Written by Erin for Andrea's birthday gift on November 25, 2009
I may have been born blind, virtually naked, and mewing, but I was not born a vampire. I drank milk from my mother’s teat, not blood from my victims. I didn’t start drinking blood until I met the Sampire.
You know how people say, “Were you raised in a barn?” Well, I was raised in a barn. Born there, too. My snow-white mother, Sugar Cube, and my pure-black father, Pepper Pot, raised me and my six brothers and sisters inside the four walls of a big, comfy barn. We were like a pride of lions. We were the kings of the hay and the queens of the straw.
For fun, we used to chase the pygmy goats; if we were lucky, the mother goats gave us a little extra milk. Then my sisters and brothers and I would pounce on each other and chase each others’ tails for hours before Mom gave us a bath. When you’re a kitten, getting a tongue-lashing from your mother is a pleasure.
Of course, I couldn’t live down on the farm forever. Eventually, I had to get adopted. It wasn’t so bad. My new humans named me Bella. They gave me everything a cat could want: a warm bed, gourmet cat food, an education (I learned how to use the litter box!)…even a dog sister.
Amy and I got along great. She let me nip her ears and jump out from under the couch at her. She was pretty cool, for a dog. Not like the farm dogs who used to chase me under the barn.
I was just settling in to my new home one night when I heard the fateful “tap, tap, tap” on the window. I stuck my face through the blinds, and outside I saw a black and white tomcat. He had more black on his face than me, and there were black spots on his back, kinda like my brother Giggles. The tomcat butted his head against the window and said, “Invite me in!”
I hadn’t had much of a chance to get to know the other cats in the neighborhood, so I figured my people wouldn’t mind. I tried to jump up and reach the door-opening-thingee the people use, but I couldn’t get it to turn. I wished my human brother-in-law had made a kitty door for me.
“I can’t open it!” I yelled through the door.
“Just meow,” the tomcat yelled back. “If you do it long enough, your people will get out of bed and let you out.”
I gave it a try, meowing until I gave myself a sore throat. Eventually, the human with the mustache came down the stairs, opened the door, and kicked me in the butt. I was outside on the patio and face-to-face with the tomcat.
He stepped to the side, and I was greeted with a spectacular view: colored lights, shining like glitter and dancing. At first I thought they were fairies. Soon I heard the music, though: Rascal Flats. I realized they were mice, dressed in multicolored cowboy and cowgirls outfits covered in tiny rhinestones, and doing an intricately choreographed line dance.
“Whoa,” I said to the tomcat. “How did you teach them to do that?”
The tomcat flicked his tail. “I didn’t teach them. They’re my minions; they do exactly what I want them to do. My thoughts are their commands.”
“So, if you wanted them to bring you shrimp and tuna, they would?”
“Of course,” he said. “They do it all the time. They bring me piles of bay scallops and buckets of sushi-grade salmon. “
My mouth watered, and I drooled on my front paws. “Cool,” I said.
“Please allow me to introduce myself,” the tomcat continued. “I am called the Sampire.”
“You’re a vampire?” I asked, incredulous. “Like the ones in all of my human woman’s books, the ones she’s always trying to read when I’m biting her toes?”
The Sampire nodded his black-and-white head.
“Can I be a vampire, too?” I asked him. I wanted to command an army of mouse minions. I wanted mice to line dance for me and let me chase them and bite them.
“That’s not what you want, kitten,” the Sampire said. “It’s a lonely life; you’ll never see the sun again, and all you’ll think about is blood.”
I made my icky face. “Blood?”
“All vampires need fresh blood to survive,” the Sampire explained. “I have the mice to supply me with all I’d ever need, but they don’t compare with the thrill of the hunt. The bigger the prey, the more fun it is to chase and bite. Ever chase a rat?”
“Of course. I chased rats every day on the farm.”
“And rats are more fun than mice, aren’t they?”
“I guess so,” I said. “So, all vampires do is sleep all day and bite stuff?”
He shook his head. “We have all kinds of powers besides controlling our minions. You know that old saying that cats have nine lives? I’ve had more than nine lives, thanks to my fast-healing power. We can also glamour humans, move with lightning speed, have super strength, and fly. Imagine how many birds you can catch when you can fly.”
