• Robert Saucedo

The Lost Boy

Excuse me, is anybody sitting here?

Thank you, I appreciate it. This place sure filled up tonight, didn’t it? Who would have guessed that the Garza Elementary fourth grade choir concert would be the social hotspot of the evening?

Which kid is your’s?

Chase? Oh, my daughter Tiffany talks about him all the time. I think she’s got a little crush, you know. Kids, right?

Well, I’m sure glad I found this empty seat. My ankles aren’t what they used to be and I just don’t think I could’ve made it through the entire concert standing in the back. At least, not without leaning up against something. Am I really at the age where I need to start using a cane? Fuck me; who would have ever guessed I’d make it this long?

Yes, sir - this seat was just what the doctor ordered.

I mean, I’d have preferred to sit with the rest of my family - no offense meant, of course. My wife and I might be divorced but we try to keep things cordial - for the sake of the kids, you know. In fact, Becka texted me earlier this afternoon that she was going to save me a seat but I showed up tonight and surprise! New-boyfriend-Steve’s schedule had opened up and suddenly he could make the concert and he’d be the one enjoying the seat to the left of my wife.

Ex-wife, I mean.

Eh, it’s okay - let them canoodle. I wish them nothing but the best. In fact, I hope Steve enjoys sleeping on those Egyptian sheets I bought for Becka last Christmas. It was all she wanted. One thousand thread count by Thomas Gene or get the fuck out. Heh, I got her the sheets but she still asked me to get the fuck out.

I kid, I kid...

I’m sorry for stepping on your toe by the way. I’ve got neuropathy in my left foot. What? Oh, it means I can’t feel anything. Diabetes - it left me completely numb in that particular tootsie. It feels like I’ve got one of them, uh, concrete blocks over my foot. You know, like in Lady in Cement?

What? You’ve never seen Lady in Cement? Oh, you’re missing out. It’s a fantastic flick! Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, mystery, and intrigue! It’s a sequel to Tony Rome, you know.

What? You haven’t seen Tony Rome either? Jeez - you’ve gotta turn on TCM every now and then, brother. That’s where they stash the good stuff!

Yeah, I like old movies. They just don’t make ‘em today like they did when I was a kid.

Well, thank you - I guess I do look young for my age. On the outside at least. On the inside, I feel old as shit. My bones ache, my sinuses are always congested and I’m usually passed out on the recliner by eight-thirty regardless of whether or not I’ve had a nip of bourbon with dinner. I’ve just got to face facts - my age has finally caught up with me.

Once upon a time, though, I was a real badass.

I know, I know - It’s a cliche. Every middle-aged man clad in chinos and a salmon-colored polo shirt will tell you that they were top shit as a kid. Youth begets age begets nostalgia - nostalgia for a past spent hell-raising. But I really did, you know. Raise hell, I mean.

I drove fast cars and I wore cool clothes. I hung out with all the hip kids and I stayed up way past my bedtime. And oh the ladies! Boy, howdy - I devoured any pretty little thing that crossed my path. I swooped, I soared, I strutted. I used my teeth to rip out the jugulars of my victims - straight through their pretty little necks - and then I would lap up their blood with my tongue like I was a kitty cat sipping milk from a saucer.

Heh, oops.

Sorry - I didn’t mean to spook you there. I guess I got a little carried away remembering the past, the way things used to be. You see, touching my toes, digesting beef, peeing - a lot of stuff is harder than it used to be. But not remembering. Remembering the past? That’s a piece of cake.

I can still remember what it felt like as the wind blew through my hair as I glided through the night on my leather wings. I remember how clean this country used to smell - the sharp, clean scent of a nation figuring its shit out. I remember the night I rode in an automobile for the first time and I remember that first taste of the sweet tang of blood from a newborn baby. But, most of all, I remember the sound of screams.

There were screams of pleasure, screams of delight, screams of agony that would taper away into throaty death rattles like a paper towel being flushed down an old commode. In the end, though, all screams were the same to me, whether they ended with sex or death. Hell, blood was involved either way. That was the common denominator, you see, all of my nights ended with blood.

I used to be a real badass as a kid and, brother, I was a kid for a long, long time.

I was twenty years old when I was turned into a vampire.

Sorry, sired is the word those fanged fuckers like to use.

