Authors: Flynn Meaney
Copyright © 2010 by Flynn Meaney
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: October 2010
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
For my parents,
and for all the books they read me,
far too many to name.
“Turn me,” Jenny demanded, looking up at me, her eyes so intense they could have bored me into the brick wall behind me. “Turn me into a vampire.”
Her neck was milky white, like a blank canvas or first-day-of-school looseleaf. The few freckles near her collarbone jumped out at me like targets.
Sink your teeth in,
. One vein in particular bulged, full to bursting. The jugular. Two years ago I’d been taught about the jugular vein, how it was the largest vein in the body, holding the most blood. My biology teacher hadn’t predicted that the knowledge would grow dangerous in my hands. But it had in the past few months.
I had to admit—the opportunity was perfect. Jenny was a really little person, an entire foot shorter than me, ninety-eight pounds tops. She was not only a weak and easy victim, she was also a willing one.
The setting, too, was tailor-made, the stuff of low-budget horror movies and Mary Shelley novels. Jenny and I were in a dark alley. At her feet were dead leaves, litter, and a mangled pigeon. Aside from a brief flicker of light from three floors up, nothing and no one interrupted us. There were no witnesses.
But I was really, really wishing someone would come along. Lost tourists with Southern accents, pickpockets, whoever. I prayed for someone to interrupt us. I felt insane for having started this whole thing. This whole lie.
I’ve reached several points in my life at which, no matter what I did, I couldn’t win. Here I was again. So, hoping for inspiration, praying for a miracle, I bared my teeth, tilted my head, and nose-dived for her neck…
Wait, hold on. I must be telling this the wrong way. That whole thing made me sound like one of those bad vampires, one of those horror-movie vampires who goes around sniffing out victims, isolating them, and draining them of their blood, turning them into vampires against their will. In reality, in that alleyway I was just as scared as Jenny was—even more unsure. I was actually hopeful that someone would wander in—a cop, a homeless man, a superhero. I was so unsure in that moment because I’d never turned anyone into a vampire before.
Actually, that’s not true. I was the one who turned me into a vampire.
* * *
And, actually, I became a vampire under pretty normal circumstances. Not normal like the back-alley bared-neck incident, and not normal like the circumstances in fantasy books or horror films. My wrists weren’t bound by bloody chains. I wasn’t in a basement with the crosses and the windows covered. No one hovered dangerously by my bared throat. No thirsty fangs were at the ready. There were no splintered coffins, no Transylvanian castle, no rabid bats. No one wore a cape. Definitely not me.
I became a vampire in the third car of a train in Westchester County, New York. I was a Catholic schoolboy from the Midwest who was raised on Kool-Aid and overdue library books. And turning myself into a vampire like I did was normal for me, seeing as I’d taught myself how to tie a double Windsor knot, taught myself the lyrics to Tupac Shakur’s “Changes” in Latin, and taught myself that if I wore a double Windsor knot or recited the Latin lyrics to Tupac Shakur’s “Changes” in public, I would get beat up. Okay, those last two may have been taught to me by others, against my will. But becoming a vampire—I chose that.
Characters in books and movies rarely become vampires by choice. They’re usually pinned against a coffin or a castle wall and sucked dry while they writhe in agonizing protest. Becoming a vampire
. Or, in my case, is a pain in the ass. To “turn” voluntarily, you’d have to be on the verge of death, or so sick of the pathetic human being you are that you’d throw away your mortality for any kind of change. Looking back, I had definitely reached this brink, this point of desperation and self-disappointment. And now I’m trying to remember how I got there.
Maybe it started with the move to New York.
I grew up in Alexandria, Indiana. Well, I shouldn’t say “grew up.” I lived there until I was sixteen, after which I was hopefully still growing. I was already six-foot-one, but in terms of facial hair, I’m behind the curve, so perhaps I hadn’t reached maturity. Anyway, Alexandria, Indiana. Its claim to fame is being home to the World’s Largest Ball of Paint. What’s a ball of paint, you ask? Fair question. It’s actually a regular-size baseball with more than 21,500 coats of paint. You can check it out on our family Christmas cards from the past twelve years. We pose in front of it every year.
My dad was a regional sales manager for an electronics company. He was like one of those CIA guys who goes to the office and comes home and never speaks of what he does. The only part of his job he brought home was his love of gadgets. This really pisses off my mother, who’s really nervous about things like technology and assumes that anything that plugs into a wall is a carcinogen. Although my dad is clueless, somewhere someone thought he was smart enough to be promoted to a consultant. That’s how he got moved to the New York office. Apparently a consultant is someone who peers over your shoulder as you do
job and tells you how to do it better. I couldn’t picture my dad doing this. My mother, on the other hand…
My brother, Luke, and I had just finished the tenth grade at this Catholic school, St. Luke’s, a few towns over. Luke was a running back on the football team and a point guard on the basketball team. He had played both so well in his sophomore year that the coaches promised he would start as a junior. As for me, I’d been promoted to editor of the literary magazine. Okay, so I’d been promoted from sole contributor to editor. And, okay, the
St. Luke’s Lit
only had a circulation of five (that would be me, the faculty adviser, my mother, and two anonymous students who had been too embarrassed to include their names in a survey). But “editor of the literary magazine” would look good on my college applications.
