Katrinka Mannelly writes and lives in Fircrest, Washington with her husband Brian, daughter Tigist, dog Queenie and cat Riptide. She is a storyteller and always has been. Her book, Section 130, is available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com. Check out what she’s up to at 130andbeyond.com.
by Katrinka Mannelly
“You will feel nothing and you will not be afraid.”
“Yes master,” he mumbles, his eyelids drooping in supplication.
I lean in, seduced by the steady throb of his pulse. I inhale his scent, soap and musk. I flick his taut neck with my tongue anticipating the warm taste and jolt from his lifeblood. My fangs slide forward extending in eager anticipation. The left punctures the fleshy barrier with a satisfying pop and slips effortlessly inward finding the flow of a juicy vein. The right meets slight resistance and…
“Holy mother of god.” I lurch backward and howl to wake the dead. My hand flies to my mouth of its own accord. I gingerly tap the fang sending new waves of pain rippling from my gums to my brain and back in a torturous loop. I roar in frustration.
“Master-dude, I feel neither pain nor fear from your bite as you commanded, but all your yelling is freaking me out,” my youthful longhaired victim announces in his lazy entranced state.
“Be gone,” I thunder. He straightens his neck, fluffs his hair and starts gliding away with a faraway look in his eyes. “And remember nothing,” I add, as humiliation rather than sustenance courses through my being.
Master-dude indeed. What happened to the days of reverence? Of being powerless and exhilarated in my thrall? Today’s quarries are not what they used to be.
Mindful not to touch the offending tooth again, I wait and let it retract back into place as I head to The Underworld, a local hangout for sups, to drown my sorrows, numb my pain and maybe even find a sympathetic ear. I rarely allow myself to be vulnerable around other supernatural beings—I find it intolerably unattractive—but this reoccurring fang pain is driving me to a new low.
Ah, Juliette is tending bar tonight. The epitome of today’s witch, beguiling and beautiful. “Come on in James,” she calls to me at the door. Standard protocol for my kind, but unnecessary. My platinum credit card and I have standing invitations.
“Scotch neat. Your rarest, oldest and most expensive, if you please.”
“Celebrating or trying to forget?” the dreadlocked minx asks as she sets the glass down in front of me.
“Dulling the ache, I hope. Leave the bottle. I’m good for it.”
“A metaphorical ache, no doubt?” She leans her scantily clad torso my way.
“Literal, I’m afraid.”
“I thought I sensed pain in you, but what? I see no burns. Someone splash a bit of holy water your way? Press a rosary to your skin?” I feel her scan me with her third eye for some scar or scorch. Her brow furrows. She’s not used to coming up empty.
“I’ve cracked a fang if you must know. It makes feeding a bitch and I’m getting pretty damn hungry.”
“No,” she cackles. “You’re a sup. Healing comes with the package. How is it even possible?”
I down my drink and thump the glass on the bar, demanding another. “How does it always happen? A girl of course, a Lorelei, damn siren of the sea. We dated a while. It was novel. After three hundred years you yearn for something different, even if it is part fish. Rolling in the shallows, I bit her neck dozens of times, but one night feeling frisky, she insisted I bite her lower, on the bottom half. How was I to know mermaid scales are impenetrable? I cracked a fang and she laughed, the dirty harpy. That’s what I get for trying something new.”
Juliette holds her chuckle in, but her eyes sparkle giving her away—not quite the friend I was looking for. “You hungry sweetie? You know, we serve blood here. I can mix it or give it to you on the rocks.”
I shudder. My stomach contracts. “Cold blood is repulsive. It’s lifeless and flat, like drinking frozen metal. I have no idea how anyone can stand it.”
“It’s popular with the young vamps, honey. They love it with a celery stick and a couple of olives. Bloody-Bloody Marys have to be one of our top five best sellers.”
