The Vampire Diary of Courtney Van Camp
D. J. Belt
Copyright: Original story and characters copyright August 2012 by D. J. Belt.
Disclaimers: ALT. Some reference to sexual matters and some violence. Some tough language and situations. Probably an R rating.
Comments: Feel free to email me at email@example.com
Miscellaneous blatherings: Oh, Jeez. Here we go; another vampire story. Sigh. Be warned: this is one of the darker stories that I’ve ever done.
I’m Courtney, and here’s my diary. Read it and weep. And maybe you’ll laugh, too. Or maybe you’ll just say, “WTF?” And after you read it, maybe you won’t want to get bitten by a vampire. Or...maybe you will.
Yeah, right. Subjects of late-night B-grade movies. Hokum. Bullshit. I mean, who would think of a creature who looks human, but is immensely stronger, drinks human blood, can’t stand daylight, heals quickly, cowers before crucifixes and holy water...well, you get the idea. I was fascinated by them, but never believed in them. That is, not until I got bitten by one.
That night sucked. Heh. Not really, but I just like puns. It was shortly after my nineteenth birthday, which really did suck, because my dad forgot it. Anyhow, I was checking out this new club down by the waterfront district where the radical partying happens and the freaks and the goths and the punks and the weirdos hang out, and I wasn’t having fun. That is, until this chick appears at my side and says something to me. What she said, I couldn’t hear because the music was too loud. She was like, hot (in a strange way; must have been the light hair and the Viking-woman braids) and I decided immediately that I liked her, so I invited her up to the second floor where people go to talk and hang out and do spontaneous, questionable things in dark corners (of which there are many). She liked the idea. So we go upstairs, find an empty dark corner, and we settle down for some serious conversation about like, death and dysfunctional families and how the world is totally fucked up and things like that. And before I know it, we’re making out big time. And I’ve got my hand inside her top, exploring the fact that she’s not wearing a bra, when suddenly, she opens her mouth, and there’s like, fangs there. And her eyes turn dark. And then, she proceeds to give me the most outrageous hickey that I’ve ever gotten, and I totally pass out. And when I wake up, I’m not in the club anymore. How’d that happen? And when I look around, I realize that I’m in this little room with stone walls and um, chains and stuff, and my clothes are missing. Okay, WTF is going on here? Mommy!!
Aha! Got your attention yet? Now hold that thought for a few minutes. Let me back up and explain some stuff. You’ll need to know this about me, to understand where I’m coming from.
My name is Courtney. Courtney Van Camp. Yeah, like the baked beans. Enjoy your laugh. Anyhow, my mother named me Courtney because it sounded so country club. That’s me, all the way. Prep school and country club.
Yeah, right. I am so not that way. I never fit in with that crowd. I mean, it all seemed so shallow and cliquey and phoney. And I didn’t look country club. I didn’t have the right curves and blonde hair and cheerleader legs and all that stuff. I was gangly, with cupcake boobs and a head of black hair. Sooooo not country club. And the school counselor said I had a serious case of the ‘antisocials’ or something, too. I guess that’s bad, huh? Can I take like, antibiotics for that?
Y’see, in high school, there’s these girls and those girls, and those girls cut themselves and get pregnant and go to rehab, and these girls go to the best colleges and get nose jobs and try to marry a lawyer or doctor or something. Well, I was one of those girls. Not these girls, I mean those girls. I wanted to try cutting myself, but I was too chicken. So instead, I tried smoking weed and dressing all dark and freaky and wearing black lipstick and a nose ring and shit like that. When my mom saw that, she freaked and sent me to therapy. And I had fun talking with the therapist, who didn’t seem to mind, since she got paid a hundred bucks an hour for it, and she let me smoke in her office. Once, we even smoked a doobie in her office.
But that all came to an end when my mother informed me that I was going to a prep school. Prep for what? I asked. She said that it would help me. And she packed a trunk for me, and I asked, where are my clothes? And she said I wouldn’t need them there. And I said, Whoa! I think I’m gonna like this school.
Wrong. I was so wrong.
She didn’t tell me that it was a military school. I mean, whoever heard of girls at a military school? I never had. Well, guess what? They have ‘em. Usually, my mom can’t find anything but good-looking, dumb guys and her pill bottle, but somehow, she found this place. I mean, there were lots of guys there, but there were girls there, too. And there were people in uniform, lots of ‘em. And they put me with a group of guys and girls that looked like, totally culture-shocked and weirded out, like they’d just seen aliens or something. Who knows? Maybe we had.
And after they had me wave good-bye to my mom (who blew me a kiss, got into her BMW, and squealed out of there like her thong was on fire), they stuffed me into a dorky gray uniform, confiscated my cell phone, yanked out my nose ring, cut my hair to above my collar, and assigned me to a room. Congratulations, they said. You are now a ‘new cadet’, an underclassman. Welcome to Hell, you scumbag little girl.
And then, they proceeded to bust my ass. And I mean bust my ass. I was doing push-ups in the hallway at two in the morning. I was eating while I sat at attention. I was standing totally still with my nose against the wall for endless periods of time, with some spit-and-polished upperclass asshole screaming in my ear and kneeing the backs of my legs until they were blue. And we marched everywhere and nowhere. For hours. And then, I got to sleep a little bit, until they rousted me out of the rack at oh-dark-thirty so’s I could stand inspection and start all over again. Hell, I had to crawl under my bunk and pull the covers so tight that a quarter would bounce when it hit them. And if it didn’t, they ripped the sheets off my bunk, threw ‘em into the hall, and told me to make it again. Then, I got gigged with demerits. (More about that ‘getting gigged’ stuff later.) We learned real quick to just leave the bunks made and sleep on the floor, instead.
And they took one look at my name, Van Camp, and nicknamed me ‘Bean-O’. That’s the stuff you take when you fart too much, right? Well, that became my name. Hey, it could have been worse. The chick standing next to me was named Pamela Greene. On her name tag, it said, ‘Greene, P’. Guess what her nickname became? You got it.
It took about one nanosecond for me to decide that this military school scene was some seriously sick stuff. I mean, who treats other people like this but psychos? I decided right then and there that I was going to make my break from that place. I just had to keep my head on right and plan it carefully. So I pretended to go with the program until I could save enough money from my weekly allowance to buy a one-way bus ticket and make my break.
After about two weeks of some seriously twisted military hazing, we started academic classes. Stand to attention when the teacher – excuse me, the instructor – comes in. Sit straight in class, speak only when spoken to, then answer in complete sentences with ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ at the end...you get the idea. And then stand formation and march en masse to the cafeteria – ‘scuse me, the mess hall (probably so named after the quality of the ‘food’) – to eat at attention. Then back for afternoon classes. After that, physical exercise, then two hours of free time until evening formation, salute when the flag comes down, march to the mess hall, eat at attention, go to our rooms, and sit at our desks and study for two and a half hours under the watchful eye of some faculty-type bozo, until it’s time to get ready for bed.
And I found out what demerits are. They’re the opposite of merits, whatever that is. Merits is good, demerits is bad. Way bad. I do something wrong, I get demerits. Like points on one’s driver’s license, but worse. These demerits come with punishment to work them off. Like marching with a pack and a rifle around the campus with some spit-and-polished upperclass asshole screaming at us for an hour a day. That’s known as the ‘bull ring’. And every week that we stayed on the ring, we got a five-pound bag of sand added to our packs. Needless to say, mine got pretty heavy. I couldn’t figure out how I got so many demerits. I mean, all I had to do was exist, and I got demerits.
It just seemed that some people get on the ‘shit list’, and they never get off. Yeah, I got on it. I guess it was during an evening meal when we were eating at attention, and I wondered out loud if we had to crap at attention, too. Hey, I thought it was a logical question. The underclassmen laughed. The upperclassmen thought I was being a smart-ass. Shit-list, here I come. From then on, my name was accompanied by a gig every time I heard it. As in, ‘Bean-O! Your shoes aren’t shined.’ Or, ‘Bean-O! Your uniform is sloppy.’ Or, ‘Bean-O! Your hair is touching your collar.’ Or ‘Bean-O! You’re breathing.’ You get the idea. And every time I heard that, some demerits were sure to come my way. And another week on the ‘bull ring’. Man, I was getting tired of that ring. Pack and rifle, march, march, sweat my ass off, and my back and feet hurt all the time. A precious hour of my two hours of free time every day wasted with this silliness. And I gained the title of ‘queen of the ring’, because I had the most demerits of anybody. And the heaviest pack.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. One afternoon, ‘Spit-and-Polish’ comes into my room. He’s an upperclassman, so I have to stand to attention when he busts in. And he backs me against the wall. And he stands in front of me, I mean, so close that you can’t put a fist between us, and he asks me if I want to get off the ring. And I say, ‘Hell, yes!...sir.’ And he explains what I have to do. And every time I do ‘it’, he erases fifty demerits from my record.
What was ‘it’, you ask? Trust me, you don’t wanna know. You do? No, you don’t. And I’m so disgusted with myself that I actually did ‘it’ for him. But, hey! ‘It’ got me off the bull ring. (Mom probably would have said it was a necessary skill for a country club young lady-in-training to learn. It’s probably how she landed my dad and his money.) ‘It’ also turned me off of guys for the rest of my life. To this day, I still can’t stand to look at guy parts. And ‘it’ taught me to bargain; I got him to erase a hundred demerits a whack if I did ‘it’ naked for him. So, ‘nuff said about that. You get the sordid picture.
Anyhow, it wasn’t long before I was demerit-free. Although I did go through a lot of mouthwash and some serious self-loathing during that time, not to mention what that hundred-dollar-an-hour therapist calls ‘suicidal ideation’. I never told anybody about that. I’ll tell you now.
One night, in the middle of the night, I got my bed-sheet, and I went out into the hall. Nobody was there. And I tied one end around my neck, and one end onto the second floor stairwell banister, and I sat on the railing. And I looked down into that stairwell, and I conjured up this mental image of me hanging there. And I sat there, perched on that railing, and thought, really thought about death. A part of me really wanted it. And a part of me just got really pissed off. If I did this, they wouldn’t say, ‘We did this to her.’ They would say, ‘She was weak.’ In other words, they would win. And I wasn’t about to let those bastards win. I am not weak. I will survive this. They will not break me. No way. I will triumph! I am tougher than this!
I went back to bed. And I never thought about suicide again. And I learned a big lesson that night: Never give up. Ever. Get angry, get mean, but don’t ever give up.
And I got mean. I was constantly pissed-off. I went to the gym in the afternoons, and punched the punching bag for an hour straight to blow off steam. And this coach asks me one day if I want to learn to box. I say, “Hell, yes...sir!” and he teaches me. He starts sparring me against other cadets, and I got beat up some, but I beat the shit out of some, too. And it felt good to know that I wasn’t as weak as I thought. And I started getting some muscle and confidence. And that felt damned good, too.
So he put me in bouts. And one day, he puts me up against this upperclass cadet officer chick who’d been giving me grief all year. She says, “C’mon, Bean-O. Let’s see what you’ve got.” In the second round, she found out. She kissed the mat hard. And she had to be carried to the infirmary with a concussion and a broken nose. Eat my glove, bitch! After that, they didn’t call me “Bean-O’ anymore. They started calling me ‘Wasp’. And the upperclass assholes eased off on me, too.
