It's been a while.
Anyway, this is my new pet project. Different from my usual, but I hope it's better. Cheers!
Hope you all enjoy it, and I hope it makes you laugh.
PS - Set in Egypt.
The Chronicles of a Muslim Vampire
Chronicle the First: The Day I Changed
I never meant to be a vampire, not really.
Who does, anyway? Nobody wakes up one day and thinks, 'Today, I want to become a vampire!'
Well, nobody except those crazy Twilight fans, anyway.
Us Egyptians, we're not really into all that fantasy stuff. Sure, we like Dracula – or 'Dracoola,' as they insist on pronouncing it – but vampires?
It's such a Western concept. Honestly. We don't even have a proper word for them. In Arabic, they're just called 'Suckers of blood.' Literally.
Now I definitely did not want to wake up and think, 'Today, I want to become a sucker of blood.'
I might as well wake up and decide to be a mosquito.
The truth is, I was completely fooled into the vampire thing. I didn't get one warning. Not one. I didn't like vampires, didn't believe in them, didn't even want to be one.
What I really wanted to be was a football player. Y'know. Like Ronaldinho or Abu Treika or that bloke who got married to Victoria Beckham.
Now if there's one thing I know, it's that vampires can't be football players. And I know this for a fact. One of my friends once bit a player from the opposite team at the club and the referee gave him a red card.
Don't ask me why he bit him. He had braces, too. The guy he bit had a scar on there for ages. It was quite a nasty scar, too. He showed it off regularly.
Anyway, as I was saying. Vampires. Yeah. Complete and utter nonsense, the vampire thing. But to find out about the vampires, you'll have to know who I am. And to know who I am – I have to tell you how it began.
I was born in England. My dad was working there at the time. He's a doctor, see. All doctors work abroad at one point or the other. Gives a bit of prestige. That's where I learned to speak English. My mum and dad, they can't speak English at all. Well, my dad can, a bit. He can pronounce something like, "It appears to be a severe case of rabdomiolosis" but he can't order a meal in English for the life of him.
Fortunately for me, I learned English from the kids I played with in the street. Tom A, Tom J, Jack B, Jack J and Dick.
They were blond and rude. That's pretty much all I remember of them. We had a lot of fun together. They called me Al instead of Ali but that was okay.
After that, it was mostly comic books and TV that helped me keep my English in shape. My mum made sure I learned Arabic, as well, so I was bilingual, which wasn't uncommon in Egypt. When I was five, my dad decided he wanted to go back home. My mum didn't want to – she loved England, despite the lack of sun. Thought it was quaint. She was half-Saudi Arabian, anyway, so she wasn't particularly attached to Egypt.
My dad insisted, though. He wanted to go home. Not because he missed the weather, or our friends and family, mind you. He wanted to go home because he missed the food.
Sure, English food is terrible, but leave a country for the food? That's my dad for you.
So we went home.
Even though I'd been born in England, I was more at home in Egypt. England had been nice, but Egypt was more real, somehow. It was louder and dustier and smellier and brighter, and nobody called me 'Al' there. They called me Ali, or sometimes, if there was another Ali in the room, they called me Abdul Ghafur, which was my family name.
When I was about nine, I realized that even though we'd lived in England, we weren't really that rich. We were more upper-middle class than anything, mostly because my dad spent a lot of the money he made on his family, which was rather poor. We had an old Fiat 128 for a car, and our apartment was a little cramped. Looking back, I think our accommodations in England had been paid for by my dad's hospital.
I was a pretty good kid, all things considered. I did well in school - well, I never got expelled, that was something – and I loved my mum. My dad worked a lot; he went from this hospital to that hospital to the clinic to the medical university, so we rarely saw him. Most of the time, it was just me and her. We were very close. We had an unofficial system in our house: she cooked, I would come back in time for my curfew. She cleaned my room, I gave her tissues when she cried watching Pretty Woman ("Iz zo romancy, zat film! Ahh ..!"). She gave me my allowance, I would pick up the groceries on my way home from the club. And every night, we would watch her soaps together. I would have rather died – or killed someone, let's be frank – than admitted to my friends how addicted I'd become to the soaps. They were terrible, mind you. The actresses were fat and most of them couldn't act, their makeup got smeared every time they pretended to cry, which was quite often, and the plots were so predictable you could totally tell the husband was going to come back for his wallet just as the wife was getting into bed with her boyfriend. And don't get me started on action sequences …
At school, I was fine. I had plenty of friends - Ahmed, Ahmed, Ahmed, Mohamed, Mohamed, Mohamed, Omar, Omar, Omar and Peter – and I was good at sports, which got me a lot of female attention. My English was the envy of all my teachers, and overall my school years went by well enough.
