Chapter 1 : The Vampire Monologues
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Sanguini, the Vampire
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing
-Sylvia Plath, Edge
You’re looking at me. I’m not surprised.
Your head is inclined toward where I’m sitting and your elbow is propping up your face; in fact, that skinny elbow of yours is propping up most of your body’s weight and your eyes are half-shuttered, the pupils dark and giddy with too much – what do you wizards call this drink? Firewhiskey? It’s as bland as ditchwater to me.
Are you looking at me? I am, after all, more than a little out of place in this shoddy pub with its stained floors and portraits of medieval scenes, reeking of drunk old men and spilt drink.
You’re out of place as well. I can tell. Firstly, you’re young. Much too young to be slouching alone at the far end of the counter. You look tired, disinterested, too interested in the yellow liquid in your glass. You’re watching the level of it go down and I suppose you must be feeling it fill you up, a heat picking up from your toes, climbing to your chest where it bathes your lungs in liquid warmth, all the way until it hits your brain, blistering through your thoughts. Soon enough, you’ll feel hollowed out, gratified.
I go up to you; I can’t resist.
You’re really looking at me now, or at least you’re trying to. I can count the creases on your eyelids. I can smell you, the different layers of your body: the sweat beading on your skin, the oil glands leaking into your subcutaneous tissue, the salt in the capillaries irrigating the flesh.
I’ll lose you if I continue like this; I can sense your attention wavering. I’m not that interesting after all, am I? Maybe you think I’m a promoter of some sort, trying to slip some unwanted leaflet into your pocket when you aren’t looking. Maybe I want to pick you up, ply you with a few more drinks, which you may accept, until you’re unable to walk on your own and so require me to walk you home or somewhere isolated, an excuse for – ‘a quick shag’ is the expression used in these times, I’m fairly certain. None of these sorts of people interest you; you’re too tired. There’s something etched into the thinning lines of your face, around the eyes, at the tips of a mouth that droops into a frown all too quickly.
There I go again. Will I never shut up? You’re smiling. The smile looks incongruous against the backdrop of your fatigued features, as though it has been pinned on loosely; I feel I can just reach out two fingers and pick it off your face, like it were a loose curl of paper.
You’ve picked up on something about me. What is it? Can you guess? Ask away. You’re right to guess that I’m not fully human. I was a wizard like you, once. I am not any longer.
No? Let me give you a hint. Look. These are my teeth. The incisors and the molars you’ve seen before. But the cuspids, oh, you’re surprised by them. Thin spikes. My dentition is iconic, mythic. For perforating skin and flesh and tapping into the listless vein bobbing in the necks of living things, for drawing out the fluid within.
The word given to those like me is ‘vampire’. That word is complicated, it carries its own history of truth and falsehood knotted together; that word is inextricable from humankind. I believe so.
What do you know of vampires? What do I know of myself?
For instance, I like pubs only because they’re open all night long. I’m of the nocturnal persuasion, you see. During the day, I prefer to sleep in the cool ground, entombed in the bedrock along with all the blind dark things of the subsoil, away from the sunlit world. Not necessarily in a coffin; any cellar, any belowground bunker or cave will do. I can’t remember daylight. Do I miss it? Do all the creatures of the night miss the sun? They never know it. I knew it once, and I remember it was very bright, it might have been gold; it might be my imagination embellishing things and planting false images to fill in the continuity gaps of my prolonged existence. I care hoots about daylight. I don’t need it. I’ve heard tales of my kind meeting the sun – tales, mind you, and most of them from all the books and mythologies crafted by wizardkind, even Muggles sometimes write about us. In those tales, we shrivel and our bodies coil and crackle like dead leaves beneath the blight of the sun’s rays. Sometimes we burst into flame. Sometimes we crumble to dust. As if. Look. These are my hands, soft as human hands but colder. Sometimes we rupture at the seams like glutted bags of blood.
Of course. Blood. That’s the fundamental thing about my kind, isn’t it? You know us as a breed of creatures perpetually thirsting for the taste of blood. So well-known is this trait, so deeply entrenched in the collective consciousness of humankind is our unstaunched appetite for blood, warmed by the pounding muscle of the heart. But it is true. A vampire need only drink blood to sustain his body. You’ve seen my teeth, you know they’re real.
It bores me to go into excruciating detail about my feeding procedures, so I’ll not talk about that. Have I killed before? Have I taken many lives? Well, now. You may be surprised.
Shall I tell you my name? It’s a good start. I like telling my name to people; there have been too many times in the past when I couldn’t remember this, too many holes in my life when my name would not come to me, when my brain slept in the dark pocket of my skull and my body ran on instinct. During those blank times (and they’ll come again, I’m sure of it), I sat in the centre of myself, surrounded by my skin, a web of senses. I lived by my reflexes. Reflexes coiled just beneath my skin: those were my thoughts, simple decisions, instinct, muscle memory, whatever you call it.
