Meredith got me started. She was my step-mom, sort of--Dad never actually remarried, he just invited her to move in when I was nine. There was nothing weird about her; she looked just like any other middle-aged woman. But I remember finding pictures of her back in the day, and she was a total goth. Black hair, maroon lipstick and fingernail polish, clothes that looked like they'd been yanked off a Victorian corpse. I guess she grew out of all that. But Meredith kept something from those days. On a crummy little bookshelf she kept by her bed, she had just about every book Anne Rice ever published.
I was ten when I "borrowed" the first one. It was The Queen of the Damned and I guess the title just jumped out at me. As soon as I realised it was part of a trilogy I went back and read Interview and Lestat. I was that kind of kid...always with my nose stuck in a book. By the time I got to Body Thief I was hooked. For some kids it was Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. It was vampires for me.
I read all the Rice books Meredith had, including the non-vampire ones like the Mayfair Witches, The Servant of the Bones, and the one about Ramses the Damned. But it was the vampires that hooked me. So when Twilight came out, I read that too. I was fourteen at the time. I wrote a book report about it for Mrs. Fuller's English class and she handed me the paper back with a sour-faced scowl. She'd given me an "A," but she'd written in red pen I really wish you would turn your attention to something educational. You are never going to learn anything real from stories like these.
Yeah, right. At least not until a vampire checks into the motel you are working at.
Not one of Anne Rice's immortals, or Meyer's "Cold Ones," this one was old school. He reminded me a bit of Angel from Buffy, a combination of his soft-spoken broodiness and that spiky hair. I never believed for a second the pale, skinny kid with him was really his son, but the vibe I was getting from them wasn't a gay thing. Actually the boy seemed protective of the older guy, like some sort of scrawny bodyguard. He glared at me the entire time they were checking in.
But the vampire...yeah, he was old school. The minute I looked up from the computer I caught sight of that mirror on the wall opposite the desk, and I saw. My reflection was there, and the back of the scrawny kid's head, but the older guy was nowhere to be seen. I mean, he was right there in front of me, but the mirror was oblivious to that fact. He had no reflection.
In the books, of course, people either freak at this point (and get killed) or rationalise, trying to convince themselves that despite the bloodless corpses piling up there-are-no-such-things-as-vampires (and this gets them killed later). But those are stories, and this was the real world. The guy standing in front of me cast no reflection, and I knew what that meant. No point in pretending otherwise.
So I did my best to remain calm. I didn't want to end up like the Evil Ed kid in Fright Night.
In my defense, I think I should score some points for that. Letting my obsession get the better of me immediately after that? Yeah. Not so smart.
But you probably have never worked the night shift at a fly spot of a motel in the middle of nowhere. It is a long, dark stretch of hours that never end. You sit there with a book, or endless informercials on the TV, slowly going stir crazy and thinking you really need a better job. Only this time, I sat there shaking. There was a freaking vampire in the motel, and I was twenty minutes away from the closest state trooper barracks. Except for the few guests who had checked in, I was alone. Around three in the morning, stuck at a job like that, there is nothing to distract you. Your mind picks at things the way Ronnie Illes used to sit in class and pick at his zits. I couldn't stop thinking about what was happening.
So the kid isn't one of them, I thought. He's like the Renfield, maybe, like the old dude taking care of Chloe Grace Moretz. And on a scale of one to 30 Days of Night she wasn't really that bad of a vampire. Maybe it's like the Sookie stories. Maybe they aren't all bad. Maybe there are good ones.
This went on all night, my mind obsessing, chasing itself in circles, and I nearly screamed when Don showed up to relieve me. It was six AM, and the sun was still an hour away, but with Don here I was free to go. I could escape.
But what if something happened to him? What if this vampire decided he needed a pre-dawn bedtime snack? I got out to my car, and sat there with my hands on the wheel, unable to turn the key and drive away. I couldn't just leave Don there, without any sort of heads up. But what was I going to say? "Don, there's a vampire checked into 213?" He'd laugh me out the door. Don was kind of a creep, and I was tired of him trying to get into my pants, but I didn't want to see him eaten. So, well, I guess I got stupid. I stayed.
I cracked the window despite the cold and fumbled through my purse for my e-cig, spending the next hour vaping on Skittles-flavored mist. From my vantage point, I was staring right through the windshield up at 213. I didn't budge. But there were no signs of movement up there, the curtains pulled and the door shut. Maybe he was just passing through. Maybe he would sleep the day away and then he would be gone. Maybe, maybe...
The sun came up, finally. When it was bright enough that I felt sure an old school non-reflection casting vampire would burn to a crisp (rather than just sparkle, I mean), I got out of the car just to run over to the vending machine. Vaping had given me a headache, and I needed a drink to wash down the Advil I had in my purse. I was only gone a minute or two, tops. Carrying my soda I got back into the car.
It was safe enough now, I thought. But what was I going to do tonight, if the vampire was still there? I reached down to get the Advil.
He had climbed into the backseat. The moment I looked away from the mirror he sat up, his scrawny arm putting the knife to my throat. His other hand grabbed my hair and pulled my head back hard.
"Why have you been watching our room?" He hissed, his voice ice cold. "Where is my Master? What have you done to him? Answer me, or I swear I will bleed you out right here."