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Eternal

Part Two of the Ceremony novella series

by David Barton

 

Prologue

Mo hated to be in the sun. It brought them out - her freckles. And when they were out, her hair, also seemed to appear even redder than usual.

Every summer they’d come to haunt her. The sun would be her enemy. The other children given another reason to pick on her. It just wasn’t fair. It was like God was punishing her, like her mother had often told her that God punished sinners.

And didn’t she sin? Every time she thought about another girl, in the way that Mo thought about other girls.

Wasn’t there that girl at the beach today, who she’d admired, exchanged smiles with and who she’d wanted to make friends with so desperately?

She decided to get out of the sun, before God punished her too much.

It was the first day of her holiday with her parents. As she made her way along the beach, trying to find some shelter from the bright orange monster in the sky, in a vain attempt to slow the outbreak of those nightmare tiny brown pinpricks appearing all over her pale, delicate body, she discovered a cave.

It looked dark inside as she peered within it. There could be monsters there or anything. But monsters were better than freckles, any day - and that other flaming monster positioned above her in the bright, blue void above.

Mo made her way into it, squeezing through the crack of its entrance. There didn’t appear to be any monsters dwelling within the cave. She listened, but couldn’t hear any strange uttering or growls by anything that could have indeed been some kind of nightmarish creature - something that, like her, had found refuge inside the cave’s dark interior, but unlike her was there because the sun would burn it up because it wasn’t something that should have been out in the light.

Mo thought, that - on second thoughts - maybe a creature like that was not unlike herself, after all. She herself was a creature that shunned the light, could not bear the hot sun beating down on her and bringing out her own monsters - her freckles.

She made her way deeper into the cave, careful not to fall over any unseen rocks near her feet, as there wasn’t much light in there, save for the small amount allowed into the murk from the cave’s mouth, and that was very little. It wasn’t that big an opening. It had only been just sufficient enough for her to fit through, after all.

Mo had made some way into the cave when she heard a noise behind her, some distance back.

She came to a standstill and listened intently. Had she merely imagined the sound? No, there it was again. Mo gazed towards the entrance, which was only the smallest of openings now; with daylight streaming in, such was its distance from her.

It was coming towards her, whatever it was, its eyes green - at least that’s how they seemed. A dark shape, with glowing green eyes, feeling its way through the darkness like she had done.

Then Mo made out what it was. She half-breathed a sigh of relief. Only half-breathed, mind. Because even though this wasn’t a monster in the conventional sense, it was nevertheless a monster - at least to Mo.

It was her mother.

‘There you are,’ she said to Mo. ‘Now, where have you been hiding?’ Her mother peered around and surveyed in distaste the interior of the dark cave. ‘What are you doing in here when there’s a nice sunny day outside?’ she asked her daughter.

Why would I want to be outside, when there’s a nice dark cave, here, Mo thought to herself.

‘We’re going back to the hotel now, tomorrow morning we’re going to church,’ her mother informed her.

Church - on holiday? We even have to go to church on our holidays, too?

Mo thought that at least that particular torture would have been absent while they were on their holidays, supposedly enjoying themselves! Weren’t Catholics allowed to enjoy themselves, like other people were? Wasn’t it bad enough that she had to put up with the sun - than she also had to endure church as well?

The imagined monster in the cave, her mother, the church, the sun - all monsters of one kind or another, and maybe there had been a monster in there after all, made up of all those things, coming towards her through the dark! It would always be coming towards her! The monster would always come, in the end!

 

1

A monster had come to Windstone …

As the girls made their way down the street - Mo, Christina, Liddy, Esther, Edie, Dorothy, and their most recent human-made-vampire to their fold, Mo’s girlfriend Jess - suddenly Christina came to a halt and stared ahead.

The others came to a standstill also and looked to where her attention was fixed. There, making his way towards them was a lad in a hoodie - the hood up, but with his face clearly visible. He was dressed like a student, but no one, not one of the girls, recognised him from college.

‘Long time no see,’ he called over to them as he neared, or to one of them in particular - as his attention was fixed solely in the direction of the one amongst them who did seem to recognise him, Christina.

‘Dominic?’ she said, and then after a few seconds uttered his name again. ‘Dominic?’

‘Who’s this, then, Christina,’ asked Edie running her eyes over the stranger favourably.

‘Yes, who’s this?’ Liddy wanted to know also with equally admiring gaze.

Christina ignored her friends’ pleas for information about the newcomer; her attention was firmly focused on him and him alone. ‘Is it really you?’

‘Really - who?’ asked Dorothy.

‘After all these years?’ Then Christina seemed to realise that the girls were stood around her once more, and she turned to them. ‘Girls,’ she said, ‘meet my Maker!’

Half an hour later they were at the house, and some of the girls were not keen that Christina had invited the stranger - who’s name they’d learned was Dominic - to stay at their home.

‘He can’t stay here,’ said Esther.

‘Why not?’ Christina wanted to know.

‘There’s not enough room,’ came the reply.

‘There’s more than enough room,’ Christina told her, ‘what about the room next to Dorothy‘s?’

‘I use that for painting sometimes!’ said Liddy.

‘You haven’t painted anything in an age, Liddy,’ Christina reminded her.

‘I might want to do one though, if the mood strikes - and then he’ll be in there, won’t he?’ Liddy moaned glaring at what she seemed to see as the interloper in their midst.

‘I don’t want to put anyone out,’ Dominic said apologetically.

‘You’re not putting anyone out,’ said Christina.

‘I’ll second that,’ said Edie. Dominic was still in favour with Edie, she hadn’t been able to take her eyes off him since she’d first set them on him some minutes earlier.

‘He’d be putting me out of my painting room, if he moves in there!’ Liddy said. ‘If you’re so keen to have him stay, why can’t he share your room - with you?’

‘Because we’re not lovers anymore, I can’t share a room with him,’ Christina gave as a reply.

Dominic seemed disappointed by this response. ‘We were once, we could be again,’ he said.

‘Things have changed now,’ Christina said.

‘Like what?’ Dominic wanted to know.

Christina glanced to Mo and her eyes lingered on her a while, then she switched back to Dominic. ‘I haven’t see you for decades, that’s why, and now you expect us to pick up where we left off in the 60s?’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘why not? We were great together!’

‘That was then,’ said Christina. ‘As I’ve said, things have changed now - time has passed by, people move on. I don’t know you anymore. I can’t just jump into bed with you after all this time!’

She looked him over. Now he had pulled his hood down, she could see he still had long hair, like back in the day, but that he had it tied in a ponytail now. His eyes still drew her in as if hypnotising her. The rest of his features - almost perfection - made her want to kiss his face all over - such was its beauty.

Those lips, full and pouting, she just wanted to put hers on them one more time - it was almost too much to bear not to fling herself into his arms, but she resisted.

‘Okay,’ said Liddy letting out a breath,’ he can have the painting room!’

‘Thank you,’ Dominic said to Liddy, ‘maybe, perhaps you could paint me?’

‘Hmm,’ said Liddy suppressing a smile,’ maybe, if you let me do you in the nude.’

‘That would be interesting,’ said Dominic, his eyes igniting, ‘but I thought it was the subject that was supposed to be the one in the nude?’

2

‘I want to bring someone round for dinner, so you can meet them,’ Mo announced to her parents as they were sat in their front room one evening.

‘Oh, have you got yourself a fella?’ her mother asked, and then exchanged glances with Mo‘s father.

Mo bit her bottom lip, then said, ‘Not exactly - I’ve got myself a girlfriend.’

Her mother laughed. ‘One of your friends, that’s okay …’

‘No, not one of my friends …’ Mo pinched her lower lip once more. ‘My girlfriend.’

Her mother looked to her father. ‘Are you going to say anything about this? She wants to bring a girl home!’

‘Is she nice?’ Mo’s father asked her.

‘Never mind asking her if she’s nice or not,’ her mother snapped at him, ‘she’s … our daughter, our only daughter is …’

‘What?’ snapped Mo. ‘Queer? Lesbian? Dyke?

‘I will not have that language in my house!’ her mother barked. Then after a pause she said, softening her tone, ‘You’re just confused, must be … it’s just a phase … yes, that’s what it is … that’s all …’

‘It’s not a phase, mum,’ Mo said, ‘I’ve fancied girls for ages, ever since I can remember, never boys - never!

‘What about, Paul Metcalfe - what was he, then, if he wasn’t a boy!’

‘Paul Metcalfe was just a friend,’ Mo told her.

‘I thought you and he were …’

Mo shook her head. ‘No, you presumed that just because he was the opposite sex, that we were boyfriend and girlfriend - but we weren’t. Claire Collins, she was my girlfriend, and Rebecca Greenhalgh.’

