by Le Reveur
Two friends cross the line between friends and lover and living and the dead.
|ENJOYING THE NIGHT
We heard Interzone before we saw it. And that night, as Nic and I rounded the corner of 5th and Elm, my body tingled with anticipation at finally seeing the place I had heard so much about. We walked up Elm Street and saw the usual Interzone crowd lined up outside the black brick walls that housed the wildest dance club in the city. Tonight would be unbelievable, I told myself. Since Interzone opened two years ago, I had wanted to come. When Nic moved here from California six months ago, I knew I had to bring him after we discovered our shared love for Goth music. We bypassed the regulation lines and went directly to the front door to get in. Thanks to a good friend, Nic and I had procured special passes that gave us instant access as opposed to waiting in line outside in the brisk night air.
I had to admit, Nic looked both handsome and diabolical. At 6'0", he towered over me in his gothic style costume. He had been looking forward to tonight and had gone all out in his appearance. His normally black hair was now shaved off and his face, painted in pancake make-up, glowed an unearthly white that was accentuated by the black eyeliner and lipstick he wore. Clad in head-to-toe black and carrying a skull handled walking stick, he looked like an elegant demon from the netherworld out for an evening of entertainment among the mortals.
His eagerness in fact, was the sole factor that marred his death-like appearance. Nic couldn't wipe the smile off his face and I knew why; I am normally very self-conscious. It took a lot, a lot, for me to go out and dance. Growing up, I was always a wallflower whether I was asked to dance or not. It wasn't that I didn?t know how or couldn't; something just always inhibited me and no matter how many years passed, I just couldn't seem to lose that junior high shyness. "But tonight will be different," I thought, "I will dance no matter how self-conscious I feel."
We walked into the Zone and were bombarded by the smell of sweaty bodies and strobe lights. We moved in slow motion down the corridor which ended at the entrance of a circular balcony that surrounded the dance floor below. I walked to the guard rail and surveyed the chaos of moving bodies caught up in the rhythm of the music. It was complete and utter madness swathed in colored lights.
"Fabulous," was Nic's only word to describe it as he came up behind me and encircled my waist with his long arm. He might have said more, but I couldn't hear him over the pulsating beat of the Cure's "Fascination Street" blasting from the twin tower speakers that sat at the far end of the dance floor atop a large stage. Two winding staircases from the balcony allowed access to the dance floor below, and a full service bar wound almost the entire length of the circle balcony.
The whole place was as insane as I hoped it would be. I wanted to instantly be part of it. Tugging on Nic's hand, I signaled him to follow me; we were going downstairs. He needed no prodding and we navigated our way down to the main floor where the action was. As we reached the floor, the song ended and the entire club went pitch black except for the stage which came ablaze in an almost blinding white light. The crowd roared in approval, the regulars knew what was to come, and Nic and I fought our way toward the middle of the floor to find out for ourselves.
At the first sounds of Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like A Hole," the crowd exploded into a manic mosh pit that transformed the entire club into an NIN video from hell. I lost Nic almost immediately in the crush of people, but I wasn't worried. In the pit, everyone knew there were no designated dance partners. I lost myself in the madness, oblivious to everyone and everything for once. When the song was over, I wiped the sweat from my face and moved towards the stairs to look for Nic. He stood on the stairs clear across the floor looking for me as well. I caught his attention and motioned towards the bathroom while pointing at myself.
He gestured for me to wait. I knew he didn't feel it was safe for me to go alone, but the need was urgent and it would take him too damn long to fight his way over to me. I gestured back at him and towards the bar to get drinks and smiled at him. I shook my head as if to say, "can't wait," and took off towards the restroom before I burst. Racing past the group of people crowded at the back, I excused and pardoned myself till I reached the restrooms.
