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Day Shift – Chapter 11

Not That Kind of Vampire

 

               With Black Friday only a couple scant weeks away, Mattias decided it was best trying to enjoy one of the last few weekends he had available until the New Year. It was one of those weekends that he planned for meticulously. He did his research, got the food and snacks he’d need for the trip, and prepared with the best of them. He had no intention of letting anything distract from his goal of enjoying a weekend and doing something that he loved before that chance slipped through his fingers for the next few weeks and months.

               There in his living room, with the windows blackened and every possible distraction removed, he sat and took a tentative breath. He was ready to do this. To escape. Just for a weekend. Just for a couple days, to be somewhere but here. He smirked to himself, and with one clawed finger he pierced the crisp plastic wrap of a brand-new console game. For a long time, he had wanted nothing more than to be in another world, and forty hours of gaming in a weird and imaginative existence sounded perfect to him. The scent of fresh new plastic filled the room, and with a satisfying snap, he opened the case.

               He was old and missed the days when there was a manual to peruse over. That was okay though. With the modern world, he could get everything he needed from some fan wiki that had popped up on the internet in the days after the release of the game. That, of course, was something he hadn’t done yet. He had avoided spoilers completely. This would be his escape, brought by diligent and blissful ignorance. He stood up and took the disc out of the case with a satisfying click, and slipped it into the console. He took a breath and took his time getting back to the couch.

               Then he flopped down on the couch, lazily reaching out to grab the controller. The room’s light shifted heavily, the pale blue light of the TV lightened up with the game’s splash screen flickering into existence as he hit a button on the controller pad. There was a pause as the game loaded, and the trailer began to play. He had seen it before, a few times, on this very television. So there was nothing to do. With a satisfying tap of the controller again, he skipped it. Then, excitedly watched for the menu screen.

               It popped up – but his heart sank.

               There wasn’t a menu, only a progress bar. Below which there was a small flickering word.

               Installing.

               01%.

               “Damn it…” He muttered under his breath as he sat the controller down. No big deal. He would just wait to see about how long it would take. It took a few seconds, but the percentage crawled up. No problem. He reached over and grabbed his phone off the table and wasted time on the internet for a while. It would just take a few minutes after all.

               And yet, every time he would check the progress it would feel that much further. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, thirty minutes passed, and each check his frustration grew and grew over the situation. He was just annoyed. Finally, nearly an hour after he started, he saw the screen flash and change. It reloaded the trailer cinematic and he sat up excitedly.

               “Finally,” He said to himself, a bit of a wriggle in his seat in almost childlike expectation.

               Once again, the menu screen loaded. Then a popup showed through.

               Update required.

               “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” He groaned. He smashed a button to take him to the downloads screen, the images shifting and changing before they went to yet another menu and opened the download progress. His eyes drifted across the screen looking for how big of a download it was going to be. With a little luck, it was just a small update. Just a few more minutes. Of course, when his eyes fell on the size of the download for the update, they widened. There was a for a moment a clear sense of loss that filled them, a defeated toss of the controller onto the couch, and a somewhat tentative move to stand up. He wavered for a moment before he stepped around to a side table and snatched up his keys and wallet. And then he walked to the door.

               “I’ll be back lunchbox,” He called back into the house, before moving out and into the world.

               He didn’t know where he was going, or what he was doing now. He needed to burn a couple of hours to do what he wanted to do, so why not go out to town to distract himself. That made sense to him. He was annoyed. So why not go out and find something to sate him. He was going to go buy something.

               He did not, by any means, have the money to tie his annoyance to purchases. It was a habit he wasn’t breaking anytime soon, and he knew where he was going. Downtown there was a small shop that sold witchy items and stuff for non-humans. So, he’d go there for a while, and see if he could find anything fun. Maybe he could find something to distract him, or an interesting book, or just a bauble for his lunchbox.

               It took about twenty minutes to drive to the shop he was looking for and a few more to find a parking lot. On the weekends, downtown was always busy. On a surprisingly warm night like tonight, plenty of folks were out and about. College kids were pub-crawling and celebrating the coming end of a semester before the had to buckle down and study. Those of the town older than that were just trying to blow off steam, and maybe find something to drown memories of work in, like he was doing. Of course, he wanted a more solitary feeling than most people. He wanted to be left alone.

