I’m standing in the middle of Grant Park. It’s a cold Chicago winter night. Snow is falling softly around me.
It’s beautiful in its way. Beautiful and quiet and solitary. Anyone with sense is cocooned in soft beds, in warm apartments, pressed up to love ones and glad to be alive. There’s a single rose in my hand. One by one I’m tearing the petals off. I hardly know I’m doing it.
Such an anonymous spot on the ground. Such an ordinary, unremarkable, invisible spot on the ground. To look at it, there’s nothing to separate this particular patch of snowy terrain from any other piece in this park. But I know. And I remember.
Have you ever known someone who seemed to be living their life just a tiny bit faster than the rest of us? Someone destined to burn brighter than everyone around them, only to burn out before his or her time? Someone graced with brilliance, but pursued by tragedy.
I knew someone like that.
Knew him only briefly.
But in that brief he blazed incandescent, brighter than anyone I’ve before or since.
This is how I want to remember him.
The music was pounding in my eardrums and drowning every other thought in my head. I could feel waves of it, radiating from the speakers. The bass rattled my bones and I liked it.
There aren’t too many places a guy of my persuasion can go and be understood. Sure we can go into any bar or club in the city and blend right in. But there are certain places where you can be more. Places where you don’t have to watch yourself quite so carefully. Nosferatu is one of the places.
It’s the attention to the little details that draws me back. The DJ was spinning some drum-and-bass infused Wagnerian opera that has to heard to be believed. I think he’s from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Nosferatu is the only bar in the city where you can order a shot of top notch AB negative (but you’ll pay for the privilege). All around the throbbing mass of humanity and inhumanity were getting lost: lost in the music, lost in the alcohol and drugs, lost in the arms of some punk wannabe with ripped jeans and an emo attitude they’ve only just met, and I was there right alongside, trying to lose myself as well. But it just wasn’t working. The deeper I tried to go, the more reality kept intruding and dragging me back. The illusion faded, and I started seeing the club as it really was, and not the way we want it to be. I saw the desperation in the eyes of the party goers, as they struggled to party harder, longer, faster and lose themselves just a little bit more. Their desires… so needy, so shallow, so weak…
Except for one…
In the middle of the dance floor was a boy. A blonde-haired boy, shining, radiant in the burning glare of one of the frost-white halogens. The grin on his face was genuine. He rocked in time with the music, and he wanted nothing else. The glow of his satisfaction reached out to me across the room and I was transfixed. His body shimmered and writhed, carried away by the ecstasy of the moment. In a crowd full of people only going through the motions, he seemed to be the only person truly and vitally alive. The tide of the crowd ebbed and flowed against me, and I let myself be carried by the currents of jostling bodies. As if he stood at the center of a slow moving maelstrom I found myself spiraling towards him through the crowd. His presence captivated me for reasons that I couldn’t even begin to understand. Somehow the purity of his soul calmed mine, and I couldn’t resist the forces pulling me towards him.
Then the DJ finished his set, and canned dance music replaced the unearthly beats that held the crowd in thrall. The spotlight moved away from the boy, and the spell was broken. He stopped dancing and moved towards the edge of the crowd, and the glow faded with him. I tried to get closer to him, to get one more taste of that beautiful spirit, but the crowd that carried me so close to him before worked against me now, and I found the tides carrying me further, further, further away from him.
By the time I escaped the sea of humanity waving kelp-like on the dance floor into calmer, stiller waters, the boy was gone. I searched the club, the bar, the bathrooms, the balcony, the chill out room, but the boy was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t explain why I needed to see him so much, and one inescapable fact hammered at my brain as I looked.
The boy was human.
In a crowded club teeming with the best and most beautiful of vampire-kin, the one soul that burned like a candle to my moth was human.
Like a water flowing into a hole, I could feel the undercurrents of need and desperation rushing in to fill the space that the boy’s desire left behind, and I couldn’t take anymore. It’s meaningless, all of it meaningless, just the sad pathetic attempts of the immortal and mortal to inject some purpose into their long and empty lives.
I stepped into the chill bite of the air outside the club. The autumn weather was starting to bear its fangs, although the sharp frosts of the morning had yet to be supplanted by the oppressive grip of winter snows. I blew into my hands, watching my breath crystallize in the air. Nippy.
There are still a few hours before dawn, and I didn’t feel like returning to the sit just yet. I picked a direction at random and started to walk.
There’s a popular misconception that vampire lives are full of action. The reality is starkly different. With nothing much in particular to do, and an eternity to do it in, many vampires spend their nights doing nothing more than watching, eternal outsiders gazing dispassionately at a world they left behind. In terms of a vampire’s physical needs, one human a month is enough to sustain us. But even though none of us will admit it, we need humans for more than that. We absorb their culture like parasites, filling our own spiritual well being with the nourishment of belief borrowed from the humans. It’s a thin, watery gruel of course – somehow existing outside the world robs the ideas of the richness and passion we experienced from them in our warm blood days. A black and white film if you like, with a scratchy, hard to hear soundtrack. When observed by a vampire, human feelings seem dulled, dampened, drained of life and vitality. It doesn’t stop us trying to leech what emotional sustenance we can from them.