What happened then, I now know was not my fault. But perhaps, had I been a bit more alert, a bit more aware of my surroundings, I might be a mortal today, with nothing but happy, normal memories of that evening with Nic. But I wasn?t alert enough and I wasn't aware enough either, so when a heavy hand clamped itself over my mouth it took me completely by surprise, which made knocking me into the corner and out of the crowd's sights an easy feat. My head struck the wall and, almost instantly, I was yanked to my feet by a different pair of burly hands.
"Watch it, you idiot! Or you'll break his neck before we've even fed," the face attached to the hands hissed at his partner. He turned back to face me, and I struggled to free my hands and mouth. It seemed as if a vise of steel held me in place. Whoever he was, he was beyond strong and would not move no matter how much I jerked and twisted. He tightened his grip and slammed me once more against the wall, obviously tired of my attempts to free myself. My vision blurred as my head struck the wall once more and I could smell his breath on me as he leaned close to whisper in my ear.
"Be still, believe me, it's useless. Just give up." I felt his hot breath in my ear and a sudden sharp sting on my neck. The world turned to water and it seemed that even the walls were melting.
"Not fair!" My mind screamed as tears ran down my face. I hadn't done anything wrong except go somewhere by myself and now I was paying for it with my life. My body lurched forward in his grip as if all my organs were trying to exit through my mouth. The realization of what was happening danced through my head, mocking the mortality I once held so dear. "I'm being bled to death," I thought slowly. "I'm being killed by a monster." His hand clamped down tighter on my mouth, and instinctively I bit down as hard as I could. The metallic taste of his blood filled my mouth and I sank my teeth in deeper until I finally heard him cry out.
"No! Christ, you stupid..." he pushed me away and I fell against the wall, my hand clamped to my still bleeding neck.
"Damian, he bit you! He's going to turn! You gotta do something before he turns into one of us!" The second one looked at me with a newfound fear, and I realized I still had Damian's blood on my lips.
"He's not turning into anything but a corpse," Damian said as he approached me once more. I realized there was a third person in the hallway at the same time I saw Damian's knife emerge from his jacket. He brandished the six-inch blade in my face and I felt him bury the knife deep in my chest. White-hot flashes of pain pierced the blackness I felt surrounding me as my strength slowly ebbed. I watched in silence as the newcomer's eyes met mine right before I closed them and I saw him lift a finger to his lips. Damian's partner must have only felt a split second of pain and surprise before the stranger crushed his neck with his silent hands.
I looked down, and the stark realization that I had an object protruding from my chest was the final blow. I closed my eyes and my ears closed out the struggle going on between Damian and the stranger. I listened to my heartbeat and willed it to slow down. I didn't move when I felt someone lean down next to me and brush my hair from my neck. The now familiar sting came once more and I floated off into darkness with the final thought of, "So this is what it's like to die."
Like any other awakening, the first thing I did was open my eyes. Disoriented and filled with memories of the earlier struggle, I sprang from my resting place and looked about my surroundings, ready for battle.
"Relax, calm down. Those men from last night aren't going to hurt you. I made sure they were quite dead before we left the club. Vamps, disgusting, grubby little creatures. Personally, I can't stand them." I whirled around to face the voice behind me and had no trouble in discerning the figure hidden in the shadows. It was the stranger, the creature from the night before. Images of the entire struggle flashed through my mind as I recalled the moment when I felt his sharp teeth sink into my throat. I gently touched the place on my neck where I believed the scars to be but found nothing but smooth skin. I stepped slowly towards him, trying to see the exact features of his face.
"Vamps?" I asked cynically, sure this whole bizarre dream would end any second, "like you?"
"Surely not!" He laughed. "Thank God for that! I, my dear, like yourself, am a vampire. There is a notable difference between us and them. They are weak. Only half vampire blood and half mortal. Their transformation was never complete. When they were made, they were not fully drained, leaving them to live forever; or until a stronger vampire decides to kill them. Consider that your first lesson in the class struggle of the undead. But pardon my rudeness, and allow me to introduce myself. I'm Peter. I'm afraid I've transformed you before I even got the chance to know your name."
