The next morning, after she showered with paraben-free grapefruit seed soap, Mayra felt vexed. It was difficult for her to relate to other women her age, as since childhood, she’d always felt centuries old. The new thing for thirty-something, white educated females in Los Angeles was to dress in tight short dresses with exaggerated heels and makeup, reveling in femininity in a continuous winking homage to the 40s or 50s or some previous decade of deprivation and rapacious patriarchy where being female had supposedly been more fun. They held Sex and the City nights, culminating in charity soirees for the homeless held on the rooftops of downtown lofts such as Rubix and The Emerson. These ladies found Norman Mailer and Henry Miller deliciously naughty. When not binge-watching Mad Men for the fourth time, they discussed Sexus, Plexus, and Nexus while drinking soy lattes or cocktails containing absinthe and Sazerac.
A friend had convinced Mayra to go to a literary reading from someone touted by her sisters as “a female Nabokov.” The wan blonde onstage with the risqué hemline had launched into a reading of her actual diaries—not even diaries, they were mostly an endless series of sexts. She’d made a connection with a guy online in Denmark and they’d written back and forth for weeks about him jizzing on the screen and her licking it off, as well as fantasizing about rampant anal sex and other acts Mayra could not keep straight in her mind. Then they met in a hotel several times and did all those things, apparently.
The woman didn’t seem the slightest bit embarrassed, and the audience laughed as if she were reading Dr. Seuss for grown-ups. Mayra supposed these women, her peers, would continue referring to themselves as girls on into their 50s if they could get away with it. Like all comparatively young people, they felt they had life by the balls, in this case literally. Every night was girls’ night out, and they went on the prowl for man-boys. The best ones were cute and foul-mouthed, with hair stacked high, like a breaking ocean wave and talked casually about their dicks as if about a wayward friend. The girls could be spotted at speakeasies such as La Cita and Varnish, ducking into back doors as if it were still the 1920s and liquor were actually illegal. Being a predator was the new feminism, the new empowerment.
Mayra fantasized about starting a blog called “Offhand Voltaire,” a blithe column where she would write down her stream of observations about what she saw going on around her. But she didn’t think anyone would read them. Most of her friends were too busy reading Yelp reviews or cruising for their next dinner spot on Open Table. One of Mayra’s friends, a woman who freelanced for Jezebel
andRookiesimply kept reading over and over Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Joan Didion’s The White Album. She claimed all the answers to life lay in those two books and no others were needed.
With a white towel wrapped around her body, Mayra fished the phone out of her jeans pocket and called Tobias. He seemed surprised to hear from her. He asked her to wait a minute and put his phone on mute, obviously so he could walk to a safe location out of earshot. She asked if he could come over to her apartment right away. “Is there a prowler on the premises?” She tried to put on her best little girl voice, like her girlfriends. “I wish there were a certain one.” “Do you miss me, Mayra?” “No, it’s a booty call.” “I can’t. I’m in an LTR with a vampire.” “So soon? I’m a vampire too, Tobias.” “Uh, technically you’re not. Remember the pinky thing?” “I don’t care. I’m claiming it. In fact, I’m going to start calling myself Vampire Girl. All these adult women are running around calling themselves Girls because it makes their hard, empty lives feel fresh and outrageous. There is even a show called Girls.” “I don’t think you want to go down that road.” “I will run down that road, exuding hilarious promiscuity. Then I will blog about my many neuroses and post Instagram pictures of me going down on my psychiatrist. Now come over and bite me on the neck and other places. And we will have anal sex and blithely laugh about it and say all the bad words in the Urban Dictionary.” “Here’s the thing, Mayra. Once you’ve converted back, it doesn’t necessarily take a second time. It’s like a vasectomy. It may be reversible, or maybe not.” “You, Tobias, always so good with analogies. I’ll bet your GRE scores were killer.” “I’m serious. And even if the bite takes, it may be only for a short time.” “All I need is a few hours. I just have to get back in touch with my vampire ancestry.” Tobias sighed into the phone. “Okay, I’ll be over in an hour. Let me get rid of Lestatia. But I’m coming down with a cold, so let’s keep the sex low-key.” You are hereby invited to add some of your secret, heady, intoxicating, erotic, not to say filthy, experiences to this novel and attribute them to Mayra or any other character in Vampire Girl. Please be specific and do not lapse into rapturous euphemisms.
