It was Bethany’s idea to kill the baby.
She was smiling at me when she suggested it, distractedly plucking a strand of tendon from between her fangs. Even had the circumstances been different, my response to her proposal that we feed on the child would probably have been the same. I don’t much like the taste of infant’s blood; untainted by time and ingested chemicals it’s too sweet, like overripe fruit, and it gives me the most godawful stomach cramps.
‘We can’t.’ I said.
‘Why not?’ Bethany squatted gracefully beside the remains of the babysitter and started rooting through the girl’s pockets. After a few moments she found what she was looking for. Casually she flipped one of our victim’s cigarettes into her mouth and lit it with the silver petrol lighter I’d gotten for her for her birthday, her eightieth or eighty-first, I think.
‘Ah,’ she sighed, blowing out a long stream of grey like something she’d seen in a Bette Davis movie. ‘Nothing like a smoke after a hearty meal.’
‘We can’t.’ I said again. ‘We won’t.’
My kid sister smiled at me through the smoke. ‘Oh, you’re no fun anymore, Tim. You weren’t such a killjoy that time we carved up Little Orphan Lucy.’
I bristled, regretting it instantly as I watched Bethany’s red smile broaden. She loved scoring points off me about Lucy. Lucy was a homeless human girl I’d met in London, and beneath the grime she the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. I gave her the cover story that we were using at the time, the one about me and Bethany being orphans, and Lucy had surprised and delighted me by telling me that she was one, too. I had wanted to turn her, to make her a part of my family, but Bethany had gotten to Lucy first. Where I would have been gentle, piercing the soft, dark skin of Lucy’s throat with all my tenderness, my sister had torn and chewed and savaged. I suppose I might have loved Lucy, though I only knew her for a few hours. I suppose I shouldn’t have fed on her, though my hunger had been very bad that night.
‘Oh, come on,’ Bethany tapped her cigarette over the babysitter’s chest cavity. Embers glowed briefly on the exposed muscle of the girl’s heart and were gone. A bountiful winepress to an ashtray in one gesture. ‘I’ll let you have the tasty bits.’ She considered, pouting. ‘Some of them, anyway.’
‘No.’ I said, with as much finality as I could muster.
Bethany glared at me for a long moment. ‘The hell with you, then.’ she snapped, rising. ‘I’m going to find some dental floss.’
She stormed out, leaving me alone with the babysitter. I studied the girl. She was sixteen or so, and quite pretty. Her face was the most intact area of her remains and I recognised the expression she wore. It was the frozen mask of almost comical surprise that humans don when confronted by creatures they’ve only ever seen in movies or nightmares. They expect us to be different. They expect Max Schreck or Christopher Lee or Robert Pattinson (My Father, who in a certain moonlight looks a little like Christopher Lee, calls this “a scandal of cinematic evolution”, usually when he’s drunk). The humans certainly don’t expect a nine-year old girl in a One Direction T-shirt or her almost painfully shy thirteen year-old brother.
Can you imagine what that’s like? To be over a hundred years old and not look a day over thirteen? Think about it. I mean, how do you feel when you look at old photographs of yourself? Pretty embarrassing, right? It’s not just the way I look that bothers me sometimes. It’s knowing that my voice will never deepen, or that I’ll never get any taller. It can be really disconcerting to have memories of the Great War and know those memories are stuck forever behind the face of some gawky little brat. Even if I had a reflection, I honestly don’t think I could bear to look in a mirror anymore.
But enough of that. If you want an interview there are plenty of books available for that sort of thing. I want to tell you about Bethany, and the baby.
There I was, standing over the dead girl and thinking about how pretty she was when, from above me, I heard the child crying.
I sprang over the corpse and ran upstairs. As I came to the open doorway of the nursery I heard the baby’s yells dwindle and cease, and looking inside I saw Bethany, cradling the infant like a doll, her bloody lips making quiet soothing sounds.
‘What are you doing?’ I demanded.
‘Shush,’ Bethany hissed. ‘He’s quieting down again.’
Carefully, I approached them. The baby’s face, round and pink in the glow of the night light, was awake and alert now, his blue eyes wide and curious. He gurgled pleasantly, and I marvelled at how calm he was clasped to the breast of a predator.
‘What happened?’ I whispered.
‘He heard me in the bathroom, I think.’ Bethany told me, and right away I knew she was lying. ‘He just started crying, so I thought I’d better come in.’
‘Put him back in the cot. We don’t have time for this.’
Bethany had begun to stroke the child’s soft, fine hair with her fingers, and I noticed how, in this dim light, it looked almost the same reddish-blond as my own. ‘Look how plump he is,’ breathed Bethany. ‘So full of life.’
‘Put him back.’ I said, suddenly angry with her. ‘Now, Bethany.’
‘You can’t make me!’ she snapped, a little too loudly, and the shape in her arms stirred fitfully.
‘Maybe I can.’ I took a pace towards her. ‘Maybe I will.’
Her fingers, cupping the baby’s skull, tightened fractionally. ‘And maybe I’ll take his head off his shoulders right now if you even try.’
‘Bethany, for God’s sake …’
She raised an eyebrow at me reprovingly. ‘Language, Timothy.’
My lips felt as if they were coated in fine sand. ‘Look,’ I ventured. ‘If you’re still hungry then I’ll go out and find you someone to eat. But not the baby. Believe me, he’ll taste awful anyway. Kids always do.’
‘Who says I’m hungry?’ she whispered.
‘Maybe …’ Her eyes glittered. ‘Maybe I just want to kill him.’
‘What?’ I repeated, shaking my head. ‘Why?’
‘Because I hate him!’ And though there was venom in her voice, I saw tears glimmering at the corners of her eyes. I hadn’t seen Bethany cry in a long time, maybe thirty years, and to be honest I’d forgotten how painful it was to see. ‘I hate the way he cries all the time. I hate how whenever I want to talk to Mum she’s always too busy opening a vein for him, and even Dad doesn’t take me out hunting anymore.’
As she spoke, she was squeezing our as yet nameless baby brother tighter to her chest, though not hard enough to hurt him, I thought. He smiled up at her, the little points of his fangs already beginning to break through his smooth pink gums.
‘I’ll talk to them,’ I promised. Sometimes I felt guilty about being our parents’ favourite, but that didn’t stop me using that favouritism to my advantage, or in this case, Bethany’s. ‘But only if you give me the baby.’
Bethany regarded me silently, her blue eyes unreadable. Then she said, ‘Mum and Dad are going to be mad when they see the babysitter, aren’t they?’
‘Probably.’ I replied, thinking there was no probably about it. ‘But it’ll be okay. We’ll just move again, no problem.’
She glanced down at the baby. He wriggled in her arms, making the little nonsense noises that infants do, and Bethany said something that I didn’t quite hear.
‘I said he’s cute.’ she repeated. ‘Don’t you think so?’
‘As a button.’ I agreed, moving closer.
‘I don’t hate him really,’ she said as I took him gently from her unresisting arms and returned him to his cot.
‘I know.’ I turned to face her. ‘C’mon. Let’s go downstairs and clean up.’
We did. We washed and wiped and folded the babysitter’s carcass into a black plastic bag for Dad to dispose of, then sat and watched television, waiting for our parents to come home from the theatre.