Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TTU: The NICHE, Chapter Two

Here is the next chapter of...

True Tales from University: The New International Club for Historical Enlightenment


I felt absolutely horrible when I woke up that morning. I wanted to just stay in bed. But my memories of the nightmare compelled me to rise, shower, and get the hell out of there. I kept all the curtains and windows open, with the weak sunlight pouring in, just in case she decided to come back and finish me off.
Wait, what the hell was I talking about? That was a dream.
... wasn’t it?
I headed straight into university, even though I didn’t have a class for a few more hours. I grabbed some greasy bakery food for breakfast, cramming it down eagerly. I deserved to pig out. My face was so pale in the mirror that morning. I must have been getting sick. There must be something in all that psychosomatic bullcrap. My subconscious had made me sick.
The very first thing I did was grab up the student magazine for that week from one of the magazine bins around campus. I flipped straight to the last page and looked at the scant personals. There were a couple of romantic personals, which I skipped over. There were people selling old textbooks, as well as searching for second hand rare textbooks. There were, thank God, a few personals looking for flatmates.
Now, by this stage, I wasn’t too fussy about how far away from the university I lived. For some strange irrational reason, I wanted to get out of Adrianna’s place as soon as possible. I would even accept having to pay ridiculously high rent. I just wanted to get out of there.
There were three ads. The first two I read were pretty far away, but I was going to try them out anyway. And then I saw the last ad. It was from a guy called Ivan, looking for another male flatmate to share student accommodation in a building not too far from uni. The rent was cheap and the location was perfect. I tore my phone out of the pocket. I hoped I wasn’t too late. I texted Ivan.
Hi. My name’s Andrew. In desperate need of accommodation. Have you found your new flatmate yet?
I considered going to the library and studying, but on second thought, I wanted to sit out in the sun. So I sat in the quad and got out one of my textbooks. When I was halfway through my first page, my phone buzzed.
Hi Andrew. No I haven’t found a flatmate yet. All I’ve had since I put that ad in with my number are prank calls and shit like that. Real glad that you are serious. Wait – are you serious?
I text back, my thumbs a blur.
Yes, I am totally serious. I really need a place to stay. The rent you’re asking is well within my range, and the location is perfect for me. Can I meet you in person on campus to talk about it? Today, preferably?
I could hardly concentrate on my study while I waited for my phone to vibrate again. I snatched it up again and read through it.
Sure, man. I’m in classes until 5pm.Meet you after that? How about we grab some food from the food court, if you’re keen? I’ll stand near the Indian stall. I’m wearing a red jumper. I’m tall and my hair is in a ponytail.
I text back, furiously fast.
Cool. See you then. I’m wearing a green jacket. I have brown hair. You’ll see me with a huge bag – all my worldly possessions.
I didn’t expect a text back, but I got one.
LOL. No wonder you’re desperate for accommodation. See you later man.
I breathed a sigh of relief. I hoped Ivan and I would get on. If we didn’t, then I really wouldn’t have a place to go tonight. And if I did get into his apartment, I would have to be on my best behaviour. No more hitting on my mates’ girlfriends.
I spent the rest of the day quite nervous. I was always looking over my shoulder, which was stupid: Adrianna couldn’t come out in the sunlight. But I was too paranoid to understand that. I sat in the sun when I didn’t have class, studying, having lunch. I watched a debate that took place in the quad between two political social clubs. Then I headed to my engineering class. I hated being in that building now, but I had no choice. I had to go to class.
5 pm rolled around, and I headed to the food court by the quad. As I entered the area, I saw the guy standing not far from the Indian stall. He looked like an Ivan. He looked Russian, in fact. He had quite a chiselled face, like a famous actor or something like that. His hair was dark blonde and pulled back in a ponytail. I bet he was into metal or something like that, judging on his hair alone. He was really quite tall, and skinny. He casually leaned against the wall with his backpack in one hand. He looked like he could be an underwear model (I pushed that awkward idea out of my head quickly). Basically, he was really attractive, and even I, a homophobically straight guy, could admit that. I bet he pulled all the girls. Living with him could be interesting.
His cool blue eyes lit on me. A moment to assess me, in a kind of alpha male way. Then he stopped leaning and closed the distance between us. ‘Andrew?’ he asked, with an accent. I was right – Russian, with a hint of American. He’d probably been educated listening to American voices.
