Copyright © 2019 Patrick Walts
All Rights Reserved
Sometimes, on a clear enough night, beneath the oppressive glow of a full moon, when even the brightest lights of man’s most populous cities struggle to match the brilliance of the stars overhead, my skin begins to tingle.
It’s a curious sensation, one that I daresay invokes something akin to a sick sense of nostalgia within me–for it reminds me of those seemingly endless days of sweat and toil beneath the blazing Georgia sun that once boiled the blood off my shirtless, whip-shredded back. Oh, the thirst…
“Aw hell naw, I know you ain’t come up in mah shop tryna jack mah shit. You takin’ food off my baby girl plate, nawmsayin’? You wrong fadat shit.”
I stared down the barrel of the shotgun that the pawn shop’s owner was holding point blank in my face over the shattered display case I’d just put my fist through.
Nervous. Shaking. He’s afraid of me.
I could sense the thump of his heart reverberating through the barrel as I placed two fingers on the end of it and gently pushed it downwards, my eyes locked onto his.
I placed my other hand inside the case, my fingertips caressing the still-familiar smooth silver finish of the pocket watch that had been mine so very long ago. I dangled it in front of him, like a hypnotist.
“Where,” I asked, my eyes now boring into his and beyond, into his soft little mind, “did you get this?”
He was confused by the question–he genuinely didn’t remember. I knew what this wretched, pitiable creature was going to say even before he opened his mouth to give me the answer I’d demanded of him. I could see the words embarking upon their short journey from thought to speech.
“I own know mane. Jes some shit I bought off some dude, nawmsayin’?”
I grabbed the gun and broke it in half; tossed it aside. The pieces skidded across the floor and clattered against a dust-coated display of bargain-priced DVDs.
My nose wrinkled as it detected the unmistakable stench of the man’s bowels emptying in his pants. Damn my keen sense of smell, sometimes.
“It’s mine. I’m taking it.”
“Ay mane, I’m jes on mah grind tryna get dis money jes like you, nawmean? Why you gotta come up in here trippin’ ’bout some bitchass watch n’ shit? Is you like, menally disturbanced or some shit? Damn nigga, chill.”
I hadn’t planned on taking him. Too white trash for my tastes. Clammy, acne-sprinkled skin, shitty tattoos, grimy white t-shirt, man bun, reeking of cheap cigarettes, failure and sweat–he was absolutely vile. But now he’d really pissed me off. And I was hungry.
“You brought us here. You stole our lives from us, you separated us from our children and our spouses. You bought and sold us like cattle. You beat us into submission until we came to regard such treatment as normal.”
My hand was around his neck so quickly that he didn’t even have time to flinch. I pulled him to me; pressed my lips against his ear.
“And now you want to be like us,” I hissed. “You want all that we’ve worked so hard to achieve, to claim it for yourselves. You can’t even let us have so much as one word that is ours alone.”
I tightened my grip. “You wish to try on my skin, see how it feels? Enjoy the cool factor without the centuries of oppression and pain that have shaped me into what I’ve become?”
I opened my mouth wide, and I could feel his pulse against my teeth before they tore into his flesh. “I’ll not pay one thin dime to reclaim what’s rightfully mine–and certainly not from the likes of you. I am the master now, and this world is my plantation. And you will never say that word-/or any other, for that matter–ever again.”
I wrapped my fingers around his mouth to muffle his screams as I drank his life.
Jinn was watching television when I arrived back at the hotel room around 4:00 AM.
“What is this buffoonery I am witnessing?” he roared at the flickering screen.
I glanced at the TV. “Aladdin,” I said. “It’s a children’s movie that was produced by the Walt Disney Company. Quite popular.”
Jinn scowled. “Popular? The Jinn were once worshipped by man as gods! They see us now as this?” He pointed a long-nailed finger at the screen and the TV burst into flames.
I sighed. “Put that out.”
Jinn raised an eyebrow. “Was that a wish?”
