Here it is, folks, Story of the Week #5.
I hate vampire stories. I mean, really hate them. I know, it’s a weakness of mine, but I can’t seem to find any vampire stories that do anything original with the trope. I mean, there are a few vampire stories that are good, as long as the story is about the characters surrounding the vampires, rather than the vampires themselves. I really enjoyed Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, after all, because the vampires were really just sort of peripheral to the whole show. Angel was okay, but Angel’s brooding got more and more annoying. Quite frankly, I preferred Angelus to Angel. Evil vampires out for some serious blood and mind fuckery I can take. Brooding and depressed vampires are just dull. “I’m immortal,” they say morosely. “Allow me to whine about it as I seduce you.”
So, anyway, given my hatred of vampire stories, I figured it was high time I wrote one of my own. I’m sure there are some elements of vampire mythology I’ve gotten wrong here, and some purists may dislike it. Whatever. The vampire mythology is really wide open. If Brian Lumley can make vampires the victims of some sort of space parasite, then I can do whatever I want to.
I will say that this story is extremely rough. Most of my stories of the week get at least half a revision, just to clean up some major continuity bugs, but I don’t have time to do that with this one. So you get to see it as is. I’m not all that thrilled with this one, but I suppose it could be worse.
The two of you who are my regular readers will recognize a couple of elements from my earlier stories. You might recognize a name from “In the Living Room, a Painting”. And, of course, the story takes place in Roosterville. Here I tried to pull a Suzuki, and recast that first story in a way that lets it stand alone as its own story, yet still expand on it, just as Koji Suzuki did with his three Ring novels.
One final note: I know that my Latin is completely off base. Sue me.
by Richard S. Crawford
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Upon entering a vampire clan’s domain, one must seek out the local clan leader, and introduce oneself properly. That was the rule that my sire had taught me, at least, and even after I had drained him I was determined to follow all the rules.
So upon entering Roosterville, the first thing I did was to hunt down the clan leader. Roosterville is such a small town, you wouldn’t think there were enough people to support even one vampire, let alone a whole clan, but you never know. It’s why I was coming here, really. I figured a small town like Roosterville was a good place for a fledgling vampire like myself to get started. And the first thing about Roosterville that I noticed was that it was a town full of hicks. Hicks and idiots. I’d heard on the streets of San Augustin that there had been some sort of problem in Roosterville with, well, killer roosters, and as I wandered the streets, I thought that these were just the kind of rubes who could be intimidated by a bunch of roosters.
For the most part, downtown was empty. I passed a couple of cow-like women with bulging bellies, drooping eyes, and necks practically bursting with arterial blood, walking tiny little dogs that couldn’t feed a child. I also passed a single young man who was balanced precariously on his fluorescent skateboard, and whose stick-like frame looked barely a snack. All of them stared at me; the women with undisguised hatred, the young man with undisguised lust. I enjoyed the looks and moved on.
It was downtown, at the corner of Harris and Main, that I finally found something that resembled any sort of activity at all. It was a bar called Joey’s, a typical dive with loud music and the shouts and belligerent men and women pouring through the open door.
It occurred to me then that I actually had no idea how to go about seeking out the clan leader. It was something my sire had not actually told me how to do. He’d been remarkably reticent about a number of different issues, and now I was startled to find myself regretting having drained him so soon. I should have kept him around for awhile longer. Given him time to fill me in on some of the more important secrets.
Finally I just decided to go for it. I stepped through the door and looked around. The crowd was pretty much what I was expecting. Fat cowboys and bikers. Women in scanty outfits at least twenty years too young for them. A burly guy with a bald head and sporting a thick horseshoe mustache standing behind the bar, biceps and pecs like boulders, and arteries like ropes throbbing beneath his skin.
I found myself breathing sharply as I stared at that bartender. I could have sucked on his neck for hours.
But there was no time for that. I could drag him into the alley behind the bar later, but for now there was protocol to attend to.
