Here it is:
I met Clive at ‘The Winebar’. He was wearing an outdated suit and he perhaps should have washed the hair lotion out before coming to meet me - a long time before. To be honest, it smelled kind of ‘off’ when I got close. His glasses looked to be from the late sixties or early seventies - the kind that made all school kids of the time dread the words ‘National Health Specs’.
His shoes were brown, his socks were white.
He was also wearing the obligatory red carnation in his lapel - yes I know it’s corny but he insisted.
Clive had contacted me at my email address. He’d seen an article I’d written about the local By-Election result and he said liked my style. I’m not a journalist per se - I have a contact at the local paper who sometimes accepts stories I submit and I also have a Blog, but that’s as far as my journalism extends.
I think Clive wanted a low-key kind of thing anyway - which is why he contacted me.
He said in his first email that he needed someone to ghost-write his story. He intimated that he was something of a minor celebrity and money was no object. I didn’t exactly jump at the chance but I was already celebrating in my head. I played it aloof though, no point sounding desperate, even though I am - not just for the money, I’d rather like the credibility of being a published author too. Clive and his story could well provide that credibility.
This meeting was for mutual benefit. We both had to see if we could work together. To be truthful, I saw the red carnation sticking out of his lapel and I very nearly didn’t put mine on. But I did and went over to introduce myself.
“Count? I’m Jacqueline. We’ve been emailing for a few days.”
“Jacqueline, yes! I am delighted and please call me Clive. Would you like a glass of wine?” He stood and we shook hands. I recoiled a little at the aforementioned smell.
I nodded my answer because I didn’t trust myself to speak. As he moved, the stink of mothballs and decay assailed my nostrils. I blinked to dry my eyes which had become over-moist at the stench. I was grateful that he had gone to the bar rather than call a waiter over.
By the time he returned I had regained my composure and taken a seat opposite his.
The wine glass was placed in front of me and he poured from his bottle. I dislike Claret.
To begin with, he tried a little small-talk but it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t very good at it. So I reached into my bag and took out my notepad.
“I presumed to bring this, I hope you don’t mind?”
“Of course not. Best to get right down to it I suppose. I’m so glad you didn’t bring a tape recorder though…”
I was so glad I’d left it in my bag.
“They never work you see. I cannot be recorded - or photographed for that matter.”
“Religious reasons?” I asked.
“Almost.” He smiled and gave what I assumed was a cryptic wink.
“Well, if you begin where you’d like me to start on your story, I’ll take a few notes and write them up later for you to go over in order for you to see if you still like my style. Don’t worry if you don’t, I can alter it to suit.”
He steepled his fingers under his nose in what I can only describe as a faux-intelligentsia pose. Then he lifted his spectacles and rubbed his eye - which quite spoiled the look he had been striving for. He coughed once and began.
“I am the last Vampire.” He paused for effect but I was far too taken aback at his first words and he had to start over.
He coughed again and I got the impression that he’d practiced the speech - including the cough.
“I am the last Vampire. I have been on this earth far too long and I grow weary. I have asked you to write my story so that I shall be immortal in one way at least.”
I understood then, about the dated clothes, the stench of decay and even the brown shoes and NHS specs. The guy was a loon! But in for a penny, in for a pound - I may as well finish the interview, I had nothing else on that evening.
He talked, I listened and wrote. He corrected himself and I crossed out his errors.
At last we got into a flow. I began to ask questions and at first he didn’t seem pleased that I was interacting with him but he soon became comfortable with my method of interviewing him.
He sidestepped the question of his birth year - “Many centuries since” was all he gave me.
How he became a Vampire was avoided - I was beginning to wish for a political interview - at least you expect not to be given a straight answer with politicians.
The location of his coffin also had to be glossed over for the obvious security reasons. I refrained from pointing out that it wouldn’t matter if a Vampire Hunter found him because he was going to put an end to his existence anyway and the Vampire Hunter may just save him the bother.
Then I couldn’t resist. I had a sneaking suspicion that this Vampire - the last one - was nothing more than an impostor trying his luck at his moment in the spotlight. I surmised that he’d stick around to see the effects of the story and depending on how well it was written, the book - and if that was a monumental success, he would stick around for a while longer at the request, no doubt, of his adoring fans. I also guessed that his image would undergo a revamp (pardon the pun) and he be promoted from an alleged minor celebrity to a major one.
