Toby Stone is a novelist from Whitefield, near Manchester. His debut novel, Aimee and the Bear is out now from Hic Dragones. You can find Toby on Twitter (@tobystone1) or on his blog.
'A Vampire's Guide to Dummies' is an exclusive, unpublished short story.
A Vampire's Guide to Dummies
You may have already read A Zombie’s Guide to Attaining Zen and A Skeleton’s Guide to Overcoming Anorexia. A Vampire’s Guide to Dummies is the third in this series of aspirational texts for the dead. Yes, you too can be a better creature of the night. But A Vampire’s Guide to Dummies is as much help-yourself as self-help. It’s about our food, about where to eat and what to eat – by which of course I mean, who to eat.
I’d like to thank you for taking an interest in where your next meal comes from. There is a wide range of flavours available to vampires, but dummies are the most representative of mortal dishes. Like Big Macs for human children, we all know how a dummy tastes. That sweat of desperation, the slight lard of overeating ice-cream on the sofa, the rich lethargy of their blood. Personally, I prefer to snack on the thick. Intelligence has always made the human bitter. Look at Nietzsche.
Dummies are formed by stupid parents, an insipid childhood and, most often, reality TV. They think vampires foppish, refined, with cheek-bones as high as Robert Pattinson’s side-burns. As a newly turned vampire, you will still be stumbling against this cliché. Female teenagers won’t give you the time of day, let alone night. With regard to film stars, people tell me I most resemble Darth Vader, after he takes off the mask. Words don’t really fit me. The word ‘corpulent’ could have been coined for my gut, but doesn’t have enough syllables and wouldn’t encompass it. Very little does and I shop by catalogue.
The human form, though, is the focus of this guide, and I want to help you to be the most effective vampire you can be. We are, after all, the mortal’s foremost predator. And where better to hunt than in the city, on a summer’s evening, as dusk rots the sky? The girls in their slight dresses, passing like sirens freed from their calling. The jiggle of their hems, of their bosoms. The strong, young men, their nape and shoulder muscles unfurled like wings. The city, in the summer, makes a simile of everything, and the motion of human limbs in the dying light is as pleasant as poetry. Always eat the beautiful. And you can tell, just by looking and listening around, that the most beautiful are also the most stupid.
There are three ways of defining the dummy food-group.
1. What a Dummy is Not
New vampires are drawn to a certain type of food. You will want to eat the vibrant, the strong. To drink blood barely held in check by its veins. I like late night cafés with large windows, and my voyeur’s pleasure is the chav. They are the big cats of the human race – its big game.
The chav, though, is an occasional snack. While they represent good calorific value (their bloodstream contains four-fifths of the RDBI – Recommended Daily Blood Intake), they are exceptionally tenacious livestock. According to research, the calorie-cost of subduing a chav is often more than the benefit of supping on one.
Still, an americano warming your frigid palms, you will find yourself gazing at them, drinking them in as they pass in gangs, having discarded black Nike hoodies for shaven heads and chequered, short-sleeved shirts. You will rise, as I so often have, and follow one into an alley, as he looks to leave his last drink on the cobbles via his bladder.
When you do, there exists a combination of techniques (recommended by most vampire masters) used to prepare this plate. Any good Nocturnal Arts class can train you in these, until they become muscle memory. Practise the moves with a dummy (not a real one, of course). Diagrams can be found in the appendices.
● First, he will unzip. You will clutch at him, grasping his wide, pink, sun-spanked throat.
● Pull him close until you can feel the muscles of his back writhing against your gut.
● The chav will curse and butt back his head.
● You say: ‘Hold still, please.’ And: ‘Stop fighting it, sir.’
● You wrap your legs around his hips, topple him to the side, and roll on the ground, behind cardboard boxes, green skips and black bags.
● The chav will fight like he has always known how, since he was six. But he has always been beaten and, at the end, will go limp, apart from the motion of his tears.
● Then feed. As noted, a chav is not a dummy but a treat, and, though it is important to indulge oneself once in a while, be sure to pop a Rennie afterwards. Chavs give me indigestion. It’s not that I don’t like them, but that they don’t like me.
