1: The Vampire Matthew
He watched the girl, her hands clasped and eyes downcast, a tendril of hair tickling her nose in a way she found conspicuously difficult to ignore. Shoots of grass peeked through the dirt before her, barely visible in the remaining sliver of sunset. He could nearly smell her unease. This cemetery was no place for a girl like her.
He did not disguise his footfalls, so total was his confidence in her self-absorption. He relished the hunt, even more than the moment of capture. Almost more, he amended. In his daylight life, he had once read that packs of chimpanzees will chase a monkey for miles only to dash its head against a rock and eat its brains. They do not need to prolong the chase, they do not even need to eat the brain for sustenance, but it gives them pleasure akin to what he felt now.
As he slunk through the forest at the edge of the graveyard, keeping his prize in sight, a thorny branch slid over his arm, cutting though his thin, black pleather shirt. He unraveled an exotic curse under his breath to a deity who could not care less, but reveled in the garnet gleam of blood, even if it were his own. He found no sight more beautiful, more sensual, than freshly spilled blood.
Ashlei rose from the grave and walked down the rocky path that connected the seclusion of the cemetery to the main road. She would not make it to the gates alive, but she had no way of knowing. She was absorbed, as Matthew assumed, but not in herself.
She visited Virgil’s grave once a week during summer break. It was not that she knew Virgil, but she could not stand the thought of his being there, alone and forgotten. People had visited at first, after his murder. When it was reported, there had been the predictable slew of prurient attention. Once that cursory interest ebbed, so did the visitors. His soul may have been consigned to the Kingdom of Heaven, but she could not overcome the idea that he lay under six feet of earth. Virgil’s was not the only grave she visited; a few of her great-grandparents were buried here. She would pray over them, petitioning Christ and the saints to tell the souls of the departed that someone on Earth still cared about them.
She felt a connection with Virgil. She had passed where he was gunned down only a few minutes before it happened, on her way to see her then-boyfriend, Eliot. For weeks after, this speculation, this "what-if" obsessed her. He had grown up near her, though she had gone to the parochial school while he suffered through public schooling. Ashlei had never spoken to Virgil, which made her vigil for him all the nearer to Christ’s mission. She would tend to the souls of the least of man, cry for the death of a boy she would never know. In another world, had he not died so young, she hoped they could have been acquaintances.
None of her friends, not even those in the campus Christian coalition, understood how this death affected her. Everyone was spooked by it; Annandale was a peaceful place, the only real conflict occurring between the art and engineering majors-and that was more a healthy competition. In Virgil’s death, Ashlei was reborn. After the first visit to his grave during spring break, she gave up drinking and the infrequent cigarette, reconfirmed her broken promise to remain abstinent until marriage-over frustration of Eliot, who left her soon after for some basket case. She liked to think she had adopted Virgil as a guardian angel, though he would do her no good tonight.
Matthew descended the path behind her, watching the unsteady and alluring sway of her hips. She stumbled and gasped, grabbing the overhanging bough of a gnarled tree for support. He almost laughed at her obliviousness. She looked delectable-russet hair, a curvy figure, and no make-up to cry off. She did not need make-up, even if he could better imagine kissing her unrelenting mouth as her lipstick smeared red against his face. Her nails were unfortunately long, though. He could not allow any evidence of her on his body, and he certainly could not return to his lair with claw marks on his face. That would piss his girlfriend off, and she hardly put up with his being a vampire as it was.
As he was about to spring out of the woods and claim her, the straps on his bondage pants snagged. Turning around, he saw a lanky woman stepping on them.
The figure rasped, congested, "You wouldn’t be thinking of hurting that poor girl, would you, possum?"
Matthew felt revolted with awe. "N-no, I was just..."
"Time to play dead," the figure continued before he could finish, placing both hands on his face and twisting his head until there was a snap. He fell like a puppet, his straps torn free.
"Such a virtuous girl will be perfect," the figure finished to deaf ears, wiping Matthew’s pancake make-up off her hands and striding toward prey.