Friday, April 03, 2009

Sweet Oblivion 2: Snare by Jordan Castillo Price

Sweet Oblivion 2: Snare
by Jordan Castillo Price

Cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN: 978-1-59596-388-8
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Dark Fantasy
Theme(s): Vampires, The Dark Side, Gay and Lesbian
Series: Sweet Oblivion
Length: Novella

With summer ending and temperatures dipping low at night, Michael's eager to get his leather jacket back, and although Wild Bill could easily vamp any sales clerk into giving Michael some new duds, it wouldn't be quite the same as the jacket he left at his parents' house. Not unless the malls have begun selling clothing with Rohypnol and ketamine sewn into the seams.
The return of the jacket comes with a price: a new cell phone from Michael's parents. Surprisingly, Wild Bill encourages Michael to keep the phone. After all, Michael wouldn't want to be the only twenty-one-year-old in the world without one. Seems innocent enough... right?
But you never know where an innocent gift will lead. Michael worries the phone may be some shiny bait, meant to lure him closer to his family, and then, college. Everyone seems so intent on getting Michael to enroll, but he's busy looking to catch a vampire...
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The odor of rot was unmistakable. Decay has its own earthy-sweet foulness that can't possibly be anything else. The alkaline underpinning of chlorine masked the aroma slightly, but it was still there, a force of nature, inevitable, inexorable.
I knelt by the side of the pool and scooped out a handful of slimy brown leaves. When was the last time it had been cleaned? If I had a skimmer, I'd do it myself. The kids at the shallow end didn't seem to care that they were covered in seed pods and had dead bugs stuck in their hair. I should probably take a lesson from them and stop being so picky. After all, no one ever accused me of being a neat freak.
But the smell of rot -- that was different from the other smells I lived with, cigarettes, and bodies, and sex. I didn't know if I'd ever slough it off.
There was the possibility that I'd get the motel clerk to come out and give the pool a once-over. All I had to do was ask. And if he said no, I could ask again -- while I reached out with my mind and tried to imagine him having a big change of heart and being bowled over by the desire to make me happy. It didn't always work when I tried to do that. But sometimes, it did.
It would feel amazing to knife through that water. The pool was old, and therefore deeper than they usually make them nowadays, with all the litigation-happy predators looking for an excuse to file suit. It had a diving end. I've always loved diving, the suddenness of it, the drama. The plunge.
"Do you even own a pair of swimming trunks?"
My sister's shadow stretched over me. She hadn't startled me or anything. On some level, I'd felt her coming -- I just hadn't shifted my attention to her quite yet. I looked up at her. She'd worn makeup. A hint of plum eyeliner, a touch of mascara. I smelled hairspray.
And leather. She had my jacket clutched against her chest like a shield.
"I could wear cut-offs."
"I guess. So, where's your boyfriend?"
"Sleeping." If you call it that. Wild Bill does, and he even claims he can wake up any time he wants. I have my doubts.
"Sleeping? It's almost sundown."
"He stays up late."
She held her hand up, palm out. "Don't say any more. I don't want to start picturing it."
I rolled my eyes and stood. She would've said that whether or not I was gay. It was her obligation as a sibling to act like my sex life was gross.
We walked to a poolside table. The cheap plastic chairs had the beginnings of mildew creeping up the legs. More rot. I held out Julie's chair for her, and she shot me a strange look before she sat.
"What's with that?" she said.
"Never mind. It's just weird, is all. We were still kids when you left. Now we're grown up."
We were? I thought she was exactly the same. She laid my jacket across the table. I wondered how thoroughly she'd searched it. Enough to find Jim Harman's card and email him. But enough to find the stashes of Rohypnol and Ketamine I'd sewn into the seams? I could hardly check, with her sitting right there. And even if she had found it, I don't think she would've guessed what I was using it for. She'd probably just think I was partying.
"When're you coming back?" she said. "For a visit, I mean. Thanksgiving?"
"I hadn't really thought that far ahead."
She shoved herself into the back of the chair hard enough to tip it off its front legs, and she rocked it, and sighed. "Must be nice. I feel like my life is planned down to the last second."
"Take a semester off."
"Yeah, right."
"I'm serious. Pick a place you've always wanted to see, and just go. Rent a room and get a job that's enough to pay your rent, any old job, doesn't matter. But being somewhere new -- where you don't know anyone, and everything's different -- that's when big ideas hit you."
"What big ideas?"
I shrugged. The nature of life and death and vampires, mostly. But I guessed that most people's big ideas were probably different from mine. "Four months. It's not really that long, when you think about it."
Her eyes went wistful. She had mom's brown eyes, and the same brown hair as all of us. Hers was sun-touched around her face. "I know you're right. Four months. It's nothing. But mom would skin me alive."
"You're nineteen, you can --"
"Look, you don't get it. You never cared what she thought about you."
"That's news to me."
"Oh, come on. You know what I mean. Girls are closer to their mothers. We have more to prove."
That actually was news to me. "Why?"
Julie made a huffy noise and shook her head. I suspected she really did need some big ideas of her own, but other than suggesting she give herself the time to allow those ideas to find her, there wasn't much more I could do.
Seeing her made me feel heavy-hearted in a way I wasn't sure I understood. If I told her that vampires existed, that I even had proof now, she'd still think I was crazy. The idiot doctor dad had sent me to had convinced the whole family I was just too creative for my own good. And sensitive. And that I needed to spin this fantasy world to compensate for Scary Mary's death.
Creative. Sensitive. Shit, maybe he'd known I was gay even though I never breathed a single word about it. Doctors creep me out.
I changed the subject to the new strip mall I'd noticed on Route 40, and we talked about shopping while the sun lowered, and finally set. Across the leafy pool and up one story, our door swung open and Wild Bill sauntered out onto the wraparound balcony. He was barefoot and shirtless, and his jeans rode low on his hips. He paused and lit a cigarette. Julie noticed my attention had shifted, and she turned to look. "And there's Sleeping Beauty now. Whoa. He is hot. You didn't tell me he had all those tattoos."
Bill leaned forward and rested his elbows on the railing. Hard to read his expression. Bemused? Maybe.
"So he's not going to come down and say hello?"
"He's… reserved."

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