I didn’t make hardly any friends there. They didn’t want to be seen hanging with me, I guess, ‘cause I was such a fuck-up. But I did have one friend: Sammie. She shared a room with me, and I always felt that she was something of a kindred spirit. Meaning, she didn’t want to be there, either. She was a nice person, blonde and blue-eyed, a sheltered type, quiet and a little shy.
I heard her crying one night in the dark, and I left my bunk and sat on the edge of hers. We talked, and it turns out that she was just as miserable as I was. We felt like a conspiracy, a secret society of dissenters. And every night after that, after ‘lights out’, we sat in the dark and talked about things. Family things. Life things. Girl things. We got close. We hung out together as much as possible. On the weekends, when we had a little more time, we worked out in the gym or ran track or swam laps together to blow off steam. And we’d sign out and go to town, where we’d rent a one-dollar movie to watch on her laptop computer, or get a cheeseburger in a local diner.
One night, after ‘lights out’, I was sitting on the edge of her bunk, and we were talking, and she pulled the covers back and invited me in. Hey, I never refuse an invitation. I’m sure glad I didn’t that night, because I finally experienced something incredibly sweet and nice and loving in that hell-hole, something that stayed with me. And Sammie and I kept it our little secret. And damn, did we look forward to ‘lights out’ for the rest of that semester! Sam and I became an item, and we learned real quick to keep it quiet. Turns out that we weren’t the only ones ‘sleeping double’ at that school, but nobody talked about it, at least not officially. But people knew who was doing whom. The Commandant of Cadets, who was a retired fuddy-duddy army general and who gave us endless, boring lectures at evening meal, insisted that such ‘inappropriate behavior’ was grounds for immediate expulsion. I wanted to stand up and ask him what ‘appropriate’ would be. I mean, can we at least flick the bean or something? But that would have put me back on the ring big time, and I didn’t want that.
Okay, this didn’t make sense. Here we are, a few hundred teenagers all stuck in this insane place together, all seething masses of hormones, and we can’t like, do anything? What genius thought up this rule? But wait! I spy a sort of hope! If we get caught, we get kicked out, right? Oh, yeah. And that, dear readers (is that you reading my diary, Mom?), became the road that Sammie and I saw as our escape from spit-shined hell. We would get caught.
Anyhow, Spit-and-Polish started gigging me with demerits again so’s I’d have to ‘work them off’, and I saw his game and went back to marching the ‘bull ring’ instead. But when he gigged Sammie big time, that was way not cool. I could see his game, so I went to him and worked out a deal. I got all Sammie’s – and my – demerits forgiven, but it cost me my virginity with guys. I never told her about that. I hope she never finds out. I guess I really loved Sammie, to do that for her. But my mother once told me that a gal should lose her virginity as quickly as possible, so’s she could go on to worrying about the important stuff in life.
Anyhow, Sammie and I concocted this scheme to get expelled. We’d get caught bein’ a little too friendly with each other in the showers, and that would be that. We’d be outta there faster than you could say, ‘Holy inappropriate behavior, Batman!’. So we timed it right and got caught by a faculty member who lived in our dorm and took a shower at the same time every day. After watching us for a while – a really long while, I thought – the instructor became appropriately shocked. She reported us. We got called to the Commandant’s office. So, we dressed in fresh uniforms and reported. She was there. In fact, several faculty members were there (drooling for details, probably). And Fuddy-Duddy was decidedly uncomfortable with the whole thing. We stood in front of his desk and saluted, and he asked us if the report was true. We said it was. He asked me why I was doin’ Sammie in the shower, and I stared at him. Finally, I said, “You’re serious... sir?”
“Yes, Cadet Van Camp. I’m serious. Answer the question. That’s an order.”
“Which question is that, sir? Why we were bangin’, or why we were bangin’ in the shower?”
A couple of the faculty members in the room snickered, and that did it. He exploded. His face turned as red as a cherry, and the veins were pulsing on the side of his head, like that freaky alien in Star Trek. He began screaming at Sammie and me. I could imagine him ripping the stars off his shoulders and hurling them at us like ninja throwing thingys, impaling them in our foreheads. I’ve seldom seen anybody go off like that. I can’t even remember what he was saying. I wasn’t too scared, though, because there was a big desk between him and us, and he looked too old and fat to climb over it. I watched him go on for a while, and when he wound down and just sat there hyperventilating, I gave him my reply.
“Whatever, sir. Just kick us out like you said you would.”
Big mistake. He revved up again, and started hollering about how a strict military environment is good for punk-ass, wet-behind-the-ears, dip-shit teenagers like me, and how it instills pride and discipline and blah, blah, blah, and how a strict military upbringing is essential to creating patriotic, obedient citizens who are the fabric of our society, and...
And I said, “And that’s why the Founding Fathers never wanted a large standing army?” Heh. Yes! Chalk one up for the punk-ass teenager.
He started screaming again. “I won’t tolerate your smart-assed comments in this office! Do you hear me, Cadet Van Camp?”
Okay, another one of life’s important lessons: whenever you’re having an argument with someone in authority and you score a point, they start yelling at you.
So, he wiggles his moustache a little, and asks if we deny the charge. Nope. Did we realize it was an offense which gets us expelled? Dern tootin’! He huffed and puffed and wiggled his moustache a little more, then said, “I’ll be calling your parents immediately to inform them of your expulsion. Until they arrive to get you, you’re both restricted to your dormitory. Dismissed! Now get the hell out of my office.”
Sweet! Yes! Sammie snapped him a salute. I flipped him off. Then, we executed a neat about-face, stepped off with the left foot, and marched out of his office.
Outside, I grabbed Sam’s arm. She turned to face me. For a moment, we looked at each other. We laughed and cried and hugged and danced like a couple of lottery winners. Then, we returned to our room to pack our meager things. A cadet shows up to take all our uniforms (all but the one we’re wearing home) back to the supply room, and we were glad to give them to him. Good riddance.
While we were packing, ol’ Spit-and-Polish comes into the room. He’s offended when we don’t snap to attention when he enters, and starts hollering. Sammie blanches a little, but I just told him to GTFO. He gets all machismo and tries to back me against the wall. I pushed him away. He pushed me back, and slammed me into the wall. Hard. And that really pissed me off. I didn’t think; I just reacted. I shot him my hardest uppercut to the gut, and he bent over double. I tagged him hard on the chin, and he spun around. Sammie was just frozen in place, watching in shock. When he got up again, he swung at me and missed. His left caught me, though, and I hit the wall. He was comin’ at me hard when I heard this resounding ‘whack’, and he fell to his knees and clutched his head. Sammie was just behind him, holding her softball bat. Good ol’ Sammie! She finally found her spine. She tagged him again, and he covered his head with his arms. So, I went for the only thing I could see open: I kicked him in the balls. Yes! Payback is sweet.
And that was another of life’s important lessons that I learned that day: kick authority in the balls whenever you can get away with it, but choose your time and place very carefully.
Anyhow, he waddled from the room, all bent-over and whining like somebody’s bitch, and I slammed the door and locked it. Then, we finished packing and we made love one more time.
I knew in my heart that when our parents arrived for us, we’d probably never see each other again. After all, we lived several hundred miles apart. And our parents would never want us to continue our friendship. And that’s the way it worked out. When her parents showed up for her, they treated me coldly. I could read the disapproval, the contempt for me in their eyes. I guess they blamed me for her getting expelled. So what? I was used to disapproval from grown-ups. They can all kiss my ass.
I hugged Sammie for the last time, then watched her walk out of my life. She stopped at the door and looked back at me, like there was so much that she wanted to say. And her mother grabbed her arm and said, ‘Come on,’ and that was that. She was gone. And a second later, her father comes in the room and gets all in my face and tells me to never, ever try to contact her. Ever. He shot me a look of pure hatred. I won’t repeat what he called me. Then, he stalks out. Whoa! Show some love, dude.
And while she traveled home, I sat alone in my room and cried my guts out. And when my mother finally arrived for me, I was catatonic. I said nothing. I carried my trunk down the stairs, put it into the back of her BMW, and sat in the car. As we drove away, she peppered me with declarations about how disappointed she was with me and how they weren’t getting any of their tuition money back and how my father would be shocked and what would everybody say and how embarrassed she was and blah, blah, blah, and I didn’t give a shit. And I finally told her so. And that shut her up.
Finally, she asked me if I wanted something to eat, and I said no. I wanted a good, stiff drink. And she goes like, ‘Me, too!’ And she pulled into a restaurant parking lot. We sat at the bar, and the bartender served me because I was wearing a uniform, and we drank and talked, and I told her things. A lot of things. Everything. And she listened. For the first time in my entire life, she actually sat still and listened to me. And that meant a lot to me. And she never busted my ass about getting expelled, ever again. Come to think of it, she never busted my ass about anything, ever again. I must have made an impression, huh?
And my dad? He remained clueless. He never knew what really happened at military school. And I never bothered to explain it to him. I don’t think he really cared what happened, anyway. Self-absorbed jerk. I guess he just chalked it up to me being a total fuck-up.
So I resumed my freaky appearance, stuck my nose ring back in, and went back to the local public high school. I studied my butt off and eventually graduated with honors, even though it was a year late and I got suspended once for punching somebody out in the hallway. Yeah, the antisocial freaky chick got better grades than you did. Eat your hearts out, you country club cheerleader bitches.
Okay, so that’s my life story. Now you know. Thanks for bearing with that. So, back to the vampire thing.
So, I’m in this room with stone walls, lying on like, a rug, and I’m missing my clothes, and I’m chained to the wall. Okay, this is weird. A scene from a Boris Karloff movie or something. Lucy, you got some ‘splaining to do.
My eyes adjusted to the dim light, and I saw someone sitting in the corner, just watching. The shadow got up, walked over, and squatted down next to me. It’s her, the vampire chick with the light hair and eyes, and the Viking-woman braids. “Hi,” she said. “Feeling better?”
“Was I feeling bad? I can’t remember.”
She laughed. I like her laugh. It’s like music. “Yeah. You freaked out on me. I got worried that you’d hurt yourself.” She shrugged. “Everybody reacts differently to their first vampire bite. Usually, they flake out or get a little disoriented. You went totally bat-shit insane. Hallucinations, craziness. First time in a century or more that I’ve seen that.” She squinted at me, like she was studying me. “Do you do drugs?”
“Weed. Booze. A little ecstacy every now and then, I guess.”
“That might explain it. Really crazy reaction. But you’re fine now, huh?”
“Yeah.” I sat up as much as the chains would let me. “So what happened to my clothes?”
“You tore ‘em off. You threw ‘em all over my front yard, then ran naked down the street.” She snickered. “The neighbors loved it.”
“Oh. Sorry about the ‘naked’ thing.”
“It’s okay. I rather like you that way. You’re nice-looking.”
“Thanks. So, how come the chains?”
