Teeth in Soft Places

Bee was a vampire teddy bear.  While his plush siblings clamored to frolic with children in the sun, he preferred the shadows and shady areas.  It wasn’t that he was in danger of bursting into flames or abruptly deteriorating, because that’s one of those vampire myths that just isn’t true.  He was simply of a darker nature and preferred a habitat to match.  He often found himself grossly misjudged by his appearance.  Baby blue fur and a pelt-matching satin necktie did not fit the stereotype of a vampire.  Sharp functional fangs didn’t fit the expectations of a teddy bear.

No other vampires were produced at the facility where he was made, and it seemed his state was accidental.  Still, quality control had passed him through, possibly because a despondent man was responsible for ensuring that each plush animal, of the type produced that day, was as free of flaws as the next.  The man never had his own teddy bear, and had since been conditioned to believe he didn’t need one. Despite his on-site training, he was not an expert on appropriate features for stuffed animals.

Other teddy bears found his fangs, and the lisp they caused, a bit too creepy for their liking.  He worked hard to limit his accent, practicing  in private since he’d decided it was best to keep his fuzzy muzzle shut as much as possible around others.  He often found himself the recipient of unsolicited advice.

“Go back to the manufacturer,” they said.  “They can repair your defects.  Do it now, before you have to endure the humiliation of a recall.“

Bee didn’t want to be recalled, but he couldn’t bring himself to seek a change.  What if his vampirism was merely a difference without a defect?  He was just as cheerful and friendly as the other stuffed toys.  And he couldn’t help but fear what would happen to him back at the factory.  If he weren’t merely discarded as unsalvageable, would he come out of the repair changed beyond all recognition?  Would he lose himself?

No. Despite his loneliness he would not go back to the factory.  Not without a stake driven through his plush little heart (contrary to media indications, this merely transfixes vampires, rather than killing them).

So Bee sat on a shelf in the toy department at Target, crammed in with other soft animals who constantly fidgeted to avoid touching him.

“It’s not contagious,” he insisted, marveling at the irony of judgmental stuffed animals.

He heard the grumbling of the other toys in their secret club meetings well before the threats started appearing.  Instead of learning to accept him when it became clear that he wasn’t evil, they seemed to believe he was merely waiting to launch some vicious attack.  One day he woke to find a collection of candles from the home decor department beside him.  The wicks bore evidence of applied heat without successful ignition.  A disposable lighter from the checkout lay out of its packaging on the floor as though dropped in haste (vampires can be injured by fire, like anyone or anything else, though it is not the cure-all some might expect).

“It will end badly for you,” a plastic fire truck muttered in passing.  “You should leave. Now, before something worse happens.“

Both terrified for his life and horrified by the actions of those who should have been his friends, Bee considered leaving.  But he knew he was ill prepared to face the outdoor world.  He’d be lucky to last a season.  And he still clung to the hope that he might be seen as an appropriate toy for some child.  He kept his fur clean and fluffy, checked his bow tie daily, and made sure to look cheerful during business hours, for all the good it did him.  Parents and children alike mocked him, recoiling from his fangs.

“This one’s creepy,” a woman said with a shudder, shoving him aside.

“What a weird looking bear, I can’t imagine who’d want it,” another said.

The plush animals who had attempted to murder Bee in his sleep were taken home to be cuddled and played with, while he stayed on the shelf.  He feared he would never be bought, never be loved.  He worried that if someone did buy him, it would be for some unpleasant purpose, possibly involving large dogs with serviceable teeth.

Bee was feeling rather glum the day he was finally picked up off the shelf.  “Check this one out,“ a woman said, frantically waving him at a man wearing a stylish sport coat and brightly artistic tie.  “It’s perfect!”

At last, he was perfect, but for what?  He was duly scanned and paid for.  Tucked into a plastic bag, he traveled blindly away from the store toward his destiny.  The crinkling of the bag obscured the conversation of his new owners, though he strained his white satin-lined ears.  Before long, they arrived at a party, where he discovered that he was not alone.

At night Bee is now tucked snugly into a toddler bed with a three-year old vampire who periodically hugs him with all his might.  He is both friend and nighttime guardian.  He doesn’t mind the occasional teething nibbles on his neck, after all he heals quickly (as all vampires do) and tolerance is easy to come by now that he’s found his place.

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Author of adult and young adult speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, dark fiction)

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