‘Sharp White Teeth’ by Louis Burgess

I was born into this living death in the nineteen-thousand-and-twenty-fifth consecutive Year of Our Lord (an impressive run by Our Lord, unlikely to be bettered for several millennia, at least). I had been feeling slightly off colour for almost a week, and was seriously considering a visit to the local doctor, when a charming, well-dressed man with smouldering eyes jumped at me from a bush and started eating my neck.

As the blood drained from my body to his, our bodies pressed close and his mouth clamped to my flesh, I saw things through a haze, as though drowning. Slowly, his eyes burning into mine, I became horribly, wonderfully aware that he was taking me over, transforming me into one of his own. Two things became clear through the pain and the mist. Firstly, I realised the future held no end; that I was changing into something eternal, something of the night. Although the body of Phillip Broughton-Smith would persist, my nature was no longer human, but that of a rapacious, feral creature. And secondly, I realised with acute sensitivity that I had been suffering from an illness of the system that carries nutrients, oxygen and white blood cells to the tissues. This seemed of unusual importance, and it was my first indication that I was… different.

And so this is my existence:

I am creeping silently through the urban sprawl, my prey fixed sharply in my gaze, although I am hidden in the shadows. He is completely oblivious to my presence, although I have been following him for some twenty minutes now, revelling in the sights and smells of the hunt. In the dark, his body lights up like the Blackpool Illuminations, and I can see exactly the paths along which the precious, life-giving fluid flows. I watch its every movement, every last drop in his body shining with astonishing power. The delicate tracery of arteries; the glowing, beautiful nodes where it collects in the neck, armpit and groin – oh, I can almost hear the lymph singing at me across the rubbish-strewn street! Sweet, thick, infinitely complicated lymph! Pity anybody ignorant enough to call your repositories mere glands. How could they know, those who cannot see what I see? And how can anybody say that something so pure can be wrong?

I cannot help how I am. It is not a matter of choice. I was born this way.

But of course, there are those who hate me for it, as they hate all others like me. ‘Traditionalists’, they call themselves – wizened old imbeciles, I call them. The kind who make a big show of drinking from antique silver chalices, who still speak of Transylvania as ‘the old country’ – you know the sort. They say that it is blood, and only blood, that vampires must pursue, and that any other source of sustenance is unnatural, not to mention downright filthy.

“The old ways have served us well for thousands of years,” they say, “What makes you think you have the right to choose what you shall drink? There was none of this in the fourteenth century, you know. Now look at us. Is it any wonder? Vlad Dracul would turn in his grave.” Here they will pause. “Except he’s not in his grave, obviously.”


Meanwhile… My prey still walks about twenty yards ahead of me, hands in pockets, his body young and lithe and gloriously full of lymph. But now he senses something – a noise, perhaps, or just an animal instinct – and he looks round, begins to speed up. This doesn’t worry me. I can track him through the darkest, foulest conditions, and I can match him for speed until he drops from exhaustion. I have all night, and I can play with him. His terror will not affect the lymph – unlike the bitter taste of adrenaline-soured blood, which can be a nightmare to get out of your mouth. You go on tasting it for days. Lymph, however, remains sweet and unsullied…oh, but still the traditionalists cannot accept this way of life!

And, you know, it’s not just lymph-lovers that arouse the ire of these reactionaries, either. Show them anything or anybody different – spinal-fluid drinkers, coffin-dodgers, gland-nibblers, vegetarians, the bride liberation movement – and it’s a safe bet that they’ll kick up the most almighty fuss. And that’s as nothing compared to their views on foreigners! If the vampire’s not from the cold, dark mountains or desolate moors of Northern Europe, well, they don’t consider them a vampire. They spread wild tales of the appalling state of the craft in other countries; of rampant goat-sucking in Latin America, and apes or monkey-men as vampires in India, Java, Sumatra. I find them desperately small-minded; they are incapable of seeing the bigger picture.

Can they not see that we exist as an integral part of wider society – not just our society, but human society? Can they honestly, reasonably deny the benefits that multiculturalism has for us? Try telling me that the next time I want a walk outside in the daytime, and can just slip on my burkha and go for a stroll. Thirty years ago, the sight of someone covered from head to foot would have aroused deep suspicion. Now, it’s as natural as you could wish. I estimate that roughly one third of ‘Muslim women’ in this country are actually vampires, mixing freely with the rest of the population, able to do things like get to the post office before it shuts, and suchlike. Can they not see that this is progress for us? Why must they constantly hold us back?

They believe we should not negotiate with zombies.

