An embittered vampire makes a bizarre encounter.
| He was nearly blind with drink by now, stumbling out into the parking lot. He tripped and fell to the ground as though someone had cut his puppet strings. If I waited too long, I would lose him; five more minutes and he was sure to drown in a puddle of his own vomit. What had he said his name was? Joseph? Jacob?
I giggled in pretended tipsiness and dragged the hapless drunk – James, I suddenly remembered -- to his feet. His head came up and his eyes met mine; his beer-befuddled brain took a minute to sort out which was was up. “Wherrre we...where we goinnnn’?” he slurred.
“Come on, honey,” I cooed, suppressing my nausea. “Why don’t you just come back here with me?” Fighting the urge to wrinkle my nose in disgust – not that I thought he would notice – I watched the familiar gleam of lust and drunken stupidity reawaken. He was sickeningly eager to follow me wherever I wanted to lead him. If I’d still had any misgivings, they would have abandoned me now.
Due to the man’s momentary lack of motor skills, I had to practically drag him back behind the bar, which is not to say he was unwilling. When we got there he shook off my supportive hand and shifted his own dirty paws to my waist. I stepped towards him slightly, waiting for the perfect moment; when his fingers began to stray lower, I lost the ability to restrain myself.
There was a moment in which, despite his drunken stupor, James seemed to recognize that something was not as it should be. Unfortunately for him, the time for escape was long past. He felt something cold and sharp on his neck, and his grip slackened. A second later my fangs were two centimeters deep in his jugular vein. Salty and thin with cheap beer, his blood spilled out onto my parched lips and tongue, gushing down my throat until it saturated my whole self.
Refreshed, I let fall the dry husk of a worthless man named James and looked up at the sky. I estimated that it was perhaps two in the morning; that left me several hours to enjoy myself before the sun rose.
“That was very impressive,” said the man watching me from the shadows. “Clean. Traceless. There’s so little blood left, he probably won’t even have a bruise.” He wore all black, and his hair was dark as well. Thick shadows behind the bar hid the features of his face; he could have been any race, any age, any kind of man. Despite the strong smell – even stronger than most mortals’ – he had a sense of otherworldliness. I thought that if I had still been capable of such a thing, I might have felt a chill down my spine. I raised my lip to reveal a set of long, sharp teeth: stay away, they warned.
Unperturbed by the silence, the mortal shadow continued. “I suppose you’re the one they call Ghufran.”
Despite my determination to keep silent, words of censure hissed acid-like from my tongue. “That name is not for your use.” I would have my revenge for his disrespect.
Instead of reacting in fear, this anomaly seemed polite as ever. “It’s a strange name. I had to look it up.” He sounded surprised at himself, a little embarassed. “Arabic. Means ‘forgiveness,’ doesn’t it? Strange name, especially for a –”
I cut him off. “What is your point? Make it quickly so I can kill you and get this over with.”
He chuckled. My teeth ached for his jugular. “Just a few answers to a few questions. That’s all I want. Where’s the harm in that, Ghufran?”
That name on his tongue brought the acid back to my mouth. “Don’t use that name. Don’t ask me questions. The only thing you’re asking for is death.”
“Oh, come on,” he chided. “Are you really in such a hurry to go partying with your bloodsucking friends in Westside Park?”
This gave me pause. How did he know about Westside? My instinct was to leap at him and sink my fangs into his lovely, unblemished throat, but I suppressed that desire – it wasn’t so difficult, considering I’d just eaten – and merely gazed at him malevolently. One interesting side effect of being like I am is that my stronger emotions tend to come rolling off in waves like palpable energy. It comes in handy at times like those, when acting on my feelings would be unwise. It should have shut this kid up in a hurry.
Instead, he took a step closer. “Just a few answers,” he repeated. “Where’s the harm in that?” I imagined the blood surging through veins milimeters beneath his skin, the delicious pulsing of a live human heart: bu-bumm...bu-bumm.... Time enough for that later; now I had to think. He knew about Westside; what did that mean?
Scenes of horror flitted behind my eyelids like LSD flashbacks: Magdalena reduced to a skeleton, Ciarran's famously lavish den in ominous disarray, the bizarre absence of more than a few old acquaintances. Surely there must be some connection between this man who knew what he should not and the disappearances sending a shiver down the spine of every vampire in the midwest.
“Who sent you?” My voice was low in my throat, harsh and inhuman.
“No one sent me. I sent myself.”
He wasn’t giving anything away. I supposed it wouldn’t hurt to answer a few questions, just to find out what he knew. I could always eat him afterwards. I flashed my teeth at him.
“Three questions. Make it quick.”
He took another step forwards, smiling and nonchalant as ever. “Thanks very much, ma’am. I really appreciate this.”
“Just get on with it.” He nodded genially and took a pen and notepad out of his pocket.
“What’s your real name – your human name?”
For a second, I forgot to look menacing. “I don’t remember,” I said, recovering from my surprise.
One dark, pencil-thin eyebrow – he probably had them plucked, the vainglorious pig – formed a perfect arch, a sarcastic, aggressive question mark. “You don’t remember.” He scribbled something on his notepad.
Red-cheeked with sudden vampiric rage, I said: “It’s been a long time. You couldn’t possibly understand.”
The eyebrow smoothed itself out into its habitually gentle curve; now he was all sweetness and solicitation. “Of course,” he crooned. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to be rude.” Some dark, long-ignored corner of my mind chuckled silently. This kid didn’t even need a partner for the good cop/bad cop routine. “Next question,” he continued. “Who turned you?”