Mo’s mother seemed horrified at the mention of this last name. ‘Rebecca Greenhalgh? But she’s a local councillor’s daughter - respectable!’

‘And I’m your daughter - and as gay as Christmas!’ Mo said.

Her mother shot a look over to her father. ‘Aren’t you going to say anything about this - your daughter being this way!’

‘If she’s gay, she’s gay,’ he said with a dismissive shrug, ‘there’s nothing we can do about it. Can’t we have this girl over, see what she’s like - you might like her!’

Mo’s mother made a face, fuming. ‘I’m not having one of them in the house!’

‘You’ve already got one of them in the house!’ said Mo equally angry, pointing a finger towards herself.

‘Maybe you should talk to Father O’Malley?’ her mother suggested.

Mo’s eyebrows came together. ‘Why would I want to talk to Father O’Malley? What business is it of his?

Mo‘s mother suddenly seemed to realise something. ‘Is that why you took your crucifix down off your wall - because you’re one of them?

No, because I’m a vampire, mother.

‘Oh, so I’m in league with the Devil now, am I - because I’m gay!’ Mo snapped again.

‘Oh, don’t even call yourself that word!’ her mother said.

‘I’m gay - GAY!’ Mo shouted angrily. ‘I don’t see any horns sprouting out of my head, do you?’ She looked behind herself towards her buttocks. ‘Nope, can’t see a pointed tail - either!’

Mo’s father gave a laugh.

Her mother quickly spun round towards him, glaring at him. ‘What are you laughing at?’ she said. ‘Our daughter calmly announces she’s ga … like that, and all you can do is sit there laughing, or asking whether this … girl she’s got herself involved with is nice or not!’

‘She is nice,’ said Mo. ‘She’s a very nice girl, and I love her!’

‘Love,’ spat Mo’s mother, raising her eyes heavenwards, ‘what does a teenager know about love? Love is being married umpteen years - that’s love! Love is bringing up children, that’s love - you’re never going to have any children with another woman!

Mo hunched her shoulders. ‘We could adopt!’ She managed a smile to her father, who she could see was dying to laugh again.

‘It’s against God apart from anything else,’ Mo’s mother said.

Mo rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, I wondered how long it would be before you brought him into it! God’s one of the reasons there’s so much hatred towards gay people - religion causes more hatred and … wars than anything else in the world!’

Wasn’t that the truth?

Religion is an unnecessary evil, she thought to herself and immediately thought how profound and dammit “clever” that statement sounded.

She’d certainly use that in an essay sometime, when she was going-on about the world’s ills, and knew immediately that it wouldn’t go down too well in the catholic college she attended, or indeed with her mother, staring at her now with a look as if “she” was the most evil thing in the world.

Granted, she was a vampire, but in her experience they weren’t that evil, and certainly not as evil as priests who molested choirboys, that was for sure.

‘Why don’t we just let her bring her round - let us have look at her?’ Mo’s father suggested to her mother.

Her mother let out a resigning breath. ‘All right, then, she can come round,’ she said. ‘But I’m not happy with it.’

Mo’s father shot his daughter a wink. Mo half-smiled to him, then looked to her mother’s disapproving face and her faint smile quickly vanished altogether.

3

The following day it was raining hard. Mo made her way to the house, and was surprised to find Christina and the other girls sprawled out on the floor in the front room doing - of all things - a jigsaw puzzle.

It was a cathedral or large church of some kind, she observed, but the pieces that made up the cross part of it on the steeple were missing. They were at the side, not fitted into place yet.

‘What are you doing?’ Mo asked.

‘We’re doing a jigsaw puzzle, what did you think we were doing?’ Liddy said, and added sarcastically, ‘Riding a bicycle?’

‘I’m just trying to do this jigsaw puzzle, before it rains anymore, ‘Christina said.

‘Vampires - do jigsaw puzzles?’ Mo said wryly.

‘Have to do something to while away the eternity,’ Christina told her. ‘Eternal life gives you quite a lot of free time on your hands, especially when it’s raining.’

‘You’re just in time to do the cross bit,’ said Edie with a half-guarded grin.

‘Huh?’

‘The cross part.’

‘Won’t it burn me?’ Mo said.

‘Of course it will. That’s why we haven’t done it!’ Liddy said. ‘We should have thought about that when we started, really. We can’t finish it now, unless we find a mortal to do it for us.’

‘Where’s Dominic?’ Mo wanted to know taking a casual glance round and noticing Christina’s old flame’s absence.

‘The poor lad’s probably out there in the rain, someplace,’ Christina said.

Across town, Dominic was out there in the rain, someplace. He was stood in a pub doorway taking shelter from the downpour.

He spied a girl sheltering across the street from him, underneath the awning of a women’s clothes boutique. An attractive blonde. Always his type really. Christina being but a mere brunette blip on his otherwise untarnished blonde-bombshell conquests. So after staring at her and giving her a good look over without her knowledge of him actually doing so, he ducked into the pub.

Once inside Dominic scanned around, his attention finally coming to rest on the coat-stand not far from the entrance. Sure enough, there were a few umbrellas drying out below it. He took a cautionary glance around, then when he’d satisfied himself that no one was looking, plucked out one of the umbrellas and hurried outside with it.

The girl was still there in front of the boutique opposite. She looked over now and smiled. Dominic smiled back and put up the umbrella he’d stolen. Then he negotiated the sparse traffic and made his way across the street towards her.

‘All right?’ he said as he reached her.

‘Hiya,’ she replied.

‘You look like you could do with one of these,’ Dominic said lifting his eyes to the umbrella above his head.

‘Is that yours or did you nick it?’ the girl asked.

‘Is it that obvious?’ he asked her.

‘Well, someone like you doesn’t usually have a brolly,’ she said.

‘Someone like me?’

‘Yeah - like me, too,’ she said. ‘I don’t have one - us young folk don’t usually have them.’

‘Only the old folk?’ Dominic said, ‘in their sixties and seventies?’

‘Yes, coffin dodgers,’ the girl smirked.

Dominic laughed too. ‘Look, I don’t live far from here,’ he said, ‘I’m crashing with some friends, do you want to come to the house for a while, until the rain stops?’

‘Cool, yeah,’ the girl said and stepped out from her shelter and hurried underneath the umbrella.

‘Is she …?’ Christina said to Dominic as he entered the front room with the girl and ran her eyes over her.

The newcomer peered around at all the girls, switching from one to the other in turn, and at the way they were dressed. Christina, forever the 60s chick, goth Liddy in black, punk Edie with her spiky blonde hair, androgynous Esther almost looking like a female Kurt Cobain, glam Dorothy, and of course, Mo and Jess who were probably the most normal looking in the room. ‘Cool,’ she said, ‘I guess you guys are really retro, eh?’

‘Yes, pretty much,’ said Christina. ‘It’s great you dropped round actually, you can help us finish our jigsaw puzzle!’

‘Jigsaw puzzle?’ the girl said. ‘Why can’t you do it?’

The girl looked to the almost- completed jigsaw at her feet, lowered herself to it and in no time at all had slotted all the remaining pieces into place. The girls watched intently, exchanging glances as she did this.

‘Thank you so much,’ Christina said once she‘d completed it, ‘we thought we’d never get it finished.’

‘Oh, it was nothing,‘’ the girl said bashfully, ‘I just put the pieces in. How come you lot couldn’t put those pieces in?’ She stared around at all their faces beaming back at her.

‘Because, my dear young lady,’ said Dominic, ‘they are vampires, and the pieces made up a cross!’

The girl laughed to him. ‘Oh, and you’re a vampire too, I suppose?’ she said to Dominic.

‘Yes, I am.’

‘Thought there was something funny about you,’ the girl said. ‘So what happens now - you going to suck my blood or what?’ She laughed again.

‘A willing feed!’ enthused Liddy gleefully.

‘Such a long time since someone actually wanted us to feed off them!’ said Edie.

‘Isn’t it, just,’ said Christina.

The girls were crowding round the newcomer now, as if descending upon her like vultures.

‘You see, I have my uses,’ said Dominic, ‘I went out and got us a takeaway!’

‘You are joking, of course, right?’ said the girl now, twisting about to look at the approaching girls and Dominic. ‘I mean, you’re not really vampires? You’re not really going to suck my blood?’

They all nodded their heads in unison.

‘But there’s no such things as vampires, is there?’ The girl gave a nervous laugh as if not really sure anymore, herself. ‘What are you - a bunch of crazy nutters or something?’

‘Did she just call us nutters?’ said Esther.

‘Sounded like it,’ uttered Dorothy.

‘Yep, it definitely sounded like it to me,’ confirmed Edie.

‘And me,’ said Liddy, ‘and crazy ones at that!’

‘Guess we’ll just have to show her,’ said Christina.