The Sampire sat down and started to lick his butt. I cleared my throat to remind him we were in the middle of a conversation.
“If you can fly,” I said, “prove it.”
He stood up, stretched his back legs, then took off at a run. Just when I thought he was going to crash into the fence, he floated into the air and zoomed around the tool shed before touching down in front of the steps.
The flying would have been impressive enough. But when he flew under the street light, the Sampire sparkled like he was made out of diamonds. I wanted that. I wanted to sparkle in the bright lights.
“Awesome. I don’t care about seeing the sun again; I don’t care how much blood I have to drink. I want to be a Sampire!”
The Sampire laughed. “You’re sure?”
I wasn’t sure, but I was curious, and you know what they say about curiosity and cats. Before I had a chance to answer his question, the Sampire was at my throat, his needle-sharp eye teeth sinking into my veins. He lapped up my blood. Then he bit his own paw and pressed it to my lips, inducing me to drink his blood. It wasn’t as good as warm milk fresh from the goat, not by a long shot. Still, it didn’t make me cough up a hairball, and I managed to get it down. I squinched my eyes tightly closed as I swallowed the warm blood.
When I opened them, the world was more amazing than I’d ever noticed before. There were colors, more colors than I’d ever realized. With my new vampire--er, Sampire sight, the mice in their rhinestone jumpsuits were dazzling. In the moonlight, the grass was green, not the dull gray it had always been before. In fact, all of my senses were enhanced. I could hear the individual conversations of the mice squeaking under a tool shed down the alley. If I listened close, I could hear their hearts beating. I could smell them, smell their delicious little hearts beating, pumping their yummy blood through their tiny little veins…
My mouth barely had time to water before I was on my feet and charging at the line-dancing mice. I’d always been graceful, but my speed and accuracy amazed me. In a split second, I’d lifted a juice boy-mouse into the air by the scruff of his neck. My teeth were formidable before, but now they sliced through fur and mouse-flesh like hot razors through butter. I drank the delectable blood, not neglecting to notice that nothing had ever tasted so good before. Not even milk straight from the goat.
I was about to snag my second mouse when the Sampire pounced, pinning me to the patio with his powerful front paws. “You will eat no more of my minions tonight, kitten,” the Sampire hissed. “I suggest you find your own prey.”
He released me, turned with a great flick of his black tail, and disappeared into the night, followed in swinging, choreographed steps by his mouse minions.
“Wait!” I called into the darkness. “What else do I need to know about being a Sampire?”
But it was too late. He was already gone. There was nothing I could do now except sit on the back steps and meow until the human who likes vampire books let me back in the house.
The closer it got to sunrise, the more tired I became. It was as if the sunrise would drain all the energy from my body. When dawn came too near, I went into a dark corner in the basement and lay down to sleep. I had just drifted off when I felt a gentle nuzzle from Amy.
“You smell funny,” she said. “What have you been up to? Please don’t tell me you were chasing a squirrel. I’ll be disappointed if you chased a squirrel without me.”
“It wasn’t a squirrel,” I said. “I was out there with another cat.”
“Watch out,” Amy warned me. “If the humans think you’re getting too friendly with the other cats in the neighborhood, they’ll take you to the vet, where they’ll put you to sleep, and when you wake up, your belly will be shaved and they’ll put a big cone on your head so you won’t chew your stitches…whatever stitches are. I never did get that cone off long enough to find out.”
“I wasn’t getting too friendly,” I assured her. “In fact, the Sampire was the rudest cat I’ve ever met. He didn’t even finish telling me about--” Oops. I’d already said too much.
Amy cocked her head to the side. “Sampire? Who’s the Sampire? What was he telling you about?”
“Catching mice,” I said quickly. “Did you know this neighborhood has more mice than the barn I was raised in?”
Amy dismissed me with a wave of her paw. “When you’re a big dog, you don’t even bother with a tiny hors d’oeuvre like a field mouse. You watch yourself, kid. There are dangerous things out there.”
