"When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami" is the story of when immortal teen goddess Athena is mistaken for a vampire by a desperate youth who refuses to leave her side until she turns him. This tale takes place in the world of the Goddess Wars series for young adults by award-winning author Kendare Blake.
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About the Author
Kendare Blake holds an MA in creative writing from Middlesex University in northern London. She is the critically acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Girl of Nightmares, and Antigoddess. She lives and writes in Lynnwood, Washington.
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When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami
By Kendare Blake, Goñi Montes
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2014 Kendare Blake
All rights reserved.
The kid thinks she's a vampire. He's following her, not terribly discreetly, through the nighttime market on Eighth Street, ducking behind piles of fruit and weaving through people with his neck stretched up like a periscope. This is his fourth night on her tail.
To ditch, or not to ditch, she thinks, but keeps on walking. It's so earnest, and so harmless, the ineffectual way he hides. His pounding heart when he thinks he's lost her. It's also annoying. She came to Los Pinarenos for a mango and to smell the flowers and instead finds her nose tuned to his hair gel and sweat. The heavy, greasy scent of whatever he uses to color his lips black. This is what she gets for sleeping all day.
She pops into a shop near the end of the market and glances over the fruit, and the kid's whitewashed face peers at her through the corner of one of the dusty, painted windows. Or maybe he's just really that pale. She could buy a mango and take a huge bite while staring him in the eye. She almost does. But her time in Miami has been too sedate. None of the sun sank into her bones, and the rhythm of the city hasn't gotten her blood to pumping, not the neon lights in South Beach, not even the thumping music of Little Havana. So she buys a cigar instead, and lights it as soon as she leaves the shop. The kid watches, and she knows he's watching the draw of her cheeks. The suck of the smoke, as if it were blood.
Vampires. Creatures of the night. Beautiful, romantic figures for the death obsessed to chase. She doesn't see the appeal. They have immortality, sure, but what use is immortality if you can never see the sun? If any mortal can take it away with a wooden stake or a well-aimed ax to the neck? Besides, they don't exist, as far as she knows. At least they didn't when she was a true god, and in all her hundreds of years of wandering, she hasn't seen anything to make her think that has changed.
But it's nice that he stares at her cheeks and nowhere else. And it's nice to feel his eyes on her, like worship. She hasn't had that in a very long time.
The street ends. She slides around a corner, too fast for a human, just to hear him gasp. Or maybe it was an accident. Not even she knows for sure.
True to form, the kid comes skidding around the building, so fast and ungainly that he almost burns himself on her cigar.
The look on his face is priceless: enormous Os of black eyeliner. He feigns nonchalance and mutters, "Sorry."
"Sorry my ass. Why are you following me?"
His mouth hangs open. He hasn't thought this through. To his credit, he doesn't say that he wasn't. He just shrugs.
"What's your name?"
"What's your real name?"
He rolls those kohl-smudged eyes.
Skylar, Skylark. Lark. Not the most outlandish thing she's ever heard of, not by a mile.
"What's yours?" he asks.
She doesn't know why she tells him. Perhaps because there's something about him that's so damn hopeless. He looks like he hasn't eaten in a week. A lot of the goth kids roaming Miami look that way, but his black T-shirt is threadbare, and he hasn't changed clothes since the first night she spotted him. There's a faded tattoo on his forearm that looks homemade. A crow. Then again, it might not be a crow at all, but a lark.
She snorts. That's sad. She hopes it's a crow.
"Athena," the kid says, and stars blow up in his eyes. "That's old, isn't it? Greek."
She waits for him to wonder, or make the connection, but he doesn't. Why would he? His mind is on vampires, and if he's wondering anything it's whether she's a vamp from for-real Greece, really old Greece, with freshish marble columns and twenty-four hour togas.
The cigar rolls between her fingers. The kid stares at her, only slightly afraid. He feels pretty safe just a few steps off of the main drag, which is pretty stupid by her accounting. He puts too much stock in the romantic tales. Thinks of himself as a vampiric companion, rather than vampiric prey. And he puts too much stock in his human male strength, too. That old mortal fallacy: I am nowhere near dying of old age, therefore I am nowhere near death.
"You need to eat," she says. "Come on. I'll buy you a Cuban or something."