Christina brought her craft knife out from her pocket.

‘You some kind of cult or something?’ the girl asked looking to the knife uneasily. ‘Living here, in this house, together? Doing blood rituals?’

‘They’re ceremonies - not rituals!’ said Christina. ‘Haven’t you ever taken communion?’

‘But we are vampires!’ said Liddy. She turned to Mo. ‘Isn’t that right, Mo?’

‘Yes, they … we are vampires,’ she said.

‘That what you call your cult - vampires?’ the girl asked.

‘She’s not getting it, is she?’ Christina sighed, and raised her knife even further aloft. ‘We are vampires! No doubt about that! And you won’t doubt it either, once we’ve dined off you!’

‘Cool,’ the girl said, and the girls and Dominic advanced further towards her.

4

Mo and Jess had a different dinner that Sunday. This dinner was not a feast on some girl’s blood, but a feast on Mo’s mother’s Sunday roast.

‘This is delicious, Mrs Pilkington,’ said Jess.

‘No need to be so formal, love,’ said Mo’s father. ‘I’m sure Mrs Pilkington wouldn’t mind if you called her Flo.’

Jess smirked. ‘Flo … and Mo?

Flo didn’t see the funny side, but Mo had a grin directed to Jess.

‘I’m glad you like it,’ said Mo’s mother.

‘And call me …’ began Mo’s father.

‘Wait, don’t tell me - Joe?’ said Jess and gave a laugh. ‘Flo, Mo - and Joe?’

‘No - Trevor,’ Trevor announced with a smile.

‘Cool,’ said Jess and returned to her meal.

‘So, what are you studying at college?’ Mo’s mother asked Jess after a few moments had passed.

‘Same as Mo, really,’ Jess told her.

‘And have you always been …’ Mo’s mother began.

Mo looked to her mother, then to Jess, worried.

‘Academic?’ finished Jess, and Mo and Jess sniggered, though Mo uneasily so.

‘No,’ Mo’s mother said, her face darkening, ‘I think you know what I mean.’

‘What, you mean: lesbian?’ Jess asked.

‘I will not have that word at this table!’ Mo’s mother suddenly fumed. ‘Not on the Lord’s day!’

‘So, it would be okay if it was Monday,’ Mo said cheekily. The two girls giggled to each other.

‘Mo,’ scolded her mother, ‘where has all this insolence come from - you were never like this before … before …’

‘Before, what?’

‘Before you started mixing with the wrong crowd!’ said Mo’s mother.

At first Mo thought that her mother was referring to vampires, but then Mo realised she meant Jess - or lesbians in general - as her attention seemed to drift to Jess now. Mo’s mother, of course, was not aware that her daughter was a vampire.

‘You mean, before I started hanging out with my dykey friends?’

Mo reached over and took hold of Jess’s hand affectionately.

‘Me and Jess are in love,’ she told her mother.

Mo’s mother glared in disgust at their clasped hands.

‘Better get used to it,’ Mo said. She smiled to Jess and Jess beamed back adoringly.

‘If that’s what the girl is, that’s what she is,’ said Mo’s father.

‘You’re not helping!’ barked Mo’s mother at her father. Then she returned her attention to her daughter. ‘I thought I’d brought you up to fear God!’

Mo rolled her eyes in despair. ‘Not him again,’ she said. ‘I’m sick to death of hearing about God all the time! And, yes, you’re right, you bought me up to fear this non-existent God you keep going on about - when it suits.’

Mo’s mother was speechless. She just stared at Mo.

‘There’s nothing between you,’ Mo’s mother said shaking her head. ‘It’s not love - it’s just sin. Ungodly lust! Your type …’ She directed this at Jess solely now. ‘…don’t know anything about love, it’s just sex! That’s all it is! Sex!’

‘We are in love!’ Mo gripped Jess’s hand even more tightly now. Jess glanced to it momentarily. ‘In fact, we have more of a bond than you’ll ever know.’

She looked to Jess and a knowing glance about the two girls being vampires passed between them. Mo’s mother, however, misinterpreted this as a sexual look passing between the pair.

‘That’s disgusting!’ she barked, and rose to her feet. ‘I’m no longer prepared to sit at this table with two shameless sexual deviants!’

Jess couldn’t resist a smirk, but Mo looked more hurt by her mother’s words than anything.

‘Mum?’ she said, but her mother was almost to the door with what looked like tears welling in her eyes.

Mo’s father gave an embarrassed laugh when she‘d vacated the room. ‘Sunday dinner’s not the same as it used to be!’ He winked to Jess, ‘Pass the sandwich cake, Jess, there’s a good girl!’

5

Making popcorn, reminded her of that scene from the horror movie she‘d once seen. The one where the girl is making it, and then the phone rings and it’s the killer. Then the killer starts tormenting her and asking her questions about horror movies.

At that precise moment that she was thinking this, the phone did ring, startling her slightly. She gave a laugh. ‘That you, Mr Ghostface?’ she said out loud to herself.

‘Hello?’ she asked picking up the receiver of the phone situated on the counter opposite the stove.

It was somebody selling something as usual. She slammed the phone down immediately and when she looked up from it there was a lad standing in her kitchen. Not one she knew, either.

He was just stood casually, facing her, expressionless, with the hood of his hoodie up over his head.

‘Who the hell are you - how did you get in here?’ she asked him.

‘I’m your worst nightmare,’ he answered bluntly, ‘and, through the door.’

‘I don’t remember inviting you in,’ the girl said.

‘That’s just a myth,’ he said. ‘You don’t need to invite us in - that’s just in the books and movies.’

She pulled her eyebrows together. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘Vampires!’ he said.

She gave a laugh. ‘Vampires?’ The girl glanced to the back door, through which he said he‘d entered. ‘Do you mind leaving?’

It was his turn now to give a laugh. ‘That never works - not even in the films,’ he said. ‘You can’t ask us to leave, either. What - you think you can just politely say, “Excuse me, Mr Vampire, would you just kindly leave, old chap?’

‘What do you want?’ she asked.

‘What do vampires usually want?’ he asked her.

‘I’m not a virgin,’ she said then and gave another mocking laugh. ‘Don’t vampires usually drink the blood of virgins?’

‘Another myth,’ he told her then looked her over and said, ‘No, I don’t suppose you are a virgin, are you?’

‘Is that what you want - sex?’ she asked him.

‘Would you, if that was what I wanted?’ he asked.

‘If I had no choice in the matter, I suppose,’ the girl said.

‘Just out of interest, what about if you did have a choice - what then?’ he now asked.

‘Well,’ she answered, ‘you’re a nice looking lad.’

‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘but flattery won’t get you anywhere. I don’t want sex with you, I just want to feed - really badly as it happens, so if you don’t mind … I’d like to get on with it if it’s all the same to you?’

‘Please,’ she said, ‘there’s money, and if you really want to we could … just don’t hurt me, okay?’

‘You always think I want sex or money - you people!’ he said. ‘It’s just a matter of survival, that’s all. I need blood - you have it pumping through those pretty young veins of yours!’

He sniffed and looked over to the popcorn. ‘I haven’t had popcorn in an age.’

‘Would you like some?’ she asked him moving over to it.

‘No, it would spoil my appetite,’ he answered with a grin. ‘Now if you don’t mind - your blood, please!’ He brought out a flick-knife and shot the blade up.

‘Please don’t,’ she pleaded.

‘I have to,’ he told her. ‘Vampires need to feed.’

‘But you’re not a vampire, are you,’ she tried to reason with him. ‘You just need help.’

‘Why is it always so difficult for you people to believe in us?’

The girl shrugged. ‘Okay, so you are a vampire, then. There, I’ve said it - now can you please leave?’

‘I am a vampire,’ he insisted, ‘and in a few minutes I’m going to prove it to you. But then it’ll be too late.’

‘Listen …’ she began. ‘Sorry, I don’t remember what you said your name was?’

‘I didn’t,’ he said. ‘But it’s Dominic. It doesn’t matter that you know that, because it isn’t going to be much use to you - knowing my name - because, as I’ve said, in a few minutes you’ll be dead.’

‘Funny, I can’t see any fangs,’ the girl said peering closer.

‘That’s in the movies too, and books,’ Dominic informed her.

He advanced forward. ‘We can do this the easy way and you can just let me cut your hand open and let me feed, or we can do this the hard way where we struggle and I have to take it forcefully. Either way you die, because I haven’t time for any of that vampire-making rubbish, or that not enough to kill you just enough to nourish myself malarkey. I’m greedy, you see - I always want it all! And as for making you a vampire too, there’s already too many of us for my liking.’

‘So that’s how you do it,’ she said. ‘You cut my hand open?’

