My friend Alyth and I met up for drinks last night. Being a Tuesday night, the bar wasn’t too busy and we were able to relax and talk comfortably. ‘How was the solstice?’ I asked her. (It really has been that long since we last talked properly – we haven’t seen each other since the end of term.)
She laughed. ‘I missed the sunrise, can you believe that?’
‘How did you manage that?’
‘I wanted to celebrate dawn at Cairnpapple Hill. It’s the oldest henge in Britain. On the mainland, anyway. I set off, realised I needed petrol, so drove around looking for a petrol station, then got lost, nearly fell asleep at the wheel, and then got stuck in the middle of a flock of sheep for ages. It was as if fate was against me getting there…’
We talked for a couple of hours, catching up, and were about to leave when –
‘Hello, Alyth.’ It was Tina, Alyth’s ex. She dragged a stool over and sat with us.
I’ve always liked Tina, and although I’ve never found her particularly attractive I do find her tattoos and piercings quite fascinating. But she’s changed recently. It’s difficult to describe, but she draws the eye, catches the attention, in much the way Alyth does, but where Alyth is fire, Tina has become dark and cool. It’s just a feeling. Visually she is, perhaps, a little paler than she was.
She barely acknowledged me. Her blue eyes were focussed unwaveringly on Alyth. ‘Have you missed me?’ she asked, the subtlest hint of mockery in her voice.
‘Fuck off, Tina,’ Alyth muttered, staring down at her hands in her lap. Her cascade of red curls couldn’t quite hide the sudden blush, however.
Tina chuckled, and after observing the unusually silent Alyth for a minute turned to me. ‘Aren’t you going to interview me?’
‘You know about that?’
‘I was curious to see what new adventures Alyth had been having, but it seems her life is quite boring without me.’ Alyth didn’t react, and Tina continued, ‘I thought you might like to get some answers from a real vampire.’
‘I’d like that,’ I said carefully, getting out my notepad and pen and thinking through which questions to ask Tina. ‘What’s it like to be a vampire?’
She laughed. ‘Fucking brilliant. I get to do whatever the fuck I like. I get to fuck whoever I like. Don’t I, Alyth?’
‘Leave me alone,’ Alyth mumbled. Tina studied her for a few seconds, smiling in a slightly sinister way.
‘If you had the choice,’ I asked, ‘to no longer be a vampire – to just be a human again – would you go for it?’
‘No way,’ she said. ‘Not in a million years… I love being a vampire – no classes, no coursework, no exams. I can read whatever I like and enjoy it for its own sake.’
‘Do you miss food, the sun, or your heartbeat more?’
‘I don’t miss food. Just the thought of it makes me sick. Blood’s the thing. I adore blood. Could drink it all night long. And I don’t miss the sun. The night is full of a vibrant, delicious energy. The sun is too harsh, bleaching the colours away, burning the shadows. I hate the sun.’
She paused, frowning a little. ‘It’s weird not to have a heartbeat, though. With a human lover, I love to put my heart on her chest and listen to that powerful beating, the roar of beautiful blood through arteries and veins. With Lily… I love Lily, but sometimes when I hold her it’s like holding a statue, and it bothers me that she must feel the same about me.’
‘Is “live” blood more beneficial than bagged blood? Is it true that the last blood from a dying person is sweeter due to their fear of death?’
‘Of course live blood is more beneficial. It’s warm, it’s fresh, and ultimately your connection with the donor is critical. Blood from the vein is full of emotion and memory, and a willing human donor in the throws of sexual intimacy is sweet indeed.’
She looked at Alyth again. ‘That’s why I love Alyth’s blood so much. Because I love her, and she –’ Tina fell silent, and Alyth, her curiosity finally getting the better of her, looked up just as Tina leaned across the table to kiss her, tenderly – a little hungrily, as Alyth returned the kiss – for a few seconds.
‘– comes like a racehorse,’ Tina continued, her lips caressing Alyth’s as she spoke. Alyth jerked away with a snarled ‘Bitch!’ and Tina sat down again, grinning cheekily at her.
‘What was your first feed like? Or your first kill like, if you’ve killed?’
‘My first feed was awesome. It was like I’d been eating boiled cabbage all my life and suddenly I was eating chocolate. Sinking your fangs into living flesh feels so natural, so erotic, so territorial, as if you’re taking complete possession of the donor, making them yours.
‘I could so easily have killed. So many times, those first few weeks, I would have too, if not for Lily. That’s why I disappeared for so long – Lily didn’t want me anywhere near Alyth until I’d learned to control myself.’
‘Are there other vampires,’ I said, ‘and if so what role does gender play in vampire society?’
‘Oh, there are certainly other vampires, though I haven’t met many. Gender doesn’t mean anything, really, it’s all about age and power. My maker, Lily, is very senior in vampire society. I’m the lowest of the low, for now, when I’m not with her.’
‘What significance, if any, does gender identity and sexual (etc.) orientation have for vampires?’
‘Gosh, that’s a very frank question, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, it’s one of mine,’ I admitted. ‘So was the last one.’
She laughed. ‘I was a lesbian before I was turned, I’m a lesbian now. I don’t think becoming a vampire has any impact on orientation. I’ll drink from men if I’m hungry, but women are my thing. I can spend hours giving and receiving pleasure.’
‘They say a vampire’s bite brings pleasure rather than pain. Is that true, and how is that even possible?’
‘You should ask Alyth that, not me. She knows the pleasure of a good bite…’
Alyth was suddenly blushing furiously. When I found her tied up naked at the start of June, she was covered in bruises. If those really were bite marks… (They didn’t look like bite marks, but maybe vampire bites heal quickly?)
‘Well,’ Tina said to Alyth, ‘did you enjoy the touch of my teeth?’ Her tone was seductive, the implied question clearly being, ‘Would you like to feel the touch of my teeth again?’
Alyth kept her mouth shut, once again studying her hands that rested in her lap.
I couldn’t resist this next one. ‘Would you date a werewolf?’
Tina burst out laughing. ‘Yuck. Seriously yuck. I’ll leave the werewolves for Alyth.’
‘How much is a pint of blood?’
‘Full-fat or semi?’
‘I can’t remember… 70p?’
‘Okay, last question: Is it possible some vampire-related genes can be passed down through human bloodlines over the centuries?’
‘I guess so,’ she said. ‘The aetherial and mortal planes of existence do seem to blend in funny ways. Take Alyth here. She’s not entirely human, there’s a touch of something else in her, I don’t know what. Whether it’s genetic, though, I really couldn’t say. And then there’s your girlfriend Suzie…’
‘She’s not my girlfriend,’ I said quickly.
‘Whatever. She’s obviously not a real vampire – she doesn’t have our strengths and weaknesses. It takes more than a taste for blood to be a vampire. She’s probably a dhampir, a half-vampire. Very rare. I’ve never seen one. We’re supposed to avoid their kind, or kill them if they start causing trouble.’
Tina sighed. ‘It’s been great chatting like this, but it’s not why I’m here. Sorry about this…’
I don’t understand what happened next. Suddenly I was sitting there by myself, my head fuzzy as if I was just waking up. There was no sign of Alyth or Tina.
I have just received a text message from Alyth saying she’s ‘alive and human’.