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An excerpt from Pandora Syndrome (an unpublished supernatural novel by April Wahlin; used
~Beginning of the End~
So there I was, encased in about ten feet of solid cement, and walled into the
basement of an Ahab’s coffee shop. My skin ached. Not because of the cement, but
because it was morning. So I hadn't made the best life choices. I just wasn't good at this
being a vampire business.
After the initial shock of being buried in cement finally wore off, I found myself in an
uncomfortably reflective state. So I waxed and waned about every event that led up to my
current plight. What else could I do? Every time I attempted to move, my muscles clenched
and burned with the effort. It was just easier to try and stay still.
Thinking back, I remember my friends telling me that I had the worst taste in men. I
thought they were just making fun of my eating habits… get it? “Eating habits?” Vampire?
Okay, lame joke. Seriously though, even when I was human I was a horrible judge of
character. At this point I was only hoping to hear the huge “I told you so” from my vampiric
Maker... if he's still alive, that is.
Anyway, my name is Pandora Grey Blackheart. I know, with a name like that I’m not
surprised I got turned into a vampire either. Being born in the sixties, my parents were
model hippies. I think my mother, Mary, was rebelling against her own name when she
dubbed me Pandora. Mary is the most common female name in history; I looked it up. If
you think I got it bad, my brother’s name is Prometheus Jackson Blackheart. No one was
shocked when he started going by Jack.
My friends call me Dora; I’ll even respond to D on occasion, but no one calls me
Pandora unless they want to piss me off. The only people that get away with it are my
mother, because she gave birth to me, and my Maker because he refuses to call me anything
As the vampire books say (and yes I’ve read them all - there isn’t exactly a
“Vampirism for Dummies”), I was Created in the ‘80s, the height of the slacker era. It was an
easy time: No wars to protest, no drafts, and there was a rapid influx in fashion and
technology. My generation was the last to be raised by our parents, instead of colorful
cartoon characters, but I digress.
God, this cement was infuriating! I occasionally managed to distract myself long
enough to forget where I was, but it never lasted long. I felt like Han Solo encased in
carbonite. Every time I tried to move, I felt a little bit more of my flesh rip. It was painful
and reminded me that it was just better to stay still. Thus, I sank back into my strangely
In my longish existence, it had been strange to watch technology change so
drastically. I remember when only rich people had access to cell phones and the internet.
Now if you didn’t have the internet on your cell phone, you were left in a technological
wasteland. Toddlers have cell phones these days. What is the world coming to?
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Anywho, I’m curvy for a twenty-first century girl. I would have fit in better with
Betty Page’s generation than the stick-thin super models of today. I’m a girl of medium
height with black hair and eyes so dark brown they’re nearly black too. Booooring. I get hit
on enough, though. Then again, I’ve seen guys hit on couches after enough drinks.
All in all, I’m not the best vampire. Clearly. Not that I’d given much thought to joining
the ranks of bloodthirsty night stalkers. I still like the taste of food, though it does nothing
for me physically. I hunt to eat, but not for sport like many vamps do. Above all, I abhor
politics. You think human politicians are bad? They haven’t had ten lifetimes to practice.
Another win in the 'world’s least likely vampire' category, is that I'm a huge pop
culture geek. This is weird for three reasons: one, I am a girl and should apparently have
been more into Barbies than Star Wars action figures; two, I am not ten years old, society's
usual age for collecting toys (though I'd never hand a display action figure or resin busts to
a ten-year-old, as it would damage the value and integrity of the piece); three, the geek
factor pretty much ruins the whole bloodthirsty night stalker image. I should be wearing a
duster and leather pants, not jeans and a Voltron t-shirt.
