Ugh! Somebody needs to turn off their goddamn stereo before I put my foot up their ass. God forbid a guy be allowed to sleep off a major bender without some dickhead blasting their bass to eleven. At least, I think it was a major bender. I know I’m asleep, but the room is still spinning. Yeah, I’ve gotta be drunk off my ass.
The funny thing is, I don’t remember getting shitfaced, although that doesn’t mean anything. The best parties are sometimes the ones you don’t remember. Still, I’m not even sure I went to a party last night. It is morning, right? I can’t see anything. Well, duh, my eyes are closed.
Okay, so my eyes aren’t opening. I guess I must be pretty trashed.
There it is again. For fuck’s sake! Some days I hate living here. There’s always some little white bread, teenaged douche pumping out Tupac from his daddy’s Beemer because he thinks he can relate to life on the streets. But why is it so loud? Maybe the window’s open. I should get up and close it.
Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m out cold. I can’t really check the window in my current state. Oh, well, maybe I’ll get lucky and some real gangstas will come cruising down the block and pop a few caps in homey’s upper middle class ass.
ARGH! It’s really starting to piss me off now.
Huh? What the hell was that? Holy shit, are those voices? Maybe I’m not at home after all. If that’s the case, I must still be at a party. Oh, crap. I hate passing out at someone else’s place. I really hope they aren’t drawing dicks on my face. The last time that happened, the fuckers used a permanent Sharpie. Let me tell you how much fun that was to scrub off. Probably took off five layers of skin and you could still see it.
Tom was an asshole about it, too. He kept pretending to be helpful just to get a laugh. “You want me to go to the store for you, dickface?” “I’ll get it. Hello? Oh, Bill? Sorry, he can’t come to the phone right now. He’s too busy trying to wipe cock off his face. Can you call back later?” One of these days, I’ve really gotta get my own apartment.
Thud, thud. Okay, it’s getting a little lower now. The song must be ending. I still can’t make out what the voices are saying, but at least it doesn’t sound like laughter. That’s good. Hopefully it means they haven’t started using my face as an easel yet. Maybe I can force myself to wake up before that happens.
Jeez, my body still isn’t responding. Man, what the hell was I drinking? Even passed out, I still feel seriously fucked up. Maybe I was doing a little more than drinking. I vaguely remember Ed saying something about scoring a few joints. Shit! I hope they weren’t laced with Drano or something – although that might explain why I’m lying here, having an internal soliloquy.
Hold on a second – didn’t that happen last week?
Why does that sound so familiar? I don’t usually listen to any shit rap music, but damn if that doesn’t ring a bell. It’s right on the tip of my tongue…
UGH! Speaking of my tongue, what the hell is that taste in my mouth? Oh, shit. Please don’t let that be puke. There’s nothing worse than puking at a party and waking up in it. Nobody ever gets laid after that. Well, okay, puke or not, it’s been a while since I scored, but it could still happen … maybe. Although not if I’m lying in a swimming pool of my own spew.
Crap! I hope someone turned me on my side. The last thing I want to do is pull a Hendrix. Okay, okay, relax. No one is that big of an asshole. If I can hear them talking, then that probably means I’m all right.
It’s weird tasting puke, anyway; kind of coppery. Oh, okay, maybe I didn’t puke. I probably bit the inside of my mouth instead. That makes sense. Hopefully that’s the case and it isn’t anything more serious.
Damn! What if this is some kind of seizure? I could have bitten off my own damn tongue, and these assholes are standing around debating the artistic merits of penises on my face. Maybe that’s why I can’t wake up. I popped a blood vessel in my brain and am spiraling into a coma.
Still, I don’t think I’d be quite as lucid in a coma. Then again, I haven’t been in enough comas to know what it’d be like.
All right, calm down. I’d probably feel it if my tongue was bitten off. That would probably be a wee bit on the painful side.
C’mon concentrate. Let’s see … I can still taste that crap in my mouth, but I can sorta feel my tongue, too. At least I think I can.
I tried moving it around a bit inside my mouth. Yeah, I still had a tongue…
OW! What the hell was that? I had a tongue a second ago, but I’m not so sure now. What the hell? Did someone stick a razor blade in my freaking mouth?
Thank God. The music’s barely a whisper now. I swear, some of those stupid dance mixes seem like they go on for hours. It’s funny that I can hear the bass, but nothing else, though. It still sounds so familiar. Almost like a…
That can’t be right.
It can’t be.
Please don’t let that be my heart that I’m hearing.
I am choking on my own puke.
Or having a seizure.
Or a goddamned brain aneurysm.
Okay, I shouldn’t worry. I’m sure someone will start CPR on me.
Any second now.
…Any minute now.
Come on, people. I only have a few minutes here before that whole brain death thing.
Please start beating again.
It’s not fair. I still have so many reasons to live. I was going to go out with Sheila. Well, okay, maybe. One of these days, certainly. Hell, I would have gotten to it eventually. You don’t just walk up to an insanely hot chick like that and ask her out, especially when you look like me. You have to work your way up to it. Sure, it’s been two years, but I was almost there, dammit. Now it’s all gone.
Or it will be all gone.
