Denny stood alone in the dark outside the stone mansion, not knowing what to do. He was sixteen years old, or he would have been, if he still were a human being, but he wasn’t. He was a vampire, his fangs barely grown in. Denny was scared– he wanted to be home with his mom, dad, and little sister. He’d give anything not to have gone to that rave, but he’d been curious. Such things were rare nowadays, but you could find one, occasionally. Denny had gone out of curiosity, mostly to see how his parents spent their time when they were young. Problem was though, he saw the notice in a flyer about a new band, but nothing in it mentioned vampires.
At first, Denny thought there were just a bunch of guys and girls sporting fake fangs. That is, until a girl who introduced herself as Rachel Ramsey walked up to him, and said she thought he was the sexiest man at the warehouse. Of course, he was flattered, but Denny certainly didn’t believe her.
“Where do you go to school?” she asked.
“Lincoln,” he answered.
“I go to Westbrook–the opposite side of town.”
Before Denny had a chance to respond, Rachel began again with the questions. How old was he? Where did he live? What was his favorite subject in school?
He wasn’t the most popular kid in school—not by a long shot, so he wondered why Rachel was showering him with so much attention (not that he objected). She was beautiful, with long black hair trailing over her shoulders, emerald eyes, and curves in all the right places. Suddenly, she lunged toward him and sunk her teeth into his neck. It hurt terribly. He tried to shove her away, but he couldn’t. She was strong, much stronger than she looked.
Suddenly, she released him and stepped back. Blood dripped over her lower lip–Denny’s blood. Then he felt weak, and the room began to spin.
Just before Denny hit the floor, he felt Rachel’s arms around his chest. She pulled him up, sitting him on a bench near the wall. He was terrified and could not stop shaking.
He glanced up at her. Was there a hint of sympathy in her eyes?
“I know,” she said. “It was the same for me, but don’t worry, it will pass, and you’ll be a new man. Stronger than you’ve ever believed you could be. Your hearing will be so good you’ll be able to hear a feather land on the floor in the next room.
“I’m a vampire? You made me into a vampire! Oh, God, I don’t want this.” Denny cried, wriggling around in pain.
She laughed, “Believe me, you’re going to be grateful that I did it.” Denny wanted out of here. He wanted to be at home with Mom and Dad, and Barb.
“It’s just a dream. Maybe if I yell loud enough, Mom and Dad will wake me up.”
“It’s no dream, Denny,” she looked him in the eye, “Go ahead, pinch yourself.”
Denny jumped to his feet and raced outside. It was dark, the streetlight on the corner burned out. He began to run toward his house as fast as he could. Much faster than he’d ever run before.
He raced onto the porch and caught his reflection in a glass panel on the front door. Oh dear God, on either side of his front two middle teeth were fangs. Not fully grown in yet, but there.
Suddenly, he became aware of someone standing behind him, and felt a jolt of fear go through him like lightning.
“Sorry,” Rachel said, “I seemed to have picked the wrong person.”
“What?” he asked her.
“You love your mom and dad. I can see it in your eyes, and I’m just as sure that they love you,” she shook her head, “I don’t often make mistakes.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Denny said, getting angry.
“Usually, I can tell. Kids who don’t get along with their parents. Kids who’ve been beaten, ridiculed, made to feel like crap. Those are the ones I try to save. ”
“I’m not like that. My family’s not like that,” Denny said.
“I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”
“What can I do?” Denny pleaded. “I don’t want to be a vampire. I want to be Dennis Watkins, a junior at Lincoln High School. An average kid, who may go to college, or just get a job.”
“That isn’t possible anymore,” Rachel replied.
“Not possible?” Denny felt sadder than he could ever remember. There had to be something he could do; otherwise, he’d be stuck… forever. Vampires don’t die. They could be killed, but they never just die. Sure, sometimes Denny thought about his own death, like most kids, he supposed. But in reality, it was almost an alien concept. He was young, his whole life was before him. He didn’t want to die, however he also didn’t want to live forever. Seeing his parents, his ten-year-old sister Beth (is the sister’s name Beth or Barb?), his friends, his relatives—all would die while he remained sixteen years of age eternally.
“All I can say, Denny, is that I made a big mistake,” said Rachel.
He turned away from her. “What am I going to do? Where am I going to go?”
“There’s this group,” Rachel said.
“It’s a tough world,” Rachel said. “Everyone’s out to get you.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“There are people who hunt us, who want us dead,” Rachel replied.
“I never heard of such people,” Denny shot back, “In fact, I never thought vampires were real.”
“They’re real, all right. And so are the people who are after us.”
“Why did you do this? Make me into a vampire?”
“I’ve been lonely. You looked like a nice kid,” she shrugged.
“Because you were lonely?!” Denny couldn’t believe it.
“Vampires can be lonely too, just like human beings.”
“It’s true, but most don’t give a damn.” She turned and scanned the street. “Let’s go somewhere else–somewhere we won’t be seen.”
“Like where?” Denny asked.
“I know it’s cliché,” Rachel said, rolling her eyes, “but a graveyard would be good. Humans almost never visit such places at night.”
Denny heaved a big sigh. “All right, I guess.”
Rachel stepped off the porch, Denny following.
“But you know what’s worse than the human beings that are after us?” she quizzed him.
“I didn’t think anything could be worse,” Denny muttered.
“It’s other vampires themselves.
They’re like gangs, but instead of the Crips and the Bloods, it’s the Fangs and the Feasters.”
It’s just a nightmare, Denny thought once again. I’ve got to wake myself up.
