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Week #48: Creative Writing Challenge – Suburban Vampire

December 23, 2021

Write about a vampire or werewolf who moves into a quiet suburban neighborhood.

“Will you get the door sweetie?” said the disembodied voice of Tanin’s mother from the other room. She had her hands deep in a box of glassware in their new kitchen.

“Sure ma,” Tanin responded as he walked to the door. Through the frosted glass embedded in the wood he could see the figures of two people standing on the doorstep. They weren’t large and their skin wasn’t milky white like his own. Probably safe.

He pulled the door open to find two tanned teenagers about his age, a boy and a girl. They looked similar, both with brown hair, smokey green eyes, high cheekbones and full lips. The boy was three inches taller than the girl and he had dark circles under his eyes. Tanin could smell the sickness in him. It rattled through his nostrils and settled in his stomach like a heavy meal. The boy was looking at him, and when Tanin met his gaze, the boy shifted his weight to one leg, but didn’t look away.

The girl was studying a clipboard and started talking before she ever looked up. “My name is Meredith and this is my brother Phillip.” She gestured toward the boy. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled at Tanin. “We’re going around the neighborhood looking for sponsors for a Run-A-Thon at the end of July. All the money goes toward childhood cancer research. You can give a set donation amount or donate a certain amount for each mile I run.”

“Will you both be running?” Tanin looked at Phillip.

The girl, Meredith, tore her eyes away from the clipboard. Tanin expected it. He’d been told his voice should be on the radio, that it was silky and smooth, like a seductive whisper from the shadows.

Meredith paused, as if trying to figure out the solution to a puzzle. Tanin was patient as her brain tried to process the combination of voice, face, situation. Vampires were notoriously difficult for regular humans to parse. A quick glance toward Phillip showed a slight quirk at the corners of his mouth, like he’d already solved the puzzle and was gloating about it a bit.

Meredith shook her head slowly. “No, just me.”

“Okay, well, my mom’s a bit busy unpacking. Do you mind coming back tomorrow?” Tanin asked.

“No problem.” Meredith made a note on her clipboard. “Did you just move in?”

“Yeah, yesterday.” Tanin fiddled with the zipper on his hoodie with one hand. He didn’t usually have conversations with regular humans and he hoped he was acting normal enough.

“Bet you’re not a lot of help.” She smirked and gestured to Tanin’s arm. It had been in a cast for the past two weeks and would be stuck there for another three, a send-off gift from a classmate.

That was why he and his mother had moved to the suburbs, to get him out of Crossblood Academy. It was the school where all vampire children whose parents worked for the Coven went, and it was a festering cesspool of violent hormones and literal backstabbing. As Tanin got older he’d come home more frequently with cuts and bruises that wouldn’t heal quickly. It was clear to his mother where he’d gotten them. She knew Tanin’s strength lay in his intelligence and not his cruel brute violence. He got perfect marks and had been called before the Coven leaders to help solve problems in the past. It was unheard of for a youngling. Tanin knew how to fight, and did so with vigor and exactness during classes, but didn’t see the point in displaying that viciousness in the real world.

His mother wasn’t upset at moving. Lots of vampires managed to integrate into a normal human existence, and Tanin’s mother was willing to try. There were strict rules like never revealing your true nature, never revealing the existence of the Coven, and never ever turning regular humans into vampires. The Coven would hunt down and kill rule-breakers without mercy.

Tanin didn’t know it, but the Coven leaders had requested that his mother move to protect him. They recognized his mental and physical strength and had tagged him for future leadership. They didn’t want to risk accidental death at Crossblood.

“Unfortunately, no.” Tanin replied.

“Okay, well, we’ll be back tomorrow to talk to your mom.” Meredith said before turning to walk away.

“But, if you’re not busy this afternoon, a bunch of us are going to hang out at the skate park if you want to come meet people from the neighborhood,” Phillip said. Meredith shot him a questioning look from where she’d stopped on the walkway. Phillip just shrugged at her. “We’ll be there around 2 if you want to join.”

Tanin had never been invited to hang out just for fun. “Thanks. Maybe I’ll see ya there.”

Later that afternoon, from the shade of a dogwood tree, Tanin studied the group at the skate park. Meredith and Phillip were there, along with three others, two boys and a girl. All of them had skateboards. He watched them skate around the park, attempting tricks, flying down ramps. When Phillip sat down in the middle of the park the others orbited around him. They chatted and smiled from the decks of their boards. Phillip occasionally threw his head back in laughter, curled strands of his hair caught the wind and swirled around his face.

