The Vampire Way, by Derek Clendening
Available at Amazon
Description: Eighteen year old Rick Thompson is a marked man. When Damien Masonite comes to his school, he knows something is up. And when his friends start falling to vampire attacks, he knows that he and his girlfriend Laura are next. The quest to understand immortality, true love and undying friendship compromise his safety even more. Can he keep his best friends, his true love and keep his mortal life?
Damien Masonite’s heart quickened when he raised the stake and hammer high above his head and poised himself. He had to kill his father tonight, but he worried that he wouldn’t have the guts.
To him, killing should’ve been easy, but he couldn’t stop his hands from shaking. Watching Dad suffer changed everything he knew about life, but the old man wouldn’t know what hit him if he did it quickly enough. He wouldn’t suffer and Damien wouldn’t have any remorse.
Listening to the rain pelt the roof, his hands shuddered, and he rested the stake and hammer. It didn’t matter if his father was suffering; he knew that he wasn’t strong enough to finish him.
Staring at Dad’s slackened jaw and the sweat streaming down his face, he asked himself how he could be so selfish. Since Mom was staked in Toronto last year, Dad’s life had taken a nose dive; he was feeding less, and allowing his body to weaken.
Closing his eyes, Damien wanted to shut out the nightmare, but the terror enveloped him when he opened them. Certainly no other vampire family would have expected this to happen to them, he thought. Remembering all the times that Dad had sat him on his lap, telling him about the plentiful blood of his youth, he would also tell him about how books and movies had ruined their lives. The entire game had changed and it had forced them to move from town to town. Damien knew that once this was over, he would have to start a new life somewhere new, except this time he would have to do it alone.
What is this feeling? Damien thought. Guilt seemed likely to him, since his own selfishness had allowed the old man to get sick. Whenever they’d fed, Dad had ignored his own needs, leaving the blood for him and Candace, and they had consumed it all, no questions asked. He was sure that if he’d forced Dad to take some blood for himself, he would’ve stayed healthy.
Dropping to his knees, he cupped Dad’s clammy hands.
“Anything I can do to make you more comfortable?” Damien asked.
“Make me a promise.”
“Carry on our name; I can’t bear to think that you’re the last. Only you have the power to make our family powerful again.”
But I’m only eighteen, he thought. He wouldn’t dare say it.
“Everyone knows about us. They think we’re normal then they figure us out.”
Damien knew the sting of rejection all too well, particularly after they were run out of Toronto. Blood was plentiful in cities, but competition from other families was always tooth and nail. Knowing that rural people were never as naïve as they let on, they never managed to stay in small towns for long either. He was positive that if he could have stayed in any school for more than a semester, he wouldn’t have had to depend on family to break up the loneliness.
“What should I do to make us strong again?” Damien asked.
“You’re powerful,” Dad whispered, “even if you don’t know it.”
“But we’re running out of places to go.”
“Try the town I wanted to move to next and you’ll find yourself there.”
Damien stared at his chest and sucked in a deep breath.
“Every town has perfect blood,” Dad said. “I’ve never found it myself, but it’s there for the taking if you look hard enough. Whoever has it can expose you, but their blood can make you powerful again. If you find that person in Fort Erie, drink them dry and convert them.”
“But who am I looking for?”
Dad’s eyes fluttering, Damien worried that he’d be gone before he could tell him the answer.
“I need you to do something important,” Dad said.
“Finish me.” His lungs wheezed as he exhaled a deep breath. “Take that stake and drive it straight through my heart.”
Feeling relieved that Dad wanted to be finished, Damien was also glad that he didn’t have to decide for him. He gripped the stake and hammer then raised them over his head and paused.
“I’ll never let you down.”
Closing his eyes, he pounded the stake into the old man’s chest, and a spray of hot blood struck his skin. Positive that he’d done the right thing, he still dropped to his knees, and buried his face in Dad’s chest to smother his tears.
When Dad’s chest stopped heaving, Damien decided that the mortals were responsible for his pain. Standing tall, he stretched his arm like eagle’s wings, and screamed at the top of his voice. He decided to mourn for Dad before moving on, but nothing would stand in the way of his mission.
