Bodies piled on the ground like discarded dolls after a girl’s slumber party. Detached limbs quivered and twitched, visible organs oozed from shattered trunks and dead eyes stared accusingly at nothing. Each time a person was eviscerated, they were added to the pile, another victim for the slaughter.
Blood soaked everything, turned the road into a river. Snaking from and around the corpses, it rushed into the sewer grates, quickly clogging them up with bits and pieces of the dead. The sound of ground meat being kneaded together filled the air, accompanied by screams both near and far.
Beasts with horns and wings, cloven hooves and twisted faces, danced about. They took delight in the suffering, snatching souls out of the air and chewing them like a child with a piece of taffy. There was no catching them all and so many spirits had been let loose at once, the night sky was milky white.
Standing in the middle of the carnage was a young girl who couldn’t have been older than sixteen. Her raven hair was wild about her shoulders, matted with gore just as her pale skin was covered in blood. Red in red eyes seemed to flow like liquid, churning in her sockets like a witch’s brew. She stood with her arms spread out to either side, head raised in a gleeful welcoming of the holocaust. Dancing with her demonic companions, she laughed aloud in hysteric glee.
All the while, the death toll rose. A hundred…a million…everyone…
My name is Alvin Presaro. When I was old enough to hate my name, I found out my mom was the one who wanted it. I asked my dad why he didn’t argue for something cooler and he said he didn’t care what they called me as long as I was a boy.
I’ve gone by Vinny ever since. Yeah, I get a lot of jokes about the Joe Pesci movie but they're a shit load better than the Chipmunk jokes I would’ve been subjected to.
—Vinny’s Facebook Profile
Waking up always sucked, even before I became a vampire. It sure as hell hadn’t gotten any better, especially after one of the dreams. Most of the time, we creatures of the night were dead to the world during the day (see what I did there?) and that cut down on any inconvenient night time fantasies. Sometimes…well, let’s just say My Little Pony was on permanent vacation from my crazy subconscious mind.
One of my many misconceptions about vampires was how nothing should bother us. Horror movies, freaky monsters, haunted houses and clowns were all no big deal. We drink blood to live and can do some terrifying stuff so why would we get scared? I figured that as a monster myself, I’d see something creepy, nod and say something to the effect of ‘hey, cool guys. Keep up the good work.’
Not even close.
Just after I was on my own, I went to the theater to catch the latest scary movie. I was an arrogant ass about it, stomping in there like it was going to be a Hugh Grant fiasco. Thank God I didn’t go with buddies. I was a cowering wuss before the first hour was up and when it was over, I was too chicken shit to walk four blocks home. Every shadow had me jumping and I was still in front of the box office.
I ended up taking a cab, which turned out to be the best twenty bucks I ever spent.
The point of this massive rant comes back to the whole dream thing. We do get freaked out. Drinking blood just makes us worthy of being scary, not immune to it. Dreaming about the end of days was not pleasant and my imagination was more vivid than ever. Considering how much time I spent gaming, that’s saying a lot. If shit got any more real, I’d be bringing stuff back like an Inkheart Silvertongue.
Every couple weeks, I’d wake up feeling like I’d finished off a bottle of Everclear, wrote the shit in my journal and went about my day. The details were fresh for roughly an hour before they faded so I had to be quick. After being a vampire for only a year and a half, I already filled one full book and was starting on my second.
The Satanic rave took up two pages.
Aside from that crazy shit, life was far better than it probably should have been. I had a kick ass place to sleep, a great shop to sell game stuff and a home theater that made the local art house places jealous. After writing down whatever psychotic episode wanted to play out in my head, I didn’t have a care in the world. I just went about my day, hanging with regulars and talking about entertainment.
If that’s how I had to spend the rest of forever, then I figured I had it pretty good. After all, not many people can say they died and came back to their ideal lifestyle. Well…I guess people would have to like…come back once in a while to have an opinion…or there’d have to be more vampires…or…I don’t know.
* * *
Supernatural critters all belong to a thing called The Society. It’s basically an archaic club of assholes like the Council in the Blade movie keeping all of us in line. They control the media, the police and every other human organization that matters. Most of us have little interaction with them. As long as we behave, we’re all good.
Those that cause trouble can experience anything from a warning to execution. The Society doesn’t mess around. None of us had the luxury of making mistakes. If the humans found out about us, then we were screwed. I’m not talking about a few one offs, because there are groups of dicks out there who go around hunting various creatures. I’m talking about genuine fuck ups that involve mass groups learning about the existence of vampires, shape shifters, demons, wizards or whatever else.
