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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vampire Vending Machine

The subway tunnel was dank and slick, and yet the platform was a dry, warmly lit haven against the chill of the night above it. On one of the wooden benches, Jason Roberto Cousins sat patiently even though four trains had sped past him into the darkness without him even lifting his head. He was headed nowhere in particular, he merely wanted to peruse the newspaper while enjoying a black cup of coffee from the Dunkin Donuts kiosk without being disturbed.

Periodically, Jason would bend over and retrieve his coffee, replace it by the leg of the bench and turn the crisp pages of the paper. Despite the recent surge of technology around him, Jason preferred the sound of the paper when it was creased and there was always that sense of expectation or surprise at what might come next. New births, new deaths, it may little difference to him, it was always interesting. The newspaper gave him the sense that time was moving. Jason eyes bored in on a story about mandatory flu shots and the controversy this subject always raised. Like most inoculations, the flu shot had its small number of recipients who fell ill or died after receiving the concoction. He smiled to himself at the idea of such worry over the deaths of a few individuals in the face of the millions saved, and the dim light glinted against the elongated canines that framed his mouth.

            There was little to no traffic, despite the hour being relatively early, so when a young man angrily kicked at a vending machine a few feet from the stairs leading back up onto the street, the sound echoed around the platform like the tolling of a church bell. Jason winced and looked over his shoulder with the universal scowl of annoyance as the youth kicked the machine again and muttered angrily to himself, his finger stabbing at the buttons as if he were trying to cut his way inside.

            The subdued whirring of the machine silenced the man for a few brief seconds as the youth watched with the same intense anticipation as a cat watching hamsters scurry behind protective glass. The whirring stopped, and the moment of peace was interrupted as the young man slammed both of his hands onto the face of the vending machine, causing the heavy contraption to rock backwards and then fall forward with another cacophonous bang as its front legs struck the tile floor.

            “Bitch!” the man shrieked, “You cock-sucking whore!” he punched the machine roughly and the thing rocked again, “I’ll kill you! You suck!”

            Jason lifted the newspaper higher and tried to engross himself in it once more, but the man’s shrieking only got more and more intense. The only other people on the platform, a woman with a stroller and a man wearing a business suit, gave each other a warning glance and shuffled further away from the young man, twin looks of relief crossing their faces as their train finally rattled into the station. They climbed aboard, and the man renewed his verbal assault, calling the machine names that would have made even a sailor blush.

            Jason finally set his paper down and stood up, his unnaturally bright eyes narrowed into a scowl, “Excuse me.”

            The man whirled, his eyes wide with anger. For a second they just stared at each other until the younger man grunted, “What do you want? I wasn’t talking to you.”

            “Listen, I’ve been trying to read my paper over there in peace, and you are making that a bit difficult. There must be a better way of fixing your problem.”

            “Fuck you, old man. This machine took my last quarters and the bag of chips is wedged.” he punctuated this with a stout kick to the machine’s front flap, which wined as it swung back and forth forlornly.

            “How much did you lose?”

            “Fifty cents, but that’s not the point.”

            “What is the point?” Asked Jason, his mouth flattened into a thin line.

            “This machine took my money and I want that bag of chips.”

            Jason peered into the glass front of the machine and sure enough, the bag of chips was stuck. He reached into his pocket and pulled out three quarters and held them out to the man.

The man looked at him as if he’d handed him a dead rat. “I don’t need your money. Mind your own business.” The young man slapped Jason’s hand and the coins fell to the floor and clattered in three different directions.

            “You’re not very polite,” Jason said flatly.

            “Go to hell.” The young man shouted and returned his attention back to his automated victim, actually managing to dent the side of the already much-abused machine.

            “Please don’t do that.” Jason said as mildly as he could.

            The young man turned on him, “What, you wanna make something of it? You want me to stop kicking your girlfriend here?” he was trying to look intimidating, but Jason just stared at him. This made the young man furious, “Wanna dance, old fuck?” he closed in on Jason and used both hands to shove him. To his surprise, Jason didn’t move an inch, and the man’s arms felt like he had struck metal.

He swore loudly and stuffed his hands under his armpits to dull the pain, “Ow! What the fuck?” he pulled his right hand out long enough to shake it tenderly.

That was the opening Jason needed. With a genial smile he lightly grabbed the man’s wrist and bent it backwards with an audible crack. The man grimaced and collapsed onto one knee. “Come sit with me.” It was more of a command than a request as Jason walked the man back to the bench and he awkwardly collapsed onto it.

Jason released his hand and the younger man rubbed his wrist. He started to rise and Jason reached out and grabbed him just above the knee and the man’s movement upwards stopped.

