I know that I have not been providing a lot of updates recently, particularly in the art and writing department. Part of that is because I’ve been spending a lot of energy on work, and part of it is because it’s getting close to release time for CorgiHat. However, I’ve definitely been writing, and thought I’d share the first couple thousand words of my current project, tentatively titled Alonso Munich Is Now Dead. This project is less horror and more supernatural mystery. The sample can be found below the cut.
On May 28th, 2011, Alonso Munich was pronounced dead. According to his obituary, he was struck by a car on his way to the train station after work. He left behind no children, but did leave a loving wife and a both parents. His obituary did not mention the several days he stayed in the ICU, or his improving condition, nor did it mention the fact that he passed suddenly, on the border between his third and fourth day.
His body was set to be cremated, as was dictated in his will, and his wife collected a tasteful urn of ashes from the funeral home. She let her mother-in-law keep them after the service, told his family that Alonso had truly wished for his ashes to be scattered in the Gulf of Mexico. That was the last time they saw Leah Munich.
On March 15th, 2016, Alonso Munich woke up.
His eyes felt like they’d been drizzled with hot tar. His throat felt like he’d spent the last three meals grazing on glass splinters. When he licked his lips, they were chapped so badly that the barest exhalation made them sting. When he groaned, his voice sounded thick and alien to his ears, like it hadn’t been used in ages.
“Oh shit, you’re awake!”
The exclamation came from his left, so Alonso turned as quickly as his stiff neck would let him. Through the watery sheen of tears, he could make out a bedside table, a kitschy lamp, and a person. From the glinting in the dim light, he could guess with some accuracy that the person had more metal in their face than was prudent, and the shape of the shadow indicated some sort of extreme affinity for hair gel.
“Oh man, oh man,” the person continued. The voice sounded young, maybe that of a high school-aged punk just past the stage of the ever-present awkward erection, but only just. “Oh man, when I saw them dump you, I thought to myself, ‘That is one poor bastard, and there is no way he is wakin’ up from that one.’ And look here, you’re awake! Just goes to show what I know!”
Alonso took a deep breath and martialed enough strength and coordination to move his tongue just right. “Loud.”
The kid (he couldn’t be more than a junior in high school, there was just no way) laughed. “Oh man, I’m sorry, but I’m just glad you’re… well, I can’t say ‘breathin” exactly, but… damn! I’m glad you’re awake.”
“Who’re you,” Alonso said, too muddled to be bothered with making it a question.
“Name’s Tyler,” the kid said. “I went through your pockets when you got dumped– sorry, man!– so I’m gonna guess you’re the guy from the driver’s license. Alonso, was it?”
He nodded so slowly that it felt like his vertebrae were creaking, but at least it didn’t make anything hurt worse than it already did. “Where’m I.”
Tyler’s expression must have changed because the metal junk in his face glinted. “Motel 6, downtown, ’bout two blocks from some of the nicer hotels. You got thrown in a dumpster, but I saw you and dragged you in here b’fore the sun came up.”
“Whazza kid like you doin’ in a dump like this?” Practice, it seemed, was limbering up his vocal chords.
“Aw, c’mon man, if you’re gonna be like that I can just put you back in the dumpster,” Tyler said.
Tyler grinned (Alonso could tell because his teeth were so white in the gloom that it might have been comical) and gently patted the back of Alonso’s hand like he were a beloved family dog. His skin felt unnaturally warm against Alonso’s and queerly electric. “S’all good, man. I understand you probably had it rough. Not a lot of people actually want to end up in the trash. Though I gotta ask, who the fuck did you piss off?”
“I…” He stopped. Who had he pissed off? The last thing Alonso remembered, he’d just left the office. It was late on Monday; he’d been trying to get a project done before the weekly conference call with the India team. The parking deck was two blocks from the office building, and… nothing. And it wasn’t like he’d gone out of his way to make life miserable for anyone before then. His life was nothing if not modest and inoffensive. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Last thing I remember, I was going home. Now I’m here.”
“Well, don’t worry about it for now,” said Tyler. He patted Alonso’s hand again. “You still kind of look like shit. Maybe you should get some more sleep.”
‘But I just woke up,’ Alonso wanted to say, but the kid was right. His eyelids were heavier than the cross Christ himself carried. A little more sleep would set him right.
He woke again some time later. The quality of the light told him it must be after sunset, and the sounds drifting in from the street confirmed that the worst of rush hour had past. He couldn’t say that he felt good, exactly, but he felt well enough to push himself upright against the headboard attached to the wall. His left hand found the kitschy lamp’s switch, and it bathed the room in a pathetic sallow glow that could only come from an ancient low-wattage bulb. In the understuffed chair in the corner sprawled Tyler.
Light confirmed that he had more metal in his face than anyone should, in addition to the dangerous addiction to gravity-defying hair-care products. It also revealed that he had pale skin dotted with approximately eight million freckles and hair so red that it couldn’t possibly be natural. The roundness of his face matched the youth in his voice to a T. He held a phone in his hands, on which he typed furiously. “Awake again?”
Alonso cleared his throat, and when he responded it almost sounded normal. “Yeah…” He scrubbed at his face out of habit. Under his palm, his skin was cool, almost clammy, and he had enough stubble for a good three or four days without shaving. Christ, had he slept for that long?
As if responding to his thoughts, Tyler shrugged. “You’ve only been out a coupl’a hours. Sun just went down. Hope you didn’t have a sleep schedule you were hopin’ to keep.” He sniggered like that was somehow funny, but he stopped when Alonso failed to join him. “Hey, so, how’re you feelin’, man?”
“Better, I guess,” Alonso replied. He hadn’t quite stopped rubbing his chin. Something about the raspy feel of his scruff nagged at him, like a tiny piece of glass in the sole of his shoe. He’d shaved before he left for work; he remembered that. His brows furrowed as he tried to chase down the thought, even though it would only deepen the worry lines etched in his skin.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Tyler pulled his feet up into the chair and leaned forward so that he was perching on the edge of the seat. “You’ve got a serious thought running through your head, man. Can’t be good for you to keep it locked up. What’s goin’ on?” The kid’s tone was light, but Alonso could practically feel the genuine concern in the words despite the levity. It was… nice? No, not the word his mind insisted he wanted, but it was close enough. Strange.
He shook off the reverie. “I’m just… confused,” he said. “I know I shaved this morning, but I swear to God it feels like it’s been almost a week. If my wife caught me this scruffy, she’d threaten to tie me down and shave me with a straight razor– oh shit, Leah!” His hands flew to his pockets as he patted himself down for his cell phone.
Tyler hopped off the chair and lunged for him. For a baby-faced tweenager, he was pretty strong: he pinned Alonso’s hands to the bed without much fuss, though the way he wore his worry on his face made it difficult for Alonso to want to struggle. “Whoa there, dude, you didn’t have anything on you ‘cept your wallet when I pulled you outta the garbage, and that only had your ID and a car insurance card that expired like four years ago.”
Alonso froze. “Say what.” The words were barely hisses of breath. His diaphragm didn’t want to move.
“Yeah man,” Tyler continued, “if you had any credit cards or cash or whatever, it was all gone. Whoever rolled you took it all, except for that insurance card and your ID.” He reached over to the end-table on which the kitschy lamp sat and grabbed a weather-beaten wallet. He dropped it in Alonso’s lap.
Carefully, as if the leather might be covered in acid, Alonso picked the wallet up. It certainly looked like his, and was worn smooth on one side from the way he kept it in his back pocket while he sat. He didn’t remember it being quite so careworn, though. But any doubts of its ownership dissolved when he opened it. His thumb dipped into the billfold area, feeling along the fabric lining to find the scrap of fabric Leah had sewn in there– all that remained of a handkerchief she’d once let him borrow after they’d first met.
As Tyler had said, the wallet was empty save for two cards. His driver’s license bore no undue signs of wear, except for a slight peeling of the plastic laminate at one edge. The insurance card was ragged and dog-eared, but still legible. It was the one he’d gotten in the mail not two weeks ago. “What are you talking about?” he asked, a sense of relief filling him. “I just got this.”
“What’s the date on that thing?” Tyler asked.
“November 2011.” Irritation started to rear its head and seep into his words. “I told you, I just got this.”
The look on the kid’s face shifted from moderate concern to flat-out pity. “Oh Jesus,” Tyler said, “you got whammied. Jesus, you got whammied hard. Dude, what d’you think today’s date is?”
Alonso hesitated. “Before you asked me, I would’ve said something like May 29th. Why?”
“Dude, it’s not May of 2011,” Tyler replied, his voice going soft. “It’s March 15th. 2016.”
The shaking started in his hands as a fine tremble, progressing quickly until the insurance card slipped from Alonso’s fingers. He nearly protested, but looking at the kid’s face kept the words from coming. The kid was so earnest. He could taste the sincerity of Tyler’s distress on his behalf, and it robbed him of the ability to call Tyler a liar. When he said that the year was 2016, he meant it.
“God, if you got whammied this bad…” Tyler trailed off and ran both hands through his hair with a frustrated huff. The act somehow made it stand up at even more ridiculous angles. “Christ, there’s only like, eight vampires in this city who can put a whammy on a guy that bad, and only three of them could whammy another vamp. Jesus, who did you piss off, man?” He sighed. “Sorry, rhetorical question. Shit. I am so sorry, man.”
It took a few moments before Tyler’s words nestled into the folds of Alonso’s brain, at which point a cool hollowness suffused him. “I have no memory of the last five years,” he said. “I could have pissed off anyone.”
“No, you really couldn’t have,” Tyler said. He shook his head as if to clear it. “Like I said, there’s a grand total of three vampires in this whole city who could roll you like that. Five years, shit. I am so sorry, man.”
“Why do you keep saying that?” Alonso asked. His breastbone felt like it covered something hollow and dead. He couldn’t even feel his pulse, he was so far gone into shock. But he still caught the word. The first time he was willing to chalk up to mishearing, but the second time was less likely.
Tyler’s expression turned confused, his pierced eyebrows drawing together and a frown pulling his lips down. “Saying what? ‘Sorry?’ ‘Cause I am. Or me calling you ‘man?'”
“Vampire. You said the word ‘vampire.'”
“Well, yeah,” said Tyler. “S’not like you can get whammied by a puppy. Only things that can do that around this area is one of the big master vamps, and only three of ’em could do it that hard to one of their own.”
“What do you mean, ‘one of their own?'” Alonso pressed. That hollow feeling in his chest expanded; he had a feeling he knew what the answer would be.
“You… don’t know, do you. Oh shit. Shit. Oh man. I am so sorry, Alonso. That… That’s super fucking shitty. They dumped you and you don’t even know.”
No amount of sympathy or sincerity could convince Alonso to quash the viscious denial bubbling up his throat. “No. I am dreaming. There is literally no other way to explain this.”
Tyler shook his head. “Dude, this isn’t a dream. You want some proof?” He dropped his phone in Alonso’s lap. “Call your wife. If she didn’t change her digits, she can tell you what’s up with the date.”
The phone was a sleek thing, some model Alonso had never seen before with a weirdly flexible screen and a brushed aluminum case. Granted, Alonso never considered himself the gadget type, so it stood to reason that he would be unfamiliar with the phone of a punk kid, but still… It nagged at him that he did not recognize even the logo on the back. After a few moments of fiddling, he unlocked the screen and pulled up the keypad. Leah’s cell number came with ease; it was one of three phone numbers Alonso had committed to memory while he relied on his own phone’s contact menu for the rest.
He heard a few staticky clicks while the phone connected to the network and completed the call, followed by a distant, tinny ringing. Two rings, three, then someone picked up. “Who’s this?” The voice was deeply masculine and husky from either too many years of smoking or a youth misspent gargling gasoline. It was utterly unrecognizable to Alonso’s ears.
Alonso cleared his throat. “Uh, sorry, but is Leah available?”
There was silence on the other end of the line, followed by a snort. “I dunno who keeps tellin’ folks that this is ‘Leah’s’ number, but I had it since this time two years ago and my name ain’t ‘Leah.’ Now you and yer pals quit callin’.” The connection went dead.
Alonso stared at the phone’s blank screen for a moment before trying Leah’s number again. This time, it rang until it went to voicemail. The calm digitized voice of a nameless woman announced that the voicemail box was full, and the call disconnected again. With a growing sense of urgency, Alonso tried another number, the one for their house line. This one did not even ring; a different feminine recording advised that the number was no longer in service.
Feeling frantic, he tried the only other number he knew by rote: his parents’ house. The phone rang four times with no answer before it, too, fell over to voicemail. Strangely, despite the speed with which his thoughts ran through his head, Alonso could not feel his heart pounding in his chest nor sweat on his palms. He shook, but did not feel flushed.
When the same message his parents had recorded ages ago began playing, he let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. His mother and father told him to leave his message after the tone, and he nearly forgot to speak. “Oh, uh, hey, it’s me. I just was wondering if you could get me Leah’s number. I lost my phone. Think I got mugged. Anyway, love you, just call the number that’s on caller ID.”
He ended the call and passed the phone back to Tyler. “Okay, I just called my parents and told them to call your phone. They’ll tell me what happened to Leah’s phone.” It was perfectly reasonable. Alonso felt accomplished for keeping his head and thinking around the issue.
The kid shook his head, that pitying look still on his face. “Dude, if you’ve been under some master’s thumb for five years, there’s no tellin’ what your folks are gonna think when they get that message. If they even get it. You’ve slipped, man. Not many people can recover from that.” He took a deep breath. “It’s gonna be easier on you if you just accept that things are fucked up and move on. Trust me.”
“What the hell do you mean, I ‘slipped?'” demanded Alonso. “I didn’t do anything wrong! Why would my parents just ignore me?”
Again, the kid shook his head. “Not that kind of slip, dude. It’s not like a ‘slip-up,’ it’s like… slipping through the cracks.” He paused, worrying at one of his snakebite piercings with his tongue. “Kind of like you’re on the other side of the mirror. Or something. It’s hard to explain, but trust me, once you’ve gone from being a mundy to… well, not being a mundy… It’s like mundies don’t even really see you anymore. They just look past you and once you’re gone they never even acknowledge you were there. Just kinda close their eyes, like you’re a bad dream.”
“This is a bad dream,” Alonso said. Despite the fact that he was panicking, his body remained stubbornly calm. There was still a trembling running through him, but he couldn’t feel his heart pounding, his blood rushing in his ears, or his stomach turning. It felt as though his brain were somehow divorced from the rest of his nervous-system: while it dashed in circles blindly, the rest of his body continued on like nothing were wrong. “What the hell is wrong with me?”
“You’re a vampire,” Tyler replied. “It looks like you missed all the gross stuff at the beginning, but, dude, you’re effectively dead.” He tapped Alonso’s chest with two fingers (their nails both painted a garish neon green). “That heart’s going to beat at about one BPM for the rest of eternity, or until someone decides to cut off your head.”
When he stopped and let his mind go quiet, Alonso realized he could feel it. He pressed three fingers to the flesh below his jaw and waited. Under his skin, he felt his carotid lurch sluggishly once and then still. More than fifty seconds later by the count in his head, Alonso felt it again. He let his hand fall limply to the bed. “This can’t be happening.”
“Listen, I know it’s a lot to take in, but you gotta believe me.” The kid took Alonso’s hand, the one he’d just used to feel for his barely-there pulse, and held it up between them. Tyler’s skin was so warm that it was almost uncomfortable, like he’d picked up a pot that hadn’t quite cooled enough. Where the pads of Alonso’s fingers rested on Tyler’s skin, he felt an electric something. It was fast, staccato, and visceral in the way the hollowness in Alonso’s chest was not.
After a few moments, Tyler let Alonso’s hand drop. “I know you felt that. Vamps call it something stupid and flowery like ‘living spark’ or some shit. But you wouldn’t feel it if you weren’t mostly dead, dude.” He suddenly broke into a grin. “Hey, I know! Let’s go get you a donor and get some food in you. That’ll help you shake off getting mind-fucked and it’ll let you start getting adjusted to… y’know, stuff.”
Once the word food made it to Alonso’s ears, his stomach growled. God, when was the last time he’d eaten? He remembered having leftovers around 1:30, but that was anywhere from eight hours to five years ago, if Tyler were to be believed. And, really, had Tyler given him any reason to disbelieve him, fantastical nature of his assertions aside?
“Okay, yeah, food sounds good,” Alonso said. “But I don’t have any money.”
Tyler laid a hand on his shoulder. Through the linen of his shirt, the feeling Tyler had called “living spark” was subdued, but still present. “Dude, I’m not the kinda guy who’s gonna suggest we go get lunch and then stick you with the bill. I got you covered.”