EXCERPT: A Vampire’s Guide to Online Dating

Here is an excerpt from a book I started to write but never finished. Maybe someday it will move from the WIP pile into the QUERY pile!

COPYRIGHT (2019) by Jaimie C. Hunter

One: The Mission

As I fight the curse that invades my darkest dreams, one question rings most desperate for an answer: do vampires have hearts?

The question doesn’t refer to the fist-sized organ that moves blood in your chest; obviously, we have those. The myth that vampires’ hearts are like stones, still and vestigial, is only that: a myth. We need the muscle to force your blood through our veins, bringing us vitality. We have hearts, but we are heartless killers. You see, the subject of my inquiry is more ethereal in nature, reaching behind the velvet curtains of our psyches deep into our humanity. Maybe the better question is, can vampires love?

By our very nature, we destroy. Taking blood remains our only vehicle for survival. Blood is life. Life is precious. There are very few willing victims, so we must be destructive. Can there be love in monstrosity? Can I ever be loved by someone else when I loathe myself so completely because of what I have become?

Become. I wasn’t born this way. But why me?

Evil selects its progeny with cold discrimination. Perhaps it senses within us a paucity of the merit that would otherwise have earned us grace. Or perhaps it discerns our higher-than-average propensity to be led through the lush velvet curtains of temptation. There was a time when I might have tried to sell you on the idea that both scenarios were true in my particular case, but the honest truth was, I never really knew why Evil chose me. I did have a heart.

Still, to an educated mind, I had all the makings of a good sinner. I had a surgeon’s arrogance and was often inappropriately bold. I had no problem relaying exactly what I thought and why, and I had no regard for title or station when I did so. Celebrity and standing meant nothing to me. Ambitious to the core, I spent my entire adult life clawing my way up the career caduceus and, in so doing, sacrificed my own chances for personal happiness. Was it not a sin to put wealth before love? I didn’t have time or energy for both. And while I liked specific people well enough, I found that, in masses, humans were quite selfish and annoying, and they were nearly always in my way. Patience is indeed a virtue, but not one I managed to procure when I made my debut on this little blue planet. Still, I attempted to atone for my misanthropy daily by catching lives on the brink of death and slinging them back from the edge in the operating room. Ah, the magic of modern medicine!

Doctors are scientists (humor me), and, as a scientist, I could not eliminate the possibility that my fateful meeting with Evil happened by sheer dumb luck. Could it have been I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Misfortune and I had a love-hate relationship. It was somehow fitting that I tripped over a gnarled tree root and sprained my left ankle while running through a centuries-old cemetery. Unable to escape the onslaught of a vampire coven that apparently inhabited that area, I ended up with my soul bloodied, cursed for all eternity. At least my ankle made a full recovery.

I’d like to think I hadn’t been specifically targeted for this dark fate. I never felt followed, hunted—at least, not that I know of. My life before the Fall was normal. I knew I could love, and love made me joyful. I had friends and a family who loved me. At one point I had even had someone who wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. The demise of that relationship did give me a bitter edginess when it came to romance, but still I loved.

After the Fall, everything was different. I withdrew into darkness and solitude, emerging at nightfall only to procure sustenance and save lives. It was fortunate that the hospital could transfer my hours to the night shift without asking too many questions; I did not think I could bear the sunlight any more than was absolutely necessary simply because it reminded me of a time when I was happy. (Unlike the vampires of lore, I could physically tolerate the sun just fine.) I felt like a wraith, the wretched of the earth, a mere shade and watcher of the glittering things happening around me. It broke my heart. Even so, the deftness with which I blended with normal society caught even me by surprise. I’d always loved to be surrounded by interesting people. Again: society, bad; individual people, good. Very good, actually. An overwhelming feeling that those I loved had instantly become my natural enemy—prey, even—drove me to a deep, agonizing depression in which my vile soul cried for salvation. I hated myself.

