Rating: Teen and up
Warnings: Blood-drinking, disturbing imagery, general psychological/cosmic horror themes
Summary: A vampire receives an unusual invitation to reconnect with an old friend.
A/N: With thanks to Cyrus Eosphoros, lontradiction, and Zomburai.
I’ve been a vampire for about five years now. The whole thing happened when I was in my second year of uni, and it was a bit of a sordid tale, honestly. Blah blah, ex girlfriend, turned out to be a vampire, she turned me without my consent, I broke up with her, because, I mean, who does that, right?
Being a vampire is fine, don’t get me wrong. I mean, you tend to want to take a night job, because you’re draggy as hell during the day, and there’s the inevitable problem of finding a blood bank or getting really ridiculously good at catching pigeons, but all things considered, it’s not so bad. I certainly don’t mind the eternal youth aspect, although I’m lucky in that I never looked particularly young for my age, or I suspect by now I’d be getting really irritated. But I mean you have to ask. You can’t turn someone into a vampire without bloody well asking, Kate fucking McKay. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t. There was once—I got awfully close, I admit to that, and I thought I really would have to turn her without getting her consent, because the alternative—well, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s really what the story is about. Not about Kate McKay and how she turned me, or our inevitable horrible breakup, or the part where she got staked two years later by some overeager first-years. Most of the story’s not even about me. It’s about my friend Evelyn Laura Montague the book worm and her Book.
I’ll explain about the capital letters in a bit. First off, let me tell you about Evelyn. She’s short and a bit on the solid side. I mean honestly she’s built a bit like a dwarf, but in a good way. She has really long blond hair, and I mean really long and blond, the kind of hair you could get lost in, or that you’d expect to find on an elf, but, god, it works on her. Her eyes are what in a vacuum I might call an unassuming brown but in the rest of her face are just the right shade, and she has a splash of freckles across her nose like a divine painter added them to make her face not just beautiful but interesting.
At this point you might have guessed that I’m a bit gone on Evelyn. Well, you’re not wrong. I’ve been head over heels for her since I was about thirteen and watching Xena the Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer had clued me in that I was maybe not quite as straight as a corkscrew. I’m gay as hell, is what I’m saying.
It’s just—Evelyn never seemed as if she would be interested in me, that way, and I forced myself to accept that. I mean, there were a few times when we were watching movies in my room together when I was fifteen that we both sat a bit close, and once I really thought she might be moving in for a kiss, but it ended up not happening, and when she was sixteen she ended up with a boyfriend named Cameron, and I thought it’d be healthier if I gave up.
When the whole vampire debacle happened, I lost touch with her. I’ve made light of it, but it was a pretty bad time for me, all things considered. I had to reinvent the life I’d always thought I’d have, on top of dealing with a messy breakup with Kate The Asshole, who kept trying to win me back by leaving little presents of dead mice and cats on my doorstep. Turns out a restraining order doesn’t work too well against someone who can turn into fog whenever she likes.
After Kate kindly got herself dusted, I wanted to look up Evelyn again, but I didn’t know how. I mean, how do you say to your best friend and maybe still the love of your life, “Hi, sorry I vanished, but I was dealing with being a vampire now?” Still, I knew I wanted to at some point, and I was planning on it, but it was Evelyn who contacted me first.
I don’t know how she got my address; maybe in the end she just Googled me, although I don’t know how easy I am to find. But however she did it, she did, because one evening I woke up to find that someone had slipped a copy of Christina Rossetti: The Complete Poems under my doorstep. It was brand new, barely even opened, and I opened it with some confusion, to find, written on the inside front cover, “Please come. I need to see you. E. L. Montague.”
It took me a bit to find her address, but if Evelyn wanted to see me, obviously I was going to see her. In the end, I still had her mum’s phone number saved on an old bit of paper that had somehow survived the past several moves, and I called her and told her approximately the truth—that we’d drifted apart but that Evelyn had asked to see me, and could I get her phone number or address? Fortunately, Evelyn’s mum had always liked me, so she gave me both and told me she thought Evelyn had been feeling a bit down for the past few months and that she hoped I’d be able to cheer her up.
I tried the number first, but it just rang through to voice mail no matter when I called, so finally, on my next day off, I got up at three in the afternoon, and took the bus over to her flat. I buzzed to have her let me in four times and got no answer. I tried once more, starting to consider whether it might not be smart to wait till after dark and then turn into a cat or maybe some mist—creepy it might be, but the way she’d summoned me had been so weird, and the fact she hadn’t answered her phone had me spooked. The fifth time, though, someone opened the line without saying anything.
