“You stink, y’know?”
Max stirred, rattled his chains, and gave me that big gormless look that used to be an in joke between us. These days it was real, the boy didn’t have a gorm in his body. I was pretty sure of that, as parts of his body were disgustingly open for inspection. I fought against a shudder, aware that for all his imperfections, my opinion still somehow mattered to him. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
Confusion registered on his face as he slowly raised his left arm and cautiously sniffed under his armpit, looking at me for reassurance. I managed a smile. “Honey, it’s not something that Lynx will cover up. Oh hell, you’ve got maggots again, hold still whilst I pick them out.”
Bless him, he did try to bite into my skull when I leaned over to de-larvae him, but these days I’m a lot quicker than I used to be, and he’s a lot slower, and the best he could manage was to clamp his jaws shut where I had been. I sighed and told him that he was a very naughty zombie, and watched as his eyes lit up.
“Bad Max.” he slurred.
“Yes, Bad Max. Don’t try to eat my brains, sweetie pie. You know you’re not hungry, we fed earlier, remember?”
He reached down to scratch his belly, and gave me a distant smile. He was doing it again, reaching into the finger sized hole in his stomach. It seemed that it gave him a good feeling, and it was hard to deprive him of his fun. “Oh Max, don’t do that, you’ll make it worse, and then where will we be?”
Max shrugged and removed his finger from the hole, drawing out a wriggling yellow maggot. He stared it for a moment, then popped it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Nice.” he pronounced. “Good Max?”
“So, it’s still vocalising?” The quiet voice behind me held elements of both fascination and disgust. “They usually stop that very early on.”
I turned and shrugged. “Maybe he’s benefiting from some love and attention? Maybe nobody’s ever tried to look after a zombie properly before?”
“Maybe you should just put a spade through its neck and have done with it. It’s an abortion.” Richard wrinkled his nose. “Oh hell Jenna, you’re not actually feeding it are you?”
“Max is my husband, and yes, I fed him. I only needed the blood from my last kill, after all. You know, waste not want not.”
“Is the kill definitely dead?” Richard asked, keeping a careful eye on Max.
“I’d say so, I drained it of blood, Max scoffed the brain, and a good bit of the flesh. Don’t worry, I’ve disposed of it discreetly.”
“Good, it’s bad enough that you made that thing, I don’t want any more of them around. Are you sure you don’t want me to kill it? We’ll have much more fun without it …”
Richard looked hopeful. He also looked quite delicious, as handsome and desirable as he’d seemed when I’d met him at the yoga club where he taught. I admit it, I’d flirted, he’d flirted back, but I’m happily married and Max is my world. I certainly didn’t ask for Richard to track me down and sink his teeth into my jugular one dark night, although I admit that it was my strong survival instinct that led me to clamp down almost equally quickly on the big vein in his upper arm. Which is, unnaturally, how I became a vampire, and, by vampire law, Richard’s responsibility for a year and a day after my making.
I got the impression that he could deal with that, but vampire law also meant that he was responsible for any vampires that I created, and also responsible for my mistakes. AKA Max. You know, when there’s a big change in your life, when you get a new opportunity, you want to share it with the one you love, and that’s how I felt about Max. I’d gone about it in a bit of klutzy way though, and gone for his throat before fully explaining things. I suppose it was his Catholic upbringing, but he kept pushing away the open vein that I offered, and I panicked and stopped short of draining him … and it seems that is how an inexperienced and clumsy new vampire goes about creating a zombie. And it seems that it’s Richard’s duty to put Max out of our misery if I can’t bring myself to do it. So far, I’ve managed to fend him off, Richard has a scientific turn of mind, and I can tell that he’s curious about how Max is behaving under a caring and nurturing regime; but he’s also worried that the other vamps will find out. At best, Richard would be a laughing stock. At worst, he’d get staked.
Richard wrinkled his nose again, he probably knew that it looked cute. “Jenna, destroy that thing, or I will. I’ll give you until midnight. I’m off to hunt.” He left, silent as a moth’s wingbeat, and I shrugged and gazed at Max.
He grinned back, an increasingly grotesque sight. “Baaaad vamperrr.” he slurred.
“Yeah.” I replied, reaching carefully behind him, taking hold of the ash wood broom handle, and picking up my knife. Richard would be back soon, and I wanted the stake to be nice and sharp, waiting for him. I grinned back at my beloved. “Bad vampire.”
copyright Jeanette Greaves. June 2010