The city of Las Vegas has become a battlefield for the vampires. It's not safe to leave your house alone, especially at night. But they can't all be bad... can they?
“Ryan, you know it’s not safe to be out past sunset.” Spencer stood in the kitchen, hip cocked, arms folded over his chest. It was the classic “you better do whatever the fuck I tell you to do, Ross” stance, and I had the sneaking suspicion that Spencer had been practicing it ever since we met. The guy was younger than me and for some reason I still let him boss me around and go ultra mother hen mode on me, but I chalked that up to not being able to say no to his precious baby face. It was even worse now that we shared an apartment, and he hounded me relentlessly that I needed to “act like an adult” and “do my share of the chores” and “take out the trash”. Whatever that meant.
“It’s just one shift, Spence,” I reassured him, sliding my keys off the counter. “I’ll be off by ten, and the shop is only like fifteen minutes away. I’ll come straight home. You’re too paranoid, you know that?”
“I’m just worried, you know? They tell you not to go out after sunset for a reason, Ry. You’ve seen the reports.”
“I’ll be perfectly fine. I just have to cover the one shift, it won’t be a regular thing. Nothing’s gonna happen the one time I go out during dark.”
Spencer didn’t seem convinced, but it wasn’t like he could actually stop me from going to work. And it wasn’t like I really had a choice, either, because we all know that what the boss says, goes. So I told Spencer not to wait up for me and noisily made my way down the precarious metal stairs outside our apartment building. It wasn’t the nicest of places, but in my opinion it was worth it to live in the only area of Las Vegas with any real culture. The art district.
I walked down to the tiny driveway and climbed into my car, the pride and joy of my entire existence, basically. She was a cream 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, and I’d restored her all by myself on my meager wages as a music store clerk. You might say I was an obsessive proud father.
Although it was still relatively light outside, with the sun just beginning to show the faintest hints of setting, I could see as I drove down the street that most of the stores were beginning to close, and the pedestrians walked quickly with their eyes to the pavement, and the other drivers were on edge and almost frenzied. I knew that things had gotten bad, but there’d only been five or six incidents this week in this part of town, where most neighborhoods had five or six a night. All in all I wasn’t honestly that worried about anything, and I made it to my workplace unscathed, as long as you didn’t count the dirty looks thrown my way for seeming overly cheerful.
When I pulled up, Haley was in the process of plastering posters all over the windows advertising local shows for the next few weeks. I pulled up right behind her and laid on the horn, laughing when she dropped the papers in her arms and jumped about ten feet in the air. Suffice it to say that she was Not Pleased when I got out of the car, and I paid for it with a punch to the arm and the order to finish up the posters. I didn’t complain, seeing as it was kind of a dick thing of me to do and I deserved it. Haley was my manager. She was pretty cool, and dealt with a lot of my bullshit that really she shouldn’t have to deal with.
“So, how’s it hangin?” I asked, plastering up a flyer.
“To the right,” she responded, taking a seat on the hood of my car and pulling out a cigarette. Which, hey, no.
“Yo, off the car,” I told her, brandishing a rolled up poster at her. “You’ll dent my baby.”
“Up yours,” she said with a swift middle finger.
“Is that a promise?” I winked, grinning.
“Wow, you are truly a huge gay.”
“You love me.” I finished up with the posters, and she finished up with her cigarette, and eventually we went inside. “So, remind me again why I’m taking this lame ass night shift?” I asked.
“Because. No one got their work done today and you’re the only one who’s not too pussy shit to be here late. Like, seriously, this place is a dump and there’s mismatched CD’s everywhere and three of our guitars have broken strings and the piano is way out of tune. Like way.”
“Yeahyeah, I’ll take care of it, don’t worry.” I smiled and returned her punch from earlier, only about ten times softer because she’s my boss.
“Great.” She shoved her things into her purse and slung it over her shoulder. “You can probably lock up after I leave, I don’t imagine we’ll be having any customers. And thanks for doing this.”
“No prob, boss lady.” She laughed and kissed my cheek, and I kissed hers, and I walked her out to her car.
“Hey, Haley, could you do me a solid?”
“Sure, what’s up kid?”
“Swing by my place and let your idiot of a boyfriend know that I got here okay? He practically oozes paranoia out of every pore.”
“Sure thing, gotcha covered.”
“Thanks.” I smiled and went back into the shop, sighing and leaning against a wall. She hadn’t been exaggerating when she said the place was a dump. I had no idea why she even kept my coworkers around, seeing as they had no idea how to do one single thing right.
I scrolled through the music on my phone and put on my cleaning playlist, a nice list of motivating songs that I usually reserved for when I pissed Spencer off and he made me do all the chores myself. It was basically Katy Perry’s entire discography. With that playing I sorted through all the mismatched CDs, all the time wondering how that even happened. Like it’s not that hard to put a CD back in its original case. And why were they even out in the first place? Life’s hard questions.
