Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time

I’m trying to piss against a wall when the vampire bites me. Trying because drunk-me can barely hold a glass, much less maneuver a limp prosthetic cock.

My attacker holds me like he did on the dance floor, one arm wrapped around my chest, this time digging into my ribs. I struggle against his supernatural strength and the slow constriction of my lungs. Through ragged breaths, I inhale the Old Spice on his thick black hair, where he bows his head to grip my neck.

The sting of his fangs barely registers and what does shoots straight to my cunt—can’t help it. If I knew he weren’t going to kill me, I’d relish the shock and pain, loss of control. I kind of do, anyway. His venom numbs my neck but I can still feel the strong clamp of his jaw. Like a new piercing, my body screams to reject the intrusion. I want to stay awake—stay pressed between his cold hard body and the cold hard wall. I want him to touch me, reach between my legs. I want to stay alive.

But the wall discolors; the red bricks spot with gray until they fuzz over and dull. My last thought before passing out is how weirdly validating it is that this cis gay guy targeted me, when I was too scared to even piss inside the bar’s men’s room.

My phone blares like there’s a Red Alert. I check the alarm. Oh right. I signed up for that Open Life-Drawing class at the community center. At 9:00 a.m. After half-priced vodka night. Optimistic.

When I sit up, the full weight of my headache settles into my skull. I press a hand against my forehead to ease the pressure, but end up squinting at a dimly lit room. Not any room I’ve slept in before.

The only light blurs from down a narrow hallway. Windows the size of cinder blocks line the top of each wall, but neatly hemmed black-out curtains fill them and glossy Ikea tchotchkes sit in front of those.

I’m in a guest room, I assume. At the very least, I’m on a hard futon surrounded by throw pillows and machine-made quilts. I’m still dressed and—I lie back and shove my right hand down the front of my briefs—still packing. Just a little damp from my adventures in peeing outside.

“You’re alive.” A familiar man leans against the threshold, holding a mug that says “Don’t talk to me until I’ve had my evening blood.” on the side. His skin is pale, but not pallid. His pose casual, but precise.

“Barely,” is all I can think to say. Did we fuck? I don’t usually go home with strangers, much less drunk, much much less with vampires. I have fantasized about it, though. Maybe I finally did.

“How do you feel?”

“Hungover.”

His chuckle resonates in his mouth, not his chest. The young ones react fairly human, still drawing air into useless lungs for huffs and sighs and rolling laughs. This one is clearly making an effort for my sake but is too old to get it right. I give him a seven out of ten.

I’d feel a little better if I could remember his damn name, though, and I don’t know how to ask without also revealing I don’t know how I ended up in his guest room.

“It’s Andreas,” he tells me. “And you’re Finley.”

“O-Okay. I mean, I didn’t—” I trip over explanations of why I forgot his name before reminding myself I still haven’t asked.

Scenes from last night force themselves on me; I watch them more than remember them. Drunk fumbling, a cold alley wall, and the rigid clamp of a jaw—his jaw, Andreas’s. The mix of pleasure and fear that slices through me isn’t a memory.

“You bit me,” I say, because he hasn’t danced around mystery, either. My grand accusation comes out as, “You’re not supposed to do that.”

“I was hungry,” he says, calmly. Like the obvious result of hunger is biting someone.

“So, go to a blood bank like you’re supposed to.”

“It’s not the same.”

“Yeah, because it doesn’t hurt people.” I pause. “You’re not still hungry, are you?”

“I’m not going to bite you again, if that’s what you’re asking. I—” This time, he pauses. “—do regret what happened.”

“Good.” I shake my hand out to stunt the tremor that seizes it. Nausea brews in my gut, dizziness behind my eyelids. I press the heels of my hands against my temples. “You don’t happen to have any Ibuprofen, do you?”

“No.”

“And we didn’t fuck, right?”

“No.”

“Great, then I’m going to head home—”

The next second, the futon dips and he’s beside me. He presses a cool hand against my burning forehead. “You’re not hungover,” he says. “You’re dying.”

His words impact me like news of a foreign tragedy: I know they’re bad but struggle to connect on a personal level.

“And it’s my fault.” His hand tenses before he pulls it away.

I flop back onto the futon and stare at the cream-colored ceiling. A fan spins overhead; the moving air ruffles Andreas’s shiny hair, an illusion of life.

I don’t want to die.

“You don’t have to.” Andreas replies to my thoughts again.

I didn’t know vampires could do that.

“Only the old ones.”

“Would you let me die in peace?” I shout over the pounding in my skull.

His shrug is too precise, like his shoulders are tied to a wooden toy’s pull string. Up, down. “If that’s what you want.”

“Thank you.” I want to cry—try to cry. Before I started testosterone, I’d cry reading Bridge to Terabithia or watching a made-for-TV movie. I liked crying, the catharsis of it, the physical purge of sadness.

Andreas brings his mug to his lips. The blood doesn’t stain his white teeth; the fangs leave tiny dents in the ceramic where he bites down.

I should be crying. He’s expecting me to because I’m a warm-bodied, emotionally-invested human being whose tear ducts can’t resist the impulse.

But they do, at least regarding my own future. Won’t make that Life Drawing class. Won’t ever see my work on a billboard or a book cover. Won’t exhibit, won’t—who knows what else?

Andreas interrupts my efforts. “Or I could turn you.”

“Into a vampire? Aren’t we supposed to apply for that?”

“I won’t tell if you don’t.” His smile doesn’t wrinkle his old skin.

The decision between anything and “or death” should be easy. But if I want to eat without killing people—and I will need to eat—I’ll have to register with the Federal Vampire Commission and explain myself and risk getting in trouble and getting Andreas in trouble.

Maybe he deserves it. He fucking bit me without permission.

