Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Christian completed his MA in Creative Writing at University of Technology, Sydney, soaking up influences such as Anne Rice and Clive Barker along the way. His mostly non-fictitious scribblings have appeared in publications in Australia and Canada, including Same Same and Charlebois Post.
Having lived in Brisbane, Sydney and Toronto, his off-the-page publishing career has included stints with Indigo Books and Random House. His dual passions for travel and mythology have sent him chasing legendary monsters across the globe, including vampires in New Orleans, asuras in Bangkok and theatre critics in New York.
The Beast Without is his first novel.
On any given night, in any city in the world, somebody will die before sunrise and most of them will die alone. I speak, not of the peaceful, ‘tucked up in bed’ deaths, which mark the passing of the fortunate, but rather the deaths that go unseen and often unmourned. The lost soul who climbed a bridge one night and thought the water below might be hiding what remained of his dreams. Or perhaps the one who picked up the wrong one-nighter in some bar. One way to avoid the ‘alone’ part, I suppose.
Most humans put this sobering thought out of their little heads while they’re out on the town. After all, it’s not going to happen to them is it? The nearest to death they’ll get on their big night out is a splitting hangover, come morning.
I’m not human, but even so, this is a reality I can’t ignore. If I’m not careful when I feed, when I take my fill of blood, I can quickly become the wrong one-nighter.
I’ll thank you not to use the ‘v’ word.
Given my proximity to Oxford Street, the sleazy, pulsing artery of Sydney’s nightclub district where I’ve lived for the better part of thirty years, I try not to visit any club twice in the same week. It’s safer that way, particularly for a man whose lifestyle depends on discretion. Barely two nights ago, I’d graced Fantasy, a club full of pretty, if flighty young things – some gay, some straight, most happily open minded on the subject. So the following night’s destination was Blaze, a club currently serving as de facto cathedral to the Church of Saint Muscle Mary, where the buff and beautiful took time out of their forty hour a week gym schedules to model, preen and occasionally dance the night away for the slack-jawed ogling pleasure of curious onlookers.
For hunting clothes, I chose a pair of tight leather trousers, an equally tight lycra vest and a silver-studded belt. A little attractive, a little sexual, and a little ridiculous. The perfect human mix I’d developed over the years. Not the epitome of modern style, but on a healthy twenty-four year-old man, which is what I appear to be, it did say ‘come hither and bed me,’ which was the whole point.
Then, there was the pill. I rarely use them, but if options are lacking and I get too impatient, a little chemistry in a capsule can seal the sumptuous fate of any prospective companion. You needn’t judge me. You do a lot worse to your food. Besides, it’s not as if I’ve had to use it – recently.
I finally mussed my hair into a high swept fringe that resembled the current trends. There. Reylan had arrived. And so, the hunt commenced.
If Fantasy was an over-priced showcase of Sydney’s most precious ‘see or be seen’ crowd then Blaze was a stream of hedonistic delights, corrupted further by a tacky West Hollywood sheen, as imagined by a designer who’d had never been within a hundred miles of the place. The neon show was frightening – more Hong Kong than California – turning its lobby into a maw of the throbbing techno-driven beast that lay beyond its doors. Still, there were the delicious beasts within that beast. The elite bodies of Blaze. The blood bags of Blaze. Shallow though it may have been, this was a club not without its advantages.
Flashing the bouncer a smile, I was admitted with a polite flourish. I’m pretty, after all, and pretty’s good for business. In front of me, two epicene boys, barely old enough to enter, strutted around with… glitter. Glitter, plastered over their faces and arms, their hair styled up and cemented in place like ghastly exotic birds. Escapees from Fantasy, perhaps? Show cockatiels belong in cages, children.
I quickly turned my attention to the chiselled beauties of mankind that crowded the room. Physically flawless – the pesky confines of mortality notwithstanding. It was rare to find half a brain between them, but for blood that sweet, I was willing to forgo intelligent conversation. Then, there was the ever-present smattering of fine looking women, mingled throughout the posers and their admirers.
Seduction remains, without doubt, one of the safest forms of feeding available to our kind. I have taken to my bed women, men, white, black, Asian, young, old, fat, thin, muscular… any creed, colour, sexuality or physical type you care to nominate. It is only the taste of the blood that varies.
For example, men taste harder, bolder and fuller in flavour than women. This doesn’t necessarily make their blood better, and I’ve nothing in the world against women. But over decades of hunting, I have found the blood of men much easier to attain. Men are confident to go home with a stranger for a night of rough passion while women tend to balk at the prospect – an unchanging observation for as long as I’ve depended on their blood. Women are perceptive. Men are dumb – many adorably so.
Like the one who caught my eye, leaning on the bar just a few metres away, swilling expensive beer from a thin bottle. His short blonde hair shone immaculately in the pulsing lights. His legs snugly filled out dark blue jeans and his black shirt was tucked into a leather belt, laying bare his muscular chest and strong back. I could tell by the bored, lazy expression in his eyes. An easy, tasty meal. A meal named Rory, as a smile and quick introduction soon revealed.
I take great pride in my ability to summarise people at a glance, and Rory was more or less as he appeared. He was twenty-seven, infatuated with the gym, loved to party and knew none of the authors, musicians, or artists that I longed to speak of.
On the bright side, our lack of common interests allowed me to hand out half answers while I focused on what was important – the veins, rising deliciously from his forearm to his shoulder. As I looked deeper, I could almost feel the warmth of his blood, unpolluted with drugs, save the little beer he was drinking. That body, lean, athletic and well-kept, was a brilliant store of health. Enough to last me two nights, if I was careful.
Now, do you understand why I love Blaze?
After a half hour’s ‘conversation’, I was actually starting to enjoy Rory. He had a hearty laugh that matched his physical appeal and occasionally caught my attention with flashes of keen intelligence. A law graduate, completing his thesis at Macquarie, he was trying hard not to bore me with details – despite the best pleas of my glazed over expression. Anything but the blow-by-blow description of some fitness class he taught. Please, I beg you. Make it stop!
Before the boxercise-induced aneurism could take hold completely, the blood flowing beneath his smooth flesh glowed hotter, and he put his beer down on the table. Before I could move – not that I tried – he leaned down and kissed me.
It is one thing to be kissed as a human, by someone gifted in the act. But for one of my kind, being kissed is a far more revealing experience. In that brief moment of intimacy, we can sample a mortal’s blood without drawing a single drop. We can know their health, their quality and breeding, their nature and mood – anything that may affect the blood’s flavour, but remains invisible.
As long as his lips were against mine, Rory was happy to be explored. The aroma of his blood was so sweet I had to fight the temptation to bite his tongue right there and drain him. His hard, smooth body, damp with the sweat of dancing, slid over my lycra vest as he pushed deeper. He put a hand on my back and worked his way down, somehow forcing his fingers inside my unyielding pants, gently kneading the smooth cleft of my behind. Not wishing to seem frigid, I began a little exploration of my own, slipping a hand inside his belt.
“Ahem.” The bartender winked at us. It was one of the modern club scene’s most elegant phrases summed up in a very simple act.