“Evelyn?” I said uncertainly. “Evelyn, it’s Maggie. Are you in there?”
Another long-drawn-out pause, and then I heard her voice, very faint and hoarse. “Oh. Maggie.” That was all she said, but the door was buzzed open.
Everything was pretty normal until I actually got up to her flat, which was on the third floor. Her door was open a crack, and I could smell the rank odor of spoiled milk wafting out, and I could hear a faint crinkling, rustling noise. I knocked, and, when there was no answer, I pushed the door open.
The smell rolled out, stronger than ever. It would have been really unpleasant for a human; with my more intense predatory sense of smell, I nearly gagged. Once I’d managed to push down that reflex, I blinked tears out of my eyes and looked around.
The source of the rustling noise was immediately apparent. Paper—pages ripped from different kinds of notebooks. They were fluttering slightly in the movement of the overhead fan. Some of them were taped or otherwise fastened to the walls, while a number of them lay in loose drifts around the floor of the apartment, apparently discarded. On every one of them there was writing, in Evelyn’s rather large, distinct hand.
“Evelyn?” I called out uncertainly. Then, “Evie?” using the old nickname she’d decided she was too old for by the end of primary school. Nothing.
Feeling unaccountably apprehensive, I made my way further into the flat. I’ve never been a particularly brave person, but I got a bit of a confidence boost after becoming a vampire. People can’t really fuck with you if you can take a chunk out of their throat or literally throw them across the room with no trouble, and even though I’d never actually done either of those things, the feeling of—well, no offense, but no longer being prey—gave me an added swagger. I’m pretty sure this is why cats always look so smug.
But cats—and dogs—also sense things that humans don’t. And I think I did, too. I felt something pressing in on me, a presence totally alien and yet accompanied by a distinct feeling of hostility. I wanted to put my tail between my legs and whine, or, failing that, turn around and run and run and run away from that horrible chilly flat with its layer upon layer of paper and the stink of spoiled milk pervading everything.
But I didn’t. I wasn’t going to leave Evelyn, I thought, although I don’t know that I thought it that coherently. Something about the place seemed to cloud my thoughts and gnaw at my ability to use language. It was a bit like the fog you get in a language test when your brain reaches for the correct word and just comes up short. Like all it’s got left is that image of the meaning but that concept-or-image is somewhere beneath the actual word for it. All I had, pulling me forward, was that image of Evie.
Not image as in visual impression, but image as in—everything that made her her. The bundle of impressions, smells, images, and noises that all bundled together was how my brain perceived her. The sheer concept that usually got referenced in my head when someone said her name.
I stalked through the flat, feeling my fangs extruding from my upper and lower lip, smelling Evie’s scent—a kind of mix of old sweaters and old pages, a hint of subtle floral deodorant, and the tangy salt of her sweat—faint beneath the overpowering odor of spoiled milk. Faint but ubiquitous; she’d left traces on everything.
I opened the door to the bedroom, and that was where I finally found her, crouching at a desk at the back wall. The entire wall was covered with layer upon layer upon layer of paper. There may have been a cork board under there—I’m not sure. Maybe she just pushed tacks into the wall. Either way, over the mess, there was a whole spiderweb of colored string tacked in place, with highlighted pieces of notes and post-it notes sticking out here and there.
Evelyn was directly beneath it, like the epicenter of a storm of paper. She had lost weight—her sweater hung loose on her frame. Her lovely long hair was matted in trails about her face, as if she hadn’t washed or brushed it in weeks. She didn’t look up when I entered.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to say anything at that point. Every sense I possessed was screaming to turn tail and run. But Evie’s scent was stronger here, and I could hear her pulse—far weaker than it should have been but still loud as a drumbeat in my ears—and I used that to get myself to take the last three steps across the room.
