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Vampyrs Anonymous Chapter One
An excerpt of a vampire novel I wrote back in my early days.
At first the rain was soothing. With claps of thunder periodically underscoring the rhythm as it beat against the frosted glass windows. But around six-thirty the rain started to taper off, going from soothing to extremely annoying as water from the gutter splattered against the side of the building and onto the dilapidated concrete below.
James got up, grumbling loudly as he popped an 8-track into the old player and cranked the volume. With a new rhythm to soothe him he flopped back down on the bed and quickly went back to sleep.
What it lacked in relative newness the old anachronism made up for with its sound. The windows throbbed against an onslaught of vibrations, translating the lyrics of Detroit Rock City into formless noise, puzzling any potential passerby who happened to pass by. A tremor rippled through the building awakening the buildings owner two floors down. But James was oblivious to any discomfort.
In fact the real world was entirely different from his perspective, as he found himself on stage performing before an endless sea of screaming, wild fans calling out his name.
Bright glaring lights danced across the stage illuminating the shirtless chests of the base player and the drummer. James was the focus of the spotlights as he danced across the stage, responding with affection to the girls who were lucky enough to get front row seats. Many of them held up home made signs full of big red hearts and glitter, declaring their never-ending love for him. Some shouted out marriage proposals and others blew him kisses, which he accepted and returned with a kindness that was both natural and professional.
The base player joined him and added the power of his own instrument to strengthen his chorus.
“I see her there standing there/
all alone in the dark/ far apart so far apart from everything I’ve loved and known/ how can she be seeing me/how could she be loving me/all alone in the dark.”
The concert ended abruptly as the door of his bedroom flew open. James sat up suddenly as if he had been splashed with cold water. His eyes darted from the 8-track player to his landlord who had yanked the cord out of his socket. James leapt from the bed and grabbed Oldman by the collar of his night shirt.
In his rage James saw a tall, wrinkly, somewhat portly old man with a few strands of graying hair here and there on his ever balding scalp.
“I’ve warned you about messing with my stereo Old Man!” James growled.
Oldman backhanded James, sending him flying into the brick wall. He straightened his collar as the boy recovered more from the shock than from the blow. James sank to the floor in submission, recognizing Oldman’s authority.
“Your memory is even worse than mine,” he said. Though his voice was calm the agitation was strong in his thick Scottish accent. “I’ve warned you to keep your music down, and time and again you blare this garbage so loudly that my ancestors have complained about the noise.”
“Funny,” James muttered.
“The general public does not know we live here, it is dangerous to attract attention! Do you understand this?”
James muttered a barely audible “yes sir.”
“Good. I won’t warn you again,” Oldman said. Satisfied with James for the time being, Oldman dropped the plug and left, closing the door behind him.
James took a few minutes to recover. His ego was bruised worse than his body. He hated the way Oldman spoke to him like a child and treated him like an irresponsible punk. He let the anger run its course, letting every impolite variation of “mean old fart” run through his mind as he considered various ways to get revenge on the Old Man. Then when the anger was starting to cool he got up to make sure his stereo was all right.
The plug was slightly bent from Old Man’s yanking it suddenly. But the outlet wasn’t damaged. Fortunately James knew of plenty of people in the city who lived for keeping old machines like his up and running through the years.
James left the plug where it was and got some clothes out of the big metal locker that served as his closet. A twenty-year old leather jacket hung from a single hanger. James grabbed it and brought it to the bathroom.
James lived on the third floor of an old factory building. Oldman lived downstairs where all of the machines were once kept and rented out the upper two floors. Although James was unsure of how Oldman came into possession of it he appreciated it nonetheless. It was twice as much space as one person could get used to, but it reminded him of the big studio apartments that artists sometimes rented to create and showcase their work.
Unlike the living room which was open and spacious the bathroom was terribly cramped. When Oldman remodeled the bathroom he merged the mens and woman’s room and installed a shower. This gave him precious little legroom between the shower’s glass slide door, the toilet, and the sink.
Ten minutes of letting the hot water slide down his pale skin refreshed and awakened him outwardly. James toweled off and dressed in the living room.
In the bathroom mirror a seventeen year-old boy stared back at him as he generously applied gel to long brown that came down to his neck. He was thin but not terribly skinny, in reasonable shape but not overly muscular or flabby. Bright brown eyes stared hopelessly at the glass, trying to make sense of the blurred image staring back at them.
Satisfied with his appearance, James grabbed his leather jacket and threw it on as he ran down the stairs.
On his way down the stairs door James caught the faint scent of vanilla extract wafting from the second floor apartment. Brian was home from Alaska, no doubt archiving his findings.
Brian was easily the smartest person James had ever known. Whenever he was bored and it was unsafe to enter the city, Brian could be found enjoying a long cold glass of vanilla extract, sitting back in his recliner and studying one of his old manuscripts. James would have stopped to say hello, but his veins were starting to ache. Pleasantries would have to wait.
