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Unending, Unchanging Midnight - Emma Neal

Growing up, and by that I mean my emo-middle school era, I was obsessed with the “forbidden.” It really wasn’t that scandalous, it just felt edgy. I watched movies about dead lovers and their flowery girlfriends. The closest thing to that, which I could experience as a thirteen-year-old was reading the vampir-istic love stories written by other young girls wanting the same thing.


As all middle school girls knew, the majority of vampires lived in Potomac County, all around DC. I imagined ways I could meet these guys, the easiest I saw back then was to go to college near them.


Vampires sort of fell out of my interest in high school. But, when pressured to apply to colleges, I only knew about those schools in DC. So that’s where I ended up going, almost forgetting the only reason I learned about those colleges was because my thirteen-year-old self was looking for a vampire boyfriend.


Within a few weeks of being at college I was reminded of the reality of vampires. It was clear they existed. Like, the slushie machine at 7/11 across the street from my dorm had “Tiger’s Blood” for humans and “Human’s Blood” for the vampires.


But most of the lore about vampires didn’t hold up. They could be seen in mirrors and pictures, they could be out in the sun, they didn’t care about garlic, at least I presumed, since every day the dining hall only served Italian food. They weren’t only ancient people in young bodies. I heard of new vampires, and they had full living families. The only real indicator of who a vampire could be was that their skin was sometimes blush, after feeding. As if that was not my own problem every time I was caught staring at a guy trying to decipher if he looked like a vampire or not.


There were also vampire dating apps. Preferences such as vampire seeking vampire, human seeking vampire, vampire seeking human.


I laid low on Vamped Up for a while. Just swiping to see what vampires were around. But instead of meeting up with any, I went on dates with my human peers at college and had flings or whatever. I’d pull out Vamped Up mostly when my friends from home visited and we’d laugh at responses to “what’s your favorite blood type?” or “which Vampire Diaries brother are you more like: Damon or Stefan?” I hadn’t put much consideration into actually using the app for its intended purpose, it was all entertainment.


After college I got a cat. Her name was too long to say every time I talked about her, so I started calling her kitty. Kitty and I got a small apartment. I got a job.


When I was bored after work, after feeding kitty, I’d sit on my blush pink couch and drink the Two-Buck Chuck I picked up on the way home. I looked through Vamped Up.


Maybe it would add some entertainment into my life.


I went on a couple dates, afternoons at coffee shops and early nights in lounges. There was nothing wrong with the first few vampires I met up with. They just had different interests than me, there was nothing really drawing me in. And they looked like every other person I knew, even the ones I grew up around.


Then I met Sayer. The best thing about Sayer was that he looked like a vampire.


If the middle school version of myself saw Sayer she would just assume he was a vampire. His hair was dark, his skin looked cold like Edward’s in the first movie. He also always dressed formally. He had a “smirky” grin because all the boys the young girls wrote about online always smirked. Always.


He really was gorgeous.


#


After knowing Sayer for two weeks, he invited me to his place and he made us dinner for our third date.


He poured me red wine, “My parent’s brought this Pinot Noir back from Italy last summer.” Then a tinge of embarrassment crossed his face, “I, uh, I didn’t get a chance to have any, well, any blood before you came over.” And he held up a box that looked like the Bota Box wine, “Do you mind?”


I shook my head, “No, that’s fine.”


“They add something to it, so it won’t coagulate,” His tone wavered as he poured the thick red liquid in a wine glass, “Certainly not organic or GMO free, but much more accessible than fresh blood.” He chuckled as if that could hamper the clear embarrassment on his face.


The cold of his skin defrosted, pink tint appeared on his cheeks.


“How’d you become a vampire?” It felt like a third date kind of question.


He hummed a laugh, finished the blood and rinsed the glass before filling it with the same wine as mine.


“It’s really not that interesting of a story,” He told me and I was immediately disappointed, “I was at this college party, but you know the type of school I went to, it was a sit back and have wine and smoke cigarettes kind of party. Someone was playing Chopin, you know the crowd.”


“Yeah, I know the crowd,” I echoed.


He stepped back to the stove where he flipped over the veggies he sauteed. Then he leaned against the counter, looking at me through eye lashes. I remember telling myself to look away because he was trying to be enticing but I felt awkward.


“This girl I went to school with was a vampire, I don’t know how she became one, but she offered to turn anyone that wanted. It seemed like a good decision at the time, a couple of my friends also decided to become one too.” He shrugged, “And then, we just cut our palms and she cut hers and shook hands and that was it, really.”


“When was that?”


“Uhm, about nine years ago.”


