I was walking in the early morning hours before dawn trying to get some quiet time in before work. Olson Park was the prime place for soaking in silence, especially before dawn when no one was around to distract from the whisper of leaves moving in the breeze. Not that the buzz of city life couldn't be heard in the park. Traffic kept chugging along, drivers leaning into their horns as they tried to merge, people argued on street corners, the sounds blending into a buzz that long term city dwellers learned to ignore.
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The section of the park I was in held a winding series of concrete walkways that meandered from open grass to enclosing thickets. Nocturnal animals scurried through the brush as my path brought me near the trees. An owl hooted somewhere deeper in. Twigs snapped under the foot of something larger. Probably a stray dog.
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It was just after four in the morning when I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned in time to see a dark silhouette backlit by a lamppost before a left cross to the jaw sent me spinning, bright stars jumping in front of my eyes. Muscles going to jelly on me, I hit the ground face first.
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Iron hard hands pinned my arms to the ground as a weight pressed me down. Then came the bite. The drinking, the slow drawing away of my blood, my life fluids. I could feel my heart slow as my sight grew dim at the edges, an early curtain call on my life. The worst part was that I didn't even get a hit in.
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I woke up in pitch darkness. A musty blanket was wrapped around me like a mummies bandages. Suffocating. Entangling. Tearing at the cloth I felt it rend in my hands, the rotted fibers coming apart like wet tissue.
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I was in a sunken stairway that gave alley access to a butcher shop's basement. The odor of rotting blood soured my stomach as I stood. I checked my neck and felt nothing but smooth skin. Feeling lower I found dried blood crusted on my shirt. What the blue fuck was going on?
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I walked out of the alley and tried to figure out where I was. There was little traffic on the roads as I moved to the corner looking for street signs. The few people on the sidewalks kept there heads down as they went. Windows of dark buildings were covered with plywood which some aspiring urban artist decided to tag. One piece of graffiti didn't look like anything until I tilted my head, then I gave a juvenile snort of appreciation.
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I reached the corner and found out I was on Maple Street which ran through the heart of one of those nearly abandoned neighborhoods large cities end up with over time. This was a good news bad news situation. While I knew where I was there was also no way in hell I was going to find a taxi until I reached more inhabited streets. I felt a cold shiver trail up and down my back. Walking in the dark normally didn't get to me but someone had attacked me, abducted me, and dumped my unconscious body in an alley miles from the park. You could say I was feeling vulnerable.
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That said, I was short on options so I sucked it up and walked south toward home. The moon was high as I went, shedding light into the dark alleys and spaces between streetlights. The city was hideously quite. Sure I could still hear the buzz of traffic but it was far away like a distant song heard underwater. I followed that song, a sailor following a siren's call, hoping to get to the safety of crowded streets.
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"Hey shithead," a voice grunted behind me in the dim space between streetlights. Cold sweat beading up on my skin, I turned to face the speaker. He looked like a walking brick with thick limbs. The knife he held pointed at me seemed puny in his meaty hand. "Wallet, watch, and phone. Giv'em over."
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I stared at the guy. Seriously? I was getting mugged twice in one night? A laugh burst out of me at the incredulity of it. Honestly, was my luck shitty or what?
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Unfortunately, mugger man took offense at the mirth. His fist sailed into my gut, forcing the air out of me. I bent over from the hit but raised my arms to protect my face just before a knee would have crashed into my nose. I fell to the side and rolled onto the road.
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Heart thumping, teeth gritted, I scrambled up and didn't do the smart thing. I could have ran but a burning in my head demanded something else: retribution. I'd already let one asshole get away with attacking me. This shit wasn't going to get to do the same.
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I stalked forward, hands raised to grab as the burning intensified. Red. He slashed. I grabbed his wrist. Squeezed. Bones made a wet popping noise. He screamed. I pulled in close to him. I could smell something. Red. Intoxicating. I leaned closer. The scent came from a pulsing vein in his neck. Red. Luscious. Mine. I sank teeth into the man's flesh. I drank deep.
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I could feel each shiver of my prey as I pulled his blood into me. Slowly the gasped protests changed from pain to pleasure. He groaned sweetly, used his unbroken hand to caress my hair. His voice urged me on. In mutual pleasure, shared joy, I guided him down to the ground as his legs went limp from our act. He was light as feathers in my arms.
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Some distant part of me gibbered from a corner of my mind. I tried to ignore it but the voice grew louder. Irritated, I sucked harder at the man's neck. The gibbering became bolder. More horrified. I was drinking blood.
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With a shudder I released the man's throat but held him up so that he wouldn't bash his head against the ground. He was pale. His breathing came in slow inhalations. Two small, jagged tears weeped blood onto his skin but as I watched they closed into pale pink flesh. Hand shaking I touched my lips. They were slick with warm blood. With a scream of horror I fled into the dark.
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I ran full tilt until I was in my apartment an hour later. The exertion left me heaving as I paced the floor trying to understand what I'd done. I had fought a armed mugger that looked like he could break me with a pinky jab. Not only that but I'd overpowered him with ease. Drank his blood. Worse, I'd enjoyed the drinking, reveled in it. Just thinking about it sent shivers of heated pleasure through me.