I rolled my eyes heavenward. This was insanity. "Ethan. My name is Ethan and did I hear you correctly when you said I was a vampire? Like you?"
"Most correctly. Of course, you're still disoriented. Please sit down. You've had a lot happen in the past night. I'm sure after you feed, your head will feel clearer. I only want you to know that when I made you I did it so you would have a chance to live, if not mortally, than some other way. It just didn't seem fair for you to die. I saw you cry when he bit you, but it wasn't out of fear, was it? You were angry that you were dying before you were ready."
I met his gaze and held it a second before nodding in agreement. I walked over and sat down in a dusty chair next to him. There wasn't much to the room. In fact, it was quite bare. Several chairs scattered about in the dust were the sole decorations. It was dark, lighted only by the moon's silvery beams.
"Nice place," I commented as I looked around.
"Please, excuse these conditions," he said as he too, surveyed the room. "Your little crisis however, lacked the necessary discreteness I normally look for when I bleed someone. I had to get you out of there, but I couldn't very well have carried you through the streets at that hour. There were people everywhere."
"So where the hell are we, then?" I asked as I got up and looked out the window.
"Above the Interzone. There are forgotten rooms like this all over this part of the city. I chose this one though because there is no fire escape nearby. The only entrance is that door which locks properly." He grinned sheepishly. "I sometimes pass the night here, I lose track of time at the Zone and don?t have enough night to get home. But first things first, It's early and we need to hunt." He walked to the window ledge and stepped off it, into the night air.
"Peter!" I leaned out over the sill and saw him standing safely on the ground looking up at me.
"Jump Ethan, it's not a long drop at all. Believe me, it's no big thing for you anymore. Don't think about it, just land," he smiled at me reassuringly. I gulped a mouthful of air as I wondered what in God's name was going on. True, I felt differently. I was stronger, I could feel it. I realized I wasn't afraid of jumping but a part of me was saying it would be irrational to do such a thing.
"Think of your hunger, Ethan. Let it guide you. If you focus on it, you'll want to jump." As soon as those words reached my ears, I identified what it was that had shifted inside of me. A hungry void had opened up within me, and I felt as if adrenaline had replaced all the blood in my veins. The need, the void, pushed me up on the sill and over the edge. Two seconds later, I was standing next to Peter in the alley below his room. I looked at where I'd been only seconds before and grinned at my new companion in disbelief.
He led me down the alley back onto the main streets. We walked down Elm and turned onto one of the smaller avenues, winding our way through alleys and narrow streets. Soon I was lost but continued to follow blindingly. I knew nothing about this man, but my terrible hunger linked me to him, telling me that only he could teach me about what I had become.
Soon, we came to a part of the city most people avoided. Street people lined the sidewalks, halfway buried beneath garbage, dirt, and broken glass. Their faces reflected a neon glow cast off from the various cheap motels and bars whose walls they leaned against. Among the smell of beer and urine came the scent of death mingled with a coppery taste that drove me insane. I followed Peter through the crowds of people and my ears filled with the sounds of the inner city traffic, snippets of conversation, and the usual street proposition. My body broke into a cold sweat and I stumbled along trying to keep up with Peter, who seemed to be getting farther and farther away.
"You're a new face around here. Kinda young, eh? Look at you, must be fresh off the bus. So how much?" I discovered the question was directed at me when one of the meaner looking hoods blocked my view of Peter and more importantly, my path.
"What do you want?" I snapped. Already I could feel my anger growing as I envisioned the eyes of last night's vamp in the face of the street punk before me. His words were lost on my ears as rage began to fill my head and start a trembling throughout my body. I looked into his eyes and saw an evil stupidity the enraged me even further. Vamp or not, this one hunted for pleasure, preying on those he believed to be weaker. His thoughts came to me like he had opened his mouth and spoke. I heard his vile intentions run through my mind and my patience finally snapped in two.
