Bram Stoker lied. Got that? And Anne Rice and Poppy Brite and just about every other writer that has ever thought they have something to say about vampires.
According to legend I should be either a strange, pale figure with an indefinable Middle European accent or some young leather clad punk with dead but oh so charming eyes.
Well it doesn’t work like that. I look forty five, the age I was when I turned. I am balding and going to fat. I look like I might sell you a car or life insurance. See that’s the trouble with being immortal, nothing ever changes.
Which is fine if you are in peak physical condition, you have an eternity of looking buff. But if you are middle aged and balding when you transform, then that’s what happens, forever looking like Phil Collins.
If you are still feeling tempted, let me explain something else. We can’t ‘make’ you, no one knows how vampires are made, not even us.
One day you wake up with a thirst and that’s all. It might be pollution, it might be your food, it might even be the bleach you put down your loo. But here you are and you can recognise it in others.
No master to teach you, no castle as your birthright, just a craving for blood.
At first, I thought that maybe it was just me. That I was Dracula’s disowned bastard. I spent weeks on a drinking binge, cursing my absent father, hating my ancestry. I even went as far as booking a flight to Romania. I had some stupid vision of storming a castle and demanding to be taken in.
But I was so drunk I missed the flight. Then the next night, through a drunken haze, I recognised something. Might have been the smell, or the way he moved, I’m not sure. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
He leaned in and a low voice rumbled in my ear.
“It’s new to you, isn’t it?”
I nodded miserably.
“It gets easier once you sober up.”
If this were Hollywood, we would have paired up and he would have taught me to hunt. But in London, he slipped out the door and left me with the bill for his drinks.
I did sober up and it did get better. Then I tasted blood properly for the first time. Everyone has tasted blood, when they suck a cut finger or bite their lip. Only we know how to savour it.
We don’t need it to survive, but we love it. It’s an addiction.
Like cigarettes or heroin. Some babies are born craving crack. Vampires are made to crave blood. We can and do survive quite well without it. But it’s like that nicotine itch when you are trying to quit, it’s there all the time. The suddenly you have a new vein to your mouth and you swearing to yourself ‘Just a little sip’. Like anything, it’s easier to slip when you have been drinking.
The first kill is amazing, fear and hunger and want all plaited together like a noose. The victim gets closer and you feel your balls tighten. You tell yourself that you can always back out, change your mind, walk away. Then the vein is open under your mouth and you’re gorging yourself. No dainty sipping here, instead you’re cramming yourself with as much as you can, while the fear is still hot, before the taste fades.
And afterwards, there is a lull and a feeling of guilty satisfaction. The sensation you only used to get after fucking someone you shouldn’t have. But most of all you feel like grinning. A stupid, slow, drugged grin. Because that’s what you are, drugged.
Then you hit the comedown, the thing that drives you to kill again, the crashing sense of boredom. As the adrenalin cascade bleeds away and the cold iron taste fades in the back of your throat, the colour seeps out of the world, leaving only shades of grey.
You realise just how much time you have left to kill. How many hours watching daytime television. Is it any wonder we only come out at night?
We never smile, if we can help it. Those teeth (and the ulcers from them rubbing the gums) are jammed in our mouths all the time. They don’t just come out when its time to feed or when we want to impress. No, we always look like an orthodontists experiment.
You would think that even for me, being a vampire, it would be easy to get a date. After all there are those who worship the vampire and would adore to be courted by one. Yes, but have you ever heard the music in those clubs? All that caterwauling and wall of noise and drum machine that they call ‘Goth’. What am I supposed to do, when I would rather listen to the Carpenters?
I only go when I am really desperate for a shag and my one black outfit is clean.
Sometimes I get lucky and sometimes not. I approach a girl, who looks like the bastard child of Siouxsie Sioux and Peter Murphy.
Would you believe it still makes me nervous? Not the idea of the kill, but I hate being laughed at more than anything. In fact, I have been known to snap necks as payback for laughter.
“I am a vampire.” I mean how else can you phrase it?
“Oh really.” Always that raised, scornful eyebrow.
But then I show ‘em the teeth. It always seems to soften them. Maybe they think I had prosthetics and that makes me a little bit cooler.