‘That’s right. Hi Ivan.’
‘I’m grabbing Indian. Are you eating?’
‘I’ll get the same.’
We lined up and got our meals, then walked with our trays to find a table. We found one, amongst all the other dining students and pigeons strutting along the lino. We ate and talked at the same time, assessing each other as we did so.
‘So, you need a place?’
‘Yeah. I really do.’
‘What happened, if you don’t mind me asking?’
I shrugged, and didn’t look him in the eye. ‘It didn’t work out with the last guy I was flatting with. His girlfriend hit on me a couple of times, but he saw it as the other way around. We had a bad falling out. He kicked me out.’
‘Damn. He can’t do that to you, man. You shoulda called the cops on his ass.’
‘Nah, it was all right. I don’t wanna go back to that time and place anyway.’
‘Well, basically, it’s as it says in the ad. Rent’s a hundred and twenty a week. You get your own groceries. I’m vegan and organic so I’m very fussy about what I get. So it’s better if we both handle our own groceries. I don’t mind you eating meat or dairy or any of that crap, so long as you’re clean about it. The minute I have to pick up a little slice of pepperoni from your pizza off the floor, we’re going to have a problem.’
‘No problem man. I’ll tidy up after myself.’
‘Also, I can’t stand “nancies” who spend hours in the bathroom.’
‘No problem there. I take maybe ten minutes.’
He gave me the street address of his apartments. ‘Cool, that’s really close to here.’
‘Did you want to move in tonight, dude?’ he asked me casually. ‘I mean, since you’ve got all your “worldly possessions” in the one bag? The apartment’s already furnished. The bed for you is bare, but you can borrow bed linens from me for a week until you can get your own. Oh and also towels, you can borrow one of mine until you get your own.’
‘Thanks, but I have a towel in my bag. I’ll go shopping in a couple of days for all that stuff. I would like to move in tonight, if that’s okay with you.’
‘I’ll have to trial you for about a week. I’ve had some real bastards in that apartment, dude. It’s not cool.’
He seemed like a fairly cool guy, and I was sure we were going to get along fine, but the week’s trial was a fair enough thing to agree to. ‘That’s fair enough man. What day do we pay the rent?’
‘Every second Monday. It doesn’t come up until next week, so don’t worry ‘til then.’ He sat thinking for a little while, and then added, ‘I’d take you straight to the apartment, but unfortunately I have a social club meeting. I won’t be heading for home until 9 pm.’
‘That’s cool. I’ll wait. I’m sure I can study or something.’
‘What you studying?’
‘Oh cool.’
‘Wow. That’s cool. Have you got a specialisation?’
‘Medieval Europe.’
Ha. It fit with my idea of this guy being into metal. He was into knights and swords and stuff. Fair enough. ‘Sweet.’
‘Actually, you can come to the social club just to sit in if you want. If you haven’t got anything better to do.’
 ‘Oh yeah? What’s the club?’
‘The Club for Historical Re-enactments.’
I resisted the impulse to laugh, smirk, or even blink in surprise. ‘Oh real? Like... like the medieval club?’
He shrugged. ‘Kinda. Some of our members are medieval. Others are different. We have some Asian kids who like to research their native histories and stuff, and they dress like ninjas and samurais and stuff. We have a whole lot of different things. But the club specialises in fighting displays.’
Now that was kinda cool. Any mention of medieval clubs of any kind tended to make me want to snigger, but this sounded interesting. ‘Sweet.’
‘We have a lecturer who is also a fight choreographer in the club. She’s worked on like fights for theatre and movies and stuff like that. We all pitch in on the fighting displays and stuff. Like if one of the Japanese students wants to do a ninja display, I’ll dress up like a ninja and learn the moves. Even though my main persona is Ivan the Terrible.’
I laughed, and he grinned. ‘Ivan the Terrible?’ I repeated. ‘Hilarious. But what do you mean by personas?’
‘Everyone in the club tends to have a favourite time and place, right? We try to incorporate everyone’s interests in our displays. So the girls will sometimes do Victorian tea parties or the court of Elizabeth the first or medieval dances and stuff. But both guys and girls join in on the fights. So like, one time I got to be Ivan the Terrible, and I did kind of like a mini-play about the time he beat his daughter-in-law and accidentally killed his son. The real story is pretty tame, but we raunched it up and had a sword fight between Ivan and his son. Other people have different personas. Like there’s this one chick, Jane. She’s a Viking, called Erica Ericsdottir. And there’s this guy, Simon, who is Bluebeard the pirate.’
