Poke. Poke, poke, poke.
“Hey, dude! You can’t sleep here.”
I cracked open an eyelid and blinked against the daylight. A man was standing over me, his finger aimed and ready for another prod at my chest as I lay sprawled half on the sidewalk and steps in front of my apartment building.
He tsk-tsked me. “You’re gonna get in trouble.”
I tried to sit up but my head felt dizzy, and I slumped back down on to the steps with a groan. I felt weird. Really weird.
“What happened?’ I slurred.
“I dunno. You been here all morning. What happened to your neck?” He pointed. “That doesn’t look good.”
I reached up and felt two crusty holes a few inches below my ear. Uh-oh. I licked my lips and tasted copper, then ran my tongue over my retainer (yes, I was wearing a retainer), gagging at the taste. Something disgusting had taken over my tongue.
What happened last night?
The man was just standing there, staring at me. “I saw the lady drop you off.” It sounded like a question rather than a statement, and I squinted my eyes against the sun trying to fry my retinas.
“What?” Oh boy was I dizzy, my memory distinctly patchy in places.
“She was strong! She carried you all the way here from her car and then dropped you on the steps. Who was she?” he asked.
Images came back to me in a sickening rush, and cold sweat popped up on my upper lip as I finally remembered part of my night.
I was at a dingy downtown bar drowning my sorrows in cheap happy-hour liquor when I saw a girl sitting two stools down from me. She was alone and I noticed she was watching me. I figured, What the hell? and sat down beside her. No one else was going to chat her up and maybe I’d get lucky. She was pale and smelled a little off, but she had a nice smile.
Beggars can’t be choosers.
But she had the last laugh after all.
She got me good. Lured me to her car, let me believe that it was something special. We talked, we laughed....
She leaned in and kissed my neck. I felt the brief sting of her teeth and a moment of pain, and I actually swooned. I thought it was a hickey. What did I know? After a few minutes she pulled away and told me that I tasted awful, like fast food and Crisco, and I should have been insulted, but I wasn’t. I was too dizzy, caught up in the moment and probably woozy from the blood loss. Instead I just smiled and tried to kiss her again. I was clumsy and stupid, still wearing my retainer, and I clunked against her face and cut her lip as I mashed my lips against hers. It was just one drop of her blood, lapped up in my befuddled attempt at passion. She shoved me away and wiped a kiss-smeared crimson bead from her lip, but it was too late. The deed was done. She looked horrified.
“Ahhh, crap!” was all she said.
Indeed. That’s when I passed out and then woke up here on my front steps.
I was going to be sick!
I managed to stand up and stumble into the building.
“Hey, Mister! You dropped something.” The man caught up and handed me a note.
I took it with shaking fingers, unfolding and reading it slowly as I climbed into the elevator.
Melvin, sorry about all this. It wasn’t supposed to happen. Hopefully you don’t have the dark gift - you’ll know in a day or two. If not, consider this your free pass...you tasted awful anyway. You should clean up your diet.
If so, well, good luck with everything. Thanks for the evening. - Maddy
I barely made it to my apartment before the nausea hit. My bowels felt like they were filled with jagged little pieces of glass, twisting and shredding as they rode the roller coaster ride down from my stomach. I was panting and moaning as I fumbled the key in the lock, desperate not to foul the hallway, mortified at the thought of my neighbors catching me in this state; most of them already thought I was weird enough. Another cramp hit as I finally got my door open, tumbled into my apartment then kicked the door closed with my foot.
I moaned again as I crawled on all fours into the bathroom. Definitely not one of my finer moments. This was awful. Actually, awful doesn’t even begin to cover it -- I was ass warmed over and then re-served to me in a shot glass. The previous night’s adventure was still fuzzy in places, playing hide-and-seek-peek-a-boo. Every time I’d start again to remember what had happened, the rational part of my mind would slam down a wall and the memories would fuzz over again. Uh-oh.
Dizzy and weak from blood loss, and thirsty...so very thirsty, I drank at least twenty glasses of water but couldn’t quench myself; this had to be the worst hangover I’d ever had. I didn’t think it was possible to be burning up and freezing to death at the same time. If I was dying, I was surprisingly okay with that. Death would be a mercy right now. Ugh.
Oh, God, what the hell did I eat?
An image of Maddy’s blood-smeared lips popped into my head briefly and I almost passed out.
I called in to work and told my boss that I was coming down with something; something awful. Definitely.
You were bitten by a vampire, dumbass.
