Friday, November 30, 2012

Original Fic Friday: Hunter's Tales Volume One

A/N: So here begins the first Original Fic Friday post. These are stories by me, featuring my characters. Some are already published, some are new and upcoming bits. I'll see how the muse hits.

That said, welcome to Hunter's Tales Volume One: Billy Price. (Yeah, that's it, in it's entirety over on the right.)

Chapter 1.

With a last flick of the foundation brush, my skin is done. I look as close to human as a vampire possibly can. Now it’s time for lipstick, and, to go with this outfit, that lipstick has to be red.

I glance at the suit sitting on my bed with adoration. I love that suit. I bought it in Berlin in 1931 and have kept it in pristine shape ever since. Granted, I haven’t worn it for anything but costume parties since 1944, so the upkeep isn’t too difficult. 

It always bothers me that, when people went retro, they skipped the ‘30s. The ‘30s had style, especially compared to what would follow. And in 1931 Germany, the Weimar-era party wasn’t quite dead. There were still cabarets where a beautiful woman in an exquisitely tailored men’s suit was welcomed with open arms. By ‘33, it was dead, and by ‘33, I was back in the States.

“Delilah” by the Dresden Dolls comes on. Perfect. Mood music to go with dressing.

I wrap my hair into a low bun. Yeah, it’s not quite right for the era, but I’m not about to cut it. Yes, vamps can cut their hair. I don’t know what Anne Rice was on with her image of a vamp sitting in a room filled with hair, but it’s not even close to true. We’re dead; we don’t grow. We certainly don’t grow hair. So, if we cut our hair, it stays cut. When I was turned, my hair was long enough to reach my hips. In the 1920s, when everyone else was bobbing their hair, I cut mine to mid-back length and left it there.

As much as I love the style of the thirties, the tools for achieving those styles are so much better now. I pick up a scarlet lip pencil, color the whole lip in, apply lip stain, then the setting liquid. Let it dry. Five minutes' work and I have a perfect fire-engine red mouth, and it will stay that way as long as I want it to.

Eyes take another five minutes. I wink at myself in the mirror. Okay, I’m not as pretty as Dietrich, but my makeup is better.

Time to dress. I go for vintage from the skin out. Two reasons for that: I do really like the old style, and the scent of old clothing will confuse my prey.

The iPod micro I clip to my bra will help confuse him further. It plays a soft heartbeat on eternal repeat. I don’t usually do this, but if tonight goes the way I think it will, he’ll be close enough for it to matter. If the mark is really alert, he might notice my heart rate never varies, but I haven’t seen a really alert one in a long time. Theoretically, if he is really sharp, he might notice the lack of pulse at my throat, or he might have, if I hadn’t buttoned the collar of my shirt all the way.

A few dabs of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Hermia will confuse him further. I might not smell perfectly human, but between the perfume and the clothing, I’m awfully close.

I set the gray fedora that goes with the suit at a jaunty angle on my head, take one last look in the mirror, and head to the party.

When I was an actual teenager, girls didn’t go to school, let alone high school. Rich girls were tutored at home. Everyone else was already working or married. My family was well-off and trying to do better. I, like the rest of my family, helped in my father’s butcher shop. I had a fine hand, so I ran the counter, did the paperwork, and kept inventories.

But that was a very long time ago. I’ve been eighteen for over 350 years now, and I’ve spent most of the last ten of them in high school.

I hate high school. But you go where the prey is, and the prey is in high school.

For that, I have Stephanie Meyer, Joss Whedon, and whoever wrote the Vampire Diaries to thank. They made the whole vampire thing so cool to the kids. Little girls are falling over themselves in the search for a never-ending, mystical love of epic proportions with a vamp.

My eyes physically cannot roll far enough to express my disdain.

But it does make my job easier. I know where the prey is. I set my trap. Usually in about three months I’ve gotten him to the point where he thinks I’m easy pickings. He thinks he’s seducing me. We head off to a secluded point, he gives me this lame-ass ‘It’s so lonely being immortal, eternity is such a long time, but I’m all but making his dead heart beat again’ speech, I pretend to fall for it, and then, when he thinks he’s in charge, I drain him dry and stake his ass.

Yeah, that’s right. I hunt vampires. I am a vampire. I add a whole different level to vampire hunter.

And, no, it’s not some sort of angsty, self-hating, saving-humanity crap. I am not now, nor have I ever been, Angel, nor do I have any interest in being him.

Meyer got something right: we’re the ultimate predators, the top of the food chain. And now food will literally fall into our laps and beg us to eat it.

How painfully boring.

