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I am a writer of novels, plays and film scripts. I live in Manchester England with my partner Andy and our teenage son Jack. Andy and I started my Newsletter Raw Meat and began publishing with Rawprintz in 1999 to showcase my work. Some of you may be confused by my continual references to Ziggy, that’s my wheelchair! Both Andy and I are writers. I’ve recently lost my sight – hence the continual reference to my being confused! Thanks for visiting.

My Comrades...


The Reluctant Vampire - Chapter Eight


I finished college at five the next day and walked straight to the psychiatric clinic. I was over an hour late (my appointment had been for three forty), but I had forgotten about my History lesson, for some reason. I felt that I could not miss it again as I had been absent on Monday. Anyway, I was unable to see Dr. Lloyd-Jones as the type of person who would have stuck very rigidly to the appointment system – though I fully expected the disapproval of his horse-headed receptionist.

I got it, alright. I followed her immaculately filed nail down the list of names until it stopped, accusingly, at mine. The lovely looking receptionist shook her yellow mane fiercely and snorted, staring at me. She was wasted in Timperley, she was made to be a soap opera extra in Dallas. I smiled at her blandly.

“Your appointment was an hour and a half ago, Miss Smith,” she said reproachfully. She seemed to have taken my lack of punctuality as a personal insult.

“Yes, I know,” I explained patiently, “I’ll apologise to Dr. Lloyd-Jones, don’t worry.”

The receptionist tossed her head again, her arrogant stallion blood bubbling to the surface.

“Miss Smith, I’m afraid you can’t possibly turn up this late and expect to see the Doctor. It’s out –“

“Ah, Alison!”

I turned to see Dr. Lloyd-Jones grinning at me from the doorway of his office. He stepped back, gesturing theatrically for me to enter the room. “I’ve been expecting you. Come in. Come in.”

I went in, shooting a final, triumphant glance at the receptionist. She looked away, tossing her head as if she didn’t care, but I knew that she did. I grinned and rubbed my hands in glee, entering the doctor’s den.

“Sorry I’m a bit late,” I said, sitting down in my familiar cushioned chair and glancing at the grey brain floating in its solution of formaldehyde. The room was pleasant in the late afternoon; the sun streamed weakly in through the window, throwing it’s slanting beams across the desk and floor. Dr. Lloyd-Jones shut the door and strolled round behind the desk, smiling faintly, his hands in his pockets.

“Late? Are you?” He glanced quickly at his watch. “Dear me yes, you are a bit.”

As I had thought, he showed not the slightest concern, unlike horse-face.

“Ah, well. Let’s begin then! Like a barley sugar?”

I took one politely and returned to my chair. There was a long silence which I felt unable to fill; I had nothing to say… nothing that is, which would not lead me to mention Thomas, either directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally. It was strange, this knowledge that you must avoid a certain topic at all costs… suddenly my entire range of conversation dried up… it was not that I could not talk about anything except Thomas… but it certainly felt that way. I sat there, chewing on my barley sugar, examining my Doc Marten’s critically. Dr. Lloyd-Jones also sat in silence, chewing and watching me above the pyramid formed by his fingertips, which were pressed together pensively.

“Well, how do you feel?” he asked finally.

I looked up sharply, my eyes meeting his. He sniggered.

“I’m… very well, thank you,” I answered awkwardly. There descended yet another long, still pause. “How are you?”

“Oh wonderful, wonderful.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones smiled widely, swinging on his chair, his teeth flashing in the sunlight. He seemed reluctant to talk about himself today, even though I was also reluctant to talk about myself. The doctor continued to stare and smile at me, drumming his immaculate fingers on his desktop. I wondered if we were just going to sit here in silence until it was time to go. The idea began to appeal to me; but the doctor seemed suddenly gripped with the desire for conversation – or perhaps monologue, for I didn’t enter very actively into the discussion at first.

“You say you feel better?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“And you’re… sleeping better?” The doctor said raising his eyebrows inquisitively.

“I’ve already said I am.”

“And…” Dr. Lloyd-Jones leaned across the desk resting his chin carefully on top of the tank containing the hideous, yet fascinating portion of cerebral anatomy. “Tell me Alison, how is your vampire?”

I gazed into those piercing, permanently happy eyes, sucking on my barley sugar frantically. This was an entirely new strategy, where, if anywhere, was this leading to?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I stammered finally. I found that I could not meet the doctors’ dancing gaze any longer.

“How strange.” He whirled round on his swivel chair, pushing with his pointed shoe like a child on a roundabout.

“And you told me, only the other day, that you had seen a vampire in your dream. I wouldn’t have thought that you would forget a vision of such a creature in a hurry.”

There was no malice in his voice, but I felt trapped. I remembered Thomas’s effortless lies and fabrications the night before to Cassandra; and I thought desperately, why couldn’t I do that? Why must it always be so difficult for me to protect Thomas’s skin? Mercilessly the doctor continued in his casual tone, still spinning like a child’s toy behind his desk.

“Also, I read in your notes that you – let’s see " He ceased to turn, bending over my case notes idly, “- you were very persistent in your claims that you had seen and had contact with a vampire.”

“Who told you that?”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones smiled indulgently.

“A reliable source.”

I was silent. I couldn’t think straight.

“Is it true?”

“Of course, it’s not bloody true!”

“Well, why did you say it then?”

I sighed; I didn’t understand why I couldn’t handle this. I wished that Thomas were with me now to tell those terrible lies with ease and grace.

“Look, why do you think I’m here? I’m ill, aren’t I? I thought that I saw a vampire… it was in my head.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Look, what is this?” I stood up and approached the doctor’s desk angrily. He continued to lean towards me, watching and smirking insolently, I banged my fist down on the table in front of him, and he winced slightly. “I thought you were a doctor! I thought that the idea was to make me better! So, why are you trying to convince me that my… hallucinations were real? Why are you trying to confuse me?”

