a short fiction: “Poison”

September 25, 2011

To reward all my patient fans who have been begging for more stories set in the universe where my vampires preen and emo and thrill-kill, I present a story that was written shortly after Voice of the Blood. Comment away!
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“Poison”
After tonight never again… I swear to any god you like that I won’t do this shit any more. Look at this — my hand is shaking like an alcoholic granddad, spilling my hard-fought perfect coffee mixture onto the saucer. Five sugars, three miniature white plastic trash cans of half&half. (So what? I need my cheap energy; it’s served me well in my line of work so far. Ask any cop, G.I., or IRA terrorist.) Good Lord this night is bleak, seen through the shimmery cheap windows of the Carrow’s (like Denny’s only more pathetic with its intimations of quality and family dining atmosphere). Trucks keep on passing by, or worse, stopping here. Other poor degenerate fucks like me.

“What’s brought on this fugue, this funk, my dapper young gentleman?” you may ask. By all appearances all is well — there’s just a tall skinny chap in black jeans and artfully rumpled white shirt, over there alone in that greenish booth, having some coffee and pie. But you see I’ve come to a crisis; you might say a turning point in my career. Not mid-life; the life expectancy of guys in my line of work is about four years younger than I am. I’ve outlasted and outlived most of the excitable, upwardly-moral young turks who think they can do what I’ve done.

I’ve seen legions of them die horrible deaths ripped into pieces like a Tyson chicken, jerking headless upon the ground, or simply bleeding to death from poetic wounds in their tender, porous necks. I was lucky and they weren’t. That part of it makes me sick. It used to motivate me — I’d say, This one’s for Little Lester, this one’s for Jason, Ricky, Alistair. But no matter how much blood I shed, it doesn’t bring back those young faces, those delicate hands too new to be gnarled. It doesn’t make me feel any better.

Before ten o’clock this evening, I killed children of the night. I didn’t even do it for a living, like some action-filled Fox Television horror/drama. I didn’t get paid, except for reclaiming the red-sodden dollars from the pockets of my shrivelling victims. I just did it out of some skewed moral purpose, I think; now I don’t remember. It all seems so abstract. And my concretes are all so hideous like I’ve had toomany bad mushrooms. For example, this is absolutely some of the worst pie I’ve ever encountered in all my travels.

In my thirty years I’ve killed sixty-three vampires. I’ve also killed fourteen human beings, mostly because I couldn’t help it or they were ready to croak anyway. In Minnesota I shot a thirteen-year-old girl through the forehead; she was being held up as a body shield by a particularly wily old bloodsucker from South Africa and I knew from past experience with him that he’d break her neck rather than let me get through. I watched his startled expression as I shot him through the eye and then struck off his head with a single blow of my cleaver. Took three days for me to scrub the blood from under my fingernails — that shit’s like chocolate pudding, it stains.

I would do this to myself while I’m eating. This apple pie redefines “nauseating” especially with the remarkably bad decision to have it a la mode. I don’t find it the least bit fashionable to have excrable vanilla leatherette crawling all over my pie. And I’m not even particularly romantically attached to the pie. Why the hell did I get apple when I really wanted cherry?

After tonight never again.

I don’t know what got to me about tonight particularly. It was an average attack; a suburban duplex, early evening when the vamps are awake but still rather groggy from the day’s heat. Two young women and an older man, sprawled on the coolness of a waterbed. Strangely they weren’t expecting me; many’s the time I show up ready to kick butt to find the butt-kickees gone, leaving me a note saying There’s milk and cookies by the fireplace. Love, Satan. I was alone tonight. The first girl went without a whimper; she didn’t feel a thing as her spinal column split. The second girl fought half-heartedly, broken up over the other; the two looked as alike as sisters, dressed in sleazy baby tees and stained panties.

The guy was the one who got me though. He jumped on my back as I was taking care of the second sister and I felt his claws try to rake through my jacket. It tore, which is why I’m not wearing it now, but didn’t pierce me. I kicked him off me and began double-fisting him — stake, cleaver, stake, cleaver, stake, cleaver. I can’t describe what he looked like when I finally lost my breath and fell backward, hyperventilating; I don’t want to describe it, I don’t want to think about it. It’s a sight nobody sane should ever experience.