You must be wondering about these ‘dark stretches’ in my mind and my not-remembering. I’m being overly dramatic as usual. I blame Eldred for this.
You see, I’ve been alive for such a very long time. That part of all the stories is true – the vampire body is durable. The same cannot be said for the mind. I’ve thought about this for some time, and I’ve come to the conclusion that my mind has never changed, not since the days when I was still human. My mind is not robust enough to keep up with the body. The years have worn my thoughts thin, sometimes I lose any sense of awareness. I flicker in and out of conscious existence, of the madness of being. And when I regain my senses, sometimes so much time has passed and I’ve not noticed because I’ve been dead to the world, crushed by the weight of my age.
I suppose this is one of the reasons why the existence of the vampire has posed such a problem in the centuries-long debate over what constitutes a being, and what differentiates one from a beast. Vampirism is a perpetuity of the body, a madness of the mind, a gradual separation of the the two; one ages and one stagnates. I’ve alternated between beast and being, between control and being lost to my own instinct.
I lose more and more with the passing of time. People forget things as they grow older. Perhaps a vampire is not so different. Perhaps. What I don’t remember is as good as non-existent. But I remember my name. At least, right now, I do. So for now, I am.
I am a vampire. I was once given a name by Eldred Worple, my former lover. Sanguini, he called me. That is not my real name.
Shall we begin, at last?
My real name, the name that I was born with, the name that I remember now, is David. It was Eldred who told me this. Now I have my name, but I may lose it again. I’ve resorted to writing it on a scrap of paper and pinning it to the inside of my collar. Such a bland, boring name, isn’t it? I’d wager that you weren’t expecting it.
Oh, don’t be so surprised. My father – I remember his name, too, - was called John. My mother was Nora. That is all I know about them. I don’t remember most of my former life, whether I loved those people who were once my parents or whether I wished them ill. Yet this sliver of memory is precious to me, not because I feel particularly tender toward them, but because I can remember something about myself, some clue to an existence I once led – no, that I still lead, every day.
I began and I ended at birth. A vampire attacked me, I suppose. He created me. I didn’t know who it was, but I met him much later on. I’ll tell you, all in good time. I do not know the exact process of how I was made. I don’t remember the experience nor have I attempted it on another human.
I was born as a new sentient being during nightfall. I was in the earth. When I woke into my new life, there was grit in my eyes and my first breath was of dirt. The grains sifted through my now obsolete airways and into my lungs. I believe they’re still there.
The night called me. What is the night to you? It is a raw, living thing. The night sings in my skin, sings it into gooseflesh, through the warped arteries winding along my body, it fills me, it is fresh on my lips and in my nose, it pulls me upright from the earth, calls me to waken. The darkness is so tangible, I am an extension of it. I feel its favour, it settles its feathery touch on me. I looked up into the sky that first night. The stars were crumbs, the moon was a pale rock. I remember – nothing much, just a snapshot in my mind – the moon over a wintry forest, blanching the trees into a tattered clump of bones. Such desperate, beautiful solitude I felt that night, and I feel it even keener these days because my memories are going, and those that remain are unstable. Did such a night really exist? Or is it my brain deceiving me, fabricating falsehoods in lieu of the things I have lost?
I must apologise. You must think I’m rude and self-centred, going on and on like this. Tell me something about yourself. What’s someone like you doing in some small town pub?
Your job. Of course. Delivery boy. I can tell you’re a manual worker of some sort; your hands are coarse, thorny with too many knuckles and the veins in them are blue and knotted. Stained sleeves, damp robes – was it raining where you came from? It’s been a perfectly dry week over here. But surely you’re too young to be working such a job? No, I’m mistaken, of course. Looks can be deceiving. How old are you? Twenty-two? So young.
Eldred was like you when I first met him; well, not like you, a couple of years older than you, perhaps, and we were in a different pub, though it was him that approached me. I had been trying to get away from the storm outside, and I’d just procured myself a tasteless shot of Firewhiskey. Eldred knew what I was, of course. In fact, he’d heard of me from the local townsfolk and he’d tracked me down.
“I’m Eldred Worple,” he said, holding out his hand. He was nervous and excited, he shifted his weight from foot to foot and tried not to be obvious about it. Sweat was trickling down the sides of his head and his collar was stained. His tailored clothes were soggy from barely escaping the downpour, and his woollen jumper made him smell like a wet sheep.
I wasn’t interested in him. I’ll admit, I was feeling particularly depressed and I hadn’t been having a good year. I’d just snapped back into my conscious existence after six months of not remembering anything and I couldn’t for the life figure out what my name was. So initially, I said nothing to this strange man who had approached me, merely nodded politely and hoped he would go away.
