VIRAL

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

400,000 hits in three days...

I’d gone viral.

“Yes!” I pumped my fist in the air, then pressed play and waited as the video buffered. My image appeared—or what should’ve been my image—except this time I was wearing a purple cape. I frowned. I don’t own a purple cape, or any cape for that matter. How had that gotten in there? I turned up the audio. Music blasted from my computer’s speakers, the deep thump, thump, thump, vibrating my ribcage. This was all wrong. There shouldn’t be any music. I paused the video to see if I’d selected the correct one, then hit play again.

‘Look into my eyes. Look into my eyes. Thump. Thump. I vant to suck your blood-blood-blood. I vant to suck your blood-blood-blood. Look into my eyes, dog.’

The words bounced to the beat, but it wasn’t my voice and I certainly hadn’t said those Bela Lugosi movie lines in that manner. The online trolls were ruining everything. I hit delete, but within minutes the video was back up with strobe lights added. This time I was in an Elvis pantsuit circa 1970’s Las Vegas.

I slammed the delete button repeatedly. “No! Stop! It’s not supposed to be funny!” I screamed at the screen as it spit back video after video of me mutating into ridiculous characters. Comments multiplied like feral rats in a sewer, spreading venom instead of disease.

‘You’re like my own personal brand of Twinkie.’ –JoyJosh from CA

“I never said that.” I growled in frustration. That wasn’t even the line. It was heroin. How could they forget the word heroin? The least they could do was quote Twilight and Dracula correctly.

‘I love you man.’—CherryGirl from MI

‘He thinks he’s a vampire. What a freak.’—TeamTaylor from PA

‘Push him in the sun. Let’s see if he glistens or fries.’ –PatPunk from WI.

I stopped reading. There was no need to continue. It would only be more of the same. I had seen enough.

Alas, to be so unjustly maligned. I suppose the quandary I found myself in could be thusly described using the vulgar vernacular that the present time insisted on speaking:

My Life Sucks. I’ve been seventeen, like, forever.

And no, I’m not being overly dramatic. It’s the truth. Let me say in my defense that it was not my intention to attract this type of vapid attention. In a world fascinated by a shore in Jersey, talentless sisters, and various housewives, it was difficult, if not impossible to stand out. I didn’t deserve to be punished in such a public way for attempting to better my skills and bring much needed elegance to the Internet. Vampires are cool. Popular culture has dictated that be the case. Even big-boned non-athletic ones ranked higher than the average flesh-eater. Everyone knew that. Well, everyone but the online community, who’d apparently missed the dispatch.

Had I not been lured by tales of love and romance into enrolling in public high school – again – I would not find myself in this rather embarrassing predicament. Movies like the original Twilight and the Lost Boys made joining seem so ideal...perfect even. It was a plausible solution for someone like myself who was trapped in eternal adolescence. I had visions of instant popularity and an endless supply of nubile blood. I expected a veritable harem of followers willing to hang on my every word as if the gods themselves were speaking.

Instead, I find myself in equal parts competing against and avoiding thickheaded ball wielders, who've decided to make it their life's mission to torture me. The movies got that part wrong. Give me a good old-fashioned werewolf any day over a bunch of hormone raging, pigskin chasing, hoop-obsessed idiots.

It’s only been a weekend. There was always a chance the kids at my high school hadn’t seen the video...

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

I was almost through the metal detectors when someone shouted, "Hey vamp boy, I vant to suck your blood-blood-blood." The vapid muscle-head crooked his beefy arm in front of his face and waggled his eyebrows at me.

“So original, Scott. Did you think of it all on your own?” I asked, knowing I was baiting a testosterone-laden bull, who would think nothing of slam-dunking my head into a toilet. And for the sake of remaining assimilated at the school, I’d have to resist the urge to rip his sweetbreads out through his gaping maw.

Snickers turned to boisterous laughter.

"Looks like he’s been sucking more than blood to me," his best friend and sidekick, Tyler added. He tossed a football into the air, then caught it. “Have another French fry, fat-ass.”

Jocks always ran in packs. They believed that there was safety in numbers. I snorted under my breath. “No thanks, Ty-Ty. I don’t want to spoil my appetite.” I patted my generous stomach and leered at him.

“Watch your mouth, Sullivan,” Scott warned. “Or we’ll shut it for you.”