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I shook myself free of the phantom sensations. With a hand I felt my teeth. Sure enough I found a pair of sharp fangs instead of the useless eye teeth most humans had. Fangs I had used to break that man's skin. They made the tears. They also brought me to a conclusion: I was a vampire.
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Well, shit. I flopped down onto the beat up couch in the living room. What the hell did you do when you suddenly find yourself a blood sucking mythological creature? There wasn't exactly a Vampires for Dummies guidebook that I could get.
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Letting out a puff of air I went to take a shower. I was covered in dirt, dried blood, and what could have been piss, besides, the hot water would calm me down. Shucking the soiled clothes into the hamper I looked myself over in the mirror to see my fangs. Surprisingly they were not all that pronounced. Perhaps a centimeter longer than they were before but wickedly sharp looking. The chomps weren't the only change, though. My irises were a darker green now, almost like late summer grass instead of the flinty green they were on my drivers license.
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I turned about once and concluded that I looked the same beyond teeth and eye color. My hair was still dark, my skin light, and my physique was still lean. Appraisal done I showered for an obscene amount of time only getting out when the hot water cut out.
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I went into the kitchen to check the time, towel tied around my waste, and found another surprise. The digital clock hanging above the fridge showed that it was a little past four a.m. But that was impossible. Unless I'd slept through an entire day. I must have and it made some sense, more sense than becoming a vampire. Wouldn't whatever happened to my body take time?
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Oh shit. Did that mean I'd spent some quality time out in the sun? Didn't vampires go poof in sunlight? What about the others stories? Was I going to hiss in terror at crosses and gag from the barest whiff of garlic? What about silver? Wait, wasn't that werewolves? Did they exist? I could see that being the case given my situation. Was I going to have to worry about running into other supernatural creatures?
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Taking a deep breath I settled myself. I needed to keep calm and find answers to my most immediate concerns. To that purpose I found a legal pad and pen and wrote down 'Vampire Myths' and listed under that heading garlic, silver, crosses, bible, and sunlight. Four out of five I could test to see what they did to me right away.
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I went to my room and dressed before opening the top drawer of my dresser. Inside was a family bible and a silver crucifix on a thin chain. Both were given to me by my grandfather before he passed away. Gingerly I picked up the crucifix by the chain and dangled it close to my face. When nothing happened I lowered the cross into my palm. Again nothing. Relieved I slipped the chain on and picked up the bible. I flipped it open and read a few passages aloud but felt no holy fire from on high coming down to smite me. So I didn't have to avoid churches or goth themed clubs and silver seemed to do jack all. Awesome.
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Three down, I went to the fridge and pulled out a clove of garlic. It was a few days old but I figured it was probably for the best. If it actually could hurt me the effects might be less severe from old garlic.
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Just touching the clove didn't seem to do anything so I sniffed it. Smelled like garlic. Made me think about cooking some spaghetti. Thinking it might be the juices that did the trick I cut the clove up with a steak knife and swirled my finger in the juice. I got nothing. As a final effort I popped a bit of clove in my mouth and chewed. It was not pleasant but no more than eating straight garlic should have been.
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With a shrug I started getting pots out to boil water in. Spaghetti really did sound good and I was curious to see if I could still eat. I'd read a few books featuring vamps that said they couldn't eat which would suck. While I was no where near being a gourmet I did love food. More the cooking than eating but that just meant I was a hit with the college students down the hall I gave the excess food too.
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I thought about what I needed to do now that I apparently needed to tap jugular veins to survive. The moral implications of the act. As I chopped more garlic and mixed it with a handful of burger for the sauce I wondered if the blood drinking was necessary. Maybe it was more like an addiction. If it was I could avoid drinking...yet that could be a dangerous idea. What if not drinking made me violent? Would I go through something akin to withdrawal and attack someone? I'd stopped myself from killing that mugger but would I be able to do that if I avoided blood for a long time? No, I knew I would lose control if I starved myself. Some dark part of me knew it and I realized that part was what kept me from draining that man: my conscience.
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By the time I dished my plate high with noodles and meat heavy tomato sauce I was determined that I needed to find a reliable way to get blood. Too bad I only knew about one method. At least the spaghetti tasted good.
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Two things about sunlight and vampires: direct exposure equals second degree burns and the moment the sun is fully above the horizon it's lights out. I barely had time to stick my hand into the first beams of light before jumping back, digits smoking and bubbling. Then I felt a bone deep fatigue dragging me to the ground. I managed to shut myself into the hall closet before passing out.
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Waking up was an instant process, like flicking a light switch. There was no grogginess or lingering dreams nor did I need coffee to get moving. I was awake in full the second the sun was down. That I was nose deep in a gym shoe upon waking sucked but hey, my hand was healed. Take the good with the bad.
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Over a breakfast, the hour not withstanding, of cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon I decided that I needed to get some supplies. Mainly a replacement phone, leather curtains for my room so I could sleep in my bed without fear of crisping during the day, and an almanac so I could know when sunrise and sunset were. Getting caught in the open at dawn was so not on my bucket list. There's a joke in there, I swear.