As soon as Tanin left the shelter of the dogwood, Phillip swiveled to face him, like he’d known Tanin had been there the whole time. Phillip’s grin erased the rawness Tanin felt at being seen.

“Hey, you made it!” Phillip was still grinning. “Hey everyone, this is… wait, we never actually got your name.”

“Ooooh, embarrassing,” a girl with red weaved into her braids teased.

Tanin laughed. “I’m Tanin. We just moved in over on Bledor St.”

“You were right, he does have a dreamy voice,” the girl with braids whispered to Meredith. “Told ya,” Meredith whispered back.

“Ignore them, they listen to way too many podcasts.” This was from one of the boys. He was tall with ebony skin and a round face, eyelashes kissing his eyebrows. “I’m Griffin. And this is Toby.” Each boy held out a hand, so Tanin shook them both in turn.

“Do you know how to skate?” Phillip asked Tanin.

“Nah, I’m good.” Tanin raised his casted arm. He was pretty sure he’d be good at skateboarding because he had perfect balance, but he didn’t want to risk embarrassing himself with his broken arm.

Phillip shrugged and raised an eyebrow. “It’s already broken, what’s the worst that could happen?” Phillip asked before he grabbed Meredith’s board and pushed it into Tanin’s chest. “Come on, I’ll teach you.”

“Phil, no.” It was Meredith. Tanin figured it was the fact that he had her skateboard, but the look on her face didn’t have anything to do with the skateboard, and everything to do with the dark circles under Phillips eyes. “Mom said not to do too much today.” She lowered her voice. “You don’t want to be too tired tomorrow.”

Phillip pursed his mouth and his forehead creased as he leaned toward her. “Fuck off Mer,” he said just loud enough for her to hear, and walked away, gesturing Tanin to follow him. Tanin pretended he hadn’t heard anything.

Meredith went to Tanin’s house by herself the next day.

“My mom’s just finishing up some stuff. Do you want to come in?” Tanin asked and led her past a formal dining room to a kitchen with a marble island. Light from the sliding glass door brightened the room and Tanin tried to stay in the shadows. He loved the light, but from experience he knew it made his skin shimmer, and with his dark hair, people said it made him look other-worldly. Tanin wanted to make friends, not be stared at.

Meredith settled herself at a barstool near the island. “So, you did pretty well skating yesterday. You sure you haven’t skated before?”

Tanin laughed. “I guess I’m just a fast learner, or Phillip is a really good teacher.”

Tanin searched for something else to say. “Thanks for letting me borrow your board.”

“You’re welcome. I can’t really say no to Phillip,” she responded.

“Where is he by the way? I got the impression you two were a package deal.” Tanin wasn’t usually so blunt, but he was curious.

“Yeah, um… he had a doctors appointment” Meredith said and avoided Tanin’s gaze.

“Hope everything’s alright.” Tanin replied.

“Sorry, not my story to tell.” She looked defeated.

“Understood. Sorry I brought it up.” As Tanin responded, his mother swept into the room in a flowing black skirt, zipped up leather vest, and black fitted shirt. She looked like a creature from a gothic festival with her outfit and pinned up raven hair. Tanin was proud of his mother. She was strong, out-spoken, vicious when the occasion called for it, and beautiful. She’d chosen to have a family rather than dedicate her life to a Coven leadership post, and Tanin thought it had made her more fearsome.

“Welcome to our home Meredith. My son told me all about your visit yesterday, as well as his invitation to the skate park. Thank you for welcoming him to the neighborhood.” Tanin’s mother handed Meredith a few hundred dollar bills. “I hope this will help your cause.”

Meredith sputtered, “Yes ma’am. Thank you so much.”

“May I ask a question?” Tanin’s mother was using her soothing voice.

“Of course. Anything,” Meredith said.

“Why childhood cancer? Usually people championing a cause have a personal connection to the issue. What is yours?” Tanin’s mother asked in a soft voice.

Tears built in Meredith’s eyes as she looked at Tanin. “Family connection.” She quickly followed that up by pushing back from the kitchen island. “Would you please excuse me. I’m late meeting my mother.” Her hand was on the doorknob when she said, “Thank you for your donation. Every bit helps. See you around Tanin.” And then she was gone.

Tanin stared at the closed door until his mother placed a hand on his shoulder. Disease and sickness were rare in the vampire community. Vampire blood contained healing properties that contributed to long and healthy lives. Tanin didn’t have any emotional reference to guide him through the devastation Meredith held close to her heart, or the anger and sadness Phillip held close to his.

“Kindness, Tan. That’s all you can give,” Tanin’s mother said in a whisper before leaving him to stare at the door.

