A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the 20th chapter of it. Let me know what you think about it. You find a Facebook comment form below the text. I post each new chapter when it is completed. The first chapter is here: Chapter One
Playing It Safe
When they leave the youth shelter and stroll down the street, dusk has already turned into night. Between the street lights, they are covered by shadows. The traffic is not that heavy anymore and the sidewalk is gradually deserted. Caroline and Reuben walk hand in hand, with Aaron beside them. Caroline waits until they have the youth shelter out of sight, before she speaks.
"So, Aaron, you're also..."
"A vampire? Yes," he replies with a grin. "I know Reuben doesn't like that word, but I don't care."
"She doesn't really believe in us," Reuben says, his voice weak compared to that of Aaron.
"Sure she believes. Can't you see that? She just doesn't want to. At least not with you, Reuben."
Caroline ignores his words.
"Aaron, what are you doing at a youth shelter?"
"Are you kidding? It's perfect! I'm a youth - at least according to my gorgeous looks. There, I can live as I do, without anyone wondering. They think I'm stuck in drugs and prostitution, so they don't question my sleeping during the days and staying out all night. And at the shelter, I can feed as much as I want."
"At great risk!" Reuben butts in with a voice suddenly more forceful.
"Oh, I don't bite just anybody. Not the kids who've been around. After a few tricks, they're bound to have caught something, I know. But the new ones, fresh from suburbia."
"With them, too, there's a risk."
Aaron shrugs his shoulders and turns to Caroline.
"Listen to him. Always so concerned. Reuben plays it safe, only feeding from virgins."
Caroline halts and glares at Reuben. Aaron laughs.
"Didn't you know that? Reuben has made it a rule only to feed on virgins, who are sure not to have caught anything. But I say that's just because he is one, himself. You know what they say: it takes one to recognize one."
Reuben blushes, his pale cheeks turning distinctly red. He looks away. Caroline lets go of his hand.
"What is it you're so afraid to catch?" she wonders.
Aaron strokes her cheek lightly.
"You're a doll, Caroline. Never heard of sexually transmitted diseases?"
"Of course I have. But if you're vampires, why would that worry you?"
"Consider our diet," Aaron explains. "We feed on blood. We get all the shit transmitted through bodily fluids, and that's always the worst shit. Especially to us. Because of our diet, we're extremely sensitive to these things."
"Like AIDS? That too?"
"Especially that! It's killed off at least half of us, already, and it's not over yet. It's a plague that may eradicate our kind completely. When a vampire gets contaminated, it's not a question of years or even months. It can kill in a day. Right, Reuben?"
Reuben nods, still turned away.
"It's a horrible death for a vampire," Aaron goes on. His smile is replaced by a grim expression and his voice deepens. "I've watched it happen. The body starts to decay so quickly, you can actually see it. They rot from inside. And their skin dries until it cracks up, so they bleed from hundreds of small wounds. And the pain... They scream until their throats collapse. Then there's just a gurgle and sort of a hissing. But you see in their eyes that the pain doesn't stop. Not until they fall flat on the floor. They're not dead just yet. That takes time for a vampire. But they lose consciousness, which is a blessing I guess. After that, they just decompose. That kills them, finally."
He shudders. Caroline ponders what she's heard.
"Then you can't have drunk my brother's blood, Reuben."
Now it's Aaron's turn to be surprised. He halts in the middle of a step.
"Your brother's got AIDS?"
"Had. He's dead now," Caroline replies, her eyebrows twisting. "He didn't die as quickly from it as your kind does, but I'm not sure it was any advantage. I saw the pain, the horror!"
"I'm sorry to hear that," Aaron tells her gently and then waits for a while before continuing. "And how about you?"
Caroline makes an ugly face, shows her teeth and growls. Aaron laughs.
"Serves me right. What am I thinking? Reuben feeds on you, doesn't he? That's like a golden seal of approval. Maybe you'll allow me a small bite, as well?"
Reuben turns his head and stares furiously right at Aaron, who stumbles, his face twitching in sudden pain. Reuben looks down before Caroline can see his expression.
"Just kidding," Aaron mumbles and struggles to get his smile back up.
They walk in silence for a while. Caroline takes no initiative to hold Reuben's hand anew. Nor does he. After a few more steps on the sidewalk, he sticks his hands deep down the pockets of his coat. But they walk side by side, with Aaron a couple of steps ahead of them.
By each block they pass there is less of traffic in the streets, until cars appear so rarely that there are moments of compact silence between them. The light from many windows of the houses pierces the darkness, but doesn't reach to chase away the shadows where the three walk. Only the street lights manage that, when they pass them, and the headlights of the sparse cars on the road. There are no shops in the buildings, nor is there any sign of offices in them.
Caroline frequently looks up at the buildings they walk by, without spotting any people behind the windows. From several of them, though, there is the flickering light of mixed colors that can only come from TV screens. The sidewalks are empty, except for a couple of joggers and some people walking their dogs.
Aaron leads Caroline and Reuben down a dark alley, where the houses are little more than ruins and none of their windows are lit.
"Where are you taking us, Aaron?" Caroline inquires.
"I thought I'd show you how we live. The secret life of vampires. It's not that glorious, I know, but still."
"It's not a secret anymore if you show it to me," Caroline says teasingly.
"Sure it is. Just one more person in on it."
"What if I tell?"
"You're a teen - who will listen to you? Otherwise, Reuben would never have revealed himself to you. He's a careful one."
"He didn't. I woke up, taking him by surprise."
Aaron's eyes wander from Caroline to Reuben and back again.
"Did you, now? A dream woke you up?"
Aaron turns to Reuben, who is obviously uncomfortable with the conversation.
"How long, Reuben? Weeks?"
"He said that he'd been at our house for nine months," Caroline replies.
"That must be some kind of record, Reuben. Why didn't she wake up sooner, I wonder?"
"I'm a heavy sleeper," Caroline butts in, trying to be cheerful. But she inspects the alley ahead of them with some trepidation.
Aaron still looks at Reuben, oblivious to Caroline's words.
"Me, I can make it for a couple of weeks, at the most. No matter how much I huff and puff."
"I didn't feed on her every night," Reuben mutters.
"Oh, I think you did." He turns to Caroline, pointing a finger at Reuben. "That bloodsucker, there, he sure is attached to you. I wonder how much longer you'll stay a virgin - both of you."
He laughs and rushes ahead into the alley.
"Come on, Caroline!" he calls out to her. "I'll get you to meet some of Reuben's kind."
They follow him to the end of the alley, where Aaron opens an unmarked door to an old building. Its torn wall has no windows, but layers of fading graffiti. Reuben halts.
"Are you sure this is such a good idea, Aaron?" he asks.
"Of course it is," Aaron replies cheerfully. "She wants to know and she deserves to know, after nine months of being your provisions." He holds the door up to Caroline and bows. "Welcome to the netherworld."
All the chapters posted so far: