The Vampire, the Preacher & Sweet Calliope

 

     All of mankind’s insidious gods have one thing in common.  They demand a profuse outpouring of human blood, incidental, ceremonial, or premeditated.  Why then, do they begrudge those of us who live above hell, but beneath heaven, some of the dregs?  You have no idea how difficult the 21st Century is for vampires.

     I consider myself a cultured being, a rational and reasonable gentleman.  Those ridiculous stories they tell about us, good heavens—excuse me, inappropriate phrase. I need very little blood to survive.  A cup or two a week will do it.  An additional meal is pleasant, but I never kill anyone—well, almost never.  There was that appalling drug dealer beating an adolescent boy who hadn’t sold enough of his despicable product, but he certainly deserved it.  This business of wooden stakes, crosses and churches is absurd too.

     Wait! Who did you say you were?  Oh, yes.  A graduate student.  Anthropology.  And you’re researching cultural diversity in the ghetto.  You’re not a reporter?  If you were a reporter...  

     Now, now, don’t get your feathers ruffled.  You sound like a harpy in hea…estrus.   You’re much too young and pretty for that. And you’re lucky.  I’m feeling verbose this evening.

Where was I? 

     Oh, yes, it was January.  January is a bad month for a ghetto vampire.  Summer is easy.  The alleys and parks are full of food.  It’s hemoglobin haute cuisine.  The winos and addicts pass out and supply a leisurely dinner.  In winter, they all swarm to a shelter or some other warm, public place.  I can tell you, what’s left outside are meager meals.

     Well, there I was, wandering the frozen streets looking for food and all I could find was one desperate little prostitute standing on a corner at the Emporium.

Emporium?  Absurd name, isn’t it?  It’s just several blocks of bars, strip joints and rent-by-the-hour rooms.  Until summer.  In the summer, it’s a pimp, dealer and vampire’s paradise.

The prostitute I’d located wore far too little clothing for the bitter cold.  She’d been self-medicating with heroin.  I could smell it.  Cocaine isn’t bad, it makes the blood sweet.  But heroin is foul, barely edible.  Well, I wasn’t that hungry—yet.

     It was early, so I tried the usual places.  Shooter Park, Medicine Alley—nothing. I finally decided that a smack cocktail was better than going hungry, so I headed back to the whore at the corner.  She still stood there, now shivering in the cold, obviously coming down from her heroin high.  Bless her charming little heart; she smiled when I approached her.  I handed her a generous sum of money, twice her usual fee, hoping she would find a warmer place to work later.  We walked toward an alley for privacy. 

     Then Fate, that constant, unshakable ruler of the universe, came huffing and puffing down the sidewalk.  Providence, destiny, or doom, three hundred-fifty pounds of human male, stuffed in a nauseous green snowsuit, barreled toward me like a charging hippo.  I could see his dreadful little pig eyes shining in the streetlight.

     “Whoremonger,” he screamed. “Fornicator!  Ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

     Then he hit the ice.

     Let me tell you, what happened next was not pretty. 

     He skated ten feet across the frozen sidewalk and slammed into me and the girl like a taxicab on an oil slick.  He knocked the prostitute out of my arms into the gutter, and the sick green mass of his body flattened me as if I were an undead pizza.  

     The little whore in the gutter squealed like a dragon with a toothache.  The trolls in the sewer took up the chorus and that dim-witted werewolf who lives down the block started his infernal howling.  The night air filled with a yammering symphony while I lay on a pile of old needles, pinned down by a grunting, drooling, half-ton behemoth.  My body is almost indestructible, but let me tell you, I can feel pain!

     My first astonished reaction, my first mistake, actually, was to manifest my fangs and try to bite him.  Of course, he reared back, forcing his belly out, crushing me harder against the needles.  He put his hands on either side of my head and heaved himself up, but his arms weren’t strong enough to elevate his massive body.  He kept doing push-ups on top of me, like he’d signed up for a fitness challenge.

     It must have been quite a sight.  Me hissing and snapping while he grunted and popped his butt up and down like a john with a dime-girl in the back alley.  Even the whore stopped wailing to watch. 

     I finally remembered who and what I am, an immortal, incredibly strong vampire.  I rolled him over like a ham on a rotisserie. 

     I hopped to my feet and started removing the needles from my backside.  The trolls and werewolf finally shut up and the whore managed to stagger to her feet.  El Blobbo laid on his back, flopping his arms and legs hiccupping a prayer.