Tanin had hung out with Phillip, Meredith, and their friends every few days at the skate park for the whole month of June. They were all surprised when Tanin’s cast came off and he was quickly skating like he’d been practicing for years. He told them he was a natural athlete, which wasn’t hard to believe with his lean and muscled form. Philip was frequently absent. Meredith didn’t explain or make excuses, and Tanin didn’t press. His mother was right, kindness was all he could give.

The Fourth of July arrived and the group decided to watch the fireworks at the beach.

“Let’s go walk out to the end of the pier to watch,” Griffin suggested to a chorus of “Yays”. As the group walked toward the pier, Phillip stayed stationary.

Meredith walked back to him. Their conversation didn’t take long, but she looked angry as she walked back to the group. Tanin found Phillip’s eyes and held them.

“He doesn’t want to come,” Meredith spat.

“I’ll stay with him,” Tanin said. Meredith shrugged and the group headed toward the pier while Tanin headed toward Phillip.

“You shouldn’t stay here with me. The view really is much better from the end of the pier.” Phillip told Tanin.

“Why don’t you want to go then?” Tanin asked.

“I’m just tired,” was Phillip’s only response. They both sat down in the sand and there was silence.

Tanin turned to Phillip, searching his face, smelling the sickness worming it’s way through his system. “Do you want to talk about it?” Tanin asked.

Phillip pursed his lips and then sighed. “I have bone cancer. I had a bone marrow transplant two years ago and was in remission, but it came back last April. I’ve been going to the doctor for chemo every couple of days and I’m just tired. I’m going to die, it’s just a matter of when. How much will I miss? How can I leave a world that I’m not done with? People I’m not done with?” The silence enveloped the two boys like a blanket thrown over the world.

“Meredith is so angry at the world and my parents are so heartbroken. I have a hard time navigating their emotions most days. I know they love me, but so much has been taken away because of my illness. I just don’t know how to deal some days.” Phillip confessed.

Tanin stared out at the surf and ran his hands through the sand, feeling every grain as they slipped between his fingers. “Nabokov said ‘our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.’ Sometimes I think that the darkness must be the easy part, because the light scares the shit out of me.” It was the only thing Tanin could think to say, the truth.

Phillip looked at Tanin with wide eyes and then smiled. The smile slowly slid off Phillip’s face and his eyes flicked to Tanin’s mouth. Phillip slowly put his hand in Tanin’s sandy one and when their skin touched, both boys froze. A pulsing electricity hummed beneath Phillips fingertips, and built until it pushed up his hand and forearm. Phillip pulled back when the feeling got to his elbow.

“What the hell was that?” Phillip’s eyes were frantic but his voice was low. Tanin was just confused. He’d felt it too, but for him it had been like his life force had reached out to Phillip and was calmly, curiously, investigating the other boy. The sickness in Phillip hadn’t repelled it, but had intrigued it.

“I don’t know. That’s never happened when I’ve touched anyone before.” Tanin tried to explain. “I’m sorry, I should go.”

Phillip caught Tanin’s hand as he rose from the sand. It was the same sensation for Phillip, but Tanin could feel whatever was inside him spreading up Phillip’s hand, like it was searching for something. Tanin pulled his hand away, breathing hard, but he didn’t leave.

“I have to go to the hospital tomorrow for more scans. Will you come with me?” Phillip asked softly.

Tanin nodded and turned to go.

When Tanin got home that evening, his mother wasn’t alone. Coven Leader Maki was sitting in the formal living room on a floral print sofa across from his mother. Leader Maki had always reminded Tanin of a bald eagle. His face was a collection of sharp angles, with beady eyes and a white streak through his hair. Leader Maki was the Coven’s leading medic and historian, and Tanin had no idea why he was sitting in their living room.

“Tan, come sit with me and pay respect to Coven Leader Maki,” Tanin’s mother directed him to a chair near her. She sat upright and had put on all her Coven jewelry. This was a formal visit, not a social one, so Tanin sat and mirrored his mother’s posture.

“Hello Tanin,” Leader Maki said, drawing out the last syllable of each word.

“Welcome to our home Coven Leader Maki,” Tanin said and bowed his head.

“I’ll get right to it then. Tanin, you know that life forces from every member of the Coven are connected. That we gain our strength from our connections.” Leader Maki paused until Tanin nodded. “Well, an odd disturbance filtered into our Coven connection tonight, one that hasn’t been felt in millennia. I’ve spent the last few hours in the historical records and I may have identified the source, but it will require your cooperation.”

Tanin’s gaze flicked to his mother who gave a slight nod. “And you think this disturbance originated from me?” Leader Maki lowered his chin slowly before raising it. “Is the disturbance dangerous to the Coven?” Tanin continued.

