Quiet moon, I hate you, hate your brightness.
At these times of the year, you won’t let me hide from the evil I know the night normally harbors in the darkness.
So, I guess those sons of bitches will see me coming.
But on the bright side, I suppose, it will make it easier for me to see and kill every last goddamn vampire in Brisbane. I should be able to kill them all by the end of the month, or at least banish them back to San Francisco.
Yeah, always look on the bright side.
Or under it.
Brisbane is only a few miles south of San Francisco. The streets in the night here are quiet, and the signs glow.
They advertise or offer different things. The neon eyes, the promise of liquid calm.
Happiness for the hungry in a shop of comfortable food.
But me, I’m not interested in these things right now. In fact, I could use a bit of your blood.
“Mistah Kurtz—He dead. But don’t bury him too deep; he get mad.”
I had to give a presentation in the morning, but it was 1 a.m. and it still wasn’t finished. But I was so damned tired that I couldn’t think straight. So I figured I would hit the rack for five hours, and get up at six to finish my work before presenting it at 9 a.m.
She was already in bed, thankfully. She was going before the tenure committee tomorrow morning at ten, after teaching a required sophomore prerequisite in Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. If I hadn’t forced her to finalize the publishing folio and chronology she had to present to the tenure committee, I would not have been able to force her to go to bed at 11. Instead of being sound asleep and gently snoring, she’d be up and an exhausted, fidgeting bundle of nerves like me.
I kidded myself that being eighty percent done at 1 a.m. had me prepared to finish the remaining 20 percent in record time before I had to give the presentation. I could probably get it done. It was on Japanese consumer product markets, my area of expertise, and the remaining work to be done was some last-round text editing and tweaking certain graphs and charts. Sounds pedestrian as hell, I know, but our entire Japanese marketing strategy for the coming fiscal year was riding on my analyses and recommendations. I had so far put in twenty hours’ work on something that would take twenty minutes to present.
“Fuck it,” I thought. “I’m tired, and the pile of papers on the kitchen table can wait for a few hours.”
So I went to bed, and fell into a sleep of mundane dreams.
Lots of numbers and faces and questions in Japanese were spinning around the back of my skull and taking turns shooting to the front and into my retinas when I woke up feeling thirsty as hell. My watch said it was 3:05 a.m. My throat said I was parched and needed water.
Good timing for the cat, too. He was at the back door of the bedroom, a large sliding glass door, padding at it with his paw because he wanted to go out. I slid the door open to let him out, about six inches or so, and left it open so he could come back in when he wanted to without causing a ruckus. I also left it open so some of the warm night air could filter into the bedroom. It displaced the exhaled carbon dioxide which typically gave she and I musty morning breath during colder months.
After the cat made his exit, he stopped few feet from the back door and started grooming himself in the nearly-full moonlight. Little bastard could have done that inside. Whatever. I went into the bathroom and got my water, after brushing my teeth, something I had forgotten to do earlier.
Back to bed. I could still get almost three more hours. I exited our bathroom and walked past the glass back door in the dark towards her gentle snoring.
This is when I saw him.
I knew what he was immediately, of course; but that didn’t stop the sudden presence of a rather large, dark figure just outside my back door from almost generating a very loud man-scream from my mouth. I mean, seriously, he could have been a burglar, a tree trunk or the Jupiter monolith and I would have been frightened. Anybody would have been. There have been deep, dark nights when a cloud blotting out the light of a bright moon has unnerved me.
This was different. Clouds pass. I didn’t know if he would. I am glad I didn’t scream, though. I didn’t want her to wake up. She had to deal with his kind the last time this happened, and she told me the day after she never wanted to do it again. This had been about seven years ago, when I had been away on business that particular night. She told me the story of her fright and the cajoling, the imploring, the verbal trickery the last one had tried to gain entrance to our house.
I had listened to her carefully then, and had thought about her encounter many times since. She solved the problem by fainting from fear and exhaustion shortly before dawn.
Looking through the glass of my sliding bedroom door, at him, his darkness, I was determined not to make the mistakes she had. This was dicey, but not entirely life-threatening (even though the door was open for the cat). In an instant, I decided how to proceed. I kept my eyes on him as I grabbed my bathrobe and put it on. I put my slippers on too, then walked to my door and stood, staring at him through the glass and trying not to blink.
“Good evening, Master Vampire,” I said, very softly, almost a whisper.
For a moment, he didn’t respond. His face was emotionless, his eyes wide, until I spoke. Then his eyes narrowed, but his wide, thin-lipped mouth started forming a smile.
