The Nights When I Killed

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Vampire world
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When your a vampire who makes his living on a stage, respecting the light takes on a whole new meaning. A brief look into the immortal life of a man who, like the show, must go on.

Submitted: May 26, 2017

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Submitted: May 26, 2017

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“There's this new place at the mall that sells diamond skin cream. You know, one of those places where the business model is free samples and employees hired right off the catwalk. And they offer a full body make-over on site.”

A few giggles. Some of my fans are here tonight. The rest are new to the act.

“Well, I showed up the next day and I got body glitter all over my chest that they can't see, cause I can't go outside in the daylight and I get bored.” I flash the fangs once to remind my audience of the gimmick. A bit cheesy but it works. “I showed up on a busy weekend and said, 'hey make me sparkle'.”

More giggles, regulars and newcomers who see where the joke is going.

“They had to have seen this coming,” I tell them. “But the blondy with the spike hair flashes his pearly whites and practically drags me into this backroom. He tells me to sit down. Take my shirt off. I wait until he has a whole glob of this stuff in his hand and in one move I just tear my shirt off and run right out into the mall, baring my fangs and screaming, 'It's people! It's people!'”

The crowd roars. Not bad for a ten minute set but they could have had more heart in the beginning. The club owner's probably justified in knocking a twenty off the door and damned if I'm in a position to complain. Gimmicks may sell drinks but they don't always pay the rent and at least people know the Alien Comedian from TV. The irony is that with all the make-up and the costume, he's gotta be less comfortable performing on a sunny day. At the end of my set, my fans greet me. They introduce me to friends and coworkers they convinced to check me out. Some are less than impressed by the fangs and the dark clothes, others praise me for trying to be original. Extra emphasis is given on the “trying”.

“Come on,” Chelsea pleads. She's seen my act a dozen times and goes all out with the make-up, the hair dye and the variations combinations of red, purple and black archaic clothing. Others aren't quite so cliché but others still are twice is fanatic. “I'm getting so old, you gotta turn me.”

Even when I remove the plastic fangs and use a napkin to wipe the make-up from my face, she and a dozen others are convinced it's not an act. And it's in no way tempting to tell them they're not entirely wrong.

“Getting old?” I gently scoff. “What are you, barely old enough to drink? In Canada? Seriously, how did you get into this club?”

Chelsea groans. She's immune to my ribbing and comes to every show, demanding to be turned. I won't let her into the green room. But as a cut-rate comic at best, I have to make an appearance on the floor to let the handful of fans I've accumulated know that I appreciate their coming.

When the club closes I collect my check and hit the streets. First stop, ATM. Next stop, Haley Twain's Market for my almond milk, Erewhon cornflakes, and farm fresh, organic cow's blood. Bottled, of course and available to a handful of customers who meet Haley at the back door, cash in hand. If she loses more ground to Whole Foods I'm not sure what we'll do.

Yeah, I know, First World problems.

My last stop is a Denny's for breakfast and a cup of coffee, to go. They take their time acknowledging my presence. By the time I get off the train it's a mad dash from Penn Station to my apartment building as the sky grows pale. Randy sees me coming and has the door open so I don't have to fumble for my key card.

“Here's your grand slam,” I say, handing over the bag. “There's extra napkins inside.”

Randy takes the bag into his office where there are no cameras. When he comes back out, he's sipping the coffee. I assume the twenties are in his pocket. Ever since the building association deciding tipping was out of fashion but a few extra dollars in the paycheck was extravagant, Randy and I have been the best of friends.

“How was your set?” he asks.

“I killed. How's your short stop coming along?”

“Graduating early this year. He got a scholarship to play ball at three different schools. Oh and the high school is looking for acts to perform at the all-night party, I gave them your card. I hope that's okay.”

I pat Randy on the shoulder and thank him for the consideration. Every little bit helps. A ray of sunlight pours through the windows of the lobby, forcing me to take the stairs. I don't even chance running into the other tenants and climb all eight floors.

After a bowl of cereal I retreat to my bedroom where the blackout curtains keep the sun out and a fan on high blocks out the noise of the city that never sleeps. I pop in a DVD and cue up the next episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries, which allows me to unwind as I make notes and check my calender. A couple of clubs in New York and Boston have been my stomping grounds so far. One gig in LA has me worried but I'll make it work. The clubs and high school graduation parties are the highest I'll ever go. TV is not in my future. I get enough hassle over the selfies and Youtube videos but in this day and age when a camera can be fitted into the eye of a robotic beetle, not showing up online draws more attention. And in a hundred years, who's really going to notice?

Does anyone remember The Great Rogeri?

 

 

###

 

London, 1814

 

Torches have been lit and there's a wood stove burning backstage but the cold is as much a part of the audience as the men and women filling the seats. You can pick out the wealthy from the cut of their layers and the poor from the vigorous rubbing and breathing into empty hands. Most of them came in just to get out of the cold. I only hope my purse will be as ripe as the odors of perfume, alcohol, and bodily functions.

