How do you handle a truth no one else knows? In the following excerpt from the newly released novel Thirst, Indypendent writer Nicholas Powers, introduces us to the world that is a more truthful version of our own reality. Vampires conspire to get a real estate mogul named Ronald Balk to be elected president in order to start a nuclear war. Why? The vampires want to be free of their addiction to human beings. But Maz, an Afro-Latina hears them and has to find a way to stop them and Balk before he gets to the White House.
Taking a page from Bob Marley and Karl Marx, we see how vampires are a literary trope that makes visible the surplus profit extraction of the ruling class. They “thirst.” Our lives are what they drink.
Maz wiped her underarms with baby Wet Naps. Jesus did too. Naked at the window, they dried themselves in sunbeams. After they dressed, she put on earmuffs to muffle the “voices”. They were going to find a vampire.
On the subway, Jesus felt New York change. Its loud bang, clash, boom, yelling, honking, cursing, selling, begging, laughing, and grunting had previously comforted him. Now, he flinched at noise. Maz covered his ears as they rode the train to Wall Street.
Outside they ran past the iconic metal bull and slapped its ass. Maz was jumpy. Her head swiveled left and right. Jesus did not see a thing.
“Where I’m taking you,” she said. “There’s a lot of them. Try not to scream when you see them, okay, don’t announce us to the vamps. Last thing I need is to be disappeared, when I’m this close.” She pinched her fingers close together.
“Vampires!” Jesus said in a numb voice.
“Yes,” Maz said. “The undead, the blood suckers, the eternal watchers, the ones who don’t take holy water showers, who hate garlic, you know…vampires.”
“Like Twilight?” he asked.
“Like Twilight.” She slapped her knees. “Yes, like Twilight. Exactly. Like I want to fuck a vampire but cock-tease a werewolf because it’s hot to have them fight over me, I am Helen to the Ancient War between vampires and werewolves, all played by sexy, white teens snarling and speaking good, college, thespian English. Yes, I’ll have a vampire’s baby because they can go all night, Yes, you moron, this is Twilight.” Maz spread her arms and spun theatrically. “I am Bella, hoe of the undead.” She leaned in and whispered, “I know what vampire semen tastes like.”
Jesus shrank away. “What does it taste like Maz?”
“Kiss me and find out.”
He shook his head. “I can’t with you.”
Maz grabbed his sleeve. “Come on! We’ll see one.” She took out her cellphone, and pointed at the other side of the street. “Look,” she husked.
He did. He waited. He waited longer. A restaurant worker took a smoke break. Delivery men unloaded boxes. Business execs typed on cell phones.
“See it?” She nudged him. “See it?” Jesus shrugged.
“The shadow in the middle,” she said.
Jesus focused on the shadows moving against the wall. One was oddly tall. He rolled his eyes. Well goodbye to my self-respect. It’s gone. I vomited it up with the pills. The restaurant worker and delivery man left. Seconds slowly ticked by. Jesus got bored. He saw the tall shadow. But no one was on the sidewalk. Jesus shook his head like a swimmer clearing water from his ears. He looked again. The shadow climbed the doorframe and crawled inside. He leapt back.
“Ooh,” Jesus covered his mouth. “Ooh.” “Do you need to scream?”
She gently took his head. “Bring it in. Bring it in.”
He bit her coat sleeve. “Oh my God!” Jesus clutched Maz. “Oh my God.”
On a bench at Chelsea Piers, Maz showed Jesus photos of vampire shadows. He leaned over the cellphone as she scrolled. In one image, two shadows danced over a crashed car in Midtown. In another, one choked a baby.
“I’m sorry.” Jesus gave the phone back. “A lot of times, in my head, I said you were crazy. Cute but crazy.” His hands trembled. “Why do you call them vampires?”
“I had a crush on Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys.” Maz blew steam off her cup of tea. “You know what it is? In the movies, vampires always want blood. Well, I feel how thirsty they are. They drain anything, anyone they can. It’s like, like.” Motioning a hand to her mouth. “They thirst for something inside us.” She sipped the tea and looked at her wobbly reflection in the cup.
They sat in silence. The ocean sloshed grey waves. The tourists that walked by seemed on the other side of a one-way mirror. “I don’t blame you for thinking I was crazy.” Maz put an arm around Jesus. “I thought I was crazy too. A schizo. Nothing to no one. But I was wrong. I could just hear them. But like which is worse? Being schizo or hearing vampires?”
“Oh hell,” Jesus joked. “Vampires? Give me schizophrenia any day— Fucking vampires?”
She mugged him, and he playfully bit her fingers. They lay on the bench and entwined their legs.
“So, what do we do?” he asked. “Move,” Maz said “Anywhere safe?” Jesus tenderly stroked her neck. “No,” she said. “Nowhere is safe.”
Straightening up, Maz looked at the ocean. “I took you to Wall Street for a reason. They love power. They use it to hide. Lately they have been noisy. They go through phases. When the moon is full, it’s a like a Pride March. Loud. Happy. But when it’s thin. They are silent. And desperate.”
“So what do we do?” Jesus sat up. “We can’t run. We can’t fight them.”
“Actually.” Maz threw the cup. “We can but it means doing something you won’t like.” He scrunched his eyes.
• • •
“Well folks, they found the scumbags,” Balk thrust The New York Post into the air. “Azmi. Fadi. Burger. Muslims. All of them.” The stadium shook as thousands booed. Curses rained down. Kill the ragheads. Kill the sand-niggers. Rage rose into the air like a giant, vaporous serpent that snapped at the newspaper
Balk shook above the podium. “Innocent human beings, kidnapped by jihadists.” He pointed at the headline. “And taken to an abandoned church where they burned to ash! These are sick people. Three Muslim teens. How many more of these terrorists do we let into the country?”
In the front row, fans leaned forward like shark teeth. American flags were waved. A woman in red, white and blue face paint tore off her shirt. “BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL! BUILD THE WALL!,” They chanted.
“Damn right!” Balk raised his arms. Stage lights crisscrossed the crowd and highlighted random faces like mini portraits. One light showed a man baring his canines. The child on his shoulders bared his too. Another light showed three friends ripping a Koran to pieces.
At the podium, Balk gazed lovingly at the near riot in the stadium. And then a flash blinded him. Was it a camera? Orange spots floated in his vision. Rubbing his eyes, he heard a vast silence. He blinked and could see again. Every person had been transformed into a statue of dust. It was like a nightmare-mannequin store. The father with a child on his shoulders. Dust. The friends tearing at the Koran. Dust.
Balk felt wind blow into the stadium. The dust figurines crumbled. Heads fell and split on the floor. Clothes tumbled away like rags. The grains stung him. The storm churned into a dark, yellow fury.
Balk blinked again. The sound of the crowd rushed back. Fans shook signs. Fans yelled his name. Slowly he peeled his hands from the podium. Dark sweatprints stained the wood. Quickly he waved and walked off stage. Balk reached for his throat. Water. I need water. He motioned for something to drink. Thirst. Thirst. Thirst.