I am slow to respond to the cheer of my colleague. Her name is Sarah and she is a member of the Human Resource department of the company I work for. So it isn’t a shock that she is the first to wish me well.
“Happy birthday!” she reiterates. “That’s what I said before. Weren’t you listening?”
“Oh…yeah. It is my birthday. Thanks.” My response is lazy and noncommittal. I am not really in the chatty mood.
“Are you okay? What’s it like to be older? Have you noticed any grey hairs?” she asks, her questions coming so quickly I have very little time to make sense of each of them.
“Uh…yeah, not bad and…uh…no,” is all I can say in response.
Sarah is a nice girl and I have admired her since she started working here. Did you see what I did there? I didn’t say “since I started working here”. Well that is because I have been working here long before over 95% of the current staff was even done with secondary school. For some inexplicable reason, they don’t seem notice that I haven’t changed in appearance since they got to know me. What is even more surprising is the fact that I have celebrated the same birthday so many times, it’s hard to even keep track of the amount. Maybe it is some kind of spell, maybe it’s some overpowering form of hypnotism; I’ve not been able to fully grasp what it is, but it seems to have a kind of automatic reset every year on this same day – December the 9th.
You see, I have lived for a very long time. It’s been so long that I have begun to forget some of my earliest memories. They aren’t gone. They have instead become foggy. The earliest I can remember is this very day, a long time ago. What I recall is a great war in the deserts of Cush, which is known these days as Egypt. I cannot remember whose side I fought for, but I was the armor bearer to the king. The battle was swift and we were completely overwhelmed. I died that day and was buried deep inside the desert sands.
Or so I thought.
It would be exactly a year later that I would awaken and make my way out of my earthly tomb. I have since roamed the earth and celebrated my “birth” on this same day, the ninth day of December.
“So we are putting together a little office celebration for you, as usual,” Sarah says.
Her words break my preoccupation and bring me back to the present.
I groan inwardly at the thought of enduring the office ritual of felicitating with the celebrant, something I have had a large share of over the years. Sarah hustles me off to the conference room, where all the top level staff is waiting. On the table is a large strawberry cake which has ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHROME’ etched on it.
Ah yes, Chrome. That name sure takes me back. I adopted the name in the early 1980s when cassette tapes and cars began having chrome finishing. The word sounded cool to me and I took it as mine. My real name is a blur to me now. I have gone by many, but I feel ‘Chrome’ will stick on for a long time.
There is something I have noticed over the years. After about a century, the ‘spell’ I have on everyone around me tends to weaken and I have to leave that location for another. For this reason, I have bounced around countries and continents. I first noticed this about 600 years ago. Before then, I never stayed in a particular place for more than sixty years. I wandered around Europe at the time. I’m sure you’re wondering how a Negro was able to wander freely about in the 1400s Europe. I later understood that my hypnotic ‘spell’ seemed to alter my appearance to those around me. It seemed as though I was seen as Caucasian by those around me, or maybe the ‘spell’ made them not notice anything strange about me at all. On a particular day, I had just watched as Pope Martin (V) succeeded Pope Gregory (XII) as the 206th pope, and decided to leave the Vatican for Barcelona, where I’d been hiding out for most of the century. I arrived at Barcelona on the ninth of December and indulged my usual birthday rituals. Early in the morning of the next day, long before the sun was up, I walked out of my room in the inn I was lodged in. There wasn’t meant to be anyone else awake by that time, but the chamber maid, who had become acquainted with me, was walking down the hallway towards me. Upon sighting me, she let out a yelp that was so high-pitched, it didn’t even feel like she made any sound at all. I could read her lips in the dim hallway lights from the oil lamps hanging around, as she muttered to herself in Spanish, “Holy mother…A black man!”
She turned to flee but it was for naught. You see, as time went by, my strength and agility had increased exponentially. In an instant, I was on her and it took no effort at all on my part to snap her neck. After disposing of her corpse and cleaning out the room I was in, I stole into the darkness and fled the continent disguised as a recovering leper.
A gentle nudge on my rib takes me out of my reminiscing and back again to the present. It is Sarah. I look at her and she motions toward the head of the table where the General Manager is seated. She’d asked me a question and is waiting for an answer.
“Sorry Madam, I didn’t get the question you asked,” I say, faking timidity.
“I asked how old you are today,” the manager asks again. I notice the mirth in her voice.