Tanin knew he’d hit the crux of the issue when Leader Maki met his mother’s eyes and held them. “No, based on records, we don’t think the disturbance, if it occurs again in the future, will be dangerous to the Coven as a whole.” Leader Maki enunciated the last few words.

“So just dangerous to me then?” Tanin pursed his lips and his heart beat more forcefully. He was tired, and in the silence all Tanin wanted was to go upstairs and think about how Phillip’s hand felt in his and how Phillip had asked him to come with him the next day.

From a black bag, Leader Maki pulled a weathered book and opened it to a marked page. “I will need your blood.”

Tanin held out his hand as Leader Maki scratched a deep gash across Tanin’s palm, letting blood drip onto the page. Tanin could see his blood swirling over the page, blending with the ink and staining the paper. Leader Maki studied the shapes as they coalesced into words. He read while Tanin and his mother sat at attention.

Leader Maki sucked in a breath and raised his head to meet Tanin’s stare. “Praise the Darkness,” he whispered before bowing his head deeply in Tanin’s direction.

“Leader Maki, will you please tell us what you’ve found?” Tanin’s mother asked.

“Yes, yes. Forgive me. I didn’t think we’d ever find him.” Leader Maki was speaking quickly now. “Three millennia ago there was a Coven Leader who had strong healing magic. He was able to channel the life force of the Coven to heal individuals, essentially making the Coven immortal. Unfortunately he was killed by a competing Coven, but on his deathbed he promised that this power would arise again and usher in a new era. One in which the Coven would prevail against all enemies.”

“Well that all sounds like a good thing. Where is the danger Leader Maki?” Tanin’s mother inquired.

“Well, the Coven leader performed many experiments to discover the extent of his power. He discovered that he was just a conduit. He couldn’t heal himself and he couldn’t heal regular humans without draining his own life force.” Leader Maki addressed Tanin. “Can you describe what happened earlier this evening?”

Tanin took a full breath. “I touched a friend’s hand. He has bone cancer. It felt like I was traveling up his arm through him. It was me, but it wasn’t at the same time. The force felt curious, like it was searching for something. I didn’t have any control over it, but when I withdrew my hand it vanished.”

“I assume this was a regular human?” Leader Maki confirmed as Tanin nodded. “How do you feel now?”

“I just feel tired. Maybe more than normal, but it’s hard to tell.” Tanin admitted.

“It’s likely that your life force was searching for the sickness in your friend to destroy it. The Leader’s research noted that he had no control over the power once it had entered into another, but that he could control contact. I’d recommend not touching anyone until you fully understand the extent of your power.” Leader Maki explained.

“So if my son wanted to heal a sick person, he would give his life force in an equivalent amount to the severity of the illness?” Tanin’s mother asked.

“It appears so. Tanin’s vampiric ability to heal would likely mean his recovery and survival, but we don’t have any confirmation of that. Therefore, the Coven Leadership will forbid Tanin to use this power on regular humans. Also, upon Tanin’s eighteenth birthday he will return to the Coven and take up a Leadership position.” Leader Maki gave Tanin’s mother a pointed look.

“Tanin, thank you for your cooperation. I will be checking on you. You are excused,” Leader Maki said in a formal voice directed at Tanin.

Tanin knew the rules of the Coven, so he rose, bowed, and walked up the stairs to his room where he collapsed on his bed. He was overwhelmed with the news Leader Maki brought, but his thoughts always led back to Phillip.

Tanin could help Phillip, but it would go against Coven orders and it could kill him. Tanin’s mother strode through the bedroom doorway twenty minutes later, and settled herself onto the bed.

“Tan, I know what you’re thinking, and generally I’m all for rule breaking, but not at the expense of your life.” Tanin’s mother always knew what he was thinking.

Tanin rose to a sitting position. He was taller than his mother, but he felt small as he said, “We don’t know if that’ll be the actual cost. I could save him and be just fine.”

“Some risks just aren’t worth taking, my dark jewel.” Tanin’s mother reached up to stroke his hair as tears fell from his eyes. “It hurts ma,” Tanin whispered as he folded himself into his mother’s embrace.

Seven months later Tanin stood in front of a gravestone. He didn’t need to read it to know what it said, and he didn’t need to read it to know it was a lie. There hadn’t been another decision he could live with, although how long that might be, he didn’t know. He was halfway across the cemetery when Phillip emerged from behind a dogwood and wrapped an arm around Tanin’s waist. The two puncture marks at Phillip’s collar had almost disappeared along with the dark circles under his eyes.

“So where to now?” Phillip asked.

“We disappear,” was all Tanin said.

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