T HE M OSQUITO S ONG
a novella by
M. L. K ENNEDY
TINY TOE PRESS
THE MOSQUITO SONG Copyright © 2011 by M. L. Kennedy First Edition Published by TINY TOE PRESS Austin, Texas 78704 www.theopenend.com Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. ISBN-13: 978-1-466351-57-8 ISBN-10: 1-4663515-7-8 All rights reserved.
Author’s Note The entirety of The Mosquito Song takes place in January of 2009 within 30 miles of interstate 90. It follows a mostly westbound path from Erie County, New York to Chicago, Illinois. Unsurprisingly, the story’s inception took place in January of 2009, traveling westbound on interstate 90 from Erie County to Chicago. While our protagonist may offer advice on home invasion, breaking bones and stealing cars, the fine folks at Tiny Toe Press probably don’t advocate those sorts of things. Though, with the current state of the world and Public Relations, who can be certain in such matters? I guess if you do use this book as part of the defense in the case of The People vs. Your Dumb Ass, at least make sure all our names are spelled properly. The Mosquito Song would not be possible without the following inspirations: The Continental Operative, Zimmer’s Parasite Rex, and Penn Jillette’s short lived FreeFM radio Show. Thanks for reading.
-M. L. Kennedy
Chapter 1 The hardest part about being a vampire is the hours. Don’t get me wrong; nowadays, there are a lot more TV channels and late-night drivethrus running in the small hours than, say, the Reagan years. Still in Anytown, USA your dusk till dawn options tend to be limited to laundromats, Walgreens and the occasional supermarket. I find myself in such a supermarket now, going back and forth between new red and Yukon gold potatoes. I decide to get the red ones as they are on sale and throw a five pound bag carefully into my basket so as not to crush the asparagus and generic pop tarts already there. It’s a glamorous and sexy life, I know. Most people think that vampires don’t drink anything but human blood and don’t eat anything but, I don’t know, rats and spiders. Then again, most people think that mosquitoes subsist solely on blood. Well, we don’t and they don’t. The way I hear it, female mosquitoes drink blood as their form of prenatal vitamins. Every time you slap a mosquito, you’re killing a pregnant momma or something along those lines. The males never even drink blood and just munch on nectar. Bet you didn’t know vampires were so educational. We tend to read a lot. It ties into that whole “nothing is open at night” business. The supermarket is sterile and empty. Unseen speakers play a Muzak version of a song I used to like. A few folks are off in the distance shuffling like zombies around an end cap of some product that apparently requires a lot of exclamation points. I thought we were done with this “extreme” nonsense. I throw some liver into my basket. My mind wanders.
The Mosquito song |
Digestively, vampires are very efficient. We don’t often have to use the toilet. I did last week, but only because something I ate had a lot of garlic in it. Garlic repels vampires in the way that a nice glass of milk repels the lactose intolerant. Now, using fuel effectively is the cornerstone of monster sustainability. No amount of efficiency, however, can reconcile the necessary blood capable of providing the recommended daily caloric intake of a three hundred pound creature and said creature’s need to maintain a covert lifestyle. Vampires need blood, but the undead can’t (un)live by blood alone. Besides, plasma and potatoes go together quite nicely. Mind you, I didn’t pull the three hundred pound estimate out of my ass. I’m five foot eight with a twenty-eight inch waist, and that‘s what I weigh. It’s complicated. I hate these little supermarket baskets. I don’t know why I use them. Honestly, I think they make things harder to carry. I decide that I hate this supermarket. At least, I try to hate this supermarket. Instead my body settles on a general feeling of apathy towards it and everything else around me. I need a project. I need to do something productive. Maybe I’ll do a socioeconomic experiment. You know? Maybe I’ll go out to Utica and eat all their homeless. Are there homeless people in Utica? Maybe I should just kill all the hairdressers in Ashtabula. Why do supermarkets have to be so damned bright? It makes me feel as though I have a hangover. I shouldn’t need to wear sunglasses indoors. Maybe I can grow to hate this place. The movies portray a lot of all-hours vampire discotheques, but I’ve never seen these things. Maybe they are in the bigger cities. Problem 2!
