Celis T. Rono - By That Which Bites


A PALLID, MALNOURISHED GIRL of twelve sniffed and blew her nose. It was her second viewing of Billy Jack, a tawdry vigilante movie from the 1970s she had come upon in the Flower District. The badly acted and shoddily directed B-movie affected her like nothing else.

“It’s time you took matters into your own hands,”

she lectured herself, borrowing from the movie.

“You’re out of cereal, Nutella, vitamins, and Cheez Whiz, and you need to get some rainwater from the roof. Don’t just sit here dying of thirst. Be brave for once in your life!”

She kicked a shoebox full of gems, diamonds, and gold jewelry out of her way. They were nothing more than shiny trinkets as useless and garish as Barbie dolls.

The girl named Julia Poe gathered three empty plastic gallons and made her way above ground from the hotel basement. She climbed the stairwell to the rooftop, leaving her winded with a powerful stitch to her side. Eating expired food from tin containers and lack of cardiovascular exercise would do that to anyone. She vowed to get fitter.

Inflatable swimming pools and pails, drably painted to match the nearby mid-rise buildings, littered the rooftop to collect rainwater. She submerged the 1

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plastic jugs until bubbles no longer surfaced. Julia disliked leaving her bomb shelter if she didn’t have to.

She was developing more phobias as the years slugged on that made it tougher to perform everyday tasks like shopping. Watching movies was the only activity that got her up in the morning.

“Maybe I’ll see someone today,” she whispered quietly. “I’m tired of talking to myself.”

Feeling emboldened by the film, Julia walked to the edge of the roof and peered down. Little Tokyo didn’t look so bad with the exception of skeletons strewn like Dia de los Muertos dolls minus the sombreros. They left it alone mostly. Maybe it was the close distance to Skid Row that made living in the area unattractive. A mere block away, the famous mecca of the dispossessed was speckled with rusty, corroded cars – their owners’ skeletal remains still waiting for the traffic lights to change.

While a supermajority had choked and sputtered on noxious gray mist, an inordinate number of Skid Row homeless initially survived. Most likely their constant state of infection desensitized them to the filth that contaminated the lower atmosphere. The new powers-that-be, however, didn’t think kindly about the mentally unsound walkabouts, the shake-inducing cheap smack, or the stench. The survivors on Alameda Street didn’t make the cut and were slaughtered. Poe witnessed the carnage from the same roof. She could almost hear the screams as they were flushed out.

It was first of many declarations that came to be.

Sampling transient blood anywhere in the city was determined unlawful. Not shortly after that, human cattle of darker complexion or pronounced ethnic features were set aside for the dirty jobs. Their blood, slightly higher grade than that of the homeless, was deemed ‘for emergency use only.’


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“Pay attention,” she told herself. “Don’t think about the bums.”

Everywhere else, rabid dogs that had been lucky enough to dodge vampire fangs now overran the once bustling streets surrounding her hotel. Jagged concrete chunks, tall weeds, and broken glass littered the road, causing a mess during the rainy season when muck ended up in the already clogged storm drains. The filthy infrastructure flooded and emitted putrid vapors that could offend even the toughest of the supernatural.

From the corner of her eye she saw him down Alameda Street.

“A halfdead,” she said, fear catching her throat.

He was chasing after a pack of dogs and flinging rope at them. The white blur wearing a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts could outrun the fastest four-legged creatures. He was toying with them, purposely dogging their steps like a gunslinger from the Old West. Only, this guy was no Clint Eastwood. Dry mouthed, Julia watched him lasso in a Rottweiler and bury his fangs into the dog’s neck, tearing its flesh brutally, unnecessarily. Like an empty soda can, he tossed the ravaged mutt over his shoulder.

“Evil son of a bitch,” Julia said quietly, shuddering at what she’d witnessed.

The git was a halfdead, a rare stuck-in-the-middle vampire that could sunbake all day if he wanted. He may not have had the immortality of a vampire, but he had all the other perks. The creature lassoed six dogs and dragged them back to the heart of downtown. The more they resisted, the harder the ropes dug in their necks, cutting off their air. He was the fifth