In the midst of the vampire themed pandemonium seizing the attention of teen and adult readers alike, I find myself nauseous. A theme I once loved is now being shoved down my throat from so many different angles it makes me want to rip my hair out. I’ve read three different vampire series within the last year. Even though I enjoyed reading all of them I am so tired of picking up a book at the store, reading the jacket, and finding the word ‘vampire’ on the back of it that I may very well gouge my eyes out with the nearest Twilight book mark.
I know Twilight was a hit! I know! I was there! I read them all in six days! I GET IT!! But, is there no end to the vamp hysteria that has been so over done it rivals my husband’s cooking? Briket anyone?
I've read countless literary agents websites, seeking out the ones that could possibly be interested in my manuscript. Do you know what they all say that they want? Something original…here enters Stella’s long, hard, confused, yet irritated head scratch.
Original eh? Really? You don’t say?
It seems that while literary agents are constantly seeking something fresh and different, it also seems that what is unusual is not what they are looking to represent.
So what’s the difference?
I don’t bloody know!
Hey, I know. I should just throw a vampire into my story to screw things up and then maybe an agent will find it original enough.
Let’s make like a hors d'œuvre, and try it out:
Sweat stung my eyes as the midday heat turned our vehicle into an oven.
“Gawd, it’s hot today,” Avery, the driver stated with a sluggish sigh.
Saying it was hot was like telling someone the desert had some sand, that the universe was kind of big, or that the ocean was sort of moist. The heat radiated off everything like radiation off nuclear waste.
Of course the sand didn’t help either; it was lodged in every pore of my skin, every strand of my hair, and every fiber of my clothing. It rubbed between the toes of my sweaty feet like sandpaper. The lazy warm breeze only served to toss the sand at our entire entourage more effectively. How could there be so much sand anywhere?
As my platoon cruised along, I couldn’t help feeling oddly alert. As if the normal level of awareness had an intensity dial that had been turned to max.
What was once an alien, but now familiar world greeted my adapted eyes. The shells of sand colored buildings lined both sides of the streets. What stood out against the bland mushroom toned environment were the colorful signs of the businesses that somehow survived among the ruins. Every so often patches of lush green vegetation would seem to miraculously coexist with the surrounding desert waste, like jewels carelessly tossed among monotonously dull stones. The tropical palm trees, untamed grasses, verdant bushes, and pastel sands could almost make one feel that this was some secret vacation destination you’d travel long and far to enjoy.
Instead, those we tried to protect turned out to be the enemy. Suicide bombers, land mines, car bombs, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises) or open fire; the enemy was everywhere and yet nowhere to be seen until it was too late. The sparse patches of flourishing vegetation only served to further the sense of surreal shock it all amounted to.
I was always alert in this war zone, but today felt different. The weather had been too hot for too many days and when that happened, it was only a matter of time before something, or someone snapped. The heat had a way of escalating situations or tempers from zero to sixty in point five seconds. I couldn’t shake the hyper-edge I felt. It was like drinking three Red Bulls then trying to sit still, I felt like I was going to leap out of my skin at any second.
It had been a month since our platoon transferred here to Baghdad from Baqubah and we’d all been counting down the days until we were supposed to ship out.
Seven days. One week. So close.
I looked over at Sadie, she sat next to me in the back of the Humvee. She noticed and nodded faintly. We were the only women in our platoon, so we banded together like misfits do, to help keep the men off our backs.
Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Did no one else feel it?
I scanned the faces of the crowd that pushed their way through the streets the way they did through their lives. They had to push; it took effort to survive here.
I caught a few glances, but most looked away after a moment. Used to the presence of the U.S. military forces by now. Others stared longer with dead eyes. I’d seen these eyes before. Accusing yet hopeless, angry but composed, stoic but blazing, expecting yet resigned. I’d grown accustomed to the lifeless stares of those souls who had seen too much sorrow, anger, war, and death. Those eyes spoke volumes of the ugliness that men were capable of.
I saw those eyes in the mirror every time I looked.
I couldn’t ignore my instincts; they’d been what had kept me alive all this time, against countless odds. I kept scanning the crowd and saw too many dead eyes.
“Mia, you okay?” Sadie said in a low voice so the men didn’t hear.
The men always thought us women spooked easily. There was, however something eerie to be said about women’s intuition.
“I’m fine, why?” I mumbled back in a voice so low I wasn’t sure she would hear it.
I hadn’t taken my eyes off the crowds.
Sadie was the only person in my platoon I called by first name. I couldn’t bring myself to call her by her last name, Grey. It was too formal, she must have felt the same way, she’d never called me Mitchell. Unless we were addressing each other in a group, last names had no place between two people who had been through, and were still in, hell together.
Sadie turned toward me slightly, or was I imagining it? It was hard to tell in a Humvee with no shocks, rolling over pothole-ridden roads.
“Gee. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the way you’re gripping that rifle like it's going to go postal any second.” She shot me that hard look she always did, it said “spit it out” without the verbage.
I snickered. Straight to the point, I liked that about Sadie. It figured that through my entire life of struggling pointlessly to get along with other females, the one woman I felt truly understood me, would be the same kind of crazy I was.
I looked down at my M-16, I was gripping it so tight my knuckles were white.
I looked back at the crowd. “Something’s not right.”
“You're just on edge, it’s too hot.” Sadie wiped at her pale forehead.
The sweat was everywhere and the Kevlar helmets did little to facilitate the wiping, they only assisted the sweating. The lack of air conditioning didn’t help either. I could feel the sweat drip down from my own brain bucket and into the damp collar of my cammies where stiff salt rings would emerge later.
“I don’t know. Something’s going to happen. I feel it.” As I looked over at Sadie, I reached down to grab the water bottle rolling around on the floor.
Sadie’s fingers touch mine as we both grabbed the bottle. The feel of them startled me. I stared at her, finally aware of what I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge before.
Your hands are like ice,” I swallow the lump in my throat.
Sadie looked away from me, and again I realized how pale she was as I stared at her profile.
“I know what you are,” I said as I tried to stay calm.
Sadie turned her face to me, and her eyes searched mine. “Really?” She inched closer to me, “I want to hear you say it.”
We stared at each other for what seemed like minutes, but I couldn’t be sure.
“You’re a vampire.”
She sighed as her head tipped back into the cushion of the seat she sat in. “Yes,” she whispered.
Our conversation was lost on the men in the front seat as they discussed which Beyonce song they liked best.
“I’m so glad you know. Now I don’t have to hide myself from you.” She smiled in a tender way but only one thought entered my mind.
I yelled, “Blood sucker!”
I kicked Sadie in the gut and she fell out the side of the moving Humvee. Avery stopped the vehicle. Sadie stood up, dusting off her cammies.
Avery yelled into the radio, “Blood sucker!”
I let go of my rifle and threw myself to the hole in the roof of the Humvee, grabbed hold of the GAU-19 machine gun mounted to the roof and looked for the enemy.
All hell broke loose. Civilians screamed. Gunfire lit the streets. Grenades thundered as they exploded.
I ignored all this and turned the machine gun to where Sadie stood. She crouched and hissed at me with her fangs bared.
“No you don’t.” I opened fire.
The vibrations shook my arms. The sound muted my ears to the yelling. Cordite filled my nostrils. Pandemonium seized my mind.
The bullets rained down on the streets, raking the ground as they showered from directions all around us. Our rounds ate at the walls of the buildings as debris filled the hot stagnant air. Pock riddled walls crumbled, cracking like dry leaves.
“Die blood sucker, die!”
Bwah hahahahahaha! Ha…ha. Ahem! I wonder if any literary agents will ‘bite’ now? LOL!