Midnight Munchies



     It isn’t that I hate all people… I just dislike most of them with a fervor that approaches obsession I guess you would say. I am disappointed with the human race overall, although I do have to admit that there is a miniscule probability that there are some truly good people out there. It just seems that I haven’t met many of them, with a few exceptions. I have, in my 40-plus years, met several people who were truly caring of their fellow man, who greeted everyone with a smile and a hearty handshake and a “what can I do for you” attitude.

     Most of those people got beaten down and taken advantage of by those whom they truly wanted to help… and added to my sentiment that the human race is either a horrible mistake and I am waiting for the next forty-days-and-forty-nights flood, or in opposite viewpoint; that Darwin was right, but he failed to reckon on the de-evolution that would surely occur. Every process and procedure has a high point, and I think we passed the pinnacle of evolution many years ago and mankind is rapidly headed downhill, which is what makes what I do so ironic.

    Not that I have been any sort of an angel during my life, ‘cause I’m not, and not very likely to get any halo because of anything that I have ever done, or will do, unless a true miracle happens. But one thing that I have learned as I get older is that I don’t know anything of real importance. I know the firing order of a Chevy V-8, how to make excellent biscuits and gravy, and that two wrongs don’t make a right, but two Wrights make an airplane, and loads of random stuff just crammed into my mind that wont help a bit if and when I ever reach the Pearly Gates and my life is laid out to be judged.

      But all these things don’t count for squat now… something happened a few years ago that changed my life forever in more than a million ways, some more critical than others. One moment left an indelible mark on me that even time will never be able to erase. It’s why I am here now…


     The fact is, I live on the wrong side of the tracks. Hell, I almost live ON the tracks. The trains barrel by about twenty feet from my back door, and if I weren’t already nearly stone cold deaf, my life would be even more miserable than it already is. But because of this, my rent is cheap enough for me to afford on the retirement that the government pays me, and it will never go up because the slumlord that owns it knows that he would never be able to get another tenant who would pay his rent on the first like I do, if they paid at all. It’s a long story, the retirement, the partial deafness… and one that I don’t tell well at all. I was content to live here… alone… for now, and let the future take care of itself.

     I have thoughts from time to time about moving, perhaps buying one of those government owned gold mine claims out in Arizona. You can buy one for about 5 grand, and you can live on it and all, just can’t build anything permanent. Tent, trailer or RV is all. You can mine the place and never have to move your camp, or not mine at all and move the campsite a little bit every two weeks and the government couldn’t care less about you.


     One thing that I never counted on was Thad. Thad Singleton. A guy who looked to be more than a few years younger then me, probably in his early thirties if I had to make a guess at it. He opened up the only mini-mart store in the area, a Mom-and-Pop type convenience store that managed to hang on and survive even after all the big chain stores popped up everywhere and throttled the life out of a lot of the smaller stores that used to be everywhere.

     Over-priced half gallons of milk and an abundance of odds and ends that people tended to forget while doing their regular shopping lined the aisles of the stores, candy bars and bags of potato chips stacked alongside car fuses and road maps. At first glance, the place looked just like every other convenience market that you have ever been in across this great U. S. of A… I thought at first.

    But as time went on, in my boredom I began to notice things… things that most people probably wouldn’t pay any attention to as they hustled and bustled down the street on their way to anywhere but here. First off, I was struck by the fact that not one bit of graffiti adorned the thirty-foot long expanse of brick wall that faced the parking lot—a quintessential blank canvas for all the local up and coming graphic artists. And yet here it stood, conspicuous in its blankness.

    In the two years that I have lived here, the place has never been robbed once, a freakin’ miracle in itself.

     Thad’s place is on the wrong side of the tracks, too… just like my house…way on the wrong side of the tracks. None of the big name convenience stores even considered building in the area, probably because they knew that no one would work at a place that was bound to get robbed on nearly a daily basis, where you took your life in your hands just driving to work, let alone actually handling money without a cage around you and a .40 caliber semiautomatic ready at hand. The only store that attempted to break into the area was only open three months… and in that time was robbed four times, was set on fire once, and the outside of the store looked like a cartoonist’s portfolio combined with a membership roster of the neighborhood gangs.

     But, strange as they were, those weren’t the real reason that I started looking a bit harder at Thad’s, even if they were a bit strange. No, what kinda got me thinking, and watching more and more, were the hours that the place was open. I mean, what kind of store is open from dark till dawn?

    Daylight found the store shuttered and locked up tight, no doughnuts and coffee for the morning people, no deli sandwiches or microwave burritos for the lunch rush, none of my favorite all beef hot dogs cooked on the roller grills, which just really ticked me off. On those occasions when I couldn’t seem to sleep, and sat up watching the night world outside my window, I noticed that Thad’s had a constant flow of walk-ins, even in the wee hours of the night.