And what makes me think I’m sane? I spent twelve years chopping living breathing holy creatures into Alpo. I skewered fair-skinned children with the casual aplomb of a Mussolini hollowing out a cigar with a pencil. I used to tell myself, They had a choice. Nobody forced that sizzling admixture of virus and ectoplasm down their throat and forced them to swallow… But this is all no different from the fact that no one forced me to take up the stake and the butcher-knife and hunt them down. They were seduced by the same romance, the chance to become part of something bigger, something noble, something beautiful. They were going to become angels. I was going to become a crusader, a knight in shining leather bomber jacket. We shared the insatiable desire for blood.

There’s a theory that the illustrious Dr. Van Helsing was actually a vampire.

The waitress refills my squat china cup, going back on her way, fat ass undulating in her brown dress. I watch the ass as it goes upon its way; almost a separate entity from the automaton of a server. When I turn back you are sitting across from me in the booth, hands folded neatly, smiling at me.

You’re a cute little killer, I have to admit; cascades of dark-red curly hair, freckles, poky boobs greeting me from under an innocent white T-shirt. I pretend that nothing’s happened, and begin doctoring my coffee. Three trash cans, five packets of blow. Your eyes examine me while I do this, then glance at me again.

So you’re giving it up, you say.

“I’m tired,” I say out loud. It’s not very loud.

Can I have a bite of your pie?

I slide the plate across the table with my fingertips. You bite and chew the strange substance, the golden goo sticking to your teeth, cinnamon and nutmeg catching between your fangs and your human teeth. By your expression, you regret the pie as much as I.

Should’ve gone for the cherry.

That gets a smile out of me. “So what do you want?” I ask conversationally, watching your lead-colored claws tapping out a purling rhythm on the yellow formica.

I’m glad, you say.

I shake my head. I wish I could say I was glad, but I don’t. I don’t feel anything at all.

I’ve never sat with a vampire like I’m sitting here with you, just talking quietly. Vampires have spoken to me before; they drill their hate directly into my brain, calling me every kind of bastard, every kind of pig-fucking murderer. They hate me because they can talk to me, but they can’t manipulate me into doing anything. Ricky — that South African vampire made Ricky chop off his own hand with the meat cleaver. He tried to do the same to me and I just stared at him.

The vampire had smiled at me.

The waitress brings another cup and asks you if you want coffee. You look up at her and say in the softest, sweetest voice, “No, thanks.” Then you look at me again. “It’s not ‘them’ anymore, Raymond,” you say. “It’s no longer ‘us against them’. The fight’s over.”

“And I lose,” I say.

“No, nobody loses,” you say. “You only lose when you’re fighting.” You touch a small ragged hole in my shirt. “Hm?”

“Acid.”

“That’s mean.”

“It works,” I say. “Can’t come back if you’re reduced to a pile of your constituent elements.”

You quietly laugh.

I feel better somewhere in my soul. Both of us ignore the pie, and you watch me thirstily drinking the coffee mixture, syrupy at the bottom, swirly on top. You smile at me again. Why don’t you come over to my place, you say to me. And I close my eyes and can’t think of anything I want more. I’ve always been with you. You knew it all along; that’s why you laugh, you smile; you knew all along.

We get up out of the booth. I drop four bucks on the table — the waitress doesn’t deserve more, I’m afraid. You loop your arm in mine and we desert the Carrow’s, head off down the road together.

You show me the night-dark city, and all the reasons why.

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Fiend

June 25, 2011

FIEND - a novel by Jemiah Jefferson

May 2011

Fiend

This is my favorite of all four vampire books. The story of Orfeo Ricari from his childhood in early 19th century Italy to his tumultuous journey to Paris, and his blood-soaked rebirth as a vampire in the hands of the lovers Maria and Georgina, it’s funny and tragic and terribly sexy. Unforgettable characters – Father Christopher, Ricari’s confessor and friend; Liesl and her fashionable jazz-age Berlin pals; Arthur Chicot and the vampires of Montmartre; Maria Elena, Orfeo’s sister, and his very first love. An imaginary memoir of a 200-year-old bisexual artist. A revelation of many truths that affect the entire Vampire Quartet of books.