     “Hic...yea, though I walk...Hic...through...Hic, Hic...I will fear no, Hic...evil...”

     Well, I can tell you, I was extremely piss…angry. 

      police patrol car rounded the corner and came at us.  This ghetto has two kinds of cops—pacifists and gorillas.  Pacifists ignore all but the most egregious acts.  Gorillas love their jobs and often manufacture criminals if they can’t locate them the regular way.  Most officers are pacifists, but if you take a pacifist out of his warm car on a freezing January night, he instantly becomes a gorilla. The car slowed so I ran over and knocked on the window.

     “Officers,” I said, “that pig tried to assault my...ah...secretary.”  

     They grumbled a minute, then climbed out and walked over to the inflated swine. 

     The prostitute ran away, and I was right behind her. I caught her and dragged her into a doorway.  After all, she still had my money.  She yelped once, before I mesmerized her. That set the trolls and werewolf off on their chorus again.  I bit down and she swooned in my arms.  Ah, dinner and entertainment.  Four-part harmony from the sewers, balanced with the spectacle of the two gorillas using boot power to stuff Mr. Pukey Green into the back seat of the patrol car.

I thought that was the end of it, but even I miscalculate occasionally.

     June came and the Emporium nights were a veritable banquet of plasma.  I strolled along, rejoicing in the aromatic odors of red and white cells, using my delicate senses to choose the evening’s meal from the feast before me. 

As I rounded the block, I saw him.  Standing on the sidewalk, wrapped in a white tent sized robe, my nemesis had returned.  Bible in one hand and wooden stake in the other, you should have heard him.

“Show me the blood sucking creature from hell and I will smite him,” he roared across the crowd.  “Save your souls brothers and sisters.  Desist from your sinful deeds and let us join together and slay the night-monster in the ruins.”

Can you believe it?  Night Monster in the Ruins?  Standing there in the midst of pimps, prostitutes, druggies and dealers, and all he could rant and rave about was a connoisseur of blood who harmed no one?  I stepped back to retreat and consider my options. Too late. He saw me. He dropped the Bible and took the stake in both hands.

“Die, fiend, die,” he screamed.  Then he charged like massive white buffalo.

A prostitute emerged from one of the rent-by-the-hour rooms that line the sidewalk and stepped directly into his path.

You guessed it!  The same girl he bounced into the gutter in January.  His ramming range had improved—she went at least five feet farther this time.  I nimbly stepped out of the way.

In complete defiance of the laws of gravity and momentum, rather than fall, he pirouetted on one foot and headed toward me again.

I ran.  I wasn’t afraid, you understand, nor am I the violent type.  I would defend myself, but I prefer to solve problems without resorting to force or extravagant actions that draw attention to myself.  I certainly couldn’t do anything front of all those people anyway, so I led him to the abandoned buildings on the next block.

For a fat man, he had amazing stamina.  Maybe his fervor gave him extra strength. And to be honest, he had more courage than most humans.  He followed a vampire into the dark, armed with nothing more than a splinter of wood.

We played cat and mouse in one of the old deserted housing projects until I got tired of the game.  Then I wrecked the stairs so he couldn’t follow me and climbed to the roof. 

The eastern sky had already paled with the coming dawn, and I was going to go to bed hungry.   I stepped to the building’s edge and prepared to fly home, when my pursuer burst out a fire escape door.  Apparently, there was more than one set of stairs.  He raced over, latched onto me like a ravenous parasite. His momentum tipped both of us over the edge of the roof. An open dumpster, half-full of rats, caught us like funnel to a slaughterhouse.  He landed on top.

Yes, it hurt like hell!  The impact fractured every bone in my body and that is not an exaggeration.

So, there we were: a broken vampire, a bruised, but otherwise uninjured zealot and a couple of thousand crushed rats.

I wiggled from under him and climbed out of the dumpster but lost valuable time. Light had increased to a point where my skin tingled in anticipation.  In a few minutes, I would be toast.  There was only one place to go—the sewers. 

Trolls are nice fellows, despite their horrendous odor.  I mean, let’s face it, there’s only one thing to eat down there.  At least they didn’t object to my decoration of rat entrails. That particular group of trolls once lived under the Elite Theatre, and is fond of quoting Shakespeare, interspersed with the occasional bout of boisterous inter-species combat.  I mended quickly, but I got no sleep at all.