Eldred turned out to be a writer. All he wanted was fame, and the quickest route to that, in his opinion, was to write a book. Vampires were his chosen subject.
“There’s a place in the nearby forest,” I told him, finally, “with a thriving vampire community. I’m sure you’ll find what you need there.”
Eldred was disappointed at my refusal. “At least tell me your name,” he pressed.
I wasn’t sure what to do, then. Should I have made it up? I suppose I was going to make it up, but I wasn’t quick enough. My mind was stupid, dulled by its long sleep, and my hesitation dragged on a minute too long.
“You don’t remember, do you?” Eldred said in a curiously gentle voice. He was smiling and his teeth were sterile-looking and clean as picked bones.
“Don’t be absurd,” I told him, “it’s Edwin.”
“I know my own name,” I told him, somewhat roughly.
There was a sly look on his face. He reached into his expensive dragonhide satchel and fished out what looked like a roll of parchment.
“You know,” he said, “I have your Ministry records. “
I’ll admit I froze for a little while. I hadn’t even remembered that I’d registered myself all those years, decades, centuries (maybe) ago. He unfurled the parchment, slowly, teasingly, his eyes never leaving mine. I suppose I was in his power, then, and he knew it.
“I have connections in the Ministry,” he drawled, “I can access a lot of information, you know. Phillip Rosier from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures is a good friend of mine.”
I wondered if I could snatch those papers out of his hand and make away with them. I tried to gauge the distance between my seat and the door of the pub. It was too far away. I would never make it in time. Another lesson for you about me: I’m only as fast and as strong as I was when I was still human. I am still much slower than a wizard’s wand, than the speed of his spell.
So, instead, I pushed my untouched glass of Firewhiskey toward Eldred. “What are in those records?”
He beamed at me, all the craftiness vanishing from his features. “Excellent, my friend! I knew you’d want to know!” He lunged forward and clasped my hand and shook it. I was taken aback. His hand was sweaty and warm, damp and living and I could feel his tiny pulse flickering somewhere in the meat of his wrist. He seemed just as surprised as me, perhaps from the coldness of my touch. There was also something new in his expression, a blend of intense curiosity and cautiousness.
He flicked the parchment in his hand. “You’re David. That’s your first name. Surname Diggory. Your father is John. Your mother is Nora.”
The information washed over me in a wave of relief and gratitude. I had a set of names with which I could identify myself, which I could cling to and hope that some meaning or some memory would leach out of them over time. I swore to memorise those names. David Diggory, son of John and Nora Diggory.
Eldred continued. “You were born in Glastonbury. The exact date of your birth is unknown, – you didn’t know it yourself when you registered, – but is presumably in the 1700s.”
I am old, you see. Far older than perhaps you can comprehend.
“It says here that your father was a farmer and you helped with the upkeep of his farm before you became a vampire,” Eldred went on.
How interesting. I could recall absolutely nothing from that life. I didn’t even know if I still knew how to plough the fields and tend to a farm.
Eldred gestured at the barkeep who grudgingly brought us another two glasses of Firewhiskey.
I shook my head. “Tasteless.”
He straightened up. “So – do you – do you really – drink –?”
“Indeed,” I sighed. Those questions were always so predictable. “What else do you want to know?”
His hand dove into his pockets and pulled out a quill and a spare roll of parchment. His face was red; I could feel the heat of his blood radiating from his cheeks. There he was, sitting in front of me, veined with liquor. The only way I can taste the effects of Firewhiskey is when it is absorbed into human blood. The properties of the drink heat up the blood, slow down the pulse, dull the senses. A combination of the drink and perhaps my acquiescence had left Eldred immeasurably happy. I wanted to taste the euphoria in his blood. I remember a slow heat building up in me, a hunger. I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually drunk the blood of a human, fresh from a person.
Most vampires are discouraged from doing so by the Ministry of Magic, you know. Even when the contributor of the blood is willing. That’s why the Ministry blood banks exist.
Something most people wouldn’t know, now, would they? All of you prefer to wrap yourself with those tedious, excessively histrionic and completely unrealistic vampire mythologies fabricated by your own kind. Well, things aren’t as exciting, I’m afraid. Most vampires register with the Being Division at the Ministry to gain access to the blood banks. Believe me, it’s a lot easier than hunting down humans and struggling with them and sinking fangs into their writhing necks as they deafen you with their screams and claw at your faces like ill-behaved children.
Anyway, with Eldred that night, I felt something different rise in my body. Some sort of charge, some sort of white-hot sickness, swirling from the pit of my stomach. I watched him ever more carefully, every tiny movement he made, every flicker of his eyelids, every twitch in his expression. He lifted his glass as if in a toast, and with the other, slapped at my forearm rather drunkenly, and if he’d been sober, he would have noticed that I’d flinched, because the thing that had been growing in me nearly overpowered my brain with a different kind of heat, an incandescent thirst blistering through my thoughts, cauterising my throat.