2. The Male Dummy
Interesting FactsIf chavs are rare steaks, the strip joint is the easiest place to pick up the more everyday meat. Near the centre of the city, lap-dancing clubs throb with flesh, with neon lights, and with lines of magnetism that draw the dummies in. This is the place to buffet.
The top investment banks (of which number JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and Barclays Capital) take pride in firing 20% of their employees every year. The crème may become wildly rich, but the bottom is regularly tapped out and left to rot on the floor. Financiers are among the five professions rated most likely to commit suicide. Due to this, and to 90-hour working weeks, which mean personal relationships are few and distant, bankers are easy pickings. Like thread worms from the bottom of society, nobody misses their passing.
I eat peanuts by the bar and try to ignore the women. From time to time, I may prospect one for a private dance, so as to blend in, but I tell them I’m an arse man. I recommend the bottom dance. It does the appetite no good when you are enveloped in the down of their breasts, in the scratch of their areola, in the probing of their nipples. All your skin will feel is the throb above each, the clanging of blood like church bells in her jugular.
If you can, take a friend. The choice of companion is important. If possible, sit with somebody you cannot stand and have little inclination to talk to. You do not want to be distracted from the hunt. If you have not already turned your spouse, may I suggest doing so now? If you are unmarried, as I was, take a parent. I sit with Frank, who sired me.
Frank was not how one would wish to be turned. A straight man’s bad dream: moustached, leather clad, he maintains a relationship with B.O. that has several unhealthy issues, many of which come from his crotch. I often eat roasted peanuts when he speaks, to disguise my wincing and his mouth odour. Ignoring him, I usually pretend to look at the dancers and all they have to offer.
In reality, I am looking at the door. I suggest living in financial centres: New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Shanghai. Keep up with the business sections of newspapers and note the trading times. When the markets close, your buffet will open for business, and a tide of drink will flood in. A Red Sea closing: of investment bankers, hedge funders, open armed investment managers, shorters, speculators, portfolio re-engineers. Dummies out on the city that suckles them.
A Helpful TableAs you prowl the strip club, do not browse for the alpha males, the men slapping rump and pressing the queen’s crinkled face into places her majesty would rather not see. Instead, cast your greed to the group’s tattered hem. The newbies. The greens. Young men straight out of Oxbridge who have not yet fitted in. Awkward grins long and loose and rubbery, holding their drinks with two hands to stop the shaking. They drink quicker than the rest. Soon, they will be drunk, and not in the way they expected to be at the inception of the evening. Afterwards, you’ll feel elated and tipsy. That’s the advantage of dining on the inebriated; you get a free drink with every meal.
Here’s a selection of which professions you should aim for. (More comprehensive tables to be found in Appendix C.)
Risk: Very low - as above.
Profession: Children in Care
Risk: Low. There is only one subset of society humans ignore more than children, and that is children in care.
Profession: Call Centre Operative
Risk: Average. Due to a lack of daylight, may well be as grey as your flesh but, when not plugged into a computer at the right times, they cause a series of statistics to flash red. Other humans may not miss them, but the machines and their maths will, and in today’s work-place they are all that really matter. On the other hand, these employees really don’t.
Risk: High. Very little makes the media foam more than the marriage of sex and violence, and the drained body of a hooker is enough to send newspapers into spittle-invected overdrive. The scantily dressed corpse makes the biggest splash, I can tell you. It’s something to do with skin on water. Can I recommend cellophane?
Profession: Soap Opera Character
Risk: Very high. It has long been noted that the human mind is capable of storing only a set number of faces (ranging from 150 to 450). If column inches measure the importance humanity ascribes to one of its own, these alone will be missed.
I recommend making your move in the toilet. Open a conversation with a comment on one of the dancers, a line that encompasses her curves.
● ‘That Ruby’s a bit of alright’;
● or: ‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of slap and tickle with that Sapphire’;
● or: ‘When Diamond bent over, I think my brain came into my nose’; etc.
A male in a toilet has to follow up on these amuse bouche or be thought homosexual, which is not the impression to give in the Gents. Even better, say it in a northern accent. From there, convince them that a dancer wants a private audience, because they are so young and pretty and different.
