by Barbara Jacobson
Water drips down his flawless skin; he looks up at the mirror and says to no other vampire but himself, “This is it. Tomorrow, I’m going to ask Julie on a date.” He blindly reaches for the dingy hand towel on the rack and blots his face dry. He huffs as he switches off the light of the bathroom. He goes across the hall to his room, presses play on his Walkman and puts his headphones on. Marc Bolan croons, “Girl, I’m just a jeepster for your love/Girl I’m just a vampire for your love.” Billy sighs, looks up at his Velvet Underground poster and asks Lou Reed, “Why can’t I tell Julie that I’m just a vampire for her love?”
Billy falls asleep and wakes up to the dead sound of the cassette. He flips the tape over to side B and forwards to the track, “Girl.” He falls asleep and wakes at 6 PM, throws off the headphones and gets out of bed to make a bowl of cereal.
He begrudgingly eats some of his little brother’s Count Cholula, knowing fair well that he would be peeved that Billy dove into his special treat. But Billy doesn’t really care. After all, how many bowls of cereal would a vampire eat in his lifetime? Billy guessed probably a couple of million and laughs. He stares at the maze on the back of the box. A blue crayon line drawn by his brother completes the Count’s journey back to his castle. He traces the blue journey with his finger. “Typical,” he mutters. “What if I wanted to do the stupid maze?” He shoves the box of cereal further into the center of the table, gets up sluggishly and plops his bowl and spoon into the sink.
He slinks back to the bathroom and splashes water on his face, grabs the same grubby hand towel he grabbed six hours ago and rubs his face so hard that it pushes his hair up high. “I vant to suck your bloooood,” Billy says in the style a la his grandfather. Billy laughs and proceeds to comb his hair straight up and puts some gel in it. Pretty much all the vampires at Billy’s school have widow’s peaks. Billy is a bit of an oddity because he doesn’t have one. Julie also doesn’t have a widow’s peak. He liked that they both were different. Currently, Billy was taking genetics and figured out that if the two of them got married and had children, there was a good chance that the recessive vampire hair gene would live on and the legacy of true love along with it. With this thought in mind, Billy puts down the comb, winks at the mirror and switches off the light.
He puts on his uniform, a white button-down shirt, black slacks and a standard black cape. Even though it was against regulations, he had sewn a purple Misfits patch on the underside of his cape. He picks up his Walkman, ejects T. Rex and looks at the tapes scattered on the floor. He crouches down and selects his Marquee Moon tape, grabs his school bag, puts on his shades, closes the door and walks down the hallway to the front door of the house.
Immediately after he closes the door, he puts in the tape and pushes play. He begins his day just as all the mortals are returning home from theirs. He knew who was having affairs, who snuck out at night, and who studied all the time. In Billy’s mind, everyone was having affairs, sneaking out and pretending to study.
He had thoughts of Julie in his head. She had long silky black hair and wore glasses. Billy liked her glasses, they were purple. Even though he only ever saw her in the school uniform, he could tell that she had a good sense of style. She was the one who introduced him to T. Rex. Before she gave him the Electric Warrior cassette, he was listening to nothing but Bad Brains and The Misfits. Because of Julie, Billy got into glam rock. Julie softened Billy’s tape collection and he hardened hers.
Unlike the other vampire girls, Julie didn’t wear a lot of makeup, rather her cheeks would blush and Billy would be able to see the rush of color on her pale face. He always liked seeing her cheeks flush with color; he liked to think that it meant she liked him
Billy liked to walk to school because then he didn’t have to wait for the bus with his classmates. Like most vampires, Billy preferred solitude, but he also liked to avoid Liliom, the most spiteful vampire that roamed the halls of St. Irvyne Academy. Liliom didn’t used to be so malicious. He and Billy were friends 500 years ago, but then once Liliom’s dramatic widow’s peak came in, he became Orlokian in his vampiric ambitions. He could change into not only a bat, but could morph into rats and other animals. He could have graduated already, but purposefully failed English year after year just to be tutored by Julie.
“See No Evil” came on just as Billy was passing the bus stop and Liliom jumped out in front of him. “Hey, Billy Boy, whatcha listening to?” Liliom said as he slapped the headphones off Billy’s ears.
“Oh, hi, Liliom. I’m listening to Television.” Billy said looking down at the porous concrete.
“Ah, I don’t listen to television, I’m on it.” Liliom said as he elbowed Billy in the ribs.
