Pulsing Nightlife: A Vamp Noir Story – Matthew McAnally

I always had Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Yeah that’s right. The busy nights. Plus restocks events. We always had kegs upon kegs of the stuff arrive the Thursday morning, prepping us for the worst I suppose. Not that it ever was. At worst it was always the Saturdays that did us in. My last shift. I hated Saturdays. Fucking specials. There’s an old saying in vampire circles: ‘A human may suck at having fun but vamps suck the fun out of everything.’

* * *

Club Virgon. Out back. Counting blood money and filling forms.

‘What’ya doing?’

‘Vamp business girly-girl. Don’t worry about it.’

I’m not going to go so far as to say the girl was ditsy – always popping out questions about my bar tricks – but she certainly seemed innocent and in that way unknowing. Cliché right? That’s what I thought at first.

We got humans to work the bar back then. Was all about the smell, and vampires loved the shit. Human youth; there was nothing that beat it. Probably still isn’t.

I finished writing, filed it in the bottom drawer and waited for God’s deliverance. Yeah, that’s where all the bullshit “Blood bank” statements go; where vamps such as myself don’t wanna think about it no more.

I stepped into the Arabian Desert or what I thought the Arabian Desert would feel like anyway. The humans were getting fucked over a lot back then. A lot. So it was fair to see their standard of living improve with heaters in bars and all that Occupational Human Safety bullshit. Still though, it was way too fucking hot in the bar that night. Red hot.

‘Want the kegs changed?’

‘Nah not yet Charlie’ I replied to the 22 year old, ‘but if you could refill the blood-pill bowls I’ll think about giving you some of the good stuff.’

His mouth dropped. ‘No.’

‘Yep the blue label stuff. Whiskey too.’

The stud smiled that smile he always had. A smile that no vamp would want to hurt or touch. Almost no vamp, that is.

‘You know me too well Starkson, you know me too well.’

He walked off with a smile and a two finger salute; looking around, fidgeting, checking. Making sure everything was in good nick before going to the pill room. He was a good kid that Charlie. Always up for a wry comeback and a smirk. Spoke plainly at times but more importantly spoke honestly. That’s all you could ask for in a human.

* * *

Trouble walked into my bar at eight o’clock that day. O’Vannigan. Huh. He was early. The saxophonist had just started to set up and already O’Vannigan had trudged over to the bar. Shit. I don’t think I had never seen a vamp in such bad shape, let alone a cop. He looked like death.

‘That’s fuckin’ detective to you Starkson.’

How could I forget? Especially with his muddied cloak. That black trenchie he always wore. I don’t know why I would get excited for anything else. The smell of rotting blood was riddled all through it, a major turnoff. Probably never washed it. Probably didn’t care.

After his kind words and gracefully polite brush of the chin, O’Vannigan had found his favourite seat at the bar and settled into his usual two drinks, two “B&B’s” (Blood and Bourbon) on the rocks. Hmph. Old O’Vannigan. If he was a kind of needle, he’d be one to give you tetanus. Still, something was different tonight. I could tell the moment he called me over with his pale white finger, syringe pointed and all. I looked over to my human crew, all of who were puzzled; wondering what was up. I spun my finger around and stepped out of the bar: ‘Keep working while I’m occupied’ is what it meant.

‘O’Vannigan. How’s life at home?’

‘Go fuck yourself.’

Funny thing about vamps; the only thing that gives their age away? It ain’t the scars or the dress they wear. It’s all in the eyes. It’s almost as if they want the human touch back after all those years. The next few words the old geezer uttered and the look in his eyes caught me off guard.

‘We need to go outside.’

* * *

I had walked back in.

‘Hey Starkson? What was that about?’

‘Huh? Oh nothing kiddo. Don’t worry about it.’

‘It doesn’t concern you’ is what I should have said, and hoped I was right. I hoped to hell. But eight fresh years in a job like this and then O’Vannigan tells me something like that.

‘One of them is being leeched Starkson . . .’

It does funny things to the mind. Plants seeds of doubt. I told Charlie to get back to the bar, to ‘keep on pouring’ as they say. As he turned around I managed to get a quick smell of him. Nothing.

Nothing is what a vampire smells like. Almost nothing. They still have a faint scent, something of what they used to smell like back when they were human. Reeking of all things savoury. When a vamp has been at a human though, a human don’t smell the way they used to. It’s like they’ve been drained of a bit of what makes them, them. I must admit though, it’s pretty hard to detect nothing. I kept a close eye on the humans that shift. For the most part.

After work, I did something I shouldn’t have. I went to the bottom drawer. Same one as the start of shift. Files, photos and bios. Charlie Worthington. Human. Two hundred and sixty four Baker Street. Shift ended three hours ago. Probably the leeched one.

2:30 In the morning and I turned off the engine. I looked out at one of the few lights left on in the apartments. It was a human enclave. By all means I wouldn’t have been allowed in. Not at that hour anyway. Didn’t stop me from hopping the fence though; ducking between human patrols armed to the teeth with mega UV lights. Shit man. What was I thinking? An act like that and I could have been locked up for a year. Maybe longer. Get goosebumps just thinking about it now.

I was outside the apartment. Pitch black. I tiptoed down the corridor. The last place I wanted to be but I needed to know. I needed to know if it was him, if he was being leeched. I knocked twice.

‘Hello?’

I didn’t answer and ducked out of the view of the peephole. I heard him wait on the other side. Until curiosity got the better of him. The door swung open and I stepped out of the shadows.

‘St-Starkson?’

I cut him off, grabbed him by the neck and held him up against the wall. One handed. I could tell his feet were dangling. His face began to go red.