I grabbed his shirt and slammed him against a brick wall. His surprise was obvious as he struggled to free himself from my grip and I slapped him across the face in annoyance. Grabbing a handful of his hair, I pulled his head back, exposing a dirty neck. I had no conscious idea of what I was doing and instinctively my mouth opened to reveal two tiny, sharp teeth. Two hands, stronger than my own, pulled me away and before I knew, carried me down the street, leaving my prey to faint on the sidewalk amid a crowd of onlookers I had not even noticed. Peter set me down behind a dumpster in a filthy alley and shook me violently until I looked directly at him.
"Never! Never in public! Do you hear me? Good God Ethan! You can't behave like that or you'll be caught in an instant. You are a vampire, Ethan! Not a normal killer. You kill to survive and if you're caught, you can't be rehabilitated like some sort of criminal. Do you hear me? What you did back there was very, very stupid."
"But he wanted to kill me," I cried in frustration. "I could hear it in his thoughts. He's like all the rest that kill for sport. What harm could it be to have him dead?" I asked.
"None at all. But if you're going to kill him, it has to be in isolation. You can't just make your hunt a public event. That's all I'm saying. Do you understand?"
I nodded and rose to my feet, brushing the dirt from my shirt. I walked down the alley away from the main street with Peter at my side.
"It comes instinctively, doesn't it?" I asked him. We had been sitting for some time on one of the numerous rooftops in the beaten down hood with a perfect view of the city lights. Peter nodded, his eyes on the ground. "I didn't think really, about the details. Just that he deserved to die, I wanted his blood, and no one would feel any great loss. It was like all the pieces fit so I went for it. I just didn't think about anyone seeing me."
"I understand," he conceded. "In this neighborhood, they probably wouldn't have even done anything to stop you. That's mainly why I hunt here. But still, you can't afford to take such a blatant chance. You are right, he killed for sport. Men like him are easy prey for us."
"Meaning they are easy to kill?" I inquired.
"No, well that too. But more so, easy to justify killing," he said. "Do you understand what you are now, Ethan? All this, this city, is unaware of your existence. Yet you are stronger and smarter than every human out there. Their money, their power, their greed, it's all worthless to you. If you want it, it's yours." He paused, seeming to choose his words carefully. "There is no challenge in it you will soon discover. What money buys for them it cannot buy for you. Those mortals who would kill, kill for sport or power. We kill because we have no choice," he turned to face me and I saw a weariness in his eyes that I hadn't noticed before, "but don't fool yourself, your killings won't be any easier to justify than theirs are."
He walked to the fire escape, grabbed the ladder, thought better of it and jumped, taking the shorter path down. I followed suit and landed beside him. "Come, it's time for your first," he said softly and took my hand. We walked the streets again and that night I took a human life for the first time. I waited in a dark alley, appearing vulnerable and scared. I let my victim attack me before I sank my teeth into his neck. I made sure to drain him fully, giving him none of my own blood lest he should turn like I did. When I dropped his corpse into a nearby dumpster, I felt no remorse.
I grew bolder the next night and sauntered along the streets with Peter watching me from a distance so it would look like I was alone. I held my head high and a small smile played about my lips as I realized I could dress, walk, and say anything now without fear of being attacked. The night was mine and I had no cause to be afraid.
My prey came easier than the night before. I discovered I had a talent for attracting the ultra-violent ones. I led them into back alleys and deserted buildings, dark rooms and behind smelly dumpsters, always with a beguiling smile before I made my signature mark on their necks. I was lost in a frenzy of new found bravery. I couldn't get it out of my head how beautiful it was not to know fear.
"You're remembering someone, perhaps when you were alive?" Peter watched my face for a reaction, a concerned look furrowing his usually smooth brow. I was remembering. I woke on the third night with fading dreams of Nic. Everything seemed so long ago and my past seemed almost nonexistent. My new life had started so suddenly I had never even acknowledged the passing of my old one.