To drink from a live human, to take the blood right from his system while he breathes, while his body throbs in your grasp, his muscles tensing, his pupils spreading, stretching, becoming blank mirrors –
That is the key instinct that takes over the body once you become a vampire. I understood it that night. All those times of my life when I blipped out of conscious existence like an extinguished light, it wasn’t just my frail old human mind giving way; it was also my body attempting to wrest control of its own self. That was the instinct bequeathed to me, the curse lodged in the fundamentals of my existence, demanding to be sated with the lifeblood of another.
I looked down at Eldred’s parchment. It was only a quarter filled; he’d been chattering on and on about some trivial thing or another, and every ten minutes or so breaking into gusts of laughter at his own jokes.
“You haven’t written much,” I told him, pointing to his paper.
He looked down, eyes widening in dismay. “My goodness, you’re right. What have I been doing all this while? I’ve missed recording all the things you said.”
“I didn’t say much.”
“Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to repeat everything you said, anyway.” He shook his head.
“It is of no inconvenience to me at all.” I leaned forward as much as I could, until I was a couple of inches away from his face. I was toeing a thin line between discomfort and intrigue. It showed on his face but he held himself and didn’t move back. “You know, I can tell you much more about – my kin. If we go somewhere less – cluttered.”
I waved a hand at the rest of the pub. Eldred blushed even more, and his forehead inked up with hot rising colour. I gripped the edge of the counter for support and stood up. My knees shook.
“I have a room at the local inn,” Eldred whispered, “that is if you don’t mind, of course. But it is indeed, ah, a conducive environment for us to continue our discussion. It’s certainly very private.”
I nodded. I couldn’t trust myself to speak. My tongue had grown swollen and crusty with thirst, filling up my whole mouth and the top of my throat. I should have fled the scene, made for the nearest blood bank and drunk my fill of tepid preserved blood. I didn’t.
Instead, I followed Eldred back to his rented room.
“So,” Eldred said glancing at me, hopefully, “do you associate with us wizarding folks a lot?”
“No. I can’t remember if I was ever well-assimilated into your community.”
“How did you become a vampire?”
“I don’t know. I simply cannot remember. It was a long time ago. I wish I could be a little more helpful but my memories are somewhat discontinuous.”
Eldred’s room was small, bare, detached. He lit the fire in the grate and pulled up two chairs. His movements were unsteady but there was a sharp eager light in his eyes. We sat facing each other. There should have been a table or something between us, but Eldred didn’t bother. His knees grazed against mine.
“How does it feel like? To be what you are?”
I tried to answer his questions; I really did. But that one stumped me. “I don’t know how it feels like to be anything else.”
“Let’s try something else.” Eldred tangled his fingers together delicately. His breath smelt of Firewhiskey. “What does blood taste like? Do you crave it all the time?”
“The Ministry blood banks are an adequate provider of vampire nourishment,” I answered mechanically, “their stations are all over the country, and are equipped with Charms to attract wandering vampires in the vicinity and reduce chances of us attacking humans.”
“But surely, surely you must feel the need to drink the blood from living people? Vialled blood from the banks is hardly satisfying, is it not?”
I lied. “It’s of no difference to me.”
He paused for a moment. And all of a sudden he jolted forward and his knees dug into mine. I felt the tautness in his body, straining behind those knees clad in their striped trousers. He raised a hand and stopped within an inch of my face. “May I?”
I shrugged. He touched my cheek, shuddered, but went on to trail a finger down the length of my face.
“You’re eternal.” There was wonder in his voice. There was also jealousy and something else.
“It’s nothing to be proud of.”
“You’ve lived for so long. How can anything like this be possible?”
“There are drawbacks. And they aren’t pleasant.”
He ignored me. His hand drifted down my neck, his touch unsettlingly warm. I stopped him before he could proceed any further; I caught his hand and gripped it tightly at the wrist, until his fingertips blanched and his heartbeat constricted within my grasp. It was clear what we wanted from each other.
Well. I’m sure you can guess what happened.
What I remember most from that encounter was the heat of Eldred’s body. The temperature of human life was a shock against my cold skin. I’m afraid I cannot adequately convey how strange and absurd it felt: the human body that I once had, that you have, how it thrums, writhes, exudes breath and warmth. The systemic muddle, the living slop of organs, the lattices of blood vessels. And in Eldred’s chest, the epicentre of it all – the beating heart. Imagine my body. My heart does not beat. It sits mutely in the curve of my chest, a flaccid muscle. Nothing flows or quivers or hammers in my body. If I close my eyes and do not move, there is nothing that distinguishes me from a corpse; I am as good as dead. And yet.