I held up my hands as if his threat frightened me. The effect would’ve worked if my stomach hadn’t growled.

“You’re a sick bastard,” Tyler said.

“Perhaps,” I replied. They headed down the main hall. I turned to pick up my book bag from the decaying security guard and lost them in the crowd.

Tyler and Scott slammed into me from behind as I reached the middle of the main hall. I sailed into the row of green lockers that lined the beige cinderblock walls. They groaned from the impact. When I straightened there was a shoulder-sized dent left behind. I hit back without thinking, sending them both into the boys’ restroom across the hall before they could blink. I was tempted to follow. It’d be interesting to see the quarterback and star running-back try to explain how the football got shoved halfway up their asses.

A group of girls walk by in cheerleader uniforms. They looked especially delicious and smelled even better. I bowed low at the waist. "My fair ladies-"

They giggled before I could finish. "Oh my god, he sounds like my grandpa," Riley said.

“He’s such a freak,” Caitlin added. “Did you see that video? I mean really. Totally creepy.”

Not exactly the response I’d hoped for.  Creating the video was supposed to add to my popularity, not destroy what little I had. I was about to head to class when I noticed a goth girl staring at me. I stared back. She didn’t blink. Pale white face, black lipstick, and dark eyeliner. Her ebony hair spiked out at purposeful angles. The outcast look was as cultivated as a beauty pageant contestant.

As with many other matters, I don’t really understand the whole goth/emo thing. Fake disenfranchised youth for a fake society that wouldn’t know hard times if it was slapped in the face with them. Try being buried and starved in a crypt for a hundred years, then we’ll talk.

The girl gave me a small smile. How very un-goth of her. I smiled back. Given my morning thus far, I couldn’t turn my nose up at a possible meal. Encouraged, the girl came over.

“I liked your video,” she said.

I bristled. “The one with the purple cape or the leisure suit?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Neither,” she said. “I liked the original.”

Finally someone who got what I was trying to do. “Thanks,” I said.

She hugged her books close to her chest. “My name is Lisa, but you can call me Thorn.”

I’d rather not. “Nice to meet you, Lisa. My name is Sullivan Giovanni.” I held out my hand. She shook it tentatively, her palm warm to the touch, then released me.

“You don’t feel cold. Are you really a vampire?” she asked sheepishly.

I adjusted my book bag on my shoulder. I didn’t feel cold because I’d eaten before school. If I hadn’t, she’d think she was shaking hands with ice. “That depends,” I said.

“On what?” she asked.

I leaned closer. “Why do you want to know?”

Lisa shrugged. “Just thought it would be cool if you were. Sorry to waste your time.” She turned to leave.

“What would you do if I said yes?” I asked, stopping her as effectively as if I’d reached out.

She thought about it for a moment, clearly intrigued. "Then I’d see if you want to hang out."

I grinned. Maybe the public humiliation had been worth it after all. "Then by all means, let's…hang out."

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

At lunch, I went home and sucked down a quick blood bag, while I checked the stats on the site.

1.75 million hits...

Holy pentagrams. There must be some mistake. But after refreshing the screen, the number only rose.  I closed the site and caught my reflection in the mirror on the back of my closet door. It’s a myth that vampires can’t see their reflection or go out in sunlight. One created to give our prey a false sense of security. I might not care for the sun, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt me.

I looked at my less-than-perfect image and slowly sucked in my gut. Better, but not great. My dark hair worked, but everything else had to go. There were a lot of fallacies about becoming a vampire. Once bitten you didn’t automatically become cadaverous and svelte like I’d believed. Had I known, I’d have dieted and exercised. No vampire wants to be confused with the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I examined my reflection carefully. I couldn’t exactly hang out with Lisa’s goth crowd dressed as I was in blue jeans and a red shirt. I found a black T-shirt and a matching pair of jeans in the closet. There was a pair of motorcycle boots that hadn’t been worn in years tucked in the back under a worn duffle bag. I grabbed them, then gave them a quick dust before heading out to the drugstore.

I got a few odd looks as I perused the women’s cosmetics section. The white pancake makeup wasn't far from my natural shade. I applied it quickly, using the mirrors on the sunglass rack, then circled my eyes generously with black eyeliner. Not really sure what the effect was I was aiming for, but how hard could it be? Six times should do it. Pleased with my transformation, I headed to the cashier. A woman and her small child were in line ahead of me. The boy--no more than five—watched me approach.

