I’m on my third lap in a power jam, skating nine second laps, I mean, I am in the zone, and Fist Kist of all people comes out of nowhere and sacks my skinny ass like a beer truck.
Fist is no ninety-pound supermodel, so it doesn’t matter what part of her hits me — booty, hip, shoulder, thigh? I go flying and hit the wall, which knocks the wind out of me and makes me see fireworks and drives my elbow pad against my floating ribs. I fall, gasping, unable even to spit out my mouth guard.
Everybody stops skating. Muldoon, the team’s chiropractor, appears at my side and feels me over lightly with his big hands, checking for breaks. He takes my mouth guard out for me.
All I can do is shake my head and wheeze.
You would think having vampire super-strength would make me immune to this kind of thing. In a perverted way, I’m really glad it doesn’t. That would compromise the integrity of roller derby as a sport. Still, my ribs are screaming. My pads have protected me from broken elbows, broken knees, and broken wrists, but right now I wish I could breathe.
Lucky for me, the energy in the chilly former big-box store where we practice is good. I stop panicking and allow air to whistle into my lungs in a trickle. With the air comes more energy. The pain in my side eases. Then the healing flow of prana picks up, and my shoulders relax, and I feel my face flush.
Every woman here has been pumping out extra prana — life force-energy — for an hour and forty minutes, and that’s going to save me now.
Now they’re down on one knee, waiting to see how broken I am.
It doesn’t always pay to be an energy vampire, but during a roller derby scrimmage is one of those times.
In another eleven seconds the pain is gone, and I feel good as new. As I get to my skates under my own power, I hear the clicking of wrist guards all over the track. My league-mates are clapping, hey, she’s okay.
I roll off the track, handing off the star-marked hat panty to the bench coach.
“Nice one, Fist,” I say and high-five my recent assailant. “I did not see that coming.”
Fist Kist grins. “I can’t believe I sacked Hélan Vittle!” She’s a new draft, only on the team a month. She’ll be a menace someday.
I pat her on the ass.
Sacker Tart, svelte and menacing, takes my place at the jam line, wearing the star. The blockers resume their positions. Rapture Snatch, the opposing jammer, tattooed with the entire Book of Revelations, is still on penalty, waiting out her minute in the sin bin, so Sacker has a power jam — a clear field to score in. Sacker is faster than I am, and more agile. I have to turn my back so Muldoon can finish checking me out, but I can hear my girls cheering. Good for Sacker.
Roller derby has saved my sanity.
I have a conscience about my carbon-footprint. It kills me to think that I’m some kind of life-force black hole, always sucking it in, never giving back. Until roller derby, I had concluded that prana is a nonrenewable resource, and therefore that, as an energy vampire, I am an obscene parasite on the planet’s soul.
So it’s been a boon to discover that, while we skate, jostling, racing, knocking each other ass-over-teakettle, even when it’s not in front of an audience, we generate extra prana.
I haven’t yet figured out exactly why derby should generate more life force than the sum of ten girls on the track. Most I can guess is that it’s like one of those Tibetan prayer wheels. Something so simple as, because we skate widdershins? Or is it because we’re women? Releasing all those pent-up aggressions?
All I know is, after two hours of this madness, there’s more life force in the room than there was when we started.
And I should know.
It’s how I get a square meal four times a week.
The bench coach comes by. “You okay?”
“Yup,” I say.
She jerks a thumb. “You’re up.”
Sacker tosses me the hat panty. I slip it over my helmet, pop in my mouth guard, roll back onto the track, and hop up on my toe stops at the jam line.
After practice, Donna Draper and her lesbian derby wife Bichon Frizzy invite me to join them at their favorite bar for Monday night pizza, as usual, and as usual I thank them and turn them down. It hurts. I want to go so badly.
My name is Hel, and I’ve been an energy vampire since I was seventeen. However, from birth I was raised vegan and ecologically sensitive to our mother planet.
I’ve been working at this private school now for about three years. I have seven boys in my class, all of them what we once called, back in the sixties, “hyperactive.” Meaning, “bouncing off the walls.” They’re lovable little tykes, though, and I love especially that I don’t have to bite them or do anything creepy to draw off their excess energy.
In this one context, my hunger is a plus.
In other teachers’ classes, they chase each other, scream, throw things, break the toys, break the furniture, and hit the teachers. In my class they sit quietly, read, learn the computer, and play nicely with one another. Their parents love me. The other teachers are grateful that they don’t have to work with these boys.
By now I can breathe a precisely calculated percentage off some bonkers kid and bring him back into the socialized zone. And I’m very, very careful.
But isn’t that, well, icky? Stealing the life force of a child?
Yeah. And I hate myself for it. And I booze because I hate myself. And I’m ashamed of myself for boozing.
You happy yet?
No, I see in your face that more a labored explanation is called for. Maybe some more self-loathing.
For decades I’ve sucked prana from strangers. But doing that makes me, well, know too much about them.
Let me put it this way. Ever eat a steak and find that it just didn’t taste good to you? And you couldn’t say why?
It’s because the animal was in terror and agony when it was slaughtered. Those emotions translate into measurable chemicals injected into the blood by the poor beast’s endocrine system. Those chemicals, when the animal is butchered and sold and cooked and eaten, can be tasted.
Imagine if you could taste the dying mood of every single animal that you ate.
Even everyday human moods are no banquet.
This is why I teach school for crazy-ass small boys. Because the energy tastes a lot better.
Sometimes, of course, I find a kid with real problems at home. That’s when I return to my earliest strategy, which was to find people who deserved to have their energy sucked out.
You know. Bad guys.
The trouble is, some bad guys have rather nice energy. That’s because they themselves don’t know that they’re total monsters. And ya know? It turns out that judging people all the time, every time I want a meal, can get real old.
And the bad guys with bad energy taste horrible. Afterward, I have to fight the urge to kick puppies and run over old ladies.
So here I am, not totally satisfied with my solution, but feeling a lot better about myself than I did.
Cities are a must for me. The anonymity, the crowds. If I’m very careful, and not greedy, I can breathe in enough to survive simply by standing in a crowded subway or bus for a couple of hours. Rush hour prana tastes so bad, I can’t bear more than subsistence-level quantities, and the smell of all those people, the despair and anger and bad health on their skins and on their breath, ugh. I only do it when I’m starving.
I’m always hungry.