We stood outside the parking garage, breath frosting in the chill autumn air.
“Your new life as a vampire has begun, Jamie. Lesson one: Looking at the world around you through fresh eyes. The city is our playground. The rules that you’re used to in the human world? They don’t apply to us… or the people that might want to hurt us.”
“We don’t age, but we can be killed. Not everything that walks in the night is friendly. Let’s begin.”
I tapped Jamie on the shoulder.
“Tag. You’re it.”
Then I was off and running through the Chicago streets. Jamie gave a startled “What the…?” then began to chase.
“I can’t keep up with you!”
“That’s your human mind thinking. You can go faster than you think!”
Just to prove my point, I put on a burst of acceleration. I saw Jamie doggedly increasing his pace to catch up.
A parked Corolla loomed in front of me. Instead of swerving to pass between it and the Explorer parked in front of it, I jumped, landing lightly on the sedan’s hood before springing off. Jamie hesitated for the smallest of seconds before copying my actions. Good, this might be easier than I thought.
There were more cars on the other side of the street. I jumped on to the hood again, but this time, instead of jumping off, I pivoted and jumped to the next car in the line. I bounced from car to car, tell-tale dent sounds letting me know Jamie was still following.
The cars were parked in front of line of small shops. I leapt to the roof of a Lincoln Navigator, then sideways on to the roof of the awning structure that sheltered the sidewalk from the rain. Coming to the end of the awning, I jumped, twisted 180 degrees and dropped, catching the edge of the awning to slow my fall, and give me a short drop to the ground. Then I was running again. From the hard thud behind me, Jamie hadn’t quite managed to execute the same feat.
I ran deeper into the city, scanning the buildings around me for appropriate obstacles. That would do. I swerved into an alley. Jamie followed me around the corner just into time to see me leap at one wall, rebound to the the opposite wall, then spring back, ascending up the buildings with each jump. One final jump that took me within reach of a fire escape ladder. I pulled myself up, hand over hand, until I was high enough to get my feet in the bottom rung. Nearing the top of the ladder I heard another thud.
From the roof of the building I looked down into the alley. Jamie was sprawled in an undignified heap. He picked himself up, and with a shout of fury, threw himself at the wall. It wasn’t pretty – in flight he was all arms and legs, but through sheer willpower he managed to get a hand on the bottom rung of the ladder and keep it there. With a groan of effort he reached up with his other hand to grab the next rung and hauled himself up, rung by rung.
He pulled himself over the edge just in time to see me leap across the alley to the roof of the adjoining building.
“Fuck!” he swore as he saw me soaring past. To his credit, there was no hesitation or doubt in his leap.
I continued the chase all through downtown Chicago – over fences, through the night time traffic, on to rooftops, up into an El station, across the tracks, and down the other side.
Reaching the wide open spaces of Grant Park, I stepped on the speed. There were no obstacles to slow us down here – the faster runner would win. Jamie was only a few paces behind me.
“How long… have we.. been running now?”
“About forty five minutes.”
“Holy cow! I’m barely even out of breath!”
“It’s the vampire in you. You’re faster… stronger… you’ve got more endurance.”
“Not that much dude! But once you start to feed… you’ll grow stronger.”
We had passed the Buckingham fountain when I realized that Jamie wasn’t following me anymore. I wheeled around to see him staring at the fountain.
“I… I remember this.”
The look on his face… it was different now. Wistful. A longing for something lost, and almost forgotten.
“I came here… with my parents. When I was small. Our holiday in Chicago. That’s… that’s the last happy memory I have of them.”
I moved closed behind Jamie and hugged him to me tightly. It seemed to be what he needed.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No, not yet… not yet.”
I insisted we walk back to the sit.
“Trust me… your legs? They’re going to be feeling that run tomorrow.”
Jamie was calmer now, but I could still feel the sadness in him. He was trying his best to hide it though.