“Mommy,” he said, his eyes fixed on my face. I wondered if the little lad was scared of my vampiric countenance. As I approached, his brown eyes widened, then he gave his mother's trousers three sharp tugs.

“Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?” he repeated like a parrot on crack.

After a moment of ignoring him, she looked down. "What is it, honey?"

His gaze at me remained unbroken. "That boy looks like a panda," he said proudly.

I caught a reflection of myself in the store window. I suppose the eye shadow may have been a tad overdone.

“Do you think he knows Kung-Fu, like Po?” the little whelp continued.

The woman gave me a small apologetic smile, then preceded to lecture her son on why it wasn’t nice to say such things.

I resisted the urge to have another snack wrapped up in a five-year-old package and instead, touched up my makeup before returning to school.

The goths seemed to find my addition a bit perplexing. They weren't vicious like the jocks. No surprise there. They were more likely to hurt themselves. Instead, they mostly ignored me. Well all but one, Lisa--oh, pardon me: Thorn. She didn’t say much about my change in appearance, but I caught her taking covert glances at my teeth, trying to see if I had fangs. I do, but they don't stick out all the time. That would be inconvenient. Like having an erection, it took more than an interested look to get my fangs hard.

"I’ve been talking to everyone,” she said.

I assumed she meant her little goth gang. Were goths called a gang or a gaggle? Was there a proper term for when a bunch of them got together? I wasn’t sure.

“They said I need proof that you are what you say you are or we can’t hang out," Lisa said.

I smiled. "It'll be my pleasure, my lady."

She covered her mouth to hide a giggle, then carefully smoothed out her expression. "You talk funny," she said.

"So I've been told," I replied. "Do you want proof or not?"

Lisa scribbled an address and a phone number onto a piece of paper. "Meet me there tomorrow at 4:00pm. Do you know where it is?"

I looked at the address. It wasn’t far. "Yes, I'll be there."

Her smile widened, exposing blunt white teeth. “Great,” she said and started to leave.

“Oh, and Lisa,” I said, stopping her short.

“Yes?” she asked.

I caught her innocent gaze and held it. “Come alone.” Drinking was an intimate act. Best shared by two. At least the first time.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

1.9 Million hits in four days...

This was insane. I woke to find a reporter from Italy claiming that I resembled a priest in one of their master works. It’s me, but good luck proving it. It was too late to run or disappear without causing suspicion. I decided to stay home from school instead.

The news report did prompt the vampire council to send me an email.  I was sure it would be some kind of warning about over-exposure. I’d be concerned, but the council operated more like a homeowner’s association than an all-powerful governing body. They couldn’t agree on whether lighted pentagrams should be blue or green, much less rules of conduct.

I opened the email and prepared to press delete. The message was short and sweet:

What’s another word for a two hundred and fifty year old man who mixes with adolescents?

A pedophile.

Quit the damn high school now!

I took a picture of one raised finger and sent it to them, then deleted the email. What did they know? Most of them had been turned in their twenties and thirties. There were even some in their fifties. None of them knew what it was like to stop aging at seventeen. Thank the gods I’d been big for my age. I couldn’t imagine how much worse it would’ve been if I’d been small.

Time crawled by as I waited for four o’ clock to roll around. I’d decided to skip my normal blood bag for lunch in anticipation of the fresh stuff. I took more care with my makeup this time. It’d be best to avoid the panda comparison. I waited as long as I could, but hunger drove me to arrive early. Lisa opened the door, but looked around before granting me permission to enter.

“Is something wrong?” I asked. There was always a chance that she’d changed her mind. My stomach grumbled in protest.

“No, no,” her voice rose and she quickly looked away.

Despite the fact that I’d quit aging at seventeen, the inner workings of the teenage mind still baffled me. Particularly my own.  I inhaled, but all I could smell was the sweet blood pulsing beneath her skin. "Were you expecting someone else?"

She shook her head and swallowed hard. "No, just making sure my parents hadn’t come home early. They get off work at six."

“So we have a couple of uninterrupted hours,” I said.

“Yeah.” Lisa scrubbed a hand through her short hair, then led me into the living room. It was cozy in an unexciting way with its deep green couch, dark colored woods, and beige chairs.

I took a seat on the couch.

"Can I get you anything to drink?" she asked.

