A Lucky Offer
The alarm sounds with a startling siren, forcing me to jolt awake in a dizzying state of confusion. I frantically feel around with my hands, completely blinded by the darkness, as I try to find the source of the loud noise. Once I find the source of the annoyingly continuous noise, I slam my hand against the object until I can silence it. I then take a deep breath to calm myself and my racing heart as I try to evaluate my current location. Then, it hits me.
Oh. That’s right. I’m home in my bed. It was all just a terrible nightmare.
I only wish that the events of that night truly were only a simple nightmare. Even though that horrific event took place over 10 years ago, I continue to be haunted by those memories within my dreams. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to forget that terrifying night. I let out a big sigh, sit up in bed, and feel around until I find my phone to check the time.
“Ugh. It’s 5 p.m. I suppose I better get up.” I say groggily.
I quickly push the horrible dream to the back of my mind as I sluggishly climb out of bed. I switch on the bedroom lights and stare disappointingly upon my rather plainly decorated, windowless apartment. I pull my attention away from my furnishings and come to notice how muggy the inside of my apartment feels.
“Jeez. It must be a hot one today.” I say to myself as I wipe the sweat from my forehead. “Maybe a cool shower will rejuvenate me and wake me up.”
I traverse the closet sized studio apartment towards the bathroom door, flick on the light switch, close my eyes, and stand in front of the mirror.
“Please be gone. Please be gone. Please be gone.” I chant with crossed fingers as I slowly open my eyes to peer into the mirror.
My reflection stares back at me with the usual scarlet red, burning eyes. I open my mouth and inspect the sharp fangs that occupy the spaces where most “normal” people would find their upper canines.
“Damnit! It’s all still there.” I say with a frustrated sigh.
Although this daily routine never shows the results I hope for, I continue this ritual every day in hopes my luck will one day finally change. As I continue gazing into the mirror, I begin finding other physical faults about myself to criticize.
Extremely pale skin. I could freaking glow under a blacklight and blind everyone in the room. I could also use gaining a bit of muscle. I’m way too skinny.
Also, why couldn’t I be a bit taller? I feel so short compared to most guys…
“Stop it, Jace. You’re doing it again.” I say loudly as I shake my head and snap back to reality.
“I just have to step away from the mirror and take my shower. I’ll feel better after that.”
I grab a nearby towel and casually toss it over the shower rail, undress, then step into the shower and turn on the cool streams of water. A chill runs down my spine as the icy water cascades over my body and I quickly jump backwards. I immediately begin to shiver in response.
Holy shit that’s cold!! Not the “cool shower” I had in mind. I guess they still haven’t fixed the hot water. I guess this is one way to wake up in a hurry.
I hop in place for a moment as I try to warm myself. “Okay. If I do this quickly then it won’t be so bad.”
I count to three, take a deep breath, then dramatically hold it in as launch myself back under the numbingly cold water.
“Fuuuuck!! Fuck! Fuck!” I scream as I try to quickly scrub myself clean.
After enduring the painfully cold shower, I tightly bundle myself in the towel before shuffling to my closet to get dressed. After putting on a comfortable outfit, I sit at my small desk and turn on my laptop.
“Okay, here we go. Time to check my emails for any job application responses. If I don’t have any good responses, then I need to keep applying to more jobs.”
I let out a stressed huff. I continue to restlessly search for a new job every single day, but I have yet to receive any sort of positive results. Unfortunately, most jobs don’t accept ‘I can only work at night, or I’ll die’ as an excuse for limited availability.
I open my email inbox and peruse through the newly received job application responses.
“Let’s see here… ‘Dear Mr. Goth… Thank you for your application…’ Yeah yeah yeah… ‘We regret to inform you…’ Ah jeez.
Dear Mr. Goth… I am sorry to inform you…’ Ugh.
‘Dear Mr. Goth… After carefully reviewing your qualifications, we have decided to pursue other candidates…’”
I let out a defeated sigh. “This has become way too depressing… What am I gonna do? I need to find a new job soon, or I will be in loads of trouble.”
