decided to give my friend a little more hell about the mistake he’d made by saying, “You bit a vampire while getting kinky, and he bit you back. Congratulations, you’re now the first of those with the Odic touch to become a real immortal vampire.”
Ernest shied away as she stared at him. “You mean... I’m a vampire now?”
He gulped. “Yeah. I’m really sorry.”
A large smile grew across her face.“This is so cool! I never have to get old! But now I can’t go to my classes anymore.”She then looked around and realized she was in a foreign place. “Where am I?”
Ernest said, “My club in Atlanta. I live here. I figured since I turned you, I should be the one to take care of you until you learn the ropes.”
She leapt from the trunk and wrapped her arms around him. “Wonderful!”
I couldn’t help but laugh, despite how screwed up the actions of the past four hours had been.
She asked, “Do you have a phone? I need to let my parents know I’m going to be staying in Atlanta with a guy I met. And I need to let my friends at the Odic Center know what happened. Is it okay if I tell them I’m a vampire?”
I grabbed her shoulder. “I’m okay with you saying goodbye to your parents, but not the Odic Center. I plan to go back to Augusta tonight to erase your memory from the Odic Center regulars. They don’t need another tragedy. By this time tomorrow, Judy Jenkins won’t even be mentioned in any of Kyle’s Odic Center stories.”
She frowned. “You mean they won’t remember me at all?”
“No. If they do, and they see you in the future, they’ll get curious. Curiosity of mortals does not bode well with our kind.”
“Our kind. Vampires!” She laughed. “I just can’t believe this.”
Ernest smiled. “I’m glad you’re taking this so well.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked. This caused me to roar with laughter. She was talking to two vampires who had lost everything they loved upon being turned and now she was enjoying it as if it were a camping trip.
Needless to say, I returned via vapor to take care of the problem, but I hope I never run into Kyle again, as if he does see me, and my lack of an aura, he might recall the previous incident and the disappearance of one of the Odic Center’s regulars. I still think his kind is neat, but it was stupid of me to take Ernest to meet them. Oh well. Life goes on. And on, and on, and on, as Judy will soon learn as she starts to miss those she left behind. But at least she won’t be alone. She’s got the Easter Bunny to cuddle up to.