“Forget it,” I said, yanking the comforter from the bed and tossing it over the TV, beating the flames into submission.
When I was satisfied that the fire was fully extinguished, and I’d called the front desk to let them know that the smoke alarm had been set off by an overheated television, I knelt down and looked Jinn right in his eyes.
“Maybe you were once a god, but now you belong to me.”
“For the time being.”
“Until I say otherwise.”
I went to the sink to wash the reek of my meal off my hands, chastising myself for resorting to feeding on such dirty blood.
“That was Robin Williams,” I called to him over the sound of the running faucet.
“The voice of the genie. Actor. People think he’s very funny.”
“Well I don’t,” said Jinn, folding his arms. “I wish to destroy him for his heresy. ‘Genie’ indeed.”
“He’s already dead.”
A childlike look of disappointment passed over the jinn’s features before being engulfed by a wicked smirk. “Good.”
I reached into my pocket and touched the precious artifact I’d recovered earlier–the one I’d returned, for the first time in at least a century, to Atlanta to be reunited with after seeing it listed on eBay by the pawn shop owner I’d devoured earlier.
The negro cannot survive without the firm, white hand of discipline to keep him on the straight and narrow. Left to his own devices, a freed negro will almost certainly succumb to his baser instincts.
Those words, spoken by my former master to a friend of his–in my presence, as if I were a dog–are firmly carved into my consciousness. The white-hot rage that filled my spirit upon hearing them has not faded with time.
He thought himself benevolent and in his estimation he treated me quite well, but I was still a captive–a lesser being. I was nothing to him but savage animal to be caged and tamed; trained to serve refreshments at extravagant galas.
He was an archaeological professor who was often absent for long periods of time, at the conclusion of which he’d usually come home with more pilfered treasures for his collection in tow.
On the occasion of one such triumphant return, I was given the task of cleaning and polishing an assortment of tarnished golden artifacts for display at the university. I didn’t know where they were from, as he didn’t generally find it necessary to divulge to me such things. I was a mere slave, after all.
It was tedious, tiresome work, but I was left in private, in my master’s study amongst hundreds of books I wasn’t allowed to read, without the children to bother me. For that, I was grateful.
They regarded me as a kind of living toy, you see, who existed for their amusement, and neither my master nor his wife took any action to dissuade them of this notion.
Oh, how I wanted to snap their devilish little necks after they drifted off into a carefree sleep every night. I wanted to see terror in their eyes, the confident smirks of superiority they’d worn since birth replaced by fear for their very lives.
When I went to work on an old oil lamp that seemed to me particularly tarnished and dented, something strange happened.
Thick, multicolored plumes of glittery smoke poured out of the thing, accompanied by an unearthly howl. When the smoke cleared, my jaw dropped. Standing before me was a tall, muscular man-thing–a demon made flesh. His skin was blue like the sky, and tiny flames danced in the blackness of his eyes.
He bared his long, thin, needle-like teeth at me as I scooted backwards across the floor.
“Who has disturbed by slumber?” he said in a booming voice that echoed throughout the study full of books that I was forbidden to read.
“I am…I am Elijah,” I told him. “I was just polishing my master’s things and I–”
“A slave? I have been released after nearly a thousand years of captivity to serve the whims of a slave?” He sighed. “Very well. Master. I am obliged to grant you three wishes.”
I mouthed the word silently, tasting it. Master. He was talking to me. I decided that I liked the sound of it.
Naturally, I used my first wish to free myself. I won’t go into the mundane details of how this was accomplished, as they aren’t terribly important or interesting.
Suffice it to say, within hours I found myself walking down a dirt road with nothing but the clothes on my back and the lamp in my hands. I had nothing–no possessions, no prospects–but I had freedom.
I knew that it wouldn’t be long before some unscrupulous white man snatched me up and claimed me as his own, and I considered, for a few fleeting moments, using my second wish to become white.
That wouldn’t do, though. I would not compromise who I was. I wanted to forge my path in the world as myself, on my own merits as a free man. I would demand all the respect and privilege inherently accorded a white man, and I would settle for nothing less. In order to accomplish this, my second wish was to be made immortal.
The man-demon, who I had since learned was called a Jinn, seemed amused by this request, and within moments of his granting it I began to experience a sudden, intense craving for blood.
The Jinn explained to me that the only beings who were truly immortal were vampires, and that by transforming me into one he’d granted my wish. I would no longer eat food and imbibe drink like a lowly human. My strength and power would come from preying upon them and drinking their blood.
I didn’t have a problem with that.
As the years rolled by, the Jinn was my one constant companion as I drank my way through the midnight streets of London, Paris, New York City, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Chicago–virtually any noteworthy city one might think to name if pressed.
He was also an ever-flowing fountain of complaint, and I often felt compelled to order him back into his lamp and plug his escape hole with a cork, just to experience a few weeks’ worth of peaceful solitude. He was very impatient with my insistence upon retaining my third wish and often reminded me that it was considered proper decorum to use it to free a captive Jinn. He tried playing the gratitude card, reminding me that he’d liberated me from enslavement, and I, in return, often countered that he’d only freed me because he’d been forced to. I was under no such obligation to him, and my third wish was reserved for my possible restoration to human form, should I ever tire of being a vampire.
Money was unlimited. I took more than I needed from the rich white people upon whom I fed every night.
I viewed it as reparation for decades of demoralizing servitude. Forty acres and a mule? Not good enough. I wanted to kill one white man for every lash of the whip across every weeping slave’s back–every last drop of blood shed by every one of us, paid back in full with every last drop of theirs.
On a humid spring night in 1906, I met and fell in love with a young white woman from Richmond named Corinne. For reasons beyond my being a vampire, we could only meet after dusk. Interracial relationships were frowned upon at that time and in that place, to say the very least.
My ultimate plan was to reveal my true nature to her, and offer her an opportunity to join me in immortality.
I never got that chance, though. The wagging tongues about town spread rumors about us far and wide, and the Klan caught wind of our late night dalliances. When they couldn’t find me, as I had retired to my coffin for the morning, they dragged her into the woods and took turns raping her before hanging her from the branch of an old oak tree.
I was the one who found her.
The coroner did an admirable job of making her look presentable for the funeral. I was of course unable to attend for multiple, obvious reasons, but I slipped into the mortuary late one night and I saw the battered, empty shell that had once housed her beautiful soul. I planted a kiss on her forehead and vowed swift vengeance upon the animals that had done such horrendous things to her.
I toyed with the idea of wishing for her resurrection, but I knew that the Jinn would’ve brought her back from the dead with some sort of ghastly, undesirable twist, as seemed to be his instinct. I asked him to resurrect her as a vampire, but he informed me that such a thing would require two wishes, and that I only had one remaining.
So I let her remain dead. I brutally slaughtered every last man, woman and child I could find who were even remotely connected to the klan, and I left Richmond.
All I’d had left to remind me of her was a pocket watch that was stolen during a burglary of one of my homes three years after her passing. She’d given it to me on my birthday; had my name engraved in it. And her name.
To Elijah, love always, Corinne.
I hadn’t seen it since 1909. And now, once again, it was mine. Feelings I’d buried long ago clawed their way back to the surface.
Was it too late to try, at least, to bring her back?
I looked at the Jinn, who was now completely immersed in whatever he was doing on his iPhone, a device that seemed comically tiny in his giant hands.
No. He was too selfish, too mischievous. He’d laugh, snap his fingers and have some abomination, some dusty, eyeless, walking skeleton with long blonde hair clattering about, terrified by its own existence.
Besides, I had found love again, and that’s not something I’d ever expected to happen.
My girlfriend, Shannon, didn’t know what I was, and I was certain that she would never understand what I was, either.
