VLAD THE INHALER
By John Daulton
Tracing the gentle curves of Earth’s bosom, the setting sun slipped a finger of light through the velvet slit between the curtains of Vlad’s otherwise-dark apartment, ejaculating a luminous shaft upon the rug and leaving as a token a golden pool of light that glimmered mockingly before it evanesced away. Night had come.
Vlad sat upon the edge of his bed and snarled at the wan light as he watched the circle fade. The vampire was engorged with contempt for the sun, even for a sun in retreat. Feral teeth shone blue-black in the dimness as the room grew darker still.
He turned and ran slender fingers through the soft auburn tresses of the lifeless female form lying beside him. A smile played upon his lips. So beautiful. Such soft, pliant skin. She’d surrendered completely to him, but now she was cold. She lay face down, framed like a photograph in the tumult of silken sheets gathered in wrinkled piles around her nakedness.
He turned from her and watched the orange gauze of sunset through the slit in the curtains, watched the sun die a red death upon the horizon. He stood. He was not tall, not broad at the shoulders or chest. His was a diminutive body destined for a life of shadows and darkness. He went to the closet and donned his hunting clothes: black trousers, white linen shirt, black waistcoat, and long black cape lined with crimson silk.
The soles of his polished shoes made no whisper as he stepped out into the deserted street. He glanced only once at the moon above, watched it as it ducked and wove round the pillowy clouds that tried to smother it to lightlessness. Good hunting weather.
He passed rows of shabby tile-roofed buildings, avoiding the circles of light that flickered around gas lamps set regularly along the cobbled street. A cat called piteously from an alley, caterwauling for the attention of its owner, a bowl of warm milk, and a place beside the fire.
Vlad walked on, peering through windows in search of prey. He was weak and in need of life’s vital red nectar. He came to the base of a long hill and slowly climbed the winding road. His breathing grew labored with the effort. He stopped half way up, gasping for air, and his trembling hand reached for his waistcoat pocket, but he resisted, fought back the urge, and pressed on.
Sudden movement in the second story window of a shabby, grey-planked inn caught his eye. Back-lit, ghostly, a lithe female form moved across the open window, little more than a flash of pale, bare skin. She was lovely.
He paused and sniffed the air. His nostrils tingled with the aroma of the warm blood coursing through her veins. Sweet red currents. Wine of the undead. Anticipation took him and his heart began to race.
He moved to the door, but hesitated. The innkeeper would ask questions. He was not in the mood for questions. Not in the mood to kill beings beneath his dignity.
With a quick glance over his shoulder, he slunk round the side of the inn into the blackest shadows and, with a word, transformed himself to his bat form. His slight human body became mouse small. Wings that unfolded like leather kites sprouted and carried him aloft. He darted triumphantly from the alley, soared out over the street, swung round, and dove into the window through which the nubile and naked beauty had so recently been exposed.
He struck the screen with such force he was nearly knocked out. His little bat body bounced back and tumbled down the roof tiles like a wounded bean bag, his wings whumping audibly as he pattered noisily downward and lodged firmly in the rain gutter, stuck sound.
“Son of a bitch!” he said, though the words sounded naught but a squeak upon his batty lips. “When the hell did they install screens?”
It took him a few moments to regain his composure, but soon he set himself to the task of extricating himself from the rain gutter in which he was fairly wedged. He flapped and thrashed for some time, squeaking inarticulate profanities that echoed down the metal drainpipe and trumpeted feebly into the night, until, at length, he acquiesced to the futility of his circumstance.
Face pressed into the bottom of the rain gutter as it was, little bat rump pointed skyward and not enough legs to give any sort of thrust, it became obvious that his only hope of escape lay in resuming human form. He sighed, a whole bodied thing that swelled his furry bat body briefly tighter in its trap. Knowing well this was not going to turn out pleasantly, he made the shift.
The weight of his body tore the gutter loose from the roof, and he fell to the ground with a cacophonous crash of hollow aluminum drain-piping and a litany of profanity. Landing on his back with a thud, he had what little wind he still possessed torn from him. He gasped and felt the familiar clutch of alveoli slamming shut, his lungs defiant despite his body’s demand for air.