    One night, I was bored, and unable to sleep, so I put on some clothes and made my way across the street and down to the end of the block, just intending to while away a bit of time, maybe wear myself down a bit so that I could get to sleep at some point. It was a beautiful night, the summer heat offset by the coolness of the late evening. It was nearly midnight, but I had no life, no agenda, and no schedule to adhere to. I could sleep the clock around if I so desired, and oftentimes, when the depression really took hold, took full advantage of the fact that I could do so.

    The bell gave out a bright jingle as I pushed the door open, and Thad glanced up from where he was ringing up a sale for the current customer. His eyes welcomed me, as I nodded at him in greeting, receiving a nod in return as he went back to bagging the purchases for the gentleman.

    I wandered aimlessly up and down the aisles, not looking for anything in particular, really just killing time, so to speak. I am terrible at impulse buying, about the only way to prevent myself from carting some useless item home with me is to purposely forget my wallet at home.

     “Anything that I can help you with?”

     I turned and smiled at him where he stood behind the counter, about twenty feet away, and shook my head, motioning for him to go on with whatever it was that he was doing. “Nah… I guess I am just browsing around. Couldn’t sleep. One of those nights, you know?”

     He laughed, and a chill ran down my spine for no particular reason. It just seemed that there was so much more to it than just a normal laugh, rich with innuendo and things that I knew nothing about, like a joke that only he knew the punch line to.

     “Every night is like that to me,” he smiled, his teeth glittering in the artificial glare from the overhead fluorescents. “But business is business.” He nodded at a customer who had just walked in, who returned his greeting in the same manner, then walked towards the back of the store.

    Thad slid out from behind the counter and made his way back to where the customer stood browsing the shelves in much the same manner as I had been. A muted conversation passed between them… one that, try as I might, I couldn’t strain my damaged hearing enough to overhear.

    Now, I don’t mean to give the impression that I am normally a nosy busybody, eavesdropping on conversations that don’t involve me. It’s just that something was peculiar about this place… and I am not at all comfortable around peculiarities at this point in my life. Like I said earlier… if you knew my story, you would understand.

     Thad left and went into the rear of the store for a moment, and returned with a bottle of what appeared to be wine. The two then went to the register… but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that when Thad rang up the sale, the total still showed as zero on the green L.E.D. screen that stood off to one side of the register so that the customer could normally verify the total.

     Even stranger than that was the fact that when the money changed hands, I distinctly saw a flash of gold… and who pays for a bottle of wine with gold? For that matter, who pays for anything with gold nowadays? I mean, its all plastic or paper now, mostly plastic, with debit cards and credit cards and all.

    I studiously examined the tabloid newspapers in the rack before, intent on not giving away that I had noticed anything out of the ordinary, but I think that this might have been what gave me away. Who really read these things, you know? Nutcases and people who thrive on drama, real or imaginary, are the only ones who actually buy these rags…

     I turned to see Thad staring at me, a glint in his eyes that I hadn’t noticed before. Silently appraising me, trying to determine what I had seen, and what sort of danger that I might present to him. I tried to play it off, but with little hope of succeeding. I was pretty sure what sort of game he had going on here, and if I was right, then I was really in the middle of something that was about to blow up in my face big-time.

     “What the Hell,” I thought to myself. “It’s not like I can avoid the damn things anyway.”

     “You know, Thad…” I grinned at him, picking up the tabloid and thumbing through it till I found the story I was looking for. “Some of these stories are actually sort of interesting, once you sort through the ones that are total bull crap.”

       “Really?” he replied, still staring at me, but now with a hint of doubt. “Any particular articles?” He rang up the sale as I tossed the magazine on the counter.

      Another customer walked in the door, and now I could breathe. If he were going to try something, then maybe this would deter him… at least for the moment. I smiled and handed him two bucks, and took my change as the bell dinged over the door again, a group of teenagers bustling through it, laughing and roughhousing amongst themselves as they headed for the rack of chips.

    “Yeah,” I answered him as I made my way towards the door. “Found one that I want to read, anyway.” I held it up to where he could see the article I was talking about. The headline read “Vampires in the city… fear in the night.”

     His eyes grew hard as steel as he hissed at me, “Some things are better left alone, my friend. Thinking too much can be… dangerous.” He turned back to the counter as one of the pimply-faced teens plopped a giant bag of cheese puffs and a six-pack of soda down by the register, but kept his eyes on me as I made my way out the door.

     I stood for a moment on the sidewalk outside the door, and took a deep breath, feeling as if I had gone this entire time without. The night was hot and still, with the nearly full moon now hidden behind the clouds that hadn’t been there earlier. The shadows were deep and malicious to most, but not to me… not anymore.

