by Jill Hand
A vampire walks into a bar. That sounds like a joke but it’s not. The vampire in question is me, Elizabeth Bathory di Mastrioni van Helsing y Menendez, Liz for short. I walk into a bar, sit down on a vacant stool, and the hot guy sitting next to me leans over.
Yes! I’m thinking. That’s it, baby! Get nice and close. Oooh, you look good enough to eat! I can feel my fangs give a happy little tingle. It’s been awhile since I ate and I’m starving.
Gazing into my eyes he smiles and goes…
“Do you mind moving over so my girlfriend can sit there?”
I stare intently at him, focusing my gaze like a laser, really giving him the old glamour treatment. You are my willing slave. You will obey my every command. Come with me, beautiful one, come with me to a dark, secluded place where we can be alone.
He frowns, puzzled. “Can you just move over? Please?”
Drat! It’s not working. It almost never works anymore, unless the guy or the girl is really drunk or messed up on drugs and then their blood tastes horrible, like week-old Chinese food that weasels have crapped on. I must be losing my touch. But why?
I slide him a look from under my eyelashes and flip back my hair. Then I lightly touch his hand and glamour just as hard as I can, really putting my all into it. “Come with me,” I murmur enticingly.
Beneath my long, red-varnished nails my fingertips detect the blood pulsing in his radial artery. Yummy! I lick my lips in anticipation.
He yanks his hand away, affronted. “Hey! Cut that out! I said I have a girlfriend. She’s in the ladies’ room. Go hit on some other guy.”
I stomp off to the ladies’ loo, furious. I’m in no mood to play around. If his girlfriend’s in there alone I’m going to grab her and drink her blood. Forget about glamouring her to lull her into submission. In fact, I don’t care if the ladies’ john is packed full of women standing in line for the toilet, gossiping and fixing their makeup, I’ll overpower them and drink all of their blood, that’s how furiously angry and hungry I am.
I’m almost to the door that’s marked Setters (this particular bar is in West Virginia, where that sort of thing passes for side-splitting humor) when a leather-clad arm shoots out from a recess in the wall that probably once held a telephone booth and a hand grabs me with an iron grip.
Oh, great! It’s Ivan, my ex, the world’s most annoying vampire. We were together a scant twenty years when I realized what a dork he was and walked out on him. And now here he was, gripping my arm in a hick bar in West Virginia, where the jukebox was playing something twangy about a truck and a dog and hard-hearted woman. Could the night get any worse?
It could, as it turned out.
“Don’t go in there,” Ivan warned.
“What? The ladies’ room? I was just going to freshen up,” I told him innocently.
“No you weren’t. I overheard what that guy said to you. You were going in there to drink his girlfriend’s blood, weren’t you?”
“Maybe,” I said. “What’s wrong with that?”
He smirked. “You don’t know? They’re all eating these energy bars they advertise on TV. It’s some kind of fad that’s swept the country like …” He paused, trying to think of something appropriate to compare the energy bar craze to before finishing up with, “like a plague.”
Ivan was familiar with plagues, having been through a couple. I’d say that he lived through them, but vampires aren’t technically alive. He continued, “Those energy bars are bad news. They’ve got stuff in them that’s even worse than garlic, antioxidents and all kinds of vitamins and minerals that makes them impervious to us trying to glamour them.”
He let that sink in, nodding his head and smiling grimly. “Even if you manage to get ahold of one of them and chow down on their blood it tastes awful.” He grimaced at the memory of how awful it tasted.
“So we’re screwed? We have to put up with drinking from drunks and druggies? Their blood tastes really bad,” I said, dismayed. It would be like subsisting on nothing but truck stop chili dogs and stale jelly doughnuts. Gross.
Ivan’s black brows drew down over eyes that glittered like jet beads as he contemplated our bleak situation. “Eventually this energy bar craze will be over, but for now everybody’s eating them: little kids, old people, everybody who’s seen that stupid TV commercial hawking them.”