There was a ray of sunshine, if you will pardon the pun.  One of the trolls watched from the storm drain and told me that two policemen called a tow truck and hoisted my adversary out of the dumpster.  They hosed off the rat guts at the fire hydrant then booted him in the patrol car again.  Oh yes, it was the same two.

Unfortunately, he was back on his street corner within the week.  This time, however, he brought his downfall with him.  She stood to the side, her eyes casting adoring gazes upon him as he pontificated.  The smile on her luscious mouth never wavered.

Ah, sweet Calliope.  

Much to the consternation of the dealers, whores and pimps, the Reverend Horatio Blimp, and his devoted wife Calliope, had appropriated the best street corner in the Emporium.

What?  I am serious!  Blimp is actually their name.  He had painted it on the side of the van parked at the curb.  I swear on the...well...I probably shouldn’t do that. 

I watched for a while as the Reverend Blimp harangued passers-by, waving bible and stake, and demanded to know the whereabouts of the fanged devil.  Preaching must be hard work.  His chest heaved and sweat rolled down his florid face.  His exhaustion was my good luck. 

He waddled over and climbed in a van.  Would you believe the Blimp-mobile actually had a handicapped sticker and a lift? It spared him the distress of hiking his carcass up one lousy step.

Calliope Blimp remained, standing alone, holding out an empty collection plate to passersby who carefully avoided her.  She looked like a virgin in a whorehouse, hoping for the best.  I sauntered up to her.  Blonde hair, slender as a fairy, she had such a compelling smile and I felt as if I could drown in her sea-green eyes.  I was instantly and truly smitten.

As you may have noted, I’m a brilliant conversationalist.  I soon discovered that the   New Mission Church of the Upcoming and Inevitable Apocalypse had censured and fired the Reverend Blimp for drilling a small hole in the ceiling of the ladies’ restroom.  Eighty-nine-year-old Miss Straussbum had a heart attack when she looked up and saw a single bulging eyeball peering down at her. There was also the problem of the missing building fund.

Of course, Calliope believed none of the accusations.  Others in the church were simply jealous of her husband’s success and devised a nefarious plot to discredit him.  Calliope Blimp was, without a doubt, her husband’s naïve enabler. She supported him and his vocation by working two jobs so he could be free to study and write his sermons.

I suddenly knew how to solve my problem.  I beguiled Calliope and lured her to my crypt under the bankrupt and abandoned Bank of People with Money.  Then I changed her priorities. I blissfully sucked her dry and made her a vampire. 

Ah, Sweet Calliope. Sweet tasty, Calliope.  It had been a hundred years since I’d known such a perfection of blood.  And later, her kisses and caresses were paradise.  She was a novice, but a willing student in matters of love.   Blimp, because of his piousness, or possibly his body mass, couldn’t, or wouldn’t, offer her the physical compensation due a loyal wife.

Unfortunately, there were two unintended consequences of that action.  There were now two vampires in a territory that could barely feed one in the winter. And Blimpie boy returned. 

He walked the streets, growing more decrepit every night.  He moaned, cried and pleaded for her return.  He might have actually lost weight. It was hard to tell.  Even the two gorillas on patrol felt sorry for him and booted him in the patrol car only when he became forcefully disruptive. 

Since most of my peers knew of Calliope’s status with me, my reputation as a benevolent vampire suffered under the strain.  However, sweet, clever, Calliope suggested the perfect solution to our dilemma.   

We simply ran old Blimpie down one night, and we all had supper together.  Then we recruited him for the cause.  We robbed a few pimps and dealers, leased this deserted church, and opened the Chapel of the Redeemers of the Blood Sanctuary and Homeless Shelter.

It’s perfect.  The collection plate is rarely filled enough to pay rent and maintenance, but we do occasionally persuade the merchants of the illegal alternative pharmacy trade to make charitable donations.  After all, it is for a noble cause.  The homeless have good meals and safe place to stay, and we three have all the nourishment we need in the winter.  Blimpie preaches his own personal doctrine of fire and brimstone from the pulpit.  The prostitutes adore him, and he has a number of fervent groupies dedicated to his well-being, including his culinary desires.

As a matter of fact, it’s almost time for the midnight sermon.  I believe the sin of the night is adultery.  It’s Blimpie’s favorite—after gluttony that is.  You are such a lovely creature, my dear.  You must join us at the lecture and stay for dinner.

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