The driveway was still soaked from the rain. Large puddles formed in places where the gravel ended and the muddy hill began. Bushes and weeds grew from the cracks in parts of the pavement, giving the impression of a long abandoned building during the day. James didn’t understand the point since Oldman obviously paid a lot of money to have the building remodeled and to have electricity and heat during the night. Someone at some point had to know people lived here. Especially the guards he hired to keep watch over the place during the day.
James justified it in his mind by reminding himself that money talked. If you paid people generously enough no one asked questions. And since Oldman didn’t include utilities as a part of the rent, he didn’t mind staying ignorant.
James’ kept his gray dodge in a shed along side Oldman’s ’57 James started engine and let it run while he found a good station. He listened for the sounds of oncoming traffic on the road, and when he was certain it was safe he drove off.
The early November breeze filled the car with the scent of moist soil and the sounds of living things scurrying in the woods nearby. The scent of warm blood was strong all around him, with timid squirrels and rabbits scrounging for food in a forest full of wolves, foxes and coyotes.
Headlights touched a large green and white signpost on the side of the road. Welcome to Orson, it read. Another ten minutes later the exit came into view. James pulled off the back road and drove for another mile, until he saw the beginnings of a sidewalk in terrible condition. Eastland Terrace began here, though why they built the sidewalk this far out was anyone’s guess.
Who’d they expect to walk out here? James often wondered.
He pulled into a diner about a block from what was considered to be the bad part of town. He was far enough from the heart of Orson where the only authority figures that ever showed up were state troopers and mafia. Drug dealers made the occasional silent transaction, and every once in a while they were caught and arrested. But in spite of the shady dealings James felt perfectly safe leaving his car here. The owner was a proud member of the NRA who once treated a car thief to a helping of homemade lead salad.
James locked his car and left the parking lot. As he got closer to the neighborhood the smells of human life assaulted him. Alcohol, tobacco, food, gas, and sweat assaulted his palette. James thought he could smell marijuana coming from someone’s apartment. He knew kids lived in that building and that half of them were making a few extra dollars selling the stuff at school.
If only life were like the movies, James thought with a snort. He could be the hero and kill the evil pot dealer who poisoned kids’ minds every day. The kids would be saved and the world would a better place because James the Hero would prevent them from harm.
Oldman believed in that sort of thing. To him and all the wannabe superheroes in the world, immortality was some kind of romantic gift. Those who were in the good graces of the fates to be chosen for it were meant to make the world a better place.
As James took a turn at Porter Avenue he sniffed the air again. Live music drifted through the air. It was coming from Eve’s Garden, a well liked establishment in this part of the city. During the week it was a typical bar like any other. A brief getaway for the low income tenants, tortured artists and the homeless to escape in a temporary haze of alcohol induced paradise. But on weekends the owner locked up the alcohol and invited the entire neighborhood to have a good time.
A homeless man walked into an alley behind Eve’s Garden and the old tool shop. James approached the alley slowly, searching the street for signs of other people as he walked. He searched the windows of apartment buildings and parked vehicles for signs of curious onlookers and what he couldn’t see he could hear and smell. When he was certain it was safe he ducked behind the alley swiftly and silently.
He found the man standing behind a dumpster, pissing against the wall. His matted hair was plastered against his head. Wet, paper thin clothing hung from his body like a loose layer of skin. James grimaced from the stench and wished he could do better than this.
The man finished up and thrust his hands into his pockets. James threw his arms around the man, pinning his arms down with one hand and covering his mouth with the other. He gently pulled back the head, exposing the jugular. The man probably hadn’t eaten a thing in week but the surge of adrenaline gave him the strength to fight. James whispered soothingly to the man, trying to calm him down the way Oldman and Brian sometimes did.
“This will be over soon. Die peacefully.”
The man continued to struggle. He may or may not have been a religious man. He might not have known a vampire from any other street punk in the city. But he knew his life was in danger, and however difficult it might be he fought to keep it from ending.
Music resonated in the alley. It was slightly softer tone of rock and roll, what the kids these days called alternative rock. A voice caught James attention. It was deep yet there was a kind of softness beneath it that made him curious.
James laid the body against the cold brick and quickly made sure there were no pieces of fabric from his own clothes that could be traced. He found a jagged piece of glass underneath the dumpster and cut the man’s throat up as best as possible. Then he left it in the man’s hand and stepped back to view his work. With any luck the police would suspect suicide. But if some forensics scientist figured otherwise there was no evidence to tie James to the body.
James was no different than the wolves and coyotes. He sought the weakest, easiest prey and moved in to feed. His only worry was other predators that might take his meal away. This man was no different from a timid squirrel. He moved from place to place, seeking food where he could find it. He was aware of the dangers but he still lived as best he could.
Life wasn’t some fantasy novel. Blood spilled and predators took it like an open invitation. James wasn’t a hero. He was a wild and hungry predator.
At first the rain was soothing as it came down in sheets with claps of thunder acting underscoring the rhythm as it shook frosted glass windows of the old factory. But around six-thirty the rain began to...