Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Domingo is 17 and lives in the subway tunnels of Mexico City. He pushes a shopping cart of garbage he collects everywhere he goes. On the night we meet him, he meets Atl, a beautiful young woman with a genetically modified doberman. Domingo follows her onto the subway, just to look at her, because he likes people watching. She asks him if he'd like to come home with her. That's not really Domingo's thing, but for some reason, he agrees. At Atl's dingy apartment, she reveals she is a Tlāhuihpochtli, an Aztec vampire, and that she needs fresh blood. Domingo thought that Mexico City was free of vampires, but here is Atl. He offers his blood and she semi-transforms into some sort of bird before drinking from him. The next day, she tells him he'll need to eat foods rich in iron and pays him for his services.
Atl is in Mexico City looking for Verónica, her mother's old, well, Renfield for lack of a better term, though Atl hates thinking of assistants like that. Atl is the second daughter of her clan, so she has been used to drinking blood and getting whatever she wanted, but now, her mother, Centehua, and sister, Izel, her mother's favorite, are dead. Atl is not sure where Verónica is, maybe the States, maybe Guatemala, but she doesn't have ID or papers, so she's not going to be able to get across any borders. She decides to go get some food to put in her house. She doesn't eat, but if anyone comes snooping, they'll be less likely to think she's a vampire. In the shop, some teens are being idiot teens and then the cops show up. Ooh no, they can't ask her for ID... Also oh no, the teen dropped the candy he was eating and Atl has the urge to count it ... Just stay calm. They'll go away. A cop approaches and she says she's not with the teens, so he goes on his way.
Rodrigo is out looking for Nick, the arrogant Necros vampire he must protect. They are supposed to be looking for Atl, well, they wouldn't have to be looking for her if Nick hadn't let her get away, but he did and now here they are. Nick is at a club looking for girls, but he should not be out. Rodrigo drags Nick back to his apartment. Rodrigo chastises La Bola for letting Nick out of his sight, but now, La Bola has to get Nick a pizza.
Domingo takes his money he got from Atl and goes by the bath house for a two hour bath with lots of good smelling shampoo, then buys new clothes, the first new clothes he's ever purchased, and a watch for Atl and then goes by her apartment to offer it to her. She brings him inside and realizes he might make a good Renfield, her first. She accepts the watch, they go out to eat, and when they come back to her apartment, she asks him to be her "friend." She drinks his blood and then she offers him her own.
Nick is tired of being inside and mad that Atl got away, and he's mad that she killed members of his family. He knows La Bola and Rodrigo are in the other room so he can't leave through the front door, so he goes to the bathroom, opens the tiny window and scales down the side of the building like a lizard. He's a Necros vampire with traditional vampire abilities and teeth, not Aztec like Atl with her claws and stinger. He's better than she is. He goes to a club, convinces a girl to pretend to be Atl with his mind control powers and takes her outside. She's not Atl at all. He drains her and throws her in a pile of trash.
Domingo wakes up and Atl gives him juice to give him some strength back. She asks him to look for a man called Bernardino since she can't, gives him his address and a piece of jade, and asks him to ask Bernardino to help her find Verónica, her mother's former associate, who helped smuggle things across various borders. Bernardino's the only one who can help her, but first, they both need rest. Atl lets Domingo sleep on the mattress in her bedroom while she snuggles cozily into her closet burrow. Domingo wants to learn everything he can about real vampires, not the ones in comics, and has just learned that, apparently, Mexican vampires sleep in closets.
Detective Ana looks at the body of the girl from the club and knows immediately she was killed by a Necros vampire, but she didn't think there were any vampires in Mexico City. This one is probably long gone by now. Ana came to Mexico City to get away from all the vampire killings, but here she is, investigating this one. It's not like any of the rest of the police officers are going to do anything. Ana goes home, hoping the forensic team will check out the body before it's taken to the morgue, but probably not. She thinks about what she would do if her own daughter, 17 year old Marisol, were found like that. Marisol is mad at her mother for not having bought groceries or a new school uniform for her, but money is tight.