I remember how I was overwhelmed at last by my rising thirst. I pinned Eldred’s shoulders down on the sheets; there was an itch in my mouth, the nerves in my gums tingling, there was that irrepressible urge to bite, to suck, to deplete. He was strong, though. With a burst of strength, he freed his arm, and before I knew it, his wand tip was under my chin and it was my own throat that was in danger now. It must have been a very bizarre sight. You would have laughed if you were there.
“Careful,” Eldred said. He was breathing heavily. “Not losing control now, are you?”
I pulled back. “Forgive me,” I said with all the calm I could muster. “I am not being courteous. I swear that I will not cause you harm.”
The words seemed to have effect. He lowered his wand. The curiosity was still in his eyes and so I approached him, gently this time, until my nose touched that sensitive spot, the scoop at the base of his throat, flanked by the collarbones. And then I swung my head round to the side of his neck and bit.
You will not understand. Don’t even ask me to attempt to describe. I cannot. The taste was glorious but the taste on its own is nothing. I can’t explain nature, or instinct. I can’t explain the body. I only know that I am a slave to it.
Needless to say, I desired more. I stayed with Eldred. I followed him to his little cottage home at the tail-end of a sleepy wizarding village. Beneath his kitchen floor, was what appeared to be a wine cellar. I slept in there during the day, hemmed in by racks of glinting bottles. In the nights, I came out of the cellar and Eldred would be waiting, wearing a ravenous smile, and I suppose it must be a reflection of my own face and my desires. Because I’m the vampire; I’m the one who thirsts, who hungers, who undergoes the famishment, the desire. He allowed me to drink from him every night, though he always had his wand close by. It weakened him; he would become dizzy, swaying as though intoxicated so I held his body close to mine. But he was always careful not to let me drain him a drop more than he could afford to lose. And afterward I would give myself to him, allow him to pull of my clothes, drag his moist mouth along every acre of my flesh, and I would collapse beneath the arc of his body. I enjoyed it. How could I not. It gave me a different brand of pleasure. I stayed with him for a long time – months, years, I can’t be quite sure. I lost sense of time and it was different from all those times when my thoughts gave out into darkness and my brain shut in on itself. Time brushed past me in a manner that neither bewildered nor exhausted me.
“Thank you,” I said to him, one night.
He was fingering the puncture wounds on his neck. “Don’t.”
“I’m being polite. I’m a guest here at your house.”
Soon after, I began to thank him every night. It irritated him. It made him uncomfortable.
“Merlin’s beard,” he swore, his upper lip curling. “Surely we’re more than that, by now?”
“Thank you. I am grateful.”
Of course it wasn’t always sex and blood all the time. I helped Eldred a lot with his book. Several books, in fact. I told him everything I knew about myself, at least whatever I could remember. I don’t know how he managed to fill up several books with all the insignificant trivia I provided him; I suspect he would have embellished my account a little. He would have referred back to all those manmade vampire legends and old witches’ tales and fitted the more dramatic elements of those around the details of my own narrative. He always struck me as a bit of a fraud when it came to his books.
But there were hardly any other members of the wizarding community working and researching in great detail on such a subject as vampires, and so his books were well-received by the public, and he was soon accepted as a presiding authority on vampiredom. I cared nothing for his books. Eldred became increasingly popular in the social, literary and academic circles of the wizarding world. Soon enough, he began to insist that I accompany him to some of his many social functions – book launches, autograph sessions, conferences on magical beings and beasts, parties and so on.
“Of course, nobody must know of the nature of our relationship," he said. He was beaming excitably, but there was an unmistakable tightness in his voice. A warning.
“Of course, of course." I yawned. “It wouldn’t do if everyone found out that you and your vampire, the subject of all your books, had a relationship that transcended the pages."
He got up from his cluttered writing desk and rested a hand on my chest. It always fascinated him, the silence of my heart. He kissed the side of my neck, and I felt the edge of his blunt ineffectual teeth. "I'm glad you understand."
"You know, it would be an infinite source of fascination for the public if you were found out. That novelist friend of yours, Selenia Mayflower will be practically begging you for details."
Selenia Mayflower – heard of her? No? Well, don't bother too much. One of those romance authors fixated with the idea of pairing humans with vampires and creating formidable sagas of their tempestuous relationships.
Anyway, I started to follow Eldred to his little parties here and there. I let him parade me around, so all the flustered witches and wizards could inflict their questions on me.
“Be gracious and answer them,” Eldred told me, “but don’t give away much. Appear enigmatic. Maintain an aura of aloofness. Besides, yielding too much information might affect the sales of my books.”
Did I mention? It was Eldred who gave me the name, Sanguini.
“You need a more striking name than David,” Eldred told me. “I can’t go around introducing you as David.” Such contempt he harboured toward my common name. I liked my name. I still do; it’s one of the less contrived things about myself.
“Surely you aren’t serious.”
“It’s an appropriate persona for publicity. You need a sense of performance.” He drew his wand and announced, “Shall we celebrate your new name, then?”
He cooked up a small feast for two people: a basket of bread, wineglasses filled with a deep claret liquid, which tasted like gutter effluent to me. I watched as he bit into his bread and hummed merrily and sipped his wine. I watched him swallow, the gobbets of food travelling down the length of his throat.
Sanguini it was. It wasn’t just the name, though; Eldred began to feverishly fabricate more and more details about this new identity that I donned; in time, he wrote a completely different person, and I acted the part. I must admit that I became better and better each time I stepped into the public domain with Eldred, pretending to be removed and splendid, delivering the scripts Eldred had written for me.
Soon I was Ellidore Sanguinius de Beaufort, born in the Middle Ages, a nobleman who appeared in the courts of several kings across the years. I mingled with the royals and other noblemen and women, fair lovelorn damsels and valorous knights; I sat down at magnificent banquets. I even had a long affair with a beautiful woman, the Lady Meredith Swannford, which ended quite tragically, I’m afraid, when she threw herself off the cliffs and into the sea (Selenia Mayflower had an absolute ball with that story). As I mentioned earlier, Eldred always had a flair for melodrama. Time didn’t touch me; I travelled far and wide, witnessed many wars Muggle and magical, made acquaintances with famous historical figures, saw the ages rise and fall. And so on and so forth.
Many of Eldred’s less discerning readers listened, enamoured by the richness of the life that they thought I’d led – am still leading. Sanguini became rather well-known, and so did Eldred, author of Sanguini, fraud to the core, and yet not so different from all those already-existing tragic romances and absurd folklores prevalent about vampires. Eldred’s books multiplied over the years, growing fatter and heftier and ever more detailed. Blood Brothers: My Life Among Vampires. The Sanguineous Sagas. Sanguini, the Vampire. The Mythologies of Blood. A Revisionist Narrative of the English Vampire. Vampire Perspectives on the Courtly Customs of the Middle Ages.
I find this very laughable, and I’m sure you understand. David Diggory, probably some farm labourer who ploughed the fields and cut the wheat and fed the pigs for all I know, who was never interested in women. What have I been doing all these years before I met Eldred? Nothing. Living in a cave, wandering the forest, staying within a one mile radius of a Ministry blood bank, winking in and out existence like a broken light bulb. For hundreds of years! Think of it! And now. Now, I’m just an aged wandering vampire losing his mind and his memories to the disease of immortality.
I stayed with Eldred for many years. For many years, I drank off him, but as he grew older, his body became weaker, less able to sustain me. I drank less and less of his blood and after each session, he had to consume stronger doses of healing potions to ensure he didn’t become too weak. It wasn’t just this that diminished, though. We lay together less frequently, and those times when we did, they were short, unsatisfying, and he always fell asleep. I watched him sleep, feeling bored and displeased.
The only thing that Eldred remained enthusiastic about was his writing. He still published plenty, and he continued to attend all manner of social gatherings revolving around his lifework. Other nights, we would stay in and sit in his overstuffed armchairs, him sipping on his stale tea, and he would plan and share with me all the details of his latest book-in-progress. He expected me to listen, of course.
I’ll confess this: I became tired of Eldred. He was getting old. He grew stout, his flesh gathering at his waist into soft, curdled folds, his robes straining over his front, hair streaked with grey and white. He was becoming unsightly. I, on the other hand, felt miraculous. I had never remained lucid for such an extended period of time and I had been spoilt on a diet of fresh blood, though the supply of that was running thin.
I awoke one night in that cellar of his, opened my eyes and was assaulted by an implacable hunger, stronger than any desire I’d ever felt. I rose, unsteadily and went up the stairs. I felt like a wisp of a being, a paper-thin hunger. Eldred was sitting at his desk as usual, buried in parchment and smelling of spilt ink, aftershave and that peculiar musty odour that old men give off.
“Ah, there you are,” he said without looking up. “Just in time; I’d like your opinion on something. I’m almost done with writing this chapter.”
I didn’t answer but I went right up to him, behind his desk and attempted to drink from him. I must have been rougher than usual because he was taken by surprise.
He shoved me away rather angrily. “I haven’t the time now, Sanguini. And you must have forgotten your manners today.”
That was all the reaction I needed. I straightened up and walked out the door.
“Well,” I told him, “I will not be coming back.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped, “We’ve got a book to finish.”
“I am starving,” I pointed out. I daresay I must have sounded like a child with a tantrum. “And I’m tired of your books.”
Eldred put down his quill. He stood up and made his way to me. He was aged, his face crinkled and loose. He put his hand to my cheek and his skin was dry as a scroll.