I also hated this preternatural body. No one could ever love these hardened, dangerous curves. I would never be held or caressed. Or kissed. I would never make love—not for anatomical deficiency, but because I had no idea whether I would be able to resist a person with whom I was so deeply enraptured. Passion is intoxicating for me. And hunger-inducing. It is difficult for me now to be too close, physically, to a mortal without craving his blood. I worry that, in a rush of coital bliss, I might lose control of my senses and hurt my partner.

I earnestly endeavored to do right by mankind. I was mindful of my own power and influence on others, and I tried to check my human anger and jealousy when they managed to boil to the surface. But in the end, evil doesn’t care whether you are inherently a saint or a sinner, and a wall full of accolades won’t protect you from the darkness. I never made the decision to sell my soul; my life was ripped away from me without my consent. I was lost, but perhaps I was not evil . . . yet? Of course, the requisite vile deeds suggested the opposite.

The truth was, Evil craved the human race as passionately as I craved chocolate, and it wanted to infect as many humans as possible with its putrid dram. Unfortunately, humans as a species were all too willing to drink. For the life of me (relax; it’s a figure of speech), I could not figure out why they possessed such an affinity for that which was bad for them. Evil was kind-of like alcohol, cigarettes, or junk food in that way. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity for things they didn’t understand. Perhaps it was an addiction to hedonism. Or perhaps they just assumed they could not trust their eyes because what they saw when they really looked at me or others like me flew in the face of common sense and logic.

Regardless of whether I deserved it or behaved in a way consistent with possession by Evil, I was its bitch. Not in a good way. A merciless captor, Evil would hold me forever in its chains with no promise of redemption or grace. Only the very strong-willed survive this tenure, for they recognize the onslaught of darkness and change their behaviors to fight it off before the proverbial hourglass runs out of sand. I’m tough. I’m very strong-willed. I will survive.

So, there I was: not quite of this world, but certainly not dead. Yet. I felt dead half the time—usually when I was hungry. Life certainly seemed bleak and perhaps not worth living during those times. Darkness really closes in on me fast if I let it. Still, I persisted with this quizzical and often comical thing we call life, whatever form it may take. Never say die. Must never feel sorry for myself.

I want to make it clear that I don’t believe in this shit. I don’t subscribe to paranormal causation, and I stopped praying to the God of my ancestors when I fell. I believe in the tenets of physics, such as Newton’s laws of motion and thermodynamics. Oh, let us not forget Ockham’s Razor: all things being equal, the simplest, most parsimonious solution is usually the best one. I believe firmly there is some rational, scientific explanation for what I have become and what I’ve experienced. Perhaps this state of being follows from the contraction of some virulent bug, one that has a very short latency period. I know of no such virus, but I am a surgeon, not a virologist. I believe in science, and someday I will figure out how to cure this condition. It’s imperative.

That being said, there are things they never tell you when you become a vampire. Actually, there was no “they” in my case. I didn’t have the benefit of a mentor or guide, and I certainly wasn’t aware of any demonic handbook on how to be a vampire. Rather, I had been turned to darkness and left to fend for myself. I had no idea who (or what) had turned me. I oscillated between longing for the company of another preternatural individual within my region and feeling terrified there might be others out there, prowling in search of blood. Perhaps they didn’t share my warm sense of generosity and overall delightful personality. I feared not for myself, but for humankind.

With no support or formal guidance, it took me a few weeks even to discern what I had become. It was apparent I had changed. Nothing—not food, not wine, not even chocolate—satisfied my immutable, unbearable hunger. My senses seemed heightened—or perhaps it was my imagination, as I had never really given much thought to my senses before the Fall. I just knew things—people’s desires, their dreams and fears. It wasn’t as if I had suddenly become omniscient; rather, I could hear the soft rumble of their thoughts as they passed me on the streets. I had to learn to drown those voices with music or my own harried thoughts and intentions.

