Something In the Blood
I’m not sure what a normal death is, I’m only sure I didn’t die one. Which is actually pretty normal for me, so take that to therapy and analyze it. I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in. Oh, I appear normal enough, even now: mid-length, highlighted toffee colored hair; about average height; I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds, but what woman doesn’t think that about herself? The most unusual item in my appearance is the beauty mark on the left side above my top lip. Small, flat, circular mole type thing. Miz Marilyn Monroe would have appreciated it.
I graduated high school in the top 40 percent of my class of 120 students, got no lower than a B in all the courses for my B.S.N., have worked at the same place (counting my high school job there) for nearly 12 years, and bought my house at 24. Fairly normal, right? But wait – there’s more!
Unless work or other circumstance demands, I wear flip-flops everywhere, all the time, even when there’s snow on the ground. I’ve just been a furnace since puberty and wearing other shoes makes me sweat. I’ve never been Catholic, but I sang at St. Martin’s on a regular basis. I didn’t fit into any single clique in school; I just hovered on the fringes of them. I only had one boyfriend my entire life. Unlike all my friends, I don’t have Sex and the City style sexual escapades to share. My first kiss didn’t happen on the playground in Kindergarten like so many people I know. It happened the day before the start of my Junior year in high school, under one of the local Kmart’s fire extinguishers. His name was Chris and we dated until Senior Prom. I allowed him to relieve me of my virginity, but it took four attempts. The first time we tried, I was so nervous, I farted when he touched my jeans. No smell, thankfully, but the sound! It was like a band of frogs started up at top volume. The next three times were foiled by surprise visits from every girl’s favorite aunt. When we finally managed to accomplish the deed, I vomited down the side of his bed. Prom being only the next night, we decided to brave through it, and called it off as soon as he dropped me off. I didn’t have sex again until the night of my college graduation party. I was really inebriated, though my best friend Darla says I called it being ‘inheebriated’ that night, and have no idea if it was worth it or not. I remember a condom, registered the fact the guy was Darla’s ex-boyfriend 4 boyfriends ago, and the rest is pretty much a blank.
Among my friends, I’m famous for flubbing up words, sentences, jokes. Mainly words. It’s like some weird form of dyslexia. Once Darla and I were returning home after a long, stressful road trip. I had driven the whole trip and we were still over an hour from home. I glanced over at her and said, “I’m so friggin’ tired, you could just send me to the looney barn.” Darla was quick to ask, “Don’t you mean looney bin?” It became a running joke.
A different time, but still memorable and again with Darla (maybe it’s her influence and not me), going through the drive-thru of Iowa’s most worthless Burger King – the one where we live – the insipid tart behind the speaker torqued me off so badly that as I pulled away from the order box I said, “Stupid FACER!” Darla’s quizzical look clued me into another screw up. What I’d been trying to call the twit was ‘fuck face’ or something equally dismal. Instead, from that point on, the girl and anyone like her became a Facer. I know it seems mild, but these types of flubs are daily events.
Really though, even with all my quirks, I figured I was living a pretty much normal life and would end it with a pretty much normal death. You know, old age maybe, or an illness. I always hoped, but didn’t believe I’d be lucky enough to just die in my sleep. Turns out I was right.
I didn’t even get a flashy, theatrical death in a fiery plane crash or cult-related suicide. Nope. I was infected by a bite. I really shouldn’t be surprised. Depending on who you talk to, Iowa is surrounded by vampires. There’s supposedly some vampire queen in Minneapolis, and what’s called a kiss of them in St. Louis. I didn’t really believe they existed. Silly me.
No, I just thought everyone was caught up in the Goth-Emo-Vampire obsession and were being weird. Clear evidence of this can be found everywhere, but especially on the Internet. A friend of mine had recommended online dating to me due to my reticent nature: she thought the distance of it would help me learn to open up while allowing me ease of repair for my flubbings.
I figured I was smart enough to take precautions and be safe. I decided to give it a whirl. So, when I met this guy online, a really hot, melt-your-pants-off guy, and his profile picture showed him with fangs, I figured they were those fake ones you can buy at Hot Topic that come in a little coffin package. Besides, his name was Brian and he worked at the Meredith Corporation as a photography editor.
We chatted for a month or so before we met in a very public place, Merle Hay Mall’s food court for my favorite junk food, Panda Express. When we met up though, he claimed to have just eaten himself into a stomach ache with some of his friends. Self-conscious about eating fake Chinese in front of Brian, I quickly denied being hungry and opted for only a beverage. I just slurped away at my Peach Julius, trying to ignore the wafts of garlic from Old Chicago and Villa Pizza as well as the clicks of chopsticks from the tables close to us while we chatted away.
We talked about all manner of things: local, state, and nation politics; how quickly the road filth shows up on the snow in winter making the landscape look sprinkled in coal dust instead of ice crystals. Things were going along swimmingly, as they say, until I thought I gave my hunger away by saying, “Doesn’t that garlic overwhelm everything here? I can’t even smell the pretzel place like usual.” As soon as it was out of my mouth, I was wishing I could call it back. Eating my words would have stilled my belly until our date was over, I’m sure.
