For my readers,
Thanks, again, to the usual suspects: my agent, Nick Ellison, and Sarah Dickman, Arija Weddle, and Marissa Matteo at Nicholas Ellison, Inc.; Jennifer Brehl, Kate Nintzel, Lisa Gallagher, Michael Morrison, Mike Spradlin, Jack Womack, Debbie Stier, Lynn Grady, and all my friends at William Morrow; and, of course, to Charlee Rodgers, for putting up with the frozen turkey bowling.
Get Over It, a Lot of People Are Dead
“You bitch, you killed me! You suck!”
Tommy had just awakened for the first time as a vampire.
He was nineteen, thin, and had spent his entire life between states of amazement and confusion.
“I wanted us to be together.” Jody: pale, pretty, long red hair hanging in her face, cute swoop of a nose in search of a lost spray of freckles, a big lipstick-smeared grin. She’d only been undead herself for a couple of months, and was still learning to be spooky.
“Yeah, that’s why you spent the night with him.” Tommy pointed across the loft to the life-sized bronze statue of a man in a tattered suit. Inside the bronze shell was the ancient vampire who had turned Jody. Another bronze of Jody stood next to him. When the two of them had gone out at sunrise, into the sleep of the dead, Tommy had taken them to the sculptors who lived on the ground floor of his building and had the vampires bronzed. He’d thought it would give him time to think of what to do, and keep Jody from running off with the old vampire. Tommy’s mistake had been drilling ear holes in Jody’s sculpture so she could hear him. Somehow, during the night, before the bronzing, the old vampire had taught her to turn to mist, and she’d streamed out of the ear holes into the room, and – well – here they were: dead, in love, and angry.
“I needed to know about what I am, Tommy. Who else was going to tell me if not him?”
“Yeah, but you should have asked me before you did this,” Tommy said. “You shouldn’t just kill a guy without asking. It’s inconsiderate.” Tommy was from Indiana, and his mother had raised him to have good manners and to be considerate of other people’s feelings.
“You had sex with me while I was unconscious,” Jody said.
“That’s not the same,” Tommy said. “I was just being friendly, like when you put a quarter in someone else’s parking meter when they aren’t there – you know they appreciate it later, even if they don’t thank you personally.”
“Yeah, wait until you go out in your jammies and wake up all sticky in a cheerleader outfit and see how grateful you are. You know, Tommy, when I’m out, technically, I’m dead. Guess what that makes you?”
“Well – uh – yeah, but you’re not even human. You’re just some foul dead thing.” Tommy immediately regretted saying it. It was hurtful and mean, and although Jody was, indeed, dead, he didn’t find her foul at all – in fact, he was pretty sure he was in love with her, he was just a little embarrassed about the whole necrophilia/cheerleader thing. Back in the Midwest people didn’t mention that sort of thing unless a dog dug up a pom-pom in some guy’s backyard and the police eventually discovered the whole human pyramid buried under the swing set.
Jody sniffled, completely for effect. Actually she was relieved that Tommy was now on the defensive. “Well, welcome to the Foul, Dead Thing Club, Mr. Flood.”
“Yeah, you drank my blood,” Tommy said. “A lot.”
Damn, she should have pretended to cry. “You let me.”
“Again, being considerate,” Tommy said. He stood up and shrugged.
“You just let me because of the sex.”
“That’s not true, it was because you needed me.” He was lying, it was because of the sex.
“Yes, I did,” Jody said. “I still do.” She held her arms out to him. “I really do.”
He walked into her arms and held her. She felt amazing to him, even more amazing than she had before. It was as if his nerves had been dialed up to eleven. “Okay, it was because of the sex.”
Great, she thought, in control once again. She kissed his neck. “How do you feel about it now?”
“Maybe in a minute, I’m starving.” He let go of her and stormed across the loft to the kitchen, where he pulled a burrito out of the freezer, threw it into the microwave, and hit the button, all in one smooth motion.
“You don’t want to eat that,” Jody said.
“Nonsense, it smells great. It’s like every little bean and pork piece is sending out its own delicious miasma of flavor vapor.” Tommy used words like ;miasma; because he wanted to be a writer. That’s why he’d come to San Francisco in the first place – to take life in big bites and write about it. Oh, and to find a girlfriend.
“Put the burrito down, and back away, Tommy,” Jody said. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Ha, that’s cute.” He took a big bite and grinned at her as he chewed.
Five minutes later, because she felt responsible, Jody was helping him clean bits of masticated burrito off the kitchen wall and the front of the refrigerator. “It’s like every bean was storming the gates of repressive digestion to escape.”
“Yeah, well, being refried will do that to you,” Jody said, stroking his hair. “You okay?”
“I’m starving. I need to eat.”
“Not so much eat,” Jody said.
“Oh my God! It’s the hunger. I feel like my insides are caving in on themselves. You should have told me about this.”
She knew how he felt – actually, she had felt worse when it happened to her. At least he knew what was happening to him. “Yeah, sweetie, we’re going to have to make a few adjustments.”
“Well, what do I do? What did you do?”
“I mostly fed off of you, remember?”
“You should have thought this through before you killed me. I’m fucked.”
“We’re fucked. Together. Like Romeo and Juliet, only we get to be in a sequel. Very literary, Tommy.”
“Oh, that’s a comfort. I can’t believe you just killed me like that.”
“And turned you into a superbeing, thank you very much.”
“Oh, crap, there’s burrito spooge all over my new sneakers.”
“You can see in the dark, now,” Jody said cheerfully. “Wanna try it? I’ll get naked. You can look at me in the dark. Naked. You’ll like it.”
“Jody, I’m starving over here.”
