Bite Me: A Love Story Chapter 6~7


6. The Vampire Parrots of Telegraph Hill

A flock of wild parrots lives in the city of San Francisco. They are South American cherry-headed conures-bright green with a red head, a little smaller than a typical pigeon.

No one is quite sure how they came to the City. It's likely that they are the descendants of animals caught in the jungle, then released to the city skies when they proved too wild to be kept as pets. They fly over the northern waterfront of San Francisco, foraging for fruit, berries, and blossoms, from the Presidio at the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge, over Pacific Heights, the Marina, Russian Hill, North Beach, and all the way to the Ferry Building near the Oakland Bay Bridge. They are social, squawky, silly birds that mate for life and advertise their presence with a cacophony of beeps and cheeps that inspire smiles from residents, bewilderment from tourists, and hunger in predators, mostly red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons.

The parrots spend their nights high in the trees of Telegraph Hill, beneath the great concrete phallus of Coit Tower, sheltered from attack from hawks by the evergreen canopy overhead, and from all but the most ambitious cats, by the sheer altitude. But still, they are sometimes attacked, and although gentle creatures, they will fight back, biting with their thick, built-for-seed-crushing beaks.

Which is what happened.

The next morning after he witnessed the cat attack in the SOMA, the Emperor of San Francisco was awakened from a nest he'd made in one of the little stair gardens on Telegraph Hill, to hear parrots squawking in the trees. The sun was just breaking the horizon behind the Bay Bridge, turning the water red-gold under a blue morning mist.

The Emperor crawled out from under a pile of carpet padding, stood, and stretched, his great joints creaking in the cold like ancient church doors. The men, Bummer and Lazarus, poked their noses out of the gray cloak, snuffled the dawn, then, with the call of the parrots, resolved themselves to morning and emerged like urgent butterflies to search for the perfect spot for the first wee of the day.

The three watched as fifty or so squawking parrots circled Coit Tower and headed out toward the Embarcadero, where, suddenly, they all stopped flying, burst into flames, and fell like a smoldering storm of dying comets into Levi's Plaza.

"Well, you don't see that every day," said the Emperor, scratching Lazarus's ears through the bandages. The retriever was a doggy version of The Mummy, wrapped ears to tail in bandages after his last encounter with the vampire cats. The vet in the Mission wanted to keep him overnight, but the retriever had never spent a night away from the Emperor since they had found each other, and the vet had no accommodations for a large and burly monarch, let alone a feisty Boston terrier, so the three had bunked together under the carpet pad.

Bummer chuffed, which translated from dog to: "I don't like it."

As the famous frog sang, it's not easy being green.

7. The Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet and Whatnot


Stephen "Foo Dog" Wong's fully bombed Honda drift machine was full of rats. Not completely full, the passenger seat was filled by Jared Whitewolf, Abby's backup BFF. (BBFF, really.)

"Did you have to get all white ones?" Jared asked. He was six foot two, very thin, and paler than Death shagging a snowman. The sides of his head were shaved and in the middle he sported an unlaquered Mohawk, which hung in his eyes unless he was lying on his back or looking up. In addition to a floor-length black PVC cenobite coat, he was currently wearing Abby's thigh-high red platform Skankenstein® boots, which was completely within his rights, as her current BFF. What bothered Foo was not that Jared had on girl's boots, but that he had on the boots of a girl with distinctly small feet.

"Don't those hurt?"

Jared tossed his hair out of his eyes. "Well, it's like Morrissey said, 'Life is suffering.'"

"I think the Buddha said that."

"I'm pretty sure Morrissey said it first-like, back in the eighties."

"No, it was the Buddha."

"Have you ever even seen a picture of the Buddha with shoes on?" Jared asked.

Foo couldn't believe he was having this argument. What's more, he couldn't believe he was losing this argument.

"Well, I have some Nikes upstairs that might fit you if you need to change shoes. Let's get the rats unloaded. I have to get to work."

Jared already had four plastic cages with two white rats in each stacked on his lap, so he unfolded himself out of the Honda and wobbled on the red platforms to the fire door of the loft. "Don't try to paint them black," Jared said, peering into the Plexiglas boxes as Foo opened the door for him. "I tried that with my first rat, Lucifer. It was tragic."

