Everybody knows that a true vampire, though possessed of many traits, is critically defined by three:
- Is afraid of the sun.
- Has really, really long fangs.
- Thirsts for human blood.
Eli was a true—one hundred percent, without a doubt—vampire, and had none of the traits above.
California days are long in the summer. In the winter, the sun would set before Eli got up and no one would be out to play, but in July, the sky was red, and warm, and just dim enough for his mom to sit outside without burning. She watched from the shade of an elm tree as Eli pushed his way into the small group of children gathered around the swings. They were discussing what to play next. One boy screamed, “Vampires and Priests!”—as filterless children will do, learning from their older siblings, cousins, parents, and all the generations before who thought, well, it doesn’t mean anything; no harm intended. Except harm had been intended, in the past if not the present. Painful lessons became reflexes and unexplainable anxieties, inherited like blood—and some knew how to strike the vein a bit too well.
Eli had never heard of this game before. They didn’t play it at night school. His primos never played it, either, and for good reason, but Eli didn’t know that. No one had explained the game’s rules and origins to him yet. All he knew was the word vampire—very much like vampiro—and so he chimed in: “Oh! I’m a vampire! What game is that?”
Thus, the inquisition began.