Since CorgiHat is out the door and things are settling down after MomoCon, I’ve had the chance to plug away at Alonso Munich Is Now Dead, and I’m eager to share a little more of the story with you all. This part takes place immediately following the first post (so I highly recommend catching up before jumping below the cut).
It took very little time to clear out of the room, as neither of them had anything other than the items on their person. Tyler checked them out of the Motel 6, paying the clerk in cash while Alonso shuffled his feet awkwardly by the door. Despite the fact that a teen of questionable repute had just spent at least a couple of nights with a man likely twice his age, the desk attendant looked nothing more than disinterested in their doings. Once the account was settled, Tyler held the door open for him and let him take the lead in the cool night air.
“I sort of thought you lived there,” Alonso blurted after a moment or two of strained silence. Tyler threw back his head and laughed.
“Dude, no, I have a pretty swank-ass place in Midtown. I was just down here takin’ care of some business when I saw you get dumped. I got the room there ’cause there was literally no way I was draggin’ you back to my pad before dawn, not to mention the fact that bringing home weird vampires without talkin’ to ’em first is a habit I never picked up.” He clapped Alonso on the shoulder and pointed down the street. “C’mon, like, two blocks that way is a real good place to find you some grub.”
“Oh yeah, there’s a good pub down there, and a diner,” said Alonso. “I work down here. There’s the Hard Rock, too. Or we could just go a couple more blocks down and get some McDonald’s.”
“I am not getting you McDonald’s, dude,” Tyler said, the corners of his mouth tugged downward. “You can’t eat that shit anymore. I told you, we’ll just grab you a donor at the halfway house.”
“There’s not a halfway house down this way.”
“Ugh, dude, I know you got hit in the brain hard by whoever did this but seriously, you’re starting to sound like a scratched CD.” The kid turned to face him, arms crossed over his chest. “You. Are. A. Vampire. Forget just about everything you knew about this city. Not only are you about five years late on the uptake, shit don’t work the same for people like us, who aren’t mundies.” He sighed and let his arms fall to his sides. “Just roll with me for a bit, and I’ll help get you fixed up, okay?”
The desire to simply walk away tugged at the edges of his thoughts. Alonso’s car should still have been parked no more than two miles from where he stood, and he knew where the spare key was hidden. He could go home, shower, and shave. Ask his wife what she’d done with her phone while he’d been… wherever.
But that was a lie. Punk kids didn’t pay for motel rooms for strangers if they’d just robbed them. Once it had been pointed out to him, he could feel the slow, plodding pulse that never seemed to quicken. Shifting just a little so his elbow brushed Tyler’s would send that weird electric rush through his nervous system. Something was going on, and Tyler was his best bet to find out what.
He nodded. “Okay.”
Tyler grinned. “Attaboy!”
He led them west on the street, climbing the hill up to where all the eateries were. Traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, was subdued. Definitely not a weekend evening, then. None of the people they passed seemed to notice or care that they passed the pair, even when they came close enough to bump into them.
They crested the hill and started down the other side. About half way down, a chill seeped into Alonso’s bones, and the hair on the back of his skin prickled up. Before he could mention it, though, the sensation fled.
Still, Tyler glanced back over his shoulder. “You okay?”
“Y-yeah. Just…” Alonso shrugged. “Nothing.”
“Oh, I bet you’re reacting to the wards. Little cold feeling, right?”
“How’d you know?”
Tyler shrugged. “Lucky guess. Most vampires feel ’em like that, but other people will feel it different.” He turned his attention back to the sidewalk in front of him. “Those are supposed to keep this zone safe from any of the Master of the City’s goons. This area’s a no-fly zone when it comes to vampire bullshit.”
“Am I even supposed to be here if I really am a vampire, then?” asked Alonso, stopping in his tracks. The other pedestrian traffic parted around him like a stream parts around a stubborn rock.
“Dude, whatever happened to you, I’m willing to bet that the Master ain’t that interested in you, otherwise you’d be dead.” The kid motioned for Alonso to keep moving. “It keeps out the bullshit, not vampires themselves.”
“Right.” He wasn’t convinced, but Alonso followed all the same. When they reached the bottom of the hill, Tyler stopped in front of a business that Alonso did not recognize.
“We’re here,” Tyler said, his tone closer to that of a child outside a candy shop than that of the impromptu tour guide he was trying to be. “Just knock on that door there and they’ll let you in. Then you tell ’em you need a donor ’cause you got whammied and you don’t know when you ate last and they will hook you up.”
“You aren’t coming with me?” Alonso winced at how pathetic the words sounded to his own ears. He was a grown man for fuck’s sake. He could walk into a business establishment without a teenaged chaperone.
Still, Tyler appeared not to notice his momentary vulnerability. “Dude, I am not abandoning you. I realize I am probably the only friendly face you know right now, but I gotta take care of some shit I put off when I dragged you into the motel.” The kid fished in his pockets and pulled out a small wad of crumpled five dollar bills and a featureless white card made of plastic. “Here. This’ll pay for a taxi to my pad and that card’ll get you in. By the time you’re done gettin’ a meal, I’ll be home and can open the door for you.”
Alonso took the bills and smoothed them out between his fingers before pulling out his wallet and putting them there. The key-card he slipped into his left pants pocket. “What’s your address?”
“I’m right next to the art school, so just get the cab to take you there.” Tyler patted him on the shoulder. “Go on, I’ll catch you on the flipside.”
The door was glass but had been covered by an opaque material so it was impossible to see through. The windows to either side of it, rather than featuring any sort of signage or display of wares, had received the same treatment. The only vague indication of what sort of establishment it could be was the sign affixed to the exterior of the door which read, “All Comers Welcome.” Gathering himself, Alonso rapped three times on the glass. The door swung wide, allowing him entrance.
Inside, the whole place looked almost gutted. The remains of a drop ceiling lingered above his head, exposing plumbing and duct-work and wiring. The lights were few and far between, but they provided plenty enough light for him to make out several cots (some occupied) at one end of the room. A bare sheetrock wall had been erected halfway to the back, blocking at least a third of the room from his sight. Next to the door, looking terminally bored, sat a man in his late twenties, reading a dog-eared novel.
When the man noticed Alonso, he laid a piece of yarn between the book’s pages and set it aside. “The decor won’t change no matter how hard you stare at it,” he said. His lips twitched as if he were fighting down the urge to sneer. “What brings such an obviously upstanding guy such as yourself to Mama Bautista’s?”
The words Tyler had given him came to Alonso’s mouth easily. “Listen, I… uh, I really don’t know what happened. I think I got whammied and I don’t know the last time I ate and, uh, I need a donor. A friend said you could help me here.”
The man pushed himself out of his chair with a frustrated huff. “Oh my fucking god, we have another one. Fuck this.” He turned toward the back of the establishment and cupped both hands around his mouth. “Grace! Gracie, get your ass in here, we need some molko for this guy and it ain’t my night!”
Behind the sheetrock, a woman bellowed back, “Fuck off, Bobby, it’s not my night either! Get Marcy to donate!”
“Marcella ain’t here, Grace, and she ain’t said when she’d get back! Now do this fucking job or I’m walking, and you can tell Mama how you let some stray go without a meal in her town!” Bobby shouted. A few of the people on the cots stirred, grumbling. Alonso scooted back toward the door.
“Ugh, fine,” Grace called. “Gimme, like, five minutes. Gotta find a vein.”
“Uh, it’s really no big deal,” Alonso said quietly. “I can just, y’know, leave. It’s fine. I don’t want to be a bother.”
Bobby pivoted on one heel to meet Alonso’s gaze. “Oh, oh hell no. Mama would have my ass if I let a hungry vamplet out on her streets. You are staying right the fuck there until Gracie gets done with your donation and then you are going to sit down and drink it and tell me what the fuck happened so I can pass that on to Mama.”
Though the man was easily a head shorter than he and likely ten years his junior, Alonso nodded. “Sure. Okay. Right. I’ll just, uh, stand right here. No problem.” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other and slid back just a little further, until his back was pressed against the wall next to the door.