“You’re a slow learner.”

The man turned a pair of terrified eyes up at him, and for Jason it was a heady feeling to see the man’s horror manifest, “Who are you? What do you want?”

“I’m just a man who wants to read his newspaper in peace, and I want to ask you a few questions. That’s all. I’ve become more discerning in my latter years and I don’t do things wantonly anymore.”


            “Randomly, without reason or purpose.”

            “I know what it means!” The man spat, although he obviously didn’t, “What do you want to know? I don’t have any drugs, if that’s what you want.”

            Jason snorted, “Trust me, your drugs would do nothing for me. Here’s the first question: what’s your name, kid? And no smart-ass answers.”

            “I’m Mack Buchholz.”

            “I said no smart-ass answers.”

            “I’m serious, that’s my name!”

            Jason blinked at him, “…really? Wow, that’s unfortunate. No wonder you act the way you do.”

            “Oh, screw you,”

            “Alright, Mack Buchholz, next question. You were banging on an inanimate object in order to free a bag holding four cents of potato chips that you were willing to pay seventy-five cents for. Although I am not a connoisseur of thinly fried pieces of potato, I can’t imagine that what is in the bag doesn’t qualify as the best or most excellent example of a potato chip.”

Mack’s brain raced to comprehend what Jason had said, and he finally snorted, “I’m hungry. The machine took my money. I tried to get my bag of chips.”

            “Do you think the rage was in proportion to the potential loss of the chips or even the obtainment of the chips?”

            “Hell yeh. These machines have never worked well. They’re a shitty design and everybody knows it.”

            “So you knew it as well. When you put your two quarters in the machine you knew that there was the possibility that you wouldn’t receive the chips.”

            “I guess.”

            “It’s more than ‘I guess.’ By your own words, you said that these machines are faulty.”

            “What’s it matter what I said?”

            “I offered you a solution. I was willing to give you seventy-five cents, three quarters, to replace the two you lost, and yet you refused my offer. Rather violently I might ad.”

            “Why are you hassling me?” Mack squirmed, “Look, I’ll leave the machine alone, just let me go.”

            “I’m not hassling you. I just want to understand your motivations.”

            “It’s simple. I put the money in the machine and I expect to get my chips.”

            “And if you don’t get your chips you beat on the machine until they hopefully fall?”

            “Exactly. I paid for ‘em, I deserve ‘em!”

            Jason hesitated for a moment. He actually dreaded asking this next question because the situation was blatantly obvious and the subject boring. “What if the situation was different? Let’s say that we weren’t talking about a bag of chips. What is the item stuck in the machine was a diamond ring?”

            “That machine doesn’t dispense diamond rings.”

            “Humor me.”

            “I suppose I would have broken the glass or come back with a sledge hammer.”

            “What is the thing holding the ring was a person and he wouldn’t give it to you even though you had paid?”

            “I don’t see any difference. I’d bash his head in.”

            Jason rubbed his temple with his hands, “We’re done. Yes, you can go. No more wrist or knee grips. Walk away, and please don’t bang on the machine.”

            The young man stood and backed away from Jason. He was about to enter the stairwell when he looked back. “Can I still have those quarters?”


On Saturday night, Mack left the smoky and ill-smelling Pilot House Dance Club, spilling out onto the street with his equally drunk friend Bill. Both of them were too drunk to realize just how badly they smelled, or even that one or both of them had missed the urinal and had peed on their own leg. They turned out of the club into a dank-smelling alley, and Mack leaned up against the wall, trying to decide if he needed to pee again.

“Nothing but fucking whores.” Bill said to Mack as he slammed his empty bottle of Schlitz against the brick front of the building, “They think that we’re shit and that they are fucking…” he trailed off, not quite knowing what he was talking about, but convinced that the point had been made.

Mack spat the last sip from his bottle with an angry shout of “Backwash. I hate fucking backwash.” he slammed the bottle onto the ground, and was met with a muffled grunt.

“Bill!” Mack called, “The ground just said something!”

            Bill looked over at him, and then to the pavement where an ancient man swathed in garbage blinked up at them helplessly, “That's a dude, dude. You just hit some guy in the back.”

            Mack looked down again and narrowed his eyes, “And what the hell are you looking at?”

            The homeless man shrank further against the damp wall, “Nothing…I was just…”

            “Just what? You think you’re better than me, too?”

            Bill shook his head, “Just let him alone, Mack. He stinks.”

            Mack delivered a sharp kick to the man’s side, “Come on! Wanna fight, you little shit?”

