Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Boy Who Loved Garlic

At 2:37 AM, Joan and Hank Redding of Shoshanna City, New Mexico, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy they christened Abram. His skin was pink and pudgy, and he would not stop crying. The doctor told Joan and Hank that this is normal in human babies and there was nothing to worry about.

Abram grew up happily and attended school just like all of the other human children. His favorite sport was baseball, his favorite position short-stop. Although children were allowed to go outside in the day time, they were highly discouraged from doing so, lest they grow to enjoy it and not want to leave it once they went through the transformation. Mr. and Mrs. Redding believed this is what happened to their son.

They noticed he would be especially tired at night after having just woken up, and would often fall asleep during class. His jeans were often stained with grass and dirt and his fingernails had a constant supply of grime underneath. One day he came home with a strange white bulbous plant from outdoors and tried to show it to his parents. After vampires had taken over, a world-wide effort was put forth to eradicate all strains of garlic. It had taken several years and thousands of vampires dressed in specially designed hazardous material suits before it was officially declared that garlic was no longer a threat. Of course there were still random outcroppings in various places, and that is was Abram found. He didn't understand why they panicked so much when seeing the plant and why they had to stay in the hospital for ten days.

Abram had grown up alongside vampires. His parents were vampires, his teachers, some of his older friends. It was all but certain that after puberty was over, he was going to become a vampire. It was as natural as getting one's driver's license. Abram had trouble with this. He liked the outdoors; he liked the feeling of the sun as it warmed his skin. He enjoyed the strange fragrance of garlic and the taste of his fingers after he handled it. His parents tried desperately to keep him indoors during the day, going so far as to bar up his windows, but he always found a way out.

They took him to a psychologist who specialized in human children. He agreed with little Abram: sunlight did feel good — to humans only. If he wanted to be a productive member of society in the future he would have to give up such silly things. It was a phase, he told Abram's parents. He will grow out of it.
During recess, children liked to reenact the Battle of Westmoreland. They would take turns, one side playing as vampires and the other as humans. Everyone hated playing as humans because they always lost. The only child who liked to play as a human was Abram. He tried desperately to change history so that the humans won that historic, decisive battle, but he always lost. As children do, his classmates ridiculed him, calling him “sapien”, “day-lover” and other nasty words. They would snarl at him and show their immature canines. Abram tried to fight, but he was all alone.

On his fourteenth birthday, in the middle of puberty, and not far from the transformation, Abram sat down with his parents. He started to cry and couldn't speak. They tried to console him, but they knew what was coming. They noticed it in his every action, in every word he said, how he carried himself and sulked whenever he was out at night. Finally he was able to stifle his sobs long enough to say it: “I want to stay human!”

His parents, despite knowing exactly what he was going to say, started crying themselves, partially out of sadness, mostly out of anger. They couldn't believe they had raised a child like him. They had given him all the human food--utterly indigestible to vampires--he could eat, warm clothes, and a roof over his head. They asked themselves: where had they gone wrong? Hank thought maybe he didn't do enough vampire things with his son. Maybe the daylight cooked his brain. Does that happen in human children?

No one spoke. Abram left for his room without saying anything. For two days he did not say a word. He attended school only so long as he was required, and would head home right after and lock himself in his room. His appetite was at a bare minimum. Joan tried to feed him the rarest of steaks, thinking that would bring him around and get him excited about being a vampire. He took a few bites and threw the rest out the window.

Abram looked in the mirror and noticed he had quit growing. His height was five feet nine inches, the same as his parents. His muscles bulged with youthful vigor and most of his baby fat was gone. A few hairs poked out of his chin. He knew the day was coming.

His friend James had gone through puberty quickly and was eager to become a vampire. Over the weekend he performed the procedure, and next Monday came in to school with brand new canine teeth and a thermos of blood. Everyone was amazed. Abram didn't say a word to him. James hadn't fully gotten used to his new existence and accidentally stepped outside in the day time to check the mail. Luckily his parents heard his screams and were able to pull him back in before anything serious happened.