The mortals had to pay.
* * *
Fort Erie, Ontario
Sitting slumped on a rock, Damien stared out at the Niagara River, and thought about Dad. Watching the water smacking against the rocks that lined the river soothed him whenever he felt down. It had quickly become his favorite spot. Next, he glanced up at the Peace Bridge and saw that traffic was backing up.
Coping with his pain had been a daily struggle but taking care of Candace and making his own decisions made him feel like more of a man. He’d buried Dad in the back yard, packed his few belongings, hit the road, and hadn’t looked back since. All that mattered to him was his new life in Fort Erie.
“What are you looking at?” Candace asked.
“You’ve broken the rules.” He didn’t turn to face her. “You know that I want to be alone when I’m sitting here.”
Brushing her off was no big deal to him because he was in charge now, and she was to obey his rules.
“You sure this is the right place?” She asked.
“Dad would’ve wanted you to trust me.”
“How do you know they won’t figure us out like they did in Toronto or Hamilton?”
“Look around you.”
Hopping off of the rock, he inched closer to the water, and rested his hands on his hips.
“The mortals don’t suspect a thing,” he said.
“How can you be sure?”
“I just know.”
Instinct had taken him this far and he wanted to keep trusting his gut. They had stayed in an empty house tucked away in the woods and Damien had read that it was haunted. Peace and quiet at last.
“We’ve hardly fed in a month,” she said. “I’m starving and I want to go home!”
“Don’t you get it? This is home!”
She shut up.
“School starts in a week and I’m already enrolled at Fort Erie High,” he said.
“But I wanted to go to school this year!” Her hands were on her hips and her eyebrows were slanted.
“We can’t be seen together. We screw this up, we move again. You want that?”
“At least let me have the first kill.”
“Dad died because of selfish thinking. Now we’re all each other have and we have to look out for each other’s good.”
“Won’t going to school keep you from finding the perfect mortal?”
“He’s out there . . . or she.” He found himself almost hypnotized by the water.
“What happens to us if you don’t?”
He shook his head. “It’s just a matter of time.”
PART ONE: THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Fort Erie, Ontario
First Day of School
Rick Thompson sat at his laptop with heavy eyelids and regretted the late night slice of pizza he had eaten. Knowing that he could still write half-asleep, he couldn’t crack the nagging question keeping him from finishing the story.
What is immortality? He wondered.
Having pondered over the question since he’d begun writing The Vampire Way, he kept plugging away, but he wanted to write something deep. Hard work wasn’t an issue for him, but his novel still wasn’t fleshing out the way he wanted it to. Knowing that his plot points had improved and his writing had tightened, he still didn’t understand immortality.
Writing a story from the vampire’s point of view seemed necessary to prove James’ daily struggles and Rick wanted his to be a novel of sensibility. Though everyone told him that eighteen was too young to write anything mature, he refused to give up.
Confident that the answer was at his fingertips, he snapped back to the laptop, but his fingers rested after just a few sentences.
“It’s quarter after eight and you’ll be late for school if you don’t get your butt moving!” His Mom shouted from upstairs.
“Can’t you tell I’m busy?”
“It can wait until after school. Get some breakfast; want to starve?”
Printing out what he’d written, he was still disappointed when he shut his laptop off. School was across the street, so he grabbed his Richard Laymon paperback, slung his backpack over his shoulder, and headed out the door.
A mild September breeze whistled through his hair as he headed across the street, still chewing over immortality. Checking his watch, he rushed past the smokers lounging on their car hoods, and sprinted into the school.
Sneaking down the hall to English class, he glanced over his shoulder every few seconds, but he didn’t see Mr. Williams.
“Saved by the bell, huh Preppie?” Bobby Jones squeezed into his desk and grunted.
“Just a perk of living so close.” Rick dropped his book bag on the floor and slid into his desk.
“Must be glad old man Williams hasn’t shown yet.”
“He’ll be thrilled to see me.”
“You look beat.”
“Been one of those mornings.” Rick stretched and yawned. “Was up at four and couldn’t sleep with this much on my mind.”
