What Now?

Comments (0) Death, Fiction, Issue 5, literature, short story, Trending, Writing

by Erika “Joy” Jepsen

My head spun as I pulled the heavy curtains shut.  

I can’t keep doing this to myself, not if I want to survive. 

 I pressed my hands hard against my midsection, trying to push away the hunger pains.  I must have lost a lot of weight; it’s been almost a week since my last meal, and that food could barely provide one with nourishment.  I sighed as I leaned back and pulled my coffin lid shut.  Seriously, of all people who had to be bit, why did it have to be me?

It’s been nearly a week since I was bitten for the last time, nearly a week since I lost that feeble energy humans consider to be strength.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have understood the freedom gained by leaving the simple human life for one many claim to be of “the dark side.”  Being vampires does not make us brutally violent, though, I reason.  In spite of my profound change of outlook, I know I still have a heart. 

As my stomach can bear witness to, I thought as I tried to quiet my growling abdomen.

Had I before been told that my school, Wellesley College, built as a place where women can gather and study and know they are safe and secure from all potential dangers, is exactly where my life as a pitiful human would cease, I would have laughed.  Of course I’ve heard of vampires before.  Who in America hasn’t?  But what I heard was all stories, fictional and sometimes ridiculous.  I didn’t know the new senses of freedom and security that would come along with it.  Downside of it, though, is that it also shows me why a blind date might not be a good idea.  I haven’t seen or heard anything from that guy who sucked me dry, without consent.  

Jerk.

This might be confusing, because yes, I do like what I have become but people have rights and mine were violated.  I was not asked beforehand if I wanted to be a vampire, I just went out with a guy, had a good time, a couple drinks, and then I started feeling really weak and sick.  So he in his “kindness” came home with me and took care of me.  Literally.  And now I’m starving to death because I have a conscience and I don’t want to hurt other innocent people.  This is so frustrating.

And now I’ve found out Wellesley college is apparently a common hunting ground for lowlife (low afterlife?) vampires to victimize the students here, since there are several old towers on the edge of the property that have been turned into vampire dorms.  I don’t know how else to describe them.  Literally, I think I’ve counted seventeen used coffins just in this tower and then there are more young women hiding on the top floor of our tower during the day.  I don’t know how many are up there, but they wake me up sometimes thumping around or laughing loudly.  And a vampire’s laugh sounds nothing like a human’s laugh.  Something else that can, well, wake the dead.  Which is probably why it wakes me.

They’ve noticed that I’m a newbie, and one of them, I think her name is Kara, gave me the business card of a behavioral therapist who is a vampire.  He, obviously, works with vampires who have issues for whatever reason and Kara said he’d counseled her a couple years ago when she’d gotten bit as a freshman and considered dropping school.  He recommended that she sign up for night classes, though, and that way she could still attend school and receive training for her dream job in the medical field.  She said she’s good at finding veins now, for IV’s or whatever other reason.

“You might want to look into that, going to night school.”

I nodded and thanked her, then looked down at the business card.  The therapist’s name is Edmund Pravin and he’s had this job since 1947.  That’s cool, means he would’ve treated people struggling with their post-World War II lives and how severely their lives would have changed during that time.  He can probably help me.  I called and scheduled an appointment for midnight tonight.  A very appropriate hour for a vampire to be out, or in, whichever is the case.  That kinda sounds creepy, too.

The office of Dr. Pravin, or Edmund as he prefers to be called, is in an old building on the dark side of the city.  Though still intact, the building is probably seen as an abandoned warehouse with the parking lot outside all broken up and various plants and small trees growing in the cracks.  Edmund met me at the front door when I knocked.  I must say, he is fairly handsome, in a 1950’s style.  He wore black slacks, a light gray button-down shirt and a coal gray vest and suit jacket.  He’s a little bit taller than me, has his dark brown hair slicked back, his body a slim build with pale skin and his eyes are light blue.  Penetrating blue.  That’s probably what makes him so captivating.  Then again, maybe it’s his confidence that gives him that attitude.

He brought me into the warehouse and led me across a messy floor to another room.  Theoretically, the warehouse looked like I imagine unused places usually do with all the dirt and cobwebs, but I also recognized the heavy scent of sawdust.  

I wonder if this is where our coffins are made, I thought as I entered a small office.  

It wasn’t much, just a room with a desk, two chairs and a small, dark cabinet in the corner, whose unending hum informed me of its electric connection.  On the wall behind the desk stood three bookshelves, all of them filled with books, and I smiled at the scent of older pages.  There’s just something about an old book smell that I have always loved.  An old, yellowed picture in a simple frame sat on the corner of the desk.  

