True News reports: Beyoncé’s buffoon buys mummy

Once they had delivered the True News inkjet-printed onto fluorescent orange paper into every mailbox along Crystal Gorge Drive, Paul and Vic returned to the black Beetle parked in the cul-de-sac. Rhiannon had beat them there and leaned against the side, picking at the leftover spots of polish on her fingernails as if playing a scratch-off lottery ticket.

“All good, Rhi-Rhi?”

“A triumph, Vicky,” she said, flicking holographic paint chips onto the pavement. “Newsletters in every mailbox on Kinder Way, Bordello Avenue and Greeley Court. And now, let’s feast.”

The summer sun had had no problem turning the car into a hothouse, and Paul regretted wearing shorts as he sat on the burning leather seat and felt his skin toast against it.

“Lunch at Paul’s?” Rhiannon asked as she put the car in drive. She didn’t wait for an answer before peeling away from the curb and toward the main road.

This was how summer days were now that Paul had found Vic and Rhiannon. He didn’t believe a word of what they dished out into the neighborhoods — all this claptrap about three vampires living in Paul Rudd’s basement, the werewolf spotted on Paul Giamatti’s lawn, the succubus lounging on a float in the middle of Taylor Swift’s pool — but spreading obvious lies was worth finally having two friends who actually seemed to like seeing him every day. And to them, it was all very real.

“I’m digging into a story that Nicolas Cage was Rudolph Valentino’s familiar before being turned into a vampire himself,” Vic announced, like he was reporting on sewer testing or a city council meeting. “Might be ready to run for next week’s edition.”

Paul knew better than to bring up that Valentino, silent film’s original Latin Lover, had died at age 31 from an infection — hardly the mysterious vampiric ending that True News prided itself in publishing. But to his surprise, Rhiannon took the lead in bursting Vic’s bubble.

“You’ve seen the same photos of Cage as I have, and you know that if anything, Valentino was his familiar. The man’s been alive since the mid-1800s, at least.”

They pulled up to the ranch house that Paul lived in with his parents and sister, Joy Lee. To his dismay, the garage door was already open, and his mom was sweeping out the floor. Paul hated coming home to find his mother doing housework: It made him feel bad for leaving to deposit buffoonery in upper-middle-class mailboxes.

“Hi, Mrs. Lim,” Rhiannon said, getting out of the car.

“Beautiful day out, isn’t it?” Paul’s mom said. “So, what’s the poop?”

Paul’s face went pink. His mother had been born in San Francisco on August 5, 1973, but talked like she was in her prime during the early 1940s. But it wasn’t her WWII-era slang that made him nervous: It was any time Rhiannon and Vic had an opportunity to tell her what exactly the three of them were doing to pass time on the summer days.

“We’re hungry,” he blurted before either of his friends could answer.

“Well, Joy Lee’s inside. She’s been experimenting in the kitchen again, so you’ve been warned.”

“Mrs. Lim, I’m so hungry I could eat Frankenstein’s leg. No fear here,” Rhiannon joked as Paul pulled them inside.

Joy Lee had definitely been experimenting. A thin veil of smoke draped above the kitchen, accompanied by the smell of cooking oil and fried dough. Last week she had almost burned the house down making a blueberry tart. Today she’d been trying to tackle various deep-fried snacks.

“Potstickers coming to the pass!” She yelled, practicing for her self-determined destiny on Hell’s Kitchen. “Hope you’re all hungry — and don’t mind some slightly-burnt edges. The oil got a little hot.”

“Smells great,” Vic said as they each slid into a wicker dining chair at the kitchen table.

Vic held a bottle of Purell in his outstretched hand, and Paul gratefully accepted a squirt. Rubbing his hands briskly, he was reminded of how many paper cuts he’d gotten folding the pamphlets— by the time his hands were dry, his eyes weren’t.

Joy Lee brought a tray out bearing potstickers, egg rolls and what were probably supposed to be jalapeño poppers, though their cream cheese filling had started leaking out the sides.

“I heard Jay-Z bought the mummy that they just found in that excavated pyramid,” Rhiannon said, spearing a potsticker on a single chopstick. Paul watched as it fell apart halfway to her plate, spilling searing chicken filling across the table.

“Think I heard that, too,” Vic said. “Makes sense, really, seeing as he’s married to Beyoncé.”

Joy Lee perked up at the sound of her idol’s name.

“What’s Beyoncé got to do with a mummy?”

“Great egg rolls, Joy,” Paul said loudly, hoping to turn her 13-year-old brain back to her number-one passion. “Perfectly crispy and not too greasy,.”

“Beyoncé’s an immortal Egyptian goddess in human form,” Rhiannon said matter-of-factly. “The mummy’s probably a long-lost lover. And with Jay still needing to make things right after that Rachel Ray nonsense…”

“…Rachel Roy,” Vic corrected her.

“Right, well, I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the last mummy they buy,” Rhiannon finished. “How’s this for a headline, Vic? ‘Beyoncé’s buffoon brings back Biblical-age boy-toy to beg forgiveness for bad behavior.'”

Vic chewed the idea along with a potsticker while Joy Lee laughed. Paul couldn’t taste anything as he waited to see how these two storms — the believers and the uninitiated — would collide.

“Sounds like a Bossip headline,” Joy Lee said. “You should write for them!”

The jalapeño flavor came back to Paul’s mouth. Rhiannon looked flattered.

