amwriting, Pagham-verse, world building

#MonstrousMay 1: Vampires

I’m re-posting two vampire vignettes from last year, as I’m not that into vampires at the moment and I want to spend some time on other prompts. So some golden oldies to kick off with!

My nonfiction post on Welsh folklore and vampires can be found here.

Midnight at the Crazy Golf

It is midnight at the crazy golf in Pagham-on-Sea, where the cream-and-pink curls of candyfloss pillars welcome the late-night revellers with their pale, bloodless faces and radiant, ruddy smiles. The lamp of the moon and the orbs of the string-lights pick out the path past the greens bathed in silver, wending in and out of a miniature landscape of windmills and other wonders. 

It is midnight at the crazy golf in Pagham-on-Sea, where a pair of putters share first-date smiles, sipping alternately from a cool iron-rich beverage through a single red-and-white straw.  One takes a stand and angles the shot – there is some fumbling of their cold, stiff hands, coffin-numb fingers gripping the putter, taking advice as if they have never played the game. The other smiles – they have not played for twenty years, they say, but it will come back to them. The ball bounces off the side and up the slope, a perfect shot. The first opens their mouth, circular, ringed with tiny translucent teeth, a sign of excitement on their otherwise placid, featureless face. A hole in one. 

It is midnight at the crazy golf in Pagham-on-Sea, where at the second hole stands a butler who has not buttled for two centuries and misses the days of the big house, and tells the ball so. He tells the ball everything because he has brought it with him, and his own silver club, which he wields with efficiency but keeps his white gloves on. He tells the ball where to go, and whispers to the streak of quicksilver as it arcs in the moonlight, imparting secrets of a life he once lived. “And I told the maid,” he says, in the middle of a story, “But she didn’t understand, you see.” The ball rolls towards the hole, and he meticulously jots down par. 

Trails of silly string clog the windmill sails on the third hole, a confectionary palette of blue and chamomile-yellow. It is no one’s business what is happening on the miniature bridge. The shadows cover the scene and a small shoe lies discarded near the shallow water course. It is midnight at the crazy golf in Pagham-on-Sea, and drifting, silent figures thread across the worn AstroTurf with pencils and scorecards. It is no one’s business what is happening beyond the fifth hole, either, and the sounds are swiftly stifled, so nobody minds. 

The second hand of the oversized clock on the steeple trembles. The booth is manned but the sign says No Entry – it is midnight and the crazy golf is full. The night shift consists of a boy behind bullet proof glass, his collar drawn high around his throat and he is reading a book. He is pale, washed out, making every effort to appear bloodless. Perhaps he is, but he is still flesh. In the booth is everything he needs – a small toilet and basin behind a folding door, a fridge and a panic button. He makes no unnecessary movements. He breathes as shallowly as he can. 

It is midnight at the crazy golf and the course is teeming with patrons, but the boy in the booth is the only one whose lungs are full of air. He knows better than to step outside, to listen too carefully, to take out his earbuds. 

It is midnight at the crazy golf and the green is alive with unheard stories, and the shambles of the dead.

Interview with a Vampire

There is no right way to be a vampire. Kids today think that it’s all a matter of befriending butchers or locking yourself in your room, becoming a pale shut-in who cannot be trusted not to rip someone’s throat out. And, all right, for some that’s all part of it. You can do it that way. Films and shows tend – apart from a few franchises, which go a bit far the other way – to depict the vampire as solitary, individualistic. Again, not a wrong way to be a vampire. But loneliness is not something to be encouraged or celebrated. It eats you like a cancer. 

    Personally, I dislike loneliness more than I dislike other vampires, and that’s why I honeycomb rather than nest. 

    What’s the difference? Well, a nest is the way it sounds, cheek-by-jowl, that sort of thing. A load of corpses swinging from the rafters and/or solid home gym equipment, the floor littered with blood clots that get coughed up looking like splats of black pudding. It’s what happens when you hang upside down.

    Honeycombing is similar, but you get your own space. Coffin-sleepers are honeycombers by default, with their caskets laid out over the floor or stacked on solid bunk bed frames like a backpackers’ dorm.

Of course, either way, they might ask you what type you are. 

Not blood type. Type type. You know.

As in, what bit you. Could be a who, of course, but then the question is less likely to come up, since presumably they’ll be around to tell the others themselves, and it should be fairly obvious. Unless you’re alone, and then your tale will probably be a sad one. Anyway, you could point out your progenitor, and the question would still be repeated. 

Yes, but what’s your type? 

Did your hair fall out as it took hold, or did it grow? Did your eyes become increasingly photosensitive? Did your pupils dilate? Did you start to bleed, or suspect an STI? Did your brain function alter? Did you have strange dreams of a past that wasn’t yours, did your short-term memory fail and your concentration jump like a live-wire? Was there ooze? Was there pain? Did your teeth fall out or did new ones push through in front? Did you lose your toenails, was there rot? Do you burn in the sun, or is your skin tougher now? Can you shapeshift? 

And you will describe your symptoms and they will name a type, and either they know what they’re talking about or you will be forced to smile. 

    No, you’ll have to explain. While those symptoms do overlap with that type, that’s not quite what I am. You see, it’s like any infection – how it takes you depends on things like your blood type, your metabolism, your build, whether you have underlying health conditions. Sometimes it tears through you and leaves you a husk, and sometimes it takes you slower, but it’s all the same thing. 

This is what I am. I have a card. 

Yes, I know I don’t look that way. 

In fairness I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of someone like me being that type, this particular symptom is a very rare side effect – it’s why we are often mis-typed. I usually use it to my advantage, because everyone is so surprised that allieae don’t affect me. (That’s the classification to which alliums belong, of which garlic is one). 

You’ll get bored of saying it. I got bored of saying it. Everyone gets bored of saying it. That’s why I carry a card. You’d think people would get bored of asking, but that’s never the case. It’s far more interesting to ask than it is to tell, after all. 

You don’t have to have a card.

You might not want to carry one, and that’s alright. It’s riskier for the donors if they have to take it on trust, but a lot of people are into the risk. They queue up for it, especially if you know where to hang out, where the defanged ones lurk with their bloody gums. You know about defanging? 

Yes, it’s what it sounds like. Too many warnings about your conduct and the elder ones will rip your teeth out by the roots, and your fingernails from their beds. You’ll have to learn how to use blades, syringes, anything sharp and quick. You’ll have to wait for everything to grow back, and suffer. They’re like rats, the defanged ones. Scurrying in alleyways, crawling up the walls away from patches of light. They become scavengers and second-hand feeders, following bigger predators at a safe distance in a feral shoal. 

Don’t let them take your teeth. 

It’s not tyranny. It’s sense. If you nest or honeycomb, you’re following the rules, like any lodger or tenant. You don’t have to do either – I told you at the start, there’s no right way. You can be solitary, find your own place. Keep the one you had while you were alive, block the windows with cardboard and blackout blinds, change the locks and wait for the neighbours to stop being nosy. Befriend a butcher like they do in the movies. Why not? There’s no right way. 

But if you make trouble for the nests, they’ll come down on you with apocalyptic fervour. 

Make yourself useful to them, and you can stay fed. 

You’ll get used to it. 

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