Eartha Kitt. They always seem to come back to Eartha Kitt. In spite of himself, the old man smiles. Oblivious to his appreciation, the dusky drag queen expertly lipsyncs the words to My Discarded Men, strutting seductively in gold lamé and batting abnormally long eyelashes at the young men seated inches away at the small cocktail tables ringing her stage area. She's good. Very good. They all are tonight, which perfectly explains His presence here at this innocuous little cabaret in uptown Phoenix. He never could resist a good drag show.
Glancing up at the tilted mirror above his head, the old man zeroes in, once again, on his prey. Seated, as he is, at the bar, he can watch every move the other Man makes, without drawing attention to himself. The cabaret is crowded tonight, every table and booth filled, which means standing room only. This too works in the old man's favor, hiding him until he's ready to make his presence known. The mirror was a good idea, though he doubts the engineers had anything but cruising in mind, when they installed it.
"Can I get you anything else, sweetie," the bartender, Craig, asks. The old man looks down at the still full cup of coffee, now gone stone cold. Craig smiles, flashing white even teeth. He's practiced in his profession, but his blue eyes cannot hide the revulsion he feels for this sad, decrepit old fossil taking up space at his bar. "Maybe something a little stronger?"
The old man ponders, then replies, "Cognac. Remy Martin. VSOP."
Craig seems surprised. " We don't get much call for that, honey. One of the girls occasionally asks, so we've got some in the back, but it's pretty expensive..."
The old man reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a wad of bills. Flipping through them, he extricates a fifty and pushes it across the bar. "That should cover it, I think."
Craig, eyebrows in hairline, nods, snatches up the bill and rolls pretty blue eyes up to pierce sharp gray ones thankfully. "And then some. I'll be right back..."
The old man sits back to resume his vigil. Around him the crowd erupts in enthusiastic applause for the statuesque drag queen exiting the stage area. The ensuing chaos makes it difficult to find his prey, but he knows He is still there. Another performer is introduced, the lights begin to pulse to a familiar beat and the crowd settles back. There, across the small room, seated in a corner booth and surrounded by beautiful young men, sits the Enemy. Staring at Him again, after so very long, the old man can't help but feel himself growing hard.
Then the music has him. He blinks. On stage, the new drag queen is dressed in a hot pink jumpsuit, complete with flared legs and glittery platform boots. Her wig is a huge blonde afro and her eyelashes are sparkling like the rays of a brilliant pink sun. Blaring through the speakers is the unmistakable voice of Alicia Bridges, singing I Love The Nightlife. Unbidden, the memories flutter back in a technosexual disco dance ball swirl, bittersweet like acid on a mint wafer. And he is there.
He is young again, beautiful and full of hope. The music is new and the energy fresh. It's a steamy summer night in 1978 and he has been singled out by the Disco King. Apparently bored with the harem of gorgeous young men and women He normally surrounds himself with, the raven-haired god of the dance floor has sent for him, danced with him, bought him drinks, had eyes for only him. And as Alicia belts out those magic words, the Disco King leans over and says, with a slight Euro-American accent, "I, too, love the nightlife. Are you game?"
Entranced, the young man nods and the pact is made. The rest of the night is a barely remembered swirl of bars, dance clubs and limousines, beautiful poseurs vying for His attention, soft lips and desperate promises made to ensure that they are included in whatever it is the Disco King has in mind for this hot new acquisition. In the end, however, it's just the two of them, alone. Dancing, dancing, dancing. Naked. High above the city in a penthouse apartment. All part of a drug and disco-fueled dream right out of a movie.
And the sex is exquisite. Raw and sensuous, primal and exhausting, but romantic, as well. Reciting haunting passages from Dryden, Gray, Byron and Blake, the Disco King touches parts of his soul he never knew existed. Draws feelings and emotions from him in waves, using His voice, His touch, His mesmerizing gaze. Pulls pleasure out through his pores, his eyes, his lips, his cock. The Disco King devours him, leaving no inch of his body unexplored, no part of his mind unexposed. Orgasms are wrenched from him, more than he ever thought possible in one night, wringing him out until finally he collapses into blissful, dreamless sleep. From which he awakens into horror...
"Here you go, sweetie." Craig sets the snifter down on the bar, shattering the old man's reverie. He turns to stare at the bartender, temporarily disoriented. "She's pretty good, isn't she?" Craig says, nodding in the direction of the stage.
The old man closes his eyes and shakes his head. When he opens them again, they are focused, sharp, piercing. "Yes," he says. "She is... delightful."
Craig nods. "One of the best in the city. You picked a good night to visit us here at Winks. How long will you be in town?"
It's an assumption on the bartender's part. An attempt to gain information. The old man has not said more than a few words all evening. He lifts the snifter, takes a small sip and inhales deeply, imagining the fire coursing through his body. Then the memory fades and he is left empty again. Wanting. His eyes fall on Craig. The bartender is patiently waiting for an answer.