“Am I confusing you? I’m sorry.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones picked up a silver fountain pen from beside the photo of his family and began to roll it back and forth, along the desktop. I watched it, fuming but mesmerised. The doctor coughed sharply. “Do sit down, Alison, you’re making me quite nervous.

Still watching the pen, I sat down. I felt numb, and yet utterly confused. Here I was trying desperately to deny the existence of someone I knew existed, to a person who was trying to convince me that the someone really did exist. No wonder I was confused.

“You’re wrong anyway,” the doctor told me, picking the pen up and holding it between his delicate white fingers, as if it were an ancient archaeological treasure. He stroked his neat black moustache thoughtfully, smiling gently beneath it. “I am not a doctor so I am not trying to make you feel better. As a psychiatrist, I am attempting to make you see, perceive and cope with the reality around you.”

“Does that include vampires?” I muttered, sullenly.

“If that is part of reality, then yes.”

“But it’s not!” I cried, exasperatedly. “Anyone can tell you, vampires are not real!”

“Only because they haven’t seen one.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones swivelled in his chair until he was facing the print of The Nightmare. He gazed at the Gothic monstrosity, pensively. “Once you see something with your own eyes, it becomes part of reality.”

I said nothing. This conversation seemed to have taken a definite, dangerous plunge into the murky depths of philosophy. Questions concerning the reality of existence were always best left to experts like Descartes and Plato, I had always thought. I wanted to leave, but at the same time I didn’t. Here, at last, was someone who was prepared to believe in Thomas, but I couldn’t say anything… I had promised. ‘Never trust a psychiatrist’, Thomas had told me ominously; so I was forced to keep silent whilst the doctor gazed at Fuseli’s painting, smiling to himself.

“I would be quite prepared to believe in your vampire friend, you know, I am no sceptic,” he told me quietly, pressing his fingertips together in front of his chin. “If he is a part of your existence, then don’t deny his reality. Don’t you think you owe that to him, at least? I would very much like to meet him, I find I believe in him already!” He giggled, delighted. “May I meet him?”

I stood up. I was suddenly convinced that this desire to meet a vampire was linked with the doctor’s morbid obsession with death that runs like a vein of Blue John all through his satanic family. Those stuffed creatures became menacing, pressing on the sides of their tanks, infected with that vampire un-deadness. And would Thomas’s hollow body be propped on a hat stand and placed in the most favourite position, just inside the front door? No… I could stop this; I must not allow the doctor to see Thomas as any cost. Though I didn’t know how to even begin arguing against Thomas’s existence now, perhaps the best move would be to simply leave quickly. I walked to the door and opened it. When I looked back, the doctor was still gazing blissfully into the depths of the painting on the wall.

“No, I’m afraid you can’t meet my friend,” I said quietly. I hesitated, wondering if I was being firm enough.

The doctor didn’t even look up. “Goodbye then.”

I shut the door quietly behind me and left the clinic.
Now go to Chapter Nine...


The Reluctant Vampire - Chapter Seven


The afternoon sunlight came in through the window of the classroom, catching on Mr. Henry’s glasses as he pushed them back on the bridge of his nose with great care. He looked up and gazed slowly around the room.

“Of course, that graveyard scene, with the noble prince with his skull has become the great classic of the tragic nature of this play… which we all know by now don’t we?”

As he looked around the room once again turning his head very slowly so that his greasy black hair shone like new leather his magnified eyes swam behind the thick lenses, obviously a source of great pride to him.

I stuffed my hand into my mouth quickly – I couldn’t help it, how could I possibly take him seriously? Beside me Cassandra nudged me in the ribs.

“I see he’s got his glasses mended. Thank God”. She remarked lazily.

I could only answer her mutely as I bit down on the side of my hand… so hard that it reminded me of Thomas’s fangs.

Mr. Henry droned on and on, his words fast losing shape in the tedium of that Friday afternoon feeling.

Mr. Henry cleared his throat sharply, raising his voice suddenly.

“Alison, please do share the joke with us. Obviously something I’ve said amuses you.”

“It … it … it’s just so funny,” I spluttered.

Mr. Henry glared at me icily and nodded slowly. Beside me, infected by my mirth, Cassandra had begun to giggle.

“Obviously.” Mr.. Henry folded his arm slowly. “Obviously it’s just… so… funny. But what is ‘it’?” He leant on his desk, attempting to look cool and witty. “Let me see now… what sort of incident would our good friend Alison find so entertaining. Hamlet’s love for his father? His hatred for his step-father? His death? Ophelia’s death?”

“That’s it!” I jumped to my feet, still grinning. “Ophelia’s death. Your suggestion that it may have been brought on by herself, that’s funny. It’s outrageous! It’s so obvious that men drove her to her death, can’t you see that?”

I dissolved into laughter again. Mr. Henry stared at me, drumming his fingers on the edge of the desk nervously. His eyes darted around, swimming like frightened minnows behind the new lenses. He knew that he was being made to look a fool but he could do nothing about it.

* * * *

Later, in the canteen, Cassandra and I sat eating our lunch. We went over the events in our English Literature lesson that morning and laughed again. When a silence fell, Cassandra put her elbows carefully onto the table and cleared her throat. She wore at least twenty multicoloured bangles that slipped noisily down her arm.

“Al,” she said, gazing intently at her empty paper cup, “I wondered if – you know – if you’d been to … you know, you said you were going to go … I wondered?”

“The psychiatrist?” I supplemented helpfully.

Cassandra nodded gratefully, her rainbow shaped earrings bouncing in relief. I looked away, all my previous hostility concerning this subject had gone, or at least faded but I still had to tread very carefully around the subject of Thomas – who was, as I had promised him, a figment of my imagination after all.

“I saw the psychiatrist yesterday,” I told my friend, as casually as I could. “Dr. Lloyd-Jones, he was alright, a bit odd but I feel much better.”

Cassandra nodded, smiling warmly.

“You seem much better.” There was a pause as Cassandra studied her mulberry painted fingernails. “What did you talk about?” she asked.

I shrugged vaguely.

“Oh … things … you know.”

“Did you mention… your friendly vampire?” She smiled secretly and I smiled uncomfortably back.

