The thunder echoed in the distance as I sat at my computer. There was another storm brewing and I knew she’d be by my side. It’s what we did. Tornado, hail, or otherwise, she and I would sit together contemplating life under the wood pavilion as we watched the white flashes of light draw closer.
“Ahhh come on. You’re no fun!” Those were always the words that drew her to me as I begged for company.
I hung up the phone and tried to clean as much as I was able. I didn’t want my best friend Jeana to see what a total slob I really was, and it was just the motivation I needed to do the job. She wouldn’t have commented either way though. She knew me, and I knew her. Neither of us was particularly adept when it came to keeping an uncluttered home.
From our first meeting outside of school, after a commencement ceremony for National Spanish Honor Society, we became the best of friends. The connection had been made. I may be gay, but she has always been the other half of my soul. We knew the workings of each others’ mind as much as we knew our own thoughts. I loved her, and still do. Just… not in that way.
Jeana stood in my doorway as I clambered down the steps to meet her. Her 5’2 frame seemed so much smaller as I looked down the long flight of stairs and stumbled toward her.
She wore the floor length black denim trench coat I had given her, and the approaching flashes of lightning gave her voluptuous shape form. I could smell the lavender oil on her skin as it drifted up the stairwell. She wasn’t thin or extremely overweight, but what we had both agreed upon as curvy. Certainly she could lose a few pounds, but looking through my eyes I only saw my beautiful best friend.
“You always do this to me, Shane. You know I have to work in the morning.” Even though she spoke with a hint of warning in her voice I knew she was just as happy to be there as I was to see her.
“Come on it’s almost here!” I elbowed her in the side as I passed and jogged toward ‘The Pumpkin’.
The Chevette was famous if only to our small circle of friends, and Jeana had so named it ‘The Pumpkin’. It was bright orange and hauled us around the country side at break neck speeds without fail. It was not a luxury car. The cramped space made me suspect, should either of us fart, that the door would inevitably blow open and render us onto the pavement to our death. Even though she drove like a maniac, and my foot print was permanently etched into her floor board where a brake should have been, I never once thought I was truly in harms way while she manned the wheel. She is still the only person on this planet who I trust so completely, that I can sleep soundly while laying in the passenger seat.
It was because of her that I became the avid reader that I am today. She handed me a book that night as we watched the storm roll in. As usual we rambled on about the nature of life and things we thought were so simple. The book was titled ‘Queen of the Damned’. I didn’t think much of it then.
Eventually the storm passed and our evening came to a close. We drove the few blocks back to my shabby apartment and she left before having seen the cleaning I managed earlier. I pulled the book from beneath my trench coat and laid it on the end table. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to read the book, but that she had given it to me, that I protected it from the rain. It was hers, and she had given it to me on loan. In my mind it was a prized thing. Of course… that fact didn’t push me to read the first pages until a few days later.
Once I started reading, I was hooked. I devoured every word of that book in 2 days. Jeana and I had always had an obsession with the supernatural, and this fueled my fire all the more.
It had always been our practice to walk the streets of New Windsor and wander the rows of the local cemetery. The seduction of the words I read, and the moist night air as the cicada chimed in the darkness, captured my heart. This day wasn’t more special than any other, but that is when we made our pact.
Under diamond dusted skies and in moonlit shadows, we agreed. Should either of us ever become a vampire, we’d come for the other. It was our sacred vow, and sadly one I would hesitate to keep.
Oh… I became a vampire, albeit not as you might think of one, but I didn’t have the heart to condemn her to my world. At least… not in the beginning.
The summer ended and Jeana surprised me with season tickets to the local symphony. One weekend a month we’d wear our most sophisticated attire and wander out into the cool night air to culture ourselves. The ‘Pumpkin’ was our chariot and whisked us into a world where we could be someone else for one night.
We’d begin the night by visiting our favorite coffee house. It was called ‘All Kinds Of People’ and that is exactly what could be found there. I suppose some would call it a beatnik bar had it been another time. They served flavored coffee that could be sipped at any one of the mix matched sets of tables, chairs, and furniture throughout the establishment. In the back were several shelves. I guess I’m being generous here. There were only about six shelves total, but considering that all of them held gay literature, made it a treasure to behold.
Jeana and I order the most chocolate sweet thing we could find on the menu that tickled our fancy. The ritual was complex. We would choose a table situated amongst the people to draw attention to ourselves, but yet far enough away that we could watch the freaks. They weren’t any freakier than we were of course, and I suppose that is why we loved the place so much. We fit right in.
The place became a staple to our outings. Whether we were going to the symphony, to a drag show at the local gay bar, or on a leisurely walk along theMississippi River, this was how our night began. When we were comfortable, we’d listen to people sing and play their guitar, and inevitably sample each other’s coffee.
I suppose the strangest thing, looking back on it now, is that we both watched the crowd of people thinking we were the normal ones. I suppose it made us the odd balls, but we didn’t really think of it that way back then and we didn’t care. We were out to have a great time. We were dressed in our finest, with our own sense of flair and style. Not quite as prim as those wearing a tux, and not as decadent as those in the coffee shop, clad in their darkest most drab attire.