‘Sounds cool,’ I said, though it still sounded a little bit nerdy. ‘Now this I’d like to see. What are you guys doing today?’
‘We’re working on another little display about the Battle of Maldon. It was this Old English battle, there was a poem written about it. It’s got lots of blood and guts in it. We get to use all sorts of special effects. We’re working to put it up on YouTube. Hopefully it will be good enough quality. I hate cheesy re-enactments.’
I resisted the urge to tell him that I thought all re-enactments were cheesy. ‘Sweet. I’ll come and watch then. It sounds pretty interesting.’
We finished our dinners and headed along to the big field where the night’s practice was going to be. I wasn’t thinking about the time or anything. The sun was heading down to the horizon, but by then I completely forgotten about Adrianna. If I had been worried, I shouldn’t have been, by the time I got to the field.
The first thing I noticed was the huge amount of spears and swords being wielded so casually by so many kids my age. I was struck by how dangerous that was. I was also struck by how freaking awesome that was. I wanted in. But I didn’t want to look like a dork to my friends, who would definitely laugh if I joined the Historical Re-enactment Society.
I looked around at the faces on the field. They just looked like normal kids, not really nerdy or anything. Half of them were dressed as Vikings, with the typical horned helmets. But these things weren’t plastic. They were heavy and metal. The armour they wore looked extremely real. And it looked pretty damn heavy, and with all that fur, it seemed like it would be quite hot in there.
The other half had a lot of chainmail on, which wasn’t what I was expecting. Ivan explained that the battle was between the invading Vikings and the defending English. I thought they would be in medieval suits of full plate armour, but when I pointed that out to Ivan, he explained that armour was a lot different in 991AD, when then battle took place. ‘You’re thinking like the first half of the second millennia. This stuff is before that. Before the Norman conquest and all that.’ That really didn’t mean much to me. I just smiled and nodded.
Ivan introduced me to a few people, but I wasn’t really paying much attention to the introduction. I just smiled and nodded, as usual.
The guy who was fronting the Vikings, whose name I found out was Dave, punched Ivan in the gut in a friendly way and said, ‘Dude, are you rude or what? Why haven’t you asked your friend if he wants to join in?’ His voice was muffled in a comical way by his big fake beard.
Ivan laughed. ‘Yeah, Andrew, you want to join in, man?’
I shook my head wanly. ‘Nah man, I’d just get in your way. I’m feeling pretty tired. I’d probably just trip up and impale myself on my short-sword.’
Dave laughed heartily and shook his head. ‘Geez, man, you do look pretty tired. You’re as white as a ghost. You need more food, or sleep, or something.’
He was the second person to say that to me, and it seemed kind of strange to me. I had noticed it a bit myself, but I hadn’t thought about it much. Ivan considered me for a moment before he hit the field. ‘Yeah, he’s right,’ he commented as Dave moved back into position. ‘Geez man. I’m going to have to write you a health program and diet or something. You look anaemic. If you were a Goth I wouldn’t care, but you’re just a normal guy. You should try eating organic. It’s good for you.’
‘Yeah, maybe,’ I said, shrugging. He raised his spear casually as a kind of wave, and headed onto the field.
‘Okay guys,’ he addressed both sides through his Anglo-Saxon helmet. ‘Just like we were shown, okay? We shouldn’t really have any mishaps by now. This is dress rehearsal time.’
And they launched into it. After half an hour of getting into costume and warming up, they were ready and very eager. I was terrified, I will honestly say, at first. They looked like they were really ripping into each other. They were really hitting each other, on the armour of course, with their heavy swords. The clangs resounded throughout the night air. I winced for the first five minutes, but after that, I was just amazed. How could people have actually done stuff like this in the past? They must have been really strong. I had tried to lift one of the broad swords before the practice. Shit, man, were they heavy!
There’s no way I could have kept up with them that night. Besides, they were choreographed, and they had it all pretty much perfect by that stage, for their performance in the weekend. This was their last rehearsal.
I watched them go over the battle, again and again. By the time they were finished the sweat was pouring off them, and I had a cold sweat on my brow from just watching them. Afterwards, once they were all changed again, they all grabbed a drink in the student bar. I sat and listened politely, not really knowing much about what they were going on about. There was a little bit of club business here and there. The head costume girl had to fix a lot of stuff with the costumes for the weekend, and she was collecting money from all the club members to cover the cost. Dave and Ivan were arranging to pay their choreographer for the next display they would do. I was vaguely considering joining the club then, but I decided to sleep on it before I did.
‘You must be ready to go by now,’ Ivan said to me. I nodded quickly. I really was ready. I was yawning my head off. ‘Dave’s coming with us. He left one of his costumes at my place last weekend, and he needs it.’
All three of us walked through the campus, heading down the road to Ivan’s building – now my building too, I realised. It felt like a relief to think that I wouldn’t have to carry this huge bag around anymore.
‘So Andrew, man,’ Dave said, nudging my shoulder. He was a hefty guy, and I nearly was pushed onto the road by his push. ‘You joining the club, or what?’
‘Yeah, maybe. I’ll see about it.’
‘You’re pretty much going to be a de facto member of the club anyway. Ivan hosts a lot of parties in his flat. You’ll be great friends with the whole lot of us soon.’
I grinned as genuinely as I could at that.
‘Man, do you want me to take that bag of yours? You look like you’re about to faint.’
Straight after Dave said it, I felt my head go all funny. My vision blurred, and the next thing I knew, Ivan was holding me up awkwardly. ‘Dude,’ he said, ‘Are you okay?’
‘What happened?’
‘You like, almost passed out and fell down.’
‘Whoa...’ was all I said to that. Dave took my bag off me, and Ivan put my arm over his shoulders, as if he was carrying a drunk friend home.
I barely noticed the time or place change before I was at the front door of my new apartment. Ivan unlocked the door with hasty ease, and walked me over to the couch. ‘Sit down, man. I’ll make you some coffee. With a kick.’
‘Your bag’s just in there,’ Dave said, pointing to a half-open door. ‘That’s the right room, eh Ivan?’
‘Eh? Yeah, that’s his room.’ Ivan busied himself making the coffees while Dave sat across from me on another, raggedy second-hand couch.
‘You okay man?’
‘Yeah. I don’t know what happened just then.’
‘Geez. You look really tired. And pale. Do you think you’ve got the flu or something?’
‘Nah... I just feel really weak.’
Ivan shook his head and brought out a bottle of some kind of transparent liquid – I couldn’t read the label from here, but it was clearly a spirit of some kind. ‘Damn, man. What was your friend feeding you in your last apartment?’
In my daze, I told the uncensored truth about my last few days. ‘Oh no man, I got kicked out like two weeks ago. I’ve been living with this really weird chick since then.’
Dave looked at me, narrowing his eyes a little in an analytical way. ‘Weird? How was she weird?’
‘Oh, she’s like... she’s got that condition, you know? She can’t go out during the day. She’s allergic to the sun. You know. Like a vampire.’ I laughed weakly at the idea.
Dave’s face went all serious, and he shared this weird look with Ivan. ‘It’s funny you should say that, Andrew,’ Dave said very gravely. ‘She’s allergic to sunlight. And you’re all pale and wan, as if someone’s been literally sucking the life out of you.’
‘Dude, what?’ I looked at Dave strangely, more fully awake now.
‘Sit still, Andrew,’ Dave said, still very serious. He stood up and approached me. Ivan had frozen at the kitchen counter, watching. Dave came toward me, his hands reaching for my neck. I cringed, and sunk into the couch. He grabbed the bottom of my hair, and pushed it aside.
A moment passed. ‘Shit,’ he said under his breath.
Ivan moved over, still carrying a spoon with coffee dripping off it. A moment after he looked, he too whispered, ‘Shit.’
‘What? What is it?’ I cried out. Things were starting to get a little freaky here.
Ivan slapped his forehead. ‘Come into the bathroom, Andrew. You have to see this.’
Dave grabbed my forearm and helped me up, and steered me into the bathroom. I went pretty easily, I was so tired and I felt as if I was on drugs or something. Things were getting weird. It was like a bad trip now.
