Curses, Foiled Again
Sera Trevor © 2017
All Rights Reserved
One: The Witch Boys of Sunset Boulevard
Someone smelled delicious.
Felix really ought to have been sated. He had fed that night already, but in spite of his satiety, the new aroma tempted him like nothing before. It was the same dark tang that normally inspired his appetite, but with a sweet note buried in the scent—like an orange at the peak of its sweetness, right on the cusp of rotting. It didn’t take him long to discover the source of the aroma; it was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, making his way down Sunset Boulevard. He walked with remarkable confidence for being on his own at two o’clock in the morning. Felix grinned. He liked the confident ones; their shock when confronted with the likes of him was always amusing.
He raced ahead of the young man with superhuman swiftness, jumping in front of him with his fangs bared. Felix loved this part, right before the attack—the moment when human confusion and animal terror mixed together as his victim realized their fate. Any moment now, he would scream. Or at least, he would try to. By then it would be too late.
The young man jumped and inhaled sharply at Felix’s sudden appearance. But once he’d given Felix a good once-over, he let out his breath in a relieved puff. There was no screaming, no futile attempt to flee or freezing in terror. In fact, it was Felix who froze in place, confused by the young man’s strange reaction.
As Felix tried to gather his wits to think of what to do next, the young man brushed past him and continued on. Felix shook himself out of his muddle. He brought a hand up to his mouth, feeling to make sure his fangs were still bared. They were. Perhaps the young man hadn’t seen him clearly; the lighting here was particularly poor, and mortal vision was not very good.
He zipped ahead of the young man and jumped out at him again, making sure he was directly under a streetlight. He raised his arms and hissed for good measure.
“You can stop doing that,” the young man said. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“Oh really?” Felix sneered, although in honesty he was taken aback. “We’ll see if your bravery lasts when I sink my fangs into your yielding flesh!”
He attempted to pounce, but nothing happened. He tried again, but his limbs just wouldn’t cooperate. As he stood there in confusion, the young man stepped around him and continued walking.
Once Felix had collected himself, he set out after the young man again, this time trotting beside him. The young man paid him no attention.
“Have you put a spell on me?”
“Then why can’t I attack you?”
“Because I’m not afraid of you,” he said. He wasn’t even looking at Felix. “Vampires can only attack people who fear them.”
Felix scoffed. “That can’t be true.”
“Think about it. Can you ever remember a time when a potential victim wasn’t afraid of you?”
“Not that I recall.”
“Then if you only ever confronted people who were afraid of you, how would you have found out you couldn’t attack someone who wasn’t?”
Felix turned that over in his mind. It did make a certain amount of sense.
They continued to walk together. Felix tried to startle him a few more times, hoping it would raise enough fear for Felix to strike, but it didn’t work. The young man’s face remained expressionless, as if Felix weren’t even there. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, with sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was so pleasant to look at that Felix eventually ceased his efforts to frighten him in favor of simply gazing at him. His sweatshirt was not zipped all the way, but the T-shirt underneath was too baggy to give even a suggestion of the body it concealed. He wished the young man would take it off, or at the very least remove the hood.
After some time, they came to an apartment building. The young man approached one of the doors on the first floor. “Well, I would say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t, really,” he said as he took out his keys. “Good night.” He unlocked his door.
Felix blocked the door with his body, preventing the young man from entering. “You’ve led me straight to where you live,” he said in his scariest voice. “I could strike when you least expect it, in your very home. Certainly that will frighten you enough for me to attack!”
“Vampires can’t enter a home unless you invite them. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that?”
Felix scowled. “How do you know all this?”
“None of your business. Now unless you want to stand around here until dawn, get your hand off my door and go away.”
“Maybe I do want to stand around here,” Felix said. “You can’t make me leave.”
The young man rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He leaned on the wall a few steps away from the door and took a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He perched a cigarette between his pink lips and lit it.
Felix remained where he was. The young man didn’t even spare him a glance as he smoked his cigarette, gazing instead at the smoke as it left his lips and dissipated into the night air. Felix felt annoyed; surely he was more interesting than a cloud of smoke!
“Why are you out alone so late?” Felix asked. “While you may not be afraid of vampires, you are still vulnerable to mortal attackers.” An idea flashed through Felix’s mind. “What if I got a gun? Would you be afraid of me then?”