I had said I would answer his questions, so I’d do it even though this one made me a bit uncomfortable. “These days, he calls himself Serkan.” That name always rolls off my tongue like a serpant’s hiss, and shares an aftertaste with arsenic. It suits its owner quite well.
“And then?” the questioner prompted.
I sighed, only later realizing that it had been a long time since I had done so revealing a thing. “Back then, I knew him as Alex.”
“How did you meet him?”
A face came swimming up before my eyes. Long dark hair, deep dark eyes, and cheekbones like a model’s. “He was my boyfriend,” I said. I wondered how many questions that had been. How many had I said I would answer?
“How old were you?” rejoined the mysterious mortal.
I did quick math in my head. “Seventeen, I think. I’m almost sure of the year.”
“And...” he hesitated. I watched his adam’s apple bob uncomfortably. “How...did it happen?”
“I was stupid and gullible and didn’t know what I was getting into, that’s how it happened.”
“So you had a choice?”
“You’ve had more than three questions.”
“You had a choice in becoming a vampire?”
I growled and gave him another pointed glimpse of my teeth. “Yes, I had a choice. Keep snooping around, and you won’t be so lucky. Serkan – Alex – lied to me. He said he loved me and wanted me to be with him forever.”
“And he didn’t?”
Now, I really did laugh out loud. “You’re as much of an idiot as I was. Vampires can’t love. Vampires only desire. I didn’t find out until it was too late. The only things a vampire feels forever are longing, jealousy and hunger. He lied to me to make me what I am, and I can never go back.”
By now he had stopped scribbling his notes. “Would you go back if you could? Would you give it all away?”
"'It all?'" The question took me by surprise. "And what exactly is 'it all?' You have no idea what you're talking about. Besides, I am -" I paused; these words came with great difficulty, but it seemed important to get them right. "I am different since then. Even if I never wanted blood again, even if it were possible to - to 'go back,' it's my self that's changed. Because of what I am, what I've become, I could never think like a human again. Like I said, you can't understand."
“You could turn me,” he said quietly.
“What?” I was sure I had heard him wrong.
“You could do it. Then I would know.”
“What a fool you are. Of course I won’t turn you.”
There was a little pause, and then he said “You’re wrong, you know. If you were really just an animal, you’d do it.”
I stared at him. “How can you know I won’t just eat you? How do you know you won’t end up like him?” I nudged the dry corpse with my foot.
He grinned; his shining white teeth caught the moonlight. “You’re full. Don’t forget, I just watched you suck the life out of this drunkard.”
“You will regret it. You will be cast out, a murderer, soulless.”
“So you’ve been telling me. Do it.”
“Why do you want it so much?”
“Why don’t you want to do it?”
I glared at him. Idiot. Why had I allowed him to question me? “More vampires means less food for the rest of us. I certainly don’t need any more competition.”
“What, afraid I’m going to take all the drunks? No, thanks. Real vampires take their prey fully conscious, not when they’re half-dead anyway. Maybe you’re not even strong enough to turn me.”
That was enough. I should kill him. So what if I were full. “I’ve answered your questions. I don’t know who you are, or what your problem is, but I’ve wasted enough of my night on you.” A frozen zephyr kissed the back of my neck, and I was seized by a sudden urge to take to the air. I had hours yet in which to do as I pleased.
“Alright, alright, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve been terribly rude. Perhaps I should introduce myself. Call me Seth, if you like.” He took another step forward. My muscles tensed, ready to attack. He looked younger from this distance, though his eyes were rimmed with dark circles like kohl. “I started looking for vampires when I watched one suck my brother dry a few years back.” I shivered at his casual tone. “Handsome bastard. I hid in the closet. Couple months later, I met a vampiress calling herself Lillith –” I would have snorted derisively if I hadn't been too busy trying to slow my epileptic pulse “- and from what she said I could find her friends, some dead broad named Magdalena -" my heart stopped beating entirely "- and so on and so forth. And now I’ve come to you.”
“I’m not interested in your life story. I’m not even interested in your blood.” Oh, the sky was clear and bright with stars. If I could just slip away, just get a little more space...
“Don’t fly away just yet, Ghufran,” Seth hissed in my ear. He was so close now, too close, much, much too close. He almost embraced me. I found that I was backed up against the wall of the bar.
“How dare you?” I growled. He did not step back.
“This Serkan...Alex...how can I find him?”
I thought quickly. Hoarse laughter burst from my chest like water from the lungs of one near drowned. “We’re not in touch,” I lied. I put a hand on his chest to shove him away, accidentally catching his eyes as I did so.
I stood frozen, our gazes locked. Those eyes were totally alien, totally inhuman. When Alex looked at me and made his false promises and gave me his tainted blood, his eyes held more compassion than these two strange fires. Cold and immobile with terror, I recognized too late the long wooden stake in his hand, drawn from some unseen pocket and pressed now between my ribs.
“One last chance, Ghufran.” I thought of Alex the human, and of Serkan the monster, and I looked into the pits of insanity where Seth should have had eyes. “Vampires are scum. I could tell that right away. I killed them all, one by one, but I like you and I need the information you can give me. Serkan, he's the one - the one I swore I'd kill. He's the one who started all of this. Besides, he betrayed you, too, didn't he? Maybe if you help me find him, I’ll let you live.”
I knew, looking at him, that even in the depths of my despair and self-hatred I had never been so monstrous as this young man who held my half-life in his hand. I knew that Serkan had never been so monstrous. My lips curled in disgust. “What are you?” I whispered.
“I’m only human,” he replied with a crazed grin. And then he put the stake through my heart.