Sunday, 20 June 2010

Not Like In The Stories

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Sylvia had been a librarian for over twenty years. Of course she’d started out with ideas of a career, but as any sense of vocation had ebbed away over time, she’d finally settled for just a job instead.

She’d never risen to the levels that she’d hoped she might. OK, so she was ‘assistant chief librarian’ but at the little suburban branch library where she worked, that didn’t really count for much, except that it was her who had to do the evening shift when her boss didn’t want anything to do with it, and neither of the two people who worked under her could be bothered.

It didn't matter to Sylvia though; the overtime pay always came in handy, and her social life wasn’t anything like active enough for there to be anything better for her to do on a Thursday evening in winter. She looked out of the window. It was dark. Of course it was: it had been dark since just after four. She glanced at the clock on the wall behind the desk: Twenty five minutes to nine. It would be closing time soon, and then the rest of the evening would be her own, not that she had any plans.

She looked around the library. This building was so familiar to her, though things had certainly changed over the years she’d worked here. The reference library in the room next door had been expanded about six years ago: not for more books, but to house the computers for the public’s use, so that the noise of people using them wouldn’t disturb the people reading here in the main lending library.

She looked up and half smiled to herself: not that there ever were many people sitting reading in the library these days, certainly not in the evenings. Glancing around she noticed that all her regulars had gone home now and she was down to only two customers.

The old man was sitting hunched over the table in the corner, reading the book he’d started when he first arrived about an hour ago. He hardly ever raised his head or even moved at all, and he read so slowly that it seemed like ages passed before he turned a page. He was so old and so still, that Sylvia half suspected he may have died where he sat, until eventually his long bony fingers would slowly turn to the next page in his book.

A teenage girl was browsing through the ‘young adult’ fiction section. Sylvia was fascinated by her manner: she’d pick up a book and study the jacket for a while and then she’d browse through the pages, never bothering to take the book to a table, instead just standing there and reading with a look more of concern than of interest on her face. After a few moments, her expression would turn to one of disappointment bordering on disgust and she’d close her book and return it to its place; she’d then continue browsing along the shelf.

Quarter to nine: only fifteen minutes to go to closing time now. Sylvia was almost certain there was nobody next door on the computers and absolutely certain nobody in there using the reference books, but she may have missed someone coming in, so she felt she ought to check anyway before she closed up.

As she walked around the desk, the young girl approached her. “Can you help me please?” she said. Sylvia paused and listened. “I’m looking for some specific fictional themes, and of course the fiction books are all organized by author name rather than by genre.”

“What exactly is it that you’re looking for?” asked Sylvia. (Almost closing time and finally, she actually had something to do.)

“Well I’m looking for something concerning vampires,” said the girl, “I’ve had a look at works by all the authors I know about, but nothing quite matches what I had in mind.”

Sylvia rolled her eyes. She hoped the girl didn’t notice. Vampires! Of course, she should have known. That was all the youth of today, especially adolescent females were ever interested in. Though that had been one of her own many interests when she was that age; but then, she’d been interested in everything about the occult in those days.

“I don’t need to access the cross references for that one,” she told the girl. “I get asked for that just about every day. I can tell you a whole list of authors. Who have you checked so far?”

The girl handed Sylvia a piece of paper with names on it. It was a surprisingly comprehensive list, only missing a few authors’ names that Sylvia knew of, and even some of those may not have been suitable for a girl of her age.

“There are a couple more apart from these,” she said picking up her pen and adding the new names to the list, “but to be honest, they all deal with the genre in pretty much the same way. What exactly is it that you want?”

“Something that’s about vampires I can believe in” replied the girl. “All of these seem to be more about teenagers with relationship problems than about the threat of an evil amongst us. And to be honest, some of the plot structures and storylines are beyond laughable.”

Sylvia was surprised and cheered by what the girl said. At last someone who appreciated the old traditional vampire stories. “I presume you’ve tried Stoker?” she asked, “and there are oddments by Le Fanu, and by Polidori, but if we have them here, they certainly won’t be in the young adult section.”

“Yes I’ve tried all of those,” replied the girl, “Though I’m actually looking for something more contemporary that still holds onto the original myths. I’m just so disappointed by all of the modern stuff I’ve found so far.”