She couldn’t believe that he didn’t respond to the naked persuasion. What kind of monster had she created? “Okay, I’ll find you a bug or something.”
“A bug?! A bug!? I’m not eating a bug.”
“I said there’d have to be some adjustments.”
Tommy had been dealing with more than a few adjustments since he’d come west from his hometown of Incontinence, Indiana – not the least of which had been finding a girlfriend, who, while smart, sexy, and quick-witted, drank his blood and tended to fall unconscious at the exact moment of sunrise. He’d always suspected that she might have just picked him because he worked nights and could walk around during the day, especially since she’d once said, “I need someone who works nights and can walk around during the day,” but now that he was a vampire, he could close the door on that insecurity and open another onto a whole new world of insecurities he’d never even considered before. The appropriate age for a vampire is four hundred years old – he should be a world-weary and sophisticated creature, his human anxieties long since overcome or evolved into macabre perversions. The problem with a nineteen-year-old vampire is that he drags all of his adolescent insecurities into the dark with him.
“I’m really pale,” Tommy said, staring at himself in the bathroom mirror. They’d figured out early on that vampires do, indeed, cast a reflection in a mirror, just like they could tolerate proximity to crucifixes and garlic. (Tommy had run experiments on Jody while she slept, including many involving cheerleader outfits and personal lubricants.) “And not just winter in Indiana pale. I’m, like, pale like you.”
“Yeah,” said Jody, “I thought you liked the pale.”
“Sure, it looks good on you, but I look ill.”
“Keep looking,” Jody said. She was leaning against the door frame, dressed in tight black jeans and a half shirt, her hair tied back and streaming down her back like a flaccid red comet tail. She was trying not to appear too amused.
“Something’s missing,” Tommy said. “Something besides color.”
“Uh-huh.” Jody grinned.
“My skin cleared up! I don’t have a single zit.”
“Ding, ding, ding,” Jody onomatopeed, signaling that Tommy had hit on the correct answer.
“If I had known my skin would clear up, I’d have asked you to change me a long time ago.”
“I didn’t know how to a long time ago,” Jody said. “That’s not all, take off your shoes.”
“I don’t understand, I – “
“Just take off your shoes.;
Tommy sat on the edge of the tub and took off his sneakers and socks.
“Look at your toes.”
“They’re straight. My little toe isn’t bent anymore. It’s like I’ve never worn shoes.”
“You’re perfect,” Jody said. She remembered finding out this condition of vampirism and being both delighted and horrified because now she felt that she’d always need to lose five pounds – five pounds that were preserved for eternity.
Tommy pulled up the leg of his jeans and studied his shin. “The scar where I hit myself with a hatchet, it’s gone.”
“And it always will be,” Jody said. “You’ll always be perfect, just like you are now. My split ends even went away.”
“I’ll always be the same?”
“Just like I am now.”
“As far as I know,” Jody said.
“But I was going to start working out. I was going to be buff. I was going to have abs of steel.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“I was. I was going to be an awesome hunk of muscular man-meat.”
“No, you weren’t. You wanted to be a writer. You were going to have little stick arms and get winded when you hit the back-space key more than three times consecutively. You’re in great shape from working in the grocery store. Wait until you see how you can run.”
“You really think I’m in great shape?”
“Yes, I thought I made that clear.”
Tommy flexed his chest in the mirror, which showed not at all through his flannel shirt. He unbuttoned his shirt and tried it again, with little effect, then shrugged. “What about the writer thing? Will my brain always be like this? I mean, will I get any smarter, or is that stuck in time, too?”
“Well, yeah, but that’s because you’re a man, not because you’re a vampire.”
“You spiteful harpy.”
“I think I’ve made my point,” Jody said.
Jody had put on a red leather jacket, even though she could no longer feel discomfort from the cold fog coming in off the Bay. She liked the way it looked with her black jeans and a low-cut black lace camisole she’d rescued from a Nordstrom Rack Store before some slut got hold of it. “Come on, Tommy, we need to go find something for you to eat before we run out of night.”
“I know, but I have something I have to do. Give me a minute.” He was in the bathroom again, this time with the door shut.
Jody heard the zipper of his jeans go down, then a slightly breathless man-scream. The bathroom door flew open and Tommy, his pants and underwear around his ankles, bunny-hopped in two great leaps across the bedroom.
“Look at this. What’s happening to me. Look at this!” He was pointing furiously to his penis. “It’s like I’m some radioactive mutant freak.”
Jody went to him and grabbed his hands – held him steady, looked him in the eyes. “Tommy, calm down. It’s just your foreskin.”
“I don’t have a foreskin. I’m circumcised.”
“Not anymore,” Jody said. “Evidently, when you turned, it grew back, just like your toes straightened and your scars all went away.”
“Oh. You don’t find it creepy, then?”
“No. It’s fine.”
“You want to touch it?”
“Thanks. Maybe later.”
“Oh, sorry, I freaked. Didn’t realize. I – uh – I still feel like I have to finish what I was going to do.”
“That’s fine,” Jody said. “You’re fine. You go finish up. I’ll wait.”
“You’re sure you don’t want to give it a quick fondle?”
“If I do, can we get out of here?”
“Well then, back in the bathroom you go.” She spun him around and gave him a gentle shove. He bunny-hopped his newly recovered foreskin back into the bathroom and closed the door.
Jody shuddered at the sound of the door closing. She hadn’t thought about whether or not Tommy would retain his incessant horniness after he turned, she had just wanted a companion who could understand what she was, what she felt, what the world looked like through vampire eyes. If it turned out that he was going to be nineteen forever, she might end up having to kill him for real.