     I made my way back home, and carefully locked the door behind me, throwing the deadbolt as well as the chain lock and twisting the lock on the doorknob as well… not that it would do much if Thad decided that he wanted in. The things of Man weren’t much use against the Things that went bump in the night… and Thad was one of these, I was sure. A convenience store was certainly a strange place to find one of the Undead, but in this day and age, who knows anymore?

    It all made sense now, in a twisted sort of way. The night hours, the strange clientele, the dark bottles, the gold, the walk-in customers who undoubtedly didn’t live in the neighborhood, the lack of vandalism even, all spelled out to me that Thad was, in fact, one of the Vampires that the tabloid warned us of.

    Now, before you get it fixed in your head that I am one of the ones that I mentioned earlier in regards to those who read the tabloid rags, let me assure you that I have seen and experienced things in my life that shook me to the core. Let me put it like this…

     When I was 20 years old, I knew everything. When I was 30, I realized that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. After two failed marriages and fourteen years in the military that left me half deaf and at one point near dead… I found out that I knew nothing at all. Only then was I truly knowledgeable about this life we live in. It was this experience that brought me to where I was now, in the condition that I am. I can live with it… after all, it sure as hell beats the alternative, now doesn’t it?

    What had happened tonight pretty much assured that Thad and maybe his buddies would be paying me a visit sooner or later. All that I could do was to hope that it wouldn’t happen too soon, that it would take a couple of days for him to figure out what he was going to do, and when. In the meantime, I figured I was worn out enough to maybe sleep a bit…


     In the morning, I went about my normal, everyday existence. I did get on the Internet and do some more research on vampires, just in case there was any updated information that I didn’t already know… not like this was the first time that I had run into those like him. But that was a bit of information that I hoped that Thad was unaware of, at least for the moment.

    Night brought a bit of coolness as it set in, for a change. The sweltering heat backed off a bit, the pavement and concrete still exuding it, the warmth swirling against the freshness of the night air. I sat on my front porch; loathe to venture out just yet. One more day would give me a distinct advantage, much more than Thad would ever imagine.

    I popped into the mini-mart early, just after he had opened. The place was busy, so a private conversation was impossible. All I did was buy a couple more of the tabloid papers, tossing them onto the counter as I quipped, “Just gotta do a bit more research” as I tossed a five dollar bill in his general direction, winking as I gathered up my purchases and leaving.


    I spent that night out and about, staying in a bar till last call, then wandering around the 24/7 Supercenter next door till the rosy glow of dawn was evident and I knew I was safe. I was sweating the whole time, my skin feeling as if it were crawling with insects, my muscles twitching as if ready to spring into battle at a moments notice. But the night passed uneventfully, and I made my way back home.

    I walked up to find the door broken open, the jamb shattered where the locks had tried to hold firm against whoever had battered it in, the cheap wood finally giving way under the strain. They had sought me out, only to be disappointed.

     Inside my house, I saw the fallout of this disappointment. The place was trashed, as though a mini-tornado had manifested in the middle of it and wended its way through, room by room, shattering dishes and appliances into pieces, tearing the doors off the cabinets in its fury, rending and tearing what it couldn’t break.

     The police put it off to crackheads; warning me that it was likely to happen again, living in this neighborhood. They were nice enough, which was usual, given my military service and retirement, and advised me to find someplace else to live, then made their way to their vehicle and advised me that I could get a copy of the report in about four working days to file a claim with my insurance company. I stood and watched them drive off, secure in their beliefs and ignorance of what was really going on around them in the world, and shook my head.

    I called the landlord, who nearly had a heart attack when he surveyed the damage to the place. I walked through it with him, and commiserated with him as to who might have done it, punks, drug addicts, aliens… which was a lot closer to the truth than he might have ever considered. He offered to put me up in another place that he had that was empty, and I made arrangements to get back with him tomorrow… if tomorrow ever came, that is.

    It was early evening, the sun sinking beneath the horizon, and I knew that tonight Thad would be stalking me, intent on finishing off a bit of business that he couldn’t allow to linger. The only question that was burning in my mind, was whether he would be alone in his search. He had been in the store last night, so either he had closed early and come looking for me, or had another of his like taking care of the dirty work for him, which was what concerned me.

     I got ready… as ready as one could ever be for a fight against the undead. I had a storage unit close by where I kept certain items that I didn’t want to have laying around the house. There were some things I couldn’t use against them, for personal reasons, but I armed myself with what was available for the battle. A few wooden stakes; sharpened to a point and shoved into a small backpack that I had were about all that I could use against him. Garlic was an old wives tale, and crosses singularly had no effect on vampires in my experience.

     I belted on all my favorite knives in various locations, one secured above each ankle to start. At the back of my neck hung a tanto blade, sharp enough to stab through a sheet of 24 gauge metal and slice through flesh like melted butter. On each hip rode spathas…short swords that most would never recognize, having been forged for just one reason many, many years ago.

