Free Fiction Monday: The Last Vampire

Current News Fantasy free fiction Free Fiction Mondays Kristine Grayson

Ever wonder what happened to the scary vampire? The icky, white-faced creature of the night? The kind of vampire that vants to suck your blooood, not the kind that wants to kiss you silly?

Well, only one such vampire remains, huddled in his New York apartment. He has one last chance to save his race. One last chance—and a foolproof plan. Or so he thinks…

“The Last Vampire,” by international bestselling author Kristine Grayson, is free on this website for one week only. The story’s also available as an ebook here

 

The Last Vampire

Kristine Grayson

 

The last real vampire in the world sat behind the desk in his New York apartment, “apartment” being an awfully grand word for the 8’ by 8’ square room that didn’t even have a proper window. The only window, proper or not, was in the bathroom, and had access to the fire escape—which he appreciated, given his penchant for traveling via roof—and a view of the brick wall next door—which he did not appreciate, given his voyeuristic tendencies. But what was a poor—literally poor—vampire to do?

He didn’t have a lot of furniture, not that he would have had room for much: a ratty overstuffed chair that he’d stolen from someone’s garbage, the essential television set with every cable channel possible, and his circular desk, with its five computers, three of which were hooked up to the internet—one on a DSL line (which cost a fortune), one on a cable modem (which he buggered off the neighbor’s system—just like his cable t.v.), and one on an old-fashioned phone line, in case of emergency.

He was bent over the corner of his desk, the only spot without a computer, or a modem, or a mouse. He had the fingernail clippers in his left hand and was slowly, methodically, chopping off his lovely yellow nails—so perfectly groomed that one human (just before her untimely yet glorious death) had compared them to talons.

No one appreciated talons any more. Plus it was hard to work with them. He’d been trying for the past fifteen minutes to put four AAA batteries into the time machine he’d bought down in the East Village (and yes, he knew the machine was hot; it wasn’t like he cared—who was going to arrest him after all?), but he couldn’t fit the batteries into their tiny space and get his nails in there too.

The modern era was proving too frustrating for words.

Which was why he’d bought the infernal machine. The twenty-first century had become too much for him.

Women carried guns and knives and mace in their purses. Plus, these no-longer-fragile-flowers had also learned karate kicks and eye-pokes, and Adam’s Apple chops, things that hurt even the most experienced vampires.

Men weren’t slacking either. They hit first, asked questions later. And more than one guy had figured out the vampire-thing too quickly. They’d looked for any sharp object, aiming for the heart, but willing to chop off the head if necessary.

The last real vampire in the world had actually run away from his last so-called kill, screaming at the top of his undead lungs, while the so-called kill chased him with a pool cue, broken so that the ends formed a might impressive stake.

Ever since, the last real vampire in the world had been stuck dining off of rats and stray cats.

It wasn’t easy being a traditionalist any more.

One of the AAAs fell off the desk, and rolled across the floor, finally stopping against the two-dimensional foot of Sarah Michelle Gellar in her Buffy the Vampire Slayer mode. The cut-out, which he’d stolen from the trash of a nearby video store, was only one of several reminders he had stashed around the apartment.

He’d been keeping them for years: the original Nosferatu poster, now tattered and worn; a series of stills from the 1960s vampire flicks; Bela Lugosi’s face, remarkably lifelike (deathlike?), hands raised, his ridiculous cape flaring out behind him. The last real vampire in the world even had a first edition copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with a stake which he had driven through its heart. (An act he now regretted, of course. He could have dined off — or, to be more accurate, rented off — it for nearly a decade.)

Still, he needed these things, reminders of the problem—the thing that had actually caused the death of his kind.

He felt like Richard Nixon, blaming the media for the way his life had come out, but in this case, it was accurate: if the vampire stories hadn’t gained an undeath of their own, vampires would have been able to conquer the world in peace.

He wouldn’t be the last real example of his kind, chasing a battery across the floor of a darkened room, hoping against hope he had enough juice in this little awkward machine to change the entire world.

***

Okay. So here was the thing: he could have gone the way of his contemporaries. He wasn’t the last vampire in the world. He knew that. There were dozens of others. But he was the last real one, the last true believer.

The rest of these guys had sold out. They had become heroes—he spit even thinking of the word—basing their lives on the works of P.N. Elrod or Laurell K. Hamilton. Or they’d become anti-heroes, basing their lives on the works of Anne Rice. Or, worst of all, they’d become tortured heroes, the Heathcliffs of the vampire world, made mainstream and clichéd by those wimpy Buffy spin-offs: Angel and the misnamed Spike.

Whatever these sell-outs did, they spent most of their time posing romantically in Village cafes, reading poetry, and taking an occasional bite from a besotted Goth groupie.

It was embarrassing, really.

His fingers closed over the battery, then he punched the vampire slayer. Even though she was no longer in first run, she was one of the worst—teaching girls they could be tiny and tough, showing people that a little garlic, a little witty banter, and one pointed stake was all it took to kill a nasty vampire.

He growled and backed away.

He would change things. He would change it all. With one easy (well, not that easy) trip to the past.

***

He had to cut another fingernail, then another, all the while trying not think about the irony of the fact that he was using human technology, bought with human money, to save his own race. He’d kept up to date on science—figuring that was one way real vampires would survive—and it wasn’t until time-travel technology became small and portable that it interested him.

