Bite Me: A Love Story Chapter 17


17. Wide Awake in Sucker-Free

Okata scraped the last few drops of blood from the container into the burned-up white girl's mouth. He'd managed to save two of the eight quart containers, but it wasn't going to be enough, he could tell, and after the fight at the butcher shop and his escape, he knew he wasn't strong enough to give her any more of his own blood. She'd need more, and he was going to have to start thinking of her as something besides the "burned-up white girl." She was starting to resemble a real person now, more than a person-shaped cinder. A very old, very scary dead person, to be sure, but a person nonetheless. Her red hair nearly covered the pillow now, and she'd moved, if only a little, closing her mouth after the last drops of blood went in. No ash had flaked away with the movement. Okata was glad. Her exposed fangs made him a little uneasy, but now she had lips, sort of.

He picked up his sketch pad from the floor, moved to the end of the futon to get a different angle, and began drawing her, as he'd been doing every hour or so since he'd returned from the butcher. He was still covered with the blood that had splashed on him during the fight, but it had long since dried and except for washing his hands so he could work, he'd forgotten it. He finished the sketch, then moved to his workbench, where he transferred a refined version of the drawing to a piece of rice paper so thin it was nearly transparent. He would replicate this drawing four more times, then each would be glued to a woodblock and carved away to make the plate for a different line or color.

He looked over his shoulder at her, and felt a tremor of shame. Yes, she looked like a person now, an old, desiccated grandmother, but he shouldn't leave her like that. He took a bowl from the shelf above his little kitchen sink, filled it with warm water, and then knelt by the side of the futon and gently sponged the last patina of ash from her body, revealing the blue-white skin underneath. The skin was smooth, like polished rice paper, but pores and hair follicles were forming as he wiped the ash away.

"Sorry," he said in English. Then in Japanese he said, "I have not been mindful, my burned-up gaijin girl. I will do better."

He went to the cabinet under his workbench and removed a cedar box that looked like it might have been fashioned to hold a set of silverware. He opened the lid and removed the square of white silk, then stood and let the garment fall open to its full length. Yuriko's wedding kimono. It smelled of cedar, and perhaps of a bit of incense, but mercifully, it didn't smell of her.

He laid the kimono out next to the burned-up girl, and ever so slowly, he moved it under her, gently worked her skeletal arms into the sleeves, then closed the robe and tied it loosely with the white obi. He arranged her arms at her sides so they looked comfortable, then picked up a small flake of dried blood that had fallen from his face onto her breast. She looked better now. Still wraithlike and monstrous, but better.

"There you go. Yuriko would be pleased that her kimono helped cover one who had nothing."

He returned to his workbench and began the drawing for the block that would carry the yellow ink for the futon, when he heard movement behind him and wheeled around.

"Well, don't you look yummy," Jody said.

Tommy spent the early evening in the library, reading The Economist and Scientific American. He felt as if all the words were bringing him back from the animal realm to being a human being, and there were plenty of words in those magazines. He wanted his full powers of speech and human thought before he confronted Jody. He also hoped that his memory of what had happened would come back with his words, but that didn't seem to be working. He remembered a red blur of hunger in his head, being thrown through a window and landing on the street, but between that and the time when his words returned in the basement, with the Emperor, he could remember very little. It was as if those experiences-hunting, finding shelter of darkness, snaking his way through the City in a cloud of predators gone to mist-were filed in a part of his mind that locked as soon as the ability to put words to senses returned. He suspected that he may have helped Chet kill people, but if that was the case, why had he saved the Emperor?

Fortunately, he hadn't lost the ability to turn to mist, which was how he'd obtained the outfit he was wearing now. The whole ensemble-khaki slacks, blue Oxford-cloth shirt, leather jacket, and leather boating moccasins-had been on display in a window at a men's store on Union Square, suspended by monofilament fishing line into the shape of a casual cotton ghost that was haunting other, equally stylish but substanceless marionettes around some deck chairs and artificial sand. Just after the dinner hour, when the store was at its busiest, Tommy streamed in under the door, into the outfit and became solid. With a quick crouch, he snapped all the monofilament line and walked out of the store fully dressed, bits of fishing line curling in his wake. It would, he thought, have been the smoothest, most audaciously cool thing he had ever done, if it hadn't been for the straight pins that had fastened the shirt to the slacks. But after a minor fit on the sidewalk as he yanked the pins out of his back, hips, and abdomen, while rhythmically chanting, "Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch," he returned to the calm and casual cotton-clad vampire aspect he'd been going for. He waited until he was at the library, in the stacks, before he pulled the piece of cardboard out of his collar and yanked off various tags and threads. Fortunately, there had been no anti-theft tags on the display outfit.