    Over this I wore my black leather coat, long enough to cover the end of the swords, but not so long as to impede movement or to appear conspicuous. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself if possible, and a trench coat always seemed to me to be a bit overdramatic. After all, this wasn’t Hollywood, and I wasn’t a half-vampire half-human set out to destroy all the vampires… as long as they left me alone that is.

     I figured that I would just sit in my house and wait for him. The destruction there was pretty much complete as it was, and I would be moving on afterwards. If I survived, that is.

    I made my way up the sidewalk and through the dark rectangle of my former door, crunching across the remains of my dishes as I sought a chair that was in good enough to sit on… and wait.

    A whisper of movement behind me, and I had just one moment to think of what I had forgotten…that they might have gotten there before me… and then darkness.


     I slowly made my way through the gray fog that was all that I could see. I could hear two voices, but couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. Gradually, my vision cleared, and I could make out that I was in what I assumed to be the back of the mini-mart, since I could see the glow of the neon sign on the front door that read “CLOSED”, and stacks of boxes piled up along each wall. I sat in an open area, tied tightly to a chair. To the right of me, I could see my stash of weapons piled, the spathas lying on top, so close, and yet so far away.

     At the other end of the room, Thad was talking to someone, another vampire I assumed, or else one of the mortals who stooped to helping the undead for their own purposes. Either way, they needed to die along with him, in my own opinion, biased as it was.

     Seeing that I was conscious, Thad brought a chair over in front of me and sat down, a vicious smile on his face as he gloated over his victory.

    “So you thought yourself to be a great vampire-hunter, I see?” he motioned towards the stack of weapons that lie on the floor next to me. “Someone had obviously spent some time training you for this, or you wouldn’t have been carrying these.” He leaned in closer. “I would really… really like to know who it was that set you on my trail. Perhaps the promise of a quick death might persuade you to tell me who it was? Or maybe the thought of a long, lingering, painful one appeals to you?”

    I could tell that he was obviously enjoying this immensely, and if nothing else, I wanted to wipe that smile off of his face. I muttered under my breath, low enough that he couldn’t hear me. I needed just a few more minutes… I could feel it, but it just wasn’t quite time yet, and I had to stall him. But it was so close…

    He leaned in closer. “What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you.” His accomplice moved closer, eager to hear the name that I was about to reveal. “Speak up, mortal!” he urged. “Who was it that sent you after me?”

     I looked up at Thad, at the maniacal gleam in his eyes, so common to the undead, so secure in their power, never thinking that there were others in the world like them… but different.

     The full moon broke from behind the clouds, gleaming in through the plate glass window that was behind Thad, illuminating the room and sending me into spasms against the ropes that bound me. Thad mistook my actions for desperation, and laughed… until he finally realized what was happening. But it was too late…

    My muscles burst the bindings as they swelled, my shape-shifting accelerated under the glow of the moon. I sprang up, reached down and seized one of the short swords, then quickly decapitating Thad’s companion. Thad backed away, turning to run as he realized that one of his ultimate enemies stood before him, and knowing that he was hopelessly outmatched. He hadn’t thought about the possible reasons why I didn’t have anything made of silver in my arsenal… maybe because that it was death just as surely for me as it was for him?

     I quickly pinned him against the wall, grasping an arm and severing it with the spartha… one of the ancient weapons that could wound a vampire so severely that they would not be able to regenerate or heal themselves. His other arm was dealt with in the same manner, and now I knew that I had nothing to fear from him.

    I leaned in close to where he lay, and looked into his eyes and smiled. “Your mother,” I said to him as I gently pressed the edge of the blade against his throat. “She’s the one who sent me.”


    It had been a small price to pay, overall. As I lay there, my lifeblood spilling out into the sand of the battlefield, to choose to become one of these, a different kind of undead, in return for changing my form during a full moon? What man would have chosen to say no to the one who bore such a gift? Not I… I had gratefully accepted the bite that had changed my life… forever…

    And now it was time to move on. My disappearance would be explained by the violent burglary of my house… for who would blame me for moving on after that? And as far as the fact that the mini-mart had furiously burned to the ground with an amazing intensity, resisting all efforts to extinguish it… rumor had it that the owner had taken out a rather large insurance policy out on it just the day before, and the FBI was looking for him to ask him just a few questions.

    Of course, I burned my copy of the policy. It was on the counter of the mini-mart when I left after setting a small fire… when vampires burned, they really burned. I didn’t figure that Thad would mind that much if I took a few things with me before torching it. After all, when you are going gold mining, a truckload of beef jerky, soda, potato chips, bottled water and toilet paper was sure to come in handy…

Authors' note: What can I say, it was late night and I couldn't sleep, who knows where these ideas come from some times!

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