Any minute now … it’ll be all gone.
Jeez, this death thing isn’t quite like I thought it would be. I can still taste whatever is in my mouth. Yep, can still move my tongue, too. Can dead people move their tongues? I don’t know. I haven’t Frenched too many corpses.
Okay, this is starting to get a bit odd. Shouldn’t I be seeing a tunnel with a light at the end? Maybe I’ll see Grandma and Grandpa – hell, maybe even Elvis is waiting for me at the end of it. Not sure why he’d be, but whatever.
No, that’s not quite true. Is that … yes. I can feel my left arm now. Do dead people start getting sensation back? Hmm, I can’t move it much, but it feels like I’m lying on something soft. No, I’m not in my bed. It feels like carpet. Yep, definitely on a floor somewhere. It feels thick … kinda like a … oh, no … a shag carpet. Either I’m stuck in a bad seventies’ flashback, or I’m at that…
Oh, fuck! And with that, the fog suddenly clears from my head. I can remember where I am and how I got here. If I’m right about what’s going on, then a face full of dicks isn’t going to sound all that bad in comparison.
CHAPTER 2 – BEFORE I BECAME THE DEARLY DEPARTED
Okay, let’s back up a little bit. I’m probably getting ahead of myself. Before I bore you with little things like, say, my death, I should probably fill you in on the basics first. How’s that sound? Good? Then let’s start over, shall we?
My name’s Bill, Bill Ryder. William Anderson Ryder, if you want to be formal, although I’m not sure why you’d want to be formal with a dead guy. It’s a pretty cool name, if you ask me, although it did get a little annoying a few years ago when The Matrix came out. For a couple of months, I had to deal with every single person I know ending everything they said to me with, “Mr. Anderson” in a deadpan voice. It was funny the first time, much less so the five-thousandth time.
Anyway, I’ve always liked how my initials spelled out WAR, kind of like W. Axl Rose, if a bit less cool, maybe. Although, since I go by “Bill” my friends have always pointed out that BAR might be a better acronym. I can’t really complain about that one either, since I might admit to spending a decent amount of time pounding back cold ones on the weekends.
Now, I’d love to tell you that I’m a private detective, maybe a boy wizard in training, or even a normal Joe by day/superhero by night, but that would be stretching the truth just a bit. As with all things, reality tends to be less exciting than what we would hope it would be.
Here are the basics: I’m twenty-four, currently single, and with no real potential hopefuls in sight. Well, there is Sheila, but we’ll get back to her later, especially since I’m not one hundred percent certain she’d be able to pick me out of a police lineup. Not that she has any reason to. It’s not like I’ve been stalking her these past few years. Sure, I know where she lives, what time she gets to work, what her favorite perfume is, but I assure you I’m definitely not stalking her. Really.
Oh, yeah, and she has this super cute ass that shakes so nicely when she walks…
Sorry about that. Sometimes I get caught up in the moment. Where was I? Oh, yeah, the basics … I’m twenty-four; I think I might have mentioned that already. I have short brown hair, brown eyes, glasses, am maybe an inch or two above average height, and about twenty … well, okay, maybe thirty pounds overweight. I’m not quite a hideous mutant, but the ladies aren’t exactly swarming all over me like pigs in shit, either. That might have something to do with the fact that I probably look like someone who’d be right at home sitting around a D&D game (which I might admit to doing occasionally … or every Sunday, whichever comes first).
I have a degree in Computer Science from NJIT, graduated with honors, et cetera. I like to think I’m a pretty smart guy. Maybe not MIT material (fucking elitist cocksuckers!), but I can hold my own in front of a dual monitor setup.
Speaking of which, I work as a game programmer for Hopskotchgames.com. You’ve probably heard of them. You know Jewel Smash? Yep, that was me, baby. That little gem (no pun intended) alone has made the company millions in online revenue. I dare say I got a nice little bonus on that one … emphasis on little. Cheap bastards. But still, I can’t complain, at least not too much. I make more than enough to support my “lavish” lifestyle, I get full benefits, and can work from home pretty much whenever I feel like it. Overall, there are far worse places to be employed. Don’t get me wrong, though. The second I win the lottery, those guys can go fuck themselves sideways.
Anyway, my said lavish lifestyle consists of the top floor apartment of a building in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. I share it with my two aforementioned roomies, Ed and Tom. Ed is my partner in crime over at Hopskotchgames. He does graphic design for them, and we’ve partnered on more than a few of their top downloads. We met in college, and he’s the one who got me the interview over there. Ed’s a good guy, if a little odd. He’s got a lot of talent, but is absolutely the least passionate artist I have ever met. Life is one big “Meh!” to him. Some days I’m pretty certain you’d need to set him on fire and cut his balls off with a dull hacksaw to get a reaction out of him, not that I fantasize much about setting him on fire … or his balls, for that matter. But you get the idea.
As for Tom, he’s my main bud. We’ve been friends for almost twenty years. Of everyone I know, I’d vote him the most likely, in the next decade or so, to wind up in a twenty-room mansion with a hot trophy wife by his side. Tom’s all about the money. He works over in the Manhattan financial district. Currently, he’s little more than a toady to the higher-ups, but he assures me that’s the way things work there. You latch onto some upwardly mobile VP like a remora (in this case, attaching your lips firmly to their ass) and let them drag you up the ranks.