Say: ‘That Emerald, I caught her looking at you. I’m a bit of regular here. Reckon I could get you a private room.’ (Add ‘lad’ or ‘son’ if you think you can get away with it.)
A man falls for this, a highly educated human, before he realises that ‘special’ was a word concocted for children who don’t understand ‘retarded’. If he does fall, you will walk into the private booth you have booked and because you, like me, are as ugly as a vampire can be, his callow, whiskey soaked eyes will flinch across you. And if you are like me, which is to say obese, you will subdue him with a lap-dance more forceful and heftier, than he had been imagining. And the breasts in his face will be moobs, and unexpected, and it won’t be long before his Bambi body is broken, and your belly thickens.
3. The Female Dummy
Never, and can I make this clear, never attempt to eat a woman you do not know. They start at the presumption, no matter how ugly the lady, that all men are predators. This is not conducive to hunting.
For hunting ladies, I use Facebook.
Did you know?Social media is a wonderful way to convince them that they do, in fact, know you.
97% of callers to the Rape Crisis Line report being assaulted by men they know or, I would suppose, thought they knew. Preying on the familiar is what humanity does best, and, if we are to blend in, it is thus the way to go.
I have several profiles: some male, some female, some heterosexual, some homosexual, some a little of all four. The pictures are cropped from Google Images. Once one is nestled in a friendship group, it’s amazing how everybody thinks you are someone else’s acquaintance. I spread myself around, using all the tricks they warn children (but not adults) about.
In the main, I turn the subject of threads to my love of the Twilight series.
‘I real respect Edward, he’s so cool, it must be real hard for him.’ I will post, having Wikipediaed the books. I was unable to read them.
‘Yeah, I no how u feel. Sometimes the hardest thing 2 do is the best thing. Sometimes, u cant have what u want, and it makes u thirstier for it, but somehow its better,’ she will reply.
‘I no right what you mean.’
‘You’re the only man I no who gets it.’
‘8-) I think we can actually learn something from vampires. No I sound crazy. But I do.’
‘Yeah, same here.’
After several months, I will arrange to meet my quarry. Yes, a long incubation period for the maggot to turn into a fly, but you have to imagine several of these ‘relationships’ gaining wings at the same time. Twilites, I call them. Light meals, not too stodgy, you can do things afterwards and enjoy the rest of your evening. Nothing worse than a full roast on a summer’s night.
A Case StudyAfter every meal, I floss.
As with humanity, the most powerful teaching tool for vampires is often the anecdote. This is not, though, a heart-warming parable of a frog tricking a scorpion, or of a bear that learns to talk about his feelings. But if you practise what this study preaches, it will at least warm your guts.
I met one particular ‘Twilite’ for the first time in Starbucks. (Please note: women find coffee less intimidating than alcohol on a first date.) I asked her to wear something red, around her throat, so that I would know her.
The meal-to-be tends to writhe on the hook of this meeting for at least an hour. I sat regarding this one for two hours , as she waited for somebody who looked entirely unlike my ugliness. She wept a little, and in public, and a group of young women pointed at her and whispered. One laughed, and my victim-to-be left in a tirade of clothing and a line of cravat. She looked like someone whose faith in humanity had been shattered. A bit quick to jump to conclusions, humans. She wasn’t paying attention as she reached her flat, and she didn’t lock the door.
It would be insensitive to describe what happened within.
I followed her down an unlit hall, past a white-framed, single paned window. I am light-footed, for an obese man, and can creep. (I am not weighted by a soul.) She slumped on a chair beside a small wooden table and fell forward into her own arms, crying. Her sobs were loud, and I feared the neighbours might be roused, before seeing the regular red gashes, like the marking of prison time, up her arms. I realised that this kitchen had heard it all before. The cupboards were worn, the shelves listless. Her arms, as I was watching them, continued around to clutch at her back, not so much hugging as trying to stab. I could hear tight cotton tearing.
‘You’re right,’ I said.
Her nails stopped, her hands became claws: furtive, stunned animals trapped by her own elbow joints.
‘You could learn from vampires.’