I nodded, sipped my wine, he’d become a vampire right when my interest in them was falling. He returned to the stove.


“What’d your parents think?”


“No one wants their kid to die, I’d just become immortal.”


#


A few weeks later Sayer was at my place. I’d made us dinner and I rolled my eyes as I did it because we had become routine so quickly.


Sayer was pushing the food around his plate, “I have a question.” He told me.


I nodded taking a bite.


“Can I, well, could I feed off of you?”


I started coughing on my food. It was the first time Sayer shocked me, and I was interested. I took a drink of water.


“Are you okay?” He asked and I nodded, but, before I could answer about the feeding, he continued, “You know what, no, forget it. I don’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position to say yes or no.”


If he could blush, I’m sure he would’ve been. He shook his head to himself.


“But I want to.” Then I asked, “Did you want to feed directly from me? Or go to the Banks.”


The Banks were lounges. A nurse drew blood from the human, and then, just like giving blood at the Red Cross, it is collected, tested, and then the nurse/waiter pours a glass of blood for the vampire. But, Dr. Phil did a segment on a humanxvampire couple who claimed direct-feeding saved their marriage. And, of course, it was fresher for the vampire


I didn’t have a preference either way but direct-feeding sounded cooler.


Sayer responded, “It creates a special bond to, eh, to feed straight from the, well, from you.”


I understood, I had seen the Dr. Phil segment.


We waited a week after Sayer asked about feeding, in order to flush my system. There were no rules for me, except I couldn’t have cheap alcohol. It seemed like an odd rule, but I’d heard about it before. Sayer poured any liquor I had, that wasn’t top shelf, down the drain. Which was all of it. He replaced it with similar but more premium versions of the same thing.


I didn’t complain about this adjustment.


There weren’t any rules for Sayer, except to just not kill me.


#


Sayer picked me up from work on a Monday and we went to dinner. I ordered pasta but hardly ate any of it, my nerves were too high, the anticipation was bulking. I drank whatever bottle of wine Sayer ordered for us. I swirled single strands of fettucine on my fork and ate them in slow, exaggerated bites.


The drive to my apartment was silent, even Sayer’s radio was off. Only the noise of road bumps and the sound coming from whatever makes a car loud filled the air around us.


“So,” I glanced at Sayer who was illuminated by the streetlights, “Did you feed recently?”


I don’t know why I asked it but Sayer responded, “Eh, not really. It’s been a few days.”


“Hm,” I hummed in response.


“The preserved stuff doesn’t keep us as…satiated as the fresh stuff does.”


He must’ve had other girlfriends that he drank their blood. I wondered what happened to them.


When we walked through the door kitty attacked Sayer.


“Kitty,” I sighed. It’d been nearly six weeks and she still didn’t feel inclined to change her behavior toward Sayer.


Sayer lingered by the kitchen table as I shook kitty’s tuna onto her pink fish shaped bowl. She wove around my legs until I stopped banging the tin on the side of the dish. I watched for a moment as she ate her food with equally vicious and gross chomps.


“Okay,” I turned to Sayer.


He echoed my okay but didn’t take initiative like I hoped he would.


Sayer looked out of place, in his dark formal attire, against my pastel and neon apartment.


We sat on the couch and there was hesitancy and expectancy between us. He sort of faced me but it felt like we were unaware of the other’s nearness.


Where was his urgency? I wanted him to say I was like his own personal brand of heroine, like Edward does to Bella, but he didn’t.


After enough silence, I suggested, “Maybe, just do it?” I didn’t want the anticipation anymore.


To indicate my confidence I brushed my hair behind my shoulder, exposing the right side of my neck to him.


His cold fingertips brushed the hair back to cover my neck.


“It’s better to take from a different place, somewhere where the skin is thicker, it hurts less that way.”


I pointed to what is, technically, my bicep, “Like here?”


He nodded.


“Okay then,” I held out my arm and he took my right hand in his, his left hand rested on my shoulder.


I thought he was going to back out. He seemed like the type. Or I thought it might take some build up.


It didn’t.


He leaned forward and bit into the skin. My skin. I gasped, mostly shocked and kind of embarrassed before registering any physical feeling. I stared ahead, looked at my tv that wasn’t on. Listened to kitty lick her bowl. Her licking got louder.


My lungs felt hollow and I felt warm. The noises of the cat and the buzz of the electrical outlets and cars outside refined. I’d read this could happen, the venom makes your senses heighten and human things feel awkward. Breathing feels like an act that must be thought out, it becomes temporarily unnatural.


I looked at Sayer and I saw the enticement. All my middle school crushes on vampires were affirmed in that moment. His eyes were closed, his forehead, which was often tense, was smooth. This was why Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton wore vials of each other’s blood. It made sense now.