He rounds that part out by also being an obsessive collector. His dad got him into it when he was young, and then Tom’s OCD took over and kept it going in overdrive ever since. He’s got a storage bin back in Jersey, where we grew up, filled to the brim with comic books and action figures. That doesn’t even count the stuff he keeps locked in his bedroom. Most of it is worth shit now, and will probably be forever, but he’s got a few nice pieces. Just don’t let him catch you playing with any of them. Dude is a little psycho about it. I once repositioned his He-Man figure so it was giving it to Princess Leia doggy-style and you’d have thought I had poisoned his family. Shit, if I ever did poison his family, he’d probably get over it quicker.
So, that’s me. Not exactly Bruce Wayne, but then again, not a basket case still living at home with Mom and Dad either. My life is steady if a little dull: get up, get some work done, eat some food, then go back to sleep. Rinse and repeat until the weekend, when it’s more or less collect my paycheck, hang out with my friends, and bitch about the rest of the week.
Someday I hope to get married, have a few kids, and then I’ll probably settle into the same routine again. Except then I’ll spend my weekends with my wife, bitching about the rest of the week. You know how it is. My plan is a lot like anyone else’s: maximize my good times, minimize my bad, and leave the larger stuff to people who give more of a shit than I do.
Or at least that was the plan, but then I had to go and fuck it all up by dying.
CHAPTER 3 – THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY I DIED
Let me start by saying, fuck SoHo! Yeah, that’s what I said. I have never, ever had a good experience there. Every person I know who lives there is a douchebag. Every job interview I’ve ever had there has been conducted by assholes. Every restaurant I’ve ever eaten at there has sucked – and even when the food didn’t suck, the service sure as hell did. It is a place where the tragically hip go to die, and people with more fashion sense than brain cells gather like moths to a flame. So, I should have known better than to wind up at a party there. Even more so, I should’ve known the sweet piece of ass that invited me was far too good to be true.
Saturday had started off well enough. It was a nice day, clear and just cool enough for a light jacket. Tom headed out to spend the day with his parents and his cute little sister who, in just another two years, was going to be old enough to legally jerk off to … not that I would. Well, okay, talk to me in two years and we’ll see. Just don’t tell him I said that. As for Ed, he was holed up in his bedroom/home office. He was a little behind on the level design of a new project and wanted to burn off some weekend hours to get it done. The rest of my local friends were busy, so that left me, myself, and I.
I grabbed a couple of Egg McMuffins in the A.M. from the McDonalds on 86th Street, then jumped onto the R train to head into the city. I didn’t really have much of a plan. I figured I’d spend a few bucks, grab lunch, and then head back. Maybe I’d see if anyone was up for some bar hopping in the evening. I gotta admit, dying wasn’t on my to-do list. But hey, live and learn, I guess … or is that don’t live and learn?
The first part of my day went pretty much as expected. I popped into the Complete Strategist to grab a few new D&D minis – my current one just wasn’t doing justice to my High-Elf Battlemage – as well as a few new rule supplements that had come out. I plunked down enough cash so that, thanks to me, some executive at Wizards of the Coast could now continue paying their child’s college education.
After that, I walked over to midtown and spent a little time at the Apple Store where, for about the hundredth time, I stood around debating the merits of buying myself an iPad and also, for the hundredth time, decided that maybe I’d hold off for now. Then I grabbed a few slices of pizza and headed down to the subway again.
In retrospect, I should have loitered for a while longer. If that had happened, I wouldn’t have met her, and, well … I’d still be alive.
But you’re not here to catch the story about Bill, the guy who went home, met up with some friends, and then spent the rest of his Saturday night drunkenly arguing over who the hottest chick on Smallville was, are you?
As I was saying, I went to grab the train back to Brooklyn. Not really wanting to mingle with the weekend crowd, I wandered to the end of the platform where there were only a few people waiting. That turned out to be a big mistake.
The train took its sweet time, and I was just starting to tire of the perpetual stench of hobo urine when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Being a city resident, I reacted naturally. That is, I spun around quickly, sure I was about to get mugged and hoping to look intimidating enough (doubtful) to give my would-be attackers second thoughts.
“A bit jumpy, aren’t you?” said the petite little thing staring back at me. She was no more than five-three, maybe a hundred and five soaking wet (excuse me while I consider the image of her soaking wet … ah, yes. Quite nice), and totally smoking hot. She had medium-length blonde hair with green highlights, but aside from that little oddity, she looked like she could have just stepped out of a fashion shoot … or a strip club.
I’d love to give you something cliché here, like she was dressed all in black, or had an ominous air about her. But the truth is, she was a very good-looking, well-dressed woman. Outside of the fact that she was talking to me, there was nothing about her that was really screaming threat.
Anyway, before things could stretch out to an awkward silence (or more importantly, before it became obvious that I was undressing her with my eyes), I said, “Sorry about that. You just surprised me.”
“Whatever,” she said, obviously nonplussed with my answer. “Have a light?”