But vampires who break the law, who feed from un-certified donors, who steal blood bags, or drink without asking first, are put on the Blood Offenders Registry, which is basically a hit list for corrupt cops and stake-wielding bigots. And if they survive that, the second strike is euthanization.

The system is fucked. No government lackey is going to hear out a gay trans guy who was illegally turned into a vampire. All I know is I don’t want to die before I’ve done anything with my life. Designing in-store signage for Sears does not count. Just ask the half-finished paintings in my living room.

I run my tongue over the smooth, flat line of my teeth for what I assume will be the last time. “Turn me.”

The hangover feeling doesn’t go away. Not the spins or the sticky pain of thirst.

Andreas’s venom curdles any food left in my stomach. He deposits me in the bathroom the instant before I vomit. I clutch the toilet bowl until my knuckles whiten and the whiteness spreads through my hands and I can feel it in my face. Until I can only dry heave.

My throat stings with stomach acid. “Can I have some water?”

Andreas presses a sports bottle to my lips. “Swish and spit. Don’t swallow.”

I bite down on the plastic nozzle and drink until there’s nothing left. My sensitive teeth rip through the thin plastic, tearing up the empty bottle. My canines ache the worst, like I’ve jammed them into ice cream for too long or just had fillings put in. Or both.

“I told you not to swallow,” Andreas says only moments before I prove him right with another retch.

“You can’t drink water?” I see vampires drink all the time.

“No, you can’t drink water. Your body is purging its fluids.”

“What about after…”

“After you’ve turned? Sure, you can drink water. Might want to wait a couple centuries before putting anything more complex in your body.”

“Like what, Diet Coke?”

“No, Diet Coke you can drink after a couple years. I meant your mother’s homemade meatloaf.”

“Oh.”

What’s the last thing I ate? A slice of pizza and burnt French fries. Not the last meal I’d have chosen, but King’s was the only place near the bars that served food all night and I was nervous and hungry.

“Just kidding, your mother will be dead by then.” Andreas sips from his mug. He waits for his words to settle then smiles. “That was a joke.”

“Thanks.” I imagine her funeral. My dad going home to an empty house. Eating across from an empty seat in the kitchen.

Still no tears. Maybe it won’t be much of a change becoming a vampire. Andreas doesn’t look like he cares much about anything.

“Do you want to call her?” he asks.

“No.” That answer’s easy. She told me she felt like her daughter was dying when I came out. She got over it, eventually, but I don’t want to put her through a literal death after that. “I do need to call the HR department at work, though.”

“I think they can wait until you’re done vomiting,” Andreas says.

I push myself to my feet and flush the toilet. He doesn’t understand how this works. I do. “I can’t lose my job on top of all this, okay? When everyone I love is dead—or when they decide they don’t want a vampire in the family—I won’t have a support system. So, where’s my cell?”

It’s dead, ironically. Andreas plugs it into the wall beside the sink and I spend another hour in the bathroom alternating between ready-to-talk and ready-to-vomit. When my fingers finally steady and I can lift my head long enough to call, HR doesn’t believe me.

“No, I can’t come in. I was bitten by a vampire. I’m dying!”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Hall,” says the HR officer, whose name I cannot remember because I’m so, so thirsty. “Like I said, I don’t see an application on file for medical-vampirification, which you’re required to submit ninety days in advance for paid leave. Now—”

“I couldn’t submit an application because I didn’t know. It just happened.”

“We can offer you six weeks of unpaid leave, Mr. Hall.”

“But—”

“That’s the best I can do. I’m sorry.”

“Fine. Thanks.” I hang up and squeeze my phone in my fist.

Andreas rests his hand perfectly still on my back. It doesn’t twitch or clench or rub; it just lays there like a paperweight, reminding me of his presence. He wasn’t beside me while I was on the phone but he’s here now, always now. I wish he hadn’t been there in the alley.

A gross conflicted feeling creeps over my skin. Why am I even here, still?

Where else am I supposed to go? I’ve already decided against Mom and, now that I’m thinking about it, any other human. A more scrupulous vampire would report me to save their own neck; a less scrupulous one would break mine.

This is Andreas’s fault.

“You’re right,” he says. “This is my fault.”

“I hate when you do that.” Read my mind, I think, because I know he’s still listening.

“Sorry. It’s centuries of habit, but I can stop.”

“Good.” Didn’t expect him to say that. “I mean, thanks.”

We sit in silence for a minute that feels like an eternity. I’m going to have one of those ahead of me: an eternity. Like it’s a tangible thing I can hold in my hands and squeeze. Like a blood-soaked heart I can wring dry.

“I’ll cover your expenses for the next six weeks.” Andreas leaves before I can pretend to object.

I don’t die—not yet.

I unravel myself from the quilted cocoon Andreas wrapped me in. I need air, still. Not much, but enough that my chest rises and falls automatically. I sigh and pinch the bridge of my nose, hoping for a moment’s relief from my perpetual dehydration headache.

The bathroom rug warms my feet as I sit to pee. No prosthetic is worth fumbling with while my body ejects all its fluids. There’s not much in my bladder, but I ease the pressure. Blood spots the toilet paper I toss into the bowl. I go cold. I dab another square between my legs, hoping I’ve started pissing blood. The other option is not an option.

And then it is.

I haven’t menstruated for three years. This shouldn’t be happening. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I bite down on my knuckles, forgetting my growing canines. Blood beads on my punctured fingers when I pull back.

Andreas doesn’t know what to do with me—not really. I need a doctor. One who can explain my reanimated uterus.

I clean up and pop on the pair of sunglasses Andreas left on the side table. He hasn’t let me outside, but it’s not like the door’s locked and I’m still human; I won’t spontaneously combust. I assume.

The thinnest line of light shines between the tiny windows’ blackout curtains: daytime. I’m officially on “unpaid leave.”

A bottle of sunscreen rests on the front windowsill and I slather the white goop on my face and hands before pulling on a hooded North Face fleece from the closet. To think I expected a cape.

