Short Fiction: The Ineluctable Appetites of Youth

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Braak, Short Fiction, Threat Quality
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TODAY is Short Fiction Monday, I guess.  Please enjoy this short story.  Or don’t, you can do what you like in life, that’s none of my business.

 

 

The Ineluctable Apettites of Youth

There’s a vampire on my roof.

Shit.  I shouldn’t have started that way.

And I definitely shouldn’t have written that.  Damn it.  My name is Xavier Raymond Warner.  If I’d been bald, or if I’d shaved my head, my nickname probably would have been Professor X, or something.  But I’m not bald.  Instead, I have gigantic, coke-bottle glasses.  The kind of great big fat ones that you see in cartoons—when the kid in the cartoon takes his glasses off, and his eyes are gone?  That’s me.  I’m nearsighted and farsighted, astigmatic.  I was the only kid in the tenth grade that had bifocals.  So, when a guy has glasses like that, and his name is Xavier Raymond, his nickname is X-Ray, and no one wants to sit with him at lunch.  Anyway, that’s me. 

X-Ray. 

Like the specs.

I live in the top room of an abandoned apartment building.  I’ve been holed up here with this typewriter and a stack of Chinese menus that I’ve been bleaching the ink from, trying to figure out if I should bother writing anything down.  Who would I be writing it for?  There’s no one left since the vampires, and the vampires can’t read.  Or, maybe they can read, but they don’t read words the way we do, so same difference.  I have sixty-five cans of beef barley soup.  I had figured I was just going to eat soup and listen to CDs until the batteries in my walkman died.  I hadn’t planned what I would do after that, but I didn’t think I’d need the typewriter.

Then, yesterday, I heard her on the roof.  Normally, the vampires don’t come close to the apartment—they spend their time in the streets or the movie theaters or the dead mausoleums of the old malls, engaged in their incomprehensible activities.  They ignore me, so I ignored them.  But a vampire on the roof?  That’s a hazard.  That’s a security issue.  It’s something, anyway.  I investigated.

She looked like all the others do, which is pretty enough to stop your heart.  I don’t want to say she was beautiful, because she was young.  They’re all young.  Not young enough to be illegal (though nothing much of anything is really illegal anymore), but young enough to make me feel gross for thinking about her that way.  She reminded me of Terry Brozowski, who sat next to me in shop class in the ninth grade, and who I’d had a crush on for a year.  She reminded me of Missy Miller, she reminded me of Lauren

Lauren’s the one she really looked like.

Long brown hair.  Long pale, skinny legs, long skinny arms.  She had short, short jean shorts on and a t-shirt with the neck cut out so that it made a V-Neck.  The shirt had a picture of Charlie Brown on it, and the words:

Where Oatmeal Sad!

It didn’t make sense, but nothing they do makes any sense.  She wore heavy plastic bangles on her wrists, scraps of junk that she’d probably pulled from a dumpster.  She had a soft angelic face, marred only by the hard bright brittle cast to her eyes.  Maniac eyes.  Desperate eyes.  No matter how weak and vulnerable she seemed, crumpled in a corner next to the vent, those desperate eyes would make you take a step back.

Also the fangs.  I remember thinking they were very white.  She smiled like she was happy to see me, and said something.  They talk all the time; I can hear them out of my window, and sometimes it sounds like a gaggle of geese.  But it’s like they’re speaking a foreign language

Syllables that suggest sense, but never reveal it.  I don’t understand them.

There was dirt smeared on her face, which only seemed to make her look more helpless, and a scrape on her bare knee.  I thought she must have hurt herself, and that was why she was up here, not moving about very much, except to periodically shuffle through the detritus of civilization that had accumulated up there.  Old boxes, something that might have been a wooden pigeon coop, that kind of thing.  When she looked up at me

She looked up at me just for a second, just the way Lauren did and I felt something like a hook right below my heart and I reached for her

Her maniac eyes warned me and I ran away and came back here.  That’s when I started writing.  I still don’t know who I think is going to read this, but

But I felt like I should write it.  Something happened, anyway.  I now have exponentially more to write about than I did this morning.

I’m a pretty bad person to tell you what happened because, honestly, I don’t really know.  I didn’t go out much.  Hardly ever.  It’s funny because when I was in high school, I always figured that this is the age I’d be going out a lot.  I mean, I never asked Terry Brozowski out, even though I tried to sit next to her every day, just so I could ignore my work and look at the curve of her jaw

I never asked her out because:

What if she said no?  I’d be embarrassed.

What if she laughed at me?  I’d be really embarrassed.

What if she said yes?  I would do something embarrassing on the date.

I knew I would, because I always did, because I never knew what I was supposed to do.  Besides that, relationships in high school don’t last.  We’d go out for two weeks and then break up and I’d be miserable.  I wouldn’t meet someone I really wanted to be with until college, right?  So why waste time on relationships I knew wouldn’t pan out?  It was just sense.