“I don’t smoke.” Were people even allowed to do that on the platform anymore?
“Figures. Then have you got the time?”
“That I can do,” I said as I brought my watch up to my face, being careful not to take my eyes off her. I had heard on CNN a few years back that some gang members did this to distract a person so they could slash them with a razor. Okay, she didn’t exactly look like a gang-banger per se, but still, best to be careful. She apparently noticed my paranoia because she smirked in return.
“About one-thirty,” I answered, feeling overly self-conscious.
And, well, that was it. She stepped back and went into that thousand-yard stare mode that is so common of people waiting for a train. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel like she was still giving me the once-over out of the corner of her eye. However, I dismissed the feeling as nothing more than wishful thinking. After all, what straight guy didn’t have “yeah, she wants me” thoughts running through his head the second a hot babe like her asked them an innocuous question?
Okay, I lied about the “that was it” part. It was just “it” for the platform. Turns out “it” started up again when the train pulled in and we got on. The last car was fairly empty, and the few of us there had the luxury of being able to sit without being too close to each other. Just to be on the safe side, though, I grabbed a corner seat. Should the population inside the train suddenly swell, I could at least take comfort knowing I wouldn’t wind up the meat in some smelly, weekend commuter sandwich. If you’re thinking that I’m next going to tell you how my stripper “friend” (definitely a stripper – a model probably wouldn’t have said a word to me had I been on fire) sat down next to me, then give yourself a prize. You, my friend, are either psychic or at least not a complete idiot.
To digress for a moment, I made myself a promise a long time ago that, in my next life, I was going to come back hot. Not just attractive, but Johnny Depp-like (as every woman I have ever known will testify), women’s panties will get moist if I even look in their direction hot. Call me shallow, but I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. The world has so many more possibilities when you’re hot.
Case in point: my attractive subway stalker. She sat down next to me, immediately grabbed my shopping bag with no more than a quick, “So whatcha got there?” and started rifling through it. Forget the ugly beasts of the world – if even an average-looking stranger tried that, they’d either get immediately decked or pointed out to the cops at the next station. But someone hot? They could get away with shit like that and, worst of all, most of them knew it, too. Talk about the world being unfair. On the other hand, I didn’t see anyone else in the car with a smokin’ piece sitting next to them, so I figured I’d cut the world some slack … just this once, mind you.
So, there she was, going through my stuff, while I sat there doing nothing except tensing up in case she bolted when the doors next opened. Yeah, yeah, I know, but gaming minis weren’t cheap. I don’t care what you look like – get your own goddamned swordmage.
Speaking of which, she pulled it out of the bag and gave me a questioning glance. Okay, there went that fantasy of hooking up with the world’s hottest gamer chick.
“Um. It’s for my nephew,” I stupidly blurted out. She, in return, gave another look that told me I had about a zero percent chance of her buying that answer.
I didn’t fail to notice the quick eye-roll she made as she put my new mini back in the bag. She then went back to ignoring the basic rules of “don’t touch what isn’t yours.” Pulling out my new books, she began thumbing through them with an expression that appeared to be a combination of pity and humor. In a bit of foreshadowing that only happens in the most desperate of stories, she happened to stop on one in particular.
“Now, this is cute,” she said, handing me the latest revision to the Manual of the Undead.
“Have to keep up with the rule changes,” I stammered, no doubt continuing my unbroken streak of lowering her initial opinion of me even further.
“Sure you do.” Then she got a bit of a far away look in her eye. “Rules are important. We all have them. Even me.”
“Not THOSE kind of rules. But rules nevertheless,” she cryptically continued. “There are all sorts of games … some a little more adult than others.”
Okay … it was time to shift a bit in my seat, as my pants suddenly felt a tad too tight.
She let the uncomfortable silence stretch a moment longer before her mood lightened. Handing back my purchases, she held out her hand. “Sorry for teasing you. I’m Sally.”
Not quite believing the reality I had somehow stepped into, I mimicked her movement. “No problem. I’m Bill. Bill Ryder,” I said as I shook her hand. (YES! Houston, we have achieved physical contact.)
“Pleasure to meet you, Bill Ryder.”
Now, here I will once more meander from my recollection of my days amongst the still living to point out that no, I didn’t notice anything odd about the handshake. I’d love to tell you that her hand was overly cold and clammy, or that perhaps she had a grip that would have made a much stronger man wince. But the truth is … well, okay, the truth is that her hand could have been covered in scales and crawling with hornets and I wouldn’t have noticed. I was kind of lost in the moment.
You always hear reports on the news about people who have just won the lottery, and they always recount with exact detail what they were doing when they found out. Bullshit, I say. When any major Holy Shit moment occurs, we tend to go a bit numb and then maybe later try to fill in the details as best we can. Well, that was as close as I’ve come to one of those moments in a long time. Besides, there were far more interesting things than hands in front of me. Oh, well, maybe next time I hook up with an apex predator with killer cleavage, I’ll be a little more attentive.
Continuing my streak of witty banter, I then asked, “So, come here often?” Yeah, I know, it’s amazing I don’t get laid every night, isn’t it?
