Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Pretender

I smelled urine and I tasted sweat. The sweat was mine. The urine was his, and I only hoped he wouldn't get it on my shoes. Or on anything else. The night had started with a glimmer of hope--a hope that I wouldn't have to kill anyone. My hope was still holding.

The night was muggy and hot, the sky as blue as a gun barrel and pressing down on me like a headache. Even breathing was a chore, every breath like a gasp through a hot, wet towel. I could have been somewhere much nicer. I could have been home, lounging in cool, conditioned air, eating junk food, drinking cold beer and watching some stupid sitcom rerun on TV. But if you're here...then that means...oh no...

But I wasn't there. I was here, and I still had hope that we would both leave this alley alive.

I was the bait. Crouched in a side alley next to a club that I knew was frequented by a certain type. A type who liked to wear dark clothes, a type who liked to cut his hair in a false widow's peak and wear white makeup on his face. A type who liked to pose as something he was not.

Sometimes it was all in good clean fun, pretending to be a predator who fed on human lives. The trouble was, these pretenders had a bad habit of attracting the attention of the real thing. Their habits made them easy targets. They went out at night, they lurked in lonely places with a few others who also liked to pretend. They had loose morals and would go with almost anyone. Sometimes they drank a little blood from each other so they could feel important, evil and dangerous. The blood was the real problem. The real ones can smell fresh blood from miles away, it seems, and that was the kind of thing that would bring them all crawling out of the sewer.

He had taken the bait. He thought I lived on the street; most likely he thought that I was desperate and not mentally competent. He believed that for twenty dollars I would let him drink a little blood and have his way with me, the sick punk. When he finally turned and went for my throat, I shoved a little silver-plated crucifix into his face. He leaped backwards, hissing ridiculously. I almost laughed. The fakes were always so predictable. He bared his teeth and came at me again, trying to avoid the cross.

It made a good fist load. I laid it up against the side of his head, good and solid, and he sagged like a sack of wet sand. I worked him over pretty good while he was stunned. When he came back around, I wanted him to be hurting and fully conscious of who was in charge.

I pinned him to the wall with my fist tangled in his shirt and my forearm across his throat. When he came to his senses enough to realize what had happened, he tried to scream. I leaned into him and my arm cut off the scream. Nothing came out but an airless croak.

I almost lost him when I started cutting. I leaned into him once more and he almost passed out again when I cut off his air. But I wasn't going to cut him enough to hurt him. I just needed to make him bleed.

A thin curtain of blood seeped down from the line I had etched into his forehead and ran into his eyes. He blinked heavily, trying to clear his vision. I blinked just as hard, with sweat running into my eyes. Damn I hate getting sweat in my eyes. I wished I had another hand to wipe my face, but I was far too busy for that.

"Do you feel that?" I asked him. I was close, hissing the words straight into his ear. "That's good, healthy, clean human blood on your face." I felt his larynx bob under my arm, and relaxed just a little so he could swallow without gagging.

"If you were real," I continued, "you wouldn't have that good, clean, healthy human blood running down your face. Do you understand?" He choked on a curse. I let him choke and curse. He was going to have to do a lot more than that to get rid of me. "The real ones don't bleed, get it?" I traced another thin line of blood from his forehead to the tip of his nose. "This knife wouldn't mean anything to you. Not if it was steel, not if it was silver, gold, or anything else. That stupid little cross wouldn't have meant a damn thing to you, either."

He became silent as his eyes tried to focus on mine, but I was too close for him to get a clear look. He was beginning to realize that I was deadly serious. Or maybe he thought I was crazy. Maybe I was. Maybe I am. Most sane people wouldn't spend the night in some alley so they could cut up a poseur just to prove a point. His breath smelled like nachos and whiskey. His breath did not smell like a hemorragic rat had crawled into his mouth, bled out and died, which was a nice change of pace. At that moment, I decided I loved the smell of nachos and whiskey.

"I'll tell you what's going to happen now. I'm going to let you go. You are going to go home and call your mom just to hear her voice. You are going to let your hair grow and wash that white crap off your face. And you are never going to drink blood again. Understand?"

I let him go. He slouched down against the wall until his butt splashed in the puddle of urine that had pooled around his feet. He inhaled, long ragged gasps of the wet, hot night air.

"Do you have a home to go to?" I asked, a little more gently. But just a little. He nodded. "Then get the hell out of here, and don't let me catch you doing this again, because next time I might have to kill you."

He staggered to his feet and walked unsteadily away, cursing and wiping his sleeve across his bloody face. I stood where I was, hoping he wouldn't turn on me again. There were worse things I could have done to him if I had to, but sometimes I would rather die myself than let that monster out.

He disappeared into the darkness. Maybe it had worked. Maybe he would live a long, healthy life and die old and full of years, surrounded by his grandchildren. Maybe he wouldn't. But I had done all I could. I was going home. I was going to turn the air conditioner on, eat some nachos and drink some whiskey and watch some stupid sitcom reruns on TV and pretend for just a little while that my biggest problems were making the rent and convincing the landlord that I was gay.

I came about as close to smiling as I ever get, these days. It looked like I wouldn't have to kill anyone tonight, after all.

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