Relative Strangers – Extract 2 : Vampire guts were the last thing I expected to be wiping off my kitchen lino

As you may have guessed, this was not my first encounter with a vampire but if was definitely the first time I’d had to clean one up off my kitchen floor. If you are anything like me, you will have watched your fair share of supernatural TV series and horror films, but many of your assumptions about vampires are going to be wrong.

You don’t need to stake them in the heart to kill them, as you know now, although it’s quite possible that would work too, I’ve not tried it. Daylight definitely doesn’t kill them, or at least not the ones I’ve met. You don’t have to decapitate them either but my philosophy is that if you cut anything’s head off it would probably cease to function in its usual way, whether it’s living or undead. I’m not a trained fighter, I’m basically about survival and I’ve found that, if you hit something with sufficient force and time, it will stop doing just about anything. Either that or blow its brains out. It seems to have worked for me so far.

When you kill a vampire they don’t just go “poof” and turn into cinders either. A well timed breeze doesn’t come along and blow their ashes far and wide. There’s no sudden mound of dust which you can suck up in your vacumn cleaner, more convenient though it would be. Maybe they disintegrate given enough time, I don’t know for certain, but they definitely leave a carcass behind which at least leaves you with a short term problem.

I can’t say that I’m an expert on slaying vampires, or that I knew exactly what to expect from my day when I woke up the following morning, but at the top of my list of chores was a cleanup operation, including formulating a plan to dispose of the body. The body had looked reasonably intact when I had abandoned it in favour of sleep, albeit it a bit on the mushy side. After only a few hours had passed, I expected the body to look much the same and I wasn’t relishing the thought at having to bury it, burn it or carve it up. I didn’t really have the tools or strength for any of these. Plus they all involved touching it, the thought of which made my flesh crawl. I hoped that Charlie hadn’t decided to start eating it. I shrugged off the image with disdain, before I eventually cajoled myself out of bed and downstairs to the crime scene. I had a busy day ahead of me and the sooner I could get the nasty stuff done, the sooner I could forget about it and gather my thoughts.

On entering the kitchen, I was relieved to see that melon head didn’t much resemble a body anymore. In fact, what was stretched out on my kitchen floor looked remarkably like a grubby old tarpaulin. It was only when I took a few tentative steps closer and scrutinised it more fully that I could make out a few human features. The razor like canines had retracted under a flap of tissue, which I assumed had originally formed his mouth. The body had started to rot wherever it had fallen, collapsing in on itself in folds. The dirty long hair was matted into what remained of the viscera, reminding me of something you find in a plug hole. If it wasn’t for the filthy clothing stuck to the skin it would be barely recognisable as human.

I don’t know much about the details of vamp biology, if biology is even an appropriate word for something that isn’t alive in the conventional sense, but this didn’t look right. Yes, I’d seen vampires attack people, be crazed with blood. I’d even survived a few attacks of my own, one which would have killed me if it wasn’t for someone else’s timely intervention. But even I would have to admit that, on the whole, they looked kind of normal. I didn’t even know about their dark secret until they actually came in for the kill. Most of the time they seemed to be walking about like you or I, suited, booted, and probably even with jobs. They could easily pass for human to the casual observer. Not this one though, he had looked like something else entirely; ill, hysterical, manic, dirty.
As I gently nudged the carcass with my slippered toe, I wondered if he had had contracted some sort of vampire disease, or was ill before he had even become a vampire. Perhaps he hadn’t even fed before and was desperate for his first fix, to find some way of sating his voracious hunger. I had been told that a newly made vampire needed to consume human blood to complete his condition, and that inevitable death would follow if he didn’t. Had he been in that transitional state? But surely his maker wouldn’t have left him to his own devices? Either way, melon head hadn’t looked right. The fact that he had broken in to a house to finish of his vermin meal and hunt for a human entrée definitely suggested that there was something off about this one, something feral. At least if he was a stray, for want of a better word, it was unlikely that he wouldn’t have a vampire pack in tow. I’d moved back to Bethel to escape one vampire pack, I didn’t want to run into another one. I nudged the crumpled remains again yep definitely dead.