| M. L. Kennedy
with big cities are the expenses. I became a vampire in 1983 with twenty thousand dollars in cash; I thought that was a lot of money. Heh. I’ve bounced around a lot in the last twenty five years. Mostly in the Midwest and the rust belt. Once I made it as far as Vegas. Vegas wasn’t bad; things were always open. Vamps there were cliquish and nasty, though. I wore out my welcome pretty fast. I tend to do that thing. I’m told New York City never sleeps. I couldn’t afford to rent a closet there. Maybe I could. Go to sleep standing up in a coffin sized closet; that sounds fitting. I total up the cost of the food in my basket and compare that number to the cash in my pocket. There is still a little wiggle room. Perhaps I have enough money for some salami. Why is hard salami so damned expensive, anyway? I lived in a storage locker in Chicago for a bit. That was back when I had my own car. Chicago killed my car. My license plate got stolen one night and the cops gave me a ticket for not having one. I didn’t park on the right side of the road for street cleaning and I got a ticket. I didn’t move the car after it snowed more than two inches and I got a ticket. I think my car is still in Chicago, wearing that infernal boot. A light glows above only one of the checkout lanes. An eighteen year old girl with dark and curly hair sits there, staring at one of those Twilight novels. She’s good looking, at least for this town. Her nametag reads “Mindy”. This Mindy looks up from her book and says, “only five things.” I’m not sure if that was intended to be a question, as it sounded like an insult. I reply, “All that budget permits, dear.” She half-snorts at me, then freezes. She’s not scanning anything. We stare dumbly at each other for thirty-seven seconds, during which time I wish I had some of that fabled vampire telepathy. The mosquito song |
“Bonus card.” Once again, what should be phrased as a question sounds a lot like an insult. “I‘m not from around here,” I respond. Well, I was born only about an hour away. It just doesn’t feel like it. Home is a moving target. A lanky kid gets in line behind me. He’s dressed in black, shiny clothes and is carrying a well-worn backpack. He holds the biggest jar of peanut butter I’ve ever seen. “18.97,” Mindy demands. “I only have eighteen.” Goddamned bonus cards, those potatoes weren’t really on sale. I start to put back the toaster pastries when the lanky kid says, “I’ve a dollar. Here ya go.” I thank him and notice the crucifix tattoo covering his carotid. He looks way too soft to be a gangster. Well, it has been over a year. I collect my three pennies and my two bags of groceries. I pass an out-oforder claw machine, walk through the automatic doors, and lean against the building. The lanky kid exits ten seconds behind me. “Oh, hey. Don’t worry about getting me that dollar back.” His voice tremors as though he were asking a cheerleader to the junior prom. “Did you, uh, need a ride or something?” “Sure, kid. Lead the way.” We might as well do this away from the building. “What’s in the bag?” “Oh, my, uh, library books. Mostly books. This is my van.” Sigh. “Kid, you’re less subtle than a pedophile.” 4!
| M. L. KENNEDY
He started to say “I don’t know what you mean” before going after me with a stake. His right hand comes down like Anthony Perkins in Psycho. Not wanting to drop my groceries, I step to the side while chopping the top of his right wrist with my left hand. The stake plunges into the kid’s leg, just missing the femoral artery. He leans against the van, and falls to a seated position like the protagonist of every chick flick. I get a potato out of my bag, bite into it like an apple, and step on the stake. “So,” I say, “anything cool in the bag?” He spouts out a string of obscenities that make less sense the more you think about them. “This is a really good potato,” I tell him. It really is. I search through the backpack and pull out something that looks like a ham radio. “Hey kid, you a ham?” “Fuck you.” I step on the stake some more. “Listen, I just fed not too long ago. I’m sure you have a cell phone. I can let you use it if you just humor me for a bit here. Huh? Or you can die a slow death in the parking lot of a grocery store.” “It’s an electro-magnetic interferer. It irritates your ampullae of Lorenzini. You‘re in-” “Wait. You realize that I’m not a shark right? That’s a shark repellent.” “The guy told me-” “You are the worst vampire hunter I’ve ever encountered. You’re even worse than the people who are purposefully incompetent because they think I’ll ‘turn’ them. You didn‘t want me to turn you did you?” “Fuck you.”
The mosquito song |
“Most people can’t be turned. I’d explain why, but-” “Fuck you.” “Yeah, I heard.” I rummage through his bag some more. He’s got some useless crap that wards off vampires in bad movies, some homemade crap I can’t make heads or tails of, and a bunch of stuff that is actually dangerous to vampires. He’s also got peanut butter, a wallet full of cash, and a cell. “You’re a parasite,” he tells me. It’s an interesting choice of words. “You do nothing but steal. You do nothing but take. You don’t produce anything. You add nothing to society. You-” “Seriously? I’m made out of darkness and nightmares and you talk about me as though I were a welfare queen? I’m a goddamned vampire, not Octo-mom.” He gathers up what I assume to be the lot of his courage and tells me, “you would squander immortality.” The kid snatches a rosary from his pocket and throws it at me. I catch it in my left hand. “Well, eternal youth is wasted on the eternally young. Where’d you get this, your cotillion?” “It has been blessed by-” “I was blessed myself in 1953. Never noticed the difference. Now quiet a minute; I’m using the phone.” I call 911. “Hello. My friend here accidentally impaled himself. He’s bleeding pretty bad and we could use an ambulance.” I give the operator our location. “Oh, and he has a busted ankle, too.” “I do not.” I probably don’t have to tell you what happens next. It involves a lot more obscenities from him. 6!