But there is always that current of disbelief, that stifled yawn when I try to tell them how it really is, that taste of cynicism when I rip out their throats.
There was one girl though, Debbie, golden haired and all in white. She was standing out in the crowd like a parrot in crows.
I used the standard line and she looked at me. Seeing the clash of thinning hair and slightly too tight black clothes, she laughed. It wasn’t unkind just amused. And for the first time, I didn’t feel that little tickle of contempt.
“This club isn’t really you is it?”
“No, not really.” I admitted.
“Me either. One of my work colleagues suggested we come here. I work for a comic publishing house. I’m sure you can imagine” She rolled her eyes, “Now I am wishing I had said no. Buy me a drink?”
She lifted her right eyebrow and I nodded.
For a moment I almost ordered something with blackcurrant in but switched to white wine. It was served from a dusty bottle at the very back of the bar. Debbie made a face and coughed. “I have better at home, join me?”
We took a taxi to her house. As we slipped through the quiet streets, she slid her tongue in my mouth then pulled it back as she felt my teeth.
“What was that?”
I showed her and she shuddered “Ugh, are they false?”
“No they are real.”
She did indeed have better wine at her house and we sank at least two bottles while she told me about her sisters and growing up in New Zealand.
I talked about films and music. Stuff that sounds personal but isn’t.
As the sun rose, she asked me to stay. But something in me wanted her to be alive tomorrow. I was very interested in my reaction, why was I so concerned that she live? Then I decided that it was the same as raising your own turkey at Christmas, you start to see it more as a pet and don’t want to eat it after all.
“I’m sorry, not tonight,” I raise my hand to her protest “I really like you and I want us to take more time.” We are all good liars. She looked annoyed and disappointed.
“Debbie, I will call you tomorrow or rather later today. I promise.”
“Alright Peter, but you’d better.” She raised her fist in mock warning.
I walked home as the sun rose. Yes we can walk in the sun, but most of us choose not to, our paleness is very unappealing like uncooked chicken.
I did ring her that night and we went out for drinks. I was dressed more comfortably and so was she. We talked and talked and then she decided she was hungry. She bought some pizza and inhaled it on the pavement. She offered the dripping slice to me “Want some?”
“No thanks, I have already eaten.” I had too; sausage and mash and a dessert of a sweet girl of sixteen.
Everything seemed to be going very well, but when we kissed she would always withdraw when she felt my teeth.
On our third date, she pulled away again and looked at my mouth “Peter, can I say something?”
“Sure.” I was lazy with wine and her perfume.
“Could you get rid of those fangs? Really we are past the vampire thing and I think it just looks odd.”
I wanted to please her, so what could I do but say “Yeah, sure.” and shrug like it was no big deal.
Once I was at home, I looked around in the garage. There must be something I could use to get rid of them. I found a pair of tin snips and wondered as I ran my finger along the edge.
As I walked back into the house, I realised I was humming. That is something that I haven’t done in years, possibly since I turned. I started again, trying to recognise the tune. Then it came to me, I was humming the Tin Man’s song from the Wizard of Oz ‘If I only had a heart, do do do…’
Then it hit me hard, I actually wanted to please her. I had thought I was changing to better betray her and make her pain sweeter to me. But no, it was much less under my control.
It appeared that I had a choice, I could forget this now, forget Debbie and move on. Or I could lie to myself that I would still kill her and see how this all played out. Like I said we are all good liars, even to ourselves.
Back in the bedroom, I lined the edge of the blade up with my two incisors in the mirror. Of course we have reflections, wouldn’t you notice if there were loads of people in the world with really badly done hair and make up ?
If I just clipped here, then maybe that would be enough. I braced myself and applied pressure to the handle.
The pain that shot up into the roof of my mouth made me put my hand through the mirror. When I could breathe again (How else can we talk?) I picked up a shard of the mirror.
I could see that clipped tooth. It was the same size as the others and I thought it could pass for normal. The end was still raw as I passed my tongue over it, but it was already beginning to heal.
Whimpering a little at the pain I was about to inflict on myself. I snipped the other tooth. I think because I was expecting the worst, it wasn’t so painful.
When I looked in the bathroom mirror, I had normal, albeit red, teeth. My jaw felt weird, I was able to close my mouth properly for the first time in twenty years.