Now my prey is running, a nervous jog at first, but then at terrified full tilt, and the chase is on. I move swiftly, easily, a loping run that covers the ground almost without touching it. My breath comes fast, and I feel more alive than I ever did when I actually was alive. Oh, the joy! My prey turns to see me gaining on him, half-stumbles, and flees onwards in panic. I’m close to him now, just a few steps behind, and I can almost taste the lymph. The street lamps are flashing past, lighting the pursuit in orange strobe and rusting metal.

He’s fast, my prey, and brave enough not to give in, or embarrass both of us by begging for mercy. I almost feel sympathy, and am keenly aware that he will be a great loss to the middle-distance running community. I used to be a bit of a dab-hand at the fifteen hundred yard dash myself, before a tendon in my knee thought otherwise. None of those problems now, and I am able to put in a simple, predatory burst of speed, and I surge forward.

I put my hand on his shoulder, and he knows.

It sounds strange to say it, and I do not enjoy talking about this, but there are some who actively seek out diseased lymphatic systems. They enjoy drinking from swollen lymph nodes, they claim that infected lymph has a spicy flavour, and that it is exhilarating to prey on the diseased. I find this disgusting. And of course, the trouble then is that our opponents try to tar us all with the same brush, claim that we are all diseased-lymph drinkers at heart. I dearly wish that these rogue individuals would not drag us down in this way – do they not see how they damage our cause? – but then… is it not that kind of judgmental attitude that is the real enemy? It is a difficult issue, I will admit.

Anyhow – back to the exciting bits. (I feel that’s probably what you came here for, rather than to hear my somewhat insignificant musings.)

My prey looks at me with tear-filled eyes. “Please…” he whispers, and I understand fully. I think he understands me too, although I cannot be sure of it. But then the moment – a precious, silent glimpse of empathy – snaps, and I lunge at him. My attack is ferocious, and I rip at him with a passion. But I am also precise, because he has deserved a quick finale, and in any case, his blood will be curdled with adrenaline, and I want to taste as little of it as possible. In a matter of seconds, his body lies warm and limp in my arms. Lymph.

I lay him down in the early morning silence of the municipal park. The sun will be rising in an hour or so, but I have time enough. Gently, with a care for decorum, I remove his clothes, and lay them neatly by his side. Now, I’m aware that this whole description will probably cause much tut-tutting in the ranks, but the process is an absolute necessity if I am to properly access all the major lymphatic centres. And… well, until you’ve tasted lymph, flowing sweet like nectar from a naked body! You can’t understand, you just can’t. Not properly.

His skin glows pale in the moonlight, running smoothly over tautly stretched muscles. His head flops idly to one side. I can see exactly the places where the lymph has collected, and although I am almost at breaking point, I stretch out the delicious, fevered anticipation a little longer. Then delicately, almost nervously, I crouch over him and slowly bend downwards to his neck. My lips touch his skin, I bite deeply, and – oh! The lymph surges into my mouth, rich and full and oh so gloriously lymphy. I move down to his armpit, across his thorax, and onward to his groin and inner thighs, and I am in heaven.

I will leave the rest to your – probably wholly unsuitable – imagination.

I finish, and aware of the encroaching sun, I walk home. I am liberally covered in lymph, which I never denied was a very messy fluid. I ponder my existence, as I often do in the calm after I have fed. I cannot deny that I cause pain and terror – that is my nature, I am a vampire, after all – but I do feel that I try to balance it out with a certain etiquette, even affection. I probably do not do enough of this, but… I’m trying. I also know that I am different, and that sometimes this causes me pain. But then, what am I different from? A collection of other differences, all of which have only in common that they are not my difference. That, surely, is what we call society. That’s the rich, wonderfully complicated tapestry that we inhabit. That’s what makes us whole. And surely we should, we must, embrace that? Because, when it comes down to it – when I hear the lymph singing to me across the city, and the taste flows like honey in my mouth – I am left in no doubt… I am in love.

You can’t argue with love.

At home, I lie back, and listen to a quiet, sad song on my stereo. It soothes me, and takes me somewhere else, where maybe I am not the same. I think my thoughts. I hope that by reading my story… that maybe you can… oh, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I want you to think, how I want you to react. Maybe a little more understanding. Maybe… forgiveness? Or maybe all I want is – simply – that you take this with you: If you should feel any swellings in your neck or under your armpits, do go to a doctor to have them checked out. If not for your own benefit, do it as a courtesy to me.


(c) Louis Burgess. All Rights Reserved

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