I smiled and raised a brow. “That won’t be necessary.”

Lisa flushed, turning her pancake makeup a delightful shade of light pink. "Sorry, forgot about your special diet."

"Why don't you relax and take a seat?" I patted the spot beside me. "I believe I owe you proof. You do still want proof, don’t you?"

“Yeah, yeah, definitely.” She perched nervously on the edge of the couch, looking like she’d jump up any second. I couldn’t blame her for being human. She stared and stared and stared at my mouth as if it were about to sprout wings and fly off my face.

The severe attention caused for lack of a better term, performance anxiety. No matter how hard I focused on her throat, my fangs refused to come out. This couldn’t be happening. Not now. I needed to stall.

“Is there something wrong?” she asked.

"No! It’s just…”

“What?” Lisa asked.

“The whole vampire thing doesn't always work automatically," I said.

“Well then how does it work? Can you show me?” Her gaze darted to the windows.

The curtains were closed. I presumed for my comfort, which was completely unnecessary. "I need...I need…" My gaze scrolled over her.

She reached for the top button of her shirt and opened it.

My jaw tightened in anticipation. I cleared my throat. “Actually, it works better if you pull your collar aside. A little neck usually does it."

Lisa’s fingers trembled as she reached for her collar and pulled it wide, exposing acres of pale skin. Her pulse throbbed, making the vein in her neck jump with each beat. My gums tingled as I leaned in. I felt the familiar slide as my fangs locked into place. I was so close the heat from her neck was blistering. I opened my mouth and inhaled, anticipating the first succulent taste. A sharp tang emanated from Lisa's skin, but I ignored it, too caught up in the hunger. It seemed like forever since I’d had the fresh stuff. I knew from looking at her that Lisa would taste good.

Before I could sink my teeth into her slender throat. I heard a chuckle. It was followed by another and another. Lisa jerked back and looked over at the thick curtains, which were now billowing without a breeze.

"Did you get it?" she asked.

"We got it," choruses of voices chimed. The goth group stepped out from behind the curtains.

“This will be even better than his last video,” Lisa said.

They laughed again. “He’s going to make us famous,” someone added.

With blinding speed, I grabbed Lisa by her tiny throat and squeezed.

Her friends continued to film as her head popped off and rolled like a bowling ball across the floor. Blood sprayed like a fountain from Lisa’s neck. I smiled and took a big drink, then released her to kill the others.

It took only seconds. A few tried to run. Others froze like prey, waiting for death to descend. I didn’t disappoint them.

Since they wanted to be famous, I saved the one filming for last. My fangs tore into his throat, ripping tendons, shredding veins. He tasted warm, sweet, and lovely, a combination of youth and fear. Delicious. I took my time drinking him, then dropped his limp, scrawny body onto the floor with the rest. I picked up his small video camera and quickly reviewed the raw footage. My features were blurred thanks to his shaking hands, but there was enough recorded to keep it entertaining.  With a little creative editing, the viewers would only see the back of me.

I hit rewind. Lisa's head flying off was especially stunning. The blood shot nearly five feet into the air. I glanced at the ceiling. It was still dripping from the carnage. I held my hand out and caught a dollop of crimson on my fingertip, then licked it off.

“Waste not,” I said.

It took but the work of a few minutes to edit and upload fourteen seconds of footage.

I disposed of the bodies in a nearby cemetery crypt—mine to be exact, then set the house on fire. I didn’t wait to see it burn. I’d done this sort of thing a time or two.  Lisa would be blamed for the arson. Given her fascination with dark things, it wasn’t out of the realms of possibility for her to do so and run away.

The next morning before school I logged onto the video site. My old video had fallen off the charts already. I’d been usurped by twenty seconds of a hamster eating its own droppings. Charming. But it should make the vampire council happy.

The new clip had received 132 hits. Not exactly a viral sensation. Lisa’s group would have to be content with their tawdry posthumous fame. I smiled. Once again, I read the comments. This time with a detached air of amusement.

“LAME, totally fake." --Tantum from HI. "its just ketchup. The bottle is in the background."

"You can see the plastic teeth. They’re too big to be real." Junebug193 from FL.

"No way does a head getting ripped off look like that!!! lol that sucks.” –TexRich adds.

 

 

Copyright © 2011 by T.R. Allardice

Contents cannot be shared without express permission from the author.