“I am Delilah,” I announced, using the name I had chosen at my Embrace. The bar fell silent as I had hoped, and every patron turned and looked at me. “I seek the Sacerdos Sangrellus of this city so that I may make my obeisance and tribute.”
For a moment, there was no response. People just stared at me, and I could feel the confusion and suspicion in their eyes.
Then, finally, the bartender spoke. “Hon, I’ll be your soccer sangwhatever any time you like.” Then he waggled his tongue over his lips, and the patrons of the bar all burst into laughter.
Blushing was one of the few things the blood in my body did without my conscious control. And it did it with a burning fury now. Face on fire, I turned and left the bar as quickly as I could.
My name wasn’t always Delilah. I started out as Ima Poindexter, for which I never forgave my parents, even though it was pronounced “Eema” and not “Eyema.” I went through a childhood so normal and mundane it was almost tragic. Nothing ever happened in Galway Kentucky; it was the most boring suburb in the most boring city in the most boring state in the world. I went to public school until high school, when my parents enrolled me in a Catholic school called St. Brigid’s. I was so excited about that, because you always hear about the scandals and torrid affairs that go on at Catholic schools and I couldn’t wait to get involved in one. I even spent some of my allowance money on a roll of extra strong packing tape to hem up my uniform skirts.
Unfortunately the reality of Catholic school was that it was really, really boring. I looked for torrid scandals everywhere but never found any. None of the teachers wanted to get fired over me, even though I was the hottest girl in school. All the boys I went out with were pathetically polite. None of the girls ever had cigarettes or drugs, and whenever I tried bringing cigarettes of my own, no one was interested in trying them out with me. And all the other girls were too focused on their grades to do anything even mildly daring with me. Reading the Song of Solomon in Bible class was the closest we got to anything like what I was hoping for.
As I said: tragically dull.
It was at Grad Night, which the Student Council had decided would be held at Chuck-E-Cheese, where I finally found a torrid scandal to get involved in. Kendall Bright, the painter, was there, sitting at a table by himself and watching all of us play games. I recognized him from an article the school paper had run about him the week before. I would normally have ignored him — he was cute, but his paintings were stupid and boring and so I’d always figured he was as well — but seeing him in person I could tell there was something unusual about him. He was pale, for one thing, all dressed in black and purple, nothing at all like in the picture I’d seen of him in the paper. He had long blond hair all tied up in a ponytail. There was something about him that was almost pretty, but still really sexy.
After awhile he saw me staring at him, so he stared back. He smiled at me. I smiled back, then looked away demurely. And when I looked back at him, he was beckoning me over with one finger.
I couldn’t resist him. I excused myself from the losers I was pretending to talk to and went over to his table. I didn’t even wait for him to offer me a seat before I sat myself down.
“If you don’t mind me saying so,” he said to me, “you are without a doubt the most beautiful woman I have seen in my entire existence.”
I knew he was right, of course, but you can’t just say so. That would just seem conceited. So I blushed, which I used to be able to do on command, and pretended to be confused. “What do you mean?”
He smiled at me. “Such fair skin. Such beautiful blue eyes. Beautiful silky hair. A figure to die for.”
It wasn’t the best I’d ever heard, but he was a celebrity and probably rich. “You’re that painter guy, right? Kendall Bright?”
“Guilty as charged.” He spread his arms wide and smiled at me. I could see that his canine teeth were abnormally long, and his eyes flashed red at me for just a moment.
I knew right then that I had to have him. Or, rather, that I had to let him have me.
We had a whirlwind affair, which was cool, though the fact that he would only come out at night was pretty annoying. It was hard to show him off in front of the other girls that way, so I had to drag him to a couple of games and other after school activities. It would have been nice to have him lurking around the school, but at least he took me to the prom, which was a major coup even if Doug Patterson had to stay home even after renting a tux. Whatever. Like renting a tux costs a lot of money.
