Life Sucks by Charity Griffin

     If there was ever a great time to be a disgusting creature of the night, it would be the twenty-first century. I don’t mean some kind of creepy hermit who just sits in their apartment all alone, rarely takes care of their hygiene, and spends most of their time in the dark on their computer. Technically, I am one of those creatures of the night too, but I was originally referring to the bloodsucking kind.
     After all, staying home all day and only going out at night isn’t as weird and creepy as it was just twenty years ago. Plus, the world’s current tech obsession allows for jobs that include sitting at home and barely interacting with anyone in person.
     I got a job helping people create and design their websites, and I rarely had face-to-face contact with anyone. So, keeping my supernatural identity a secret was a cinch. Being pale and unfriendly finally became the norm, and life had never been better for me.
     And getting fresh blood? Easy. People on the internet confessed their sorrows and their tendencies to harm themselves all the time. Thinking of all that fresh blood going to waste pissed me off greatly, so I started a kind of service. If they were going to hurt themselves anyway, they could just let me hurt them instead.
     It first started when I saw someone’s blog online, and they were talking about how they’d become numb to their usual methods, and at this point they were ready to just end things. So, I hit them up, and I told them there was a way their horrible habits could benefit both of us. Of course, that person didn’t believe me at all, but they cared so little about their own life that they just went with it anyway. We met up at a motel, I got my meal, and they got their pain. There were no more questions asked. It was a win-win situation.
     Well, not really because that person was still sad and depressed, but I got what I needed. They got what they felt they wanted at the time. It wasn’t my job to be their therapist.
     Alright, on top of being a completely unsociable vampire, I was a horrible person with very few morals. After living for so long, I just stopped caring about most people’s issues. It was just what happened.
     So, I continued my little business, never getting more than what I needed. I sort of became an internet myth. The vampire preying on people who weren’t in a good state of mind. Some people called me up as a joke. Some sent me hate mail and told me to get the hell away from people like that who needed help. What else was I supposed to do? Starve my way to a second death? Attack random people on the street? It wasn’t appealing, and my system at the time led to an easy meal. I got over the whole hunting people phase a long time ago. I had to use the resources available. Isn’t that what everyone did?
     I wasn’t like that for long though. Another thing about the twenty-first century was that you needed to have connections, and some of those connections became my friends. My heart may not have been beating, but it was still there. I definitely felt its presence when someone asked for my service, and it ended up being one of my friends. In that moment, I realized how stupid and cruel my little system was.
     He stared at me, dark circles underneath his wide eyes. He had on a baggy long sleeve shirt that smelled like it hadn’t been washed in two days and old jeans with holes right on his knees.
     “Jessie? You’re the self-harm vampire?” he asked me, taking a step back, shoulders hunched and hands clenched into fists.
     “Is that what they call me?” I asked, trying hard to sound casual as I fiddled with my black hair. People I knew usually never interacted with this side of me. I usually ditched them before they noticed I wasn’t aging or the other suspicious things about me. He took in a shaky breath, and then he stepped back.
     “This was a mistake.” He turned to walk away, but dang, I hadn’t had any blood in a week and I could smell the fresh wounds on him. I never pegged him as the sad type, but then again, I hadn’t talked to him in about a month. Even then, they were nothing more than superficial conversations to entertain each other.
     “Ethan,” I said, lunging forward and grabbing him by the wrist before he could walk away. He winced, and I quickly pulled my hand away.
     “What?” His back was still to me.
     “If you want… We could do the service and forget this ever happened.”
     “Do you really expect me to believe you’re a vampire?” he asked, looking over his shoulder at me with tired brown eyes.
     “Well, I never go out in the sunlight.”
He scoffed. “I don’t either,” he said, and I grinned at him, fangs bared for the world to see.
     “Only one way to find out,” I said.
     “I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
     “Well, I’m really hungry right now, and if you’re just gonna go home and do it, I’d rather have your blood, okay?”
v“Fine. I won’t force you. I’ll just starve to death and never see you again.”
