Jolina struggled against her restraints as the first hints of sun peeked over the horizon. Her skin tingled, and she knew that tingle would soon increase to an itch and then to a burn as the sun rose. Easton squirmed next to her trying to free himself of the plastic zip ties.
The vampire hunters had been stealthy, ambushing Jolina and Easton as they were leaving their home for the evening. One second, they were chatting on their stoop as Easton jiggled the handle to make sure the door was locked, and the next, strangers had them surrounded, placing hoods over their heads and restraining their hands with zip ties.
The attackers had argued amongst themselves as they loaded Jolina and Easton into the back of a nondescript van.
Rumors of this kind of thing had been circulating since the Vampire Council had decided to come forward two years before. Vampires, both proclaimed and those still in the closet, were disappearing, and a few non-vampires had come forward with tales of abduction and being tied up and left for the sun. The abductors always wore masks and gloves and used generic zip ties that could be purchased anywhere. Anyone that survived had been retrieved later in the morning and dropped off near their homes.
“How did we get here?” Jolina asked mournfully, not expecting an answer.
There was a moment of silence before Easton responded. “Maybe we decided to come out too soon. They weren’t ready for us after all.”
Two years earlier…
“Look at their media!” Jessabelle pointed out in her southern twang. “It seems like every-other movie or book has something to do with vampires. Twilight, True Blood, even kid shows like Vampirina!” She ticked off on her fingers.
The Vampire Council was meeting in Toronto this year at the estate of esteemed member Gregory due to the extended nights this time of year and the wonderful nightlife.
The twelve members of the council were gathered in Gregory’s conservatory having a cocktail and discussing the latest events when the topic of coming out surfaced as it did every few years.
“I for one,” chimed in Mortimer from the corner, “can’t wait to stop hiding. Do you know how hard it is to find a soulmate when you can’t tell them why you can’t go out in the day unless you risk scaring them off? The only females open to it are those crazy, Goth, vampire wannabes. I had to wipe the memory of the last girl I dated because she freaked out when I revealed myself.”
“Perhaps she only pretended that being a vampire was the deal-breaker,” Easton whispered to Jolina next to him on the settee. It was a low whisper, but everyone could hear them with their sensitive vampire hearing. Several participants chuckled discreetly.
“Laugh all you want,” Mortimer frowned. “You at least have each other. It’s not like I can go to VampiresOnly.com.”
“Actually, a vamps-only social media app may not be a bad idea,” Kendrick joined in.
“You’re missing the point.” Jessabelle tapped her food in frustration. “Living forever kind of sucks if we have to keep living in the shadows. We’re always moving; there’s no personal connection."
“You know this is the way things have always been,” Gwyneth smirked into her drink.
“But it doesn’t have to be,” Jessabelle retorted.
“Think about what happened in Strasbourg in 1780 and what happened with the Habsburgs!” Gwyneth responded.
“That was almost 250 years ago!” Jessabelle objected passionately.
“And what about when Ozzy bit that bat in ‘82?!” Gwyneth asked. “That was less than 40 years ago.”
“You know Ozzy was always an outlier. If he would have just coordinated better...”
“Coordination has nothing to do with not listening to his master and the council and giving himself a reputation as a crazy man. No one will ever take him seriously now.”
“This conversation is going to go around in circles just like they always do,” Jolina said, rolling her eyes.
“What if I told you we had a plan?” Jessabelle asked.
“Are you going to amuse us with a PowerPoint?” Easton mocked.
Jessabelle looked to Mortimer with a moment of hesitation and then nodded. Mortimer retrieved his mobile phone from his pocket and used it to dim the room’s light and start a projector that was nestled in an alcove and focused on a blank wall.
The group turned to see what was being projected on the wall, and Easton put his palm to his forehead. The slide read, “The Case For Vampire Openness” and included an illustrated vampire with fangs and a cape sitting up in a coffin.
“They actually have a PowerPoint!” laughed Gwyneth.
Mortimer cleared his throat. “Jessabelle and I have put a lot of thought into this and think it can work. If you’ll just pay attention to our presentation…”
“Why do I feel like I’m going to get suckered into a timeshare?” Easton leaned back on the green satin sofa.
Mortimer pressed the button for the next slide, and the title slide dissolved to a burgundy background with black bullet points listing several movies, books, and television shows... “We feel that society has come to a point where they are ready and even clamoring for us. As Jessabelle already said, vampires factor heavily in their media and literature. Vampires are being seen as seductive and restrained. This is exactly what we’ve needed.” He clicked to another side with a pie chart. “Our polls show that 19% of people already believe in vampires, and this next slide shows that 70% think of vampires in a positive light.” He clicked to the next slide which included more bullet points. “We have a five-point plan which will allow those who wish to come out and live in the open.
“First, we put out our own vampire quote-unquote fiction that is in actuality a glorified version of the truth that will paint us in the best possible light. We start some trending hashtags. We build the vampire reputation to a new pinnacle. We follow that with some well-placed rumors about it being true. After that, we select a well-known and honorable representative to come forward, someone like Tom Hanks.”
“Tom won’t want to come forward,” Jolina interjected. “You know he tries very hard to portray an aging man so that no one suspects him. You think he wants to go through all of that makeup and glamor just so he can keep his career?”
“If he comes forward, he won’t need to disguise himself and can go back to playing younger roles. Once he has come forward, lesser-knowns can come forward. There might be some incredulity, so finally, we pull out the big guns to convince everyone and bring the old-timers like Elvis out of retirement.”
“I just talked to Elvis last week, and he said he was having a good time in San Antonio. He runs a little cantina on the riverwalk. I really think he’d rather stay retired,” Easton said.
