The Taylight Zone - Anthology Nine

16 - Fat Tuesday - Merlyn

(Thanks to Amerika who inspired me to write this, I didn’t know about the wrist thing until now)

Looking back on it now, the whole thing sounds crazy.  I never would have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me.  I’ve heard a lot of stories about vampires, seen the movie Dracula about a million times, hell I’ve even read a few Anne Rice novels, but I never believed that vampires actually existed.  Sometimes, when I’m outside in the bright sunlight, I close my eyes and pretend that they don’t exist.  But then my skin starts to burn and my stomach growls and I’m forced to go back inside where it's dark.
I don’t know why I’m writing this all down.  I’ll probably just end up burning it, just to watch the pages blacken and wither like my life.  I hate my life.  I’d kill myself...but I’m already dead.
We were in New Orleans that week.  I only mention that because it was Mardi Gras.  That plays a big part in my story.  That’s where I met him, at one of the parades.  I think about him a lot.  I miss him.  I think I might even be in love him.  That scares me.
The week started out with a concert at the Palace Theatre 20 on Elmwood Park Boulevard.  That was fun, I’ll have to admit.  We have some great fans in New Orleans and it felt good to be on stage.  I even had fun signing autographs afterwards, which was odd.  Not that my name, Taylor Hanson, is all that hard to spell or anything, my fingers are usually just too tired from playing my keyboards to write.
The next day the parades started.  I woke up that morning to the sound of Creole music outside my window.  I ran out on the balcony and saw hundreds, no thousands of people in the street below, all shouting and cheering, wearing bright gaudy costumes and dancing.  I was pretty excited, I’d never seen a Mardi Gras parade before except on TV.  I threw on some clothes and ran down to the street.
I suddenly found myself in a swirling mist of color and rhythm.  I was pushed in every direction at once by partiers wearing feathers and bells, screaming in my face with their hideous masks and painted faces.  Strands of faux pearls were thrust at me and streamers and confetti fell on me.  Then, far away in the crowd, I saw him.  He was just standing there, same as I was, looking right at me, his ice blue eyes boring holes in my head.  I was compelled to approach him, pushing my way through the crowd.
He smiled at me when I reached him.  “Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I said back.  I watched him as his eyes traveled down my body then back up.
“You’re Taylor Hanson, aren’t you?” he said after a minute.
“Um, yeah,” I said.  He was beginning to make me nervous.  He didn’t say anything so I ventured to speak again.  “So...did you catch the show last night?”
“Nope, I hate your music,” the boy said.
I could feel my face flush.  I was about to turn and leave when he spoke again.
“My name’s Langston.”
“Oh,” I said.  I had no idea what he wanted with me and was eager to leave.  I decided to make up an excuse.  “Hey, I really have to get back, we’re still packing up from last ni-”
“No you don’t,” Langston said.  “You don’t have to be anywhere right now.”  We looked at each other for a minute.  He brushed his blond hair back a little.  “Wanna see something?” he asked.  Something in his eyes told me I’d better not say no.
“Okay,” I said reluctantly.
“Follow me,” he said, and disappeared into the masses.  He moved fast, I could barely keep up with him.  Every time I thought I’d lost him, he’d pop up right in front of me.  He turned a corner and we were out of the masses.  I fell into step beside him.  He said nothing.  Half way down the block, he turned into the alley and stopped.
I looked around.  “Okay,” I said, “what is it you wanted to show me?”  Thankfully, I could still hear the shouts and music in the street.
“Check this out,” he said.  He shoved a cardboard box on its side to reveal a bloody mass of black fur.
“Ew!  What is that?” I asked, taking a step back.
Langston smiled up at me.  “A dead rat,” he said.  “C’mere.”  He knelt down beside it and poked at it with his finger.
“Don’t touch it!” I said.  “That thing can give you diseases.”
Langston just laughed.  He reached down and pried the dead rat open with his hands.
“What are you doing?!” I asked.  This guy was weird!  I would rather be back in the midst of the parade then here with him.
He didn’t look up, or even answer me.  His two fingers caressed the exposed insides of the rat.  He delicately licked some of the blood off his fingers.  He looked at me then.  “Here,” he said, holding his fingers out for me.