The young man rolled his eyes again. “Why are you so intent on killing me?”
“I don’t want to kill you. I want to drink your blood.”
“And that’s not the same thing?”
Felix had to think about it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “It’s true that my victims swoon, but I’m fairly certain they survive.”
The young man raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know for sure?”
“There isn’t much reason for me to linger after I’ve fed, is there?”
“I guess not.” He took another long drag of his cigarette. “So why do you want to drink my blood? You’ve already fed tonight.”
Felix looked at him with surprise. “How did you know that?”
“You’ve got blood on your chin.”
Felix wiped his face with the hand that wasn’t holding the door shut. Sure enough, it came away red. “Doesn’t that make you feel at least a little scared?” he asked plaintively.
The young man finished his cigarette with one final inhale, dropped the butt on the street, and then stubbed it out with his toe. “Sorry to say, but it takes a lot to make me feel anything at all.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes again and took another one. “Would you like one?”
The young man offered the pack and his lighter. Felix stared at the cigarettes and then back at his face. The young man put his hand forward farther. “Go on. Take one.”
Felix frowned, wondering at the young man’s sudden generosity. John stood just out of reach, so Felix had to step closer to him to accept the pack and the lighter. Felix’s fingers brushed over the skin of the young man’s hand. It was so warm.
“Thank you,” Felix said, a little dazed.
“No problem.” The young man’s smile was dazzling.
Felix smiled back and turned his attention to the pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and readying the lighter—
—and then, quick as lightning, the young man slipped inside his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.
“Goddamnit!” Felix shouted after him, pounding on the door. “Come back out here!”
There was no answer. Felix stomped around in a circle, cursing. Once he composed himself, he went back to the door. “Well, I’m keeping your cigarettes! And your lighter! And you’ll never get them back!”
This also failed to get a response. Felix examined the lighter. On one side there was a figure etched into the metal: a dragon, or a demon. Some mythical creature, at any rate. On the other side, there was an engraving: To John. Love, Rob.
A gift, then. Perhaps he could use its sentimental nature to his advantage. “I really mean it!” he shouted. “I’ll throw this lighter in the sewer!”
Still no response.
With a huff, he zipped away. His preternatural speed meant he only had to travel a few moments before he reached the estate in Beverly Hills where he resided with his sister, Cat, and her husband, Richard. The sprawling wrought iron gates were shut, but unlike the young man’s closed door, the gates posed no barrier to him. He launched himself upward and over the curled letters that spelled out the name of the estate: HAPPY ENDINGS. Under it was the image of a boar, cast in iron. The sign’s rusted state made the promise of the words ring a bit false. Nevertheless, it was the only home he had, and he had no desire to meet the dawn.
The mansion was dark and silent when Felix entered. His footsteps echoed through the marble foyer as he made his way to the stairs. Normally, he would go straight to his room after such a feed, but the events of the night had him riled. He decided to seek out Cat, although she was in torpor the last time he checked. She might be cross with him for waking her up; Cat held no great love for the waking world. But he had something interesting to tell her, which was a rarity. Perhaps it would put her in a better humor.
He went into her room, which was decorated in bold Art Deco patterns of black and gold. There was a grand vanity in one corner of the room with an equally impressive bureau in the other. An enormous television took up most of the south wall. Most impressive was the four-poster bed, surrounded by thick black and gold curtains that were drawn.
As he made his way to the bed, he passed bookshelves and end tables that held remembrances from her days of movie stardom long past. There was the veil from her debut role in The Deathly Lover; a ruby encrusted dagger from Hatshepsut: Queen of Egypt; the famous mermaid photo spread promoting her movie Mermaids of the Blue Lagoon; and of course her crowning achievement: the Oscar, won for her role as Ophelia in 1948, which was her last role. Her husband hadn’t been able to coax her into another role after that. It was a source of much contention between them. He’d attempted to recreate his past successes with other starlets, but his greatness as a producer declined, until they both deteriorated into mere memories of an age past.
Felix parted the curtains of the bed and climbed in. Cat lay there in her silk nightgown, with a frilly pink sleeping mask covering her eyes. Her dark hair was twisted up in curling papers.
“Cat,” he whispered. She was usually rather cranky when she was woken, so he tried to be as gentle as possible. He gave her a little nudge. No response.