Before he could give any answer, with one hasty action, the girl reached over to the stove and lifted the pan of popcorn from the grill and, swinging it, threw the entire boiling contents of it over him and ran past him in the direction of the back door.

Once outside, she travelled around the back of the house and along the path at its side, making her way to the front. Then she ran through the bushes towards the drive, but he had caught up with her by that time and grabbed her, and got her down on the ground.

Straddling her on top, pinning her down, Dominic pulled her arm back and began to slice open her hand between her thumb and forefinger.

She began to scream, so much so that he had put his hand to her mouth to stop her cries alerting any of the neighbours, and began sucking her blood.

She saw bright lights and looked under the bushes towards the drive and could see her parents coming up it in their car. The headlights of the car shining directly at her. But as she was low down underneath the bushes neither of her parents would be able to see her.

The girl gave a laugh and she felt her assailant ease slightly as if he was wondering what she was finding so amusing.

What she was laughing at was how much this thing had played out like the scene from Scream she’d recalled earlier.

Even this part, now: her parents arriving home in their car, and herself being killed right there within reaching distance - but unseen.

They’d go inside, find the upturned popcorn, then eventually discover her drained, lifeless body. The girl wondered if they’d think it the same as the movie she’d once seen, too? It was the last thing she was thinking as the life was drained away from her completely and she passed away.

6

Esther was sat in the front room of the house in an easy chair, casually strumming her guitar, playing and singing Nirvana’s ‘Pennyroyal Tea’. Everyone was sat around listening. When she got to the part with the line, “Give me a Leonard Cohen after world so I can sigh eternally,” Christina burst out laughing; causing Esther to leave off the vocals, but still continue to strum.

‘I love Leonard Cohen,’ Christina said, ‘Suzanne takes you down …’

Esther frowned. ‘Who is Leonard Cohen, anyway?’

‘Folk singer, 60s,’ Christina told her, ‘before your time.’

Dominic joined in with the conversation. ‘Cohen wasn’t as good as Dylan,’ he said.

‘Of course not,’ said Christina, ‘no one beats Mr Zimmerman!’

‘With a voice like sand and glue,’ said Dorothy quoting a David Bowie song about the 60s folk singer. Of course, Dorothy was the glam rocker amongst them.

‘Do ‘Smells like Teen Spirit,’ urged Liddy.

Not more grunge rubbish,’ moaned Christina. ‘Don’t you know any Dylan?’

‘’Fraid not,’ said Esther, ‘before my time, of course.’ She ceased her strumming altogether now.

‘Not even ‘Blowing in the Wind’, can you not even play that?’ Liddy asked Esther, ‘I always thought that sounded like a song about farting!’

Everyone laughed.

‘That is sacrilege!’ said Christina in a joking manner, ‘saying such things about the great Bob Dylan’s lyrics!’

‘I would kill her for such a remark, if she wasn’t already dead,’ said Dominic.

Some of the girls laughed, but uneasily so. There was something dark about the way he’d said it, like he half meant it or something.

‘Just kidding, of course,’ he added sensing this. ‘Can’t anyone take a joke around here? What’s the matter - death killed your sense of humour, too?’

Everyone seemed to have fell into silence, unnerved by his remark and the uneasiness it had caused. None of the girls knew him, with the exception of Christina of course, so he was basically a stranger to them. For all they knew, he could be dangerous - an enemy, even. But they trusted Christina in her judgement, they had to, and they’d known her too long to doubt it.

Dominic now turned to Christina. ‘Things were much better in the good old days,’ he said. ‘All this modern music just turns my stomach.’

‘I don’t much care for it myself,’ said Christina.

‘How about we go upstairs to your room and talk about old times?’ Dominic suggested to her.

Christina smiled. ‘I bet you’ve got more in mind than just talking about old times,’ she said.

Dominic grinned. ‘You read my mind,’ he said with a glint in his eye.

‘It’s a trick we vampires have, of course,’ Christina said. ‘Did you forget about that?’

‘Okay, then, what am I thinking now?’ Dominic asked her, staring straight into her eyes.

Christina just giggled and blushed slightly, her pale face emphasising even more the rouge of her cheeks now. She lowered her eyes.

They were obviously flirting with one another. Mo and Jess exchanged glances, then looked back to the pair. To Mo’s amazement Christina reached out for Dominic’s hand. He took it, she smiled to him, and then Christina gave a dainty wave to everyone as the couple rose to their feet and she was led upstairs by him.

‘What does everybody think about that?’ said Edie ominously, when the pair had disappeared upstairs. ‘And the way he spoke to Liddy?’

‘Gave me the creeps,’ said Liddy and gave a visible shudder. ‘There’s something not quite right about our Dominic.’

The girls all looked above themselves.

‘She’s a fool,’ said Dorothy. ‘Christina - for getting back with someone she hasn’t known for years!’

‘But what can we do?’ Edie asked.

‘We just have to hope that he’ll get bored and move on,’ said Dorothy.

‘Then I’ll get my painting room back,’ said Liddy.

Everyone laughed.

‘Liddy, you do have a habit of trivialising everything, sometimes,’ said Dorothy.

‘So, you’ve give up on the idea of painting him in the nude, then?’ Edie asked Liddy.

7

At college, during break, a few days later, the girls congregated at their usual haunt in the shade at the back of the building.

‘Did anyone read the report in the paper about the girl?’ asked Mo.

The evening before, she had taken the local paper they had delivered free each week from the door, and seen the headline about the girl found dead on the front page. She’d been attacked and murdered, but there were similarities with another girl that had been found some weeks earlier.

‘I saw that,’ said Jess.

‘We don’t get the free paper,’ said Christina, then produced a frown. ‘What girls - what murders?

‘Both found here, in Windstone, they’re thinking it’s a serial killer, but they can’t be sure that the two cases are linked,’ Mo revealed.

‘Why would they link the two?’ asked Liddy.

‘Well, that’s the interesting part,’ Mo said, ‘the bodies were drained of blood - they’re saying it’s some kind of cult, they even used the word “vampire” in the report!’

Christina scanned around in bewilderment at them all, her eyes finally coming to rest on Esther.

‘Don’t look at me that way,’ she said. ‘It wasn’t me!’

Christina looked around the rest of the girls questioningly again; they all denied any of them had anything to do with either of the killings.

‘We don’t do that,’ said Liddy to Mo, ‘we don’t kill. It’ll be some nutter who thinks they’re a vampire!’

‘Yep, you get them occasionally - makes life hard for us, because everyone thinks it’s us,’ Edie said.

‘Whoever it is,’ said Christina, ‘we’ve got to find them and put a stop to them before anyone else is murdered.’

Mo looked to Jess then to the other girls, she couldn’t believe that anyone of them was actually capable of killing anyone, but then again they were vampires - but of course so was she now!

‘We’ll go out on patrol tonight,’ Christina said. ‘If the first two happened in Windstone, you can bet the others will - if there are any more. Dominic can help too!’

‘You and he are getting pretty close, aren’t you?’ Edie said. ‘Wouldn’t be surprised if marriage wasn’t on the cards!’

‘I’m too young to be married,’ said Christina.

‘Sixty one, isn’t young,’ Dorothy pointed out.

Mo and Jess exchanged glances again and Christina caught them. She seemed to change her tune now. ‘On the other hand,’ she now said, ‘perhaps marriage may be an option. I mean, I have known him for what seems like a lifetime.’

‘It is a lifetime!’ said Liddy.

‘You haven’t been with him for all that time,’ said Dorothy. ‘So you haven’t really known him a lifetime.’

Christina’s eyes drifted to Mo again.

‘I know enough about him,’ she said, ‘to know that he’s the one for me. Anyway, let’s concentrate on the matter at hand - the girls’ murders and finding the person responsible!’

That night the girls split up into pairs, with the exception of Christina who paired off with Dominic, of course.

Mo and Jess naturally paired together too.

‘What do you think about Christina with Dominic, then?’ Jess asked Mo as they patrolled the streets.

‘She’s just in denial,’ said Mo.

‘Yep,’ said Jess, ‘that’s what I was thinking. I mean - she had a crush on you, didn’t she? Was what kept us apart for so long!’

Mo linked arms with Jess and leaned towards her and gave her an affectionate peck on the cheek. Then a noise disturbed them.

They glanced to each other, then peered over ominously to the bushes on their right where the sound had come from.

‘Do you think that’s him?’ Jess asked.

Then they heard it again.

Jess tugged on Mo’s arm. ‘Let’s get out of here!’

‘No,’ said Mo stopping her, ‘we have to investigate this - besides, he can’t harm us, we’re already dead, remember?’

There was a path that led into a bit of woodland to the right of the pair and the noise had come from up there. It had been like a rustle of bushes. It was too dark to see any distance up the path, however.

Then they heard the sound again and then a man’s voice, now.