It was 1910 and my family had just arrived in America on a ship; a big wooden monstrosity. The journey had been arduous. That’s a good word, ain’t it? Arduous? You can feel the weight of a word like that when you speak it - it spills out your mouth and dribbles down your chin. Arduous.

It was my ma, my pa, my sister, and me - headed to the new world with all the new opportunities that’d come with that journey. Out of all of us, my sister was the most excited. She was a reader, you see, and she had filled her dreams with the words of folks like Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain. She had big ideas about what kind of life she’d find waiting for her in America. Unfortunately, life had different plans.

It wasn’t long after we left home that my sister came down with something nasty. Disease had an easy way of breeding in the darkness of steerage; just like the rats who carried it. Within weeks, my sister’s skin had turned black and begun to peel off like the scales of a rotting fish. I’d use my fingers to brush Tiffany’s hair for her, trying to make her happy, and chunks of my sister’s scalp would slough off into my lap. Shit like that is enough to make you get right angry with God and curse the infinite. Not Tiffany, though. She accepted it all.

Through pale, mucus-filled eyes, Tiffany would stare at my parents as they cried, a serene calm awash on her face. She knew she was dying. She knew it and had accepted it long before our mother and father did. Long before I did. Tiffany was the bravest person I ever knew - of course, I named my first daughter after her. That’s the best part about being a parent: choosing what you name your kid and being able to carve out a legacy for the people you loved, a shadow that extends way past their own lifespan.

I don’t blame my sister for what she did - who would want to waste away, rotting within the hull of a seabound ship? I don’t know how she worked up the strength to slit her own throat, though. Tiffany somehow managed to pluck a shard of glass from her broken hand mirror - the only luxury mother had allowed her to take when we fled our home. My sister had grit, she saw things through to the end and, God help her, she slid that glass shard from ear to ear, leaving her neck a flapping, wet mess of gore.

That was the first time I smelled blood - really smelled it, I mean. I sat there in that rocking ship, holding my sister’s corpse and sobbing like a baby and I breathed in that tinny, metallic twang of blood - a scent I would come to know better than my own reflection.

Heh, that’s a joke. A vampire joke.

When we landed at Ellis Island, I knew I had to ditch my parents. The weeks after Tiffany’s death that I had spent crammed into the innards of that rusty, leaking ship with those two zombies had been enough for a lifetime. When my sister died, my parents had severed their own connection with life. They were defeated by the time we reached land - sunken shells of the people I had once known. These walking corpses wouldn’t have the strength they’d need to survive in this new country. If I stayed with them, they’d just drag me down too and I wasn’t ready to die.

Not ready to die? Ha, such a bold proclamation I made considering I would die the very night we landed in America. I can look back and see the bitter humor in the fact that night had already begun to set as I disembarked from the boat that afternoon. After weeks spent anticipating America, I was really only able to enjoy moments of this new world’s view of the sun and then - moonlight forever after.

As I weaved through the crowds of the city that would be my home for the next eighty years and I took in this strange and scary metropolis for the first time, Mirriam spotted me.

Mirriam, the great love of my life. My wife Becka and I really never stood a chance - how could she ever match up with Mirriam, that beautiful vampire goddess who’d be the one to welcome me to America, bloody America.

Mirriam knew I was the one for her even as I struggled to figure out where I was going to sleep that first night. She would tell me later that she had been waiting for me for a long time. She waited for me in the darkness as my mother and father were both born. She waited as they grew into adulthood, met each other, and conceived me. She waited as they gathered their small family into a ship and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to America. She waited as I made my way to the heart of my new city in search of my destiny.

I would ask Mirriam why, if she knew I was the one she had been waiting for, she hadn’t flown across the ocean on her black wings to collect me sooner. We would have eternity to spend with one another, true, but the thought of starting that eternity sooner, the thought of sparing me the tragedy of having to experience my sister’s death? That was an alluring dream. Mirriam said everything happens for a reason - and that includes when it happens. She and I were connected by something stronger than time and she was content to wait for the right moment to come if it meant I was the one she was waiting for.

Was Mirriam telling the truth? Had she seen me in her future before I was even a glint in my father’s eye? Who knows - we certainly enjoyed something special together, something deep and meaningful beyond any relationship I’ve experienced since. That said, she was also batshit insane in a way that all the best romantics are. I like to believe she was right, though. Destiny is like a warm blanket you can wrap yourself in. It’s a protection against regrets. Everything that would happen in the years to come would happen for a reason - even the bad stuff.