Domingo goes to the address Atl gave him and finds a creepy old house with Bernardino, who isn't a man but a Revenant vampire, inside. Revenants are old and twisted, but can read minds and heal people if they choose to. They also live by sucking the life force out of whomever they feed on, humans or vampires. Bernardino refuses to help Atl because he doesn't know her, and Verónica, the woman she wants him to find, will know he sent her and no one should know he's here in Mexico City. Domingo pleads, saying Atl needs help, it's a matter of life and death, so Bernardino sends him on his way with a different name written in a note, Elisa Carrera.
Ana really wants to solve this case. She goes for a coffee break and at the cafe, she is greeted by a woman dressed entirely in red. Great, a gang member. Kika is a member of Deep Crimson, one of the human gangs that runs Mexico City and she, and all the other human gangs, do not want vampires coming in and messing everything up, especially Nick Godoy. They are after him and the girl he is chasing, Atl. Ana isn't really interested in helping out a gang, but mentions of money start to change her mind a little bit. Kika tells Ana that she can set up a meeting with her boss to get her all the information she needs.
Rodrigo is pissed that Nick obviously left the house and ate someone the night before. He goes into Nick's room, pulling the curtains away to give Nick a sun rash. Nick's father is Rodrigo's boss and he thinks Nick is ready for this kind of task, chasing down just one vampire girl in the city, but Nick clearly isn't. He's an entitled dick. Rodrigo tells Nick he is in charge and if he gets out of line again, his punishment will be worse than a sun rash.
Domingo takes Atl to an Internet cafe that won't ask them for their papers and won't likely be searched by Sanitation, a group similar to the police that search places making sure no one is sick and that also no one is a vampire. Atl looks up the name written on the paper Bernardino gave Domingo and discovers that Verónica has apparently changed her name to Elisa. With her contact information found, Atl wants to leave. On their way out, they encounter Quinto, Domingo's friend. Quinto works for The Jackal, the person Domingo used to work for, taking care of his dogs that have been injured in fights, because not only is The Jackal a drug dealer, but he also runs dog fights. Quinto is sleazy about Atl and she's not interested at all so they leave.
Before this and now on the way to Domingo's place, he and Atl talk about vampires. She is an Aztec vampire and part of a drug family and is on the run from another vampire drug family, the Godoys, because they killed her mother and sister. Domingo wants to know more about vampires, like if Atl is part of a harem or if she has a big vampire boyfriend in a cape waiting on her somewhere. She does not, and she's not interested in a boyfriend, especially a human one, she tells herself. She leaves Domingo in his home in the tunnels underground and tells him to meet up with her before sundown.
Ana goes to the meeting set up by Kika and meets the leader of Deep Crimson. Kika is there, too, and they discuss what they want from Ana, to kill both vampires, Nick and Atl. Ana claims she is no Van Helsing, what they call vampire hunters in the UK, but then they offer to pay her a great deal of money as a consultant, so she agrees, if they will pay her half up front. They do. Ana has actually killed several vampires before and might be the only person in Mexico City with the knowledge necessary to kill them.
Domingo meets back up with Atl who isn't doing so well. She's used to feeding whenever and wherever she wants, as much as she wants, but now, she's got to control herself. She could just eat Domingo, but she doesn't want to. She actually kind of wants to keep him safe. She doesn't want him to be her boyfriend or anything, which, she thinks in her dead sister Izel's voice, is ridiculous, dating a human, but you know what else is ridiculous? Talking to her dead sister. Geez, she really is losing it.
Domingo and Atl travel to meet the woman Bernardino sent them to find. On the subway, Atl's hands begin to shake. She needs to eat because her sugar level is dropping! They make it to Elisa's office and Atl convinces her to help get her and Domingo across the border into Guatemala. They agree to meet a week later to retrieve their papers and get a ride. This woman used to work for Atl's mother, and now that her mother is dead, she claims she owes them no allegiance, but somehow, Atl is able to convince her to help.