‘Damon!’ he shouted.

‘Is he shouting “demon”?’ queried Jess.

‘No, I think it’s Damon,’ said Mo.

Jess looked to Mo ominously. ‘Isn’t that the little boy in The Omen?’ she asked.

‘No, that was Damien,’ said Mo.

‘Oh, yes,’ said Jess sounding slightly relieved.

‘Damon!’ The man’s voice again, and more rustling of bushes.

Then a black dog came running towards them.

‘It’s just a dog,’ observed Jess.

It was a rottweiller. Mo had never liked that type of dog, they had always looked like such an ugly creature to her and she couldn’t for the life of her imagine how anybody would ever want to own such a thing.

‘Nice boy,’ said Mo, trying to befriend the mutt as best she could, reaching out a hand to it, but then the dog directed a growl at her. She withdrew her hand swiftly.

‘Do you think it knows we’re vampires?’ asked Jess through gritted teeth.

Mo shrugged.

Then a man appeared out of the darkness. He had a skinhead haircut, and tattoos, and looked a bit rough. Mo couldn’t decide which was the uglier of the two creatures before her - the dog or the man. ‘There you are, Damon,’ he said to the dog.

Then he noticed Mo and Jess stood there gazing warily at the dog. ‘It’s okay, he doesn’t bite,’ the man said to them.

Mo and Jess exchanged glances and beamed to each other. Then the dog growled again baring its teeth at them.

‘What’s the matter, boy?’ the man said to it, it’s just a couple of girls.’

Couple of vampire girls, Mo thought to herself, which the dog could obviously sense.

‘Very attractive girls, if you don’t mind me saying so, ladies,’ the man said to them running his eyes over first Mo and then switching to Jess. Mo felt herself shudder at the thought of this man having let his eyes wander over her.

The dog gave a rumble again, more ferociously this time.

‘You think you two should be out here, this time of night,’ the man now said, ‘haven’t you heard about the murders?’

The dog growled once more, and now started barking franticly in Mo and Jess‘s direction.

‘What is wrong with you, Damon?’ the man said, and put him on the lead he had and dragged him away, without another word to the two girls.

‘What an ugly dog,’ said Mo as she watched the pair walk away from them.

‘What - the man or the rottweiller?’ Jess said laughing, and the two girls giggled to each other and then linked arms again, and began on their way once more.

The night passed without further incident, and when Mo and Jess got back to the house they discovered that the other girls, and Christina and Dominic, hadn’t had any luck finding anyone either.

8

Dominic saw the woman in the window. He was strolling along, thinking things through, wondering if he should risk a feed, or whether Christina and the girls were too close to him - and if they ever found out that it had been he who had murdered the two girls, he would have to move on again. And things were happening with him and Christina now and he didn’t want to risk losing her.

But the blood lust was stronger. It was getting the better of him - and now when he saw the woman in the window, he knew he would have to do something about it.

There’s something about potential victims. They appear vulnerable. Appear like victims. It’s almost as if they were always destined, looking the way they do, to become victims of one kind or another. It was almost like they were sending off signals to every conman, salesperson and killer around.

This woman definitely looked vulnerable as she stood in the window gazing out. She seemed to see him now, so he smiled to her. The woman didn’t, however, return the smile; she just disappeared out of sight from the window.

He lifted the latch on her front gate and made his way up the narrow path to the door.

When he’d reached it, he rang the bell.

A few seconds later the woman he’d seen opened the door. Now he realised why she probably appeared so vulnerable, and why she hadn’t returned the smile.

The woman just stared out, looking through him as though he wasn’t there - and the Labrador at her side began to rumble at him.

The woman was blind.

‘Hello?’ she asked. ‘Who’s there? Is it Jehovah Witnesses? Are you here to talk about Jesus?’

‘Jesus?’ he uttered. ‘Oh, yes - I’m a Jehovah’s Witness!’

‘Would you like to come in, I don’t know what’s wrong with Sammy, he’s normally okay with people, even strangers.’

As she led Dominic into her front room she pulled on her dog’s harness and said, ‘I’ll shove him in the bedroom.’

‘Nice house you’ve got here,’ Dominic said when she’d returned and sat down opposite him.

The front room seemed to be a little bare. He wondered if she’d just only recently moved in there. There was a framed painting with no actual painting in it hung on the wall opposite. But the most odd thing about the front room was that there was a row of broken-in-half house-bricks standing on their straight edge that seemed to be acting as the woman’s ornaments.

‘Sit down, make yourself at home,’ she offered.

‘I’m already sat down,’ Dominic told her.

The blind woman gave a laugh. ‘Oh, sorry.’

Dominic gave another momentary glance around the room, then back to the woman who remained staring sightless at him from her seated position opposite.

‘Would you like a drink - there’s some cans of beer in the fridge?’ the woman asked him.

‘No thanks, I don’t drink … beer,’ Dominic said.

‘Oh, well would you like to grab one, anyway,’ she said, ‘just to be polite - you never know, you might feel the urge.’

Dominic got to his feet.

‘It’s just through there,’ she instructed waving a finger in the direction of the hallway. ‘Careful you don’t enter the bedroom, that’s where Sammy is.’ She gave a laugh. ‘He doesn’t seem to like you.’

Once in the kitchen, Dominic opened the fridge and peered inside, but couldn’t see any cans of beer anywhere.

‘I can’t see any!’ he shouted back.

‘That’s funny,’ came the woman’s voice from the front room, ‘my home-help bought some the other day!’

‘Can’t see any!’ Dominic confirmed.

He closed the fridge door and looked around the kitchen to see if he could spy any, but he couldn’t. Then he glanced to what at first he thought was a clock but was, in fact, just a round foil baking tin with the type of plastic forks you get from a chip-shop instead of hands, stuck onto it.

He stared at the thing for a few moments longer, eyebrows lifted, then made his way back into the woman’s front room.

‘Do you like my new clock, by the way?’ she asked him as he sat down. ‘The one in the kitchen?’

‘Oh, that,’ he said and gave a laugh, ‘it’s … different.’

‘My home-help picked it out for me,’ she said. ‘Funny, though, I think it needs a new battery - it seems to have stopped at three o’clock when I felt it the other day. I’ll have to give her some more money to buy some new batteries for it.’

‘You give her a lot of money for things?’ Dominic questioned looking at the missing painting just above the settee behind the woman.

‘Well, yes,’ she told him. ‘She gets me everything. She had to pick out all my ornaments too, over there!’

Dominic looked to the row of broken in half house-bricks where the woman seemed to be motioning. ‘But those are …’

‘What?’

‘Oh, nothing.’

She felt around on the coffee table in front of her with her hands and picked up a pack of cigarettes that had been lying there. ‘Can I offer you a cigarette, then - seeing how there’s nothing to drink?’ She opened the pack and held it towards him.

‘I have to have a few pleasures in life,’ she said. ‘What do I care if it‘s not supposed to be good for you?’

Dominic took one.

‘I buy the good cigarettes,’ she said taking one for herself from the packet. ‘I like these because they’re more expensive than Benson and Hedges or any of them other cheap cigarettes, they’re much better!’

The pack she held was obviously Benson and Hedges, Dominic observed.

‘But those are …’ he began.

‘What?’

‘Oh, sorry - I was mistaken,’ he said.

‘My home help gets me them when she does my shopping,’ the woman said. ‘The price of things, these days - and she hardly ever brings me any change back!’

‘I can imagine,’ Dominic said.

It was becoming very obvious, by now, to Dominic, that this woman was a bit of soft touch for her home help and she’d obviously been ripping her off. But he wasn’t here to get involved; he was just here to feed. So he couldn’t see the point of telling the woman. After all - she’d be dead in a little while, so what did it matter anyway?

The woman lit her cigarette, then held out the lighter for him. Dominic bent forward and she moved the lighter around this way and that trying to locate his cigarette.

‘You’ve got it, there,’ he said when she’d finally managed to light it for him.

‘Smoking’s good, yeah?’ she said after taking a long drag on her cigarette, then blowing out blue smoke into the room. ‘I really enjoy a good smoke.’

‘Yes, smoking’s good,’ Dominic agreed.

‘Who’s bothered about their health - are you?’ she asked.

‘No, I’m not bothered about my health,’ Dominic said.

‘Stuff it, we’re going to live forever, aren’t we?’ she said.

‘Yes, I’m going to live forever,’ said Dominic. You’re not; he thought to himself, you’re going to be dead in just a few minutes.

They sat in silence for a while, smoking their cigarettes.

‘I don’t get many visitors,’ she told him. ‘Just my home-help, of course.’

There was more silence.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it’s a lonely life in the Wendy house.’

Dominic made a not-understanding face.

‘That’s my name - Wendy,’ she told him.