Did I mention the hunger was unbearable? I did not know how to resolve it. Being around human beings, even casually, made me feel both thrilled and queasy, as if I wanted to devour them somehow, but the thought of doing so sickened me. As it turned out, it was their blood that was so appealing, complete with its viscous, salty warmth. Upon returning to the operating room following an extended “sick” leave, I discovered the sound of beating hearts and the gentle whoosh of blood in the veins of my (critically ill) patients suddenly made me ravenous. I craved what I later discovered to be the almost carnal intimacy interwoven with the drawing of blood—of life—from my often-hapless victims. Drinking blood from transfusion IV bags was not harmful and even sated the thirst a bit but taking it from a live host was more satisfying. Not to mention enthralling. Upon ascertaining the vital necessity of appeasing my thirst, I came to realize I was hopelessly damned. So, like the vampires in some popular fiction novels, I vowed to be discerning with the lives I took, preferring predators to innocents. I, myself, was a predator, after all, so my fellow tarnished souls seemed fair game.

I’m sure some cosmic humor lay in the fact that I learned how to be what I am largely via tutelage by vampire novels and the movies they spawned. I followed my thirst. It never occurred to me to question whether I was doing it right. I tried to follow what I considered to be basic moral and ethical standards when it came to choosing victims, and I kept my newfound nature strictly surreptitious. I always, without fail, cleaned up my messes and left no clues as to where my low-life victims were disappearing. No one cared, anyway. If this fragile society had gotten wind of what was occurring within its boundaries, mass hysterics would commence.

The hardest thing to accept was that I could never again be held or kissed. I wanted so badly to be loved; it had been one of the driving forces of my human existence. Likewise, I had to push even my closest friends away. They were lovey creatures, preferring casual touch to distant waves of greeting. They knew me. They knew I had changed but didn’t understand why. I couldn’t take the risk of being around them and having them figure out what I was. Would they hate me? Shun me? Report me to authorities? While they probably wouldn’t completely believe their gut-level warnings about my nature, they wouldn’t completely dismiss them, either. Their precious, inquisitive minds would demand answers. Nope, they had to go.

Only one person knew—or rather, deciphered the code expeditiously and with zero input from me. Without her, I would be utterly alone. Dr. Ana Murano was a forensic pathologist by training, but she didn’t look the part. Stereotypical pathologists were short and creepy, wore gothic-style clothes and makeup, and spoke in a bone-chillingly pointed voice. Tall and lithe with aquamarine eyes and auburn hair that fell in a smart bob at her shoulders, Ana could easily have been a runway model. She was always perfectly coiffed and, as such, looked almost comical in green hospital scrubs. I had thought she was odd before I fell, though we had always been casual friends. I had never had any occasion or reason not to trust her. She was a straight-shooter and an honest person.

Together, Ana and I established the “Rules and Characteristics” of being a vampire. I did have razor-sharp fangs to facilitate the drawing of blood. I don’t know exactly how they got there, since I don’t remember turning. I assume they were latent growths in the sockets beneath my natural incisors. But you’d think a dentist would have noticed. My skin was paler than usual and kind-of clammy (after all, I was mostly dead), though it blushed after an infusion of blood. My eyes had changed to be more reflective of light in the night, similar to a canine’s eyes. The transformation made me a better predator. Other small changes occurred gradually over about a week. I was becoming a lean, mean eating machine, the very top of the food chain.

I remember sitting in Ana’s cozy living room on her plush, overstuffed, forest-green couch while she grilled me for answers about my then-new condition. I remember how crystalline tears of confused frustration had welled in the corners of my eyes. I remember the feeling of being humiliated by having to admit being such a despicable creature, yet almost euphorically relieved that a living, breathing person finally knew the truth. Was I supposed to have killed her then? Was her life worth the self-protection murder would have afforded me? Would I even have been able to get away with it? I had been—and remain—very grateful for her companionship. Being alone yields only misery.

COPYRIGHT (2019) by Jaimie C. Hunter

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I am a writer of Young Adult fiction and non-fiction. I'm also a public health scientist and educator.

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