“I need to see a doctor,” I say.

The receptionist stares at me over the counter, over cooling coffee, and square computer monitors.

“I don’t have an appointment with mine, but I’ll see whoever.”

He nods his head quickly, the rest of him unmoving, like a bobble-head doll.

“Great. Do I need to fill out a form, or…”

He pushes a blue lined paper across the counter to me. I sniffle and wipe at the cold drip from my nose. Blood stains my sleeve. Dammit.

“Thanks.” I grab a pen and sit down.

Four other people share the waiting room. Two read over a pamphlet on lesbian healthcare. One shoots cartoon pigs on her phone. The last just watches me over their acid wash jeans and under their knit hat. They pull their legs up tight against their chest when I pass, never taking their eyes off me. They still watch when I sit beside a corner table, push all the gossip magazines to the side, and try to flatten my form out.

It’s pretty standard.

Name: Finley Hall

Legal Name: See above

Age: Twenty-six

Gender: FTM/trans male

Pronouns: He/him

Species: Human

Technically, true. I haven’t died yet. Just because I can’t eat Dad’s homemade crab cakes for another couple centuries, doesn’t mean I’m not me, still. I wonder if I can freeze some…

Are you an existing patient at Centre Street Clinic? Yes.

If yes, who is your primary care physician? Dr. Lisa Perez.

What is the reason for your clinic visit today?

I bite the cap of my pen. My teeth hurt, but I can’t stop chewing. And I don’t know what to write—nothing I want to tell the receptionist. I settle for: Bleeding.

Understatement of the century.

When I return the form, the receptionist pretends to have been drinking his coffee; he grabs the handle with such force, the black liquid spills over the edge and stains a pile of blue forms.

The person who was watching me doesn’t stop when I sit back down.

“Can I help you?” I ask.

I relish that edge in my voice. The gritty feel, condescending tone. Andreas never sounds like that. His voice is sea glass, smooth and translucent. Mine is a year of throat-clearing, congestion, and cracking.

The waiting patient loosens their hold on their knees and raises their chin. “You’re bleeding.”

“I know.” I wipe at my nose, but there’s nothing.

“No, I mean on the chair.” They point.

Fuck.

My cheeks muster up all the color they can find—hopefully enough to suspend menstruation.

“It’s okay. I won’t tell or anything.” They motion for me to stand, then toss a magazine over the spot. “The clinic will probably just throw the chair out anyway. No use blaming someone for it.”

“Thanks.” I want to smile, but the gooey feeling between my legs—knowing that I’m bleeding out and there’s nothing I can do to stop it—stops me.

I’m halfway to the bathroom when a nurse calls my name. “Finley! Finley Hall?”

“Yeah.” I hold myself together while I walk, Andreas’s fleece wrapped around my waist, steps small to avoid any further leakage, arms clasped in front of me—as if anyone really walks like that.

“I’m Ashlynn, Dr. Treggman’s nurse. Why don’t you follow me on back and I’ll get you started. How does that sound?”

“Fine.” I nod and follow her back, even cooperate.

She makes me get on the scale.

“Wow, you’ve lost nine pounds since your last visit—two weeks ago.”

Takes my blood pressure.

“Fifty over thirty. That—that can’t be right. You’d have to be…”

And my temperature.

“Um, okay, this—I’m going to get Dr. Treggman.”

She backs out of the exam room, keeping her eyes on me until she’s safe on the other side of the door.

I lean back on the patient table. Its white paper crinkles beneath me. Dr. Treggman walks in just as I’m peering at the crotch of my jeans to assess the situation.

“Finley, nice to meet you.” He sets his laptop on a wheeled table and sits on a short black wheelie stool and wheels himself and his laptop over to me. “I’m Dr. Treggman.”

I nod.

“What seems to be the problem?” he asks all while peering over his glasses at the form I gave the nurses. “Bleeding?” Then he looks over his glasses at me. “Would you like to be more specific?”

“I got my period for the first time in three years, today.”

“You’re on Testosterone Cypionate?”

“Intramuscular injections.”

“So you know, then, that people who have taken steps to medically transition are on the restricted list for vampirification.” He stares at me over his wire-frame glasses and old plasticky laptop. Slowly, his lips purse. “The nurse gave me your stats. I’ll have to report this. I’m sorry, I’m required by law.”

I squeeze my legs together and lean forward, trying to appeal to his human side while I still have one. “Look,” I say softly. “I need help, okay? This is the only clinic I even feel safe coming to for trans stuff.”

“Mr. Hall, this isn’t trans stuff, this is vampire stuff. And there’s a reason the two don’t mix; we don’t have conclusive studies on how vampirification affects atypical bodies.” He starts typing, again.

I’ve seen the Federal Vampire Commission’s list of atypical bodies. It’s trans and intersex folks. Disabled and neuroatypical folks; the F.V.C. even provides a list of prohibited surgeries and medications. Never mind those who can’t afford the required physical exams and application fee. And heaven forbid you’re a woman of childbearing age who “might want to have kids someday; how can you be sure you won’t want to?

“As I’m not versed in vampire anatomy—” Dr. Treggman’s words buzz like a fly in my ears. “—I hesitate to make any recommendations—”

I clench my hands into cold, white fists and punch them down on top of Dr. Treggman’s shitty laptop. His tan, hairy arms tremble where they stick out from the keyboard. I lean over the wheelie desk and bare my growing fangs. If I breathe deep enough, he smells like dinner.

I lean my full weight on the shattered laptop, crushing him in a hand-sandwich between layers of circuits and plastic.

“Finley.” His voice is hoarse and shaky. “Finley, please, you’re hurting me.”

“Finley!” Andreas’s sea glass voice turns my head.

“What,” I ask, slowly, “are you doing here? You’re supposed to be asleep.”