‘Oh, pleased to meet you, Wendy,’ Dominic said. ‘I’m Dominic.’

‘Pleased to meet you, Dominic,’ Wendy said.

‘So, you don’t get many visitors?’ Dominic asked.

‘Who’d want to visit a blind woman?’

‘Not even an attractive one, such as yourself?’ Dominic said.

‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘You’re a charmer. You got a girlfriend, or is that not allowed in the Jehovah’s Witnesses?’

‘Yeah, I’ve got a girlfriend.’

‘I bet you’re handsome,’ Wendy said. ‘You sound handsome.’

‘I don’t do too badly,’ Dominic said.

They fell into silence once more.

‘So?’ Wendy said eventually breaking it.

‘So, what?’ Dominic queried.

Wendy rolled her eyes. ‘So, tell me all about God, then, and how he’s going to save me from an afterlife condemned to Hell - as long as I accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour!’

‘Oh, that, yeah. Well …’

Dominic had had enough of this. It was time to feed. He slipped his hand into his pocket and slowly eased out his flick-knife.

‘What’s that?’ Wendy asked moving her head to one side and looking as if listening with her eyes in the manner that blind people did.

‘What’s, what?’ Dominic said.

‘What’s that you just got out? See - I don’t miss anything! It’s being blind, see, sharpens my other senses - especially my hearing!’

Dominic looked to the knife. ‘It’s just my … glasses case.’

‘Oh, was there something you wanted to read?’

‘Yes …’ He glanced to the local free newspaper lying on her coffee table. ‘… just the headline in the free paper, there.’

‘Where?’

‘There - your free paper on the coffee table?’

‘Have you got your glasses on now?’ Wendy asked.

‘Yes, I have.’

‘What does it say, then?’

‘What?’

Wendy rolled her eyes again. ‘The headline?

‘Oh, it says …’ Dominic saw that the headline was about the murders. ‘… says, about the local hospital and the cuts they’re going to make.’

Now Wendy’s face took on a look of confusion. ‘Funny, I thought the home-help said it was about the young girls who’d been murdered?’

‘Oh, yes, sorry - I brought the wrong glasses,’ he said giving a laugh. ‘These are my distance glasses.’

Then Dominic flicked up the blade on his knife.

The woman, of course, heard this too. ‘What’s that? What’s going on?’ She seemed to have become suddenly suspicious of him.

‘Nothing, I …’

‘What is that you have? It’s not a glasses case!’

‘Nothing, look …’ Dominic got to his feet and pocketed the knife. ‘… gotta go, lots of doors to knock on, you know? A Jehovah’s Witness’s work never done and all that!’

He made his way out of the front room into the hallway.

‘Don’t go!’ he heard Wendy calling after him in a voice filled with desperation. ‘It doesn’t matter what it is you have! You can stop for your tea if you like!’

Dominic made a dash out of the front door banging it shut behind him.

‘Must be getting soft in my old age!’ he said to himself as he made his way down Wendy’s garden path towards the gate.

A woman was coming in through it as he neared. ‘Who are you?’ she asked when she saw him, eyeing him suspiciously.

‘Oh, Jehovah’s Witnesses - just paid a call on … Wendy,’ he told her. ‘Who are you?’

‘I’m her home-help!’

‘The home help?’

‘Yes.’ She looked him up and down. ‘You sure you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, you don’t look like a Jehovah’s Witness!’

If Wendy - who was staring out longingly for her visitor to return, from the window of her house - had been able to see, she would have seen Dominic drag her home-help into the bushes near the front gate and the bushes becoming suddenly animated as a frantic struggle ensued, as Dominic fought and laboured to pin her down to feed off her.

Wendy - who had opened a window to shout for him to return - did, however, hear the same noise again she’d heard in her front room, the sound of Dominic’s flick-knife blade springing up.

9

In English Lit, Mr Gray had just brought a class to its conclusion. They’d been discussing Dracula again of course, the book the students had been set to read for their course uncannily enough. Mo was sitting next to Jess once more now. Before she had sat beside Christina, where - as Christina had put it - she could keep an eye on her. Now that Christina was okay with Mo and Jess’s relationship this wasn’t a problem anymore.

The irony of reading Dracula was not lost on the girls and there were many private jokes shared amongst them that the rest of the class didn’t get. Like Mo had witnessed the first time she’d met Christina and the others, and they had done their first English Lit lesson - before she had herself become a vampire.

Now she was in on the joke!

The bell went for first break, and the class clattered out of the classroom in their usual haste.

As Mo and Jess made their way out, Mr Gray called over to Mo, ‘Can I see you for a minute, Maureen?’

Jess laughed at Mr Gray calling Mo, Maureen, then smirked, ‘I’ll be by the lockers.’

‘Okay,’ Mo said to her.

Mr Gray shut the door and turned towards her once Jess had vacated the room, then slid onto the edge of a desk. ‘You okay, Maureen?’ he asked.

‘I prefer - Mo,’ she told him.

‘You okay, Mo?’ he corrected himself.

She shrugged. ‘Yep, suppose, why shouldn’t I be?’

‘I don’t know,’ Mr Gray said. ‘It’s just, I’m not very happy about the company you’re keeping, that’s all.’

‘What - Jess?’ Mo asked looking towards the door.

‘No, not Jess - Christina and her crowd,’ Mr Gray said. ‘Are they really the sort of people, a bright, intelligent girl like yourself should be hanging around with?’

Mo gave another hunch of her shoulders. ‘They’re all right,’ she said.

Mr Gray gave a forced laugh. ‘All right?’ he said. ‘They’re unruly, give cheek - especially Christina, she’s … a handful just on her own. And god-knows-why they look so pale, they’re probably on drugs or something!’ At this point he began to study Mo’s face. ‘You seem to be a little pale yourself since you’ve been hanging around with that crowd. There something you want to tell me?’

‘I’m not on drugs! Neither are they!’ Mo said twigging what he was getting at.

‘Why are they … you … so pale, then?’ Mr Gray frowned. ‘You look like you need a good feed!’

Mo couldn’t resist a snigger at this remark.

‘Oh,’ her lecturer said folding his arms across his chest, ‘I seem to have said something which is highly amusing, have I?’

‘No, sir,’ Mo said composing herself.

‘Look,’ Mr Gray said sincerely, ’you can talk to me, if you are having problems with drugs - if they’re pressuring you into taking stuff you don’t want to. You know that?’

‘We’re not on drugs, okay?’ said Mo trying to sound reassuring.

‘Well, what is it then? If it’s not drugs, what’s going on with you lot?’ Mr Gray asked. ‘Because there is something, I know there is!’

Mo looked at him, staring him in the face. ‘You wouldn’t believe me, if I told you,’ she said.

‘Try me,’ he said. ‘I’ve heard most things before!’

‘You won’t have heard of this thing, trust me!’ Mo said.

‘But I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me, whatever it is, are you?’ Mr Gray said.

Mo merely shrugged again.

‘Well,’ Mr Gray said, ‘if you’re not going to tell me this big secret, I don’t suppose I can force it out of you. But I will get to the bottom of this, Mauree … Mo - I will!’

Mr Gray let her go on her way after that. When she met Jess at the lockers, her lover wanted to know what it had been about.

‘He wanted to know what was wrong with me,’ she answered.

Jess gave a laugh. ‘What did you say?’

Mo shrugged. ‘I told him I was a vampire, of course!’

Jess looked at her, then realised she was joking.

‘He thinks we’re on drugs,’ Mo said.

‘Drugs?’ Jess said, and gave another laugh.

‘Drugs?’ Christina said a few moments later when they’d made their way to the back of the college, to meet up at break in their usual way.

‘Yes,’ Mo said. ‘Can you believe that?’

‘We usually move on when they start getting suspicious,’ said Christina.

‘You’re going to move on?’ asked Mo.

‘No, not yet,’ she answered, ‘it’s only Gray, anyway - how’s he going to find out what we really are?’

‘Well, we’re reading Dracula,’ Edie said. ‘Maybe he’ll put two and two together and come up with - vampires!

Everybody laughed.

‘There’s been another murder,’ Mo then said. She’d been meaning to say something but was waiting for the right moment. It always seemed like she was the bearer of bad news. As if this somehow made her responsible for what was actually going on! Like they were shooting the messenger, so-to-speak.

Everybody’s laughter suddenly ground to a halt.

‘Some blind woman’s home-help, in the bushes at the bottom of the garden,’ Mo revealed. ‘Apparently, he called at the blind woman’s house posing as a Jehovah’s Witness, probably with the intention to kill her.’

‘Why didn’t he?’ Liddy asked.

‘Dunno,’ said Mo, ‘must have developed a conscience because she was blind.’

