Authors: Johnny B. Truant
FAT VAMPIRE 6:
SURVIVAL OF the Fattest
by Johnny B. Truant
Copyright © 2013 by Johnny B. Truant All rights reserved.
Cover copyright © 2013 by Johnny B. Truant.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual business or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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Boy, has she earned it.
Dave, our resident “fat guy and proud of it,” said that he’d take the deal.
My co-host Sean and I said that maybe that wouldn’t be such a great idea for Dave, because if you’re out of shape when you’re turned, you might stay out of shape for all of eternity.
So I wrote a book about that single dumb idea. What you’re about to read is the sixth and final book in that series.
FORTY YEARS LATER
REGINALD PULLED his car into the garage and killed the engine. The video screens on the windshields and windows all flickered off, turning the car’s interior into a black pod. He opened the car door in the light-sealed garage, throwing it wide without checking first to make sure that the room was closed. The car knew its dock; its sensors wouldn’t allow the door to open if there was any sunlight in the room. But Reginald wasn’t trusting the technology. It was more that even after four decades spent undead, he’d never quite gotten used to not being human.
He closed the car door behind him, then crossed the garage to the door that led into the house. He left his shoes in the mud room and walked up into the large kitchen. The place’s marble and chrome surfaces sparkled. The service had been in while he’d been at work, and the smell of lemon-scented chemicals still hung in the air. Reginald wrinkled his nose. He didn’t like the smell, and he didn’t like having other people in his house. He also didn’t like the company’s rate structure. Who charged by the minute? But that, again, was human thinking. Reginald had once hired a cleaning service in Ohio, and the human maids had taken hours to do their jobs. The vampire cleaners, on the other hand, could do their work during a TV commercial break. But despite his protests, Nikki had insisted. “I’m not a maid,” she told him. “I’m a sex slave.”
Reginald put his satchel down on the kitchen island, knowing that Nikki would yell at him about it as she always did. But the way Reginald saw it, the kitchen might as well be a dumping ground. They could put their financial records in the oven. They could fill the pantry with linens. And yes, they could use the island to drop off their bags and keys. Why wouldn’t they? They were vampires, and they didn’t need a kitchen. That was the thinking that had gone into the first wave of homes built after Turnover, anyway — houses built with only a nook for a blood refrigerator and a microwave. But today those houses were hard to sell, and new construction had re-learned what humans had always known: that kitchens and bathrooms were what sold houses. It was as if Turnover had been a U-turn in the stream of time rather than a point on a line. Humanity had progressed forward, and then vampires had taken over the planet and bounced back in the same direction. More and more vampires cooked these days, and big kitchens were once again all the rage. The food magazines and TV shows were back. And as had been the case with human cuisine, the food almost never contained blood.
Reginald walked into the large formal dining room they’d furnished but never used, then into the three-story living room. The house was quiet. Nikki had had a meeting of her super-secret group last night (they pretended to be a human-rights underground, but it was hard to raise indignation these days and Reginald suspected that they were really just lobbyists) and was asleep. Reginald, on the other hand, had been working days lately, trying to get ahead on a new product line. It bothered him to work a schedule that was opposite Nikki’s, but the reversion was only temporary. Besides, it seemed as if everyone he employed was working well past dawn lately, and he wasn’t even requiring them to do it. Whenever he looked at the clock and found himself bothered by his unnatural schedule, he could just pretend that PM was AM and that AM was PM, and the fullness of the office would make the idea seem legit. With his light-tight car, the company’s light-tight parking garage, and the windowless building, it wasn’t even a difficult mental trick to pull off.
He strolled back into the kitchen, hungry. He pulled a blood pouch from the refrigerator and drank it cold. Nikki always warmed hers, but Reginald had long ago stopped bothering. Blood was nourishment, nothing more. Drinking it was like taking a vitamin. There were plenty of fancy bloods out there — brands flavored with cinnamon or vanilla, brands infused 50/50 with fruit juice to cut the taste — but Reginald drank his straight. When your food tasted like a cinnamon bun, it was easy to forget that it had been drained from the arm of a man or woman strapped to a table against their will. And if Reginald needed to drink the stuff and be part of the problem, he at least wanted to remind himself where it had come from, and what it had truly cost.
He looked at the empty blood pouch, which he’d bought at a ritzy Top Fang supermarket for twice the price of bargain blood. The label promised that the humans the company bled were free-range. It also claimed that the blood in the pouch contained 33 percent more iron than competing brands. Reginald tossed it into the garbage can.
He turned back to his satchel, then began unpacking its contents in what could have been a flashback from half a century ago: Oreo clones, Ritz cracker clones, Chips Ahoy clones. Nabisco hadn’t survived Turnover, the same as most human companies (other than, ironically, Microsoft and Apple — who despite collaborating to develop blood-interfacing AI still didn’t get along), but their factories had. Once the human population had been killed, collected, or driven off to hide in their holes outside the vampire cities, the world had become a vast playground — at the time, a playground filled with relics that nobody wanted.
