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April 2018 story: Undead in a Dead Town




Of course there are no vampires in Seattle. Vampires don't hang out in cities. On the other hand, it is possible a vampire occasionally passes through. Here's why.


                                          Undead in a Dead Town

Hunting requires prey.

I walked along a dark city street, glancing around, hugging my purse, until I heard footsteps following. Yes!  I did a fast check over my shoulder because if it was some slobbering drunk, I didn't want to bother. No, it was an average male, maybe a biker, in leather jacket and jeans. As he speeded up, I slowed, not enough that he would notice. Just enough for him to catch up with me as I reached the entrance to the alley.

“Hi there,” he said.

“Oh!”

“Sorry. Didn't mean to frighten you. It's kind of late for a pretty lady to be out alone. Can I walk you somewhere?”

“That's so kind of you,” I said, and ten seconds later I backed him against the wall in the alley, pulled his head down toward me, and sank my fangs into his neck.

When I'd sucked enough blood, I let go of him and he slid down the wall and lay at my feet. He'd wake with a hangover headache and no memory of me.  If he got mugged, it had nothing to do with me. Males who stalk unknown females take their chances.

Night was the easy part of my unlife, finding dinner. The hard part was daytime and finding a place to sleep. Cheap apartments were impossible to make safe enough and nowadays anything else cost far more than I could afford.

The only vampires who can afford the city are those who have managed to amass wealth and own their safety behind locked doors and have a reputation for eccentricity. All other havens are gone.

There is a maze of ancient buildings beneath street level that were covered over by development a century ago. With no other choice, I took a hidden entrance and climbed down forgotten stairs. I went past empty spaces that were reasonably dry, and climbed over chipped brick, crawled through a dirt tunnel, heard rats skittering, and finally secured an almost unreachable damp corner. At one time the main spaces were useful for my kind. We even fitted them with beds and wardrobes. Now, I regret to say, those places have all turned into underground tours for crowds of paying tourists.

When I woke the next night, my headache probably matched that of last night's prey.

One more night in the city was one too many.

I tried the suburbs. During a night of prowling, I found a temporary vacancy in the home of a family on vacation. This also supplied me with clothing from overstuffed closets and how many months would pass before the owner missed what I took?  Considering the quantity of clothing, I suspected that my thefts would never be noticed.

As for prey, I learned that in the suburbs men seldom walk the night streets alone. From wherever they have been, they drive directly into garages with automatically opening and closing doors. And when I met the exception, a male walking on a dark sidewalk, he said a quiet, “Good evening,” and kept walking, never turning to follow me.

I watched backyards. Three nights later I saw a man come outside a house to empty the trash.

“Hi,” I said, and he was so startled he dropped the plastic bag of trash on the lawn. “I'm looking for my sister's place. Maybe you know her?”

I kept talking nonsense until I was close enough to catch his face between my hands and turn his head to expose his neck.

He served my purpose, stood quietly while I fed and then lay down on a garden bench, half-conscious, relaxed, and with no memory of me. When his wife finally came outside searching for him, an unpleasant argument about drunkenness followed. Although I was halfway down the block by then, I could hear her clearly.

That was not my concern. I returned to the empty house to watch television. A neighbor must have seen the flickering light. Within the hour a police car screamed up the drive, lights flashing, siren on, no doubt hoping that if there was an armed burglar within, he would flee.

I wasn't armed but I did leave by the back door.

What I needed was my own place where rents were low and that's why I next tried a small town.

Finding a job was ridiculously easy. There was one bar, open until two, and plenty of local women who wanted work but only during the day. When I applied for the night shift, the owner said, “That's all I've got. I'll tell you up front, you won't be able to switch to a day shift later. Blanche and Kristin have worked that shift more than ten years and neither is going to quit.”

“I prefer night shift,” I said.

“Yeah, better tips,” he said. “Okay, it's you and Sonya.”

Housing was also easy. I rented an apartment for almost nothing in the upper floor of a house owned and inhabited by an elderly woman who was almost deaf. With the addition of locks to the doors, I was safe enough.

Home at last in a place I could afford, somewhere secure during the day and comfortable at night. With the addition of a TV and a Netflix subscription and a small laptop, the hours of the night after I returned from work were pleasant if not exciting.

Although I look to be in my early twenties, at over a hundred I crave comfort far more than excitement.

My first night I found the downside. By the time I rose in the evening and showered and dressed, it was time for work. Even with a spare hour or two, that early in the evening the streets were filled with people doing last minute errands. If I saw a single man walking alone, he might eye me but he would never try to follow. A single man who starts following women in a small town is asking for unwanted surveillance by all the locals. Every man knew that and now I knew it, too.

Besides, it wasn't as though the town had empty alleys at that hour.

But at two in the morning?  Surely that would be an excellent time to hunt.

Except that at two, the owner-bartender shooed out any remaining customers and then said goodnight to Sonya and me with the reminder, “Door's locked. Be sure to pull it closed when you leave.”

We didn't leave with him. “With two of us we can finish up in half an hour,” Sonya said.

I hadn't counted on that, the extra half hour of cleaning and clearing up. I didn't mind. It's not as though I get tired. My miscalculation was what I would find when we did leave.

Sonya's unemployed husband waited outside in his car to drive her home. They offered me a ride.

“No, thanks,” I said. “It's only a couple blocks to where I live.”

They waved goodbye. Didn't warn me to be careful or any of that sort of thing. After one evening waitressing in the bar, I knew that the town's crimes were either the domestic sort or fist fights between men. The town is so small, there hasn't been a mugging within anyone's memory.

I searched the dark streets. The men who frequented the bar had all disappeared, going directly home at closing a half hour earlier. Apparently no one loiters. I walked through backyards and all I met were sleepy dogs who didn't care who trespassed. And then I paid attention to the houses and realized that the only lights still on were porch lights, and fairly few of those.

There is no movie theater. The few restaurants close by nine. The pharmacist presumes no one needs a prescription after six. The supermarket closes at seven. The one gas station locks up at eight.

I was less dead than the town.

In the week that followed, I caught up with one drunk sleeping in his car.

“Hi, big boy,” I said as I climbed into the passenger seat of his car and leaned across the console.

He batted bleary eyes at me. Although his blood was a bit more flavored than I care for, it kept me from screaming hunger. I left him passed out across the console.

The next night he was at the bar playing pool with several friends. He didn't recognize or even remember me.

When I stopped by the table and asked who needed refills, he said, “Not me.”

As I walked away I heard another man ask, “What's with you?”

“Fell asleep in my car last night and I don't ever want to wake up with that bad a hangover again. Couldn't hardly make it out of bed this morning.”

In my first years as a vampire, any city offered safe apartments with reasonable rents. Life has become so much more difficult. These are my choices.

I can return to the city where food is plentiful but comfortable housing is beyond my means.

Or I can sneak into temporarily empty houses in the suburbs and find an occasional meal. 

Or I can stay in a dead town in an apartment I can afford and ache with hunger.

END

*****
Copyright (c) Phoebe Matthews

If you enjoy vampire novels I have a series titled Turning Vampire. You can find a list of its titles on the Home Page (link at top of this page.)