The modern world is tough for a vampire who just wants to live his life unnoticed and unmolested. His friends age while he doesn’t, he’s got too many allergies and too many limits on what he can do. And even a vampire needs a place to live, so he’s got to have a job to pay the bills.
When you can only work it night, it’s tough to find a job, so when a position for a night janitor opens up at a nearby high school, he jumps on it. But it isn’t long before he discovers that even a high school can have secrets.
Mr. Howard had handshake that was both weak and light, as if he was afraid of touching me. He probably was, but not for the right reasons. Fortunately, no one ever asked for a picture when you put in an application. I probably would’ve had even fewer interviews over the years.
“Mr. Wilson, is it?” I wanted to laugh at the quiver in his voice, but I needed the job.
I smiled, carefully but broadly. “Yes, sir. It is.”
I had to interrupt. “Sir, if I may put your mind at rest.”
Both of his eyebrows rose, but he regained control of his expression quickly. “I’m not sure–”
READ MOREMy smile didn’t slip. “It’s okay, sir. My appearance is startling to many people, but it’s nothing contagious. In addition to hyper albinism, I suffer from several other genetic disorders.” Which probably isn’t reasonable, but people swallow it every time. I’d only ever had to point out my slightly too-long canines twice. “My diet is extremely limited, and it’s difficult for me to maintain even this apparently malnourished weight. Because of my extreme photo-sensitivity, it’s very hard for me to go out during the daytime.”
Amazing the lies a vampire had to tell just to survive and pass unnoticed in the 21st century. All of those wonderful books and movies that made vampires out to be the pinnacle of the food chain, the awesome creatures of the night remaining hidden in modern society and preying on whomever they wished, were a tremendous crock of shit. They couldn’t get further from the truth. Maybe a few hundred years ago, but not anymore. Not by a really, really long shot.
The few of us left, and I assumed that I wasn’t the last, had a hard time maintaining our existence on the fringes of human society. Even a vampire needs money to survive. Not for groceries, but for shelter, at least, and clothing, and utilities, and, well, everything but food. And we have to be very careful. One body turns up with its throat torn out, and a whole city will go bat shit crazy.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize.” His expression shifted several times, trying to find the appropriate respectful but understanding set, but I didn’t intend to let him suffer for very long. That would be counterproductive.
“It’s okay sir. Like I said, I understand. I am a bit… unusual.”
Howard smiled again, and it was a bit warmer this time. He bought the explanation. Most people did, and pretty easily. That way they didn’t have to look at me beyond seeing the surface, didn’t have to try to get to know the poor genetic cripple. And that’s the way I liked it.
After that, the interview was in the bag. Mr. Howard asked questions. I answered them. He promised me a call within a couple of days, but I knew he’d already decided about the job. I didn’t know how many people would apply for a nighttime janitorial position at a crumbling high school that might fall over on its own in a couple of years, but no one else was in the lobby waiting when I came in, or when I left the office again.
Back in that lobby, I stood as far away from the window as I could, and thankfully it faced the wrong direction anyway, while applying a fresh coat of SPF 60 on my face and hands before adding gloves and a hat, then pulling on my trench coat and lifting a wide umbrella, umbrella. It’s not easy for me to go outside when the sun’s up, but I can do it if I have to. I just hate being stared at so much. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, I’m tremendously overdressed for whatever the weather happens to be, so clearly I must be a freak of some kind. Freaks are supposed to be stared at.
But since I am a freak, I’m used to that. It’s just the way my life is. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.
On the subway, I can relax a bit, take off the hat and gloves, and undo the jacket. People still stare, but they’re a little more polite about it, staring out of the corner of their eyes, and now it’s not because of what I’m wearing, it’s but because I’m white. Not Caucasian white, and not albino white, but white as a sheet white, white as snow white, white as a vampire white. Still, not too bad a ride.
Home safe, or as safe as I could get. A climate controlled basement apartment with two small windows, both of which are completely covered, One with a bookcase, and one by stuffing it full of boxes with a blanket draped over them. They both faced north anyway, but I didn’t want to risk getting a burn from a chance reflection at the right moment. Wrong moment.
With the door locked and bolted, I felt much safer, and changed into a comfortable pair of wool pajamas and an old Walmart-special sweatshirt. Turning up the heat up a few notches, I settled on the couch, fully prepared to watch TV with my latest Sudoku collection—I didn’t think I had the energy left for logic puzzles—until I fell asleep, which took about 15 minutes.
It was a fairly easy routine to settle into, and I didn’t have difficulty adapting to the life of a night janitor. My training lasted exactly 3 days, and was taken under the tutelage of the grouchiest old man I’d ever met. But when I’d shown him that I was willing to work, and work hard to get whatever the task list was done for the night, he gave me a grudging nod said I’d be fine, and went back to his comfortable, but probably much noisier, day shift.
The next few weeks passed easily. I spent five nights a week at a job that ran from 10 at night until six in the morning, and if I wasn’t home before dawn, the sun wasn’t high enough that I need more than the trench coat when I put my key in the lock. That might change when summer came, but for now, for a couple of months at least, I’d be fine. Probably shorter nights by then with less to clean once there was only summer school going on.
Slowly, very slowly, I started felt like the job was mine. Bills covered and a tiny bit in the bank for emergencies.
Twenty years ago or so, when I was more recognizably human, before I ever envisioned myself as a vampire, I’d had an office job. Not that I’d planned the one I got, but I’m not sure that anyone ever does. It’s something you fall into, I suppose, when what you are planning doesn’t work out, or when you can’t be bothered to get more of an education because you’re sick of academics.
Well, that didn’t quite fit me. I had a career, or the beginnings of one, or thought I had. If the entry-level office job wasn’t what I would have picked and wasn’t that exciting, the work wasn’t hard, and the hours were good. Office hours sound boring, but real weekends off are nice, and there was the possibility of moving up at some point.
Those days, unfortunately, were long over.
I’m still not even sure how I got whatever virus it is that turned me into what I am, though I had an idea. A stupid idea, but it made sense enough to me. The virus that causes vampirism isn’t particularly easy to catch, I think. If it was, the Earth would’ve been run over by vampires a long time ago, centuries ago probably. Legends of vampires go back hundreds of years, at least, as do the really entertaining stories of how one becomes one of them. Not that any of that matters, at least not to me. I suppose movies are entertaining enough, but, my best guess is that the vampire virus, whatever it is, is just another STD.
Granted, it had some positive side effects, like I didn’t seem to a gotten much older since I caught it. That was heavily outweighed by the inconveniences, though. Blood was the sustenance of preference, but that wasn’t always easy to come by and you didn’t want to get caught asking for it too often no matter how much you pretended to be making blood pudding. Red meat, and the closer to raw the better, fresh from the slaughterhouse was best, made up most of my diet, along with a few bland vegetables and milk, water, or super-clear liquids. Don’t ever spice anything, though. And the allergies. Anything that produced spores or pollen had to go.
But the extreme photosensitivity was the biggest pain in the ass. I wouldn’t burst into flame, but I could get a nasty sunburn in about a minute, and if I actually went outside on a hot summer day without a shirt, well, I shivered when I thought about that too much. There were plenty of other things I supposed I missed, but some days I really did miss the sun. Some days, I missed it more than I missed being normal.
But every so often, I thought I might be able to get it back on track. My life, I mean, even with all the issues.