Edmund asked why I came for therapy.  I explained and he nodded.

“It’s not at all uncommon for me to see new vampires for that reason,” he said, inviting me to sit down.  “For the people of today’s day and age to learn to accept themselves as vampires with no counsel and go on to live a normal vampire life is quite extraordinary.”

“Oh wow.  That sucks, no pun intended, but what do you do for them?”

Edmund smiled and opened the thick book he had sitting on his desk and scrolled down.

“Here we go,” he said, then looked up at me.  “How long has it been since you were converted?”

“Thursday last week, so just about a week now.”  Edmund stood and walked over to the dark cabinet, his eyebrows raised.

“Long time to go without a drink,” he said, pulling out a small jar and an equally small box.  He handed both to me.  “Drink that slowly; if you do it too fast, you’ll start going off the walls.”  

I pulled the lid off and held the jar under my nose.  It was cold, but it smelled like life.  I sipped it, and nearly felt an explosion erupt in all my senses at once.

“Slowly, I said.”

“I was slow,” I grumbled, cautiously dabbing the vial against my lips and licking them off.  I stopped, and looked up at Edmund.  “This is human blood, I’m guessing?”

“Yes, and the box has one more jar to keep you until you can start getting it fresh.”

“That the thing, though.  I don’t want to be killing people.”

“Whoever said you have to kill?”  

I was taken aback.  

Me, being a vampire and not needing to kill people?  This is almost too good to be true.  

Edmund continued.  

“You don’t have to drink all the blood in a person’s body, just a little here and there.  We just need to change your behavior and get you to a point where you can do that comfortably.”  

We talked a few more minutes then decided that I would see Edmund every day for the next couple days, and hopefully by then I will be comfortable finding my own food.  He told me to spend time finding out which are the right kind of people to drink from, and which are the wrong kind.  Great, homework.

I returned the next night at about the same time with some notebooks.  Edmund seemed pleased to see them.

“So, tell me what you’ve found,” he said as he welcomed me into his office.

“Kind of an obvious thing,” I started, “kids are not good to have for dinner.  Not only would they provide only a small meal, but they would probably be killed if enough of their blood to make a small snack were drunk.  And that would cause problems between humans and vampires.  So I looked at elderly people, opposite end of the spectrum, and they wouldn’t necessarily be good either because of a long list of medicines they’re usually taking.  Same would go for people of any age with disorders or disabilities that need daily medication.  We just don’t know what the medicines in their blood would do to us.”

“Good, you’re getting good information,” Edmund said, nodding.  “Are there any other people to be wary of?”  

I flipped a page in my notebook and smiled, almost mischievously.

“Drunk people should be minimally feasted on when out hunting with a friend, or date.”

Edmund laughed.

“Very good!” he said, then opened his book again.  “Tonight,” he began, “let’s see if we can do some progressive muscle relaxation.”  

The lights dimmed as he asked me to close my eyes and think of a place where I feel the most comfortable.  A CD player turned on, with music that as a human I would have considered frightening, but now as a vampire I find it soothing.  The gentle scent of lavender breezed about comfortingly.  Edmund spoke again, quietly, his voice soft and complimenting the atmosphere.

“What is it that makes another person beautiful to you?”  

I smiled dreamily.

“For men, I like seeing men who are tall and well-muscled.  Not big and buff, necessarily, but not skinny.  I don’t really care what they look like for the most part, but I do pay attention to their eyes, their smiles, and their hands.  And their personalities, cuz if they’re jerks, I don’t find them attractive at all.”

“What about women?”  

I thought a moment.

“I think all women have beauty; they just don’t always see it.  And again, personality is very important for me to think of them as beautiful.”  

The room shifted and it felt like Edmund was leaning close to my ear.

“What would you do,” he asked, almost whispering, “if you saw someone else hurting one of these beautiful people?”  

I smiled, almost cocky.

“With the abilities that I now have, I’d probably tear that person apart.”  

Suddenly, the lights turned on, the music turned off, and the sweet scent vanished.  I looked at Edmund in disbelief and shock.  He was still sitting in his chair as if he’d never left it.

“What—what was that about?” I asked.  

Edmund smiled devilishly.

“I think we found exactly the kind of person you can learn to feast on,” he replied.  

I shrugged, still feeling exasperated.

“But I still don’t want to hurt anybody.”

“No, you actually do want to hurt people, you’re just picky about who you hurt.”  Edmund looked at the clock.  “Our time is almost up.  Your homework for tomorrow is to do some research and find places where those beautiful people are most likely to get hurt.  That sound good to you?”  