After that I restrung all the guitars, even the ones without snapped strings, because the dunce in charge of the guitars actually had no idea how to do it right and that’s why so many strings were snapping. Then came the piano, which honestly took longer than I expected. Partly because of the fact that I didn’t know much about pianos, and partly because some jackass had been using the inside of the piano as a stash for their Cheez-its and Mountain Dew. We weren’t supposed to have food or anything in the store because god forbid we dirty up the instruments, but some jackasses just had to be rebels. Or something. I don’t know why jackasses were jackasses. So I got to spend an extra hour collecting all the cans and crumbs that had found their way into the cracks of the piano and stuffing it all in a trash bag. It was the last thing I had to get done, and a quick glance at the clock told me I was already running later than I had told Spencer. It was already eleven, and wow, he was going to tear me a new asshole when I got home.
I tied off the garbage bag and headed out the side door. It was eerily quiet outside, and dark. It was always so weird to go outside at night now. No one dared turn their lights on, there were no cars, no sounds of the city. Like the city had died. I kind of hated it a lot.
I walked around the corner of the building to the back, where the dumpsters were. One single flood light illuminated the area, which I never understood because why would you need lights for dumpsters? Last time I checked they didn’t get scared of the dark or anything. I wasn’t paying much attention as I approached, mainly trying to think of ways I was going to explain being late to Spencer, and I didn’t see the guy sitting against the wall until I’d tossed the bag into the dumpster. I saw him out the corner of my eye, at first, and initially I thought it was just a homeless dude hanging out there. I turned to him, intent on telling him to scram and find somewhere a bit more safe to hang out, but that’s when I noticed the eyes. Those eyes, solid black and dead and heartless. And then the teeth, furnished with two glowing fangs, stained with red, set against paper white skin.
I immediately cried out and stumbled back, prepared to run, but the thing didn’t make a move to pursue. I backed up a few more feet and just stared at it. It was normal enough looking, a boy around my age with dark brown, almost black hair. It was breathing hard, and as I noticed this I noticed also that its hands were clamped tightly over its side. Red stained its hoodie.
So the thing was hurt. I took a step closer, and its eyes set on me. I registered fear, and as I approached, it tried hard to stand, and when that failed, to scoot away.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” I said softly, trying to keep my mild fear out of my voice. “Or call the cops.” Whenever you saw a vampire (though I have no idea if that’s what they were, it’s just what everyone called them) you were supposed to call the cops, and they’d bring along their special squad to come down and “save you” or whatever. That basically meant they’d gun the thing down.
It looked unsure, but stopped trying to get away, which might have been just because it was too weak. I kneeled next to it, paused, and then pulled one of its hands away from its side. It’s skin was cold, and clammy, almost like a corpse. It gave me the heebie jeebies and I wondered if it’d be a better idea just to leave the thing to die. When I finally got it to stop holding onto its side the blood flowed heavier, and I felt nausea stir up in my stomach. Embedded firmly right below its ribcage was a thick wooden stake.
“Ah, shit,” I mumbled. I pushed at it with two fingers, as gently as I could, just to see how loose it was, and the thing yelled, grabbing onto my arm hard and squeezing its eyes shut. Startled, I jumped up and stumbled backwards again, heart racing. I could see tears collecting at the corner of its eyes, chest heaving.
So it was in pain, real pain, and it was weak, and scared too. While I’d seen the stories on tv, and knew how dangerous they could be, I couldn’t let myself just leave it sitting by a dumpster in that state. To be honest, I was scared, scared out of my wits, but I knew it’d eat at me for ages if I didn’t help it.
“I’ll be right back,” I told him – the longer I was with him the less I thought of him less as an “it” and more as a person – and quickly went back into the store. In the back room I found a box of cleaning cloths, clean ones, and grabbed a few, along with alcohol and big butterfly bandages from the first aid kit. I had no idea if nursing was the same for vampires as it was for humans, or even similar, but I felt inclined to try. Like if a hurt puppy showed up at your doorstep or something.
But when I went back outside, he was gone.
The drive home was eerie. Dark and abandoned and perfectly silent, the city seemed almost post apocalyptic. I felt like I was being watched, and I kept thinking I saw people on the street, just fleeting glances out the corner of my eye that looked like the back of someone’s head, a foot just turning a corner. Eyes shining in the glow of my headlights. It was terrifying, considering the events of the night, and when I got back to the apartment I sprinted up the stairs like an Olympic runner during the last five seconds of the race. I let myself in and closed the door immediately behind me, locking it and sliding the deadbolt into place. Letting myself breathe again, finally, I walked through the dark apartment into the living room, where I could hear the hum of the tv. Spencer was sitting on the couch hugging a pillow, “watching” some infomercial, though I’m pretty sure he had no idea what was on the screen.
“Hey,” I greeted him, and he jumped slightly and turned his eyes to me.
“Ryan, god, do you know what time it is?” He jumped up.
“12:36,” I told him in a very matter-of-fact tone, something he hated.
“You said you’d be done by ten! I was scared you were dead!”
“I’m fine, I’m fine, sheesh. I told you nothing would happen.”
I resolved to tell him nothing about the hurt vampire I’d seen, knowing he’d only freak out more. “Did Haley come by?”
“Yeah,” Spencer sighed as he turned the lamp on. “I know you think I’m weirdly paranoid, and like, maybe I am, but. I don’t know. It was good to know you got there safe.”