They pushed me in front of the mirror. Ivan lifted my hair and turned me. ‘Look.’
‘Look at what?’ I asked.
‘Damn, it’s too far around.’ He dug around in a bathroom drawer and brought out a shaving mirror. It was old and dirty, but he held it behind me, at an angle. Finally, through two mirrors, I saw an image I could comprehend.
But it took me a while to comprehend it.
On my pale neck were two blood red spots. The things I had felt that morning, days ago, that I had thought were pimples. I stared closer. They weren’t pimples. They weren’t convex. They were concave. They were holes. The edges looked horrible, as if my skin had tried to heal but it had been disturbed too many times.
They were bite marks.
My breath came out ragged and exaggerated, as if I was hyperventilating. ‘Holy shit!’ I cried out. I was past rational now. ‘Holy shit! It was real. Shit, shit, shit!’
The kettle boiled in the next room with a long high whistle, and Ivan left me in Dave’s hands. Dave steered me back to the couch, and Ivan joined us now with the special coffees. He pressed one to my lips. He had used soy milk, which made it taste kinda weird, but the alcohol was good. It started to help me cool my nerves. ‘Okay dude. What happened. You can tell us. We know all about vampires.’
‘You... you do?’ I squeaked, pretty much.
Dave and Ivan shared another serious look, and then they nodded to each other. ‘Yeah,’ Ivan eventually said. ‘You see, the club have had experience with them before. We can explain all that later. But for now, just tell us what happened to you. Anything at all. Even if there’s something you suspect was weird about your last two weeks, tell us. It could reveal something.’
I didn’t really want to tell them what had happened. I felt violated. I felt disgusting, used. I was... I was food. This was seriously disturbing.
‘O...okay. A couple of weeks I was kicked out of my apartment. I was going to try and stay the night secretly in the engineering department. But then Adrianna – that’s her name – she came up and insisted I go back home with her. I thought it was really frikkin’ weird, man. But she was hot, seriously. I couldn’t say no to her.’ They nodded knowingly here. ‘So I went home with her, and nothing happened. I went to sleep, and I dreamt... oh shit, no... it was real. It wasn’t a dream at all!’
I started to freak out again, but Ivan put a hand on my shoulder and made me drink again. I took deep breaths and started telling the tale again. ‘I woke up to her... you know... playing with me. We started having sex. Then halfway through, she bit me. It hurt, but then the pain was instantly gone. So I thought she was just giving me a hickey. I didn’t realise she had broken the skin.’
Dave nodded gravely. His hands were at his mouth, clasped together, and he looked very thoughtful. ‘Yes,’ he said in his deep, serious voice. ‘That’s what happens with the bite. They have a kind of venom, like a snake. But it’s a drug. It doesn’t hurt you, not without long exposure. But it takes away all the pain of the bite, like a local anaesthetic.’
I met his eyes, and looked away in panic. ‘Go on, please,’ Ivan quietly requested. ‘Did it ever happen again?’
I nodded slowly, looking down at the ground. ‘Yeah. Yeah, it happened every night.’
The two guys looked at each other again. ‘Every night?’ Dave repeated incredulously. ‘Every night for how long?’
‘The last two weeks.’
Dave let out an amazed sigh, moving backwards and slapping his knees. ‘Shit. Holy shit. How the hell are you even alive, bro...’
It wasn’t a question. ‘What?’ I asked him, panicking again.
Ivan was shaking his head now, his eyes looking disturbed. ‘Wow. I’m amazed. You are seriously lucky to be alive. She took your blood for about fourteen days? In a row? Dude, you should be dead. Or at least, you should be so weak that you can’t get out of bed in the morning. Do you realise how much blood she has taken out of you?’
I shook my head in a panic. Ivan patted me on the shoulder, and said to Dave, ‘Stay here. I have to do some things, urgently.’
Dave nodded and stayed with me, making sure the mug of special coffee didn’t slip out of my weak hands. Ivan went into his bedroom and came back with a large box. He pulled a large chainmail vest out first, and came toward me. ‘Put it on, man,’ he ordered me.
‘Wait... what?’ Why the hell did he want me to play dress ups?
‘It’s silver, man. Vampires cannot touch this stuff. If she tries to get you again, she’s blister up like she’s been burned with a blow torch or something.’