Another eye-roll (jeez, did I really sound that pathetic?) and she responded with a banal, “Only when I need to get somewhere.”
Okay, it was time to dig deep down and try to find that little bit of adult dialogue hiding somewhere inside of me. “Sorry, that was kinda lame. What I meant to ask is whether you hang out in Manhattan often.”
“Much better.” She acknowledged me with a smile. “And the answer is yes. I actually live not too far from here. I have a little place in SoHo. You?”
“Brooklyn myself. I was just doing a little shopping today.”
“I can tell.” She gestured down at the bags through which she had recently finished rifling.
“What are you up to?”
“Well, besides talking to a very nervous-sounding guy on the train, I was simply out enjoying the day. Since the nervous-sounding guy I’m talking to also sounds like a fairly decent fellow, I’d say it’s going pretty well,” she replied, her tone friendly. Damn, she had a nice smile … amongst other awesome parts.
Sensing an opening, I pounced … figuratively. “There’s still plenty of day left.”
“That there is,” she agreed. Hot damn, I was a playa.
“Well, it’s pretty nice outside. I don’t suppose you’d maybe like to take a quick walk through the park? Maybe we could grab a coffee at one of those sidewalk cafes.”
She frowned a bit at that. Oh crap, we’re losing the patient. “Sorry, I can’t.”
I’d been there before, so I knew the drill to try to save a little bit of my crushed ego. “No. I didn’t mean it like that, I…”
But she cut me off before I could finish. “It’s not you, silly. I’m not really up for a bit of sun right now. (Aha! There’s that bit of foreshadowing I should have been paying attention to.) Besides, we’re almost to my stop. I have some stuff to get done before tonight.”
Okay, the deal wasn’t dead yet. The door was still hanging open, so I put my foot in it. “What’s tonight?” I asked.
“A couple of my friends are coming over. I’m throwing a little party.”
“That’s cool.” Yeah, I was back to being lame.
“It’s nothing big.”
“A little get together with close friends is always fun.”
“You think so?” She turned to look me dead in the eye. “I don’t suppose you’d want to come?” she continued, her tone changing, almost becoming shy. “I mean, I know we just met. I don’t want to come across as too aggressive.”
Too aggressive? Christ, she could’ve thrown me down and raped me right there on the subway and I still wouldn’t have considered that too aggressive. Note to self: remember that little fantasy for later on when I’m alone.
“No, no, it’s cool,” I said, trying to reassure her. “I’m not really too busy tonight (an understatement if ever there was one). I could pop by.”
“Really? Are you sure?” She brightened at my answer, sitting straight up – her chest jiggling slightly from the sudden movement. I tried and probably failed to pretend I hadn’t noticed.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked, attempting not to sound too desperately excited.
“Well, you seem like a sweet guy, but I should warn you now, my friends can get a little rowdy.”
“I can handle rowdy. They raise us tough in Brooklyn,” I fibbed.
“All right, then, it’s a date.”
A date? As in a “be somewhere together, maybe hold hands, maybe maybe make out, and if things go really well … wake up together” type of date? Hell, yeah! Damn, as soon as I told someone about this, my cred amongst my buddies would automatically shoot up by about ten thousand percent.
“Sounds good,” I casually replied, managing to stifle the part of my brain that wanted instead to shout, “OH YEAH, BABY! MAKE ME YOUR PLAYTHING!”
She actually appeared genuinely pleased. “Great!”
“So, what time does this soiree get started?”
“Show up any time after dark,” she said with a glimmer in her eye. “Here’s the address. Come up to the third floor.” She removed a pen from her purse, then took my hand and wrote on it. Wow. Didn’t think that happened outside of the movies. This was starting to turn into a letter to a smut rag. “Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me…”
A moment later, the train stopped and Sally popped to her feet, her tight body moving in all the right ways. “This is me,” she said as she walked to the door. “Hope to see you there.” She then stepped out onto the platform and gave a little wave.
I glanced down at the address on my hand, figuring it was best to memorize it lest my palm get all sweaty. I looked up again, a scant second later, and Sally was gone. I jumped to my feet and stuck my head out the door to give her a quick wave goodbye, but she was nowhere to be seen.
Had I been in a slightly less euphoric mood, I might have noticed that we were at the very end of the station. The nearest stairs were a hundred feet away off to the right. There’s no way she could have gotten there in the time I looked away. To the left … there was only the darkness of the subway tunnel.
LISTEN TO AN AUDIOBOOK SAMPLE
CHAPTER 4 – A PARTY TO DIE FOR
It’s amazing how just a few random events can turn things into the perfect shit storm. Under normal circumstances, my roommates would have been home when I arrived and, between the three of us, we would have probably psyched each other out and blown the whole damn thing off in favor of going out for pizza. Not that we’re allergic to fine women or anti-social or anything, but I have no doubt the whole “too good to be true” aspect of it all would have come up and realistic heads would have prevailed.
Well, either that or we would have all been enticed by the possibility of some prime pussy and the three of us would now be lying around, kind of dead. I’d give it a fifty/fifty shot of either scenario occurring and, since I’m not a complete asshole, I guess in the end only one of us biting the big one is better than our families having to throw a triple funeral.