“You think he wouldn’t want some of that old fame back? Or maybe he would do it for the greater vampire good.” Mortimer sounded like he was starting to grasp at straws.
Jessabelle took the phone from Mortimer to gain control of the slides and clicked to the next frame. “This is the ‘What’s in it for me?’ As you can see here, there are the standard points like the freedom of being able to live in the open, but we’ve added a couple points that haven’t been discussed before. One is that after we come forward, industries will find better ways to cater to us like late-night dry cleaners and package deliveries. We will also see stock prices climb in sectors for these companies. We will be on the ground floor for purchasing these stocks before they go up.”
There were some nods around the room as some of the attendees started to buy into what Jessabelle and Mortimer were selling. They may not feel the need to come out themselves or may even still have some of that old fear of the hunters like VanHelsing, but their portfolios could use a little boost. It got expensive to live forever, and night shift jobs were either rare or tended to not be desirable work for the undead.
“And what about any… legal issues that might come up? We are mostly living under assumed identities.” Gregory cradled his wine glass, and the contents clung to the side. “We would not be considered legal in our countries or be able to get jobs or own property.”
“We’ve already been endorsing politicians that support laws that would assist us like the Dreamer Act that allows immigrants to come forward and have a legal path to citizenship. In the meantime, we can use loopholes like moving property under our corporations or the names of our living servants.” Jessabelle moved forward to the final slide which held a single question: What would you do if you could live openly?
“Can you believe them?” Jolina asked Easton, her voice mumbled around her toothbrush. They were getting ready for bed, and Easton was changing into his pajamas while Jolina paced as she brushed her teeth. “I mean... A PowerPoint?!”
“You’re right, but we have been saying for years we needed to wait until the data supported that it is the right time for us to come out.” Easton pulled his shirt over his head. “A PowerPoint is a good way to show the data. They even had charts.”
“Yes, and we both know how Gregory loves charts. He’s probably sharpening his pencil to cast his vote right now.”
“I wonder where the others fall. They can’t seriously be considering it.”
They settled into bed and pulled up the comforter. “I think that Mortimer believes coming out will make him attractive,” Easton said with a chuckle.
“He probably should have worked a little harder on his physical appearance before his transformation, or at least worked harder on his personality since his transformation,” Jolina giggled. “He’s had a hundred years to figure it out.”
The navy velvet dome of sky stretched above as the vampire council met in the torch-lit semi-circle on the beach. Their crimson robes glowed in the flames as they formed the ceremonial circle. The twelve members of the council hummed a chant, swaying as the winter stars twinkled. After a few minutes, the chanting stopped, and Gregory stepped forward.
“Welcome, my friends, to the annual meeting of the Vampire Council. I am so glad we were all able to come together, and I hope that you have enjoyed your stay at my estate.”
The crowd gave a smattering of polite applause.
Gregory continued, “This year has been a big one for us, and we have had much discussion on the topic of whether we should go public.”
Several attendants clapped while others were stoically silent.
“We are divided into two camps: those who believe that we should remain anonymous and those who would like to live openly. I now request that a representative from each side step forward with your final argument before our vote.”
Jessabelle and Easton stepped toward the center of the circle.
Gregory nodded to Jessabelle. “Jessabelle, I will ask you to start since you are requesting the change to our status quo.”
“Thank you,” Jessabelle nodded back, and she slowly turned to face each of the council members as she spoke. “What Mortimer and I are asking, and really what many others have been craving, is not that every vampire come forward. We may no longer be able to step into the sun, but what we want, indeed, what we need,” her southern accent had grown thicker with her practiced speech, “is to have the chance to step into the light, the light of acceptance, and leave the darkness of hiding in fear behind.”
Jolina snorted at the theatricality of it.
“With the cooperation of the council and the plan that Mortimer and I developed, vampires will have the choice to come forward.” She put emphasis on the word choice.
When the silence stretched long enough for Easton to know Jessabelle was done, he started with his rebuttal. “The vampires have had a long and violent history that was not all of our own making. We have endured persecution and been blamed for actions that were not our doing. We have had horrible humans declared as one of our own even though they were not. As rosy a picture as Mort and Jess would like to paint, humans cannot be trusted. I am not convinced based upon their little slide show last night that things have changed enough for us to leave the realm of mythology. Once we pop the cork on this wine, you can’t put the bubbles back in, and I’m worried some wine just might get spilled.”
“What good is having a bottle of wine if we can’t drink it?” Jessabelle replied. “We have nearly eternal life, but you would rather we hide what we are. If you are worried about serial killers being labeled as vampires and tarnishing our name, let’s take control and show humanity what we really are.”
“Silence!” Gregory proclaimed lifting his hands in the air. “You have each had your time to talk, and it is now time to vote.”
Waves of heat rose from the torch flames as the vampires looked at each other across the circle.
“Those who are for abolishing the shroud of secrecy to allow for those who wish to go public, please raise your hands.”
Several vampires raised their hands.
“And now those for remaining anonymous, please raise your hand.”
Several vampires raised their hands.
“With a vote of seven to five,” Gregory said, “I proclaim that we will start the process of declaring our existence. We will schedule follow-up video calls in two-week intervals to start the process. This meeting is adjourned.”
The council turned, almost as one, to leave the beach. Several dropped their hoods, letting the cool night air tousle their hair.
“Are you coming?” Jolina tugged lightly on Easton’s bicep.
“Not quite yet.” He looked out on the lake water, the full moon reflecting in the waves. “I think I need a few more minutes out here in the dark.”