Mirriam didn’t approach me right away. I guess, when you’ve been waiting twenty years for your lover boy to make his American debut, what’s a few more hours? She followed me from a distance as I enjoyed my last evening as a member of the human race. In the decades that followed, I would often find myself wishing that I had spent that last night alive in a church, praying. It’s not like I was ever religious as a kid - especially not after Tiffany’s death - but I love the smell of incense burning and the gleam of polished pageantry. There’s something special about the inside of a church and I would grow to yearn for that simple pleasure of just sitting in a pew, listening to an organ play, and breathing in that earthy aroma of true devotion to something bigger, more powerful than yourself.

You can’t step into a church as a vampire, you know. I guess, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not too bad of a trade-off - you miss out on mass and those tasty communion wafers but you get to turn into a bat, a wolf, mist, whatever. I will admit, though, that during some of my darker moments in the ‘80s, I would sometimes dig through the dumpsters behind St. George on 54th; huffing any garbage bag I could find in search of something approaching religion. When a vampire lives long enough, they’ll eventually come to miss faith.

So no, I did not spend my first and last night as a living, breathing boy in New York City in a church. No, of course not. I spent it drinking, reveling, and trying my best to get into the bloomers of any lady that’d return my gaze. It had been a long boat ride spent in the company of my parents. My balls were so blue they were just about ready to burst.

And that’s when Mirriam approached me. I had just gotten a pint of something dark and sticky dumped on my head from a woman who didn’t appreciate my sexual chicanery when Mirriam floated through the door of the pub. She immediately had my attention. She had everybody’s attention - man, woman, even the tomcat curled up in the corner of the bar lifted its head to take notice of the woman as she walked in. Glided in, more accurately.

Vampires have a way of doing that. You’d think that a predator would be stealthy and blend in with their surroundings but vampires can’t help but be the center of attention in any room they find themselves in. They possess uncontrollable energy - a sexual potency more powerful than exists in any animal, vegetable, or mineral. Vampires fuck and everybody who encounters one in the wild immediately knows this to be a fact.

Mirriam ignored the mealy-mouthed advances of the first wave of would-be suitors; a cascade of men left disappointed that they couldn’t attract the favor of this dark-haired beauty. These rejected men sulked out of the pub that night upset that they couldn’t taste of this woman’s flesh, sop up her sexuality like a sponge on a wet floor. The trade-off, though, was that they lived out the rest of their lives. They wed, they had children, they grew old, and then they died. Mirriam picked me, out of all the men in that bar and, as a result, I just died.

It’s funny, you know. I spent years with Miriam - decades upon decades. We grew to know each other in and out - there was nothing either of us could do to surprise the other. You’d think I would remember more of that first night. I can recall that she seduced me - not that it would have taken much effort on her part. I remember her leading me out the door and into her bed like the knock-kneed boy I was, practically carrying me as she would a swaddled babe. But I don’t remember our first night together - not the specifics. And I don’t remember the actual siring part. I mean, I know what a siring involves, of course, so I can put together the details to form some kind of placebo, a memory to roll around on my mind’s tongue. I can try and nurture that false memory into something deeper, something worth getting all misty-eyed for - but I know it’s just an artificial construct, fiction cobbled together through context. So no, I don’t remember that first night I stepped into Mirriam’s orbit. I don’t remember the moment she took me, hungry after years of waiting. What I do remember was waking up the next day and realizing I was no longer breathing.

It’s a weird feeling to describe - being awake, aware, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching but knowing that your heart is no longer beating, that air is no longer being pumped through your lungs.

I woke up still curled up alongside Mirriam.

No, we weren’t in a coffin. Don’t trust any vampire that sleeps in a coffin - they take their shit way too seriously.

I was ravenous - a hunger that entwined itself in thirst. A desire for base nourishment engulfed my entire awareness. I could hardly think about anything else but that deep, unquenched emptiness I felt inside of my being. I began to pull away from the strange woman I had bedded the night before, hoping to sneak out and rustle me up some food. How long had I slept? It was night outside the window once more.