“Like I said, you were wild. Out of control. I chained you in here to keep you safe.” She laughed again. “But that’s okay. I like you that way, too.” She released the restraints, and I sat up. “Do you need anything?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said.
I looked at her while she just sat patiently and waited for me to answer. Finally, I did answer. “Kiss me again,” I said. “Like you did before.”
She sure did. Whoa! She was a great kisser. When I was suitably turned on, she bit me again. I wilted. She stayed at my neck for some time, and I felt all warm and weak. After a while, she stopped and licked my neck. Then, she just held me, really gentle and sweet-like. I don’t get much of that from people. Usually, when I hook up with somebody, it’s just a hit-and-run. I do love to snuggle, though. Hey, what are you laughing about? What, I don’t seem like the ‘snuggle’ type to you? Well, I am. Get used to it.
“What’d you just do?” I asked. “Whatever it was, it was a total rush.”
“I bit you.”
“I drank your blood.” She shrugged. “I’m a vampire. That’s what I do.”
“Oh. I guess that explains the fangs, huh?” I reached up and very gingerly touched one. Man, it was sharp.
“If you drink my blood, you can become like me.”
“You mean, hot?”
She laughed at that. “No. I mean, a vampire.”
“I’ll have to get back to you on that.” I yawned. “So, what’s that all about, anyway? I mean, being a vampire?”
She considered the question, then said, “I need to tell you. Then, if you want to become like me, you can ask me and I’ll turn you.”
“So, tell me.”
She did. We talked, and she told me of vampires. And she told me of the power, of the immortality, of the strength it would give me, and I liked that. I wouldn’t be a weak person anymore; I’d be totally bad-ass. The jerks of the world could never use me and bully me and degrade me again. Oh, I wanted that power, and I wanted it real bad. In fact, I’d never wanted anything that bad since Sammie. It felt good to be passionate about something again.
I asked her to turn me right then and there. She refused. “It’s a major thing. A one-way ticket. You need to think about it. So go home.”
“You’re kicking me out?”
“It’s almost dawn. I need to sleep.”
“Oh. Right. Vampire stuff.” I looked up at her. “Do you like, sleep in a coffin?”
She laughed. “No. I have a bed, and one of those mattresses with the squishy space-age top. It’s seriously comfortable.” She raised an eyebrow. “And who wants to make love in a coffin, anyway?”
I thought about it. I guess my expression gave my thoughts away, because she laughed. She had a great laugh. “You would,” she said. She pondered it, then raised an eyebrow. “Come to think of it...”
She stood, went to this gothic closet, and opened it. I half expected Morticia Addams to bust out of it. I didn’t know what she was going to pull out, but when she turned around, she had my clothes in her hands. She gave my clothes to me. “Come on. Dress.” She smiled. “But dress slowly.” Then, quicker than my eye could follow, she was back in her corner, watching me dress.
When I was done, she took me up stairs, to the main floor of her house. We were on the side of the mountain, looking down over the lights of the distant city. It was a great view, and the sky was beginning to lighten and get all red and pink. She let me enjoy the view for a few minutes before she apologized and pressed some buttons on a seriously cool control panel, and shutters descended over the entire house. “Dawn, you know,” she said. “Sunlight.” Then, she handed me a bottle of water and a bottle of vitamins. “Iron. Drink plenty of water and take two of these a day for the next few weeks. Your body will replace the blood I drank.” Then, she gave me forty bucks and called a cab for me. “I’d drive you home,” she said, “but the sun’s coming up.”
“Yeah, I got that part of it.”
Anyhow, she jammed something in my pocket, then kissed me and let me out of the house when the cab came. I took the ride back to the waterfront district where I met her, and where my POS car was hopefully waiting for me and hadn’t been towed yet. (Man, after that cab ride, I couldn’t get the sitar music out of my head.) And when I got home – to my parents’ house; I don’t have a home – all I wanted to do was go to bed. I felt dragged out, partly because I hadn’t slept much in twenty-four hours, and partly because I was anemic from having been a vampire double latte.
I went to bed, and I slept the sleep of the dead. And I dreamed vivid, crazy, cool dreams. Man, this was better than ‘shrooms. And when I woke up, I felt great, and I had major munchies. Oh, yeah. If I don’t eat something soon, somebody’s gonna get hurt. So I dressed, ran a brush through my hair, and headed down to the local tavern for a serious burger. They wouldn’t serve me a beer, though. Bastards. Then, I wondered: If I became a vampire before I turned twenty-one, did that mean that I could never drink alcohol? And did vampires even drink? And did they eat meat if it was like, super rare? I had a million questions to ask her, and I suddenly couldn’t wait to see her again. But I forgot to like, get her number. Then I remembered, and I reached into my pocket. Inside it was a piece of paper with a telephone number on it. Whoa! She must like me. Unless it’s a phony number. Heh. I did that to a guy once. When he kept pestering me for my phone number, I gave him the number to dial-a-prayer. Yeah, I know. That was mean and immature. I should have done the mature, dignified thing and just punched him in the face. But, hey! I was young. What did I know?
So I wolfed down a kickin’ burger and fries, and drank two – no, three – diet cokes, and then burped all the way home. And when I got there, mom was gone. Good. So I popped a bottle of her expensive imported beer open and called my vampire friend from last night. I got an answering machine, then thought, ‘Duh! It’s daylight. She’s still asleep.’ So I did the next best thing: I found mom’s stash, rolled a doobie, and lit up out back to get mellow and watch the sun go down.
I’d lost track of time when my phone rang. It was her! We made plans to meet at the club again, and I showered and got dressed and headed out the door. She met me upstairs again, and we sat together on this couch with questionable stains on it and made out some, and talked a lot. Finally, she asked me what I did for a living. For money.
“Nothing, right now,” I said. “I got laid off a week ago.”
“Got a new prospect?” she asked. I shook my head. She smiled. “I have just the job for you.”
She explained that vampires, because they can’t hang around during the day, need somebody to do things for them. Like, a minion, she called it. A trusted human assistant. And wealthy vampires, like her, hire their own minions. The more trashy vampires live in groups called ‘covens’ and all chip in to hire one. (I guess a coven is like a vampire trailer park.) She’d pay me and I could just work like, during the day, and have weekends off. And I’d do whatever she needed doing. Y’know, take her car for an oil change, pick up the dry cleaning, whatever.
“You don’t have a minion person now?” I asked.
“He left,” she said, “for another gig.”
“Oh.” I thought about it. It sounded cool. Hey, it’s either that, or saying, ‘D’ya want fries with that?’ So I decided that I liked the sound of it. Besides, I’d get to hang around her, and I admitted to myself that I was entertaining some serious hots for her. This could be fun. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll be your minion-person.”
She smiled, a slow, pleased smile. Finally, she said, “Excellent. I’m sure you’ll work out just fine, Courtney.”
“So what’s your name?” I shrugged. “You never told me.”
“Oh.” She got a distant look in her eyes. Then, she looked back at me. “My name,” she said, “is Wilhelmina Larsdotter.”
“Whoa. Where are you from? I mean, originally? You’ve got a cool accent.”
She smiled. “Sweden,” she said.
“Got vampires in Sweden, huh?”
“Yes. In the south.”
“So, how old are you?” She considered me and the question, and I shrugged again. “I mean, if vampires live a long time?”
“I’m twenty-six. But I’ve been twenty-six for a long, long time.”
“So, how long?”
“I figure maybe... six hundred years.”
My mouth dropped open. “Shut the hell up! No freakin’ way!”
She laughed. “There’s a lot you still have to learn about vampires.”
I thought about that. Then, I straddled her lap and put my arms around her neck. “I know they kiss pretty good.” She proved it again, and when I came up for air, I said, “So, how’s about the other stuff? Are you like, good at that, too?”
“Do you want to find out?”
“Yeah. I do.”
“Then let’s go home.”
Okay, I’m not tellin’ any more. But the answer is yes. Vampires are good at the other stuff, too. And that space-age mattress of hers with the squishy stuff on top really is seriously comfortable. Like, seriously. And yeah, she bit me again. But hey! She asked first, and I like a vampire who asks first.
Anyhow, I became her minion person. I took care of her world while she slept. That was my job. And it was a full-time gig. Grocery store, make sure the maid cleans twice a week, get the grass cut, do some laundry, run errands, maintain the hot tub, she had me doing it. And she taught me lots more about vampires. Like about how they have this organization of vampires and they know each other, and how they live very quietly so’s they don’t attract the attention of humans, and how they take care of their own. And how they discipline their own, too. If a vampire’s making trouble, he gets eliminated. I mean, kaput! Whoa! I hoped I’d never see that happen.
I asked her what she does for money, since she seemed to have tons of it, and she wouldn’t say, except that she inherited it from dead husbands (yeah – plural!) and invested wisely. So I asked ‘How many husbands?’ and she laughed. I loved her laugh. It was music.
“Remember that I’ve been alive for six hundred years.”
“So...you can’t remember?”
“I think perhaps fifteen or twenty.”
“Whoa. Were they vampires, too?”
“Mostly, no.” After a moment’s thought, she adds, “Vampires live too long.”
“So you like guys, huh?” I shrugged. “And short marriages?”
She studied me with that look she gets when she’s reading my thoughts (she says she can’t, but I swear she can), then touches my cheek really sweetly and says, “To me, men are a means to an end. Women are lovers.” Then, she read my next thought and invited me to her bedroom. Yeah, okay. That became a regular part of my job, too. But hey! Who’s complaining? I’m sure not.
So, one evening, a little after dark, I get home, and my mom’s there. She wants to know where I’ve been, and I say, “My job.” Then she wants to talk to me all serious, like. Oh, oh. This can’t be good. God, I was so scared that she was like, sick or something. So, I sit down, and she hits me with it.
“Your father and I are getting divorced.”
Yeah. Like I couldn’t see that one coming. I just didn’t expect it today. “Oh,” I said. “Well, I’m sorry, I guess.”
She blinked back a tear. “Me, too.” Then, she started crying. I didn’t know what else to do, so I sat next to her and held her. She wept in my lap. My mother. Life has a strange way of coming full circle, doesn’t it? I recalled when I used to cry in her lap when I was a little girl and my heart was broken. Now, she’s crying in mine. I stroked her hair like she used to stroke mine, and I said things that I thought would help. Like how it’s nobody’s fault, and this shit happens, and it’ll be okay, really. After a good cry, she looked up at me.
“You’ve really grown up,” she said. “You’re a strong person.”
“I’m getting there,” I said.
“We’ll have to move. The house is getting sold.”
“I don’t care. You get a little place. I’m moving in with my boss. She says it’ll be easier for me to do my job that way.”
“Oh.” Mom looked pale at that, and I felt bad for hitting her with that just now. Stupid, stupid. So I said, “But it’d be neat if you had a little guest room for me to stay in when I come and visit you.”
She perked up. “Will you?”
“Yeah. I will. I promise.” And what shocked me was, I meant it. “Once a week, we have a date.”
“You can visit your father, too.”
“Screw him. I don’t see him now.”
“He’s really not an evil man. Try to love him, will you? You’re his daughter.”
“He’s a self-absorbed asshole.”
“And he’s also your father.” Mom’s look admonished me to be nice. She also didn’t disagree with me.
