This story is by Katie Borley and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The smell of fresh pizza mingled with blood in the air as it wafted through the old house. The pizza sat on the table, untouched, while the men who ordered it sat on the floor in the next room, ripping into the flesh of the unfortunate soul who had delivered said pizza.
The older vampire wiped his bloody hand on his trousers before reaching behind him to grab a dusty bottle of wine off the shelf. He squinted in the dim light at its mostly-faded label and chuckled to himself.
“Hey, Charlie, this thing’s even older than you,” he slurred. The younger vampire looked up, wiping blood off his chin, and reached for it.
“Heh, 1850. How old were you then?” The older vampire just gave a sly smile. Charlie had been trying for decades to get him to admit his age, but John always refused.
“Old enough.” He passed the corkscrew, which Charlie took with a scowl.
“How many of your deathdays do I need to celebrate with you before you tell me how old you are?”
“Not fair, John.” Charlie pouted like a child, which looked ridiculous with his fangs poking out past his lower lip.
“All you need to know is that I’m older than you.”
“Obviously,” Charlie muttered, taking a swig from the bottle John passed him. The two of them drank in silence for a few minutes until the bottle was gone. Being undead, the alcohol didn’t last long in their systems, so John quickly reached for another bottle. And a third. And a fourth.
Charlie sat up unsteadily, propping himself up against one of the ancient armchairs. He nudged John with his foot.
“What do I look like?”
“You know what you look like,” John protested, sitting up against the other armchair.
“I don’t, though… not anymore. It’s been so long since I’ve seen myself in a mirror. I think I’m actually starting to forget.” He laughed, but it wasn’t funny to him. How long before he forgot what it was like to be human?
“D’you want me to describe you?” John squinted at him, trying to see past his own double vision. Charlie had at least four eyes right now. John crawled forwards and rested his hands on Charlie’s knees to keep from crashing into him.
“You… have green eyes,” John said triumphantly.
Charlie just snorted. “Yes, John, I know they’re green.”
“You asked me to describe what you look like!”
“You know what I meant!”
“Fine, fine. They’re… um… big. And the color is bright, like those fields by the schoolhouse in springtime.” Charlie sat expectantly, clearly not satisfied, so John rambled on, too drunk to even notice what he was saying anymore. “They look… hungry. If I was still human I think I’d find it unsettling…” He trailed off. Charlie looked hurt, averting his eyes and shifting away. “I’m sorry,” John mumbled.
“I know I look like a vampire – I am one. I just wanted you to describe me.” His voice caught in his throat and he felt tears of blood welling up in his eyes. He was too drunk to keep his emotions in check. He wiped the back of his hand across his eyes but only succeeded in smearing blood across his pale cheeks.
John began to ramble, listing off every detail he noticed about his friend. “You have curly brown hair… like a tumbleweed, but darker. You’ve got so many freckles. There’s a tiny gap between your front teeth.” Charlie smiled half-heartedly, but clearly wasn’t interested in their game anymore.
“You can stop now.” Charlie sat in silence while John downed another bottle of wine all on his own. Charlie spoke up, and his tone was cold enough to frighten even John.
“Sometimes I feel like you only turned me because you couldn’t face being alone.” His voice was deathly calm, barely above a whisper, but the words cut like a stake to the heart. John stared intently at the corpse, watching the blood trickle through the grooves in the rug. He had long ago accepted that God had abandoned him, but now he prayed desperately that Charlie wouldn’t press the issue.
John flinched. In a flash Charlie was in front of him, far more sober and far more angry than John had realized. His lips curled into a snarl, baring his fangs. Of all the ways the universe had tried to kill John, he had never been faced with another vampire’s fangs, and he was suddenly very, very afraid. “Answer me, damn it! Why did you do this to me?” Charlie demanded. Behind his anger was a wall of pain that was etched into every line in his face.
John burned with shame. He couldn’t bring himself to meet Charlie’s eyes. “You’re right. I couldn’t stand it. You have no idea what it was like — ” Charlie merely glared at him, but the hatred in his eyes was worse than if Charlie had slapped him.
“How dare you,” Charlie growled at him. “You took everything away from me. How dare you try to make me feel guilty!”
“I-I wasn’t! I’m sorry, Charlie, I really am!” John pleaded. Panic rose in his chest, and if his heart could still beat it would be pounding right now. Bloody tears streamed down his face but he pressed on. “I was so scared… I watched everyone I loved die. I had to watch from afar, unable to explain what had happened to me. My maker abandoned me soon after she turned me. All those years alone were torture.”
“Why didn’t you try to end your existence, then?” Charlie’s voice had softened considerably, but his tone was far from warm.
“Believe me, I did. Every conceivable way. But all it caused me was months of pain while my body regenerated, and then I was back at square one. I gave up on death a long time ago.” Several seconds of silence passed between them. Charlie sat as still as a statue, not blinking, not moving. John continued “Please understand, Charlie. I’m so sorry. If there was a way to undo it — ”
“You wouldn’t.” Charlie interrupted. “You’re a selfish coward. A kidnapper. A murderer.”
“A monster, too. I know.” John was all of these things. He wasn’t surprised to hear Charlie say it, even though it hurt.
Charlie got to his feet in one fluid motion and stormed out, slamming the door behind him hard enough to rattle the windows.
For nearly an hour he stalked up and down the darkened street, seething with rage, before heading into town and breaking into the library. His predator eyes were easily accustomed to seeing in the dark and he quickly rounded up every book on vampirism he could find.
Every method to kill a vampire – beheading, stake through the heart, sunlight – were all methods that, supposedly, humans had tried to kill John with.
Or had they? Charlie had the sudden thought that it could all be lies, just a desperate attempt to keep Charlie from leaving him. Even so, it was hard to believe. John had been nothing but good to him for the century and a half they’d spent together. Could he really have lied about all of it?
His blood slowly started to cool as his anger was replaced by guilt. Reluctantly, he rose from the table and slipped back onto the street, making his way to their house on the corner.
Before he entered, he peered in through a window. John hadn’t moved from his position on the floor and was staring morosely at the label on one of the empty wine bottles scattered around him. He looked so pathetic, it sent a pang of pity through Charlie’s dead heart.
He quietly entered the house and made his way to the living room. John glanced up at the noise. His face was a mixture of relief and fear.
“I’m sorry,” Charlie began sheepishly. He felt embarrassed about the way he’d acted earlier in the night. “It’s true, I can never forgive you for what you did.” John nodded grimly. “But I can understand why. This existence is hell, but I can’t imagine how awful it would be to do it alone.” He paused. “Have people really tried to kill you in all the ways you said?”
John glanced at the bits of broken glass clinging to Charlie’s clothing and briefly wondered if he’d tried one of those methods. “Yes. I never lied to you, I swear it.” Charlie nodded, seeming to accept his statement.
The two of them sat in uncomfortable silence for a long while.
“Did you want me to describe you, too?” Charlie said at last.
John nodded. “It’s been 648 years since I’ve seen my reflection,” he admitted. His smile widened as Charlie’s face lit up.
“Well, happy deathday, you old bastard! Let’s get started.”
“You know, I’m starting to get hungry again…”
They both glanced at the corpse in front of them.