The first thing you will notice about James is his truly epic overbite. The word "overbite" scarcely does it justice; the whole top of his face seems to be sliding off his head, fangs foremost. It is, unfortunately, neither a thing of beauty nor a joy forever. Needless to say, James can't leave the house. Nor would I want him to, even if he didn't look so Lovecraftian. See, James is crazy. The second thing you will notice about him is that he is chopping parts of his body off with a cleaver. Maybe you think you would have noticed this first. You wouldn't have. You just have to take my word for it.
When a vampire cuts a part of his body off it grows right back, pop! I'm told it's not a pleasant sensation. The dismembered member turns into this greasy dust stuff and hits the carpet with a powdery thud. If you are James, you attend this whole process with a series of twitchy orgasmic noises of intense interest. If you are I, you go get the vacuum cleaner. We have considered locking the knives up -- we only have them for show anyway -- but James' therapist says it would be best for him to learn to resist the urge himself. And if we got rid of the knives he'd just do something else, like cracking his skull with the fireplace poker or slamming his nuts in a desk drawer.
You can see what I mean about him being crazy, but then lots of vampires are crazy. In fact, for all you know I'm crazy, and I'm not a Rinso-white geek at all, but rather a shapely brunette in a latex catsuit, leaping from gargoyle to gargoyle, vanquishing criminals in an attempt to atone for my own dark past. Sure, why not? Why shouldn't my fangs flash in the moonlight as I ruminate on my childhood in fifteenth-century Persia, hawking powdered rhinoceros horn? It beats the hell out of being an English major from Ohio. But the truth is that I would not look good in skin-tight latex, and the only enemy I have, to my knowledge, is a kid who found his girlfriend rummaging around in my pants at a Christmas party. Her name was Betsy. I had told Betsy that I cracked my spine in a skiing accident and could never get hard anymore, and she was just seeing for herself. He punched me in the face anyway.
Breaking up a relationship by letting a woman jerk you off at a fancy dress party is like saving her life, in that you are responsible for her afterward. Of course, if I'd thought there was any way I could listen in on the conversation she would have ended up having with her boyfriend, I would have wanted to stick around. Honestly, Steve, he was telling the truth, it was like a tube sock full of gruel, that hardly even counts -- but that seemed unlikely. So I took her home with me.
The trouble started in the elevator. Betsy had her hands up under my shirt and I was waiting to find out what she planned to do with them when the doors slid open to reveal James, brandishing a knife and leering hideously. That is, I assume he was leering. He was wearing a turtleneck sweater with the collar pulled up over his unfortunate puss.
Betsy shrieked and jumped behind me. And you know, here I would like to mention that Jeff Dahmer wore a condom when he fucked those corpses. He was crazy enough to fuck corpses but not so crazy that he didn't use protection, and this weighed against him at his trial. If there were ever a trial involving James I would like to bring up the turtleneck sweater. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, here we have a vampire crazy enough to jump out at girls wielding a knife, but not too crazy to compensate for his overbite.
"I thought I smelled company," said James. Unfortunately, I had no doubt that this was true. She smelled -- you all smell -- like a big fat drippy slice of baklava wrapped in tinfoil. She was trailing that odor wherever she walked. Flowers springing from Aphrodite's footsteps.
Aphrodite grabbed my jacket in a panic. Now she smelled like scared baklava. "John," she said. But before I could say anything, James stabbed me.
The knife slid into me and out again, scraping my ribs as it went. A drop of blood slid out with it and vanished. Betsy screamed again.
"It's not real," James and I said in unison. For her benefit he shoved the knife into his neck and left it there. Betsy stopped screaming, but her arms were around me now tight.
"Betsy, this is James," I said. "He is harmless."
"I had a wife once," said James. Once when he pissed me off I picked him up and threw him down two flights of stairs, but he knew I wouldn't do that as long as Betsy was around. I would, however, and did, kick him in the back of the knee so that he fell over. It was only for Betsy’s sake that I was glad he didn't land on the knife and slice his head off.
I barely had time to lock the door behind us before she was on me. I guess self-mutilating madmen turn her on.
"You have sharp teeth," is all she said.
Sometimes, when you're dead, you try looking at porn. You look at it and think "This is a joke, right?" It's like going to a party when you don't drink, which I also do. You stand there surrounded by nervous people pouring anesthetic into their faces, and you think "Why am I here?" Which when you were alive would have meant "Why am I wasting any portion of my finite life, of the glorious gift given to me by a benevolent Creator, of my chance to cast my lot with all that is good and true, etc." Under the circumstances, though, it just means "Christ, this party sucks."
* * *
The Starling Factory?
ETA: I went with the novel excerpt and a) got laffs b) was told afterward by several people how much they liked it. One dude said "It was the reading," meaning the whole reading, which consisted of ten people. That was nice. Also nice was the way he greeted me before saying it. "Vampires," he said. "That's right," I replied.