But I was pretty sick of St. Luke’s. Despite my powerful position on the
, no one really respected me. Especially this kid Johnny Frackas, who was always bugging me. Since everyone called him “Johnny Freckles” (both for his own freckles and for his mother’s full-body freckles, which were the subject of much speculation), he grew embittered and took his anger out on the closest person. Thanks to the school’s obsession with alphabetical order, the closest person was me: Finbar Frame. Every homeroom through ninth grade, Johnny Frackas would hail my arrival in the classroom with “Good morning, Fagbar” and a bout of raucous laughter. In tenth grade, I got upgraded to Admiral Fagbar. In reality, that should have made
a loser, because it was an allusion to
Return of the Jedi
, but somehow pointing this out didn’t win me any points. And I should have been protected from this torture by my twin brother, who shared my last name and thus should have shared my homeroom. But Luke only showed up in homeroom three times a year, because his football and basketball coaches gave him passes to get him out of everything. I was left to fend for myself.
Monday mornings of sophomore year were the worst. Most guys were starting to get driver’s licenses, girlfriends, and fake IDs that didn’t make store owners laugh in their faces. Other guys now looked forward to the weekends, to house parties and playing beer pong and puking their guts out and kissing girls. (Hopefully not those last two simultaneously, although I’ve heard stories…) None of these things was happening for me, not even the puking.
It wasn’t like I was never invited anywhere. In fact, my brother, Luke, invited me everywhere. Every Friday afternoon, he’d sprint down the long hallway that separated his room from my room and say, “Hey, Sean O’Connor’s brother gave him three cases of beer. All the cans have dents in them, but he Googled it and said that we probably won’t get botulism. Come drink with us!”
Or: “Maddy Keller’s hot sister got back from Sweden and they’re having a party. With
girls. They’re the hottest girls after Brazilian girls. Finn, you gotta come with. It’s gonna be
Or: “Did you see the commercial for that horror movie where that Disney Channel girl shows her boobs? The team is going, come with!” Pause. “But there’s
To my brother, Luke, a ball of energy and optimism, lots of things were
. That’s because every time Luke walked into a room, there was applause and adoration. For Luke, every high school party was like a red-carpet movie premiere, and he was Vince Chase from
. People were fighting to talk to him and ask him questions. Girls were tugging at his clothes and asking for his autograph. Guys were calling out to him with weird nicknames they’d come up with between Gatorade spits on the football field. Everyone was happy to see him.
I could only imagine how guys like… oh, say, Johnny Frackas, would react to me showing up at a party of Swiss girls and adding to the sausage fest. Or how Sean O’Connor would feel if a random nerd showed up to drink one of his precious cans of dented beer. Or how hard they would laugh if they ever saw me try to do a kegstand (Luke made me do a kegstand once when our parents were away, and I’d since been convinced you have to be a Romanian gymnast to perform one). It wasn’t that I didn’t like Swiss girls or horror movies. And it wasn’t like I didn’t like Luke. I liked Luke, but I didn’t want to hang out with those other St. Luke’s assholes.
I would never ever tell Luke that I was worried his friends would be mean to me. First of all, my brother never worried about social interactions, and he wouldn’t understand. Second, Luke took everything literally and might tell people, “Don’t be mean to my brother.” Which would, of course, have the opposite effect.
So sometimes I would give my brother a legitimate excuse, like, “I’m sick of hanging out with the guys from school.”
Sometimes I would go a little more ridiculous and tell Luke very seriously, “Oh, I can’t drink that beer. I’m really scared of botulism.”
Or, about the movie: “I heard that Disney Channel girl is actually a transvestite.”
Or, about the party: “Too bad all the girls in Sweden take vows of celibacy till they’re twenty-five. No, I read it, the government makes them.”
But Luke did not fear botulism, gender confusion, or the challenge of state-enforced abstinence. So off he went and I sat home while other guys racked up months of sexual experience. Every Monday, those guys would come to school looking all disheveled, like they were exhausted from rounding the bases. And every Monday, Johnny Frackas asked me, “Score any ass this weekend, Fagbar?”
Did I snap back with a clever response? Did I use my wit and mastery of words to craft the mother of all Your-Mom jokes? Did I take advantage of the fact that Johnny “Freckles” Frackas was such an easy target? No. Never. Never once. In fact, I never even answered him. I sat there like a wuss, shrugged my skinny wuss shoulders, or pretended to be really interested in my chemistry textbook all of a sudden. I never said a thing. And I really regret it.
So I was obviously glad to leave St. Luke’s and move to New York. It was definitely an ideal time for a transformation—but New York itself didn’t turn me into a vampire.
Maybe the whole transformation started in New York, with that girl on the train. She spotted me the second I got on and beelined for the seat next to mine. Although she was reading a thick paperback book, she was sneaking sideways glances at me every other paragraph. Her eyes took in the raised red patches on my hands and the bandages on my arms. Then she told me she knew what was wrong with me. And she seemed so certain, so understanding, that I agreed with her. Maybe that’s when I decided my life needed to change.