I nodded.  Edmund continued.  

“Do your research then, and hopefully tomorrow we can go on our first outing.  And if it goes well enough, it will be our only outing.”  

At that, we said goodbye, and I left to go home and find the vicinity of my intended first victim.

I was in a near panic state the following evening before I left for my behavioral therapy.  

Shoot, where did I put those papers? I thought, searching anxiously.  

By the computer, no, of course not.  Not in my coffin, not on the kitchen table, nowhere.  My stomach growled just leaving the kitchen.  Edmund only gave me one more jar of blood, and I drank that last night.

  Shoot, I should have saved some of it.  

My hunger only added to my frustration.  

Where could…oh, there they are.  

I flew up towards the ceiling, shaking my head.  I had been sitting in the rafters this morning before I went to coffin and left my papers up there.  Whatever, I need to go.  I stuffed the papers in my bag quickly and off I flew.

Being able to travel as a bat really does have some perks that no regular human would think of.  The biggest reason really, is knowing where I am and what’s around me without being able to see it.  By far, I am not totally blind, but it’s hard to see outside when it’s pitch-black.  Another benefit is that no one else is quite brave enough to bother me.  I’m not being antisocial as I say that, but we vampires need to remember to be aware of those people who hunt us religiously, and avoid them.  Did not take me long to learn that.  But if I fly like a normal bat, people just think I’m this big, ugly thing that they want nothing to do with.

I was nearly breathless when I arrived at Edmund’s office, I flew so fast.  He stopped dead in his tracks as I explained myself.

“You flew quickly, straight here,” he summarized.  “Did you fly through any trees, at all?”  

I shook my head.

“No, no, I didn’t, cuz I didn’t want to be late,” I explained, still breathing heavily.  

Edmund sighed.

“I should have expected this.  Here, change into these.”  

He handed me some heavy-duty pants, a tee shirt, and some boots.  I raised my eyebrows.

“I was just getting used to my traditional vampire garments,” I said, looking down at my dark purple dress and black sleeveless cardigan as Edmund grabbed more clothing for himself.  

He turned toward me with a penetrating look.

“You told me before that you understand how to fly like a normal bat, but I can clearly see that you don’t.  If you did, you would know that bats do not fly long distances in straight lines, above trees, at a quick speed.  You did all of that tonight, so now we need to be ready in case vampire slayers come.”  A quick, heavy knock fell on the front door.  Edmund threw up his hands.  “And here they are.  Get dressed quickly.”

I was just tying a scarf around my neck when Edmund opened the outside door, himself breathless and his hair disheveled.  

Wow, good actor.  

Three men pushed past him, looking sharply around the warehouse.  One man turned toward Edmund.

“Did you see vampires here?” he asked.  Edmund nodded.

“I did, but I think—I think they’re gone now.  I’m not sure.”  

The second man held up a hand, looking at a small electronic device.  It looked almost like the cell phones of the 1990’s but a little bit more square-ish in shape.

“The radar says they’re close,” he said quietly but with passion.  Or is that anger in his face?

The first man walked toward me.  I cowered, but more out of curiosity than fear.  The man saw me and grabbed me by the shoulder, pulling me to my feet.  I shrank back as best as I could.

“Please don’t hurt me, this is my first time,” I whimpered.  

The man’s face did not change expressions.

“First time for what?” he asked.

“First time hunting vampires.”  I tried to sound as adolescent as I could.  

Shoot, why couldn’t I have been converted into a vampire ten years ago?  

I looked down to the floor and started sniffling.  The man let go of me roughly.  I looked up at him, trying hard to make a pouty face.  His dark eyes were alive but full of, and I hate to say this, full of venom.  Like his only pleasure in life included destruction of potentially innocent people whose only crime was previously being victimized.  He was actually pretty good looking, all things considered.  He stood with a tall frame, a broad chest and a short beard creeping down his neck.  His dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail and his body was in very good shape and etched with muscle.  He wore cargo pants and a leather jacket, which I observed was conveniently not zipped up all the way.

Hm, he’s a healthy guy.  Good to note.  

The man looked harshly at Edmund.

“Did you see any vampires here?” he asked.  

Edmund nodded.

“Yes, they went up the stairs then out the window.  I’ve been teaching my sister how to find them,” he said, motioning to me, “so I think she might be able to help us with that.”  

