by Phyllis A. Duncan

I really have to stop thinking of people as food.

The strobe lights, the loud music should have distracted me, let me enjoy this rave, but the cravings occur at the most inconvenient times. When they do, no amount of focus can stop me from hearing the rush of blood through veins, from smelling its sweet scent, from recalling how the pulse feels beneath my lips as it slows, and slows, and slows, and…

To say I lead a normal life is a joke, but I still try. I can cover up what I am with endless nighttime raves and parties. I have the resources for a steady river of fresh blood from medical supply companies, but there comes a time when sipping from a wine glass doesn’t cut it. Something old and bestial stirs, and the lust for fresh, warm blood cries out to be quenched.

Friends already tell me I don’t look a day over thirty-five, when, if I were alive, I’d be forty-fie. I’ll have to pretend to age then stage my “death.” (Doesn’t that suck? I mean, eternal life and youth, and you have to cover it up or face the torch-carrying mobs.) My estate will then reveal a long-hidden, illegitimate daughter who will be my sole heir, and I start all over again. The Old Ones tell me part of the fun of being undead is the games we play to fool humans—and ourselves—about our lives.

See, I referred to them as “humans,” as if I were someone separate or alien, which, of course, I am. I swore I’d never fall into the “them” and “us” trap that obsesses so many of my peers. I came to this unwillingly, but that doesn’t mean I have to be a monster. My freedom of choice didn’t die with me, and I chose to keep my humanity. I will not be one of the monsters who prey on the unknowing, the unwilling, and I’ll sire none of my own. Anyone who wants to sample the experience, fine. I’ll oblige, but I wasn’t a hunter before and won’t be now.

Except the blood calls.

Hearts pound an inviting tattoo.

Pulses throb at my eye level.

For a New One it is overwhelming, a tremendous struggle not to give into the little beast inside and grab and suck dry the most convenient person.

I live apart from people for obvious reasons, and I live apart from those like me because I don’t want to fall into the group killing mind. That makes a lonely life—or unlife, if you want to get technical about it—and I had looked forward to this rave for weeks, a chance to pass again for human, to have a decent excuse for only coming out at night. Now, I know I shouldn’t be among all these people, even though I fed before I left. Everyone is a temptation and a torment, a promise of warm blood from a living body, not a cool drink from a plastic bag. The Old Ones don’t consider sucking an I.V. bag feeding. They look down their ancient, long noses at you and show you their pity.

Even among the undead, you can’t escape the snobs.

The blood smell makes my nostrils flare, my canines push against my lips. The man I’m dancing with wears his shirt open, and his height offers me his bare neck.

Air. I need air—symbolically, of course, since I don’t breathe—but air takes away the blood smell. I need to be away from so many bodies, pressing near, raving to the music, pulses elevated and shrieking at me in unison with the beast inside me.

Outside, the air is cool and free of the blood calls, but my heightened senses tell me someone has followed. I don’t have to turn to see him. I can smell him, almost taste him on the air. I had seen him earlier at the rave, watching me and trying to look as if he weren’t. Dark hair, blue eyes. Tall, great body, in good shape, hardly breaking a sweat as he danced. He could spare a unit or two to quiet the screaming inside my head.

He tells me he knows what I am.

That’s another thing difficult to get accustomed to—being a “what” instead of a “who.”

He wants sex. I can smell the change in his pheromones. And I think I know what else. The undead version of auto-eroticism—strangulation to enhance orgasm, but sometimes accidents happen. Letting one of us feed while your penis is engorged with blood produces a similar effect. Of course, similar accidents happen, and you sometimes end up with two undead. I’ve prided myself that I can give what they want and get what I need, to our mutual benefit, without killing anyone. I get referrals, of all things.

Tonight, this is coincidental lust, and I know if I get this guy off and he’s willing to make a small sacrifice of another bodily fluid, it will stop the incessant yammering of the monster in me.

His place is nice, even if the bedroom’s a little tacky—black sateen sheets. Amazing how everyone thinks we all love the color black. It makes me look deader than dead, but what the hell. It also doesn’t show bloodstains. His sheets tell me he’s done this before.

He wants me on top. No problem. I like it that way. I’m in control. I sometimes wonder if I were that way before, but it doesn’t matter now. Once I have him inside me, my legs clamped on his hips, I tell him he has to last a long time, and he smiles.

He outdoes what I expected. We still have physical sensations, you know, and orgasm is orgasm, after all. Later, much later, when I recognize he is close to finishing, I bend my head over his neck, find the sweet spot, and drink. That makes him harder, and we ride again.

With every swallow my little beast quiets more, but above the man’s moans, I hear something else. Rustling of flesh and wood against the sheets. He thinks I’m too preoccupied to hear, that I don’t know why he is stretching his arms above his head.

I feed faster, and he hardens again, building another orgasm for me. I run my hands up the taunt muscles of his arms and grip his hands with my superior strength. He tenses then bucks, trying to throw me off, but I’m too strong. My little beast has taken over, and his not-so-little beast refuses to give up as well. I suck harder, timed with his thrusts, which grow weaker. Then, it’s up to me to finish my own orgasm against his shrinking penis. I drink my fill at the same time. His fingers go limp against mine. I lick every drop of blood from his neck then sit up.

In his eyes I see only a few seconds of life left. Serves him right. I hold up for him to see the last thing he will ever see as a living being—the tapered stake of wood he was reaching for to use on me.

His eyes go vacant, and I hear his heart spasm one last time in a futile attempt to pump absent blood to his dying brain. In three days, no matter where he’s buried and unless he’s cremated, he will rise and come to me, his sire. Dead, he only makes me feel pity, for him or myself, I’m not sure. I place the point of the stake over his heart. With one, quick blow from my descending palm, I preclude him from ever darkening my door.

I will sire none of my own.

Outside again and only a couple of hours from a dawn I’ll never see, the night is sharper, the colors vibrate, the air hums. It’s the buzz you get from warm, living blood. The high will last until my ambient body temperature cools the blood and my tissues absorb it. The little beast in me is drunk and sleepy but stirs again when a man passes me. I stop and turn, the power of the blood in me reaching out to him. He stops and turns. The blush on my cheek is false, an afterglow of my feeding. He smiles. I smile back, careful not to flash my teeth. Yet. We link arms and walk away.

Thinking of them as food isn’t so bad after all.

The End

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