I sat up in the bed and peered into the darkness in search of my clothes. At my stirring, Mirriam woke and, with a motion equal parts grace and strength, pulled me back into the bed and pinned me down against the sheets - not Egyptian, I can tell you that. As I lay there, Mirriam purred into my ear, giving me the rundown of what the rest of my afterlife would look like.

Mirriam was a vampire. She was lonely and I was her new pet. It was as simple as that. I know that doesn’t sound particularly romantic - but Mirriam was like that. She cut to the facts, told things like they were. The longing she felt for me - it was there. It just came through between the lines - like the hidden notes in jazz. Her love for me was always there - I just had to skim it out through her bluntness.

That first night, as she explained to me the ins and outs of being a vampire, she kept things simple. Well, maybe not so simple. You see, I had a fuck’s all idea of what a vampire was back in 1910. Sure, Bram Stoker had written his cute little novel thirteen years earlier but, unlike my sister, I was never much of a reader. I always preferred moving pictures - but it would be another decade before anybody made a film about vampires. I don’t think I had even heard the word before. But Mirriam did a good job explaining things.

We would sleep through the day, stalk the night in search of our vittles. In search of blood. We couldn’t use mirrors, crosses were painful to look at and sunlight and silver would kill us. If I saw a wooden stake, I should run the other way.

I’ve gotta say - at first I was beset with a feeling of, what would you call it, buyer’s remorse? Heh, I guess I bought it all right. But then, oh God, then Mirriam showed me how to fly.

I spent my first night in America trying to get laid. On my second night, I took to the skies. I know that the next few decades will strip me of my memories - more than I’d care to part with. I’ll eventually forget things like losing my virginity or tasting the pizza at Lombardi’s for the first time but I will never forget the experience of flying.

I was a bird, Superman and a plastic bag carried on a gust of wind, all rolled into one. I dived through the air and swooped back up in a fluid motion. I soaked in the light of the moon as it gleamed off my wings - it was the best thing I had ever experienced and all I had to do to enjoy it was die.

After I had experienced the thrill of flying for a few hours, Mirriam took me to find my parents. It had been only a day since I left them but, on that second night, Mirriam asked me to kill them. It was better this way, she said. I had to separate myself from any connection with the past. Heh, a psychiatrist could probably have a real field day with it all - digging into the rich soil of hidden meaning present in the fact that I dined on my mom and dad alongside the woman who would be my everything for the next century. And Mirriam was my everything. She was my mother, my lover, my mentor, my dealer, my drug. She introduced me to the night as it truly was - a living, breathing void that demanded my reverence and, in return, delivered my substance.

That first year with Mirriam was bliss. I mean, it was all great - the decades I spent by her side - but that first year in America? Nothing could top that. Mirriam was like me, an immigrant. The only difference was that she had been in America since 1634. Who better to introduce me to my new home than somebody who had seen it all come into being. We’d always end up coming back to New York City but, in that first year, Mirriam introduced me to New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, and everywhere in between.

It was amazing. We experienced America from coast to coast - and all by night, of course. The stars were brighter back then. Everything was brighter. Life was brighter, even if our hearts no longer beat. We were gods and we were going to live forever and that knowledge made everything feel just a bit more real. Our love was all-consuming and it stretched on forever. But let me tell you something - even forever eventually starts to not seem like forever, not when you’ve been experiencing forever for forever.

As the months turned into years and those years turned into decades, it all went by so goddamn fast. I wish I could go back and slow it all down and experience those years again, but at half speed. We did so much during those first fifty years that, when I look back, it all blends in together. We experienced the birth of Hollywood and the death of Times Square. We danced in the streets as lower Broadway filled with the corpses of suicides during the Wall Street crash of '29. We witnessed the initial strums of rock and roll, soaking up every permeation of that first guitar riff that followed. We lived through wars, even punched a Nazi or two. We partied with flappers and beatniks and hippies and even Marlon Brando.

Guess what? I fucked Marlon Brando! Can you believe that shit?

Don’t get me wrong - Mirriam was my everything but she understood. I mean, if you had the chance to have sex with Marlon Brando, wouldn’t you take it?

It was all so incredible and Mirriam made it that way. I can’t imagine having lived as long as I lived without that woman in my life. She was the sun in a world of perpetual darkness. Not to sound all sappy but we completed each other. Where she ended, I began and vice versa. She encouraged me to chase my passions - music, film, the arts - and I encouraged Mirriam to chase hers - killing, dismemberments, the slaughter of innocence.