“That’s his problem.”
She shot me that ‘obey your mother’ look. In reply, I just forced a smile. “Well,” I said, “he did father me. Which proves that nobody’s perfect, I guess.”
“One day, he’ll want to get to know you. When that day comes, please let him.”
“Okay, Mom. Just for you.”
“No. For you.”
And so it went. And I moved in with Wilhelmina to be her full-time minion-person, and the folks got divorced, and mom got a job and a little cottage in the ‘burbs. And my dad? I really didn’t give a rat’s ass about him. And obviously, he didn’t give a rat’s ass about me, either. He was too busy bangin’ his new twenty-seven year-old girlfriend to ever call me.
Okay, so I packed my meager shit and hauled it over to Wilhelmina’s house. And she showed me a spare room with a little day bed, a place that I could call my own space. Everybody, she said, needs their own little space. And I took care of her world, like I said, and she took me under her wing and taught me a lot of stuff. After six hundred years, she really was pretty wise.
I guess you’re wondering where she got the blood she fed on, huh? I wondered that, too. She like, didn’t go out cruising for it... too often. It turns out, it came to the house in an insulated cooler thingy a few times a week, and when I received it, I plugged it in to keep it cold and gave the delivery guy the empty cooler. And when she got up in the evening and staggered into the kitchen looking all sleepy and cute, she went to the cooler and took out a bottle. And she nuked it in the microwave and drank it. And it perked her up, and then she was conversational. Sort of like humans and their coffee. I asked her if it was human blood and where it came from, and she said, ‘Yes,’ and ‘Never you mind.’ Okee-dokey, then. That’s good enough for me.
So, she tells me one day that she’s having important folks over later that week, and I need a new wardrobe, ‘cause I’m going to be her assistant at this shindig. So, she takes me out after dark, and we go shopping. And she buys me a kickin’ wardrobe. Man, nice stuff, and it was all dark. I liked that. Like long skirts, and neat tops, and stuff I’ve never imagined owning, but really fell in love with when I tried it on. Really classy clothes. And when we got home, she started training me. I learned to pour wine (yes, vampires drink alcohol!) the proper way, and which glasses go with which liquors, and how to greet guests, and how to stand and walk properly, and how to do this neat little bow that says, ‘I’m classy as hell!’. And she taught me how seductive I could be with this, and how generations of servants to royalty used that seduction to charm their host’s guests. It was powerful and old-timey, a reflection of a past age, and I liked that. And it reflected well on her, and I liked that, too.
And one night, she comes to me, and she says that she has something for me. And she brings me into her room and stands me in front of her mirror (yes, they reflect in mirrors), and she puts this necklace around my neck. Or maybe it’s more of a choker-type thing. But it’s really killer, and I love it. It’s wide and black and soft leather, and it’s got like, gold on it with some ancient writing, but not flashy. It’s just cool. And it hugs my neck and ties in the back with this velvet ribbon. And I tell her I love it, and she says that I have to wear it when other vampires come over. Oh? I ask, and she explains that it marks me as a human in her service, and under her protection. So, after a moment’s thought, I looked at her in the mirror, and I asked if it marked me as a human that like, shared her bed, too. And she said, “Yes.” She said it very quietly, almost with a reverence. She watched my face for a reaction, and she seemed a little worried. I smiled, and that seemed to relieve her.
“So you really like me, huh?” I asked.
“I more than like you,” she said.
Okay, this was getting serious. “Do you... love me?” I asked.
She closed her eyes. “Yes,” she said. Then, she turned me around to face her, picked me up like I weighed nothing, and carried me to her bed. Okay, you know the rest of that story. But it was like, the most intense lovemaking I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something. And sometime during all that, I admitted to her that I loved her, too. She cried a little. And they don’t cry blood. They cry tears, and it was sweet. And I hadn’t had a gal cry over me since Sammie. And I have to admit that I liked it.
Okay, so the big night comes, and everything’s just so, and guests arrive. And boy, do they arrive. I finally meet other vampires. And some of ‘em are like, freaky to the max, and some are really conservative-looking. And one is an indie film producer, and one is an inventor, and one is a really popular fiction author (no, I’m not saying who, but I wondered how she knew so much about vampires), and several are rock musicians, and most of ‘em I’ve never heard of, but they’re like, seeming successful at whatever it is that they do or don’t do. And I greet them and serve them, and take their coats and make sure their glasses are full of whatever they want, and be pleasant to them, and I’m totally fascinated by them. But it does make me a little nervous that I’m the only human in a house full of vampires. I mean, after all, aren’t we a food source to them? But I was wearing my choker, and all the vampires were noticing it, and I felt protected. I mean, they seemed to treat Wilhelmina with a lot of respect, so she must be something. And I was with her. And they treated me nice, too. And I liked it.
Yup, that’s me: Wilhelmina’s Minion. I thought that it would make a good sit-com on TV. Who would play me? Ooh, I know: people tell me that I remind them of Ellen Page... after a bad acid trip. Yeah, har-de-har-har. Enjoy the laughs, people. And so sorry for ya, Miss Page, that you look like me. So, maybe I should pitch the sit-com idea to the indie film vampire, huh?
So, just before dawn, the party breaks up, and everybody goes home. And there’s just me and Wilhelmina left, and I’m standing out on this huge stone porch she has, watching the first redness start to light the sky in the east, and she comes up behind me and holds me and asks if I’m okay. Yeah, I say. And then, she tells me that she was really proud of the way I did everything at the party, and she got a lot of compliments about me from the other vampires, and did I have any questions? And I said, yeah.
“I didn’t know you were a farmer,” I said.
“I own a portion of some farms.”
“What do you grow there?”
She didn’t answer for a minute. Then, she said, “What do humans grow on their farms?”
She didn’t say anything else. And when the implications of that statement hit me, my blood suddenly ran cold. I shivered. She felt it, and hugged me closer. “Are you cold?” she asked.
“No. I’m freaked out.”
“You grow food. Vampire food.” I turned and faced her. “And we’re vampire food, aren’t we? Humans, I mean. Like me.” I didn’t know whether I was about to get in some deep shit here, but I had to ask the question. “You farm humans, don’t you?”
She looked sad. I mean, really sad. Then, she looked at the horizon. “I have to get inside and shut the shutters. But come in. We can talk about this, and I’ll tell you everything.”
“I’m not sure I want to hear this,” I said, and walked inside. She followed. I shut the shutters, then poured a stiff drink and sat down. “Okay, hit me with it.”
She sat down across from me, and she proceeded to tell me all about how they farm humans. That’s where the blood they deliver to the house comes from, she said. And those humans are paid for their blood. And it’s in vampires’ best interests to make sure that they have good diets and health care and they’re clean and drug-free and such, because that affects the quality of the blood they produce. And they’re not there against their will; they’re free to leave if they want. Most of ‘em just don’t want to leave.
“Why not?” I asked. “I mean, I couldn’t stand to be farmed like that.”
“That defiance in you,” she said, “is what makes you different from a lot of the human race.” Her next statement was softer, whispered. “And one of the things I love in you so much.”
She looked tired, sad. I suddenly ached for her, and I wanted to comfort her. She really was worried about how I would react. And it suddenly hit me that I had tremendous power over this vampire, this creature who could tear me in half in a second, because she loved me. I held the power here. For a moment, I couldn’t wrap my head around that. Then, I could. With power comes a responsibility; an obligation to be noble to the folks that you’ve got power over. When somebody has power and no nobility, bad things happen. And boy, did I know about that.
She looked at me. “Do you still love me?” she asked. She asked so sweetly, my heart almost broke. I didn’t say anything.
I stood up, walked to her, and sat in her lap. Then, I kissed her. I mean, really kissed her. She stood, carried me in her arms to her bed, and we lay down together and made love. And I spent most of the next day in that seriously comfortable bed with her, loving her, sleeping with her, holding her, watching her as she slept. And my head whirled with questions. Some, I didn’t want to ask. But I knew that I would, eventually. And I wondered how I’d respond to the answers I got. Then, I knew. I’d respond like I just had. Yeah, she loved me. But I loved her, too. I mean, if I found out that she was biting the heads off of baby bunny rabbits and stomping on smurfs, I’d still love her. I’d find a way to accept it.
And I knew right then that I was in trouble. I mean, I’m in love with somebody who could like, eat me for dinner. Literally. And I also knew that it didn’t matter to me.
And then I thought about smurfs again, and I wondered if ‘smurf!’ was the sound they made when you step on one. Yeah, I know. I’m a sick puppy.
So, a couple of days later, after she gets up in the evening, there’s a knock at the door. And I open the door and there’s a guy standing there. He’s got ‘cop’ written all over him, which he doesn’t try to hide, because his gun and his badge are right there at his hip. And he asks for Wilhelmina, and I invite him in and make him comfortable, then go to her study and get her. And she has a conversation with him, and they’re looking at pictures together and discussing something serious, but I try not to listen. After all, as a minion, I’m not supposed to get too nosy about my vampire’s business. I just hang close enough to refresh their coffee (Wilhelmina loves coffee) and be available if she needs me.
And finally, they’re at the front door, and he’s leaving. And he shakes her hand and says, “Thanks.”
“It’s my duty,” she said. “And it’s important to me to support human law enforcement. I’ll handle the situation.”
He liked that. “Glad to have you on our side,” he said, then left. Then, she turns to me and studies me.
“Courtney, the next level of your education is about to begin.”
“Okay,” I said. “This sounds seriously freaky.”
“Oh, it is. Come with me.” And she walks me down the stairs to her exercise room and opens a panel in the wall, and there’s like, some outrageous weapons there. Swords and guns and knives and things like that. “We’re going hunting tonight,” she says.
I guess my eyes asked everything, because she sat me down and explained to me that she holds a place in the vampire community known as an ‘enforcer’. That means that if a vampire is breaking the rules, like hunting humans and killing them, it’s her job to stop that. And because she’s so old, other vampires consider her a total badass. Sort of like a female vampire Rambo. A Rambette? No, a Vampbo. Okay, enough with the jokes.
She explains that I’m her driver. And she knows who her target is. He’s a trashy vampire from across the tracks, and she’s going to hunt him down and kill him. And I ask, ‘why?’, and she explains that it’s instinctual in vampires to hunt, but they can’t, because they have to lay low in human society. So they have agreements with the local police that if a vampire acts out and starts killing people, we take care of it.
So, I dress in jeans and tennis shoes and a t-shirt, stuff that won’t matter if it gets torn or bloody, and she does, too. And she looks hot when she comes out of her study. She’s like, got a sword across her back and a BFG (that’s a really big gun) in a shoulder holster under her arm, and a knife. And she puts a wide chain-mail-looking collar around my neck and gives me a knife to wear. Whoa! I feel like Joan of Arc.
“Silver alloy,” she said. “If you’re attacked, your neck is protected. And this knife is silver alloy. Very unhealthy to vampires. Strike up, into the heart, or slash across the neck. Don’t hesitate; don’t show any mercy, because they won’t show any to you.” She kisses me, then says, “But chances are, you won’t be in any danger. Just drive for me, and stay in my car.”
