The Vampire in the Closet
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“Then the Count turned, after looking at my face attentively, and said in a soft whisper:—
‘Yes, I too can love; you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so?’”
—Bram Stoker, Dracula

There were no vampires at the Foundation, at least, not that Junior Researcher Wade Dalitz knew of. There were thousands of SCPs, after all, and more were being discovered every day. Wade would probably never have the time to trawl through them all. The monsters here tended to skew weirder than vampires anyhow. They subsisted solely on diets of possum brains or, or were literal, physical ouroboroses. Ourobori? Drinking human blood and being averse to sunlight seemed tame by comparison.

Wade had to admit he’d been a little disappointed when he found out. It was one of the first things he asked Dr. Mark upon learning the truth about the Foundation.

“So. Do you guys have…vampires and stuff?”

“No,” Dr. Mark replied flatly.

That didn’t stop Wade from searching through the database to try and find some. It didn’t help that, as a junior, absolute bottom of the ladder researcher, his access to the Foundation’s full scope of information was severely limited.

So maybe there were vampires out there, somewhere. He loved vampires. His father showed him Dracula, the 1931 film with Bela Lugosi, when he was a kid, no more than seven. It scared the living daylights out of him. For some reason, he was terrified that Dracula would come out of his closet, even though Dracula generally came into his victim’s rooms through the window. It got so bad that his dad took to putting garlic under his pillow and hanging crucifixes over his headboard, even though they weren’t particularly religious.

He wasn’t afraid of vampires anymore, but there were a lot of other things to be afraid of at the Foundation. “How are you not afraid, all the time?” he asked Dr. Mark when he accepted his offer. It was a tentative ask. He wasn’t sure what to make of Dr. Mark yet and didn’t want to bog the man down with stupid questions.

Dr. Mark laughed. “I am! I am afraid all the time. Anyone who isn’t is an idiot. Stay afraid. It’ll keep you alive.”

The biggest difference between vampires and the monsters at the Foundation, though, was that he felt far more powerless against the monsters here, even though he was part of the team actively working to contain dangerous anomalies. He could follow procedure while at work, but as soon as he got home, the best he could do was try and forget about it. Hope there wasn’t some kind of world-ending containment breach while he was asleep.

His site wasn’t even that dangerous. It housed mostly personnel who were investigating location-based anomalies, and so most of what was contained there were Safe and Euclid class artifacts taken from those locations. Still, after his first day of orientation, he bought an extra clove of garlic at the Food Lion and put it on his nightstand. He knew it didn’t do anything, but it made him feel safer somehow.

By the time he was twelve, he had moved on from his fear of vampires to his obsession with them. He’d read Dracula twice by then, and he would read it twice more before he would even meet Dr. Mark. That Halloween, he went out trick-or-treating with his best friend at the time, Carlos. Wade was dressed as Dracula, while Carlos dressed as Van Helsing.

“I wish I could’ve gone as Mina,” Carlos joked as he swung his pillowcase full of candy over his shoulder. “That would’ve been so much funnier.”

“Yeah, but no way was your mom gonna let you borrow one of her dresses,” Wade replied.

“I could’ve taken it without her knowing.”

“Please. Nothing gets past your mom.”

Carlos sighed. “You’re right. It might’ve been worth it, though.”

They marathoned monster movies when they got home. Alien, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Wade vastly preferred monster movies to slasher flicks. There was something schlocky about some guy waddling around in a mask stabbing people. Michael Myers just didn’t hold a candle to the xenomorph.

Maybe that was what had prepared him for the Foundation, and drawn him to it. It seemed a bit silly, using horror movies to prepare him for witnessing such unbelievable instances of real-life horror, but so far, it was working. 682 may be scary in theory, but he at least wasn’t stuck alone on a spaceship with it prowling around.

On his breaks, he thumbed through his well-loved paperback of Dracula, comparing Jonathan Harker’s journal to his own. Journaling was a habit he started at sixteen, because his grief counselor had suggested that maybe writing letters to his dad might help him. It seemed pathetic at first, crying about his problems to his dead dad who couldn’t hear him and wouldn’t respond, but he grew into the idea. Even if his dad wasn’t listening. His mom said he was, that he would always look out for the two of them. Despite not having gone to mass since she was young, his mother still believed in an afterlife, but Wade wasn’t so sure.