“Good thing I wasn’t. You need to let the doctor go. He’s just doing his job.”

“You know how many doctors I’ve met who are just doing their jobs?” The one who asked if I was really, really sure, because I didn’t seem very masculine. The one who suggested psycho-sexual therapy as if my kinks disqualified me. The one who told me no cis gay men would want to sleep with me.

“I know.” Andreas snakes an arm around my waist and pries me off the laptop.

Dr. Treggman squeaks relief and Andreas looks into his eyes and says, “You will wait quietly.” The doctor slackens, suddenly unconcerned about his injured hands or the one and a half vampires fighting in his exam room.

“I can’t go like this.” I gesture over my un-reproductive organs.

“So, buy some new clothes. Here.” Andreas thrusts a few bills into my hand.

I hate that he’s so easily solved my problem. I want to stay angry. I’m still angry. I’m still bleeding. “How did you know where I—”

“I can smell you.” Andreas taps his nose. “Now, I’m going to convince the doctor not to report us for this mess. You will meet me outside.”

“I didn’t even think you could go outside at this time. I thought I’d ditched you.”

“Yeah, well I’m old and soon you’ll be young, so don’t ditch me for a few more centuries. You have a lot to learn.”

My “Ugh!” is a bratty growl as I slam my fist into the doorframe and leave. If this is my life, now, bring on death.

Andreas meets me in the back alley and pushes me against the brick so hard it cracks. Notably, I don’t.

“What were you thinking?” he asks. “Are you trying to get us euthanized?”

“I was thinking you don’t understand how my body works and I needed to see someone who does.” I try to pry his hands off my shoulders but he’s got millennia on me. I haven’t even managed to die, yet.

“Dr. Treggman doesn’t know more about vampirification than I do. Besides, if you’re really concerned, we have vampire doctors.”

“Any trans ones?”

“What?”

“Do you know any transgender vampire doctors?” I ask slowly to drive home my point.

Andreas’s lips twitch, revealing a flash of white. I wonder if he has emotions or only teeth.

“Didn’t think so.” This time, I brush him off easily. “You’re welcome to feel doubly stupid, by the way. Turning someone without an application—a someone who also happens to be trans. It’s not even legal!”

I get halfway down the alley before he says, “I thought you smelled different. Not enough to deter me. Actually, not bad at all. Just different.”

“I’m flattered.” I suppose that’s the vampire equivalent of “Wow, I’d never have guessed you were trans,” or “But you look so normal.”

I put my borrowed sunglasses back on and pause at the shade’s edge. “Let’s go home so I can die, already.”

Andreas catches my shoulder before I can step further into the sunlight. Smoke rises from his hand before he jerks it away.

“I thought you were old,” I snap, still unable to control my temper.

“I am.” Blisters swell on his otherwise unblemished skin. “Just because I don’t catch fire wearing SPF 70 in the shade, doesn’t mean I can lie out on the beach in June.”

I cross vacations off my list of future plans. A list that seems to shrink every hour.

“Look, Finley, don’t let this ruin your last day.”

I walk backwards across the line of light, watching Andreas grow smaller. He doesn’t offer any more wisdom. He doesn’t even stay.

Don’t let this ruin my last day. It’s not really my last day. My last day was pizza and burnt French fries, strobe lights and pulsing bass. Drunk pissing.

I stand at the top of St. Paul Street and watch cars fly past. They disappear between skyscrapers and the orange glow of sunset. I should care that this is my last sunset—at least for a few centuries.

I cared when it was my last night with breasts. When I faced losing erotic sensation. Never arching under the hard pinch of rough fingers or the wet suction of a man’s lips. I didn’t want the mounds, but I had them my whole life. And, then, I didn’t.

I cared before my voice dropped. When I faced losing my ability to sing. “Most guys can’t,” the Internet said and no voice coaches worked with trans men, only trans women. The drop was sudden and uncomfortable. I strained and pushed to sing The Kinks and The Beatles and cried when I couldn’t. I hadn’t lost my ability to cry, yet.

I care that this is my last sunset.

The sky is black and blue when I show up on Andreas’s doorstep. His bandaged hand and heavy eyelids are my fault. He glances at the back of my canvas and my small kit of paints and brushes, as if he expected more.

“I probably won’t see another sunset like that.” Not that I have to justify my time to him. He probably expected I’d visit with family or friends, vomit up a last ditch attempt at a favorite drink or meal. Maybe I should’ve. Too late, now.

“No, you probably won’t.” Andreas steps aside so I can set my things in the guest room and kick off my shoes. “Ready?”

“Yeah.” I roll up my pink and orange stained sleeves. “I’m ready.”

Andreas leads me into the basement. It’s unfinished. The rough cement floor cools my feet; the air chills my exposed skin.

“You don’t have to take off your clothes, but you should,” Andreas says.

“Why?”

“Death is messy. You don’t want it sticking to you.”

“Fair.” I don’t ask for further details. Despite stabbing myself with a needle every two weeks and going through surgery, I’m not particularly good with gross body stuff. Surprise-menstruation was enough to last me an eternity.

I leave my shirt and jeans in a pile, half-folded. Andreas lifts up a metal hatch, exposing soft, freshly tilled soil underneath.

“No coffin?” I ask. Vampires aren’t exactly forthcoming about their reproductive process. Secrets are power and they’ve already given over so much to humankind.

“No,” he says. “Just you and the earth.” His cheeks flush with recently-drunk blood. He’s jealous. He stares at the loose dirt like a lover he wants to wrap himself around.

“You can join me. If you want.”

Andreas shakes his head. “You don’t want that. You want to be alone. Trust me. There’ll be other nights.”

I don’t tell him I don’t want to be buried alive and alone. I don’t want to taste dirt. Don’t want it matted in my hair, packed up my nose—the crumbs rolling up into my brain. If I’m barely breathing, does it even matter?