The second man, with the radar, looked up at me with a look of urgency.  His sandy colored hair clung to his forehead, beaded with sweat, and he too wore cargo pants and leather jacket on his slim build, and also a scarf to hide his neck.  The third man, in good shape physically but not intellectually, wore the same.  I would have laughed, if we were not in a serious situation.

Being a wimp may not be such a bad thing, for some people.

“Do you know where the vampires are or went to?” he asked.

I pulled the papers out of my bag.

“They would naturally go someplace dark and secluded.  Does the radar show where they are?” 

The radar man nodded, looking intently at his handheld machine.

“Shows that they haven’t gone far,” he replied.

“They’re probably waiting for us to follow them out into the darkness, then, where they can easily get us,” I said.  I looked around at the three men then to Edmund.  “Can we go home now?”  

The first man glared at me.

“If you want to go, go.  But we’ve got some work to do.”  

Edmund walked over to me and placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Wait, I think she can help us,” he said.  Then he looked at me.  “What else have you found about where vampires like to be?”  

I looked again at my papers.

“Outside,” I answered.  “In the dark, probably in the trees.  But they might right now be either right outside the window or on the roof, if that’s what the radar says.”  

The first man nodded.

“Let’s go get ‘em.”

We all ran outside anxiously, looking for vampires.  Well, the three men were looking for vampires.  Edmund and I were looking to get away from them.  Radar man stopped quickly.

“Radar says they’re still with us,” he said, looking at me suspiciously, his eyes widened.

Shoot, gotta keep them fooled!

I looked at my papers again, sweat beading on my forehead.

“Well, according to my research, vampires can turn into some kind of a mist,” I said, looking up.  “And the fog is only now rolling in.”  

The four of us kept close together, backs facing each other. Wait, where did Edmund go?  I looked around, almost worried, then realized that vampires can turn into a mist, and some fog rolled in.  Yeah, I’m not telling Edmund about that; I might get an “F” on the test I’m in.  

The third man looked at me urgently, and I think he was a little scared.

“What happens now?” he asked, his voice trembling.  He coughed a couple times.

“If the vampire’s hungry, he’ll do what he can to get us into a darker area,” I answered, still looking around.  I looked over my shoulder at the third man, trying to smile without showing my fangs.  “Makes it easier for him to grab one of us and eat us.”  

The first man next to me stiffened.

“Do you mean ‘him’ or ‘they’?” he asked, now glaring at me.  “Cuz you said before there were a few, but now you’re saying there’s only one.”  

I froze as all three men looked straight at me.  I had only seconds to think.  What could I do?  The mist grew thicker between myself and the second and third man as the first shot his arm out to grab me.  I dodged then grabbed him and bit into his throat, quickly and drinking only a little but it was enough to make him fall to the ground.  And then, I was gone.

I have no idea where I ran to or even how I got there, but the fresh blood invigorated my senses like nothing I had ever felt before, not even during my human life.  I breathed deeply and smiled, licking my lips.  That guy may be something of a jerk, but he does have good taste.  I looked around.  I was in a deeper part of a forest, somewhere, hopefully still in Wellesley.  The only other life around me included the bugs buzzing about and the frogs trying to catch them.  Ok, so I’m near a marsh, or a lake, or something.  

Great.

Just as I was considering whether I should try to get home or find another place nearby to spend the day, I heard the flapping of wings approach me.  

Cool, my sense of hearing wasn’t this strong before.  

I turned around just in time to see Edmund change from bat to person shaped vampire.  I reached for the bag on my hip to grab my papers.  

Shoot, where’s the bag?  I looked around for it, almost panicking, then turned to Edmund.

“Ok, so, beautiful people are often most likely to get hurt in the privacy of their own homes, but they also— “

“No, no, wait.”  Edmund held up his hands to stop me.  “You did good tonight.  You know places where vampires are more likely to be found, which are the same kinds of places that these kinds of crimes are usually committed.  Also, you were able to successfully feed tonight on some fresh blood.  What made you decide to do that?”  

I thought for a moment.

“Well, he was trying to attack me.  I didn’t really think about it, I just did it.”

“Good.”  Edmund smiled at me.  “You can relax now, the worst part is over.  You have learned how to feed yourself as a vampire, which is the reason why you came to me in the first place.  So, your need for behavioral therapy is officially over.”

“Great!”  I looked at my watch.  It was just past 1:30. I smiled mischievously.  “Would you like to find a bar?  They should be letting out soon, just in time for us vampires to get our booze.”  

Edmund laughed.

“Sure, let’s go see what we can find.”  

And with that, I joined a fellow member of my converted species to begin a whole new chapter of my life with confidence.

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