Regardless, none of that came to pass. Tom was at his family’s house for the day. Ed must have taken a break and gone out for a bite to eat because he wasn’t home, either. That left me. Just great. I knew that, with no real voice of reason to turn to, I’d be left alone with my own thoughts. The problem was the voice in my head that typically reasoned with me pretty much sounded like a harsher amalgam of my two roommates. Where they might have decided on a different course of action for the evening, I knew that if I considered for even a second not going to this party, I’d have to contend with my own subconscious mercilessly assaulting me for being a pansy-ass loser with questionable sexual orientation.
Oh, well. At the time, I figured the worst-case scenario was that I’d be out a few bucks for train fare. At least I would have killed a few hours that otherwise would’ve been wasted on some online raid with my guild brothers. A definite night of World of Warcraft versus the slight chance of hooking up with some chick straight from the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalog? Millions of people played the Powerball lottery each week with much worse odds. So ultimately I figured, why the hell not?
I nuked myself a couple of pieces of chicken (no point in heading toward probable disappointment hungry) and then proceeded to clean myself up, figuring simple was best. I wouldn’t even know what to wear to look cool in the Village, so instead opted for business casual. That was usually a safe way to go when in doubt. I was just winging it here. It might not be the coolest attire, but at least I wouldn’t look scummy. Hopefully Sally wasn’t one of those chicks who was into dating dirt bags.
Speaking of which … was this really a date? Sure, the word had come up, but the truth was I had no idea. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I’d give her a ten percent chance of being there, so worrying about it being a date or not seemed to be getting a little ahead of myself. Ooh, Sally and a little head. Now there’s a possibility I could get behind. Anyhow…
I got myself together as best as I could. I wasn’t a male model by any stretch of the imagination, but not exactly pre-Subway Jared-looking, either. It’d do. I grabbed my keys and wallet (stuffing an emergency twenty into one of my socks … momma didn’t raise a complete fool), then stepped out to meet my fate … literally, as it turns out.
Saturday night trains were a lot like rush hour trains. People were in a hurry to get where they’re going and, for the most part, stayed out of each other’s way. Even the homeless mostly seemed to understand this, and the onslaught of panhandling decreased a bit during these times. After all, getting in front of a determined person headed from point A to point B was a good way to get trampled. As a result, it was an easy ride on the N train to the stop closest to my destination. It let me off about five short blocks from where I was headed, which I was able to walk with no problem.
In retrospect, the whole trip was a little underwhelming. If Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that fateful journeys like these were supposed to be filled with foreshadowing. It should have been storming outside, but it was crystal clear. I should have been accosted by at least one semi-crazed, but mysteriously wizened stranger on the train, warning me of doom, but instead I managed to snag a seat, and nobody even batted an eye in my direction.
For Christ’s sake, the address I was given should have been some popular, but inexplicably creepy, nightclub with a non-subtle name like Type-O, or maybe The Blud Room, but no. Instead, the main floor of the building was a fairly nondescript bar. Loud and full, but not packed, and certainly not crawling with creeps that were practically screaming, “Come in here and we’ll drain your ass dry.” It figured. The world couldn’t even deliver me clichés correctly.
My instructions were to use the side door and walk up to the third floor. I pressed the buzzer and was immediately let in. There was no challenge of “Who dares trespass?” No hulking bouncer opened the door, only to give me an evil smirk to let me know I was fresh meat. It was just a stairwell. Jeez!
As I climbed, the sounds changed slightly. The techno-rock music from the first floor was fairly muted by the time I reached the second floor landing. As I continued upward a different techno beat slowly drowned it out. This was SoHo, after all.
Oh, by the way, in case you had forgotten from earlier … fuck SoHo!
Now, where was I? Yeah, yeah, still a fucking corpse, but I’m getting back to that. I’m still doing the whole life flashing before my eyes bit … although it’s odd that the majority of the flashback seems to only be from the last twelve hours, but whatever. It’s not like I was an expert in the rules of the afterlife, at least not yet.
Reaching the third floor, the source of the new music, I knocked … and knocked again … and then knocked a third time. Didn’t these guys buzz me in just a few minutes earlier? I was about to turn around and leave – visions of Sally and her friends (hot friends no doubt … and while we’re on this fantasy, let’s say hot nude friends) standing there and laughing at my idiocy, going through my not-surprised-in-the-least mind – when finally the door opened.
If this were a trashy romance novel, I’m sure the guy standing in the doorway would be described to the rapidly moistening female reader by his perfect hair, dazzling eyes, and bulging muscles. However, here in the real world, guys like me tended to see dudes like him and automatically assumed one thing about them: that they were, in all likelihood, complete asshole douchebags.
“What?” Douchebag asked in a bored tone. All right, at least one cliché was holding true tonight. He looked me over as if I were something unpleasant he had stepped in.
“Sally invited me.” I tried to sound equally as bored as I replied to this fellow who looked uncomfortably like some of the jocks who’d handed me ass-kickings back in high school. At this, though, his demeanor noticeably changed. He straightened up and adopted an easy smile. Sure, he still looked like a douche, but at least now he was a douche who was acting … err… less douchey.