“Oh him… I mean that,” I muttered, thinking desperately. “It’s… it’s a bit embarrassing really. It was…” I shrugged again “… all in my head, I suppose.”

Cassandra nodded slowly, she broke the plastic teaspoon carefully before she spoke.

“You were very insistent that this bloke was a real vampire,” she said. “He was living with you, wasn’t he? Thomas, was that his name?”

“Yes, Thomas that’s right.”

There was another pause and I realized that I would have to explain more fully.

“Well, you see, there is a bloke called Thomas and he is living with me, only he’s… he’s not … a… vampire.” I felt sure that she would see through my lie. It all sounded so terribly weak to me. “I don’t know why I said he was, how could he be? There’s no such thing as vampires. They’re just a myth.”

Cassandra was silent. Her many rings sparkled under the electric lights, rather like Thomas’s fangs had done the previous night. Then she looked up at me, her smile returning.

“It’s just a myth, as we all know.” She gazed at me, curious now. “So what’s this Thomas like? Describe him.”

“I can’t.” I felt temporarily floored. “You’d have to meet him.”


I sighed. Cassandra rose from the table and I knew that the decision had already been made. Yet again it was all out of my hands. My destiny was already drawn up. What had I let Thomas and myself in for now?

“Alright, tonight,” I agreed miserably.

* * * *

Cassandra and I arrived at my house in the middle of the afternoon. The sunny weather had remained and I had left all of the upstairs windows open to air the rooms. A fresh breeze was blowing, stronger than yesterday and the curtains billowed out gently through the open windows like different coloured flags, marking each separate territory. We entered the house and made ourselves each a chocolate milk shake, intending then to go out and sit in the garden. But upon thinking that I heard footsteps on the stairs and voices, I went out into the hall to investigate and almost collided with my father as he came down the stairs. He glared at me, his blue eyes cold and hard like pebbles on the beach and then turned to a small, smartly dressed man behind him.

“Mr. Whittaker, this is my daughter Alison, who is living here at the moment. Alison, this is Mr. Whittaker, the valuer from the Estate Agents.”

The tiny, dapper chap smiled politely and nodded his balding head. I towered a full foot above him and I could tell that this fact unnerved him. He fidgeted with his thin black tie, I noticed that there were patches of sweat that were spreading, like cancer, beneath the arms of his pale blue shirt and his fingertips were stained with nicotine. I took a gulp of my milk shake as I studied him.

“Good day,” I said casually, “I hope you find everything… presentable.”

I caught my dad’s eye at last and we stared arrogantly at each other for a while. He was the first to look away. Even so, he was bound to have found something to criticize. Surreptitiously I glanced at the damp patch of wine on the wall of the front room. It was faded – you could hardly see it now. I was glad that I had been out while those two business-like idiots had tramped round the house, scrutinizing everything, missing nothing and valuing it all. The idea of selling the house seemed suddenly abhorrent to me; it was my castle after all.

“Mr. Whittaker was just leaving,” my dad told me grimly, avoiding my eye very carefully. He opened the front door and stepped back politely.

I raised my glass as the tiny shrew-like man stepped through it, still smiling nervously and sweating.

“Good day,” I said again.

Cassandra had made a quick exit out of the back door when she had heard my father’s voice. I followed her out into the garden and we sat beneath the apple tree, sipping our milk shakes. Bosworth came over and flopped down on the grass next to us, leaping up to snap at flies every so often. Cassandra laughed at him, teasing him by throwing bits of earth into the air and watching him grab and swallow them without even appearing to notice that they were not, after all, flies.

“When’s Thomas coming round then?” she asked after a while.

“Later,” I answered, glancing automatically at the shed. It was bizarre to think that Thomas was already here, lying in a deep sleep in his coffin, not twenty feet from us. I wondered how Cassandra would react if I showed her my vampire in his sleeping state but Thomas would never forgive me, I abandoned the idea. Then my father came out of the house, that beautiful Byronic scowl on his face. His thick eyebrows were pulled low over his shifty, mean eyes; his face was one of extraordinary contradictions and angles, smattered with features that did not belong there, nothing matched. The face itself, was quite lethally geometric and bony; grey like a pebble washed by the sea, yet the cheeks were rosy, the eyes bright; thin almost emaciated, as far as the neck. Then something happened to my fathers’ body; it expanded alarmingly and grew squat, rotund. The buttons of his shirt clung to their respective buttonholes for dear life, stretched taut across his expansive middle. But in contradiction to this roundness, his arms and legs were long and bony. Taken as a whole, he strongly resembled a beetle. Every piece of his torso seemed independent and out of proportion to the rest; it was as if he had been sewn together from all sorts of different bits and pieces, a second Frankenstein’s monster. I remember he used to terrify me as a child, now he just irritated me.

My dad saw Cassandra and nodded at her, dismissively but it was me that he was making a beeline for. I stifled a sigh and thought of what potential state of neglect I could have overlooked in the house, a pot out of place? An ashtray not emptied? A coffin in the shed? Almost dropping milk shake in panic, I tried to force myself to be calm. I could bluff my way out of this. I fixed my face into a casual, insolent smile.

“You,” my father began, shaking a finger at me, “are not fit to live alone in this house.”

I kept smiling, yawning deliberately as he elaborated on this accusation.

“How many times must I remind you that this house is not yours, it’s mine. I’ve got to sell it and you’re supposed to be responsible about it. I told your Mum you’re obviously not responsible but, oh no, she says you’re nineteen, you’re quite responsible enough.”

“Well, she’s right,” I said, throwing a daisy in the air and watching Bosworth eat it.

“Is that what you think? Well, I don’t, I certainly don’t.” My father folded his arms across his barrel-like chest and glanced around the garden, presumably to help him concentrate, while avoiding my eye. “Don ‘t you think that it’s completely irresponsible, not to mention bloody dangerous, to go out and leave all the windows open? What are you trying to do, invite a burglar in? You’re certainly making sure that he’d feel welcome!”