When they get back to the apartment, Atl is feeling very weak, so Domingo offers his blood, but Atl refuses and lies down. Domingo offers to bring her some tea and when he touches her, he has a vision of a turtle and running across a fence and holding a gun and then holding a severed head. Atl tells him that he is seeing her memories, which is what happens when they share blood.
Nick is pissed because Rodrigo has confined him to his room and is only letting him drink blood bags. He would much rather drink Atl. He remembers when he first met her in a club and she turned him down because he was obviously a shitbag. He of course got offended because she didn't want to sleep with him and also threatened to cut his dick. Now he calls his father who is like, the biggest drug dealing vampire around, and says he wants to keep Atl and torture her. His father says he'll think about it.
When Domingo wakes up the next day, Atl is still asleep so he goes out for a bite to eat. When he gets back, there are Sanitation workers doing a sweep of the building, which definitely isn't good for Atl. He non-chalantly rushes up to the apartment and wakes Atl. She hears the crew coming so she climbs up on the roof. Domingo greets the workers, pretending that he lives there with his dog who is actually obviously Atl's dog, called Cualli, but he doesn't have papers or ID because he's only 17. The sanitation workers make sure he's not infected with any diseases and tell him he's got to get registered, him and his dog. He says he will. Atl comes back inside, kind of in bird form, complete with feathers, and devours a box of sugar cubes. Domingo offers his blood, which she accepts after some convincing. They talk about how she feeds, with a proboscis, and Domingo wants to ask a million more questions, but there's something they need to do.
Atl and Domingo leave the apartment to acquire a gun. Domingo takes Atl to somebody he knows from when he used to be a street kid and Atl is able to get a very big, very fancy double-barreled gun. As they leave, Domingo tells the story of how he got out of the group of street kids, which involved trying to keep a girl safe from a predator and the boss of everyone, The Jackal. When The Jackal made Domingo lick his feet clean, Domingo left, which meant he left the girl behind. Atl wants to comfort Domingo, to hold his hand, but she changes her mind at the last second.
Ana is sifting through paperwork, trying to find Atl or Nick when she finds the report from the sanitation check about a boy and his dog. She thinks of the boy with Atl and decides to scope out the area to see if anyone nearby has seen her. Jackpot. At the store near the apartment, the cashier said he has seen the girl in the photo Ana shows him and that she left quickly the other day. Ana meets up with Kika to let her know she found Atl, but not Nick though. Kika says to get ready because they're going after Atl soon and since she's never killed a vampire before and Ana has, she has to be there. Ana goes home excited about the money she's making from helping out these criminals because it's going to be enough to get her and her daughter out of Mexico and that's all she wants.
Rodrigo is thinking about his youth, before he was a Renfield working for Nick's father and trying to keep Nick in line. He liked to drive fast cars, but that's how he got dragged into this life. At least now he has learned about a cop, Ana, who has a lead on Atl. Finally he'll be able to kill her and move on to something else. Then Nick's father calls. He tells Rodrigo that he will not kill Atl because Nick wants to play with her. Oh great.
Atl, Domingo and Cualli leave the apartment so Domingo can eat something and are ambushed by Ana, Kika and some others. Atl shoots a few of them and Cualli rips the throats from a few more, but then Domingo gets captured and is being shoved into the trunk of a car. Atl gets to him and kills his attackers but she gets hit by a few silver nitrate darts and starts going into shock. She grabs the attacker's keys and they drive away, but then she pukes and things get worse. Domingo takes her into the tunnels and gets the silver darts out, but there's still something wrong with her. Domingo leaves Cualli with Atl and goes to get his buddy Quinto who works on The Jackal's dogfight dogs. Quinto freaks when he sees he's helping a vampire, but Domingo threatens him with Cualli. Quinto gets the silver darts out and Atl is able to rest, but then The Jackal shows up.
Atl dreams of her sister's death and, while there have been scenes before of running, guns and decapitated heads, this dream has more detail. Atl is mad that Nick and his gang killed their mother and some cousins, but now that Izel is in charge, she decides to do nothing to retaliate, which makes others in their family think she is weak. Atl, though younger and the unloved second daughter, refuses to let this slide, so she sneaks out to the Godoy place, kills a pregnant concubine and several teens, and returns home. Izel is pissed because she knows they're going to come for them now, and they do. Instead of fighting, Atl hides in a refrigerator, a small, safe space. When she comes out, everyone is dead. Cualli trots up, somehow still alive, and they run.