“Okee-dokey,” I said. “Stay in the car. I can do that.”
So, she takes me down a stairwell, and we enter her garage. And she’s got a car and a pickup truck and a motorcycle. So cool! So we take her ‘work truck’, as she calls it. A black pickup truck with a hard, flat cover over the bed and wide tires. A four-wheel-drive, five-speed with reinforced front bumper and winch, and extra lights on top of the cab facing forward. It’s radical. She shows me the special things she’s installed, and points toward the garage door. So, I raise the door and then start the truck, and it’s got power. Oh, yeah. And I hit the main road and slam through the gears, and it’s growling like King Kong, and I’m seriously getting off on it. And she’s watching me, and she’s loving every second of it. “Courtney,” she says, “you’re a natural. You’re going to be good at this, I can tell now.”
So, we arrive at this rambling house in an older neighborhood, and she gets out. “Remember, stay inside,” she says. Then, she puts her finger to the little thingy in her ear. “Can you hear this?”
I look up at the radio speaker. “Yeah.”
She smiled. “I’ll be back shortly.” Then, she walks up to the door, and she knocks. I see the door open, then slam, and she kicks the door open and goes inside. A second later, I see people – vampires, I guess – bail out of the house and flash by in every direction. Man, they sure can move fast. And a moment later, she walks out of the house, and she gets into the truck, and I can see her in the light. And she’s splattered with blood, but she’s got a seriously satisfied look on her face.
“Mission accomplished?” I ask. She nodded. “Home?” I ask. Again, she nodded. And I’m about to put it in gear when there’s this ‘Wham!’ on the hood, and the truck bounces, and a vampire is crouching on the hood of the truck. And he’s got his mouth open and his fangs are showing big time, and he’s hissing at us, trying to freak us out. And he’s totally succeeding with me. Wilhelmina just says, “Shake him off.”
So I did. I slapped it in first gear and drove forward, and he hung on. Then, I slammed on the brakes, put it in reverse, and hit the gas again. He fell off and landed in the road. Then, I put it in first gear and popped the clutch. The front of the truck connected with him, and he flew backward and hit a tree hard. In a second, Wilhelmina was out of the truck and facing him. He began rising and hissing, and she swung her sword and took off his head. I mean, she totally decapitated that fucker! That had to be the coolest thing I’d ever seen! His head bounced across the road, then burst into flame. His body staggered a little, as if saying, ‘WTF?’, and then burst into flame, too. In a few seconds, both the head and the body were just little, charred piles of ash. She climbed back into the truck and said, “Let’s go home.”
“Man,” I said. “You don’t have to ask twice.” I slapped it into first gear, wheeled it around, and headed out of that neighborhood.
We didn’t say a lot on the trip back. She was watching me, though. I think she just wanted me to ask questions at my own rate. And, after we were back home, she gave me a quizzical little look and said, “What’s on your mind?”
“That’s a lot to think about, y’know?” I said.
“You did good tonight. You didn’t freeze. And you took initiative.”
I looked at her. “You’re proud of me?”
“So cool!” I looked at her. “I’ve got questions.”
“Later.” And she took me by the hand and led me upstairs. In the laundry room, she undressed and dropped her bloody clothes into a metal tub and added water. “Soak ‘em,” she said. Then, naked, she led me to her bedroom. And she started the shower, then asked me to join her. Hey, you don’t have to ask me a thing like that twice. I did. And afterward, we made love. And it was a frantic, wild kind of sex, not gentle and romantic like usual. Don’t get me wrong; I loved it. And at the end, she bit me again. She didn’t drink much, and she licked my neck afterward to heal the bite marks. Then she snuffed out the single candle, and she held me. I loved that, too. I always do.
“So,” I said, “you bit me again.”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t help it.”
“I’m not sorry. But you don’t do it much. How come?”
She thought for a while, then said, “What’s your favorite food? Something that’s so sinfully delicious, you don’t eat it much?”
“Oh, that’s easy. Cheesecake.”
“Well, that’s you. You’re my cheesecake.”
I had to smile at that. “Do I taste different than other humans?”
“Because you love me. And that’s how I know that you love me.”
“Even if I don’t say it much?”
“I’ll say it more. I promise.” I felt her hold me tighter, then decided to ask the serious stuff. It seemed like the time for it. “So, what happened in that house?”
“I found the perpetrator and killed him.”
“I blew a hole in his chest with my pistol, then took off his head.”
“Is that how you kill a vampire?”
“Yes. Decapitation works best. If not that, then silver through the heart. In this case, a .45 silver alloy hollow-point with a lot of powder behind it.”
“Whoa! So the thing about silver is true?”
“Yes. It’s very poisonous to us.”
“Oh. And sunlight? What happens if...?”
“I would burn. It’s a horrid way to go.”
“And that wooden stake through the chest thingy?”
“Oh. So vampires live forever? I mean, if you don’t lose your head or something?”
She laughed. “No. We die, eventually.”
“Of old age?”
I imagined a creaky old vampire tottering around on a walker, mumbling incoherently. Y’know, pot belly, polyester pants up to his armpits, white socks, ugly shoes with the velcro straps on the front. Eyebrows that look like two explosions in a mattress factory. False fangs in a glass by the bed. I think she actually saw the image in my head, because she laughed again. “No,” she said. Then, she became more solemn and snuggled down with me, and started talking.
“There comes to us a point at which we become weary of living. Perhaps the centuries wear on us. Perhaps it is the burden of such long life on the soul. But whatever it is, eventually we all choose to die.”
“Some can will themselves to die. Some meet the sun. At noon, in the summer, it’s pretty quick. Some, in past ages, have allowed themselves to be caught by the vampire hunters.”
I was getting seriously creeped out. I couldn’t imagine her dying. I said, “You’ve been alive a long time. Do you want to die?”
She held me tighter. “Not any more. You make life worth living.”
Me? Wow. No way. I mean, nobody’s ever said something that heavy to me before. I guess she heard that thought, because she laughed again.
“It’s true,” she said.
“Can you like, read my thoughts?” I asked.
“Sometimes. When we’re close, I can. Like now.”
We couldn’t have gotten much closer. Skin-to-skin, arm-in-arm, it was nice. No, it was better than nice. I smiled. She laughed again.
“What?” I asked.
“You were smiling,” Wilhelmina said. “You have the warmest smile.”
“No way. You couldn’t have seen that. It’s black dark in here, and you’re like, all spooned up behind me.”
“I felt it.”
Okee-dokey. I was a little freaked out. She must have felt that, too, because she suggested that we soak in her hot tub and watch the dawn start to break. I got towels and she got a bottle of wine, and we sat together in the tub and talked and got a little drunk. And I asked her something that I’d been thinking a lot about.
“How come you can be so sweet and nice with me, then go out and hack somebody to pieces?”
She thought about it. Then, she explained that vampires, like humans, have a dual nature; noble and vicious. After all, they were human once, right? And, like humans, some follow their noble side and some follow their vicious side, and some struggle between the two. She’s just had six hundred years to discipline both natures. Like, for a century or two, she was totally vicious and evil, and then, for a time, she was remorseful and became a spiritual ascetic and even fasted and studied in an ashram, and so on. Now, she’s learned balance. So, she loves being all lovey-dovey with me, but she also totally gets off on ripping some vampire’s head off. It’s all about time and place. And she asked me if that made any sense to me.
“Sure,” I said. “You don’t bring your work home with you.”
She cracked up. “Courtney, you said in eight words what it took me ten minutes to explain.”
So, we talked and drank wine until the red streaks of dawn laced the sky, and she had to go in. And I put her to bed and started my duties as her minion, until I decided that I’d rather sleep. So I went to my little room, and I laid down. But I couldn’t sleep. So I snuck into her bedroom. She was dead asleep. I’m not sure which is more seriously comfortable – that mattress, or her. But wrapped around both of them, I was seriously comfortable. I slept like a baby. And it felt good, ‘cause I really haven’t slept well (without some booze in me) since military school. Bad memories, y’know. I get nightmares sometimes.
So life was pretty good as Wilhelmina’s minion. And often enough, we went out and hunted the occasional vampire that was being bad, and I saw her slaughter at least a dozen over the next few months. And it always went the same way: she corners ‘em, carnage ensues, heads roll, and then we go home.
Except once, she confronted one in an alley downtown, and I had the truck front-end into the alley, blocking his escape. And all of a sudden, four more vampires appear out of nowhere, and they surround Wilhelmina. And I’m seriously freaking out, watching from inside the truck. And I hear her voice on the speaker shout, “Lights!”, and then she disappears. Like, she leapt straight up in the air maybe ten, twelve feet, and grabs onto a fire escape. And I reached above my head and hit the switch, and the row of lights above the cab fired up and flooded the alley with light. And those vampires start screaming and smoking! Whoa! UV lamps just give humans a suntan. Turns out, it makes vampires into crispy critters. They ran faster than you can say, ‘Holy char-broil, Batman!’. And her voice, coming from the little speaker, says, “Off!”, and I turn ‘em off, and I see a shadow in the alley. It’s her. And a minute or two later, she comes back, walking slowly this time. And I can tell by her expression that she’s done her job. I can also tell that something’s wrong.
She gets into the truck cab and says, “Let’s go home.” So I back out of the alley and cruise home, all legal and slow-like. And when we get into the garage and I see her in the light, I’m shocked. She’s got burns over half her face and one arm. “The lights,” she said.
“I’m so sorry!” I blurted out. Man, I did that to her.
“Don’t be. I told you to do it.”
“But...” I reached out, but she drew back. “Does it hurt?”
I started crying. “It looks awful. What can I do?”
“Get me a bottle of blood. I’ll lie down. By tonight, I’ll be healed.” She forced a smile. “It’ll be okay.”
I nuked the blood for her, and she drank it. Then, I followed her to her bedroom, where I helped her undress. She really was in pain. And she had me drape a clean sheet over her bed, and she lay down on it. “Go now,” she said. “I’ll sleep, and I’ll be healed soon.”
I left the room and lay down in my own little room. But I couldn’t sleep. I worried about her. And all the next day, when I did my minion thing around her property, I worried about her. And toward the evening, I was fit to be tied. Finally, I went inside, and I heard stirring. She was in the kitchen drinking her bottle of blood, and I just about fainted from joy, because I didn’t see a burn anywhere on her. She was her usual sleepy-and-cute self.
“See?” she said. “Nothing. I’m healed. I told you.”
“I wasn't sweatin' it,” was the only thing I could say before my knees gave out and I plopped down on the kitchen floor. I found myself crying, I guess with relief.
She picked me up. “I keep forgetting how fragile humans are, and how slowly you heal. No wonder you worried yourself sick about me.”
“You were human once,” I said.
“Six centuries ago is a long time. I hardly remember now.”
“What do you remember?”
So she told me a few things about growing up in late medieval Sweden; about the summers and about the long winters; about the fear of the plague that devastated a lot of Europe; about the fights and alliances between the different clans of Sweden. Her father was a maker of cheeses and ale, and she remembered the smells of the cheese warehouses and the ale brewery. She was given in marriage to her father’s friend, a tavern owner, when she was sixteen years old, and she really doesn’t remember him very well. She remembered her two children, and she also remembered burying them both when the plague hit. And when her groin and armpits started swelling, a telltale first sign of the plague, she resigned herself to death. But a serving-wench in her husband’s tavern said she could save her, and that night, in a loft, she turned her vampire. She was twenty-six at the time, she thinks.
