THE VAMPIRE STORIES
(or "Let's Get Gothic")
by Andrew J. Müller
John Purcell looked at his watch with sleepy eyes, it was 10:30. He had been in the office for five hours longer than normal. He looked at the pile of work in his "in" tray and mentally shrugged. It would have to wait, he was just too tired. He stubbed out the remains of the cigarette which sat smouldering away to itself in the ashtray, a long grey piece of ash testifying to the fact he hadn't taken a pull from it since he had lit the thing.
Wearily he logged out and switched off the computer. Then he put on his coat, switched off the light in his office, picked up his briefcase and left. The office building was eerily empty, even the cleaners had been and gone hours ago. The plush, red carpet was clean and slightly damp. The lift was open and waiting for him at the end of the corridor.
As it descended John tried to rub the sleepiness from his eyes and wondered if he had missed the last Tube from Chancery Lane. He stepped out into the chilly October night and headed down Northington Street towards Gray's Inn. Strange how in these cavernous little streets between the office blocks that your own footsteps always echoed as if someone was following you. And it was strange too how, despite telling yourself that it was all your imagination, you couldn't help but look over your shoulder.
There was no one there, of course.
As he passed Gray's Inn a cold breeze blew up out of nowhere sending whirls of golden sycamore leaves flying into the air. Despite himself, John shivered and pulled his long trench coat tighter around himself. Annoyingly, when he reached Chancery Lane the London Transport guard was just pulling the grating across the entrance closing the station for the weekend. John stood for a moment staring at the grating and then muttering under his breath turned to buy a newspaper from the Vendor's stand just outside the Station.
"Just missed the last one, Guv?" asked the appallingly chirpy Vendor through his mouthful of doubtless lovely warm tea.
"Yes," John muttered trying not to sound aggrieved by the mans cheerfulness. "Times, please." The Vendor folded up a copy and John paid him his money and crossed the road to head for Faringdon Station instead.
The Vendor watched him go. "Miserable sod." He muttered under his breath and then became aware of a sudden coldness. He glanced down at the tea in his mug and his eyes widened as he saw the sheen of ice creeping across its surface. A shadow fell across him and he thought that the customer had come back to buy something else, but when he looked up his eyes widened even more and the mug dropped from his numb fingers to smash on the floor of the kiosk. Just as his vocal chords had unfrozen enough to scream a hand clutching his throat choked off the ability and pulled him forwards across the counter where his wares were soon ruined by a sticky warm fluid that was not spilt tea.
John Purcell did not hear the scuffling behind him. He was already well down Greville Street and approaching Faringdon Station, which thankfully didn't shut as soon as the workers had all departed London.
Whether it was because the sun never penetrated the shadows down this back alley of a road or for some other reason John felt colder here than ever and could feel the chill reaching down inside of him. Thank God it would be warm down the Tube ... the train of his thoughts stopped and he turned around to look back the way he had come. There was a tall figure turning into the street a long way behind him, dressed in what appeared from this distance to be an old fashioned cape, but which was surely just one of those long Macs that City folk tended to wear over their Armanis and Versacis. The figure seemed to move almost without moving, gracefully like a cat but with all the purpose of a charging bull.
John tore his eyes away from the figure and almost unconsciously quickened his pace until he reached Faringdon Tube. He hurried down the escalators, not quite sure why he was so spooked by the distant figure and found himself hoping that the Metropolitan Line was running a bit more frequently today than it usually did. For a change he was in luck, and the train thundered into the Station almost as soon as John arrived on the platform.
Gratefully he got on and wondered why it was still so cold. For what seemed like an age the Tube sat there with its doors open, seemingly inviting the follower to get on the train - in the same compartment - as John. He shook his head and cursed his imagination. Determined to keep his mind on other matters he unfolded his paper.
"Mysterious Deaths in the City!" screamed the headlines of the usually conservative paper. Angrily, John slapped the paper shut and was pleased when the train doors closed and it rattled slowly out of the Station. As the train rattled through the darkness John felt his anxiety slowly dissipate. Until it pulled into the dinginess of Moorgate Station when the driver suddenly announced that there was a security alert and that could all passengers please disembark here and continue their journey on foot.
Suddenly John felt a bit queasy and as he stepped off the train he looked up and down the platform to see if anyone else was getting off with him. Two compartments away one of the standard late-night 'weirdies' staggered off the train and starting arguing vociferously with himself. Cold comfort, thought John and headed quickly out of the Station. As he left a tall, elegant figure stepped from the last compartment of the train and watched him.
The escalators at Moorgate are long, and it seemed an age standing on that jerky step. As he reached the top half John sensed coldness seeping once more up the stairs towards him. He turned around expecting to see the tall figure. Instead he saw the drunk laying face down on the steps below him, glistening in the dim lights. He was wet, and the liquid was too dark for spirits. John didn't need to study him too much to know blood when he saw it. Abandoning all show of decorum John hared up the remaining steps and shot out of Moorgate Station like a rabbit.
Moorgate was strangely absent of life. No cars, no people, nothing. Still that meant he could make Bank station quicker. He ran faster than he had since he was child. There she was, The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street; the Bank of England, a more welcoming edifice than it had ever been before.
Just when he began to relax he saw him. Standing a few metres in front of the Bank. The tall figure. Suddenly, feeling like a fox whose just seen a man in red with a horn, John Purcell raced across Moorgate and ran faster still down Gresham Street.
He turned the corner and came face-to-face with the great dome of St. Paul's, but as he ran around the Cathedral, a figure stepped from the grounds and took a firm hold of his hands. John knew who it would be without needing to look, but he did look. He looked into blood red eyes which seemed to bore a hole straight through to his brain. They were in a lean, ashen white face. The man smiled at John and revealed the pointed teeth that John somehow had begun to expect. Unresistingly, John was lead into the dark shadows around the base of the Cathedral.
When his senses returned and he began to struggle, the man's mouth was already clamped to his neck and John felt his blood being drawn from him, and with it his energy, his fight and his life. The last vision he saw before death took a cold hand on his heart was the mouth of his attacker smeared with his own blood, tongue lolling like a dogs. Then darkness enfolded him like a shroud and the vampire stopped his feeding as John's life ebbed away to nothing.
"Black Tears and Violet Spectres (or "Let's Get Gothic")" first appeared in the 1997 Anthology "Mixed Nuts", published by the Medway and Maidstone Writers' Group.
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