Atl wakes up in a holding cell where The Jackal keeps his dogs. She's desperately weak from the silver poisoning, but wants to fight her way out. She refuses to take blood from Domingo, sure that she'll kill him with barely a second thought. She wants to drain him dry, but she doesn't want to at the same time, because she wants to keep him safe. Maybe she'll drink him later. She tries to get up and promptly goes down again.
The Jackal comes with his entourage and is posturing and preening and talking about getting lots of money from the Godoy gang for capturing her, but then he gets a call from them. They've arrived, so he's got to go greet them. Suddenly, Atl has a seizure and Quinto rushes into the cell with epinephrine. Haha, just kidding! Atl takes the needle and shoves it into Quinto's eye, then tosses the knife she keeps in her jacket directly into one guy's forehead. She breaks another's neck and then drinks from The Jackal's girl that he left behind, but Domingo stops her from draining her dry and convinces her to leave through a back entrance while they can.
Nick is being a twat, but even still, Rodrigo invites him to go with him to retrieve Atl. When they get to The Jackal's place, they discover Atl has escaped, but not long ago, so they catch up. Violent fights, bites and face gunshots ensue, but luckily, Atl, Cualli and Domingo manage to escape again. Poor Nick is now missing half his jaw and lots of teeth, but he did get in a good bite on Atl's hand before she shot his face off, which isn't going to be great for either of them.
Domingo leads Atl away from The Jackal's place and, just as she's about to eat him, they make it far enough away and find a cab. Atl chokes the driver and gets him to take them to Bernardino's. At first, Bernardino doesn't want to let them in, but finally relents. Then he realizes how badly Atl is injured. Her bite wound from Nick and the infection it caused will kill her in her silver-weakened state, so their only option is to amputate. Now.
Bernardino, who used to be a surgeon a hundred years ago, saws off Atl's hand, but don't worry, it'll grow back. Then he heals her and takes away her hunger with his Revenant life force. Afterward, she can get up and move around easily, so they get cleaned up. Atl needs help getting dressed and Domingo shows up just in time. Atl hates needing help and not knowing what's next, so she cries as Domingo hugs her. Imagine, she didn't cry for her dead sister or mother, but now she's crying over her hand. What is she doing? She pushes Domingo away.
Domingo leaves and takes a bath and puts on a handsome outfit set out for him. As he's contemplating going to be with Atl, Bernardino stops him and tells him that no good can come from the two of them and his infatuation with her. In the end, vampires are only their hunger, nothing more. Domingo goes to Atl anyway and she invites him in her room and to sleep in her bed because she'll be sleeping in the trunk at the foot of it, her snug safe place. They talk about vampires a little and about how Atl's killed several people, almost him a few times even, so he should just go, but Domingo refuses to leave her.
Rodrigo pulls Nick away from the boy he's mutilating with his half-jaw to clean him up and bandage his wounds. Nick is furious that Rodrigo let Atl get away, but obviously he had to take care of idiot Nick instead. Rodrigo mentions that Atl had been poisoned with silver nitrate which means that someone else wants her dead, too. And he knows who that is. Detective Ana. Rodrigo plans to seek her assistance, but first, Nick has to heal. Rodrigo buys a prostitute for him to eat.
Atl wakes to music playing from Bernardino's record player. He checks out her wound and they discuss how her mother and sister died and then Bernardino shares the story of how he met Atl's mother. She rescued him on horseback during the Revolution even though they were of different vampire clans, which is normally frowned upon. They stayed friendly, or at least as allies, for a long time. He gave her a jade necklace, which is where the jade bead Atl had at the beginning came from. Her mother told both Atl and Izel that if they showed Bernardino those beads, he would help. And he has. Domingo arrives then and they discuss going to meet with Elisa to retrieve their papers. Domingo offers to go alone because Atl is so weak, but she vehemently disagrees. Bernardino agrees with Domingo that Atl is not at her best but offers to go with them to lend her his strength.
