STAR
By Gary L Morton

   Strong summer winds carried me across the continent and I felt like the breath of life. Everywhere the same bright sun ruled the sky. Now the buildings of Toronto towered overhead and a flash of sun on tinted glass nearly bowled me over. Staggering back, I vowed to stay off the streets in the daylight before permanent rings of pain formed around my eyes. As I caught my balance, negative thoughts hit me, and I felt nauseous as I stepped into the shade of a doorway.

    Being able to read minds is mostly a curse, so the few of us who have the ability to use the blocks are the truly gifted ones. This time the black thoughts were coming from a line-up by the next building. I'd seen the place on the news; a courthouse, and a handsome serial killer name Paul Teal was on trial there. These people were his fans . . . or I should say a few of his fans mixed in a crowd of young teenage girls. People who stood around from midnight to noon waiting for court to reopen. Some of them as sick as him in their own little ways.

    Often serial killers are lone men gone back to the old ways; the life of man the predator. It's a way to break the trap of modern society, but it never works for serial killers because they're trapped by the sexual distortions ruling their minds. They have nothing, but are unique for what they don't have - human feelings. Their fans aren't unique at all. They bring to mind the sad truth that it is a celebrity society of the second order. The second order meaning the celebrities need only fame and not moral reputation. Get the exposure and you enter the upper class of celebrities.

    Paul Teal's image appealed to some of these people in the same way that my movie star image appeals to some people. Everybody loves somebody big, because it's a way of ducking the fact that they hate themselves. Paul Teal didn't appeal to the teens of course. His victims were of that tender age, so ostensibly they wanted to see him punished, but the truth was that they were curious. Torture and death draw the curious and the fascinated, and often they're lambs who wander too close to the wolf.

    Canadian society wouldn't really punish Teal. The court action began as a freak show and would end that way. I've lived in societies where Teal and his accomplice wife would have gotten twin guillotines. Imagine that, twin guillotines across the street there at Toronto City Hall, and the crowd yelling with joy as the heads fall. I'd watch it myself because the guillotine is so perfect. The once mighty killer kneeling in subservience and all that blood wasted and splashing on the steel.

    Yes, I sound like a Neanderthal, believing in execution in modern times. But the truth is that some people aren't theologians, humanists, lawyers or determinists. I'm a person who believes people are responsible for what they do, and if they are caught execution is the punishment they have earned. That's if they are caught, and since I will never be caught, execution is something I don't have to consider.

    I love my being, not the flesh or the blood that feeds it, but the mind and the soul. A contradiction since I'm supposed to be without a soul. Perhaps it's a personality quirk, I don't know, but I do know that I felt my spirit recharge as I turned away from the crowd. And I felt it because the human ghost is in all of us. Maybe I should say I have soul, but a dark one.

    Two beautiful women emerged from an office tower's revolving door, bringing me to a halt. The rest of the crowd immediately turned to shadows, making it easy for me to tag along behind them. I prefer cities because of the women, and I don't find modern society to be cold and alienating the way others do. According to the bachelors in my crew, Toronto is a place that sucks when it comes to women. Hit Montreal or New York unless you want to meet ladies who won't even go to a dance with you without checking a stat sheet to see if you're up to their minimum requirements. Whatever happened to animal magnetism, love at first sight and people who look for human qualities in lovers? Materialism maybe. Somewhere a monster is filming endless love stories while turning the real thing into statistics, telephone calls and newspaper ads.

    People like to criticize and then be like the people they put down, but I do have animal magnetism, so I haven't lost everything. Usually I go for blondes, medium height and full-figured, and it bothers me to be ruled by a couple of small statistics like that . . . so it was refreshing to find myself ducking the blond this time.

    It was a leggy brunette who stole my attention. She wasn't full-figured, outwardly pleasant or haloed by innocence, but she did have an air of feminine delicacy and beauty that was hard to resist. Picking up on her mind, I found a vibrant person, so I knew the delicate look was illusion. Her thoughts were beautiful thoughts about people and life, and that made her very rare.

    Being young and beautiful is all that counts in life, and she was that and mature too . . . but it was the correct form of maturity - she knew that life was mostly a childish game you wouldn't enjoy if you got too serious. I didn't read her mind to pick that up. I saw it in the laughter spilling over her violet lids as she glanced at me and turned away.