Sure, some of my fellows adore this. They sit back and take advantage of this age of easy food. They’re always flushed with fresh blood and have gotten lazy. Good for them. Me? I live for the hunt.

Until 1980 or so, humans feared us. They stayed away. We had to work to get them into a situation where we could eat them. Hunting them took skill, and it was marvelous.

They don’t know what precisely is wrong with us, but they know on a gut level to stay away. Before 1980, it was harder to hide the fact that we don’t quite look right. As Arlene said on True Blood, “Honey, we’re white. He’s dead!”

The whole sunlight thing has nothing to do with us bursting into flame. It’s entirely about how hard it is, even with good makeup, to look right in full sun. (And no, we don’t sparkle. God, Meyer, what the hell were you thinking with that? You don’t want to know how many twits I’ve seen spraying themselves with glitter in an effort to look the part. I consider it an honor and duty to put them down.) We’re really pale, and our eyes never look quite right. Mine were brown, but every year I’ve been dead they’ve gotten a little lighter; they’re sort of cream-colored now. These days, I wear contacts.

In the pre-electricity age, when everything was lit, dimly, by flame, we could blend in pretty easily at night.

Then, suddenly, even in the darkest parts of the night, everyone had full on light anytime they wanted it. Do you think it’s a coincidence that belief in vampires lingered on much, much longer in the less educated, less technologically advanced parts of the world? Ha!

Blending in from the ‘30s to the ‘70s anywhere in the first world was a pain in the ass. Not impossible, mind you, but not easy either. There’s a reason why most of us are good with makeup and costuming.

But in the 1970s and ‘80s there was Punk and Goth, and suddenly we could skip the makeup (well some of it) and wander about in plain sight. (I understand we did this when Elizabeth I was Queen of England, and for a long time, one in three Geishas was a vamp, but I don’t know if that’s actually true.) People just assumed we were part of a counter culture, and if they weren’t part of it, they left us alone.

By 1980, something shifted, and we were starting to be seen as romantic.

By 1985, you couldn’t go to a punk club and not have someone offering to let you eat them.

I gave up on humans then.

I spent more than a decade looking for new prey. Five years hunting Werewolves convinced me they’re just too animal. You can manipulate them too easily. And they always know exactly what we are. You can’t fool their noses. So, it’s not so much a hunt as an all-out fight. I like a good fight, but that’s not the fun bit. The fun bit is the hunting.

I spent three years trying to even find a fairy. I keep hearing they’re out there somewhere, but if they are, I’ve never seen one.

Can’t eat ghosts or demons or anything of the spirit world, so I never bothered.

I spent a year in the west going after Wendigos, Coyotes (not the little doggie things, the Tricksters), and other creatures of Native American lore. Some of them are fantastic hunting, but they don’t taste very good. And while I do want a good hunt, I also want to eat well when it’s over.

Hunting Wendigos pissed off a Shaman who had been turned a long time ago. I ended up hunting him and realized not only was it a blast, but, since he eats the same stuff I do, he was awfully tasty.

I’ve been hunting vamps ever since.

I stare at the Riverland High School parking lot. He’ll be here soon, ready to finish up his hunt. He wanted to pick me up at my place, but I won’t let that happen. I’m willing to play a teenager. I’m not willing to live like one.

I’m a few minutes early and take the time to adjust my posture. Vamps like girls who look like they’ve got low self-esteem. They like the loners. People with lots of friends who think well of themselves are not so easy to manipulate. So, when I ‘transfer’ to a new school, I start out as funky, low self-esteem, art chick. This lets me be pale, dress in eclectic clothing and makeup, be ‘deep’ and interested in ‘death.’ I write lame poetry. (Okay, I steal lame poetry. There are so many angsty teens spilling their sad little guts in blank verse on the web. I just crib from them.)

I am catnip for vamps. I start off slouchy and avoiding eye contact. Really defensive body posture. I blow everyone off for two solid weeks. Two reasons for that: First of all, it’s in character. Secondly, it lets me figure out which one the vamp is.

Look, we don’t have any magical ability to tell who’s a vamp and who isn’t. We’ve got good hearing, vision, and sense of smell, but if we could hear well enough to focus in on the heartbeat of everyone within fifty feet, we’d end up screaming from the louder sounds. If we could smell each person around us… Well, we probably can, but most of us learn how to shut that off. You don’t want to smell everyone around you. Our vision is good enough to see if the person has a pulse at his throat. I can see it across a room. A human who’s looking can see it from three or four feet. I have a large and interesting scarf collection, plus several thick chokers in unique patterns and colors. And, if the vamp is really into the long, slow seduction thing, I’ll eventually break out my cheongsams, which have the advantage of looking fabulous on me and hiding my throat.

