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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Vampires Never Get Old

Tales with Fresh Bite

Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker

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INTRODUCTION



A Note from your Editrixes:

Vampires are creatures of imagination. Of myth and moonlight. Of terror and adoration. When we sat down to begin work on this anthology, neither of us could recall when we were first introduced to the idea of the vampire. Its presence in our culture is so deeply rooted that uncovering its origins in our own imaginations proved impossible. We could recall the stories we read in school—Bram Stoker’s Dracula and John William Polidori’s The Vampyre—and those we discovered later—Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire or Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight—but which was first? Neither of us could say.

Of the vampires in our collective imagination, which is admittedly Western-focused, nearly all resided in stories about power. Despite rampant queer subtext and outstanding nonwhite examples like Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, the vampires were predominantly men, white, cisgender, straight, and able-bodied, and we were ready for stories that reimagined that default.

With the stories in this collection, we want to prove that there is no one way to write the vampire. After all, a being with the power to shape-shift should wear many faces and tell many tales. Here you’ll find vampire stories that expand on and reinvent traditional tellings. Following each story, we, your editrixes, offer brief notes on vampire myth and how our authors are reimagining the tropes we all know and love.

Our hope is that this collection inspires you to investigate the stories that have already been told, the beautiful collection of myths that exist around the world, and we hope it inspires you to dream up your own monsters, to interpret them through the lens of your own experiences. Vampires may not be real, but the stories make them something we share. They are eternal, reborn, and living in our nightmares for all eternity. Because vampires never get old.

We’re very happy that you’ve decided to join us on this journey out of the coffin and into the night.

Cheers,

Zoraida & Natalie



SEVEN NIGHTS FOR DYING



Tessa Gratton

Esmael told me that teenage girls make the best vampires.

It sounded like a line, but he’d already been in my pants so I was inclined to believe him.

He’d found me because of the art pinned to the wall at El Café, where I worked. I’d brought in a few sketches and tried to stick them to the exposed bricks with putty, then cussed until Thomas said if I couldn’t figure a way without damaging the wall, maybe I didn’t deserve to be an artist. I hung string from the coatrack to the bookshelf and clipped my art to that. Ten bucks each. I did them when I couldn’t sleep most nights, while watching TV with the lights out or after midnight, when I could only see by the streetlamps outside the window. Hard to notice mistakes that way, and I can just rub my feelings into the paper and sell them as dark mood prints. Get it?

I know what I’m doing.

Esmael came in at the end of Thursday, when we’re open till seven o’clock, and it was January so the sun was long down. I wasn’t there—I prefer to open the café even if I have to be there by five a.m., because I’m alone and just put everything to rights, no cleaning. Flick on the industrial espresso machine, put the stools and chairs down, pick a streaming station, inventory the milk and shit, and wait for Miss Tina to bring the day’s muffins. The sun rises behind our block of shops, so light sort of glows up gradually until around midmorning it crests the buildings and hits the east-facing windows across the street and absolutely tears into my eyes, even from all the way behind the counter.

Apparently Esmael got his cappuccino with cinnamon dashed against the foam like dried blood and then held it while he stared at my art. Bought a piece called howling and asked for my info to actually commission something. Thomas just told him to find me at opening on the weekend or Tuesday, when I had a late start at school and worked until nine.

He was waiting on Saturday when I unlocked the door at 6:30 a.m. sharp. It wasn’t unusual for a regular. I also didn’t mind, because that vampire is extremely pretty. Small for a guy, but moves like an athlete, you know, who can spring to action before you realize it. He was in tight jeans and a button-down and a floral vest, and it worked. Really nice, if blanched, peaches-and-cream skin; dark blond hair tucked neatly behind his ears; green eyes. Like, actually green. Ocean-green. Green-like-a-mermaid-tail green. And his hands were so deliberate. He had a weird shiny black ring on his forefinger that seemed to float there when he gestured or handed me cash and when he tucked a ten into the tip jar.