    Her heels clicked lightly on the stone as she went up the steps and into a computer store. As the revolving door swung a sense of loss hit me. The fragrance of her perfume lingered, exotic and lonely. Seeing her had made me feel young and now I remembered my age, 420 years old. I always look about thirty, but I don't always feel thirty. Sometimes I feel ancient like I'm turning to stone, and that's the feeling I had as I went up the steps. I needed her like a fix and it wasn't just her blood.

    Cold air-conditioning hit me and I found myself in a store as big as a warehouse. I wandered past mountainous bins of cheap office supplies and caught sight of her in the software section. Waving a clerk away I walked around and behind her. She was taking down a box, moving smoothly in a short black dress that fit perfectly. Her legs looked lovely, skin tone so perfect she didn't need stockings at all.

    Stepping beside her, I studied the shelf of neatly stacked games. The two that she fancied were vampire games - Bloodnet and Noctropolis. Immediately I read her mind, or else she read mine, because she turned to me and smiled. The bubbly laugher in her brown eyes worked its magic. I felt suddenly pleasant, young and happy.

    "Bloodnet is the better of the two," I said, picking up that she was more interested in it.

    "Not really," said a goggle-eyed clerk as he stepped over.

    I could see he was the type of know-it-all computer nerd I would never get rid of so I immediately put it in his mind that there might be a shoplifter at the front.

    He glanced back to the front but refused to leave the lady.

    "Which do you think is better?" she said.

    "Neither," said the clerk. "You don't want that sort of stuff. It glorifies evil. It could warp your mind like Dungeons and Dragons does." He pointed to the overdone B-Movie style artwork on the boxes. "We've got Battle Critters on special. It's a new one." He took down the box. "Cute Disney animals who fight with hilarious weapons. Your daughter will love it."

    "It's not for my daughter and I hate Disney," she said.

    "I rather like the idea of Disney characters killing each other, but with shotguns, like in that game," I said, pointing to DOOM Resurrection.

    "What kind of people are you?" said the surprised clerk. "Why would anybody hate Disney?"

    "Disney is just a greedy corporation," she said. "They ruin fairy tales by making everything cute, with happy endings. And I already have the new D&D game, which I think builds imagination more than it warps minds."

    Defeated, the clerk headed for the front. I grinned as she looked me up and down. "I'm more into real life games," I said.

    "I know," she said, "you're playing one now."

    "How about playing with me and coming for lunch?" I said, putting hunger in her mind.

    "I planned on taking a stroll on the beach," she said.

    Her answer knocked me off balance. It always worked when I put hunger in a woman's mind. Then it occurred to me that she might be hungry for something else. "There's a beach in Toronto?" I said.

    "You from out of town?"

    "Yes. I'm here with a film crew."

    "Say, aren't you - -"

    "No, a lot of people mistake me for him. I'm his cousin. I work on the scripts, sets and things. I couldn't even introduce you to him. He gets me work but he personally hates me."

    "So you want to take me to the beach?"

    "Yes, but I don't have a car. I can get a taxi, unless you want to fly."

    She laughed, then she put the box down and we headed for the front. The clerk was there next to an author signing autographs. We paused for a moment, looking at the writer.

    "You know who he is?" she said.

    "No. I'm not really much of a writer. I've done a few scripts. Watching these successful guys sign autographs just makes me jealous. And I don't think a writer should be a salesman or media celebrity anyway."

    At that point my eyes went to a guy at the magazine rack. The clerk was watching him and he really did look like a shoplifter. It suddenly hit me that I knew him. It was Alfie, one of the guys on the crew. His clothing looked ridiculous - a trench coat, dark sunglasses and a fisherman's cap in the summer. I knew he was disguised in order to tail me and that Jackson, our director, had put him up to it. The S-O-Bs, this was getting to be too much. They wanted to control the production so much I couldn't even go for a walk anymore - like maybe they were worried they might have to delay a scene if I got lost. Served me right for forgetting to hypnotize them. Feeling anger rise, I put it in the clerk's mind that he should grab Alfie.