I considered what the best solution for disposing of the body could be. I could hardly phone the police and I didn’t work anywhere with a furnace in which I could dump him. I looked out into my back garden and quickly dismissed any thought of burying him. The earth was frozen solid and would take too long to break. Plus I didn’t want to ruin my lawn, or get seen by the neighbours. The thought of having to wait in the house until it got dark made me feel sick. There was no way I was spending any more time with the decaying body than I absolutely had to. Besides, I had to be sure that I’d be able to hide the evidence sooner rather than later. Since moving back to my hometown, there had been an endless array of visitors and well-wishers and that could well continue now I’d moved into my own place.

On balance, I concluded that I could probably get away with packing him into a couple of bin bags and taking him to the municipal tip. Assuming the body was decaying at a rapid rate, I might get away with just dumping it there. While some waste still went to landfill, much of it went straight to an incinerator. Hell, even if someone got lucky and guessed that this pile of disheveled rags and unidentifiable material had previously been walking about on two legs, I can’t imagine that they would be able to get any DNA evidence from it. They’d never be able to identify it, let alone trace it back to me.
Before I went about the clean-up, I filled Charlie’s bowl with some fresh dried food and flicked on the kettle to make tea. While the kettle boiled, I took out a roll of big black refuse sacks from the cupboard below the sink, along with my rubber gloves, a plastic dustpan and its matching brush. Before I set about my work, I took out a set of pliers from my small toolbox and removed all the teeth from the body. I was surprised how quickly they came out and put them in an empty mug so I could deal with them later. I then used the pliers, along with a large pair of kitchen scissors, to pries off the scruffy black shirt and trousers which were caked to the creature’s flesh.

It took only a matter of minutes to fold the vampire rubble into two of the heavy duty sacks, with the clothes in a third, which I then double bagged for good measure. While the body looked reasonably intact, I couldn’t be certain that it wouldn’t cause any leakage at a later stage, particularly from the head which had taken most of the beating. There were a few stray particles of brain matter here and there on the floor, which I swept up with the dustpan and brush, scooping up the remnants of the glass from the door at the same time. I took a mop and bucket from the under stairs cupboard and gave the floor a liberal soaking with a mix of bleach, multipurpose cleaner and washing up liquid. It did little more than dilute the dried blood and move globules of it around. After rubbing the excess off the flower with paper towel, I mopped again which a much better result. I’d completed the whole thing within an hour and felt bizarrely proud of myself. I’d completed my tasks efficiently and with a bizarre air of detachment.

I’d been too tired the night before to do anything about the smashed pane in the door, and I didn’t have any of the tools or materials to repair it in any substantial way, but it definitely needed attention. It would be getting light soon and I didn’t want to arouse the suspicions of any nosey neighbours. The best I could do at the time would be to sweep up the glass and block the gap in the door with a bit of chipboard, which I’d previously seen stored at the back of my garden shed.

I threw the bin bags onto the garden patio, so they’d be out of my way, while I fashioned a make shift door panel. The chipboard looked like it had originally been the back panel of a cheap flat pack bookcase or chest of drawers. No doubt one of the previous tenants thought it would come in useful one day and today was the day it would be. I fixed the board to the PVC frame of the door with some duct tape that I found under the sink. I made every effort to do a good job as I find shoddy workmanship frustrating, particularly when it’s my own. I always seem to notice a botched more if I’m the one responsible for it.
As my repairs were only going to be of a temporary nature I retrieved a number for the building contractor which our family used to maintain our portfolio of rental properties. Now I had moved back to the area, I was doing to take on responsibility for running our lettings business, saving my mother the money and hassle of dealing with a professional agent. I knew the builder well, he’d worked for the family for years and he’d be happy to help me out with a personal repair. I grabbed my address book, diary and mobile phone from my handbag, which was hanging from the back of one of the dining chairs and punched in the numbers.