“Hey,” Rachel says, “you still with me?”
Denny looked around. They were standing in front of a cemetery.
“Look, I know it’s hard to take in,” Rachel said, “But you have no choice.” She led the way inside the cemetery gates where she stopped beside a gravestone.
“Will I be able to see my parents again? My sister, my grandparents?” Denny asked her.
“You can watch them,” she replied.
“I can’t ever be with them again?!”
“You’ll be okay. Eventually, it won’t matter so much.” She frowned. “Now about these two groups–street gangs, if you will.”
“I don’t know anything about gangs,” Denny said “I just know I don’t want to be part of any.”
“You’ll change your mind,” Rachel said haughtily.
“I don’t think so.”
“Vampires who don’t join don’t exist very long.”
“What do you mean?”
“The gang is your family. Without your family, you’re nothing—except fair game.”
“I don’t understand,” Denny said, “Why?”
“Many vampires feel that there are too many of us. That the blood supply will dwindle if our numbers gets out of hand.”
“So… they kill each other,” Denny deduced.
“Not so much. It’s the lone vampires they attack. Both gangs. They eliminate the loners, drive stakes through their heart, cut them up, scatter the pieces, or expose them to intense sunlight.”
“So, you’re telling me, I’m dead if I don’t join the Fangs? Or whatever other gangyou named?” Denny asked.
“The Feasters,” Rachel replied, matter-of-factly.
Denny shuddered, “I don’t even want to know what that last one means.”
“Yeah, well, that’s the one I belong to, and as I’m sure you suspect, it refers to feasting on blood. Which, by the way, you’ll be wanting to do before very long.” She sighed, “So what will it be?”
“I’m sorry?” he asked, a bit incredulously.
“Are you going to go it alone, and last a day or two, or join Feasters?” she asked.
Denny still had hopes he was having stuck in a nightmare.
“I’ll make the decision for you. It’s going to be Feasters, so come on before everyone goes to sleep,” she said, starting to leave the graveyard.
“Where are we going?” Denny followed her.
“To the mansion–the place where we hang out.”
“That’s where our coffins are,” she laughed, “I like you, Denny, or I wouldn’t have chosen you, but you have a hell of a lot to learn.”
He turned to look at her as they walked, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Yeah, what is it?”
“How old are you?”
Rachel chuckled. “In arrested years, or in real years? In the former I’m an eternal sixteen. But in reality…well, should a girl really tell her age?” She seemed to consider it. “Okay, I’m one hundred and three.”
“One hundred and three?!” Denny gasped.
“Or sixteen. Take your pick. Yep, old enough to be your great-grandma, several times over.”
They arrived at a fieldstone house near the edge of town. “Come on,” Rachel said as she led him to the door, and took Denny inside.
“Well,” someone said, “if it isn’t Rachel with a new recruit.”
“Thaddeus, this is Denny. Denny, this is Thaddeus. He’s our leader–the one who keeps us safe.”
Denny stood trembling in front of the old vampire. The man appeared frail, but Denny saw a light burning in his eyes–a light that told him to beware.
“Denny, my boy,” Thaddeus said cheerily, “Welcome!” He turned to Rachel. “Have you told him about initiation?”
“I haven’t,” she replied.
“I see,” the old man replied. He had wispy white hair, combed straight back, and a thick beard. “Each new recruit is required to pass a challenge,” he said.
The man leaned toward Denny smiling. “Are you not curious to know what it is?”
Denny supposed he should be curious, but he wasn’t. All he wanted was to be back home in his bed.
“Well, I’ll tell you anyhow,” Thaddeus said. “You have the rest of the night to steal two hundred thousand dollars in cash or merchandise. Further, you have to get it without harming anyone,” he chuckled, “I don’t know if the hunger has hit you yet, but when it does, you’ll be willing to do just about anything to satisfy the craving–but you cannot. You are not allowed to feast before you return with your offerings. Any questions?”
“This is the weirdest and worst nightmare I’ve ever had,” Denny said.
Laughter burst from the old vampire’s mouth. “No, Denny, this is not a dream. I advise you to get started as quickly as you can, so you’ll be able to satisfy your craving after you’ve proved worthy. But be warned, I have a sharp sense of smell. I can detect blood on any vampire, even one who has feasted hours earlier. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” Denny replied.
“I suggest the northeast area of town—where the rich live,” the old vampire continued.
Abruptly, Denny felt hungry—it was a hunger so strong he thought he might pass out.
“Ah,” Thaddeus smiled, “I see the hunger is upon you. You’d best be going now, but do be careful. Who knows where the Fangs are tonight, or what they might be doing…” The man turned to Rachel. “Show him out.”
Rachel started toward the door.
“And remember, sunlight can kill. Particularly, new vampires,” Thaddeus called out.
Rachel held the door for him. “Good luck,” she said, then she let it slam behind him.
Clouds hid the stars as tendrils of fog curled down the street. Denny wondered the fastest way he could get to the rich section of town, find what he needed, and get back to the warehouse.
Distracted with his newly appointed task, Denny was not paying attention when he rounded the corner. There they were, a group of vampires, fangs exposed, hissing and staring straight at him. He turned and tried to run, but he was immediately surrounded by bats.
“A tender new one, I see,” one of them said, as he shapeshifted back into the form of a man, “Maybe there’s a drop of blood left in him. Shall we find out?”
A dozen hands grabbed at him, pushing and pulling. Denny’s last thought was that everything was going to be okay. He’d wake up tomorrow morning, take a shower, have breakfast, and then head off to scho—