    Since we hadn't bought anything we went down an aisle to the exit, almost reaching the door before the clerk went into action. He jumped Alfie from behind and a struggle ensued. I grinned as a bin of dollar items went down under Alfie's weight. The best part was knowing Alfie thought of himself as a very important person, a key player in a big movie outfit, and that no one would believe him. He could whine, threaten and complain and it would get him nowhere. His disguise fit him as far as I was concerned. He really was a bum, so getting treated like one would do him good.

    Her name turned out to be Donna and the beach was a few miles southeast on the waterfront. We got out of the taxi and strolled under some old maples. Rocky breakwalls and the sand were ahead and it amazed me that the beach was so big. I didn't expect such a place in Toronto. Gulls circled in the cirrus-trailed sky as we crossed the grass to the beach boardwalk. A few body-builder types and women in bikinis were on the beach.

    Reaching the change house, we stopped and she went in to change. I stayed on the boardwalk, shuffling back and forth, watching a volleyball game, thinking how much I liked her bubbly personality. Donna had laughed and talked much on our stroll and that was half of the fix I needed. It was always that way, a warm conversant woman and me the strong silent type, sucking in the emotions I didn't have. I felt nice but it still saddened me because it was so fleeting and it would pass as fast as her life. I would drink her blood and she would awaken a different person - one with no use for me, with her own lust to satisfy. Life is emotion and I suppose we undead get so old all feelings go numb. To remember what love is and for life to be even worth living at all, I have to drink emotion from my victims before I drink their blood.

    She emerged wearing a light-red bikini and she had the figure for it if not the tan. Her skin was creamy, and I could see that she was the delicate type that stayed in the shade. Sudden arousal hit me and I turned and looked back across the park, hoping she wouldn't notice. Her grin was so broad as she stepped beside me I assumed she did. Vampire or not, lack of control still causes me embarrassment, and I'm sure I was pinking for a moment before I turned a more greenish color. Green for loathing because it was then that I saw the production van cruising down the beach road and knew that my director had somehow followed me.

    Donna's eyes were on the volleyball game, the sand and the waves. I could see that the beach curved out to a rocky point that could only be reached on foot and told her I wanted to go out there. She seemed surprised but agreed and I took her hand as we headed across the sand. Looking nervously back I saw the van parking under a willow by the ice-cream stand and figured I'd have just enough time to finish with Donna before Jackson got to us.

    She slowed the walk down a lot by playing at the edge of the water. I kept glancing back but saw no one heading in our direction. The wind grew stronger farther out and when we came to the rocks Donna drew back from the shore. A path took us to a tiny isolated area of the beach. Fierce waves rolled in, the breakwalls creating a small rip tide effect, and combined with the wind it sounded almost like the roar of the ocean.

    It was a near perfect romantic atmosphere and hypnotism wasn't really necessary. Donna turned to me, hair blowing in the wind, and I let the roar grow in my head as we kissed. It was a lovers' kiss and I drank all the feelings I would need for a while, then I drew back, prepared to release my inhibitions and let bloodlust rule.

    I looked deep in her eyes, then something flashed in peripheral vision and I turned and looked. My disappointment was impossible to hide. It was Jackson, my director, his bald head shining as he came through the boulders. Several people were behind him, coming down the path - costumed people who were less than actors. He'd got them at a local science fiction convention and was using them as extras in our new B horror movie.

    It was all too much, the crashing waves became waters of nausea. Memory hit me hard and again I had to face the truth. And the truth is I'm not a vampire, and never will be one. I'm a B-Movie actor, Jackson's discovery and practically his slave, so I like to dream some, get a woman and well - you know. It lasts for a while, before they catch up with me again.

    A tear formed in the corner of my eye, then I noticed Jackson had froze and was just standing there staring at Donna. I looked back at her, saw wide eyes and brilliant teeth. Large incisors about to close on my neck. She hadn't noticed the others; her attention was still on me. Then I caught on; she was crazy like I was crazy and spent her days trying to be the vampire she wasn't . . . trying to be the interesting creature she never could be. I should have been sad, but I wasn't. Instead I was happy.

    I let her teeth close on my neck and I could see Jackson from the corner of my eye. He was raising his camcorder and he had that crazy look on his face. I'd seen it once before. The day he discovered me. It was the weird look he gets when he knows he's found a star.

------ The End -------