Now what? I wondered. Would he bolt from the room, announce my presence to all and sundry? I could escape easily enough. The boy’s claims would be dismissed as the result of his injury. He had a bandage on his forehead, so I know he’d been injured. A head wound was the perfect type, too, but… dammit! I’d been sloppy.
Still, an expedient exit was best. I prepared to transform, tuning out, as I did, whatever potential inanities would utter forth from his lips, should he recover his voice. I catalogued them all for myself, inside a second:
“You’re a vampire!”
“Get away from me!”
“Sorry, I didn’t know this room was taken.”
Most likely, it would be the last. One of the disadvantages of a long life is that you develop a tendency to predict – with frightening accuracy – how the average person will react in any given situation. Another disadvantage is that, when your prediction is wrong, it tends to break your concentration and totally throw you off your game.
I hadn’t expected him to say it, hadn’t included it in my list of responses. I, therefore, did not tune it out. When he said it, I hesitated… and was lost.
“Did you kill him?”
He asked it quietly, without accusation. There was curiosity only in his tone. A practical person might have fled, taking advantage of the extra time he gave me by not shrieking for help right away. I have never been a practical person, nor ever wanted to be one. I confess that I place ethical and philosophical issues ahead of concerns of personal convenience, and, obviously, even safety.
He asked if I had killed. You no doubt realize by now that it is very important to me that I not be found guilty of ending a healthy life. Perhaps it did not matter what this one child thought, since he would never see me again. I still felt moved to explain that I had not, in fact, taken this innocent life. I had merely benefitted from its passing in much the same way an organ donor who had received the man’s heart or liver might have.
“No,” I told him quietly. “Internal injuries killed him. I just… went along for the ride.”
“Oh,” he said reasonably. Do not infer from that that he was reasonable by nature. He was not, nor had I any reason to believe, at that time, that he was. The evidence was all against it. The expression on his ordinary face was bewildered, perhaps a little vacuous. He seemed to be so calm when encountered by a supernatural creature, not because he was brave or very rational. No, he seemed just not to care one way or another. He hadn’t the sense to be afraid.
A wise man does not panic, knowing his cool head will benefit him when in danger more than will his adrenaline. A fool does not panic because he’s just too stupid to be afraid. That is not bravery, though it is often so labeled. The sloppy dress, the unkempt hair, the poor elocution of this young specimen all led me to believe that he was probably a fool. I don’t say that to be insulting. Most people are fools. I’m used to it, and observe it as readily as I do that a person is male or female.
He stared dumbly, hands thrust in pockets beneath his t-shirt. “So… you eat here a lot?”
“I prefer to dine at the scene of the accident. The meal is fresher.”
“Can’t you just, y’know, hit a nightclub, or something?”
“I could. I choose not to kill those who aren’t dying already… unless they deserve it.”
“Do you…” He looked around furtively. “Do you kill people… who ask for it?”
“Sometimes.” I gestured to the corpse, wiping blood from my lips with a napkin. There’s no excuse for poor table manners, even when it’s an operating table. “Is he a friend of yours? Relative?”
The boy shook his head. “Nope.”
“Why did you come in here, then?”
“I… wanted to visit him. I saw them bring him in. I just… wondered what happened. Felt sorry for him. I was in the same accident.”
“You and a great many people. You’re lucky to be alive.”
“No I’m not,” he muttered.
“You… feed… on people who ask for it?”
“I said I did. Unless I think they’ll change their minds later.”
“I won’t change my mind.”
“What are you saying, exactly?”
“I want you to feed off me. I want you to kill me.”
Now here was an intriguing potential solution to my problem. I had wondered what I was to do about his discovery of me. Killing him was certainly neater and cleaner than running away. Besides, I had been looking forward to the Cato Seminar. I didn’t want to flee San Diego just now. If he meant what he said…
“That’s an easy thing to say,” I countered.
“No it isn’t. Not really. But I mean it.”
He looked uncomfortably at the corpse. “Personal reasons. I’d rather not get into it.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but if you want me to take such an action, I must know your reasons. I’m very serious about my commitment not to take life unless I’m morally justified in doing so.”
“Let’s just say that I don’t like my life very much,” he said.
I can’t say I trusted his judgement. On the other hand, he was young. He would make a good meal. I hadn’t had really fresh blood lately. It was tempting. Still, I couldn’t escape the feeling that, if I did kill him, it would be solely to protect my secret. Request or no request, I felt it boiled down to that. And it was my own stupid fault I’d been found out. It was my own stupid vanity that had made me wait around to explain myself to a mentally atrophied, teenaged stranger.
“I’m not hungry,” I told him. “Go away.”
He refused. Repeatedly.
He kept working at me. He worked at me a long time. After several minutes of haggling, he tried “take me with you, or I’ll tell everyone I’ve seen you.”
Weak. Very weak.
“Do you know my name?”
He shook his head.
“My address? Social Security number?”
“You have a Social Security number?”