If my Maker hadn’t been in the right place at the wrong time, I’m sure I would have
been his last choice for a Tyro--I’m just not vampire material. Heck, I’m not even vampire
bait. I’m not Mina Harker; I’m not innocent or sweet, and I am not particularly virtuous. I’m
a modern woman who lost her virtues in a haze of high school-aged smoking, drinking, and
I didn’t have a job… well, not a real job anyway. I was confined to working nights for
obvious reasons, but I felt more contented than I did when I was alive. Mostly because I
didn’t have to worry about what I’d do with my life; I had eternity to do something with
Suddenly, a wave of annoyance made me stop pontificating about my virtues, or lack
thereof. As a distraction from my current situation, my musings were only doing the job so
well. Man, the cement was getting on my nerves. You don’t realize how good it feels to
move your neck around until you no longer have the luxury. I hoped I wouldn’t need the
little girl’s room any time soon. Then again, since I could practically feel the cement
leaching moisture from my body, I wasn’t in any danger of that. Of course, needing the
bathroom was the least of my problems.
How had I got myself into this mess? I never killed anyone; well, not permanently
anyway. I never hurt anyone that didn’t deserve it. I didn’t manipulate people. I only took
blood from willing donors– usually dumb guys who thought they were getting a hickey
instead of giving blood. All I wanted to do was hang out with my friends, play video games
(which are much easier to kick ass at when you have a vampire’s dexterity), and basically
just not be encased in cement. Was that too much to ask?
My captors had been smart. I had tried to use my connection with my brother to call
for help but my handy vamp powers weren’t so handy on a supernatural high ground. The
land here disrupted any magical current that came near it. Go figure that Ahab’s Coffee
would be the supernatural ‘it’ place. Just further demonstrates how much I knew about this
(new, weird) world. In fact, not long after I discovered that little fact, I was told that their
rival, Tea Station, was run by Hunters--a bunch of overpowered watchdogs that worked for
a supernatural enforcement group called The Order. Next they’d tell me that Bigfoot runs
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I imagined the agonizing ways I’d kill those who had done this to me–if I ever get out
of here that is. It reminded me of how far I’d come and the events that led me up to my
~My Human Life~
I have to admit, my human life was not so different from my vampire life. I
would love to say that I had a fabulous existence before I turned vamp and that it just got
better once I joined the supernatural world, but I can’t.
Whoever said that all vampires are rich and have hordes of ghoulish servants never
met Dora Blackheart. They were probably thinking of my Maker. As for me, I wasn't well-
to-do, I wasn't influential, I wasn’t even an overachiever in high school. The only thing I
ever won was a beautiful baby contest, and that was before I could even form memories.
In my human life I lived in San Diego, which is beautiful, but when you grow up
there, it’s just commonplace. I barely held down a job as a cashier at a supply store, which
provided me with nothing but an irrational hatred for incentive plans and extended
Yes, I was living in the fast lane with my super exciting sales job. On top of that, I was
a full-time junior college student with no direction. I still lived with my mother and had just
broken up with my stoner boyfriend who had been little more than a masturbatory aid. The
only break from this monotony was the occasional keg party or movie night with my old
high school friend and coworker, Rosetta.
I hardly remember the breakdown I had just before I turned twenty-one, but I’m
glad it happened, even though it inadvertently led to my early death.
I had a bit of a temper then. Okay, maybe more than a bit. Normally, I was able to
keep it under wraps, only vaguely threatening those that crossed me. However, every now
and again, it got a tad violent.
Working at a boring office supply job had been hard enough, but when my coworker
Jerry slid up to me that fateful day, I knew something was going to go down. Honestly, I'd
been feeling off all day. Trying to juggle school and work was trying at best, and my grades
were suffering greatly. Not to mention, what I made at the sales job was barely enough for
me to eat and keep up with the repairs on my beater of a car. At this rate I'd never be able
to afford an apartment. How did people do this?
I smelled Jerry before I heard him, as he was part of the smokers group that went
outside for a break every five minutes.
"Hi Pandora," his smoke laced breath breezed by my ear and I nearly choked.
I nodded in return and focused on organizing my checkout stand. It was a slow day
and I was hoping for a sudden rush of customers so I wouldn't have to talk to the man.
Jerry was in his early thirties and already had a pretty good bald spot/pot belly
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combo going on. He also had the confidence of Patrick Swayze when trying to pick up girls,
without any of the smoothness. I'd made my opinion on his advances known early on and
reinforced them with the occasional 'fuck off' or 'I'd rather eat dirt,' but it never deterred
"So, a few of us are going out after work," he told me, still standing uncomfortably
close. "You should come, I'll buy you a drink."
I rolled my eyes. Despite the fact that I wasn't yet twenty-one, I had heard this line
before. 'A few of us' was actually code for 'just him,' as I was told by my friend Rosetta who
had felt bad for the guy and gone to meet him once.
"Nope," I told him sharply. "But my shift will be over soon and I'm sure someone
gullible will take my place."
"Have it your way. You don't know what you’re missing," he chuckled darkly.
I wanted to keep it that way. Unfortunately, that’s when I felt a sharp pinch to my
right ass cheek. A rush of adrenalin ran up my spine and to my hand, which latched onto
the nearest object. I swung, striking Jerry in the face with a standard issue office stapler.
Blood poured from Jerry's face as he screeched obscenities and pawed at the thick
staple now lodged in his forehead. I looked down at the stapler in my hand and then back
up at him, stunned by my reaction. Everyone in the store had stopped to look. I couldn't
help noticing that no one went to help Jerry. A few people even snickered, but all I could do
was stand in shock.
I stared at my bloodied hand as Jerry yelled at me, his words fading into the
background as my heart pounded in my ears. My breath seized and I couldn't make sense of
anything. I felt like I needed to go. Something was telling me to leave, something just on the
edge of hearing. So I ran. The manager called after me as I ran out, wanting to talk, but I’d
rather nail my tongue to the counter than sit through the “is something wrong?” speech.
Yes, something was very wrong. I might as well have stapled my resignation to Jerry's head
because I would never step foot in that store again.
I was on the couch at my mother’s house, cuddling with my large husky, Sarge,
before I could fully process what had happened. I didn't even remember driving home. I
groaned into Sarge's fur as I contemplated my current situation. I was a complete and utter
fuck up with a failing grade point average, a newly lost job, and a waning mental state.
My brother, Jack, dropped onto the couch next to me, trying to get me to talk, but I
ignored him. His presence only amplified my misery, as I was doomed to fill the failure role
in the family. Jack, was the picture of perfection compared to me. He had just graduated
from San Diego State University. The boy could sleep through calculus and get an A,
whereas I studied my ass off and barely passed remedial algebra. I hated him for it,
especially since he acted like such a meathead most of the time, what with his partying and
near constant womanizing.
I had never even tried to get into a university. I didn't see the point on spending all
that money on tuition when I didn't even know what I wanted to do with my life. Since
Mom wasn't rich, I decided to save her money. With a secretary's budget, she couldn't even
afford to put one kid through SDSU. So Jack worked the graveyard shift at Lenny’s Diner to
help put himself through school. I had tried to follow in his footsteps. Really, I had, but the
fates had something else in store for me.
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Luckily, when Jack moved to L.A. and became a production assistant, he quickly
realized he needed a roommate in order to pay his exorbitant rent. I didn't know what I
would do to earn my keep, but just about anything was better than sticking around here.
Unfortunately, before I could pack my Star Wars figurines and pose a Jerry-Maguire-
like 'I quit!' scene, there came a death in the family.
Smoking a pack a day and demolishing a gallon of Vodka every couple weeks,
my Grandmother Millie—who lived with my mother and I—died of heart failure. Yes,
after years of smoking and drinking, it was her heart that failed; not the lungs, not the liver.
Take that, Surgeon General.
My grandmother had been an ornery old woman, but I loved her and couldn’t
believe that I was too busy having a breakdown to realize that Granny had been rushed to
the hospital. She was dead by the time I got there.
I should probably mention that my grandmother never liked me. I think it had
something to do with me being born with dark eyes and hair. So unlike my Germanic, blue-
eyed, blond-haired family.
“Devil Girl, get out of the refrigerator!” she’d yell when I came home from school
wanting a snack.
It was her cute pet name for me. The way she shouted it across the house, she
sounded more like some creole lady from the bayou, instead of a scrawny white woman
from Minnesota. The name never really hurt my feelings; she’d been calling me that since
infancy. However, Grandma’s nickname for Jack was, Angel Boy. You could tell who her
A few weeks later, we held the funeral at the local crematorium. Despite my
groaning, it was open casket. Why go through the trouble of all that makeup and
embalming fluid if they were just going to burn her afterwards? It didn’t make any sense to
me. Guess the old witch just wanted to traumatize us all before going up like a traditional
broom rider, in a blaze of glory.
I had a strange feeling as I walked into the funeral home that afternoon. I never liked
funerals. It all started with my grandpa’s. I had only been six, and forgot much of it, but I
remembered the feeling. It was the same feeling I got when passing graveyards and
museums, like I could sense the death on them. I couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t scared, I didn’t
want to run away. If anything, the sense of death felt more like it was calling to me.
The air in the parlor reeked of formaldehyde and lilac. It was like trying to aerosol
over the smell of burnt food. You could mask it, but you could still tell there was something
“You okay, sweetie?” Mom asked in concern as I stood in the doorway staring at my
I hadn't even realized that my mother had been standing there. She was in a long
black dress with a black blazer over it, making the brightness of her blond hair and blue
eyes stand out. Though her eyes were a little watery and red from crying.
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“Yeah, I’ll be alright,” I lied to her.
I sure didn't feel alright. I wanted to walk toward the box. It was weird. I hated open
casket funerals, but somehow, I was longing to see my grandmother one last time. If not for
Jack, who escorted my mother and I to our seats, I might never have moved.
People were gathering around a blown up picture of my grandmother from the early
BC’s. She looked a bit like my mom then. Guess I wouldn’t want the last picture everyone
saw of me to be old and wrinkly either.
The crowd was small, just my aunts, cousins, and a few family friends. My grandma
hadn’t had too many buddies near the end, probably because she spent most of her time
complaining about the neighbors and watching Wheel of Fortune.
Just then, I turned to find my best friend, Rosetta, pacing in the doorway to the
crematorium. I was truly surprised she had shown up. Anything having to do with death
freaked her out.
“Hey,” she called as I approached.
I was so happy to see her. Rosetta would be a neutral haven for me, just sad enough
to be respectful, but not full of tears like my mother and brother. She was in her work
uniform for the supply store we worked at–. Well, where I use to work. The gross green
color of the vest did nothing to compliment her dark Latin features. Why were work
uniforms always so ugly?
“Hey,” I greeted, joining her in the doorway. "Thanks for coming. I know you’re
usually squeamish about this sort of thing.”
Rosetta kept her eyes on me, avoiding the casket. “I wanted to pay my respects. It’s
kinda what you do, right?” She muttered, nervously twisting her long brown braid around
her finger. It was like she was afraid some creature might suddenly come to life and attack
“Yeah, but you can’t even sit through The Fog, and that’s just movie smoke. Being in
an actual crematorium with actual dead people must be hell for you.”
Rosetta shivered. “Cut it out,” she scolded. “I’m here for you, not the body. I got to
get back to work though."
"I know, thanks for stopping by... sure you don't want to come see Grandma before
you go?" I teased. "They did a reasonable job on her makeup," I lied; I hadn't actually seen
her yet, but I didn't have high hopes.
"No," she replied, narrowing her eyes. "But if you stop pushing your luck, I'll take
you out for dinner when I get off work."
"You’re on," I nodded and gave her a hug.
Rosetta patted me on the back and then gave me one last reassuring smile before
heading back to her car.
Rejoining my mother and brother, we greeted the relations we hadn't seen since last
Christmas and accepted condolences on the loss of my 90-year-old grandma. I have to say,
they looked grimmer when they saw her alive than they did at her funeral. No one had
expected her to live as long as she did. I was pretty sure she had stayed alive out of pure
spite and stubbornness.
When everyone was finally seated, Mom nodded to the preacher. Silence filled the
room as he began Grandma’s eulogy. I couldn’t wait for this to be over.