He let go. The whole thing couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds. He leaned back and his cheeks looked sun kissed.


I looked down at my arm, the clear mark of teeth remained.


That’s when I finally felt the pain. First there were the nerves and adrenaline and newness of everything. The pain was damp until I finally saw the budding drops of blood on my arm, much like the way the blood bubbles to the surface when kitty scratches me, somewhat jagged and uneven.


Everything was over-stimulatingly clear and the pain felt sharp and precise.


I tried to ignore the discomfort, focus on things like kitty’s soft paws on the floor, leaving the kitchen and coming into the living room.


I made an effort to act cool the rest of the night. I pretended I wasn’t irritated by the dripping bathroom sink. I acted normal. I counted out my inhales and exhales to make sure I didn’t forget while we watched The Office and then he went home.


After that first Monday I watched the crimson melt away from his face until it was entirely gone seven days later.


#


Kitty and I started spending weekends at Sayer’s place. It was bigger and emptier than ours but mostly it was a change in scenery, like spending a weekend at a hotel. From a certain angle, his loft, looked like a warehouse. It had an endless quality in the late evening and the shadows of his belongings stretched into corners further than the interior of the apartment.


We sat on his leather couch as he read Bukowski to me and I told him, “I’m just closing my eyes to listen better.”


When I realized he stopped reading I opened my eyes to see him on his phone, the book was closed on the table beside him.


“You just have a calming voice.” I used as an excuse to my boredom induced nap.


He leaned over to kiss my forehead before getting up and making a charcuterie board and the trendy espresso martinis all the girls were ordering. I heard the jagged pull and stop of kitty scratching his couch.


I walked around the sofa and lifted her up, scolding her and then turning to Sayer, “I swear she never scratches furniture. She’s never destroyed anything.”


“She’s fine,” Sayer assured and set a plate of fresh tuna and rice on the ground for kitty.


I set her down and she ran over to the dish.


I waited for something exciting to happen while we ate. Like a rival group of vampires breaking in Sayer’s door, or for him to be overcome by so much lust that he must drink my blood right then. But those things didn’t happen. I started to realize Sayer was just a well-read finance bro.


That night, like most nights I spent with Sayer, kitty slept in the crevice of my neck and shoulder, waking up to hiss if Sayer moved even slightly. I thought I should maybe feel bad and keep kitty at home and just check on her a couple times over the weekend. I never did though.


#


It was after the thirteenth feed I realized I was really bored.


There wasn’t anything wrong, it was just the same. Everyday. Like the way the 9-5 had become monotonous, so had Sayer.


Maybe those ex-girlfriends he’d fed off of in the past got bored and left.


Sure, on Monday’s there was that spike in adrenaline. Feeing lost in my own human body and floating until I returned to normalcy was fun. But then I was trapped again. Immediately after the bites I would feel immortal and lifeless all at once.


I tried to make things more exciting.


“Wanna know what I think would be fun?” We were in his car on the way to his place.


He asked, “What’s that?”


“What if we went out this weekend, to like a club, and you bit me there and we could go dancing.”


“That doesn’t seem hygienic, though.” He responded.


#


It was about six months in when Sayer last fed on me.


I ignored the Red Cross suggestions for someone giving blood on purpose. I hadn’t eaten that day and was tired from not sleeping well the night before. This feels toxic of me, but I purposefully set myself up to pass out.


Girls always passed out in the stories I read as thirteen-year-old, and there was so much passion and love after they woke back up.


I was certain this would add intrigue.


So, Sayer bit me and it worked. I passed out.


When I woke up Sayer was sitting by me and kitty was laying on my chest.


“Oh, thank god, you’re fine,” He rubbed a heavy palm over his forehead in distress.


He cared. And it still wasn’t interesting.


The whole thing wasn’t as romantic as those vampire-fics made it seem. The girls who pass out in those stories wake up in their vampires’ arms, he swears he would have no reason to live if it were not for her.


So, my decision to kill Sayer didn’t take excessive thought.


I was tired of his bland loft. I was bored of his all-black attire. It felt very juvenile at this point.


Maybe in Potomac the mosquito relationship is accepted, but it’s hardly mutually beneficial.


Besides, kitty always hissed at him.


Garlic isn’t poisonous to vampires. It doesn’t keep them away. Yeah, the wooden stake thing is true, obviously, but it’s so ceremonial and dramatic. Also, I’d have to go to Home Depot or something to get a wooden stake and it’s really not a trip I felt like making.


