I've written a book of my own, BLOOD MONARCHY--which has loose ties to vampire culture and other mythologies. That and the fact that I love Apple products, Sprite, Books, Cake & Authors that appear in this story--the rest is pure fiction... or is it?
(Also, while writing this--I was talking to Korianne. Apparently I now refer to Libba as "THE LIBBA MONSTER"... My excuse is the coffee has not had a chance to reach my brain yet!)
It was Devyn’s birthday, the big one-nine. In anticipation, I’d ordered a six-pack of Sprite and stopped by my local indie for a bookish-type present. The shelves were crammed full of vampire lit: “Are You There God? It’s Me, Dracula,” “Go Ask Alice After Sundown,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Vampire Killer,” “A Vampire Grows in Brooklyn.” In the end, I settled on a politically correct retelling of “The Catcher in the Rye,” called, “Holden Heals,” in which Holden Caulfield runs away from prep school, does not meet any prostitutes, and opens a daycare center which redeems him.
What can I say? It was $9.98 and I had correct change.
The subway delivered me downtown with its usual delays. By the time I stepped out onto the gritty streets of NYC, birthday present and Sprite in hand, the moon was rising round and pale as a communion wafer. A couple of homeless guys warmed their hands over a trashcan fire, which seemed odd for July, but I’m telling this story, and I think we need homeless guys and a trashcan fire. The night felt wrong, tight and unforgiving, like a thong washed on hot. I turned up the collar on my Clash t-shirt, the one with the conveniently placed collar for this foreshadowing moment, and trudged down the litter-strewn street, hoping I was wrong about that bad feeling.
Devyn’s birthday party was being held in an old Apple store, which had been rendered obsolete by a brand-new Apple store built only a month after this one had opened. Devyn didn’t care. Surrounded by his favorite things—iPods, sleek MacBook Pros, close friends, a cluster of YA authors, the 5 Awesome YA fans being all awesome, life-sized posters of his just-completed first novel, and scarily efficient, smiling customer service folks in neon-bright t-shirts, he was happier than a bunch of fans in a Neil Gaiman signing line.
“Hey, you made it!” He gave me a hug. He was decked out in a jaunty straw hat, t-shirt, and Vans. Typical Devyn gear.
“Yeah. So I did. Hey, happy birthday.” I handed him the hastily wrapped book.
“Thanks, man. Oh, I have this. Didn’t you see my video review on 5 Awesome YA fans? I also interviewed the author and wrote it up as a Twitter musical. I would have done more but I only had an hour.”
“You make me tired,” I said.
Devyn grinned. “That’s because you’re old.”
I swiped a pig-n-blanket from a stocked tray. “Don’t piss me off, Junior. I got a bad feeling about tonight. And not just in my knees.”
“Have a Sprite. You’ll feel better. Also, your shirt’s got a funky-uncomfortable-type collar. That could be it.” Devyn spread his arms wide and spun around three times in happiness. I suspected he was mocking me with his energetic youth, but I let it go. “Hey, it’s my nineteenth birthday. What could go wrong?”
A sudden shattering sound came from the floor below us. A horde of vampires crashed through the glass doors and started fanging indiscriminately—teens, caterers, Genius Bar employees, YA authors. Maureen Johnson and Cassie Clare mounted an offensive with iPod Nanos before retreating into a storage locker Holly Black had found. The floors were slick with fresh blood, like a very wrong Slip N Slide.
A vampire wench in black leather clamped her teeth onto David Levithan’s neck. “Good luck,” he said coolly, without putting down his drink. “I work in publishing. Trust me, there’s nothing left for you.”
The store was lousy with vampires and none of them were here for an interview.
“Who invited the fang gang?” I asked.
Devyn’s expression was sheepish. “I put it on Facebook.”
“Does that count as inviting them in now?”
A chiseled-cheekbone vampire in a pretentious frockcoat spied us from below. He let out a high-pitched screech, alerting the others.
“He screams like my mother. Are we supposed to take this guy seriously?” I asked.
Devyn pulled on my arm. “Come on. There’s a Garage Band demo room back here.”
He dragged me into a reinforced glass cubby, about ten by ten feet, or the size of a first New York City apartment. The room was stocked with Sprite, chips, and a large chocolate birthday cake.
“Oooh, cake,” I said, swiping a fingerful of frosting. “What? Cake makes everything better.”
The vamps were furious to be deprived of their human snacks. They writhed against the glass, snarling, showing mouthfuls of razor-sharp teeth. I was pretty sure none of them flossed.
Devyn’s eyes were wide. “Are you there, God? It’s me, Devyn. And we are in Shit City.”
“Funny. I don’t remember Judy Blume writing that part.”
He shrugged. “It’s an homage.”
The Vamp-Who-Would-Be-18th-Century-Rock Star let loose with another screech that shook the rivets of our safe spot. Devyn and I slid down the far wall and sat with our plates of cake. Because it was Devyn’s birthday, and dammit, we were having cake, vampires or no vampires.
“In case we don’t make it out of here,” Devyn said through a mouthful of frosting. “Tell me ten things you like about me.”
“Ten things? Dude, five.”
“Jeez, stingy much?”
I liked my fingers. “We’re in a recession, Junior.”
“I am the stage manager of your life. Don’t forget.”
“Okay, okay,” I said with a sigh. “We’ll make it seven. One, you maintain an awesome website. Two, you are devastatingly kind.”
“Can you be devastatingly kind?” Devyn mused. “Sounds wrong.”
“Don’t critique me, Junior. “
On the other side of the glass, a vampire made a playlist on a MacBook.
“What is she doing? Making Music to Fang By?” Devyn sounded annoyed, and I couldn’t blame him.
“Three,” I continued. “You don’t let anything stop you from doing what you want to do. I mean, jeez, at nineteen I was doing very, very stupid things.”
Devyn perked up. “How stupid?”
I squinted into the middle distance, hoping it passed for serious thought. “Think of other YA authors, like Robin Wasserman, Scott Westerfeld, and Jo Knowles, as your role models. Think of me as your cautionary tale. Thus endeth the lesson.”
“Are you doing that middle-distance squint thing again?”
“Well, stop. It’s weird.”
Outside, the vampires voices were shrill and shiver-inducing. They raged like things that wanted to be let in, things that would not be denied. Devyn and I served ourselves more cake.
“Four—you’re smart. Five, you’ve got great energy and enthusiasm. Six, you’re funny. Seven…well, you’re just a bad ass, kid.”
He gave me a playful punch. “Thanks. You’re a bad ass, too.”
“I said it first.”
“I said it better.”
“Yeah, but saying it again is derivative.”
“But I thought it first. Which makes me more bad ass than you.”
“Which proves my point.”
“Oh. Does it?”
He shook his head. “Speaking French doesn’t make it right, Libba.”
“Tres vrai, my friend. Tres vrai.”
He sipped his Sprite. “I have no idea what we’re arguing about.”
The vampires had huddled together, making a plan or plotting a soccer match. Whatever it was, it didn’t look good.
“It feels like now would be a good time to have a pointless philosophical argument. You know, while the vampires are outside being all metaphorical and shit.,” I said, finishing my cake
Devyn stared at me, open-mouthed. I kind of wished he’d finished chewing first but whatever. “Metaphorical? Dude, that wanker in the ironic I Heart Buffy tee just took a bite out of the dude working the Genius Bar. We are, at this very moment, holed up in a glorified closet hoping to ride it out till sunrise. I’d say that’s some serious freaking metaphor there.”
“Yeah, okay, so there are actual vamps trying to suck us dry right now. But they are representative of something greater, more universal, right? Two tracks going in the story, correct?”
He wobbled his hand in a “meh” motion. “Well….”
“Hey! This is good stuff I’m saying. I got it from Holly Black, and she’s one of the smartest people I know. So. To recap…”
Devyn interrupted. “…metaphorically, the vampires are a perfect birthday image. They represent the tug-of-war between the glamour of suspended youth and the reality of adulthood with all of its inherent responsibilities: growing up, growing old, parenthood, the rat race, limitations,” Devyn said wearily. “Dental plans.”