“Thanks, but I prefer the real news,” she shrugged. “Say, kid, you haven’t read anything in your Teen Vogues about Harry Styles’ fairy circle, have you?”

“That’s an awfully homophobic thing to say,” Joy Lee said, taken-aback. As she turned back toward the kitchen, she looked at Paul with distinct disappointment that he could find friendship with someone that close-minded.

“She means real fairies,” Vic said. “Paul, haven’t you shared the True News lexicon with your sister?”

Paul’s face got hot for the second time, and it wasn’t because of the jalapeño now sizzling down his throat.

“True News?” Joy Lee asked, returning to the table.

“We run a paper,” Vic said. “True News: All the things the normies don’t want you to know. This week we covered the amazons in Gwendolyn Christie’s family tree, Hayley Williams’ secret past as a wood nymph, and how you can see a pixie reflected in the glass in Stanley Tucci’s latest cocktail video.”

“Sounds cool,” Joy Lee shrugged. “Let me know if you ever want me to introduce you to the phoenix our grandfather brought from Hong Kong in a shoebox. Grandpa worked on movie sets back in the day. Got the bird as a gift from Bruce Lee after finishing Thunderstorm.”

Rhiannon almost choked on an egg roll as she and Vic turned to look at Paul in disbelief that he hid this from them. He buried his face in his hands as a birdsong trickled from the living room.

Excerpt: “Untitled Vampire Story”

The fact there was something different about him should have clued me into the fact that this was a bad idea — but I never heed my own instincts. My sister said it would eventually catch up to me, this haphazard lifestyle, but hey: I’d been purposefully arrogant for all 563 years of my life.

That’s what comes with being 17 for the last 547 of them. People expect me to be a thrill-seeking, living-on-the-edge, throw-caution-to-the-wind adolescent because I look like a walking, talking teenage cliché.

My sister, ten years my senior, used to moan about how inconvient it was that I vamped at the height of my teen years. She was a perpetual victim of my pubescent mood swings until I figured out how to control them around Year 303 of vampiredom. It also meant having to move around constantly because I never grew older. Then she realized continual transfers were useful, as it meant she could take complete advantage of any man she dated, then disappear when the relationship had run its course. No awkward breakups, and no one-night-stands gone long.

This was fine for the first 500 years until everyone suddenly became like us.

I don’t know who did it. Brom Stoker? Anne Rice? Fucking Stephanie Meyers? Almost overnight — or over-day, rather — the 300 or so vampires, including me and Morgan, came out of hiding in droves. Maybe it was because we were tired of being casted as brooding teenage heartthrobs. Maybe we were jealous of the attention fictional characters attracted and wanted some of the lime light. Whatever it was, suddenly, it was cool to be a vampire.

All I know is that one minute I was a rarity — a freak, some would say — and the next everyone I knew was drinking blood and sleeping from dawn until dusk.

Along with this change came another.

For 563 years, I avoided the hormone cesspool of high school successfully. Now that everyone turned out immortal, everyone started hitting Vamp Highs, where the older you were, the cooler you looked. It was a place where if you were new the first question wasn’t “Where are you from?” but “How old are you?” Some people jacked up their age, just to get attention. That was stupid, since just one glance at your V.I.D (Vampire Identification) clarified the subject.

None of us really needed school, but we were in the habit, and habits die hard, especially when you won’t. Or can’t. Ever.

Like any other “new kid,” when he walked into history class and the teacher, 958 years old, told us his name was Ron Jones — quite a pedestrian name, as far as everyone could tell compared to the students named Cecily, Piper, Loradonna, and Hunter that dominated the roster — the first question he was smacked in the face with upon taking his seat was “How old are you?”

“17,” he replied, looking at his books. I snorted at how Hollywood it sounded.

“No,” said Cecily di Garso (Cecily G. for short). “How old are you? Like — all together.”

“17,” he said again.

That was when the teacher told Cecily G. to shut up and listen to the lesson. Because we were all pretty old, the teachers didn’t really take care “to protect the youth.” Half of us had braved the Crusades, and we had all lived through at least the second World War. When we weren’t trying to one-up another during history class, we were busy swapping war stories.

Which helped make abundantly clear that this Ron kid was weird.

First off, he took notes.

Second, he had no good stories to tell. Not even when the topic of conversation moved on to the Vietnam War did he perk up. He attempted, once, by regaling us with a story told by his last history teacher who had passed around a shell from a bomb he almost died from just outside of a small coastal village in South Vietnam, but when no one seemed to care unless Ron had personally collected it, he grew quiet.

I overheard Cecily G. talking with the over-600 crowd at lunch that day while I eyed Ron taking a seat alone at the corner table.

“He must be a newbie,” she said. “That’s why he said he’s seventeen. Must have just Vamped.”

“Wow,” gasped one of them. “I didn’t know there were any humans left!”

I took my seat at a table away, with my friends in the mid-500s. There were no humans left, even 20 years ago. We had all taken care of that pretty well. I personally had never bitten anyone — I didn’t believe in all the stories about how kinky it could be — but I knew Morgan had. Once. By accident.

I found this in my files from God knows how long ago and thought it would be fun to share in the light of today’s Halloween festivities. Honestly I don’t know where I was going with it, but it fits into my usual M.O. of imagining a tired storyline with the roles reversed or perspective changed. A vampire figuring out what to do about a human in their world? Now that could get spookily hilarious. Who knows: Maybe this will turn into a YA book one of these days….