I’m the unluckiest guy you don’t know. In fact, I’m the unluckiest guy, period. Just when I think something’s going right, it turns on me. I can already hear you scoffing and laughing, turning your nose up at my claims. But hear me out.
There I was, happy as a zombie in a creche. I had a classy downtown LA apartment and all the willing young women I could drink. They loved the pale skin and the red eyes and the mystery. Some of them even loved the biting. I know what you’re saying, there’s no such thing as a classy downtown LA apartment, but trust me, my place was sweet.
I had it good. I had it more than good. But it wasn’t enough. So when Doctor Zanz offered my the skin job, I couldn’t say no. I’d seen them around town, once or twice, those posh fellas with the glittery skin. The doc wouldn’t say how the process worked, or how they managed to stay alive in the sun. Trade secrets, apparently. I dug around, but heard nothing bad about it, so in I went.
Ten grand and two days later, I stepped out the surgery as a new man. Or new vampire. Whatever. I took a stroll down the strip, revelling in the warm sun on my skin and the admiring looks of the old time glam rockers and new time hipsters. They pretty much queued up to be bit.
Like I said, I had it good. Then it happened. I was out one night, chatting up a barmaid and wondering just how long I was gonna have to wait to get me some neck, when something kicked off on the other side of the bar. Just a few raised voices, nothing I’d normally pay attention to, but certain words drifted across and my ears pricked up.
The words were old Vampire, a language I only knew because my grandfather had beaten it into me a couple of centuries earlier. It had power, enough to make the hairs on my neck stand up, but the pronunciation was terrible.
I excused myself, giving her one last hungry, wistful look, and strolled across the bar. Three guys, entirely human, were sat around a table. I should have known something was sour straight away. What were humans doing in a place like that? One had a book open before him and was chanting very slowly and clumsily. In old Vampire.
I controlled myself, barely, and prepared a more reasonable response than tearing his head off. I’m not one of those savages you meet in the old world.
‘Scuse me, fellas, you really think that’s a good idea?’
‘Shut up, man, he’s nearly finished. He’s actually gonna do it.’
The man who told me to shut up glanced over his shoulder. Whether he recognised the pale skin was debatable, but he certainly chose not to. He turned back around and I bit my lip very hard. That was when I should have walked out of that place. I should have known something was wrong. You ever seen a vampire bite its own lip? Not a pretty sight.
‘Do what?’ I ask.
He looked back again and saw the blood trickling down my chin from where my left fang had impaled by lower lip. I enjoyed the way his face changed. He had a beer in his hand, but now it clattered to the table top and he turned away again.
‘Art.’ He hissed. ‘Art, cut it out, there’s a vamp here, man. Art? Art?’
The man he was calling Art was still chanting. His accent hadn’t improved but the power was picking up, making my vision blur.
‘What is he trying to do?’ As I finished speaking, a wind ran through the club, spilling drinks and making the jukebox in the corner rattle and skip the track it was playing. It was one of those dirty blues tracks that people think they should play in a bar like that, even though they never listen to blues any other time.
‘It’s too late, man.’ The speaker had turned back to me, big arrogant smile on his lips. ‘He’s done it. We’re leaving, finally, we’re leaving.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘Paradise, man, paradise.’
I raised a hand, ready to tear his face off. Then a wall of energy slapped me and threw me straight across the bar. I smacked into the lower roof above the bar and landed hard on the floor. Others weren’t so lucky. The lovely lady serving drinks struck the bottles so hard they smashed and rained broken glass on her.
The other patrons were blasted from their seats and assaulted with shards of wood and broken chairs. Across the table from me, a portal had opened. It was a burning purple colour, angry sunset colour, and spinning so fast my balance went funny.
The third man, who had yet to speak, rose from his chair and took a step towards the portal. It looked like something grabbed him, though there was nothing I could see, and he was jerked forwards off his feet.
Now when I say jerked off his feet, I don’t mean he fell over. I mean his feet stayed where they were and rest of the him was torn away and vanished into the portal.
Two mini geysers of blood jetted straight up then came down like fountains.
‘Oh man.’ This from the speaker. The chanting one came to a halt and slammed the book shut. He grinned for a moment before he noticed me. ‘What the hell?’
‘Well said. Where’s the portal go?’ I ask.
‘I read about it, man. It’s where we’re going.’
‘How did you read about it? What books told you where that portal leads?’
‘This book, man.’ He hefted the book and shook it at me. ‘It’s pure paradise. You should come.’
I almost answer with some pointless comment about how little I want to leave LA before I realise I shouldn’t bother. These guys are crazy, but the portal is slowing already. The revolutions have dipped in the last ten seconds, so it won’t last long. In fact, this is the perfect time to go through. They might even keep their feet attached to their bodies.
As I turn to leave, I notice the speaker pointing out their friend’s feet, still chugging blood onto the wooden floor. The spell caster merely shrugs and rises from his seat. I take about two steps before I’m tempted to watch.
The spell caster takes baby steps towards the portal, hands held out before him, like it’ll make any difference. He’s within a metre before the wind takes hold and hauls him through. He vanishes into the portal with the sound like a cork leaving a bottle, and takes his feet with him. In fact, there’s no trace he was ever even here.