“So what else do I need to know? There must be lots of other cool stuff to being a vampire right?”
“Well, um, there’s your extra…”
“It’s, ah, sort of like a superpower…” I saw his face light up in anticipation. “Not that super okay? You won’t be flying, or shooting laser beams out of your hands or anything.”
“Aww, no fun.” He pouted.
“At least… probably not anyway..”
Jamie giggled, and started shadow boxing an imaginary army of thugs and villains.
“Jamie Smith… super vampire! Fighter, lover, awesome dude! Haaaiiii-yaaa!” I couldn’t resist ruffling his hair.
“You show ‘em, Awesome Dude. That could be like your secret Vampire Hero codename!”
“We have code names?!?”
“Nah, not officially. But you’re awesome enough for me.”
Jamie smiled with a grin so wide I thought his face would split. He wrapped an arm around me.
“You’re so cool. So tell me more about these extras. What’s your extra?”
“Well, every vampire’s extra is different and unique. Your history, your personality… everything you were before you became a vampire, plays a part in determining the extra you get as a vampire.”
Jamie shuddered. The smile on his face was gone.
“Before… I became a vampire, I wasn’t a very good person. What if get a bad extra?”
“You won’t dude. Discovering your extra… it’s the most amazing thing ever.”
“Better than sex?” he giggled.
I hugged him.
“You can have sex all the time. Discovering your extra for the very first time… that’s an experience you only get to have once.”
“I hope I have a cool extra,” he whispered to me.
I suddenly felt a change in his demeanour. The dreaminess of a few moments ago had been replaced by an alertness. A hunter’s alertness.
I scanned the streets around us.
A middle aged man was walking towards us on the opposite side of the street. A lone man.
I cursed myself for not being more prepared. So soon?
Jamie was breathing a little more shallowly. I saw a tongue dart out and lick his lips.
“Jamie… you don’t have to do this right now. You still have a lot of your original blood in you. You can wait. Wait until you’re ready.”
Jamie’s eyes were fixed on the man.
“But I will have to, won’t I? At some point… I’m going to have to kill. And feed.”
I took a deep breath.
Jamie was off and running before I had finished speaking the word. He jumped on to the roof off a Fiesta, then dived off in a flying tackle that knocked the stunned man to the ground. Sitting on top of the man’s chest, Jamie delivered several hard blows to the man’s head before lifting it up and sinking his fangs deep into the man’s exposed throat.
I ran over to him.
He didn’t respond, lost in the ecstasy of the first feeding. I shook him, then again harder. He snarled at me with a blood-smeared face, then dove in again to drain the remaining fluids from his victim.
“Jamie! Jamie! Jamie! Come back to me okay?” I snapped my fingers under his nose, and gradually it seemed to the blood lust faded, and full rational consciousness returned to him. He stared at himself, at his victim, at me. The man’s neck was a mangled mess, and blood covered his shirt, Jamie’s clothes, Jamie’s face.
“Oh… god… what have… I…?”
Jamie suddenly lunged to the side and dry retched on the sidewalk beside the man.
“Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god…”
“Deep breaths Jamie. Slow, deep breaths. We’ve got to move. We’re too exposed here on the street. I’ve got a change of clothes. We’ll get you cleaned up, then we’re heading back to the sit..”
Jamie was still shocked, but I was able to hustle him away from the scene. The slaggers would not be impressed.
I broke us into a school I knew about nearby, and pushed Jamie into the changing rooms.
“Take off your clothes, then get into the shower.”
Numbly, Jamie obeyed and stepped under the water. For the first time I saw him naked. Skinny, too skinny. And his skin… bruises, scars, some old, some new. And the pin pricks on his arms. It was a topographical map of a tough hard childhood.
I found a towel in one of the lockers, and wrapped it around the shaking boy.
“It’s going to be okay, Jamie. It’s all going to be okay.”
I hugged him close, and prayed to the deity that I was right.