            The homeless man tried to shift away from him, but Mack rained down a series of sharp punches and kicks to him. His fist connected with the old man’s face, and blood blossomed from the cut that opened on his cheek. He let out a small gasp and curled in on himself to protect his core. Bill shrugged and started kicking as well, complaining the whole time about the stench that was, in fact, coming from his own pant leg.

            The old man started to weep and shout for help, when suddenly a chill ran over all three of them, a chill so intense that they stopped what they were doing long enough to hug themselves for warmth and glance about them.

            A man stood at the end of the alley and his shadow, cast long and ominously across the ground, seemed to provide the sudden terrible cold as it spilled across the mens’ flesh. The homeless man muttered something about the devil and covered his face with a newspaper as the stranger approached them, seeming much taller and more imposing than any mortal man had the right to be.

            A streetlamp cast a dull glow across his face, and Bill relaxed slightly, “It’s just some old guy.”

            Mack’s skin paled and he stammered, “No…no it isn’t.”

            Jason stared at him impassively, his eyes glowing with an intensity that couldn’t be attributed to the dim light, “We meet again, Mack Buchholz.”

            “You know this guy?” Bill asked.

            “You will speak when spoken to, William Boatwright,” Jason cast a short glance at Bill, whose eyes were the size of dinner plates. Jason turned his attention back to Mack and he smiled.

“You.” Mack stammered, “What do you want?”

“I came to find you.”


“I forgot to ask you some things.”

Bill looked at Mack. “This is the creepy guy you told me about? Let’s kick his ass.”

“Be quiet, or I will remove your larynx.”

Bill swore and took a step forward, but Mack thrust his arm in front of him, “Don’t! He’ll do it. He’s a superman.”

“So, Mack, here is my last question for you: the two of you went to the clubs on this street intending to meet women. Neither of you invested any time in your attire, you didn’t bathe, you catcalled and harassed everyone you met and then you wondered why the women weren’t interested. You even called them whores, which I find particularly funny because they were exhibiting behavior that was quite the opposite.”

“You heard that?”

Jason didn’t answer. “What did you expect would happen? Did you think there were women in the club who were thinking ‘I’m looking for a bad smelling man in dirty clothes with no respect for me who only wants to stick his penis in me for a few seconds of pleasure before leaving forever and bragging to their disgusting friends about how easy I was?’ Have you ever met anyone willing to put up with that?”

“It could happen,” Bill said with a dirty smile.

            Without even looking at him, Jason slashed his hand across the man’s throat, tearing free his larynx and dropping him like a pile of rags onto the ground. The homeless man moaned in horror as the body landed on him.

            Mack was shaking so badly that his mouth could barely form words. He stammered, “Why did you do that? You didn’t have to do that.”

            “If you make a threat or a promise, you follow through.” Jason smiled, and wiped the blood from his hand with the same disdain as one would wipe away feces, “Please answer my question.”

            “I…I don’t know.” Mack tried to shrug, but it looked more like a convulsion, “Is there another way?”

            “Yes. Of course there is,” Jason cocked his head to the side, his eyes flicking to the homeless man, “I have a final question for you. Why did you attack this man? He is helpless, he’s dying from the cold and he posed no threat or insult to you. Why harm him?”

            “I…” Mack swallowed hard and answered truthfully, “Because he was there, and I was pissed, and because the world isn’t fair and because I am a horrible shit.”

Jason smiled. “Thank you. The truth is so much more gratifying.” He had learned from experience that blood poured forth from the jugular in erratic fashion and even the most careful executioner could find themselves drenched. Jason had perfected his technique. With a  practiced gesture, he neatly sliced open Mack’s jugular and hot, alcohol saturated blood showered the walls and the homeless man. As quickly as their encounter began, Mack had joined his friend lying in a pool of their own blood and the world suddenly had two less imbeciles on its surface.

Jason hadn’t taken three steps when the homeless man staggered to his feet, “Wait!”

The vampire turned and gave the man a look of profound empathy, “Oh, yes. I nearly overlooked you.”

The man was shaking terribly and he wiped blood from his mouth so that he didn’t gag, “Can you…help me? Please… you are an angel, aren’t you? An angel of mercy! Please, take me with you away from this place! It is too terrible here…”

Jason reached out and touched the man gently on the cheek before nodding sadly, “Of course…I will take you with me.” he snapped the man’s neck so neatly that the human never even felt it. A smile crossed his lips and his legs jerked and he collapsed onto the pavement, his soul gone the one place that Jason could never follow.

The vampire shrugged and stuffed his hands into his pocket until he found a packet of wet wipes that he’d kept from a seafood restaurant, with which he carefully toweled himself off, cleaning away the high-calorie greasy blood from his fingers. He smiled, “Well, Mr. Buchholz, if you are what you eat, then you were a potato chip after all.”

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