Abram noticed a change in James after this. He lost all enthusiasm in being a vampire. He drank his blood mechanically, never bothering to savor it. Is that how Abram would be? Would he lose all joy in life? He tried to think of other vampires he was close to, how they acted. His algebra teacher Mrs. Honeybush was twenty-five when she was bitten during the Great War, and has looked the same ever since. She never seemed sad and still loved to teach. All vampires must get used to never going in the sun or eating good food for the rest of their lives, he hoped.

After a couple weeks Abram seemed to have returned to normal. A few of his classmates still picked on him, but he was able to ignore them. His parents never talked to him about what he had said, nor about the transformation. Then one day his parents came into his room and said it was time to go to the hospital. Abram didn't say anything. He wanted to scream, to grab onto something solid and never let go; anything to delay the transformation. Abram couldn't understand why he didn't do anything.

He stood up and marched out to the car. On the way to the hospital he looked out the window up into the sky. The light pollution of the city made it hard to see the stars. This was the sight he would see from now on: the lights of distant stars traveling millions of miles to this one earth, but never again would he see his own sun.

When they arrived a very nice doctor was ready for him. He laid down on a comfy bed and was given a strange-tasting drink. The doctor made him pull up his shirt to expose his chest, and out came a very long needle. The doctor was very gentle with him. He told him to look away, and there would be a small prick. He had gotten shots before, but this one would end his life, then change it forever. His parents were on either side of the bed holding his hands. His father was crying, his mother looked down with a scared look. Then a prick and a pressure on his chest. One word repeated itself in Abram's head as a cold feeling spread throughout his body: why?

Usually a child stays dead for a few hours at most. The doctors began to worry at the eight-hour mark. Complications were rare in healthy children like him, but permanent death was never ruled out. There was no way to help Abram through the process. Either he woke up, or he didn't. His parents were asleep when he awoke with a gasp.

“I'm -- I'm hungry,” were his first words. His tongue flicked over his new canines. A cup of hot blood was brought to him and he drank it quickly. He was cognizant of the harsh iron taste but he didn't care, the blood drained down his throat before he could even think of what he was doing. He didn't feel anything. He wasn't aware of his skin, he had no thoughts, he looked right into the harsh fluorescent light above him without blinking.

The doctors observed him for a few hours, then he was free to leave. It was a Saturday night, and he did nothing but sit at home and stare at the barren walls of his house. His parents never asked how he was doing.

Monday night came around and he left for school on the bus. The children who teased him before didn't say a word to him. Some had transformed, others were still waiting. Abram hoped they would never talk to him ever again.

When school ended he took the bus like normal, but didn't go straight home. He took a walk in the woods, strolling randomly around. He visited his favorite spots and climbed some of his favorite trees. His eyesight seemed to be better in the dark. As he was walking he smelled something familiar, but it burnt his nostrils with every breath. He could vaguely remember liking this smell at one point. Why did it hurt so much now? The smell grew stronger, he had to take short gasps and hold his breath as he walked. Things started to look familiar, he remembered loving this part of the woods. His instincts told him to turn around and flee, but his memories urged him on. Finally he found the spot: the large patch of wild garlic he found many years ago.

He remembered the long skinny leaves, and how he used to pull on them to reveal the big white bulb. He loved the taste so much that he ate an entire bulb once, before the transformation. Now he felt sickly just smelling it. He wanted so much to just sit down and--

Abram was crying from the pain, his body was shaking, his whole will was needed just to keep him standing in one place. This is what Abram was to expect with his life: the smells he once enjoyed were now poison to him. He could never do what he loved ever again. He dropped to his knees and a large whoosh of smell overwhelmed him. He coughed and gagged, spitted out blood. This was the only feeling he had left. One hand fell to the ground, then another. He lowered himself down and rolled onto his back, crushing the leaves around him. Above him the trees started to grow red as the sun rose.

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