Tricks and Treats
Twenty Tales of Gay Terror and Romance

an excerpt

Kiss Me with Those Dead, Dead Lips

Henry Otterwhite had peculiar taste in men. Some guys like muscular men; others prefer the cuddly type. Some like blonds, some brunets, some prefer redheads. Some guys like younger men, untested and untried; others prefer older men, grizzled and experienced. Some guys like tall men; others, short; some thin, some round; some guys like sweet men, gentle and kind, others like rough men, demanding and strong. Some guys like men who are prodigiously endowed, while others--well, all guys like men who are prodigiously endowed. No matter the look, no matter the type, some guy, somewhere, desires it. But Henry Otterwhite was different; he didn't like any of those kinds of men.

Henry liked vampires.

That's not to say Henry pulled a stiff one-eye for any guy in a cape and white makeup who passed himself off as Lestat de Lioncourt. No, Henry had come across far too many Anne Rice-wannabes in his day. Those guys were all the same--pasty losers who dwelt in a fantasy realm because the real world proved too daunting, too difficult, too unforgiving of their many glaring flaws. Pale makeup hid bad skin; Goth clothes hid pudgy bodies. The "I'm a vampire" declarations hid a lack of confidence that Henry found neither appealing nor remotely interesting. A real vampire--of this Henry was sure--did not need to advertise his undead status. A real vampire did not need to wear a cape lined in red velvet because Bela Lugosi was buried in one just like it. A real vampire did not need foundation. A real vampire needed nothing, and no one, not a damn thing from this world, save blood--warm, wet blood, sticky, sweet, dripping, hot red blood.

Henry was very confident of this. And every day of his life--every hour of every day--every minute of every hour--Henry imagined what it would be like to meet one. He didn't think they'd end up living happily ever after. Henry had no illusions about that. Besides, it wasn't the "happily" part that Henry was so keen on--it was the "ever after" that mesmerized him. Every day he envisaged what it would be like to be a vampire--no agonizing about disease, no worrying about guns or being mugged or crime or even war. No concerns about dying at all. Already dead, so never dying. That, to Henry, was the essence of being a vampire--living without fear.

Henry wanted that. That void of fear. He wanted it bad. He wanted to feel empty inside, to live forever, to be a witness to the nightly goings of the world but never be a part of them. Henry wanted to taste blood--taste it for real, not the ferric, rusty flavor blood had to him now, but really taste, savor it like they did, the vampires, like it meant more to him than anything else in the world. Henry had never wanted anything else in this world. He'd never asked for Christmas presents, never argued for a better grade, never asked for a second helping of butterscotch pudding at the orphanage when he was ten years old--even though he really loved the butterscotch pudding he was fed at the orphanage when he was ten years old. This was all Henry wanted, and every ounce of his want, every fiber of desire within him, was focused on wanting this, only this, forever this.

Henry knew vampires existed. He knew it. He knew it because he'd seen them his whole life. The first time was when he was very young. Eight years old. He had been in the city with his mother. It was late--they'd seen something, a show, maybe the show at Rockefeller Center. People told Henry that his mother had always loved the Christmas show at Rockefeller Center, with its dazzling lights and color-strewn costumes and the girls, the Rockettes, so tall, all sinew and leg, kicking and dancing. Henry didn't remember the show if he had seen it, didn't remember the brilliantly white snow if there was any that day, but he remembered the man. There wasn't anything special about him. He was dirty, grizzled. Age indiscriminate, looks indiscriminate. He'd have blended in anywhere, really, except Henry knew he was a vampire. Knew it. Henry didn't know exactly how he knew; he just knew. He knew it even before the man took Henry back into the dark recess of the empty alley, before the police found Henry dazed and glassy-eyed, his pants around his ankles, before they told him his mother was dead, her gray matter oozing out of her head, sticking stubbornly to the cold of the sidewalk. Henry knew that the man, whoever he was, wasn't human, wasn't real. He had to be dead. Undead. Evil incarnate.

In short, a vampire.

Years later, when Henry was in college and more educated in the way things worked, he went back to the hospital where they had taken him that night, back to find his old medical records. He was looking for proof, looking for evidence of the bite, the mark on his neck that the police, the doctors, that everyone must have seen when they found him. Perhaps they knew who had attacked him, knew the nature of what he was; maybe that's why they never found the guy. They never bothered to look, because they knew he was never there. They knew he wasn't real. And what did Henry find in his medical records? Nothing. Not even the records themselves. That was all the proof Henry had needed. The hospital said they'd lost them. But Henry knew better. The man--the evil, the vampire--had come back, destroyed the records. He didn't want to be found out. He didn't want Henry to find him.

But that wasn't the only proof Henry had. In his second orphanage, at St. Gildas's--Henry was twelve--there had been another one, another vampire, right there, in the annex off the church. Oh, but it was perfect, as Henry had come to realize years later. It was hiding in plain sight. And the man--Father Donovan, that's what they called him, but of course that wasn't his name--he was different from the other vampire Henry had known. Different but the same. He still drank from Henry, but Father Donovan was cautious, less brutal. He'd lure Henry to him, to the small back room where the robes and candles for the masses were always stored, and he'd always let Henry have a few sips of the ceremonial wine before drinking from him. Father Donovan always had a small amount of the wine ready in a little pewter cup, a private chalice for his own private ceremonies. Henry remembered the taste--acrid, metallic, a taste he now recognized as blood. Clearly Father Donovan had been preparing Henry for something. Henry only wished he could remember what it was. But his memory after drinking the wine was always too incoherent, too patchy. He could only remember that initial taste of blood, and Father Donovan, staring at him intently, his breath ragged and hasty, as Henry felt that familiar warmth, that flush of ember glow the blood always brought to his cheeks. Henry always drank too much, too fast. Father Donovan would grab the wine from him, wipe Henry's face with his soft, pudgy hand, and give that same low, mirthless laugh Henry remembered all too well from the alley years before, from the stark night he first encountered that same trembling evil. Henry could never remember anything after that, but whatever Father Donovan was planning on eventually doing with him, he left before he could finish.

Henry realized now that Father Donovan had probably been afraid of being found out, that someone would learn his secret, and thus had to leave Henry behind. But what was he doing? Preparing a sacrifice, a meal? Henry didn't believe that. Father Donovan could have killed him anytime...anytime. No, Henry knew Father Donovan wanted to make him a vampire, wanted to turn him. He wasn't sure why--Father Donovan often called Henry "son," and Henry thought maybe the vampire felt all alone in the world. Later, though, Henry came to realize that it was too simplistic a reason to make someone immortal. No, Henry reflected, perhaps Father Donovan had seen in him someone who knew, someone who believed, and wondered perhaps if he was worthy enough to be transformed, to be transmogrified, to be transubstantiated. Henry fervently hoped Father Donovan hadn't abandoned him because he was too unworthy for this sacrament. He could only hope that something else had intervened.