What Josh didn’t know—what no one who wrote vampire stories seemed to know either—was that getting bitten by a vampire was exactly like sex.
The bite itself didn’t feel like much because the fangs were so sharp. But once the teeth were in and sucking the blood out of you, a pleasurable wave of warmth washed over you, orgasmic and post-coital at the same time. Colin said it was something in vampire saliva, a kind of a drug that vampires themselves were immune to. Vampires really didn’t feed on fear or get turned on by it—or at least your average vampire didn’t, according to Colin—and this natural chemical guaranteed a pliable victim more than happy to let you kill them.
Of course, Josh didn’t want to die, which was why he’d put off letting Colin bite him until tonight. Yeah, Colin hadn’t ever tried to bite him without permission, which had earned him bit of trust, but still Josh couldn’t help being nervous. How could he have known Colin was being honest with him? He was a vampire, after all. Maybe all the myths weren’t true—and how could they be, as several of them were contradictory?—but Colin wasn’t exactly human anymore, and Josh seemed to have some kind of natural human bias. He’d thought the store was ridding him of that, but obviously not fast enough.
Josh was actually kind of disappointed when the drug effect started to fade, reminding him where he was: on the roof of the Quik-Mart, enjoying the warm night. The sky above was dark and only randomly speckled with faint stars, as there was too much light pollution to see more. Though the Quik-Mart was pretty alone here since the Nifty Lube across the street had shut down and the Waffle Shack had moved to a bigger location. The Quik-Mart was the only sign of civilization for about two miles in any direction. Maybe the hell portal was unconsciously driving everyone else away.
It had been a relatively warm night, but now the breeze had a cool bite that made him shudder, and seemed to make the high fade. Also, he was starting to feel the gravel under him, beneath the thin blanket.
Josh couldn’t remember if they had or hadn’t fucked. Right now, all he could remember was agreeing to let Colin bite him, and then everything had become wonderfully hazy. It was like riding on a wave of liquid ecstasy.
His eyes finally focused on Colin staring down at him. “Are you okay?” Colin asked.
“You never told me getting bitten was this awesome.”
“Yes I did. You just never believed me.”
“Well . . .” he didn’t know what to say that. So instead he worked on sitting up, which took him a moment, and even then Colin had to help him. Colin was shirtless, showing off his lean, muscular chest that had just a bit of hair, and while he was pale, it was “computer programmer” pale, not “deep sea albino fish” pale or “high school Goth girl” pale, which was good. Josh wasn’t racist at all, but guys who were too white seemed a little icky.
Colin was buttoning up his jeans as Josh watched. He raised an eyebrow, and asked, “Are you back yet?”
“Yeah, course I am,” Josh said, looking down and noticing for the first time he was naked. Oh wow—had they really had sex? How could he have no memory of it? “I think being bitten by a vampire is the best drug I’ve ever had. You should market it.”
“And acknowledge we exist? No thanks. From what I understand, you humans have weird myths about us.”
Josh found his underwear and pulled it on by scooting around a bit. It was the best he could do right now, as he wasn’t sure he could stand just yet. You know, it wasn’t that he sometimes didn’t smoke pot with his roommate—although no one enjoyed smoking a bowl as much as Doug—but he had never been much for drugs, just because they always seemed to be hyped as more enjoyable than they actually were. But right now, he was pretty sure he was majorly fucked up, and holy shit, would he do it again in a heartbeat. “Like what? You drink blood.”
“Yeah, but I don’t burst into flames in daylight, and why the fuck would any sane being sleep in a coffin? That’s just messed up.”
Josh considered what he’d said as the words sank in slowly, like his brain was suddenly molasses. “I thought you said you didn’t like sunlight.”
“I don’t, but that’s just ‘cause I burn easy.”
“I thought you just said—”
“I mean sunburn, Josh, not catch fire.”
“Whatever you say, undead boy.” Josh finally spotted his pants in a crumbled up ball about ten feet away. Never had ten feet seemed so far. “Um, so when do I come down?”
Colin had finished with his jeans, and now seemed to be looking for his boots. So much for the “vampires could see in the dark” myth. “Good question. I’m not really sure, time runs different here. I didn’t take that much, though.”
“You better not’ve. That was the deal.” Josh rubbed his neck, searching for puncture marks. Colin had said that the same thing in their saliva that functioned as a drug could also speed healing, so most victims’ bites healed up right away. Given the right circumstances, vampires could feed on people with them being none the wiser. Now that Josh had experienced it for himself, he could only imagine that would work if the person bitten was drunk, high, or asleep. Or the vampire was having sex with them. They’d think they’d had the best high, sleep, or sex of their life. Or all three at once. Josh felt like all of those things had just happened to him.
“Bothered by the yeti lately?” Colin asked, presumably trying to be conversational. Was there anything weirder than post-coital small talk? Or maybe it was just him.
“It’s come around once or twice. Don’t worry, I haven’t accepted any gifts.” He didn’t tell Colin, but he was sort of flattered by the attention, and the yeti actually seemed kind of sweet in an oversized, insanely-powerful-monster sort of way. Like Frankenstein, but fuzzy.
There was a scuffling noise down below, and Colin looked over the edge of the building. After a moment, he slapped the wall and yelled, “Get!”
Josh didn’t even need to ask, although he did anyway. “Are the werewolves back again?”
Colin sighed loudly, shaking his head at whatever he was looking down at, which was probably a werewolf peeing on a car. “Yeah. What pests.” Glaring down, he shouted, “Go home, you fleabags! Don’t you have some hikers to maul?”
It had been a bad werewolf night. It wasn’t true they came out during full moons; they seemed to come out whenever the hell they wanted, and they were tremendous pains in the ass. They were basically big, ugly dogs. Oh sure, they could probably wolf you if they bit you, but for the most part they just chased cars and peed everywhere, although sometimes when they caught a car they tore it to pieces. Wasn’t as bad as tearing people to pieces, Josh supposed.
They liked to hang around the cars they damaged—many of which were so trashed they got abandoned in the parking lot, making the Quik-Mart look busier than it actually was.
But they rarely if ever came into the store. They just prowled the parking lot, digging through the dumpster and using bumpers as chew toys. Even the zombies seemed to dislike them, and the zombies didn’t dislike—or react to— much of anything. Colin once said werewolves were the sewer rats of the supernatural world, and while Josh thought maybe that was some kind of vampire vanity, he was beginning to see his point. He would love to arrive at the Quik-Mart one day and not find the outside ice machine reeking like a flophouse mattress. And don’t even get him started on the piles of werewolf poop! Not only did they stink like really bad dog turds, they were also twice the size, and often had recognizable chunks of things in them—bumper hitches and rocks and Taco Bell wrappers, and occasionally a finger. He wanted to leash and muzzle the lot of them, but he wasn’t brave enough to try.
Annoyance seemed to take the edge off the haze, so Josh was able to crawl over to his pants and retrieve them. He wasn’t quite ready to stand up, though, so he had to squirm into them. “There’s no, like, werewolf repellant?”
“Not that I know of,” Colin replied. “They don’t like silver, but they’re so stupid they all but have to lick it to even determine what it is. If you were to be honest, you’d call them weredogs, not wolves, but I don’t make up the labels.”
“So if they bite you, you become a werewolf?”
Colin looked back at him with a shrug. “I have no idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a venereal disease.”
“Ouch.” Finally finished squirming on his pants, Josh started looking around for his shirt. They hadn’t accidentally thrown it off the roof, had they? “So how did you get turned into a vampire anyways? You’ve never said.”
Colin shrugged on his shirt, covering up the nice view of his chest. “I don’t remember.”
“C’mon, pull the other one.”
“No, Josh, I really don’t,” he said, reaching down to scoop Josh’s T-shirt from the shadows. “I know I existed before being a vampire, but I don’t recall any of it. I just woke up a vampire one day.”
Was Colin finally lying to him? But why? Had he been such a horrible person when he’d been human that he didn’t want to admit it, or was becoming a vampire so traumatic he couldn’t relive it? Josh wished he knew more about Colin so he could judge accordingly, but all he knew was he was a fucking hot guy who liked candy bars and old punk rock. Oh, and that according to his own estimation, he was “probably” three hundred years old. Actually, a lack of memory explained the probably in that sentence. “Hey. You know, I can’t remember having sex. Do ya think the process that turns you into a vampire, like, floods you with the drug? That would explain why you can’t remember.”
Colin looked at him with a scowl, eyebrows dipping low over his eyes as he tossed him his T-shirt. “I— wow. I never thought of it that way before,” Colin admitted, sounding oddly subdued. “I think you’re onto something there. I figured it was just ‘cause I was so fucking old.” He scratched his head. “You can’t remember us having sex? You mean, just now?”
“Yeah. Should I have?”
“Well, yeah! I —”
Whatever else Colin said was drowned out by a loud engine noise that could only belong to a motorcycle. A couple of them, by the sound of it. There was also another sound, something like a yip, and Colin spun on his heels to look down. Josh pulled on his shirt, sufficiently awake now to crawl to the edge of the building.
In retrospect, what had he thought he was going to see? It was just four men on motorcycles pulling into the parking lot, wearing leather and denims and looking as disreputable as you might expect. Two wore helmets, but in defiance of helmet laws, the other two didn’t. The werewolves had retreated to the shadows, which they usually did when presented with something loud and moving.
Technically, it was Josh’s “lunch hour” (really a fifteen-minute midnight snack), and the “Back in Fifteen Minutes” sign was still on the locked door. Honestly, Josh had no idea if it had been fifteen minutes or two hours, but he wasn’t about to scramble to open up for a bunch of guys who might just be there to rob him. Well, attempt to rob him. Colin was here and probably wouldn’t let that happen.
“Are they armed?” Josh asked Colin as they watched the helmetless bikers set their kickstands and walk toward the front of the shop.
Colin audibly sniffed, but eventually just shook his head. “I dunno. All I can smell is wolf piss.”
The men were within five feet of the doors when the bald one, whose head looked like a shaved, pitted coconut from up here, stopped and said, “Shee-it, look at the size of that dog.”
One of the uglier werewolves was hanging around in the little sliver of light coming through the store windows. There never was much, as signs advertising goods and sales usually meant no light got in or out of the Quik-Mart; it was the retail equivalent of a black hole. But somehow this wolf found the only weak point. It was the color of those dust bunnies Josh sometimes found under his bed, and maybe three feet high at the shoulder, and nearly twice as long. Its fur was so ratty it looked like it might have chewed through an electric cable and gotten the shock of its life a few minutes ago.
The friend of the coconut-headed biker looked at it with a cocked head. He had a pretty epic dirty blond mullet going on and a beer gut that hung over his belt enough to look slightly pregnant from the aerial view. “Ain’t no fuckin’ way that’s a dog, man. I think it’s some kind of coyote.”
Amazing Mullet Man shrugged. “I’ve heard there’s been some strange shit around here lately.”
Coconut Skull scratched his pate. “What, loose zoo animals?”
The two helmeted bikers, still with their bikes, chuckled derisively.
“Naw, just weird shit, like . . . aliens and shit,” Mullet said.
“Aliens? Now yer makin’ shit up.”
“No man, haven’t you been keepin’ up with Paranoid America?”
Colin leaned over and whispered in Josh’s ear, “What the hell are they talking about?”
