In The Beginning

On January third of nineteen eighty, Mindi held her still wet son as Arthur ? Mindi?s husband ? watched in amazement. The young couple had just had their first child and were in the throes of that perfect moment. They had already decided his name and now they spoke it in unison,

??????????? ?Maetai!? Both of their excited voices twined in the otherwise quiet room. They had chosen to have a home birth rather than subject their new son to the torture of a Chicago hospital. No monitors beeping, no nurses bustling, no doctor slapping the baby but most importantly was that he was born in a traditional family home. Arthur Wasamaki was an American born to Japanese immigrant parents. Mindi was an American born to a Chinese father and Hmong mother. Their small Chicago house was adorned in traditional decorations and furniture from the three Asian cultures represented in their union. Now they felt like a whole family. The three of them in their home represented the culmination of a dream the new parents had shared for two years. They had survived the disapproval of both families.

 

Old and Young

 

??????????? Maetai drove south as fast as the mustang would allow him to. His mind was still digesting his meeting with Hectar. The small book sat in the passenger seat of the car with his one duffel bag of possessions. The old one was definitely eccentric. Maybe being alive so long had warped him. His last words of the meeting rolled in Maetai?s mind over and over. Hectar had said,

??????????? ?You need not look far for the answers to your questions, though the answers come from the furthest reaches of the earth.? Did he mean look on the internet? Was it in a library? What a prick! Maetai had only been a vampire for two weeks, not counting the week of transition! His mind and emotions were still trying to grasp the whole situation of his new life! It was also eating at him that Hectar had told him that only one out of one hundred new vampires survive their first century. How could that be true? Everyone that read the books knew that vampires were immortal! All you had to do was stay out of the sun and keep from getting staked in the heart, right? Maetai was not very patient nor had he ever been. He tried to squeeze a little more out of the gas pedal. If he could keep up this speed he would reach Chicago before sunrise. He could get a motel room for the day and head east in the evening. His mind went back to Hectar. What would an old vampire be doing in a place like Duluth anyways? He had to be off his rocker! Maetai popped a CD into the stereo system and cranked up the volume. After a moment of reading the CD the stereo began to pump out AC/DC. Maetai drown his thoughts in the music. It was a long drive to New York. The music worked for less than a whole song. He turned it off. The road raced beneath him and the mustang drank gas. The highway was empty except for a couple of semis in the northbound lane. Maetai whizzed by a rest area and thought to himself that just a month ago he would have had to stop at several of those on a road trip to use the bathroom. He smiled to himself in the rear view. His teeth seemed whiter and straighter than they were before, but it might just be his vision. He was trying to adjust to all the new changes.

??????????? Maetai pulled into the truck stop and drove to the gas pumps. He put the mustang into park and turned the key off. The purring motor rumbled to a stop. He opened the door and stepped out into the night air. Maetai was pleased with the little perks of being a vampire. He was not in the least bit drowsy nor were his legs or back stiff! He pulled out his wallet and removed the debit card. He swiped it through the card reader and waited for the messages on the screen to cycle through. When it read ?remove nozzle and select grade? he did. As he waited for the mustangs tank to fill he thought to himself that he had not read anything more than signs and headlines in seven years. Not since he had graduated high school had he even opened a book. He looked through the drivers? window to the small brown book on the passenger seat. Why start now?? Lestat never had a handbook to teach him to be a vampire or at least if he did Anne Rice didn?t know about it. When the pump clicked to let him know the mustang had enough, a thought came to Maetai. Screw that crazy Hectar. Maetai had scores to settle here in Chicago and he was anxious to get started! He hung the nozzle back in its socket, grabbed his receipt and jumped back in the mustang. The muscle car roared to life and peeled out of the parking area back to the onramp. By the time he reached the freeway he was back at top speed and headed for the Chicago exit. Look out gangland, here comes Maetai!

 

A New Beginning

 

??????????? Maetai pulled into the apartment complex at five in the morning. He found a parking spot close to his friend Chad's building and pulled in. He sat in the rumbling mustang for a few minutes wondering if Chad would notice any difference. He turned off the engine, grabbed his bag and the little book and stepped out of the car. Breathing in a deep, cool breath Maetai could smell all the people that had been in the area within the last few minutes. Though he couldn't identify them individually yet, he got a sense of the differences among them. He could definitely smell alcohol and weed, but there were other differences that he had no reference for yet. He shouldered the bag and headed for the entrance of the run down brick building. The door squealed as he opened it. He stood in the central entry, listening. Five in the morning and there was still a party going on in the back of the first floor, there was a man and a woman arguing on the third floor and children watching cartoons on the fourth floor. The building had six floors, each containing six apartments. Chad lived on the sixth floor and had the front right corner apartment. Maetai decided to go up the stairs as quickly and quietly as he could. His feet moved in a blur and his sneakers made just a whisper over the old worn wood of the stairs. It took four seconds for him to be standing in front of Chad's door! Maetai smiled to himself. Reaching out his left hand, he tapped on the door. After a few seconds of silence he knocked a little more loudly. Still no movement from inside. Maetai concentrated on his hearing; he listened intently for sound from inside. Finally he heard it. Slow deep breathing from Chad's bedroom. Shifting the bag from his right shoulder to his left and switching the book from right to left hand, he reached out his right hand to the doorknob. He tried it and found it locked, of course. Chad never left his door unlocked. He tried to turn it a little more forcefully and his hand crushed the hollow knob. Brass oozed between his fingers and conformed to the shape of his palm. He quickly pulled his hand back and stared at the now deformed doorknob. It looked like play dough that once had been a ball, but then got squeezed! A small high pitched laugh escaped Maetai's lips. He knocked on the door a little louder. The neighbor across the hall opened his door and stepped out.