‘Maybe we should move on, after all?’ Dorothy said. ‘With this killer at large? It’s only a matter of time before everything comes together and the finger is pointed in our direction!’

Everyone exchanged uneasy glances.

Mo thought they all seemed to be looking at her, of course. None of them were happy about this piece of news that she had brought them.

She could almost hear the strings being drawn and arrows being positioned and pointed in her direction. And, then, in her mind, she saw them let go of all the arrows and they came hurtling towards her. Mo gave a start as she felt their impact. Everyone was looking to her now.

She smiled uneasily back to her fellow vampires. Jess, however, was the only one of their number who returned it.

10

There was no one in the off-licence when Christina and Dominic entered through its doors, no one except for the two men at the counter who appeared like they might be the owners.

As Dominic distracted the pair, Christina put bottles of booze into the inside pockets of the enormous, oversized jacket she was wearing especially for the task ahead.

They were going to have a party at the house and they had very little money to do so - so they had been forced to resort to theft in order to have it.

Unlike the usual sort of parties the girls held at the house, this was not one such event to provide drunken victims for them to feed off. They couldn’t risk any suspicion falling on them about the murders, so they had agreed they wouldn’t feed for a while - at least not until the murderer had been caught.

This was a party purely for party reasons, and a bid to let their hair down to try to forget about their problems, mainly the murders that had forced them to curtail their activities.

When Christina had enough bottles concealed about her person, she grabbed a Twix bar and went over to the counter to pay for it.

‘Anything else?’ asked the first owner, when she’d handed over the bar to pay for it and dropped the money down on the counter. ‘Would you like any wine, perhaps?’

‘We have excellent vintages that madam or monsieur may care to enjoy?’ said the other owner looking first to her and then glancing over to Dominic.

‘We don’t drink … wine!’ Christina and Dominic said in unison.

‘Well, you’re underage anyway,’ said the first owner. He glanced to the sign on the wall that said everyone had to look twenty-one before they were served alcohol. ‘And I don’t think we’re even eighteen, are we?’

‘What - you two?’ asked Dominic sarcastically.

Both owners laughed to each other. ‘That’s very good, very funny, isn’t it, Burt?’

‘Yep, that’s highly humorous, Ern,’ said the other.

‘Burt and Ernie?’ said Christina, ‘what is this - Sesame Street?’

The two owners laughed forcefully to each other again.

‘Anything else?’ asked the first owner.

‘No, I think that’s everything,’ Christina said.

‘Just a Twix bar?’

Christina nodded. ‘Just a Twix bar, thanks.’

The first owner looked to the second. ‘Last of the big spenders!’

They both laughed again

When the laughter had died down the first owner produced a serious face. ‘What about the bottles inside your coat?’

Christina gave a nervous laugh. ‘What bottles inside my coat?’

Now the first owner produced a knife to go with the serious face - from under the counter - Dominic and Christina looked over and saw that the other owner was at the door and turning the OPEN sign hanging on it, to CLOSED.

‘Let’s have the bottles on the counter, there’s a good girl,’ said the first owner, jabbing in the direction of the counter with the knife he held.

Christina brought the bottles out from under her jacket one by one.

‘Is that all of them?’ asked the first owner after she’d done so.

Christina looked to the knife. ‘Yep,’ she said.

‘I don’t think so, I’m sure there’s one more,’ said the first owner.

Christina brought out another bottle and plonked it down on the counter with the others.

‘Now - in the storeroom!’ the first owner ordered to Christina, then looked to Dominic. ‘Both of you!’

‘What?’ said Christina. ‘But you got our bottles back, can’t we just be on our way?’

‘You stole from us,’ said the first owner. ‘We don’t like that, do we, Burt?’

‘No we don’t, Ern,’ the other owner said, ‘we don’t like that one bit.’

‘So - in the storeroom, if you don’t mind, please!’

‘What for?’

‘Just do it!’

Christina and Dominic reluctantly made their way over to the storeroom. ‘You’re making a big mistake, you know?’ said Dominic as they walked over to the door they were being motioned towards.

‘Why, what are you going to do, sunshine, cry on me - tell your mum?

Dominic just smiled. ‘Worse than that,’ he said.

‘I’m frightened,’ said the first owner mockingly. ‘You frightened, Burt?

‘I’m wetting myself, Ern.’

Once they were in the storeroom, and the pair of owners had shut the door behind them, the first owner said to them. ‘Now, we’re going to have some fun with one of you, and the other is going to let us - aren’t they?’

‘All right, you can do whatever you want with me, anything - just don’t hurt us, okay?’ Christina said to them.

The first owner rolled his eyes. ‘Not you - him!’ He eyed Dominic over favourably. ‘He’s the kind of fun we had in mind!’

‘Oh, you’re …’ said Christina getting the picture now.

At that moment, Dominic rushed Burt all of a sudden, managing to knock the knife from his hand. Christina did the same with Ern. They struggled, but of course Christina and Dominic were too strong for the two owners so they managed to overpower them easily enough.

They got the pair; both down on the floor and pulled their own knives out, Christina her craft knife, Dominic his flick. Then, much to Burt and Ern’s surprise and horror they quickly cut the pair’s hands open and began to drink their blood in the usual way.

On their way out, Christina and Dominic retrieved the bottles that Christina had put on the counter and left the shop with them.

‘First time for everything,’ Dominic turned to Christina to say as they left the shop’s doorway and stepped out into the cold winter night. ‘Getting blood at an off licence!’

Something light and wet hit Christina’s face, and she suddenly realised that it had began to snow. Peering around they saw a thin layer of flakes coating the road, pavements and rooftops of houses and shops.

Christina beamed. ‘I love the snow!’

‘Yes,’ said Dominic. ‘Remember the snow we used to have in the 60s?’

Christina beamed even wider. ‘Now, that was snow!

Dominic bent to make a snowball then looked to Christina.

‘No!’ she giggled realising his intention, running from him, ‘if you throw that, I’ll kill you!’

He threw it and it hit Christina on the back as she fled.

‘Can’t kill me!’ he called to her. ‘You should know that!’

‘No,’ she said stooping to scoop together some snow herself and fashioning it into a snowball, ‘but I can get you back!’

She got to her feet, aimed the snowball at Dominic and threw it. It hit him full in the face. ‘Oops,’ she said giving a smirk. ‘Are you all right?’

The snowball had felled him. She made her way over becoming concerned slightly.

‘I’ll live,’ he said as she reached him.

‘That would indeed be a miracle,’ Christina said as she helped him back to his feet. ‘If a snowball brought you back to life!’

They both laughed, and then stared at each other for what seemed like several lifetimes, then they kissed passionately.

11

The snow lasted for the next two weeks, although it didn’t snow every day for that duration - but there was always snow on the ground and coating the roofs, making everything look like scenes from Christmas cards.

Christmas just being around the corner.

Dominic and Christina’s relationship didn’t seem to be abating. They didn’t share a room, but they did spend more time in Christina’s room than he spent in Liddy’s painting room. Liddy was always making sarcastic comments and hinting about how she could have been using it to paint for all the use Dominic was making of it.

Mo and Jess’s relationship also flourished, they became a serious item. Even Mo’s mother began to come round and had almost accepted the pair. Mo had thought she might glimpse pigs flying past her window; too, such was the unlikelihood of this occurrence - her mother coming round - ever happening!

There were no more murders of young girls or home helps, and everyone seemed to think that whoever it had been who’d done them must have moved on now.

After a long while of not feeding - due to the fact that if caught doing so someone might think them the killer - they decided that it was now safe to do so. So the girls, accompanied by Dominic, went out in search of a meal that they could all nourish themselves on. They found it at the local youth club.

‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ Dorothy asked the others as they were passing it and saw the groups of youths making their way towards its doors.

Liddy licked her lips. ‘Oh, yes, see what you mean,’ she said. Then she stared longingly at the doors of the building. ‘I’m so hungry I could drain the blood from a horse!’

Everyone laughed at her comment and the girls and Dominic made their way up the path to the club.

As soon as they entered the doors, everyone inside stopped what they were doing and turned in their direction, becoming suddenly pale - though not half as pale as some of them would become in the not too distant future if the vampires had their way - worried expressions filled their faces.

‘Five to one, baby, one in five, no one here gets out alive!’ sang Dominic then turned and slammed the door shut behind them and pulled the bolt across securing it.

‘What’s going on?’ Christina said shooting a glance to him bewildered.

‘We’re going to feed, that’s what’s going on!’ Dominic said.

‘Yes, but we don’t kill anyone!’ she said. ‘What’s all this about not getting out of here alive?’

‘Why not?’ Dominic said.

Christina’s face clouded over and she became even paler than the youths assembled in the clubhouse or indeed herself usually was. ‘You’ve been killing people?’