When he was sixteen, only a few months before his dad died, Carlos’ parents sent him away. He didn’t find out where for another month. It was strange and awful not having Carlos around. They’d been neighbors since they were little, went to the same elementary, middle, and high school, went to the arcade together every Friday afternoon. Carlos’ parents wouldn’t open the door for Wade when he knocked, now. The bravest thing Wade ever did was break into Carlos’ room, which he’d done before, but never while Carlos wasn’t in it. He wasn’t sure what Carlos’ parents would do if they caught him, but they didn’t. It was the luckiest Wade ever was, too, and possibly the luckiest he’s been since, perhaps tied with Dr. Mark saving him from his own inadequacies.

There was nothing to be found in Carlos’ room. Just an. An absence. All his stuff without the boy to accompany it. It was like a black hole, or a tear in the fabric of the universe.

Wade has seen actual holes in the universe, now, but none of them were quite as intense as the one in Carlos’ empty room.

He received a letter from Carlos, later. The letter was brief. It read: “Sorry about your dad. Living with my grandparents now, probably won’t see you again. You’ve probably found out where I’ve been by now, and let me tell you, I wasn’t so sure about heaven, but now I’m pretty sure hell exists.”

Wade did know where Carlos had been. When his mother heard, she said, “Wade, I want you to know that I love you. And I would never send you anywhere like that, no matter what happened. Your father wouldn’t have either.”

“I know Ma,” he replied, not considering that she knew something he didn’t.

In spite of everything, he got into a good school. A state school, sure, hardly an Ivy League, but nobody expected anything like that, least of all Wade. Still, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was nothing less than a small miracle. His college advisor told him, “Your essay and SAT scores are incredible, but your grades have fallen since junior year. Still, if you pull them up for this semester you should be able to make it into the UNC system, Greensboro or Asheville, if you’re lucky.”

His mom pressed kisses all over his cheeks and forehead as she dropped him off outside his freshman year dorm. “Does this mean I have to get invested in college basketball now?” she asked, laughing.
“No, Ma,” Wade told her. “I’m probably not even going to get invested in college basketball. Can you help me bring my stuff upstairs?”

His roommate was Theo Quale, Theo Quale from Charlotte. “My full name is Theodore,” he said, “and nobody is allowed to call me Ted, not even my mom.”

“I completely understand,” Wade said. “My name is Wade.” It was his grandfather’s name, on his dad’s side. Technically, he was Wade Dalitz Jr., but Wade Dalitz senior had died long before he was born, so the junior part didn’t really matter. It was a lame name. Four letters, one syllable. No nickname potential. Theo was a good name. A classical name. One that a hero might have, or someone of historical importance. Wade was, well. It was just a name. Sometimes it was a verb, but that didn’t make it anything special.

He and Theo had a lot in common. It almost took him aback. They were both from mixed-race families, Theo black and Jewish, Wade Polish and Mexican, they both had an interest in science, and they both loved horror movies. They were even in the same biology lab.

Theo’s favorite movie was The Thing, which Wade had seen once with Carlos and never bothered to watch again. Theo liked it because the idea of someone taking his likeness scared him, and because both of the black guys made it to the end. “I kinda wanna be an antarctic researcher, even though I’m technically pre-med. It’s so alien out there, it might as well be another planet,” Theo said.

“Maybe you should be an astronaut,” Wade suggested. “Then maybe you’ll see some real aliens.”

“Nah,” Theo said, shaking his head. “Moon’s boring, and Mars is decades off.”

There was a part of Wade that always wanted to be an astronaut, that still wanted to be an astronaut, even now. There were Foundation missions to space, but those were mostly under the supervision of MTFs, with the researchers stuck back on Earth. So being something akin to ground control was the best he could hope for, now, and even then, it was unlikely. Even if he was talented enough to be trusted with anything like monitoring an MTF, his background was in chemistry, not physics.

His favorite class his first semester of Freshman year wasn’t chemistry, though, it was biology, with Theo. His professor had a liveliness to him that seemed rare in UNC’s science department and in November he took the class on a field trip to a creek outside of the city.

It’d gotten cold early that year, and the grass crunched under his feet as he walked. They were catching their own isopods for use in class later, little things that lived in the mud at the bottom of the creek. He put on waders and skimmed the water with a net. The water was ice cold, but fresh and clean, and his hands got numb whenever he put them in.

