by ML Kennedy
(Author’s note: As promised, new material. What was intended to be a 1000 word story ended up as an 1800 word introduction to something larger, perhaps much larger. We’ll have to see where this thing ends up taking me and whether or not it’s worth dragging you along, too. )
The hardest part about being a vampire is the hours. Don’t get me wrong; nowadays, there are a lot more TV channels and late-night drive-thrus running in the small hours than, say, the Reagan years. Still in Anytown, USA your dusk till dawn options tend to be limited to laundromats, Walgreens and the occasional supermarket.
I find myself in such a supermarket now, going back and forth between new red and Yukon gold potatoes. I decide to get the red ones as they are on sale and throw a five pound bag carefully into my basket so as not to crush the asparagus and generic pop tarts already there.
It’s a glamorous and sexy life, I know.
Most people think that vampires don’t drink anything but human blood and don’t eat anything but, I don’t know, rats and spiders. Then again, most people think that mosquitoes subsist solely on blood. Well, we don’t and they don’t. The way I hear it, female mosquitoes drink blood as their form of prenatal vitamins. Every time you slap a mosquito, you’re killing a pregnant momma or something along those lines. The males never even drink blood and just munch on nectar.
Bet you didn’t know vampires were so educational. We tend to read a lot. It ties into that whole “nothing is open at night” business.
The supermarket is sterile and empty. Unseen speakers play a Muzak version of a song I used to like. A few folks are off in the distance shuffling like zombies around an end cap of some product that apparently requires a lot of exclamation points. I thought we were done with this “extreme” nonsense.
I throw some liver into my basket.
My mind wanders.
Digestively, vampires are very efficient. We don’t often have to use the toilet. I did last week, but only because something I ate had a lot of garlic in it. Garlic repels vampires in the way that a nice glass of milk repels the lactose intolerant.
Now, using fuel effectively is the cornerstone of monster sustainability. No amount of efficiency, however, can reconcile the necessary blood capable of providing the recommended daily caloric intake of a three hundred pound creature and said creature’s need to maintain a covert lifestyle. Vampires need blood, but the undead can’t (un)live by blood alone. Besides, plasma and potatoes go together quite nicely.
Mind you, I didn’t pull the three hundred pound estimate out of my ass. I’m five foot eight with a twenty-eight inch waist, and that‘s what I weigh.
I hate these little supermarket baskets. I don’t know why I use them. Honestly, I think they make things harder to carry. I decide that I hate this supermarket. At least, I try to hate this supermarket. Instead my body settles on a general feeling of apathy towards it and everything else around me.
I need a project.
I need to do something productive. Maybe I’ll do a socioeconomic experiment. You know? Maybe I’ll go out to Utica and eat all their homeless. Are there homeless people in Utica? Maybe I should just kill all the hairdressers in Ashtabula.
Why do supermarkets have to be so damned bright? It makes me feel as though I have a hangover. I shouldn’t need to wear sunglasses indoors.
Maybe I can grow to hate this place.
The movies portray a lot of all hours vampire discotheques, but I’ve never seen these things. Maybe they are in the bigger cities. Problem with big cities are the expenses. I became a vampire in 1983 with twenty thousand dollars in cash; I thought that was a lot of money.
I’ve bounced around a lot in the last twenty five years. Mostly in the Midwest and the rust belt. Once I made it as far as Vegas. Vegas wasn’t bad; things were always open there. Vamps there were cliquish and nasty, though. I wore out my welcome pretty fast. I tend to do that thing.
I’m told New York City never sleeps. I couldn’t afford to rent a closet there. Maybe I could. Go to sleep standing up in a coffin sized closet; that sounds fitting.
I total up the cost of the food in my basket and compare that number to the cash in my pocket. There is still a little wiggle room. Perhaps I have enough money for some salami. Why is hard salami so damned expensive, anyway?
I lived in a storage locker in Chicago for a bit. That was back when I had my own car. Chicago killed my car. My license plate got stolen one night and the cops gave me a ticket for not having one. I didn’t park on the right side of the road for street cleaning and I got a ticket. I didn’t move the car during when it snowed more than two inches and I got a ticket. I think my car is still in Chicago, wearing that infernal boot.
A light glows above only one of the checkout lanes. An eighteen year old girl with dark and curly hair sits there, staring at one of those Twilight novels. She’s good looking, at least for this town. Her nametag reads “Mindy”. This Mindy looks up from her book and says, “only five things.”
I’m not sure if that was intended to be a question, as it sounded like an insult. I reply, “All that budget permits, dear.”