Now he was ready, or as ready as he was going to get. He had to go to Jody now, hold her, tell her he loved her, kiss her, shag her until all the furniture was broken and the neighbors complained (undead predator or not, he was still nineteen and horny), then figure out what they were going to do about their future.

As he walked back through the Tenderloin, dressed in his "please rob me" white boy outfit, a jittery crackhead in a hoody that had once been green, but now was so dirty it was shiny, tried to rob him with a screwdriver.

"Give me your money, bitch."

"That's a screwdriver," Tommy said.

"Yeah. Give me your money or I'll stab you with it."

Tommy could hear the tweaker's heart fluttering, smell the acrid stench of rotting teeth, body odor, and urine on him, and could see an unhealthy, dark gray aura around him. His predator mind flashed the word "prey."

Tommy shrugged. "I'm wearing a leather jacket. You'll never get a screwdriver through it."

"You don't know that. I'll get a running start. Give me your money."

"I don't have any money. You're sick. You should go to the hospital."

"That's it, bitch!" The crackhead thrust the screwdriver at Tommy's stomach.

Tommy stepped aside. The tweaker's movements seemed almost comically slow. As the screwdriver went by, Tommy decided it might be best if he took it, and he snatched it away. The robber lost his balance and tumbled forward into the street and lay there.

With the flick of his wrist, Tommy threw the screwdriver onto the roof of a four-story building across the street. Two guys who had been standing in an alley a few feet away, thinking about taking the robbery over from the crackhead, or at least robbing him if he was successful, decided they would rather go see what was happening on the next block.

Tommy was a half a block away when he heard the uneven, limping footsteps of the crackhead coming up behind him. He turned and the crackhead stopped.

"Give me your money," said the tweaker.

"Stop robbing me," said Tommy. "You don't have a weapon and I don't have any money. It's totally not working for you."

"Okay, give me a dollar," said the crackhead.

"Still don't have any money," Tommy said, turning his pants pockets inside out. A note from inspector 18 fluttered to the sidewalk. He heard movement above-claws on stone-and cringed. "Uh-oh."

"Fifty cents," said the crackhead. He put his hand in the pouch pocket of his hoody and pointed his finger like it was a gun. "I'll shoot."

"You have got to be the worst armed robber ever."

The crackhead paused for a second and pulled his gun-posed hand out of his pocket. "I have my G.E.D."

Tommy shook his head. He thought he'd left the cats behind, but the felines either still had some connection to him, or there were so many of them now that there was nowhere in the City you could go where they wouldn't be hunting. He didn't relish trying to explain the whole phenomenon to Jody. "What's your name?" he said to the crackhead.

"I'm not telling you. You could turn me in."

"Okay," Tommy said. "I'll call you Bob. Bob, have you ever seen a cat do that?" Tommy pointed up.

The crackhead looked up the side of the building to see a dozen cats coming down the bricks, face-down, toward him.

"No. Okay, I'm not robbing you anymore," said the tweaker, his attention taken by the clutter of vampire cats descending on him. "Have a nice evening."

"Sorry," said Tommy, meaning it. He turned and jogged up the street to put some distance between himself and the screaming, which only lasted a few seconds. He looked back to see the crackhead gone. Well, not really gone, but reduced to a pile of gray powder amidst his empty clothing.

"It's how he would have wanted to go," Tommy said to himself.

He would have thought the cats would go for the two in the alley, but now they were taking the people right out on the open street. He was going to have to get Jody and talk her into leaving the City, like they should have in the first place.

He jogged the twelve blocks to the loft, careful not to run so fast that he might be noticed. He tried to look like a guy who was just late getting home to his girlfriend, which, in a way, he was. He waited outside the door for a moment before pushing the buzzer. What was he going to say? What if she didn't want to see him? He didn't have any experience to draw on. She'd been the first girl he'd had sex with while sober. She was the first girl he'd ever lived with. She was the first to take a shower with him, to drink his blood, to turn him into a vampire, and to throw him broken and naked through a second-story window. She was his first love, really. What if she sent him away?

He listened, looked at the plywood still over the windows, sniffed the air. He could hear people inside, at least two, but they weren't talking. There were machines running, lights buzzing, the smell of blood and rat whiz wafting under the door. It really would have felt better if there were romance in the air, but, well, okay.

He ran his fingers through his hair, snatched away the last strands of fishing line trailing from his clothes like errant crystal pubes, and pushed the button.