Mirriam and I were never married - she always said that if she was going to tie the knot, she wanted a big church wedding and that was a non-starter for two vampires in love - but it didn’t matter. Besides, marriage was too square for kids like us. We were life partners. Afterlife partners, heh.

Eventually, though, we started to wonder what it would be like to start a family. It’s not like we were looking to settle in the suburbs or anything - no white picket fence and pooch in the backyard for us - but the pitter-patter of feet and the idea of passing on our knowledge to another generation - it all had a certain appeal. So we did it - the only way vampires can.

Over the course of our travels, we began to pick out a few kids that we wanted to make our own. When we’d come across somebody with the potential for the long road - somebody cool and who we wouldn’t want to shove a garlic clove up their asshole after that first decade - we’d bring them into the fold. The sired became the siree.

At first, there was Suzie Sue - a snappy little teen from the Bronx with a skill for picking pockets and an appetite for slicing the dicks of off any pervert who tried to accost her. She reminded me so much of my Tiffany. After Suzzie, there came Piggy - a bit tightly wound for my taste but Mirriam doted on him and, I’ve got to say, he did a fantastic job keeping our group grounded in reality. He always made sure we cleaned up after ourselves to avoid unwanted attention. The dude could get the bloodstain off a shag carpet better than anybody I’ve ever met. There was Stardust, a wild-haired hippie chick who loved to watch the flicks on 42nd Street with me when everybody else would rather be torturing tourists. As we entered the late ‘70s, our group continued to grow. There came Wade and Cinnamon and Lupus and Tiger and Dan Akyord.

OK, maybe not Dan Akyrod.

I really stumped hard for Danny but something just didn’t click between him and Mirriam and she vetoed him joining our gang. Whatever. It was still a great group, even without Danny. Like all parents, we were proud of our brood. They say that blood makes you related and loyalty makes you family. As vampires, we knew a thing or two about both blood and loyalty. There isn’t a familiar unit that exists in better harmony than one that was born from death.

With Mirriam life was good but, with the gang, every day was a fucking party. We went out every night in search of adventure. We found our ways into the best clubs, saw the earliest gigs from some of the biggest names in music, and experimented with all the newest ways to get fucked up beyond recognition. We were downright debaucherous. Sex, drugs, rock and rock and, most importantly, blood.

Blood was tasty. Smack was tasty. The blood of a junkie? That shit would get you higher than the Empire State Building. I know what you might be thinking - what about disease? Sure, AIDS and other stuff was a concern - but guess what? When you’re a vampire and you get HIV, you just turn into mist and your whole body chemistry resets. When you become person-shaped again, no more human immunodeficiency viruses. Being a vampire fucking ruled.

So, with the knowledge that I was indestructible and seventy years experience partying under my belt, I’ll admit that I may have entered the ‘80s a little out of control. It was a combination of the drugs, the music scene happening at the time, and the knowledge that I was going to live forever. We all wore matching leather jackets. I grew out my hair, teased it up, and bleached it. I still think I looked pretty cool as a blonde. Collectively, our family had more piercings and tattoos than a Suicide Girls pin-up calendar. We were punks, badasses that nobody wanted to mess with. We slept all day and partied all night. We were the type of kids that, if I saw a group of them hanging out in the local park now, I’d write a concerned post on the Nextdoor app asking what the cops were doing to protect our neighborhood.

I’m sure we would have eventually outgrown that phase in our afterlife, just as Mirriam and I outgrew the poodle skirts and Beatles bowl cuts. We probably would have thrived in the ‘90s. EDM and ecstasy? While as a vampire? That shit would have been fuckin’ awesome.

But no, like so many others that entered the ‘80s ready to live their best life, the excess of that decade did us in. In the end, we just got too cocky.

It started one night when we were all out at Coney Island. By that time, our family had grown so large that it was rare that we were all hitting up the same spot looking for dinner. But Mirriam and I thought it would be nice to do something together, as a family. We spent some time at the skeeball and rode the roller coasters. I won a pink elephant for my love. It was truly one of the best nights of my very long existence.