“It’s refreshing to meet someone of your age who knows exactly what they want,” said Sylvia. “It’s nice to know that it can still be left up to readers to define genre content, instead of everyone just accepting what the publishers decide to force feed them. I used to read a lot of paranormal stuff when I was younger. I prefer my vampires to be evil. Of the modern stuff I’ve seen, they couldn’t really even be described as suspense stories or thrillers, let alone horror”

“Thank you,” said the girl, grinning at Sylvia. Her smile said that she appreciated what Sylvia had said, though her eyes showed a kind of unexpected surprise at what she’d heard.

“Well we’ll be closing soon,” said Sylvia, “so maybe you can find something a little more to your liking by checking out those two authors I’ve put on your list.”

“Thank you,” replied the girl, “I’ll do that.”

Sylvia looked at her watch. Right then: a quick check next door, then time to shut up shop before the long walk home in the dark.

~o~O~o~

Jodie had been at the library for a couple of hours now. She’d been bored earlier and had thought about going there just for something to do. Normally it wasn’t her kind of place, but she knew it would be open because her grandfather often spent evenings in libraries; of course old people often did; it was one of the few places to go on dark winter evenings that didn’t cost anything. But her grandfather spent his evenings there for different reasons: ‘to avoid the attention of people while still being amongst them’ he had said to her. That didn’t seem a bad idea, so off she went to her local branch as soon as it got dark.

When she arrived, there wasn’t much to do and there was hardly anyone there: just an assortment of old people reading and a mousy librarian in her early forties. She decided that she really ought to look at some books, and decided to take a look around for some decent vampire fiction.

She’d heard of a lot of authors writing contemporary vampire tales: stories that featured people like her and aimed at people of her age, in her situation too, though the few she’d read had disappointed her.

She stood amongst the bookshelves browsing for more. Each book she picked up promised to be about vampires, but absolutely none of them provided what she wanted. Where was the evil? In many of the books she looked at, the vampire was the hero, and even the villain of the book didn’t seem that bad in most of them. She looked at the cover of the latest one she’d picked up. The image of the tearful melancholy girl and the handsome teenage boy with the chiselled jaw line should have told her what to expect. It would probably be another one about a girl falling in love with the school loner, only to discover his secret. So why was he at school? What was his motive to study? Surely if he was a vampire, his only motives where to feed and to survive; and to procreate in that unique way that vampires do. She returned the book to the shelf.

She had a different image of vampires to any of the ones in these books. Vampires were the embodiment of evil. People and their problems were no concern to them. Humans were just there to provide a source of nourishment, and occasionally, candidates for ‘recruitment’. A vampire thought only of himself, and others of his kind. They would rarely oppose each other, and certainly never for the sake of a human. To them, humans were just cattle, awaiting slaughter. In all these books she read, vampires were no real threat to humans and in some, they actually protected and fought for humans. This was not the horror of the undead as Jodie knew it. This wasn’t the kind of vampirism that appealed to her.

Of course, the sexual attraction of vampires was a theme in most of the stories: the new ones and the traditional ones. In all of the contemporary tales, this was treated as a reason for romance, where the heroine fell in love with a vampire, and sometimes where the vampires actually fell in love themselves. She found that ridiculous. In the old stories, it was more about power. The vampire had the ability to seduce his victim, but for his own purposes: He didn’t love her; he just wanted to have power over her, to do what he wanted to do, regardless of her real feelings. That was the attraction for Jodie; that was the horror, knowing that something or someone had power over your life and death, but knowing that you couldn’t resist them, knowing that you didn’t want to resist them.

And what was this about sunlight? Oh, it would be so much simpler for vampires if they just glistened in the light of the sun, instead of meeting an agonizing end in flames. In one of the books she’d read, the vampires could even endure sunlight with no adverse effects at all, as long as they wore a particular magical token. Why did authors do this? Vampires were creatures of the night; that was one of the aspects that made them so terrifying: that they preyed on their victims in darkness. They rested unseen during the hours of daylight. Why would an author ignore this, unless it was to aid their romantic themes and attempts to humanize their vampires?

She’d gone to ask the mousy librarian for some help and had noticed that most of the old folk had left the library, leaving only the old man at the table in the corner. She thought he was sleeping for a moment, then realised that he was awake. Though he hardly moved, she could see his eyes as they darted alternately between his book, and the librarian. For whatever reason the others had left, he seemed to have his own reasons to stay.

The librarian had given Jodie two names she hadn’t heard of before, so she returned to check their books. There was nothing on the shelves for one of them, but the other one seemed to write books that were pretty much on the same themes as the ones she’d already seen.