And when she awoke from the experience, she was in the cellar beneath the tavern. Her maker began teaching her how to survive as a vampire, and taught her well. And over the next six centuries, she moved often, married well, and lived a hundred lives. And she grew stronger, wiser, more deadly, more circumspect. She developed her powers, physical, mental, psychic, and spiritual.
And now, she was here with me. And she wanted to teach me these things. And I wanted to learn. But to do that, I would have to turn, to become vampire. And I wasn’t quite sure about that just yet. I liked being her human minion, and I liked it when she bit me. And she understood, I guess, because she didn’t push me about it. Maybe she liked me that way, too.
She decided, one night, that I needed more training in vampire killing. So, she brought me down into the exercise room, a wide, open room with floor mats and mirrors on one wall, and she began training me. She gave me a rubber knife and taught me how to kill a vampire by trying it on her. Eventually, I got to where I could best her sometimes. She loved it. And she trained me in personal defense with hands and weapons, and I got pretty okay at it, she said. And those fighting sessions, for some primal reason, always got me so turned on. More than once, we ended up making love right there, in the middle of her exercise room floor. I loved that, especially with the mirrored wall (does that make me bad? I hope so).
And she designed a weapon, just for me. It was a pump shotgun with the barrel cut short, and a silver alloy spiked plate on the stock to knock vampire heads with, and she loaded special rounds, just for me. Or for them. Shells with four big silver alloy slugs in each one. I practiced with it, and man, it rocked. And finally, she deemed me ready. I could work outside the truck now.
I was scared about it, but anxious to prove myself to her, too. Y’see, to the whole world – except her – I was a fuck-up. I had been, my whole life. Everybody said so. I believed it, too. But not to her. She had so much confidence in me. I so wanted to be worthy of it. My chance to prove myself came soon enough.
One evening, the cop visited. I knew what that would mean. We were goin’ out hunting that night. And we did. This vampire dude was killing hookers. They’d found several in alleys or cheap motels with their necks broken and their carotid arteries ripped out, and drained of blood. A vampire usually didn’t need to drain a person to live; that was just the primal urge to hunt and kill expressing itself. A glutton. Meanness. So we went downtown, to the seedy parts of town where the hookers strut their stuff, and cruised around, and waited. And we hit pay dirt.
“There!” Wilhelmina said, and she pointed. “That car. Vampire. I can feel him.” We watched as a girl approached the car, spoke through the window, and got in. We followed as he headed into the ‘No-tell Motel’, and they parked. The vampire got out. He opened a door and the hooker went inside. Just before he did, he looked around, and his eyes connected with us. He smiled. Then, he went inside and closed the door. He knew we were there, and he was daring us.
“Keep the lights on the door,” she said. “And back me up.” I drove the truck through the parking lot, blocked his car in, and kept the lights on the door. We both jumped out, and in a flash, she had her sword in one hand, her pistol in the other. I racked my shotgun and tucked the stock under my arm, like she taught me. She kicked the door off the hinges, and we charged inside. The hooker screamed, and the vampire faced us, mouth open, hissing. He launched himself up the wall and across the ceiling, then landed next to me. I didn’t think; I just did it. Instinct. I faced him and pulled the trigger, and blew this monstrous hole in his chest. At the same time, Wilhelmina’s sword swished through the air above my head, and she nailed him. Right through his neck, and her sword cut into the sheet rock behind him. His head separated from his body, and we were both splattered with blood.
The hooker was already having a major freak-out when that head hit her. It fell at her feet and burst into flame. Wilhelmina kicked the body out of the open door, and it staggered a little, then erupted into flame, too. In a few seconds, it didn’t exist anymore. Neither did the head. There was just a trashed motel room, us covered with vampire blood, and the hooker standing on the bed, totally freaking out and like, shrieking incoherently. We finally got her calmed down and offered her a ride home. She accepted. When we stepped from the room, several people had gathered to see WTF was going on. A gang-banger looked us up and down and said, “Damn!” That’s all he said. Then, he backed away, real cautious-like.
Wilhelmina said something to the half-dozen spectators. They froze. She slowly turned, pointed at each one, and spoke. They nodded agreement. I think she like, mesmerized them. Then, she got into the truck and sat next to the hooker and me. “Her place,” she said.
The hooker told me where she lived. When we pulled out onto the road, a car cut us off. A Cadillac, fancy rims, the whole bit. A guy stepped out of the car, hollering at us, and the hooker about crapped a brick. “It’s my pimp,” she said. “He’ll kill me!”
“No.” That’s all Wilhelmina said. She got out of the truck and approached the pimp. He started with his posturing and shouting, and got all in her face. Wilhelmina knocked him out with one blow. I mean, knocked him clean across the trunk of his car. He ended up in a pile in the gutter. She got back into the truck, and the hooker was freaking out.
“Ohmygod! Did you kill him?”
“No,” Wilhelmina said. “I think not.”
“He’ll find me,” she said. “He’ll kill me for sure now.”
Wilhelmina sighed, a heavy sigh, and got out again. She walked over to the pimp, opened his coat, and searched him. She pulled his gun from his holster, put a round through his head, and dropped the gun into the gutter next to him. Then, she got back into the truck. “You’re safe now.”
As I peeled out of there, she said to the hooker, “You need a better clientele. And a new pimp.”
The hooker responded with a string of profanities ending in some statement about ‘I’m doin’ rehab again. This shit ain’t worth no amount of money’. Anyhow, as we drove away, several cop cars passed us, lights and sirens going. We dropped her at her place, washed ourselves up and waited while she packed a bag, then took her to the bus station. Wilhelmina bought her a one-way ticket to her mother’s house in New Mexico and a meal at the lunch counter, and we bid her good-bye. Then, we went home.
All in all, it was a good night. Wilhelmina was proud of me. I was proud of me. And we ended up in the shower again. Oh, yeah. ‘Nuff said there.
Anyhow, later, we’re lying in bed talking, and a thought flashes into my mind. And Wilhelmina laughs and says, “It’s in three days.” Damn, she was reading my thoughts again.
“No way! How old does this birthday make you?”
“I stopped counting at six hundred.”
“I guess I would, too. So, what do you want for your birthday?” She didn’t answer right away, but I had a hunch. So I said, “I’ll bet I know what you want.” And I pictured it in my mind, and she laughed again, but all nervous-like, this time. “Am I right?” I asked.
I pictured it again. She buried her head in her pillow and mumbled, “Stop it.”
I poked her in the ribs a few times and said, “C’mon. I’m right, aren’t I? ‘Fess up. You want that, don’t you?” I pictured it again, and she squealed.
“Okay, I admit it. Yes. You’re right.”
God, but she was embarrassed. This was fun. “So,” I said, “how come you never asked?”
Her voice was soft, muffled by her pillow over her head. “I didn’t think you’d go for it.”
I thought about that. She was right. Usually, I wouldn’t. But for her? “On your birthday,” I said, “You got it.”
One eye shyly peeked out from the pillows. “Really?”
She exploded up out of those pillows and bounced in bed and clapped her hands. She was so happy. She seemed just like a little kid who’d been promised a pony. God, she was so cute. Okay, I couldn’t say no. I gave her her birthday present that night: I let her show me that little room where she’d kept me, that first night in her house. Y’know, with the um... chains? And no, I’m not tellin’ you any more. So shut up, already. Jeez!
Anyhow, the next night, the cop shows up again. Oh, oh. He’s cracking up about the way we took out the vampire –evidently, he saw some of it – and has another job for us. This one, Wilhelmina wasn’t happy about. She knew this vampire. He was centuries old, and powerful. He was also involved in trafficking humans. This one would be tough, she said.
That was the understatement of the year. I’ll tell you about it, now that I’m sort of recovered from it.
First, though: about Mom. I made good on my promise to visit her once a week or so. I crashed on her couch when I visited. We sat up late at night, giggling like schoolgirls over some silly movie or talking about people we knew in common, or getting stoned. Sometimes, we’d get heavy and talk serious stuff, and end up crying. But we became friends. And I liked that. And it was good therapy for both of us, ‘cause we’re both kind of fucked-up in the head, and therapists cost too much money these days.
Okay, now that job. Like I said, this guy was tough. We watched him for a while, staked out his compound. Watched his habits. Watched the vans come in and go out. Presumably, he had humans in those vans. And he had other vampires there, working with him. Not during the day; then, it was quiet. During the night, that’s when the activity was kicking. We counted the number of vampires and humans around the compound. We watched where they warehoused the people they trafficked, and how often the vans came in and out of the place. And we got ready to make our move, and we warned the cops.
But what really freaked me out was when Wilhelmina took me aside that night and gave me her lawyer’s business card and told me to contact him if anything happened to her.
“What the hell can happen to you?” I asked. “You’re a vampire. I mean, an old, bad-ass one.”
“So is our target,” she replied, and made me promise. I did. I also got seriously scared. For the first time since I was a little girl, I went into my room and prayed. I asked whoever might be listening to take care of Wilhelmina for me, and I’d sure do the same down here.
As I sat cross-legged on the floor of my little room, Wilhelmina knocked, and I called to her. She opened the door, looked at me, and said, “Are you ready?”
I stood up, picked up my shotgun, and said, “Yeah.”
“You’re scared to death. I can feel it.”
“Yeah,” I said again.
“Good. It will keep your senses heightened. Just don’t freeze up, and you’ll be okay. You know what to do.”
“Right.” I hugged her so tight, I thought my arms would break. And then, we got into her work truck and hit the road. The night was beautiful, starry and clear, with a large moon. A wonderful night for slaughter, I thought.
“It is,” she said.
“Jeez, I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
We both had a laugh – to break the tension, I guess – then drove the rest of the way in silence.
The cops were waiting. We spoke with them briefly, then went on alone. Near the compound, in a dark little bend in the road, we stopped and turned the truck around. Then, we turned off the lights and waited. We didn’t wait long. A van came around the corner, and it screeched to a halt when we hit all the lights at once. I swear I could hear screams from the truck. The door opened, and a vampire jumped from the driver’s seat, trailing a stream of smoke behind him. I turned the UV lights off, jumped out, and pegged him with a round from my shotgun. He fell, then flamed, so I must have killed him. I was proud of that shot. Wilhelmina chased the other one into the scrub, and a couple of minutes later, came back with him. He was human. She dropped his unconscious body by the side of the road, then looked in the back of the van. In it were six women, all scared-looking. None spoke English. We called the cops, and they came and got them. Then, we parked the truck in the trees and took the van into the compound. On the way in, I caught a look at her face.
“There’s blood on your face,” I said. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I just fed on that guy.”
“Oh.” Okee-dokey. I guess I’ll have to get used to that, if I have a vampire girlfriend. I let it drop.
