Pages

Friday, September 25, 2015

Midnight Session by Stuart R. West



Stay in school. Don't do drugs. Drink blood.
***
As soon as Harry saw the building, he considered the hefty school fee he’d paid wasted money. Tiny bits of green currency floating away on a draft of chicanery. Sucker. Ironic, Harry thought, as the name really fit in more ways than one. Turning away from the industrial warehouse, he yelped, startled at the sight of a brunette standing in front of him, a gotcha grin tugging her cheekbones high.

“Hey.” She clutched her trench coat tightly around her throat. “I’m Katrina.” Even though her name spoke of exotic faraway lands, her accent didn’t travel farther than Chicago.

“Sorry…you scared me. I’m Harry.” He stuck his hand out. Hers felt very cold. Delusional maybe, but he tried to hold onto the notion that his skin was still warm.

“You must be new. We move quietly here.”

“Yeah. Guilty. I’m…pretty new.”

 “Well, c’mon, Harry. You’re in the right place. Don’t worry about the venue. It’s a good class.”

When Harry first saw the flyer for “Vamps 101,” he imagined it to be a stripper school of some sort. But after calling the number, the supportive operator assured Harry it was the right class for him. He needed all the help he could get. This vampire business was beginning to play havoc on his social life.

Katrina rang a bell next to the “Thomason Label” sign and waited. Harry expelled a breath in the cold winter night. Of course he didn’t expect to see his breath, not really. But he looked anyway; old habits die hard.

A night watchman peeked through the window next to the door. “Good evening, Ms. Katrina. I was beginning to worry you wouldn’t make it.”

“Just running late. You know I’d never miss a class.”

“Teacher’s pet!” The watchman laughed.

Katrina led Harry through a maze of upfront offices and hamster-challenging cubicles until they reached a large meeting room. Inside, people had gathered around a back table, sucking out of hospital blood bags with straws and dabbing their mouths with wet wipes. Chairs stood in a row, evenly and precisely as grey tombstones in a military cemetery.

“Class, let’s begin.” A mild-mannered clerk of a man with straw-colored hair wispier than a fleeting dream, commandeered a podium. “Welcome back. I see we have a few new students joining us today.” Behind bottle-thick glasses, he eyed Harry. “I’m Seth. The gentleman to my right is my T.A., Kevin.”

Kevin’s appearance startled Harry. He’d never seen an old-school vampire before--true Transylvanian style, gaunt, bald, the pointed ears of an elf and eyes so pale the pupils barely existed. By way of greeting, Kevin hissed through a mouthful of needled teeth. Ever the accountant, Harry imagined exorbitant dental bills.

“The purpose of our class is to help fellow vampires indoctrinate themselves properly into human society, learning to live amongst them as equals. We have an open forum, so please, if any of you have questions, concerns, challenges, please do speak up.”

Katrina dropped a well-manicured hand on Harry’s knee.

“Now, as you well know,” Seth continued, “we’ve been fighting strongly to put the old stereotypes behind us.” He dropped into a poor Bela Lugosi accent, complete with clawed hands. “I vant to suck your blood.”

Polite chuckles rippled throughout the classroom, a wave Harry awkwardly joined.

“Our goal is to reassure the humans we mean them no harm. Rather than sup on humans, we’ve found other ways to satiate our thirst. For instance, there’s animal blood, hospital donations—”

A little girl, possibly no older than thirteen (at least when she turned), shouted, “But, Seth, animal blood is so gross!”

Seth’s lips tightened into a bone-white scar. “Lucinda, when you were human, you ate beef, correct?”

“Well, yeah, I guess.”

“And did you like it?”

“Sometimes.” She crossed her arms, frumpy at the world and refusing to be pigeon-holed.

“Well, there you have it.” Seth spread his hands in a giving manner. “Now, if you’re having problems procuring—”

“What about dogs?” asked a burly lumberjack of a vampire. “Is it okay to eat dogs?”