I couldn’t help it, I thought of the night Thomas broke in. The house certainly wasn’t secure against visitors from beyond the grave. I glanced at Cassandra, who had spluttered on a mouthful of milk shake and was trying to disguise her titters in a sudden coughing fit.

“Dad, no one would break into any of these houses in the daytime, someone would see them. These houses… they’re so close together and they’re so nosy round here,” I added maliciously.

“That’s the kind of attitude that house-breakers must adore,” my father told me smugly. After a slight pause, he went on to the next item he had found to criticise. “Now, there’s something missing. A vase, pale pink I think it was, or orange, from the hall.”

“Ah,” I said guiltily. I must have been mad to think that my dad wouldn’t notice its absence. “That, well it was an accident, Bosworth did it. I didn’t realise that it was worth anything.”

My father nodded, pleased that he had me at his mercy. He even met my eye; he must have felt at quite an advantage, both morally and physically, as I remained seated in the grass at his feet.

“Everything in this house is worth something, my girl, remember that. Your mother was very fond of that ornament; I don’t care whose fault it was.” There was another silence; perhaps the lecture was over now. But my father remained where he was, stroking his gaunt chin thoughtfully. The lines on his face caused the skin to look like a piece of origami sculpture. His withering, grey hair was ruffled in the wind and he looked like a character from a children’s picture book, Grandpa on the ranch.

“Another thing,” he said slowly, “the shed.”

I grabbed hold of the rickety wooden fence behind me, feeling the earth move beneath me. My empty glass hit the grass with a thump and rolled into Bosworth, who leapt up, startled. I felt sure that I had gone as pale as Thomas, the blood draining away like water going down a plughole. What now? What now? How could I explain a coffin in my shed? Or what if my dad opened it? How did I explain a sleeping vampire in my shed?

“Tell me,” said my dad, his perpetual scowl deepening, folding his face with neat creases like a newspaper, “what on earth is that huge crate? It looks like… some sort of… cupboard… very heavy…”

I caught my breath.

“You didn’t try to lift it?”

“Well… not lift it… just shift it but it weighs a ton. Alison, what is it?”

The killer question. Luckily I was good at thinking under pressure. My mind raced ahead of time.

“Well, it’s a sort of big chest. Someone I know gave it to me. It used to be their grannies.”

“Very nice, I’m sure.” My dad gave me one of his condescending glances. “But why is it in my shed?”

“It’s… just temporary. I don’t want to leave it out in the garden, do I now? It’ll get warped in the rain. I want to put things in it eventually.”

“You mean it’s empty? I tried to open it but it seems to be locked. Why’s it so heavy then?”

Relief overwhelmed me. I hadn’t considered that vampires would lock their coffins, by whatever means, once inside but it was logical really. I was beginning to feel quite secure with this story of the ancient treasure chest. I picked up my glass and stood up, I felt better. I could look down on my father now and he quickly looked away. I began to stroll inside.

“It’s heavy because… the wood it’s made from, I suppose. It’s very old, very well made. I’ll get it moved sometime. Come on Cassandra.”

“That wasn’t true, was it? About the old, terribly well made chest?” Cassandra tasted the stew and grimaced. She sprinkled black pepper and garlic salt into the mixture. “What’s in it really? Opium?”

I sat on top of one of the worktops nearby, buttering bread. I felt truly relaxed now that my father was gone. I hadn’t realised what a vast amount of stress parents, particularly my parents, put on their children. I would probably have suffered a coronary at nineteen if I had stayed at home, or been driven to an early suicide; arsenic and water of course, like Chatterton.

“It was true, actually. The chest is empty.”

“Alison.” I nearly fell off my precarious perch. I hadn’t heard Thomas creep in and, besides that, I hardly recognised him. He had tied his hair back into a ponytail and borrowed my maroon jumper from my wardrobe, discarding his cloak. I wondered if he had flown upstairs in the form of a bat, when he had glimpsed Cassandra through the window. If this was so, I would have thought that he would have taken a long walk elsewhere, preferring to avoid my curious friends. But clearly, the ways of the vampire were diverse and secretive.

“Oh, Cassandra,” I explained hastily, gesturing with my knife, “this is Thomas.”

Cassandra was already gazing at Thomas, transfixed. She continued to stir the stew mechanically.

“Hello there,” she said slowly, stammering a little; or was that my imagination? Was I not the only one who found Thomas an imposing, disturbing figure then? It appeared not. For the first time I saw Thomas, not as a vampire belonging exclusively to me in my own world, but as a person, a friend, spreading his bat like wings into other people’s sphere of consciousness. I saw him, as I think Cassandra must have seen him, a towering, gaunt figure, with terribly pale skin, hollow dark eyes set in a fragile face; a morose figure, probably a phlegmatic, melancholy character with tendencies towards the macabre and general bouts of moodiness. All this, we would have seen, a man without his shroud, his epidermis, his mysterious nocturnal cloak which would have given him away as what he really was, a vampire.

“Ah, you must be Cassandra, then.” Thomas smiled slightly so as not to reveal his fangs and gave a little theatrical bow. Of course, Cassandra was delighted. A fellow follower of drama at last! I noticed that Thomas was also trying to disguise his accent but he wasn’t very successful.

“You’re foreign, aren’t you?” Asked Cassandra. “Where do you come from?”

Thomas was not in the least bit thrown. That evening I was to become aware of just how good a liar he was.

“I was born in Poland,” he said effortlessly. “I have lived here for… fourteen years but I still retain a little of my accent.”

“You must tell me about Poland.” Cassandra tasted the stew again, her bangles clattering to her elbow as she raised her arm and she turned to me. “Al, this is ready.”

“Right,” I said, leaping off the table.