Brian, the gentleman he presented himself to be, simply smiled. “It is strong, but it’s not bothering me. If you like, we can move. If you’re craving something fake Italian, I’ll go get you some.” I demurred, of course, and slurped the date away, wishing the cup had some vodka in it.
A few more meetings like this and he took me to see a movie and then dancing. He was a little pale, but I just chalked it up to being so blond and fair. Plus, it was winter in Iowa. Not much chance for a real good suntan in January. We ended up back at my place, cuddling and talking. The talking faded to silence and the cuddling nuzzled along into bra-hanging-off-the-ceiling-fan sex.
I hadn’t even noticed the bite mark until I went to clean up. Even then, all I saw was a hickey above my left breast. Bright purple, but easily hidden by a blouse. I hadn’t had one of those since high school. It was at once revolting to me and sexy at the same time. It wasn’t like the fumbling, gross marks left by my boyfriend junior year. Those always happened when he was trying for sex, not in the heat of the moment like this one must have been. I didn’t know it, but that bite was my demise.
Brian was lolling in the bed when I returned, smiling in a very self-satisfied way.
“Okay, Mr. Photo Editor. What’s the big idea of biting me?” I smiled to let him know I wasn’t angry.
He grinned at me. “Sorry, Kim. You bring out the animal in me. Seriously, though, does it hurt or anything?”
“Nah. Just weird to have a hickey at my age.”
He started playing with my hair. “Sweets, you have no idea about weird. You’ll see.”
Distracted by his hands in my hair, I didn’t understand. “Hm? What?”
Any reply he may have attempted was gone in the next round of loving. I should have kept control of my hormones, but damn! Six years is a long time in sexual famine.
Over the course of the next few days, I lived, well died, in a state of slow torture. Brian, it seemed, was pulling a fast one. He never returned my calls or emails, which was awful enough, until…I increasingly craved rarer and rarer meats, fantasizing about the type of steaks my Uncle Kent orders – “Just run it through a warm room!” – more red than brown and the blood leaking off the platter.
I became fascinated with how veins showed blue under people’s skin. Darla caught me staring at her cleavage in a most unbecoming, and from her view, decidedly not un-homosexual manner.
“Sorry Darla! I was just spacing off,” I lied as efficiently as I could. “You know the only reason I stare at your boobs is because you have some and I don’t. I have no designs on your body.” She nodded, but I don’t think she totally believed me. She shouldn’t have. I’d been practically drooling over the faint blue line in her breast disappearing into her blouse. It was hypnotizing.
I also grew steadily more ill in what sunlight is available during the Midwestern winter days. I always felt like I was getting a low-grade fever or heat stroke when I went out in it for any length of time. Good thing I usually worked 4 p.m. to midnight shift at the care facility. In Iowa in January, it’s damn near dark at 4 p.m.
I made my final transition on the fifth day of all this. I was soaking in my bathtub and could feel my life force simply fading away. Strangely, I wasn’t scared. It wasn’t really painful. The worst part of it was for the briefest moments, I swear I saw the fabled light at the end of the tunnel, and then I was sucked back into my body. When I was fully aware again, I knew I was dead, well, undead. I knew I was a vampire. And I knew when I left my bathroom, Brian would be sitting on my couch. I could smell him. The rest was like some weird form of ESP: I just knew things.
I walked out to see Brian, still wet from the tub. I just stared at him and played my tongue over my newly acquired fangs.
“I am sorry, Kim,” he said. “You never should have gotten infected from that small nibble.”
He explained to me how vampirism is a virus, but most humans have to be exposed to either a large dose or several smaller ones in order to become infected. Also how odd it is that not only did I get infected from what amounts to less than a pinprick, but survived the virus to change.
“Now, I don’t claim to understand how you got so unlucky while being so lucky at the same time, but I do know that you need to feed,” he told me. “Time to go hunting.”
“I don’t want to eat my friends,” I said. “I refuse.”
Brian just laughed. “You can drink the blood of animals as well as that of humans. Though, animal blood is far less tasty. But eating your friends is a personal choice, I can’t make it for you.”
As horrified as I was, I was also starving. “Fine, let’s go find an animal in need of dying.”
We drove out into the Iowa countryside. The now empty corn and bean fields, even with their concealing layer of snow and the moonlight, look somehow threatening with partial stalks rearing up in the shadowy scape and uneven ground an accident waiting to happen. The few stands of woodland in the area look more like sentinels against us than copses of trees.
Brian tried taking me closer to farm buildings and to cattle lots. The smells alone were awful, aside from the allure of blood underlying the stench of molding grain and leaked automotive fluids. Each time he pointed out an animal which could serve as my first meal, I backed out.
“They’re all too cute! I can’t eat anything cute,” I told him, and I called off the animal hunt.
