Conversations With A 300-Year Old College Student

I met Thomas Hobbs when I was in college. I worked part-time in the composing room of the local newspaper. In that job, I used computers a lot. I scanned art, typeset ads, printed proof-- but this vignette is about Tom, not me. I'm not into guys and never have been, but if I were, I'd say Tom was attractive. He had jet black hair, green eyes, he was tall and well-formed. He could have had any of the gals in our little town, but he didn't. Tom worked at the newspaper also. Difference was, I didn't know exactly what his status was. He was in the composing room some evenings when I was there, and sometimes he was doing phone interviews over in the newsroom. A couple nights, I saw him go into the backroom to bag papers for the carriers. Tom seemed to have his hands in everything.
Did I mention that Tom also went to my college? I didn't know what his major was, if he had one. He took a variety of classes; in the evening, mostly. There were rumors about him having been a student for a long time.
Before I really knew him, I thought Tom was like an anti-social Van Wilder. You know the guy in that movie who got all the girls and hosted all those wild parties? Well, Tom didn't hang out like that, nor was he exactly popular. Tom supposedly had a lot of money and his own suite in one of the dorms, but he never flaunted the fact.
Anyway, when I in my third year of college, I noticed Tom was around a lot. I never noticed him looking at me, but he was always there. Like, he would walk into the library right after me, or I'd see him at the store. I got the feeling that these were more than mere coincidences, and I confronted him about it.
"Why are you following me?" I asked him one night at the gas station. I had thought it odd that he came in there at the same time I ducked in to gas up my bike. It was just a random evening after work. He shouldn't have been there.
"How do you mean?" replied Tom.
"You always seem to be in places where I go," I answered.
"Wanted to pick up a snack." Tom held up the package of Twinkies he'd just pulled from the shelf. That even seemed a little odd. I'd rarely ever seen him snacking when at work or anything.
I paid for my gas and went outside. Tom was standing by my motorcycle, drinking his energy drink and eating his Twinkies.
"Where are you headed?" he asked casually, as if it weren't odd for him to be standing right next to my bike.
"Home," I answered. "What's up?"
"Gerald works Thursdays and Harris is out with his girlfriend," said Tom, speaking of my two housemates. "So, they won't be home for hours."
"So, I could come over and we'd be alone for a while."
"Tom, c'mon, you know I'm not that kind of guy," I chuckled. It was a little uncomfortable. I put my helmet on and climbed on my bike. "What, are you stalking me or something?"
"No, my friend, nothing like that. And I know you aren't into men. I just want to talk to you, tell you something." Tom's eyes flashed right and left. There were other customers coming out of the convenient store. "I want to just be away from prying eyes."
"Where's your kick?" I asked him. He swung his head in the direction of the black and white Harley Softail beside the building. "Follow me, bud."
"So, what'd you want?" I asked Tom after we were seated in the living room of the Cape Cod I shared with the two other guys at the edge of town. "You could've invited me over to your place, you know. I hear it's huge."
"I'm not going back there. In fact, I plan on leaving town tonight."
"Why are you leaving? Are you dropping your classes? Does the paper know? What about your apartment?"
"You are the first person I've told my plans." Tom acted confident, but his hesitation told me he was a little nervous. "As for the reason, well, something... something is about to come out..."
"Geez, Tom, I told you I'm not that kind of guy. I'm not gay--"
"I know that, and neither am I. I am..."
"Go ahead, spit it out."
"I'm what you'd call a vampire."
The statement freaked me out. I'd always had a passing belief in vamps, though it was a little silly. Maybe they existed, but probably it was just insanity. I jumped to my feet and backed towards the wall. I picked up Gerald's hockey stick and held it in front of me.
"Now I know why you came after me, why you wanted me alone. Go ahead, Tom, get out. You aren't getting me. I'll kick your white--"
"Calm down, my friend," Tom hadn't flinched from his place on our couch. He continued evenly, "You are not my 'prey.' I don't go after people at all. Like you are fond of saying, 'I'm not that kind of guy.'
"Now, sit back down, so I can explain."
I sat down in the recliner we had across the room from the couch. I lowered the hockey stick to my lap, but didn't let my guard down. Tom had always been a pal, but I was afraid of his vamping out on me. "I'm listening."
"I don't feast on blood, not like in the movies. I go to church like you do."
"I was raised Methodist, what's your reason? You scoping out kills?"
"Like I just told you, I don't feast on blood. I haven't touched human blood in over a century."
"Don't you need it to survive? How could you live so long without it?"
"That's what I aim to tell you tonight."
"Why me? Why now?"
"As to the question of time, it has to do with an adversary of mine; I'll tell you more about that later. But, why you? Well, why not? You are a smart young man and you've always been a good friend."
"That doesn't answer the question."
"I know, I'm just stalling. See, I don't want you to freak out or jump to any conclusions."
"So you beat around the bush?"
"You want to know why you in particular and not any of the other six hundred people at our school?"
"What color is that bush you're beating, anyway?"
"It's because... because I want you by my side."
"I told you--"
"It's not like that, buddy. I'm getting older and I need someone to help me out with things. I want you to come with me and... well it's like my valet."
"You don't seem old."
"I'm over two and a half centuries. See, you keep whatever form you had when you were bitten."
"And, you're a shapeshifter, right?"
"Naw, Hollywood got that wrong. Vamps can live a long time, but they can't change how they look. Not at whim, anyway. One time, I knew this blond vamp with blue eyes and the next time I saw her, a couple years later, she was a brown-eyed brunette. Vamps can will themselves to change, but it takes time and concentration."
"Okay, so you're old on the inside and twentysomething on the outside."
"Kinda like that."
"Lez get back on track: why me?"
"Well... You're an open-minded guy and seem pretty caring. You've got a good memory and an eye for detail. You've got a passion for travel.
"Besides that, nothing's keeping you here."
"School? Work? Ring any bells?"
"You are less than twenty credits from receiving a bachelors degree. In what? Liberal studies? I can take you further than any degree can.
"And, the newspaper can get on fine without you. The work you do there can be done by any number of people.
"Don't tell me you like that stuff, friend, because I know that you do. I also know that you want more than to be a mediocre college graduate without a real job. I know you want to see the world and get out of this town."
I looked at him. He was pretty serious, and he had some valid points. What would a college degree get me, really? Didn't I really want to make something of myself any way?
"Can I get my stuff?" I asked, thinking of my CD collection.
"Of course. Whatever you feel you need."
"Okay, let's just say I'm going with you: where would we go?"
"I've got train tickets heading west. They go as far as Colorado. We will stop somewhere near Boulder for now. I bought a house out there a few years back. We'll stay there for a while, and I'll fill you in more about my life."
I had to admit to myself that the idea showed promise. Tom was a nice guy. If even part of what he said was true, being his valet or whatever would be fun. This seemed like it would be cool. I smiled, stuck out my right hand, and we shook.


Deborah Cullins Smith said...

Interesting premise.... Where is this going, Philip? Is this a novel? You have me intrigued! I want to see more! :)

Daniel I Weaver said...

Sue Dent did it with NEVER CEESE, why can't you. It's an intriguing start to something. What do you have in mind for this, Philip?

chrisd said...

It reminds me of that story about the little boy and the snake.

The snake asks the little boy to carry him up the hill and when they get there the snake bites him.

The boy cries and asks the snake, "why did you bite me?"

The snake says, "You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

Interesting premise, Philip.