‘Charlie. You been leeching?’

‘What are you talking about?’

He coughed, choking. Turned more and more red. It made me a little thirsty; a little on edge but I knew I was in control. I dropped him and he hit the floor like a raw steak. The good type of steak.

While he gathered himself I looked around. Huh. A UV torch on the table right next to the blue label whiskey bottle I had given him earlier. Looks like he had already tried the stuff. Ha, and I thought good blood was sought after. I took the batteries out of the torch and put it in my pocket. The place reeked of Charlie. A good thing. Every moment I was in there put me to ease: No needles, no drips, no IV packs. Nothing. I stood on the opposite side of the room. I like to give humans plenty of breathing space. Puts everyone at ease. That’s what I liked to tell myself anyway. I didn’t want to think about any other reasons why I might have done it back then; even if I know why now.

‘I’m sorry Charlie. I spoke to O’Vannigan today and I just had to know. If you want to press charges, I’ll understand.’

He took in a deep breath and swallowed, figuring out why I had waltzed in the way I had. I remember hearing his heartbeat from where I stood.

* * *

I headed back to the car feeling like shit. An innocent man. An innocent human at that. I mean sure, he had applied for turning. To legally become a stark, shit cold bastard like me but that was the only motivation for leeching that I could think of. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. Young stud Charlie. I should have known better than to jump to conclusions.

I was sitting at the lights muttering about my stupidity when I caught whiff of a familiar scent. I looked around. A young, pretty human was walking down the sidewalk alone. A girl at that too. What the fuck?

‘Chelsea?’

It was 4:00 in the morning. Why the fuck was she still up, let alone walking in this area by herself? She ducked into one of the smaller apartments – a place I knew for a fact was vampire district. Certainly not the enclave of Tumbleton where she lived.

I arrived outside the door where her scent was coming from. Suffice to say things did not feel right. I heard the handle turning and hid beside the door. As the door stopped right in front of my face I took in a solitary breath. The smell. It was nothing. Faint. Definitely a vamp. He swung the door shut behind him, not even bothering to lock it. Lucky break. It’s one thing to not be detected by a human but it’s another thing entirely to not be noticed by fellow sucker.

I’ve felt bad vibes my whole life: Where I’ve worked, seen violence, been turned. I can say to this day though, that I have never experienced anything as bad as the feeling in that room.

I crept in, feeling the decay of the place. Peeled beige walls, a single tungsten light bulb and a grotty refrigerator. The room smelt like a combination of things I didn’t want to fully understand. Then I saw her. Sweet and innocent Chelsea. My God. She was hooked up to a drip, her blood dripping into the IV pack. She was paler than top class marble. In this world her kind of blood was worth a fortune. There was no denying she always smelt amazing. What the fuck was she doing to herself?

It was like the scent was too sweet, too concentrated. I stumbled into a table trying to hold back my nausea. A glass syringe shattered to the floor and Chelsea opened her eyes. In my revulsion I had stumbled back, creating a space between us. I realised she had a UV torch sitting at her side. Without a moment of hesitation she pulled out the drip needle and went for the weapon. I closed the distance in an instant. I could tell when I grabbed her wrists that she was drained. Weak. A faint pulse. Easy prey.

‘Drop it. Drop it!’

The torch hit the floor and she continued to struggle hopelessly. I started asking her why she had done it. Donating publicly to the Blood banks was fine and you were handsomely paid for it. But giving yourself up privately – that was bad, man. Any vamp or human which engaged in leeching served more than their share of time behind bars.

‘Well, what are you waiting for Starkson?’

Her eyes. Her eyes told a story. One that I had never seen before, nor ever since.

‘What?’

‘I’ve seen how you look at me in the bar. I know what you wanna do to me.’

That’s not what I expected her to know. But deep down. Deep, deep down, I knew. I knew those instincts existed. I felt her heartbeat pulsate through her wrists. So faint. I remember shaking, vigorously shaking trying not to succumb. I remember licking the side of her neck before dropping her to the ground. I know I’m many things but never that. I turned my back on her.

‘Go home Chelsea. I’d advise for you to look for another job.’

I heard her grab the UV torch. I sighed.

‘Please don’t Chelsea. For both our sakes.’

She was just like me, shaking real hard. We were interrupted by the arrival of her accomplice. The scum sucker. He busted into the room and said some mean, mean things while I turned to look at him. I wasn’t worried about him. I was worried about Chelsea.

He had the torch in hand and said something about giving the devil credit where it was due.

‘I certainly will. It’s been a long night.’ I replied.

He clicked it on and tapped it twice. No ultraviolet. I pulled out Chelsea’s torch from my pocket and I think I saw her smile. A quick swap. Nothing I hadn’t done before with drinks. Boy. When I switched mine on, he burnt quicker than an accident in a fireworks factory.

* * *

I never saw Chelsea after that night. She filed for resignation that week. I sent her a letter of recommendation wishing her all the best but she never replied. Charlie was thinking about quitting too. I said don’t. I’ll just ask to move bars. I never told O’Vannigan what happened but something told me the ageless old bastard had figured it out. He always did. As for me? Well funny thing is, I moved into V.C.F. Sucks right? Vampire Commodity Finances. Counting blood money for a living. Huh. You know there’s an old saying in vampire circles: ‘A human may suck at having fun but vamps suck the fun out of everything.’

Have a good night.

Matthew McAnally

Matthew McAnally has authored a collection of artistic works in recent years, including short story writing, playwriting and poetry. Studies in English and Media at Macquarie University strengthened his focus for this passion and a journey into amateur theatre resulted in a completion of original plays. Matthew is looking forward to seeking a publisher for his recent poetry work.

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