We entered easily, without challenge, and parked near the barn, where the humans were warehoused. Then, we headed toward the big house. Outside, Wilhelmina beheaded a guard, and he fell, then burst into flame. That attracted two other guys. I could hear their voices. Wilhelmina and I were in the bushes. She touched my arm, silently mouthed, “Humans,” and quicker than greased owl-poop, hacked ‘em both down with her sword. Their bodies didn’t burn, of course. She motioned me on, and we approached the house. She pulled something the size of a soda can from her belt, flipped a switch, and kicked the door off its hinges. Then, she threw it in. It exploded, and there were screams inside. We charged in.
The place was smoky and wrecked, and several vampires and people were lying around. The people were goners; the vampires were only wounded by the flying silver nitrate shrapnel from the bomb. They began growling and rousing themselves. “Take ‘em down,” Wilhelmina shouted, and blew a hole in the nearest one’s chest with her magnum pistol. I followed her example and blew the chest out of a hissing, bloodied vampire with my shotgun. He still wavered on his knees, so I tagged him hard with the butt of my shotgun, and he fell and started smoking.
The place was bedlam. Vampires were moaning and hissing, and a couple of totally high, slutty-looking chicks were screaming and freaking out and running around, heading for the door. And just then, an extremely pissed-off vampire appeared from the back hallway. He looked about six feet tall and had the build of a pro wrestler. And his eyes were black with rage and his mouth was open and his fangs were long and bared. He roared, and it backed me up a couple of paces. And Wilhelmina looked over at me and said, “Plan ‘B’.”
That meant ‘get the hell out – now’! I backed away, and he fixed me with a cold stare that made me almost pee my pants. Then, he headed for Wilhelmina, full tilt. She blew a hole into his chest, but it must have missed his heart, because it just slowed him down. She swung with her sword, but he caught her wrist. She kicked him hard, and he backed up. She broke his grasp on her wrist when she blew his eye out with her pistol, and she swung again. She carved a slice down his bared chest, and it hurt him, but it didn’t kill him. He caught Wilhelmina by the neck and picked her up, then threw her across the room. She hit a ceiling fan, ripped it off the ceiling, and went through the patio door. It shattered. A moment later, she was back inside, but bleeding from a score of cuts. I could tell that she was hurt.
I had to do something. I racked my shotgun and put a round into his chest, from the side. I guess I missed his heart, too, because before I knew it, I was slammed against a wall. He roared at me, then headed for Wilhelmina again. I tried to pick up my shotgun, but my arm wouldn’t move. It hurt like hell, and bent in a weird direction. It must have been broken. I crawled across the floor to my shotgun, and picked it up with my good hand. Then, I looked up.
They were locked in combat. Fangs bared, hissing and howling, hands on each other’s throats, it was freaky. I’d never seen anything like that, two old, bad-ass vampires trying to kill each other. I racked the shotgun and pointed it again, and shot him in the back. It took out a couple of ribs, and he howled. Then, I got snatched up from the floor by a hard, strong hand.
A vampire slammed me against the wall and hissed in my face, his mouth open, his fangs bared. I screamed from the pain of my arm, then almost threw up. His breath was totally foul. He studied me for a second, then opened his mouth and headed for my neck. When he contacted the silver alloy chain mail around my neck, he got pissed and bit down on my boob instead. God, did that hurt. I almost passed out. I could feel him trying to feed. My left arm was numb and useless; but my right hand was free. I slipped the silver-alloy knife from its sheath at my hip, and I shoved it upward with every ounce of strength I had left. He let go of my boob, and he screamed. Blood squirted everywhere; I must have hit pay dirt. I held the knife in him, even as I could feel hot, sticky blood cover my hand and my clothes and splatter on my face. I was going to kill this fucker, that was a fact. No mercy. Die, asshole!
And slowly, he did. He sank down to his knees, and his grip loosened. And his eyes looked at me with this ‘WTF?’ expression, as if not believing that a little shrimp of a human could take him out. But I was takin’ him out – all the way out. And when he let go and fell backward, I held the knife in him. I held it there until he wasn’t moving anymore, and he began smoking. Then, I rolled off of him, and he flamed. I sheathed my knife, took a deep breath, and looked around for Wilhelmina. She wasn’t there. Neither was the Bad-Ass. I picked up my shotgun with my good arm, and I stood. My knees were weak, but they held me. I looked out into the yard, and I didn’t see anything.
I called out her name, screamed it out. My heart, already pounding, beat almost out of my chest. I stepped through the wrecked patio door, and I looked down at my feet. There was a pile of burned ash there, and I almost threw up. Wilhelmina?
Somebody approached me, shouting, and I leveled the shotgun and fired, one-handed. Human or vampire, I don’t know. He spun and fell, and didn’t move. But he didn’t flame up. Human, I guess. Slowly, I looked down at my feet again, looked at the pile of smoking ash. I saw a gold chain, and a gnarly-looking belt buckle with a Harley-Davidson thing on it. That wasn’t Wilhelmina. It was Bad-ass. Our target. She got him. But where was she?
I touched the little communicator thingy in my ear and called out her name. In a moment, she answered. “Pool,” was all she said. I headed for the swimming pool, and almost tripped over her. She was lying on the concrete and bleeding. I knelt by her, and she looked up at me. She was bad hurt. I’d never seen her like this before. I started crying.
“Shit!” I said. “What do I do? How can I help you?”
“Take me home,” she said.
“Yeah. Sure. Can you walk?”
“Don’t know.” Slowly, she sat up, then collapsed against me. I held her up, slid her sword into her scabbard across her back and holstered her pistol. Then, I slung the shotgun by its sling across my back. I stood, and with one arm, I pulled her up with me. Where I got the strength to do that, I have no idea to this day. I bent low and let her fall across my back, then rose and staggered under her weight. I walked toward the warehouse, where the vans were parked. The one we came in should still have keys.
I heard banging from the warehouse door. There was a lock on the outside. I put Wilhelmina in the van, then went to the door, racked my shotgun with my good arm, and blew the lock off it. I kicked the door open, and there were humans inside. Women. They looked scared and confused. Some looked like they’d been brutalized. “Cops... they’re coming,” I said. “It’s okay now. Stay put.”
I could see, reflected in the glass of the van and on the side of the building, blue and red lights coming into the compound. Cops. Voices shouted; guys and gals in black vests and with weapons were scattering across the compound. One confronted me and said, “Freeze.” I leaned against the van, and a familiar voice said, “She’s okay. Let her go.” Then, the cop took me aside.
“You look like shit. Are you okay?” he asked me.
“No. Hell, no.”
“Here. Look, I gotta get her to blood, like now. She’s hurt, bad. She needs blood and rest.” I screamed when he grabbed my arm.
“You need help, too.”
“Forget me. Blood, for her.”
He turned. An ambulance had pulled up. He shouted to a paramedic, “Hey. You guys got whole blood?”
“Give it to me. Now. C’mon, toss it here.” The paramedic stared at him, then tossed him a bag of blood. I held it to Wilhelmina’s lips.
She opened her eyes a little, and evidently smelled the blood. Her mouth opened, and her fangs appeared. She sank them into the bag, and she drank. It helped, I could tell. She drained the bag, then looked up at me. She managed a smile. “I think we won,” she said.
“I saw you kill that guy,” she said.
“I killed a few of ‘em. You better?”
“I’ll manage. Get me home.” Then, she studied me, and she said, “You’re hurt.”
“Nothing, my ass,” the cop said. “I think her arm’s broken.”
“Get it fixed.”
“When I’m sure you’re okay,” I said. “Besides, how am I gonna explain this at the ER?”
We finally compromised. I allowed the paramedics to splint my arm and sling it, and then I took Wilhelmina home. We pulled into her garage, and after the door closed, we just sat there for a minute. Finally, I looked at her. She looked pretty messed up. I walked around the truck, opened the door, and pulled her from it. She managed to walk a little, and I got her up the stairs and into the hall. There, she collapsed. I started pulling the clothing from her body, and as I undressed her, I saw cuts and abrasions everywhere. She got cut to hell when he threw her through that glass door. Some of the cuts were deep and gnarly, but they were trying to heal, a little. Finally, I got shears from the kitchen and just cut the rest of her clothes from her. She was covered in cuts and blood. A lot of it was hers; a lot probably wasn’t. I tried to get her to stand, but she couldn’t. She collapsed against a wall, slid to the floor, and her eyes rolled back in her head. I sobbed. I was going to lose her. I slapped her face to make her focus on me.
“Talk to me! What do I do?” I yelled.
“Blood,” she said. “Lots of it.”
I got up and ran to the kitchen. I threw open the cooler, and almost passed out. There was no blood left. The next delivery was tomorrow morning. I went back to her and knelt by her. She opened her eyes and gave me a pleading look.
“There isn’t any more,” I said.
“Oh.” She closed her eyes. “That’s it then, isn’t it?”
I pulled the silver-alloy chain-mail from my neck, and I ripped my shirt away from my shoulder. “Drink,” I said.
“No. I’ll drain you.”
“Come on, damn you. You know it’s the only way.”
“I’m weak...hurt. Once I start...can’t stop.”
“I don’t care.”
I pulled her down on top of me and pressed her face against my neck. I could feel her weight on top of me. I could feel her breath, warm and ragged. I felt her fangs extend. And then, I felt her bite me. It hurt like hell this time. And I could feel her drink my blood. And I held her close to me, held her while she drank. I willed my life into her, willed her to live and be nourished with my life-blood. She drank, it seemed like, forever. I got dizzy and nauseated. Then, I passed out. And as I did, I felt at peace. I figured I was dying. I was sorry I never got to know my father better. I was sorry to leave my mom alone. But I wasn’t sorry about saving Wilhelmina. I guess, in the end, that’s what love is all about. It’s when you care about somebody else more than you care about yourself.
And that’s the last thing I remember thinking.
I haven’t written in this diary for a while. Thought I’d catch you up.
Well, dear readers, I took you up to where I died. But I didn’t die. Well, I almost did, but I didn’t. I woke from that little experience a few days later...or should I say, a few nights later. Wilhelmina was with me, sitting next to me, smiling down at me like she did on that first night. I was in a night-gown, one of hers, and I was clean. She touched my cheek, the way she does, so gently.
“Hi there,” she said.
“How do you feel?”
“Odd. Great. Weird. I don’t know.” I looked up at her. “I was so worried about you. Are you okay?”
“I’m peachy, I think is the expression.” She locked eyes with me, looked down at me. Light eyes, blonde Norse hair; she even had her hair in two Viking-woman braids, like she did the night I first met her. “Thanks to you. I owe you my life, you know.”
“You don’t owe me jack.”
“Oh, I beg to differ.” She looked up, then rose. “The doc wants to check you out. I’ll be back in a while.” With that, she left. I protested, but shut up when this weary-but-pleased-looking guy sits down next to me and smiles.
“How are we tonight?” he asked.
“We?” I said. “Yup. You’re a doctor.”
He laughed. “Doctor Arny Blake, practitioner of vampire medicine. And yes, I make house calls.” He held my wrist and watched his watch, then placed his stethoscope all over my chest and listened. Then, he slipped a blood pressure cuff around my arm and pumped it up.
