“Sit down, my friend. Have a drink?” Jerry held the vodka bottle poised over the card table.
He knew vampires couldn’t drink vodka. He knew and yet he offered it to me anyway. No matter what I said to him, he persisted in giving me things I could not have.
“Why do you do this, Jerry?”
Jerry seemed amused. He leaned back in his tattered armchair and chuckled. He looked a mess, as most dead heads did. He looked both confident and defeated.
“I watch you. Maybe I watch you as much as you watch me because I know you watch me. Isn’t that what vampires do? You watch your prey, sometimes for years, even decades, and then you eat them for lunch. Oh man, I wonder how long you will watch me before I become a snack.”
I was irritated by his rambling. “What does that have to do with anything? Not that I’m partaking of such nonsense. What are you yapping about, Jerry?”
Jerry smiled. He wasn’t afraid of me, regardless of how much he talked about vampire moods, vampire tendencies and vampire characteristics. Jerry was fond of me and then he was curious as well. I know this because I can live in his brain. All meat things are easy for brain picking.
“I offer you things because I know you wish to be human. I know you wish to die. So, the worst thing that could happen, if you drink this, would be to die. Isn’t that what you want, awesome creature of the night?”
Jerry waved his hands in the air as if he could see a rainbow. Then again, maybe he could.
“I don’t know what I want, Jerry. No, I do know what I want. It’s simple and there are two choices. Either I want to die or I want to live beneath your basement.”
“Why? That makes no sense, man.”
I rose from my chair, the other tattered chair opposite from Jerry. All around me were stacks of comics, records and magazines. Perched upon each stack were brightly coloured bongs of all shapes and sizes. Thrown into the valley between those towers were piles of clothing that either Jerry had worn or were straight from the dryer, unfolded and neglected. Most anyone would wonder why I wanted to live beneath this rubble.
I walked around the room. I surveyed the posters which covered almost every space on Jerry’s lime green walls. I wanted to be here and I had no idea why.
“In all honesty, Jerry, to you, I have an unbelievable reason to be here. Months ago, right before I met you at that dilapidated white house, you know the one with the shattered window and putrid smell? Yes, right before then, before I walked the streets looking for the perfect place, the perfect person to help me feel human. I looked Jerry, I looked and I thought about so many things that my mind should have exploded. But vampire minds don’t break, they never break. No matter how much you try, were are fairly resilient. As I was saying, when I woke up from my slumber, I searched for someone like you and some place such as this. I woke in the earth, beneath the sands and I yearned to be human. I wanted to be a true human, not some wealthy ingrate with the belief that he would live forever. I wanted to be mortal, feel mortal and die like all of you. I wanted to live in filth, human-made filth that I could smell and I could detest, only as humans hated things. I didn’t want to observe from a distance like some mortals do. I wanted to live within the dampest hole beneath the home of a small person. Jerry, I insult you, this I know, but I would never be anything but honest with you.”
“Wow Stephen, that was both insulting and exhausting. You should write a book, man.”
“As I said, I’m sorry to have insulted you. I want to feel what you feel, Jerry.”
Jerry furrowed his brow. “I have one question. If you wanted to live in poverty, why not live in some village in a third world country?”
This angered me. Jerry had no idea how long I wandered the earth and he was getting under my skin. Every word, which fell from his lips was ignorant to me. It hurt my brain and yet, intrigued me all the same.
“What makes you think I haven’t experienced that sort of existence? I have lived in places you could never imagine. It’s just…well…”
“I lived in villages, I watched the natives fashion weaponry with little pieces of stone-chert, I believe. I watched the women and children playing in the earth, letting dirty water stream down their brown bodies. You should have seen it, Jerry! They were some of the first people here, in this land. I watched them for a long time, but then I scared them. I started wars among the tribes. You see, they believed I was a spirit sent from the enemy, and so I had to leave. I ran to the mountains where I slept in a cave. There, I was alone with my fire for years-absolutely alone. No animals wandered near me. In the distance I heard the wolf call and I traced its yearning. When I grew hungry, I hunted them, the wolves, but I was still filled with loneliness. Then, for still many more years, I lived on farms, in barns and beneath fields. Once, when I crawled from beneath the earth, I came face to face with a dead meat thing. I sat for hours watching the meat man, dead and neglected in the middle of that field…and Jerry, I wished it was me.”
“Wow man, you’ve been everywhere.”
Those are just places on this land. I have been to darker places than that on land across the waters. But I want to be here. I don’t want to live eternally alone, Jerry. I would be anyone but me. I would be you, Jerry.”
Jerry turned as if thinking of mortality, his human condition. His thoughts would have been interesting if I hadn’t heard it all before. Jerry turned and looked down between the chair and the small table beside him. He reached scrambling for a remote control. Jerry wanted me to hear a song and so he picked up the remote and pointed it toward a speaker in the corner.
“You want to be human but you’ve no idea what humanity is now. What you were and what we are is different, even when you breathed the air of meat men you were different than us. Here, I want you to listen to this, Steve, ole buddy. And I’m not pissed or anything. I’ve been insulted much worse than that. Listen.”
Jerry pressed the button and the emptiness filled the room. Inside the emptiness, a tinkling began. After a moment, music filled the room. I listened, and as the song progressed my mind absorbed the lyrics. It wasn’t altogether distasteful-it was like most music in the present era.
“What is this?”
“Doesn’t matter what it is, Stephen. All that matters is how it makes you feel. Listen close, maybe it’s your destiny. Maybe you are the king…the king of pain, my brother. Maybe you should keep living and truly understanding how devastating it is and how lonely it is. Keep watching us die, Stephen! Here, have a hit off this.”
Jerry pushed the joint toward me and nodded his head. I looked away.
“I don’t want that, Jerry. It will do nothing for me. In all this time, I have never touched those things, those vices of the human being.”
“Well, maybe you should. Hey, when “your meat men” are in pain, we like to numb the situation, know what I mean?”
“Give me that!”
I snatched the joint dropping it onto the floor. My left Armani shoe crushed the marijuana cigarette.
Hey man! What you do that for?”
I stood and walked around the card table that separated us. Grabbing Jerry by the collar, I lifted him out of his chair.
“What is wrong with you? You should feel privileged to feel every moment of this.”
Jerry gasped. “Every moment of what?”
“Your impending death! You make me sick. You are so ungrateful for this gift.”
Jerry couldn’t understand and I could barely stand to look at him. It was plain and simple, I hate how spoiled the meat men are. When offered the greatest gift of all, they try to avoid it.
“Put me down! I thought you were my friend, man. Chill out!” Who doesn’t want to live forever?”
I slammed Jerry into his old recliner and walked toward the speaker in the corner. His infernal music was pushing him on. I lifted the speaker and broke it into pieces. No more king of pain, the music died in a whine and smoke curled up into the air. As Jerry yelled obscenities, I left the basement slamming the door behind me.
It was daytime and I would try again to end it all.