“Yeah, I know, you’ve told me before…but this band is really…good” Billy said as he began to put his headphones on.
“I’ll tell you who’s good Billy Boy,” Liliom looked at Billy and smiled exposing his crooked, yellowing teeth, “Genesis.”
Billy restrained a laugh. He hated Genesis. He wasn’t in the mood to get into an argument with Liliom. So he said, “Oh yeah, I guess I should check them out” and started to walk away.
“See you in English buckaroo.” Liliom said sneering at Billy’s back. “Today’s gonna be real fun, buddy.” He said laughing.
“Yeah, real fun,” Billy said under his breath as he slumped down the street.
A couple of blocks later, Billy stood up straighter and regained his composure. Billy hated Liliom, especially when he called him stupid nicknames or talked about Genesis, or some other equally bad band that Liliom was into that week. Billy arrived at school much earlier than his peers. He liked to go to the library and read before classes began. In English, they were reading Paradise Lost. Billy thought the book was pretty cool, but didn’t like the group dynamics of the class. Both Liliom and Julie were in English, so it made things really tense. Billy thought Liliom was Satan and that he and Julie were Adam and Eve. English class was Paradise before Liliom slithered in there and wedged himself between Billy and Julie. Now, the class is torturous for Billy because he can’t annotate Julie’s books with song lyrics that go along with the literature.
“Hi, Billy. Whacha doin’?” Julie says as she places her binder on the table.
Billy coughs, “Oh hey, Julie, I’m, I’m just reading.”
“Yeah, I know. Pretty boring stuff, right?” Julie says as she rolls her eyes and blows a pink bubble.
“Yeah, I guess.” Billy says as he closes the book and takes his feet off the table. “Do you wanna sit down?”
“Yeah, ok.” She takes a seat and pulls out her Walkman from her coat pocket, ejects a tape and gives it to Billy. “Here, you can borrow this. Give it back to me by the end of school, ok?” She chews on her gum some more.
“Hey, thanks.” He reaches over, touches the tape and sees that it’s Genesis. Dismayed, he says, “oh yeah, I’ve heard a lot about this band. I’ll listen to it later.” He slyly puts the tape in his pocket.
“Yeah, Liliom told me to check em out. I dunno, not really my thing, but wanted a second opinion.” She says as she smiles, leans forward and places her face into her hand.
Billy laughs, “I am so glad to hear you say that, Julie. I hate Genesis. Can I give you this tape back?” He opens his Walkman and takes out his tape. “Here, listen to this, it’s Television. Really cool stuff.” He slides both tapes across to Julie.
She laughs and pushes her glasses up her nose. “Ok, thanks!”
The bell rings and both leave the library and in unison say, “See ya.”
Billy spaces out during the first four classes of the day. By 5th period, he has perked up, not only because he had a Diet Coke, but also because it is time for English, the only class that he has with Julie. Both arrive early and sit next to each other. She leans over his desk and pretends to whisper, “Pssst, Billy, I listened to side A of Marquee Moon and it’s awesome.” She smiles and slides back to her desk. Billy says, “Yeah, just wait until you get to the title track, it is so good.” Both are sitting there smiling until Liliom comes up behind them and wraps an arm around each of them. “Well, aren’t we all just smiles around here.” He says as he kisses Julie’s cheek. “Gross!” she says as she wipes off his affections. “Liliom, stop. Go away.” she says. She opens her binder and begins to write. “Sorry, Juuuuu-lie.” Liliom says as he lurks off to the other side of her. He asks her, “Did you listen to Genesis? What did you think? Pretty good band, right?”
“Actually, I didn’t like them, Billy doesn’t like them either. Right, Billy?” she looks at Billy. Billy’s eyes meet Liliom’s red eyes. “Uh, yeah, not really my thing, err, conceptually speaking.” Billy says as he pulls out his worn copy of Paradise Lost and stares at the pages.
“What?!” Liliom says utterly speechless.
The bell rings and Mr. Vlad walks in, throws his attaché case on the creaky wooden desk and begins the lesson over the chatter of teenage vampires.
“Satan. Let’s talk about him, under-rated hero or mis-understood villain?” he stares at blankly at the students who stare blankly back at him.
Liliom raises his hand and without being recognized says “Under-rated hero, for sure, Mr. V.” He leans back in his chair and puts his arms behind his head.