(That was the first thing that caught me like a warning flag.)

Also he was old. Thirty, I’d have guessed, or maybe twenty-five before I saw his eyes, which aged him because he didn’t blink or look around much. That gaze just held on to me, or my art, or the register. Whatever he looked at, he looked at.

He said he liked my style and asked how I did it—with ashes in the dark, I said—and he laughed softly, not really making an expression. Then he asked if I was interested in having a show at his gallery. If so, I should come by, see the space, and we’d talk.

I got out my phone and said, “I need a picture of you to send to the police if I go missing.”

When I held it up he smiled, and Mary Mother, was it a smile. I took the pic and texted it to Sidney: If I disappear this guy named Esmael Abrams wants to show my art at a gallery. She texted back: I hope he wants you to put out for it and a line of eggplant emojis.

* * *

The first time he bit me it was right in the groin, and I didn’t give a fuck because he’d just ruined me for all other guys. Not all other girls—girls are better at that, especially Sid.

Anyway, I guess there’s a vein down there.

* * *

This other vampire, Seti, agreed that teenage girls definitely make the best vampires, but not for the reasons Esmael thinks. She said it’s because teenage girls are both highly pissed and highly adaptable, and that’s what it takes to survive the centuries.

I asked what Esmael’s reasons were and he said, “Your art,” like it was obvious. He lounged against the tinted window of his apartment, which was the whole floor over the gallery (yeah, he did have a gallery). His robe was silk, and it draped around him in proper vampiric fashion. He reached for the hose of his hookah, took a slow drag, and let the smoke trickle out around his tiny little fangs like a fucking dragon. (It was rose tobacco and apple juice in the base, too sharp for my taste.)

Seti rolled her eyes and her head, too, so her fat henna-red curls dripped down the back of the chaise lounge. She had a foot up on the cushion and another pressed hard to the tile floor; both were clad in army boots. Otherwise she was mostly naked, except for red velvet shorts and a camisole that looked like it was made of spiderwebs. Even the firelight touched her tawny skin carefully, like maybe it would be burned by the contact. I really wanted to have sex with her, too. She said, “Esmael, you’re such a Victorian waif.” To me, she said, “It’s your frontal lobe, not quite fully developed. So you mostly know who you are, but you take big risks for not much reward. And people raised as girls in this shitbag of a country are raised to be adaptable. So you come out ambitious—or useless.”

I was pretty sure Seti was from the Middle East somewhere, but a long, long time ago. Her nose was what I imagine the Sphinx’s nose should look like, and there was something about her eyebrows. Plus the name she was using. I looked it up and it was some pharaoh’s name. She was younger than Esmael, both literally by about a century and by her looks, too—seeming maybe nineteen or twenty. I asked her where she was from and she said her people were gone, so it didn’t matter. “I don’t waste that story. I’ll tell you if you live to be a hundred.”

* * *

They gave me a choice. Live forever as a child of the night (yeah, Esmael used those words exactly), or forget them and live out my days, however many they might be, under the sun.

The next morning I lay down next to my mom and told her everything, just to talk it all out. Mom always said talking something out could point you in the right direction. By the time I’d explained it all, I was thinking that since I’d made such a fuss about not having a choice about who I wanted to sleep with—born that way, etc., etc.—I’d better take this actual choice, about who and what I wanted to be, pretty damn seriously.

* * *

“If you could live forever, would you want to?” I asked Sid as we squeezed through the hallway to our free block. When it was this cold out, we both spent the hour in the auditorium with Ms. Monroe and I usually could get my biology reading done for the week. Then I didn’t have to lug that cinder block of a textbook home.

Sid cocked her head and tugged at the rolled waistband of her pleated skirt. I wore the pants option all winter, but Sid said that edging up her skirt so every teacher considered taking a ruler to test the uniform code against her knee was the only thing that made her actually feel Catholic. “Like some Highlander, or a vampire, or in some kind of relativity loop or something?” Sid knew this game.