“Good evening, and thank you,” he said, also very softly. “You honor me by addressing me by that title.”
It was my turn to smile.
“We may as well be polite about this, Master Vampire,” I said. “You’re out there, and I’m in here, and I think I know what you want. But there’s no point in us being uncivilized even though I plan to deny your desires.”
“You,” he said, “I don’t know you, but have you done this before? Dealt with….my kind?”
“No,” I said, “I haven’t. I was away on business the last time the migration brought your people this close to San Francisco. But you honor me by asking the question.”
“Ahh, the migration,” he said.
“Yes. Some people look forward to it. I find it curious.”
“We….I can’t say much,” he said, “It is a private matter we don’t explain to your people.”
“Vulnerability,” he said, “Suffice to say, not all of us migrate every year. And of those who do in a given year, many routes are taken.”
“I see,” I said.
“I myself have not been this close to San Francisco in nearly a century,” he said.
While we spoke, I could still hear her gently snoring in our bed. And I was glad of this. I don’t think waking up to the sight of me having a casual chat with a vampire through an open glass door would do much to advance her career tomorrow.
And even though things were going well, I was starting to worry. As we spoke, the vampire’s smile stayed constant, but his eyes started to wander. Then I realized after his last statement, his eyes were staring at her. The hair on the back of my neck stood up a little. I also looked at her, then turned my gaze back to him.
He was staring at me, and I was startled again.
His smile was gone, and his eyes were wide, fully open, unnaturally large. Black pupils the size of dimes were circled by crimson red irises that seemed to glow. I could see no white in his eyes the way I would have had I been looking at one of my own people. The white I could see were the fangs now draped over his bottom lip. They were very bright and each about an inch long.
There were now thoughts in my head that I didn’t create. He was projecting at me in some way. The dreams I had had of Japanese questions and business meetings were bloodied by additional images of swords, flying limbs, and salarymen drinking blood from coffee cups.
I didn’t like where this was going now.
“It would be quite lovely if you would let me in,” he said, “I am very old and I am very hungry.”
“I can’t DO that, Master Vampire,” I said.
“I need…things from her. From you,” he said.
I don’t know if I heard these words or if he forced the thought of them into my head. They made me want to scream loud enough to split the moon and drink a lake of the blood of newborn children.
And then, faster than I could see, his arm was through the opening of my door all the way up to his shoulder. His long, pale fingers flailed and clawed in empty air just to the right of my head. I thought he was going to grab my skull and crush it.
And I think I almost fainted.
I shuffled a couple of steps back in an instinctive effort to block the sight of my sleeping wife from his eyes. And the effort had to be enormous, I realized. I could barely move, and that should not have been happening. My arms, my whole upper body, felt so heavy. I knew he was doing it, suppressing my adrenaline, and probably keeping her in a deep sleep. Even though we spoke at a hushed volume, his lunge at the door and my stepping back had made noises which normally would have woken her up.
If I let him in now, I realized, she would remain asleep and feel nothing as he fed upon the life within her. I was actually grateful at the thought of that. I also thought I felt more tired and hopeless than I recalled ever feeling. Maybe I should just let him in. Maybe I should. Should I?
No. This was still my goddamned house, and the rules were the rules. Then something else occurred to me.
“Master Vampire,” I said, choking it out really. “Master Vampire, I can’t get to the door. Let me go. You know and I know it’s the only way, the only…..civilized way.”
Even if I wanted to let him in, all the crippling rage and want and hunger he was throwing into my mind would keep me from it. Did he also read minds? Could he know my thoughts? He must have been able to, at least to a small degree.
Because suddenly, I was free. I could move. My head was clearing. I started to see only with my eyes again, not the mental images of slashed mortal bellies turned into soup bowls full of warm blood. The lingering image of an old man full of centuries of want using his elongated teeth to chew the fat and marrow from my wife’s flesh and bones diminished in urgency and vividness.
We could talk once again. He had more control over himself, and less over me, once again. I knew I would get through this night, and wake up with her. Once again.
He had lowered his arm, but it was still through the door opening up to his shoulder. Collected, I walked the few short steps to him and gently put both my hands on his arm. Then I raised his forearm, bent it at the elbow, and very gingerly pushed his arm through the open door until it touched his torso. There was no malice in my actions, for I felt none for him.
I felt pity.