“Twelve of them. You see, your threat is meaningless. You can tell these idiots that you saw me, but they most likely won’t believe you. There aren’t even any wounds on that body.” I gestured at the table, then added, “Well, none that I put there.”
“Someone might believe me. I’ll take a lie detector test. And then they’ll hunt you down and – “
”And I’ll be in a different city, under a different name. I’m no fool. I’ve lived over two hundred years. Exposure only works on vampires who want to live in the same house for centuries, like that idiot on that soap opera.”
“You mean Dark Shadows? My mom buys all the DVDs. You watch soap operas?”
“Of course, when they’re about vampires.”
He nodded, his face still empty. “Oh, right, how often do they make a show about Family?”
“Yeah. Y’know… Your own kind. I figured you people would – “
“Shut up. I hate that expression. ‘Family,’ to me means either the misguided belief of some homosexuals that all people who share their preference are spiritually connected, or a mediocre television program with Kristy McNichol. It does not describe the relationships between vampires. There are no relationships between vampires. Most of us can’t stand each other.”
This fact interested him briefly, but then he began whining and pleading anew. Eventually, I took him home with me. Now, before you say that it’s not morally advisable to take a young person home, based on a claim made in a state of emotional distress, without the consent of his parents, I’ll ask you to remember that I’m a vampire. I’m comfortable with things that might make you uncomfortable; and just because something makes you uncomfortable does not mean it’s immoral.
When I took him home, my intent was to observe a cooling-off period. I’d tell him a few stories of death at the hands of a vampire. He’d see that it was neither erotic nor romantic. He’d go home to mommy. I’d find a nice, cold-blooded murderer and eat him.
But it was not to be. The road to hell, as they say…
Let me provide an illustration you may understand. Have you ever agreed to share a room, or even a bed, with a member the of the gender – or a gender – to which you are attracted? Have you done so with the understanding that nothing of a sexual nature will happen? Convincing yourself as well as the other? Have you been able to keep the bargain?
Or perhaps I should compare the situation to having a piece of your favorite dessert sitting on the table in front of you. Let’s make no mistake here, the boy was dessert. No drugs, no alcohol, no ravages of age to taint the meal. He was a triple-scoop hot fudge sundae, whipped cream, cherry and all, with brandy laced into the sauce and fresh, hot coffee steaming on the side. You can ignore it all you want… but if you let it just sit there, either someone else is going to eat it, or that beautiful thing is going to melt into a ruinous mass all over the tabletop.
Are you beginning to understand? In the end, I could not resist for long. After just twenty hours with him in my home, I had to taste him. I was not disappointed. The blood was delicious. I didn’t take a lot. I’ve learned not to gorge, over the years. When I was done, I let him sleep it off for most of a day, after I had convinced him to eat a hearty meal. His body needed to replace all that blood, after all. He resisted, saying he was just going to die soon anyway. I managed to convince him that death, if it was soon to come, would be far easier if he kept up his strength.
Those analogies being made, let me clarify one point. I felt no sexual attachment to this particular meal. I know much is made in popular literature of the erotic nature of vampirism. Women are described as having (or hinted to have had, in “cleaner” works) orgasms while being drained. The feeling of the victim toward the predator is compared to the all-consuming lust we feel for the dominator or dominatrix, if we are of that nature. But let’s be realistic, shall we? Do you have sexual feelings for food? Never mind. I don’t wish to know about it if you do. I think you see my point, however. And certainly, the food doesn’t have sexual feelings for you. Can you imagine a cow or chicken, masturbating frantically to the thought of becoming a frozen sandwich patty? Ludicrous!
And it is equally ludicrous to suppose – putting aside the small number of deranged fetishists one might expect in any population – that any sexual feeling exists in the interaction between vampire and prey.
In my case, particularly, there would have been little chance of such feelings. As I have said already, my meals consisted of hardened criminals, terminally ill patients, victims of trauma and the mentally ill. My tastes might be very different from yours, but I assure you I do have taste. I will not say that I disapprove of sexual relations between males, nor that I have never entertained the thought of engaging in them; but I will say that my young victim, in this case, did nothing for me. Except to nourish me, of course.
When he awoke, the boy seemed none the worse for having provided me dinner from his own blood. Of course, he’d slept sixteen hours, and forced me – for the first time in decades – to visit a grocery store. Still, he seemed a normal, healthy, American teen.
But he still wanted to die. I pressed him at length to give me some reason for his self-destructive urge. Had a girl broken his heart? Was he not doing well in school? Did his peers treat him poorly? All of these he denied. He simply stated, over and over again, that he wished to end it all for “personal reasons.”
I must admit I grew impatient – both with his moodiness and his recalcitrance. I decided anyone who moaned that much had to be miserable, and it was an act of charity to kill him. Besides, I had already taken first blood, if you’ll pardon the expression. I’d drunk of him once. I could end it all in one session. Or I could stretch it out a few days – make the meal last. In any event, he would be an easy kill. I could have eaten two of him in a night.
I would do it, I told him.
To Be Continued
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