The Stranger

Good, you are still here. A lot of people wouldn’t be. Well, here we go mate, another two pints of lager. Didn’t take long, did it, even with the crowd in tonight? That’s one of the perks, I always get served first at the bar. Don’t have to say anything, just give them the old stare. Even from behind these shades, it always works.

What’s that? No, Joe, I do not drink Bloody Marys. Old joke. Not funny.

So, where were we? Oh yeah. I’d just told you that I’m a vampire and you were trying to decide: am I winding you up or am I an escaped loony? It’s the standard reaction I always get. That’s why I waited ’til we’d had a couple before telling you. Don’t worry, I’m not cross. If I was, you can bet you’d be dead by now.

And before you ask, no. I will not turn you into a vampire. This is an exclusive club, my friend, we don’t let just anyone in. Whilst we might be having a nice little chat now, I’m not really certain that I want your company for the rest of eternity. No offence meant, mate.

And before you panic, nor am I gonna suck you dry and leave your corpse to rot. Do us a favour, do I look that stupid? If I wanted to do that I’d have jumped you outside, alone in the dark. I’d hardly warn you and certainly wouldn’t do it here in the pub!

Anyway, I’ve gotta be honest Joe, you’re really not my type. Young blood really does taste better y’know. And personally I’ve always preferred women. Some vampires reckon that there’s no real difference, but I say there is. Female blood has a certain piquancy to it, an extra little bite. It’s a bit like the difference between a good wine and an excellent vintage. The ordinary stuff is fine, but the vintage, when you feel it sliding down your throat, when you lick your lips and savour every last drop, oh that’s just so…

Hmm? Oh, sorry, getting carried away. Actually, I don’t get to taste the blood of a young female nearly as often as I used to. They don’t tend to go out alone at night now. It wasn’t like that in my youth, I don’t know what the world’s coming to nowadays. So I usually have to make do with some homeless wino. Let me tell you, meths really ruins the flavour. Almost as bad as garlic.

So what do I want with you? Just a chat, Joe, nothing more. Is that so hard to accept? I get so bloody lonely, every so often I just need to talk to someone. You humans take things like that for granted.

Think about it. Being one of the immortal undead might sound fun but it’s a real pain in the neck. I can’t exactly have a normal social life, can I? No holidays in the sun, no days spent window shopping. The only jobs I can get are night-shifts and let me tell you, you meet some weirdos there.

As for sex: have you ever tried to buy a double coffin? I can’t have ordinary friends. Anyone who got close to me would soon begin to suspect something. Then it would be the whole Hammer Horror bit.

The only people I can really socialise with are other vampires and you don’t get many of them around here. To be honest, most of them need to get a life – all they ever seem to talk about is themselves.

So, after I’ve been in one place for a while, when I’m ready to move on, I like to have a little chat with someone I’ll never see again. Someone like you Joe. Some people can handle the occult better than others, I could tell from your face that you’d understand. You’ve got an aura or some such New Age crap. Whatever, I felt drawn to you. I’ll bet you even have a deck of dog-eared Tarot cards at home.

You were drawn to me as well, weren’t you? I could see you watching me out of the corner of your eye. To be honest, at first I thought you might be a queer, but then I saw you trying to chat up the barmaid so I knew you were OK.

I tell you, Joe, you wouldn’t believe the mindless bigotry I have to put up with. People just label you, stick you in a box. OK, so I’m a vampire – does that make me a bad person? I adore kids, I give money to charity and I have all of Cliff Richard’s records.

Yeah, yeah. I just knew you’d bring that up again. OK, it’s true. Every so often I sink my fangs into some nubile young woman and suck the life out of her. So I’m not a perfect citizen, but you can find fault with anyone if you try hard enough.

Drink up, mate, you’re falling behind and it’s your round next. Actually, you’re doing pretty well. Most people have found an excuse to go by now. You know, they remember that they left the bathroom light on or something urgent like that. You’re different, I think you’re actually enjoying this.

Bet I know why. You’re a journo, aren’t you? Gonna write this up. “I met a vampire in the Slaughtered Lamb”. ‘Cept this is the Slug and Lettuce, but I’m sure you wont let a little fact like that stop you. And you’ll probably give me some naff name like “Count Alucard”. Actually, I’m calling myself Pinner today. It’ll be something different tomorrow, time to change it again. I try not to use the family name, doesn’t go down too well.

You’re not a journo? Not a writer at all? I’d have staked my life on it. Geddit? So what do you do then? Old family business, eh? Like me in a way! Ah, a business card. Very professional. Let’s see who you are now.

Ah come on, this has got to be a gag, right? You’re having me on.

“Josef van Helsing”?

Copyright © Trevor Mendham 1998,2016. All rights reserved
A slightly different version of this story originally appeared in Kimota #9 and was republished for the Kindle in The Kimota Anthology