“Go on, Liliom, you must expand on your argument.”
“Uh, ok. Well, Satan is like, the most interesting character in the whole book. He wants to make Paradise cool. Before he came alone, it was really boring with all that love crap.”
“Please don’t say crap, Liliom.”
“Oh, sorry Mr. V. I meant, love…stuff, yeah love stuff. Paradise was so dull. Satan came along and made it real boss.” With this statement, Liliom pokes Julie in the ribs.”
“Hey! Stop, Liliom!” Julie shouted.
A series of Ooooohs and kissy noises came from the rest of the class.
Mr. Vlad says, “Liliom, stop. Examining Milton does not require you to touch anyone. Does anyone else have a viewpoint?”
Billy raises his hand, “Yes, I think that Satan is a mis-understood villain.”
“Go on, William.”
“Well, Satan knew what it was like to be good and then fell from grace, so he is seeking revenge and is isolated by his own decisions. Because he isn’t happy, he doesn’t want anyone to be happy which is why he invades Paradise and tricks Eve.”
“Thank you William, interesting point. Any other viewpoints? How about you, Julie?”
“Me?” Julie says blushing as she looks up from her paper. “Well, it’s hard to say. I mean, both Adam and Satan have their good qualities and their bad ones. Adam is so impervious, he walks around Paradise like he owns the joint and treats Eve like an object. Meanwhile, Satan comes and offers Eve a choice, to eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. She takes the bite, thinking that she’ll be better off, when really she’s just a pawn in the game between Adam and Satan.”
“Thank you, Julie, very interesting perspective. Ok. We have three varying perspectives on Satan. I’d like for you to spend the rest of the period writing about which interpretation is right to you.” Mr. Vlad takes a seat at his desk, opens up his attaché case and pops two antacids. He sighs audibly, gets out the paper and begins to work on the crossword puzzle.
Billy stares at his paper and doesn’t write anything.
“Pssst, Julie. Pssst, Julie!” Liliom says.
“What, Liliom?” She asks annoyed.
“What’s the answer?”
“There is no right or wrong answer. It’s just an exercise. Now, work on it, ok?” She says as she pulls out her compact. She looks in the mirror to see if there is anything in her teeth and notices that she doesn’t see Liliom’s reflection behind her. She turns the mirror towards Billy and sees him. She turns the mirror on herself again and sees her reflection. “How odd.” she says to herself and slides the compact back in her coat pocket.
“What is it, Julie?” Liliom asks. She says, “Well, look.” She holds up the mirror and Liliom pushes the compact to the ground. “Hey, what’d you do that for?” she says as she leans over to pick it up. “You’re lucky it didn’t break. My Grandmother gave me that, it’s an antique you know.”
“Yeah, sorry Julie.” Liliom says. “I just don’t like mirrors ok.”
“Ok.” Julie says.
Billy writes on his paper,
Have you been to an amusement park before? I haven’t. The park will be open for Vampire Weekend tomorrow night & Sunday night. Would you like to go with me?
The bell rings and Liliom dashes out of the room, in a rush to go stand by the Ladies’ Room, so that he can sneak a peek inside and see all the girls applying eye shadow and lipstick.
Julie gets up to go and Billy hands her the note.
“What’s this?” She asks as she opens it.
Billy grabs her hand and tells her to read it later, not in front of him. She says, “ok” and leaves the room. He is the last person in the class, puts on his headphones and listens to the opening chords of Venus and sulks down to the cafeteria.
Billy can see the vampire mouths moving, tearing into roast beef and pastrami sandwiches, drinking blood supplements, shouting obscenities and jumping up on tables. However, he is in his own head, grabs a banana and sits down at a table and eats it without tasting anything.
Julie goes to the bathroom to read the note. She spies Liliom hanging out by the entrance and brushes past him. He doesn’t let her pass and snatches the note from her. He reads it aloud and laughs. Julie’s cheeks turn a deep red and she goes into the bathroom and cries. Her glasses get fogged up by her hot, oily tears. She looks at the mirror, is embarrassed by her emotional outburst, takes off her glasses and pushes her eyes hard with her palms, almost as if to push her reaction back into her body. She knows that emotions don’t work like that and she laughs at herself, puts her glasses back on and leaves the bathroom.