"My business here is almost concluded."
Craig smiles. "Too bad. Phoenix has a lot to offer these days." He winks, knowingly. "If you know where to look."
"So I've discovered."
The bartender nods, then his attention is drawn away by another patron and the old man is left alone again in a sea of hunger. He sits back in his chair. The feeling of desperation is palpable to him, but he can't remember what that hunger really feels like. Can't remember much about what it's like to feel anything, anymore--except hatred. Looking up at the mirror he focuses on the object of his obsession: The Disco King--the Vampire who transformed him into... this. Tiredly, he lets his eyes wander downward to the empty seat he now occupies.
It's been 25 years since he's seen his reflection. Both a blessing and a curse. If he has to be what he is, after all, best to be spared the constant reminders a mirror might bring. He's never seen the wretched bag of bones other people see when they look at him. But he can see his hands and the rest of his emaciated body--the skeletal remains, stretched over with parchment. To the average eye, he must look to be in his eighties, or older. Inside, he's only forty-five--still young, by some standards. But youth is something that was denied him long ago. Stolen from him in one brief night of ecstasy on a sultry summer night in 1978.
He looks up again, piercing the gloom to stare angrily at the raven-haired beauty holding court in the corner booth. The supreme irony of the situation brings an unfamiliar sourness to his mouth. Ironic that it is He, the Vampire, who is visible in the mirror, rather than His victim. The old man hadn't expected that, figuring that if he had no reflection, it would only stand to reason that the Creature who did this to him would also be so afflicted. It infuriates him to discover otherwise, but there sits the proof, still so young and vibrant, still desirable and full of energy. Energy stolen from others, leaving behind a long trail of mysterious disappearances, emaciated corpses and unanswered questions.
Why he himself is still here is a mystery to the old man. All the other victims had been dead when the Creature had finished with them. Drained of all life. Not blood, as might be expected, if one were to believe the old myths. Rather it was their very essence that had been drawn from them. Their spark. Why he himself was spared the finality of death is beyond him, even after all these years. All he knows is that for a quarter of a century he's been trailing this abomination, with nothing but questionable memories of a Man he knew only briefly to guide him. Watching the television, reading newspapers and studying scandal sheets, waiting for the next piece of the puzzle to fall into place, bringing him one step closer to an answer.
It's been a trial that has grown cold so very many times that the old man has known fear. More than once, he has lost track of his prey. Never for long, though. The Creature didn't feed often, but it did need to feed. Every five years or so was all it took. Plenty of time for trails to fade. But when you've been left with nothing but obsession to keep you alive, even the coldest of trails pulse with expectancy. And it was always just a matter of time.
In fact, it was pure luck that had led him here to Phoenix. The Fiend had gotten sloppy. Always in the past, when a young man disappeared, foul play was logically suspected. No clues could be found as to the reasons for the disappearance, but it was always pointed out that the victim in question had been "beautiful and full of life." They always had so much to live for, held so much promise and their disappearances were always keenly felt by friends and family. Still, with no real leads, and no body to confirm the allegations of foul play, the case would be filed away, along with all the countless others that had gone unsolved throughout the ensuing years. Case closed. So sorry. Just another mystery to puzzle over.
But the last one had been different. The last victim had been preparing for a trip. And, for the first time since this nightmare had begun for the old man, the Creature had gone against form and taken advantage of His victim's plans. It was doubtful if anyone even suspected foul play in His last assault. The young man simply flew away to Phoenix, as expected, and had yet to resurface. Not that unusual in these troubled times. Everyone was looking for an escape of some sort and it wasn't like he had left that much in Portland to draw him back.
Eight months later, after studying familiar patterns and following one false lead after another, the old man found himself here, in a claustrophobic drag bar, so close to his prey that he could taste the eventual finality of his 25 years in purgatory. If taste was a word which could be logically applied to the situation. The old man hadn't tasted anything in decades. Couldn't taste anything, couldn't feel anything, merely existed, without dreams, without desires, without any of those things that sustained a normal human being. He was empty. A husk. A living scarecrow driven by vengeance. He was death for the deathless. And tonight would be his night.
Taking another sip at the tasteless amber liquid, the old man studies his prey. A beautiful blonde boy is whispering something into His ear, eliciting laughter. The Disco King is so relaxed, so comfortable, so fresh. He wouldn't have to feed for another four years or so. He has all the time in the world. This is just one stop amongst many in His endless quest for meaningless pleasure and hedonistic thrills. So it comes as no surprise when He takes the blonde boy by the hand and gently prodding others out of His way, exits the booth.