“I don’t know why you’re so freaked out by all this,” I told him. “Nothing’s gonna happen to either of us. Or Haley. You know? We’re all safe.”
“Yeah yeah. I just. I just worry.” Spencer shrugged and walked down the hall to the bedroom.
I knew he was just freaked out by everything he’d seen on the news lately, hell, everyone was. But the kid was getting stressed out and he was gonna end up giving himself a heart attack or something. I decided not to tease him too much for it anymore, and turned out the lamp.
The next morning I decided to get up early and make Spencer breakfast as a kind of “sorry for staying out really late when you didn’t want me to leave in the first place and then not calling you to tell you I was okay or to tell you that I was gonna be late” thing. I made his favorite, French toast stuffed with nutella (I am an Iron Chef) with bananas and caramel everywhere. I even made coffee and didn’t help myself to any until he’d finished his first cup. I am a great friend, that’s why.
“So, whatcha wanna do today?” I asked him as I sat at the table across from him. Both of us had the day off.
“Dunno. Movies? I hear that Looper is supposed to be fantastic.”
“Yeah! I wanted to see that.” I smiled, and he smiled back, and I supposed that my apology in the form of food was well-received.
When he was done he went into the living room and sat down on the couch, and turned on the news. I plopped down next to him and slung my legs over his lap, settling into the couch and effectively taking up my deserved 95% of the space. He swatted my knee in a pathetic attempt at retaliation, and I just rolled my eyes. I wasn’t too keen on watching the news, but Spencer made a valiant effort to keep up on the daily happenings of the city, and really, I didn’t like to piss him off. So I kept my mouth shut and watched the boring ass news with him like the good person that I was.
I was pretty zoned out of it most of the time, as usual, but suddenly the current news story came into focus.
“…evidence of vampire activity on the corner of 2nd and Fremont. It was found in the empty lot behind a local music store and was believed to have been created last night. The reported evidence includes large bloodstains in the dirt, along with a number of large wooden stakes. It is believed to be the remains of a family rivalry dispute which has been under investigation in the past three months. Authorities who inspected the scene believe that there was a vampire severely injured, and strongly caution citizens against going near it, not only because it is a dangerous creature but for fear of invoking the wrath of the rival family…”
Spencer turned to Ryan, mouth open. “That’s right behind your work! Holy shit, and you were there, and oh my god, you could have been hurt! Did you hear anything? See anything?! Holy shit…”
“Spence, calm down, it was probably after I left! I didn’t see anything. Or hear anything, it’s fine.”
“They could have killed you!”
“And yet I’m here alive!” I sighed. I loved the kid but man could he overreact. Although, it wasn’t much of an overreaction if he’d known what had actually happened. “I’m not gonna be doing the night shift again, Haley promised. It was a one time thing, don’t worry. Now. Why don’t we get ready to go see that movie. And we can get lunch afterwards. Forget about all this stuff.”
Spencer smiled a little. “Yeah, okay.”
When we were ready and I finally managed to get Spencer out of the house (he was almost as big of a primadonna as me and he totally refused to leave the bathroom until he was absolutely sure that his hair was p e r f e c t) we walked down to where my car was parked absolutely crooked in the driveway. Cute. I unlocked the doors, and frowned when I saw something underneath one of the windshield wipers. That wasn’t there before. I picked up the piece of folded cardstock, nice, heavy paper, and unfolded it to read the perfect calligraphy. Who the fuck had that nice of handwriting?
“Do not leave the house alone. Do not leave the house at night. They saw you last night, they know where you live, and they want to kill you.”
I felt the color drain from my face as I realized I basically just had a death threat served to me via vampire. There was no way that this could be from the vampire I’d tried to help, yet I had no idea who else it could be from. And who wanted to kill me? Holy shit. Suffice it to say I was a little terrified.
“What’s that?” Spencer asked, coming up behind me to look. I folded the paper back up and stuck it in my back pocket, managing a smile. “Nothing, someone just wanted to buy the car.”
“Ah. Well, sucks for them. I know you’ll never part with this thing.”
“Right.” I laughed a little and got in the car, waiting for Spencer to get in before pulling out of the driveway and heading towards the theatre. I felt paranoid and more than a little on edge. The news had even said not to help an injured vampire, coincidentally the day after I had tried to do just that, and now I was the target of some vampire mafia death threat. Like I said, a little terrified.
Things got even worse when that evening, Spencer told me he was gonna spend the night at Haley’s and would be back tomorrow. That left me alone, all night. Holy shit.
The first thing I did when he left was turn on every single light in the apartment. Then I locked the door, and the back balcony door, and all the windows. Then I got a big fluffy blanket and curled up on the couch and watched Parks and Recreation reruns like a teenage girl. Yeah yeah, I get it, I’m a little bitch. So what.
The sun set and nothing happened, and it was dark for hours, and still nothing happened. I kind of lulled myself into a false sense of security and even ventured into the kitchen for a beer. But as soon as I turned my back to the front door to walk back into the living room, three sharp knocks broke the silence and I froze. Oh shit.
to be continued