A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

Vlad the Inhaler 
by D. J. Russell (Apr 2009)

            Even with only the moonlight to shine upon her, she looked radiant. The beams reflected from the lunar surface clung tenaciously to her flowing white dress, bathing her in a ghostly iridescence. His gaze never wavered from her as she drew ever closer.

            Standing within the shadows, he found he was becoming overwhelmed by more than her beauty. A hunger was rising from deep within him. Closing his eyes, he fought to beat it back into the shadows of his own heart. There was no fighting it though. With each second that passed she grew closer and the scent of her filled his nostrils like manna. The beating of her heart, though she was still almost fifty yards away, rang like great cathedral bells in his ears.

            There would be no resisting it tonight. For four long nights he had been able to keep the beast within on a short leash. It spoke within him, though with no need of voice, and screamed that it would not be denied this night.

            She grew abreast of him and he fought not to move toward her. Instead, he remained deep within the shadows and kept pace with her as she continued walking. Though he was making no sound, her head swiveled sharply to the left, searching the night for signs of danger. He could sense the fear emanating from her. It made him nearly dizzy with want.

            The vision moved on, this time slightly faster than before. He quickened his own step to keep pace with her. They were only three blocks from the edge of town, the point at which the street lights would make his hiding in the shadows nearly impossible.

            She passed beneath a large elm tree whose full foliage blocked much of the moon’s light. There was no more time to wait. Hissing with his hunger, he dashed across the pavement, his hands extended in need long before he reached her.

            It must have been instinct that saved her. When he was within twenty feet of her, she turned and saw a dark form rushing toward her. Screaming, she turned and ran.

            He was as nearly startled by her scream as she had been by seeing his approach. He hesitated, looking behind him to see what had scared her. When the internal “duh” sounded within his mind, he once again gave pursuit.

            Varsity track star or not, pumps are not considered the ideal accessory when one is running for one’s life. This year’s fashionable victim is wearing the ever-popular slingback pumps from Manolo Blahnik.

Had she been aware that she was committing fashion no-no, she would have easily out-distanced her pursuer. Instead, the heel on her right shoe snapped off. She stumbled, reaching out her hands and keeping herself from crashing hard into the paved shoulder of the road.

He could do it; he knew he could. He pumped his legs and arms faster and faster, closing the distance rapidly though the girl had managed to regain her feet. Within ten feet of capturing his prize, the foul villain of our tale began to feel his chest tightening and a high-pitched wheezing issuing from him like a broken harmonica.

For Pete’s sake, he complained to himself. It’s not enough that I died two weeks before graduation and come back to life as a creature of the night with dietary issues, I had to come back with asthma? It would’ve been nice if Mom had buried me with my inhaler.  She remembers my glasses, but my inhaler? No.

Another fifty yards and he could do no more. He came to a coughing stop beneath the glow of a sodium-vapor street light. Stumbling over to the post that supported the light, he eased himself to a sitting position with his back against the post. He didn’t even bother to look for his victim - she had to be long gone by now anyway.

He closed his eyes and breathed in slowly and deeply. Breathing? He was too depressed to try to argue the faulty logic of the Fates. The experience of years of asthma attacks took over and hand-held him back to the land of normal breathing. Normal? He brought his legs in closer to his body and lowered his head until his forehead touched his knees. All he wanted at that moment was to disappear.

He heard the sound of hesitant footsteps approaching him. Surprised, he raised up his head and looked in the direction of the sound. It was his din—er, the vision in white walking back to where he sat.

Though she continued moving forward there was a caution in her steps and an inquisitive tilt to her head. Ten feet away, she halted and stared.

“Vladimir? Vladimir Koznichov? That can’t really be you, can it?” Normally it might be considered a dumb question, but considering the circumstances…

“Hi, Chrissie,” Vlad replied, sheepishly. “I know this must seem pretty awkward.”

“Awkward?” Her voice squeaked an octave higher with incredulity. “Considering I went to your funeral a week ago, then yeah, just a tad.”