A creepy Igor-esque man with a “hump” introduces me and I walk to a little table at the center of the stage. The applause is minimal and it dies down when I throw back my cloak. The cloak is an old horse blanket, the jerkin and tights rescued from a brothel fire, and the hat on my head once belonged to a priest. I'm told the costume is convincing.

“There is a man who has walked this Earth for many centuries. He has fought in battles too numerous to name, bedded lovers in lands unknown, and has mastered every musical instrument that is fit to be played. He was also the kind and loving master of a loyal servant who died tragically. The servant was restored to life by means of an elixir, the ingredients of which are known only to this mysterious immortal who walks among us even now.”

From beneath the folds of my cloak I remove a green bottle. It's translucent enough to reveal the presence of a liquid but thick enough to hide that its water, colored and mixed with many substances over the years, which haven't always been strictly consumable. Also removed is a small coffer.

“Will the young officer with the local constabulary please join me on the stage?”

A man enters the stage from the left. His uniform and the truncheon at his side mark him as an enforcer of the law. The pallor of his skin and the cut of his mustache reveal his age through the failed attempt at stoicism, which itself is undermined by the affliction of one who has found himself on stage, at the center of attention.

“Young man, would you identify yourself to the audience?”

The officer turns to the crowd and offers the flicker of shyness in his reply. At my request the crowd offers light applause.

“I have asked young Wilson here as a member of His Majesty's court, to verify the contents of this chest. I have here six coins carved from lead that are in no way meant to be passed for legal tender. Would you, Constable Wilson, please open the chest and take your time in inspecting these coins?”

The constable gives me the required look of disapproval, either to remain in character or to express is disdain over such a menial assignment. But he opens the coffer and checks each of the lead coins thoroughly while I go to the front of the audience and offer a smell of the strange liquid.

“If you would please,” I continue. “Verify that there are no familiar smells in this bottle. No wine, no fruit, nothing fishy of any kind.”

The men and women lean in for a surreptitious sniff. Some are genuinely amused and delighted by the participation, especially the children and the young at heart. More than a few entrepreneurs attempt to solicit me as I work the crowd and I politely ignore them.

When I have returned to the stage, the constable is satisfied that these coins are not forgeries and are simply stage props with which no illegal business shall be conducted. He even asks me to swear to it by raising my right hand, though his authority here is quite overreached. He leaves the stage and I address the audience.

“There, as you see, nothing but a strange, unfamiliar liquid and six harmless lead coins. And tonight here and now, you will witness something you have never seen before. Tonight I shall turn these useless 'stage props' into gold pieces that may be accepted as currency in any civilized land.”

At this the audience seems to forget the harshness of the cold. I hold the first coin up to the light for all to see before swallowing it. There's a gasp. I follow the coin with a swig of the liquid and I invite a member of the crowd to the stage to inspect my mouth and see that I have indeed swallowed the coin. She stays there as I swallow each of the coins, looking inside my mouth each time and again when I swallow the liquid.

She returns to her seat to the sound of applause.

“Within the confines of my belly, the elixir’s mysterious properties alter the nature of the coins. In so doing the liquid also restores me to life as it had once done when my master awakened me from the grave four hundred years prior.”

“Blasphemer!” a man shouts.

I give the priest an annoyed glare. It's not the first time a member of the clergy has heckled me and it won't be the last. I see that the audience is on my side before replying, “Sir if there's an emergency the bogs are outside.”

Laughter, applause. I pound at my chest. I pound again and cough. Out pops a coin, of perfectly legal tender, covered in saliva. I invite another member of the stage, a young boy for whom such a coin would be a fortune going by the stage of his trousers and the threadbare nature of his coat.

“There, look at that boy, does this look real?”

“Oy!” the boy holds the coin up to the light. “A whole farthing! Thank you mister!”

More children, a woman, and a man of some years, come to the stage to accept the gift of the gold coin that I cough up for them. But on the sixth coin, there's trouble.

“Oh dear,” I say, pounding at my chest. I pound it again, desperately. I cough and choke. The lady who remains on the stage is concerned and she casts a frightened, uncertain look to a man I assume must be her husband. I wretch and cough and pound at my chest. I croak, “This hasn't happened before.”

Before it goes on too long, a loud, unpleasant noise emits from the seat of my pants. To my considerable relief and embarrassment, the crowd goes wild.

“Forgive me madam,” I say to the lady. “I appear to have laid an egg.”

Replies of revulsion and disgust, and crude laughter, fill the theater as I reach beneath the cloak and pull out... a golden egg. Well it's an egg with some gold paint. The lady is most relieved that I'm not dying and she accepts my gift with a nod and a curtsy to the crowd.

At the end of the evening the takings are slim. The temperature has dropped far too much for a second show and I'm barely able to feed my stagehands for a week. My “Igor” is out of make-up and he offers me a nip from his flask, which I refuse. He takes a long pull and drops his old line, “After four hundred years you think you'd learn to crap out real gold by now.”

Igor doesn't know a thing. Like my audiences on the nights of 2017 and beyond, the men and women I have worked with in traveling circuses and theater troupes, all believe it to be part of the act. Maybe someday there will be an exception.

Until then I will remember with fondness the nights when I killed.


© Copyright 2017 Nathanielle Crawford. All rights reserved.

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