He lifted the mask and peeked at her face. Despite the fact that they’d been undead for over a century, it still bothered him to see her so pale and still. He wondered if she felt the same way when she saw him in torpor.
“Cat,” he said a little more forcefully. When that still didn’t get a response out of her, he grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. “Cat!”
She shot up suddenly, letting out a screech. It startled Felix so badly that he fell off the bed. As he got to his feet, his sister threw the curtain open. She tried to remove her sleeping mask, but it got caught on her curlers.
“What’s happened?” she asked, her voice panicked. “Are you all right?”
Felix sat down beside her and helped untangle the mask. “Nothing’s happened. I’m all right.”
She crossed her arms. “Then why have you awoken me?” The concern had left her voice, and now that she was unmasked, Felix was subjected to her formidable glare.
Felix rubbed his neck. “Well—I had a very curious encounter.”
She gave him a look. “And?”
“And I’d like your opinion on the matter.”
“Couldn’t you have waited until I had woken up on my own?”
“How much rest do you need? You’ve been out for nearly three months!”
Cat blinked rapidly. “Three months?” She grabbed the remote control on her nightstand and turned the TV on, switching immediately to the DVR. Her mouth dropped into a silent O as she examined the screen. “I’ve missed half a season of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
“Do you still want me to leave?”
Cat shook herself out of it and turned back to him. “No. You’re right. I should get up. Fetch my dressing gown.”
Felix went to the bureau and selected a leopard-print robe with large, feathery sleeves and brought it to her. They made their way to the vanity. Two things were unusual about it: the first was that there were two stools rather than one. The second was that there were no mirrors in the frames. While vampires could appear in photographs, they lacked reflections, so mirrors were pointless. They wouldn’t have been visible anyway; there were stacks of beauty products piled all over the counter. Cat was a Home Shopping Network enthusiast.
Once she was seated, Cat reached for one of the papers on her head and began to undo it. Felix sat down beside her and reached for a curl as well. Soon her whole head was a mass of silky, dark springs. He’d always helped her with her hair. A long time ago, it had been down to her waist, but she’d cut it all off when she met Richard. It hadn’t grown back since.
Cat sorted through the mess on the vanity until she found a brush. “So?” she asked as she brushed the curls. “Tell me about this ‘curious encounter.’”
“I met a man I couldn’t feed on. Every time I tried to attack him, I found myself frozen in place.”
“Now that is strange,” she said. She held out her hand. “Hair spray.”
Felix shifted through the mess until he found a can and handed it to her. “I think he might be a witch.”
Cat stopped midspritz. “A witch? Are you sure?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t get a straight answer out of him.”
“Are you saying you stayed to converse with him after your attack failed?”
“Yes. He told me vampires can’t attack anyone who isn’t afraid of them.”
“Why wasn’t he afraid of you? Did you jump out at him from the shadows, catching him completely by surprise?”
“Did you bare your fangs and hiss at him?”
“Of course I did!”
“That is indeed a puzzle.” Cat shuffled through the clutter on her vanity. “Now where on earth is that blasted contraption?”
Felix slid the phone out of his pocket. “Here, allow me.” He snapped a photo of her and then handed the phone to her.
She examined the picture. Her hair was the height of fashion, circa 1943.
“Satisfactory,” she concluded. “Now help me put on my face.”
Felix searched around for some foundation, combing through boxes of makeup, anti-aging creams, and blemish concealers, which were useless since she neither aged nor blemished. Why she kept buying them was an enduring mystery. At last he found her favorite foundation and some sponges, and then he set to work.
Felix had always done Cat’s makeup. Since she didn’t have a reflection, she couldn’t do it herself, and any makeup artists would have been very startled at said lack of reflection. She had experimented with using the laptop computer when web cameras were invented, but found them cumbersome. Besides, it was the comfort of the ritual that was important. It wasn’t as if she was going anywhere.
Felix did fine with the rouge but fumbled with the eyeliner, accidentally poking her in the eye. She jerked back with a cry. “Watch what you’re doing!”
Cat peered at him. “You’re bothered by this mortal, aren’t you?”
Felix scoffed. “No!”
Cat just gave him a look.
“All right, yes. He was just so unimpressed! Like I was a stray dog who followed him home.”