“Sanguini, Sanguini. I understand your hunger.” There was a look of wonder in his expression. “You haven’t aged a day since I met you. And your appetites are as sharp as ever. You’re a wonderful creature.” He laughed. “Alright, you’ve convinced me.”
And with that, he unfastened the top buttons of his robes and dragged his collar down to expose his neck. “Feed off me if you like.”
But for once, I was utterly repulsed by the sight of Eldred’s neck; it was a creased, twisted column of flesh, and his cheeks and chin flopped downward in unpleasant jowls. His breath was stale. The insides of his living human body were decaying and he smelt of death.
I pulled back and continued walking away. “I cannot stay here anymore. Your blood no longer satisfies me.”
All of a sudden, there was a terrific blow to my back and the next thing I knew, I was sprawling face forward on the ground, stunned. When I turned my head, Eldred was standing there with his wand raised and there was a mixture of fury and anguish in his wide eyes. For a moment neither of us did anything, and the intensity of his eyes began to leach away as the realisation of what he’d done struck. Eldred was not a violent man.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he babbled, looking even more astounded than I was. He knelt beside me but I slid away and got up on my own.
“It’s alright,” I told him coolly, “I probably deserved it. I was being discourteous. I am a guest at your house after all.”
My aloofness hurt him. He deserved it. I looked at him, really looked at him and I detested him. I pulled open the door to the cellar and proceeded to descend down the stairs. “I’m tired. I need to rest.”
“But you need to drink,” Eldred nearly pleaded.
The thought of feeding made the hunger well up from the depths of my body. I crushed it back down, shoved the thoughts from my mind. “Tomorrow night.”
I spent the rest of the night lying in the cellar. I longed to go outside; the night was calling to me, my ears were ringing with it, but my thoughts were extraordinarily clear. I didn’t feel old or tired.
The next night when I arose and exited the cellar, Eldred was waiting for me.
“Sanguini!” he exclaimed genially. “You must be hungry.”
“I am going to the blood bank.”
“No need! I know how you hate all that vialled blood. You shall drink from me, instead.” There was such an absurdly hopeful glow in his eyes. I wanted to be rid of him.
But I approached him instead. He leaned forward eagerly, just like he had during our early days together. I pulled back and pretended to consider and he seemed disappointed.
“Put away your wand,” I whispered. He hesitated. I pressed on. “You hurt me with it the last time.”
He drew his wand from his robes and laid it aside. He seemed ashamed. “I’m sorry for that. If I can make it up to you – ”
“You already have,” I cut him short and I reached for him, stroking his cheek with my knuckles soothingly, and his face lit up again. I inclined my head and murmured in his ear. “Thank you.”
Then I knocked his wand far beyond his reach, seized his neck by my hands and bit him. He moaned, suspecting nothing at first, his squat hands reaching up and stroking the back of my head. His blood was thick and salty and nearly clotted with age and I wanted to retch, but I kept drinking. I did not stop, not when he realised something was amiss, when he placed a hand on my shoulder and tried to push me off, when his other hand began tugging at my hair and scratching at my scalp – he wasn’t young anymore, his strength was gone, his body had betrayed him. He weakened, his breath tapering away sharply until finally, he slumped in my arms, his face ashen and his eyes were empty. I let him go and he slid to the ground in a flop of limbs.
It was easy, much too easy. I drew back from his body, sickened to the core, not so much sorry for what I’d done to him, but for myself.
For many months after I left Eldred’s home, I receded into the old weary life I’d once led before I met him. I went back to drinking from the blood banks, to spending my nights wandering through the forest, sometimes bumping into other vampires, though we had little interest in each other. Many of them were suffering the same sickness of forgetting. I found my continued existence dull and desolate. My mind went to sleep again and my body assumed control. I don’t know how long this went on for.
But one night, I woke up again, shaken and disoriented but clear enough. My clothes were filthy and I was in a cave. I followed the scent of the night air and soon emerged from the ground and into a forest. This was vampire territory. My body, instinctually, had sought company among kin, among those it considered physiologically similar to itself. I walked through the shadows until I came to a clearing, where the night sky broke through the black trees, a solid sightless weight pounding down into that small glade. In the sky, the moon hung, full and lacklustre and removed, casting a jaundiced glow over the trees.
I heard sounds behind me, a hiss of leaves, the brittle snap of dead wood. It was another vampire. A man, unkempt, his clothes were rags, shredded by branches and his own uncut nails. I made to leave but something about that vampire stopped me. A strange sting began in the tips of my fingers and toes, my tongue started to prickle, and all these sensations began travelling inward into the core of my body. Something drew me to this vampire and in a daze I stepped toward him without being fully aware. My body was leading me forward, my legs walking me to him. His eyes were dull and a madness stirred in their pits. His teeth were sickly in the moonlight and so long that they cut into his lip.