"Tragic?" said Foo. "I'd have never guessed. Put them on the floor in the living room. I'll borrow the truck from work tomorrow and pick up some folding tables to put them on."

In addition to pursuing his degree in molecular biology, and variously rescuing Abby, formulating vampire serum, and tricking out his Honda, Foo still worked part-time at Stereo City, where he specialized in telling people that they needed a bigger TV.

"You still have that job?" Jared said as he stumbled up the stairs. "Abby said you guys have total fuck-you money."

Why did she tell him? She wasn't supposed to tell him. Did she tell him everything? Why did she have to have friends at all? She'd given Jared five thousand dollars of Jody and Tommy's money for Hanukkah-despite the fact that neither one of them was Jewish. "Because I will not let mainstream society make me into the Christmas bitch of the zombie baby-Jebus, that's why," she'd said. "And because he helped me take care of the Countess and Lord Flood when they were in trouble."

"I need to keep my cover," Foo said. "For tax purposes."

That was partially true. He did need to keep up his cover, because, like Abby, he hadn't actually told his parents that he'd moved out. They were so used to him being at school, in the lab, or at work, that they hadn't really noticed that he hadn't been sleeping at home. It helped that he had four younger brothers and sisters, who were all carrying insane work and course loads. His parents were all about toil. As long as you were toiling, you were okay. They could smell toil from miles away, or the lack of it. He might be able to get away with living in his own loft with his spooky-sexy girlfriend, and doing bizarre genetic experiments on the undead, but if he quit his job they'd sense it in a second.

It took Foo and Jared twenty minutes to get all the rats up the steps and lined up around the living room.

"We're not going to hurt them, are we?" said Jared, holding up one of the plastic cages so he was eye to eye with its occupants.

"We're going to turn them into vampires."

"Oh, cool. Now?"

"No, not now. For now, you're going to need to feed them and make sure there's a water bottle in each of their cages," Foo said.

"Then what?" Jared asked, tossing his hair out of his eyes.

"Then you can go home," said Foo. "You don't need to observe them full-time until the experiment starts."

"I can't go home. I told my parents I was staying over at Abby's."

Foo was suddenly horrified at the thought of having to spend the night in the loft with a hundred rats, two bronzed vampires, and Jared. Especially Jared. Maybe he'd go home and leave Jared to watch the rats-make an appearance at home for the parents, so as to throw them off the trail of his non-toiling, loft-living, Anglo-girlfriend lifestyle.

"You can stay here, then," Foo said. "I'll be back in the morning."

"What about them?" Jared nodded toward the bronzed figures of Jody and Tommy.

"What about them?"

"Can I talk to them? I didn't get to finish telling Jody my novel." Jared had spent a very long night telling Jody the first part of the novel he was going to write, an erotic horror story that starred himself and his pet rat, Lucifer 2.

"Okay," said Foo. He didn't really like thinking about the two people, well, vampires, but they seemed a lot like people, that he'd helped imprison in a bronze shell. It sort of gave him the willies, and that was highly unscientific. "But no touching," he added.

Jared pouted and sat down on the futon, about the only spot in the entire living-room-kitchen area not covered with plastic rat cages. "Okay, but will you help me get these boots off before you go?"

Foo shuddered. It had been less than an hour since the cops led Abby away and already he missed her like a severed limb. It was embarrassing. How could hormones and hydrostatic pressure make you feel like this? Love was very unscientific.

"Sorry," Foo said. "Gotta jet." A true hero, the kind Abby accused him of being, he knew, would have helped Jared.


Abby Normal had once offered to pay for a tattoo for Jared that read: Danger. Do not administer caffeine without adult supervision.

Jared asked, "Can it be in red? Does it have to be on the forehead? Maybe on the side so I can grow my hair over it if I don't like it. Am I being emo? Do you want to play Blood-feast on Xbox? They have green fur iPod cases at Urban Outfitters. I love white chocolate mochas. Marilyn Manson needs to be dragged to death behind a clown car. Oh fuck, I'm so allergic to this eyeliner I could cry."

Abby said, "Oh my God, you're like Obnoxious and Annoying had an ass baby!"

"What are you trying to say?" asked Jared.