Tom sounded genuinely happy to hear from me, saying that my mum had told him that I’d be taking over the running of Morgan Residential Ltd but that he hadn’t expected a call quite so soon. I explained to him that I had come down to breakfast and found that my door had been vandalized and was hoping he could repair it for me. After a short discussion about my welfare, including assurances by me that I really was fine, he said that it would be no problem to sort something out; he’d just need to get in a few parts. He said it sounded like a straightforward job and that it would be no problem to sort out a cat flap at the same time – having mentioned I wanted to install one in the door anyway – he’d even pick one up from the hardware store on his way over.

As we spoke, I noticed the blood stained carpet in the breakfast room and asked if he could sort out some flooring for the nook off the kitchen as well. I could have probably got the blood out if I wanted to, but as it was in need of replacing anyway, I thought that I might as well get it sorted at the same time. Tom said that wouldn’t be a problem too as he had an off cut of good quality wool carpet from a job at another one of our properties. It would probably fit and keep the cost down, as technically it had already been paid for.

He estimated the total cost to be about a hundred pound, which I was pleased about. Although I had some modest savings and would be earning a little money from the family business, I wasn’t rolling in cash by any means; I still had to be careful. I was also glad to know that it would be Tom completing the repairs, rather than one of his employees, as he knew the house well from previous work he’d undertaken there, and at an identical property we owned a few doors down. It was a relief that I wouldn’t have wait around for him to first take measurements and then have to wait again for him come back and do the repairs at a later stage. I wanted the mess cleared up and forgotten about sooner rather than later.
I thanked Tom for being so understanding and that it was nice to speak to him again as well. We agreed to speak again later in the day and both said our goodbyes. He had worked for my family for years and I was confident that he would do a good job. My grandfather had employed him when he was still a carpenter starting out on his own, offering him his first big maintenance contract, which then allowed him to employ some other lads and effectively start a business of his own.

I don’t want to give you the impression that my family are property magnates or some sort of property tycoons. My grandparents’ good fortune was not handed to them on a plate. My grandfather had started his married life as a steelworker. His family had come from nothing, with a tradition of working in the mines at New Moon Junction, a small community about an hour’s drive from Bethesda, the village where I grew up. When he came of age he had secured a job in the steelworks in Bethel, the large town which Bethesda had eventually become subsumed into. He worked all the hours he could to save the money to marry my grandmother, eventually setting up home in Bethesda to be closer to his work and to her family.

It wasn’t until they were both in their early forties that they came into the inheritance; three shops owned by a distant childless relative of my granny’s. Before then, life was hard, really hard and they always remembered it. Although they had enough money to easily cover their living expenses, my grandfather continued to work in their hardware store, enjoying the contribution he made, as well as the interaction with the customers. My grandmother flitted between the small newsagent and the children’s clothing shop they owned. Between them they sold everything from screwdrivers to wallpaper paste, newspapers to humbugs, and buggies to booties. I never remember a time that they didn’t work and to top it all they still managed to buy more than thirty properties across Bethel, which they bought when they had spare money and when banks needed to sell quickly. I wonder that they ever had time to sleep.
It was easy to see why other people in business respected my grandparents, and by default my mother when she inherited the businesses. Tom’s commitment to them would automatically transfer to me. I was confident that I could retain his services, without ever having to look for a better contractor or value for money. Tom would look after me and mine, just as we had looked after him. Gosh, I was glad to be back in Bethesda, back in a real community. Despite being a town, Bethel even had the same feel. People seemed to know each other, care about each other. I have a real sense of belonging to that little Welsh town. I should have moved back years before.

Since my grandparents had died, and I had moved away to college, and stayed away, it had been left to my mum to manage the businesses on her own. The challenge of taking over the property lettings would be good for me, and technically half of that part of our business had been left to me by grandparents, my mother having the other half, their house and all three shops. Working for myself would also give me more flexibility over my time and opportunity to spend some of it with my mum. There was only the two of us left in the family now and I wanted to make the most of it. By moving into one of the houses I owned, I would also financially be better off as well, even with the small salary I had agree to withdraw. Aside from the vampire attack, life really should have been on the up.