* * * *

We spent the rest of the evening sitting in the back room and talking. I was greatly impressed at Thomas’s extensive knowledge of all aspects of the Polish community, country and life. Later I realised that he was probably just describing Romania; the chances were that Cassandra would never find out the difference, anyway. I could tell she was completely infatuated by Thomas, not in a lustful or soppy sense; but she hung on every word of his conversation. While at the same time treating him with a mixture of respect, curiosity and friendliness, which was a rare brew to be found in Cassandra’s attitude towards others at any time but I knew exactly how she felt. Thomas carried the magnetic quality, an idiosyncratic charisma like a torch wherever he went; and the magic enchanted every acquaintance he made; a witch’s spell that never failed. I half expected Cassandra to bring up the subject of my visit to the psychiatrist at any time, and consequently vampires but she seemed to be avoiding that topic pretty neatly. I thought that, perhaps she didn’t think that Thomas knew that I had ‘ah … problems’.

Towards one o’clock, I collected up the many empty cups and went out into the kitchen to make one last cup of tea. Cassandra and Thomas were engaged in an intricate conversation concerning equal pay for women. I was glad that Cassandra so obviously liked Thomas. I suddenly wanted to take him into college and show him off to all my friends, like a new dress. Then I realised that this would be impossible, due to college only being open during daylight hours. Bosworth wound himself around my ankles, mewing pitifully. I slopped some Whiskas into his bowl and bent down to put it on the floor for him. That cat had such strange meal times. As I crouched in the kitchen doorway, watching my orange cat munch happily, I realised that I could hear Cassandra and Thomas quite clearly. I tried to figure out the scientific reason for this but I couldn’t so I gave up and listened instead.

I was interested to discover that my two friends had left the subject of monetary feminism behind and had turned instead, to me. Was there a link?

“I wondered if you knew.” That was Cassandra.

“Yes, I’m quite aware.” Thomas’s reply was quick and casual; I knew that they must be discussing my psychiatric treatment. This annoyed me a little, why couldn’t they discuss it in front of me?

“I hope you don’t think that I’m nosey… it’s none of my business really…”

No, Cassandra, it isn’t I thought fiercely.

“It’s just that it… it fascinates me a bit I suppose, in a funny way. She seemed so convinced that you… you were a … a vampire.”

There was a stunned silence and I had a sudden urge to giggle.

“A… what?” Thomas’s shock and disbelief were superb.

Cassandra tittered nervously.

“Well, a vampire. You know, one of those blokes who sleeps all day in a coffin and goes round drinking blood.”

I held my breath, if Cassandra thought… if she just considered a moment… then she would realise. The massive, suspicious chest in the garden shed… the paleness… the foreign accent… beneath that silly maroon jumper was a real, live vampire.

“She denies it now, admits it was all in her mind but at the time she… she really seemed to believe it.”

I heard a sound then, that I didn’t recognise; then I realised that Thomas was laughing; a low hard laugh that I could tell was accompanied by a shaking of the head.

“A vampire? Dear, dear me. Poor Alison, she is quite ill.”

I shoved my fist into my mouth to stop myself from screaming, that appalling, patronising tone! I knew that Thomas was only acting, but – Christ – he was such a bloody accomplished actor!

“I’m sorry,” said Cassandra “I didn’t mean to be telling tales, I thought you knew. I thought it might be… a private joke.”

“I didn’t know, I wouldn’t joke at Alison’s expense. Not about something like this anyway.” Thomas’s voice became contorted with horror and loathing. “Vampires are monsters, you know. I wouldn’t joke about a thing like that.”

The kettle whistled and straightening up, I went to turn the gas off. Vampires are monsters I kept thinking. Was that really how Thomas thought of himself? A horrible, horrific monster? Or was that part of the act as well? Still, Thomas had well and truly thrown Cassandra off the trail, now. The one who I was trying to protect supported her belief in my mental illness. The situation was bizarre and ludicrous. All this lying and acting, fake stories and pretend illnesses, deception and intrigue, and what was it all for? To protect a vampire from the world! I smiled to myself, placing the teapot on the tray. Piling cups alongside, I picked up the tray and breezed into the back room, avoiding Bosworth who insisted on running back and forth in zigzags just in front of my feet.
Now go to Chapter Eight


The Reluctant Vampire - Chapter Six


An unexpected wave of high pressure came our way on Monday and I found myself stepping out quite merrily towards my previously dreaded destination, the psychiatric clinic. I even declined to take the bus into Sale; the warm air filled my nostrils and I smiled at a scruffy looking dog as it trotted past. The dog gave me a bewildered glance and hurried on.

It was tragic that Thomas could never experience walking in the sunshine, feeling the warm breath of air upon his upturned face, seeing the brightness dappling the pavement and dancing over the hedges like diamonds. The Nocturnal World was all very well and beautiful but there was something to be said for the lucid dazzle of a clear spring day.

I turned right, up Washway Road, turning my back rebelliously on the college, which gazed back indifferently. Although I felt much better now, I found that I could not face college today, maybe tomorrow. Thomas had become a strict, watchful mother over me that weekend. He had allowed me to stay up all night with him, only because I could sleep during the next day, so that I became almost a vampire myself. But, at least, I was managing to sleep and I felt much refreshed because of that. I knew that Thomas acted out of fear that I would ‘let something slip’ to the psychiatrist about my friendly vampire, rather than concern for my well-being. My previous belief that selfishness was a purely human vice was thus destroyed; obviously this state of mind filtered through to the vampire world. And this, despite all my assurances, I would guard my mouth with my life.

Of course, part of the reason for my not going to college today, was my desire to avoid Cassandra and Joseph, particularly Cassandra. Not that I continued to feel hatred, anger, or even hostility towards either one of them; but I just wanted to stay away from them.

As I approached the sombre bricked front of the psychiatric clinic, I tried to imagine what the psychiatrist would look like. An old, friendly fellow, with a white goatee beard and tiny round spectacles, I decided. Not forgetting the casual, crumpled suit and heavy German accent. He would show me pictures of ink splodges in the shape of two women dancing and demons with knives and ask me what I thought of when I looked at them. He would ask me if I envied my mother or would like to kill my father. I, of course, would answer; I would definitely like to kill my father. I would help the psychiatrist to reach a diagnosis of my case, quickly and efficiently. Make it schizophrenia… and perhaps a bit of paranoia thrown in. Like my visits to the doctor and the college nurse before her, I knew what would happen. It was already written and performed in my head. All that remained to be done now was for me to go through with this farcical ritual and to get it over and done with. I passed quickly through the ivy-covered gateposts, through the ornate porch and into the clinic.

The receptionist was an artificial, gaudy bubble, not much older than myself, who sat prettily behind her desk with her legs crossed and a demure smile on her painted face. She smiled patronizingly at me and repeated my name, running a coral pink nail down the list in front of her. She had a habit of shaking her head like a horse, tossing her mane of thick, strawberry blond hair back, so that it hung down her back like a tail. I watched her fascinated, unable to take my eyes off her; she was like a cartoon character from a film, exaggerated and yet, totally believable, I wondered if she was a reincarnation of some sort of prized show stallion. I could just imagine her with ribbons in her hair, trotting back and forth, shimmying her withers. She coughed, shortly and I quickly tried not to stare anymore. I knew that she thought I was mentally disturbed, the way she told me silkily, “don’t worry, he won’t be long.” Several times, I caught her gazing curiously at me, shaking her blond head every now and again. When she stood up and trotted across the room to Dr. Lloyd-Jones’s door, her stilettos clicking jauntily on the floor and her entire body bobbing up and down, I had to restrain myself from shouting out “gee up!” After knocking on the doctors’ door and giving him some papers, she reappeared and told me to enter. As I passed her, she shook her mane back triumphantly and left, shutting the door behind her.

I didn’t notice the doctor at first. My attention was taken by a grotesque grey lump of what appeared to be well-masticated chewing gum floating in a glass tank of liquid upon the desk in front of me. I went closer to examine the object, which I recognised, eventually as a brain. I wondered if it had belonged to one of the clinics’ less successful patients.

“A beautiful example of the greatest mystery of modern man, don’t you think?”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones stood behind the desk leaning across it, an inquisitive, bright grin on his face. A superbly manicured moustache curled above his elastic lips and his eyes danced beneath fine, delicately arched eyebrows. His face was thin and long, with incredibly high and prominent cheekbones. I stared, my dreams shattering. He spoke in a manner that was both excessively articulate and cultured. His hair was cut neatly across his forehead, deep ebony, one couldn’t possibly mistake for white or even grey. I searched the top of the desk quickly with my eyes for small, round spectacles; my gaze roved over stacks of paper, pens, books, ornaments and bits and bobs… I stared mutely at the doctor. I could not see how he could possibly call himself a psychiatrist. A hairdresser maybe, or a used car salesman… but never a psychiatrist.

“I’m Dr. Lloyd-Jones, I’m very pleased to meet you. Would you like a barley-sugar?”

I shook my head, taking instead the proffered white hand. Examining it, I noticed how similar to Thomas’s it was; long, fine fingers tapering to a point, smooth skin and a narrow wrist… but of course, this flesh was so much warmer. Psychiatrists can’t be vampires anyway… and vampires cannot possibly be psychiatrists. I sank down into the soft chair the doctor indicated as he consulted his notes.

“Ah… ah… hmmm… Alison… Alison Smith, is that your name?”

“Yes, it is actually.”

The doctor frowned at me, still smiling wildly.

“One can never tell with these ‘Smiths’, you know. So often the name is used simply for effect.”

I shrugged, looking around for the cards with ink splodges on them. I thought that this was a very peculiar line of questioning. I had serious doubts as to the authenticity of this chap’s Doctorate of Psychiatry or whatever it was. I wished that, whoever he was, this doctor would get to the point and stop going on about my name.

The doctor walked around to the front of the desk, popping a barley sugar into his mouth and stuffing his hands jauntily into the pockets of his slightly baggy, yet immaculate suit. Leaning casually on the desk, it struck me how much he resembled Humphrey Bogart, with his red handkerchief sticking out of his top pocket, his shiny, pointed black shoes and, I noticed, a grey trilby hat hanging on the hat stand behind the door. Next to it was a grey, wing collared raincoat, he would have made an ideal private detective.

“Like my brain?” he asked suddenly, indicating the tank.

“It’s fascinating,” I said, trying not to sound sarcastic. I did find it fascinating… though, at the same time, disgusting and obscene.

“You’ve burnt your arm,” he said, reading a paper on his desk.

“I couldn’t decide whether or not this was a question. While I was still debating, the doctor offered me another tit-bit of information.

“You fell asleep.”

“Yes,” I said. There was a rather pregnant pause. I knew that I was supposed to say something else. So I added, “pretty silly.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones snorted in delight.

“Pretty silly,” he repeated deliberately and giggled. There was another pause. I could hear the doctor sucking ruthlessly on his barley sugar. He cleared his throat musically, “why did you fall asleep?”

“I was tired,” I answered, irritated. Wasn’t it obvious?


“I wasn’t sleeping.”


“I don’t know,” I snapped, annoyed. So this was what a psychiatrist was trained all those years for, he just had to ask ‘why?’ when you had given your answer. The idea was, presumably, to wear the victim – or patient – down to such a state that he would fit any label the psychiatric profession then chose to stick on him, be it ‘psychotic’ or ‘psychopathic’. Meanwhile, Dr. Lloyd-Jones continued to grin obscenely at me and suck his barley sugar noisily. He shut his eyes during this operation as if in silent ecstasy.

Upon opening his eyes, he asked “And are you sleeping now?”

“Yes,” I said at once.

“Ah,” he said meaningfully.

I wondered if my doctor had mentioned my ‘imaging vampires’ to the psychiatrist. I hoped desperately that she hadn’t, I didn’t want him to know… anything. I was very aware of my promise to Thomas.

“Ah well, you see,” said the doctor, chuckling beneath his breath, “I was led to believe that you … are… being haunted.”

I shifted uncomfortably.

”What?” I stammered, accompanying it with a dry giggle.”

“Well, are you?”

For a moment I was speechless. Then I recovered myself.