Except the spell book. The speaker is far too interested in the portal to notice as I scoop it up from the table and tuck it into my jacket. He leaves his chair and tiptoes forwards in just the same way as his pal. Then he’s gone, also in possession of all his extremities.
I stare at the portal for a moment. What does paradise look like? It’s a tempting proposition. I’ve got it good here, but what could it be like in paradise for a vampire with sparkly skin and a smooth line with the ladies?
I take a step towards the portal and that’s when everything goes haywire. A shout from the door makes me turn and stare in amazement as guys in uniforms come charging in, shouting and waving tazer guns around. Everyone in the bar starts screaming, shouting or pulling out their phones to take video. I resist the urge to do the same and look again at the portal.
They won’t like that I’m a vampire. We’re pretty much accepted in most parts of society, but there are a few that still struggle with us. The police is one of them.
I sigh and take another step. I can feel it now, like a rope tied round my gut and hauling me closer. Shots ring out across the bar and that decides it. Tazers I can handle, but bullets are just a pain. They take days to come out and I’m wearing a new shirt.
Another step. The pulling hurts now, like there are hooks in my skin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as down with a little hooking as the next vamp, but this wasn’t the pleasant sort.
I run into the portal and wave as I go. Good bye, LA, hello paradise.
I land with a thump in a grassy field. It’s more like a vast plain than a field, but I like to imagine trees in there. I like trees. I stand and look around. One huge, pointless, grassy plain. If this is Paradise, I’m a monkey’s uncle.
The three men from the bar are close by. One is screaming. He sounds like a little girl, wailing after getting stung by a bee.
I stomp over and inspect his legs, realising quickly he has no chance of survival. So I drop to my knees and wrap my lips around one of his stumps. He tries and fails to shake me off. He tastes pretty good and he had pie for dinner earlier, which suits me down to the ground.
Something smashes me across the back of the head and the stump shoots out of my mouth.
‘What the hell are you doing, man?’
‘What am I doing?’ I reply. ‘What do you think I’m doing, I’m a vampire.’
‘But aren’t you guys supposed to bite or something?’
‘Only if we need to. This is like someone putting the beer barrel on the table and hammering a tap in there. I ain’t turning up a chance like this. Besides, I’m hungry.’
He goes to kick me again so I grab his leg and throw him to the floor. I return to the soon-to-be corpse and suck hard on the right leg. I’ve drained as much as is gonna come out without his heart giving up, so I swap legs and see what I can get from this one.
A grunt signals the two men are creeping up behind me. Their subtlety is up there with their smarts. I drop the leg and turn, prepared to defend myself. Then a pair of spears emerge, one from each of their chests, missing me by inches. Looking back, I have to say, that was a touch of luck, right there. Both men collapse to the floor, blood seeping from their open wounds.
I have time for a brief smile before another spear is shoved in my face. It’s put there by a short, angry looking man with a vast beard.
‘Sorry, dude, I don’t speak Paradisian.’
I’m guessing he’s not that hot on English either. ‘Vampire.’
He backs away, holding both hands out before him, ready for my attack.
‘It’s alright. I’m here for Paradise.’
Our attackers share funny looks before the one with the spear returns. They can’t kill me with it, but the stick he’s holding can cause me a whole world of hurt. I gaze up at the sky and the miserable nothing that surrounds me, wondering just how stupid it’s possible for a two hundred and something year old vampire to be. Very, by the looks of things.
This is it. If they cripple me, I can’t hunt and that means no blood. It isn’t game over yet, but it easily could be, and soon. They come closer and more of the spears appear in my face.
This is it. My luck, what little I have, has run out.
Then the sun comes out. The clouds part like some vague vanity of a humourless god and sunlight streams down. And I light up like a firework. My skin turns the colour of diamonds and is twice as beautiful. The men surrounding me fall to the floor, spears dropped by their sides.
A low chant begins, building in intensity until they are screaming at me.
‘Gosd, GOsd, Gosd, Gosd.’
I’m guessing I know what that means. My heart leaps into my mouth as I realise I’m not going to die here. Moments later I’m lifted and carried to the centre of their village. Hours after that, I’m borne to the holy place and told, or at least, sigh languaged, that all of this is mine.
That was two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve done nothing. When I say nothing, I mean nothing. They won’t let me wipe my butt any more, let alone anything of any worth. I can’t believe I left LA for this utter waste of time.
So that’s that. I’m a god king in a land filled with tiny, beard-bearing men who wear, without fail, dungarees and big rubber boots. These people have no imagination. So long as the sun shines, I’m in like Flynn. They even bare their necks to me when I beckon.
Then something happened this morning. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone, I’m only hoping the chanter from the bar wasn’t as good at magic as me. Because I’m going home soon. I have to.
My ten grand operation wasn’t permanent. They told me it was, but they were lying. At morning worship this morning, I’m sure some of them noticed the sudden dimming of crappy white light from my skin.
How long do I have? Can I open the portal in time? And why the hell did I get the op in the first place? Of course I know that one. I got it because the ladies love it.
The tribesmen are sharpening their spears. I feel like I could make some poor pun about Paradise Lost here, but all I feel like doing is screaming and running away. Any second now. Any second.
Like I said, unlucky.