I shuddered and ignored my inner voice. “There’s no such thing,” I mumbled, even as I started shivering again. “It’s just food poisoning. Yeah, that’s it.”
More like blood poisoning.
I bundled up in a quilt and curled up on my bed with Maddy’s note clenched in my fist. Boy, she was a real nut job. I was glad it hadn’t gone any further with her; what kind of relationship would that be with a girl who was so obviously delusional? Huh? I didn’t want to think about the bite on my neck, couldn’t equate the dizziness with loss of blood. I ignored that last memory of my blood glistening on Maddy’s fangs...yes, fangs. I knew I saw fangs, but I buried that memory. Yup. Oh yeah.
Maddy was a vampire...yeah, right. But maybe she really was, and that’s the only reason she gave me the time of day. Ouch. I’d been used. How sad. That’s me, though; sad, completely lonely, and let’s not leave out scared.
Deep down I knew I was lying to myself on so many levels. Sure I was disappointed that Maddy was gone, a girl who had liked me enough to take me to her car and swap spit, but I also knew something was happening to me; something bad. Maybe the Dark Gift after all. The thing I had coveted for so long in my make believe La-La Land just might be the real deal.
My body was tingling, but my limbs felt heavy and dead. Dead. As the sun rose higher in the sky exhaustion swept over me, and I slipped into a surreal coma dream that was the beginning of my end.
I was floating above my bed. The room was dark but I realized that I wasn’t alone.... Someone was here with me. I focused through the balloony feeling in my brain, and stared down in shock at what I saw: myself lying there, my body beneath me pale and sweat-soaked, huddled and shivering in the quilt. The feeling of disconnect was so profound that I found myself floating higher towards the ceiling, unnoticed by my comatose self below. I flailed my arms in a swimming motion and got control enough that I was able to descend to the floor next to the bed.
I spun around, losing control and floating again, and saw a dark shadow standing next to me. It had no features, and its voice echoed as if coming through a tinny cell phone speaker. The shadow reached out and grabbed my arm, pulling me back down next to it.
I said, “Who are you?” It was all I could come up with at the moment.
“Is that what you really want to know?” it asked mockingly. “You can do better than that.” The shadow pointed at my body on the bed and crossed its arms (I think it had arms). My body convulsed on the bed, puffing out the quilt grotesquely from the spasms and twitches, and I was nauseous; nauseous and terrified. The room was filling with a dull mist that was pushing in from the corners. That couldn’t be good.
“Come on, lad. We’re on the clock here.”
“What’s happening?” I stammered.
“All right,” the shadow sighed. “Einstein you’re not, but that question will do.” It leaned over my comatose form and tucked the quilt under my chin, and then sighed heavily as it turned to face me.
“Let’s go in the other room, this part tends to creep out an initiate even though I also enjoy the moment. But it would be better for you in the other room.”
It pulled my arm and we were suddenly in my sparse living room. The shadow opened up its jacket, a detail I missed originally, and pulled out a stone too large to have been hidden in there. The shadow handed it to me, and the weight anchored me to the floor.
“Whoa....” I said.
The shadow shrugged its shoulders. “Yes, whoa.” It cackled briefly and then sat down on my couch. “You might want to sit down for this, Melvin.”
I obeyed. What else was I going to do? This was the strangest dream I’d ever had. A shadow with a posh English accent.
“Am I dreaming?”
“No, Melvin. You aren’t dreaming, you’re dying.”
I gasped and dropped the stone, which made me start floating again. Very patiently the shadow pulled my leg and reeled me in to the couch.
“Maddy, my dear, you messed up with this one,” it muttered to the encroaching mist. “Melvin, hold on to the stone and listen to me. Just try and stay focused, all right?
“I’m Mr. Happy. Yes, I know. A dreadful moniker but meant to be uplifting. While the job description lacks certain details, I’m a self-appointed overseer of these types of things. A cataloguer if you will. More of a morbid spectator actually, but I like to check in with the anointed and offer some tips for the transition.” The shadow tented its hands on its lap.
“Did I hit my head?” I blinked a few times.
“Silence for now, Melvin. I am speaking. While you are a rather banal and uncouth evolved monkey, you must show me some respect. Dredge some up from that rather corpuscular form, now, or I shall grow very, very cross. Trust me, you don’t want to see me cross.”
I recoiled at the venom in the shadow’s dictionary based slap, and slumped into the couch. Possibly dying or simply dreaming, I invented snooty phantoms to torment me. Living ones weren’t enough. The shadow sighed heavily and shook its head.