It felt as though a dark screen had been raised from behind my eyes, some old subconscious memory brimming to the surface and making its presence known. I knew who he was. This was the vampire responsible for me, for creating me. I never remembered who had turned me, not once in all those years. It was the one thing that consistently frustrated Eldred because I couldn’t provide him any hints on how vampirism was spread.
He didn’t speak, merely stared at me, through me. He was drawn to me as I was to him, but I was aware and I understood why, while he was merely operating on instinct, on the consanguineous memory that tied us together.
“What – what is your name?” I whispered.
He didn’t answer but my voice must have startled him because a fearful shadow ghosted across his face and he spun round and started running. I made after him. He was fast but I cut him off because I could think and he couldn’t and I reached out and grabbed a handful of the rags he was wearing, which shredded in my grasp. He struggled wildly and I thought he would hit me and try to escape. I jolted him towards me and he pitched into my chest and his weight brought us to the ground together.
“I mean no harm.” My voice trembled, my throat was hoarse with dread. The words were slivers cut from the insides of my parched mouth.
He stopped struggling, then. I hoisted myself into a sitting position, and let his head lie on my lap.
I tried again. “You created me. Why?”
He turned his face upwards. He didn’t understand. There was nothing civilised or personal or human lingering in his eyes. His consciousness had rotted away completely and there was absolutely nothing that set him apart from any common insentient forest creature. He would never wake from the madness of his being.
For a moment there, I contemplated on whether it would be more merciful to kill this creature, to put an end to his misery, to give his neck a sharp twist, to stove in the side of his skull with a rock, to – I do not even know how to kill a vampire apart from what I’ve heard of in the stories. Stakes. Beheading. Silver. Sunlight.
But then a cloud shifted in the sky and a stripe of moonlight slipped through the foliage and I looked down into my creator’s eyes again, clearly this time. There was no misery in there, no grief, no horror, no despair. His eyes were pure and hollow, dead yet deathless, inanely reflecting whatever angle of the world that chose to look in them, and they held neither depth nor veiled deceit. Such a curiously innocent air about him, – my creator who wouldn’t hurt me because his body recognised me even if he didn’t. I pushed him off my lap and he sprang to his feet, the spell broken. He fled into the forest and never looked back. I have not seen him since.
I understood everything so marvellously well.
That is the fate that awaits me, that bides its time in the sepulchral marrow of my bones and in the cold suit of flesh that I wear that is also my grave. My thoughts will go, my memories, and the years I have lived, when forgotten will not ever have been lived. I am and am not immortal, simultaneously. A curse, but not so different from any curse that befalls all other living creatures.
And I am fine with this.
Well? Are you going to say anything? Do you believe what I’ve told you? Does it correspond with what you know about me?
I suppose you haven’t been listening. You’ve hardly moved, even though your face is slack and you’re really putting your weight on that elbow of yours. But you’re strong, you’re resilient, you’re beyond caring. I wonder why I’m telling you so much – truth or not. I suppose it is precisely because I know you aren’t listening; you can’t, not in this state.
Tell me your name. If you’d heard a word of what I’ve said then you’ll know how important names are to me. I can’t hear you properly – your voice is slurred, thick with drink and your face is burrowing into your hand.
I reach out to you, push the dishevelled hair away from your face. You look back, glazed. I see you with so much clarity. I smell the drink in your bloodstream, I feel the heat in the flush of your cheeks.
Dennis? Is that what you’re saying? Dennis Creevey? It’s a name as good as any other.
If you’re leaving, I shall walk with you; I insist. Look at you, barely able to hold yourself straight. I have plenty of time, the night is still new and I am lucid, clear as this night. Such a faultless night this is. If only you can feel it as I do, the air skimming along your goosefleshed skin as you blink the prickle of starlight out of your eyes, as you walk and the darkness seems to split and thaw and mould itself around the shape of your stride: you, a mere dimple in the living, breathing fabric of nightfall.
And in the sky, the moon, splinter-thin like a smile. It is young. As are you and I, for now.
A/N: BECAUSE I ABSOLUTELY COULDN'T RESIST. I just had to write my own creepy vampire story. I don't really know vampire narratives that well; I've just read Twilight and watched True Blood. And two hundred years ago I watched the film, Interview With A Vampire. And a million years ago I read an abridged version of Dracula. I wrote this piece with the intention of making vampires less interesting and more useless, i.e. no superpowers etc. And I got carried away with all the vampire tropes that I love and those that I despise.
I'm going to guess that some of you might possibly be very confused by the narrative style of this (monologue), and by the things that have happened, and by my interpretation of the vampire. Feel free to ask me to clarify things.
I apologise for the wealth of Twilight references! And Happy Halloween! Thank you for reading.
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by Jana Khan