“Cool. Come on in,” he said, opening the door wider and letting out more of the insufferable techno crap that was playing. “Sorry about the attitude, buddy. Never know who’s knocking. Gotta watch out for the narcs.”
Narcs? What was this, 1985? “No prob,” I answered, following him in. “Bill.”
“Huh?” Obviously he was already losing interest in me.
“I said my name is Bill.” I held out my hand.
“Oh. That’s cool,” he answered, leaving my gesture of friendship dangling there. “Sally’s around here somewhere. Just chill and she’ll find you.” He turned away, seemingly toward more interesting fare.
Douchebag or not, I can’t say I really blamed him. Once I was dismissed, I took a second to look around. Hmm, it was an interesting place. Kinda had a retro feel to it. Not that it was very surprising, considering what part of the city I was in. Every place in this area either was trying to be cutting-edge hip or latching onto some past decade like it was coming back into style. This place had a definite “groovy” vibe to it, minus maybe the music that was playing.
As for the partygoers … whoa … the partygoers. Damn! The only parties I’d ever seen that looked even remotely like this were all on TV. Every chick could have passed for a swimsuit model, and I doubted any of the guys benched under two-fifty. I tried not to gawk as my brain attempted to process exactly when I had left reality and wandered onto the set of Gossip Girl. Forget the decor – they could have decorated the place as a Black Plague death pit and it wouldn’t have mattered one iota.
I was starting to become acutely aware of how much I didn’t fit in when I noticed a similarly out-of-place fellow off in a corner being chatted up by a tasty redhead. He was about ten years older than me, nearly bald, and looked like he’d be more at home at an accountants’ convention. Not that I had any right to judge, but it felt good to know there was at least one other person here who I’d stack up pretty well against. Sorry, but maybe it’s a guy thing. Whenever there were women around, the whole Bros before Hoes concept went right out the window and I started checking out the situation to see who was higher and lower than me on the food chain, so to speak.
Regardless, he was also the only person in sight that I was not immediately intimidated by. I was thinking about heading over and introducing myself as the only other “normal” guy here when I began to notice that I wasn’t. Scattered throughout the crowd were more sore thumbs, guys much closer to geek than chic on the social scale, all being kept company by women way out of their (our) league. Damn, I thought, they must either all be rich or have huge dicks. But that still didn’t answer what I was doing here. I do okay, but I’m definitely not rich, and I don’t have a huge dick. Err, that is, there’s nothing wrong with the size of my dick … really! I mean, sure I’m not John Holmes, but things below the belt are just fine, thank you very much.
Okay, time to get off my dick … unless you looked like one of the babes at this party. Ah, anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah. While I was lost in this reverie of finances and dongs, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Giving my head a quick shake to clear it, I turned around only to be stunned again. There stood Sally. Holy shit! She was wearing a little green strapless dress, and, well … holy shit.
“You came,” she said. (Not yet, but pretty close, considering how she looked). “I wasn’t sure you would. A part of me was hoping you…” she paused, sounding a little uncertain and maybe even … a little sad.
“Hoping I would…?” I tried to get her to finish the thought.
“It doesn’t matter. You’re here. That’s the important thing.” Whatever made her pause a second ago was now gone. Maybe I had just been imagining it.
“Yeah. I made it. You look great, by the way,” I stammered back, absolutely certain I sounded like a complete social retard.
“Thanks. As I was saying, I wasn’t sure you’d actually show up. You sounded a bit nervous on the train.”
“I wasn’t,” I blatantly lied. “You just caught me by surprise.”
She ignored the obviousness of my untruth. “Cool. Let me show you around.” She hooked her arm around mine (more physical contact!) and gave me the tour. Turns out the apartment occupied the entire floor of the building. It was a fairly open floor plan, but not quite a studio. I doubted there are too many slumlords who wouldn’t have drooled at the chance to get their hands on it. A few subdivisions and a landlord could retire to the Caribbean on the rent alone.
“Whose place is this?” I absently asked as we walked.
“I live here.”
Goddamn! Hot and rich. Yep, even had I not believed it before, I could now say with all certainty that life was definitely not fair.
“This is your place?” I asked somewhat incredulously.
“Technically it’s Jeff’s place. (Jeff? Yeah, it was too good to be true), but a bunch of us share it.” (A bunch? Okay, there’s still hope.)
“Who’s Jeff?” I asked as nonchalantly as I could, hoping to be steered in the direction of someone obviously gay, or at least one of the other average dudes in the room.
Sadly, she pointed directly at my douchebag acquaintance from earlier. Figures. Can’t say I was overly surprised. On the other hand, it’s not like he was the only scenery in the room. All things considered, douchebag aside, the entire experience was slowly turning out to be a positive.
“We’ve met,” I replied neutrally. “How do you two know each other?” I tried to sound as disinterested as possible.
“That’s not important right now. Let’s not worry about him. You’re here with me. Let’s mingle before the festivities get started.” She led me toward an open bar in one corner of the room.
“Festivities?” I asked, trying not to be distracted by thoughts of hot chicks and free drinks.
“You’ll see. The night is still young.”
