My first day among the dead started before the last one among the living ended.
It was two in the morning, and I had just dragged myself into my bedroom after a long night of scientific research and a single drink, craving the very same slumber both my mind and body demanded. But the moment I entered the room, the world around me turned into a haze and started spinning in multiple directions. Then the spectral talons of nausea began clawing at my stomach. The clawing soon turned into snatching, and the snatching threatened to turn into retching and its inevitable wet and messy companion. And then my brain threatened to cleave itself in sudden agony, ambushed by a migraine my body was unaccustomed to. By three o’clock I was asleep, and my dreams were nightmares dominated by crimson rivers and drained corpses, but that sleep soon turned into the dreamless slumber of the dead.
When I woke up at eight in the evening, I felt renewed. My curtained room had succumbed to near-pitch darkness, yet my vision was far clearer than it had ever been. And then I pricked up my ears, hearing for the first time every sound in my vicinity, including the low buzzing coming from my next-door neighbor’s house and her daughter’s soft moans of pleasure and the elevated beats of her heart.
Alas, I could hear the fast, rhythmic thumps of her heart, but of mine there was no trace. I placed a hand on my sternum, a little to the left, but the stillness of the grave had invaded my pericardial cavity. I did, however, feel the frigidity of my own pale skin. Skin that had up till then been the beautiful olive carapace of the typical Mediterranean man. Skin that had withered into parchedness the same way that my mouth had dried into aridity and my eyes drained into desiccation; eyes that had become the nocturnal orbs of the tenebrous creature I knew I had become. Yet, it wasn’t the physical changes I could see and feel that made my still heart skip a proverbial beat but the lust I harbored, except that this wasn’t a lust of the loins. It was a thirst for the sweet, succulent juice coursing through the human body, the salty and metallic oil that makes the mortal shell’s motor run.
But I craved only the finest. The one running in the dead veins of my bartender, the woman of sepulchral beauty with her silent, cold heart. The partly congealed crimson blood trudging lethargically in purple veins behind alabaster skin. The blood of she who’s gray eyes had gazed into mine and dominated my will into ordering the specialty of the Nocturnal Cravings.
The Bloody Mary.
It was with renewed vigor and increasing lust that I jumped out of bed, took a quick shower, first in water and soap and then in Dior’s Sauvage cologne, hoping it would turn me into an irresistible creature of the night (and cover the slight but sickeningly sweet stench of putrefaction my skin had started to exude), and put on some clothes: faded denims, white polo shirt, and expensive looking but dirt-cheap faux leather jacket.
And then I ran to her, dashing through streets and alleys until I reached Nocturnal Cravings.
Once inside, the ruckus of patrons, the blare of music, and the clattering of clinking glasses and clunking cutlery assailed me. My world started spinning again. And then … it went quiet. My hearing had attuned itself to the cacophony. A new sensation then threatened to overwhelm me. My lust for blood intensified, summoned by the blood rushing through the beating hearts of the living, breathing corpses-to-be. I could smell it all: the scent, the type, the vintage. Every individual I looked at I tasted through the bouquet of his or her crimson elixir, discerning the blood type with little more than the subtlest whiff.
O-positive. B-negative. B-negative. O-positive. A … no! AB-negative.
I began to succumb to the monster within. Snarls I could barely contain threatened to alert my intended prey. Lust I could no longer repress began to arouse me, enlarging my upper canines.
Then my mouth began to salivate, my fangs to excrete their toxin; poison that would ensnare my quarry, a chemical concoction making me irresistible to the one whose neck I would puncture. He would become complacent. He would become powerless. And I would feast on the sweet nectar that was his B-negative blood. But as I approached the lean youth so full of flavorsome promise, she whispered in my mind.
I turned to the bartender, unable and unwilling to ignore her, and walked toward the bar, compelled by the sanguine bond tying me to her. My fangs retracted, my lust abated, and I leaned over the counter.
“Here,” she said, her long, black hair whirling as she turned with blurring rapidity to hand me a Bloody Mary I had yet to order. “This will keep you docile until you learn to control your impulses, fledgling.”
By the time I drained my delectable crimson concoction, the tenebrous barmaid was busy mixing a second Bloody Mary for another patron. But as she poured the tomato juice, I caught a glimpse of her secret twist to the classic recipe: two drops of her own blood, cold and succulent, freshly squeezed from the wrist she had just lacerated with her right index fingernail.
“How much?” he asked her, as she handed him his cocktail.
“First one of the night is free,” she replied with a mischievous smile and a sultry wink.
The man turned around, not bothering to thank his mistress-to-be, and took his first sip of the house specialty, the cocktail that in less than twenty-four hours would claim the beats from his heart, the breaths from his lungs, and the color from his skin.
The mixture that would enslave him to Madame Marie, the vampire who the previous night had infected me.