I was thinking about that while I showered. If any of my dreams ever came true, they’d mess up the world big time. A few months back, I had a doozy about some necromancer asshole causing a war between shifters and the society to bring his dead girlfriend back to life. It sounded like the plot of the Mummy and thank God it didn’t happen but if it had, life as we supernaturals knew it would’ve been over.
Part of me wanted to tell someone about the dreams. There were people in the Society that might’ve been able to help, sort of supernatural shrinks. I didn’t know a lot of other vampires so there was no one to ask if what I went through was normal. What little I did know about other supernaturals came from movies and novels, games and television programs. If they taught me anything at all, it was trust should never be freely given.
Unfortunately, most entertainment mediums were probably bullshit but they were all I had to roll with.
By the time I was dressed and ready for my night, I had let it all go. I was set to play a miniature game and I needed all my focus if I was going to stand a chance. My Monday night regulars were bad ass strategists and they could recite rules like a priest spouting bible passages. If ever they decided to use their powers for evil, it probably would’ve gone something like Season Six Buffy with the three nerd dudes doing ridiculous shit.
Luckily, these guys were interested in only three things: kicking people’s asses at board games, knowing more about Doctor Who than the people who invented it and doing breast checks in any new sci fi or fantasy movie. A little weird, yes but benevolent enough. I was just on the outskirts of being too old for them so some of my useless knowledge was considered retro.
I was still cool for a while longer.
Nightlife Gaming was my store’s name. It was located in a three story building with a basement in a decent part of town a few blocks from a big ass mall. The place belonged to me so I didn’t have to worry about landlords or leases, just taxes and keeping the place up. It was pretty easy for the most part, especially since it had been renovated before I took possession of it.
The top floor was for gaming of all varieties. Several big tables were setup for minis complete with terrain and structures. Flat surfaces were available for cards and board games and we hosted leagues for both. Vending machines provided drinks and snacks and there were five reasonably sized private rooms for role playing groups to gather.
Consoles and PCs were on the second floor. We offered everything from MMOs to shooters and we held tournaments all the time for cash and other prizes. People came from other cities to participate. Between the comfortable chairs and the working equipment, we were ridiculously popular. The hourly rates were reasonable and kept them coming back.
Merchandise was on the first floor and we practically had everything. Roleplaying books, big box board games, miniatures, dice, novels, comics, cards and video games, if it could be collected or played, we carried it. We even built computers and there was a little shop in the back for our tech to make some extra cash. Service was our number one commodity and it really set us apart.
The basement was segmented into three parts and spanned more space than the first floor by quite a lot. Some of it was storage for the shop. We had extra of everything down there and it took up a fair number of shelves. The theater took up the most room. Five rows of ten seats occupied the space and subdued lighting helped set the mood. The screen was massive and the sound was fantastic.
We tended to play old movies in there for free on the weekends or whenever we needed a break from gaming.
The last part was my apartment and it was only accessible through a special door with a security code and key. It was sealed off from the sun with no windows but all the necessary amenities were available. Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room, all furnished and proper. I didn’t spend a lot of time in there but when I wanted to get away from it all, I had what I needed.
The place was wired with a top line security system complete with cameras inside and out. Some might have called me paranoid but then, they didn’t know I had the stuff. The monitors were in my apartment. My employees were honest and I only had to fire one guy for getting caught watching porn. Even that might not have gotten him the boot if another kid’s mom hadn’t showed up.
If ever I had a nightmare moment with the store, it was explaining to her how we didn’t endorse such behavior. After her, dealing with complaints was a breeze.
Five people worked full-time there beside myself and people put in applications every week. The environment rocked. I was probably the most laid back boss ever. No, the pay wasn’t fantastic but they got a massive discount and got to play or even own every new release. Initially, I had figured people would work there through school or something but it quickly became apparent some of these maniacs planned to make it their first career.
I rarely interacted with the day folks. We didn’t open until eleven in the morning and two people manned the place up until seven. That’s when the other three came in and I supplemented them throughout the night. I generally closed up around one or two in the morning depending on what was happening, though we had been known to keep the doors open all night plenty of times.
I emerged from my lair to see what was going on. Jade Graham was at the cash register, flipping through a Batman comic and wearing her usual I don’t care about life expression. When I first opened up, I only had one guy working with me and he insisted we needed a hot chick to spruce the place up. I figured he just wanted to hit on someone but it turned out he was partially right.
Jade dyed her hair black, wore skimpy goth clothes and was paler than me. My Italian heritage was partly to blame but she avoided the sun too. She always wore enough makeup to make a drag queen jealous and the piercings definitely gave her an exotic air that made our clientele to break out in hives.