Okay. Whatever that meant. Hey, who knows? Maybe this was one of those parties that culminated in a wild orgy at the end of the night. A guy I knew in college claimed to have been at one of those. Personally, I thought he was full of shit, but since it sounded better than any of my stories, I kept my mouth shut. Besides, I needed someone to live vicariously through, bullshit or not.
And so we mingled for a while. What I mean, of course, is that she mingled, while I was content to devour my fill of eye candy, of which there was plenty. The problem with candy, though, is if you eat too much, you’re asking for trouble.
CHAPTER 5 – BE STILL, MY BEATING HEART
“May I have your attention, please?” the douchebag … err, Jeff, shouted out. “Midnight is upon us. The time you have all been waiting for has arrived.”
The time I was waiting for? Holy shit, maybe there was going to be an orgy. As long as I didn’t have any dudes trying to rub their junk up against me, this had potential to be the best night of my life. If this actually happened, then, from this moment on, my roommates would have to worship me as if I were unto a god. Oh, yeah.
“But first,” Jeff continued, “a few quick words, my children (Children? Okay, douche). Judging by the new faces I see, the gauntlet thrown down last month by your brothers has been answered.”
“Dread Stalker’s is the score to beat.” He motioned to a muscular goon of similar douchey appearance off to his left.
Dread Stalker? Either this guy was still living out his high school football fantasies or his parents were a couple of Goth weirdos.
“Bring forth your offerings, my daughters.”
Several of the girls, all of them sweet little morsels, stepped forward, leading some of the men. I immediately noticed the accountant amongst them. I was about to comment when Sally’s arm entwined with mine and she started to gently pull me forward. I tried to look at her expression to get a sense of what was going on, but she was facing toward Jeff. Hmm, if this was an orgy, I hoped I wasn’t expected, as the new guy, to perform in front of everyone else. Sally was hot and all, but I wasn’t quite sure whether stage fright might keep me from getting the job done.
She led me through the crowd and we wound up next to the group who’d been singled out. I couldn’t help but take note that all the guys I stood with appeared to be of the decisively non-male-model variety I had noticed before. Odd. I was actually starting to wonder if this was about to turn into the hazing scene from Revenge of The Nerds when Jeff began slowly pacing in front of us.
“Very nice. Any that you fancy before we get started, Ozymandias?” he asked in the direction of the main group.
A bored voice with a vaguely Bostonian accent replied from near the back of the crowd, “Not particularly. Carry on with your silliness. Don’t worry about me.”
I couldn’t help but notice a brief look of annoyance cross Jeff’s mug at the answer he was given. I tried to scan the crowd for the source, but that was when his overly smug-looking face stopped in front of me and continued. “So be it. As host, it is mine to offer our hospitality, but as guest, it is yours to refuse.”
Ooh, I wonder how many brain cells this ox had to burn off to come up with that.
“Now, where were we? Oh, yes. Excellent choices, my daughters. But before we can judge the cattle…”
I interrupted, “Did you just call me… urk!” Make that tried to interrupt. His hand shot out, lightning quick, and grabbed me by the throat with a grip that felt overly strong even for a guy with his build.
“Cattle do NOT speak!” he spat at me. “They are to be judged … after we feast.” He flashed a predatory smile. If you’re guessing that his eyes turned black as coal, and his canines elongated in front of me, well, you’re wrong. Don’t be such a pretentious know-it-all.
Just messing with you. That’s exactly what happened.
It’s kind of comforting to know that being a corpse hasn’t affected my sense of humor. Unfortunately, it’s the, hah-hah, if I don’t laugh, then I’ll start screaming, type of comedy. But hey, never let it be said I didn’t crack wise in the face of a creature that shouldn’t exist, right before it lowered its head to tear into my throat.
There Are Reasons We Fear The Night. He’s Not One Of Them.
Bill Ryder was a dateless geek, but then he met a girl to die for. So he did. Unfortunately for him, that was just the beginning of his troubles. He awoke as a vampire, one of the legendary predators of the night. Sadly, fangs or not, he was still at the bottom of the food chain.
Now he finds himself surrounded by creatures stronger, deadlier, and a lot cooler than he is … and they all want to kick his teeth in.
Bill isn’t exactly average, though. A vampire like him hasn’t been seen in centuries. He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, unlikely allies, and an attitude that makes him too damn obnoxious to quit.
Join him in this hilarious tale of immortal monsters and the unlikely hero who’s not afraid to tell them off, even if it gets him killed – permanently this time.
THE TOME OF BILL SERIES – The Undead Are Fun Again
Gamer, Geek, and Legendary Vampire – Bill Ryder is an unlikely hero trying to survive in a world of supernatural horrors. Despite awesome powers, loyal allies, and a Brooklyn-sized attitude; the odds are stacked heavily against him. Bill must fulfill his destiny and save the world from the ancient terrors that threaten it – all while trying to build some semblance of a social life.
THERE ARE REASONS WE FEAR THE NIGHT. HE’S NOT ONE OF THEM.
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Horror / Comedy
Contains: adult language, violence, sexual situations, juvenile douchebag humor, and lots of asshole monsters
SERIES BOOKS (in order):