“I’ve never seen a ghost.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones stared at me, beaming. He held his hands on his hips as if he were trying – and successfully – to create a complete parody of himself.

“What about… a vampire?” he suggested indecently, leaning across the desk towards me, his meticulous eyebrows raised a fraction, the barley-sugar bulging out of his mouth, malignant and obscene. I stared back aggressively; I would have to deny this and quickly, a barefaced lie. Gripping the arms of the chair until my knuckles turned as white as the doctor’s, I sat slowly upright, trying to appear intimidating and indignant.

“I dreamt the other night about a vampire but I’ve never seen one. I forced a high-pitched laugh from my dry throat, “What do you think I am? I don’t know any vampires.” I looked away, thinking that perhaps the psychiatrist would think that I was arguing too much. “Anyway, you can’t be haunted by a vampire, silly,” I muttered.

The doctor sat down behind his desk in his executive leather swivel chair and crossed one leg over the other.

“Why not? They’re Undead, aren’t they?”

“I dunno,” I shrugged, “you tell me, you’re obviously the expert. Have you ever been pursued by one?” I demanded aggressively.

“No… but I wouldn’t mind,” he replied, studying the polished toe of his shoe carefully. “They sound fascinating creatures, I would love to meet one.”

A shiver crept over my body and I kept my mouth firmly shut. No more would be said on this subject; from now on the vampire subject was definitely taboo! Now I knew why Thomas was so suspicious of psychiatric tactics – wily would be an appalling understatement. I could feel Dr. Lloyd-Jones’s merry, watchful gaze fixed upon me; I grabbed at a photo that stood on top of his desk, hoping to divert his attention.

“This your family?” I stammered, studying the tall, dark-haired woman with a baby in her arms. The doctor nodded and I was amazed, the woman was incredibly beautiful, tall, slim and delicately but strikingly featured. Now, this really was the Lauren Bacall look that Cassandra lusted after. What on earth was it that drew this enigmatic woman to an irritating madman like Dr. Lloyd-Jones? It had to be money, it was a question that I longed to ask but, astoundingly, I found politeness restraining me.

“Your wife is very beautiful.” I said at last.

Dr. Lloyd-Jones giggled predictably and turned in his chair, folding his hands neatly under his chin.

“I find myself drawn to originals,” he told me, with a small, happy sigh.

I wondered what he meant by that, was it a compliment to his wife, or an insult? Perhaps they didn’t get on at all, then. Perhaps they hated each other; perhaps she bullied and practised witchcraft on him when he came home at night. This thought gave me some comfort and I smiled gently to myself. Such a beautiful and clearly intelligent woman could not possibly be a passive blob in the hands of some mad doctor husband. The doctor’s remark began to irritate me as I thought back over it. ‘Originals’, I disliked such pretentious comments anyway, which left you wondering what the hell they meant. I put the photo back.

“Mind you, that’s not true with my son,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones continued pensively. “He’s six now and certainly an original… but I’m not drawn to him. No, not at all.”

I thought this over. The bizarre and intimate nature of this discussion appealed to me.

“Oh, I like him,” the doctor twirled in his chair, his pointed shoe trailing along the carpet in front of him. “I like him alright but he’s… quite a handful sometimes. Mischievous, headstrong.”

“Is he evil?”

The doctor paused and pirouetted.

“Oh yes, oh, yes definitely. He’s called Newton, I hoped to make a famous research scientist of him… I thought that the name may give him some… encouragement… and inspiration but he’s not interested. He collects insects, caterpillars… beetles, butterflies… that type of thing.”


“Well alive, but then he kills them, he impales them. He has plenty of sharp instruments.” The doctor sighed his eyes misty, a grin still fixed rigidly upon his face as if it were painted there. “The child has no respect for life in any form.”

“He sounds very evil,” I said, concerned. No wonder his father was so strange then, one must influence the other. “Why does he have this obsession with death, do you think?”

“I don’t think, I know,” he said. “Oh yes, I know alright.” There was a long silence, in which he gazed vacantly at a huge print of Fuseli’s The Nightmare, which hung on the wall. Then he coughed and chuckled quietly. “It’s my wife, you see, they spend a lot of time together. She has an unhealthy influence on the boy. Our house is filled with heads of various beasts on all the walls… and heavy tanks house masterpieces of wildlife scenes.… birds, reptiles, insects and fish… all stuffed, all dead.”

I sat back, repelled yet fascinated.

“Your wife shares this obsession then,” I said slowly.

The doctor sighed, smiling.

“I’m afraid so.”

“And do you?”

The doctor neatly avoided this question.

“I don’t know her at all,” he told me gently. “My own wife and I don’t really know her at all. I don’t know my son either, I feel like they’re all complete strangers to me.”

I leant forward, my elbows on the desk.”

“And you’d like to feel… you had more control over them?”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones grinned, leaping to his feet.

“That’s it exactly!”

There was a long silence while the doctor gazed out of the window at the traffic roaring past and I watched him carefully. His tall, lean figure reminded me suddenly of Thomas. Quickly I shut the vampire out of my mind and concentrated on the problems of the Lloyd-Jones family. A picture of their house came into my mind; an ornate, massive white building, expensive looking gold curtain rails, deep crimson carpets, long flights of curving steps sweeping gracefully into the distance. Beautiful glass tanks here and there, housing a stoat, a ferret, a squirrel… rows of dead beetles and flies encrusting the walls, impaled to the plaster by sharp pins, instruments of death… grotesque heads of leopards and bison protruding from above the picture rail, their eyes staring like the Lady of Shallot’s when the curse comes upon her; glassy, unseeing, dead. This silent mausoleum would encase the living within the dead, who would see nothing. I remembered my previous question.

“Dr. Lloyd-Jones,” I asked, “do you have a similar obsession with death, like your wife and your son? Do you enjoy being surrounded by… death?”

