Vampires and sunlight do not mix. Although many of the legends surrounding the Vanapir people were just that, legends, the fact that vampires reacted badly to sunlight was not one of those. Niles Gule, a vampire who’d made his home in the Crab Cake Capital of the World, usually slept during the day and only rousted himself as the sun set. Summertime for the vampire was what winter was for sun loving humans, a time of hiding out for three-quarters of the day. So the fact that Niles set his alarm five hours early and dragged himself out of bed while the sun still blazed was an unusual occurrence. Like the events promised for the day.
He didn’t leave his lair until he was thoroughly prepared to meet the sun. He wore his standard custom tailored suit over a crisp, white silk shirt with a Jerry Garcia Red Room #35 tie carefully tied at his throat. Only the best touched a vampire’s skin. Over that he layered a trench coat even though the weather app on his phone indicated Baltimore was sweltering in the 90s. He wrapped a scarf around his neck, plunked a wide brimmed hat onto his blonde head and hid his brilliant blue eyes behind wrap around shades that turned day into night. He finished his preparations by slathering a coat of SPF 75 onto the scraps of skin that weren’t covered. Thus girded for the day, Niles set out from his apartment.
His long strides took him quickly to the Inner Harbor where the Maryland Science Center was holding an eclipse fest to watch what the media had dubbed the Great American Eclipse 2017. Baltimore was only scheduled to see 80% coverage of the sun, but that didn’t mean people couldn’t come out for a party. Any excuse not to work on a Monday, Niles thought. Maximum obscurity was scheduled to hit around two-thirty in the afternoon. Niles didn’t want to miss it.
He arrived at the Science Center only a half hour before the show started. No sense losing too much sleep just to stand frying in the sun. Numerous people gave him odd looks given his bundled appearance on such a hot day but no one said anything. Had they dared to ask, he’d simply say he suffered from porphyria, a skin disease that affected humans, causing them to burn in sunlight.
A whistle rent the air and Niles turned to find his partner, Mariella Cruz and his nemesis, Jonas Williams, leaning against a railing and munching on hotdogs. He glanced towards the street to find a food truck parked nearby doing a bang up business from the eclipse gawkers.
“What pried you loose in midafternoon?” Williams asked. His pale gray eyes considered the vampire who looked dressed for a blizzard not an eclipse. “Have you got enough clothes on?”
Niles shot him a look that Williams wouldn’t be able to see through the glasses. But he did it just the same.
His pretty, voluptuous partner, Cruz, held out her hands to greet him, though he kept his firmly planted in his pockets to shield them from the sun.
“You shouldn’t have come out.” Her dark eyes held reproach and yet happiness to see him.
“I thought vampires vaporized in sunlight,” Williams added.
Niles hissed, darting a glance around to see if anyone had overheard Williams. He didn’t advertise the fact that he wasn’t human. Only a handful of people knew he was a vampire. The crowd, however, was too busy staring up at the sun and jabbering about the coming celestial event to pay any attention to a handful of off duty police officers.
“Vampires do not vaporize,” he growled. “We’re nocturnal. Our skin never evolved the melatonin that provides protection to human skin. I won’t turn into a puff of smoke. I’ll just get severely and painfully burned.”
“Too bad,” Williams grunted. He sunk his teeth into a hotdog.
Again Niles glared at him and again, Williams blissfully didn’t see.
The vampire’s stomach grumbled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten in almost a day. An overwhelming desire for blood surged through him, causing him to salivate and fidget his tongue against his fangs. Williams’ meaty neck was so close. So inviting. Its sheen of sweat wafted a salty perfume towards the vampire. He opened his mouth, striving for that throbbing carotid, his fangs glistening. Williams’ eyes widened. He swatted Niles with the back of his hand, jarring the vampire from his pleasurable dream.
“Get a dog, Ghoul!” he barked. “Don’t make me punch you.”
Chastened, Niles drew back and trudged to the hotdog truck. He ordered three dogs and on the way back to Cruz and Williams, tossed the buns in the trash. As he sank his fangs into the first of the hotdogs, he grimaced. Processed, over salted pork just didn’t compare to fresh, warm human blood straight from the artery. He shoved another dog into his mouth before his thoughts could take flight a second time.
The crowd started to cheer as the sun’s light dimmed. Niles settled beside Cruz to watch as the sky changed from an azure blue to a slate color. Then it began to darken as the glaring sun disk grew smaller and smaller. The crowd hushed as the moon’s shadow continued its march, swallowing the sun until it was a fraction of its normal size. The light continued to dim until the harbor had the appearance of an overcast afternoon. Even at nearly 80% obscurity, the sun’s power was so great that 20% of it could light the earth clearly.
While virtually everyone turned their special glasses to the sky, Niles joyfully shed his hat, sunglass, coat and scarf. Laughing, he spun around in a circle, turning his face to the sky for the one day of his long life when he could stand outside in the sun and be human like everyone else.
Cruz grinned. Seeing that, he grabbed her hands and whirled her around with him.
Then his sharp eyes caught motion and Niles set Cruz away from him. With a grunt of annoyance, he swatted Williams and pointed.
Williams took off his eclipse glasses and squinted. A group of teens was moving through the crowd that stood transfixed watching the sun. Only a vampire’s keen eyesight could catch them rifling pockets and slipping hands into purses.
“Figures,” Williams complained. He stomped off to apprehend the thieves.
The sun continued to brighten as the moon passed across its face. With a sigh, Niles snatched up his hat and scarf and bundled himself up again. Just before he slid the glasses over his face, Cruz reached up on her tiptoes and pecked a kiss on his cheek.
“Your eyes are lovely in sunlight,” she murmured.
Niles’ pale lips curved into a smile even as his heart ached. This would be the only day she’d ever see them in sunlight. The reality of what he was, so far removed from what he wished to be, crashed over him like a wave. He replaced his glasses as his eyes began to water, said his goodbye to his partner and made his lonely trek home.
The vampire’s only day in the sun was over.
© 2017 Newmin
Niles Comments: I hope everyone had a chance to see at least some of the eclipse yesterday. For those lucky enough to see totality, I envy you. Hopefully everyone watched safely with appropriate eye protection or watched one of the many telecasts and streams available on the news channels. I stand amazed and in awe of our wondrous universe. Although I am a vampire and hate the sun, I realize what a beautiful creation it is and how lucky we are to live on this incredible world. May we all learn from the day: We are tiny creatures in a huge universe. If we can’t get along with each other, how will we ever get along with what’s out there?