Dawn Harshaw / Zombies VS Vampires VS Demons / Behave or Zombies Will Gobble You Up (short story)
Superstition is a crutch that develops over time and often cooperatively. It builds upon all those moments when faced with the existential fears from the unknowns of life - you chose not to think about them instead.
- Dreamer's Handbook
"I don't wanna!"
"Maximilian, you will sit down and eat your veggies if I say so."
"But I don't wanna! I wanna eat blood!"
"Honey, you're too old to drink blood all the time. You have to eat vegetables too to grow big and healthy, and only then can blood make you strong. If you-"
Max interrupted with high-pitched squealing. "Blood I wanna blood I wanna blood!"
Vheila slapped her son with such force that his legs gave out from under him. He's spoiled and it's all my fault.
Due to vampires' greater physical strength and resilience, their threshold of pain was increased as well. The only thing that made the slap different from everyday play was his mother's stern gaze and insufficiently commanding demeanor.
With a pouty face, Max got back up and defiantly stomped his foot.
"Sit!" Vheila pointed to the table and at the bowl of lovingly made vegetable stew. "And I don't want to hear another word!"
Max dragged his feet, but knew better than to throw a tantrum when his mother was in a foul mood. He raised himself onto the chair and started pushing the utensils around.
A habit of nervousness, Vheila twisted the bracelet on her left arm. She exhaled sharply: "Eat!"
Max put the spoon into the bowl and took his time stirring it. He occasionally lifted out a spoonful of the chunky deliciousness and let it pour and splash back into the bowl.
Vheila sighed. You'll be the end of me. If only you'd have inherited less of my headstrongness... "If you don't eat, zombies will come to take you away."
Max frowned, but he had heard such stories before and the threat didn't phase him.
"Don't believe me? They'll go after you and not other kids because they know you won't have the strength to run as fast."
Max's mucking with the food turned less resolute, but he didn't stop.
"Even if you're not the only one they grab, they'll eat you first because your flesh is nice and fatty, just as they like it... without all the chewy muscles that would have made you strong. Look at me!"
Taken aback, Max obeyed.
"If they are too hungry, maybe they won't kill you before they start to eat you. Even if by some miracle you're rescued after only a few bites, your body won't be strong enough to fight the infection and you'll turn into a zombie. Then it will be too late to eat your veggies."
Max managed to avert his eyes from Vheila's soul-piercing gaze. There was silence for a while.
"On the bright side, because you're so weak, demons won't try to lure you to their darkness. If you run and hide like a cockroach, they won't even look to squash you. They will look away in disgust at your weakness. You won't have to worry about demons, oh no, you'll only have to worry about zombies!"
Max ate his stew silently while tears kept flowing down his cheeks.
I overdid it... my poor baby. Vheila could barely hold back from hugging her son and telling him she didn't mean it: that he's strong and that she will protect him from all dangers and that he can have all the blood or whatever else he wants...
As a mother, a rarity in vampire society, she served as a symbol for cohesion and the promise of a better future. The mothers were esteemed for their perceived wisdom, but also inundated with gifts from males seeking their favor - mostly to further their own social standing.
She fidgeted with her bracelet without realizing.
Rituals and traditions - the unquestioned, but often conflicting way of doing things - were the main guidelines for raising a vampire child. All Vheila had for support were the prodding rumors and overbearing advice of elder mothers, by the succession of which the rituals and traditions came to be in the first place.
Stray zombies posed a real danger, a risk that the orphans - children who were turned into vampires and not born as such - faced on a daily basis. I'm pretty sure the kitten which bit me the other day was a zombie. They weren't more than a nuisance for adults.
All the gifts and attention spoiled me, and I've spoiled Max in turn. The whining attitude will get him hurt, maybe not by the zombies and demons of the world, no... The real danger is here; the bloodthirsty, merciless vampires who sense weakness better than they smell blood.
After Max finished eating the stew, still fighting to hold back the tears, he turned to his mother and asked: "Will I be strong now, mommy?"
Vheila's troubled features softened. "Come here," she said gently and opened her arms.
Max sprung into her embrace.
"You will be strong," she whispered into his ear while stroking his hair. "I will do everything to help you become strong. You'll be the strongest."
Slowly, Max's sobbing stopped. He wiped off his tears, and like sunshine through the clouds, smiled.
"Go play," Vheila said. "It's sleep time soon."
"The zombies won't eat me now?"
"No..." Vheila thought for a while, "but tell you what." She removed her bracelet. "This charm has protected me for a long time. Its magic will scare the zombies away until you're strong enough to fight them on your own."
The bracelet was too big for Max's hand, so she put it around his neck instead.
"See those sharp things? Teeth of a zombie mage, boiled in the blood of a raging demon. And these gems? They're from ancient places of power where sand has turned into glass. Never take it off, not even to show it off to someone."
Max spent the rest of the evening playing with the necklace, examining the shape of each tooth and quirky bead of glass. Vheila had to warn him a few times not to put it into his mouth.
When bedtime came, Max fell asleep quickly and without the usual peevish whimpering.
But, doubts and second-guessing didn't give Vheila peace; she twisted and turned under her bedsheet. At one point, a realization jolted her with cold sweat into a kind of nightmarish clarity. All the things I said to Max was more about my weaknesses than his!
Fear bubbled up - a restless, itchy feeling - and she scratched her skin red around the area where the kitten had bit her. Do I have a fever? Sleep continued to evade her as her thoughts descended deeper into a jumbled state. The kitten! There was something strange about that kitten.
Subconsciously, she reached for her bracelet - it wasn't on her arm, and that unsettled her even more.
The bites of small animals rarely posed any danger to a vampire's robust physique, but fears, when coupled with imagination, could quickly blow a small risk out of proportion and turn it into a crippling nightmare. That kitten... it was definitely a zombie, but fast like a vampire can be. Strong too, since the bite went deep...
Her heartbeat grew more rapid. Her eyes popped open and she suddenly sat up:
Oh no, if I turn into a zombie, who will take care of my son?!
Dawn Harshaw / Zombies VS Vampires VS Demons / Behave Or Zombies Will Gobble You Up