“God damn it,” he said for the fortieth time in less than a minute. He tried to resist the urge again, still wanting to preserve the dignity of the night, but he could not breathe. His gasps risked becoming audible. He reached into his waistcoat pocket, pulled out the little white “L” of his inhaler, and placed it to his lips. With a squeeze and “thwwwk” of expelled mist, he drew his asthma medicine into his lungs and felt the cold relief turn warm inside of him as his airways opened up again. He took the time to let his breathing return to normal before putting his inhaler away.
“Son of a bitch,” he said.
He looked up at the window and listened, certain that his victim had heard all the noise. He saw no sign of her, but as he listened, he heard the sound of a shower running somewhere inside the room. Huzzah! She had not heard. There was still a chance. He might still dine tonight. Still taste her.
He considered climbing the lattice on the side of the inn, but his arms were thin and his enthusiasm for feats of physicality had abated some with the debacle as a bat. He went to the front door and entered the inn.
The innkeeper greeted him merrily. “Can I help you?”
Vlad gave his most rictus hiss, fangs bared and both hands raised talon-like before him. With a subtle quiver of his head to lend ferocity to his breathy snarl, he whirled, the silken underbelly of his cape flickering in the lamp light, and stalked up the stairs exuding menace.
The innkeeper’s chin retracted and his round face pulled back into his fleshy neck. He frowned a wide, fat frown. “Odd duck, that,” he muttered, and went back to his newspaper and tea.
Vlad found her room. He placed his hand upon the knob and his ear against the smooth wood. He could still hear the hiss of the shower spout, could picture her naked in the steamy wet. He drew in a long, hungering breath and turned the knob slowly so as not to make a sound.
It was locked.
He tried turning the knob the other way but it wouldn’t move. He jockeyed it back and forth a few times, making more noise than he would have wished. The knob would not budge. He swore silently in his mind.
He leaned away, still holding the door knob but tilting away to the fullest reach of his slender arms. With a great heave, he threw himself against the door. Pain shot through his shoulder and down his arm.
“Ow,” he cried, wincing and grinding his teeth. “Mother . . .” He forced himself to silence, cutting the oath in half. Jeezus that hurt. Wow. What was that thing made of, black oak for God’s sake? Who the hell put doors like that in a village inn?
Just then an ancient old crone came along pushing a rickety room service cart. “Can I kelp you?” she asked in a heavy accent.
“Um, yes,” he said, his vampire mind ever quick as the night. “I seem to have lost my room key. Can you let me in?”
“Oh chur,” she said. “I wheel let ju een.”
He stood impatiently as the woman opened the door. He thanked her and she tottered on down the hallway.
He slipped inside, catlike and silent, and pulled the door closed behind him. The sound of the shower was still audible across the room.
He crept toward the half-open bathroom door. He could see the shower curtain drawn, steam rising thick from behind its blind and the mirror obscured with fog. He smelled jasmine soap and blood. His heart began once more to race.
He slipped into the humid space and allowed himself a moment more to scent his prey. Then he drew back the curtain to expose her nakedness. He stared. She was sublimely feminine, glistening and wet.
“Hah, hah!” said he, lowering his voice an octave and injecting a Transylvanian accent as best he could. “Good Evening. Tonight, you will be mine.”
She turned and regarded him coolly, a querulous eyebrow raised. She had a pit bull tattooed on her right tit. It was extraordinarily large and the expression on its face was almost bored.
She punched him in the mouth twice in rapid succession. Bam. Bam. He stumbled back and hit his head on the wall. Bam. She hit him again and he actually heard his left fang bounce into the sink with the clink of enamel on porcelain.
She drew back her fist to punch him again, but he raised his fierce talon-like hands, fingers splayed, and begged her to stop with wide apoplectic eyes. “I give, I give!”
She frowned at him and shook her head in disgust. Water and steam glazed her perfect body and the pitt bull stood steady guard upon her shimmering breast.
“Get out,” she snarled, fist still cocked.
“Okay, okay. Just let me find my tooth.”
He turned and scanned the sink. The bloody incisor was resting against the stopper. He plucked it out, quickly turned, and fled before she could change her mind.
Out in the darkness once more, the night air cooled the steam that lay upon his skin. He took out his inhaler and drew in a long burst. The hunt was not going well. His mouth really hurt, and it was going to cost a fortune to get that tooth put back in again. He sighed.
He moped his way back down the hill, kicking pebbles and cursing his fate. Once again he heard the cat yowling in the alley just down the street. He heard his stomach growl. How humiliating. Left to feed on animals.
He moved into the alley and spotted the cat right away near the back. He hoped he wouldn’t have to give chase. He had so little of the hunter left in him tonight. But the cat came right up to him and wound itself round between his feet. It purred loudly.
He picked it up and held it to his bosom, stroking it softly for a while. He didn’t want to do it. It was too disgraceful. But he could smell its blood, could hear its tiny heart beating inside, pushing nourishment through the hot tributaries of its veins. He was starving.
He raised the kitty to his lips, turned it so that its neck was exposed, and bit. He winced a little as the tender hole where his fang had been gave him a jolt of pain, but he greedily drew the warm sustenance from the cat. The ecstasy of satiation overwhelmed him, but he had only managed a few swallows when the light came on.
An alley door opened and an old woman stepped out with a bowl of warm milk in her hand. “Wilhelmina,” she called. “Here, Pussy, here.”
Then she spotted Vlad. “Oh my,” she gasped. Realization dawned as she took in the scene, and for the second time that night he found himself being charged by a woman bent on his destruction, albeit this one a good forty or fifty years the senior of the last.
“What are you doing to my Pussy?” she cried, outraged.
Vlad, still clutching the cat, turned and ran. The old woman gave chase. “Wilhelmina, Wilhelmina,” she cried. “Help, help. Someone help me. He’s eating my Pussy!”
Vlad dashed toward the street. By now, the cat was a writhing spasm of claws and teeth. It bit and scratched him mercilessly.
He yelped as Wilhelmina set to shredding him. “Shit,” he cried. He extricated kitty claws and kitty teeth from his forearm and wrist and tossed the shrieking cat away.
Just then, two young men came round the nearest corner.
“Help me,” came the shrieks from behind him. “Get him.”
“What did he do?” asked one of the young men, pushing up his sleeves and preparing for a fight.
“He tried to eat my Pussy.”
Vlad made ready to sprint from the alley and up the hill, but a tall and elegant blonde woman, having heard the commotion, stepped from a doorway into his path. She stared squarely at him with a curious expression dawning on her face.
The old woman trundled toward him from one direction and the two young men drew near from the other. The company regarded him severely, their eyes traveling back and forth between the vampire and the cat, who had crept under the old woman’s skirts and was now only identifiable by its twitching tail.
“Don’t you ever touch my Pussy again,” the old woman hissed.
Vlad looked left and right. He was trapped. The pretty blonde looked as if she might vomit, but the two young men were not so kind.
“Sicko,” spat one.
“Pervert,” muttered the other.
Vlad at first thought to argue, to defend, but at length decided there was no point. He crossed the street and slunk silently home. Once he had reached the sanctuary of his room, he sat down on his bed, took off his shoes, and tossed his cape onto the floor.
The motionless female figure still lay on his bed exactly as he had left her. He turned her over and stared into her vacant face. One of her eyes was stuck closed and an eyelash was coming off.
It was the same one that always came off. It really irked him, because he’d spent the extra money to get the very best model that money could buy. And still this eyelash was always coming off. It wasn’t right. He thought he might fire off an angry letter.
They just didn’t make sex dolls like they used to. Not even the expensive ones.
His life sucked. Eternity was going to last a long, long time.
John Daulton’s books, THE GALACTIC MAGE and AT THE AUCTION, are now available on Kindle.