‘Of course, that’s what humans are for, dining on, killing for their blood - we’re vampires!

‘Vampires?’ said one of the youths.

‘Yes, didn’t you know they are vampires,’ said the youth standing next to him. ‘That’s Christina and her vampire clan! Isn’t that right, Christina?’ His face alighted. He seemed to be a fan. ‘And you can drain me, any day!’

Some of the youths laughed uneasily at this remark, but most still appeared frightened.

‘I’ll make sure you’re the first I drain,’ said Dominic.

‘I don’t want you to do it,’ the youth said, switching his attention briefly to Dominic then swiftly back to Christina, ‘I want her!

This time there wasn’t any laughter.

‘If you’re vampires,’ said the other youth standing next to him, the first who had spoken, ‘where are your fangs?’

Murmurs of agreement from some of the assembled youths greeted this remark.

‘We don’t have fangs!’ said Dominic. ‘That’s just the movies.’

‘How do you get the blood, then?’ asked the youth who had been interested in Christina doing exactly that to him.

‘We cut you open and spill your warm human blood down our hungry, vampire throats!’ Dominic told him with relish.

The youth’s face clouded over.

‘Still keen to have our beloved Christina drink your blood?’ Dominic asked him.

The youth remained silent.

‘Those girls that were murdered, and the home-help woman - that was you?’ Christina wanted to know from Dominic now.

He smiled. ‘Yes, I’m afraid so.’

‘But we went out looking for the killer!’ said Christina, ‘you and me together!’

‘I’m sorry about that, my love, but I had to keep up the pretence. I knew how you’d feel if you knew it was me, and that I was doing that.’

‘Well, that’s us finished,’ Christina told him. ‘I don’t want to be in a relationship with a murderer!’

‘Well, that is indeed sad,’ said Dominic. ‘I shall miss our lovemaking.’

He turned to the youth who had been interested in Christina and brought out his knife and shot the blade up. ‘I’m still going to feed,’ he said. ‘And what better than a willing victim!’

He stepped forward towards the youth.

‘No, I wanted her!’ the youth pleaded backing away. ‘Please, don’t kill me!’

As Dominic reached him, he took hold and struggled with the youth. He was just about to cut the youth’s hand open between his thumb and forefinger in the usual way when somebody pulled him away.

It was Christina.

‘Stop me from feeding, would you?’ he said to her. ‘One of your own kind? Over some fan-boy with a crush for you?’

‘You’re not one of my kind!’ she said to him. ‘I’m not a cold-blooded murderer!’

She approached Dominic. Mo couldn’t see what occurred next, properly, it all happened so fast. One minute Christina was moving towards Dominic intently; the next Dominic was recoiling from her in flames!

The girls and the assembled youths watched in horror as Dominic burned. He cried out, once he’d realised what had happened to him, looking to Christina in bewilderment.

‘What have you done to me?’ he asked her.

Then the charred, blackened vampire was no more, and crumbled quickly to ash, dropping to the floor of the youth club.

It wasn’t just Dominic who’d been harmed by Christina’s mysterious action, Christina herself had too. Her hand was on fire. She glanced to it. The flames quickly diminished, however, and she was left staring at her burnt hand open-mouthed in shock, which even now as she watched was healing quickly.

The youth who’d been saved by Christina’s action, looked to her. All the other youths too, all stared towards the girls and the burnt remains of Dominic, slack-jawed and silent.

The girls were looking on in astonishment also. Mo glanced to Jess and then the pair of them returned their attention to the scene before them.

‘How did you do that?’ Dorothy asked Christina.

‘I don’t understand,’ Liddy said to her, ‘how come you burnt your hand?’

‘So, you going to drink my blood, now?’ the youth who had been interested in Christina doing so before, said to her with a broad smile.

‘No - thanks all the same,’ she told him, ‘I seem to have lost my appetite, now.’

The youth’s smile diminished. ‘Oh,’ he said, but then his face alighted again. ‘Can I give you my number? Then the next time you feel a bit peckish you could call me!’

She stared at him with a look that seemed to say, ‘Are you crazy?’ Then his face fell once more as he realised Christina wasn’t going to take him up on his offer.

At that moment, the caretaker emerged from his office and looked to the pile of smouldering ash by the youths’ feet.

‘Who made that bloody mess!’ he asked.

Everyone just looked around like they didn’t know what had happened.

‘Oh, I see,’ the caretaker said. ‘It’s always the same, isn’t it? No one ever knows who did anything!’

He shook his head to himself and to everyone’s astonishment, as they watched in stunned silence, began to sweep up the remains of Dominic onto a dustpan.

‘Who’s is this?’ he asked, after a few moments, stooping to pick something up from the ashes. The caretaker held it up and examined it.

‘You used a cross-dagger?’ said Liddy to Christina, recognising the object the man had retrieved from the ashes. ‘I’ve never seen one of them!’

‘You don’t want to,’ Christina said zombie-like, still miles away in thought, staring at the remains of Dominic - most of which was now on the caretaker’s dustpan.

‘How come you had one?’ asked Edie.

‘In case of emergencies,’ Christina said.

‘She means - if life got so unbearable she’d use it on herself! Isn’t that right, Christina?’ Dorothy said.

There was no reply.

‘I suppose no one knows who this belongs to, either?’ said the caretaker. ‘Well, I’m going to confiscate it. It looks like a dangerous weapon, anyway!’

‘I’ll say,’ said Liddy and gave a shudder.

‘It’s got Our Lord on it,’ the caretaker said examining it further, bewildered by the object, then shook his head to himself. ‘Is nothing sacred? Whatever will they think of next? Knives with the Saviour on, indeed!’

What Mo couldn’t understand as she observed the scene, and the cross-dagger, was how small it was - just six inches in length, if that - and yet it was capable of what it had just done!

The caretaker made his way over to the dustbin in the corner with his dustpan, and emptied the ash remains of Dominic into it.

He took one last glance at everyone and then shook his head to himself again, and disappeared back into his office looking once more to the cross-dagger.

Everyone sprung to life again, playing snooker, chatting, whatever they’d been doing before, as if nothing had ever happened.

The girls looked to each other then Christina nodded over to the door and they all left.

Outside they made their way back down the path.

‘At least you found out now, before you became any deeper involved,’ Liddy philosophised to Christina. But Christina didn’t hear, as she was still lost in her thoughts.

‘She’ll get over it,’ Dorothy said to the rest of them. ‘After all, she’s got an eternity to get over it.’

There were murmurs of agreement, Mo looked to Jess and they both exchanged uneasy half-smiles.

None of the girls noticed someone sat in a car opposite the youth club. No one even looked in the vehicle’s direction.

12

‘Devils,’ said the man sat in the car as he observed them leave the youth club.

Why should these evil ones, these heathens have stolen themselves eternal life? Only God could give eternal life - and he was quite sure that vampires were not God’s work. It was the Devil’s hand that had caused this to happen.

He had tracked the one that had gone into the youth club with them, the male, from another town. It had been the first one he’d found in a long time.

The man wondered why he had not come out of the youth club with the others? The girls who he’d entered it with. He was still in there, most probably. The man would check in a minute, although he was suspicious something had happened in there. The girls, when they emerged appeared troubled, especially one of their number - the one with long dark hair. She had appeared greatly troubled indeed.

The fiend he’d tracked was either still in there, dining off some poor unfortunate victim, or someone had beaten him to it in destroying the monster.

He was sad about that, if that had indeed happened - if some other doer of God’s work had killed one of the evil ones. One of those devil things!

But there was still the others, a whole seven more the man had counted!

He would destroy them. But before he did so he would save them, offer them salvation, repentance. He would take everything from them that the Devil had given to them - take away the bloodlust, take away the everlasting, take away the eternal!

The priest - for he was a priest, a man of God - opened up a small case on the passenger seat beside him and stared in awe at the object within.

He took it out and studied it. He liked to do so. Admire its design.

The best thing about the object he possessed was the figure of Christ his Saviour carved on it. On the handle part of it. But he also like to run his fingers down the blade and feel the sharpness of the point of it and imagine that sharpness piercing the skin of one of those devilish things that still managed to walk and move around like they were still living, despite not being so.

The priest put the cross-dagger - for that’s what the object was - back into its case, and after staring in admiration at it for a while longer, closed the lid.

Copyright David Barton 2012 

David Barton is the editor of Lost Souls Magazine, in 2010 he had his debut non-fantasy genre novel, Ever Fallen in Love, published by Lulu Press, which is available from Amazon. He has also had various short fiction, articles and pieces published in a number of different publications both online and in print.  Eternal is the second part of a trilogy of novellas to be published on here, which began with Ceremony (in Issue 19) It will be followed by the third part, Salvation, in a future issue.

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