The Spotlight: h+

This week I bring h+, a creative short story from Valeri Paxton-Steele.

Valeri approached me with h+ via Twitter in response to my invitation for short stories. h+ is an urban fantasy story that poses the fun question: “what would junkie vampires be like?” I’m a big fan of this concept, and the story is executed in a stylistic urban fashion. The narrative is tightly written and carries the same gritty tone as the dialogue. Weighing in at around 1600 words, h+ is jaunty little read. Everyone that comes here knows I don’t do spoilers, so you’ll just have to read it to find out more!

With Valeri’s permission, I am the first to publish her story online! Don’t forget to check out her WordPress blog here.

Without further ado, scroll down and enjoy… 

h+

Almost all of the vampires are junkies now. It has gotten to be an epidemic. Those bastards come out every twilight, making their deals down by the park across from the Stop n’ Shop. Most folks around here call it the “Stop n’ Rob,” but you know how small cities are. Everyone’s a fucking comedian. Most of the time time, the vamps boost pure heroin, but lately they have been plugging this new gear, an h+ blood booster that gets them really high. Sometimes they’ll take pure human blood, like mine, but more often they take it from other local human junkies, so the blood is already hyped when they shoot it up.

*

Cleo and her abusive puke boyfriend Buddy are usually hanging out against the back wall of the laundromat after their score. This hot summer night they are over on the hot black tarmac of the basketball court. Little Emo is over in the park, under the trees. The rest of the usual losers and derelicts come and go, making their deals on the downlow. Emo’s brother Tahlie is down on the corner, trying to hustle sales.

Cleo’s hippy-dippy blonde cornrow braids drip with sweat. A hipster-goth white girl in Center City thought she needed a big-time guy like Buddy. “Big Buddy” was a ‘hood rat, and he knew everyone. He’d been around for a very long time. He had done his share of wheeling and dealing in the park. He switched it into high gear ever since he hooked up with Cleo. She was a sweet piece of cherry pie. The parkboys all had their eyes out, waiting for her to be alone so they could jump on. Wait and frustrate, so the story goes. Buddy wouldn’t let her out of his sight. He still got his share of the prime money-cut, though. A little action from all of the players made sure he could still maintain his “night life.”

Little Emo was sitting on a grey boulder in the park across the street. It was one of many that were put in the park for God only knows what reason. He looked up from his hazy haze, his dark Latino eyes half-lidded aginst the glow of the halogen street lamp. His brain was more than fried from booting the dope. He knew that going from seller to consumer was no good for business, but it sure helped put a better perspective on everything. A spin. A good spin. A spinny spin spin. He looked away, eyes wandering, waiting for the next sucker tweaker to come along. Instead, it was his little brother Tahlie, all slinking like. Sidling on over here just like a fucking crab. Just what I need right now. Tahlie getting’ all up in my business, thought Little Emo.

“Go back down to the corner, kid. Ain’t nothin’ for you here little man,” Little Emo urged.

“Nobody’s buyin’ nothin’, bro. It’s too damn hot tonight,” said Tahlie.

“You best be takin’ care to get back down on that corner. I ain’t hearin’ this right now. Go do your job!” yelled Emo.

“Just shove your skinny ass over and let get me some cool, bro. I ain’t standin’ there if no clowns are down,” said Tahlie.

“Only if you got a burn. If you got a burn, I’ll shove,” said Emo.

The softpack of smokes in Tahlie’s pocket was crinkled and bent, and half damp from sweat. He teased a menthol out for Emo. It wasn’t in any better shape than the rest of the pack. He handed it over. “Shove,” Tahlie ordered. The brothers laid back on the boulder and watched as the clouds cover the stars.

Tahlie got a whiff of pizza coming out of Adriano’s. The heavy garlic odor made his stomach lurch. The bastards had A/C, and they vented out the heat from the kitchen right across the street. Emo and Tahlie’s apartment had a lousy fan that blew the hot air around. His stomach rumbled as he thought about the last time he ate. I have to pitch this shit to the right assholes and get my feed on, thought Emo.

Tahlie noticed that the beautiful blonde Cleo was hanging out with that jerk-off piece of shit. He would have a guaranteed date if he could get Cleo alone. He was ready to jump off the rock when Little Emo stopped him. “You think that’s a good idea, little bro? Unless you got some money for Buddy, stay the fuck away from him. Cleopatra ain’t never gonna bother with you. She’s a wildcat, T. There’s only two things you need to learn. Make your money, and stay clear of wildcats. They will eat you up, inside and out,” warned Little Emo.