“A vampire.” I didn’t bother being casual about it, and I stared at her like I wanted to sink my teeth into her white neck.

Her lips curled in a smile because she liked when I got weirdly intense, said it was my artist look, and she nudged open the auditorium door with her hip. “I think so. Like, a vampire doesn’t have to live forever, so you could just live as long as you wanted to. Do you have to kill people?”

(I’d asked Esmael the same question. He’d dragged his knuckles down my bare leg and said, “No, but you can.”)

I shook my head at Sid.

“Only drawback is the sun?”

We picked a curved row of dingy old theater seats and plopped down far away from most of the juniors sharing our free block. “And holy water and some kinds of magic.”

“Magic, huh, so we’re not some kind of virus vampires, but the demon kind.”

Seti and Esmael didn’t seem particularly demonic to me, but I supposed technically it was accurate. “Yeah.”

“I think I probably would, but maybe I’d want to wait a few years until I’m legal. And maybe try to lose a few pounds.”

My eyes widened. I hadn’t even thought about that. If the transformation maintained my body exactly the way it was, I’d have this belly and fat around my bra for all time.

I slid down in the theater seat to put my skull against the back and stare up at the ceiling.

“Are you going to live forever with me?” Sid whispered in my ear.

That wasn’t part of the choice; the vampires had been clear. Just me, and if I tried to turn anybody for the first fifty years, they’d kill us both. I kissed her quickly. “Of course,” I said. “We’ll rule the night together and rampage across the world.”

* * *

Esmael took me for a long walk that night in the Power and Light District, where the bars shared neon and bass between them like a love language. Cold couples and parties of bros dashed from club to hotel to parking lot with breath fogging heavy around their heads, clapping hands over their mouths, wearing each other’s coats and laughing and cussing at the icy breeze. I had on a long jacket and a scarf, but Esmael had fed me some of his blood for the first time and I barely felt the cold. That magic heated me from the inside. Seven nights in a row, that was the basis of the ritual. He drinks from me; I drink from him. If we broke it after six, I’d be ill for a few days, then fine. But human.

We walked north from the Sprint Center, through dark downtown buildings until the bars distanced themselves from each other and the locals heading home or urging their little dogs to pee on two square feet of frosty grass outnumbered partiers. I tucked my hand in Esmael’s elbow, which he found charming, and didn’t mind my boots tapping the sidewalk while his made no sound at all. He was a sexy shadow and could protect me from anything.

I wondered what it would be like to walk this street alone and still be unafraid. No keys pressed through my fingers like brass knuckles, no heightened pulse, and if somebody called me a dyke, I could flip them off no worries—or better, rip out their goddamn throat.

“You’re excited,” Esmael said softly.

“There’s power in it.”

“Yes. And danger. You must, if you join us, learn to think not only about surviving tomorrow, but the next decade and century. Make plans, a framework for eternity, and then you can afford to live in the moment. You can seem to be human, but only if you think like a monster.”

“What does that mean?”

“There are cameras everywhere and phones listening to us. We survive by never being sought. If someone wants to find you—wants to find a vampire—they will. There is no hiding in this world, no longer, and so you must be a person.”

“That’s why you have a gallery.”

“So that I can pay taxes. I’m in the system.”

“Sounds boring.”

He slid me his real smile, the one too beautiful for words. “Nothing is boring if you understand it.”

“What a line,” I managed; I was pretty breathless from that smile.

“Imagine what you can do with a decade to learn. Imagine your art a hundred years from now, when you’ve lived in Thailand and Germany and New Orleans. Imagine who you can know. What you can experience.”

We neared the Rivermarket, where the restaurants were fancier or at least had names with words like gastropub in them, and I thought of drawing it all: the angle of light from the shop windows ahead and the sheen of starlight—one was warmer than the other. Could I draw something like warmth? “It’s worth the sun?” I asked softly.

“You learn to make your own sun.”

I thought about Thailand and New Orleans, about dancing and twisting my tongue around new languages and new concepts. I thought about all the sex I could have. All the music I could hear. It pinched in my chest.