What she had been trying to say, although she didn't know it at the time, was that under no circumstances should Jared be left alone in an apartment with an abundance of time and espresso, which is what Foo had just done. So after feeding, watering, and naming all the rats (most given French names from Abby's copy of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal), Jared began brewing espressos and was nine demitasse cups into the afternoon when he decided to act out the remainder of his unwritten vampire adventure novel, The Dark of Darkness, for a hundred rats caged in plastic and two vampires encased in bronze.

"So the evil Blood Queen dons her chrome strap-on of death and goes after Lucifer 2. But Jared Whitewolf is on her like a fat kid on a cupcake, parrying her blows with his dagger of death, or Dee Dee, as it is known." Jared pirouetted, a move he'd learned in ballet class at age six, and slashed the air, low and fast, with the double-edged dagger held backhand so as to sever his imaginary enemy's femoral artery, a move he'd learned in Soul Assassin Five on the Xbox (although it was harder to do while wearing platform boots than it was in the video game). The dagger was real enough, twelve inches of double-edged high-carbon stainless steel with a dragon hilt. Jared carried it because he thought it made him look badass when doormen took it away from him at clubs.

"And he strikes her weapon in half!" he said, leaping and bringing the blade around a little too fast. He turned his ankle, lost his balance, and as he fell, the dagger put a deep nick in the bronze statue.

"Ow!" He sat on the floor holding his ankle and rocking back and forth in the yoga position known as the "freaked-out half-lotus." Then he noticed the gash he'd put in the bronze, directly over Jody's right clavicle.

"I'm sorry, Countess," Jared said, still a little breathless from his battle. "I didn't mean to hurt you. It's just that I had to save Lucifer 2. You'd do the same thing for Lord Flood if he was in the story."

Jared buffed at the bronze with his sleeve, but the gash was deep and wasn't going to go away with polishing. "Abby's going to kill me. I'll patch you, Countess. Just hang on. Toothpaste. We used it on the wall that time we drank Abby's mom's vodka and played cross-country darts in her living room. Hang on a minute."

Jared let the heavy dagger drop to the floor, climbed to his feet, winced, then limped off to the bathroom to look for toothpaste.

He located a tube of all natural tartar control with baking soda just as the sun dropped under the horizon in the west. Out in the living room, a needle-thin stream of mist began leaking out of the gash he'd made in the bronze statue. Toothpaste probably wouldn't have fixed it.


In the last two months, the Animals, the night stock crew at the Marina Safeway, had hunted an ancient vampire, blown up his yacht, stolen millions of dollars' worth of art, sold it for pennies on the dollar, spent the remaining hundreds of thousands on gambling and a blue hooker, got turned into vampires, were torn apart by zoo animals, then burned up by sunlamps when they attacked Abby Normal, then turned, by Foo, back into seven guys who stocked shelves at the Safeway and smoked a little too much weed. And as it often is with adventurers, after the adventure, they were feeling a little bored, and a little worried that nothing exciting would ever happen to them again.

After you've battled the darkness, then become the darkness, then shagged the darkness, frozen turkey bowling and skiing behind the floor-scrubbing machine just doesn't hold the same thrill. After you've shared a blue prostitute with your buddies to the tune of a half a million dollars, only to have her kill and resurrect you before disappearing into the night, swapping stories of banging babes was a bit of an anticlimax. After all, they worked nights and the oldest of them, Clint, was only twenty-three, so most of their stories were gross exaggerations, wishful thinking, or outright lies anyway. Even crucifying Clint with zip ties on the potato chip rack every other Friday didn't seem fun anymore, and last week they had just left him hanging, thrashing in the Doritos, and went off to stock their aisles before he could even forgive them for knowing not what they did. Tragic, really, to be young, free, and mind-numbingly bored.

So when the Emperor of San Francisco came screaming out of the parking lot and slammed, face-first, into the big Plexiglas front window, rattling the Tic Tacs on every register, each of them dropped what he was working on and headed to the front of the store, hoping in their hearts that something outstanding was coming down.

The seven, the Animals, stood on one side of the big window, while the Emperor pounded on the other, the royal hounds leaping and barking at his side.

"Maybe we should let him in," said Clint, curly-haired, born-again, ex-heroin addict who worked cereal, coffee, and juices. "He seems troubled."

"S��," said Gustavo, the porter, leaning on his mop. "Troubled."