Theo was standing on the shore with a bucket for the isopods, his smile like a—like something warm. There were trails that crisscrossed through Wade’s hometown and he suddenly wanted to walk down them with Theo. Neither of them had cars, though, and so doing so would require Wade asking his mom to come and pick them up, which probably shouldn’t have been embarrassing but was.

That creek, those trails, UNC and his hometown weren’t so far from Wade’s current house (Foundation-provided) or his job. And he had a car now, too (also Foundation-provided). But his movements were monitored and even going to visit his mom just for an afternoon required cutting through a lot of red tape. Visiting Theo at his residency in North Dakota was out of the question. So. No trails. No creeks, either. Sometimes there were isopods, though, oddly enough.

There was something kind of magnetic about Theo. Not in any sort of weird way, he just always said the right thing. Always knew the answer. Wade had met a few people like that before, but he’d always found them annoying. There was no one like that at the Foundation, no one at all, not even Dr. Mark. Everyone was too…too something. Too quirky, too rude, too cold, too hostile, too paranoid, too morally bankrupt. But Theo…Theo was different. His effortless intelligence and charm was never annoying, never insincere.

The only thing that was ever weird to Wade was that nobody else seemed to see it.

Morgan, a mutual friend, said to Wade once, “Why do you like Theo so much?”

“I—what?” he replied. “He’s my friend. He’s all our friend.”

“Yes, but it’s different with you. You follow him around like a lost puppy.”

“I do not!” he protested, but what would’ve been more accurate was to say, Yes, I do. Why don’t you? He didn’t understand why everyone didn’t want to be Theo’s best friend, didn’t want to do their level best to impress him the way Wade did.

And Morgan—he dated her for a grand total of two weeks, as it happens. She was his first girlfriend, first and only. He kissed a few girls in high school but it was never a thing beyond a game of spin the bottle, so Morgan was his first.

The first time they kissed, she pulled back a second later and said, “Open your mouth a little you fuckin’ dork.”

“Right. Sorry.” But kissing was something he never really got the hang of.

Two weeks later, they were ostensibly making out in Morgan’s room when she stopped suddenly and turned away. “Wade, stop.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“You don’t want to be kissing me.”

“Yes, I do,” he insisted with as much conviction as he could manage.

“No, you don’t. But you’re in luck, I don’t really want to be kissing you either.”

There was a long silence before Wade finally said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Morgan replied. “No hard feelings?”

“No hard feelings.” And there weren’t any. He should count himself lucky for that, too.

He and Theo went to see The Predator their junior year. It was a good movie, a good movie, but something happened during the screening that made Wade not want to see it again. It was just him and Theo because Morgan had work and Ellis had a date and Marlene had an essay to finish and none of them really liked monster movies the way Wade and Theo did anyway. And during the climax of the movie, Wade looked over at Theo. His face was lit up by the screen—they were sitting in the third row because Theo preferred the front—and there was an expression of unqualified joy on it. So warm. So bright. Blinding—like the sun, or theater lights.

And then the mix of popcorn, soda, and Sour Patch Kids that was sitting in his stomach leaped up into his esophagus and he ran to the bathroom like his life depended on it. Later, he chalked it up to motion sickness, from sitting so close to the screen, but it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all.

A few minutes later, Theo arrived in the bathroom. “Wade? Is everything okay?”

Wade responded by throwing up again. Loudly. He could feel his throat and cheeks burning.

Theo knocked on the stall door. “Can I come in?”

“You’re missing the end of the movie.”

“I’ll rent the VHS later.”

Wade silently reached back and unlocked the door.

“You sick?”

“Dunno. Might’ve been something I ate. Or. The movie,” Wade said into the toilet bowl, unable to look at Theo.

“Here,” Theo said. “Let me get your hair.”

Wade had long hair then. Wade’s hair was in a perpetual state of being just a bit longer than he’d like, but that year he’d grown it out to his shoulders, partially just to try it and partially because he couldn’t be bothered to walk to the barber shop on Franklin Street.

Theo held back his hair as he vomited one last time, his fingers gentle on Wade’s scalp.