She attempted to turn, but I leant the weight of my chest upon her nape. She tried to scream but the weight, as I knew it would, crushed her lungs into withered leaves. I slammed her head, once, against the small, wooden table. A book toppled onto the floor, face up. New Moon, it said, and it looked eared and resigned, like an old dog. I could hear panting, but it was just her.
She was bleeding from her nose. This distressed me. Impatient, I bit and sucked, and she jolted in her Ikea chair, wetting the tea-stained white cushion and soiling her summer skirt. All I could smell was the red stuff. I could hear her squelching as she writhed, until she stopped.
You’re hungry now, aren’t you?
Before I left I walked through the lounge to the bathroom, picking my feet between discarded books. The lounge had the look of a struggle. Above the sink, the electric light came on but seemed reluctant. Since I’ve been gone, it’s been a relief not to stare at my face. In my day-life, I was an estate agent and the crap of it all had begun to rub off. I looked like shit alive. No doubt I look worse now, but not to me.
I smiled at my lack of reflection, curled back my lips, revealing the extent of my teeth, and reached inside the top-right pocket of my black jacket. From it, I removed a thin, white box, with a single canine drawn on it, in blue.
Some Pointers on Dining Decorum:
• Always carry floss. We may be descended from medieval Eastern European savages, but we are not barbarians. It is anti-social to spend the evening with larynx hanging from your teeth.
• Wear a dark suit and a shirt a shade lighter. Dark cloth is not an aesthetic choice, as you can imagine. First, it hides the sweat patches of a fight. Second, it hides stains. Blood can be absurdly difficult to remove.
• If you do dribble, I suggest lemon juice and cold water. Do not use hot water, do not. It sets the stain. Then, as Buffy herself might have said, hang the article on a line that will receive direct sunlight; it will finish the job for you.
• And, of course, don’t forget your Rennies.
• And don’t forget to look behind you. No, don’t look up, not yet. Keep reading, please do. Dummies read self-help guides, didn’t you know? Why do you think I wrote this? It’s not exactly life-enhancing. Did you know 94.5% of self-help readers are so gullible they’ll believe any old statistics?
I watch you dummies browsing in bookstores from my blacked-out 2CV, with your dirty little self-help purchases. Watch you pay, watch you leave. Follow you home. There’s no bigger dummy than someone who thinks they can change. What is it with humans and vampires? You want to be like us, do you? If there even was an Appendix C, you’d find Aspiring Vampires at the top of the Helpful Table. You keep odd hours. You’re avoided around the water cooler. If you don’t live alone, you’re heading that way. You’re bloody perfect.
Some Final Tips:
● Stay still. The skin of your throat is soft as I run my nails across it. The finest of hairs lift up onto my fingertips. Does that tickle? My nails are short. They don’t grow anymore.
● Try not to soil yourself. This will feel uncomfortable, like having a tooth removed through your throat. No need to add the smell of faeces to your discomfort. Can you smell my chest, instead, as it presses against your back? I’m wearing Old Spice. Nice.
● If you experience sexual excitement, even as you die, if you harden or quicken, do not go red. The body acts in unusual ways to unusual stimulus. You would not be the first to orgasm as you pass out. Go with the flow, it won’t be the only part of you that does.
As advertised in the title, this guide has led me to you. As with any good dummy, it’s time I popped you in my mouth, sucked, and shut up.
About Toby: Toby Stone went to the same school as Batman (Christian Bale) and Benny Hill. Though they were not all there at the same time. As an adult, Toby has been a toy-seller, an Avon Lady, Double-Glazing Salesman of the Week, a mortgage broker, a suspicious barman, a school governor and a bingo caller. Aimee and the Bear is his first published novel. Follow Toby on Twitter (@tobystone1) or on his own blog.
Aimee and the Bear is OUT NOW, published by Hic Dragones. When her mother’s cruelty is too much, Amy holds her teddy bear’s paw and travels to the Other Place—a world where teddies become real bears, where children attend the Night School to escape whatever it is they face at home, where Amy becomes Aimee, and there’s magic in the air. But the Other Place is in danger—the Witch has awoken, and Amy must find the courage to save her baby brother before it’s too late. A dazzling, heart-wrenching and brutal descent into the world of the imagination. This is not a children’s book. This is not a fairy tale. This is not your average heroine.
Watch the trailer: