FRANK went out one night to pick up a pizza and came home a vampire. It wasn’t what he’d imagined. He’d assumed vampires would be scarier, like the ones on Buffy with their game faces and all. But the vampire who turned him was Mrs. Carlson, his sweet-faced, elderly
landlady who lived downstairs, growing roses and feeding stray cats.
That night, as he was on his way up the stairs, she'd stopped him and said she thought there was a cat in the garden who was hurt and would
he please help her? And then she’d lured him out to the old garden shed where she’d said, “I’m terribly sorry to do this to you, Franklin, but
I’m afraid I need to drink a little bit of your blood.” Then she’d held him down, this tiny little white-haired lady who looked like his
grandmother, and she’d bitten his neck and drunk his blood.
When she finished, she wiped her mouth on a red-flowered handkerchief (“The blood doesn’t show as much”) she’d had tucked down the front of her plaid housedress and said, “Thank you, dear. Now you won’t tell anyone about this, will you?” Then she patted his cheek.
“Is that it?” Frank asked as he followed her out of the shed. He didn’t even feel very different. A little weak, but otherwise unchanged.
“Is what it?”
“Well, I thought there’d be more to someone drinking my blood.”
“Really? Like what?”
“I don’t know… that you’d be scarier or I’d feel different. Or you’d get all young-looking after you fed.”
Mrs. Carlson laughed. “Franklin, how long have you known me? I’m an old woman." She shook her head. “Why don’t you come in the house and I’ll give you some tea; you’ll feel better after a nice cup of hot tea. Bring your pizza along, will you? It smells awfully good, and I always
get a bit peckish after feeding.” Frank didn’t know if he found that funny or not.
He ended up eating pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza and drinking tea with Mrs. Carlson in her cheerful, bright yellow kitchen, playing with her
cat and asking her questions about being a vampire. Forties-era music played quietly on an old radio in the living room.
“How did you become one?” he asked.
“My grandson found out my heart was going and couldn’t stand the idea of losing his old granny, so he turned me." She sighed. “David never
was one for thinking things through. He was a good boy,” she said. “He worked at a large accounting firm in New York. Unfortunately, he was
killed in an auto accident about five years ago. A bad accident can kill us,” she told Frank as she fed a morsel of pepperoni to Mr. Biggles,
who had jumped up on the kitchen table. “He really should have been more careful. But that was like David; he didn’t think things through,” she repeated. “I appreciated the thought, but I wish he’d just left me to live out my years the normal way.”
Frank stared at the cat, who glared back at him. “Is… is Mr. Biggles….”
“What, dear? A vampire?” She chuckled. “No, he’s just a cat. Mind you, he’s a bit of a monster, aren’t you, my sweetheart?” The cat rubbed
his face against hers, then stared at Frank again with suspicious golden eyes. “He’s like my child, only less irresponsible and ungrateful
than my children were. And he keeps me company. No, I do not feed off of him,” she added with a touch of asperity that suggested she’d been asked such things before and considered them offensive. Frank scratched that question off his mental to-ask list.
“So, I mean… needing blood all the time can’t be easy for you.”
“I have an arrangement with a local butcher. A lot of our kind go to them for blood. Only this week I simply wasn’t able to get down there to
pick up my order on the day it came in, and they gave my blood to someone else. Imagine! And me such a good customer. So I had to find,
well, a donor. I don’t like the word “victim” much, do you?”
“Not so much, no. So you could turn someone into a vampire?”
“I expect I could, though I never have. David’s well-meaning gesture notwithstanding, I never thought turning someone into a vampire was a
very friendly thing to do.”
“Even if they asked you to?”
She peered at Frank over the top of her blue-framed glasses. “Franklin, do you mean to tell me you want to become a vampire?”
“Well… yes. That is to say, I guess so.”
“Now why would you want to be a vampire?” she asked, setting Mr. Biggles on the floor. He glared up at them for a few moments, then
meowed and stalked off.
“Being a vampire seems kind of glamorous.”
“Oh no, it’s not, dear. Would you like some more tea?” she asked, pouring herself another cup from the rose-patterned teapot. Franklin
thought that she was probably right, but the vampire life still seemed miles ahead of where he was in his friendless, dead-end existence.
“No thank you. But vampires seem…. I mean, being strong and supernatural is like… well, it’s something big. Isn’t it?” Frank shook
his head. “I’m not making myself very clear, but what I mean is, it’s not as if the life I’m living is so great, Mrs. Carlson.”
That was the problem, the truth stripped down to the skin, as pasty and bland as Frank. His life was anything but great. He’d been a geeky
kid and had grown up to be a geeky adult. He’d only ever had one girlfriend, who moved away the day after he lost his virginity to her,
and he spent his free time playing computer games, watching movies, and reading. He had a boring job that didn’t pay well and no real friends because most of the other geeks had moved away and gotten jobs that were better than his. Nobody else had ever cared much about getting to know Frank. His sex life was limited to fantasies set in his favorite television programs, and the occasional internet porn, which was as dull and joyless as his single sexual encounter had been, though rather less anxiety-ridden.
By contrast, everything about Mrs. Carlson seemed so bright and colorful. When he considered the difference between her life and his, he
felt such despair he thought he would choke on it. A vast, empty life stretched out ahead of him: fifty, sixty years of nothing very special
or interesting or even colorful, and he broke down and began to sob. “I hate my life. I don’t have any friends, I have a dead-end job, and
nothing good ever happens to me. I couldn’t even afford to go to college where maybe I’d have met some people who didn’t want to make fun of me.”