I slipped the watch back into my pocket. It had done its job–showed me that it was time to move on.
I had more than enough money stashed away to ensure that Shannon and I would live out our lives wealthy and happy, as mortals, until death claimed us both one after the other.
“Rest up, Jinn,” I said. “Tonight we travel to Richmond.”
Jinn frowned and rolled his eyes but said nothing and didn’t look up from his phone.
The cemetery where Corinne was buried was in a disgraceful state of disrepair. The mossy, crumbling tombstones that jutted out from thick, thorny tangles of dried, untamed brush looked like rotten teeth in the mouth of a vagrant.
Still, the atmosphere was serene; restful.
I didn’t wait long after locating her headstone to begin digging. The whore’s blood I’d gorged myself upon in the alley outside of a dilapidated drinking establishment in downtown Richmond gave me strength, and within minutes my earth-caked fingernails were clawing at the rotting wooden lid of her coffin.
I grabbed either side with both hands, ripped it off and hurled it over my shoulder to the ground above.
There she was–what was left of her, anyway. Not much more than a mound of dry bones, but I could still tell that it was her.
Memories of our nights together came flooding back to me, warming my cold, dead heart.
“My darling,” I whispered in as tender a voice as had ever passed through my lips, “how I’ve missed you.”
As I leaned down to kiss her naked skull, a single drop of blood fell from my tear ducts and splashed against the place where her lips had once been.
I removed the pocket watch from my jacket and slipped it beneath her rigid, dusty hands.
“I shall see you again one day.”
I leapt out of the open grave, and after wasting no time in replacing her coffin lid and re-burying her under six feet of damp soil, I vanished into the night.
“Jinn, our time together has drawn to a close. I wish to be as I once was.”
Jinn’s eyes came alive. He rose to his feet.
“Did I hear you correctly, master?”
I nodded. “You did. I’m sorry I couldn’t use my final wish to free you, but I simply cannot remain a creature of the night any longer. It has become…tiresome. I want to be a man again. A mortal man who eats, sleeps, and loves as mortal men do.”
“You’ll die as one too,” said Jinn with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes. I will die. Someday. But for now, I wish to enjoy my existence… perhaps for the first time. To live as a man, neither a beast of burden nor a beast of prey. Let us waste no more time discussing this. Do it. Change me back now.”
I should have retracted my request as soon as that dreadful smile began spread across his face, but I was too blinded by my desire to once again walk in the light of the sun.
As I once was…
“Your wish,” he said, his voice trailing off as if he were savoring every word, “is my command.”
He started to raise his arm, then paused; my entire body stiffened like a dead body in the early stages of rigor mortis. I was frozen in place, unable even to blink.
He cocked his head. “By the way, you had the power to bring that girl back all along. She need not have remained dead. The blood of a vampire is a powerful elixir. A single drop is sufficient to return even the most desiccated of corpses back to the realm of the living. As vampires, of course. In time, their bodies can be fully restored.”
My mind’s eye projected an image of Corinne’s mouldering skeleton, my blood glistening on its mouth in the moonlight.
Jinn smiled. “You cried over that dead girl’s body, didn’t you? Your blood touched her.”
I struggled to speak, but I was unable to form words.
“Well, I expect that by now she’s awake and scratching against the lid of her coffin, but she’ll never gain enough strength to free herself. She would need more blood for that. She’ll remain as she is now for all time, buried alive, unable to scream, existing in an eternal state of confusion and torment.”
What have I done?
Everything went white.
I found myself lying on something cold and hard, like concrete. My body, though, was warm. Alive.
I blinked, trying to clear the fog from my vision. My human vision.
Three walls. A bed. A toilet. Bars.
I kept screaming until two uniformed men with guns unlocked the door to my cage and barged in with batons.
“Hey Blacula, shut the fuck up!” one of them roared at me. The other one laughed.
I couldn’t stop screaming. The blows rained down, and for the first time in well over a century, I experienced pain.