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After the meal and a shower I hit the streets in search of Verizon stores and craft shops. Late as it was I ended up sharing the sidewalks with several dozen people going about their business. The odd fact was that I could smell their blood as I walked past them. Okay, not that odd since I was a creature that fed on human blood. The good thing was that I didn't feel the need to eat anyone. Yeah, I was aware that they had blood to offer but I was content. A predator lazy on its last meal. Kinda like when you're full but have another slice of pizza on your plate. You could eat it but you don't really want to. Better to save it for later.
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Great. I was comparing people to grease laden convenience food. Go me.
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Before long I had a new phone and a few hundred dollars less in my wallet. There was half a dozen missed calls and one voice message waiting for me when I checked my messaging service. All were from my boss. Technically I was a freelance courier but Carter kept the work requests coming in thanks to his corporate connections. Oh and it was Tuesday, I'd gone to the park on Saturday. Fuck me.
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I listened to the message while standing at an alley mouth.
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"Orden, it's Carter. Where are you? It's been three days without a word from your end. Are you alright? Call me as soon as possible."
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Damn, Carter was worried about me. Shit. I dialed his number. As the night time administrator for Timely Courier, lame name, he would still be in his office. He picked up on the second ring.
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"Timely Courier, this is Carter speaking. What can we do for you today?" He gave the standard greeting with enough verve to make it sound genuine.
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"Hey, it's Orden. Just checking in." I said. There was a moment of silence on the other end before Carter blew out a sigh.
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"About damn time. What gives, Troy? Three whole days without a peep. Leena's been worried sick over your dumbass." I winced at the use of my first name and Leena. First, I preferred my middle name. Second, Leena was a fellow courier who had a heart of gold. We'd dated off and on for the past two years and I gotta admit, I wanted things to work this time around. I'd have to make some wooing actions...I blinked as I realized that romance could be a terrible idea. Did all my bits even work? Could I explain what had happened to me when I wasn't entirely sure myself?
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"There was a family emergency out of the city. I didn't think to call until now. Sorry." Every word a lie, except the last. "Look, I know this is sudden but I won't be able to take on any work for..." I tried to think of a good time frame but came up with nothing. "Not for a while."
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"Sounds serious. Take all the time you need," Carter said. There was a pause. Something was up.
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"What happened?" I asked after a good five count. Carter made a uncomfortable sound between a grunt and sigh.
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"She was crying, Leena was."
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"Earlier today. There's been three murders in the past week and it got to her. Coupled with your sudden disappearance..." Carter let the sentence trail off. He knew I got the point.
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"Is she at the office?" I asked rubbing my temples. I'd caused Leena to cry. Again. Damn it.
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"No. It's been slow so I suggested she take the day off. She's probably at home."
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"Thanks. I'm going to drop in on her. Thanks for the heads up."
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"No problem. Let me know if you need anything. Bye." The line went dead and I pocketed the phone. Feeling like an ass for something I couldn't have stopped I grabbed a cab uptown to the condo Leena shared with a roommate. It was a nice place, well kept, and more expensive than I wanted to think about.
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I let myself in after a perfunctory knock at the door. The decor was simple but elegant which meant white and black walls and floor with colorful furniture. It worked. Leena sat on the bright red couch in the living room. She got up and came over to greet me as I shut the door.
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"You're alright?" She asked. "Carter told me you were coming over." Her smile was weak and she fidgeted as she looked at me.
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"Yeah. I'm alright. Just had something urgent come up." I tucked one of her blonde locks behind her ear. She pulled away slightly. I felt a sting.
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"Family emergency outside of town."
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"Is that all I get to know? A family emergency?" Her voice went up an octave as she spoke, her eyes moist, but in anger or hurt I couldn't tell.
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I raised my hands to ward off her words. "I'm sorry. I should've called."
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"I don't even know who your family is. We've known each other for over two years. Don't I warrant a little more than vague explanations after all this time?"
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"Leena, I'm sorry. You're right, you deserve more. It's just," and this was a grain of truth, "my family and I don't get along. In fact I normally wouldn't go within miles of my parents. I don't want the relationship between my parents and I to effect us."
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The silence stretched tight as I waited for Leena to say something. I willed her to believe me about my parents. God knows I was telling her the truth.
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"It's already effected us, Orden. I've met someone else. I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you earlier but," there were tears in her eyes as she spoke, "you weren't here. You disappeared without a word. I felt so guilty. Like I made you go. But you came back and it's over. I can't be with you anymore."
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I stared at her unsure of what to say or do? We'd broken up before, yes, but always under the label of taking a break. Short breaks at that, rarely longer than a week. There had never been "someone else". Never words as final as "can't be with you." But this time there was.
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"Say something," Leena said as tears trailed down from the corners of her eyes.
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"What can I say? It's done. We're done. And I'm to tired to fight for us right now." I could feel a lump at the base of my throat as I decided to let her go. "I'll come back tomorrow to pack up my stuff. Goodnight."
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I left the condo feeling cold.ns18.104.22.168da2