In recent urban fantasies there have been sparkly vampires, werewolves that retain their intelligence when they transform, and zombies who just want to cuddle.
This trend neuters monsters ... removes their "bite." Usually written by women, they reflect the attraction to bad boys while murmuring that the bad boy isn't really all that bad.
As a former counselor, I cannot stress enough that bad boys usually ARE bad and usually ARE boys (immature.)
I rebelled. I wanted to have a teen boy fall in deadly love with a girl with literal bite: a ghoul whose hunger for his flesh wars with her hunger for his heart:
Victor is there because he has believed the lie that for his hero, Sam McCord, to live, he must die. And he has heard the whispered rumors that to visit Marie Laveau's crypt at midnight was to die:
Once again, I was alone.
I looked around. I didn’t know what I expected to see. It was a cemetery at night. Cue the spooky music. I snorted at myself. I was playing it tough because I was scared spitless.
I had been in New Orleans long enough to know some of the legends.
Marie Laveau had ruled as absolute Voodoo Queen during most of the 1800’s. Voodoo might sound silly now. But back then, brrr.
It reached into politics and pockets, being a cold-blooded business. And Marie Laveau was reported to have been a cold-blooded business woman. She was one of the few women of color to own pieces of property – expensive places.
But Voodoo was first and foremost a religion. One you didn’t cross. Like I was crossing it now.
I looked around St. Louis Cemetery. Which crypt was Marie Laveau’s? And how far away was midnight?
I remembered they called this place the City of the Dead. Catchy name. But not anything you’d dance to … unless it was to the danse macabre.
Damn, this place was quiet. I walked softly. There. To my right. A crypt with a dozen X’s carved into its stone face. And wreaths of flowers hanging from all four corners.
That’s what they called the flowers and other things left at her tomb. I snorted. I bet I was the biggest gris-gris ever left at her tomb.
I stumbled. My head was suddenly even lighter than it had been earlier tonight when Meilori’s blossomed like a tower out of Hell. What was wrong with me?
I needed to sit down. I walked over to what I took to be Marie Laveau’s crypt and sat down with my back pressed to its marred face. I had a hard time believing how much had happened in just a few hours.
I had gone from being sure I was dead to feeling hope for the first time in years. I had felt wanted with a chance of an adopted family. My eyes grew hot and wet. Stupid. I had been stupid. Homes were for other kids. Not me.
My head spun. What was going on? Maybe it was being surrounded by all this death. Death seemed to stalk our family. Every boyfriend Mother got seemed to die in some terrible way.
I smiled bitterly. I had the answer. Mother was the Angel of Death. Yeah, she just couldn’t take me on her rounds. That was the reason she dumped me all the time.
I snorted at myself. Yeah, right. Mother’s boyfriends turned up dead all the time because they were the ultimate bad boys – the only ones Mother seemed attracted to. I smiled sour. Lucky me.
Yeah that was the name for me all right: Lucky.
I squeezed shut my eyes to keep from crying. I was Victor Standish, damn it! Tears were for little boys not me.
I pressed my back harder against the tomb of Marie Laveau. Midnight was heavy in the humid air. Fingers of black fog weaved around me as if to leech the life from me.
Was this how dying began at midnight here?
Like I cared. So close. I had been so close to a home. I could feel the tears coming. No.
I was not going to cry. I wasn't. I looked up at the dim stars. They blurred and bled down my cheeks.
O.K. I lied. I was crying.
After years of scuffling alone on the streets, I had finally found a friend. A creepy friend to be sure. But a friend.
Now, to save his life as he had saved mine, I had to die. No more Captain Sam and his eerie way of knowing my thoughts. Sure, he was undead. But who said friends had to be perfect?
My head spun slowly like a demon drunk on too much unholy water. What was going on? A voice. I was hearing a voice inside my head.
Now, this was weird. Way weird. Had I become a supernatural radio picking up the signal of the thoughts of one the ghosts buried here?
Why not? It would fit right in with all the other strange stuff that was happening tonight.
It was a girl’s voice. She sounded British. A bit like a much younger Ada Byron.
Her words suddenly filled my head:
“I am hungry. So hungry. It was stupid of me to try to eat this squealing rat.
No good. I am hungry ... hungry for the flesh of man.
And hungrier for something else. Love.
I feel tears bleed from my dead eyes. I will find flesh to tear and rend. I always do.
But love? Never. Never will there be love for the thing that I have become.
My nose prickles. My stomach coils and growls. Flesh.
Tender, moist flesh. It has come to me. I smile. I didn't even have to place a call to pizza delivery. Besides, the last one had too much fat, not enough meat.
I frown. I smell ... tears? They are common in my graveyard. But not at night. Who comes in the night to my cemetery to cry?
I sniff. A male human. A boy. I stiffen. Once I had been a girl. What had been my name?
Alice. Though now my name is Death, once it had been Alice.
Once. So very long ago. I smile cruelly. I will punish this fool for reminding me of my heart's lonely prison.
I shall woo him with poetry before I rend his flesh. I flow through the fungus-smeared wall of my crypt.
How will his flesh taste?”
What the hell had that been? How will his flesh taste? His? Crap. She meant me.
I stiffened. Something all misty was oozing out of the tomb in front of me. It slowly took shape. I frowned. What the?
It was a girl. She looked to be my age: fourteen. But she was dressed up in a black Victorian style dress. She was kinda pretty ... if you were into undead girls.
Deep inside I suddenly knew. She was the girl I had just heard inside my head. And I knew how you died at midnight here.
She spoke as if her vocal chords were all rusty:
"Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Nightmare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold."
I jutted my right forefinger at her. "Coleridge! The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner."
She took a step towards me, and leaves crackled under her foot. Crap. There went my hope that she was just a ghost.
She smiled. Red-smeared sharp teeth. And then, I remembered what she said about that half-eaten rat.
Oh, great. A ghoul. Oh, why hadn’t I asked Captain Sam more about Webster?
All right, Victor. Think. Think!
I caught my reflection in a marble crypt. I was so skinny. That was it! Skinny.
She wanted meat. O.K. I would give her meat. I fumbled in my head just where St. Louis Cemetery was. A rough map of places to avoid popped into my head.
I smiled wide. The Snowman and his hit women, Ice and Easy.
They had much more meat to them than a scrawny street kid like me.
She brushed back a stray lock of fine-spun gold from her electric blue eyes. "You are not afraid?"
"Oh, I'm scared shitless."
She giggled and studied me. "But you see a way out for you, do you?"
I stumbled to my feet, spreading out my hands. "Hey, I'm Victor Standish. I always have a plan."
Those eyes seemed to be suddenly seeing me as more than a meal. "I am ... Alice, Victor. And just what is this plan of yours?"
I winked at her. "How would you like to add drug dealers to your diet, Alice?"
She glided to me faster than I thought she could, looping her arm through my right one. "I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
I remembered how lonely she had sounded in my head, and I patted her cold, cold hand. "I think so, too."
I looked up at the face of shadows in the full moon. I smiled wide. I wasn't by myself anymore.
Looking at those blood-smeared teeth, I knew I would never be alone.
I'd always have the shivers.