“Why does it matter? It isn’t as if you’re starving—I can smell the blood in you.”
“It’s the principle of the thing. He ought to have been afraid.”
“Well, if he is truly a witch, you should count yourself lucky that you escaped with no further rebuke than his disdain. Let it go. Nothing good can come of dealings with witches.” She took the phone from his hand and snapped another picture. “I almost look alive, don’t I?”
Cat gave him a look. She got up from her stool and glided over to the sofa without a backward glance. Felix sighed inwardly; she could be so sensitive. He joined her on the sofa. Cat turned on the television again and queued up her show. Angry orange women filled the screen. Cat poured them both a glass of wine from a dusty bottle that had been sitting on the coffee table.
“You know, I really don’t understand the appeal of this,” Felix said after they’d been watching for a while.
“I’m curious about mortal life nowadays,” she said. “And this is reality television—not pretend like those other shows.” She watched for another few moments. “They don’t seem particularly happy, do they?”
“I suppose not.”
Cat settled back on the couch and took a long sip of her wine. “That’s what I thought.”
They’d just finished their second bottle of wine when he felt it—the dawn. He and Cat shivered. Even in their shut-up old manor with dark curtains covering every window that wasn’t bricked over, he could feel the sun creeping above the horizon.
He left Cat and went to his own suite, where he peeled off his bloodstained clothes before dropping them on the floor as he made his way to the shower. He laid his forehead against the tile as the warm water washed over him. Afterward, he dried himself, stumbled into bed, and drew the curtains behind him.
But he didn’t fall asleep right away. The events of the evening nagged him. He got out of bed and found his discarded trousers, and then reached into the pocket and pulled out John’s lighter. He crawled into bed, flicked it open, and lit it. He stared into the dancing flame for a long time as consciousness began to fade. There was something about the way it danced that made him reluctant to put it out. He succumbed to an impulse to wave his finger through the flame. He noticed with triumph it didn’t hurt, but the second time he did it, it stung. Strangely, he didn’t mind. It was a feeling, even if it was a bad one. It had been quite some time since he’d had a real feeling. He wasn’t going to give up on this John yet, although what exactly he wanted and how he was going to get it remained a bit hazy.
He shut the lighter and stuck his smarting finger in his mouth. The lighter was still curled in his other hand as he drifted into darkness.
Felix woke up suddenly.
He always woke up suddenly, with a great gasp, even though he was long beyond the need to breathe. It was as if all at once, his body forgot it was dead and jolted back into animation, spurred by whatever dark magic made him possible in the first place.
His fist flexed around something in his hand—the lighter. It took him a moment to remember John and that strange night. He knew he hadn’t dreamed it, because he didn’t dream. Still, the memory felt hazy, as memories often did for him; he was nearly a century and a half old and events tended to blur together. He gripped the lighter firmly. He wouldn’t forget this.
He left his room and went to his sister’s. She was reclining on her sofa, watching television. In her hands, she held a candy dish full of pills. “Are you up already?” she asked without turning from the television.
Felix stretched. “How long has it been?”
“I don’t know. A week or so.”
Felix lay back on the sofa, putting his feet on his sister’s lap. On the screen, a British man yelled at some people in a restaurant.
“Why is he so angry?” Felix asked.
“Oh, mortals are very particular about food nowadays,” Cat said knowledgeably. “If they don’t get it exactly right, everyone will be poisoned. He will summon the police if they continue to cook badly, although it hasn’t come to that yet, thank goodness.”
They watched the show in silence until the commercial break, although Felix didn’t pay much attention. He couldn’t stop brooding about John.
“Perhaps I simply did not try hard enough to scare him.”
Cat turned from the television to look at him. “Who?”
“John. The witch boy.”
Cat raised an eyebrow. “‘John?’ I hadn’t realized you had made introductions.”
“We didn’t, exactly.”
“Then how did it go, exactly?”
Felix avoided looking his sister in the eye. “It doesn’t matter. By the end of this night, he will tremble before me!”
“You can’t seriously be considering going after him again?” Cat asked with equal parts disbelief and disdain. “Do you have no sense? Leave him be!”
Felix scowled. “I am not entirely helpless. I am a fierce creature of the night! Besides, he lives in a hovel. If he’s a witch of any real power, surely he would keep himself in better comfort.”