I decided to test his ‘Vampiria’ or knowledge on Vampiric lore - and indeed, how he would get around such things as blood sucking and the avoidance of sunlight.
So I got right back to it.
“Do you have to be invited in?” I asked and he looked a little puzzled at the question. “What I mean to say is that legend has it that a Vampire cannot cross the threshold of a building without permission, but once permission has been given then he is free to come and go as he pleases. How does that work for you?”
“Ah, oh yes. Well of course it’s only civil to wait for an invitation but no, it’s not the law so to speak. I am a powerful Vampire, many centuries old. I have circumnavigated many of the common legends that arose simply because mankind wanted, no, needed to be more in control of their own destiny.”
“So you’re saying that mankind made up a lot of the facts about Vampires?”
“Pretty much. You see we are almost invincible. A stake through the heart is virtually all that you could do that would kill me, my dear.”
“So you’re not bothered by crosses, crucifixes or Holy water?”
“Not at all. I can set foot on consecrated ground and not suffer too.”
“Not too much. I do think it’s unattractive on one’s breath.” He gave a wide and genuine smile for the first time and I saw his fangs glint in the dimmed light of the bar.
“That’s werewolves, my dear.”
I wished he’d stop calling me that but I continued. “Can you cross running water?”
“I believe so, that’s witches isn’t it?
“How about turning into a bat for me?”
He laughed then and spittle flew from his mouth. He didn’t notice.
“I assume that you have to return to your coffin at day break?”
“No. I don’t crumble to dust if sunlight catches me out of my coffin, although I do best at night.”
“Do you drink the blood of humans?”
“Yes but I prefer a good claret.”
“So you don’t just exist on blood?”
“No. I can also eat human food - of which I am very fond. Would you allow me to take you for a meal one evening perhaps?”
That caught me by surprise. “I… I don’t see why not, providing of course that I finish writing up these notes to your satisfaction and on the other proviso that I am not on the menu after.”
He laughed again. I didn’t think the comment was as funny as he did but he had finished off that bottle of wine and I’d not touched my glass.
After a few more brushed-aside questions I decided to wrap up the interview. The wine bar was empty except for us and I could see the staff becoming impatient to be finished for the evening. I couldn’t blame them, I felt the same.
We shook hands as we parted and I promised to be in touch.
As I sat in my car I wondered how the Count was getting home. Not through any sense of concern - at least not for him, but he had polished off my glass of wine as I left and so he had consumed at least one full bottle of Claret - too much for him to be safe driving home. I needn’t have worried, there was a taxi waiting and he looked around to see if I was still there before he approached it. I was glad that the car park had been quite full when I arrived and I had to park out of the way.
I gave him time to get away before I started my car and drove home.
So I sat at my computer. The screen has icons to click and I selected the word processor one which has the template that I prefer for my writing. I clicked it and referred to my notes as it opened.
Once I had written my piece, I emailed it to Clive and waited for his response.
Are we to blame if a species becomes extinct?
I think that most of the time we are but am I being too harsh, too judgemental?
Maybe on this occasion we are not to blame.
This evening I was invited to meet with a legendary figure. Tonight I met a Vampire - The Last Vampire!
Before you skip this article and dismiss it as pure fiction, hear me out at least for a few more paragraphs - you’ve come this far.
Names are not important except that I call him Count. He insisted that I use his less formal name in our interview but for this piece I shall give him the reverence that his position deserves.
The Count is an enigmatic creature. He is gracious, courteous and charming. I spoke with him for the whole of one evening and the time flew. Before I knew it, the staff at the bar were hinting about us leaving.
I write then, as my duty to mankind, as reassurance that the danger we were in from Vampires is soon to be terminated. The Count is weary. He has expressed a desire to shuffle off his immortal coil to go and join the rest of his kind - wherever they have passed on to.