Liliom is no longer standing at the entrance; rather he has gone to the cafeteria for lunch. He loads his tray with rare steaks and grabs three blood supplement drinks. He sees Billy looking melancholy, goes up to him and slaps the note hard on the table. The slap causes Billy’s Walkman to stop working. He is jolted out of his daze and looks up and sees Liliom’s menacing face.
“What did you think would happen?” Liliom said.
“I thought we’d go to Vampire Weekend at the amusement park.” Billy said deadpanned.
“But, don’t you know that Julie is already going?”
“Oh yeah, really? With who?” Billy asks sarcastically.
“Meeeeeeeee.” Liliom says as he chugs a blood supplement drink.
He crumples the paper container and chucks it in Billy’s direction. Billy doesn’t drink blood like the rest of the vampires. All the vampires know about Billy’s aversion to blood and they try not gorge on blood around him, but Liliom doesn’t care. He stands up, opens a blood supplement drink and pours it on Billy.
“What is wrong with you, Liliom?” Billy shouts and pushes Liliom. Liliom punches Billy, Billy attempts to punch back, but misses because Liliom changes shape into a snake and slithers up Billy’s pant leg and proceeds to coil himself around Billy’s neck. Julie walks in the cafeteria and sees the snake around Billy’s neck. She runs over to him and says, “Where did this snake come from? Its eyes are so red!” She tries to pull it off of Billy’s neck, but it won’t budge. She looks down; her glasses fall forward on her nose. She pushes them back up. She notices the snake’s tail and stomps on it really hard. The snake recoils from around Billy’s neck and slithers away. Both of them sit down, breathing heavily. “Are you ok?” she asks as she reaches over and grabs his hand. Billy coughs and says in a raspy voice, “Yes, thank you Julie.” They sit there silently amongst the chaos of lunch until the bell rings. They sit at the table until most of the vampires leave and Julie says, “Yes, it would be really fun to go to Vampire Weekend that is if you’re up for it” she says sheepishly. Billy says, “Great, it will be a lot of fun.” he smiles, picks up his Walkman, grabs his bag and the two of them leave the cafeteria together.
“So, what happened back there?” Julie asks as they walk down the hall.
“Oh, you know, Liliom shape-shifting and all. This one was pretty bad. I don’t know what would’ve happened if you didn’t come along when you did. I really owe you,” he says as he smiles at her.
She laughs and pushes her glasses, “Yeah, I guess you kinda do. Tell you what; you can buy me a ticket for the carousel at the amusement park.”
“Sounds fair to me.” Billy says as he pulls his shades out of his coat pocket.
“Where are you going?” Julie asks.
“I’m gonna get out of here. I don’t really want to be around this place anymore. I will meet you at the entrance of the amusement park, tomorrow at 8:00?”
“Yeah, okay. I will see you then,” she says as she continues down the hall clutching her binder.
“Bye, Julie.” he says as he puts on his Wayfarers and exits the building.
Billy feels more like a zombie than a vampire and seemingly floats home and ends up in his bed with minimal effort. The next thing he knows, his alarm is beeping, “7 PM already!” he shouts as he leaps out of bed. He splashes water on his face, brushes his teeth and applies more gel to his hair.
He runs back to his room, peels off his school uniform, puts on jeans, a black T-shirt and grabs his jean jacket. He puts his shades on, bolts out the door and runs to the bus stop. The stop is crowded, due to the special event. Billy zones out the excited chatter, stands on the bus and grips the pole so hard that his knuckles turn whiter than usual.
The bus is especially jolty tonight, stopping and starting frequently due to traffic. Billy isn’t feeling too well and gets off a couple of stops before the amusement park and walks the rest of the way. He gets to the entrance at 8:04, late, but before the bus at least. Billy stands there, looking like he isn’t waiting for anyone, when it is clearly evident that he is.
“Well, at least we are both late.” he says and puts his hands into his pockets. Just then, he sees Julie. She’s wearing a white dress, knee-socks and her hair is down. She comes up to Billy, pushes her glasses up, smiles and says, “Sorry, I’m late, the bus just got here.” Billy looks at her awe-struck and just nods. “C’mon, let’s go inside. We have so many rides to go on. She latches arms with him and skips to the gate.
They get inside and Billy buys 20 tickets, some for cokes, some for rides and some for chances at winning prizes. The amusement park is full of bright, blinking lights and Billy puts on his Wayfarers to block out the light. “Woah,” he says. “Come on, let’s go on the carousel!” Julie says. She grabs Billy’s hand and they run to the carousel.