               He had never been lucky enough to get what he wanted.

               “Mr. Holland!” He heard a yell from across the street as he walked. It would have been fine to keep walking and ignore her, right?

               No, that would just make her yell again. Just a wave and an acknowledgment, and she’d go back to whatever it was she was doing. So that was his strategy. He turned and found himself scanning the crowd. Finally, he spotted the waving arm of one of his coworkers.

               Ava.

               Though she looked completely different than he was used too. He waved back.

               Then, barely looking, she grabbed her friend’s arm and bolted across the street towards him. The tiny little figure bounding across like a baby deer – without even looking where she was going or for cars or other dangers. It was stupid, but it was also busy so it wasn’t like there was much traffic in this particular area.

               “Hey, Mr. Holland! Neat to see you out and about,” She said as she came to a halt next to him.

               “Hi, Miss Mays,” He followed her formalities, not sure why she was approaching him. They barely talked at work.

               “How cool is this?” She asked, “Are you going to the Club?” There was an emphasis on the word Club. He caught it, and it made his brain suddenly click.

               He looked at her and her friend and discomfort started rising in his mind. His plan had backfired completely, and he suddenly realized what Club she was talking about. You see, she was in her gothic best. A thin black tank top with a capelet, a skirt that was only a few inches away from being a glorified belt, and knee-high black strappy boots gave her a very obvious look. A spiked choker, dark make-up, and a few superfluous chains dangling from useless clasps on her attire finished the ensemble.

               “Oh, no. I’m not that kind of vampire,”

               “There are different vampires?” Her friend slurred. She was similarly dressed if somehow a little bit more densely layered with accessories.

               “Yes, but I don’t think that’s actually what you’re asking,” Mattias said with a growing discomfort around us.

               “Why don’t you come with us? It could be fun.”

               “I appreciate the invite, by no,” He said raising his hands and shaking his head. He tried to make it as obvious as possible that he was not in any way interested. “You two have fun.”

               “Aw, come on. It’s feeding night,”

               “I’ll go with hell no then,” Mattias smirked a bit.

               “Aw, that’s no fun,” Her friend wobbled and stumbled a bit. “I bet you’re fun to feed.”

               “Nope,” The vampire shook his head. “No.” His finger pointed at the friend, and then to Ava. “No.”

               “Okay, well if you change your mind…”

               “You’re drunk, don’t finish that sentence,” He gave a bit of a stern voice.

               “He’s no fun. You said he was fun.”

               “He’s fun,” Ava stumbled a bit, “He’s just not that kind of vampire. Let’s go find sexy vampires.” They had both started moving away from him.

               “Ouch,” He added at the statement.

               “See you at work on Monday, Mr. Holland,” Ava gave a wave and they were off.

               “Be careful, Ava.”

               He felt eyes on him as they walked away. It was uncomfortable. It wasn’t something he particularly enjoyed. He was being judged from somewhere, by someone familiar. It was night. His senses were enhanced. He could smell the humans, hear them breathing as they walked along the road, and feel the warmth of their hearts. They were, after all, prey – and he was designed to be a hunter. So, when one hunted him, he could feel it. The difference in their heartbeat and breaths, the smell the adrenaline gave their sweat.

               Hunters, of course, were rare now. Legal hunters were often employed by police departments to track down any vampires that lost control. He was not one of those, though. And the illegal ones were little more than ignorant bigots. He wasn’t afraid of them. They were generally stupid and in over their heads. So, who was hunting him now?

               “Mr. Holland,”

               “Miss Chambers,” He spoke as he realized it was Ed. How exactly could this night get any worse?

               “Not that kind of vampire?”

               “Saw that exchange, did you?” He spoke, finally turning around to see her a few feet behind him. She had a shopping bag in her hands from the same place he was headed. And she wasn’t sharply dressed. Her out of work attire was just as planned, mind you – but she had clearly put work into the fashion of it all. A layered ensemble of fall colors, with a light jacket and scarf, smart combinations of color, and just enough asymmetry to draw the eye to her face.