They have their choice of places, most filled with sweaty summer tourists and loud music. She takes him a few blocks over, into one of the quieter establishments, family owned and with some kind of pet pig roaming around the tables. They slide into a corner booth, back near the kitchen, so she can smell the spice going into every dish. Savory and sweet, just salty enough. It's a pity she won't be able to eat anything.
The kid orders a cheeseburger. She orders a whisky. He takes her in, and she enjoys the feel of a human appraising her human costume. One side of her head is shaved, the rest combed over to fall against her cheek, bleached and dyed pink. A black net fingerless glove on her left hand and four silver rings on her right. Only one is old enough to raise any eyebrows, and those eyebrows would have to belong to a historian or museum curator.
"Where do you come from?" he asks.
"Lots of places. Where do you come from?"
That might have been her last guess. He doesn't look like he belongs anywhere near there. Of course, that might be why he left.
"How old are you?" she asks.
"Fifteen. How old are you?"
"Older than you think."
"I know what you are."
A waitress brings her whisky in a pretty, delicate little glass, and Athena swirls it around and studies the color through the candle on the table. Then she puts it to her lips and pretends to drink, and wonders what the hell she's doing.
"What gave me away?"
"It's obvious," the kid says. "The long night walks, almost till dawn. Holed up all day until the sun goes down. The way you move. The way you're obviously way older than you look." He grins. "How bad you are at pretending to drink."
She wipes at her lips.
"If I am what you say I am, then shouldn't I be very good at pretending to drink?"
Doubt flashes across his face for less than an instant. He is one hundred percent invested. One hundred percent enthusiasm. He came all the way from Tucson to find someone like her, he says. All the way to Miami. The vampires' city.
She's heard it called that before. It's from a book. A very serious, very elegant vampire book, the kind that turns readers into acolytes.
"What did you hope to find?" she asks. "What did you think would happen?"
The kid blinks. He's going to say he doesn't know, but that isn't true. He thought it would be like it was in the book. Not how it was for the hapless victims of course, the incidental anonymous page-filler. No, he would be a major protagonist. He would find her, and she would be fascinated. They would have long conversations. Become enthralled with each other. They would fall in love, and she would make him one of them.
What a fucking fairy story.
"Tell me something," he says. "Anything. A secret. Someplace you've been. Some time."
"How about France?" she replies. "The Hundred Days. When I allowed myself to become imprisoned in order to feed on the mercenaries inside."
"How did you escape?"
"Pretended to be dead. When they threw the sack with my body into the sea, I swam to an island and became a smuggler, and thus passed many years at sea, eating smugglers."
"Really?" he asks.
"No. Except for the part about eating mercenaries and smugglers, that's The Count of Monte Cristo. Which you'll probably read, if you ever go back to school."
"You shouldn't say things like that." His cheeseburger comes, and he rips into it. She watches his throat when he swallows and wonders if she's taking this too far.
"Why shouldn't I say things like that?" she asks.
"Because it makes you sound like my mother." He swallows, and sucks Coke from a can through a bent white straw. "And you don't look anywhere near old enough to be my mother. Which is why you need me." He takes another bite. "I can be of use to you. I'll keep you young. Connect you to this age. I'll help you pass for human."
Passing for human. She's been doing it for a long time. Since she came out of exile after Olympus fell. Since she and the other gods scattered across the globe. She studies the human across from her, stuffing his face with red meat to enrich his blood, blathering on and on, asking questions with the same starstruck look on his face.
Does this happen to Dionysus, she wonders. To Apollo, or Hermes, or Ares? Are they better at playing mortal than I am, or worse?
It doesn't matter. If she really wanted to know, she'd go find them and ask.
"So can I?" he asks.
"Can you what?" She hasn't been listening for at least the last three minutes.
"Stay with you. Guard you, during the day. Be, like, your hound of hell."
"Just how many movies have you watched? And no, you can't. Go home."
"I don't have one. I crash sometimes at the Y."
"Christ." She throws money on the table and gets up. When he follows her she doesn't stop him. She's fed him already, might as well put a roof over his head. If he's still around tomorrow night, maybe she'll clothe him, too. Get him a job and a fresh start. She doesn't know what the hell has gotten into her.
Her apartment is tucked into the edge of Overtown. There are roaches, and a crack in the kitchen wall that runs from the ceiling into the window casing. Walking to it in the dead of night, the kid edges up closer and mutters something about never feeling safer.
Excerpted from When Gods and Vampires Roamed Miami by Kendare Blake, Goñi Montes. Copyright © 2014 Kendare Blake. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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