Kendall let me in on his secret the night of the prom. He’d been hinting all along that he had something important to tell me, something really deep and even kind of scary and all through the dance he kept asking, “Do you really think you’re ready to know the truth?” And when he finally did tell me, I realized it explained so much. I made him embrace me that night.
Things were pretty different after that. I couldn’t go out during the day at all anymore, which was kind of inconvenient, but I made do. I made Kendall tell me everything there was to know about being a vampire; you know, all the rules and stuff about, like how to deal with the leaders of a vampire clan, the protocol for introducing yourself to the clan leader when entering a new town and so on.
I guess there were some subtleties that he didn’t get a chance to tell me about. I didn’t have much choice, though. He was boring, and he was cramping my style. I had to kill him. Kill him and drain him. Among our kind, assassination is a standard method of social advancement.
I couldn’t believe how I’d embarrassed myself at Joey’s. It didn’t matter, I decided, because Roosterville really was a dump and I was going to get out of there as fast as I could. There were plenty of tiny little towns in Patwin County that I could go to. Maybe Snowy Rock. Maybe So Low. Roosterville was a bust.
“Hey, little lady,” said a voice behind me.
I didn’t bother stopping. Why bother? But whoever it was, they were insistent, because I heard footsteps behind me and they kept calling at me. “Hey, sexy. Hey, cutie.”
Finally I just turned around to face the asshole. “What?” I demanded.
The guy was puny. Five four, maybe five five, skinny as a rail. His eyes bugged out of his face and a little tiny spray of beard spurted from his chin. He made a little laughing snort and wiped some snot from his nose. “I’m just checkin’ to see if you’re all right,” he said. He looked me up and down. “And baby, you look totally all right to me.”
“Don’t be disgusting,” I said. I turned around and started to march away from him, but I could hear him walking after me.
“What was that word you used in the bar back there?” he asked in his high pitched voice. He sounded like what I thought a rat would sound like if a rat could talk.
“Not that it matters to you,” I said, “but I said Sacerdos Sangrellus.”
“Oh yeah? What does that mean?”
“It’s Latin. It means ‘Priest of Blood’.”
The ratlike little man stopped. “Priest of blood? What is that, like some vampire thing or something?”
I didn’t stop. I was just happy to be rid of him. “Sure, some vampire thing. Just leave me alone.”
“Only, that’s just a title I haven’t heard before. You’re looking for the clan leader in this town, aren’t you?”
I stopped, turned around, and looked at him. “You have got to be kidding.”
The little guy wiped some snot from his nose again. “Huh?”
“You’re not the clan leader here.”
“What, me? Oh, heck no. I ain’t no prince. I’m just a regular guy. The prince’s regent here, actually.”
I sneered at him. “Regent? What’s that?”
“Like, the prince’s second in command or something.” He wiped his hand on the leg of his tattered jeans, then presented it to me. “Call me Skeeter,” he said. “Regent Skeeter.”
I shook his hand. It was cold and clammy. Either he was a vampire, or just a really creepy guy. I couldn’t decide, but I figured either way I could take care of myself. “Where can I find the prince?”
The Prince of Roosterville was named Cletus. He was about six feet tall, and roughly spherical. He wore a pair of faded black jeans, a Styx t-shirt, a cowboy hat, and a pair of cowboy boots. He held court in the back room of a Denny’s restaurant, surrounded by a bunch of bikers and cowgirls, all of them pale and obviously vampires. They were all rowdy and obnoxious, some of them dancing to the loud music that was blaring over the speakers, most of them just laughing around and telling jokes over beer and other drinks.
I went up to Prince Cletus and bowed my head, intent on making appropriate obeisance.
“Lord Cletus, Sacerdos Sangrellus,” I said. “I am Delilah, newly embraced neophyte of Kendall Bright, of the clan…”
He interrupted me. “What’d you call me?”
I hesitated. “Sacerdos Sangrellus. It’s Latin. It means priest of blood.”
“Huh. What part means priest?”
