“Why did you turn me?” I asked Him once, a few months into my vampire life, and not out of maliciousness or a desire to draw out of Him any secrets. I was simply curious in my teenage fashion; I only wanted to know why I had become His companion in immortality, why He had chosen me and not any of the other beautiful boys at the Catholic school He plucked me from.
He responded to this curiosity by ripping my door off of its hinges, by tearing my pillows until they exploded into puffs of down and cotton, by taking my favorite of His antique lamps and shattering it against the wall.
There were certain topics which He was extraordinarily sensitive about, only one of which being the question of why He crawled into my boarding room that night and stole me away. He was unwilling to talk about His own turning, nor the existence of vampires aside from the two of us. Politics bored Him into slumber, most music irritated Him. He could tolerate few TV programs, with one nonsensical exception in the Andy Griffith Show. He petted my hair mildly while we watched it together, like I was some sort of exotic cat He had spent a pretty penny on.
He preferred, at least for that first period of our time together, to discuss our current life and reality. And it most thrilled Him and He was at His most jovial when, every night, we went on the hunt.
My first time was a disaster. I had just accepted that I was truly a vampire, against all logic and the teachings of my childhood. For the days it took for me to escape my maze of confusion, He spoon-fed me blood from His own kills in His Manhattan penthouse. Besides, He said, my powers needed to develop. And develop they did. My hearing sharpened until I could, if focused, hear a bird chirping from three blocks away. If the neighbor downstairs cut himself shaving, the scent wafted to my nose. I was too fast for my own good, often overshooting my distance and ending up ten paces ahead of where I wanted to go. I fought my urges to do those human things, eating and using the toilet, now only out of habit rather than need.
On the very first night I was with Him, He showed me my first corpse, told me how He paid handsomely to have them disposed of discreetly. He knew everyone in this city, I found, had his fingers in everything. I spent the time from then until my first hunt wandering His apartment, probing my teeth with my tongue, waiting in fear of the day I would have to gather the limp form of a man and fly it over Central Park. I knew I would be inclined to drop it, to watch it splatter on rocks from this great height, to show the world what had been made of me. But I was far too scared of Him for that. He placed the most exquisite, soul-rending fear into my soul. He would have it no other way.
As we walked to the location of our first hunt, which He would not disclose to me, He explained which kinds of people we ought not to kill. “Policemen, obviously. Anyone rich. Celebrities, though they can be tempting. Those who may not be rich but are notable in the city, those popular with their peers.”
The night was cold and dark and dry, so unlike my home in Atlanta. It was hard to keep up with Him, so quick and assured in His every movement. “So, who should we go after?”
“The rabble.” He shook his hand dismissively. “Prostitutes, beggars. In general, the poor. People who will not be missed.”
I supposed it made sense in a logistical fashion, but the thought made my stomach hurt. “But shouldn’t we kill the rich? Those who do bad things?”
I could tell His easily-triggered temper was flaring up by the way the high heels of His boots clicked insistently on the sidewalk. I purposefully avoided His gaze by looking up to the buildings that rose high above us. I was forced not only to get acclimated to my new vampirism, but to a city I have never even visited. My whole life was in Atlanta, then Decatur, where my private school sat like a crown gem.
New York City, though, was the crown gem of America. Later, I managed to tease out of Him that He stayed here because it reminded Him of His original birthplace. Much later, I learned that this birthplace was Constantinople, a thousand and change years before it became as we know it now, Istanbul.
He did not dignify my supposition with a response. I knew He tried to be gentle with me, in those early days. From this I gathered that He had some sort of wound from His own turning that had never been quite healed over. He did not want to treat me as He had probably once been treated by His own maker. It was these pinprick moments of kindness, which I justified largely through fictions of my own creation, that stoked my love for Him.
The hunt was the only thing that promised to turn His mood around. I watched His demeanor relax once more as we got closer to our apparent destination.
“It will be jarring at first.” He admitted to me, with a rare note of tenderness in His voice. “But you will grow to enjoy it. Everyone is different. Some go quietly. Others…” He trailed off. I knew He was trying not to upset me before anything had even transpired. “Are less so. But you are stronger than them, faster than them.”