The affect was subtle and violent in the funniest of ways. We had our own macabre formal sense of fashion, but it was as merged in spirit as we were. Most often I would wear black dress pants, black silk vest, and trench coat. In contrast I also wore a bright colored shirt of red or blue beneath the vest, and shiny black healed boots. My jewelry was arcane in style to say the least. I wore surgical steal cut rings, necklace and earrings to match. Nothing gaudy, but things with enough edge that when you saw them you knew something wasn’t quite right.
Jeana and I both donned sunglasses. While mine were more to hide what I was looking at, hers were usually more feline in nature. Leopard print frames and opaque lenses hid her eyes while we gazed at our surroundings. Many times she wore a loud floral print backed in black with only a see-through grey wrap to complete the shoulderless ensemble. Other days she would wear her black leather skirt and shear half sleeve blouse to match. Sometimes her shoes had a low heal, but Jeana was always a sensible shoe girl. There was no way she’d be caught unable to run and dive into the ditch if the need were to arise.
With all of this, there was her compact purse which always possessed every necessity any one person might need at a given moment. She was the MacGyver of purses. Though the small dangling black fringed and beaded thing couldn’t have been more than six inches wide and four inches tall, I swear if the need arose, she could have produced a nuclear missile. Whether it was a sewing kit, a breath mint, or safety pin, it was always there in times of emergency for us, and any in need.
Our last few encounters ended with our ritual walk about town and with me watching her tail lights fade into the darkness. Lately I had taken it upon my self to walk the shadowed alleyways of town and the cemetery again after she had gone.
On more than one occasion I felt the pressure of eyes as I wandered the streets. Usually I figured it was nothing more than paranoia, but sometimes… I knew someone was there. I felt the weight of their gaze on my shoulders as I would walk the sidewalks of our sleeping town. I didn’t know his name until sometime later.
Mine wasn’t a happy world. Violent nightmares stole most of my night’s sleep and the day light brought me challenges I didn’t want to face. To avoid another year of persecution in high school as the token homosexual, I graduated early. Except for the few farm boys, jocks, and idle acquaintances I blew behind closed doors, no one truly knew my darkest secret. ‘I liked it.’
I had taken aspirin, sleeping pills, various poisons, and had even cut my wrists. Through each drama, I was able to hide my work, or explain to people who didn’t want to see the truth, how and why each accident had happened. I was and am after all… a master of words, or at least very good at telling people exactly what they wanted to hear.
My latest attempt was when I threw my car into the path of an oncoming semi. I figured the car would roll and the semi might finish the job the road wouldn’t. Visions of churning twisted metal filled my mind as I smiled and jerked the wheel. The anticipated sensation was quickly replaced by an ache in the neglected muscles of my ass as I settled back into the car seat. I was alive.
The car spun along the highway and the semi gave it just the nudge it needed to whirl around and into the grass filled median in the center of the road. Yet again… fate had screwed me.
There was one saving grace that resulted from that little fender bender. I didn’t have to go to work. When I called to tell them I was running late and why, they gave me the night off.
That night I decided to walk alone instead of asking Jeana to join me. It was mid October and my breath made little clouds as I trudged along the lamp lit streets. The local cemetery was on the outskirts of town and a good two mile hike from my second floor apartment. Had I not been so cheated earlier that day, I might have had a permanent place to rest.
I rounded another corner and headed down the long gravel road that led to the local cemetery. Normally I could have been seen, but I broke out the street light with a rock a couple of days earlier.
The wind blew harder and I was thankful I let my muddy brown hair grow past my shoulders. It helped to protect my ears against the chill as I pulled my trench coat tighter around me for warmth. It wasn’t long before my paranoia peaked as I walked the dark lane to the cemetery, and I stopped and turned to look behind me. Of course there was no one there, but I spoke anyway.
“I know you’re there. Don’t watch from the shadows, just finish me.” I waited and watched for long nervous seconds and finally sighed.
In one of the many books I read recently, it said that if a person sent out the right signals they might attract a vampire, so I steadied my mind and thought as strongly as I could. ‘Come feed on me. Make me one of you.”
Another ten or fifteen minutes passed as I felt the familiar press of eyes against my back and I arrived at the gate to the cemetery. I ambled along and found my favorite grave. An angel stood on the tallest monument in the center of the cemetery. It marked the resting place of Marcus Blackwood. It looked almost sinister in the moonlight as I gazed upon its’ shadowy features. One arm was raised to the sky with a stone sword in hand as it hung its head gazing some place below the earth.
I turned and slouched against the cold stone and slid to the ground. Even though my trench coat was wrapped around me I felt the cold seep through the fabric and chill my flesh. I pulled my legs close and rested my head upon my knees. Maybe the cold would take me if I sat here long enough.
I glanced up and looked out into the darkness. Some twenty feet away I saw two glowing yellow eyes staring back at me. My instincts told me it was a coyote or raccoon, but they glowed from a higher stand point that hinted at something more human.