That night Wade had a nightmare. Not a night terror, like when he was a kid, no sleep paralysis neither. Just a nightmare. Only Dracula was back in it, the way he had been when he was a kid. He came out of the closet in Wade and Theo’s room and started drifting towards Wade’s bed. Wade woke up before he got there, though, and made sure to shut his closet door the next night.

But the dreams kept coming. And nothing he did stopped them. They weren’t always exactly the same, not always Dracula, not always closets, but his nightmares became a force to be reckoned with. It was around that time that his grades started to slip as well.

“I don’t know what happened, Wade,” his advisor told him. “You did so well here these past two years, now all of a sudden you’re failing every class.”

Wade couldn’t explain it either. It wasn’t just the nightmares, though both the grades and the nightmares fed into one another, an unholy cocktail of stress dreams and days where he felt like he was sleepwalking through every class. He hit an assignment in his astrophysics class that stumped him, and he hadn’t turned it in, and it was all downhill from there. Why bother? He hadn’t been doing particularly well in that class anyhow. His professor was the most no-nonsense professor in the physics department, and nothing he did ever seemed good enough for her, and so eventually, he stopped trying.

And before he knew it, he was repeating senior year. Twice. He’d just barely made it through his junior year, after all. And then Theo was graduating and North Carolina got hit with an uncharacteristically terrible snowstorm that year—everyone snowed in. The heat broke in his apartment and he just couldn’t get his landlord to get someone out to fix it and he knew—knew he was going to drop out. A disappointment to his mom and dad, same as always.

The night after Theo left, Wade had another Dracula nightmare. Dracula came out of the closet and crept over to where Wade lay, ignoring the chair barring the closet door and the garlic under Wade’s pillow. But this time Wade didn’t wake up before he reached him. He just lay there, stock still, as Dracula kissed him so sweetly. A real kiss, too, not what Bram Stoker called a “kiss”, not a bite. Dracula pressed his lips to the corner of Wade’s mouth, almost his cheek, and then he was gone, faded into mist.

Wade was about to drop out when he met Dr. Mark. It was at some—some job internship fair thingy the school was hosting, and Dr. Mark Forsyth was there representing a pharmaceutical company in Research Triangle Park—Smith-Cline Pharmaceuticals.

“My grades aren’t very good,” Wade admitted after speaking with Dr. Mark for a little while. “I think I’m dropping out after this semester.”

“Why would you do that?” Dr. Mark asked quizzically. “It honestly seems like you might be a good fit for our organization.”

“Really?”

“Really. Sure, other companies might only care about things like grades and work experience, but at SCP we try to look past what we see on paper. After all, there are certain things no amount of work or school can really prepare you for. But you should get your Bachelor’s. I think you can make it. And if you do, there’s something out here waiting for you.”

It was kind of an odd thing for a pharmaceuticals rep to say, but Wade found himself nodding. If he could get his degree, and if what Dr. Mark said was true…well, graduating with a steady job lined up sounded better than dropping out with no prospects at all.

Of course, nothing could’ve prepared him for the Foundation, as Dr. Mark had said. But it had to be better than the alternative.

Didn’t it?

That evening he went home. He made chicken soup and called his mom. He’d been studying up on how to go about writing SCP entries, but he didn’t quite have the clinical tone down yet. He’d been okay at lab reports in university but these weren’t exactly lab reports. The format was all wrong. He wasn’t documenting any data, no introduction, no conclusions, no hypothesis. It seemed that so much of the Foundation eschewed the scientific method that it was really no wonder that they were willing to hire a kid who’d barely made it through undergrad.

“Hi sweetie,” his mom said as she picked up the phone.

“Hi Ma.”

“How was work?”

“I’m trying to get the swing of things. It’s very strange here. I’m not used to it yet.”

“I understand. My first real job was pretty hectic too.”

Wade almost laughed. How different could teaching high school English be from working to contain deadly anomalies straight out of science fiction novels?

“You know, maybe the next time you visit, we could see that new Dracula movie.”

“Maybe,” Wade replied, trying not to sound too skeptical. He didn’t really know when he’d be able to visit next, and it was best not to plan for something that may not happen. Besides, he wasn’t too excited about the movie anyway. Unfortunately, in spite of the famous director and pretty solid cast, it wasn’t getting the best reviews. He’d read one that expressed the reviewer’s confusion at casting Mina Harker as Dracula’s reincarnated love, and Wade had to agree. Dracula didn’t have a love, reincarnated or not.

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