               “Yes. Ms. Mays didn’t seem like that type at work,”

               “A lot of us are different at work,” He said with a nod to her, “Some of us less so, looks like.”

               “What does that mean?”

               He paused. What did that mean? “I don’t know. Trying to sound deeper than I am.”

               She smiled. It surprised him. The smile was soft and genuine. It wasn’t sharp at all. “Well, I just wanted to say hello, and that you did really well. You think they’ll be okay?”

               “Yeah, they’ll be fine. A bunch of humans pretending to be vampires is all that club is. I mean, there might be a real one there, but it’s pretty rare,” He smirked and bared his teeth, “These aren’t really made for crowds, you know.” He shrugged. “Weird that she’s a bit of a thrall,”

               “Thrall?”

               “Its uh… Well,” He paused and felt a hand lift to the back of his head, where he brushed it through his hair. “It was a term used by vampires back when for thralls, people they kept as servants and meals. Now it’s for,” He blinked and paused, “Vampire groupies.” He felt his smirk fade to an awkward smile, and he laughed a bit, “Sorry, weird to say to my boss.”

               “Not on the clock. So, don’t worry about it.”

               “Good.” He pointed to the bag, “Demi’s?”

               She jostled the bag a bit, “Yeah. The incubus thing… got me thinking.” She admitted, “I mean, I hadn’t been since college, but I knew they’d have a couple books on non-humans. And some sage. So, I got a few books on ‘cubi, vampires, Fomorians, witches, slimes…”

               “Slimes?”

               “Yeah. One works in IT.”

               “Oh, I did not know that,” Mattias said with a small grin. “Studying up.”

               “I just thought, if I’m going to be a good manager, I need to know what you all are going through. And the internet is awful. Especially for Fomorians.”

               “Right? How racist are the faerie?”

               “It surprised me! They attack every site they can. And I thought they were just playful tricksters,”

               “The good ones, sure. But they have a lot of Unseelie folks nowadays. The Internet brought them out of hiding. Like human-trolls. And, probably regular trolls.”

               She smiled. “Yeah. Anyway. I thought it would help. I don’t want to take up your time, I just wanted to say hello.” She gave a little wave, “So, hello.”

               “Hello. Good to see you,” He said with an awkward little wave back. “And thanks for looking into that stuff. It’s nice to know you’re looking out for us outside of work.”

               “You guys deserve it.”

               He smiled, “And Miss Chambers, you can call me Mattias, if you’d like. Especially outside of work.”

               “Mattias. Sure,” She said with a nod, “And I guess you can call me Ed. Outside of work,” She pointed a finger at him from the hand that was holding the bag. “Miss Chambers at work.”

               “Got it.”

               “Good,” She said with a curt nod before she turned away, “Be good. Have a nice weekend. And I’ll see you on Tuesday.”

               “Tuesday?”

               “I won’t be in Monday.”

               “Oh. Tuesday, then.” He said. She gave another wave and then disappeared into the crowd. That was odd. Very odd. But he couldn’t complain. It was a good distraction, and he had to admit, he liked her much better outside of work. At least during that short interaction.

               He didn’t dwell on it too much more. He headed to the store, Demi’s, and browsed around for a while. In the end, he didn’t end up buying anything worthwhile. He just wasted time there and thought. He did chat with the staff a bit. They were old hippies, both human, but they had been part of the non-human culture for a long time. They were friendly, loving folk, who just wanted to see everyone get along. So, they tried to help facilitate that as best they could. It was nice. They had known him for years, and they were always nice to talk to, even if the conversation was very surface level. They didn’t fill him in on any juicy gossip or help him solve a problem in his head. They just reminded him of something very important. There were good people out there still – and if you paid attention you knew where to look.

               A nice night overall. And when he got home, his update was done. And for the rest of the weekend, he’d only move from his couch when he had to. The rest of the time he spent in another world, happy to be away from his own, but at least looking a bit more forward to the following Monday than he had when he left that evening.

              

Published inDay ShiftWritings

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