“I can explain,” he said quickly, rising to his feet and trying to find a cool and nonchalant pose to strike.

After fifteen seconds of strained silence, Chrissie said, “I’m waiting.”

Vlad looked everywhere except at her with the desperate hope that there might be a reasonable explanation lying somewhere nearby. “Actually,” he admitted, “I’m not quite sure I can.”

“They said you died of like an animal bite or something and lost a lot of blood.”

“Hey,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders, “the last thing I remember is my Aunt Frieda bending down to give me a kiss goodnight.”

“You mean…?” Chrissie had a disgusted look on her face.

Vlad blanched when he caught her meaning, “No way! It was a nasty auntie kiss, not an inbred ‘Deliverance” kiss.”


“Next thing I know I’m trying to claw my way from under five feet of earth and having an incredible craving for a steak…very rare.”

“Bummer,” reflected Chrissie with the succinctness that only a teenager can manage. “And it’s not like you weren’t already socially challenged.”

 “Socially challenged? I had plenty of friends, and I knew lots of girls.”

“Please.” Chrissie scoffed. “You couldn’t get a date with a platinum card.”

“You know, I’m really starting to regret not actually catching you and having you for breakfast.” Undead or not, Vlad was really starting to get annoyed.

“Hey!” Chrissie held up her hand to silence him. “If anyone has a right to have an attitude right now, it’s me! Forget the whole ‘virtue and life in peril’ thing, do you have any idea how much these shoes cost?” She held out the remains of her shoe as though it were an item being marked as evidence for a trial. “Look,” she continued, making a vague attempt at being nice, “I’m sure you were a nice guy and all, but you’ve got to admit you weren’t exactly on the school’s list of ‘who’s who’.”

“Hey, I’ll have you know that I was President of the Chess Club, led the Debating Team to two straight State championships, and—“ Chrissie held out her hand to stop him and turned her head with a slight wince.

“Are you really sure you want to continue proving my point?”

 Vlad lowered his head in shame. Even in the afterlife he couldn’t catch a break.

“Are there any more of you there?”

“Nope, just me so far.” He looked up at her, “You know, you would think that there would be a Handbook for the Undead or something like that.”

“Sucks to be you.” Chrissie realized what she said. “Sorry, no pun intended.”

“I have to eat sometime. I feel like I haven’t eaten in forever.”

“Can’t help you there. I would probably stick with small animals and stuff like that. As far as humans go, even the Special Ed kids can pretty much kick your butt.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Reflectively, he said, “I did have my eye on a poodle three streets over.”

“OK,” Chrissie said with a look of boredom, “I would love to stay and talk, but some of us function better in sunlight. Not to mention I have a killer chemistry test I have to take in two days.” Now it was her turn to look reflective. “You busy tomorrow night?”


“I was just thinking,” said Chrissie, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible, “that if you’re not doing anything, that you might help me study. You were pretty good at chemistry weren’t you?”

“You do realize that I am now a member of the Evil Undead Club, right?”

“I think that ‘evil’ is pushing it a bit. You’re not scary enough yet to be evil. I’ll tell you what…you help me with my Chemistry exam and I’ll help you become more frightening and intimidating. I’m not evil, but I’m working on my Masters Degree in Bitchy.”

A month ago this girl wouldn’t have looked at me in the hall. Now we’re making study dates. What kind of world is this? He closed his eyes and tried counting to five, but his stomach kept rumbling and interrupting his train of thought. There’s poodle out there that is going to have a very bad night.

“Fine,” he nodded. “You want to meet in the park?”

“Sure. Well, I guess I’m outta here.”

He rose from his sitting position and faced her. “You want me to walk you home?”

“If you’re the scariest thing out tonight, I think I can handle the last four blocks.” Without another word, Chrissie turned away from him, her nose in the air like the princess she thought she was, and walked away.

          Walking in the opposite direction, Vlad was starting to feel a bit more upbeat. His only regret at that moment was that his Aunt had not been a werewolf. With all that hair, it would at least have covered up his bad complexion. He walked into the night, listening for the yapping of his midnight snack.

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