Suddenly I was crying.

The tears froze a little on my lashes and the smear was cold and dry when I rubbed them away.

Esmael did nothing but hold my hand.

“Take me to my mom,” I said.

His sigh was extremely melancholy, but he whisked me off as requested.

* * *

I told Mom the ridiculous argument that paying taxes kept monsters alive. That was her favorite sort of thing: finding humor in bleakness. Instead of making jokes for her, though, I complained about the unfairness of life. Wouldn’t Mom love all the music of the world and learning every language? It was bullshit that she couldn’t come be a vampire with me.

Or instead of me.

* * *

The next night of the ritual, after I touched a finger to the blood at Esmael’s wrist and dripped it onto my tongue like a designer drug, Seti took me out.

She said, “Esmael is smart, but I know how to live.”

We went to a club that was literally underground. It popped up in the caves under the river bluffs sometimes, Seti explained, and I was definitely too young, but she got me in.

I danced and panted, kissed and screamed and let that music crash through me. She gave me a shot of expensive tequila that tasted like almond candy and let me press up against her like a promise. When Seti dug her nails into my palm I went with her, and I watched her drink blood from a woman’s inner elbow while the woman was grinding back against Seti. Then Seti kissed me, lips tangy with blood, and it was a little horrifying, to be honest.

“When you’re one of us, that will be the only glorious taste in the world,” she whispered later, sprawled on Esmael’s bed. “I know it disgusted you. Do you want to be the thing that craves it? You can’t survive forever if you hate yourself.”

From the chair by the fire, Esmael huffed slight disagreement. Naturally.

I sprawled on the bed, too, my head dangling off and my legs stretched across hers, but I could see him upside down. My pulse throbbed pleasantly in my skull, and in a few other places.

“Why me?” I asked.

“Your art,” Esmael said distractedly, staring dramatically into the fire. The same answer he’d given when I asked why he thought teenage girls make the best vampires.

“Ugh,” I said.

Seti laughed.

Esmael glanced at me. “I think art should be developed. You’re fine now, but as I’ve said, imagine what you can make in a hundred years.”

Suddenly Seti was on her knees, crouched over me. She reached, grabbed my hair, and dragged up my head. Her vivid brown eyes were alight with passion. “Imagine what you can change in a hundred years!”

I sat as best I could, still in her grip. Her intensity transferred through her hands into me, and I felt like I was trembling at the edge of something important.

She said, “What are you angry about? We can make it better. We can shape history, because we can do it a little at a time, child. A heart here, a mind there, then another and another—around the world. Having a goal—that’s how you survive the years.”

“Seti likes to seduce community leaders and write angry blog posts,” Esmael said.

He was there behind me, faster than humanly possible.

“It works, you tax-paying stooge,” Seti snarled.

His hand gasped her throat and she released me. I scrambled away, but Esmael was smiling. “Socialist whore,” he hissed.

I grabbed a quilt from the foot of the bed and went up to the roof as their wrestling deteriorated into sex. It was frigid outside but oh so clear, and the pink in the east, past the rest of the city, wasn’t the color of blood at all.

* * *

I made a list for my mom of everything in the world that I’d change. It only had one line.

* * *

The fifth night of the ritual, Esmael came to the house, a bungalow from the 1920s two streets off from the millionaire tax bracket that surrounded my high school. I was in my bedroom smearing pastels to the light of a few candles that smelled variously of spruce, wassail, and orange juice. He wrinkled his nose in distaste.

“Did Grandma let you in?” I asked, handing him the heavy paper. Most people took my work by a corner, careful not to smear charcoal on their fingers, but Esmael took it like the gift it was.

“No, she is unaware I am here,” he said thoughtfully, studying the strokes of black and dark orange. It was a rough pomegranate, cut open in one ragged slash. It bled its thin juice, and five tiny pips lined the bottom of the page, little smears of red pressed there by my pinkie. If the light was better, maybe you could see the ghost of my fingerprints in it. I hoped so.