Before he goes though, the Count wanted to set a few things straight. Things that we thought we knew about the legend of Vampires are false. Most of the facts that we have grown up believing are nonsenses, built up only in order to placate mankind so that we feel safe in daylight hours and in the dark hours we can feel protected with crosses, Holy water and garlic.
If we keep to the safety of our homes and never invite him in we are safe, for come the dawn he must return to his grave or be reduced to dust.
I regret to inform you all that these are fallacies, dreamed up in order to make us feel in control of our destiny.
Vampires are far more deadly than we have ever been led to believe. They are far less vulnerable to anything we can throw at them.
We are fortunate therefore that the Count is the last and that his Vampiric un-life is soon to be brought to an end - by the one being that is powerful enough to do it - by the Count himself.
Should we mourn the passing of such a powerful and enigmatic creature?
Common sense says that we should rejoice.
The Adrenalin Junkie in me says otherwise. Life will seem safer I grant you, but it is the adrenalin kick when we hear the tapping at the window that makes us know that we are really alive.
I feel sad for the Count. He doesn’t get that adrenalin kick. He is not afraid of anything for he is the last of his kind and nothing now exists that can cause him harm or danger. The only thing that ever could was another Vampire - of which there are now none.
I say Farewell Count, for even though you could easily have ended my existence tonight, you didn’t. You gave me your story and all I can give in return is this article and the hope that it immortalises you in some way.
Go to your eternal rest in the knowledge that humans now know you really did exist and I am the lucky one to have met you and to have survived to tell your tale.
Satisfied, I sent it as an email, saved it on my desktop and shut down my computer.
Then I waited for his reply.
Did I believe his story?
No. He is not a Vampire, he is at best an attention-seeker and at worst a lunatic.
If he is happy with the article, I’ll make another appointment to see him and expand his story. I think he’ll be pleased with it.
I was surprised that I had received no reply to my email by the following evening but then I remembered that he only corresponded with me in the early hours so I waited.
Sure enough, his reply arrived in my inbox on the stroke of midnight - how very dramatic!
My Dear Jacqueline,
You have made an old Vampire very happy in his last days. I loved your article and hope that you feel it worth putting forward to be published.
I also feel that a follow-up article on my life would be appropriate at this juncture. We must make haste though, I do not wish to linger longer than necessary.
My story must be told and I choose you to do it.
I believe that you could do it justice and you, my dear Jacqueline, deserve this opportunity to grasp fame and recognition for your work.
Oh dear. It appears that I was correct in my initial assessment. The email screamed ‘ATTENTION SEEKER!’ but still, my article, his email and the next article which will be submitted for publication without Clive the Count’s prior approval may actually have the effect that Clive is hoping for. It may just bring me recognition and credibility - if only to highlight the poor state of Mental Health Care in this country.
Surely it cannot be acceptable for a sad and deluded man to be loose in society with the notion that he has supernatural powers and the right to suck blood from humans as and when he pleases (even if he doesn’t want to for much of the time).
Still, I shall make an appointment and I’ll see what he has to say. Just how far will he go with this I wonder?
The day before the appointment, I spent some time on the internet, browsing search engines and articles for Vampire Lore.
I discovered quite a surprising amount of data on Vampires and how they came into existence. It would seem that Vampires are not the belief of only one culture, but the legends seem to be spread world-wide.
Some cultures believe that decapitation is the best method of despatching a potential Vampire with scythes and sickles as the preferred implements of decapitation. Others go further and believe that the head must then be buried either away from the body or between the feet or even beneath the buttocks in order to ensure that the creature shall not return - bizarre!
Others believe that staking the Vampire was the best way - not only through the heart, but as an alternative, through the mouth or stomach.
Nailing a Vampire’s limbs and clothing to the earth could also prevent them walking abroad and terrorising their loved ones and neighbours.
There were many and varied methods of finding a Vampire which re-interred itself every dawn. Some used a white horse with a virgin girl. She was supposed to take the horse over every grave to see where the Vampire lay. What happened when the horse encountered a tomb is anyone’s guess.
Others used a virgin boy astride a virgin stallion - the stallion in this case had to be black - and when the animal balked at a grave, therein lay their Vampire.
I was reminded that back in those days, there was no such thing as the internet or even a Local News Service and knowledge that we take for granted as being available at the click of a computer mouse was centuries away.