During the writing of this book, I saw a long-term relationship finally collapse and burn out to nothing but scars and ashes; I sustained an ankle injury that would weaken me for the rest of my life; I endured months of painful and unpleasant treatment for uveitis, which caused me to continue working on the draft in 24-point gray text on a black background, because any bright background on a computer was impossible to focus on; I listened to Mozart’s Requiem Mass and the early works of the Cocteau Twins until I could practically sing them from memory. It was a hard twelve months, but every day I returned to the mind of Orfeo, and told his story in his own words, inspired by the works of Thomas DeQuincey, Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Christopher Isherwood, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. As I wrote, I mentally translated all of the text into French (Orfeo’s primary language), and then back again; if you have much Français, try backtranslating it; there are several language jokes hidden in the text. Also, if you’re astute, look for pop song references, particularly from the lyrics of Morrissey, Peter Murphy, and David Sylvian, from whose song “Orpheus” Orfeo took his name. (If only I had been more knowledgable at the time of writing, the works of Scott Walker would have made it in there, too, but one of the reasons I love Scott Walker is that I don’t even have to steal from him; he was a part of me long before I was aware of his music.)

The first ten pages of this book can be read through the handy-dandy Amazon link.

All about Orfeo

May 29, 2011

As a companion piece to the blog I wrote for the Dorchester Publishing website about Lovely, by popular demand (well, two people on Facebook) I will take a similar approach to another immensely popular character from the vampire novels. I’d like to write about pretty much every character – even the minor characters often have detailed backstories – in the future, but one at a time, and all things in their time.

Orfeo Ricari is definitely one of my favorite characters. He might have been the first one I thought of – though more likely he came to mind simultaneously with his nemesis/lover/frenemy Daniel Blum, knitting himself together out of the loose threads of watching Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash interact on stage during the live segments of the Bauhaus concert film, Archive. I knew some things about the history of Bauhaus, and of the simultaneously admiring and resentful relationship between Murphy and Ash (which was much more Murphy vs. everybody else, and really, barely even that), but by God, those two skinny English boys sure looked hot together. Whether they were actually hooking up or not (signs, sadly, point to “not”), their stage interactions evoked unspeakable sexual congress and warfare with a side order of punk-rock fun. Sure, they totally stole these panty-wetting moves from David Bowie and Mick Ronson, but even so, with Peter and Daniel, it was as likely that somebody was going to end up dead when they got off; and David J’s carefully neutral avoidance of the whole dance suggested that it wouldnt be the first time that had happened, and he was damned if he was going to be next.

So, despite a joke I like to make, Voice of the Blood isn’t really Bauhaus fanfic – I didn’t know enough about the actual band to write anything about them, nor was I interested in writing about them specifically, as two guys in a band from Northampton. The characters they inspired got me obsessing and scribbling.

Thus: Orfeo Ricari. His name’s a grab bag: Orfeo from the David Sylvian song “Orpheus”, still a favorite, and a great showcase for Sylvian’s gorgeous, sexy-gothic-stolen-from-Bowie baritone; the song itself based on the Cocteau film, I’m sure; and Ricari because I thought it was an Italian name. It’s not; it’s Spanish. (I make shit up, and I often get it wrong if it actually exists. Novels are handsome lies.) Whatever the source of the name, Orfeo is Italian, through and through, full stop. I don’t know why, exactly; he just is. And rather than be the (at the time) stereotypical southern Italian/Sicilian of looks, dark hair and skin and eyes, Orfeo looks more Continental, possessed of a naturally pale, strawberries-in-snow complexion, pure gray eyes, and the hair color described on boxes of Miss Clairol dye as “Dark Ash Blonde”.

His history is recounted in Fiend, my favorite of the four books, possibly because it really is just one person’s story, but also that of several prominent others: Daniel Blum, George, Maria, Liesl, and even Orfeo’s sister Maria Elena, the woman of whom Ariane would so strongly remind him. Orfeo was born in 1798 in Campania, youngest of seven of whom five survived; Orfeo the only surviving son. He was what you might not want to term a “sissy”, but you wouldn’t be wrong if you did. He wasn’t like the girls, but he definitely wasn’t like the boys, either. He liked painting and poetry and philosophy; he was a spoiled, belittled, coddled princelet, as bored by his advantages and as subconsciously thrill-seeking as his later encounters, Daniel Blum and Ariane Dempsey.

