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Authors: M. T. Anderson


BOOK: Thirsty
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Copyright © 1997 by M. T. Anderson

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in an information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording, without prior written permission from the publisher.

First electronic edition 2010

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

Anderson, M. T.
Thirsty / M. T. Anderson. — 1st U.S. ed.
Summary: From the moment he knows that he is destined to be a vampire, Chris thirsts for the blood of people around him while also struggling to remain human.
ISBN 978-0-7636-0048-8 (hardcover)
[1. Vampires — Fiction. 2. Horror stories.]  I. Title.
PZ7.A54395Th 1997
[Fic] — dc20      96-30744

ISBN 978-0-7636-3895-5 (paperback)
ISBN 978-0-7636-5154-1 (electronic)

Candlewick Press
99 Dover Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02144

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N THE SPRING, THERE ARE VAMPIRES IN THE WIND. People see them scuffling along by the side of country roads. At night, they move through the empty forests. They do not wear black, of course, but things they have taken off bodies or bought on sale. The news says that they are mostly in the western part of the state, where it is lonely and rural. My father claims we have them this year because it was a mild winter, but he may be thinking of tent caterpillars.

The bodies begin turning up in Springfield and Lenox and Williamstown. One is sitting slumped in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet pulled off on a dirt road. One man is found shoved into a closet on rows of well-buffed shoes, folded neatly like a wallet. One victim is barely buried. One is surrounded by swear words written in her own blood.

We are warned that the vampires look like normal people, except when they are angry or when the blood-lust is upon them.

One day in early April some people catch one just a few towns away, in Bradley. A policeman is wounded during the arrest, because a thirsty vampire has the strength of ten men.

We are very interested. It’s all the local news talks about.

The annual Sad Festival of Vampires is coming up. It is an ancient festival in my hometown of Clayton held to keep Tch’muchgar, the Vampire Lord, locked in another world. It is said that the spirit Tch’muchgar in prehistoric times ravaged the land with an army of Darkness, and that his dominion extended over the whole expanse of mountain and forest now covered by the 508 and 413 area codes. It is said that it was he who then first laid the curse of vampirism on humans and made vampires live past death and suck the blood of the living.

It was for this that in ancient times the Forces of Light expelled him to a prison in another world and came in the form of shining beings to tell the Pompositti-cut tribe what rituals should be done each year in special ritual sites to keep Tch’muchgar locked away forever. Nobody really believes much in Tch’muchgar anymore, but we still do the festival. Unfortunately, there is now a White Hen Pantry and a Texaco station standing on one of the ritual sites.

Last year, I went to the Sad Festival of Vampires with my two best friends, Tom and Jerk, and we watched the mayor and some local rabbis and priests do the festival in the White Hen. There was a big turnout. We saw the whole ritual, then Tom and I bought some Hood ice cream products and mashed them in the hood of Jerk’s sweatshirt. That was a piece of subtle wordplay which Jerk only came to appreciate later.

Now it is almost time again for the Sad Festival of Vampires. There will be a fried chicken dinner at the firehouse, four dollars a plate, and there will be rituals in the White Hen Pantry, in the town forest, and in a boat out in the middle of the reservoir.

Maybe that will get rid of our vampire problem. Because there can be no doubt that they are on the move, and that they are stalking through forests and slipping across lawns. They are leaving behind them soft bodies, pale and limp. Sometimes after they kill, we are told, they cry, long and hard; sometimes they laugh.

“Come home before dark,” my mother says.

And every night she hangs fresh garlic on the lintel of our front door, to guard against the vampires of spring.

t is English, and I am watching Rebecca Schwartz’s head.

It tilts down ten degrees and rotates slightly to the left. The sun catches it and turns her hair a more lustrous brown. Her hand is moving across the page, and loopy letters are following her pen. I am transfixed by this, even though I am supposed to be charting the syntax of a sentence about why people become flight attendants.

I think I have a crush on Rebecca Schwartz.

I haven’t spoken to her much. I am in awe of her. It would be like Moses speaking to the burning bush. Whenever I go to speak with her, I feel like I should take off my shoes. I guess I am also pretty timid. I imagine speaking with her. Sometimes I construct whole conversations where we say unusual things to each other.

I picture us walking through the forest in the spring. This is not a particularly original fantasy, I know. For one thing, it is in about every personal ad Tom and I have ever read. “SWM,” they say, “seeking SWF, nonsmoker who enjoys long walks in the forest, quiet evenings by the fire, and strolls by the sea.” People are not very original when it comes to romance. I think that’s too bad. Sometimes you want to see a personal ad that says, “SWM seeking SWF, nonsmoker who enjoys flailing in pig poop, puking, and honking on bagpipes. Women who do not know ‘My Lassie Yaks in Bonny Mull’ need not apply.”

But I am not in the mood for pig poop today; so instead, I kiss her in the forest. There is sun and lots of mosquitoes.

I look up from my diagram and see her face rotated at one quarter as she looks toward the clock. I feel awful for having thought about kissing her. It is after the time when the bell should ring. I tap my pencil three times on the desk impatiently.

I look down. I draw a stem for the prepositional phrase to sit on. I clearly and deliberately write down “to many satisfied airline passengers.”

The bell rings and we are going out of the room into the hall, where there is banging and shouting. I quickly try to maneuver toward Rebecca and her friends because she is talking to Tom, who knows her better than I do. I angle a few steps in that direction. They are heading for the lunchroom. I wade toward them. Suddenly Jerk appears at my side. He is as big as a roadblock. His hand-me-down pants are too short for his legs.

I am thinking desperately of things to say to her.

Jerk is in repellently high spirits. “Chris! Hey, Chris, I thought that would never end. I thought — did you get number four?” He squints. “That was the one with the guy who had a layover in Newark. It was real hard.”

I say curtly, “The hardest.” Jerk is unwelcome right now. I am considering my conversational options with Rebecca.

“It was so boring!” Jerk is still exclaiming. “So boring! Boring, boring, boring!”

“Let’s go over and talk to Tom,” I say carefully. I push in that direction. They are moving down the hall. I am keenly aware that, conversationally, appearing with Jerk in his happy-to-see-you mode is like taking a dead moose as carryon luggage.

BOOK: Thirsty
13.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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