??????????? ?He's probably passed out. He was up partying 'til about two.? The bald man spoke quietly as he turned his broad frame to face his own door so he could lock it.

??????????? ?Yeah, thanks.? Maetai's voice seemed meek to himself and he found that he still had his shyness despite his new abilities. He felt disgusted with himself as he watched the large man walk loudly down the stairs. Maetai turned back to the door. He grabbed the handle and turned it hard. He heard the hardware inside shatter! Then he put his strength into pushing it open! Wood cracked and splintered and the chain inside popped as it snapped! The door swung freely on it's hinges and Maetai walked in. Putting down his bag on the floor and his book on the table, he turned to inspect the damage he had caused to the door and frame. What he saw shocked him! The frame had been reinforced with two steel bars running inside the wood. The deadbolt snugged in between the bars and the normal latch fit into the groove just six inches below the deadbolt! He had bent both deadbolt and latch and cracked the edge of the door from floor to ceiling! The door itself was made of security grade steel covered with a wood laminate! The wood top cover over the steel reinforced frame was ripped away from the door frame itself and hung on bent finishing nails that now suspended it half an inch from the wall!

??????????? ?Oh... shit.? Maetai let the words slowly slide from his mouth. He tried to straighten the deadbolt so that he could unlock it, but all he succeeded in doing was snapping it off. He pushed the door closed and shrugged to himself.? Turning around he surveyed the tiny living room. The couch was filthy and the narrow coffee table in front of it was covered with beer cans, empty plastic baggies, pot seeds, and two ashtrays with quite a few roaches in them mixed in among the cigarette butts. There were cigarette butts on the carpet and an empty pizza box under the coffee table. The kitchen table held mostly empty glasses from mixed drinks and shot glasses that still had a little vodka in them. He looked into the kitchen and saw what looked like a weeks worth of dishes in the sink and on the cheap counters. He sighed.

??????????? ?What a mess.? He breathed to himself. He walked down the short hall past the bathroom and looked in Chad's open bedroom door. Chad lay sprawled face down, still wearing his clothes. He was drooling on his pillow and there was an empty vodka bottle on the bedside table. Maetai turned and looked at the second bedroom's closed door. Behind it was the bed that Maetai had crashed on many times. There should be just one small dresser and some of Maetai's nicer clothes hanging in the closet. He listened for a moment and heard nothing. Apparently there were no party goers that had stayed. He slowly opened the wood door. It was exactly as he had left it a month ago. He pulled the door closed and went back to the trashed living room. Maetai hesitated for just a moment, and then poured on his new speed to clean the house. By five thirty he had cleaned and organized everything in the apartment with the exception of Chad's room. He had even scrubbed the plain white walls and washed the windows with newspaper and Windex. He went to the hall closet and grabbed the vacuum cleaner. He debated a moment to consider the headache Chad would have if the vacuum woke him. Maetai smiled and fired it up. He vacuumed the whole house and then mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors. Still Chad slept! Nothing had even made him change position! Maetai sat on the couch and looked at the little thirteen inch television that sat on four cinder blocks with a board crossing them. Chad's entertainment center was sorely lacking. He felt the small wad of bills in his jeans pocket and frowned. He knew he only had fifty some dollars in his checking account and probably only twenty in his pocket. Seventy dollars was not going to be enough, but it was now too close to sunrise for him to risk leaving the apartment. The thought made him stand up from the couch. The couch sat under a long window that faced south, and there was no curtain. The bedroom he had his clothes in had no windows. Maetai looked out the window at the sky which was now brightening. He turned to the kitchen table and grabbed his bag and the small book. Taking his possessions with him, he went to the second bedroom. He sat his bag down on top of the dresser and tossed the book on the twin bed. Unpacking his bag and putting the clothes in the drawers, he wondered if Chad would be angry about the door. He shrugged and put the now empty bag in the closet. Three t-shirts, five pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks, two pairs of jeans and three button-down shirts in the closet ? not counting the clothes he was wearing. Maetai was disappointed in his severely diminished wardrobe. He would have to fix that. Chicago had a lot of good places to get cloths, but first he had to come up with money.

??????????? Maetai had grown up in Chicago, but in the north-west section, in a good neighborhood. Though he had been all over the windy city, he had never lived the harder side of life here. His friends all came from better off families and even the ones that tried to be like thugs had really never had to survive on their own here. Chad was one of the first to have his own place and a steady job. He had gotten lucky and landed a job with a small computer company that had boomed in the last year. The job afforded him his apartment and utilities as well as his extra curricular activities. Maetai had been jealous of Chad's good fortune at first, but then he had been transformed three weeks ago.