| M. L. KENNEDY
I chuck the phone onto the roof of the supermarket and drag the kid over to my old stolen car. His van is going to become my new stolen car. I tell the kid to keep pressure on his wound and then I step on the stake again. He mumbles something about the lord being his shepherd. “A Vicar of Dibley fan, eh?” His van has captain’s chairs and is remarkably comfortable. Still, as I pull out of the parking lot, I feel a heavy thing growing in my stomach. How did an idiot like that find me? And where did he get that non-useless stuff in my new backpack? Serves me right for wanting a new project.
The mosquito song |
Chapter 2 For a derelict vampire, the best part about winter north of the MasonDixon is the existence of snowbirds. People abandon perfectly nice houses for months at a time in order to avoid shoveling snow. Finding these empty houses isn’t terribly difficult. Paperboys usually forget to stop throwing the paper on the porch until there is a stack of four. The tricky part is slowly driving a van through a quiet neighborhood at night, and not looking like some sort of burglar or pederast. I find a house that suits my needs surprisingly quickly. Perhaps my luck is about to change. I keep driving for a half mile, until there are no streetlights and nothing around but trees. I finish eating my store-bought liver, and cram all things useful into my new backpack. I end up having to shove a few potatoes in my coat pockets. Suburbs and small towns don’t really have pedestrians. When everybody drives everywhere, walking becomes suspicious, let alone walking on the side of a dark road a couple of hours before dawn. If you’re in a big city, you can wander down the middle of the street in the middle of the night, shirtless and drinking blood out of a Gatorade bottle and nobody will find it odd. You can’t get away with that sort of thing in a Podunk town. But like every restaurant will eventually have roaches, every town eventually has joggers. Running and walking breed mistrust, but jogging just breeds a mild level of innocuous contempt. It takes me five minutes to get back to the house. A couple of years ago, I kept a collection of garage door openers to help me get into these places. While that might sound like a great idea, it sucks in practice. I ditched them when one accidentally opened a neighbor’s door at four in the morning and their dog started barking like mad. Nowadays, I just carry a couple of bobby pins and an old library card for this sort of thing. Bobby pins are surprisingly good at any number of things, and library cards tend to be thinner and more flexible than credit cards when used as a shim. 8!
| M. L. KENNEDY
The library card gets me into the snowbird’s garage with minimal effort. I check the light switch, and sure enough they didn’t bother shutting off the power. Working lights might mean food in the freezer, and maybe even heat. Easy living. The garage is well organized, with a toolbox for every tool, a shelf for everything else, and two cars gently tucked away for the winter. The door connecting the garage to the house isn’t even locked. I drop my bag onto the kitchen table and take a look around. No pets or plants that need to be watched, so I shouldn‘t have to worry about being spotted by any variety of sitter. There are some frostcovered boxes of foodstuffs in the freezer, and a fridge full of condiments. The living room has a large, fluffy couch, a decent television, and what must be three hundred movies on VHS. I check the thermostat in the hall; the heat is working and set to fifty-eight degrees. That’ll do. The basement is big and dark and contains another freezer with somewhat less antiquated food. There is also a bookshelf overrun with canned goods. Some people never got out of that Cold War bomb shelter mentality. You know what old people have in their houses? Answering machines. The only people still using answering machines are the ones who could never figure them out in the first place. Their away message indicates they’ll be away for another week. How nice of them to give us all a window of the best time to burgle their home and rifle through their belongings. Thank you, Jack and Barb. Best of all, Jack and Barb are the type of people who keep their keys on a conspicuous hook in a central location. With labels.