As we rounded up the kids, ready to call it a morning, I noticed Wade and Tiger trying to convince a gaggle of Madonna-wannabes to follow us to the abandoned subway station we were calling our lair. I was proud of them for their hustle but I should have stepped in and just told the two to follow the girls home and murder them in their sleep. Unfortunately, I had instilled too heavily in my brood the joys of the pursuit. They saw it as a game and I was the one who had taught them to do that.

Wade and Tiger were laying it on thick, pretending to be MTV tastemakers and showing off tiny glimpses of their powers. A little levitation, little voodoo eyes, and those material girls were eating out of their palms. I was proud of my kids, what can I say? I was also stupid. I should have stopped them before they took their prey into the Hall of Mirrors. What were they thinking? I’d call my boys idiots but that’s not fair. They were young - we were all young - and being young gave us all the right to be stupid. Who cares if we had been young for seven decades?

Wade and Tiger were just about ready to make the girls their personal nightcap when they had the deep, unrectifiable misfortune of bumping into the wrong group of fifteen-year-old wannabe Van Helsings: Sammy Ploog and his Ghoul Crew.

Mirriam would tell me that it’s pointless to wish that we had never crossed paths with Sammy and his two pals. She’d say destiny was inevitable and that what happened was always supposed to happen. But I can’t help but wonder what if. What if we had gone to see the Mets play that night or taken in a show on Broadway? Would we have made it through the ‘80s without attracting the attention of Ploog and his cronies? Would my family still be with me today?

Those kids should have never had crossed our path. God knows nobody in my crew had any intention of stepping foot into the comic book shop in which Ploog and his friends spent most of their nights hanging out and discussing hypothetical plans for how they would kill the various monsters from film and comic books they obsessed over. But they just happened to be at Coney Island the same night we were and they just happened to catch sight of the fact that Wade and Tiger didn’t cast any reflections in the fucking Hall of Mirrors. I mean, what the fuck were those boys doing in the Hall of fuckin’ Mirrors! They were idiots. But they were my children and I loved them.

Besides, who the hell starts a monster killing club when you’re fifteen years old anyway? I guess it was the ‘80s. Not every teenager made the most of the decade. While we were out partying and fucking our way through the East Village, these latchkey kids were reading too many Stephen King novels. Their imagination got the best of them - they convinced themselves that vampires, werewolves, and mummies were real. I mean, the kids were right - we were real - but Jesus Christ, what bad luck on our part!

These children - Sammy Ploog, Titus Pinkerton, and Zachary Christianson - they called themselves the Ghoul Crew. They even had fucking business cards made up. They took this monster killing thing seriously and we were what they had spent their whole young lives waiting for - real, honest-to-god monsters. They watched as Wade and Tiger ate their prey, disposed of the bodies like Mirriam and I had taught them and then the Ghoul Crew followed us back to our lair from Coney Island.

They saw where we slept and they waited and they watched. They were brave kids, I’ll give them that. If I had seen a vampire when I was twelve, I would have run back home and hidden under my bed - praying that God would strip me of the memory that horrors like that actually existed in the world. But not these kids - these children concocted a plan to murder me and my family in our sleep.

A few years ago, I read the book that Sammy wrote about the massacre. What can I say? I’m a masochist. The book was a real piece of shit. All bluster and self-promotion. You could tell Sammy was trying to get it optioned by some hotshot film producer. He detailed the weeks leading up to his assault on our lair like he was Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Sammy and his friends apparently watched us via their makeshift surveillance for weeks. They took turns keeping tabs on our nocturnal activities, making logs and graphs about where we went, what we did, and when we were at our most vulnerable. During the day, they sharpened stakes and stocked up on garlic and crucifixes. When did they go to school? When did they sleep? As we drank, fucked, and caroused our way through our eternal youth, these children just watched.

Do you think Sammy and his friends ever stopped for a moment and weighed their actions against ours? They were kids themselves! They should have been dipping into their parents’ liquor cabinets, playing spin the bottle with pretty girls, and watching Porky’s III at the drive-in. Do you think Sammy ever saw the fun we were having and thought, what am I doing wasting my life trying to kill a few harmless vampires? No, he was a fuckin’ nerd and he took out all that pent-up frustration from the years of school hallway wedgies and bathroom swirlies and he and his pals paid it out on us tenfold by storming through the door of our lair one afternoon and staking my friends through the heart, one by one.

