This story is by Dale Gorny and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Alex got out of bed an hour before he needed to. It didn’t do much good to lay there since he had been tossing around for the past two hours anyway. He was filled with anxiety at the prospect of yet another day at the school of hell. It wasn’t bad enough just being sixteen with all its usual angst. Noooo. He didn’t have any real friends, he was self-conscious about everything about himself, and being smarter than most of his classmates didn’t help.
After dragging his overtired body to the bathroom in the hall, he was forced, as he was every morning, to contemplate his acne ravaged face in the mirror. He could only look for the briefest moments before moving on to the scrawny arms and chest that were so pathetic. The newest bruise on his right forearm simply reminded him of what was most likely in store for him at the Bridgeland High torture chamber, where the bullies ruled. He took a deep breath, washed his face, brushed his teeth and went back to his room to get dressed in the usual jeans and school shirt. He had time to get on his computer to see what was going on in the world…not that anything would actually make a difference in his life.
Alex dreamed of attending MIT and for the most part, his grades were sufficient to qualify, although he could not get a scholarship if he couldn’t stay better focused. He was a whiz kid with math and science and he knew more about computers and programs than the computer science teacher at Bridgeland. But the reality was that he was severely depressed and it interfered with his day to day life. He didn’t blame his mom; she was doing the best she could on her own, but working as a real estate agent in the small community of Bridgeland, Iowa was not very profitable, even though she worked long hours six days a week. His father left them three years ago because life with Alex and his mom was ‘not what he had hoped it would be’, and although he had promised that he would be around and contribute to his only son’s welfare, the man had never sent home more than fifty dollars, and never paid them a visit since leaving.
Oh well. Might as well get on with the day.
Alex Grogan walked to school and into the building that housed his home room, passing Jennifer Longstreet at the entrance. He glanced nervously at her from under his shaggy brown hair and attempted a shy smile in her direction, but she was busy chatting with her two best friends, Claire and Stephany, and as usual, didn’t notice him.
At his locker, he was pushed from behind, smashing his flat chest into the metal wall, by Rocky Durand.
Let the day begin.
“Grogan! You asshole! Where’s my lunch money??”
His usual array of toadies was snickering behind him, making taunting remarks towards Alex.
“I forgot to bring any.” Alex lied.
“Aww. Too bad. I guess I’ll just have to pummel you then,” roared the big senior.
“Oh well, that would be a novel idea, wouldn’t it?” Alex smirked knowing it would outrage Rocky but not really caring.
The punch to Alex’s right arm was right on top of yesterday’s bruise and he had to struggle to keep from wincing. The school bell rang and the bully turned to his groupies and laughed his ridiculous guffaw as they headed to class.
At the end of the day, Alex cautiously approached the lockers, hoping to avoid another confrontation with Rocky Horror, the six foot tall, two hundred pound linebacker. All seemed clear and he hurried to get his books and go home, but he was diverted around the corner when he heard a girl crying and pleading. Looking around the end of the lockers, he saw Mandy Kepler, a girl from his science class, being harassed by Rocky. Tears were streaming down her face as she tried to push the huge brute away, but he just laughed as he easily held her against the wall with his forearm while groping with his other hand up her skirt. Alex looked desperately around for a teacher or administrator to help the girl, but finding none, he knew he couldn’t leave her.
“Oh crap. Here we go again,” he muttered as he approached them.
“Hey, Rocky! What’s the matter? Can’t you get a girl to play willingly with you?”
A collective gasp came from Rocky’s little support group as the big jerk released Mandy and turned on Alex.
“Grogan. You got a death wish? Mind your own business!”
“Yeah. Afraid I can’t.”
Rocky swaggered to where Alex defiantly stood and punched him in the stomach. Alex doubled over and then fell to his side and Rocky proceeded to kick him.
“Stop it! Leave him alone!” Mandy was screaming as loud as she could, which finally brought the football coach, Mr. Davis, to the commotion.
“What’s going on here, Durand?”
“Why, nothing at all, coach. I was just helping Alex here get up.”
He grabbed Alex by the back of his shirt and lifted him to his feet, brushing off imaginary dust, laughing and turning to go. The coach just shook his head and went back to his gym.
Mandy put her hand on Alex’s shoulder and said, “thank you Alex. That was very brave. Stupid. But brave. You’re my hero.”
“Meh. No problem,” Alex wheezed out through the pain. Mandy hurried down the hall.
Walking home was a little more difficult for Alex, but in case it wasn’t bad enough, he turned onto his street to be encountered again by Rocky Horror!
“Shit.” He muttered under his breath.
“Grogan! You are about to die!”
“Oh great. What else is new?”
Rocky slapped Alex on the left side of his face so hard that his eye teared up. He waited for the next blow, when he heard a voice, calm and low come from over his left shoulder.
“What’s going on gentlemen?”
“None of your fuckin business is what’s goin on.”
Alex heard the stranger say “You should beware of the underdog.”
Rocky was confused and asked, “What is that happy horseshit about?”
“Even a Goliath was brought down.”
“You think I’m worried about this little runt??? Hah!”
Alex saw Rocky cock his arm back to plant his right fist in his face and Alex squeezed his eyes shut. But the punch never landed. When Alex peeked at Rocky, he saw a surprised look on his face, as Alex was holding Rocky’s fist in his left hand. He didn’t feel the effort but Rocky was unable to push his own hand through to connect. Seething with anger, Rocky swung his left fist around to strike Alex in the side of his head. But Alex raised his right arm, blocking the assault, again without any effort on Alex’s part. Rocky was stunned, his entourage began chuckling behind their hands, and in a fury, the big Horror took a step back, turned and fumed down the street, calling over his shoulder, “This ain’t over, Grogan!” And his little group followed close behind after shooting quizzical looks at Alex.
Alex had not moved since Rocky dropped his hands, but he now looked over at the stranger.
“What just happened?” He asked the young man.
“I’d say David just had his way with Goliath.” He smiled a little and said, “I like the way you stand up for someone else when you can barely stand up yourself.”
“Yes, but how did that happen?”
“Ahh, well, you may have had a little help.”
“Who are you, and what does that mean?” Asked the perplexed boy.
“I am Victor, and once I was much like you.”
Alex gathered his fallen books, straightened his shirt and pushed back his hair before turning towards his home.
“Do you live around here? I don’t remember ever seeing you.” He asked the brooding Victor.
“Not exactly. You could say I’m passing through. I was longing for some company when I noticed you, and I thought you could use my help.”
Alex’s black hole of a life needed a lot of help, but he didn’t understand what this guy could do for him. Still, he found himself intrigued by the mysterious stranger and felt he could use some company as well. They walked to Alex’s house together, talking as though they had known each other for years, and when Alex asked Victor how he was able to stop Rocky Horror, the reply shook the hapless youth to his core.
“It was nothing. I can control some people in interesting ways. You see, I’m a vampire.” He said in his nonchalant manner.
Alex stopped dead in his tracks, mouth agape, eyes wide. The vampire grinned at the look on the youths face.
“Are you going to kill me? Are you going to suck my blood?” The boy asked.
“No. That is not my intention. How much company would you be if you were dead?”
“So…you’re going to make me…like you…the undead?”
“How theatrical. Undead is such a cliché,” and again he smiled.
The confused boy shook his head slowly. “I don’t understand. What do you want from me?”
“I told you. I like you and would like to be friends.”
“But you don’t know anything about me. How can you say you like me?”
“I’ve been watching you for some time. You have a kind nature. You have a good sense of humor and you’re very intelligent. Fine qualities for a friend.”
“How is it you can be out in the daylight? Shouldn’t you be in a coffin somewhere?”
“That Hollywood stuff is nonsense. I am only slightly non-human.” The stranger chuckled a bit, took Alex’s shaking arm and led him the rest of the way home.
Alex and Victor spent quite a bit of time together over the next few days. The usual bullies at school, especially Rocky Durand, avoided Alex as though he were some strange creature that they couldn’t understand. This suited Alex just fine, and he felt certain that his new friend, had something to do with that. Before long, Alex started feeling confident in himself, knowing that he had a secret weapon in his arsenal. A Vampire! Wow! Victor was not scary in any way, but very caring and concerned about him, even convincing Alex that MIT was not at all out of reach. In fact, Victor helped Alex with his applications to only the best colleges and ways to get full scholarships.
“Why does all this matter to you?” He asked Victor.
“Because I was like you once. A long time ago I wanted to be a scholar, and I wanted to teach. I thought it was just an unattainable dream for someone like me. But then a vampire named Julius taught me how to achieve the impossible.”
“Yeah, but then he made you a vampire? I don’t know if that was a great gift.”
“It was not Julius, but a jealous woman who wanted him to herself. Julius was furious with her! But that is another story.”
With the self-confidence that Alex had acquired, came an overall change in his attitude. He spoke freely with Mandy, who had developed a crush on him ever since he rescued her from Rocky, and Jennifer, who he had been shy of since she started in his school, invited him to sit with her at lunch. Even his skin cleared up, as if by magic!
He looked in his mirror in the morning, knowing he had turned an incredible corner in his life, and he knew he had his friend, the vampire Victor, to thank for it all. He hoped that they would be able to be friends for a long time, even though he knew that Victor would soon fade away just as he had appeared.