Brian was frustrated as well as tickled by my identification of likely food sources as too
‘cute’ to eat. “Kim, if you keep this stuff up, you’re going to starve. You ate hamburgers before, right? Didn’t worry about those cows, right? Same principle.”
I shook my head at him. “Nope. Not the same. I wasn’t butchering those cows. Big difference.”
Brian shook his head in return and brought me back home. After a few minutes’ thought, I decided to drink from the dregs of society. Thanks to the Internet, I could look for registered sex offenders easily.
“These guys don’t deserve the chance to do it again,” I told Brian. “They’ll work nicely.”
We tracked one down on the east side of Des Moines. Brian showed me how to walk silently up behind him for the attack. Some of the vampire myths are true: strength, speed, agility. The guy was twice my size and I could control him with one arm. I drank until I was full. Brian finished him off and put his body in a dumpster.
Suddenly, my stomach cramped up and I got that terrible constriction in my chest signaling eminent vomiting.
“Brian, what’s wro…yark…ng with…yark…me?” The good thing about a liquid diet is it doesn’t take long to come back up.
He was just staring at me and the steaming mess I’d made. “I don’t believe it. It can’t be.”
“What? What can’t be?”
He shook his head at me. “I need more examples before I’m sure, and even then I’ll want to confirm with my friend Tom. It’s originally his theory anyway. Let’s try to get some more blood in you.”
Over the next week, Brian and I were inseparable. During the day, when we couldn’t venture out (sleeping all day is a myth, the sun burning us is not) we reorganized my life: work, family, friends, etc. Each night, we would hunt. I would feed. I often threw it all back up, but sometimes not. To me, it was a new twist on my previous tortured death. Brian just took blood samples and notes each night and held my hair when I puked.
Finally, Brian took all his notes, samples, and me to see a vampire friend of his, Tom, who happened to be a doctor. A brief exam, a mass shipment to the lab, and the next night, one phone call.
“Kim, it’s Tom. I’ll put it on speaker,” Brian called from the living room.
I went out to sit with him and hear whatever news there was.
“Kim. Brian. I have the most unusual news. Good and bad,” Tom said. “The good news is I know why Kim’s been getting sick. And I believe she may explain, in part, why so many new vampires die in their first year. The bad news, we need to figure out a new hunting system for her, but I already have an idea for that.”
“What are you talking about? What’s wrong with me?” I asked him.
Silence. Then, “Here’s the rest of the bad news: you’re apparently allergic or intolerant of the most common blood type in the world O positive.” A pause. “I think it’s similar to being lactose intolerant. I’d like to get your full medical history. This could be a big break to understanding vampirism. It may even tie in with how quickly you were infected, Kim.”
I glared at Brian and at the phone sitting on my coffee table. “Are you kidding me? This is just my luck. First I was eccentric when I lived. Then I couldn’t die a normal death. Now, I’m some sort of freak among the freaks?”
Brian started playing with my hair. “Calm down, babe. It’s okay.”
“The hell it’s okay! How would you feel if you were the only vampire in history to have a blood intolerance?” Without realizing it, I tore two handfuls of sofa cushion right out. Looked like land shark attack. Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break, I thought.
Tom, ever the doctor, says, “Kim. It may be easier to deal with than you think. I want to run some less-than scientific tests with you over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, to ensure your survival, I can guarantee you a night job here at the hospital. Another vampire works here and can help cook the books during your career here, but you would be able to have access to pre-typed blood, so you won’t be sick after feeding.” Calm, soothing, like I was one of his hysterical patients. Which, I guess, I now was.
Brian’s hands still wending in my hair, and the calming voice of Tom on the speaker, worked their charm. Literally, as I would come to find. Tom could hypnotize with his voice, Brian through the slightest continual contact, and other vampires developed other “talents”. I spent so much time puking, we didn’t discover mine for a long while. Pressing matters, extenuating circumstances, all that rot.
I worked at the hospital for a mere seven months before we figured out a system. I would monitor the sex offender registry, Brian would use contacts he had to track my intended lunch down, and Tom happened to know someone at the Oakdale Medical Classification Center – the prison hospital where all prisoners are initially processed and treated later if need be – who could supply Tom with blood types for any entrée I desired, so long as said meal had been convicted in Iowa. In a pinch, Tom sneaks me hospital blood.
Tom and Brian are currently using their extensive contacts; they’ve both been around about 300 years or so, to set up this kind of arrangement worldwide. Tom is even publishing his findings, with my permission, in the upcoming issue of the sole vampiric medical journal, Anatomia Vampirica. It’s distributed rather easily via the Internet in the guise of a subscription only blog.
Until a cure is found or created, or until vampires are truly out of the coffin (so to speak), this is the way I have to live…er, this is how I subsist. I hope a cure is found soon. In the meantime, I have to close up this laptop. I just watched my B-negative appetizer for this evening come out of a sleazy strip joint to have a cigarette…and he’s heading right up my alley.