Devyn got a funny look in his eyes. “Or, you know, sometimes a vampire is just a freaking vampire.”
“Like when one is removing the air-conditioning vent over your head. Watch out!” Devyn grabbed for a Nano and chunked it at the vamp’s forehead dead on. The vamp put his freakishly long fingers to his head and howled in pain.
“Shit!” I scurried out of the way, knocking over a stack of Devyn’s first novel. “Oh, I almost forgot—congrats on your book.”
Devyn hurled a laptop at the vampire who screamed anew. “Thanks. Man, revising bites, doesn’t it?”
“I know! It just keeps coming at you! You fix one thing and then—argh!—there’s another problem.” The vampire in the air conditioning shaft moaned and hissed while he waited for his regenerative powers to kick in. I rolled my eyes. “Jesus, what a baby. Walk it off, soldier! You’ll grow new skin in about ten seconds.”
Devyn shook his head. “Vampires. Always crashing parties and they never bring a present.”
Devyn shook up his Sprite can and sprayed the sucker right in the eyes. With one last, horrific scream, he turned to ash. Devyn shrugged. “It’s Holy Sprite.”
“I know. You’d think they’d use that in their advertising.” Devyn’s eyes widened. “Uh-oh.”
I peered through the glass to the outside. A gorgeous vampire with full lips was brooding in a corner. “Ugh. An emo vamp. The worst kind.”
“No,” Devyn clucked. “Not there. There!”
He positioned my head left so that I could see a tall, beefy vampire hurling a chair at the glass. It sailed through the air and landed short.
“Ha! Try again, A-Rod!” Devyn laughed. To me he said, “Those vamps need to turn Johan Santana, get somebody who can pitch on their team. That was just plain embarrassing.”
“And I thought vamps could play baseball…”
We slid down the wall again and tried to distract ourselves.
“Okay, to continue our conversation from last week…” Devyn started.
“Right,” I said. “Your million-dollar idea?”
“Since vampire lit is so hot right now, try this on for size.” He punctuated each word with his hand as if spelling it out on a marquee. “Little Blood House on the Prairie. Vamps attack, killing off Ma and Pa who join the vampire clan. Now, it’s up to Half-Pint and her blind sister, Mary, to fight off a horde of thirsty undead.”
I nodded, considering. “Sweet.”
“It sells itself. Here’s the tagline: Laura Ingalls just got a whole lot Wilder.”
“What’s your million-dollar idea?”
I smirked. “Check it: Samuel Beckett plush toys. ‘Mommy, when I hold this lovey, I feel so empty and alone inside.’”
“Stop with the French!” Devyn stood up suddenly. “Something’s up.”
Whatever plays the vampires had cooked up in their huddle, it was about to come down. There was that unmistakable feeling in the air of vampire plotting. Also, the asshole in the frockcoat pointed to various locations like an unholy flight attendant giving the cross check on the ride to hell.
“Got a bad feeling about this…” Devyn murmured.
“Nineteen’s a tough year. Transitional. But you’ll be okay.” I smiled as reassuringly as I could and clapped him on the back.
“Enough of this crap!” Devyn said. He took an iPod sound deck from the shelf, pulled out the four layers of unnecessary packaging and plugged the thing in. He slipped his iPod into the dock and messed with a few buttons.
“You’re not gonna play Celine Dion, are you? Because I will offer myself to the vamps if you do.”
“Don’t insult me. This is a playlist for destruction, my friend. I’m sick of these self-important wankers ruining my birthday. I am Devyn Burton, bitches, and YOU are crashing my party and harshing my awesome! Prepare to bite it for real!”
Devyn programmed the iPod. A second later, nose-bleed-level guitar riffs delivered a one-two punch to my insides, making me smile. Devyn strapped on a bandolier of Sprite cans and high-end tech. It was insanity. It was certain death. It was beautiful. This kid really was something. And I couldn’t wait to see what his twentieth birthday party would be like.
“Let’s go kick some undead butt,” he snarled.
I grabbed a handful of Nanos and kissed my ass goodbye. “What it is, Dev. Oh, and happy birthday, dude.”
“Thanks.” He gave me a fist bump and threw open the door.