“Oh, poor Franklin,” Mrs. Carlson crooned, stroking his head. “I didn’t realize. I guess I forget we don’t all prefer a quiet life.”“It’s okay,” he said, sniffing loudly. She got up and brought him a box of tissues. “I’m sorry about blubbing, Mrs. C. I don’t usually… you know.”
“I understand, dear.” She patted his arm, and then, as Frank watched in horror, she picked up a pair of elegant little embroidery scissors
and cut open a vein in her wrist. “Here, Franklin, drink my blood.”
“Moonlight Serenade” was playing in the living room; time seemed to have stood still. “Will drinking make me…?”
“Yes, it will, though I still don’t know if I’m doing you a favor.”
He caught hold of her arm and pressed his mouth to the oozing cut. He drank deeply for a moment, then realized what was in his mouth and
began to gag. “Oh God, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry,” he blurted, drooling blood all over her tablecloth. “I’m such a loser.”
“I could barely bring myself to drink when David offered. Did you swallow anything?”
He imagined the mess of blood, tea, and pizza in his stomach and had to suck air to keep everything down. This wasn’t going well; becoming a
vampire wasn’t remotely like what he’d imagined it might be. “Yes. Some.”
“Good, then we’re done here. And now I think I’m going to send you home, because I’m getting a bit sleepy. I have to be up early tomorrow,
too, because there’s a rummage sale at the church.”
“You can go out in daylight? I mean, we can?”
“Yes, of course. Oh, Franklin, how many times have you seen me in my garden during the day?”
“And you can go into churches too?”
“Yes, of course we can, dear. Goodness, you do have a lot of strange notions about our kind. It must come from reading all those comic books of yours. You’ll need to feed about once a week. A pint should be sufficient for you. Two at most or you’ll get sick.” She scrawled a name and address on an old fast-food receipt. “This is the butcher I mentioned. You’ll probably need blood tomorrow. What else can I tell
you? You’ll heal fast, and you’ll be stronger than the average human, though in your case, dear, I expect you’ll only be stronger than the
average out-of-shape human.” She gave him a wee poke in the love handles area. “You won’t live forever, but you’ll have a longer life and won’t get sick.”
“Really? We’re not immortal?”
“No, dear. Did you think you would be?”
“Well, I sort of….”
“Remember what I told you about David?”
“And if I don’t have an accident?”
She shrugged. “I was never quite clear on how much longer I’ll live; David never liked talking about those things. I gather that one day
everything vampiric wears off and we stop, but I could be wrong, and even if I’m not, I can’t tell you when that will be. Not for many years
in your case, so don’t worry yourself, Franklin. You have a long time to enjoy these changes. Oh, and be nice. Don’t give our kind a worse
reputation than we already have.”
“Good night, dear. Thanks for the blood. And the pizza, which was delicious. Next time it’s on me.”
Frank took the rest of the pizza upstairs and put it on his coffee table, got a bottle of Dr Pepper from the fridge, and popped a Buffy DVD
into the player. He sat there for most of the night, just staring at the TV, and by dawn he’d decided to take the day off work in honor of
his having become a vampire, though he wasn’t quite sure how to celebrate.
To start with, he called in sick and said he couldn’t come to work today because he’d been turned into a vampire. The receptionist said,
“I’ll let them know” in her usual disinterested manner and hung up. It'd serve her right, he thought, if he showed up there after her shift to
suck her blood for being so blasé about his transformation. In all fairness, though, he’d already called in sick earlier that year with the
St. Mary’s virus and a brain cloud, and she hadn’t bothered to ask about those either. That was the problem with this town; nobody got him.
Belatedly, he began to realize becoming a vampire wasn’t going to help him connect with ordinary people. In fact, it was likely to hinder the
process of making friends.
“Hi, my name is Frank,” he said aloud. “I’m a geek vampire.” Oh yes, the folks in their town would come a-runnin’ to befriend him now. Why
didn’t he ever think things through?
Rather than worry about it, Frank decided he should go down to the butcher shop and set up a regular supply of blood. He wasn’t ready to
think about the alternatives, and it seemed like a mysterious and vampy thing to do, stealing down to the back door of the butcher shop at
sunset in a long black coat and sunglasses and paying in cash, saying something like “Just call me….” Frank tried hard to think of a good
vampire alias. He didn’t feel right about using “Spike” or “Angelus,” but nothing else occurred to him. Franklin, maybe. Or not: it wasn’t
sinister enough. He’d have to give the name more thought. So anyway, then he’d take the unmarked parcel, the jar of blood in a plain brown
wrapper, to someplace quiet to drink and contemplate the tragic romance of his new life. The mental image of the wretched loner, shadows lying heavily upon him, made Frank a bit happier.
In the end, though, he settled for phoning the butcher shop. He hemmed and hawed so much about what it was he wanted that the guy on the
other end finally said, “You want a pint of pig’s blood a week, right?”
“Fine, give me your name and number and I’ll put you in the book.”
“Vamps. Gotta keep track or things can get confused. What day do you want to pick yours up?”
Nonplussed, Frank blurted, “I could come by now.”
“No can do, buddy; last shipment is sold out. Next one won’t be in until after three today. We’ll be open until seven.”
Sold out? How many damn vampires lived in this town? “Fine, fine.” He felt okay; he could wait. He probably hadn’t actually turned anyway. He
sure didn’t feel any different. Probably he hadn’t swallowed enough of Mrs. Carlson’s blood to do any good. Relief and disappointment churned inside his belly. “I’m okay,” he managed.
“Okay then, blood’ll be ready for you any time after three this afternoon.” The guy didn’t even sound scared. In fact, he sounded bored.This whole creature of the night thing wasn’t working out quite the way Frank was expecting.