"Seems fucking freaked," said Drew, the Ichabod-Crane-gaunt master of the frozen food aisle and chief medical officer. "Totally fucking freaked."

"What's wrong?" asked Lash, the lean black guy who had become their leader when Tommy was turned into a vampire, largely because he almost had an MBA, but also because he was a black guy and inherently cooler than everyone else.

"Murder, destruction, ravenous creatures of the night, a storm of them," shouted the Emperor. "Hurry, please."

"He always says that," said Barry, the balding fireplug of a scuba diver who also stocked soap and dog food.

"Well, every time he says it, it's kind of true," said Jeff, the tall blond ex-power forward with the blown-out knee (baking supplies and international foods). "I say let him in."

"Look, the retriever is all bandaged up. Poor guy," said Troy Lee, their resident martial arts expert who worked the glass aisle. "Let them in."

"You just want to roll the little one up in a burrito," said Lash.

"Yeah, that's right, Lash. Because I'm Chinese, I have a deep-seated need to nosh house pets. Now why don't you let him in before my inner Chinaman forces me to kung-fu your bitch ass."

Because he understood that he was the leader only so long as he told everyone to do what they wanted to do anyway, and because he had had his bitch ass kung-fued in the past and hadn't cared for it, Lash unlocked the door and let the Emperor in.

The old man fell into the store when Lash opened the door. Bummer and Lazarus stopped barking and bolted by them, and on toward the back of the store.

Jeff and Drew got the Emperor seated on one of the registers and Troy Lee handed him a bottle of water. "Chill, Your Majesty, we've done this before."

"Not like this. Not like this," said the Emperor. "It's a storm of evil. Lock the door."

Lash rolled his eyes. They really had done this before, and the door being locked or unlocked wasn't going to make much difference if a vampire was following the old man.

"We got your back, Highness," Lash said.

"Lock the door," the Emperor moaned, pointing through the window. A fog bank was moving across the parking lot, with rather more intent than one usually expects from a fog bank. A high, yowling screech seemed to come out of the fog in a stream, as if it had been sampled, amplified, and duplicated a thousand times.

The Animals moved to the glass.

"Lock the door, Lash," Clint said. Clint never gave orders.

The edge of the fog bank was boiling with shapes, claws, ears, eyes, teeth, tails-cats formed of fog, rolling in a wave over one another, some materializing partially, only to evaporate and roll back into the cloud, their red eyes moving through the cloud like embers out of a firestorm.

"Whoa," said Drew.

"Whoa," repeated the others.

"Okay, that is different," said Troy Lee.

"My friends all over the City are missing," the Emperor said. "Street people. They're gone. Just their clothes and gray dust," the Emperor said. "The cats are killing everything in their way."

"That is fucked up," said Jeff.

"Deeply, deeply fucked up," said Barry, dragging one of the heavy wooden order dividers off the register and brandishing it like a club.

"Lock the fucking door, Lash!" Clint screamed.

"Jesus hates it when you use the f-word," said Gustavo, the Mexican porter, who was Catholic and liked to remind Clint when his Jesus was slipping.

The fog washed against the window and claw marks etched the Plexiglas instantly to frost, as if it had all been sanded. The noise was like, well, it was like a thousand vampire cats clawing on Plexiglas-it made their teeth hurt.

"Did anyone bring weapons?" Troy Lee asked.

"I brought some weed," Drew said.

A cat's claw of fog crept under the door and raked the toe of Lash's sneaker. He snapped the lock shut, pulled out the key, and backed away.

"Okay, break time," he said. "Crew meeting in the walk-in."


Across town, in the bedroom of a fashionable loft, in the fashionable SOMA neighborhood, aspiring rat-shagger, Jared Whitewolf, looked up from rubbing his sore ankle to see a completely naked redhead walk into the room. Her hair hung to her waist in a great curling cape, framing her figure, which was perfect and as white as a marble statue. She held Jared's double-edged dagger in her right hand.

Jared backed up onto the bed in a reverse crab walk. "I, I, I, it, it, it-Abby made me-"

"Chill, Scissorhands," Jody said. "You'd better find some of those blood bags of Steve's fast, unless you'd like to finish high school as a pile of greasy dust. Countess is thirsty."

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