“No way!” I said, horrified at what I just saw, my stomach churning.
“Suit yourself,” he said.  With a smile he smeared the rest of the blood across his lips.  His laughter followed me as I ran out of the alley and back into the safety of the parade.
After lunch, I was sitting in my room e-mailing my friends at home with my laptop, when I heard a noise outside my window.  I opened the balcony doors and looked down.  There were still lots of people in the street although the parade had ended.  I looked at the sidewalk and shivered.  Langston was standing there directly below my balcony, looking up at me.  I wondered how long he’d been standing there.
“Taylor!” my mom called from the next room.
“Yeah Mom,” I answered.   
“We’re taking Avery and Jessie to the park,” she said.  “Be back soon.”
“Okay,” I said, turning back to the window.  People were beginning to leave the street.  Langston had left too.  I looked up and down the street but there was no sign of him.  Sighing I turned to go back in my room, when I came face to face with Langston.  I jumped.  “How did you get in here?” I asked.
He just shrugged.  He sat on the edge of my bed.  “So how come you left me earlier?” he asked.  “I thought we were having fun.”
“What do you want?” I demanded.
“What do you mean, what do I want?  I want you,” he said, standing up.  He came closer to me and I backed up.
“Okay, I don’t know what kind of drugs you’re on, but get out of my room,” I said.  He was still advancing toward me.  I felt my back press up against the wall.  A moment later I felt Langston’s body pressing against me too.  His breathing was long and labored.  His arms crept around my waist, pulling me to him.  I didn’t know what to do, I’d never been in this situation with a girl, let alone another boy. I knew I should push him away, but I could not move.
Someone was pounding on the door.  “Hey Tay are you in there?” Zac called from the other side.  “Open up.”
Langston’s arms fell away from my waist as I opened the door for my little brother.  When I turned around he was sitting on my bed again.
“Whatcha doing up here?  Who’s your friend?” Zac asked.
"Uh, this is Langston,” I mumbled.  I was still a little confused about what was happening and it was giving me a headache.  I sat at the desk and rubbed my temples.
“Oh, well Ike and I were gonna go check out the beaches while Mom and Dad are gone with the girls, wanna come?” Zac asked.
“Yeah sure,” I said.  I needed to get out, and maybe the salty gulf air would clear my head.
“Your friend can come too...hey...where is your friend?” Zac said, glancing at the bed.
“Oh, he disappeared again,” I said, smiling.  “He does that a lot.  Don’t worry about it.”
The next day Langston was standing below my balcony again, waiting for me to wake up.  I needed to talk to him badly, so I quickly got dressed, put my hair back, and went down to the street.  Early partiers were already milling around, preparing for the next parade.  Langston smiled as I approached him.
“Langston, we need to talk,” I began.
He nodded.  “Let’s walk,” he said.
“I’m really sorry to have to tell you this,” I said as we headed down the street dodging the costumed commonality now gathering rapidly on the pavement, “but I just don’t feel the same way about you as you do about me.  No offense.”
“None taken,” he said.
“I’m sure you’re a wonderful guy and all, but I’m just more into girls, know what I mean?” I added.
“Yes, I know what you mean,” he said.  “I’m not gay either.”
A tall person in a bright blue-feathered costume pushed between us.
“Then why did you do that yesterday?” I asked, confused.
“Do what?” Langston asked innocently.
“Well if I didn’t know better, I’d say that you tried to kiss me,” I said.
“Mmm, yes...” he said, sounding slightly amused, a flicker of a smile playing across his lips.  We walked in silence.  We had now reached a residential neighborhood, the music and shouts of the forming parade as distant as the roar of the gulf waters on the shore a half mile away.  It was very calm and peaceful here.  An occasional car drove past at school zone speeds, but that was the only movement save for the leaves in the trees and me and Langston walking.  Up ahead, a little dog was sniffing at some bushes.  As we came nearer, he looked up.