A thought crossed my mind. It wouldn’t be too far away. The undead drive fast, after all.
I asked Ivan if he had a car. He said he did, a 1970 Ford Torino that he’d modified himself. “I put the hammer down and man, that baby walks and talks,” he said happily, “I took out the 429 cubic-inch engine and put in…”
“That’s nice,” I said, cutting him off. Men and their cars, once they start talking about them they don’t quit. I told him what I had in mind
We drifted outside, silent as smoke, got into his car and peeled out of the parking lot.
Less than two hours later, we were in rural Pennsylvania. It looked a lot like rural West Virginia. Two people were walking hand-in-hand along the shoulder of the road towards us. The girl had on a long, cotton dress and wore a white net cap over her hair. The boy had on overalls and a wide-brimmed black hat.
“Hey, kids!” I said cheerily, getting out of the car. “It’s a nice night, isn’t it?”
They agreed that it was.
Ivan cut right to the chase, asking if they knew about energy bars.
“We don’t go to bars, do we, Joseph?” the girl said to the boy.
“No,” the boy said, looking down at the ground, a guilty expression on his face.
Excellent. I’d been out this way before, back in ’08 (that was nineteen-hundred and eight.) It didn’t look like the Amish had changed much. Still not into worldly things like zippers and buttons and items that were advertised on TV, like energy bars. I turned to the girl and glamoured her. She sighed contentedly, her shoulders relaxing, her eyes taking on that old, familiar glaze. It looked like I still had it.
Ivan was talking softly to the boy.
“What’s your name, dear?” I asked the girl. Katie, she said, Katie Yoder.
“Do you mind if I drink a little bit of your blood, Katie? It won’t hurt. In fact, it will feel nice.”
“I don’t mind,” she said drowsily. “But I’d prefer it if the handsome English man drank my blood. You can drink Joseph’s.”
Oh, Katie, you minx! All non-Amish were English, as far as they were concerned. It seemed she’d taken a shine to Ivan. He was good-looking, in a nerdy, bookish sort of way. I said it wouldn’t be a problem.
Ten minutes later, replete, Ivan and I hopped back into the Torino. We waved to Katie and Joseph, who waved back, chipper as crickets. These Amish kids were hardy. We probably could have gotten another pint out of them, but we didn’t want to abuse their hospitality.
“Let’s hang around here for a while,” I told Ivan. “Just until the energy bar fad dies out.”
He looked pleased. “Together?”
“Sure. Why not? It’ll probably only be for a decade or so, though, before some new dietary craze comes along.” I didn’t want him to get the idea that we were back together permanently.
Absolutely glowing with happiness (along with a fresh infusion of O negative), he said, “I knew this was going to be a good night as soon as I saw you in the bar.”
“Me too,” I lied. I wondered if any of the Amish all-you-can-eat buffets were open all night. I’d picked up a little of the Pennsylvania Dutch lingo the last time I’d been in these parts. I repeated one of their sayings to Ivan: “Mir gleiche die Amische brieder bsuche.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Something like, ‘It’s always good to visit our Amish brethren.’ ”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “It is, isn’t it?”
Jill Hand’s fantasy/sci-fi novella, The Blue Horse, is now available from Kellan Publishing. It’s a humorous tale about the search for an actual hairless blue horse that was discovered in South Africa in 1860, shipped to England and purchased by an eccentric aristocrat, who rode it to go fox hunting. There are cameo appearances by Arthur Conan Doyle and the Cottingsley fairies, Queen Victoria, and Elsie the Cow.
Jill Hand’s short stories have recently appeared in Another Realm; Bewildering Stories; Cease, Cows; and Jersey Devil Press, among others. Jill is on Twitter at @jillhand1_gef. Gef is a tribute to a talking mongoose by that name who allegedly lived on the Isle of Man in the early 1930s. Harry Price, the original ghost hunter, tried to chat with him, but Gef stubbornly refused to make an appearance.