“You have an opportunity here, although I must say I don’t have much faith in you. You’re rather pathetic, you do know that don’t you, Melvin?”
I feebly nodded and clutched the stone tightly to my chest. This was unreal. I stared at the stone in my hand, wide-eyed and dazed.
The shadow patted me on the shoulder, its touch cold and inhuman. “Hmmm, yes. Life hasn’t been kind to you, but it’s what you make of it that counts. I’d say you don’t have a lot to count at this juncture.” The shadow cackled again and then leaned forward, its face inches from mine. I saw a swirling depth in those vacant features, like looking into the abyss; I think I may have even heard screaming...
“Focus, my boy. You, Melvin Morton, are ascending to the dark realm.”
“Crap,” I wheezed.
“Indeed. Others who have a vested interest in these sorts of matters will be most displeased with darling Maddy’s indiscretion. However, there’s no going back now. I personally think you’ll make a dreadful vampire, but time will tell. Hopefully you’ll just die. That would be wonderful, don’t you think?”
“No! I don’t want to die.” I sat up and glared at the shadow. “Wait a minute! This isn’t really happening. Vampire? No way.”
“Oh way, Melvin. Very way as a matter of fact.”
“I bet I got food poisoning from that cheap happy hour buffet.” I nodded to myself. Yeah, that was it, I was hallucinating.
“My God, but you are dense. You really don’t want to die? It would be so much easier in the long run. Just choose that instead.”
I looked around the room at the encroaching mist filled with the outlines of writhing forms, at the stone I clutched against my chest, and then shook my head. “Yup, it’s the toxins. Wow, you even sound real. Vampires? Yeah, right.” I grinned. This was the most bizarre dream!
“You think those green tinged snacks are to blame for your plight? Think again, my boy. I didn’t see a buffalo wing bite you on the neck! You think that was Cajun sauce on Maddy’s lip?”
“Maybe this is alcohol poisoning. I’ll wake up covered in puke, and then I’ll be fine.”
“Are you that stupid? I’m becoming cross, Melvin.”
“Maybe a virus--”
“Maybe Maddy put a Roofi in my drink.”
“I should just let you founder and figure all this out on your own!” The shadow stood up and snatched the stone away from me. I started floating towards the ceiling, but it didn’t matter; I was just dreaming. Or hallucinating.
Maybe dying after all.
“You’re on your own, Melvin. Such a waste of precious, gifted blood. I hope for your sake you just die.” The shadow shouted up at me, but I just ignored it, deciding instead to go with the weightless sensation of my usually over gravity-bound slab of a body. I felt a lurch inside and then I was back in my room, floating over my bed again. The shadow was standing in the doorway watching me.
I said, “Okay, shadow thing or whatever you are, here we are...back in my room again with the spooky mist. What now, Mr. Happy?” I giggled.
The shadow tensed, and then morphed into my second grade teacher, Mrs. Nance, the one who used to call me “Melvin Moron” and belittle me at recess. She grinned wickedly and then ripped off her face to reveal a nasty clown head beneath the flesh. That hit a nerve (clowns are just icky...who likes clowns?!), and I cowered against the ceiling.
I think I made Mr. Happy cross. Yes, I definitely made it cross. She, it, evil clown head rose off the floor and came sailing at me, shrieking like a banshee.
It screamed, “Now you die,” as the mist merged with the shadow being and swarmed over my body on the bed.
And I did. Mostly.
I woke up tangled in the sweaty quilt, fiery pain lancing through my chest. It felt like I had a steel band around my heart, squeezing tighter and tighter with each slowing heart beat. I looked around frantically for the shadow-Mrs. Nance-clown thing, but I was alone in my bedroom. That should have given me some solace, but then I saw the mist coiling over my body.
I saw the pink tinge of the sunrise through a gap in the curtain and that filled me with dread. I tried to sit up but was paralyzed, immobile, with bright flashes at the edge of my vision as more pain rocketed through my unresponsive limbs. Exhaustion sucked at me as I gasped for breath, and then my heart stopped.
I died. Alone.
I was sucked into a black and empty abyss...no white tunnel of light, no fond faces of loving family members to welcome me to paradise.... Not even Mr. Happy to mock me some more. Just one solitary image: Maddy’s smirking face as she deposited me on my front steps.
I don’t want to die!, I shrieked at her.
Then I suggest you don’t, was her reply as everything around me faded to black.
I sat up in bed just as the last rays of sun ducked down behind the horizon for the day; I’d been out cold for eighteen hours, a fact I learned by looking at my digital watch that displayed the date and four different time zones if I so desired.
Eighteen hours? Uh-oh. I blinked a few times and realized I could see just fine in the darkness, everything had a faint glow like I was looking through night vision goggles. I stretched, expecting to feel a wave of nausea or cramped muscles from my sickness during the last few days, but I was fine. More than fine, actually. Energy coursed through my body in waves of electric tingles. My only discomfort was that I was hungry; ravenous. Starving.
I jumped up and ran into my kitchen, and flung open my refrigerator door. Before I knew what I was doing I had a package of raw hamburger and was stuffing the bloody clumps into my mouth, slurping and chewing. Then it hit me: raw meat?! I dropped the package and spun around to the sink where I retched and gagged, the chunks coming up in coppery bursts. Through the bile, the blood still tasted like ambrosia.
I sank to the floor and started crying. I calmed to just muted sobs and realized something was missing -- my heartbeat. I couldn’t feel my heartbeat! I grabbed at my wrist and dug for a pulse, and finding none repeated the search on my neck. Nothing. I jumped up and ran into the bathroom. I skidded to a halt at the sink and stared at my reflection in the cracked and dirty mirror; I was blue. My skin was blue. And my overbite was worse...it had to be a trick, an illusion. I turned on the light and it was worse illuminated.
“Holy crap! I’m dead!” That’s when my heartbeat decided to start up, just a couple of times, and go still again. Then the hunger resurfaced; I wanted blood, and lots of it.
“I’m a vampire.” My gums tingled and my overbite extended further...no fangs just clumpy, crooked incisors and timid canines trying to poke through my retainer. “I think.”
And then, pathetically, I passed out. I wasn’t out long, though...maybe five minutes, but when I came to I repeated the whole process: checking for a pulse, eating raw meat and puking it up, staring at my reflection; I thought vampires couldn’t see themselves in a mirror? Oh, I had so many surprises in store for me.
Over the next few days I slowly accepted my fate and decided to put all of the vampire myths to the test. I grabbed a crucifix -- nothing. I took my picture and it came out fine -- I looked even more blue on film. I went down the street to a Catholic church, walked right in, and dipped my hand in holy water. Nothing happened. I tried to turn into a bat or a wolf, and just felt stupid after an hour of trying. I jumped off the roof of my building and fell three stories while trying to fly. I got banged up when I hit the ground, but it didn’t really hurt, though. And nobody saw it happen so I was in the clear. I bench pressed my couch without any effort at all. I even tried sunlight... muted Portland rainy sunlight. It wasn’t comfortable, but I didn’t die. Well, die more.
The only thing I couldn’t do was drink somebody’s blood. No way. Un-uh. That gave me a case of the queasies like nothing else. So what did I do? Why I went to the internet of course. I checked my symptoms with the vampire site I frequented, haunted, obsessed over, and confirmed that I was definitely, most completely screwed.
My world turned upside down with a routine of sleeping by day and waking at dusk (in my own bed and not a casket!), a schedule that mostly worked out fine since my security job at the mall was at night. But could I go back to work? I had to. I didn’t have any money, and I couldn’t afford to get evicted. And my sick leave was coming to an end.
So I went back to work. My boss freaked when he saw me, but I assured him I was fine -- what else was I going to say? Could I use the Americans with Disabilities clause if he tried to fire me? Does being a vampire even qualify? I had to forge a doctor’s note to come back to work -- thank God for the internet and all the handy templates available! The boss commented that I didn’t smell too nice and suggested, in the nicest way possible, that I start using a stronger deodorant. Ha! I’ve started hiding car air fresheners in my pockets so now I smell like pine, strawberry and decomposing, mostly dead vampire.
What else can I do? I’m a vampire. It sucks. I regret that pun.
BLOGLINE JUNE 28, 2014 MOOD : Blue
My name is Melvin Morton -- not Vlad or Fang or anything else exotic or sexy -- just Melvin, and I’m a vampire. Life dies and then you suck. Kind of.
That got your attention, didn’t it? Your late-night surfing on the web has brought you to my story and I can just picture you now. Yes, you are probably draped in something black and depressing, holed up in your dank little room and hunched over your computer, devouring tales of dark fantasy like candy. Or better yet, you are the weird fat kid, lonely and desperate like I used to be, searching for something else to be, something to numb the pain of your daily existence; something different than what you are.