“Oh…well, I am thirty-six years old today,” I say, with a smile.
“You see! I told you! I remembered he celebrated his 35th birthday last year!” This is from the Human Resource manager. The forcefulness of his outburst suggests that his credibility as a HR manager depends on the accuracy of his claim.
It’s a good thing that it’s not because this is the twentieth time I am celebrating my 36th birthday in this company. To be more exact, I have celebrated the same 36th birthday 99 times already. Today will make it the 100th. I change the last digit of my “age” whenever I enter a new century, which means I have seen 36 centuries since I awakened. Tomorrow will mark the first day of a new century for me, and I will be “37 years” old. It is unfortunate that no one in this company will get to celebrate it with me. After today, I will leave this continent to wait out another century. All has already been taken care of. Every travel document has been procured. All that is left is for me to complete my birthday ritual tonight.
I glance idly around, at my colleagues, some of them chatting away among themselves, most snacking on the cake and drinks. The festive mood is reminiscent of birthday moments past.
“So what are your plans tonight?” Sarah asks. She is licking some crumbs of cake from her fingers. In my moment of spacing out, the others have sung a “jolly good fellow” tune in my honor, toasted to my health and shared the cake. I am still holding my drinking glass when Sarah sidled to my side to pose her question.
I look at her and study her once again. She is beautiful. She is perfect.
“I’ll be heading home and I’ll be all alone, craving company,” I reply in a smooth voice.
She blushes and smiles simultaneously as the veiled meaning of my words finds its mark in her. Then she gives her head a slight toss before drawing yet closer to me. I can smell her lavender scents and see clearly the smooth sheen of her rouged cheeks.
“I’ll be waiting in the car park after work,” she husks. “And we are not going to your place. We are going to mine.”
This doesn’t faze me. If anything, it fits right into my plans. Sarah lives close to the airport, so stealing away in the dead of the night and disappearing for good will be so much easier. I’d already gotten used to such a life. I have often wondered if I am the only one of my kind alive. I sometimes feel like there are more of me, but if that is so, then it would seem we have a knack for avoiding each other at all cost. I won’t blame the others if they are out there. Being a ‘being’ like me has its problems. One of which is the sudden craving for oddities. It is almost as if as the ‘spell’ wanes at the tail end of the century. There is this deep hunger that erupts out of me. It can be for anything. It can be for something specific. In my case, it is for hemoglobin. And not just any type, more specifically the O-blood type. How I get to know the individuals that carry such a rare blood type is beyond me, but I just know.
And Sarah is of the blood type I crave. She is a partial vegan and her diet has ensured the richness of her blood. I know it will be the best I have tasted in a hundred years.
But don’t worry. I do not intend to kill her. Unlike the fables that have been written about my kind, I am not a killer. I won’t kill unless my life and safety are in jeopardy. Just like it was 600 years ago in Barcelona. I don’t possess fangs, so the only touch her neck will feel will be from my lips as I prepare her for what’s coming to her. It will be give and take. While I give her the best sex she will ever have, I will hypnotize her and get her to slight her wrist just so I can partake in her sweet goodness, just enough to keep me going for another century. The wound will heal long before she even wakes up tomorrow morning and she will only remember the excitement she experienced. I have done this for many years and it usually goes without a hitch, though I have been forced to resort to violence on a few occasions. I am not proud of those times and really want the memories to fade quickly. I can only wish things with Sarah will go as planned.
Something she says in that moment brings me back to reality yet again.
“So, I’ll see you after work?” she queries.
“Oh, yeah. You most definitely will,” I reply.
She leans even closer to him, so close I can feel the warm rush of her breath on my face and hear the pounding of her rich beautiful blood in her veins. I grind my jaw down in steely resolve against the sudden overpowering urge to snatch her and ravish her right there and then.
“Happy birthday again,” she whispers in my ear, and then turns and walks away. “Try not to stare,” she tosses over her shoulder at me.
It can’t be helped. I stare at her gyrating backside for as long as she is in my scope. I laugh a little and take a sip of my victory juice. The nonalcoholic wine in the cup tastes like day-old piss to me.
“Fuck that!” I hiss before dropping the glass on the conference table. I don’t need to ruin my palate. Tonight I am going to be sipping on some very fine “Red”.
A wicked smile breaks out across my face as I think to myself: It really is going to be a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
Written by Chrome