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The Cool Kids

Elly Bangs was raised in a new age cult, had six wisdom teeth, and once rode her bicycle alone from Seattle to the Panama Canal. Now she lives in Seattle, where she fixes machines for a living and stays up all night revising her post-apocalyptic cyberpunk novel. Her short fiction has also appeared in Strange Horizons and the Bikes in Space anthology, and she's a 2017 graduate of Clarion West. Follow her on Twitter: @elly_bangs.

For a solid year I was riding high, getting my fix, partying all night and sleeping all day--just like Phinneas, cool and white as snow, who had mortals of all genders falling over themselves to be tasted; who had been twenty-something for centuries. I thought we'd surf that ruby-red high forever, me and him and the other Cool Kids, and I'd never have to suffer my own reflection again. But I woke up one night with an awful taste in my mouth, and when I brushed my teeth, there I was again in the silvered glass above the sink: hazy, translucent, but undeniably there. I almost screamed.
"When's the last time you drank, Jason?" Phinneas muttered, stretching awake.
"If I don't get blood I turn human again?" I sounded like a noob, but I was panicking. I could feel my skin rising above room temperature like a fever.
"Relax! Plenty of blood on the dance floor."
We went hunting in the club, but my confidence was shot. My moves didn't work with gravity pulling so hard. I was sick with my own heat, less Cool by the minute. I was perspiring. I'd forgotten how bad a warm body could smell. I kept tonguing my receding canines. No mortal would offer me a neck.
Phinneas shouted in my ear: "Drink up already! You're bringing me down!"
"My animal magnetism is gone."
"Then don't ask. Just take."
I tried. I found someone all but passed out drunk, but when her neck was right there my appetite ripped out from under me. Without the seduction, without the hypnotically-induced consent, something grotesque about the act of drinking was laid bare. I almost threw up. I ran off into the night, too sick and full of shame to look back or say goodbye.
I ran into Phinneas several years later in the early hours of some night. I invited him out for coffee. I thought we could catch up: we'd been close, once.
"You're getting old, Jason," he said, rather viciously. I'd just turned 31; he was as twenty-something as ever.
"It's not all bad," I said. I calmly considered my reflection in the black mirror of the window, finally at peace with itself--and for just a second the thinnest trace of Phinneas was reflected there with me, grimacing, turning away in self-disgust.
He left without another word, and I stayed up to watch the sunrise.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, April 9th, 2018

Author Comments

I've always found vampires to be oddly rule-based. Modifying or adding a single rule can have interesting effects. Still, vampirism can never be scarier than its alternative: getting older, reckoning with who you are, and taking responsibility for the harm you do to others. These are things a lot of people would like to avoid at all costs, but they are limitlessly worthwhile.

- Elly Bangs
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