I went to her house once the blood had stopped flowing and showed her my new look and she clapped.
Each time we saw each other we got closer to sex. But, I still didn’t trust myself not to kill her in a moment of ‘what the hell’. I think it might have been love, or as close as I could get. Which at the end of the day was a bit like a cat loving a mouse.
I do know that she was getting more suspicious of my excuses for not spending more time with her. What could I say ? ‘I want you to be alive tomorrow’ sounds at best melodramatic, at worst just plain mad. I was running out of reasons.
She invited me over early one day, for a walk in the park she said.
When I got there, she had laid the table and the oven was whirring.
“I made lunch. I thought it’s time you found out what a good cook I am.”
What could I do, I didn’t want to hurt her or cause a scene, so I sat at the table. I wanted to laugh at myself ‘Oh fierce creature of the night, afraid to upset someone over a meal’ But still, I couldn’t bear the thought of her face if I said ‘No’. I shivered at the thought of someone else having that control over me, it had been a very long time.
She served up two plates of pasta and put the loaf from the oven on the table. I could smell the garlic in the steam that rose from the food.
My stomach churned, not because I don’t like the smell of garlic, but I had no idea what it would do to me. I avoided it superstitiously. The other things, like the reflection and sunlight not burning me had been accidents. Have you any idea how difficult it is never to let sun get on you ?
There was every chance that garlic would have no more effect than anything else. But I was still wary.
“I’m sorry, I am not sure I can eat this.”
“Well the garlic.”
Her brows drew together, “Are you allergic to it?”
“No not allergic just …”
She put down her fork with a metallic clatter, “Not that vampire shit again,”
I put my hands up in mock surrender and took the largest piece of garlic bread. My hands were a little shaky as I put it to my lips and bit in. Nothing, no pain, no burning.
Encouraged I began to eat like a hog.
I grinned around a full mouthful, “You are a good cook.”
We finished the meal and were just watching the TV an hour later. Both too full to go out for walk, we lay across each other on the sofa.
I felt a burning on my arm, like a cigarette pressed into sizzling flesh and jumped, then another on the tender meat of my inner thigh.
“Are you ok?”
I tried to smile through the stinging “I’m fine, just need a wee suddenly.”
I shuffled to the bathroom, trying to avoid rubbing my jeans on the pain in my leg.
I rolled back the sleeve of my jumper and looked for the source.
I could see holes forming on my arm, the skin pulling away from itself in shreds. Round the edges of the hole were smaller ones, all showing the red flesh beneath. My arm was turning into an unholy pizza, molten mozzarella skin pulling and stretching to reveal tomato coloured flesh underneath.
As I watched, the hole tried to close, pulling the melting skin on either side apart. These then tried to close and pulled more wounds open. Within minutes, my arm was just bloody meat with the ragged remains of the skin plopping onto the floor.
I could feel them breaking out all over my body. Clothes sticking to the bloody ragged flesh underneath, threads caught as the wounds tried to close, then pulled the dissolving skin apart again as I moved.
There seemed to be no air in the room. The garlic, the garlic. Somehow once it was in my bloodstream, it was eating me.
“I’m sick, I have to go home.” I ran out the door before she could get up. I could hear her shouting “Peter, peter!” down the hall. I couldn’t turn around, there were cuts opening on my face.
I managed to flag a cab, although he looked reluctant to take me. I took all the cash from my wallet, over £400 and flung it in his face. “Just get me home.”
I was virtually convulsing by the time I got there. Leaving a bloody arse print in the cab I flew into the house, took off all my clothes and lay on the hardwood floor of the dining room. I let the cool wood ease the burning in my bones.
There was a sudden rush of pain, huge chrome teeth savaging me and then all the pain was gone. I felt numb like modelling clay. That’s when I knew I was going to die.
So here I am now, moments from sleeping forever, done in by Italian food. It’s ironic don’t you think, everything they got wrong and all the time, the simplest thing was waiting for me. Garlic proved my nemesis.
If it all sounds tempting after this, if you still want the mutation, then you are welcome to it.
Copyright 2002 Mat Winser, All Rights Reserved
Tags: 'Mat Winser', 'The Truth', Bloodlust-UK, Dracula, Short Story, Vampire, Vampire Fiction, Writers
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