Andreas offers his hand. I let him help me into the earthen grave because no one’s done anything like that for me since I was a girl.

I sink a few inches when the dirt gives beneath my weight. Andreas’s grip tightens to keep me from falling. Mine tightens with hopes of pulling him in with me. But he doesn’t stumble, doesn’t follow. When he lets go, I clasp my hands in front of me.

“Lie down.” Each of his words is a nail in my imaginary coffin.

I dig myself a space, lie down, and close my eyes. When Andreas pushes the first mound of dirt over my feet, I panic. But my body’s not setup to panic, anymore. I have no racing heart or nauseous stomach. My deep breaths mean nothing. I suck air in, but it sits there until I push it out.

“Relax.” Andreas covers my legs next. He doesn’t pack the soil tight. I assume so that I can get out. I hope.

He unclasps my hands and lays them out beside me. Even corpses get to hold themselves in death. But I’m left exposed to the dirt Andreas piles on my chest and over my arms. Over my neck and ears.

I blink up at him, nothing but a pale face amongst black-brown soil. A waning moon in the night sky. Andreas bends and presses a soft kiss against my lips. It doesn’t mean anything. I almost wish it did. We don’t love each other, don’t long for each other’s touch or look forward to some eternal romance. I didn’t even pick him. He bit me. I didn’t get a say beyond turn or die.

Andreas climbs out of my grave and disappears from view. When he returns, he’s holding the wooden handles of a dirt-filled wheelbarrow. “I’ll be back for you.” And with that, he dumps it over my face. I feel him pat its cold weight over my head and body. Hear the squeaky hinge on the metal trapdoor and its bang shut.

Dirt fills my mouth when I scream.

Starving.

Starving and dried and thirsty.

Thirsty and hungry are the same. My body is a desert. I swallow bits of dirt with the rush of blood I suck down. The source is hot against me. Hard against me. My jaw is rigid, eyes wide on those of the man who feeds me.

“Finley.” His voice is underwater. My name ripples to the surface.

He rips the source away. I lunge after it, but he pins me on a cold cement floor. I run my tongue over the sharp line of my teeth and cut it on my fangs. They taste like him. My wandering eyes settle on the source. The source has a name. His name is Andreas.

“Finley.”

That’s my name. I know because I chose it.

“Finley, can you hear me?”

I cough up dirt and blood. Spit it on the cement. “Yes.” My voice is smoother, darker, fuller.

“How do you feel?” Andreas asks.

“Starving and dried and thirsty.”

He smiles with closed lips. “Let’s get you in the shower and some blood in your system. How does that sound?”

My answer is a low growl—one that’s conceived in my chest and born through my throat. I chase the feeling with another. Andreas pulls me off my feet and into his arms as if I am his pet. I press my nose against his shirt and sniff his blood through the layers of cotton and flesh.

He sets me on my own feet, again, in the shower. It’s big enough for three, no curtains blocking us in. Showerheads hang from the ceiling, raining hot water onto our cold bodies. Andreas rips his clothes off and tosses them into a sopping heap on the rug. I’m already naked—I forgot.

Starving.

I feel every drop of water that strikes my skin like a match tip catching fire. Mud rolls over my muscled arms and unsticks from the dark curls between my legs. I’m not bleeding, anymore.

Andreas offers his wrist. I latch onto his neck, instead. His laugh resounds through my jaw. The blood jostles, choking me for a moment. I pull back and crack my neck, let the rush settle in.

Nerves in my chest prickle to life—nerves that died under the knife years ago. I squirm where Andreas slides his hand down my back, where he rests it under my ass and squeezes, pressing our bare bits together.

When I bite him again, my teeth light with as much pleasure as my cunt—more, even. Like there are nerves in my new fangs.

“There are,” Andreas says, confirming my thoughts. “And it’s so much better than sex.”

My body pulses with blood like that first rush of testosterone. Andreas doesn’t taste like one person. He isn’t a varietal vintage. He’s the blood of everyone he’s drunk. Like the house blend, I drink him until he stops me.

I know it’s blood; I can taste the iron. But it recalls words like silky and juicy, the swirl of red in a glass, and roll over the tongue.

“Enough,” he says with fangs exposed.

I didn’t expect the lust part of bloodlust, but Andreas looks different with my undead eyes. I can see the lines of severity in his expression, the flare of his pupils, feel his subtly shifting muscles.

I reach between us and grab Andreas’s erection, rub my blood-engorged clit against it and moan. “I want you,” I say.

“You want blood.”

“I want both.”

Andreas smiles. “I’ll give you both.”

We fuck with my forehead pressed against the slick tiled wall, Andreas’s mouth hovering against the back of my neck. Even amidst the steam, his breath is hot, tongue strong and wet. I want him to feed on me again, like that night in the alley. Only this time we both want it and it is so much better, this way.

His cold fingers shock my nipples hard, rolling and pinching them. In only a few hours they’ve regained the sensitivity they lost under the knife, two years ago.

With his other hand he covers my mouth. And while I relish the bondage, the stifling of my growls and moans, I know it’s an offering. I sink my teeth into his wrist and draw the color from him.

While his blood rushes through me, turning me, resurrecting me, Andreas pushes his thick cock into my cunt. I steady myself against the wall while he lifts me with one arm—the arm not lodged in my mouth—and thrusts.

It’s not long before he comes, trembling inside me; his body pins mine to the wall. I’m so close, so full, probably saturated. Andreas reaches between my legs and rubs my clit. I close my eyes, lick the wounds on his arm, rest my weight on the full feeling in my groin.

If he weren’t propping me up, my orgasm would knock me to the shower floor. It radiates through my blood stream. It wakes me up.

Andreas has to rip his arm away from me. “Careful,” he whispers in my ear. “Your body is adjusting. You don’t want to be sick, again, so soon.”