"Hey,” I said, rounding the counter to take a look at the sign in sheet for the gaming tables and video games. We had been nearly full since five o’clock which meant we were raking in the dough. I didn’t need it but it was nice to be successful. It meant I could pass the cash on to the employees disguised as a bonus. “How’s it going tonight?”
“Same old shit, Vinny.” Jade turned the page in her book. She was chewing gum, making quite the show of it. “I think Tim’s having a heart attack upstairs.”
Tiny Tim Smith was our card game enthusiast and yeah, the uncreative name was because the poor bastard was overweight. Part of me wondered if he should be on a watch list. His love for Pokemon far exceeded what I would consider healthy for a thirty-two year old guy. He was also a fan of HP Lovecraft and, in his opinion that made it all okay.
None of us agreed.
"What’s wrong with him now?”
"Some kid upstairs got an ultra-rare ‘Pika-whatever the fuck’ out of a box he was planning to buy. Apparently, it’s worth some cash.” Jade shrugged. “He was all red in the face and whining to me until I reminded him his league was running.”
“Jesus, just tell him to hit eBay for it or something.”
"He said it’s too expensive. I don’t know, it’s stupid.” Jade rolled her eyes and tossed the book on the counter. “I’m taking off soon. I have somewhere to be tonight.”
"Okay, where’s everyone else?” I checked my watch. “Did anyone call in sick?”
“No, they’re here,” Jade replied, scowling. “And I don’t mind saying it pisses me off a little. They got in and immediately hit the PlayStation, while I had to unpack all the shit and stock the shelves. It’s not cool, Vinny. I shouldn’t be the only one who does work around here.”
“First off, you know that’s not true. Second, you get paid more than they do anyway so you shouldn’t complain so much.”
“Remind me why I get paid more than my so-called peers?”
“Um…because…you…work more than they do?”
“So your first off was bullshit.”
“Yeah, kinda. Dude, what do you want from me?”
“Fire their asses?”
I frowned. “You’d miss those guys.”
Jade leaned forward. “Look into my eyes, Vinny. Do you really think I’d miss those idiots?”
“Um…” I hesitated then scowled. “No…you really wouldn’t.”
“That’s what I’m sayin’.” Jade grabbed her bag and headed for the door. “You’re on register duty. I’m out of here.”
“So ‘soon’ was right now?”
Jade opened the door and nearly ran into one of our regulars, a Society investigator named Ophelia Dupré. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with people from the Society, mostly because none of them bothered with my inventory but this one was different. She was a fairy, which meant actually fun. Her collection of games had to be ridiculous because she bought just about everything the day it came out and her comic box was full every month.
She was a shorter gal with shaggy white hair and eyes so blue they almost looked purple, a bit like Elizabeth Taylor. Guys at the shop swore she had a really expensive dye job but I knew better. Because of her exotic look, many of the regulars and even some of my staff hit on her from time to time. Luckily for them, she was a good sport about it.
"Hey, Fi,” Jade said on the drive by. She was suddenly a different person, animated and pleasant. I wondered if any other customer got such treatment. Most of the guys who came in were used to being abused by hot chicks so it probably didn’t matter but it still annoyed me she was such a little faker, either with us or the ladies.
“Club Eternal.” I knew the place. It was owned by a demon. The name was a little obvious but who was I to judge? Nightlife being owned by a vampire was just as ridiculous. “He’s a lawyer.”
“Yuck, you know the difference between lawyers and God, right?” Ophelia leaned against the door as they talked. She was dressed in a black leather jacket and tight black jeans. The sweater underneath was equally form fitting and showed off her lean, athletic body. I had to admit, I had a crush too. It was hard not to. She was really hot.
Jade looked confused. “Um…no?”
“God doesn’t think he’s a lawyer.”
“Oh, c’mon, this guy’s really nice!” Jade rolled her eyes. “He doesn’t know I work here or I’d bring him by to meet you sometime.”
It suddenly made sense to me why she was going to Club Eternal. If she was dating a lawyer, then he’d feel right at home with all the demons. They were deal making assholes to the highest degree with contracts crazy enough to break Faust out in a sweat. Maybe this guy was aspiring for a lower calling.
Though really, he couldn’t get much lower…okay, that one pushed it.
“Too bad.” Ophelia smiled at her. “Have a good time while it lasts though and remember, the lying only stops when his lips do.”
“You’re terrible! See you next time, Fi!”
Jade took off and Ophelia made a break for the graphic novel section. I cleared my throat, trying to build up the courage to walk over and say hi to her. She was friends with the rest of the staff and really seemed to get along with them. I was the only person she ever got standoffish with. I had no idea what I did to piss her off but whatever it was had turned into a real barrier for getting to know her.