Cheap vino, bottom shelf liquor, wine coolers. Those are what are poisonous to vampires. They can’t survive lower quality liquor. The alcohol that give humans a worse hangover ends the vampire’s life.


The past months I’d been enjoying the ‘finer’ drinks. But I could forget to order the top shelf when I grab an after-work drink on Monday.


#


I texted Sayer on our last Monday morning together, letting him know I was getting drinks with colleagues and I would see him that night.


That evening, I sat at the bar alone and ordered a vodka cran. And I didn’t even need to request the well, the bartender didn’t ask. It’s sort of like the allergy thing, some waiters question, “does anyone at the table have an allergy?” and some don’t. Some bartenders question, “is anyone with a vampire?” and some don’t.


I had two drinks, brushed my teeth and swished mouth wash in the bathroom, then took a taxi to Sayer’s. He opened the door once I entered the hallway of his building. And he pulled me in, kissed my forehead.


It hit me that I was attracted to the idea of Sayer and the way he looked. The emotional pull I had toward him was probably nostalgia and nothing to do with his personality. The romance was always sparse. The stories I read at thirteen were always intense and passionate. Like fierce make out scenes or something traumatic and bonding would happen prior to feedings.


In reality, the feeding was mundane aside from the physical impact. But it wasn’t that desirable or else I would just become a vampire myself.


“Do you want a drink?” He asked. It was a normal question, he’d asked it often. But for a moment I thought he was onto me, trying to flush my system.


I shook my head, “No, thank you, I had a couple already and I’m good.”


“How’d it go with your coworkers? How was your day?”


“Oh, it was fine, they were…fine.”


He wrapped his arms around me on the couch as a fire burned in his fireplace. I rested my head on his chest.


I stared at a photo of him with his arms wrapped around two people, I never asked who they were, but they must have been his parents. They were in front of a European looking building, maybe that’s where they sent the wine from.


Before every feed Sayer asked where I wanted him to bite. This time, maybe to punish myself or just feel like the quintessential girlfriend of a vampire, I already decided where I wanted him to feed.


“Where?” His voice was soft, I think it was supposed to be enticing but it always irritated me.


Like the first time those months ago, I brushed my hair aside, indicating to my neck.


“Are you sure?”


“I’m sure.”


He pulled back slightly, “It might hurt really--.”


“I’m sure,” I repeated, cutting him off.


His bite felt gentler than before. The venom felt stronger. But within seconds he let go.


I jumped from the couch, putting space between us. I wasn’t worried he would come after me, but I felt the need to have distance from him. I waited for whatever would happen to happen.


“Wha…?” Sayer was confused, looking down with shoulders slouched unlike his usual proper posture. Then he looked up and I could tell he knew. Whatever my expression was it must have been telling that I betrayed him. His lips parted but nothing came out.


I watched his slouch deepen and he slumped forward, bent at the waist over his knees. Aside from the fire, everything was silent.


I closed the few yards between us and rested a hand on his shoulder, it was colder than usual. With as much strength as I could, I pushed him back into a lounged position. He looked the same, peaceful like when he fed, but his skin was grey toned.


I went to the entryway and took deep breaths till I could bring forth tears, then called 911. I told them I forgot to clarify my liquor of choice since they never asked what I wanted at the bar. They arrived quickly. A paramedic wrapped a blanket and an arm around me and told me it wasn’t my fault. Another handed me tissues. They said this happened more than you might think. The officers told me they would look into the bar.


They put Sayer on a stretcher and let me have a moment to say goodbye.


At his side, I placed my hand on his cheek. A sheet was covering him up to his shoulders and he looked the opposite of his usual emo demeanor.


Sad, I thought, Edward said Bella casts sun into his forever midnight. I guess unlike Edward I still have an unending, unchanging midnight


I kissed his forehead.


I stepped back and a moment later they returned to take his body. They rolled the stretcher out the door and as the door shut they covered his face with the folded down part of the sheet.


My tears stopped. I put out the fire and took the Bukowski book from his shelf. I turned off the lights and then left.


I walked home that night. It was cold but I still had just enough venom to keep the shivers from taking over. I held the book close as I walked past closed store fronts and open lounges.


When I got home kitty clawed her way up my pant leg until I reached down to hold her. I kissed the orange pattern between her ears and then filled her dish. I set my alarm for 5:15 am and curled up on my couch with the Bukowski collection. It lulled me to sleep like it had when Sayer read it out loud.

 

Emma Neal (She/Her) is an MFA Fiction candidate at the University of Idaho. She grew up in Boise, Idaho and attended Sarah Lawrence College. She writes horror through rose colored lenses. When she isn't writing she enjoys painting, reading mass produced romance novels, and listening to Harry Styles.

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