I push my laptop away and rest my head into my hands while closing my eyes. I sit silently for a few seconds, then lift my head once more and pull my laptop back to its original position.
“Okay. I can do this. I’ve just to keep trying. Yeah. I’m bound to find a job eventually, right? I can’t give up. I’ve gotta keep trying.” I say with clenched fists.
I open a new browser and furiously search for any job offers that are available throughout district.
“There has to be something out there. I’ve just gotta keep trying.”
I work myself into an intense focus, so deep that I don’t even realize my instinctive action of kicking the nearby vertical pipe to stop it from producing its usual rattling sound. I browse through a multitude of different job offers, fill out applications, and search for every job opportunity available until a few hours unnoticeably pass by.
I lean back in my chair and tilt my head back to look towards the stained ceiling.
“Damn, this is exhausting. I should take a quick break.”
I stand from my desk, walk to the condensed kitchen area, and open the fridge. The inside is almost completely barren, apart from a few, large, gray-colored pouches stored in a large, see-through, pull-out shelf.
“Hmmm. I seem to be running a bit low. I guess I’ll have to go out sometime soon to stock up.”
I carefully remove one of the pouches, poke a straw through it, and slowly begin to sip. I lean against the nearby counter as I continue sipping and stare into space.
“Drinking these sure doesn’t hit like it used to.” I mumble as I finish drinking from the pouch.
I toss the emptied pouch into the trash, then return to my desk with a sigh. I stare at my laptop’s screen for a few minutes as I daze off.
“Ugh. I can’t do anymore today. I’m wiped out.” I say as I close the laptop. “Maybe I should talk a walk around the city and clear my head.”
I check the time on my phone, “Yeah. It should be okay for me to go out now. Maybe I can grab a coffee or something while I’m out.”
I stand from the desk and walk to the bathroom. I pull open a small drawer underneath the bathroom sink and take out a pair of contacts from a small box. I then use the mirror to carefully place the contacts in my eyes, making odd facial expressions as I do so. Finally, I remove a small, plastic retainer from the drawer and pop it into my mouth before closing the drawer.
I gaze into the mirror, staring at my now dark brown colored eyes and normal looking teeth.
“Wow. I look like my old self again.” I say as I stare longingly into the mirror. “…I just wish it would stay this way, permanently.”
I admire my “normal” looking appearance for a moment, then I grab my things, and walk out the front door. After properly locking up, I walk down the backwards “L” shaped hallway, take a left turn around the corner, and descend the six flights of stairs into the quiet lobby. I casually walk to the large, glass doorway to exit the apartment building. As I leisurely stroll outside, I see that the sun has finally set, leaving a mix of amber and violet streams painted across the sky from its departure.
“Well, at least I never have to worry about sunscreen.” I say as I take in the beauty of the evening sky.
I descend the building’s steps, walk to the end of the block, and make a right turn around the corner of the building. I continue my casual stroll through the long, one-way street that narrowly squeezes between the two parallel buildings. I take notice of the cracked and poorly aged concrete as I investigate the ground during my walk. The randomly placed streetlights suddenly flicker on, signaling the inevitably oncoming darkness. I slowly shift my position as I walk to avoid the large piles of overstuffed trash bags that line the street. I hold my nose as I am hit with the usual smell of putrid garbage that is amplified from the summer heat. I pass a small group of elders gossiping amongst themselves while lounging in lawn chairs. The women of the group are actively fanning themselves as they carry on the seemingly juicy conversation. A nearby broken fire hydrant sprays thick streams of water across the street that children joyfully play in.
I arrive at the end of the one-way street and make a quick left turn to continue two more blocks before reaching the subway station. I hasten my pace as I advance into a sketchier area, filled with drug addicts, drunks, and many potentially violent homeless people. I carefully proceed, trying to avoid the handful of unconscious people that lie about the sidewalk. Two men nearby are blasting music out of wireless speakers while dancing with a swaying, non-rhythmic motion. I see a few street vendors of sorts, selling things such as used shoes (1 shoe, not a pair), or bottles of mouthwash on a laid out, dirty rug. Most of them reveal several missing teeth as they call out to people that walk by. A woman quickly walks by while mumbling loudly to herself and smoking a cigarette.
“I suppose I should consider myself lucky.” I think to myself as I approach the subway station stairs.
After boarding the train, I sit quietly and observe the people that come and go at every stop, wondering what their lives must be like in comparison to mine. I also contemplate what might run through their minds if they knew a vampire existed among them. The subway train emerges aboveground as I peer out the window at the bustling city below. The city lights flash by as the train speeds along the tracks. Nearby buildings and lights rush by in a blur, as I stare at the towering skyscrapers on the horizon. The outside world quickly is masked with darkness as the train speeds underground once more to reach its final stop.
“This stop is Portview Avenue. This is the last stop.” Rings the conductor’s voice.
I exit the Portview station and find a nearby coffee shop where I order me a small latte. I then decide to take a stroll to the nearby docks while I try to enjoy the warm drink. I take a small sip, but immediately cringe at the jarring, ash-like flavor that greets my tastebuds. My stomach twists in reaction to the horrid flavor.
“Jeez. You’d think after so many tries; I would get used to the taste.” I say as I choke.
“I used to love having coffee… why can’t I just be allowed this one thing?!”
Well, so much for enjoying eternal life, I suppose.
I angrily toss the remainder of the latte into a nearby garbage can as I walk out from between the large buildings into the large, open area of the docks. I feel a sudden gust of warm, salty, ocean air as a strong breeze rushes by. I walk closer to the docks while looking out towards the distant horizon of the ocean. I can hear the calming sounds of the ocean waves gently crashing into the wooden platforms of the boat docks. The wooden anchors of the ports creak softly from the persistent ocean tides that push against them. The large ships positioned at the docks moan and sway with the passing currents. I look at the nearby warehouses as the moonlight reflects from their metal roofs, giving off an almost magical glow to the port. Countless pieces of machinery lie stalwart around the warehouse yards. There is a hauntingly eerie but beautiful aura that encapsulates these docks at night.
I roam around the area until I stumble upon a lone bench facing the ocean. I decide to sit on the old, wooden bench while I gaze out at the ocean’s surface. The soft noises of the night relax me as I begin to reminisce of younger days. The images of my mother and childhood friends emerge within my mind. Days long gone when I felt my mother’s warm embrace which offered me comfort in the worst of times. Late nights of staying awake with my friends as we played video games until the sun rose.
I wonder… did my friends ever make it out of that club alive that night?
…And my mother. How upset she must have been to never see me return home. Waiting… watching the clock until I walked through that door… but I never did. If only I could see her smiling face one more time. If I could just… let her know that I’m okay.
I feel a couple tears run down my cheek and I wipe them away with the sleeve of my shirt. I sniffle and sigh as I try to shake the sad thoughts from my mind.
“Quite a nice evening, isn’t it?” Says a deep voice suddenly.
“Holy shit!” I scream as I quickly turn to face the source of the unfamiliar voice.
A tall, well-dressed man stands ominously behind me with a crooked grin.
He snickers softly. “Ah, my apologies. I did not mean to frighten you, my good sir.”
When did this guy sneak up behind me?! I never even heard him. Shouldn’t this guy know not to sneak up on people in the middle of the night?!
His dark eyes give me an uneasy feeling as he stares at me menacingly.
“I just saw you sitting here alone, admiring the beauty of the night sky, and could not help but to join in.”
The man releases me from his gaze and turns to stare into the horizon. I slowly edge my way to the far end of the bench while keeping an eye on him.
“There is something so beautiful and serene about these docks at night. It’s as if the darkness calls out my name, begging me to indulge into the night’s captivating artistry. Mother nature, she is like an ever-seductive mistress that beckons me to her. She too knows that I yearn for her embrace.”