“Watch it,” I said. “That arm’s broken.” Then, I watched his eyes twinkle. “How come it doesn’t hurt? Okay, what’s up here?”
He released the cuff, hung his stethoscope around his neck, and said, “It’s a long story.”
“Start at the beginning,” I said.
“Maybe Wilhelmina should tell you this,” he said, and rose. She took his place. I detected a look of worry on her face.
“What the hell’s going on here?” I asked.
“You’re vampire now. I turned you,” she said. “I had no choice.”
I found the strength to sit up. “You what? You – you turned me? What the hell is that? You made me a vampire without my consent? How the hell could you do that? I fucking trusted you!” I was almost in tears. “I trusted you!”
“I had to do it. You were almost dead. I – ”
“God damn it, Wilhelmina! I trusted you!”
She rose and ran from the room. I watched her go, then huffed and hung my legs over the side of the bed. I tried to rise, but the doc sat down in front of me.
“Let me explain.”
“I’ve had enough explaining, thanks anyway.”
“No, you haven’t. You were almost completely drained. By the time I got to you, you’d been barely alive for some time. I pumped blood into you, but your brain was fried. At the best, if you lived, you’d have been in what they call a ‘persistent vegetative state’.” He motioned toward the door. “She was in bad shape, but healing, thanks to the blood that you gave her. You sacrificed your life to save hers. She knows it. And she repaid you with the only gift she had left, the only thing a vampire can give a human; life. She demanded that I draw blood from her and inject it into you. We fed you her blood with a tube down your throat. Then, we both watched your transition. It was touch-and-go; sometimes, humans don’t survive the change. But you did, and she sat up for two days and two nights at your bedside – in constant pain – and nursed you while you stabilized and repaired yourself. And when you had stabilized, only then did she rest and finish healing.”
I sat there for a while and thought about what he’d told me. For his part, he took a seat in an overstuffed chair and kicked back. Finally, I said, “Vampire medicine, huh?”
He laughed. “Yeah. A very rare specialty, but we do exist.”
“You make house calls, too? Damn.”
“Got to. Our patients demand it. Night-time hours, too.”
“So, does this mean that you’re my family doctor now?”
“If you want me.”
“Sure. If you’ll have me for a patient, I guess. Do you know much about new vampires?”
“Yeah. See ‘em all the time. There’s a lot to learn, but you’ll catch on quick. Wilhelmina says you’re bright and tough.”
“She said that about me, huh?”
He lifted his head and looked at me. “She’s crazy about you, y’know.”
I looked down at my feet, watched my toes flex and extend. “Feeling’s mutual,” I mumbled.
“Then go tell her that. I’ll bet that she’s feeling pretty low right about now.”
“Where’d she go?”
“Try the living room.”
“Um.” I stood, tried my legs. They shook a little, then steadied. I walked out of the bedroom, down the hall, and looked around the living room. She wasn’t there. I looked outside, and she was there, in the dark, looking up at the stars. I went out to her and sat down on the stone wall next to her. I could tell by the way that she wiped her eyes that she’d been crying. For a while, neither of us said anything. I decided to start the conversation.
“Sorry about yelling at you,” I said.
“You had the right.”
“No, I didn’t. Thanks for saving my life.” Man, that seemed weak. But it worked; she smiled.
“Thanks for saving mine.”
I shrugged. “Hey. It’s what we do for each other, right?”
I leaned against her, rested my head on her shoulder, and I took her hand and held it in both mine. “So I’m a vampire now, huh?”
“I thought you didn’t like to get permanent with vampires. Y’know, short marriages, and all that?”
“We can’t get married in this country anyway,” she said. “I suppose we’ll just have to live in sin.”
I snickered. “That’s okay. It’s more fun that way.”
“You’re a bad girl. A totally antisocial type.”
“One of my better qualities,” I said. “So, I guess we’ll have to find a new minion-person.”
“I suppose so.”
“Do I get one now, too?”
“We can share one, for the time being.”
“I guess. Y’know, I don’t feel any different.”
“You will. Just you wait.”
“Do I have fangs now?” I stuck a finger inside my mouth and felt my upper teeth. “Ow! Yeah, I guess I do. Damn, they’re sharp.”
She snickered. “You got the point, huh?”
“Oh, that’s just wrong,” I said. “You’re doing puns now. And I can hear your heart beat. Like, really loud. What’s up with that?”
“Could you do that before?”
“Bingo. Vampire hearing.”
“Holy shit,” I said. “That’s radical. I can hear all kinds of things. Is that – ? Somebody on this street’s watching – it sounds like an old MASH re-run. There’s people arguing somewhere nearby. Is that the couple next door?”
“Yeah,” Wilhelmina said. “They do that a lot. I’ve learned to tune it out.”
“Gosh. She’s a screamer, ain’t she? Man, listen to her. She must be off her meds or something.”
Wilhelmina laughed. “It would seem so.”
“So, I guess I’ve got a lot to learn about being a vampire, huh?”
“Yes, a lot. But you’ve got time, now.”
“Centuries?” I asked.
“As much time as you want.”
“If I’ve got to live forever, there’s nobody in the whole world that I’d rather do it with than you.”
“Yeah. I love you.”
She squeezed my hand. “As you said inside earlier, ‘The feeling’s mutual’.”
“I sure could use a shower. Want to join me?”
I could feel Wilhelmina’s smile. “Let’s do that. But first, I’m sure the doc wants to go home.”
I haven’t added anything to this in years. A lot of years. About two hundred years, to be exact. But lately, I found the old composition book which has passed for my diary (replete with black and white spotted cover and yellowed pages), and decided to add a final note.
Wilhelmina taught me about being a vampire. It was her duty as my maker, but also a labor of love, she said. And man, did I have tons to learn. She taught me about traditions and history, about personal discipline and fitness, about living among vampires and existing quietly among humans. She taught me about right and wrong from a vampire’s perspective. And she taught me how to hypnotize humans, how to make them obey and forget, and how to feed from one. It’s a tricky thing to do right, to bite the human so as not to hurt them, to feed a little but not drain them, and to lick the wounds to heal them afterward. If I do it right, they never even know they’ve been bitten. They just think they’ve fallen asleep for a minute. To learn, she took me to her farms. I got to practice a lot there, and got pretty okay at it. Most of our blood at home, though, still comes from the farm in the usual way.
We do hunt humans at the farm. It indulges our predator instincts. But we never kill one. And from time to time, we go to the club where she and I first met, and we hunt there. That’s a cool experience. We meet someone, take them upstairs, hypnotize them, and bite them. Then, we heal the wounds and let them go. That’s what Wilhelmina was doing when she first met me. She took a shine to me, though, and brought me home instead of leaving me there. And that’s how it all began.
Oh, yeah. And we had to hire a new minion-person, as I’d get French-fried by the sun if I was up during the day. Turns out, there’s a subculture of humans who are like, professional minions to vampires. We got a good one, a gal named Sheena. She kept our world in order, and she even allowed us to feed from her sometimes. And yeah, we shared her in other ways, too. Shut up, already. I know that’s what you were wondering about, wasn’t it? Sure it was. Hey, I can read your thoughts now, so don’t deny it.
Finally, Sheena begged to be turned vampire. Wilhelmina and I discussed it, and she insisted that I turn her. At first, I didn’t want to. I was just scared, I guess. That’s a heavy thing, turning someone, and I so didn’t want to accidentally hurt her or something. But Sheena was insistent, and Wilhelmina was there to guide me. So I did it. And she survived the transition (some humans don’t). And then, I got to teach her how to live as a vampire. And I’m not bragging or anything, but she turned out pretty darned okay, and I was kind of proud when she eventually left to live on her own. I guess that’s as close to having kids as I’ll ever get. I’m grateful for the experience, but I don’t care for turning humans vampire. Too much hassle. I’m just not the parental type, I guess.
And my career? Wilhelmina taught me to kick ass and take names as an enforcer’s assistant. One of my proudest moments was when she presented me with my very own sword. It was razor-sharp and tough. Two days later, I took off a vampire’s head with it. Man, she was right; that’s like, a total rush! So she and I spent about a hundred and fifty years as enforcers, until she got elevated to the Grand Council of Vampires, due to her age. I mean, she’s close to a thousand years old now. That’s really something, even in vampire years. So she’s a wise, old vampire who’s making policy, and I’m still an enforcer. I work well alone, and always get my vampire. It’s a heady rush, seeing them afraid of me when I show up. They know what’s going to happen, and when I take them down, the other vampires stand aside and don’t mess with me, and they give me respect.
As I write this, my human assistant is driving me home. In another day, I’ll see Wilhelmina again. And yes, we’re still going strong. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together for two hundred years. Hell, it’s hard to believe that I’m two hundred years old. I still look nineteen, going on twenty. I always will, I guess, just like Wilhelmina will always look about twenty-six or so.
And I’ve learned to cook. I mean, yeah, we drink blood, but we love human food, too. I still crave a great cheeseburger, and Wilhelmina loves reindeer meat. She says it reminds her of her childhood in Scandinavia. Heh! Eating reindeer. I wonder if Santa Claus ever ate reindeer? I’ll bet that’s what got them to fly so hard. I can hear the jolly old elf now: “C’mon, you reindeer! Give me some altitude, or I’m gonna make your last names ‘Stroganoff’! And yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, Prancer!”
And yes, I can drink legally. The first – no, the second – thing I’m gonna do when I get home is sink my fangs into a cheeseburger and a cold beer. The first thing I’m gonna do is take a hot shower with Wilhelmina. Oh, yeah. Life is good.
So, you ask, what valuable life’s lessons have I learned over the last two hundred years? Okay, you asked for it. Here’s Courtney’s Wisdom, for what it’s worth:
– Never, ever give up. Ever.
– Kick authority in the balls whenever you can get away with it, but choose your time and place very carefully.
– When you’re arguing with someone in authority, you know you’re winning when they start yelling at you.
– Learn to box. It’s about life. You win some, you lose some, and you learn to take the blows.
– Make friends with your parents. One day, they won’t be around anymore.
– Vampires ain’t all bad. Humans ain’t all good.
– Mouthwash fixes a lot, but it doesn’t erase self-loathing. Payback does.
– Those mattresses with the squishy space-age tops are seriously comfortable. I mean, seriously.
– If your honey likes to see you in chains, then golly gee, let her see you that way.
– To negotiate with a misbehaving vampire, blow a hole in their chest and take off their head. Any others will line up and give you respect.
– Never doubt the restorative power of a mutual hot shower to a love life. One thing’s for sure: you’ll have the cleanest parts in town.
– Woody Allen was right: Dying is something that can just as easily be accomplished lying down. And, like him, I’m not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
– Being in love can either rock or suck. Make it rock!
– Finally: life really is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Get used to it, deal with it, and try to enjoy the ride. And wherever you end up, find the beauty in it and cherish it like, totally.
Okee-dokey, then. There you have it. My diary, for what it’s worth. Thanks for reading, or listening, or whatever it was that you just did for the last hour. I ‘preciate it. I’m Courtney Van Camp, and I’m like, so outta here. AMF! (Adios... my friends!)
– djb, July, 2012
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