The ride is just about finished loading, but they snag two horses next to each other. Billy is surprised because all the horses but Julie’s are painted really bright and pretty colors and have jovial expressions. Hers is grey and black, with a pained expression and red eyes. The ride starts and the horses go up and down to a sing-song music that gives Billy a headache. Then, the ride starts to go faster and faster and the music becomes much more eerie and ominous. Billy looks at the world passing him by and it is a sickening blur. He looks at Julie and she looks terrified. “Billy, this isn’t how the ride should be,” she says close to tears. “Maybe, they did it different for tonight, you know, for all us vampires,” he says unsurely.
Just then, Julie’s horse tramples over the other horses and runs off the ride. The riders are all screaming and the man operating the ride cannot stop it. “Liliom!” Billy shouts as he hops off the ride, into the wind and onto the ground. He rolls around in the dirt, reorients himself and hears, “Billy! Please help!” He runs off in the direction of Julie’s voice, but isn’t fast enough. He stops, takes big, gasping breaths, looks up at the Ferris wheel and sees Liliom and her on the ride. She is screaming and trying to get away from him, but he keeps pinning her down in her seat.
Billy knows that he has to get on the ride before it starts. He runs the rest of the way there and offers the man running the ride his remaining 16 tickets, far more than the two needed to get on the wheel.
“No can do, buckaroo.” the man says dazed.
“But, why not? The ride is only half-full and you haven’t even started it yet.” Billy says exasperatedly.
“No can do, buckaroo,” the man says blankly without emotion. He shuts the gate and starts the ride.
Billy knows that he is under Liliom’s control. He throws the tickets at the man, hops over the fence, climbs in a seat and looks up. He doesn’t know how to get to Liliom and Julie. But he can here their conversation.
“Julie, you’re so pretty, nice dress.” Liliom hisses.
“Liliom, please stop,” she says as she sits up straighter in the chair. He starts to grab at her and she moves his hands back to his side of the seat. She remembers the whole incident with the mirror. She sneakily takes out her compact, opens it up in her coat pocket and turns to face him.
“Liliom, it is so nice up here isn’t it?” she says smiling.
“Yeah, it’s so cool.” he says. She turns to face him and leans in for a kiss, staring at his gapping eyes, feeling herself being drained by him. She does not allow him to get to her. He closes his eyes as he leans in to kiss her. She opens the compact so that when Liliom opens his eyes he is faced with his own reflection. He screams in agony, but can’t look away. His screams are deafening but Julie is resilient and holds the compact steady. Billy covers his ears, puts on his shades and follows the bright light above him and then below, as the Ferris wheel keeps turning, faster and faster, almost as though the wheel would just roll over the whole town and into the ocean. At that moment, there is a flash so bright that Billy’s sunglasses cannot stop it from permeating his vision. He hears Julie scream and looks up and sees that Liliom is gone and Julie is alone.
“Julie!” Billy shouts. “Are you ok?”
“Billy, is that you?”
The ride stops. The vampires who can fly have already left. Billy and Julie can’t fly, so they exit the ride by stepping off of it. Billy gets off first and waits for Julie.
“Hi Julie,” Billy says as she gets off the ride looking dazed.
“Billy, Billy, I can’t see you.” she says, grabbing at the railing alongside the stairs. Billy guides her down. At the bottom, he takes off her glasses and puts them in her coat pocket. He puts his shades on her eyes and walks her over to a bench. “Maybe your eyes need time to readjust to darkness. You can wear my Wayfarers.” He smiles at her.
She smiles straight ahead. She turns towards Billy, reaching for his arm, “Billy, I don’t know what happened. Did I kill Liliom?” she asks leaning into the crook of his arm.
“I wouldn’t say, killed, Julie. He was already pretty far gone, I mean the way he treated you, it’s just that you can’t force love on people who don’t feel the same way.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. I just feel so weird. I don’t know what to feel.” She takes off Billy’s sunglasses and hands them back to him. She reaches in her coat pocket and pulls out her purple glasses and pushes them up her nose and looks at Billy. They sit on the bench looking at each other and then Billy sings, “Julie, I’m just jeepster for your love. Julie, I’m just a vampire for your love.” Julie laughs and asks, “What’s a jeepster anyway?” They smile at each other, get up from the bench and walk through the discarded blood supplement contains and empty popcorn boxes towards the exit.