“Hi, puppy!” I said, attempting to pet him.  His shaggy tan fur was warm from the hot sun.  He licked my hand and wagged his tail.  Abruptly he was covered by a shadow.  Langston had come closer, blocking out the sun, his figure silhouetted.  The little dog turned his brown eyes up to him and his black lips curled back.  His soft growls became louder and louder.  His tail had stopped wagging and he had settled back on his haunches, ready to strike.  Langston just stared at the dog, a low growl emitting from his own throat.  Without warning, his snarl rose in both volume and pitch, sounding like and angry wildcat, trailing off in an ominous hiss.  The little dog whimpered, took a few tentative steps back, then turned tail and ran.
I stood up, looking in fear at Langston.  He just shrugged.  “Dogs don’t really like me,” he said, as if that explained everything, and he began walking again.  I hesitated a moment, then followed.
A few minutes later he stopped in front of a big white house, three stories, complete with dark green shutters on every window, a chimney, a flower garden, a porch swing, ivy growing up the sides, all surrounded by a white picket fence.  The American Dream and full of Southern charm.  He opened the gate and motioned for me to step inside.  I looked at him questioningly.
“It’s my house,” he clarified.
“Oh,” I said, and stepped inside.  I followed him up to his room, listening to him complain about the sun.  He opened his bedroom door and gently pushed me inside.  He closed the door behind us.  I looked around.  The room was black.  The walls were black, the ceiling was black, even the hardwood floor was painted black.  Dark shades in the solitary window blocked out any light that would have done little to brighten the room had it been allowed in.
Langston walked over to his dresser and picked up a book of matches.  He lit one, held it up to his face and breathed in.  “I love the smell of sulphur,” he whispered, and turned to light the candles.  There were lots of candles, they were all over the room.  Some were long, slender tapers, others fat cylinders of wax, some broken, some half consumed, all black.  Except for one.  One red candle stood on the table by the bed, and when he lit it, the flame was black and the melted wax slid down the wick, glistening blood red in the flickering light.
He walked over to me then, and pulled the rubber band from my hair.  It fell down around my face in soft wisps.  “I like you better with your hair down,” he said.  He quickly brushed my lips with his then sat on the bed.  He motioned for me to join him.
Ignoring his invitation I began walking about the room, taking in its strangeness in its entirety.  There was little else by way of furniture besides the bed, the dresser, and the small table, but by the closet door was a wooden chair, old and dusty.  There was also a stereo by the window.  It was the only thing in the room that looked 20th century.  I made myself busy looking at it to avoid Langston’s watchful glare.
He observed me for a minute, then reached for the remote.  He pushed play and music blared from the speakers.  I leapt back.  Langston laughed.  “Relax, it’s just Manson,” he said.  He lay on his side on the bed, his eyes never leaving me.  The minutes past, each one longer than the one preceding it.
“Why did you bring me here?” I finally asked.  He slid off the bed and came over to me.  He took my hand and brought it to his lips, delicately kissing my fingertips, taking them into his small mouth, caressing them with his tongue.
“Because I need you,” he breathed.  He pulled me closer and kissed me deeply, his lips were soft against mine.  His hand moved down to the small my back, pulling me closer still.  His other hand moved up my inner thigh, slowly, temptingly.  “Long legs lead to a sweet address,” he whispered against my mouth.  A suppressed moan escaped from my lips as I felt myself losing control as his fingers brushed against my “sweet address”.
He tilted my head to one side and brushed my hair off my neck.  “You’re so perfect,” he uttered under his breath.  He began kissing my neck, tasting my flesh as if it were made of sugar.  His tongue found the carotid artery and his heartbeat quickened at the feel of my pulse.  “It’s time,” he whispered.  His sharp teeth grazed my skin.  Startled, I pulled away just in time to see the gleam of his pointed white teeth before he closed his mouth.  I stared at him for a moment, the realization of what he was sinking in.  Then, without a word from either of us, I turned and ran out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the house.  The bright sunshine was blinding.  I couldn’t see where I was running, just ran, ran toward the voices and the music of the parades.  I could hear him behind me; his footfalls were heavy and close.  I didn’t dare turn around.
“Taylor, come back!  Wait, I can explain!” he called after me.