“Yeah, well, we’ll see, Emmanuel.” He swung his hips high up and out like he was a vaulting, lithe and handsome, bouncing off the rock like only young teen boys can so gracefully do. “What do you got for him so far, E? You got at least a bill or two?”

“Yeah. Two. Started early. I hit the rush hour commuters.” He winked at T. They both burst out laughing. Expecting commuters to buy is like expecting to smell roses in a sewer plant, Tahlie thought. Little Emo was curious. “What do you care? It ain’t yours.”

“Go give it to him. Give him this, too. I’m going to Adriano’s. I gotta cool the fuck off. Oh, and by the way, watch and learn.” He dug deep in his pocket, and handed over a fully loaded h+ blood boost.

Little Emo stared over at the couple again. Buddy was leaning back against the wall, zoning out. Cleo was bouncing a quarter on the blacktop, no cup. As he started to walk right, Tahlie walked left across the street toward the little hole-in-the-wall pizza place. When he was just approaching Buddy and Cleo, Cleo looked up from her game. It was then that she saw Tahlie, his hand on the door of Adriano’s. He looked back and gave her a little chin nod. She caught it, but didn’t let on. Buddy was slowly focusing on Little E.

“I got business,” Little Emo said, looking Buddy straight in the eyes.

“Honey, I’m gonna go get a cup of ice, okay? You guys can talk?”

Buddy’s red eyes glared sideways at her. “Yeah, you can get the fuck lost. Distance. Get gone.” He grabbed her wrist, pulled her close and whispered, “Just don’t take too long. This ain’t gonna be but a quick minute.”

As the boys got down to business, Cleo walked quickly over to Adriano’s. Opening the door and feeling the blast of cold air hitting her face was almost better than cumming. It was almost better than a bump.

“Hey, Miss Rita! Can I get a cup of ice?” Giving a quick glance over in Tahlie’s direction, she added. “Make it two?”

“Pretty soon I’m gonna start charging you kids for the cups,” grumbled the heavy redhead behind the counter. Working in all that cool hadn’t done Rita’s mood any favors.

Cleo said, “Thanks, hon. Don’t mean to put you out. Just trying to stay chill.” Cleo gave her that award winning smile, complete with fangs. She always looked so pale, but her green eyes always sparkled. Those sparkles were contagious to everybody she met. So was her bite.

“Hey, kiddo. What’s up?” she asked, as she handed him the extra cup.

She always calls me “kiddo.” We’re the same fucking age, for chrissakes. We’re almost like 200 years old, Tahlie thought.

“Leave him for me. I got you, babygirl. For the rest and rest…” Tahlie offered. “Fair exchange. We both win.”

She ran one of the ice cubes up and down her inner wrists. It was so damned sexy. “You know I can’t. He’s got too much control now. There is no way he would let me go.”

“What about if he wasn’t in the picture anymore? What would you say then?”

“I’d say yes,” she sparkle-smiled. “But, come on, how do you figure on getting rid of him?” asked Cleo.

“I got a connect. A super shot that will put him out of business for the next ten-to-twelve hours. I got it all fixed up. Looks just like a dose. Get him to boot it, and straight up nighty-night time. No more mean Mr. Boss-Man. And I’ve got cash. We would have time to get away. We could take off and he would never find us.” Tahlie grinned. He had already waited years for someone like her. Tahlie thought to himself, I’d be with her for aeons, if she’d let me…

*

You see, I’m a biochemist, with degrees in both engineering and organic chemistry, but I’ve been posing as a small time user, sometimes dealer. I needed a way “in.” I had to gain their trust. I’ve isolated a way to make their hypodermic needles vacuum sealed. I’ve been filling these up with a liquid nitrogen mix that looks just like their typical h+ blood combo. I’ve already talked to Tahlie. I told him the only way he is ever going to get Cleo is if Buddy is out of the picture. Sure, I greased his palm with a little money, too. He didn’t need too much convincing. He is going to swap out Buddy’s next fix. Well, I lied a little. It’s supposed to be a new suped-up version of h+. It sure is. One skin-pop, and that asshole is going to freeze from the inside out, and one shot while he’s down will shatter him like glass. Well, more like a Slush Puppy, but you know what I mean. And everyone knows what happens when you take out the lead vampire, right?

Special thanks again to Valeri Paxton-Steele, for permission to publish her story here first!

Go forth and conquer,

J. D.

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