He looked old, beaten. After I let go of his arm, I got my first real chance to look at him in whole. He must have been a good-looking man once, a man with a face that naturally wanted to smile. I think perhaps he had even been a kind-looking man. The years, a century at least, of hunting, migrating, feeding and wanting must have worn him into the beautifully-preserved but harsh and cruel-looking thing I now saw. The black suit and tie he wore were impeccable, garments which might have come from the finest dry-cleaning service that very day. But the styling of his clothes was old, fifty years I guessed. The suit was too new for him to have died in it, but it was old enough to tell me that he had not updated his wardrobe from the clothes of new victims in a very long time.
“I like your suit, Master Vampire,” I let slip, actually meaning to keep the statement in my thoughts.
“Thank you,” he said, “You are the first person in a very long time to have lived long enough to notice.”
“I can’t let you in, Master Vampire,” I said.
“I know,” he said, “There was a time when my abilities would have allowed me to change your thoughts to my will the way your idol youth change programs with those remote television control devices. We would not be having this conversation, much as I am warming to your company, if you will pardon the phrase.
“But I don’t have the strength anymore,” he said, “My days, rather my nights, are far harder than they used to be. I had hoped to find rejuvenation here, with you and your wife. But, well……”
“It was not to be?” I asked.
“Not to be,” he said.
“Perhaps you can find others, some who would take your gift willingly and become the children you need to help you go on,” I said.
Some of my people welcomed the vampires during the migration. People who were old, or terminally ill, or tired of their family obligations. And it wasn’t illegal either, as long as you had your estate or legal affairs in order. Or had no home or family, and nothing to lose or be taken from you. I had a second cousin who went with the vampires ten years ago. I have not seen him since, but he does send a lovely card at Christmas and on my birthday every year. He seems happy.
I continued speaking: “In fact, I have a second cousin who is with your people n…”
“I know,” the vampire interrupted, “How do you think I came to be here on this night in the first place?”
“Oh,” is all I could say.
“Yes, ‘oh’,” he said.
Just then, I noticed my cat purring and rubbing against the vampire’s legs. He noticed too, as if he hadn’t been any more aware of the cat than I had been. The cat was doing figure eights around and in between the vampire’s legs, getting grey and white fur on the fabric of his fine suit pants. Unfazed, the vampire looked down, smiled widely, bent over and picked my cat up. Then he lifted the cat up to his chest, close to his face, and my cat purred louder and started licking the vampire’s nose and cheeks. I could not help but smile almost as widely as the vampire was.
“My people have always loved cats and dogs,” the vampire said.
“I know,” I said, “But you can’t keep them as pets?”
“No,” he said, “Even though their blood is of no use to us, we can’t give them the attention they need due to the travel requirements of our nutritional needs.
“I do miss having a cat, though,” he said.
It was all but over, and I knew the risk was gone, so I quietly opened the sliding glass door a couple of feet and reached my arms towards the cat in the vampire’s arms.
“Do you mind, Master Vampire?” I asked, “It would save me the trouble of collecting him in the morning if he were to decide not to come straight home.”
“Of course,” he said, gently handing my cat over to me. “Thank you for letting me hold him.”
“Of course, Master Vampire,” I said.
“And I should be going. I have to find suitably dark accommodations so that I may rest before moving on tomorrow night,” he said.
“I also have an important day tomorrow, Master Vampire,” I said, “And so does my wife. Tenure committee in the morning. Later, in the morning I mean.”
“Ahh,” he said, “Well, perhaps I am quite glad this did not work out after all. My people often forget the important events in the everyday lives of your people. It is a hazard we sometimes cannot help.”
“I understand,” I said, “Despite some discomfort and tension, I am glad we got to have this chat, Master Vampire.”
“As am I. It has been many years since, well, it has been many years.”
“Will you be alright?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he said, “But I thank you for asking. I think I will press on to San Diego. The consistent warmth and the sea air hold an appeal for me suddenly.”
“Yes. It’s nice down there. I wish you luck,” I said.
And then he was gone. Almost faster than my eye could see, he made a slight shrug with his shoulders then shot straight up in the air. My eyes tracked him for perhaps two or three seconds, but then I lost his flight path in the glow of light coming from the moon.
“Perhaps he’s launched himself right at and into the moon,” I thought.
Perhaps, perhaps. I took a moment to wonder.
But it was very late, and I was even more tired than before. I walked out of the bedroom and into our kitchen, the cat still in my arms. In the kitchen, I put the cat down in front of his food bowl to encourage him to eat. I put a fresh bowl of water down for him too.
When I got back to the bedroom, she was still quietly snoring. My watch said 3:34. Just enough sleeping time left to be functional until lunch time. With luck. The sliding glass door was still open, so I went over and closed it. I locked it too.
Then I crawled back into bed and feel asleep.
And I don’t think I dreamed, but I don’t think I didn’t.