A woman whom Alonso could only assume was Grace emerged from behind the sheetrock divider after a few moments, just as she’d promised. She was a little taller than Bobby, a little younger, and a little less terrifying in that particular moment. Cradled in both hands, she carried a paper plate on which rested a paper bowl (both of the Dixie variety), a red plastic cup, and… Alonso narrowed his eyes. Was that… a syringe?
As Grace passed Bobby, she threw an elbow (bandaged with one of the obnoxiously bright compression wraps usually given out at blood drives) at Bobby’s ribs. “Stop glaring at the guy, asshole. Go do something useful and scrub the toilets or something.” Before he could even respond, she turned her attentions to Alonso. It was as if a switch had been flipped; her body language shifted to being loose, open, and welcoming. A wide smile lit up her face. “Hey there, stranger! My name’s Grace, and I’m your donor for this evening.”
“Er, uh, hi. My name’s Alonso,” he replied. “I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t even really know what’s going on.”
Grace set the plate down on the chair her cohort had just vacated. “Oh, don’t worry about that. This happens a lot more often than anyone likes. Vampire gets impetuous, decides to be a sire, then abandons the child once they realize they don’t want the responsibility.” As she spoke, she pulled a couple of vials out of her pocket and laid them in the bowl. “Mama can’t stop that sort of thing, that’s up to Paidrig himself, but she makes sure people like you get as easy a transition as she can manage in the circumstances. Is this your first time?”
“I… don’t really know.” He rubbed at his face. The stubble under his palm rankled him more, now. It was a little whisper in the back of his mind that Tyler was not playing an elaborate prank on him. “Listen, the last thing I remember, I was going home and then I wake up in a motel room with this punk-looking kid telling me I’m a vampire and that it’s 2016 and… I don’t even know where to start with how messed up everything is.”
“Shh, it’s okay,” Grace said. Her voice was steady and low, probably practiced specifically to calm someone in Alonso’s exact predicament. “A cup’s probably your best bet. Lets you think you’re just sipping some juice.” She picked up the vials of blood and uncapped them.
The effect was immediate and visceral in a way nothing, not even that strange electric charge Tyler had called a “living spark,” had been since Alonso woke up. He jerked forward, propelled by some invisible force. He felt flush with wanting and a desire so strong that any attempt for his brain to quantify it came up short. Something rumbled in his chest, not a heartbeat but near where that would be.
Continuing to mutter vaguely soothing nonsense at him, Grace poured both vials into the red plastic cup and pressed it into one of his hands. His fingers convulsed around it to the point where it nearly crumpled, but the aroma that reached his nostrils brought him up short. It was sweet like honeysuckle on a warm summer evening without being cloying. Almost as if someone else were in control of him (and how that thought made him shudder when it flitted through his mind), he raised the cup to his lips and tipped it up.
What hit his tongue was so clean and pure and alive that his knees buckled under the weight of it and only through Grace’s quick reflexes did he manage not to pitch face-first to the floor. After three mouthfuls, it was gone, but it suffused him with a warmth not unlike the first blush of being drunk. Everything was painted in razor sharp clarity, from the dust on the floor that he was grinding into the knees of his slacks, to the sinew in Grace’s arms that surely came from spending hours a day shifting heavy things, to the way that the room was cast in peculiar chiaroscuro from the spotty light fixtures.
For a moment, he could count each beat of Grace’s heart, slow and steady and strong. He could catch a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye; he could read the worry on her face. Was he about to go ballistic? Was he about to faint? She cut her eyes over to where Bobby presumably stood (no presumption, in the clarity of the moment Alonso could practically feel the other man’s presence like a cool bar of iron pressed against his back). The three of them were frozen like that for what Alonso felt was an eternity of uncertainty.