“Perhaps his seeming poverty is a ruse,” she said. “You can’t trust witches.”
Felix rolled his eyes. “And what, pray tell, do you imagine he’ll do to me? If he were powerful enough to end me, I would not be standing here.”
“He could ensnare you.”
“Yes, well, he’d need my consent for that, wouldn’t he? I’m not foolish enough to give it to him.”
He regretted his words immediately. Cat always had a lost, wounded look about her, which grew even worse at his unkind words. He knelt in front of her and took her hand in his.
“Forgive me,” he said.
She sighed. “For what? Speaking the truth?” She encouraged him to stand up. “If you are determined to be a fool, I suppose I cannot stop you. Just—be careful.”
Felix kissed her hand. “I will.”
He left her to her television program, retreating to his room to change into some suitably sinister yet also alluring clothing, and then he was off to John’s place.
But when he got to John’s apartment, he wasn’t home. Should he come back later? After a moment’s thought, he decided against it. He didn’t want to miss any opportunity. He retreated to the bushes across from the building, waiting for his return. Several hours passed. He dozed a little. At last, around two in the morning, he spotted John walking down the street. Felix rubbed his hands together in glee; his campaign of terror could at last begin! Unfortunately, he hadn’t thought of what exactly to do yet. Before he could think of anything, John had entered his apartment.
That was fine, though. He would make him feel unsafe in his own home. Felix racked his brain, trying to think of something unsettling. Perhaps he could rattle the windows and run away? He knew he himself would be unsettled by inexplicably rattling windows.
He tapped on the window and then hid in the shadows. A few minutes later, he did it again, and then once more. On his fourth trip, however, the window opened just as he was about to rattle it, and he came face-to-face with John. He froze under John’s gaze, distracted for a moment by how very attractive he was. His hair shone like sand on the beach in the summer, and his eyes were dark blue, like stormy ocean waters.
“What are you doing?” John looked more annoyed than unnerved.
Felix felt somewhat deflated, but he soldiered on. “I am stalking you.”
“Because I’m a fierce creature of the night.”
“So you think you can annoy me into being frightened of you? Is that your plan?”
Felix didn’t say anything; when he heard John say it out loud like that, it sounded stupid.
“You’re wasting your time. I will never be afraid of you. You have a whole city full of people to terrify. Go bother them.” He made to close the window.
“Wait!” Felix said as inspiration struck him. “I will kill your family! All of them!” He crossed his arms smugly. That would surely frighten him.
“I don’t have any family.”
“Oh.” Felix thought for a moment. “What about your friends?”
“I don’t have any of those, either.”
“What about Rob?”
John did look surprised at that. “Rob? How do you know about—” He stopped. “The lighter. You still have it.”
“Yes!” Felix said with a surge of triumph. “I will find and kill your Rob! What do you say to that?”
“Rob lives in Cincinnati.”
Felix’s face fell. He was all out of ideas.
John sighed. “Look, it’s nothing personal. You’re a scary guy. Really. But even if you did manage to scare me, you wouldn’t be able to kill me.”
That was a rather extraordinary thing to say. “How can you be so sure of that?”
“I just know.”
Felix scoffed. “The arrogance of witches.”
John once again looked taken aback. It wasn’t the same satisfaction as having him trembling in terror, but Felix would take it. “And how did you know—” He cut off. “Never mind. I’m done with this conversation. Get out of here before I call the police.”
Felix laughed. “The police? Do you really think they can stop me? I could kill them easily!”
“You could kill one easily, maybe,” John said. “But there will probably be two of them, and while you’re killing one, the other will shoot you.”
“Mere bullets cannot kill me.”
“Maybe not, but I bet they can knock you out if they put enough bullets in you. Then it’s off to the morgue, where you’ll be trapped. If you manage to escape, you’ll be stuck in a hospital, and you’ll eventually stumble into the sunlight, and then you’ll be burned into ashes.”
As Felix tried to think of a response to that, John shut the window. “I’m not leaving!” Felix shouted through the glass. “You shall know my wrath! Your life will become a living nightmare!”
He kept it up until he heard the sirens. He scowled; he was certain he could evade capture, but had to admit that the scenario John had laid out was not beyond the realm of possibility. Best to retreat for now.