Esmael’s lips parted and he breathed in, smiling tenderly at me. “Very well, my Persephone, come for your next seed.”

I held out my hand and he lifted it, licked my palm, and drew a breath that tickled the fine hairs on my arm. He pulled me nearer and kissed my wrist, licking and sucking softly until my knees were weak and I dug my fingers into his hip bone. My art fluttered in his other hand as he settled it upon the bed and bit into me.

After, he held me in his lap as his blood swept through my system.

“You don’t have to say goodbye yet,” he murmured. “To any of them. Not until you want to. Or not until they do.”

That was nice, I thought, knowing I would say goodbye fast anyway. A lingering death sucked. A death you knew was coming—or a goodbye you knew was coming—sweetened everything to the point of pain. Waiting to say goodbye would be just like that. I ground my teeth together to stop thinking about it.

“Do you do this often?” I asked, eyes closed. We were both in my desk chair, and the candle nearest us on the desk smelled vividly like a fresh, unadorned Christmas tree.

“Yes.” His arms encircled me gently, supportive and cold. “Most don’t live past the first year, but those who do are nearly always young women. You need to live, I think, because of what’s been denied you. You’re already hungry, every young girl I’ve ever met has been hungry—that makes the transition easier. You know how to live with hunger. And anger—Seti is right about that. Not just any anger, not old masculine anger, sharpened with toxicity, but true anger, the kind that fills you up like a light.”

I said, “I don’t feel angry.”

“You are.”

* * *

I opened El Café the next morning and Sid came in to lean on the counter and flirt over Americanos and last-minute calculus.

When my shift ended, she drove me to school. That time of morning the lot was full, so we parked on a side street and crunched through slush to the main building. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

I shrugged. There were so many possible answers.

Sid had a knit cap pulled down over her ears so you couldn’t see any of her short hair. Her coat was long and her boots tall, but her bare knees were pink and chapped by the two-minute walk.

“Are you angry?” I asked her when we hit the wide sandstone staircase, stopping her with a gloved hand on her shoulder.

“With you? Should I be?” Her brow lowered.

“No, no, just—just in general. Angry at the state of the world. At, like, systemic oppression and the patriarchy and … what a shitbag this country is.”

“Sure.”

“Sure?” I pursed my lips, pretty sure that if your answer was so whatever, the real answer was no. I charged up the steps and slammed into the door, dragging its weight out and open.

Sid caught up to me. “Is this about your mom?”

I actually snarled, like a fucking vampire. Teeth bared.

“Shit,” she snapped, and shoved past me.

As she strode away, the swing of her short uniform skirt very clearly stated, Well I’m angry now, bitch.

I thought about Persephone and her six pomegranate seeds. She went with the god of death half the year and for the other half returned home to her mom. The best of both worlds. Maybe that was what I was angry about.

* * *

That night, the sixth night, I asked Seti, “What if I want to kill someone?”

“Do it with a tool a human could use, so as not to draw attention. Have a drink, but use a knife to the throat.”

I shuddered, wondering if someday I’d be so old a monster I could say such a thing so easily.

“It’s difficult to drink enough blood to kill a full-grown man,” she continued, pulling me down the stairs into a speakeasy. “Unless you do it slowly. We rarely get into the big arteries because they’re more difficult to control. Too much force and you end up gagging, and blood spray on clothing is suspicious.” She touched her finger to my bottom lip. In a sultry voice, she added, “It’s best for us when we have to suck a little bit.”

I snorted. “Okay, so you don’t get caught up in the pleasure of it and accidentally drain somebody dry. What about garlic and crosses and shit?”

“Garlic gets into the skin and blood and can be overwhelming, but it’s not dangerous. Crosses, salt, holy water, those types of things can be imbued with magic that disrupts ours, hurting us, but rarely these days. Almost nobody practices that sort of magic anymore. Just general protection spells and the evil eye and blessings.”