“Poor baby, such a hectic life.”
“That’s what happens when a novel takes over your life.”
“Sure. You gonna finish it before you retire?”
“Okay wise guy, check this out.” He fished the printout from his book bag and laid it on him. “This has been driving me nuts, but I think I’m on to something.”
“What is immortality . . . huh?”
“I should’ve known better.”
“Gimme a break, I ain’t no Albert Einstein. Just give me the bullet points.”
“I can’t just tell you.”
“Right, you literary folks make ding dongs like me read between the lines.”
“No, it’s ‘cause I don’t know the stupid answer either.”
Rolling his eyes, he handed the printout back. “I ain’t no critic. Ask someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
“Thanks, man. I know who to call in a real emergency.”
Rick’s attention was grabbed when a kid in white khakis, and a blue shirt worn open to show the white t-shirt beneath, swaggered into the room. Trying to ignore Khaki Boy’s striking good looks, he still imagined girls whispering and giggling about him already.
Khaki Boy glanced at him when he strolled past and Rick couldn’t tell if it was a casual look or one of yearning. Sitting in the back, Khaki Boy laced his fingers, and stared at the chalkboard.
Rick leaned towards Bobby and whispered, “Who is that guy?”
“Beats me; must be new.”
“Looks strange, doesn’t he?”
“Holy cow, can’t you give him a chance? He looks pretty normal.”
“I don’t trust him.”
“Sure, he’s the next Jeffrey Dahmer!”
Rick struggled not to wave his hands at Bobby. “Didn’t you see how he was looking at me?”
“He wants your body? How conceited!”
“Maybe he doesn’t know that it’s rude to stare.”
“You gonna teach him some manners?”
“I just don’t trust him.”
“Ah, your gut’s kicking in again.”
“Never had a gut feeling that you couldn’t trust someone?”
“Reality check; the only bad thing about him is that he’ll screw us over with girls.”
“Think what you want dude, but I’m watching my back.”
Seeing Mr. Williams storm into the room with the grin that he always used to size Rick up, he tensed, and curled back in his seat. Williams stopped at the blackboard, squeezed a piece of chalk between his chubby fingers and printed his name in block letters.
Rick avoided eye contact when Williams turned to face the class.
“Finish that little novel of yours?” Williams’ grin widened.
Rick wouldn’t let him win by admitting that it wasn’t finished, so he kept quiet, and looked down at his hands.
“Haven’t kept your promise? Oh well. Maybe you’ll outgrow vampires and write something serious.” He snatched the printout off of Rick’s desk. “But that’ll never happen. Immortality, huh?”
When he tossed the printout short of Rick’s face, and turned back to the black board, Rick struggled to calm himself.
Then his attention was grabbed by the blonde, blue-eyed girl who dashed into the room. Her tight jeans and short pink shirt showed her curves and washboard stomach like she didn’t know that it drove him wild.
“Hey!” Bobby snapped his fingers in Rick’s ear. “Wake up!”
“What’s the problem?”
“I’ll be picking your tongue up off the floor in a minute.”
Knowing that it was wrong to treat the girl like an object, he couldn’t help stealing one last glance at her.
“I’m not sure I’ve got the right room,” she said.
“Excuse me, but this class started five minutes ago . . . no, never mind, just take a seat. Name?”
Was it same girl who’d stolen his heart in elementary school? He wondered. Remembering the bundle of undelivered love letters he’d written to her in his sock drawer, he hoped it was her. He remembered the Valentine’s Day gift he’d made for her in the eighth grade, something pink with frilly ribbons, and a poem inside. He’d planned to tell her that he loved her that day, but her family had moved away without telling anyone.
“Bobby, you remember that girl?”
“The blonde princess?”
“Isn’t that the same girl that–”
“Mr. Thompson!” Williams shouted. “Always carrying on in class like you’re so smart; looks like we’ll have another fine semester together.”
He scanned the attendance sheet and likely marked Laura late on her first day at a new school.
“I think I know everyone else in class,” he said, “except you.”
He pointed to Khaki Boy whose expression hadn’t flinched.
The Vampire Way, by Derek Clendening
Available at Amazon