I yawned, suppressing a chuckle. Dangerous things…if she only knew what a dangerous thing I had become.
I didn’t wake up until after sunset that night. Or any other night afterwards. From sunup to sundown, I was dead as a doornail. Every morning I worried I’d wake up six feet under, trapped inside an old shoe box. That only happened a couple of times, though.
Once the sun went down, though, I was desperate to feed. Before they even had a chance to scratch behind my ears, I would glamour my humans into letting me out to hunt. At first, I got my fill from the mice under the shed and the occasional squirrel. The Sampire had been right about one thing: there was a certain thrill to the hunt. Even though there wasn’t an animal in the neighborhood that could outrun me, I enjoyed the struggle.
Right after Halloween, the squirrels were particularly sweet. They’d been nibbling on the leftover pumpkins. After a week of nothing but squirrels, I decided to step up my game. I found a nest of baby bunnies, but they weren’t much of a challenge. Full-grown rabbits were more fun, though the flavor was a little more gamey. When I’d mastered the art of drinking rabbit, I moved on to groundhog. Groundhog was a little greasy, but it was a thrill to bring down an animal three times my size. Once I even drank from a skunk…a mistake I’ll never make again. Skunk blood doesn’t smell any better than skunk spray. My humans gave me a tomato bath after that one.
When it came to flying, I was a little slower to learn. I found the best way to practice was to climb a tall tree and throw myself down. My fast healing powers took care of the broken bones, but I quickly learned to land on my feet. After that, I learned to hover above the ground before I hit. From hovering, I moved on to gliding.
Sure, there were a few bumps in the road. Once I climbed a tree so high, even I was too scared to jump. If some firemen hadn’t come by to rescue me from the tree before sunrise, I might have been a crispy critter hanging from a branch.
Around midnight each night I would have my fill of blood. My glamour had worn off before then, so I would have to meow until one of the humans let me in. They cussed at me for waking them up in the middle of the night, but they always took a moment to scratch my ears and play toy mouse on a string with me. Luckily, at that time of night, they were too sleepy to notice my quickened reflects and superior strength. I only bit their ankles a couple of times.
The Sampire life would have suited me fine if it hadn’t been for one thing: Amy. She came up behind me to drink from the water dish after me and yelped in horror.
“What’s wrong?” I said. I’d been extra careful to lick the blood from my claws before I came inside.
“Look in the water dish,” Amy said.
I looked, but I didn’t see anything but water and the bottom of my Fiestaware bowl. “What?”
“You don’t have a reflection,” Amy said. “Bella, I’ve seen enough episodes of True Blood to know you’re supposed to be able to see your reflection in a mirror, unless you’re a vampire.”
“I’m not a vampire,” I said. “The Sampire bit me, and I drank some of his blood. I’m a Sampire.”
“That explains everything,” she said thoughtfully, as she continued pacing and whining. You could always tell when Amy was nervous. “It explains why you sleep all day, while I only sleep 75% of the day, and why you hardly ever eat my dog food anymore. You’ve been drinking blood, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” I admitted. “But I only bit the humans’ ankles a couple of times.”
“So it’s you who’s been draining all the squirrels and woodchucks!”
“And you’re responsible for all those dried-up moles by the back fence!”
“I’m afraid so.”
“And you’re the only who drained that Chihuahua over on Academy!”
I shook my head. “No, that must have been the Sampire. I’ve never taken blood from a dog.”
Amy looked skeptical, but she backed away. “You’re lucky the people don’t think you’re dead! Does your heart even beat anymore?” She pressed her ear to my side.
“I don’t have a heartbeat, but the people don’t notice. I can glamour them, make them do what I want. Why do you think they haven’t taken me to the vet to find out what’s wrong with me?”
Amy thought for a moment. “Can you glamour them the next time I have to go to the vet? I hate the way she takes my temperature.”
“Sure,” I said. I held out my paw. “Still friends?”
She shook my paw. “Better than friends. We’re sisters.”
The next night as I was getting ready to go out, Amy stopped me. “Bella, I saved some of my dog food for you,” she said. “I just wanted you to know there are no hard feelings, even though you’re an undead creature of the night. Help yourself.”