This is a vampire planet now
, pundits had said.
What do vampires need with snack factories and manufacturing plants?
The answer, of course, turned out to be
. Reginald could have predicted it, and did. It had been perhaps his last true strategic exercise — the last time he’d held all of the world in his mind and mapped out the inevitable future. As the Vampire Nation tried to make itself comfortable topside, struggling to step into the decimated human economy and use their money, Reginald had scavenged as many old dollars (which held value for a good two years, though they inflated out of control until NewDollars were minted) as he could and had taken the best investment advice a man could receive: to buy what he knew and loved. He’d gotten the old snack factories up and running, harvesting the old companies’ recipes and repackaging them under his own brand name, “Snaco.” Then he’d waited. And waited. And waited. It took three years before the vampire palate became bored enough to forget that it was only supposed to drink blood, and after that he’d become rich.
Ironically, by the time Reginald’s snack factories hit paydirt, he’d already been cured of his own addiction. The snacks on the counter were lot samples, not household staples. He’d lost his taste for human food when he’d seen how easy it was for a nation of bloodsuckers to forget who and what they were — and, most importantly, what they’d done. From the moment the handwriting proclaiming human defeat had appeared on the wall forty years earlier, Reginald had vowed to never let himself do the same.
He was standing opposite the wall calendar, and he looked at it for a solid fifteen seconds to assure himself that it had really been that long. It was hard to believe. The face he saw in the bathroom mirror today was exactly the same as it had been on the day Reginald’s clock had stopped. The same was true of Nikki, of Brian, and of almost everyone else he knew. Only Claire had changed, and it’s not like she’d changed in the way anyone had expected, either.
Forty years gone, and still Reginald hadn’t finished putting the vampire codex together in his mind. The main reason was that he’d stopped caring when the codex’s first earth-shattering prediction had turned out to be bullshit. Then, once he’d stopped caring, it had been simple to stop even trying. He
the codex. Its unsolved, pointless complexity mocked him in the way the treadmills at his human workplace used to mock him. Every day when he closed his eyes to sleep, he saw the codex’s partially assembled carcass in his head. It felt like failure — like a home gym purchased with good intentions and then used as a clothes rack. He didn’t want to touch the goddamn thing. It reminded him of the seven billion humans who’d died when he’d failed to find or assemble it in time. It reminded him of Maurice, who the codex suggested had sacrificed himself in order to give Reginald the ability to solve the codex — Maurice, who’d died for nothing and who Reginald still dreamed of more often than seemed normal.
. The precious vampire
. The stupid, motherfucking, cocksucking, dirty asshole of a cunt
He didn’t need to solve the damn thing anyway. He’d never needed to even look for it, let alone solve it. The codex, to Reginald, had meant nothing but lies and grief. He’d gone around the world to find it, Maurice had died to protect it, and then when Reginald had finally opened its resting place, he’d found that it had been within him all along. What had been the point of the search, other than to make room for more grief and death? And after all of that — after Reginald had figured out the riddle and located the codex right there in his own blood — its dire warning about a human uprising had never even come true. And how
it come true? Humans were endangered, and most of those that still existed lived in controlled blood farms, guarded day and night. If that didn’t prove that it had all been bullshit, he didn’t know what did.
It all felt like a cosmic joke:
Har-har, let’s make Reginald dance and laugh when he falls down
. It was the story of his life. Like vampire bodies, nothing ever really changed.
After Turnover, Reginald had again found himself part of a small out-group, not at all a member of the majority. The vampire population had only lost around twenty thousand in the war, which meant that Reginald was one of only fifty thousand vampires alive who’d been turned before the official end of hostilities — marked by the day President Timken had appeared on VNN standing in front of a huge sign declaring MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. At that time there were still millions upon millions of humans still around, and the balance was still skewed. The final human population reduction (that’s what they called it; it wasn’t an “extermination” in any of the official channels) had taken most of the next year, and during that time, to tip the other side of the scales, vouchers had been given to responsible vampires to begin creating new citizens. The vampire population target was five million, and that number was reached within six months. The spike in growth meant that 99 out of every 100 vampires now in existence had begun their undead lives on a planet ruled by the undead: they’d never been trained as vampires; they’d always gotten their blood from pouches; they hadn’t ever needed to hide in the shadows and hunt. These were people who used to be human and who’d remained essentially the same after turning, save their higher velocities and higher sex drives. And at the same time, official troops had eliminated all but five million of the remaining humans, bringing the planet’s population balance to 50/50. Ten million living beings on a planet that had once housed seven billion left a lot of empty space, and there was a lot of room to grow. So slowly, as resources allowed, the idea going forward was that the human population would be allowed to grow, and then the best among them would be turned to maintain the balance.