A frown, wrinkled nose and involuntary shimmy is the politest answer I can offer. Young vampires today, a phrase I loathe to hear—all glitz and shine. I hate the whole experimental lot of them; flaunters of the old ways, pillars of society, drinkers of animal blood, stars of movies and TV shows.
“I guess I could nuke it in the microwave for you.”
“Just keep pouring the scotch. I need help. Some sort of supernatural assistance. Any chance you know any witches who might be of service?” I flash my most flirtatious grin.
“My kind doesn’t serve your kind, sweetie. You know that.” She gives my hand a playful slap.
“What are you doing right now, my little enchantress?”
“Slinging drinks is one thing, aiding and abetting stone cold killers is quite another.”
“I haven’t killed anyone in a hundred years, not even the damn fish girl,” I mutter, more to myself.
“So you’re one of those then? More of a mother-sucker?”
“Well, aren’t you a clever one? Killing is messy business and labor intensive. I learned long ago, it’s better to take what I need and move on—no body to hide, no loose ends, no fuss, no muss. What are witches but human anyway? There was a time, you know, when I could glamour your type just like anyone else.”
“We’ve come a long way baby,” Juliette mocks. “So sorry sugar, you’re never going to find a witch around here to help you. We follow a code these days that doesn’t include helping vamps suck the life out of people. Even a little bit. It’s still a violation. But don’t you worry. You’ll be okay. All you need is JoAnn’s.”
“JoAnn, who is she? An outcast? A demigod? Some sort of Voodoo priestess?”
“Honey, JoAnn’s isn’t a person. It’s a place. A craft store. I’m sure they could fix you right up with some sort of needle or something to do the puncturing for you, if that’s all you need.”
Insulted, I grab the bottle and storm off to a table in the corner. After two or five or ten more rounds, this JoAnn place no longer seems like the worst possible idea, so I compel a sober patron to take me there.
We arrive in my Land Rover, tough, old and classic like me. Before I compel my driver away I feel sorely tempted to take a quick nip, but I know the price I’d pay. She is slovenly anyway, wearing stained ill-fitting yoga pants and a faded stretched out hoodie. I deplore the causal nature of people today and long for the days when dressing smart was a social norm. I pine for my brocades, silks and velvet. These days I do the best I can with crisp cottons, sharp linens and denims that hug my shapely butt. I walk through the large double doors, hurry passed the overwhelming stench of artificially scented cinnamon pinecones and take stock. I am handsome, vain, drunk, hungry, afraid to touch my tooth and one hundred percent out of my element in a big box craft store. How did I get here?
I amble through the aisles seeking the proper assistant until I spy Brenda. Her clothes are garish, but at least they match and are clean. She’ll do. She avoids eye contact. Clearly she is on a mission and does not wish to be sidetracked, but whatever her errand may be, I need her more.
“Brenda, look at me.” Why, oh why, should a mesmerizing creature of the night even have to ask?
She turns my way and immediately I know I have her. I feel more relieved than I want to be to know I’ve still got it.
“Yes master. How can I help you?”
“You will not be afraid and you will remember nothing.”
“Find me a needle of some sort. Something small, strong enough to puncture human skin and muscle, without making a mess, leaving a hole large enough for a sort of small straw to enter.”
“I see,” she says looking me up and down. Slowly I watch her raise her right hand to a cord attached to her apron and her headset. She presses a button and says, “Guys, I have a master, I mean customer, here, looking for something sharp to puncture human skin with. I was thinking of a quilting needle. What do you think? Any ideas?”
“Good God, Brenda. Discretion,” I hiss.
Brenda stares at me blankly and listens to a response on the headset. “Oh, great idea. Thanks.”
She focuses on me. “Melissa recommends a clay lace tool. It has a small curved blade on one side, master, and a needle for poking on the other, it should do the trick.”
She pantomimes sticking herself in the neck with a small modeling device and grins.
“Never mind.” I hurry away from beaming Brenda. “Remember nothing.”