Explain?!  What was there to explain?  I saw his teeth, I knew what he wanted to do to me!  I reached the parade and tried to lose myself in the crowd.  I kept looking around frantically, scared I would see his face.  It felt like everyone was gathering around me, laughing, taunting, screaming, their grotesque masks horribly shoved in my face everywhere I turned.  The streets were so crowded I could barely move.  The ground was littered with feathers and beads and gold doubloons and more was being thrown from the parade floats.  And those horrible masks, I couldn’t get away from them.  They kept pulling me deeper and deeper into the mass.  The heat emanating from all the bodies so close was making me dizzy.  Colors spun together, the music muted, the faces blurred.  I felt myself falling...
I woke up in my bed.  The radio was on.  The announcer’s voice was soft and smooth, slinky and rich with the New Orleans accent.
“...that’s right cats, tomorrow’s the big day, Fat Tuesday, the Mardi get ready for the biggest parades, the sweetest music, and the craziest parties...oh that’s what I’m talkin’ about...tomorrow you’d better grab your mask and head on down to the streets ‘cause that’s where all the action’s at...plenty of ladies will be out flashin’ for some pearls and the view will be good...don’t wanna miss Mardi Gras, no get your tired ass out on the street tomorrow...”
I fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of rain pattering against the window pane.  Someone was sitting on the edge of my bed.  “Mom...” I mumbled.  My head still hurt like hell.
“You left in a hurry yesterday, I was afraid something was wrong,” a familiar but frightening voice said.
I sat up straight.  “How did you get in here?” I shouted.
“Shh,” Langston said.  “Relax, I’m not going to hurt you.  I just want to look at you,” he said, brushing my bed-slept hair out of my eyes.  “Can I ask you something?” he asked.
“Mmm,” I nodded.
“Why do you always run away from me?  I don’t understand.  It’s usually not this hard,” he said.
“Maybe I’m the only one smart enough to run,” I muttered.
“Maybe,” he said absently.  “You’re the first guy I’ve ever done this to.  The rest were all girls,” he said, standing up and coming around to the other side of my bed.  “I think it’s okay though, as long as you’re a virgin.”  He sat next to me and pulled my hair back.  “God, you’re so perfect,” he sighed, running his finger down my neck.
“Isn’t there anyone else you can do this to?” I asked.
“No.  I need you.  I want you,” he said, not taking his eyes off my neck.
“There’s got to be someone-”
“Taylor, I’m hungry!” he shouted desperately.  “Why are you making this so hard?”
I sat there for a moment, my knees drawn up to my chest.  “I don’t wanna die,” I said finally.
“You don’t have to,” he said.  Our eyes met.  He brought his face closer.  “Lay down,” he whispered into my hair.  Langston rolled on top of me, pressing me into the bed.  His savory kisses were dangerous, more heated than before.  His warm, soft tongue ran along the inside of my cheek, sweet as a butterfly kiss.  A sigh escaped from his lips as his kisses moved down my chin and across my throat.  I could feel his body convulse slightly as he relocated the carotid with his mouth.  A couple soft kisses and he was ready.  “The Devil’s coming soon,” he whispered as his teeth sunk in, deep and ravenous.  He fed like a flower drinking from the falling rain, and I felt myself getting weaker.  My breathing slowed and the pressure in my head decreased.
Finally, he stopped.  He sat up on me, wiping a trickle of crimson from the corner of his mouth.  He brought his wrist up to his lips and tore at it with his teeth until he bled.  He thrust it in my face.
“Here,” he said, pressing it against my mouth.  “Taste it,”
I stuck my tongue out and tentatively licked the wound.
“No, more!” he said, smashing it so hard against my mouth that it brought tears to my eyes.  I put my mouth around the hole and sucked as hard as I could, feeling the warm, thick liquid roll down my throat, the chalkiness of it stinging my taste buds like copper.
That’s pretty much all I can remember of that day.  It’s easy to forget the things that hurt you.  But I will never, ever forget how his body felt against mine, and the fear I felt when I looked into his eyes, and the awful masks of the Mardi Gras.  Sometimes I wish I’d just let him kill me.  Death would be better than this, than having to kill for your next meal, living off the blood of innocent people.
I’m so hungry now.  Avery is sound asleep in the next room.  I just checked on her, she looks so sweet and angelic laying there in her little bed.  I love my little sister with all my heart, but still I have to eat somehow...