Ethan sighed heavily. “Okay, got it. Just do whatever the heck it is you do so I can go home.”
     We went into the motel, but doing it with someone I knew just felt strange even though I tried my hardest to pretend that he was just another sad blood sac like the rest of them. It was always easier on me if I just detached myself and pretended they weren’t a real person, so that I didn’t feel bad about biting into their flesh like a feral animal. With Ethan, it was different. I knew his name and his face and the fact that he was a total Star Wars nerd who wanted a son named Luke. That wasn’t much, and we weren’t that close, but it just felt weird. I almost didn’t want to do it, even as I was raising his thin wrist to my mouth.
     “You’re not going to bite my neck?” he asked, sitting on the bed.
     “Not unless you want me to. It’s a little awkward for first timers who don’t like physical contact, and the neck is a little more sensitive than the wrist. Plus, my fangs are kinda venomous, which is why it hurts, so neck bites are a little sketchy.”
     “Am I going to die?” His body tensed up a little, and his hands clenched into fists.
     “No one has yet,” I said, lowering my face, but just before I took a bite, I glanced up at him from where I was kneeling under him. “I’m glad you’re not ready to die just yet.”
     He didn’t respond. I silently thanked him for the meal.
     After the whole ordeal was over, he left without another word, and we didn’t talk to each other. It was all business as usual. Meals were few and far between, considering the small number of people who are willing to meet people from the internet and the even smaller group of people who were willing to suspend their disbelief and go with the fact that I was a vampire. It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to sustain me.
Then, Ethan called me again, his voice barely above a whisper, and hoarse as if he’d been yelling for far too long.
     “Can I ask for another service?”
     “Of course.” We met at my house this time. His brown hair was a mess and his eyes were red. I didn’t ask any questions, and he didn’t look like he felt like talking. He sat on my bed, and he held his wrist out to me, silently. I drank my fill. He left.
     He called again the next month. Then again the week after. Then again the next week. Then again. I began to be seriously worried about the sad man who came to my door, to the point where I was even hesitant to drink as much as I normally would from him. If he noticed that the time I took with him was getting shorter, he ignored it. Then, one day he asked me something no one had ever asked me before.
     “If I asked you to suck me dry, would you?” His voice was quiet, tired just like it always was, but his words seemed to drop a wave of tension in the room that felt so heavy, my shoulders dropped.
     “Why?” I snapped, louder than I meant to. He flinched, and I took a deep breath, nibbling my lip.
     “Sorry,” he said, “I just—”
     “I wouldn’t because I can’t. Not in one go anyway. Do you know how much blood is in the human body? My stomach would be full before I drank a fourth of your blood.”
     “Oh.” The silence hung heavy in the room for a long moment before I spoke again.
     “Plus, you’d die, and I wouldn’t want that.”
     “You don’t have to tell me what’s going on. Just … if something is wrong, just call me for something besides this. I don’t want to be someone who adds to your pain.”
     “Isn’t that what your whole business relies on? Causing pain?”
     “I don’t care about the business. You’re my friend.”
     He smiled at me for the first time in what felt like forever, though it was heavily tinted by bitterness.
     “I’ll think about it.” He left just like that.
     However, the next day, he called me, and he asked me if I wanted to watch some old movies with him. Then, I smiled for what felt like the first time in an eternity, biting my lip just so I could hold it back a little.
     Life sucked, but when we hung out together, it sucked a little less.
     After a while, he started confessing things to me. Things about people who had mistreated him, and about people he had loved and lost. He told me about times when he was bullied, treated like an outcast, and how he got to the point he was at, and he said it all in that tired, sad voice he always used.
     One day, he asked me something while we sitting around watching YouTube videos together.
     “Jessie, is it possible for you to make others into vampires?”
     “If I bit into someone’s neck and secreted lots of venom into their blood over and over again, it would work.” Ethan rubbed his neck. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and the scars on his arms were somewhat fading.
     “That would probably hurt.”
     “Like hell.”
     He hummed thoughtfully, staring down at his lap. “How did you become one? A vampire, I mean.”
     I sighed. The inevitable question. “It was a long time ago. A lot of vampires go crazy in their old age, you see. The one who got me was one of the crazies. It was late at night, and he was spouting nonsense about how he was in agony, so I tried to help him. He jumped me, just like that, biting me over and over again, screaming that the torch had passed and that it was my turn now.”
     “What happened after that?”
     I shrugged. “He killed himself, and I became a vampire. End of story.”
     “Would you ever—”
     “I wouldn’t turn you unless you really wanted to die,” I said, turning to look at him seriously. “You’d sacrifice everything. Your past, your future, and whatever friends or family you have left. Your normal lifestyle, from the way you eat to when you go outside would be changed.”
     “I see,” he said, and that was the end of the conversation. We went on like normal, not going back to it again. He stopped asking me to bite him after that. We were normal, and we were peaceful. We were friends. I thought he wouldn’t bring up that topic again.
     Then, he came over to my place, sat on my bed and looked at me seriously.
     “I thought about what you said, and I realized that they don’t really matter. I don’t have any close friends except for you. My mom died a long time ago, and I’ve been waiting for excuses to avoid my dad anyway. I don’t have other family, and my normal life probably wouldn’t change much so—”
     “Woah, woah, cool your jets,” I said, holding my hands up in the air to stop him. “Are you seriously thinking about this?”
     “Yeah, I am. I thought about it, and I decided that I want to stay by your side if I can. There’s nothing really holding me back.”
     “But you have your whole life ahead of you, Ethan. A future where you grow old and move on and live and die like a normal person. You shouldn’t just throw that away.”
     “What’s good about being normal?”
     “Well, being a monster isn’t any better.”
     “You’re not a monster.”
     “Ethan, I literally bit you and drank your blood. I’m definitely a monster.”
     “Then, I’ll be a monster with you.”
     I sighed, biting my lip. His eyes seemed like they were shining as they looked up at me from where he was sitting. The bags under his eyes were gone. He had just started to look healthy and alive again. I couldn’t take that from him.
     “No,” I said, turning away.
     “Jessie.” He grabbed my sleeve and held on tight.
     I took a deep breath. “Imagine yourself on your deathbed right now. Pretend you never met me and think about the things you would regret.”
     He was silent for a long moment before he spoke up quietly. “My only regret would me not meeting you.”
     If my heart could still pump my blood throughout my body, I probably would’ve blushed.
     “You’re so obnoxious.”
     “Aren’t you tired of being alone?” Ethan asked.      “Don’t you want a friend you don’t have to run away from?”
     “I don’t want to trap someone in this life, Ethan. It freaking sucks.”
     “Well, my life has sucked for as long as I could remember, so try me.”
     “I’m not going to leave until you agree.”
     “Please, Jessie.”
     “But you’re going to leave if I don’t do this, right?” He brought back that tired, sad voice he’d first addressed me with, and I hated how it made my resolve start to crumble away like old pie crust. I told myself that I shouldn’t agree with him. He had better things ahead of him.
     “A couple years from now, I’ll have aged too much for us to hang out together normally right? And then what? You’ll leave? You’ll stay and watch me age and die? Isn’t it better for both of us if I become like you?”
     “Shut up,” I mumbled.
     “Maybe it sounds stupid to you because you never had the choice, but I do have the chance to choose. And I’m choosing you, okay? Plus, with the job and habits I have now, the only thing I’d have to adjust really are my eating habits, so—”
     “Shut up!” I snapped, and he flinched so badly that he released my sleeve.
     I had never yelled at him before. I hadn’t yelled at anyone in a long time. He kept making me think about things I never thought I’d have to think about. Yeah, I didn’t want to lose him, but not that badly. He had a chance at a better life, and I refused to let him waste it.
     “Go home, Ethan.” I avoided eye contact with him as he slowly trudged out of the room, his shoulders hunched over and his eyes downcast. He was still trying to make me feel guilty enough to take his offer, but I was determined to stay strong. I told myself the only way I’d ever do that was if he was dying. I told myself that would never happen. I heard the door clicking shut, and I turned back towards my work.
     Then, there was the sound of tires skidding, and a voice screaming. A voice that was usually soft or tired, warped into something rough, loud, and full of agony. The smell of blood was fresh in my nostrils before I’d even moved a muscle, and the screaming turned to quiet whines and whimpers.
     My body was taking me out of the house and onto the street before my mind processed the sounds in my ears. There was a brown-haired man lying in the street, broken and crying quietly. He looked so small, his whole body shaking with the effort to take a breath. The closer I got to him, the more I was assaulted by the coppery smell of blood in the air. My vampire instincts were screaming at me that prey was right there, so, so close, but my worry for Ethan was pulling my thoughts into a jumbled haze. All I could think was blood, Ethan, blood, blood, Ethan, blood, Ethan.
     He looked up at me, barely keeping his eyes open.
     “Jessie,” he whispered, his voice hoarse. “Save me.”
     My resolve turned to a substance weaker than dust in an instant, and my sanity was already long gone.
     I sunk my fangs into his neck, over and over again. Despite that, I thought I saw him smile.
     After a short amount of time, I regained hold on part of my mind. I did my best to drag him up to my house, and I let him sleep there in my bed. I tried to take care of the wounds I could manage, but he had a couple of broken bones that would have to be taken care of later. The transformation from alive to undead would heal some of his wounds, but not all of them. All I could do was wait.
     He took two days to wake up. In that time, his once tan skin had lightened, and the eyes that were once brown were tinted red, leaving a color that looked like dried blood.
     My name was the first thing he said. I hadn’t left his side once.
     “Jessie,” he said with a smile, his voice soft. He brought his hand up slowly to touch my cheek.
     “You’re so pretty,” he said.
     “You’re an idiot,” I replied. He tried to sit up, but his face twisted with pain. I pushed him back down onto the bed, and he frowned, rubbing his head.
v“What happened? I remember leaving here, and there was a car with no headlights on, and then my memory is just blank.” I bit my lip, sliding my gaze away from his face.
     “I … You got hit by the car, and you were bleeding and on the ground, and I just panicked, Ethan. Plus, you—you said something that was just crazy, and I was already feeling freaked out and the next thing I knew, I was just biting into your neck, and—”
     “Wait, what?”
     “You got hurt, and I panicked. I kind of made you a vampire.”
     “What do you mean, kind of?”
     “Okay, you’re completely a vampire, but I didn’t think to call an ambulance, and you were lying there bleeding and broken in the middle of the street. What was I supposed to do? Watch you die?”
     “Chill out,” he said, “it’s okay.”
     “But I had just told you that I was never going to and then—”
     “It’s okay. This was what I wanted in the first place.”
     “I know. I just feel like I took away your whole life.” I sighed.
     “You didn’t take away my life. You gave me a new start. My old life sucked, and you know it. How happy could I ever be if I aged and left my best friend behind?”
     “I’m your best friend?”
     “Are you really asking me that?” Ethan raised an eyebrow at me.
     I frowned, looking down at my lap. “I still wish I could’ve changed things.”
     “Think of it this way: you saved my life.”
     “Yeah, but—”
     “So,” he said, loud enough to cut me off, “thank you.”
     “You’re welcome, I guess.”
     Ethan smiled at me, and I knew he wouldn’t let me feel guilty for any longer.
     “So? What do we do now?” he asked.
v“You are going to rest. Then, I’ll find a way to squeeze you into my system.”
He reached out and grabbed my hand. “I’m looking forward to it.”
     The twenty-first century was a great time to be a disgusting, bloodsucking creature of the night, and it was also a great time to make lifelong friends. True friends like that knew just how to make a person’s life suck a little less.

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