Read Chapters 15-18 of Vampire Girl here to get caught up on your women's history with Mayra, a female vampire protagonist!
The judges of the pageant were announced. They were Kate del Castillo, Ziphozihle Ntlanganiso, and Adele. Some fuss was made about ensuring equity by putting at least one self-acknowledged vampire on the jury, but the organizers brushed it off, essentially saying, “Hey, we put on the panel a Black, a Mexican, and a British person. Plus they’re women. What more do you want?”
Unfortunately, the many vampires who had started the pageant years ago as a way of building community, who had sewn costumes, put ads in free publications, built a throne out of cardboard, foil and glitter, offered a $500 scholarship out of their own pockets, had also neglected to exercise legal proprietorship over their pageant. So they were shut out of any decision-making.
The three judges selected had been rounded up at the last minute, drawn perhaps by the grotesque notoriety of the occasion, and the fact that the President kept using the terms “feminism” and “multicultural,” two words he had recently learned. He had wanted to be the sole judge, but his lawyers advised him repeatedly that this was a conflict of interest, another term he didn’t seem familiar with. He had tried to make the argument that a man was needed on the panel, since women could not rate the quality of T&A because they had T&A and thus couldn’t really appreciate them, it was like trying to tickle yourself, unless they were lesbians, whereas men had spent their entire lives inspecting and rating T&A. For once, everybody ignored his bullshit without disagreeing and went ahead with their plans, leaving the President to dedicate himself to boring stuff like undoing all the laws favored by his predecessor.
Kate del Castillo was up front about her reasons for agreeing to serve. She told reporters she was judging in order to atone for her faux pas regarding El Chapo, who was not in fact her boyfriend, and to promote her new Netflix series which would once again portray each and every Mexican, her beautiful countrymen, as murderous thugs, drug traffickers, rapists, violent sadists, and thieves, except for the women, most of whom would be depicted as passive, helpless, clueless enablers, all trying to get over a giant structure put in place by the U.S. as a deterrent. It was going to be called “Balls to the Wall.”
Mayra figured she could count on Kate’s vote, due to Mayra’s recent “Mex appeal,” as she liked to call it. So she needed only one other vote to prevail. The other two, her idols, had her paralyzed with fear. How could she perform “Hello” in front of Adele? She would probably have a nervous breakdown trying to get the words out. And Ziphozihle was elegant, inscrutable, and worst of all, measuring by her discreet public comments, even-handed and objective. Mayra was ashamed of herself. Here she was, calculating odds with all the broad-mindedness of a craven sewer rat. The Trampire tried to calm her. She had been enlisted as Mayra’s beauty consultant and coach, at her request. The Trampire had designed Mayra’s sparkly bikini and sewed the beads and spangles on it with her own delicate hands. She had created the choreography for Mayra’s entrance from the ceiling on a rope and on through Adele’s song, making the performance both lively and sultry, both heartfelt and coolly professional. Mayra felt a pang in seeing the Trampire faithfully and patiently behind the scenes as a star maker. She knew that this transsexual’s talent greatly outshone hers and it was rather Mayra who should have been sewing spangles onto her new friend’s dress for her hypothetical show at the Hollywood Bowl “The Lady is a Trampire: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Vlad the Impaler.”
For information on joining the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, based in Romania, please visit http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/tsd_canada.html
Or you may email email@example.com Please note the caveat on their website: “The TSD does not direct its programs at practicing vampires or aspiring vampires.”
Yet, her lady-in-waiting made no complaint; rather she was filled with good cheer and kind, encouraging words, no matter the light sadness in her eyes as she brushed Mayra’s lustrous hair, her own tied back in a listless and unexceptional ponytail. “Trampire, you have such a gorgeous face. I never get tired of looking at it.” “Girl, don’t even start. You’re the one who’s beauty queen material. That’s why you’re the one to beat.” “What’s your real name?” “You don’t want to know.” “Yes, I do. I’ll bet it sounds like the peals of laughter of children on a summer day after a thunderstorm has passed and a rainbow came out, the air smells clean and fresh, and they’re on their way to an ice cream truck that just appeared, where each will buy his or her favorite flavor.” “My name is Hortense.” “Ouch. Old lady name. Let’s stick with Trampire.” “Told you.” Please give the Trampire a better name, so she does not have to constantly be referred to by a nickname based entirely on her sexual status.
A Cuac Wok Orange
On the eve of the pageant, Cuac arrived, as he had promised, and immediately prepared for Mayra a wok full of sesame duck in orange sauce, in order to justify the nonsensical, arbitrary, badly punning title of this chapter. You are encouraged to think of a better title for this chapter and write it in. Alternatives rejected so far are “Cuac Around the Clock, Cuacadile Wok, Cuac Like a Man, We Will Cuac You, Stroke My Cuac, and dozens more inappropriate choices.