The mosquito song |
I pocket one key labeled Barb’s car; it’ll save me the trouble of hotwiring that thing. Another tag catches my eye: lock box. It takes me three and a half minutes to find the lock box in the back of the snowbirds’ bedroom closet. For the most part, the box contains dental records, medical records, useless certificates, and various bits of superfluous paperwork trailing back to 1978. But I also find a slip of paper containing the words “Safe Combination” and a set of directions on how to open said safe. (Spin it three times to start.) I love old people. I waste six minutes looking for their safe behind pictures and in various closets. Jack and Barb didn’t get that cute though. As it turns out, the safe is just underneath their bed. I’m surprised that wasn’t written down as well. I pocket five hundred dollars in twenties and fifties in order to teach them an important lesson about theft proofing their home. I put everything back where it goes, shut off all the lights and head back towards the basement. Down there, it won’t be so conspicuous that this house is no longer empty. I pull the string on a hanging light bulb, empty my new backpack onto an old card table, and take a seat on an easy chair that’s been clawed to shreds by a long dead cat. I push aside my groceries and the kid’s peanut butter. I grab the wallet first. I pocket the cash and a couple of notes that the kid wrote with names and telephone numbers. There are only three names on the notes. Fuck. I should’ve kept the cell phone long enough to look at his contacts. The kid’s name is apparently Hugh Sommers, at least, according to his driver’s license, his Blockbuster video card, his Humana Insurance (still on his dad’s plan), and three credit cards. Hugh has a picture of himself at the junior prom standing next to a girl who looks like whassername from “Bones”. Stuck to the back of the photo is a business card.
10! | M. L. KENNEDY
BLOODSUCKING FREAKS Videos, Novelties, Swank. It has a Chicago address. I see a road trip in my future. I take the card, still stuck to the photo, and toss the wallet full of ID onto a pile of laundry. What else did Hugh have in his sack? One obnoxiously large crucifix with a big miserable Jesus on it: Jack and Barb, I’ll leave that as my gift to you, for your hospitality. One small bottle of Bohemian Absinth: Like regular absinthe, it’s distilled from wormwood and fairly dangerous to bloodsuckers. This isn’t enough to kill one, but could probably be used like a morning after pill for vampire infection. One squirt gun full of (what I can only presume to be) Holy Water: Holy Water tends to have the distinct musty smell of Catholicism all over it. Maybe Jack and Barb have a grandson that could use this thing? Three odd-looking meters of some sort: They look like the sort of things Tom Cruise would use to tell you how many thetans were trapped in your body. Each is labeled “Scantech Industries”, a business run by a conman named Siodmak out of a basement in LaPorte, Indiana. Nice guy, though. One nasty-looking syringe: I figure the needle to be titanium, very thick but very sharp and made for puncturing vampire sternums. The syringe contains 10 cubic centimeters of liquefied mugwort. No vampire could survive this sort of stake to the heart. We’ll empty this one in the utility tub. Numerous mirrors: I can see my reflection in them. Man it would be cool if I couldn’t.
The mosquito song |
One of those heavy duty flashlights that can also serve as a Billy club: A useful thing to carry. A manila envelope: You know what’s weirder than seeing your name on a file you stole from a stranger? Not immediately recognizing your own name. Pictures of me, names and dates, photocopies of official-looking documents and all sorts of tiny printed paragraphs. Hey, I was officially presumed dead until 1995. I didn’t know that. There’s got to be 50 pages worth of notes here. I need a good day’s sleep before I can soak in that much information. I rest my feet on the card table and pull the string to turn off the light. I am snoring within minutes. It is about two hours later when the doorbell rings.
12! | M. L. KENNEDY
Chapter 3 After invading somebody’s home, there are worse noises to hear than the ding-dong of a doorbell; it’s just hard to come up with any of those things when it is happening to you. They, the proverbial they, call the reaction “fight or flight”. I’ve always found that rather dismissive of the lie and hide options. I hear keys jingle. Crap. I start to gather my things. In most instances like this one, lying is a great option. If you pretend that you are supposed to be there and are assertive enough, people might just believe you. If they know you aren’t supposed to be there, most people just think that you’re a confused idiot. You say, “whoops,” and leave. No one hassles you too much as long as nothing is obviously missing or destroyed. I wedge myself under the basement stairs, having chose the hide option. Hiding under the basement stairs is a bad choice if a monster is chasing you, but good choice if you are the monster. Same thing goes for closets and the undersides of beds. I hear the front door open. I’ve got a visitor. Lying is a relatively safe option, for a human. Most people could pull it off after an hour’s worth of playing with an improv group. For vampires, it is a high-risk venture. You see, us bloodsuckers emit some sort of chemical or hormone or lord knows what. It makes people go a little wild, some hostile, some. . . let’s say amorous, some terrified. This thing is a good thing if you are looking to increase the chances of some delicious and nutritious blood being spilled. Sucks if you want to maintain a low profile. The mosquito song | 13!