By now the librarian was announcing that it was closing time, and asking them to make their way to the doors. She’d found she actually liked the librarian: she had a similar opinion of vampire literature to Jodie. She’d implied that lots of young girls came into the library looking for vampire stories, but that most of them were devoted to the modern style of story. The librarian certainly hadn’t been seduced by that. Her taste in the stories leaned more toward that of Jodie herself. She decided that she’d like to get to know this librarian.

The librarian was helping the old man up from the table, just as Jodie was leaving the library. She glanced over her shoulder as the old man stood. He seemed much taller than he did when he’d been sitting reading.  No longer bent and hunched: now proud and erect in his stature. He smiled at the librarian as Jodie passed through the door.

She knew he wasn’t very far behind her, as she walked quietly and softly along the darkened leafy lane that ran from the library to the main road. It wasn’t that she could hear him: there were no sounds whatsoever; in this darkness, even the birds were silent. It wasn’t just that she knew the old man had left the library just after she had: she actually sensed him close to her. She couldn’t hear him breathing, but she could feel his breathing nearby. She knew that even if she turned around she’d see nothing at all, but she was aware of his eyes watching her. She stopped. She heard nothing. Either he’d stopped, or the sound of his footsteps was even softer than hers. Still she was aware of his presence. She started walking again and knew straight away that he still followed her. She’d be at the main road soon and would probably see him then, not that she was frightened in any way.

The feeling disappeared just before she got to the road. Suddenly there was nothing. She knew instinctively that he wasn’t there anymore. He hadn’t passed her, and there was nowhere else he could have gone, but she was certain that he wasn’t following her now. He must have turned back toward the library: that must be it. Perhaps he’d remembered he’d left something behind and had returned to get it. What other reason would he have for going back to the library? Suddenly a feeling of dread came over Jodie as realisation hit her.

 The librarian!

Of course, the librarian would still be there. Jodie turned abruptly and raced back toward the library.


~o~O~o~

Sylvia had been quite surprised as she’d tried to help the old chap to his feet. Partly because he clearly didn’t need her help and he’d positively refused it. He’d looked so weak as he sat reading: all bent and frail, but as he stood by means of his own effort, he suddenly straightened, looking taller, nobler even.

He looked directly at her, and a thin but attractive smile spread across his lips. “Thank you my dear,” he said.

She looked at him, straight into his piercing blue-green eyes. For a moment she forgot what she was doing as she gazed at those eyes. It wasn’t as if they were particularly attractive, the whites were marbled with a bloodshot redness, and the pupils were small, almost like pinheads, and only the strange colour caught her attention. But still, she found it hard to tear her gaze away from his. It was almost as if his eyes commanded hers. She was brought out of this near trance as she felt the touch of his hand on her shoulder.

“Can I pass?” he asked. “You’re standing between me and the door”

“Oh sorry,” she said as she came to her senses. She looked down at his hand: so slender, with long bony fingers. Not at all attractive, she would have thought, but there was something about it that she liked; something that made her pleased that it touched her. She realised how much the touch of his hand had affected her as he lifted it from her shoulder, and she found herself having to hold in a moan for the loss of his touch. She stepped aside, still looking at his hand; the alternative was to look him in the eye again, and she knew now that his gaze would draw her in if she did. His finger nails were long and pointed, but though she knew how out of place that should look on an old man, somehow it didn’t. It was right for him.

He passed by her and walked toward the library door. From behind, she wouldn’t have even known he was old. Yes, he was bald headed, but so were many younger men. He was tall; his shoulders were broad, and he carried himself with a kind of pride and nobility that denied his years. She smiled to herself. A few minutes earlier, a young girl had revived her memories of her once near obsession with vampires. She’d read everything available as a girl herself. Every classic novel, every cheap horror paperback, even some that could only be described as pornographic, in terms of sexual content and of violence. She’d seen every vampire film that had ever come to her local cinema, and now it occurred to her that this old chap reminded her of Christopher Lee in the old Hammer Dracula films. He had a similar flair, a similar elegance. His confidence and his style made his age irrelevant. Lee had made that his trademark in his Dracula portrayal, and it had worked: Like many other girls who’d watched his performances, she’d realised that despite his advancing years, she’d been attracted to him. She’d found she wanted him, and at times actually yearned to be one of his victims.

She actually felt regret to see the door close behind the man as he left. She tidied up her desk and powered down her computer. She picked up the book the old man had left on the table and returned it to the shelf.