In her lap, there was a book. That was what it looked like, anyway. It had a bright hard cover with no dust jacket, and there were definitely words on it. I don’t have a very good idea of what they said—if I couldn’t think in words, I definitely couldn’t read anymore, but for some reason I still have a strong impression that one of the words was “honey”. Beyond the book—maybe inside the book—this is really hard to describe—there was a grey presence. I could feel it coiling there like a snake waiting to strike, and now that I’d seen it here, I could feel the tendrils it was sending out across the whole flat, lining every wall, the floor, spilling out of the door. And it was sending them into Evie, as well. I could tell from her scent she was far from well, and in that dim strange headspace that wasn’t really human anymore, I thought it was either eating her or just having her, in some nebulous strange way that was and wasn’t related to the way people sometimes use that to mean sex or, honestly more often, rape.
Whatever the presence was, I snarled at it. Not like a human—not at all like a human. I didn’t feel human inside anymore, not even remotely. If you’ve seen lions bare their teeth as they roar, it was like that. I bared my fangs, my mouth wider than I’ve ever opened it, the hackles rising on the back of my neck, and I think I really did roar, honestly. I couldn’t hear much through the tinny static in my ears. Because Evie was mine. Mine. And it couldn’t have her.
It did not snarl back. It barely even reacted to my display of possessive anger. I got a sense of almost dismissiveness. How could she be mine, when there was no mark or scent or impression of me on her?
I felt my snarl die into a whimper in the back of my throat. It was right. I had left her behind. The predator in me didn’t have a lot of time for the thought that I’d respected her wishes—and it was one thing not to hit on someone who had a boyfriend, but it was something else to let your best friend just to fall out of your life because you were too scared to act on your feelings.
I almost turned around and crept away, but something inside me rebelled against that smug greyness. It was too self-satisfied. If it was a predator, it was one that had grown lazy and fat with no competition. And I was here now, and Evie was mine.
I swung her around in her chair. She didn’t quite fall, not quite limp, but she didn’t seem capable of much movement. I could smell her blood, could see it pumping weakly beneath the flesh of her throat. I wanted her safe. More than that, I just wanted her. But I also knew I had to ask.
The thing in the book—I think it mocked me then, but maybe that’s just my imagination. A predator, asking for its prey to ascent? But there was just enough of that one last human impulse inside me. I don’t remember asking. I don’t remember if I managed to form words. I do remember that she nodded.
Evie swears she was clearly aware of me asking whether she wanted to be a vampire—not, she says, in so many words, but in a way that seemed to dump the knowledge and request right into her brain. The question along with a long list of pros and cons. She says the closest she can come to describing the “pros” list is a big red sign saying “NOT EATEN BY COSMIC HORROR,” which I have to admit sounds like me.
Either way, I know that as soon as she nodded I straddled her in the chair, tilted her head to the side, and bit down, not even licking across her throat to numb the sensation with my saliva.
I’d been expecting the usual taste of blood, like a darker, richer version of Evie’s sweat, but what burst across my tongue, so rancid that I almost recoiled, was the horribly familiar taste of spoiled milk. I moaned, and Evie didn’t respond. She just sat there beneath me with her head tilted to the side, her eyes a little glassy as I choked down swallow after swallow of disgusting, putrid blood.
After five minutes of this, I thought she was dead. I thought I was drinking the blood of my best friend’s corpse. Except the blood was still flowing into my mouth, faster than it should have been. The taste of rancid milk was getting stronger, if that was possible. I had both hands on her shoulders, my mouth locked in her neck, and still she didn’t move. I’d drunk—I swear I’d drunk—more blood than there should have been in a human body; I could feel my stomach distending against hers.
And then, finally, finally, I tasted one mouthful of rich, sweet blood, and she gasped underneath me, gasped, and moaned, and pushed her hips against mine over and over again. Her hands slid up the backs of my thighs and over my arse, then right to my shoulders, and she tugged at me. When I didn’t respond as I suppose she wanted me to, she put her hands in my hair, and I finally realized she was trying to kiss me.
I gingerly unlocked my jaws from her throat and kissed her lips. It tasted foul, again, but more like she hadn’t brushed her teeth in a week than that horrible, rotten-milk taste, so I didn’t really mind. Even though she was breathing harshly now and making little desperate noises, I could hear that the beat of her heart was rapid and shallow. Tachycardic. I’ve found it’s useful to understand the symptoms of blood loss if you’re a vampire who doesn’t like to kill people—especially if you occasionally run out of pigeons. So I knew I didn’t have much time left as I caught my own bottom lip between my fangs and punctured it, letting my blood well from my mouth into hers.
