Back in March I wrote a little short story meant to poke fun at the ongoing vampire romance craze that much more successful authors are using to sell boatloads of books whilst I peddle stories about gnomes and sprites. Well, we write what we know, right? Just wait until that new Hobbit movie comes out! Then we'll see which way the demographic winds shift. Muhuhahaha!
Anyway, all envy aside, in the Halloween spirit I have written a sort of sequel to that first story. I always say that short stories aren't really my thing, but I actually had a lot of fun writing this. Enjoy.
Vampires Still Aren't Sexy
Emily clutched her newest treasure tightly to her chest as she left her apartment. It had been a long week, but now it was Thursday night, book club night! She worked hard every week just to get to this night, but this particular meeting was even more special than most; it was her turn to pick the next book! She had been searching the stores all week for the perfect choice, but it wasn’t until this very afternoon that she had found it: Memories of a Night Kiss.
Oh sure, the others may not be too thrilled about reading yet another vampire romance, not after the last three she had picked out, but they could just deal. After all, hadn’t she just slogged through that dreadful 18th century drama that Susan had foisted on them last month? So many prim and proper characters, and yet not one of them a lonely yet passionate scion of the night! At least she hadn’t had any need of her Ambien for the last few weeks. Memories would be a much more intriguing read. She was sure of it.
All her friends knew that such books had always been a guilty pleasure of hers, one that was easily sated these days as every author and TV writer looking to make a name for themselves scrambled for a piece of the resurgent popularity of the nosferatu. Of course, this new book wasn’t by some fly-by-night newcomer. P.C. Waltham had been a recognized master of the genre, a pioneer in his day.
It had been years since the reclusive author had released a new book. Indeed, many had not thought it was possible. A rumor had circulated a few years ago that he had died alone in his home, and that it had taken weeks before anyone found his body.
She had been quite pleased to learn that it had all been lie. There he was on the back cover, older but still writing. He’d probably just taken a few years off to find his muse. That’d teach her to believe any more message board gossip. Still, to think that in some small way she was holding a manuscript from beyond the grave…the idea just made this latest novel all the more exciting. The danger, the passion, the suspense, all of what made for a good vampire story awaited her between these covers.
She shivered a bit from the chilly night air as stepped off the elevator and into the shadowy parking garage. She hadn’t realized just how short the days had been getting since summer ended. The flickering of the fluorescent security lights created pools of weak illumination amidst darkness, and somewhere in the distance the recording of a wounded pigeon sounded in a vain attempt to scare off the birds that were already roosted for the night in the nooks and crannies overhead. Her footsteps echoed off the concrete as she tried to remember where exactly she had parked her Miata. She swore that that car had a mind of its own sometimes, never staying put where she thought she had left it.
She practically jumped out her skin at the drawled greeting. She had been so engrossed in thoughts of her new book whilst simultaneously looking for her car to notice that she wasn’t alone in the garage. She had walked right by some sort of janitor or something without even seeing him. He was a short, heavyset man, blue collar from his grey overalls to his $10 haircut. No wonder she hadn’t spotted him; he was the type of person one often overlooked. The only thing striking about him were his eyes, dark and watchful, and watching her far too intently for her comfort.
She mumbled something back that may have been a greeting back at him while simultaneously gripping the short aluminum spike that she had hanging from her keychain. She fantasized briefly about how she would daringly defend herself with the meager weapon if the non-descript yet somehow ominous janitor attacked her, but her battle plans proved unnecessary as the man merely went on about his business. He had some sort of sprayer strapped to his back, probably to keep the bugs down. Her nose wrinkled at the pungent odor of the spray. It smelled…garlicy? Maybe it was some new organic insecticide. It seemed that everyone was ‘going green’ these days.
After a few moments of aimless wandering she finally spotted her car, easily recognizable by the faded and sun-cracked Team Edward bumper sticker. She had been meaning to replace that. The lights flashed as she unlocked the doors with her keyless remote, belatedly reminding her that she could have done that much earlier to help her find her wayward vehicle.
“Dangerous to be in a place like this at night,” said the janitor’s voice from just a few feet behind her. Again she jumped, this time audibly gasping. How had someone in heavy work boots gotten so close without her hearing? “All alone in the dark, you never know who you’re going to meet.”
“I was just leaving,” she said, proud that her voice didn’t quaver. She fumbled with her keys before remembering that she had already unlocked the car.
The man stepped closer. “Good. There are some real creeps out there.”
Something glinted in his hand as he stepped closer, something metal. Something sharp. Her heart leaped into her throat as she stood transfixed in horror. Her keychain spike was forgotten; the fact that she was right next to her car was forgotten. She was alone with a psycho knife wielding murderer rapist madman who would probably keep her head in the freezer…
The man smiled an oddly reassuring smile and then cocked his arm back. She shrieked as the knife streaked towards her head. All she could do was shut her eyes and brace for the inevitable cleaving impact. There was a sickening crunch as the heavy blade pierced both flesh and bone, a sound which seemed to reverberate in her mind. Emily dropped to her knees. She didn’t want to die she was too young to die why oh why was this happening to her if she lived she’d be good she’d stop stealing cable the nice people at the cable company deserved her money she…wasn’t hurt.
Emily felt at her face but found no protruding blade, no gushing wounds, no sign of harm at all. If that was the case, though, who had the creepy janitor thrown the
The man unceremoniously shoved her hard with his boot, sending her toppling to the side. He ran past her, fists leading. In the shadows on the far side of the Miata the janitor wrestled someone to the ground. At least, she thought it was someone. Maybe it was a trick of the poor light and her own fear-crazed mind but it seemed that the sounds coming from the fight were more animal than human. Some calm rational voice in her mind reminded her of a news report she had seen about a mountain lion that had attacked a jogger in some park last spring. Yes, a mountain lion had gotten into the parking garage. That made sense. A bloodied knife skittered across the concrete, sliding to a stop by her foot. Bits of stringy hair and skin still stuck to the blade. She nervously nudged it away with her toe.
Behind her the battle raged on, until with a triumphant yell the janitor seemed to gain the upper hand.
“Stay down you blood sucking bastard!”
His arm plunged downward and there was another sound of cracking bone. With a disturbingly human-sounding grunt of pain whatever it was he had been fighting finally gave up the ghost and moved no more. Cautiously she rose to her feet to gain a better look of what had happened, but before she could catch a glimpse of anything the janitor slid out of the shadows to block her view. He was definitely worse for wear but he was smiling nevertheless. His face was thoroughly bruised and cut and his overalls had been clawed to shreds, revealing some sort of thick black vest beneath it. He wasn’t overweight at all: he was wearing some sort of body armor!
“You might want to move your car,” he said between gasps for breath. “I need to burn a little trash here.”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Just an exterminator.” He knelt to the ground and scooped up his knife. He grimaced at the gore that was stuck to it before nonchalantly wiping it off on his ruined clothes. He then grabbed something else that was lying on the ground. “Yours?”
It was her new book! She hadn’t even realized that she had dropped it. It seemed such a silly thing now, but she reached for it eagerly all the same when he handed it back.
“Vampires, huh? Don’t tell me you read that crap.”
“It’s for my book club,” she replied dumbly.
“Whatever. Seriously though, could you please move your car? Thanks.”
She nodded and numbly climbed into the driver’s seat. She flipped on the headlights as she began to back out of her space, seeing for the first time the thing that she hoped beyond all hope to be a simple animal predator. It was a man, more specifically a dead man in a tattered black coat. A jagged piece of wood had been driven into his chest, right through the ribcage and into his heart. A second grisly wound marred his face, a deep gash right between the eyes from the knife that the janitor, exterminator, whatever he was had thrown. His skin was already pallid and grey from blood loss, though oddly there didn’t seem to be any blood on the ground.
As she watched the dead man’s eyes snapped open, starring at her with glaring hatred. The exterminator waved at her to move along, but he needn’t had bothered. She was already tearing out of that horrible garage as fast as she could go, squealing her tires and dinging more than a few parked cars in her haste to escape. She would get a speeding ticket on the way to her meeting, but that seemed like such a minor crisis after what had just happened. Whatever it was that had just happened.
Back at the garage, the man watched as the flames consumed the body. One more down, untold legions left to go. He hadn’t been lying when he told the girl that he was an exterminator. He just worked with larger vermin than most. He checked his watch. The night was still young.