Foo had just placed the vials of Abby's blood in the centrifuge when the buzzer on the intercom went off. He flipped the switch, then looked over at Abby, lying on the bed. She looked so peaceful, undead and drugged and not talking. Almost happy, despite having a tail. But the police wouldn't understand. He ran into the living room and shook Jared out of the game-induced trance he had entered on his game console. Foo could hear the death-metal sound track coming from Jared's headphones, tinny screeching and tiny chainsaw rhythms, like angry chipmunks humping a kazoo inside a sealed mayonnaise jar.

"Whaaa?" said Jared, yanking out his earbuds.

"Someone's at the door," whispered Foo. "Hide Abby."

"Hide her? Where? The closet is full of medical crap."

"Between the mattress and the box springs. She's skinny. You can mash her in there."

"How will she breathe?"

"She doesn't need to breathe."


Jared went for the bedroom, Foo for the intercom.

"Who is it?" he said, keying the button. He really should have installed a camera. They were easy to wire and he got a discount at Stereo World. Stupid.

"Let me in, Steve. It's Tommy."

Foo thought for a second he might pee a little. He hadn't finished building the high-intensity UV laser, and Abby hadn't worn her sun jacket. He was defenseless.

"I can see why you might be mad," said Foo, "but it was Abby's idea. I wanted to turn you back to human, like you wanted." Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. Tommy was going to kill him. It would be humiliating. The guy didn't even have an undergrad degree. He was going to be murdered by an undead Anglo liberal-arts tard who quoted poetry.

The buzzer went off again. Foo jumped and keyed the intercom.

"I didn't want to do it. I told her it was cruel to put you guys in there."

"I'm not mad, Steve. I need to see Jody."

"She's not here."

"I don't believe you. Let me in."

"I can't, I have things to do. Scientific things that you wouldn't understand. You have to go away." Okay, now he was a tard.

"I can come in, Steve, under the door or through the cracks around the windows, but when I go back to solid, I'll be naked. Nobody wants that."

"You don't know how to do that."

"I learned."

"Oh, that's cool," said Foo. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Could he get the door shut and duct taped before Tommy could ooze in. The great room was already taped up to contain the rat fog.

"Buzz me in, Foo. I have to see Jody and I have to feed. You still have some of those blood pouches, right?"

"Nope. Sorry, we're all out. And Jody's not here. And we've installed sunlamps all over the loft, Tommy. You'd be toast." He did have some blood bags. In fact, he still had some of the ones with the sedative in it that he'd used to knock Abby out.

"Steve, please, I'm hungry and hurt and I've been living in a basement with a bunch of vampire cats and if I turn to mist my new outfit is going to get stolen while I'm up there snapping your neck with my junk hanging out."

Foo was trying to think of a better bluff when a dark sleeve shot by him and he heard the door lock buzz downstairs. He looked up at Jared. "What the fuck have you done?"

"Hi," Tommy said in Foo's ear.

"He sounded so sad," Jared said.

At sundown the three awoke inside a titanium vault under the main cabin and checked the monitors that were wired like a nervous system to every extremity of the black ship.

"Clear," said the male. He was tall and blond and he'd been lean in life, so he remained so, would remain so, forever. He wore a black silk kimono.

The two females cranked open the hatch and climbed out into what appeared to be a walk-in refrigerator. The male closed the hatch, pushed a button concealed behind a shelf, and a stainless-steel panel slid across the hatch. They walked out of the fridge, into the empty galley.

"I hate this," said the African female. She had been Ethiopian in life, descended from royalty, with a high forehead and wide eyes that slanted like a cat's. "It was to this face that Solomon lost his heart," Elijah had told her, holding her face in his hands as she died. And so he called her Makeda, after the legendary Queen of Sheba. She didn't remember her real name, for she had worn it for only eighteen years, and she had been Makeda for seven centuries.

"It's different," said the other female, a dark-haired beauty who had been born on the island of Corsica a hundred years before Napoleon. Her name had been Isabella. Elijah had always called her Belladonna. She answered to Bella.

"It's not that different," said Makeda, leading the way up a flight of steps to the cockpit. "It seems like we just did this. We just did this-when?"

"A hundred and fifty years ago. Macao," said the male. His name was Rolf, and he was the middle child, the peace-maker, turned by Elijah in the time of Martin Luther.

"See what I mean," said Makeda. "All we do is sail around cleaning up his messes. If he does this again I'm going to have the boy drag him out onto the deck during the day and video it while he burns. I'll watch it every night on the big screen in the dining room and laugh. Ha!" Although the oldest, Makeda was the brat.

"And what if we die with the sire?" asked Rolf. "What if you wake up in the vault on fire?" He palmed a black glass console and a panel whooshed open in the bulkhead. The cockpit, big enough to host a party for thirty, was lined in curving mahogany, stainless steel, and black glass. The stern half was open to the night sky. But for the ship's wheel, it looked like an enormous Art Deco casket designed for space travel.