I’d flush with embarrassment if there was any damn blood in my body. This is awful. I just want my life back.
I twist and turn in my coffin all day trying to untangle my problem. Feeling desperate, I head back to The Underground in the early evening. I’m starving and may have to choke down some of their bottled blood to make it through the night. At least I don’t see Juliette on duty to witness my shame. I amble up to the bar, but my pride takes over and I order the scotch instead.
“Hey bro. You don’t look so good,” a shaggy regular ventures.
“I’m fine, thank you,” I reply, without looking his way.
“No man, you need to feed. I can see it and smell it and well, last night I heard all about it when you were chatting up Juliette. Super hearing holes, you know.” He shrugs, pointing to his ears. He reeks of werewolf.
“It’s not polite to eavesdrop, dog.”
“Didn’t mean to bro. Let me make it up to you. I’ll buy you a blood bag.”
No bite in this one. He let my slight slide completely. “Blood bag?”
“You know, a donor bag. Like a juice box for blood suckers. Look around, they’re huge with your kind. You haven’t tried it?”
I look around and notice several flashy young vampires slurping away on plastic bags. My stomach churns. “I’ll stick with the scotch.”
“Suit yourself. I’m Max.” He extends a hand.
I look, but don’t shake. I sigh instead. In my day vampires and weres were sworn enemies. How did we come to this? Mangy mutts offering to buy me blood in a bar.
“I may have a guy.” He leans toward me, whispering.
“A guy for what, pray tell?”
“Your problem. You know, the tooth?”
“You know a healer who can help? A dentist who works on vampires?” I ask, getting my hopes up.
“Well, I know a doctor, of sorts.”
“He’s a vet, a vet who helps my pack out from time to time.”
“A vet? I am not an animal, you, you…”
“Chill man.” He places a hand on mine which I jerk away with haste.
“Look. I’m trying to help you, man. We sups gotta stick together, you know?”
“Open your eyes. Take a look around.” He gestures toward the seating area in the bar. I look and see werewolves, witches, vampires drinking, laughing and hanging out together. Not to mention gnomes and ghosts and maybe some sort of sasquatch lumbering in a corner.
“It’s a weird new world, man. Filled with technology, information and super smart humans. Trust me. It takes a pack.”
Lowering my guard a little, I ask, “This vet of yours, do you actually think he can fix it?”
“Naw man, he’s just a vet, not an oral surgeon or anything, but I’m pretty sure he could extract it.”
“Extract it? How would I eat? Are suggesting I have to live off plastic bags and cold blood in this brave new world of yours?”
“No, of course not. You could eat with one fang, right? The good one would still work. I heard you tell Juliette, you’re a sucker, not a killer, so why do you even need two?”
“All vampires have two. We have all, always had two. It’s how it’s done—with two.” I flash two fingers in a victory sign for emphasize.
“Okay, whatever man. Like I said, I’m just trying to help you, brother. It’s tough out there. Everything is changing and it’s not going to stop. Not for any of us. You either change along with the world or you get left behind. Adapt or die, bro. It’s up to you.”
Like the night before, I grab the bottle and slink off into a corner—not the sasquatch one. Also like the night before, after two or five or ten more rounds, my new acquaintance’s idea no longer seems like the worst possible one.
A few days later I’m in an uber on my way home from an appointment. Unable to wait to know the results, I order my driver to pull over.
“You will feel nothing and you will not be afraid.”
“Yes master.” She complies. The familiar slack spreads across her face and body.
I lean in, nostalgia courses through me at the rhythm of her pulse. I breathe in her clean flowery scent. I skim her stretched neck with my lips daring to anticipate the delectable flavor and heat. One fang slides forward. I’m equal parts eager and anxious. The fang pierces the skin and glides inward. Pay dirt. Ecstasy. Rapture. I swoon. It’s a brand new day in a brave new world and I am here, adapted and ready.
Copyright 2021 by Katrinka Mannelly