Mayra savored the orange sauce, its thick texture reminiscent of coagulated blood. In spite of the insane blood lust she was experiencing, Mayra was trying not to attack anyone before the pageant, both for publicity reasons and because she was slimming down like a bodybuilder who wants a cut physique before a competition. She had to look flawless. Also, she remembered that she had vowed a fast after she met Cuac, and had failed to keep that vow. Now he sat near, examining her from close range. His inner beauty shone so greatly that it hurt her eyes, as with those fabled, old-school vampires who shriveled in daylight, back in the day. Where were those vampires now, the ones who slept in stone coffins at night, turned into bats and flew around, and couldn’t bear the sight of a cross, which could burn their skin or turn them into dust? It used to be an edgier and riskier gig, more down to the bone, less subject to flux. You were either all powerful or you died; there was no in-between. Or was that more false vampire lore?
The closest thing Mayra had to a mentor was Tobias, who was inconstant and like her, really a rank amateur. How long had he been one? She wasn’t sure; maybe 20 years? Surely there would be many influential vampires in attendance in the audience, but like Mormons, they probably kept a low profile and assimilated, so they could be bankers, therapists, pastors, motivational speakers and U.S. Senators, or even billionaires, like that guy who owned Bain Capital. There had to be some secret society like Freemasons, where the big decisions got made, beyond this ragtag group around the contest, who, let it be said, were the only people in America with the courage to come out of the closet. And as reward, their contest was coopted by the rich and powerful, crushed in the gears of a ruthless capitalism that found a way to monetize everyone’s hopes and dreams in their own favor. Mayra discreetly used her hands to adjust her breasts better inside her push-up bra. She hoped they looked bigger to Cuac, even if they were smaller than the udders of Lestatia, that hideous cow. But Cuac’s eyes didn’t drop to her cleavage. He gazed steadfastly into her irises, as he might stare intently into one of those confusing round Mayan calendars that had something to do with crop rotation or the end of the world. “Mayra, have you thought about the message you want to convey?” “Message?” “You are going to have an audience of 70 or 80 million people, according to estimates. These spectacles always give you a moment to wax poetic about peace or some other topic. This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to the world about anything you wish: racial injustice, climate change, the status of women, the chaos of our cities, immigration, hunger, economic disparities. In short, the future of our planet.” “Good point. Hm. Well, hunger is kind of my specialty.” “You mean famine?” “You could put it that way. More like a personal binge-purge famine tinged with metaphysical yearning and the need for constant self-replenishment.” “Do as you wish. But maybe you want to reach listeners outside yourself and your immediate circle.” “Okay. I’m going with the immigration thing, since I just experienced it.” “Excellent. You know for sure, because you’re living it, that you will touch the hearts of many, not only in Mexico. Human misery exists in all parts of the globe. There is no easy solution, because hearts are hard, selfishness is rampant, and not everyone has your sensitivity and heightened awareness.” “I’ll try to be up to the occasion. Thank you for your confidence in me, Cuac.” She let her fingertips brush his. “Sorry I texted that I wished we had fucked.” “It’s okay. I take it as a compliment. Who knows whether someday your vampire loins will brush my Aztec ones, producing a new super-race? JK. For now you have a greater destiny.”
The beauty pageant was supposed to last two days. It began with several fine speeches about the flowering of American womanhood, how anyone could grow up to be beauty queen in this great country, as long as she was really good-looking and had a super hot body and looked a little slutty but not too much, like she would flirt with you and get your hopes up and maybe rub up against you, but then change her mind and act cold and distant and talk about the housing bubble, then maybe she’d let you feel her up but that’s all, unless you put a ring on it. Also, more recently, she needed to have grades and test scores good enough to get into Harvard afterward and pay for it all with the $2000 award money from the pageant, unless she had made recent innovations in spectroscopy in which case she’d get a full ride, and ideally she would have served food in a refugee camp or spent several months embedded with troops in Afghanistan writing about the plight of soldiers and displaced civilians with equal fervor, not taking sides but conveying deep compassion, yet without expressing any political point of view except Support Our Troops.