"I've died before," said Makeda. "It's not that bad."

"You don't remember," said Bella.

"Maybe not. But I don't like this. I hate cats. Shouldn't we have people for this?"

"We had people," said Rolf. "You ate them."

"Fine," said Makeda. "Give me my suit."

Rolf touched the glass console again and a bulkhead opened to reveal a cabinet filled with tactical gear. Makeda pulled three black bodysuits from the cabinet and handed one each to Rolf and Bella. Then she slid out of her red silk gown and stretched, naked, her arms wide like Winged Victory, her head back, fangs pointed at the skylight.

"Speaking of people," said Bella. "Where's the boy? I'm hungry."

"He was feeding Elijah when we awoke," said Rolf. "He'll be along."

Elijah was kept below in a vault similar to their own, except the prime vampire's vault was airtight, locked from the outside, and was fitted with an airlock system so the boy could feed him.

"Irie, me undead dreadies," said the pseudo-Hawaiian as he came up the steps, barefoot and shirtless, carrying a tray of crystal balloon goblets. "Cap'n Kona bringin' ya the jammin' grinds, yeah?"

The vampires each spoke a dozen languages but none of them had the slightest idea what the fuck Kona was talking about.

When he saw Makeda stretching, the blond Rastafarian stopped and nearly dumped the goblets off the tray. "Oh, Jah's sweet love sistah, dat smoky biscuit givin' me da rippin' stiffy like dis fellah need to poke squid with that silver sistah on de Rolls-Royce, don't you know?"

Makeda fell out of her "Nike" posture and looked at Rolf. "Huh?"

"I think he said he would enjoy violating you like a hood ornament," said Rolf, taking a snifter from the tray and swirling dark liquid under his nose. "Tuna?"

"Just caught, bruddah," said Kona, having trouble now balancing the tray while trying to hunch to conceal the erection tenting his baggies.

Bella took her snifter from the tray and grinned as she turned to look out the windscreen at the City. The Transamerica Pyramid was lit up in front of them, Coit Tower just to the right, jutting from Telegraph Hill like a great concrete phallus.

Makeda took a slinky step toward Kona, "Should I let him rub oil on me, Rolf? Do I look ashy?"

"Just don't eat him," Rolf said. He sat in one of the captain's chairs, loosened the belt of his black kimono, and began working the Kevlar bodysuit over his feet.

"Quaint," said Makeda. She took another step toward Kona, held her bodysuit before her, then dropped it. In an instant she had gone to mist and streamed into the suit, which filled as if a girl-shaped emergency raft had been deployed inside. She snatched the last goblet out of the air as Kona flinched and dumped the tray.

"Will you oil me up later, Kona?" Makeda said, standing over the surfer now as he cowered.

"Nah need, matey, you shinin' plenny fine. But dat other ting bein' a rascal fo' sure." He held his hand to his chest and ventured a glance up at her. "Please."

"It's your turn," said Bella with a smile, her lips rouged with tuna blood.

"Oh, all right," said Makeda. "But use a glass."

Kona reached into the pocket of his baggies and came out with a shot glass, which he held with both hands before his head like a Buddhist monk receiving alms.

She pushed her thumb against one of her fangs, then let the blood drip into Kona's shot glass. Ten drops in, she pulled her thumb away and licked it. "That's all you get."

"Oh, mahalo, sistah. Jah's love on ya." He drained the blood then licked the shot glass clean, as Makeda watched and sipped her tuna blood. After a full minute, with the ersatz Hawaiian still lapping away at the glass, his breath heaving like he was hoisting the anchor by hand, she took the shot glass and held it away from him. "You're done."

"Bug eater," Bella said, disgusted. Now she was in her own bodysuit and had drained her goblet of blood.

"Oh, I think he's cute," said Makeda. "I may let him oil me up yet." She ruffled Kona's dreadlocks. He was staring blankly into space, his mouth open, drooling.

"Just don't eat him," Rolf said.

"Stop saying that. I won't eat him," said Makeda.

"He's a licensed captain. We need him."

"All right. I'm not going to eat him."

Bella walked over, yanked a dreadlock from Kona's head, and used it to tie back her own, waist-length black hair. The surfer didn't flinch. "Bug eater," she repeated.

Rolf was back at the cabinet, snapping together various bits of weaponry. "We should go. Grab a hood, gloves to go with the sunglasses. Elijah said they had some sort of sunlight weapons."

"This is different," said Bella, gathering all the high-tech kit from the weapons cabinet, as well as a long overcoat to cover it all. "We didn't have all this in Macao."

"As long as you're not bored, darling," said Rolf.

"I hate cats," said Makeda as she pulled on her gloves.

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