I woke up to the screams of Piggie. He cried out like his namesake as he was staked through the heart by a jagged pool cue, his terrified screech abruptly cut off as he crumbled to dust - but not before I locked eyes with him and saw the look of confusion and fear in his eyes as he disintegrated into nothingness. Piggy had been promised eternal life and that promise had been taken from him in the most abrupt, painful way possible.

I had fallen asleep that night wrapped in Miriam's arms but the second she heard the sound of our children being slaughtered, my love shoved me out of our bed and flew into the fray. She fought like the warrior bitch she was, all claws and fangs and fury. I watched with glee as she scratched out Sammy Ploog’s eyeball, his punctured orb deflating as it hung from one of her talons. Sammy howled in pain as he clutched at his face and I was filled with the urgent need to have his screams continue to drown out the screams of my family.

You would think that our family could have easily overwhelmed the three fifteen-year-olds who tried to kill us but Sammy and his friends came prepared. Water balloons filled with Holy Water, a power drill with a sharpened chopstick inserted instead of a bit, mirrors aligned just perfectly at the exits so that they blasted sunlight at any of my children that tried to escape - my family was doomed before the fight had even begun.

I was prepared to go out in a blaze of glory, though. As I watched my brood disintegrate into dust, I vowed to take as many of the human children with us as I could. I was going to die that day, but Sammy and his friends would die too.

I launched myself at Titus, Sammy’s right-hand man. With a swift motion that I had spent decades perfecting, I clawed at the kid’s abdomen and separated the boy from his intestines. I stood there, licking the little shit’s blood from my claws - the putrid smell of digestive juices mixed in with my plasmatic fix - when I felt the wooden stake as it went through my heart.

Or it would have gone through my heart if the New York public schools were worth a shit. Zachary, the little fucker who staked me, sent the sharp end of his makeshift weapon through the wrong side of my chest. It hurt like fuck - but it didn’t hurt nearly as much as watching Sammy Ploog chop the head off my Mirriam. As I fell to the floor, trying to pull the stick from my chest with frenzied claws, I watched in horror as my beloved’s beautiful face - a face I had stared into with devotion every night for the last 27,321 nights - erupted into flames. I had forgotten what my own face looked like - that’s what happens when you can’t see your own reflection. Mirriam was my mirror - I saw all I needed of myself reflected in her eyes. And so I watched as those blue eyes dissolved into dust, my mouth opening in a soundless scream. I tried to vocalize my loss but human vocal cords aren't capable of making the kind of sound that'll match the level of pain I was in.

Goddamnit, I loved that woman and now she was gone. They were all gone. I should have died that night too. You can’t imagine the weight I’ve carried these last thirty-five years, knowing I should have also been snuffed out alongside my own, personal flame.

But, you see, vampirism is a weird thing. There’s a lot of rules to the game - more than Monopoly - and some of those rules you don’t know until you encounter them. For example, did you know that when a vampire’s sire is killed, that vampire is transformed back into a human? It doesn’t matter how long since they were sired or how many lives they’d taken in the meantime - the moment their mamma vampire is turned into dust, a vampire’s heart starts to beat again.

Fuck, huh? Sometimes it's funny how shit works out. As I watched my eternal love be snuffed from existence, I could feel my heart thump in my chest again for the first time since 1910. I also felt an incredible amount of pain because I had a fucking wooden stake shoved into me but, as I lay on the floor bleeding, I focused on the sound of my heartbeat. It was a curious sound. It was like a tune you’ve heard before and you can kind of hum it but you have a hard time remembering any of the words. I concentrated on that heartbeat as it started to slow down, becoming a non-rhythmic thump. As I slipped into unconsciousness, I prepared myself for my second death.

Instead of dying, I woke up in the hospital.

I don’t know why Sammy Ploog and his crew hadn’t finished the job. Maybe they tried to kill me but were interrupted by the cops. Maybe they just figured I was going to die anyway. Maybe they lacked faith in modern medicine.

I wasn’t awake for any of it but, according to Ploog’s tell-all, the cops showed up moments after I passed out. The police found Sammy and what remained of his monster squad covered in blood. My family had all been turned to dust - no evidence left of their existence - but Ploog’s right-hand man Titus was missing his entrails and there I was, curled into a fetal position with a sharpened pool cue sticking out of my chest like I was a pin cushion.