??????????? The initial transformation had taken place in a small town on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois where Maetai had been staying with his cousin, Lauren. They had been out night fishing and met a guy named Peter on the small lake. The three young men had gone back to Lauren?s house for some coffee when Peter revealed what he really was. He had knocked Maetai's cousin out with a flick of his hand to the back of Loren's head, and then turned to Maetai. The struggle was mostly Maetai trying to get out of Peter's grip and Peter slapping him in the head once, making his vision go dark dotted with pin pricks of white light. When Maetai came too, Peter had been gone for a week and Loren had moved Maetai to the couch from the kitchen door. It had taken Maetai a couple of days to adjust to his expanded senses, and Loren had been worried that Maetai was dying. The reason he hadn't called an ambulance or the police was that Maetai had never shown any signs of physical distress and had drunk broth and water with just a little bit of prompting.? That night with Peter had only been three weeks ago.

??????????? Maetai heard a change in Chad's breathing. Chad groaned and rolled from the bed to the floor. There was no thump, more of a slow sliding that ended with Chad on hands and knees on the carpet. Chad struggled through his reeling vision to stand up, but his body wouldn't respond to his aching mind's request. Chad gave up and crawled to his bedroom doorway. He crawled into the hall and to the bathroom. Maetai silently rose from the small twin bed and stalked to the bedroom door. When he heard Chad's hands hit the cold linoleum of the bathroom floor, he opened the bedroom door and stepped out. Quickly he stepped down the hall and reached over Chad's crawling form to flick the bathroom light on. Before the electricity could flow from the switch to the light, Maetai was back in the bedroom holding back a snicker.

??????????? ?What the...? Chad's question was cut short by a small heave from his angry stomach. He crawled the rest of the way to the toilet and opened the floodgates. Maetai stepped down the hall again and stood in the doorway of the bathroom. He leaned against the frame and crossed his slender arms over his chest watching his friend start a second round of heaves into the toilet.

??????????? ?At least you made it all the way to the toilet.? Maetai's voice was calm and clear.

??????????? ?AaahhhhuuuuUUGH!? It sounded like an attempt at speech ending with more liquid splashing into the toilet.

??????????? ?And I just cleaned the bathroom. See how clean the toilet is?? Maetai couldn't help but let the smile slip at his friends body uncomfortably huddled over the porcelain stool. The smell of vomit and alcohol were almost overwhelming, but Maetai kept his disgust in check. He was surprised that the smell did not gag him. He had never been able to handle the smell of vomit! He stepped back to the hall closet and grabbed a clean towel and washcloth. Stepping back into the bathroom he said,

??????????? ?When you're done, take a shower. And don't forget to brush your teeth. Maybe some mouthwash, too.? He tossed the towel and washcloth on to the tiny counter and backed out, closing the door. Maetai retired to his small room to wait for Chad to get cleaned up.

??????????? It took an entire hour for Chad to get cleaned up. He came to Maetai's room and knocked on the door. Maetai was waiting just on the other side.

??????????? ?Come in.? Chad opened the door slowly. He stepped into the dark room and allowed his eyes to adjust.

??????????? ?Why so dark, Maetai?? Maetai watched as Chad stood in the doorway with his eyes wide and straining to see. He had forgotten that the light was off! He admired the slight reddish glow around Chad.

??????????? ?It's not dark, Chad. The alcohol is killing your eyes. Stay up a bit late last night?? Maetai stretched and rose from the bed. He walked past Chad and flipped on the light. Chad winced as the light smashed against his retinas.

??????????? ?Maybe a little late. When did you get back in town?? Chad's hand moved up to cover his eyes from the offensive light. Maetai sat casually back on the bed.

??????????? ?This morning. I got here about five thirty.?

??????????? ?Did I let you in? Cuz I don't remember getting up!? Chad's hand came away from his face as he tried to force his eyes to focus through the glaring brightness.

??????????? ?No, I let myself in. I guess you're off today, huh?? A change came over Chad's face as his eyes focused on Maetai. His expression went from fighting the pain of the light, to shock and disbelief as he brought Maetai's eyes into focus. There was no color difference; Maetai's eyes had always been deep brown, bordering on black. It was something else, something deeper that caught Chad's attention.

??????????? ?Yeah, off today. You seem different somehow.? Maetai smiled slowly. He had known Chad since the first grade. The two had always been friends. He knew Chad would know something had changed right away.

??????????? ?Yes, I'm different. Why don't you go make yourself some coffee? Do yourself a favor, don't smoke any weed or drink any booze today. I'll come talk to you at sunset. Until then just pretend I'm not here.? Maetai stretched out on the bed, grossing his ankles and folding his hands behind his head. ?Kill the light on your way out, would ya??

??????????? ?Sure. I'll see you tonight.? Chad backed to the door. As he stepped out of the room, still backing up, he shut the light off and pulled the door closed. He stood in the hall for a moment, trying to place what was different about his oldest friend. Then he turned and walked to the immaculate kitchen to make coffee.

 

Copyright © 2014 J.A. Laughlin

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