Of course, that was about the time governments banned it, thinking the technology dangerous (well, duh, in the immortal words of his fictional little blond nemesis), and then he had to go to the black market, trusting human technology even more.

He wiped the fingernail clippings off his desktop, and leaned back in his chair. So many years of hiding, of staying away from people who thought themselves latter-day Van Helsings trying to save the world from traditional vampires. The last real vampire in the world had even used all his computers to cover his internet tracks.

He was broke, he was tired, and he was ready to stop being the last traditionalist of his kind.

He stared at the machine, the size of an old-fashioned Palm Pilot, and watched the display run across the tiny screen. The machine came without instructions, but what he could tell from the website he accessed a little while ago was this:

All he had to do was punch in the dates, squeeze the plastic sides of the machine, and voila! he had traveled to the past. Right here, in New York, because he couldn’t smuggle the infernal machine onto an airplane—not that he could afford a ticket.

So he was going to travel the old-fashioned way. He would gorge himself in post-revolutionary New York and no one would be the wiser. Then he could sleep for part of his trip across the ocean—and for the rest of it, well, he’d kill the crew and pilot the ghost ship himself, arriving in some obscure European harbor, just like Dracula did in Stoker’s novel—in a sea of fog and with corpses hanging off the bow.

The last real vampire in the world smiled at that image. Real food, real slaughter, real good times.

Then he’d work his way up the continent to Switzerland, just in time to kill off Lord Byron, his doctor Polidori, and maybe even the Shelleys, just because he’d always hated their writings.

Near as the last real vampire in the world could tell—and he’d researched this, not just on the net, but also in the World Famous New York Public Library—the rise of the fictional vampire started with a story fragment that Lord Byron had told during a rainy summer in Lake Geneva—a fragment his doctor, Polidori, later finished and published. The story became famous—a book, a play—and then countless authors started writing their vampire stories.

Without Byron and Polidori, there would be no Stoker. Without Stoker and his (somewhat) fictional creation Dracula, there would be no movie vampires, and without movie vampires there would be no TV vampires and without TV vampires there would be no romantic vampires, and without romantic vampires, there would be no Goth movement, and without the Goths, none of his colleagues would have gone over to the light side and revealed all the secrets about how to kill—or at least co-opt—the native vampire population.

He had it all worked out. And all it took was four AAA batteries, an expensive hand-held device, and a willingness to put up with the early 19th century for little more than a year.

He grinned, revealing his little-used fangs.

Then he followed the prompts on the screen, typing in the date he wanted to travel to, and how long he wanted to stay.

He pressed his newly shorn thumb against the start button, leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, and waited for the particles of light or the spinning sensation or whatever the hell was going to happen next.

Minutes crept by. He didn’t fall a couple of stories like he expected (they didn’t have buildings this tall in 1815) nor did he end up on a cold, damp rooftop or in a farmer’s field.

He opened his eyes, saw the machine blinking stupidly.

Clutch the machine in your hand, the warning said. This machine will not send inanimate objects into the past.

He stared at the warning for nearly as long as he had closed his eyes. Then he tried again.

And again.

And again.

Nothing happened.

He resisted the urge to bang the piece of crap time-travel device on his desk and instead logged onto the manufacturer’s website. Sure enough, the damn machine was designed to work only when clutched by a warm, living hand, one with a recognizable body heat pattern.

“No,” he whispered.

He went to other manufacturers websites. Those that still existed (most of them with the machines marked UNAVAILABLE in big block letters) talked about the “life” failsafe. Apparently, too many people had sent their garbage or their broken-down cars or their rust-out refrigerators into the past—rather than trying to recycle or reuse.

It was easier, apparently, than hauling all that junk to the dump.

He couldn’t even piggy-back on some live human. The machines weren’t strong enough to send more than one body (of no more than 200 pounds, said one instruction) back into the past.

He growled and threw the machine against an image of George Hamilton’s tanned Dracula, and then stomped around the apartment until his downstairs neighbor shouted at him to shuddap, willya?

In the past, the last real vampire in the world would have gone down there, shuddap the neighbor, and gone on a spree.

But the last real vampire in the world was out of money, and was afraid of being staked, and wasn’t up for a spree.

Besides, he was hungry.

He closed his eyes, rubbed his cold undead fingers on his cold undead nose, and sighed.

His choices had narrowed. He couldn’t afford another machine, even if he found one that worked for him. Therefore, he could starve for his beliefs or he could learn how to write poetry.

Starving sounded like a lot less work.

But the poetry slams had free drinks and nubile Goth groupies. He just had to give up his ferocity.

Not that he’d been very good at ferocity in the first place.

He grabbed a pen and scrawled on a piece of paper:

There was a vampire who grew violent

Whenever he saw a Palm Pilot

He tapped his pen on his pointed teeth, and realized he was better off writing in the poetry café, where someone would give him a glass of blood and a little admiration.

He wasn’t the first vampire to sell out to the media hype that had changed his race, but he was almost certainly the last.

 

The Last Vampire

Copyright © 2024 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
First published in Time After Time, edited by Denise Little, Daw Books, November, 2005.
Published by WMG Publishing
Cover and layout copyright © 2024 by WMG Publishing
Cover design by Allyson Longueira/WMG Publishing

 

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