He rinses us off, takes my hand, and together we lie on the shower tiles, their orange-pink marbling a farce of sundown. I rest my face against his pec, over his juicy heart, and kiss the skin. Andreas chuckles and holds me there while the water pounds over my blissed out body.

“I’m still hungry,” I say.

“I bet you are.”

“When can we hunt?”

“We can’t.”

“Why not? You did.”

Andreas flips his body on top of mine. “I’m old, Finley. Too old. I’ve followed human history for millennia. I’ve met believers and skeptics. Warm beds and pitchforks. Somehow, I never expected assimilation.” He relaxes onto his side, rests his head on his hand. “Never expected to go mainstream.”

“‘I’m Andreas. I was a vampire before it was cool,’” I say, mocking him.

His smirk is sharp and quick; I almost miss it. “You think you’re going to be the vampire that breaks the rules. That fights the normalization of our culture. That doesn’t register with a government that’s existed as long as my last haircut.

“Your laws don’t really matter to me. But for some reason I went along with them. I figured, why not try something new? Live in the open for a change, make friends, furnish an apartment, get a hobby.

“Wasn’t so bad at first. Bagged blood is like your Diet Coke. Not as good as the real thing, but you get used to it—so much, sometimes, that you get a sugar rush if you revert.” Andreas traces a finger down my jaw, over my neck and chest, swirling it around one of my swollen areola. “I wanted to hold a live body in my arms and feed while it wriggled against me, struggled for the life I sucked hot out of it.”

I squeeze my legs together and rock my hips while lust washes over me again.

“You like that.” He smiles.

“I do.”

“We can’t feed on humans.”

“But I get it, now.” I sit up straighter. “I feel—”

“Forget how you feel, now. Remember how you felt, then,” Andreas says, squeezing my hand with a strength I can almost match.

Remembering back a few days ago seems impossible, like seeing into someone else’s mind. But I close my eyes and use the white noise of the running water to go back. Even then my human memories feel like facts rather than experiences. “I was angry that you took my choice away.”

“Right. Remember that, even if you have to write it down, every morning.”

“Okay, but what if we get a donor—a certified blood donor—whose choice it is to give us their blood?” I bat my eyelashes.

Andreas leans over my chest and licks my nipple. “I’ll consider it.”

I moan and arch up to meet his mouth.

His lips brush my sensitive flesh while he speaks. “When you prove you can control yourself enough not to kill anyone, I’ll consider it.” He sucks the hard nub between his teeth and presses his fingers between my legs.

Control myself. Just once I’d like to control my own damn body.

We feed on blood bags, together. Andreas “convinces” my landlord to break my lease early and without penalty—just like he “convinced” Dr. Treggman not to report us—so I can move into the guest room. He buys me a real bed and a mug that says “Blood: it’s not just for breakfast, anymore.”

During the first week, we eat and fuck. I’m still not in love with him—don’t expect to be—but he lets me feed on him in the shower to ease my bloodlust.

I stumble out, naked and wet, still unsteady on my changing legs. My muscles thicken and shape the more I drink. My facial hair fills in thick and dark where it was patchy before: a fine, perfectly groomed layer on my cheeks and neck. I always thought vampires looked like more beautiful versions of their human selves, though I can’t imagine a duller Andreas.

“Stop staring at yourself in the mirror,” he teases.

“Stop staring at myself?” I rub a towel over my hair. It rests shiny and perfect without any help. “I’ve never been happy with the way I look until now. And I’m not supposed to stare?”

Andreas’s smile is so subtle, I’d have missed it with human eyes. He lifts me onto my new Ikea bed.

“Can vampires cut their hair?” I ask, diverting Andreas’s mouth from its intent.

“What? Why? You just said—”

“When we were talking earlier, you said our government was as old as your last haircut.”

“We can make small changes over long periods of time. If you cut it all off, it would grow back while you slept. Mostly, I was being facetious. Bit of vampire humor.” He glances at my hair. “Why, you weren’t thinking of changing… anything, were you?”

I wasn’t. Not really. But knowing I can’t? What if prosthetics or surgery become so advanced—I’m going to live to see that. Doctors will be able to grow you a dick using stem cells or someone will invent a CyberCock that pairs with a brain implant. In a future where trans people will be able to customize their bodies, I won’t be able to. Mine will reject and revert. Beautiful but stagnant. No implants, no surgeries. Not even a haircut. This is why trans people aren’t allowed to undergo vampirification.

It’s still better than dying.

Will I feel that way in a hundred years?

“Finley?”

“Uh, no, not planning to change anything. Sorry.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Just…” I focus on the body I have, on the things I can control. Like my current arousal. “Just get back to it.” I force a smile when I recline. The smile sticks.

The particleboard rocks under the force of our weight, knocking over the canvas I leaned against it. Andreas dives between my legs and sucks on my clit. It’s grown like a satisfied tick. And I’m hornier than I was during my first six months on T.

I twine my fingers through Andreas’s shiny curls and hold his face against my crotch. He’s happy to oblige, trailing his kisses over my abdomen and up my chest. Ever since I turned, I can’t get enough of his mouth and fingers on my nipples. I missed them. I missed them and now they’re back, healed by his venom.

He pulls away, leaving my slick, wet chest cold and exposed.

“Don’t stop,” I whisper.

Andreas looks between my chest and my face then back to my chest. “Something’s wrong,” he says.

“What? Nothing’s…” I pat the bare skin and wince. Tender dimples of breasts poke out. “What’s happening to me?”

Andreas swallows a hard lump in his throat. “Your body. It’s—I don’t know.”

I skitter back until I hit the headboard, until I can’t run any further away from my own chest. “Make it stop,” I say. When Andreas doesn’t move, I shout. “Make it stop!”

He hisses at me for silence.