Except, I didn’t really go out when I was in college, either.

Then I finished school, and I bought my soup in bulk so I wouldn’t have to go out.  I was sure if I went out, or if I tried to talk to someone, I’d do something embarrassing.  I wasn’t even sure I could buy soup without doing something embarrassing, but what could I do?  I needed soup.

All of this is to say that I had no idea what was going on.  I didn’t even know there WERE vampires.  Being holed up here now that there are vampires isn’t so different from being holed up here before there were vampires, except now I have a legitimate reason to be afraid to go outside.

The mail stopped coming, first.  My neighbors disappeared second.  It wasn’t until the power went off that I even realized anything was seriously wrong.  I know it sounds callous, but I hardly ever saw my neighbors.  What would I say to neighbors, anyway?  No one cares about my fish tank.

So, what would have been a dramatic disappearance to a well-adjusted person was, to me, a gentle transition from almost-complete isolation to utterly complete isolation.  I filled the bathtub up with water right after I lost power.  That’s what I’ve been drinking.  I use the neighbor’s toilet though.  It’s getting kind of gross in there.

I can see the vampires from my window.  They started in small numbers, just one or two a week ago, but they’re in big groups, now.  They’re all girls.  They all look like her.  Young enough to know better.  No.  Old enough to know better, young enough that I should know better.   They’re all dressed like her.  Skinny, bare legs, t-shirts with any weird thing you can think on them.  They started

I don’t know when they started doing this, but they’ve been taking old newspapers and cutting them up, and then pasting them into books.  I can see them from my window, sitting on the curb, long lines of tender nymphs, reading their books.  The words are all random pieces of old headlines.

Sources Support Relatives Merge

Dies Accused Security Long

Term End.  Fishing Soon?

Like that.  They shriek and giggle in the sun

These vampires can go out in the sun, but I know they’re vampires.  They have dead white skin and fangs and maniac eyes and FANGS, they’re vampires, sun or not.  They like the sun.  They play in the sun, run around and squeal at each other and laugh and gabble in their weird glossolalia.

I went

I went to see her again, last night.  She’s still there, still crumpled, still desperate and vulnerable.  When I moved close to her, she didn’t try to kill me, she just looked at me and whimpered like she was sad, she looked

God, she looked so much like Lauren.  I haven’t seen Lauren…I was fourteen when I met Lauren.  At summer camp, we met the first day, she

When I sat next to the vampire, I reached up and tried to brush the dirt from her face.  She nipped at my hand, with her tiny sharp teeth and then, as though she instantly regretted it, licked the spot where she’d bitten.  She hadn’t drawn blood at all.  Something moved inside me then, something from her, something big and formless, like a thought that we were sharing that uncoiled inside my mind, pressed its way in, FORCED its way in, it was so big and long it just kept coming into me and I felt

Warm.  Good.  Like I was filled up with honey and sunshine, like something pulsed through my entire body, from my groin up through my stomach and out the top of my head, throbbed in me

I realized I had an erection.  Her hand was rubbing  the inside of my thigh, but here eyes were still those bright brittle maniac eyes, those desperate focused staring eyes, and I rolled away from her and came back here.

I cut my arm on the ventilation duct when I ran.  I wonder if she’ll lick the blood up when I’m gone.

The vampires are all in the street this morning.  Last night they had found a movie projector, and were showing snippets from random movies, projected onto the decayed billboard on the grocery store across the street.  I didn’t recognize most of them.  I don’t

Didn’t

Didn’t go to the movies that much.  Eventually, the clips just became images. 

Cobwebs, a red rose.  

A man getting out of his car. 

A woman getting into her car. 

After an hour of this, the clips were just swatches of shape and color and light, not images of anything at all.  But there was something familiar about them, something just at the very edge of my soul, like a name I couldn’t quite remember, that thrilled me when red splashed across their makeshift movie screen and they all shrieked with pleasure.

This morning they’ve painted shapes on the walls in red paint.  The shapes could be letters, arranged to look like words, I don’t know.  I think I should know, I look at them and I’m sure, I’m SURE I’ve seen them before.

I stared at the words all day today, while the vampires danced in the streets, so limitlessly, exuberantly happy.  I wondered where all the bodies were.  They must have left bodies behind.  They must have killed men and women and boys and children, to leave behind only these young girls, drained their blood and left their spent flesh somewhere to rot.  Where was it?

They found an old car and flipped it over in the streets.  Now some of them are dancing on it, while some of the others spin it around.  I saw one trying to get in, but she couldn’t figure out the door latch.  They’re all singing

Lalalalalalalalala!

That’s it.  I’m looking back at what I wrote, and I see I wrote glossolalia 

Now I’m worried that they can hear what I’m thinking.

I want

I want to go back to the roof.