What—what is with this weirdo? He’s so creepy.
He quickly faces me with an ominous smile as his eyes cut through me. “Do you not hear her call? Do you not feel the same anguish that I must endure?”
“…Er. I—uh. Sure…?” I reply hesitantly.
He then turns to face the moonlit warehouses and his stance stiffens. “However. Lately, something within the dark of the night has muffled her call. Something foreboding and devilish. It lurks in the shadows and feasts on prey that wander here alone. It is something unworldly. It casts its victims’ souls into an eternal curse of pain and suffering. In fact, they say on nights like this one you can hear the cries of those very lost souls echo from inside the warehouses.”
The strange man chuckles softly as he faces me once more with a crazed grin. “Isn’t that just the most delicious thing to hear?”
This guy is a complete psycho!
We stare at each other silently, seemingly waiting for the other to make the first move. His eyes burning intensely into mine. I feel my body tense as I prepare to make a mad dash at the first opportunity. Then, as if by recognizing my tensed body, the stranger softens his stare and lightly chuckles.
“I apologize. I did not mean to frighten you.”
He gently bows before me, then gives a more comforting smile. “I hope I did not ruin your evening. I only saw you sitting here alone in the night and thought that maybe we shared a similar feeling. I am truly sorry, young sir.”
He bows once more, then slowly turns away. “With that, I will take my leave. I do hope you enjoy the rest of your night.”
He takes a few steps into the distance before abruptly pausing and speaking once more.
“Oh, by the way. A word of caution to you, my friend. These docks can be rather—unsafe—at these hours. I would use extreme caution when wandering around here alone in the darkness. They say that vampires lurk in the shadows around here, waiting for their next meal. You would be wise to head on home before you become the next missing person to appear on the news. Have a pleasant evening, my friend.”
The man raises his hand to signal his final goodbye and begins to strut away. I watch suspiciously as the strange man walks off into the distance.
“What the hell? What a weirdo. What was his deal anyway? Telling me to be cautious of ‘dangerous’ vampires?”
…If only he knew the irony of it all.
I then turn my gaze towards the warehouses, narrowing my sense onto the menacing building as it creaks with the wind. Waiting for a single sign of movement or a suspicious sound that seems out of place. I suddenly feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I shake my head and bring my thoughts back to reality.
“Well. That’s enough adventure for one night. I should head on home before any other creeps decide to come talk to me.”
I stand from the bench, and casually stroll in the direction of the Portview train station while keeping my eyes locked on the warehouses for any signs of sudden movement.
Nothing’s gonna happen. There’s no such thing as ghosts. Stop spooking yourself out, Jace.
I return to the Portview station and descend the stairs into the platform. After I board the uptown train, I ride it back to my stop, and walk home. When I reach my apartment building, I tap my key card against the scanner, and it lets out a loud buzz, signaling that the door is open. I pass through the large door and enter the apartment lobby. I walk up the flights of stairs and reach the sixth floor, where I notice something in the corner of my eye, leading me to a full stop. Not far from the staircase, leaning against the wall, is a guy I could easily recognize in any crowd. This tall, lanky man with a wardrobe that seems to be pulled straight out of an emo convention is my neighbor Sebastian Valentino. Well, he’s not really my neighbor, as his apartment is a few doors down from mine, but he’s on the same floor so—close enough.
Sebastian is quite a noticeable guy, with his medium length, spiky, blueish-black hair paired with the smudged, black eyeliner that enhance his deep blue eyes. He has multiple piercings that any rebellious high school teen would be jealous of. His soft facial features hide behind his long, swoopy bangs. He’s a really timid guy, regardless of his intimidating appearing. In fact, he always seems relatively shy and anxious every time I speak with him. We aren’t super close or anything, I don’t know if I would even say we are necessarily friends, but we do occasionally chat when given the chance. He’s a strange guy, but he seems pretty cool.
He has his head lowered and seems occupied listening to music through his earbuds. I walk over to him, and gently wave my hand in front of him to catch his attention. Sebastian quickly jolts up, and his face turns a bright red color as he fumbles to remove his earbuds.