“Please,” I whisper. “Please, make it stop.” Something warm rolls down my face, red drops splatter on the growing mounds of my chest.

Andreas growls as he rips the covers off the bed and flings them into the air. The colorful cotton drifts slowly to the floor between us. He bites his bottom lip leaving a thin red line that drips down his chin.

“I have an idea.”

“What?”

“I’ll be right back.” But before he can get too far, he turns back. “Don’t move.”

I shake my head. “I won’t.”

I can’t and I don’t.

I stare at the pattern on Andreas’s manufactured quilt. The colors are intense, even in the dark. Red too bright for blood. Yellow too clear for the sun. A sun I won’t see again until I’m god knows how old, and only then from the shadows.

The quilt doesn’t warm me like I wish it would. My body’s cold now. It used to be warm. Testosterone runs warmer than estrogen. I stopped wearing a sweater to work. Wonder if I’ll start, again.

The door clicks shut. Andreas appears in the doorway; he slows to a human pace mid-step. I can see the change, now. It looks like slow motion. How slow must walking feel to him after so many years.

“Drink this.” Andreas crawls onto the bed and wraps an arm around me. He rests a blood bag against my lips.

I push it away. “I’m not hungry.”

“You’re hungry for this. Trust me.”

I purse my lips before accepting the bag. My fangs pierce the thick plastic so easily, I have to concentrate on not ripping it open over the mattress.

“How do you like it?” Andreas watches me.

I don’t like when he watches me. I look inexperienced—I am, but that’s not the point. Andreas makes vampirism look casual, like a lifestyle. Like vegetarianism.

I carefully back off the bag, long enough to really swallow, to run my tongue over my teeth and let the blood absorb into my body. My temperature rises. A warm euphoria radiates from my skin, swarms my brain, swells between my legs.

“This is good.”

Andreas smiles.

“What’d you do to it?”

“Vampire venom enhances what it finds: clear voice, luxurious hair, firm muscles—”

“Remaining breast tissue; I get it.” I grit my slippery teeth. “What did you do to this?”

“Injected it with testosterone.” He looks thoughtfully between me and the bloody bag. “I didn’t think, when I drained your blood, that I’d depleted any hormones you may’ve injected. Most humans’ bodies keep producing whatever they need.”

“Mine doesn’t.”

“I know that, now. Thought I’d reintroduce what you need. Steer your new vampire body in the right direction.”

“Not bad, Dr. Andreas.”

I crush the bag against my mouth and suck it dry. The plastic crinkles until it’s raisin-like in my hands. A drop spills over my chin and tickles my neck. Andreas leans over and licks it away.

I growl and toss the empty bag onto the floor, accepting Andreas’s mouth against mine. He avoids my chest, though I feel the mounds press against his shirt when he climbs on top of me.

I wake up horny. Andreas sleeps beside me, still, his hand draped over my chest to protect me from it. My consciousness stirs him. When he flexes his hand, it brushes my side and I push it away. It’s too much. I can’t stay in and fuck away the bloodlust for the rest of my life.

“Hey.” Andreas props himself up, eyes only half-open. He stares at my body. “They’re gone.”

I look. I don’t want to, but I have to, and he’s right. The area’s not as hard and defined as it used to be. Andreas gently touches the puffy skin. I gasp. The air feels strange in my lungs, like a lump in my throat.

I quickly expel it and sit up. “I need more of that blood.”

I burn through T like a bodybuilder. My old dose is not going to be enough and Andreas warns me against trying to visit a human doctor, again.

“They’ll report you. They’ll report me!” He follows me to the front door.

“Why do you even care?”

I pull the door open and storm into the night like an angry teenager. Heat builds under my cold skin. Cis people are all the same: human or vampire.

Andreas grabs my arm gently, by his standards. I pause out of respect—and rather than dislocating one of our shoulders.

“Is it so wrong to want to feel normal for once?” he pleads with me.

I see an ancient monster against canary yellow walls, glossy wood floors, and ergonomic furniture. He tried. He’s still trying.

“I’ll be back.” I leave, running as fast as I can, which is still not faster than Andreas, but hopefully fast enough to lose him and his questions.

Normal. I slow to an acceptably human speed outside the Center Street Clinic. It’s closed. Obviously. Nothing discourages new vampires from visiting like hours that end before sunset. Perfectly legal. Perfectly gross.

I watch patrons drinking in the bar next door, while I walk around it and into the alley. I’ve yet to ask Andreas how long until my body can handle alcohol. Seeing how fast it absorbs hormones, it’d probably take a lot of booze to get me as drunk as the night we met.

I race up the fire escape and crack the glass with my elbow. The clinic is empty. At home in the dark, I easily navigate the clutter of chairs and narrow hallways in search of the pharmacy.

A sign stops me: “Ask about subsidized hormone therapy, today!” Center Street is a good clinic. What kind of asshole robs a pharmacy?

Me. I’m the kind.

There are dozens of bottles of T, here. They’ll know if I take one, so I might as well take what I need for the next six weeks. The clinic can order more.

I load the little boxes into my backpack, grab some needles and syringes for good measure, and climb back out the broken window. Halfway down the fire escape, I consider that Andreas would have found a less obvious and destructive way in.

I jump from the second floor, landing on wobbly feet in the alley. Drunk blood wafts past me from the bar. I hurry away from it, so I won’t be tempted to rip a beer out of someone’s hands—or the jugular out of someone’s throat.

I still smell the alcohol when I pass the gym. Fast-pumping blood, still hot from working out, burns my nostrils. I drag my tongue over my fangs, imagining how one of these late-night meatheads would taste.

“Hey.” A solid, wide-jawed man nods at me. “You’re out late.”

“No.” My razor teeth show through my smile. “You’re out late.” I hear his heart pump faster, smell his adrenaline spike. I bet he tastes even better turned on.