Shivering from the cold and fear I spoke. “I’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”
Again the only sound was the whisper of wind through branches and the flutter of dying leaves not yet fallen to the ground. Suddenly the dark figure shifted and was upon me. I felt it pierce the flesh of my neck as my head was wretched to the side. My body tensed but I didn’t struggle or attempt to fight the thing off of me. Even if this creature only offered me death, I welcomed it.
My body relaxed against the stone and I felt sleep pulling at my mind. Something told me it wouldn’t be long now as I lingered in the last moments of my life.
“Not yet my friend, you have a promise to keep.” I heard a chuckle in my ear as he pulled away from me.
The darkness hid his features but I saw the hint of movement as he brought his wrist to his mouth. I heard a sucking sound and then watched as his shadowy wrist moved toward my mouth.
“Drink and live in death, or don’t and die.” The moonlight edged what I knew was blood on his wrist.
It looked almost black in the moonlight as I leaned forward to drink the silvery edged rivers that traveled down his skin. At first I hesitated but then lapped at the wound he had created for me. I used my hands to press his wrist against my mouth and drank greedily. My stomach lurched at the taste of death and decay. I’m not sure what I expected, but for some reason I had anticipated something sweeter. What touched my tongue that night was not life… I only tasted bitter death.
Moments passed and my head swam in a euphoria I had never experienced before. The world seemed to shift around me and an ecstasy surged through my body like liquid fire racing through my veins.
Visions of blue and white light flashed across my mind as I slept, though it was a sleep I didn’t recognize. I felt the incredible rush of the world moving past me like a violent wind as I traveled forward. If was though I was on a journey somewhere when suddenly I was snapped back like a rubber band.
My eyes flew open and the sudden light erupted into a burning ache within my skull. I pinched my eyes shut and lifted my arms to block the blinding light. A low familiar chuckle slammed through my ears like a marching band and I curled into the fetal position. Every sensation was magnified a hundred fold like some hang over of epic proportions. The smell of laundry detergent in the fabric I buried my face in threatened to suffocate me. Seconds later my stomach lurched and I threw up and shuddered as the splash of heavy liquid surged out of me. I groaned and the sound of my own misery assaulted my ears making me feel that much worse. It was when I felt and smelled my own shit that I began to cry.
“Shhhh Be still. Your body is dead now. We’ll have you cleaned up soon enough.” Even though he whispered, the words seemed to explode within my ears like the crashing roar of a waterfall.
I felt his arms lift me into the air, and then lower me into velvet warmth. I was beginning to feel less like hammered shit as the moments passed, but still didn’t have the will to open my eyes. I felt a soft cloth working the length of my body as I groaned from every sensation and trickle of water as it rolled down my skin.
Again I was lifted by strong arms and then lowered into another warm pool of water. I knew it was a tub and I began to wonder how long this dream would last. I must have fallen asleep against the gravestone in the cemetery.
“You’re not dreaming Shane. Open your eyes.” His voice was low in timber and I could only guess the accent to be something European.
I opened my eyes slowly and stared mesmerized at the lights scattered throughout the room. Around every surface and edge was a halo of light that writhed with more color than I had ever seen before. It was as though every inanimate object was alive. The candles that dotted every corner of the room glowed with such light it almost burned my eyes. They looked like starbursts swaying in a gentle breeze.
I turned my head to the side to see my host kneeling on the floor beside me. He was shirtless and his lower body was hidden by the ridge of the deep porcelain tub. His long straight black hair fell past his shoulders to some place lower than I wasn’t able to view. I studied the curve of his square jaw, high cheek bones, and wide set eyes. He looked like an Indian from a tribe long since forgotten. A exquisite pain exploded within my chest and I shuddered.
“Do not look at me with hunter’s eyes Shane. Relax your mind. I am not your prey” He smiled and tilted his head as he gazed at me. It was a strange if not animal like gesture you might expect from a lion before becoming its next meal.
‘Prey’ Once the word was spoken I focused on his neck and saw the arteries carrying his blood. They seemed to call and rise from beneath his flesh and begged me to rip them from his body. Without thinking I lifted my arm from beneath the water and reached to touch that sensitive spot.
A burst of light and pain blazed across my cheek. “You will do as you are told so long as you are mine.” It was only his open hand that struck me, but it fell like a sledgehammer.
“I belong to no one.” The odd resonance of my voice startled me. There was a mix of voices coming from me I was not familiar with, and yet there were traces of myself that lingered in the strange chorus. A strength was building within me.
Another explosion of pain filled my chest and I doubled over. I felt a flutter within my heart, and emptiness echoed from beneath my sternum.
“Am I a vampire now?” I listened as my words bounced back from the empty stone walls.
“You are what I have made you and more. You… are Nightbreed. Rise and come to me.” His sinister smile did little to comfort me as my body rose out of the water of its own volition.
I felt like a puppet on strings I could not see, and still I resisted. “You are mine!” He chuckled as he spoke.
His body seemed to cloud over as darkness centered on his form and I was pulled from the tub. Each labored step I took drew me closer until I stood before him.