We came upon an empty lot, so rare in the city, dotted in makeshift tents of tarps. Grocery carts filled with piles of indistinguishable trash park next to them like cars.
He must have detected my confusion and said, “Building burned to the ground two months ago. They’ve already made use of the place.” His upper lip curled into a barely disguised sneer.
They, the homeless, I supposed were meant to be our meal. I nodded. “How are we supposed to get them? Seems as if they’ve all turned in for the night.”
So we did. He led me to an alley across the street, where our vantage point was good, and the two of us crouched and bided our time. I took the time to use my newly acquired night vision, to observe every inch of His face. From the side, He looked like a grand statue, or a picture in a history book. His complexion was tawny and His hair was black and pin-straight, relaying a complicated racial makeup. He was quite beautiful, in a harsh way, like a desert of snow.
If he noticed me staring, He said nothing. I was sure that His interest in me, that the reason He’d taken me and me alone, was less than pure. But we spent years and years together after this (nothing, in the scheme of his 1,626 total years on earth) before He deigned to touch me in any way that mattered. I think I was still basically human to Him at that time, not yet ripened. He didn’t want me until I was as much a demon as He was.
Eventually, one of the homeless wandered out of their tent and stumbled towards us. The man wavered, unseeing in the dark. My maker took me by the wrist and pulled me back, as gently as He could ever. “Quiet.” He whispered to me. “He will relieve himself. Sneak up behind him, and put your fangs into his throat, like I showed you.”
The night before, He brought a man back to his (our) apartment and fed from him in front of me. He showed me the exact place where it was best to pierce the neck, when they stop spasming in pain, how much blood is enough to be satiated. I have never, in my decades after that night, forgotten the raw look of that man dying, the wildness of his hands as he tried to dig his fingers into the shag rug.
I felt confident that I could perform my task successfully, but I didn’t think I had the stomach for it. Despite His descriptions of my new life as a good thing, a powerful thing, a thing to be respected and cherished, I had a hard time seeing it that way. It felt like a tremendous responsibility to be 18, to be told that this is your life now, and you better give this man a good death, or he will die suffering and knowing that an unimaginable creature is killing him.
I looked to Him with real fear in my heart. “I can’t.” I whispered. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Of course he didn’t.” He whispered back. His eyes flashed menacingly in the dark. “This is the sacrifice you make for your power. Now do it.”
But greater than my moral compass was my terror of the idea of saying no to Him. I still didn’t know how a vampire could die, if He as my maker could snap me from existence with ease. I wasn’t yet aware that He was extraordinarily fond of me, despite his brusque manners, and that He might rather kill Himself than me. His motives still confused me, the idea of His hatred petrified me. And the hunger was setting in, quickly and maddeningly, with the ferocity of a wild beast.
So I moved, as slowly as I could, towards the homeless man who had just unzipped his pants. I could feel His eyes on my back as I crept up, unheard. Before I could talk myself out of it, or cry for God, I wrapped my arms around the man's waist and pierced his exterior jugular vein with the new fangs that I still wasn’t used to yet, that will snagged on my lip painfully.
Feeding is a whole, messy process, especially if you’re as inexperienced as I was. You’re supposed to bite, immediately release, and form tight suction around the wound. But with the first hint of blood on my tongue, I became deranged, ravenous. I sucked his blood around my teeth frantically, holding the man so tightly to me that I heard his ribs and spine crack and break in my grasp. He tried weakly to pull himself free, but He had been right. I was stronger. It was almost comical, how easy it was.
I slurped until the blood flow slowed to a trickle, until I was wet and sticky down to my shoes. Then I dislodged my fangs and looked up at Him, my maker, the man who put this monster inside of me. He leaned against the brick wall of the alleyway, floor-length jacket rippling. He had a smile on His face, the first one I’d seen of His. I am still shocked today when it’s directed towards me, the hint of pink tongue behind His teeth, the cracking of the stone resolve in His eyes. His approval was warmer than blood, could prop me up better than my own bones.