The door closes and I hear footsteps about where the living room should be. It gets quiet. As a rule, homeowners don’t ring their own doorbells, nor would a house sitter. Salesmen, UPS guys and burglars usually don’t have front door keys. When squished underneath a staircase, there is enough room to think and little else. A toilet flushes upstairs. I hear the creaking of floorboards, but no sounds I can specify to any particular action. A maintenance man? A neighbor making sure the pipes don’t freeze? One thing is for certain: it isn’t a good time to go back to sleep. If my visitor comes down here, I should be fairly concealed by stairs and a shelf of canned soups. So, I bide my time. Ten minutes pass, still nothing but vague creaks and squeaks. Sunlight creeps towards me from a window the size of a large envelope, enough sunlight so that I should be able to read. I look at that fat file with my name on it. Each page has some computer mumbo jumbo at the bottom, giving the whereabouts of the electronic copy of this thing. In their words: Born Buffalo, NY, February 2nd, 1954. Third of three children. Father was a steelworker, died of cancer in 1958. Family relocated to low-income housing in Niagara Falls. Attended 99th street school. Oldest child dies, unknown ailments, 1963. 14! | M. L. KENNEDY
Middle child dies, unknown ailments, 1974. Mother dies, suicide, 1975. I am interrupted by the sound of a woman screaming. Then another. Now moaning. And then the unmistakable score to a blue movie. My mystery visitor has come here to watch porn. I guess I won’t have to worry about being really quiet down here. I go back to the file. Mother dies, suicide 1975. I haven’t thought about it in a long time. I prefer to keep that streak alive. The next few pages are yearbook photos and random group shots with tiny captions, college transcripts, dental records, vaccination records, and some employment history. Apparently all prospective vampire hunters should be aware that I had a stupid haircut as a teenager, that I never understood Thomas Aquinas, that I had a filling in a baby tooth, and that I spent a summer working at Carvel’s. After that useful information, the next two pages are PDFs of photocopies of mimeographs of a police report I filed against a guy who stole my blue jeans out of a shared dryer in 1975. Just when I think this file can‘t possibly get more frustrating: squiggles. Thirty-five pages of squiggles. Like someone drawing seagulls in the distance with a calligraphy pen. Someone, presumably Hugh, has scribbled on one of the pages “WTF?! Arabic?”
The mosquito song | 15!
I know it isn’t Arabic. Before I can figure out what it could be, I hear footsteps. Loud footsteps. The kind made by wooden soled shoes. I set my file down and listen. They are coming closer. I contort my body to make the best use of the available shadows. The basement door opens. I freeze. I breathe slowly through my nose as the stair above my head bows. Situations like this always make me feel like sneezing. I wiggle my philtrum against my septum; that seems to help. Between two cans of sirloin burger, I see him. He’s big, around fifty years old, and has a handlebar mustache that makes him look like Stalin. He wears a satin purple teddy, black heels and a silver, y-shaped necklace. He’s sporting those high-end breast pads with fake nipples that mastectomy patients sometimes wear. Stalin pulls at strings, turning on lights as he walks to the fridge, one foot directly in front of the other. His walk is a ridiculous exaggeration of film noir style femininity, a mime’s impersonation of Jessica Rabbit. Though, I’ve seen women do worse in heels, clomping around like lip-sticked Velociraptors. Stalin makes it to the fridge, unearths a Rocket Pop. He fellates the freezer burn off the frozen red, white and blue corn syrup as he sways back to the stairs, pulling the strings to turn off the lights now. When I was a young man, this sort of thing was considered abnormal behavior. That was before the internet. A cell phone rings and Stalin makes an awful racket running up the stairs in his heels. He yells something into the phone about fixing Jack and Barb’s sump. He tells the cell phone that he loves it and will be home as soon as he can. He spends the next 5 hours watching porno. Even in the age of the internet, I consider tantric masturbation abnormal behavior.
16! | M. L. KENNEDY
% % Miss Gone-Overseas a novella by Mitchell Anne Hagerstrom In the sparse, lyrical style of a classic pillow book, Miss Gone-overseas chronicles a wartime life that doesnâ€™t focus on guns, bombs or military depredations, but on the pedestrian life of a lower-class Japanese woman as she reflects on the turmoil around her. Set on a lush tropical island during the later part of World War II, the book begins and ends with separations that are also beginnings.
Austin Nights a novel by herocious Bridget had a fierce desire for survival which made her a fighter. Michael had a hankering after immortality which made him a useless dreamer. And that was the great difference between these two Austin transplants who loved each other so well.
The Mosquito Song a novella by M. L. Kennedy Hunted by amateur assassins, confounded by a mysterious notebook, and vexed by modern technology, a derelict vampire travels west to Chicago for answers. And maybe a little blood.