The table was strewn with beer bottles, coffee cups and full ashtrays. The vampires, zombies and elves sat around it in ratty old armchairs.
I looked at my watch. The sun would soon rise, and I was the only vampire who had to avoid the daylight.
I chugged my beer and put the empty bottle on the floor next to all the others. “I need to get in my coffin,” I told the others at the table.
Lynette, the new girl, laughed. Nobody else did. “Holly really does have a coffin,” Garyn said to her.
“How come?” Lynette asked.
“Because I’m a vampire,” I said.
“Me too,” she said.
I stood up. “Goodnight. Or good morning.”
“Do you really have a coffin?” Lynette asked.
“Like I said.”
“Can I see?”
“If you like. But you’ll have to be quick. Come on.”
She looked at the others. The role-playing game had been going on all night, and it wasn’t going to end yet. “Be right back,” she said to them, and followed me to my bedroom.
“Awesome,” she said when she saw the coffin. “Where did you get it?”
“I was buried in it.”
“How long ago?”
“I’ve lost count.” I hauled the lid off the coffin and let her see the red velvet padding.
“Awesome,” she said again. “I want one.”
I didn’t say anything. I’d heard that before.
“You really sleep in it?” she said.
“Do you see a bed?”
“This is so cool.”
“Okay, I need to get some sleep. Later.”
“See you later,” she said, and went back to the living room.
I closed the door behind her, and locked it. I took off my black dress and put on a white nightgown. Then I turned off the light, which made no difference to how clearly I could see. All that affects that is when I close my eyes. I climbed into the coffin. I could have leapt like a cat, and sometimes I do, but I was tired. Sitting up, I reached for the lid, and then pulled it over me as I lay down.
I read somewhere that all people dream when asleep, whether they remember their dreams or not. I don’t know if that’s true of vampires, but I know I’ve never remembered a dream, and I’m almost sure it’s because I don’t dream. Being without beginning, if I did dream it would mean I never, ever got a break.
When I woke, the sun was setting. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. Still in the coffin, I used my cell phone to send a text to Jason. “What are you doing tonight? I’m thirsty. Can I come over?”
I lay there for a few minutes, coming fully awake. My phone beeped, telling me I had a text message. It was from Jason. “I guess you didn’t check your email yet,” was all he wrote.
I pushed up the coffin lid, eased it to the floor, and climbed out. There was still some daylight, but it was shadowy enough for me to be okay. I sat cross-legged on the floor, booted up my laptop and read the email he’d sent me. It was short:
Holly, I don’t want to play with you anymore, cuz it seems like all you want is play, & there’s somebody else I like & she wants more than play. So we shouldn’t see each other anymore. I’m sorry. Jason
I’d hoped to see him before my appointment with Don, which was at 7:30. It was almost 6 now, so that meant I didn’t have to hurry, and at least I’d have something to talk to Don about.
I went to the kitchen and brewed coffee. The house was silent—some of my housemates were asleep, others at work. I drank a cup of coffee, took a shower, did my hair and put on a black dress and flat black shoes. I don’t wear makeup—I always look like I have some on. I drank another cup of coffee, and then went out. It was almost dark. It was late winter, so it was only warm instead of hot as hell like it would be soon. I could hear police sirens, and gunshots not far away. Ah, the children of the night—what music they make.
My house was at 40th Street and Buckeye, where everybody was scared to live, which was why my rent was cheap. Don ran his practice out of his house in Encanto, which is the other side of town. Nothing in Phoenix is near anything, so to get anywhere fast you need a car. You do, I mean. I don’t.
I walked quickly, then faster, then started to jog, then started to move into a run, but then the change came, as always, and I was flying. I swooped under a streetlight, enjoying seeing how I didn’t cast a shadow, and then I went higher and headed Northwest. Ten minutes later I was at Don’s. I circled over his house a couple times to make sure no one was around to see me land, and then I felt the change happen again as I slipped down and landed on my feet.
The side door to Don’s house led to the waiting room. I was early, so he was still with the client he was seeing before me. As usual, I was his last client of the evening, but I wasn’t alone in the waiting room. There was the ghost.
She talked to everybody who came into the house, but nobody but me ever answered her, because they couldn’t see or hear her like I could. She looked like she was in her late teens, she was dressed like it was the 1930s, and she’d been stuck in that house for a long time. I don’t think she ever remembered seeing me before, because she always asked me the same question, and she asked it now:
“Can you go outside?” she said, looking at the door I had just come in.
“Yeah,” I said, gently. “Yeah, I can.”
She spoke sadly. “I can’t go outside.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“I wish I could go outside.”
I wished she could too, but I didn’t say anything else. I don’t know why she had to stay in that house. I sat down, and she went past me and stood at the window and looked out. Then she faded away.
The door to Don’s office opened, and a couple came out. They looked so angry, I didn’t think his therapy was helping them much. He wasn’t a great therapist, but he was one of the few I’d been able to find that saw clients in the evenings, which obviously was a major factor for me, so I’d been seeing him for a few months. But we didn’t agree about my issues. I thought I was lonely and bored, and he thought I was mentally ill because I thought I was a vampire.
The couple nodded to me, walked past me and left. Then Don stuck his head out of his office and invited me in. “Hi, Holly. Enter freely and of your own will.” It bugged me a bit when he said that, because I knew he was humoring me. I only have to be invited into a place with those words the first time I come in. After that, I can enter whenever I want, whether you want me to or not—as Jason was soon going to find out. I’d told Don he had to say it the first time or else I couldn’t come in, but he’d been saying it ever since then, and I found it condescending. I was afraid that if he ever realized I actually was a vampire, he’d mansplain vampirism to me.
I said hi to him, went into his office, and sat down on my usual chair. He sat in his chair facing me. He thought of himself as an old biker type, but he rode a scooter and he was so bald that his mullet was more of a skullet.
“So…how are you doing, Holly?”
“I could be better. I just got broken up with.”
“Oh? I didn’t know you had a partner. Is this a new or recent relationship?”
“He’s not my partner. Wasn’t my partner. We weren’t dating or anything, though he wanted to.”
“If you weren’t dating, what were you doing? What’s the relationship that he’s ended?”
“I was having sex with him and drinking his blood.”
He almost sighed, but managed not to. “I see.” He waited for me to say something else, and when I didn’t he said, “How much of this is fantasy?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, like your fantasy of being a vampire. Does this man you say broke up with you even exist? You haven’t mentioned him before.”
“He does exist, and I am a vampire.”
“I haven’t mentioned him before because I’m not all that into him. He loved having sex with me, I liked it with him, but the most important thing was that he gave me blood so I didn’t have to hunt. Now I’m going to have to figure something else out.”
“I’m going to have to be straight with you, Holly.” (Ever notice that when people talk down to you, they use your name a lot?) “I think you really do believe that you’re a vampire…”
“I do, because I am. Can we talk about Jason?”
“Vampires don’t exist, and your delusion is keeping us from doing the therapeutic work that you need to do.”
“I should never have told you.”
“Why did you tell me?”
“Because when I decided to try therapy, I did some reading about it, and I read that for it to be helpful you have to be totally honest with your therapist and not hide anything.”
“That’s true, and it’s good that you didn’t hide your delusion from me. That makes it possible for me to help you.”
“Oh? How are you doing to do that?”
“There are two possible interventions we can try. The one I recommend is a chemical intervention.”
“You mean meds?”
“Yes. I think an antipsychotic such as Haldol might make an enormous difference. I can’t prescribe it—I’m a psychologist, not a doctor—but I can write you a recommendation, and a doctor will prescribe it.”
“I don’t think I need meds, except for an antidepressant, maybe.”
“But if you’re not open to trying this, then I think we should consider a more radical intervention—inpatient treatment in the state hospital.”
I sat there and looked at him. “Are you threatening to lock me up?”
“Holly, I’m not threatening you with anything. I’m not threatening you. I’m trying to help you. And you’re very ill.”
“Can we drop this subject for now and discuss what I want to discuss?”
“We can’t, really. There’s no way to move forward until you have a view of your life that’s based in reality.”
“Okay,” I said. I looked around the room. There were no mirrors, and the curtains were closed. “Would you open the curtains?”
“I want to show you something. Just let me show you, and then if you don’t believe me I’ll accept whatever treatment you recommend.”
“All right.” He got up and walked over to the window. I followed him and stood behind him. He opened the curtains. It was completely dark outside. “Now what?” he said.
“Look at your reflection in the window.” He did. “Now look for mine.”
“You’re not—” he froze, staring at the window, then turned and looked at me. Then he looked back at the window. I moved close behind him and rested my chin on his shoulder.
“So where’s my reflection, O ye of little faith?”
He shook me off, looked at me, looked back at the window, back at me. “How are you doing that?” he said.
“I’m not doing anything.”
He kept looking from my face to the window, where he could find only his own reflection. “How… How…?”
“You’d better sit down, Don.”
He just stood there. I took his arm, led him to his chair, sat him down on it. “Now watch this,” I said. “And I’ll see you same time next week.”
I opened the window. Then I started to walk around the room, clockwise, walked faster, started to jog, and felt the change. When Don saw it, he screamed, curled up in the chair, and pissed in his pants. I could smell it and hear him screaming as I flew out the window.