Today we can check facts online and find that decomposition of an unwounded body would make the cadaver swell and therefore look well-fed. The gasses building up in said cadaver force blood from orifices such as the mouth to make it look as though the body had recently fed on blood. The nails, teeth and hair appear to be still growing because tissues in the skin and gums lose moisture and recede.
Now we can find all these facts out but back then if there was a contagion of - for example - Tuberculosis, people who lived their daily lives close to death would seek to find a cause and myth and legend are difficult to shake when medical facts are not known even by Medical Practitioners.
A Tuberculosis victim that was soon followed by more deaths in their family would be suspected as a Vampire which had gone visiting their surviving relatives in order to still be with them in death as they were in life. They would become ill and linger on to an untimely death - the same way as their recently deceased had departed, giving rise to the fear that a visit from a Vampire was the cause. When the locals suspected this and disinterred the body in order to make certain, they would be horrified to find the ‘well fed’ body and would take steps to ensure the ‘Vampire’ did not return to claim further victims. They would also be vindicated in their belief by the accumulated gasses passing the vocal chords, producing a moan as they disturbed the corpse.
The most unfortunate consequence of digging up the Tuberculosis victim was of course, further contagion.
Satisfied with my preparation, I closed down my computer.
The following evening would be very interesting I thought.
I had allowed Clive to choose the restaurant where we were to conduct the interview. I was a little wary about it but he assured me that we would be neither interrupted or overheard. I had never been to that particular eatery so I had no choice but to trust his judgement.
How I wish I’d listened to my instincts.
From the outside, the place was a dive. Not wanting to judge a book by its cover, I entered the establishment - and regretted it. First impressions taken into account, I should have left before I went in. It was too late though, he’d seen me and was waving me over. No wonder he wasn’t worried about being overheard, there was no one else in the place.
My emailed, un-submitted article had given him a new confidence it seemed. His clothes were different, new and clean. His hair seemed to have been washed too but I couldn’t be certain because he had reapplied the same gunk to it.
He had taken the liberty of ordering Claret again and it seemed that he had also ordered my food. I was beginning to find the man irritating but I persevered.
“I loved your article Jacqueline. When will it be published?” Clive didn’t even give me time to take off my coat and find a clean place to put it before he began enthusing.
“I haven’t sent it in yet. I waited to see your reaction first and I’m hoping to incorporate it with the piece I’ll write after this interview.”
“I see.” His lips pursed in petulance and I was surprised. “Well, I suppose I can wait a little longer then. After all, I’ve waited this long, watching as my peers were immortalised in novels and prose. I knew my turn would come, I only had to find the right author for my story. I have complete faith in you my dear.”
He grabbed my hand in both of his and it was all I could do to not jerk from his grasp. Instead I smiled at him and pulled my hand away to take my notepad from my bag.
“Oh please call me ‘Count’. I did enjoy that part of our article.
‘Our article’? Oh dear lord, I’ve created a monster!
“Of course, ‘Count’. Now please tell me where you came from.”
“In my own words or will you ask questions for me to answer?”
“No, no, I’d rather you tell me your story in your own way. I can get a better feel for you that way.”
“Very well, I shall try, but I must warn you, I’m not much of a story teller.”
I smiled at him as encouragement and he began.
“The very first recollection I have is waking in a dark and cold place. It was cramped and smelled of damp earth. I don’t remember being frightened until I realised that perhaps I had been buried in error. I was obviously not dead. I didn’t feel dead.”
Clive paused and I stopped writing to look at him as he thought about what he was going to say.
“I couldn’t see anything - which is hardly surprising - but I could hope that I had not yet been interred, that perhaps I was lying in state, awaiting burial and that I could possibly draw attention to my plight. I knocked on the satin lined lid and I shouted for help. I still did not panic. I think I must have fallen asleep at some point and when I awoke I heard movement and voices above me. I thought that someone had heard me and realised that I was still alive and had come to rescue me.”
Clive the ‘Count’ droned on about how the villagers had led a virgin stallion with a virgin boy riding it through the graveyard and it had balked at his grave so they had disinterred him and attempted to put a final end to his existence by staking him and decapitating him with a scythe.