The moment stretched thin until it finally snapped when the door swung open. In this hyper-lucid state, it took Alonso only a moment to take in the newcomer’s appearance: a woman of middling height– at least ten years his junior– with dusky brown skin, a strong jaw, and the sort of round softness some people acquired when puberty failed to burn off all the baby fat. The quirk of her full lips and the set of her narrow hips gave away her irritation, which melted when she finally took in the scene. Her eyes widened and she let the grocery bags she carried slip out of her fingers in her rush to kneel at Grace’s side. With firm hands, she shoved Grace away from him and snatched the cup away. “The fuck, Grace! This guy’s two seconds from rippin’ your face off!”
Alonso tried to form a protest, he really did, but his tongue was thick in his mouth and his teeth didn’t quite feel right. He turned to face this new woman to plead his case, but she placed her palm upon his forehead before he could even really look her in the eyes and gently pressed him backward until he was slumped limply against the wall. The feeling of her skin was more than Alonso could parse, rendering his limbs as useful as a bag of kittens.
“All right, this guy’s not goin’ anywhere for a minute,” the young woman said, “so why don’t you go get me a refill on this cup and give this guy some space.”
Bobby’s cold presence skittered backward without a word until it was no longer within range of Alonso’s senses. Grace, too, seemed to recede, leaving Alonso alone with the short young woman pinning his head to the wall. He tried again, dazedly, to explain himself, but the woman cut him off. “Okay, listen, my name is Marcella and you were about to tear out the throat of the lady who is probably my best friend in this town which isn’t cool at all.” Like Grace, her tone was modulated and even, but there was something else to her words that curled around the base of Alonso’s skull and nestled down there. “What you’re about to say is probably somethin’ like ‘No way!’ but I’m gonna guess you haven’t eaten in, what, a week? Two? And askin’ someone to donate without tellin’ ’em that, that’s a shitty thing to do.”
“I didn’t know,” Alonso said. “I’m not going to hurt anyone. I don’t know what’s going on.” His words had a strange lisping quality to his own ears, and it felt like there was something wrong with his teeth. He tried running his tongue over them, but stopped when he noticed the skeptical expression on Marcella’s face. “Look, I know it’s hard to believe, but I mean it. My friend– well, I call him a friend, but he’s really just the guy who found me– he says I got… damn, what’s the word? Slammed? I don’t know…”
He took a deep breath. The crispness was beginning to bleed off of everything, but there was still a low thrumming that he could only assume was associated with Marcella’s hand on his forehead. She stared at him intently, almost like she were studying his face for traces of some cosmic secret. Alonso was again cognizant of every way in which his body refused to respond. No sweat sprang to his brow. No blood rushed to his cheeks. The only beating was the almost subliminal thudding coming from the point of contact with Marcella.
Evidently, Marcella found what she was searching for. “You got whammied, is that right?” Alonso nodded, though he suspected the question was more rhetorical than literal. “Yeah. I can see that. This ‘friend,’ he say anything else?”
“He said it’s 2016, and that I’m a vampire,” Alonso replied. The sibilance flaked off his words as he spoke. Somehow it must have been linked to the too-vivid feelings from before. “He told me I could get help here and gave me cash so I could crash at his place when I was done.”
“It is 2016,” Marcella said. “I’m guessing that the last thing you remember, it wasn’t, right? What’s the last date you can remember? 2015?” At Alonso’s silence, she paused. “2014?… You’re kidding, 2013?”
“No. It was… May. 2011.”
The words hung there between them, Marcella’s eyes narrowing as she tried to decide whether to believe them or not. “Madre de dios, you’re serious. Shit. I’m so sorry.” She pulled her hand away from him and pushed herself to her feet. “Grace, Bobby, can you get this guy set up and put the groceries away? I gotta call Mama.”
He watched her stalk away, passing Bobby and Grace as she went. Grace set to picking up the bags that Marcella had left at the door, while Bobby presented him with another cup.
Alonso tried to accept the cup. The strange young woman’s words were still wrapped around the lizard parts of his brain. He tried to accept that what she’d told him was true because she seemed nice and the thrumming he’d felt when she laid hands on him was almost like a heartbeat. He tried to accept it.
In the end, he waved desperately at Bobby as he rolled onto his side and puked on the concrete floor.