Everyone knows junk food’s bad right? But did you know it’s even worse for vampires? Check out my short story about one vamp and his terrible addiction…
‘We have someone new here tonight.’
Light applause. Nigel swallowed. Tried not to focus on the circle of staring, corpse white, faces. Their eyes crimson in the flickering torch light of the crypt.
‘It’s your turn to speak. If you want too,’ said Marcus.
Nigel licked his lips. A decade seemed to pass. Marcus said, ‘In your own time.’
Across the circle someone with ‘Laura’ written on her name badge smiled. Like him and everyone else in the room, she was fat. So fat she spilled out of her chair.
Marcus leaned forward, ‘We’re here for you.’
Nigel took a deep breath and rubbed his damp, hairy, palms against his trousers. Finally, he said, ‘My name is Nigel and I’m a junkie.’
Nigel’s eyes welled up. The white faces swam in a sea of shimmering scarlet.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud before.’
The circle erupted with applause.
Nigel wiped away a bloody tear. The applause died down. Marcus said, ‘Would you like to go on Nigel?’
‘It started with the light stuff. Crisps, chocolate, sweets. It wasn’t even about getting high at first. I think we just did it because it was forbidden.
We’d hang around outside petrol stations and twenty-four hour supermarkets and wait until someone came out with junk and then we’d kill them.
We’d drink their blood and then eat the stuff.
But soon it got to be the other way round. We’d kill them. Eat the stuff. Get high. And then drink their blood. When we got the munchies.’
Nigel lowered his eyes.
‘Sometimes we didn’t even drink their blood. We just left them lying there.’
He cleared his throat.
‘It wasn’t long before Mum and Dad find out. One of my friends left an empty packet of starburst in their coffin. His Mum told my Mum. Next night, Dad followed us out.
He hid and watched us take down this woman in a car park. Her trolley was filled with stuff. We had never seen so much junk.
We started jumping and whopping and eating cream cakes and that’s when we saw Dad.’
Nigel bit his bottom lip.
‘He looked so disgusted. He made me eat a multipack of salt and vinegar crisps, right there. Twenty four packs all in one go. And then I had to drink a two litre bottle of Dr Pepper.
It was supposed to make me so sick I would never want to touch the junk again. I puked everywhere.
Next night the comedown was so bad I couldn’t move out of my coffin. I just lay there shivering, feeling like my bones were made of ice-Mum and Dad watching. Dad, his arms folded and Mum screaming things like ‘How could you do this to us?’ and ‘What if my friends find out?’
Nigel wrapped his arms around his chest.
‘After that I stopped hanging with my old friends. Went raiding on my own. And that’s when I started on the hard stuff. The class A’s. You know, McDonald’s. Kfc. Burger King.
I would eat. And eat. And eat. Then make myself sick so I wouldn’t put on weight. I would just puke everywhere and lie in it and not even care because I was so high.’
Nigel’s voice broke, ‘I hated myself. I hated myself so much. I still do.’
He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
‘I started doing bad stuff. I got into Christ worship. I’d burn crucifixes onto my arms. I even stopped killing people. I would just steal their food and run. I-’
Nigel sobbed and buried his face in his sleeve.
A Hand squeezed his shoulders. Someone patted his knee, a voice said, ‘It’s okay. Let it out. Take your time.’
They passed him a tissue. Nigel blew his nose.
‘Sorry. I must look like a mess.’
‘We’ve all been there,’ said Marcus, ‘We’ve all done things we’re ashamed off. But no one is here to judge.’
A dozen white faces nodded.
‘Thanks,’ Nigel scrunched the soiled tissue into a ball. Marcus passed him a bin full of other soggy red balls.
‘After a while I stopped caring. I stopped making myself sick. I let myself get fat. I told Mum and Dad I had a gland problem. I kidded myself that they bought it.
But they knew. Of course they did. But they didn’t say anything.They were probably too ashamed to admit it, even to themselves.
I had to have a new coffin built. Twice.
Then about a month ago I woke up and Mum and Dad were sat around the table and there was a pile of McDonald’s wrappers in front of them.
They said: ‘Are these yours?’ and I said ‘No,’ and Mum said, ‘We can’t pretend anymore.’
They gave me a choice: cold turkey, locked in my coffin for a month. Or I left. They said I had to hit rock bottom before I could get better. They said they had been too soft and that in a way it was their fault too because they should have done something a long time ago.
Mum kept saying ‘I just want my son back’.
So I left. They didn’t even help me with my coffin. They just watched me struggle with it. And it was so heavy. So heavy.’
Marcus said, ‘Where are you staying?’
‘I managed to find an empty basement. But it’s not good. There’s a Pizza hut right round the corner and a kebab shop across the road. I’ve managed to stay clean for two nights now but it’s not been easy.’
Nigel sat back in his chair, ‘So yeah. That’s me. Uh, thanks for listening.’
‘Thank you, Nigel.’
Everyone clapped. Nigel muttered ‘Thanks’ again and felt his cheeks blush.