I wasn’t a terrible looking guy and becoming a vampire certainly helped. My hair was thick and black and I wore it down to my shoulders. Both my parents were Southern Italian and I shared their darker features, their brown eyes. I was fit, dressed well and wasn’t an asshole so I had no clue what the deal was. Maybe I was too old for her.
But since I was twenty-eight and looked twenty-four, I couldn’t imagine how old I’d have to be for her to take an interest.
"Hey, Ophelia,” I called out, clearing my throat again when my voice broke. “How’s it going tonight?”
"Fine.” She didn't look up from the book she was flipping through, a new title which involved some bad ass chick taking on the Yakuza on a space station. I read it already and it was awesome.
It could’ve been an in but would I be bragging to talk about it? Should I start with something cliché like ‘that’s a great read’ or would it be better to wait for her to ask if I had seen it? Chances were good she had no interest in asking me shit so if I didn’t take the initiative, I’d be swinging in the wind once again. On the other hand, if I said the wrong thing, I’d sabotage myself just as badly.
Women were the biggest mystery of my life. I still had no idea why Meredith picked me out of a crowd and turned me into a vampire. I was hopeless when it came to romance. Even when video games offered up a means to get intimate with the non-player-characters, I would have to use a walkthrough to make it happen. That’s how much I sucked.
It was frankly pathetic and annoying. When Tiny Tim’s maladjusted ass was able to get the beautiful space alien to sleep with his weird looking character and I couldn’t get her past the formality of our stations, there was something wrong. I didn’t know how to fix it but I knew in my heart if I could get over the barrier between me and Ophelia, then I’d be closer to figuring it out.
Even if she still wasn’t interested, progress was progress.
I walked around the counter and approached, thanking God all the customers were upstairs. This private moment was going to be mine. I could sense it as surely as I could breathe in the fragrance of a fine blood just before I drank. Maybe I was being morbid but it made sense. My confidence was secure and as a result, so too was my future.
"So…that book read good…er…I mean, it was a good one.” I could’ve jammed a wooden stake through my chest right there. You stammering idiot! Recover! Recover! Medic! “I mean, I think you’ll probably like it.”
"Uh huh,” Ophelia muttered without looking up. “Is there something you wanted? I’d prefer you to get to the point.”
"Oh,I just…you know, was making conversation.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “Consequently, I just wanted to…um…well, invite you…to see a movie with us tonight.” The last part all came out at once and it felt like giving birth. Having said it, I felt like I had won the battle but nothing could be further from the truth. I hadn’t even started. “Downstairs…in our theater.”
“I know what you meant,” she replied. “Thanks, but I already have plans.”
“Oh, yeah! Sure, I understand…Plans! You’ve got them! I figured…I mean, I get it.” I backed away and paused. “Um…would you be interested maybe in another day this week? I’m pretty open. I’ve got it in good with the boss here.”
“No, I wouldn’t be interested.” Ophelia sighed. “Are you seriously asking me out on a date?”
“A date? No! But…um…if I did…would you…you know…say yes?”
“Wow, I can’t believe it.” Ophelia put the book back on the shelf then slapped her hands to her hips. “Vinny, I come here because it’s very convenient and you have the best selection in town. I can get anything I want without having to wait for it to ship. Your staff knows what’s going on and they’re all really nice. Honestly, if it wasn’t for those things, I’d steer clear of this place and never set foot inside.”
The confusion had to be playing out comically in my expression. I cleared my throat and shrugged, trying to make sense of what she said. “I don’t get it…why? What did I do to offend you?”
Ophelia looked around and leaned close. “I knew the person who made you and I don’t trust her motivations. Whatever she did and why she left are mysteries I find suspicious and frankly, a little scary. You want to know what you did? Specifically? Nothing. It’s just your bad luck to be a necklicker in a world where your kind tend to sell out friends and family with no better reason than they were bored.”
Without waiting for a reply, she stormed out, throwing the door open and letting it slam behind her. I stared after her in total shock. What mystery? Meredith did bail out but I didn’t get the sense it was odd. Older vampires were strange. They did inexplicable things claiming they had historical data to back up their plans.
I was a college grad with a worthless degree, a game store and the romantic skills of a blind hippo hitting on a rhino. The world could have sucked more but the way Ophelia made it sound, I felt like I should be worried. I’d have to figure out what she was talking about, maybe learn more about Meredith and why she turned me but it would have to wait.
I had a tabletop tournament to win and with my newly weathered rejection, I would show no mercy. Those kids were doomed.