I stood up, placing my mug on the coffee table, with such haste and resolve that they looked at me with amazement. I was amazed too. I was very, very tired, but I was desperate to be protected. I took the vest, with a quick word of thanks, and slipped it on over my t-shirt. Ivan nodded, happy, and went back to his box. He came back with a bunch of jewellery. He described each item to me. ‘I had this stuff specially designed for me last time this happened. The necklace isn’t too long, and so it should provide basic protection for your neck.’ He handed it to me. It had some weird Celtic cross on it or something, but it looked pretty cool, and manly enough. It was something a Goth kid would wear, maybe. Or a metal head, as I guess Ivan was. He handed me some bracelets next. They were chunky and silver, made of links of chain. They looked rough and big enough to be manly too. ‘I know it’s kinda weird to wear two bracelets, when you’re a guy, but trust me on this. Think about it. She won’t go for your wrists in an attack, but you can fight back, trying to hit her with your wrists, ‘cause that will hurt her, you see? And this will hurt even more.’
He gave me a ring. It was huge, and nasty. The ring part itself was just a simple circle of silver, but on the front, it had a big spike. It looked dangerous as hell. ‘It’s a good thing that you’re not in high school, because they wouldn’t let you wear this. Be careful with it. It can be a huge pain, wearing it all the time, but think about it. If ever you are attacked at random, it comes in handy. Now, wear all of this stuff to bed. The vest you don’t have to wear during the day, but I recommend wearing the jewellery all the time, even in the shower. You never know when you might be attacked. Even during the day, man. Vampires can hypnotise people to do their bidding. This Adrianna bitch might have a little pet you don’t know about. If they kidnap you during the day, and you are faced with the vampire come nightfall, this stuff is your last line of defence.’
‘Man,’ I said weakly. ‘Thanks. You’ve saved my life. Literally.’
‘Don’t speak to soon,’ Ivan said, but he looked as if he appreciated the thanks. He walked away and got more things out of his box. He started to pull out a long silver chain. It was then I noticed the hooks around the room, halfway between ceiling and floor. He hooked the chain first to the back of the door. Then he went around the lounge, hooking the chain to hooks on the wall, all around the room. All around the windows. Even over the doors. Knowing it was there, I wouldn’t step into it. But a vampire, if they burst through the windows or door, or even the walls, and didn’t see the silver chain there first, well... they’d get a nasty surprise. Ivan finished by joining the end to the same hook where he had begun. That way, we’d only have to remove the last part of the chain to open the front door to guests, and close the circle up again once the door was closed again.
Dave patted me on the back and handed me my cup of coffee again. I gulped it down eagerly. I was still very weary, but having gotten the last couple of weeks off my chest, I felt much better. These guys... were experienced with vampires? Wow, that was interesting. Maybe there was some magic in the world, or something. After all, my dreams had told me to leave Adrianna. Wait, no. They weren’t dreams. Shit. I was so confused.
‘Don’t worry, man. You’re safe,’ Ivan came back to reassure me, picking up his coffee mug again.
‘Yeah,’ Dave agreed. ‘I’ll stay the night, and sleep on the couch. Tomorrow, we’ll get this all properly sorted and stuff. We’ll tell the club. We know all about this stuff.’
‘So... so what do I have to do?’
The guys looked at each other, and for once grinned. ‘Man,’ Ivan answered, ‘For the next couple of days, you need to freaking rest, man. You have lost a lot of blood. I’m not saying miss out on class or anything if you really need to go. We’ll look out for you at uni and stuff. But just try and get as much rest as possible. Get your strength back first, and we’ll talk about how to fight back after that.’
Fight back. That sounded good. Damn it, that sounded great. I was going to get that bitch for doing this to me.
‘Wait, explain to me. How have you guys got experience with vampires and all that?’
‘In the morrow, man,’ Dave said, shaking his head, but smiling amiably. ‘Hit the sack. You need it.’
So Ivan threw down a couple of sheets, a blanket and a pillow for me on the empty bed in my new room. I hardly looked around my room before I fell onto the bed, comatose, silver chainmail and all.

It was stranger waking up in the morning then it had been in Adrianna’s room.