The old man watches as concerned friends first question, then smile knowingly at Him as he passes. This won't take long, he can almost hear the Disco King saying. No need for alarm, He isn't deserting His admirers, just taking care of business. Whispering amongst themselves and watching as He and the blonde boy make their way toward the back exit, the boys in the booth chatter happily and return their attention to the show. None notice the decrepit old man who follows in the Disco King's wake.
The Disco King's head is thrown back in the languid build up to sexual release when the old man enters the back alley. On his knees at His feet is the beautiful blonde boy, eagerly devouring His sizable organ. For a moment the old man hesitates, eyes intent on the familiar dimensions of the gorgeous cock, being licked and slobbered over by the expert mouth of the young hustler.
The look of ecstasy on the boy's face is to be expected, for the cock of the Disco King is not only flawless in every detail, but such is the Man's glamour that the taste and smell of His flesh defies description. Like an aphrodisiac, the musk He emits envelopes the senses, heightening the experience beyond mere elicit coupling. It becomes something more, something beyond carnal. Something intensely satisfying and fulfilling. Something akin to a religious experience.
So caught up in the act is the young man, in fact, that he never feels the cold dry hand which clutches the nape of his neck, snapping his spine like so much dry kindling. The Disco King's eyes snap open and are razored into awareness by the burning gray eyes of a murderer. His mouth drops open, but a clawlike hand wraps itself around His throat and the scream dies before it can escape.
"Remember me, Disco King?" the old man rasps. The look in His eyes says otherwise. "No, I don't suppose you would. It isn't every day that the predator comes face to face with long discarded prey." Without relinquishing the hold he has on the Vampire's eyes, the old man pulls the young hustler's slack mouth away from the Disco King--a trail of saliva stretching from glistening cock head to dead, wet lower lip--then tosses the body carelessly aside. Instantly, the free hand returns to wrap around the large, spit-slicked organ, stroking it lovingly.
"It's been a long time since I've touched such perfection..."
"P... please..." the Disco King gasps. "Don't..."
"Don't?" the old man asks, leaning forward until he can smell the alcohol on the other's breath. "Don't what? Don't hurt you? Don't kill you? Don't touch you so intimately? Why not? They're all my right. I've waited a very long time to do all those things. And more."
The terror in the Disco King's eyes fascinates the old man. He is, after all, an immortal. So long as He continues to feed, He should, it only stands to reason, live forever. The fact that He can know fear, however, is a bonus. It means that He is not impervious to harm. He is, in some way, vulnerable.
"How old are you, Disco King? How long have you been preying on beautiful young men to sustain yourself?" Loosening his grip on the soft, white throat, the old man prods Him with a sharp tug on His deflating cock.
The Vampire yelps in response. "Why do you keep calling me that?"
"Calling you what?"
It's the old man's turn to look surprised. "Why? Because it's the only title I've ever known you by. You took everything from me, but you never told me your name. Just as, I'm sure, you've never told any of your victims your name. Why bother, after all? Why should the butcher give any consideration to... livestock?"
"No." The look in the Disco King's eyes changes, become less afraid and more... pained. "You've got it all wrong."
"Do I? How wrong have I got it? Look at me!" A sob catches in the old man's throat, unfamiliar and dry, but surprising none-the-less. "I was once young and beautiful, just like you. I was twenty years old when you robbed me of my youth. You left me behind, just as you have so many others, a withered husk of humanity!" Flecks of foamy spit shower the Disco King's face as the old man rants. "Something to be discovered and disposed of by those whose job it is to discard of the old and the homeless when they die, alone and uncared for. The only difference is, when you left me, I was still alive!"
The old man pulls back, shaken. Tears have formed in the Disco King's eyes. Sadness has etched itself into every contour of His beautiful face. "Don't pull that shit on me, Vampire. It won't work. I've had a long time to think about this day. I don't know how vulnerable you really are, but I have every intention of making you suffer for your sins."
The Disco King closes His eyes and large wet tears overflow onto His cheeks. "Suffering would be nothing new," He says in His strange Euro-American accent. "Coming from anyone else, those would be idle threats. I've waited a long time for you to come..."
"No tricks!" the old man snarls. "I won't let you rob me of my triumph. Shut up, or I'll kill you where you stand!"
The Disco King gives a tired smile. "I'm sure you've figured out by now that I'm not that easily killed..."
Tightening his grip until the Vampire's eyes begin to bulge and strangled gasps are all that escape from His throat, the old man leans forward. "Aren't you?"
Wrapping His own hand around the wrist of the older man, The Disco King squeezes until the grip on His throat loosens. The act angers the old man and he reacts by yanking, hard, on the fleshy cock in his other hand.
"Please..." the Disco King gasps. "It shouldn't be this way. Tell me your name." His eyes drill pleadingly into the old man's steely grays and something inside clicks.