When Kate turned me, I’d been scared and confused. She’d bitten her finger, not her lip, and offered the bleeding digit to me, and I had turned my face away, again and again, nauseated and uncomprehending. It wasn’t until I got the first taste that I found myself locked to her, that it turned from “holy shit why is this your fetish” to an unthinking need to get more.
But when I turned Evie—my lips were bloody, and her eyes were shut, but she moved her mouth towards me, her tongue already escaping from her lips, her mouth already making sucking noises. She swiped her tongue across my bottom lip eagerly enough, and then she wrapped her mouth around it and latched on.
Turning can get pretty erotic, in case you hadn’t already guessed that, and this wasn’t so different, despite the pulse of the strange book in Evie’s lap. I could feel it still trying to tug, trying to sink in its unnatural tendrils, but I could also feel the blood pulsing through both of us, the natural warmth of Evie beneath me as we ground our hips together, half painful, half blissful. I let my hands sink into her tangled hair, and just gave myself up to the sensations for a while.
After I don’t know how long of the two of us making out like that—although we’d both started kneading at each other’s breasts I don’t think either of us wanted to get undressed in that horrible, paper-covered flat—I smelled the change taking over Evie, just as fast or faster than the one Kate had put me through. There would be several other changes over the course of the next few days, including heightening of her senses, and, of course, the descent of her fangs, but the Change itself—that I could smell, though I can’t describe it.
We stumbled upright, and the book fell from Evie’s lap with a loud noise. It shouldn’t have struck the floor as heavily as it did—it sounded like a barbell landing on a cement floor, not a rather small hardcover landing on a thick layer of paper. I took Evie’s hand and started to pull her towards the door of the flat. After a minute, she stopped with a jerk, and I turned back toward her.
Her hair—her ridiculously long hair that I’d been bathing my hands in just moments ago—had sprung taut, as if something had grabbed her by and was trying to pull her backwards, or even just keep her in one spot. “Maggie,” she gabbled breathlessly. “Maggie.”
My brain still wasn’t working on words, but I knew I needed something. Something long, sharp, glittering, deadly. Something to cut and cut and cut through the restraining hair. Something—“Knife?”
“Yes!” she shrieked, her hand pointing towards a table by the door I hadn’t noticed. At least I assume it was a table. It was a lump in the papers littered everywhere, but I stumbled over to it and frantically began sweeping papers to the floor. I found it after just a moment—a small, sharp letter-opener—and the next moment I was across the room, slashing wildly.
I was afraid it wouldn’t work—that it would be too dull, or worse that somehow the hair wouldn’t cut—but it did. Almost too easily, Evie’s hair snapped off in chunk after chunk as I hacked at it, and then, finally, the last strand parted, and we were off and running again, out of the flat, down the stairs, and out onto the street.
As we stumbled down the sidewalk, I felt my stomach turning over, and I doubled over at the side of the road, vomiting violently. Evie pulled my hair back from my face, pressed a hand to my shoulder. I threw up for a long time, so hard that my vision blurred with tears, worse than the time I tried to eat solid food after the whole Kate Thing.
When I was finally able to straighten up, I looked down. There was quite a puddle of liquid at my feet, but it wasn’t blood. It was thick and white and viscous—and there was a very strong odor of rank, spoiled milk.
For a minute or two, Evie stared at it. Evie’s hand slipped into mine, trembling. “It’s let go, let’s go,” she said, quite distinctly. I know I wanted to get some gasoline and burn the whole place to the ground, but, well, there were the other tenants to think of, and besides, I’d have had to go back in to douse everything with it, so—no go. Really no go.
So instead, I squeezed Evie’s hand and pulled her back down the street towards my own flat in a nice, well-lit corner that’s practically in the suburbs. I let us in and then I turned on all the lights, and the TV, and also the radio for good measure. We watched Star Trek while listening to Bonnie Tyler for hours and fell asleep in each other’s arms.
That was three years ago. We moved to Los Angeles the next year, where we found quite a nice little commune of hippie vampires who mostly eat pigeons, and the occasional goose. Occasionally, we hunt with a group of werewolves out here, letting the predator surface, reminding ourselves that we’re not human, that we’re not prey. That we never will be again. But I’m still pretty hesitant about going into secondhand bookstores, and Evie—she won’t even go to a library. She buys all her books new off Amazon.
–Magdalena Elizabeth Palmer, 2016
Copyright © 2018 by Mertiya. All rights reserved.
A/N: Title is from “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti.