The thing I miss most is food. The sun I can live without, and, as I've aged, I can actually go out for a few hours before it starts to burn me. Noon would fry me within minutes, of course. But food... oh, to feel a steak or ratatouille melt in my mouth, oh for the dreamy butteriness of soft egg yolk sliding down my throat, these things I miss almost like a lover torn from his soulmate. It turns to ash in my mouth and I'm spectacularly nauseous for hours. Mikey, one of the newer ones I met at a party a few months back (he was made in the 1980s) said it reminded him of the time he tried to give up smoking by putting a bunch of cigarette butts in a glass of water and downing it. I'm glad I was made when tobacco was still strictly used among Native Americans.
Mikey was cute, but more like a puppy than a twink. I felt guilty after we woke up together the next morning and he told me he'd never been with a guy before.
I didn't have sex for months after that, even though he texted me several times he wanted to hook up again.
Too bloody complicated.
There's so much vampire fascination these days - I blame it all on that ludicrous exercise of Francis Ford Coppola's in the 90s. I mean, Keanu? As Harker? God help us all. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my secret shame though- she and Angel were just so damn cute together, and I horrified my friends when they caught me reading Twilight. I'm also over the fact that I've been a voyeur for such a long time; I'm not a sicko I think, but I love watching puppy love between warmbloods. It reminds me of that time under the willow tree with Charlotte; barely a year before that night when I was drained and filled again as I lay bleeding out with a bayonet through my aorta. He was an enemy soldier, and very old. He didn't want to kill me, but it was war, and he said he had this urge to turn me after he saw me dying. We never spoke about it, and after two years as his apprentice he disappeared, leaving a letter urging me to remember to never kill my dinner.
I died in snow, and I still have nightmares about blood on ice. There's a fad among us these days to serve our meals poured over crushed ice like some infernal gazpacho; I hate it. Then there's Seth's habit of walking around the flat munching his raw steaks while they're still crunchy from the freezer. I said to him he could at least defrost them. I even bought a microwave for fuck's sake for when warmbloods come to visit - or, in his case, move in after an ugly break-up with that crazy blonde.
Oh yes. Seth's a werewolf. I think his kind have it best: the lucky buggers get to have enhanced senses (though not as keen as mine), while they live out prolonged lives and walk about in the sun for the price of going a little apeshit when the moon is full. And at the end, they get to slip away into the void, happy and mortal. I didn't want to be immortal, and I can understand why some vamps go and drink molten silver when the centuries have ground their memories to bonemeal.
The only thing besides blood I can keep in my system is alcohol, and I can just stomach solids if it's been drenched in the stuff. I've even managed Christmas pudding swimming in brandy a couple of times. But I hate being tipsy, and it only makes me thirsty, and then I have to spend a whole day wiping the memories of the hapless souls I've had to drink from. Unless, of course, I've snuck into the blood bank, which involves a whole lot of guilt because I know the stuff is valuable.
Despite my inherent OCD and shyness it's been good to have Seth around. I was getting depressed from the surgical rotation I'm doing. I still wonder if it was a good idea to do medicine. I was bored after twenty years of civil engineering, and then got this idea of giving back something to the warmbloods after I'd drunk so many small oceans from them. Seeing them bleed doesn't drive me crazy at all, I just sigh sometimes at the waste of the precious stuff when they come in stabbed or shot or crushed. And yes, I've secretively slurped up some of the spillage when no-one was looking. I try to rationalize it by seeing it as a little payback after I've sutured so many vessels closed.
I'm eternally 27 but Seth's just hit 23, and there's nothing more horny than a young werewolf at university. There's a different girl every week and I worry sometimes that he's going to wake up next to a boy one morning and then there will be years of psychotherapy. (God knows I fantasise about him in the shower when I come back after a long call and my filter isn't what it should be).
He had a panic attack one evening when he realized he'd snogged one of his teammates after an extended revelry when they trounced the team from Cape Town.
I can't help loving the fact that he's adopted me as some sort of older brother. Watching his expression is priceless when pennies drop from the wisdom my three-hundred year old mind dispenses from time to time. It took me a long time to convince him that he didn't need to be locked up when it was full moon; that he could control the wildness and enjoy it. I always go with him though when he wants to run free. It's practical, too. I can keep watch when he strips off and I can fold up his clothes. We usually drive up north past Umhlanga just before moonrise and go to a little secluded beach just next to the river mouth. Then he shifts and takes off speeding along the shore.
I'll wait in the car and read until he needs me. Lately, I've been trying to get through the whole of Proust. I read the original in French when it came out, but I've long wanted to try the English translation to see how it holds up. When I sense Seth's exhausted, I'll locate him in minutes—I can race at 200 km/hr—and then carry him back to the car. He's a beautiful wolf, russet and silver and grey; his amber eyes glow in the night like the surface of Io.
He's forced me out of my cold little vampire shell. Despite my protestations he's engineered that I've gone on a few dates with a pretty little brunette intern whom I met on a ward round, over a tiny little kid with Takayasu's arteritis. We'd struggled with the kid in theatre for eight hours. I envied the anaesthetist: he had been keeping the patient extraordinarily stable while giggling through a YA novel on his Kindle. The clever bastard even changed the IV bags without looking up. Sophia was an oasis of calm while the theatre lights burned down and I wished I could sweat like her. Yes, I was attracted to her blood at first, and it's been the best sex I've had since the Vietnam War, but there's something about her laugh that intoxicates me deeply. After we've made love—holy shit, I said "made love", not "fucked"—I've actually found myself holding her while she sleeps. I haven’t done that in years.
I'm less hungry around her.
Seth noticed it quickly.
'Balt, my boy, what gives?' he said, knocking back a beer and running his hand through his mop of brown hair. 'You've been pale for a few days now but you haven't been grumpy. Are you ill or something?'
'No,' I said shrugging. 'I just haven't been hungry.'
'Well, you better drink that bag of A positive in the fridge before it expires. I'm done hiding it in the vegetable compartment when my varsity bros come over for PlayStation.'
'Yeah, yeah. I don't know, it's weird. You're right, I should be ravenous - but I'm just... happy.'
'Holy shit. I think I know what's up,' he said, smirking.
'Balthazar's in love.'
'It becomes you.'
' "Becomes you"? That's a quaint turn of phrase for a surfer boy.'
'I learnt it from you, old man. Never mind that. You look happy. I like seeing you happy.'
'I don't know, buddy. She's... she's all young and I'm, well, I'm...'
Seth sighed and plopped himself down on the couch. 'There you go again, making problems for everything that comes your way. It's not like you're marrying her. What's wrong with caring?'
'Says you, Mr Manwhore.'
'Hey, I'm not planning to be on this rebound thing forever.'
'I know. Sorry. But I haven't felt this way for such a long time. I won't be able to bear it, if I fall for her, and see her grow old.'
I shuddered. I'd seen my wife wither away. She accepted me when I'd been a nightwalker for a century. Then again she had been born with the caul. It was a horrid blessing when she got the consumption in her forties (calling it "tuberculosis" still sounds weird to me). She died in my arms, with her face still young.
I guessed it was better than seeing her chewed up by the years, knowing that I couldn't walk that journey with her.
'You'd have to tell her about yourself if it went that far,' said Seth. 'You like each other.'
'And have her flip out? I put one girlfriend in an asylum when she saw my fangs.'
I can't help it when my fangs pop out when I come. It's a real skill not to get the other person to notice.
'Balt, that was in the 1920s, for fuck's sake. And from what you told me she was a crazy bird anyway. Live a little, just because you're heart doesn't beat doesn't mean it's not there, bud.'
'I have a live-in werewolf psychiatrist, I see.'
'Yeah, yeah. Sit down and hang on a moment.'
He got up and shuffled towards the kitchen. He reached for three glasses from the cupboard.
'What are you doing?'
'Just chill, bud.'
I watched him take out the unit of blood and microwave it. Then he snipped off the end of the bag and poured it with great care into a glass. Afterward he opened a wine bottle and poured two glasses of dark purple Shiraz.
'I'm not hungry,' I said. 'And the last thing I need now is alcohol.'
'Shut up, bru, and down this.' He handed me the blood, and meekly, I gulped it down. A positive is not my favourite, but I usually take the least-needed units from the blood bank, and then only ones that are about to expire.
In spite of myself I felt a little warmth spread across my body.
'See, you're getting rosier already.'
I smiled to myself as I recalled how Seth had realized that the safest vampires to be around are the ones who are pinkest in colour, because they've recently fed and aren't hungry at all, like a snake who's just swallowed a rat. Not that he has reason to be worried. Werewolf blood is toxic to vampires.
He pushed the wine glass in front of me.
'Humour me. Share a glass with your friend.'
'Very well,' I said, and took the glass to my lips. The Shiraz was smoke and velvet, and before I knew it I was on my second glass and well into the verbal diarrhoea that ensues whenever I'm tipsy.
Presently my cellphone beeped with a message, and a smile spread across my face as I read it.
'It's her, bru, isn't it?'
It was an invitation for dinner. She'd be cooking. So far I'd avoided the whole food thing deftly by wiping the appropriate memory, but I hated doing it. Maybe it was the wine, but I was dizzy that she'd invited me to her place and that she was going to cook. It seemed so intimate, and I fantasised about going for a walk on the beach with her, not just shagging her.
As I thought of the beach my heart sank a little. The date would be the following night, and it would be full moon. Not just that, it was the closest the Moon had come to the Earth in fifty years, and Seth would need some extra supervision, I thought. I managed to keep my disappointment to myself.
Yet I didn't text back to cancel. I thought I'd make up some story on the day, enough time for her not to cook for nothing, but close enough to make her feel I was really keen.
'Date?' said Seth, smiling.
'Yeah,' I said shyly.
'You vamps get it all back to front sometimes. Shag and then date.'
'As if it doesn't apply to you, wolfboy.'
'Do as I say, dude, not as I do.'
We finished the bottle and I recalled some inane film starting on TV, and then a heavy swathe of blackness as sleep overtook. After many years, I've managed to adapt to a diurnal rhythm. Contrary to popular belief, I can be perfectly active during the day and sleep at night, provided I avoid the sun directly. As a surgeon, being cooped up in theatre suits me perfectly, and there's no drama in walking to the car and back, as long as I have my hoodie over my face and SPF 45 slathered everywhere.
I awoke suddenly, and realized Seth had snuggled up to me. His head was on my chest and he was snoring softly. He was drooling on my shirt, and normally this would have freaked me out, but it suddenly looked utterly adorable.
Warmth flooded through me as sure and keen as sweet fresh AB negative blood shooting from a carotid artery.
Holy fucking crap, I thought. I had this sudden weird urge to put him to bed and wrap him up in a blanket, the way I sometimes got when I was doing obstetrics and had the privilege of holding newborns in my arm. I hope those little angels never sensed that they were being cradled in the arms of Nosferatu's kin.
Sure enough, I tucked him in; it was no problem to carry his muscled bulk; I forget about my super-strength frequently. I sat for a long time looking at him, this strange chimera of boy and man and bro and...
No, Balt. Stop that.
The moon was rising like a giant pink peppermint as we sped out of Durban, the city hanging limp and heavy behind us in the humidity. Seth was already edgy and feverish, and I parked the car behind the dunes in a near-panic.
I took his hand and led him into the mangroves quickly. He flung off his clothes in a whirl.
Thank God I was wearing baggy pants. My boner would have been pretty obvious.
'Go!' I said. 'As far as you want. I'll get you.'
I knew I'd be able to track his scent as far as Ballito, and that he'd certainly be all run out if he got that far. But he turned on his heel and looked at me with wide eyes, every muscle tensed, shimmering in concert with the sea behind him.
'Sophie,' he said. 'Go to her.'
Fuck, I thought. I'd forgotten to message her that I wouldn't be coming.
'No!' I said.
'You fucking well better go,' he said, and I could hear the growl come bubbling up from his throat. 'I told her you're coming.'
'I'll be fine, bud.'
'No! The moon...'
'The moon's my friend, now,' he said, smiling even as the convulsions started overtaking him. If he didn't shift now he'd pass out from the pain. 'You taught me that. Now fuck off, my friend.'
I was slack-jawed. I was about to protest, when he raced up to me and wrapped his arms around me. The Indian Ocean was roaring and his body burned like an ember.
"I love you, Balt, okay?"
"What the fuck?"
"I'm not saying this is going to be easy, but...I think we can work this out... oh jeez... I'm starting to..."
Then he was a wolf, racing out along the beach.
Sophie is nuzzling my neck, and her nipples are feathery against my chest. In the moonlight, she looks like a Bellini sculpture, and her hair is a waterfall of silk.
'This is new,' she giggles, and kisses me again.
We haven't shagged. We sat for ages, talking crap and laughing, and I did take her for that walk along the beach. Now we've been spooning tenderly for hours.
I can't stand it anymore. I want to scream, I want to explode. I want to tell her that I love her but I'm a fucking vampire and we're doomed. Oh, and my roommate has just told me he loves me.
'Sophie,' I say suddenly, beginning to stutter and pant. 'I - I - I need to tell you...'
'Shh,' she says, and puts a slender finger to my lips. 'I know what you are.'
'What do you mean?'
'I got it, finally. Let's just say I can feel these things. You don't have to explain.'
'You don't know what you're saying.'
'Oh I do,' she says, and turns her neck, and her jugular vein is pulsing gently, dancing next to her carotid. I feel my fangs wanting to burst out.
'I'm all yours,' she whispers. 'I trust you. And, quite possibly, that cute little jock who fawns all over you.'
"Shut up and fuck me, Balt."
I fling myself towards her. But, incredulously, I don't bite her. I'm kissing her lovely neck all over, and I'm painfully hard and know I have to make love to her urgently.
Outside, the colours of the light are surreal: there is wine on the moon; there is blood on the ocean.
As we melt into each other I let myself drown in the wave of love.
As we yell out, I can just make out a wolf howling far across the reaches of the bay.