“O—oh… um. Jace. Wha—what’s up, man?” Sebastian says nervously.
I smirk at his discomfort. “Hey, Sebastian. What are you up to? Hanging in the hallways at night again, I see?”
“Oh, um. You know… just, uh… rockin’ out to some tunes. Um. Wha-what are you up to? Oh, I mean, uh… How-how’s your night goin’?” He stutters.
“Eh. You know, just another stress filled evening of wondering when my life will no longer be one giant existential crisis.” I answer sarcastically.
“Oh, um. I’m sorry, dude. What’s wrong? Anything I can do to help?”
I let out a big sigh. “No. I don’t think so. I’m just having the roughest time lately. I mean, how do you do it?”
Sebastian looks at me in confusion and I respond, “Sorry. What I mean is… You always seem mostly relaxed. You wander the halls every night or you’re hanging out outside. You seem so cool about everything. How do you do it? What kind of job do you have that lets you just be so chill all the time?”
Sebastian suddenly catches on. “Oh, well… I do a bunch of freelance gigs and such. It’s not the best job out there, but hey… it pays the bills, I guess.”
“Oh, yeah? Freelance gigs? Like, what kind of jobs are they? I could see you doing something… artsy. You seem like an ‘art’ kinda guy.”
“What? Nah, man. I usually take, like… I don’t know. More labor-intensive gigs, I guess.” Sebastian responds.
“Oh, really? Huh. I really pegged you as more an art kinda guy. Like you’d be in a band or something.”
Sebastian’s face turns bright red. “Uh, oh—really? Y-you think so? I mean, I do kinda play a little, but—nah. I couldn’t be in a band or anything. I’m not really good at all. I just, you know. Play sometimes for fun…” He says with embarrassment.
I laugh. “Well, I guess freelance work does seem to fit your aesthetic.”
Sebastian responds nervously, “Yeah, I uh—you know. I just never really uh, wanted to be part of that whole— ‘corporate rat race,’ ya know? Just, uh, not my style.”
I sigh, “I bet.”
“Hey, man. You doin’ okay? You having trouble with work or something?” Sebastian says with a concerned look on his face.
“Ha! If only that were the issue.” I look up at Sebastian to see his puzzled expression. “Um, sorry. I’ve just been very stressed lately. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find a job. I’ve literally tried everything.”
Sebastian looks at me with a frown. “Oh, I’m sorry, man. I wish I could help.”
After a moment, Sebastian then perks up. “Oh, hey! Actually, now that I think about it… I may have something for ya. Wait here.”
Sebastian rushes over to his apartment, almost tripping over his own two feet, and runs inside.
Huh? What is he doing?
After a few minutes, he comes back out with a torn piece of paper and a pen and an excited expression on his face. He holds the paper against the wall, and scribbles away on it before handing it to me.
“I, uh… have a ‘friend’ who has been talking about this position at her work. I mean, uh… if you’re interested. I guess she could hook you up or somethin’. She uh, just, you know… let her know that I uh… sent you.” He says as his face turns red again.
He rubs the back of his neck and looks around the hallway, as if to avoid direct eye contact. I look over the number that has been scribbled onto the paper, then fold it up and place it in my pocket.
“Hey, thanks Sebbs.” I say with a smile.
His face turns a deeper shade of red at the unintentional nickname I just invented for him.
“Well, I should probably head inside. It’s getting late. Thanks again for your help. I definitely appreciate it! I’ll give your friend a call tomorrow.” I say while taking note of Sebastian’s fidgety nervousness.
Sebastian stutters. “N-no problem, man. Anytime.”
I wave and say goodnight as I walk to my apartment and unlock the door. Once inside, I place my things on the kitchen counter and pull out the scrap of paper to examine the number for a moment.
I then let out a small chuckle, “He is so strange, but he can be really cool too.”
I guess I was mistaken. Sebastian really can be classified as my friend.