Orfeo came to mind both fully-formed and malleable by my own experiences and learning. I easily envisoned the adult, vampire Orfeo in Paris; in the streets of the same Berlin imagined in Cabaret; daydreaming in the back of a taxi in post-war London; elegantly gesturing for the check in one of the swanky cocktail bars I longed to infiltrate in 1990s San Francisco (in particular, Tosca, which is the bar with red booths and waitstaff in black satin where he and Ariane spend a lot of time). Orfeo would always look the same; would always dress the same, would always get away with it. Creamy satin or linen shirt, worn baggy on his wire-thin frame (not quite pirate-poofy, but close); slim-fit trousers; shined brogues or oxfords, sometimes with spats; sometimes a snug waistcoat to display his 26-inch waist; a classic camel trenchcoat. He’s tiny, five feet four, one hundred pounds, and looks like he’s stepped out of a dagguerotype or a classic-Hollywood headshot. Generally calm, melancholy, and fatalistic, but with a vicious temper, and a tendency to, in anger, say and do the most hurtful things he can imagine. He inspires love rather than friendship; he’s hard to live with, moody and introspective, but fun to go out with, when his generous nature can kick into high gear.

He looks like a porcelain elf doll, but he’s as tough as nails; he’s a fighter and a survivor. His Catholic faith sustains and absolves him, even as his faith is shaken and even abandoned; it always returns.

So does he.

Watching The Pied Piper, a fluffy 1973 lark with Donovan acting in it. I don’t have much hope that this movie will actually be much good (It’s a “Goodtimes Enterprises Film” – oy vey) though it does have John Hurt and Donald Pleasance in… wait, that’s no guarantee of anything. Diana Dors as “Frau Poppendick”? Good lord, what have I gotten myself into?

Well, I count Donovan as one of my muses (along with such notables as John Taylor, Peter Murphy, Montgomery Clift, Alex Colby, and that cute little skank Jeremy from high school) and have been inspired by him to write much material. I am now in the process of revising the novel-sized chunk of said material, originally written when I was 19 and a college sophomore and had a single room. I’ve been off the Donovan crack pipe for quite some time now – one bad LSD trip will do that to you – actually, no, it was because Nick Cave took over and blotted out the sun – and I lost all my original Donovan vinyl – but I want to recall that sweet mania that drove me to write that novel in the first place.

To that end I will re-educate myself about the sound of his voice, for that was the conduit that the holy madness was first transmitted to me. I had barely ever seen a photograph of him until years after I had obsessively collected all his records and spent my first summer home from college being soothed by the songs, nostalgic for soft Portland rain and not the violence of Denver sunshine. Donovan is one of those fellows whose voice is substantially more beautiful than his face – though, I could be mistaken. I’ve never seen Donovan in a movie before.

Hell, I watched The Magic Christian just because Ringo Starr was in it, and I don’t even fancy Ringo.

Wish me luck. Frau Poppendick. I swear.

late-night mind movies

July 30, 2010

A lot of attention being paid to dreams these days; a lot of opinions being batted around about their depictions in media. It isn’t just how hot Joseph Gordon-Levitt looked in his bespoke suits or Tom Hardy’s inexplicable accent that has people talking about Inception. (Let’s ignore hype for a moment.) Dreams are, whether you personally believe it or not, are one of those universal experiences, and yet, none are ever the same. Still, recognizable themes run throughout, most frequently, that of personal danger, libido, and recognition of objects or places from life, even if that only takes the form of language being present. Trust me; you dream, unless your brain is malfunctioning, and in that case, please seek immediate medical attention.

I write about dreams quite a bit; I’m one of those lazy people who, when some transition or experience is better expressed in terms of metaphor, likes to have someone dream about something. I don’t know where I picked that up. My own dreams are nowhere near as literally explainable. I have intense, vivid dreams every single night, and for the last few months, I’ve been able to recall them in detail for a long time after I wake up. I’m not writing them down – that would eat up way too much time first thing in the morning, when I’d rather be hitting the snooze alarm and revisiting the dream I’m having. Still, though, they are rich and dense. Occasionally in my life, I go through periods where I dream intensely for several months, sometimes with good recall, sometimes not; there are various psychological theories why this might occur. I don’t know. I’m writing a novel right now, just about halfway through the first draft, and I don’t dream about my story at all (I rarely dream about myself as a participant at all, just a viewer). The characters aren’t telling me what to do in the dreams. It doesn’t work like that for me. Any one of the dreams I’ve had in the last seven months would make a novel all by itself, had I the folly of trying to write it out. That’s all right; I’m writing this book right now, thank you very much, and it still needs me to be present in it.

That makes three “realities” I have to exist in – the top world, the dream world, and the world of the novel (and then the sub-realities of the various TV shows, movies, and books I’m experiencing). It’s . . . somewhat exhausting.