Harry could see Seth’s patience bubbling like a boiled-over teakettle. Briefly, he closed his eyes. Then like a rubber band, snapped back. “Borney, you know better than that. Anything that’s considered a pet is off-limits. Once we officially come out, humans won’t smile kindly on dog snacking. Does that answer your question?”

Borney slid down into his chair, kicking his denim-clad legs out. “I guess.” Harry imagined he had his mind set on a rather plump Dachshund, only to have that meal taken off the table.

A sniffing sound distracted Harry. On the other side of the room, a goth girl and a businessman were smelling the man between them, their noses tracking up along his arms. Disapproving frowns wrinkled their faces.

The man, even paler than Kevin, blurted out, “Leave me alone,” gargling as if underwater.

With a sneer, the businessman jacked a thumb toward the sickly-looking man, virtually ignoring him, and asked, “What’s he doing here, Seth?”

Again, Kevin hissed, possibly an enforcer more than a T.A.

“Devin, I’m well aware of Charlie’s unfortunate living dead predicament. He—”

Ignoring Seth, the businessman spat out, “Zombie!”

“Blood sucker!” gave back Charlie.

Gasps traveled through the room, the seed of a full-birthed crowd riot.

Seth banged the podium with a tiny fist. “Ladies and gentlemen, enough! Please! No ugly names! One of the reasons we’re here is to get past vile name-calling—”

“We prefer to be called living-challenged,” offered Charlie. Even through his wet-sounding, nearly indecipherable words, Harry detected pride. A man who’s fought an uphill battle most of his undead life. However, a bit of his pride sort of dissipated when his ear slipped off, splatting onto his shoulder.

“My apologies, Charlie. Class, from now on, we’ll refer to Charlie’s predicament as ‘living-challenged’. No more name calling. Is that understood?”

Kevin leaned forward, mouth gaping open wide, large enough to inhale a pig. The class quieted.

“As I was saying…” Seth shot the fighting trio a “that’s-the-end-of-that” look. “…Charlie had my preapproval to join the class. He, like us, is persecuted. We aim to end that. Through education, understanding. Getting along as a community. Peaceful protesting, so to speak. Let’s move on…” He scanned the students. His bug-eyed gaze fell on Harry. “Harry’s new. Everyone meet Harry.”

Immediately, Harry loathed the attention, dreading what he knew would come next.

 “Harry…please tell us a little bit about yourself.”

Harry hesitated. Katrina’s hand on his shoulder goosed him into action. “Um…I’ve only been turned for a couple weeks now. It’s hard…tough. I…met a girl in a bar…”

Nods from the men, affirmative sour grunts. The women smiled knowingly. He didn’t want to be a cliché, but that’s apparently the shoe he fit.

“…anyway, it’s been tough adjusting. I’m really not into eating people. Just not my thing. So…any kind of help…” His voice choked off. If he was still capable of tears, surely they would’ve flowed.

Katrina stood first, then the others circled Harry. Even Charlie, the living-challenged person, offered him a hug. A true vampiric Kumbaya moment.

After class, Harry’s spirits (did he still have one?) had lifted. Empowered, he vamped up, and approached Katrina. Not trusting himself around human women, he thought he’d ask her on a date.

“Um, Katrina…would you like to maybe…join me for a cup of coffee?” Immediately, he realized his mistake. A lifetime of human living habits would take a while to shake.

She smiled. “Not coffee. But, I know where there’s a field full of cattle, ripe for the taking.”

As far as first dates went, it hardly sounded romantic. But Harry did feel a little parched.

***

 Here I am, talking about myself, pretending not to. Ah, I'm probably not fooling anyone, but play along anyway, 'kay? Just imagine Morgan Freeman narrating and we'll all get through this just fine.

For more of Stuart R. West's adult and young adult suspense tales filled with light heart and dark humor, check out his Amazon page. 
And please do check out Stuart's blog featuring weekly rants, failed stand-up comedy routines and incisive author interviews: Twisted Tales From Tornado Alley

"Dexter meets Dilbert," says Declan Finn, paranormal/action writer. Serial killers have never been so much fun: Secret Society
Brand spankin' new and creeptacular trailer for Ghosts of Gannaway: .