It was strange, but Colin, if he didn’t use hair products, generally smelled like old parchment. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was kind of weird. “Paranoid America is one of those reality shows,” Josh whispered back. “It’s on one of those cable channels that was trying to be educational but gave up when they realized there was no money in it. It talks about aliens and ghosts and stuff like that, generally insisting there’s a conspiracy to keep it quiet or something. It’s pretty dumb.”
Colin nodded, his driftwood-colored hair shifting to cover his eyes in a strangely sexy way. “There’s no conspiracy. Reality itself rejects us.”
That gave Josh pause. “Huh?”
“Reality rejects us. We’re not really supposed to be here, so in the light of day, when the portal’s gone, everybody forgets it exists—and that we exist—at all. It’s the vampire’s drug writ large.”
“I remember. Mr. Kwon remembers.”
Colin gazed at him through a fringe of hair, his chocolate eyes showing just a hint of something metallic beneath. When he went full vamp, his eyes became the colors of new pennies, and . . . that’s all Josh could remember. Either it was vamp saliva again, or maybe they had some kind of hypnosis power Colin hadn’t admitted yet. “Yes, but you’re different.”
Josh waited for Colin to throw him one of his crooked half smiles that indicated he was joking, but Colin went back to staring at the bikers and the werewolf. “Wait, what do you mean I’m different?”
It was then that Josh noticed the noise, so weird he wasn’t even sure what he was hearing. It was a brushing sound, only amplified, like a thousand people were using old-fashioned whisk brooms to clean the street. And it was getting louder.
Even Colin was looking around. “What is that?” Josh asked, looking up into the sky. Maybe it was some weird-ass kind of helicopter.
Below, the bikers were all looking around too, but it wasn’t just them. The werewolves had stopped their lurking and secret encircling of the men and now had their muzzles raised to the sky, sniffing the air.
“I don’t know,” Colin said, and there was something about his voice that made Josh look at him. Colin’s posture was suddenly stiff, his spine as rigid as a stripper pole, and his eyes had that new penny glow about them. If his vampire side was coming out to play, things couldn’t be good.
The noise was so loud now it was nearly deafening, and the night seemed suddenly darker. Josh looked up again, and the fingernail sliver of the moon that had been visible a minute ago was gone.
“Did the moon just disappear?” Josh asked. Yes, it sounded insane, but this job had taught him very little actually was insane. It’s just there were a handful of things that were totally impossible.
. . . Weren’t there?
Colin looked up sharply at where the moon used to be, and made a slight hissing noise. Josh looked again, and this time, he saw something moving. His first thought was it was a giant snake, black on black so it was little more than movement, but how could a snake be so large it blotted out the moon? The more it moved, the more he was able to make out its shape, and Josh finally decided it probably wasn’t a snake. It was more like a big M, only obviously not the letter, because letters weren’t gigantic sentient things. Were they? No, couldn’t be. Colin would have mentioned it by now if that were true.
“We need to get out of here,” Colin said, grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the edge of the roof so violently it almost felt like his arm had dislocated.
“What the hell is that thing?” Josh asked as he heard Mr. Mullet shouting something similar down in the parking lot.
“I don’t know,” Colin admitted, staring at the thing. Josh joined him, mainly because his brain seemed determined to solve the mystery of this thing, figure out what the fuck it could possibly be.
“Y’know, it kinda looks like a mustache,” Josh said, figuring he might as well. He wasn’t known for his genius, after all.
But it really did look like a Godzilla-sized mustache—not quite a handlebar, but one of those seriously sculpted ones like some weird hipsters wore. He hated guys like that. Did they really think weirdly stylized facial hair was going to get them laid?
Wait, he was getting off track. “Does your world have sentient giant mustaches?”
Colin looked at him sharply, his copper eyes glinting like they’d caught a security light. “No. No, that’s completely insane.”
The leg (?) of the mustache slammed down into the parking lot, causing the ground to shake like a localized earthquake. All the unattended bikes fell over. The bikers were still staring at it, as slack-jawed and dumbfounded as Josh felt, especially when the individual hairs started moving.