On the way out Laura shuffled over and stopped him by the door.
‘I know how it feels to be that low,’ she said. ‘I used to be so fat I couldn’t even get out of my coffin. I was stuck in there for a year.’
‘Right. I had this boyfriend. He was a feeder. He used to bring me junk and then get off on watching me eat. I thought at first he just wanted to see me happy, but when I said I wanted to quit he went mad.
He threatened to drag my coffin into the sunlight, made me wash my mouth out with garlic.
I got so sick I started falling apart.
I lost both my fangs eating a Big Mac. I was so high I didn’t even notice. I ate my own fangs Nigel. These are false.
Eventually I realised that he was only as powerful as I let him be. You know? The only thing keeping me in that coffin was me.
So one night I refused to eat a caramel sundae. He pulled out this stake and started waving it about.
I took his head in my hands and pulled him to my chest and held him there until he passed out. Then I, I took the stake and…’
Laura made a fist and smacked it into the other palm. ‘I know it’s crazy,’ she said, looking away for a moment ‘but sometimes I still miss him. Well, I just wanted to say well done. Hopefully see you again next week?’
‘Sure,’ said Nigel. He held out his hand, Laura engulfed it in her own. She waddled into the night. Nigel turned and saw Marcus striding towards him.
‘Glad I managed to catch you,’ he said ‘I just wanted to tell you that no matter how bad things get, there’s always someone there for you.’
Marcus reached into his t-shirt and held up an inverted crucifix dangling on a silver chain.
‘I don’t think I would have made it if it hadn’t have been for the big guy downstairs.
I don’t want to go on a big religion trip. But the big ‘S’ is always there for you. He moves in sinister ways Nigel. This is all part of his plan. I can’t pretend to understand it. No one can. But-’
Marcus pointed a clawed finger at the ground, ‘he’s there.’
‘Thanks,’ said Nigel.
Marcus said: ‘And we’re here for you. You don’t have to be alone anymore.’
Sunday. Three nights clean. And Nigel had never felt so alone.
Cold Turkey fever.
His stomach cramped and knotted. He could barely crawl out of his coffin. He fouled himself and cried. Ants crawled under his skin. Worms ate his bones and a monkey leaped on his back and ground its teeth in his ears.
Monday night, worse.
Tuesday, worse still.
Wednesday, the monkey brought its mates. The whole ape house raked their nails down his back.
Thursday he managed to make a kill. Just. Blood splattered his face and for a moment he felt like the old Nigel. But when the arterial blood spurted onto the back of his throat he retched.
It tasted wrong. Too weak. Bland. He didn’t need food. He needed the junk.
Friday he staked out Burger King and attacked a young woman. He bared his fangs and hissed. The girl swung her handbag. She could hardly miss.
Nigel fell to the ground. Too weak to move he let her kick him whilst he ate the fries she had dropped.
Saturday night he lurked outside McDonald’s. But too weak to make a swoop, he slumped on an outdoor table and despaired.
‘You can go in you know,’ said a young man sweeping up cigarette butts with a dustpan and brush.
‘You’re inviting me?’ said Nigel.
He lurched to the doors. They slid open as if by magic. Nigel stumbled to the till carried by an invisible tide of fat and sugar and salt.
The girl behind the counter said: ‘Can I help you?’
‘Would you like to make it a meal?’
‘Yes,’ Nigel wiped drool from his chin. ‘And a cheeseburger. And a coke.’
‘Would you like it large for an extra forty pence?’
‘Sweet Satan yes. And ice cream. Urgh and a donut too. Make it three.’
The girl asked for money. Nigel emptied his pockets. Fistfuls of stolen notes scattered across the counter.
She said, ‘Come back any time,’ and quickly stashed a bundle of twenties under the counter.
Nigel sat in a doorway that stank of human waste and licked grease and salt from an empty packet of fries.
Higher than he had ever been, the junk worked its magic-a symphony of colour and sound cascaded behind his eyes.
The crescendo’s exploded like fireworks. The slow swells made his skin tingle.
Nerves popped. Brain cells died and then came back to life and then died again. His eyes rolled back in his sockets.
Cloud ninety-nine. No pain. No self loathing. Just bliss.
Nigel swam. He soared through purple seas. He sailed through the cosmos buoyed by solar currents.
So happy he cried, hardly registering the gentle warmth creeping over his outstretched feet.
It spread slowly. Nigel opened his eyes. Saw the world carved out of diamonds. The morning light brighter than he had ever imagined anything could be.
Sparking. Beautiful. Radiant through the junk haze. He watched with detached fascination as his legs turned to dust and then his hands and then his stomach.
As the sun reached his neck, the junk fog cleared and Nigel said, ‘I’m sorry Mum and Dad.’
And then he said nothing.
For a while a mound of dust in the shape of Nigel lay sprawled in the gutter. But soon a gust of wind, fresh with the promise of a new day, blew through the streets.
It picked up litter and the dust of Nigel and made them dance, swirling in gentle eddies.
And there was one less vampire Junkie in the world.