This one isn’t really into seduction. I started school on October 1st. Today is the 29th. I’ve just gotten to the point in the routine where I’ll make direct eye contact during conversation and slouch a little less when he’s around.

I spot him walking toward me from the far end of the parking lot. It’s a Halloween party, and he’s dressed in his usual fare. See if you can guess which vamp type he’s going for: long black trench coat; tight black pants; dark blue T-shirt; black, chipped fingernail polish; and spiky, bleached white hair.

At least he doesn’t have an English accent. And the name he’s using, Alex, is normal enough.

So, how do I know he’s the vamp at Riverland? Besides the fact that he keeps trying to cozy up to me?

First off, his skin is too good. One month and not a single pimple, blemish, or blackhead. His skin, like mine, is always perfect. Pale, but perfect. The kind of skin you get when you spend fifteen or twenty minutes very carefully applying layer after layer of makeup to make yourself look alive. (I make sure to add a pimple or two at any given time.)

He’s too still when he gets bored. We’ve got a few classes together, and I watch to see what he does when he’s not paying attention. He slouches back in the chair and zones out. When people do that, they move. They fidget, they sigh, and they blink. (For God’s sake, if you want to appear human, you need to blink! People might not notice if you don’t breathe; they will notice if you don’t blink for ten minutes.)

He’s too graceful. If you’re supposed to be seventeen or eighteen, you should, at least on occasion, stumble, drop things, and bump into people. In the twenty-eight days I’ve been watching him, I’ve never seen him put a foot wrong.

He forgets to shower. Look, we don’t need to bathe unless we get dirty. We don’t smell. We don’t shed skin cells. We don’t sweat. He’s had the same small ink stain on his wrist for three weeks now. It’s tiny really, just the spot where the tip of my pen touched his wrist. (Think that was an accident? Yeah right!) On a normal person, even a normal person who somehow avoided bathing for three weeks, that mark would be gone by now.

And, of course, I can’t see his pulse. Granted, that’s not fool proof. Some people have skin that’s thick enough that I can’t see it. But add that to everything else, and you’ve got a vamp.

“Hi, Kate,” he says from a few feet away.

“Hey, Alex. Nice costume.”

“You know me; I’m all about the Halloween spirit. I like yours, though. You’re what, Marlene Dietrich?”

Rookie mistake. He’s let me know he’s way older than he looks. The role he’s playing wouldn’t know who she was. Hell, the role he’s playing wouldn’t be able to identify what decade my outfit comes from.

“Yes. I’m surprised you know.”

He realizes he’s made a mistake. He thinks of a fast lie. “My grandfather and I used to watch old movies when I was a kid. I liked her.”

“Ah. Not a fan of old movies. But I do like historical fashion and clothing, and she’s one of the iconic looks of the thirties.”

“Will I be seeing you in ballet flats, black leggings, and a tight black shirt?”

“No. You need to be built like Hepburn to pull that look off.” One of the signs of wealth when I was alive was being ‘plump.’ We were plump. By current standards, I’m a size 12. Nice and curvy. I look great in this suit. I looked even better back in the corset years. I don’t need to breathe, so I can make myself into a perfect hourglass if fashion so dictates.

He’s looking deeply into my eyes, trying his glamour. This is the hard part. I’m a vamp, so I don’t fall for the glamour. But the girl I’m playing should. What I don’t know is if he’s actually any good at it. So, I have a hard time deciding how glamoured I should be.

I settle for letting my eyes go soft, sighing, and looking back at him with deep longing. I blink a few times, sigh again, and say, “So, you wanna dance?”

“Sure.” He holds his arm out to me. I wrap mine around his.

Dances are great from the point of view of letting the vamp think he’s got me. They suck from the point of view of keeping up the charade of being a human. It took a long time before I had all the details worked out.
Another reason why I love this suit: it’s got pockets. And in those pockets, I’ve got a mister filled with slightly pink salt water. A few quick spritzes of that and I look slightly flushed and… what’s the polite term these days? Glowing?

One of the great things about today’s dances, you don’t always have to be facing your partner. Every now and again when I’m turned away from him, I give myself a fast spritz. When we move too fast to see, it’s not just human eyes that can’t track us.

We dance for an hour. Finally, a slow song comes on, and this is always the acid test. If I’m lucky, he’ll be so interested in the seduction he’ll miss the fact that I’m not as warm as I should be.

He pulls me close to him, whispering trite nothings in my ear, as we rock slowly together with the music.

I can feel which bit of him is making the decisions now.

