This story is by Luisa Pak and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Jeanette Tanner stepped out of the club in downtown New York on a school night, and lit up a cigarette. The city was abuzz with tourists and noise, and she inhaled it all in. Her friends were inside, still marveling that they were able to get in with their fake IDs. Clubbing and drugs dominated their social lives, which was a welcome relief for Jeanette since her mother died a few months ago.
“Can I bum one off you?” A cute guy with shaggy black hair smiled.
“Sure,” she shrugged and handed him a Marlboro Light.
“I haven’t seen you here before. Name’s Bruno, and I’m here every night.
“I’m surprised you still have hearing. That’s why I’m out here, to preserve my ears,” Jeanette cracked.
“You get used to it,” he said, pulling some earplugs out of his pockets. “Here, this will help you. But young girls like you should be careful. There’s been some creepy activity around the city these days.”
“I’m not that young!” she pouted. “Oh, you mean, the murders? Yeah, my dad’s a cop so I’m getting all the updates. But does he really care if I die? He works nights, and since my mom died, he doesn’t seem too interested in checking up on me.”
Bruno let out a low whistle. “Whoa, you don’t hold back, do you?” He shook his head and stepped back. “Take care of yourself.”
“Crap.” She always did this. Overshared in the first few minutes, while numbing her mind with booze and drugs. The last few months of haunting the New York hotspots while spewing verbal diarrhea about her life stunted her social skills. She went inside, gritting her teeth as the pounding music engulfed her.
She went up to her friends, who were all in the throes of a gnarly high. She indicated she was leaving and waited, but no one seemed interested in accompanying her out. They jerked around to the music and ignored her, and Jeanette stomped out.
She didn’t want to be all crammed in a subway or take a cab, so she opted to walk back to her apartment on the Lower East Side. But she wouldn’t be there for long, because the lease was about up and her dad wanted to move to the outer boroughs to save money. More changes to hate in her life.
Bruno’s warning stayed with her. New York felt terrorized with this macabre wave of crime, but her dad reassured her that she shouldn’t worry. “The bodies, all deadbeats. Crooks and criminals. Don’t worry, sweetheart. This guy knows what he’s targeting. Precinct wants to give him a medal,” he chuckled.
“Dad, people are dying! Headlines say they’re all slaughtered and drained of blood. You’re not worried at all? Not even for me?”
“Jeanette, you’re so dramatic. I know you’re going through some stuff. So am I. It’s a rough time, but we’ll get over it.” He didn’t mention her inky dyed hair, Goth makeup and multiple piercings, or her sudden weight loss. Or the long sleeves to hide the cuts on her arm. If anything, he was starting to look younger and better than before. Oddly. Her mom’s death was akin to an inconvenience, not a life tragedy.
“Fuck off, Dad,” she muttered as she recounted the conversation. Too absorbed in her self-pity, she wasn’t paying attention to the usual landmarks. Making a wrong turn, she didn’t realize her mistake until a loud whimper jolted her to reality.
“It must be a cat or something,” she thought to herself. Trying to find the source of the sound, she found some blood trickling to a back of an apartment building. She followed it, and a man was on the floor, clutching at this neck.
“Oh my god! Are you okay?” she screamed, rushing to his side.
“Get away from me!” he rasped, eyes filled with terror.
“I’m trying to help you, you’re covered in blood! I’m going to call the police!” she shrieked, pulling out her phone.
“No, no! Cop did this to me. Thought I was doing a deal, but turned out he was undercover. He was all friendly and talking me up, but then he lunged at me! Thought he was trying to tear out my throat.” More blood spilled through his fingers.
“Are you sure? A cop?” she paused, because her father was supposed to be undercover that night.
“Yeah, I’m fucking sure. Help me. Please help me. Shit, this hurts,” he whimpered.
“The cop. What did he look like?” she demanded.
The dying man grunted, “I don’t know! Looked young at first, but older up close. Dark hair, friendly smile, but he looked evil as hell at the end,” his voice trailing off. With a few more gasps, the man went still.
She couldn’t think and all she could do was run. But the man’s words stuck in her head. Adrenaline coursed through her and details from the last few months replayed in her mind. The dead bodies of criminals. Her father’s coldness. Lack of attention. Holed up in his room all day, only out at night. Looking unnaturally vibrant yet lifeless. Could it be?
She stayed in the living room, waiting up for her father. Everything was coming together. Years of reading young adult novels and comics and watching horror movies told her everything she needed to know.
The door opened at 4 a.m., before the sunrise. Her father stepped in, quietly and not turning on the lights.
“Dad?” she whispered.
“Jesus, Jeanette! You scared me!” though he did not seem surprised at all.
“Dad. I know what you are. Those dead bodies. You working at night all the time. You look like a corpse too, these days. A good one, though.”
“Honey, what are you getting at?” He rolled his eyes and sighed. But that didn’t affect her.
“Vampire. That’s what you are. And I want to be one, too, Dad.”