I felt very disorientated, any perhaps even a little dizzy even though I was lying down. But in time I was able to sit up and look around. The room was very small, and had a very small window all along one side of the room, at the very top of the wall. Through this, dim light came, and illuminated the bare room for me. My bag in which all my personal possessions were stashed was by the bed, wedged between the bed and the wall, in the tiny amount of space. The walls were white, and a little bit stained maybe, but the light wasn’t great. My whole body hurt a lot. I wondered why that was. In the end, I decided on two causes. The first was that the drug that Adrianna had gotten me hooked on, the venom of her bite, was leaving my system and causing me withdrawal.
Second cause. I had chainmail printed all over my torso and I’d been sleeping with the spiky ring digging into my thigh.
I didn’t care take it off, but I knew I needed a shower from the horrible smell my armpits were giving out. I checked my watch. Shit! It was 2.00 pm. I had missed all but one of my classes. But then, did it matter? I probably needed the day off.
Slowly, I got to my feet, and checked I could stand up straight first before I walked to the door. I opened it a little bit tentatively. Strung across the door frame was the silver chain. I ducked under it and closed the door behind me. I heard a small cough.
Turning around with all the speed a paranoid man could muster, I faced the other person in my apartment. I relaxed a little as I saw it was someone from the club last night. ‘Hi Andrew,’ she said shyly.
‘Hi... um...’
She looked a little bit as if she felt guilty for being there, but of course she would have been asked. She was sitting on one of the battered couches, a big book on her lap. The front cover said EspaƱol. She took up hardly any room on the couch, looking as if she might fall through the crack between the cushions. Her smile was nervous. ‘Ivan asked me...’
‘Yeah. Yeah, I guessed that. Thanks for being here.’
‘It’s no problem. We stick up for each other.’
‘But you guys only met me yesterday.’
She shrugged. ‘Ivan says you’re one of us now.’
I was a bit dubious about that, but I headed for the shower, grabbing my towel up from my room, as well as a change of clothes. It was relief to feel the hot steaminess of the shower, but I was still quite sore. Getting dressed was actually difficult. All my muscles were burning with the effort.
God... was this the effect of the withdrawal? I was beginning to think that maybe it hadn’t been so bad with Adrianna after all. I mean, the hottest chick in uni had sex with me, that was pretty freaking awesome...
Shit. I’m turning into an addict.
My rational thoughts were drowned out by the need. I sat down on my bed for a moment, my hands shaking, my feet tapping. Then I put on an empty backpack and headed out. ‘Um, hey... Ashley. I’m just going to go to my last class. I feel like I’ve missed so much today, and –‘
‘Sorry man,’ she said, shrugging in an off-hand way. ‘You can’t go anywhere.’
I looked at her, dumbfounded. ‘Ah... sorry, what?’
‘You’re not going anywhere, I said,’ she said again, a little threat underlying her words. ‘The guys put me here knowing full well you would start to go through withdrawal right about now. And I can see it in the way you’re acting right now. You’re hungering for her bite again. Sorry. I’m not letting you leave. Not after what happened last time.’
I considered her. She was one of the tiniest people I’d ever met, in my age group at least. She wasn’t too short, but she was very slim. I doubted she could take me. I was much taller than her and had the greater bulk.
And then she pulled out, from a sheath on her back, a katana.
‘Holy shit,’ I whispered.
‘Sit down, Andrew,’ she ordered me. What could I do but obey? I would have rebelled, but then I recalled, she was in fact trained in, if not sword fighting, then sword fighting choreography. Even if I had a sword too, she’d have the edge on me. Literally. I backed off and sat on an armchair. ‘Now look. I want to be your friend. We all want to be your friends. But today, especially tonight, you are going to hate each and every one of us. Even to the point of wanting to kill us. So we may have to strap you down later. I hope it doesn’t come to that. But you understand, rationally, don’t you? Underneath the addiction, you know that I’m only doing this for your own good, right?’
I nodded tensely. I knew, but not with my whole body. It would only get worse. ‘I know here, Ashley,’ I answered her, tapping my head, ‘but not in the rest of me. I apologise in advance if I get out of hand.’
‘No doubt you will,’ Ashley sighed, and sat back down on the couch. ‘And I’m sure we’ll get along better tomorrow. But today is not going to be very pleasant at all.’
