“Oh, don’t be dramatic,” I told Sam. “You honestly think she cares that you fry yourself at sunrise?”
Sam sniffed loudly and rubbed at his eyes. His tears stained his cheeks red—a serious downside for a vampire showing strong emotions in a public place. Luckily we were on the roof of Senator Park and no sensible mortal would think to hang out up here an hour before dawn.
“I don’t see any point to this existence,” he wailed. “Everyone I love’s gonna grow old and die, and I’ll be all on my own.”
“I’ve got news for you, old chap. You’ve been all on your own since the day you were born. Being a vampire ain’t gonna change that. You just think you’ve got friends but they’re all back-stabbing little shits in the end.” I glanced toward the east, where the night faded a little lighter on the ridges of the mountains. Not enough to give warning tingles on my exposed flesh but I’d run from enough sunrises to know when it became dangerous for our kind to be out and about. Below us the city still slumbered but the first delivery trucks were already on the road. I could sense the world stirring.
Sam hissed at me then; showed a flash of fang. “Easy for you to say. You’ve got years on me. You’ve had plenty of practice.”
I almost felt sorry for the poor bastard. He sat on the edge, legs dangling into the void, dreadlocks half obscuring his face. Sam was just some tranced-out hippie kid who had turned up undead in my stomping ground a year ago. He had no idea who his sire was and no one laid claim to him, so I had sort of took him under my wing. Not that the ungrateful little wretch showed me any gratitude.
I merely stared at him then lit a cigarette. I had time for a smoke before I vanished back inside. He glared back at me and, to give him some credit, lasted almost two minutes before he looked away first. Sure, I had years on him. A whole five years. Like that made a difference when we were both way beneath the vampire elders’ notice.
“I went home a year after I got turned,” I told him. “My sire told me not to. Told me it was stupid.”
Sam’s head shot up, though he didn’t look at me.
“I went to see if my cherry was still okay. I missed her, you know. She never did find out what happened to me. My supposed ‘death’ was a missing person’s report in the False Bay Echo. I’d gone out for a pint with my mates at The Vic and I’d never come home. They found my car parked by the beach. No sign of my body.
“So, I caught the train out one evening. It was winter so the sun was long down. Figured I could hole up somewhere then catch the train out the following night, or something. I’d make a plan. I just needed to see her. Maybe go on to see if my parents were still around but I really, really wanted to see Marissa...” I had to stop then. I didn’t want to remember.
“What then?” Sam mumbled.
“Oh, she still stayed in the backflat on Seventh Avenue.” I laughed, the sound bitter. “My luck was in. She was home too. I even went so far as to press my nose against the glass and peer in like a regular Peeping Tom. She was there on the couch. A new boyfriend all cuddled with her. They were eating popcorn and watching TV. He had his hand on her breast.” I didn’t add that she looked about eight months pregnant.
“And nothing,” I said while I ground the cigarette butt under my boot. “I’m still here. She’s there. We get on with life. We make new connections. Some of us live for three score and ten years like they say in the Bible. Some of us live until we’re stupid dumb-ass little shits who sit outside and wait for the sunrise.” With that I left him.
Yeah, I reckoned it would bother me if he self-immolated. Kissing the dawn—as we called it—was not uncommon but it sure as hell was a painful way to ensure final death. And, though I’d never admit it to him, I kinda liked the kid’s company. His naïveté perked up my nights. But it wasn’t like I was his boss or anything. Free will.
I shut the door to the roof firmly behind me and trotted down the fire escape stairs until I got to the sixth floor. Senator Park never really slept. Even now my Tanzanian neighbors argued loudly in the apartment next to mine. The ganja smoke hung heavy in the hallway and I slunk into the one-bedroom unit I shared with Sam.
My muscles ached—my body still recovering from me accidentally having partaken of hepatitis-infected blood. Chilling out seemed like a very good idea. I threw myself down on my mattress, checked that the black-out curtains were drawn to firmly and picked up the dog-eared copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I was trying to read for the nth time.
A key grated in the lock shortly before sunrise proper, and Sam slunk in. He didn’t say much but threw himself down on his mattress, an arm slung over his face.
“Chicken,” I said with a smirk then made a few squawking noises.
“Fuck you.” The tossed copy of Penthouse that came my way fluttered like a dying bird. I was pretty sure Sam and I would be dodging quite a few more dawns in each other’s company.