She half-snorts at me, then freezes. She’s not scanning anything. We stare dumbly at each other for thirty-seven seconds, during which time I wish I had some of that fabled vampire telepathy.
“Bonus card.” Once again, what should be phrased as a question sounds a lot like an insult.
“I‘m not from around here,” I respond. Although, I was born only about an hour away from here. I guess it just doesn’t feel like it. Home is a moving target.
A lanky kid gets in line behind me. He’s dressed in black, shiny clothes and is carrying a well-worn backpack. He holds the biggest jar of peanut butter I‘ve ever seen.
“18.97,” Mindy demands.
“I only have eighteen.” Goddamned bonus cards, those potatoes weren’t really on sale.
I start to put back the toaster pastries when the lanky kid says, “I’ve a dollar. Here ya go.” I thank him and notice the crucifix tattoo covering his carotid. He looks way too soft to be a gangster.
Well, it has been over a year.
I collect my three pennies and my two bags of groceries. I pass an out-of-order claw machine, walk through the automatic doors, and lean against the building. The lanky kid exits ten seconds behind me.
“Oh, hey. Don’t worry about getting me that dollar back.” His voice tremors as though he were asking a cheerleader to the junior prom. “Did you, uh, need a ride or something?”
“Sure, kid. Lead the way.” We might as well do this away from the building. “What’s in the bag?”
“Oh, my, uh, library books. Mostly books. This is my van.”
“Kid, you’re less subtle than a pedophile.”
He started to say “I don’t know what you mean” before going after me with a stake. His right hand comes down like Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Not wanting to drop my groceries, I step to the side while chopping the top of his right wrist with my left hand. The stake plunges into the kid’s leg, just missing the femoral artery. He leans against the van, and falls to a seated position like the protagonist of every chick flick. I get a potato out of my bag, bite into it like an apple, and step on the stake.
“So,” I say, “anything cool in the bag?”
He spouts out a string of obscenities that make less sense the more you think about them. “This is a really good potato,” I tell him. It really is. I search through the backpack, and pull out something that looks like a ham radio.
“Hey kid, you a ham?”
I step on the stake some more. “Listen, I just fed not too long ago. I’m sure you have a cellphone. I can let you use it if you just humor me for a bit here. Huh? Or you can die a slow death in the parking lot of a grocery store.”
“It’s an electro-magnetic interferer. It irritates your ampullae of Lorenzini. You‘re in-”
“Wait. You realize that I’m not a shark right? That’s a shark repellent.”
“The guy told me-”
“You are the worst vampire hunter I’ve ever encountered. You’re even worse than the people who are purposefully incompetent because they think I’ll ‘turn’ them. You didn‘t want me to turn you did you?”
“ Most people can‘t be turned. I‘d explain why, but-”
“Yeah, I heard.” I rummage through his bag some more. He’s got some useless crap that wards off vampires in bad movies, some homemade crap I can’t make heads or tails of, and a bunch of stuff that is actually dangerous to vampires. He’s also got peanut butter, a wallet full of cash, and a cell.
“You’re a parasite,“ he tells me. It’s an interesting choice of words. “You do nothing but steal. You do nothing but take. You don’t produce anything. You add nothing to society. You-“
“Seriously? I’m made out of darkness and nightmares and you talk about me as though I were a welfare queen? I’m a goddamned vampire, not Octo-mom.”
He gathers up what I assume to be the lot of his courage and tells me, “you would squander immortality.” The kid snatches a rosary from his pocket and throws it at me.
I catch it in my left hand. “Well, eternal youth is wasted on the eternally young. Where’d you get this, your cotillion? “
“It has been blessed by-”
“I was blessed myself in 1953. Never noticed the difference. Now quiet a minute; I’m using the phone.”
I call 911. “Hello. My friend here accidentally impaled himself. He’s bleeding pretty bad and we could use an ambulance.” I give the operator our location. “Oh, and he has a busted ankle, too.”
“I do not.”
I probably don’t have to tell you what happens next. It involves a lot more obscenities from him.
I chuck the phone onto the roof of the supermarket and drag the kid over to my old stolen car. His van is going to become my new stolen car. I tell the kid to keep pressure on his wound and then I step on the stake again. He mumbles something about the lord being his shepherd.
“A ‘Vicar of Dibley’ fan, eh?”
His van has captain’s chairs and is remarkably comfortable. Still, as I pull out of the parking lot, I feel a heavy thing growing in my stomach.
How did an idiot like that find me?
And where did he get that non-useless stuff in my new backpack?
Serves me right for wanting a new project.
-M. L. Kennedy