I relaxed back into the armchair, trying to stop my incessant fidgeting. Ashley sat back down, sheathing her katana on her back as if it was the most natural thing in the world. She grabbed up her Spanish textbook, and sat back down, her eyes always suspiciously resting on me. I recalled something I wanted to know. ‘So, Ashley... everyone keeps talking about “last time”. What was last time?’
‘I’ll let Ivan tell you about that. I think he’ll tell you tomorrow, man. Not tonight. Tonight will be busy...’
‘Busy with...’
She gave me a slightly sour look. ‘You’ll see...’
‘So what am I supposed to do now?’
She chucked me a Wii remote. ‘Here. Ivan’s Nintendo. He’s got a bunch of games. He said hopefully you’ll get addicted to the video games and think more about them than the vampire.’
The word gave me the chills, and they weren’t all bad chills. Horrified by my feelings, I turned the machine on and sorted through Ivan’s catalogue of games. I chose a brainless, repetitive game that involved only movement of one arm. I didn’t want to stand up and do lots of actions. I was drained, though I had slept a long time.
But the time soon passed, thanks in no small part to Ivan’s theory. Playing video games distracted me from my feelings long enough for more people to turn up and bolster Ashley’s line of defence. That made me feel better. I would have hated myself if I had flipped out and hurt her. But that was arrogant of me to think. She had the sword, after all.
By 5.00pm there were as many as ten people in the small apartment. I would tell you their names, but I didn’t remember them and the time, and things soon developed then in quite a different direction. It was coming closer and closer to sunset. The people in the room, though chatting easily with each other, were always wary of me, and well aware, more aware than me, in fact, of the changes that were to come.
It was coming up to 48 hours without Adrianna’s fresh sweet poison in me. Eventually I found I could hardly see the TV or press the buttons of the game controller. I just wanted to save my game. I held the remote out. It dropped from my hand.
The room was tense and silent. I fell to the ground, and no one helped me up. I could hear an unearthly scream.
It was coming from my mouth.
The door opened, and Ivan came in. On his face grew a look of horror. ‘Quick! Tie him up!’ As he rushed to get in and close the door, I lunged at him. As fast as I felt, I had hardly gotten to him before another guy came and pushed me back down to the floor. Ivan linked the silver chain over the door again, and grabbed another silver chain from his magical box of anti-vampire things. He produced handcuffs, and rough hands grabbed me, turned me on my back, allowed him to cuff me. He tied a gag on me, not too tight, but enough to deter me from screaming. Then he wrapped me in the chain and had the strong hands lay me down on the couch.
Their backs to me, the club of friends all with weapons drawn, whether they were ceremonial swords or a case of daggers, stood and waited in a circle around the couch I lay on. I struggled for a while, and then the tiredness set in again.
‘You’ll be able to tell when she’s coming,’ Ivan said quietly.
‘We know,’ someone said a touch sharply.
Ivan huffed, and nodded. ‘Yes. I forget. You know.’
It seemed like forever that they waited, all tense, with no distraction. But then I started crying out. It was beyond my control. It began as a moan, and escalated into cries and screams. I could feel her trying to find me. It was like a magnet. She had put some kind of homing desire in me. Damn her. Vampire bitch.
‘Shouldn’t we –‘ Ashley cut in to the silence.
‘Oh shit. Yes, go!’ Ivan snapped.
They had forgotten something. It soon became evident what, as Ashley ran over, started up an element on the oven, and threw something into a frying pan. The awful smell of garlic assaulted my nose.
But it was too late. A terribly loud sound came crashing against the door. Again and again the heavy sound came crashing. It sounded like some kind of animal throwing itself against the door. Again and again. And still I howled.
It was her.
Ashley ran over, hardly caring, it seemed, that just through a small layer of wood was a crazy monster wanting to kill her. She held the still-hot frying pan, but without fear she thrust it close to the gap between the door and the floor. The smell of garlic wafted all over the room and no doubt out the door.
My screams increased briefly, echoed by higher pitched screams from just outside the door. Then she was gone. My screams stopped, and I felt... for the first time in a fortnight... free, and truly relieved...
Ivan clapped me on the shoulder. He was sweating, and his eyes looked troubled. ‘Well done, Andy. We made it.’
The club clapped briefly and patted everyone on the back. I was rolled over and freed. I rubbed my wrists and shook my body out. The pain from my muscles was gone, for now. But the fear wasn’t entirely gone.

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