Ana is pissed. Because of the violent vampire massacre at The Jackal's, she has been replaced as the lead in finding Atl and Nick. Kika calls and, at a nearby restaurant, they discuss how even though Ana's not in charge anymore, she's still valuable to Deep Crimson and that they still want her help. Ana goes back to the police station, trying to decide if she's still going to help the gang, when a witness comes in. Ana speaks to the man who turns out to be the cab driver who took Atl, Domingo and Cualli to Bernardino's. Ana takes the tip and decides to continue helping Deep Crimson.
Atl, Bernardino and Domingo meet up with Elisa, who, after seeing the massacre on the news, has decided she can no longer smuggle Atl and Domingo out of Mexico City. She still provides their documentation though, which is good, but how will they get out of the city? Domingo knows exactly how. They'll walk. There is a trash dump that crosses over the border that no one but the people who work there know about. It will be easy! Sure it will. Sure it will… but then, how will they get into Guatemala? Bernardino knows a guy, Manuel, so they go speak to him next. He needs a little time to prepare and a little cajoling, but eventually they have made an escape plan. Bernardino heals Atl again before they leave his place, because everyone was right, she is weak, but she's okay again for now.
When they get back to Bernardino's place, Atl and Domingo argue a bit about Domingo calling her weak, but really, he just wants her to be safe and even apologizes for sounding like a dick. Atl doesn't deal well with needing help, but now she needs his help again to get undressed. They end up sleeping together, which is what they both probably wanted all along, more or less.
Ana goes to a contact she has in search of information about the location where the taxi driver took Atl, Domingo and Cualli. She heard once that a vampire lived in that neighborhood, but didn't know for sure. After meeting with this sleazy guy who owns a tea shop that is probably actually a cover for a brothel, she knows that a vampire really does live there. On her way back home, she gets a call from the Godoy gang who threaten to kill her daughter if she doesn't meet with them, so she does. Rodrigo and Nick question Ana about how she knew about the vampires and she plays dumb, but then Nick bites her and feeds her his blood, putting her under his control. Ana explains she's been working with Deep Crimson, tells them where Atl is now and says that she was going to call and tell Deep Crimson. They allow her to do that in the hopes that their gang will get to her first and make their capture easier.
Domingo and Atl, naked in bed, talk about vampires and whether or not, as an aztec vampire, she can fly. Yes, kind of. She has wings but flies more like a turkey than anything else, but she can glide, and her wings are beautiful. Domingo wants to see them, but Atl's wings are private, and then they talk about seeing each other completely naked, so she decides she will show him. She unfurls huge and glorious shiny black wings and enfolds Domingo in them.
Later, Bernadino checks on Atl's hand. It's growing back slowly and he thinks she won't have any damage or scarring. He asks her about her developing relationship with Domingo and what her mother would say if she knew Atl was in a relationship with a human. Well, she's dead, so she's not going to say anything. Bernardino thinks it's a bad idea but Atl craves a companion and a connection, so Bernardino can go to hell for all she's concerned. Domingo knows Bernardino said something to her, and Atl knows she shouldn't lose her head over a boy, but she is, despite Bernardino's repetitions that vampires are nothing but their hunger.
In the middle of the night. Cualli barks, just once. Intruders! Ana and Kika and some cronies have broken in. Atl climbs on the ceiling in the darkness like a lizard and drops down, taking out a couple cronies, but then she's flashed with UV light. There's a shout for Kika to hit Atl with a huge dose of silver nitrate, and so, blind and about to be silvered, Atl raises her hands to protect herself, but then there's a shout from Domingo, two gunshots and the smell of blood.