All I really wanted was a slab of blood on toasted blood with a side of diced blood and a long, tall glass of blood, but I couldn’t say no to my dog sister. I zoomed over to her bowl, stuck my nose in, and started to munch.
I’d only taken nine or ten mouthfuls of canned dog food when I realized something was terribly wrong. “What’s in this?” I asked Amy as I tried to cough up the dog food that was burning a path down my esophagus.
“A clove of garlic and a few drops of holy water,” Amy replied. “The dog priest blessed my water bowl in the name of the dog savior, Barney. The garlic came from the spice cabinet. It took me hours to successfully jump up there.”
“How could you?” I asked, staring up at her as I dropped to the floor, in more pain than the time I forgot I was a Sampire and tried to take a nap in a sunbeam. “Bad dog!”
She yelped at those last words, but this was no time for Amy to have hurt feelings; I was in mortal agony. “Why?” I asked in the midst of my writhing.
“To purge the evil from your soul,” Amy replied. “The Book of Barney says it’s the only way. Left to your own devices, you’ll be feasting on cocker spaniels and Pekinese before the month is out. Do you know what happens then, Bella? You’ll be coming after me next!”
“Never,” I sputtered. “I may have become a Sampire, but I never lost my soul.”
“That’s what they all say,” Amy said. “I’m sorry, Bella, but this was the only way.” She walked away.
“Don’t leave me here to die!” I shrieked, mentally cursing Amy. I hadn’t even known she was a Barnian.
Of course, I didn’t die. The unbearable agony lasted days until the last trace of tainted dog food was out of my system and safely in the litter box. Amy never tried that trick again…but maybe she should have.
I was chasing down a chipmunk one night when I caught a glimpse of reddish fur out of the corner of my eye. With my impact on the woodchuck population, I hadn’t chased much big game lately. When I realized the flicker of red in the bushes was a fox, I couldn’t help myself. I let the chipmunk go and started hunting the fox.
Of course, he stood his ground and put up a fight. A tiny white-and-black kitten was no match for a full-grown wild canine, right? He only wished. After an intense round of snarls, bared fangs, and slashes with our claws, I finally stopped playing with my food and went for his throat. The taste of fox blood was indescribable. Rodent blood was nothing like it. Even a treeful of ravens couldn’t compare to the sublime taste of the fantastic Mr. Fox. I trotted home with a full belly and a taste in my mouth I would never forget.
Sadly, I would have good reason to remember this night. I did my usual mewing routine, and the people let me inside. Once in, I smelled something utterly mouth-watering. It was like my own personal brand of heroin. It was…Amy.
“Get away from me, Bella,” she said. “Your eyes are glowing red, and they have a crazy look in ‘em!”
“What are you so afraid of?” I said as I inched closed to her. “It’s just me, your sister.”
“But you’re all clawed up, and you smell like fox,” Amy replied. “You promised me you weren’t going to drink blood from any dogs. I can’t believe I trusted you! This is exactly what Barney said would happen.” Then she picked up a stick she’d been chewing on and bit the end off. That end was stake-sharp…and pointing straight for my heart. I did what I had to do: flew into the air and landed on her back. First she tried to throw me; then she tried to bite. I couldn’t have that, could I? So I sank my fangs into Amy’s neck and gorged myself on her delicious canine blood. She was every bit as good as the fox.
Just then, the human with the mustache came into the room. He grabbed me, hissing and screeching, lifting me into the air and off of Amy’s back. He opened the front door and kicked me out. “God damn cat!” he yelled.
Amy stuck her head out the door beside him. “You are forbidden to enter this house ever again!” she said. With my invitation to stay withdrawn, I had no choice. I could never go back, and all because I betrayed the truest dog friend a kitten ever had. If I hadn’t found an open garage to hide in before sunrise, that fateful night might have been the end of me.
Only too late did I learn how right the Sampire was when he said this was a lonely life. I wish I had listened to him then. Now, one hundred years later, Amy and my former humans are long gone, and I am still a kitten who never grew up. All I have are my memories and my army of horseback-riding rodeo gerbil minions.
No animals were harmed in the writing of this story.