And at night she should entertain said troops with Katy Perry songs such as “Swish Swish,” featuring Nicki Minaj wearing breast plates and Katy in a tiger basketball uniform. However, the pageant was cut short when half of the 20 contestants were found in the women’s room with their throats slit. Someone was clearly trying to hurry up the showdown between the two headliners, taking no chances on a dark horse candidate getting up a head of steam. The mass killing, the biggest in beauty pageant history, was referred to by the organizers as “an unfortunate incident.” When the murdered women didn’t come back to life, it was decided that they were impostors, not real vampires, otherwise they couldn’t have been killed. Mayra was fairly certain, based on her Chinese battery factory theory, that they simply could have been duds, or were temporarily stripped of their power by pinky swears or some other reason, or like her, lost their mojo for a while. But she couldn’t prove this suspicion, it was an idea of hers, so she kept her mouth shut, while the President wandered in and out of the dressing room making small talk with the remaining half-naked contestants. There was a blur of evening gowns and contestants being invited to talk insipidly about their roots and how long they’d been undead, some of their favorite kills, and several of the women, wanting to please the audience, clearly made up lies about sleeping in cairns, having to stay indoors as much as possible during the day, or at least use a sunscreen with a high SPF and one even dared to say that she sometimes turned into a bat and flew, but she couldn’t do it on command so she gave no actual proof. Mayra remained close-mouthed about all these issues and she could see her silence didn’t sit well with some members of the audience, who became restless. But she was banking everything on her performance-slash-speech, or what the emcee called “the meat event.” What’s your favorite Nicki Minaj song? Have you set up your own YouTube channel and populated it with playlists, including one for her? If not, do so at the first opportunity.
It was, as had been predicted, down to the two of them. There wasn’t even going to be a second runner-up. The organizers wanted a showdown, so they had instituted a weighted vote, heavily favoring audience polls and millions of texts coming in from worldwide to decide who to eliminate. This way they could more easily control the outcome, while making the event populist. Now they reverted to American Idol format, letting the three judges decide. So, she and Lestatia were going head to head. By the toss of a coin, it was determined Lestatia would go first. The lights came up and she was already in place, dressed as Betsy Ross, holding a wooden sewing hoop with a piece of Old Glory inside, her high-waist skirt brushing the floor, her chaste, long-sleeved, puffy blouse puckered around her arms. Mayra was in shock. This routine could not have been cornier, the contestant doing a slow shuffle- ball-change with her feet, and pantomiming stitchery with an invisible needle. Mayra felt a twinge of pity for her rival. What was she going to do? Sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” while doing high kicks? Mayra wanted to win, but against a worthy rival, which would thereby show off her feminine prowess. She didn’t want it to be as if Wonder Woman had slapped around an evil Girl Scout selling anthrax-laced cookies. But she underestimated the foxy natural blonde. The slightly dissonant overture to 1776 came up, followed by bouncing drums and fifes, throwing off enthusiasm and optimistic brio about the future of their benighted country. Mayra’s classmates and her had played this overture once in high school orchestra, when Mayra was third chair violin—the peak of her musical career. She had to admit, the overture wasn’t that bad, steering clear of outright schmaltz, navigating into buoyance while conveying subtle, almost melancholy undertones of the pained struggle that had birthed a nation. It was a cagey choice, but still, Lestatia had made a strategic error in covering up her ample bosoms, clearly one of her greatest assets. Just then, a gold pole shot up from the floor and the organ funk from Striptease, starring Demi Moore, came in as the patriotic music faded.
Pulling at her Velcro-attached demure skirt and blouse, casting them off, and tossing her frilly cap into the audience, as a techno-thump and strobe lights filled the auditorium, Lestatia revealed herself in Sports Illustrated-style red, white and blue sparkling body paint, otherwise nude, with stars over her nipples and bangs freshly cut straight across, hair dyed black at the last minute. She was channeling Betty Paige and Vampirella together, a retro-look which would go down well, evoking nostalgia. She began to shimmy, then looped her arms around the pole and grabbed it softly with her hands, sinuously twirling, going airborne for short slow flights, keeping the movements of her ample curves small, not overstated. The tri-color body paint was a cheap ploy, yet brilliant in its own way. You could never go wrong with patriotism. Not so subtly, she was suggesting that Mayra was the outsider, the one whose citizenship had been cast in doubt. And Mayra had no flag of her own with which to counter. A man in the crowd yelled “Take it off!” which was patently absurd, because Lestatia wasn’t wearing any clothes. Yet she was wrapped in the flag! Oh genius trickster bitch! As a final gesture, Lestatia bared her fangs and put her hands and arms in an exaggerated “attacking cat” pose. Over the music could be heard trousers popping throughout the auditorium in a 21-gun salute to Betsy Ross. Both women and men, adults and children, got to their feet and put their hands over their hearts, some mouthing the words to the national anthem, while Annie Lennox on the thunderous sound system sang “Money Can’t Buy it.” Lestatia launched into a vague speech about the children being our future but no one heard it, nor did they care, really. Mayra was screwed. So close to reigning over the Children of the Night, to finally having a clear talent and mission in life, she was going to watch the trophy slip from her fingers and into the Tobias-enfolding arms of a flag-waving stripper, for all eternity. Make a Betsy Ross meme. You can find an example at https://imgflip.com/m/politics/tag/betsy+ross+presenting+the+first+american+flag+to+general+george. However, it is not sexy.