She didn’t even look up when I sat down next to her this time.  She just nuzzled at my neck like she was tired or drunk, slipped her slender hand under my shirt.  When she finally looked up at me and I saw her eyes they were green and soft

Lauren’s eyes were green.  She was the first girl I kissed.  At camp.  She told me she thought my name was cool.  She was lying, my name was stupid, but I wanted to believe everything

everything she told me.

I didn’t kiss another girl after that, not ever.  Because of the specs, because of my stupid name, but also because I was scared, I think.  Of people.  Of the tidal wave of heat and pleasure that swept over me when I was around a girl.  Lauren kissed me on the first day of camp, because she was the kind of girl that needed to always be kissing a boy.  I knew right away that she wouldn’t stay with me, knew as soon as I pulled away when she tried to unbutton my jeans that she didn’t have time for my neuroses, as soon as I told her to be careful not to knock my glasses, knew as soon as I told her it was late and I had to go to bed that she’d be looking around for someone else.

One day and two nights was all we had, and she was beautiful and warm and I was filled with a kind of unalloyed joy so that I thought that I would burst from it, filled from the inside with that pulsing force that was so huge I was sure I could never contain it all and somehow I did, somehow I fit it all inside of me even though it constantly threatened to crack my seams and spill molten pleasure into the world.

I realized I was daydreaming, that the thunder of feeling that moved inside me was her.  She’d bit my neck and I hadn’t felt it at all.  The bite was

Not a gentle plunge into my skin, but a razor sharp slit instead.  Blood poured from my neck.  I pressed my shirt against the wound and ran away, the dregs of that delirious golden afterglow still inside me.  I bled

I’m still bleeding

There’s blood on the pages.  I wrapped the shirt tight around my neck to stop it, but Jesus there’s so much blood.  The shirt’s soaked through already.  I don’t understand why it isn’t stopping.  I think it should have stopped by now.  It’s not spurting out at all, doesn’t blood spurt if you’ve hit an artery?

I feel asleep.  I’m not bleeding anymore.  I keep having anxiety about it, though.  What if I had died in my sleep?  What if I’d just bled out all over the typewriter?  Obviously, anxiety is pointless, because I already didn’t die, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

The vampires are dancing outside now, and sometimes it hurts to watch them.  My neck aches.  There are more words on the walls now I can see that they are words.  I understand them I can’t explain them, because we haven’t got words

I mean we haven’t got THOSE words

but I can feel them.  My heart throbs when I read the sixth word, and I want to cry when I read the first and second.  My perineum clutches when I read the third and fifth, and I start to think I might get an erection.

I can almost understand the vampires, too.  They’re not saying

It’s not information

They’re sharing something.  A feeling, a kind of

It’s hard to think of the word.  There is a tide of joy that passes through them and finds expression in their voices.  It moves back and forth across their faces like waves on the top of an ocean, but the movement is deep, deep, deep down inside.  It is powerful.

It is

I felt them coming up the stairs, just now, and I hid across the hall.  Like a wave moving ahead of them.  I ran into the neighbor’s room so fast I dropped my glasses.  They have a crack in them now.  I hunkered down and tried to watch through the sliver of open door, but it was hard to see.  Just a forest of naked legs, and the sounds of their happy giggling as they went into my apartment and rummaged around.  I wanted to go in there with them.  I was

I was still too afraid

But less afraid now.  They’re magnetic.  They are all so happy.  Isn’t it good to be happy?  Isn’t it best to be happy? 

It’s harder to write.  It’s harder to think of words.  But I don’t mind as much.  I want to be happy.  I don’t know if I really think that, or if it’s something she left inside of me.

In my apartment, the vampires had just turned over furniture, stacked up all the plates upside-down.  They’d rolled up the carpet and tried to put it under the sink.  They knocked down my pile of Chinese menus and took some of them.  I don’t know what they’ll do with them.

There’s red paint on the wall by the door.  Two bright red hand prints, and a pair of kissy-lips.  Like the kind that you leave with thick lipstick.  I felt a little thrill in my stomach when I thought they might be for me.  I can see one of them outside again.  She’s lying on top of the over-turned car.  Her hair is spread out like a fan.  It’s hard to tell, because of my broken glasses, but I think she’s reading one of my Chinese menus.

Like a book.

i saw her again last night. she loves me.  she loves me so much it hurts.  she put her face in the blood on my neck.  she didn’t drink it. she just wore it like her makeup.  i love her makeup.  her shirt was different this time it had a picture of a bat and said

cookie!

she wasn’t hurt at all she was luring me there and i don’t care because we love each other. 

we love each other

i don’t care we love each other

she spoke to me and i understood for once i really understood i was so stupid.  the thing inside of us is the vampire.  the thing moves inside of us and it is the vampire, it is the happy laughing and the playing in the sun and the giggling and shrieks and the long legs and soft skin and wide bright eyes it is the WORDS and it is the PICTURES and it is the vampire, i don’t even need my glasses anymore to see them

it is sunny out now

she is waiting for me

they are waiting for me

the vampire is waiting for me

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