Ana is being controlled by Nick and is disgusted by the thoughts going through his head about what he wants to do with Atl and his plans to kill Ana and her daughter after he has Atl, but she can't do anything about it. He telepathically tells her he wants Atl alive, so instead of letting Kika dose her with silver, Ana shoots Kika and the remaining crony. Then she's knocked out by Domingo. As she's down, she regains her own thoughts, so that's good, but she watches and listens as Atl, Bernardino and Domingo make hasty plans to get Cualli and escape to the trash dump. They leave and shortly after, Nick arrives. He feeds Ana his blood to put her back under his control and is pissed that Atl got away again, but Ana knows where they're going and tells him whether she wants to or not.
Atl, Domingo, Bernardino and Cualli run down the street, steal a car and drive to the landfill. Unfortunately they don't make it very far in before they realize their pursuers have caught up. Bernardino convinces Domingo to hide with Cualli and Atl gives him a knife. Domingo doesn't want to leave Atl, but does as they say. Not too long after he gets into a hiding place, a man shines a flashlight in his face and tells him to come out. Cualli growls and attacks and the man aims a gun at the dog, so Domingo rushes him with the knife. It barely stops him, but then Cualli attacks again, this time going for the man's throat. Just when Domingo thinks everything's fine, Cualli gets shot and a woman brings him outside.
Nick is of course pissed about having to go into a landfill but sees Domingo run and hide so he sends La Bola and Ana to retrieve him. As he's waiting, he hears a startled sound from Rodrigo who has just been attacked by Bernardino. Nick sends two goons to take Bernardino down but they are terrified of him and both get eaten quickly. As Bernardino is distracted with his meal, Nick pins him down with a metal rod. Nick then realizes that Rodrigo is still alive but practically a mummy, so he laughs in his face before crushing his skull. Ana arrives then with Domingo and without La Bola. Oh well. Nick zaps Domingo with a cattle prod and gives Atl to the count of three to come save him.
Atl just wants to run. She hid when her sister was murdered. She's nothing. She's not brave, she's not a warrior, but she's also not leaving Domingo behind. She arrives just as Nick reaches the end of his countdown. They have a standoff, Nick holding Domingo, but then Domingo stabs Nick with Atl's knife. He's stunned more than hurt, but then Atl attacks, ripping the knife from his belly and driving it into Nick's eye. They fight, and then Ana shows up and shoots Atl. Atl breaks a few of Ana's ribs then she pulls the silver bullet out as Nick comes at her with the knife. Then Domingo is there and crashes the metal bar that was holding Bernardino in place into Nick's head. Nick roars and Atl can tell he's going to kill Domingo, so she leaps at Nick, wings unfurling, and flies him off the ground, her talons digging into his face.
Ana comes back to herself for a few moments and is able to shoot Nick, but then he controls her mind again and makes her kill herself. As she's dying, free from his mind control, she's pleased to see Bernardino approach Nick. Nick is trying desperately to bite Atl and she's holding him at bay with her talons, but then Bernardino grabs his head and drains him of his life energy. His eyes shrivel up, his hair falls out and his teeth pop out, too. When Atl sees Bernardino again, his hair is black instead of gray and his skin is less wrinkled, but then he comes for her, too. It's true what he said, they are their hunger, after all. She's not afraid of dying, but asks that Bernardino spare Domingo's life. Bernardino grabs Atl by the throat… and breathes his life back into her.
Domingo rushes over to make sure Atl and Bernardino are okay and then Bernardino sends them on their way to meet Manuel so he can smuggle them out of Mexico. They part ways and Atl asks where Cualli is, but Domingo has to tell her that he was shot and is probably dead. They walk on through the dump and out onto the street, and then Atl takes an envelope out of the bag with all their papers and money and gives the bag to Domingo. She tells him she's going on alone, that she doesn't need him anymore. He's crushed and fights for her but she kisses him one last time and says she will get him killed, and then she leaves him behind.
Domingo lets Atl go. He turns and walks back through the dump and hears a small whimper. It's Cualli! He's alive! Domingo finds the dog and a shopping cart, puts him inside and together they leave the landfill. Some days later, Domingo, resting with Cualli at his side, has a dream of Atl, cutting her way through the jungle with a machete. He says her name and she looks up and smiles as if she heard him speak but continues on her way.