Moments later, she flicked the master light switch by the door, and activated the burglar alarm. She walked through the door into the darkness outside, locked up and wrapped her coat around her as she felt the cold night air. She thought about fastening her coat up to the top, but she still had thoughts of Christopher Lee and of vampire seduction. She stroked her hand down her own neck and decided to leave her throat uncovered. She giggled to herself; she was in the mood to dig out some of her old vampire books when she got home. Perhaps she’d bring some of them into work, in case the girl came back. Surely they would interest her, and some of them wouldn’t be available from any public library.

She turned from the door and passed the bushes at the start of the lane that led from the library car park. She half expected to hear them rustle: she half wanted them to. “Get real Sylvia,” she said to herself, under her breath, “You’re acting like a bloody obsessed schoolgirl.”

She’d just started along the lane. It was just wide enough to allow cars to pass down it, but only one way at a time. The bushes and shrubs lining it were of various types; most of them were of evergreen varieties, so the foliage lining the lane was thick, especially for this time of year. She heard a noise behind her, back in the car park; She knew that it would be the sensible thing to get to the main road as quickly as she could, to run even, but she had a feeling, a kind of assurance, that whatever was about to happen, was what she wanted, what she always wanted. She turned and walked slowly but deliberately back toward the library.

She stopped in the darkness. “I know you’re there,” she said, “and I know what you are, and what you want.” She did know what he was now; she was certain of it. It wasn’t as if any particular thing had convinced her, but she knew from within herself that he was exactly what she’d dreamed of, exactly what she’d waited so long for.

He appeared before her seemingly by magic. One moment he wasn’t there; the next he descended vertically from above and stood there facing her. He looked even taller now, standing in front of her. The blue-green of his eyes seemed to glow now. His smile, still thin was somewhat broader, a smile of confidence and of arrogance. He raised his long bony hands in front of him, and looked down upon her as he put his arms around her. She felt the strength in him, the determination in his grip as his arms encompassed her. She felt his breath upon her face. It smelled of death, though she didn’t find that unpleasant, it excited her. She felt his lips on her throat. She wanted him. “Take me,” she said, “Make me your own. It’s what I want.”

On hearing her words, He recoiled slightly. He looked down on her and laughed “Oh I intend to take you my dear,” he said releasing her from his clinch, “You’re already mine: My own and nobody else’s.”

He laughed again. What was this? This wasn’t what she expected?

Once again his hand was upon her. He gripped the top of her clothing, taking both her coat and her blouse in his long right hand. Suddenly, in a single movement he ripped both away from her, with a strength she knew was not natural. She stood there, her entire upper body exposed to the cold.

He looked down upon her and opened his mouth. She expected to see the two pure white fangs that she’d read of and seen in so many of the films she’d loved, but instead what she saw was a mass of teeth, each one as long and pointed as the fictional fangs, but uneven, darkened and decaying; hardly white: more grey with greenish and blackened parts to them. There were so many of them. Sylvia wondered how he could possible administer what she’d grown to think of as ‘the vampire kiss’ with teeth like that.

Once again his arms were around her. And as her concerns lessened, she felt herself surrendering to his embrace. “Oh yes,” he said, “All mine. I will enjoy you.”

Intense pain struck her as she felt his fingernails pierce the skin over her shoulder blades; the agony increased as he dragged his hands down her back tearing at her flesh. She screamed, once but only once, for as the first sound escaped from her lips, he stared into her eyes with one single glance of his unnatural gaze, and she was silenced. She knew then that her suffering would be uninterrupted by any sounds she might have wanted to make.

His jaw stretched and his mouth widened. Now he seemed to have even more teeth: rotting disgusting teeth, like those of a beast, dripping with saliva. But still she wanted him to bite her; still she wanted him to make her the same as he was, just like she’d read about. She wanted to experience that delicious, sensual moment for herself, even if it meant, no, especially if it meant that she’d become a vampire herself.

For a brief moment she managed to overcome the restraint he’d put on her voice as she uttered what she didn’t realise would be her last words: “Kiss me,” she said.

He looked down at her again. No sign of his thin satisfied smile now. Now his mouth was open, his teeth bared. Now he was pure animal, ready and desperate to feed. But still he laughed. Sylvia heard him and finally realised that her fate would not be the one she’d been so sure of, not the one that she wanted. The last thing she heard were his words, as he suddenly stopped laughing, becoming especially serious as he frowned and said: “I’m hungry.”

His teeth tore into her neck and into her breast, violently and brutally ripping pieces of flesh from her body. With every attack her suffering increased and more blood poured from her, every drop being greedily consumed by her attacker. His rapacity continued, but now there was less ripping of flesh, and more sucking, gulping and swallowing of the life fluid that flowed urgently from her body. He needed to feed and he fed with a burning greed designed solely to satisfy him.

For a moment she was still conscious, still alive, though she knew she was going to die, and despite the torture she was suffering, despite the terror she experienced, she still half expected to be born again as a vampire. It wasn’t until she felt his ravenous jaws ripping at her abdomen, that she realised that there wouldn’t be much left of her to be reborn.

Then she died.


~o~O~o~

The quiet of the night was punctuated only by the sounds of the vampire enjoying his meal. As he fed frantically, his hunger began to be sated, his thirst quenched. He calmed a little, still feeding, but more quietly and calmly now. He noticed that her heart had stopped beating a while ago. He released the carcass, dropping her remains to the ground. He looked up as the girl came running into the car park.

She stopped and gazed at him, a look of revulsion on her face. A look of disgust at what he’d done. He realised that he was crouching now, amongst the remains of what was now not even recognisable as the librarian.

The girl shook her head and spoke: “Oh grandfather,” she said, “I was hoping to recruit her. She could have been useful to us.”

“I was hungry,” he said.

“I realise that,” she said, “But how many times do I have to tell you? Stick to old people and babies for feeding. I’ll pass other fresher, tastier ones onto you at times, but let me at least consider converting them first.”

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Moonlight Tenderness

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Another exercise in underlying themes.

This time I've tried to give the reader the impression that one particular situation is being described and only reveal to them at the last possible moment, that they've (hopefully) been misled, and that the piece they've been reading has been describing a totally different scenario.

Please read it, and let me know what you think of it by commenting at the end of the post. Thank you.
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Moonlight Tenderness

The light summer breeze blew through the open window and gently rattled the blind, lifting it repeatedly and then letting it fall again. The moonlight shone through each short lived gap, piercing the darkness and illuminating both their faces with flickering light as they lay sleeping. She was often restless during warm summer nights and even these soft flashes of light falling upon her face were enough to rouse her from her fragile slumber.

He slept on.

She opened her eyes, and then quickly covered them with her free hand as the annoying light disturbed her as it flashed. She lay there for a moment under the light cotton summer sheet, then unwrapped her other arm from around his sleeping form, and swung her legs down to place her feet on the floor. She arose from the bed and walked over to the window. It was still far too warm to fasten it closed so she did her best to adjust the blind and secure it in place.

As she turned back toward the bed, she stopped and realised she’d been unable to shut out all of the moonlight; she noticed how what remained now shone steadily through a gap at the edge of the window and fell softly on his face as he slept, illuminating him with a soft gentle glow. She stood a while longer looking at him and she smiled.

At times like these, he looked so peaceful. No sign was there of the urgency that seemed to rule his life during his waking hours. No sign of the determination that was such a strong aspect of his personality that strangers often mistook it for aggression. He had surrendered himself to sleep, and only now was it clear what a gentle soul he really was.

She loved him of course, and she should only ever have seen goodness in him, but there were times when even she recognised how his forceful personality might not endear him to people. Occasionally what he saw as merely an attitude of strength and masculinity would annoy some people and make them wary of him.

He did his best to display a facade of strength. He always refused to show emotion publicly, because in his own mind, it made him seem that much softer and more vulnerable and he wasn’t prepared to display weakness of any kind to anyone. When he was alone with her though, he’d often let his guard down and open up to her. He’d assured her so many times how determined he was and always would be to look after her and protect her, but she often smiled when she thought about how vulnerable and fragile he really could be at times himself, and she knew that he needed protection as much as anyone did. That was what she was there for: to look after him, whether he thought he needed her to or not.

He looked so peaceful lying there. Though she’d never think of telling him as much, he looked beautiful with the soft moonlight on his face as he lay there breathing gently. She was determined to be with him forever, or for as long as he needed her at least. One thing that was certain was that she would never stop loving him.

She glanced at the bedside clock. He’d be waking in an hour or so; he always awoke early, and he had a busy day ahead of him. She walked over to the bed, put her arms around him and kissed him as she lifted him. It was about time he was back in his own bed. He certainly would have a busy day. Yes: every day was a busy day for a five year old.