“Are there, like, slayers?”

“Sure, but you’re more likely to be struck by lightning.”

“Would that kill us?”

“I bet so.”

Seti charmed the bouncer and stole a table, and we perched on high stools drinking smoky cocktails out of little crystal coupe glasses.

“And the sun?” I asked.

“Deadly.”

“Why?”

“It breaks the magic, or kills the demon in our blood, I suppose. You won’t burst into flame, but all your blemishes and wounds since you died return with a vengeance, and you age. The sun breaks the spell, and you’re as dead as you should’ve been.”

“Direct sunlight? Or any?”

“Direct, or we’d be toast under a full moon, too.”

“Do you ever watch the dawn?”

“At the movie theater.”

“I should paint it while I can.”

Seti grinned slowly. “So you’ve decided?”

In that moment, I wanted to run.

* * *

When we returned to the gallery apartment, a little boy was there with Esmael. Eleven or twelve, white with rusty-red hair, cherubic is what his cheeks are called, and dressed like an adult in tight jeans, polished loafers, a blue button-down with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, and a vivid teal tie with tiny yellow flowers.

“This is Henry,” Esmael said, two spots of actual pink on his cheeks, so he was either elated, furious, or very full of blood.

The boy bowed at me like in a costume movie and lifted his huge, light brown eyes. Then he smiled, and the fangs that seemed tiny in Esmael’s mouth completely overwhelmed the delicate lips of that little boy. “Greetings, miss.”

“A little kid vampire!” I couldn’t help being rude.

Seti snorted. Esmael touched my cheek with one hand and put his knuckles to Henry’s lightly curling hair. “It’s a sign, darling: Henry is my oldest living progeny. He came to see me, just in time to speak with you.”

“So much for teenage girls being your biggest successes,” I said, laughing a little. I was stunned, as well as nervous. Here was such a little kid, who could rip my throat out in a snap.

“People raised as girls is exactly what I said,” Seti corrected me, grinning. “Isn’t that right, Hen?”

The little boy sighed like an old man and went to the sideboard to pour a glass of whiskey.

Esmael said, “I was living as a priest in France in the fifteenth century—within the Church was the safest place for monsters in those days—and served the family of a minor lord. Henry, my lord’s fifth child, came in to confess that he was angry at God and terrified to grow breasts and hips and belly like his sisters. He knew he was supposed to be a man, that’s what he dreamed, over and over again, even though it was a sin. I said, ‘I cannot make your body into that of a man, but I can make you as strong as one and keep you from ever growing into a woman.’”

“I thought it was a miracle, and Father Samuel an angel,” Henry said, heavy with irony.

I sat down on the chaise lounge. Henry brought me his glass of whiskey and allowed me a sip. I stared, and then asked a million questions about living almost five hundred years as a kid. He answered some of them.

Several hours later, I let Esmael give me the sixth seed.

* * *

I stared at Sid in Biology, feeling extremely old. I’d apologized to her, and she’d shrugged it off. “Make it up to me,” she’d said, and I’d promised. But I stared at her, wondering what she’d say and if she’d miss me for long. Would it be like I’d died? What would any of them say?

My mom told me that how people talk about you when you’re dead is your only real legacy. I hadn’t wanted to hear it then. I wanted more than anything to hear it now.

* * *

The seventh night—the last night—I went to the cemetery. It was easy, as always, to sneak in after dark.

Esmael knew somehow, the bastard, and was waiting for me. He leaned against a small granite obelisk several graves away from Mom’s. Wind fluttered the tails of his coat and the curls of hair at his temple.

I stopped, hugging myself.

“What’s holding you back?” he murmured. The night sky seemed to take his voice and carry it gently toward me.

“She deserved to live forever,” I whispered, trying not to cry.

For a long while, Esmael said nothing. Then he only gave me one word: “Deserved?”

“She wasn’t angry, she wasn’t a bitch, she always tried to help people. I’m nothing like that, so why me, why not her? Anger shouldn’t be the key to immortality, you dick. Shouldn’t it be compassion or kindness or something good?”