Suddenly all the years of anger and spite seem to retreat from the old man, draining away into the warm Phoenix night. The grip he still has on the Vampire's throat loosens and his hand slides downward until he is leaning heavily on the hard, muscular chest. His other hand gently squeezes the flaccid organ one last time, then drops away.
"I don't remember my name. You robbed me of that, as well."
The Disco King nods. "As did He who came before me."
The old man looks up questioningly into the other's watery eyes. "You can't remember your name, either?"
The Disco King shakes his head. "I've used many in my travels, but none are my own. When I take a... consort... I purposely withhold the lie. I believe they deserve that, at least. I know it comes as small comfort, especially after so many years have passed, but believe me when I say, I have felt every minute of regret for all the lives I have taken. Even yours."
Anger flares again, briefly, in the old man's gray eyes, then is replaced by a heaviness he hasn't felt in years. "How would you know, if you can't even remember who I am?"
The Disco King closes his eyes. "New York. Summer. 1978. Studio 54. You were an artist. A photographer." Brilliant otherworldly eyes open and the old man is transfixed. "You were beautiful then. A perfect specimen. Possessed of an exquisite grace which has never been duplicated, by male or female, before or since."
The old man bows his head and the silence between them becomes palpable. "Please tell me one thing," he finally whispers.
"Anything," The Disco King answers.
The old man's face is a mask of anguish when he raises it again. "Why me? Why did you spare me? Why not kill me like you did all the others?"
The Disco King looks surprised, though only mildly so. Then a slight smile twitches at the right side of His beautiful mouth. "I didn't spare you. You spared yourself."
The old man's mouth falls open, but he cannot find the words. Thoughts ricochet around in his head like shrapnel, but nothing coherent will emerge from the chaos. Instead, he lets his eyes ask the question.
"My consorts are carefully chosen," The Disco King sighs. "I choose them for their vitality, their spark of life, their creativity and their ambition. To keep me sated, only the best will do. Every once in a great while, one comes along whose spirit is so bright, whose will to live so strong, that he cannot be snuffed out. Not even by one such as I. When that happens, the victim becomes the predator and the predator the prey. It is all part of the endless cycle. As it has been since the beginning."
The old man's head is bowed again, hanging tiredly, eyes closed. He listens, as the words wash over him. He listens, but understanding is slow to dawn.
"Tell me," the Disco King whispers into the night, "How long has it been since you've cried?"
A heavy, soul-rattling sigh. "Too long..."
Placing a finger under the old man's chin, the Disco King raises his head and waits for his eyes to open. The other hand moves to the old man's face. The Disco King wipes at his cheek and lifts wet fingers for him to inspect. "I've waited a long time for you to come, my vengeful lover. Too many centuries have made me weary. So much so, I thought you might never arrive. But you have and the cycle refreshes itself. You've learned how to sustain yourself, by preying on the weak. You do not want for money and killing to get it has become second nature to you. You've become the perfect predator and I, your perfect prey. Like you, I was not ready before. I am ready now. Please, do what you came here to do. Release me."
"How?" the old man whispers, unfamiliar feelings muddling his thoughts.
"Take back that which was taken from you." Placing firm, young hands on the old man's bony shoulders, the Disco King now pushes him down onto his knees. Rising up to greet him, the Vampire's beautiful cock finds its way to his lips and, without hesitating, the old man takes it into his mouth. It is good, so very, very good. The smell, the taste, the incomparable feel of the silky flesh--better than he remembers it being 25 years before. Hungrily, he gives himself over to the urge and concentrates full attention on the Disco King's scepter, suckling from it as though it is the very fount of life itself.
The statuesque black drag queen is back, this time growling out the Eartha Kitt song, I Want To Be Evil. Looking up into the mirror, the young Man pays brief attention to the deserted beauties growing restless at the Disco King's booth, then lets his gaze fall to the handsome young reflection staring back at Him. Piercing gray eyes study the long-forgotten contours of a vaguely familiar twenty-year-old face.
"You're the second person to order this tonight," Craig, says, placing a snifter of amber liquid on the bar. "The last guy was sitting right where you are. Weird huh?"
The young Man smiles. "Yeah. Weird."
Craig cocks his head. "You sure you're old enough?"
"Want to see my ID again?"
The bartender hesitates, caught up in the glamour, then shakes his head. "Nah, that's okay. You're new to town, huh?"
"Just got in."
Craig winks. "Welcome to Phoenix."
Nodding in return, the young Man lifts the snifter to inhale the strong aroma, then takes a small sip and smiles, savoring the fire coursing through His body. It will be years before He feels the hunger creep in upon him. There is so much to experience in that time. So much to catch up on. So much youth to savor and flesh to conquer.
But first, He thinks to himself, I will need a proper name...
© David Salcido, 1997. Registered with the Library of Congress and the Writers Guild of America. All rights reserved.