I was in my second year of Secondary school – high school, basically – when I was most ungraciously changed into a vampire.
I'd been at the club, playing football with my friends. It was late at night, dark, but the courts were brightly lit with fluorescent lights perched on top of the goalposts.
"Ali!" screeched Ahmed, waving his hands wildly. "Pass the ball! Pass me the ball!"
I glanced up at him. Immediately, Mohamed punched me in the gut and stole the ball, running off happily.
"What the hell!" I gasped, clutching my stomach. "Foul! Foul!"
The other Mohamed, whom we'd called Medo to make things easier, burst out laughing.
"I think you'd better sit down ya Ali," he said, snorting.
"But – it's a foul," I whined as I limped over to the bench by the court.
"Sure, it's a foul," agreed Medo. "Now shut up and take it like a man."
I whimpered. He grinned at me and went back to play. Immediately, one of the girls who'd been watching, Nadia, plonked down next to me, grinning widely.
I groaned. Nadia was the biggest bigmouth in the history of bigmouths. Sometimes I wished girls wouldn't be allowed near a football game. You'd say 'offside' and they'd giggle, 'is that the one where they stand in a row and cover their sensitive bits?'
"Aww, Ali," Nadia cooed now, fluttering spidery eyelashes at me. "Did you get huyt?"
"No," I snapped, going red.
"Do you want me to get you something?" she said hopefully. "A tissue? Ice? Water?"
"I could use some water," I said, feeling grumpy. I did want some water. Trust her to be annoying and helpful at the same time. "And why're you here so late? Don't you have parents?"
She smiled, fumbling in her large bag. "They don't mind."
I sighed. Girls nowadays.
She finally found the bottle of water she'd been looking for in her bag, and held it out proudly.
I took it and gulped down half of it as she began to chatter.
"… so, obviously, I told Salma that I knew you didn't like her that way, and that there was no way her parents would let her, and then she got angry at me and told Nadine, who told Mayar. Now you remember that Mayar started wearing the hegab a couple weeks ago, right? So when she found out, she wanted to take it off! Have you ever heard of such a thing? I was like, are you stupid? And then she was like, no, but God will understand, and I was all EH, God won't understand, don't be dumb, girl, and then she was all …"
"Mayar put on the hegab?" I asked absently, my eyes narrowed at Mohamed, who was now standing goalkeeper. I sure hoped someone would hit him in the gut. My ribs still ached.
"Oh my God, you didn't notice?" Nadia tittered. "Honestly, Ali, sometimes you're so not there – why, I was just telling Nancy, before I told Salma about it, and she was like, Ali's cute but I wouldn't like him, he's so not there – but she totally likes you, I can tell. Oh, and her mother likes you, too. Not in that way, but she saw you at the parents' meeting and thought you were ever-so-nice – "
This went on for a good ten minutes, until I grew tired of it and made a flimsy excuse to leave – something along the lines of needing the bathroom and throwing up, or possibly both – taking my things along with me. Nadia looked crestfallen, so I gave her her water bottle back. It didn't seem to make her any happier. Girls are terribly odd sometimes.
The club was quite close to my home – about fifteen minutes' walk if you went by the road, and ten minutes' walk if you took the shortcut in the alleys. Personally, I preferred the alleys, even though they smelled suspicious and had cats crawling all over them. Still, better than walking by the road. In Egypt, pedestrians don't have the right of way, see. They have the right to RUN BEFORE THAT CAR CRUSHES YOU –
I'd walked those alleys a thousand times. They had always been exceedingly dark – the streetlamps were lit sporadically here and there, but that did not help much – but they had never really been scary. That was mainly because I could hear the beeps and yells of traffic a few blocks away. I could hear people laughing, horns screeching, donkeys braying (yes, a donkey is not particularly uncommon in the middle of the street, odd as that seems) and radios blaring. I could even make out a few of the songs several shops were playing at their very highest volume.
Generally, it's very hard to be scared when you can hear Haifa Wahby asking Ragab to keep his friend away from her in song. Don't believe me? Google Haifa.
So there I was, on my way home, feeling rather glum. My stomach and ribs still ached from Mohamed's punch. We really needed a fair referee in those practice games. Or a gun to shoot Mohamed with, either one was fine with me.
I was only a few minutes away from my house when I heard the rustle to the right.
It didn't really scare me, not at first. It might have been a stray cat or a stray dog or a stray person. Honestly, I would have been more scared if it was a stray dog.
But I didn't know. I just didn't.
God, I wish I had. Then I would have run as fast as possible in the other direction. To the roads, to people, to life …
But I didn't know, see.
I kept on walking. I was moving pretty slowly. I'm a big baby when it comes to pain. I like to relish it, sit over and moan over how bad it feels, earn a few sympathy points. I'd like to claim it's the product of my father's absence in my life, but really, my mum spoilt me silly when I got hurt.
I was walking in the narrow path between two buildings, my eyes on the cats who were bottoms up in a garbage can, when the man stepped out of the shadows.
I jumped. I couldn't help it – it'd been so sudden.
"Hello," said the man pleasantly. I blinked at him. He was dressed nicely enough, not the way you'd expect someone hanging out in an alley with starving cats would be. His eyes were cast in shadow but his hair seemed dark and a bit on the balding side. He was rather unremarkable.
Sure, he was pale, but that didn't particularly surprise me. Believe it or not, there are pale people in Egypt. Medo is whiter than cottage cheese. He's ginger, too. We're a mixed race, us. We spent the time between Cleopatra and the mid-1900s being ruled by foreigners. Bet you didn't know that, eh? And every time someone new comes around, they nick one of our treasures. An obelisk here, an obelisk there. Thank God Napoleon couldn't carry the pyramids or he would have carted those off, too.
"Hello," I told the pale man politely. I knew I shouldn't talk to strangers, but it's kind of awkward when they pop out of shadows in deserted dark alleys.
I tried to continue walking, but he blocked my path.
It was around then that I truly began to feel worried.
I tried to move around him. He immediately moved to my right.
I stepped back. "Look, what do you want?"
The man smiled. He had weird teeth. They were darker than his skin and pointy.
I didn't think he was a vampire, of course. Back then I was more concerned he'd be one of those tax people or something. Amn el Dawla. They were downright creepy sometimes.
"How would you like to live forever?" he rasped.
Great. Bloke was completely off his rocker. Bonkers. Mad. Probably smoked hashish. Or perhaps bango.
"You know," I said, backing away, "drinking straight from the tap is very bad for the health …"
To this day, I'm not quite sure why I said that.
That was when he leapt for my throat.
Do you see now, why I was so annoyed at how I'd been turned? I didn't get any warnings. Nobody said, "This won't hurt a little bit." Nobody offered me blood-flavored toothpaste to go, or a manual entitled Seven Habits of Highly Effective Vampires. I was not given my own cool mentor to introduce me to the vampire ways. There was no Edward Cullen holding my hand throughout the ordeal – not that I'd want one, but – and nobody even prayed over my lifeless body as my heart stopped beating.
I think that's what hurt the most. Because even as the pale man was attacking me, drinking my blood, and all the rest of it, I could hear Nancy Agram singing, from only a few blocks away.
And that is the saddest thing of all.
The next time I opened my eyes, it was dark and there was a pounding headache banging against my skull.
I was a bit disoriented, but I wasn't completely stupid. Much as I'd like to deny it, I knew exactly what had happened. The pale man had attacked me. He'd slashed my wrist open and drunk my blood. I could remember it painfully clearly. I remembered sliding into unconsciousness as he crept away.
God, what an arse.
I looked down at myself. My fake Real Madrid – spelled 'Reel Madrid' – football T-shirt was splattered with blood.
Was that what it was like to be attacked by a vampire?
I tried to remember everything I'd ever heard about vampires. There were so many different accounts. There were the lame ones that sparkled, the scary ones that turned into bats, the Van Helsing ones that seemed to flicker between pretty and ugly. There were the Buffy ones whose foreheads turned funny.
What did they all have in common?
I groaned, leaning my head back against the ground, regardless of what cats may or may not have done on it. They were all anti-sunlight. That was fine with me, as long as I didn't sparkle. I wasn't one for tanning.
They all drank blood. I looked down at my wrist. I'd been too traumatized to actually feel pain at first, but now I could feel a faint throbbing. My head hurt, too. I wondered why he'd left me alive. Why hadn't he simply drunk all my blood?
How would you like to live forever?
He'd been planning it all along, clearly. But –
I returned to my thinking.
They all had an aversion to Churches and crucifixes and whatnot. That was fine with me. Perhaps it was an aversion to religion in general, but I didn't think they'd kick me out of a mosque or something. My mum was more likely to kill me if I skipped Friday prayers.
My heart, which seemed strangely still, seemed to jolt.
I still had to tell my mum.
Limping home had been an ordeal. I was afraid to look at myself. I felt a little woozy, my shirt had the metallic scent of blood clinging to it nauseatingly, my ribs still ached – I hoped Mohamed burned in hell at this point – and my wrist was hurting like crazy. I was feeling very sorry for myself.
I kept feeling my tongue with my teeth, waiting for them to get all pointy. They seemed fine. At least, I thought they seemed fine. I looked at my hand. It was still light brown, and my knuckles were scarred from my last brawl in the playground. I didn't seem particularly pale to me.
Maybe this vampire had been a dud or something. Maybe he'd slashed my wrist open and drunk my blood for giggles. Maybe I wouldn't be turned into a vampire.
Relieving as this news was, I could still remember his whole how would you like to live forever? proposition. Surely he wouldn't just say that for no reason? Not unless he was some sort of idiot vampire.
I cursed under my breath. Just my luck to get bitten by the redneck of the vampires.
It did cross my mind briefly whether he wasn't simply some albino psycho with pointy teeth and a taste for RBCs and hemoglobin. But I remembered the way he'd leapt for my throat. That wasn't some normal bloke. That was either a seriously confused Olympic athlete or a vampire.
By the time I got home, it was well past my curfew. I hesitated to knock on the door of our flat. My dad wouldn't be home yet. But my mum …
I knocked. My mum was always home, so nobody had ever bothered to give me my own keys. My dad used to urge her to go out and take walks and things, but my mum didn't like getting too far from her kitchen and her TV. She had everything delivered to her from the supermarket at the end of the road (Hamada's Subarmarket, it was called). The only times she ever went out was to visit family on Fridays. I was usually dragged along.
I wondered, looking down at my bloody clothes, if I was ever going to have that luxury again. Would I become a vampire? Would I die?
My mum opened the door.
"Ali!" she exclaimed, hand on her bosom and anger in her eyes. "Finally! I was worried sick about you! Why would you do that to your poor mother? Didn't we say your curfew was strictly – "
Her eyes fell on my bloody shirt and widened.
I went inside. This was the moment of truth. I could lie and tell her I'd been mugged or got into a fight and milk the motherly sympathy, or I could tell her the truth and wait for the explosion.
"Ali," said my mum, forcing herself to sound calm. "Why is there blood on your jersey?"
Moment of truth! Moment of truth!
Moment of TRUTH! I urged my mind to come up with some sort of answer.
It did. My lower lip wobbled and I burst into tears.
"Mummy!" I wailed, clutching at her desperately like a two-year-old. "Oh, mummy!"
It is very hard to recall this undignified display of youthful insecurity. But the truth is, I was young. I was a kid. I was shocked. And like all Egyptian males, I was all bluster on top and soft as melted toffee inside.
"What's the matter ya habibi?" crooned my mum, hugging me tight. I could tell by her voice that she was doing her best not to have one of her ya lahwy this is the end of the world moments. "Did someone bother you on the way home? Was it one of your friends? Was it Mohamed? I've always known that boy was no good – "
"No, ma," I blew my nose into her apron. To her credit, she only smacked me lightly on the head. "It wasn't that."
"Well then, what happened to you?" I could hear her fury and concern rising.
"Ma …" I hiccupped slightly, pulling away from her. "Ma, I was attacked by some bloke in the alley, and he – he …"
My mum gasped, clapping both hands on her chest in horror. "Ya mosebty! What did he do?"
Literally translated, Ya Mosebty means Oh, My Disaster! Seeing as this is rather comical, I kept it without translation for dramatic effect.
I swallowed hard. "Mum, I think … I think I was attacked by a vampire."
My mum's face changed quicker than my dad wolfs down his breakfast. She glared at me, expression black as thunder.
"You were what?"
I gulped. "Attacked. Attacked by a … a … v-vampire?"
Now you do have to remember this conversation was in Arabic. So basically what I was saying was, "I was attacked by a sucker-of-blood." Not only does this sound highly unlikely, it also borders on ridiculous. And funny.
And then my mum exploded.
"Oh, really, son?" she shrieked, putting one hand on her hip and waving the other at me wildly. "Why? Do I look like I was born yesterday? Do I? Do I? No, tell me! Do I look like I was born yesterday? Do you think I am like one of your silly friends at the club you can make the fun with? You want to joke with me? Ha? Ha? Are you trying to make me believe Dracoola snuck up on you and took your blood out with a straw? You look healthy as a monkey to me! Trying to fool your mother, yalla? I KNEW IT! I KNEW I DIDN'T RAISE YOU RIGHT! I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO BRING YOU UP, THAT IS THE PROBLEM!" here she relapsed into waving both her hands skywards, as though God was going to personally agree with her, "Yes, Hala, you did not know how to raise a child. You raised him wrong."
Great. Now she was talking to herself. We'd reached critical level on Hurricane Mum. Now she was going to–
"Where's my shebsheb?" she screeched, looking down at the ground madly. "Where – is – my – shebsheb?"
"Aha!" she growled, grabbing her slipper from where it was on the floor and raising it threateningly. "Come here! Come here right now!"
I backed away rapidly. She lunged after me, brandishing her slipper as though it was a sword.
"Mum, I'm sorry!" I whimpered, flinching away from her. She opened her mouth to let loose another angry tirade of words, so I cut her off hastily. "I swear I didn't meant to – but it's true! It's really true!"
My mum gave me a look that would have made the most hardened criminal feel like crap as she dropped her slipper to the floor.
I held out my wrist to her humbly. "Look, mum. He sucked my blood!"
For the first time since I'd brought up vampires, my mum looked concerned again as she eyed my wrist. That was Egyptian mothers. One moment they were loving you and feeding you until you exploded, the next they were impersonating a Banshee, then they were all worried about you again.
"That looks like it hurts," she said, eyeing the wound the pale man had made critically. "What on earth did this to you, honey?"
"Ma, I told you," I said impatiently. "It was a vampire! I swear. A pale man came out in the alley and cut my wrist and drank my blood, then I passed out."
"Now enough of that – "
"Mum, it's true," I insisted. "Have I ever lied to you?"
That, coupled with the scary wound, seemed to make her think. She pursed her lips, staring at me. My mum wasn't a cynical sort. She was superstitious and the amount of TV she watched had made her a little gullible, too (I mean, if she could follow the plot of The Bold and the Beautiful loyally for twenty years …). My injury had shocked her, too. She knew how much I hated getting hurt.
"Fine," she said briskly, getting up. "I'm going to bandage that wound. You go to sleep. If you still insist on the vampire thing when you wake up, we'll talk about it then."
I did as she said. She dressed my wound and I went to bed, despite feeling a bit nauseous. I was so tired I fell asleep, and I didn't even have nightmares.
That is until someone punched me awake.
I woke up to find my mum glaring at me. Her face was a little pale, but she looked more furious than anything.
"So," she snapped at me, hands on her hips and rocking them tensely. "So. The basha here has gone and managed to get himself turned into a vampire."
"What?" I sat up at once, blinking at her. "Since when? What convinced you?"
My mum's mouth trembled slightly, then she continued huffing at me.
"Of all the irresponsible things you had to go and do," she snapped. "And your shirt! All covered in blood that Tide Super Plus can't get out! Say good bye to Real Madrid, I can tell you that."
"Mum," I said suspiciously. "What made you believe me?"
"Well, take a look at yourself!" she said irritably, gesturing at me.
I looked down at myself in horror.