“And which part means blood?”
“And which part means of?”
I blinked. “What?”
“You said soccerball sangrillus or whatever means priest of blood. There’s two words in that latin but three in the English. What kind of shit language is that?”
“It’s Latin,” I said. “We are descended from the ancients of Rome, and the mother tongue…”
Cletus snorted, and beer spurted out his nose. “You believe that shit?”
“But Master Bright taught me…”
“Hell, all that clan, loyalty, regent, whatever, that’s all fag talk. Know what I mean? We’re just vampires. We drink blood, eat flesh. No need for any of the other shit.”
I was totally confused. “What? But… What?”
Cletus reached beneath the table and pulled up a bucket. He thumped it down in front of him, reached inside, and pulled out a handful of what looked like raw meat, dripping with blood. He took a big bite, and chewed thoughtfully, a big smile on his face. “Hmmmm,” he murmured. “Sangrilicious.”
“My lord Cletus,” I said, trying to be respectful, “we’re not flesh eaters. We just drink the life blood of the mortals.”
This was met by a hearty round of guffaws from all around the room. I decided to stick to my guns, though. “We’re vampires!” I insisted. “Not flesh eating ghouls!”
One of the female vampires came up to me and put her arm around my shoulder. “You have so much to learn, hun. That Kendall Bright guy who embraced you, I don’t know what he told you, but I think he was filling you up with bullshit.”
“Yeah,” Cletus said. “There’s a lot of vampires who are into that whole prissy shit, with the clans and the black clothes and the swishy Anne Rice stuff but that’s all just fag talk. Real vampires don’t care about that shit, we just drink blood, eat flesh, and party.”
I looked around the room. There were easily two dozen vampires here. I didn’t think the entire population of Roosterville could support such a large undead clan. “How do you guys stay alive?” I asked. “Kendall told me that in a town this small there could only be one or two vampires at most.”
There was another round of hearty laughter. “We just gotta be careful,” Skeeter said when he was done laughing. “We have to share, you know. It ain’t always pretty but it works. This town’s a great place to live. Or not, if you know what I mean.”
“We ain’t always been careful enough, though,” piped in the woman who’d talked to me earlier. Her arm was still draped over my shoulders. “Killed a few folks by accident.”
“But we got lucky,” Cletus said. “Made it look like the killer chickens got to them. Fooled the cops and everybody. But I don’t think that’s gonna work anymore.”
I shrugged off the woman who was still too close to me for comfort. “Well, if you don’t mind, I think I’m just going to head on out of this town. I need a small town and I need to be on my own. I know there are some other towns in this county.”
“What, you mean like So Low, or Snowy Rock?” Cletus snorted again. “Those places are just as bad as here. Lots of vamps, not enough food.”
Skeeter sniffed and wiped his nose again. “You wanna know the truth, there’s too many of us. Don’t even try going to the big cities. Shit, it’s like there’s more vamps than people in those places.”
I sighed. If what they said was true… Well, there was no point in going on. It looked like Kendall had been lying to me all along.
Whatever. “Fine,” I said. “I’ll just stay here.”
“That’s the girl!” shouted the woman next to me, and she draped her arm over me again. “Maybe you could stick around and help us solve our little problem.”
“We’re always open for new ideas,” Cletus said. “And fresh meat! Come on, guys, let’s party!”
The music started to blare again, and more buckets of bloody flesh were pulled out from under the tables. More beer flowed.
Eh, I decided. It wasn’t much. But maybe I could make this place my home. And maybe, just maybe, I could knock Cletus off his throne and run this little town myself.
I draped my arm around the woman next to me and started singing an Eagles song along with her. “Hotel California,” the only one I knew.
And I began to plan.
Honestly, I think this story commits one of the biggest flaws of short story writing, which is to end the story right where it really begins. Maybe I’ll revisit the scene later on and show more of Delilah’s attempts to take over Roosterville and solve the vampire overpopulation problem.</p>