I press against him deliberately, lifting my face to him. He kisses me. His role is to be the aggressor. He’s supposed to be in charge and know what he’s doing.

I play the never-been-kissed, fumbly girl. I let him ‘coax’ me into liking it. He breaks away from me just as I begin to tremble slightly and press more tightly against him.

“Let’s go somewhere more private.”

“Sounds good to me. Where?”

“My place.” Interesting. Usually if they just want a snack and sex, they suggest somewhere nearby and quiet. If they want to take you home, it’s because they want you dead, too. We’re usually quite private about our homes.

“What about your parents?”

“They’re out.”

“Wonderful.” I smile up at him.

The car ride is very quiet. He puts his hand on my thigh as he drives. I giggle and move it to my knee.

“Alex…” I let his name trail off.

He turns toward me. “What, Kate?”

“It’s just… Well… We’re going back to your place. And, like, I think I know what you want to do when we get back there. But, like… ButI’veneverdoneitbefore,” I say in a huge rush. Then I look away and discreetly blot off a bit of the ‘sweat’ I applied earlier.

He pulls my face toward his and grins at me. “I’ve never done it, either. But I want to. With you. You look so good and smell so good, and I’ve just never felt this way about anyone before. I want to take you home and make love to you.”

I give him a shaky smile. “Good. How long until we get there?”

“Now.” He pulls into the driveway of a nondescript suburban house. We get out of the car, and I immediately cross to his side of the driveway, pressing tight against him, letting my head rest on his chest. No heartbeat. Perfect. I got fooled once; dude had some sort of thyroid condition, so now I always make sure to check, several times, in a few different ways, that he’s got no pulse.

He opens the door. As soon as we’re through, he’s pressing against me and kissing hard. I pick up a very faint scent of decay about the place. There’s at least one dead body hidden here.

Usually, this is the point where he starts his tragic vampire speech. But he doesn’t. He keeps kissing, heading toward my ear. When he gets to my throat, that’s the end of this game.

I’ve got less than a minute to take care of this. Plenty of time. I push against him, shoving his coat off and pulling away from his lips so I can kiss his throat.

He hisses a little at that. Apparently, he likes me taking charge.

“You need to take off your shirt.”

He’s fine with that. When his shirt is over his head, tangling his arms, I strike.

Most vamps go for the femoral artery or the aorta. In this situation, I go for the brachial artery. I use one arm to pin his arms and face in the shirt. The other holds the stake at his heart. I bite a chunk out of his arm and go to drinking.

Ahhhh… Tasty. Baby vamps are kind of flat and flavorless. But as we get older, we get more interesting. He has about a hundred years on him. Not fine ambrosia by any stretch, more like a good, solid pilsner.

He’s struggling hard, trying to break my hold, but one of the things the Whitewolf guys got right is the more of our own kind we eat, the stronger we get. Right now, a truck could run into us at full speed and it wouldn’t break my hold on him.

He flails less and less as I suck each mouthful out of him. Because we’ve got no pulse, eating a vamp takes more work than eating a human. And since he’s quite unlikely, even when very weak, to let me just prop him against the wall and have at his ankle, it means I don’t get much more than a pint.

Oh well, I’m old. I don’t need all that much. A pint or two a month and I’m good.

When it takes too much suction to fill my mouth with his blood, I give the hand holding the stake a good hard push and feel him crumble into dust.

“Good-bye, Alex.”

I pick my hat off the floor, put it on, and follow the scent of decay to the basement. There is a chest freezer down here. I open it and find two dead bodies. Girls.

Odd he’d keep them in his home. Most of us aren’t into the whole trophy thing. Hell, most of us aren’t even into the killing our prey thing, it’s just… well… not cost effective.

I leave the lid open and go looking for a powder room. All of the new houses have them. And, while we usually don’t like having too many mirrors around, we rarely rip them out.

Yes, we show up in mirrors. Anything you can see with your own eyes is something you can see in a mirror. In the old days, we didn’t like them because they were used to increase the light in a room, and I already covered the problem with that.

I check myself in the mirror. No blood on the suit. Thank God for small favors. I’ve got a wizard of a dry cleaner at home, but he does look at me oddly when I give him fine, vintage clothing with bloodstains. I readjust my jacket, set my hat straight, and tuck the stake into my sleeve.

One last thing to do. I find his phone and call 9-1-1. “I’m at 1284 West Grove Street. There are two dead bodies in a chest freezer in the basement.” 

Then I drop the phone and head off into the night.

A/N: Like that? Want more? The whole story is .99 on Amazon, or you can wait for next Original Fiction Friday for chapter two. 

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