What of vampire emotions, vampire culture you might well ask? It’s true the emotions run hot for some – especially the newbloods. But eternity has a way of weighing you down, eroding the peaks and valleys of life’s unpredictable turbulence into a flat, largely featureless geography. This weathering process has its impact on vampire creativity. Once you’ve finally rejected human culture in its entirety and decided to embrace vampire culture exclusively, it seems that you inevitably turn to writing your contribution to the vampire scriptures. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Stew say that everyone’s scripture is important, and every scripture contributes to the sum of vampire knowledge, but I’ve read some of the scriptures and I simply don’t agree. Among the few thought-provoking contributions are a multitude of bloated, self-indulgent, overwrought, overwritten monuments to torpid navel gazing. I’m as happy for these vampires to express themselves as the next person, but why take a million words to say what could be effectively summed up in a thousand? The humans learned the inestimable value of a good editor; I have no idea why my vampire brethren believe that crossing over permanently excuses you from being concise.
As you can see, vampires spend way too much time inside their own heads. It’s no wonder so many of us choose to sun quest our way out of this existence before we completely lose whatever marbles we had when we started this masquerade. Me, bitter? Only on Tuesdays, Wednesday and alternative Fridays. (The other Fridays are waffle night at the International House of Pancakes. For some reason that no one has ever been able to understand, maple syrup doesn’t react with our system like every other foodstuff humanity has invented. Go figure).
The club was located in one of those anonymous light industrial districts you find scattered in every large city: an area of auto-shops, junk yards, tire dealerships, warehouses, a land of chain link fences, dark alleys and hard eyes peering from the shadows. I was passing one of those alleys, when I felt something… a twinge… an echo of a shadow of a memory. Vampire eyes see well in the dark.
There were four figures in the shadows, three men, standing over the boy. He felt… different…
I heard a zipper being pulled up.
“I… I did what you wanted…” the boy’s voice trembled. “Have you got it? The blow?”
The man in front of him laughed.
“Look at that. The little cocksucker wants his fix. How much do you want it little cocksucker?”
“You’d do anything, wouldn’t you, you little faggot?” He suddenly kicked out. The boy’s head snapped back and slammed against the concrete wall behind him.
“Say please mister, please give me my heroine…”
Blood dripped from the boy’s mouth. His voice was barely a whisper.
The man kicked again. And again and again.
“How do you like that you little fucker? How do you like that?”
His friends joined in, savagely kicking at the boy’s ribs, his chest, his arms, his head anything they could reach. He tried to curl in a ball. His face was a mask of blood. As each new blow rained down on him, I could sense his mind drifting, drifting away. The thought in his head was so small I almost missed it, a tiny flutter of birdwings in the cold night.
I don’t want to die…
The thinnest, tiniest thread of his desire drifted towards me, drawn by my extra. And I knew this boy’s last wish was to live a little longer.
When I think back on the moment now, it amazes me how the decisions with the most profound consequences are the ones we make with the least calculation. This soul, this shining radiant soul I had experienced for barely an instant was going to be snuffed out, and I refused to let that happen.
My eyes smoldered red, and my senses flared as my body reacted to the anticipation of the hunt. I could smell the stale beer, nicotine and bodily fluids on the men, the blood on the boy, the sweat of desperation. I could hear the raspy breaths, the crunch of splintering bone, the throb of pulsing blood. I licked my lips, and tasted the hot tang of nourishment to come in my mouth.
They never saw me coming.
The attack was swift, brutal, efficient. The men may have been ferocious picking on a helpless kid, but they were no fighters. Not when challenged by a real opponent.
The last man, the ring leader, the instigator of the beating, pulled himself by hands to the entrance of the alley, useless, shattered legs dragging behind him. He sobbed.
“Please… god… for the love of god… mercy! For god’s sake.. d-d-don’t k-k-kill me!”
I considered his request.
My fangs sank deep into his throat. A warmblood was a warmblood, but I knew I would be rinsing the taint of this personality off me for days.
Job done, I turned to the boy. The sight was grim. He was a wreck of splintered bones and blood. I put my hand up against his face, his poor broken face. Every sense I had was telling me that this boy was only moments from slipping away into the void.
The boy looked at me through bleary, half-closed eyes. He was walking on the very edges of consciousness, and I had no idea of how aware he was. The memory of that tiny thought burned in my mind.
I don’t want to die…
“My name is Trevor, and there is only one way I can save your life.”
If I knew then what I knew now, would have I have made the same decision? If I had known the heartbreak it would cause, would I have chosen that path? I can’t answer those questions. All I know, is that if I hadn’t done what I did then, I never would have met Jamie Smith, and my life would have been very different.