“Seti would say use your anger to make that true. Change the world, she says.”

“What do you say, Esmael?”

He stepped closer to me, silent and gray against the night sky. “I say anger is just as valuable as compassion, if it makes art like yours.”

I groaned, curling my hands into fists. I shoved them against my eyes until I saw red-sparking stars.

“Tonight,” he said, too close now, his words hardly more than a breath. “Tonight is the last night. If you come to me, all I have will be yours. If you do not, you’ll never see me again. Though I cannot promise I won’t look for your art, out in the world.”

I opened my eyes, but he was gone.

* * *

Back in September, swaddled in a blanket we’d stolen from the hospital, Mom had said, “You keep me alive, baby.” She’d shivered, eyelids paper-thin as she closed them and leaned into the wingback chair. “The things you say about me. How you remember me.”

“That’s too much pressure!” I’d yelled—actually yelled at her. “Too much responsibility. I’m just seventeen, Mom.”

“You carry the world on your shoulders,” she murmured, falling asleep. “You all do.”

* * *

All right, I was angry.

No, I was furious, curled against Mom’s headstone, legs up and arms hugging them against my chest. I knocked my forehead against my knees, face scrunched up.

It hurt how much I missed her. Actual, physical pain. What if becoming a vampire preserved that, too? This ache was just there, all the time. A part of me, in my bones.

“It’ll get rid of the zits on your forehead, but not the fat on your belly,” Seti had said when I asked. She was laughing at me. “The magic preserves us as we are, at our most ideal. Sorry you think that chubby roll isn’t ideal, but you’ll learn better. Trust the blood, the magic. Whatever it leaves you, belongs.”

Or what if I transformed and this pain was gone? Like it didn’t belong? What if the blood magic stripped it away? That would be worse, to lose it.

* * *

I opened the gallery apartment door slowly and shoved it with the toe of my snow boot. Esmael waited at the hearth, leaning there like some couture model. Seti lay on her stomach on the bed, legs up, feet kicking slowly back and forth. She smiled at me triumphantly.

I said, “Is grief like anger? Will I take it with me?”

Esmael said, “Come here, and I’ll show you, instead, how it’s all just love.”

That was definitely a line, but I believed it, too.

CREATION MYTHS Or Where Do Baby Vampires Come From?

Zoraida Córdova & Natalie C. Parker

Like so many supernatural creatures of the night, there are rules around the creation of a vampire. Those rules are rarely the same from story to story. In some traditions, all it takes is a bite from a vampire and, presto chango, you become a blood-sucking fiend! In some, you have to exchange blood with a vampire, in others a curse will do it, and in still others if a wolf leapt across your grave you would rise up as a vampire. The stories we tend to be most familiar with involve some kind of transformation: from human to vampire, good to evil, living to undead. Sometimes the choice isn’t up to the one going through the change. What we love about Tessa’s story is how the choice is completely up to our heroine and how she doesn’t have to make it in an instant, but over a span of seven nights.

If you had the choice, would you want to live forever?


Copyright © 2020 by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker. “Seven Nights for Dying” copyright © 2020 by Tessa Gratton. “The Boys from Blood River” copyright © 2020 by Rebecca Roanhorse. “Senior Year Sucks” copyright © 2020 by Julie Murphy. “The Boy and the Bell” copyright © 2020 by Heidi Heilig. “A Guidebook for the Newly Sired Desi Vampire” copyright © 2020 by Samira Ahmed. “In Kind” copyright © 2020 by Kayla Whaley. “Vampires Never Say Die” copyright © 2020 by Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker. “Bestiary” copyright © 2020 by Laura Ruby. “Mirrors, Windows & Selfies” copyright © 2020 by Mark Oshiro. “The House of Black Sapphires” copyright © 2020 by Dhonielle Clayton. “First Kill” copyright © 2020 by Victoria Schwab.