Well guess what? It doesn’t get any better than this and being a vampire isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. My story isn’t fantasy; it’s real life. Almost. Halfway. More of a parody, really.
When I was a real boy, not this blood-craving sham Pinocchio I’ve become, I was fascinated by the all the thought and drama of the Masters of the Night. I saw every film, read every book, studied myths and legends, and haunted the internet with every moment of my spare time. It was my hobby, my escape, my fantasy and it wasn’t supposed to be real; just make-believe. But I still wanted it.
Hero worship is a real let down when you learn the truth.
I was the fat kid growing up. I didn’t even have the sense of humor that we chubby folk are supposed to be hardwired with as a defense mechanism. Laugh with me, not at me, right? Nope. Just a big-boned, slightly pimpled and greasy-haired outcast that grew up into an overweight and still pimply dullard who worked security at a mall. I’m not a stupid man, far from it, but I lack even the basic social graces to blend in with society -- high school was a nightmare. Can you imagine even being shunned by nerds? College was a poor man’s dream... Nothing ever went right for me. I even still wore a retainer for a terrible overbite.
Take my name for instance : Melvin. Why would a parent do that to a child? Did my mother view the ultrasound, see my blobby form floating in her womb and think to herself, Bummer. I’ll name him Melvin?
Have you ever met anyone named Melvin that wasn’t lonely and just plain weird in one way or another? I didn’t think so. I’m named after a juvenile bully right-of-passage, for God’s sake. I’m underwear wedged into a butt crack, personified. My parents doomed me to life a mediocrity and hardship from the start. I would have changed my name, but it was like an oily stain that seeped into who I am, who I was and into what I became. I’m just Melvin.
Now I’m undead, actually just mostly dead. That didn’t even go right. My ascension to the dark realm was an accident. Yes, an accident.
Everything you’ve ever heard about vampires being beautiful, dark, sultry and exuding lusty sex appeal is a lie. Vampires have power, but it’s not the romanticized Hollywood version. You don’t become an enchanting beast when you turn, you just become an undead version of yourself. If you were beautiful when you became a vampire, you stay that way in un-death. If you were ugly...you stay that way forever: warts, pimples, retainer and all.
One drop of cursed blood from a pale, strange girl named Maddy was enough to change me, but not enough to make me whole. Dark Gift, I don’t think so; more like a turd with a shiny bow on it. Looks intriguing from a distance, but up close you see it for what it really is.
My body shut down and restarted with a stutter. My heart still beats occasionally, I can tolerate the sun on overcast days and I’ve turned the palest shade of blue -- like I’ve held my breath for far too long. I got the unending craving for blood, but the thought of actually drinking it makes me queasy. Besides, I didn’t get the sharp pointed teeth, only a more enhanced and exaggerated overbite. I have keen senses: I can hear the roaches crawling through the walls of my cheap apartment, and I can see in the dark. I smell terrible -- worse than when I was alive. My body can’t seem to decide whether it should decompose or make the transition to the fully undead. I guess I have forever for it to decide.
Other than the being mostly dead thing, my life hasn’t changed. I still work security at the mall and I still have bills to pay. And taxes. And I’m still an outcast. I’ve looked for Maddy and other vampires, but I’m alone here in this city. Humans go out of their way to avoid me now, even more so than before. They think I’m diseased. I guess I am, and with no real cure in sight.
Suicide? That makes me almost as queasy as the thought of drinking blood. Besides, could I even die properly? I don’t want to risk it and make things worse than they already are.
I watch my old vampire shows on television and rent DVDs to pass the time. I just watch and laugh. I have to. If I don’t I’ll cry. Their version of the Masters of the Night is, after all, just fantasy. Oh, and that shtick about holy water and crosses...all Hollywood.
Even my favorite novelist, who wrote about vampires with such pain and beauty, has abandoned me. She’s become a born-again Christian so my hero, the beautiful blond Frenchman who becomes such a demon immortal, is lost. There will be no more tales in which to escape. All I have now is reality, but reality can be stranger than fiction...
Being a vampire isn’t what I thought it would be and I realize now that being human wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. I guess the grass is always greener, right? Looking back, I could have been a better person, but probably not. I’d be a better vampire, but I can’t. I was never particularly evil in life, just human, and now I don’t know how to be really much of anything at all. I realize that I’ll have to eat someone eventually; the craving is so intense and fast food just doesn’t touch it.
So where does this leave me? Muddling along and late for work. Take this tale to heart and be careful what you wish for.... Get a life while you still can. Remember: Life dies and then you suck...kind of.
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