“You know, Mayra, a vampire’s semen, when ingested orally, is his most powerful body fluid.” “Usually, I take your word on all this vampire lore. But I’m pretty sure you’re making that up.” “C’mon, baby, I said low-key sex. That’s you giving me—you know.” “That would be low-key for you, not for me.” “Okay, forget I said anything. Let’s get on with it. I’m in the middle of binge-watching The Walking Dead.” Her ex-boyfriend began awkward groping. Mayra had unfortunately succeeded in making Tobias self-conscious. He shuffled around as if he didn’t know what to touch with what, not even confident to kiss her. “I told you I had a cold. I should be in bed right now with a bottle of Nyquil. I am definitely running a low-grade temp.” It was time for a switch in tactics. Mayra assumed the little girl voice she’d tried on the phone. “Baby, you’re a creature of the night. Come down on me with your infinite power. Let the ancestors crowd behind you with midnight howls, awakening the lonely undead fitfully turning in graves from their endless slumber, where they will do many hot things to the ladies with impunity, without even having to buy them drinks or take them out to dinner.” Mayra was disappointed with her fake come-on. This was exactly the kind of shit her girlfriends said, almost verbatim, to their boy-men. The temptation to do so was strong because it worked every single time. There was some genetic defect in guys that made them step in the same pile of crap over and over rather than cross the street and walk on the opposite sidewalk. Any other sub-species who had not learned from its mistakes would be extinct. Now Tobias was ripping her blouse open, buttons popping and pinging off the walls. He shredded her panties as if they were made of wrapping paper. He kissed her with deep tongue and slobbered all over her neck and face, overpowering her with his feral dog breath, an enticing combination of the aroma of violets, pepper spray, and rotting flesh. She found his zipper and began giving him a handy. He jerked, his head and body spasmodic, as if he were going to turn into a werewolf instead.
Mayra had to fight the urge to instruct him to start biting her. She knew that would be a definite buzzkill and that he might get mad and go home if she started telling him what to do. Instead, she lay still like prey, trying to project helplessness and mild fear combined with a transport of rapture and a melancholy yearning for the dark side of the moon. In short, it was a tough gig. It didn’t help that Tobias kept sniffing and snorting instead of just stopping and blowing his nose. She had a box of tissues right on the coffee table a foot away and it took all her strength not to reach for one. Then his fangs sank into her neck. Mayra felt the surge of his sweet poison in her veins. She had three climaxes in a row.
Tobias’s eyes glowed red in the sudden dark and his slobber became a numinous living shroud, exalting her soul. Her shoes felt half a size tighter. On a high plain, her ancestors gathered in a line, like in those slow-motion sequences in movies where several actors spread out over a street and walk forward together, determined but casual, their arms out of synch, to show their prowess. In their hands they held antique lamps casting long, quivering shadows over the living room wall. She was led up a winding stair into a well-lit room laid for supper. Unfortunately, it was sushi and Mayra was allergic to raw seafood. She went into a swoon and slept for she knew not how long. When Mayra awoke, Tobias was gone and so was the box of tissues. Pretend you are a character in The Walking Dead. Where are you walking and why are you dead? What will you do when you get there?
Mayra surprised herself by going on a successful killing spree. Never had she felt particularly talented at anything. Through school, she played violin, and her mother had always complimented her, suggesting that someday she would be headlining at rock-sized stadiums. Whenever Mayra tried to explain that she was only third chair in the high school orchestra, her mother brushed it off as false modesty. Mayra’s human resources job, after she studied sociology in college, mostly involved explaining benefits and mediating between squabbling employees. It took no great talent. Whenever people came to her office, she would joke “Welcome to Inhuman Resources,” until her boss took her aside to explain that not everyone has a sense of humor. So, her job was entirely boring. Now she was literally inhuman. She’d imagined herself like Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger, softly seducing, luring men with a permanent come-hither. But really, she preyed more like a wild dog destroying an unfortunate rabbit that had run across its path, shaking it from side to side with powerful jaws as blood splashed the bushes.
The men she killed were assumed by the police to have been attacked by one of the many coyotes that had begun to prowl neighborhoods of Los Angeles on account of the drought. They were as bold as Mayra, trotting down the street in broad daylight, looking dwellers directly in the eye, unafraid. So, no one in law enforcement was searching for an undead woman of inhuman resources as a potential murderer. Only a few of the men Mayra finished off also became vampires. There was so much about vampire lore that she didn’t know, or that turned out to be false. Not everybody got infected with afterlife. Fang-sinking was more like a Chinese battery factory that turned out 80% duds. Dating apps made it easy to find potential victims. You didn’t even have to go into a bar with cleavage showing, or with your legs spread apart like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. You just swiped and filtered, exchanged a few texts, maybe held a short phone call, then had a drink, sex if you were in the mood, and that was it.
Most of these guys were so busy on the apps that it would be virtually impossible to narrow their killer down to one woman. As in a medieval morality play, they were done in by their promiscuity. Her private joke about meeting at happy hour was calling it Wine and Die. Surprisingly, the look on the faces of a number of her dates as life ebbed away was resignation, as if they knew all along something like this was going to happen. At bottom, they saw women as savage carnivorous bitches waiting to feast on them as soon as they had used sex to seduce and control. And Mayra was exactly that. Well, so were a few of her girlfriends, but only metaphorically. Mayra needed a mere three ounces of blood per day, so in order to slow down the pace of killing and have time for other fun activities such as her bowling league, she had taken to filling an IV bag with blood at the scene of each crime and saving it at home for later use by dispensing it into cute little perfume-sized bottles and playfully putting labels on it: shiraz, cabernet, garnacha. Each man’s blood did indeed have a different perfume, a different savor, and she enjoyed it more than she ever had food. It was worth becoming Vampire Girl if only for that reason. Suppose you were screaming at your Human Resources Manager, and you knew she was a Creature of the Night who sometimes left downtown streets littered with carcasses. What epithets would you use to humiliate her, without crossing the line into harassing behavior that might get you fired?