The cops didn’t know what to think, which ended up being in my favor. I didn’t have any fingerprints on record, no birth certificate still on file. When I was physically able to, I made a few phone calls to some old friends. In the end, Danny and Marlon helped me out. They arranged for the best lawyers and, thanks to my friends in Hollywood, I was released back out into the world with no criminal record and a new nasty little scar on my chest.

Titus didn’t survive my injuries. Heh, chalk one up for the good guys. The Zachary kid was so traumatized by what he witnessed that night he was institutionalized. I send him a box of chocolates every Valentine’s Day to thank him for his terrible aim.

Sammy Ploog, on the other hand, turned out to be on a list somewhere - a list of suspicious little shits whose teachers ratted them out because the kids were just a little too obsessed with horror movies and heavy metal records. Sammy was sent to juvenile detention where I hope the older kids welcomed him in the way older kids have a habit of doing at those kinds of places. A few years ago I looked up Sammy on Facebook, to see what he was up to. After his book came out and he milked a few months of talkshow appearances out of it, he settled back into life. He’s managing an Enterprise Rent-A-Car now. He has a Facebook group where he and a bunch of other basement dwellers share monster memes and talk about the best ways to procure silver bullets and holy water in case they ever come across another creature of the night. Sammy’s a celebrity to these losers - the only person who has ever encountered a vampire and survived. I thought about sending Sammy a Facebook friend request - you know, for old time’s sake. But then I remembered the look of defeat in Mirriam’s eyes as she realized our time together had come to an end. So, instead of a friend request, I sent an anonymous email to Sammy’s regional supervisor claiming that the prick had kiddie porn on his computer.

You can’t imagine what it’s like to go from being able to fly to having to finish the rest of your twenties after a 70-year pause. I wasn’t a vampire anymore - I was just some punk kid who had to finish growing up. My friends in Hollywood, having gotten me cleared of any legal issues, washed their hands of me. I wasn’t a creature of the night anymore - what use did they have for me? I had lost my eternal youth, I had lost my invulnerability to life’s cruelty but, most of all, I had lost my Mirriam. I was nothing without my love and without the night.

I spent years trying to become a vampire again. As I searched for a way to get back into the club I had been kicked out of, I traveled the world on what meager funds I had left from seventy years spent being a grasshopper instead of an ant. I hadn’t saved anything - no bonds, no stocks, no gold doubloons. Eventually, my quest to find a vampire that would re-sire me left me penniless, and still I could not find evidence of any other vampires. Had Mirriam and our family been the last of our kind? Surely not. More likely, the nosferatu of the world smelled the failure on me. They knew I was covered with the ashes of my lover and our children and they kept their distance. They didn’t want anything to do with me and I couldn’t blame them. I didn’t want anything to do with me either.

I was forced to grow up. I got my GED, I got a job, and put myself through college. I’m an accounting supervisor for a local fast-food franchise group. About ten years ago, I met Becka on an online dating app. We connected over our love of short-haired tabbies and classic Hollywood stars. Eventually, we had a few kids and we moved to the suburbs. It was something approaching happiness, at least for a while. But then we fell out of love and got divorced and now I’m forty years old and living by myself in an apartment complex filled with other forty-year-old divorcees. And all the while I remember what it felt like to be a teenager for a long, long time.

Even after all this time, I go through spells where I have trouble sleeping at night. My brain is just hardwired in a way that’s no longer compatible with my current lifestyle. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night - thirsty for something I know will only make me sick if I try and drink it. I pace around my kitchen, wondering if I could get away with grilling a 2 AM steak before deciding that my cholesterol levels can’t afford to take the hit. The night calls to me, but I just can’t answer the phone anymore. I long for the night but, if I’m being honest, the night just scares me at this point. I’m scared of what Mirriam would think if she saw me right now. Would she still love me? Would she still think I was the one she had been waiting for?

Growing up sucks.

But fuck, listen to me. I’ve been chatting your ear off all night and the concert’s about to begin. You didn’t even get to share your own story of misbegotten youth. I bet you were a cool kid too, right? I bet you drove a motorcycle, maybe played the drums in a band. Tell me, did you raise hell as a teenager? Did you feel the call of the night?

You were in a marching band? Oh, that’s pretty cool, I guess.

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