Words || Anastas Miller-Csapo
‘See, I think it all started back when I was a kid,’ he says, fiddling with some loose change on the counter top. ‘I never really fit in with the other children. I didn’t talk much. I kept to myself and played on my own.’
His hair is a little overdue for a cut, but it doesn’t stop him from looking uncomfortably attractive. I can see the tips of his ears peeking out, and it might just be my imagination, but they seem slightly pointy.
‘I was absolutely convinced that my parents weren’t my actual parents, too,’ he went on. ‘That they were just substitutes, and I kept waiting for my real parents to come and take me back.’
‘What can I get for you?’ the bartender, a dark-haired girl in her early twenties, asks from behind the counter.
He blinks, looking slightly alarmed that she’s there. I quickly order a gin and tonic to give him time to compose himself.
‘I’ll have a vodka lemonade,’ he says, and turns back to me. ‘At first, my parents treated it as a childish fantasy game, but I started to get more insistent, had a few tantrums. Eventually they took me to a child psychologist. Or psychiatrist. One of the two. Anyway, she said I was immersing myself in a fantasy world as a substitute for interacting with other humans. Because I was lonely and had poor social skills.’
He seems slightly amused by this. The bartender comes back with our drinks, and we pay and make our way to a small table in the corner with two chairs. Someone’s left a plate there that looks like it once held a Hawaiian pizza, but I move it to the empty table next to us to join a half-finished order of potato wedges.
‘That was when I was … seven, I think?’ he says, sitting down across from me. ‘I kept going back to see her… Doctor Yi, I think her name was. Maria Yi. I saw her for about three years, and eventually I started to believe that she was right.’
I nod understandingly as he takes a sip.
‘So I grew up to be a relatively normal teenager, and looked back on my childhood antics and shook my head and laughed and talked about what a weird kid I was,’ he says. ‘And that went pretty well for a few years. I was about seventeen when it all sort of fell apart.’
‘What happened?’ I ask.
He regards his glass before taking another sip. ‘There was this girl in my high school, really religious conservative Christian, always trying to get people to go to her Evangelical youth group. I knew she didn’t like me. I’d always assumed it was because she knew I was queer or because I actually had a sense of humour or something. We went to this camp for a high school excursion and I ended up in the same cabin as her along with a pair of twins. I tried to get into one of the boys’ cabins, but you know how transphobic high schools are.’
He grimaces, as if recalling a particularly distasteful memory.
‘I remember she kept glaring at me all the time from the other side of the room, like she was waiting to strike. Nothing happened while the other two were there, but then one of them had an accident and had to go to hospital, and her sister left with her. And
then as soon as they were gone, she attacked me – physically attacked me, tied me up with an iron link chain.’
‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘Turns out she was a bloody exorcist. At least, that’s what she said after she tied me up. She’s the one who told me that I was a changeling. She said that was why the iron was burning me. I still have scars on my body from that. I can show you later, if you like.’ There’s a mischievous glint in his eyes when he says this, and I feel my face heat up.
‘Fortunately the whole thing caused enough of a commotion that the teachers came in,’ he continues. ‘She was expelled after that, thank god.’
‘No one could offer an explanation as to how the iron affected me like it did. They thought maybe she had put something on it, but nothing could be found. I couldn’t kid myself that everything was normal after that. I started hunting down information. I had a vague idea of what a changeling was from some books on European folklore, and the more research Idid… the more it just made sense, y’know? I realised, Hell, I’m a bloody changeling. I was worried I was going crazy for a bit, but I found some other changelings on the internet, and they sort of got me into the community. That was a relief.’
I hum empathetically. I think back on my first encounter with another non-human. It had involved a lot more blood and shouting.
‘Do your parents know?’ I ask.
‘Yeah. I managed to get them to one of those “So Your Child Isn’t Human” family counselling and information nights. At first I don’t think they really knew what to make of any of it. I mean, there’s that whole controversy about ‘are we fairy children swapped at birth, or are we fairy spirits incarnate in human bodies?’ That’s got to be hard for a parent to come to terms with. They eventually said that even if I wasn’t the child they gave birth to I was still the one they raised, so that was… good. What about your parents? Or does yours run in the family? I heard it sometimes does that.’
‘It might,’ I say, giving a shrug. ‘I don’t know. I’m adopted. I never really thought of telling my parents as a reasonable possibility.’
‘Yeah, fair enough,’ he says. After a short pause, he adds, ‘So how did you find out you were a vampire?’
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