"He's still waiting for you, the one you call Nic," Peter said as he watched the twinkling skyline. "He's worried. You love him don't you? You almost forgot but you didn't. I suppose it really wasn't fair to you, being snatched away so suddenly from everything you knew. But then again, there wasn't really time for a debate on the matter." He looked at me and I knew he could already see what I had decided. "You'll go back to him, then?" I nodded.
Peter rose to his feet and came to where I sat. He planted a kiss on my forehead and knelt down to face me. "You're stronger than I thought you would be, Ethan. It was a surprise to see you turn out this way. This Nic is in for a surprise. Go back to him you have unfinished business that I cannot keep you from." His hand brushed a wisp of hair from my face and I closed my eyes. When I opened them, my teacher, my friend was already gone.
"You're alive?" Nic stared at me as I emerged from the shadows of his attic bedroom where I had been hiding, waiting for him to come home. I shook my head in answer to his question and smiled as I saw this only confused him further. "You're not alive? Ethan. do you have any idea how much I've been looking for you? What is going on? Why are you so pale, are you sick?"
He stepped toward me and I backed into the shadows once more. I hadn't realized how difficult this would be. Nic was no victim or an outlet for my anger. He was the only being in the world that I loved at that moment, and I knew I wouldn't give him up to a mortal life without the most fierce of fights.
"Nic, that night at the Zone, something happened to me. I know you won't believe me at first, but I will convince you. Please, just listen to me." He nodded and sank down on his bed, his eyes never leaving me. I told him my story, all of it, and his pain was evident most when I told him about the scene in the club. I relived the past three nights, telling him how I hunted and who I had preyed upon. I described Peter and our conversations while watching the city lights from atop buildings.
Finally I was through. Nic stared at me in disbelief and his chilly attic room filled slowly with a heavy stone-like silence that could only be brought about by someone's abandonment of all his structured beliefs. I felt the silence seep into the room and curl around us like smoke, through the window cracks and walls it creeped in slowly; embracing us and holding its breath, waiting for Nic's response.
He rose slowly from his bed like a crippled man standing for the very first time, unsure and in awe of the very legs he is standing on. I waited, my eyes never leaving his, wondering what he would say.
"And you came back to me," he asked, clearly confused, "why?"
"Dead or alive, I won't leave you," I said. "If I have to watch you grow old and die, I will. But I won't make you part of my past until you do. If that's what you want." I looked at his face and wished with all my heart to hear what I wanted to hear.
"Well, I can't really refuse an offer like that, can I?" He smiled and brought my hands to his lips. I kissed both his eyes closed and moved towards his neck.
We slept in between the walls of his attic room where I knew we would be safe. The lack of windows and heavy insulation on the walls would keep out all sunlight and house us safely throughout the daylight hours. I embraced Nic's still form and lay his head against my chest. I kissed his head and ran my fingertips lightly across his cheekbones. I wanted to feel him grow cold in my arms, to sense his becoming. I wanted to watch his face transform into perfect silkiness as the vampire beauty overtook him. But like him, my body sensed the rising sun and that now familiar slumber overtook me.
"Hello there," I whispered as I watched his eyes take in the dusty attic space. I watched him recall the past night and like I had, he touched his neck in disbelief and gazed at his now marble white hands. The vampire beauty had embraced him and in the dark, he seemed to glow with an ethereal, white light.
"I'm like you now, aren't I," he asked, already reading the answer from my thoughts. I kissed him softly on the forehead and nodded. As I hugged him tightly, I knew I loved him more than humanly possible. He was my justification, my proof that in my transformation I had become more than sheer vengeance. I had taken his mortal life from him out of love and not rage. While the others were left forgotten in the streets and alleys, Nic, the only one killed out of love, would be the one I would remain with forever.
"Come with me, I have something to show you." I climbed out of the dark attic and into his room which had filled with silvery moonlight. I walked to the window and threw it open, letting in the cool, night air. I felt him standing behind me, staring at the far off city skyline, barely visible from his house.
"You're one of us now, Nic. You're a vampire and all the city is unaware of you. Yet you are stronger than every human out there..."