Another heavy silence fell and the doctor stood motionless, his back to me with his hands clasped behind him. I shifted in my bouncy chair and brushed some stray wisps of hair out of my eyes. It really was stuffy in here, like… some kind of museum. I debated whether or not to ask Dr. Lloyd-Jones to open a window but decided against it; somehow I felt that the question would be wasted on such a state of mind as his. I hoped that I hadn’t said anything that may have upset him; I usually regretted words spoken on impulse afterwards. So, I was very much relieved when he turned round, to find the inevitable grin still plastered across his face and the inevitable bounce still in his step as he returned to his desk. Placing his hands on the desktop he gazed lovingly at the grotesque, grey brain in its tank, caressing the image with his eyes. I wondered if he had heard my question at all, or was in fact, deliberately ignoring it. Tearing his gaze from the pickled organ, the doctor smiled at me.

“I’m afraid it’s time to say goodbye Alison, my dear,” he said with an exaggerated sigh, straightening his already immaculate cuffs.

I stood up quickly, relieved.

“Oh well then, goodbye Doctor,” I said heading for the door. “I feel… so much better, thank you.”

Dr. Lloyd-Jones looked shocked.

“No, no don’t thank me,” he bowed theatrically, leaping to hold the door open for me, “I am, after all, just doing my job.”

I smirked, hurrying through the door so that he wouldn’t see my expression. I wasn’t sure if his final remark had been a deliberate joke or not.

“Same time on Wednesday?” he called, grinning and waving. I nodded, waving back.

Outside, the horse-headed receptionist was waiting in her paddock. She stared as I passed, tossing her mane back nervously as I gave her a huge melon grin. I could feel her eyes clinging to my back as I strolled out through the main doors of the clinic, out amongst the roaring traffic and the still dazzling sunshine. I knew that she doubted my sanity but this didn’t bother me any more, I felt good. I couldn’t recall exactly what Dr. Lloyd-Jones had said to me in the previous hour but whatever his tactics, they had obviously worked. I felt so much less confused – healthier and lucid. Whatever else Dr. Lloyd-Jones may turn out to be, he certainly was a damned good psychiatrist.

* *

“Thomas, you can say what you like but to me, he’s a damned good psychiatrist. I feel much better for talking to him, I don’t know why, but I do.”

I plunged my hands into the hot water, grasping a slippery dish beneath the soapsuds and washing it with energy and violence. The steam rose up, turning my face rosy pink to match my hands and arms; Thomas tipped some more cups into the sink, careful not to touch the hot water with his delicate, colourless hands. I thought of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’s hands immediately, in some ways he was so similar to Thomas. Though, of course, I would never say that out loud! Thomas had taken an aggravated dislike to the psychiatrist, although he had never met him. I had not said much about my visit to him but it was enough to make Thomas sulk and mutter incoherently about ‘those cunning bastards’ and I had no difficulty realizing whom he was referring to.

I washed each piece of crockery carefully, mechanically, wondering what exactly had caused my friendly vampire’s hostility towards psychiatry in general. Was it because, according to the Laws of Science and the Mind, as symbolised by Van Helsing in Dracula, vampires were only the result of a disturbed mind? Or, had Thomas had a nasty run-in himself with a psychiatrist somewhere in his nocturnal past? It was difficult to say. I finished the washing up and tipped the water away pensively. Thomas, leaning against some cupboards on the other side of the kitchen, moved impatiently.

“Now what are you doing?” he said, exasperation straining his voice.

“I’m cleaning the kitchen,” I told him, wiping some egg from the fridge. “What does it look like?”

“But it’s eleven o’clock.”

“So?” I got down on my hands and knees to scrub out the salad drawer. “I’ve told you, I’ve got to get this done before my Dad comes round with this professional chap to value the house. I’ve just remembered he’s coming tomorrow – or the next day. Mum warned me last week and I forgot all about it. My dad will publicly hang me if he finds anything out of place.”

Thomas opened the cupboard door with the toe of his shoe, and then closed it again.

“Is he really such a monster?” he asked.

I stood up, kicking shut the fridge door.

“No more than you.”


His voice was so low it was almost a breath; only audible to me because the vampire was so close, almost touching me, his arms clasping themselves around my waist so that I was hopelessly imprisoned. Imprisoned in a nocturnal embrace! I leant back against Thomas, the dishcloth dangling uselessly in my hand. I could feel the folds of that magical cloak fluttering around me, swathing me like a baby’s christening gown. The blackness was slightly claustrophobic it was so thrilling! I found it hard to catch my breath; I felt the roughness of Thomas’s hair against my cheek and the icy sensation of his limbs wrapped around me. The passion of the night, the mysterious touch of the nocturnal. I looked up at Thomas, feeling the cold emanating from the proximity of his face to my own. I realised, for the first time, how tall he was – almost a foot taller than my own five eleven. His eyes met mine, those lightless, kaleidoscopic eyes, myriad shattered fragments of nocturnal hues, swirled and danced, fringed by ebony lashes, lying web-like against skin stretched as paper over bones that threatened to break through any minute. His fangs caught the light as he lowered his head and they were struck like a mirror; in that light they appeared sharper than ever but fear did not strike me now. As I kissed Thomas, that delicious state of night crept into me and everything mundane and active fell away from me, I was enveloped in this nocturnal shroud. I can’t deny that I felt those fangs pricking me like needles but, though it may sound strange, it was anything but unpleasant.

Thomas raised his head and straightened up slowly, without drawing blood. We looked at each other a little sheepishly and giggled, then Thomas released his arms and I broke away from him. He lurked in the doorway for a while, fidgeting. I glanced at him as I began to run water into a bucket, wondering if the experience had upset or saddened him in some way. It was possible, I supposed. I went over to him and grasped his arms in my hands.

“Thomas,” I said gently.

He looked up; there was sadness and longing in his face but… something else as well. Gratitude?

“Can I do anything?” he asked at last.

I smiled at him. How glad I was that I had met and become friends with this vampire! How glad I was of his company!

“You can put the vacuum round,” I told him.

I stood in the middle of the kitchen while the bucket overflowed in the sink, listening to the clatters and thumps as Thomas searched in the cupboard under the stairs for the vacuum cleaner.
Now go to Chapter Seven