After my phone call to Tom, I took a quick shower, washed my hair and threw on some jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Although most people would find it cold, I thought it mild for the time of year and rather than putting on thick socks and boots, I tied my feet into my leopard print baseball boots. It was liberating to not have to get up, throw on a suit and have to battle my way into an office, grinding out to the beat of someone else’s drum. I intended to work mostly from home and from an office space which we had created in a back room at one of the shops.

Once I was back downstairs I pulled up the grubby, blood stained carpet from the breakfast nook. It would easily fold into the boot of my car with sufficient room to pop the body bags on top. Remembering the teeth I’d removed from the body, I emptied the mug down the sink and flushed them down with plenty of water. They made an awful clacking noise as they made their way down the pipe work and I hoped that they wouldn’t cause a blockage. Perhaps I should have flushed them down the toilet. Charlie looked at me non plussed over his dish of dried food.

“I know what I’m doing” I told him.

With that I rolled the carpet up onto one shoulder, gripping the two body bags tightly in one hand, and made my way out to the car. The timing couldn’t have been worse – my elderly neighbor’s head popped over the concrete block wall separating are two back gardens.

“Having a good clear out?”

“Yes June”, I said, trying to sound normal.” You know what it’s like when you move in somewhere new, you just want to make it your own”.

“I know dear”, she nodded, “I’m glad you’re going to be living there now. I didn’t care too much for that lot who were there before. People were always coming and going at strange hours. Very suspicious if you ask me”.

“Thanks June, I appreciate it”.

I didn’t point out that my previous tenants had actually been a nurse and a security guard so that’s probably why they were out at all hours.
She looked suspiciously at my kitchen door as she leaned over the wall to have a better nosey at what I was doing.

“You be careful, young girl like you living on your own. You should have a man helping you with all that heavy lifting. It’s not right. You be careful.”

I smiled in an attempt to look like I agreed with her and then made my excuses to leave. I wanted to get to get to the tip, plus the small carpet was surprisingly heavy. I slung my burden into the boot of the car, all the time under the careful inspection of June who was making a very poor attempt at looking like she was actually busy doing other things. Common sense told me that it didn’t actually take that long to sweep fallen leaves off your garden path.

After queuing at the gate for twenty minutes, amidst all the other weekend tip visitors, I finally managed to deposit my waste into one of the oversized, general waste skips.

“Good riddens to bad rubbish” I said, dusting my hands off over the metal barrier surrounding the large metal container. I liberally sprayed fabric deodorizer around the interior of my car as I watched other people dump their bashed up furniture and sacks of waste onto mine, then drove off to a fanfare of impatient car horns behind me.

By the time I finished the drive home, there were already two messages on my voicemail. I filled the kettle with water from the tap, flicked it on and pressed a number on the handset. It took me straight to my messages.

The first was from Tom. He’d called to say that he had everything he needed for my repairs and that all my jobs would be completed by the end of the day. He said he had a set of keys to all the properties so would let himself in if I weren’t around. He also added that he’d managed to get a deal on the glass for the door and the cat flap so all in all it would cost just seventy quid. As he had the carpet anyway he wouldn’t charge me and he’d call the labour costs a Christmas present. He expected to be over within the next few hours.

The second message was from a friend that I hadn’t heard from in a while and one that I half expected not to hear from again. The caller didn’t say his name, or at least I didn’t catch if from the garbled message, but I knew it had to be him because of the accent. I had mixed feelings, half pleased to hear from him and half angry that it had taken him so long to get in touch.
Much of the message sounded distorted by poor signal and background noise, meaning that I caught only every other word, but I could just about make out a person’s name and the words dead. The blood drained from my face, my legs buckled beneath me and I slid down onto the kitchen floor.

When I got to the end of the message there was one word that was crystal clear and sharper than all the rest. It was then that I understood what the caller was trying to tell me. The word was vampire.

My head involuntary hurled forwards and the vomit splattered across the kitchen floor. Great Sophie, one more mess to clear up.

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