He runs a hand through his sweat-slick hair while he swaggers towards me. He lowers his voice. “I’ve never fucked a vampire, before.”

I press a hand against his abdomen and linger on the over-developed muscle. “You’re subtle.”

“Wasn’t getting the feeling I needed to be.”

“You don’t. Come with me.”

Andreas isn’t home when I-still-haven’t-asked-his-name and I get in. I sit my backpack carefully on the bench in the foyer then kick my shoes into the middle of the hall.

“Bradley,” the man says between kisses. “My name’s Bradley.”

“Finn,” I say instead of “I didn’t ask.”

“This your place?”

“Something like that.”

He peers down the hall into open rooms as I pull him into mine. Probably wants to know what a vampire’s lair is like. Apparently it’s like the inside of a Swedish furniture store. Sorry to disappoint.

Bradley tugs his shoes off and leaves them behind the bed. He smashes his mouth against mine—a move I assume is sexier to someone who can’t literally bite his face off.

But I go with it. I relax. I let him push me against the mattress—even pretend he’s pinning me there. His sweaty shirt sticks between us when he pulls mine off over my head.

“You feel like marble.”

Big vocabulary for a gym rat. “If that’s a problem, I can put my clothes back on.”

“No, no, no.” He kisses down my chest. “I like it. It’s just… different. You’re cold.”

I snake my hand down the front of Bradley’s drawstring pants. He’s already hard. My hand glides easily over his sweaty cock.

He moans against my lips. “You want that? Want me to warm you up?”

As cliché as his lines are, his arrogance gets me wet.

“Do it,” I say, helping his clothes off. I accidentally rip his tee shirt. His pants slide off unharmed. His swollen cock bobs near my face and I fight the urge to suck it. Bad idea, teeth.

“Hey, you should know…” I trail off. I could kill him and I’m still afraid to tell him our genitals don’t match.

“What? This your first time?”

I shake my head.

“Afraid you’re going to hurt me?”

“No—well, a little, but I—I’m trans.”

“What?”

“I’m transgender.”

“You have a dick?” He pulls my briefs down, throwing me off balance.

“Excuse me!”

“Are you kidding? I find the only fucking gay vampire with no dick?”

“Didn’t think I’d need one for what you planned to do.”

“I’m not putting anything in your pussy.”

I tense up at the word. “Please don’t call it that.”

“Whatever.”

“I have another hole, in case you missed it.”

Bradley shakes his head and reaches for his clothes. “I’m not into girls.”

I grab his arm and flip him onto the bed. “And I’m not into transphobic douchebags, but I’m hungry so I’ll make an exception.”

My fangs lodge easily into his neck. My tongue slides over his salty skin and I overwhelmingly realize why Andreas bit me. I can’t even blame him.

Bradley doesn’t taste like Andreas, though. He tastes like steroids and adrenaline with a hint of alcohol. He doesn’t fight me or he stops fighting me. His heat floods my veins.

The front door clicks its quiet, controlled click shut. Andreas’s eyes meet mine in the dark. He doesn’t speak. He walks slowly, at human speed even though no one’s around to judge him, and kneels at the foot of the bed.

“He smells delicious,” Andreas says.

I swallow a mouthful of Bradley’s thick, heady blood, then pull out. “Want to share?”

Andreas kisses me, his tongue flicking against mine for a taste. He licks the corner of my mouth, cleaning me up. I’m a messy eater. I’m a monster.

“No thanks,” Andreas says. “Once was more than enough.” He bites his wrist and lets his blood drip into Bradley’s wounds.

“You didn’t do that for me.”

“You’re not even close to draining this man, Finley.”

The effects on Bradley are instant; the ragged holes in his neck stitch themselves back together. Seamless.

Bradley opens his eyes on Andreas’s.

“You and Finley had a good time, but it was a one-time thing. He’s not really your type.”

“Yeah,” Bradley says.

I roll my eyes.

“Why don’t you head home and shower off that gym stench,” Andreas says.

“Good idea,” Bradley agrees, robotic.

When the jock’s dressed and gone, Andreas says, “Get what you need?”

I stretch my jaw and crack my neck. Slide my tongue over my teeth to get the last of the taste. “Mostly.”

“Let me help you.”

Help me. How is an old cis vampire supposed to help me when he doesn’t understand the first thing about my body? My eternity?

I ask, “Do you have any nails?”

Andreas leans against the threshold, sipping blood while he watches. His skin is pale, but not pallid. His pose casual, but precise. “Little more to the left,” he says. “There. That’s it.”

I walk backwards until I bump into him. He hands me the mug and I take a sip. “Not bad,” I say.

My last sunset hangs over the bed. With my new eyes, I see the thick texture of paints where the colors blend and my brushstrokes overlap like waves. Apricot, wine, and goldenrod blur together, each clearer and more real than anything printed by a machine on one of Andreas’s quilts.

“Small changes over long periods of time, you said?”

“Yes,” Andreas says. “Why?”

“Just making sure.”

I imagine what a real sunset will look like when I’m old enough to experience one. If they’ll still exist or if smog will cloud the skyline. The only thing that won’t change is me, my body, my canvas. “What about a tattoo? You know, to remember.” Blood drips from the corners of my eyes.

“Possible. It’ll hurt, but possible.” Andreas tightens his hold on me. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes,” I resolve. “Haven’t cried this much since—before, you know. It feels good.”

“Since before I turned you?” he asks.

“No,” I say. “Before I turned myself.”

K.M. Szpara

K.M. Szpara’s short fiction appears in Lightspeed, Shimmer, and Glittership. He is a graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop and the editor of Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculate Fiction (Lethe Press), which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Kellan lives in Baltimore, MD, with a miniature poodle and many cats. He has a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School, which he totally uses at his day job as a paralegal. On nights and weekends, he writes science fiction and fantasy novels that advance his queer agenda. You can find him on Twitter at @KMSzpara.

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