I must have sighed and rolled my eyes once too often because he became angry and upset.
“You are not writing down what I am telling you, Jacqueline.”
I was shaken by his accusation and looked at my notes to find that I wasn’t writing what he had been telling me but I was sketching out my article - the one on ‘Care in the Community’ - and he’d read it.
“Do you think I am lying or insane Jacqueline?”
“Well yes, as it happens, I guess I do.”
“In that case, I suppose the interview is at an end. Goodbye Jacqueline. Please don’t contact me again.”
“Not even if I gain credibility for my article?” I asked with a large helping of irony.
“Not even then.” He stood and he looked far more dignified than I could have imagined he would ever be. He dropped bank notes on the table and left. He didn’t look back.
I waited for my meal. It had been paid for after all. I was again surprised when the steak was delicious, cooked to perfection and just how I like it. I also enjoyed the Crème Brulee that had been ordered. I asked the waiter for a bottle of beer to accompany my meal and I think he sneered at my choice but I didn’t care.
As I left the restaurant I thought that I may return on another evening but perhaps with my own choice of company rather than Clive the ‘Count’.
From shadows at the end of the car park I saw movement. I waited to see what it was and was not surprised to see Clive the ‘Count’ emerge from his hiding place.
His demeanour was altered. He still had his new found confident air and I do believe it was touched by a hint of arrogance and, dare I say it, malevolence.
If I had not met him before, I would have been scared, I’m sure.
“You don’t believe my story, Jacqueline.”
I didn’t answer him.
“You don’t believe that there are such things as Vampires loose amongst you humans. Such beings that hide in plain sight and have evolved sufficiently to merge and blend in with their chosen prey - humans. Such creatures that can take a life and never face the consequences.”
He approached me with open arms and wrapped them about me in an embrace. He held me in tight tenderness and I was compelled to raise my chin to offer my throat to his lips. He bent his head to breathe upon my exposed throat and then all of a sudden thrust me from him. I stumbled a little but didn’t fall.
“No! I shall not prove myself to you. You don’t believe me and so you don’t deserve my Vampire Kiss. I shall not bring you over to immortality to live forever by my side. I shall go and fulfil my promise. I will end my existence tonight.”
I watched aghast as he went back to the shadows and I waited until I was certain that he wasn’t watching me. Then I realised that I had missed a golden opportunity and I rushed after him.
When I caught sight of him, I followed and watched from a distance. He bent his head and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. He was crying.
I hurried forward and caught hold of his arm and he was shocked to see me.
“I do believe in Vampires Clive.” I whispered to him in earnest.
“You do?” He asked in an awe-filled voice, his eyes filled with tears and a child-like need for me to be telling him the truth.
I nodded and took him into my arms. He relinquished to my embrace as I had earlier to his.
The needle sharp fangs puncturing skin took my breath away in ecstasy and I didn’t want the feeling, the bloodrush to ever end, but it did, all too soon.
I’m sitting here at my computer three weeks later. Wishing that I’d never responded to Clive’s email. My skin is terrible, it’s flaking and dropping off, my hair is almost all gone and my fangs? Don’t even mention my fangs! I have one tooth left in my head.
I used to laugh at the joke ‘Her name is Juanita, she’s called that because she only has one tooth.’ but not any more. It’s no longer as funny as it was.
I can’t go out in the daytime, my skin burns and falls off faster. I can’t lure a victim so that I can suck their Blood - who would come anywhere near a shuffling, shambling wreck of a person?
Yes he’s the Last Vampire as he claimed. Yes I allowed him - encouraged him - to bite me.
No, it did not turn out how I expected it to.
Clive neglected to tell me that he’s the last of his kind because he never had the ability to create ‘new’ Vampires. The one that created him didn’t give him the knowledge on how to do it and he’s been trying everything he can think of since then. He has even tried Anne Rice’s prescribed method - only to become anaemic.
I was his last chance. If it didn’t work this time, he was going to give it all up as a bad job and become an accountant.
Well Good Luck on that, Clive. I hope it works out for you!
As for me? Recognition? Credibility?
They’re not what they’re cracked up to be…