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London, 1888, the city was in the grip of the killings of the infamous Jack the Ripper, and I, a simple chemist, was trying to go about my daily life as best I could without reflecting too deeply on the terror that stalked our streets. Fear had a name but no face as “Gentleman Jack”, as he had become known in certain circles, preyed on the denizens of the night with both brutality and seeming impunity. The police were baffled, the press hounding them for results on both sides of the Atlantic, but little did I know that the events of my life would easily foreshadow the gruesome Whitechapel murders, had any of the details become public, or indeed been in the slightest bit believable. But it is true, all of it, and I find myself unable to withhold the truth any longer, even though my revealing it puts me in the gravest of danger. I do not care, for the truth must be known, I can only hope that whoever may be reading these words will take them seriously and give them the attention they deserve, for far more may be at stake than any of us realise.

I am a vampire, you see, and have been for many years. Believe me, I know how utterly insane that sounds but I swear on my dear Catherine’s life that it is the God’s honest truth. I did not believe it either, like you I merely considered vampires to be the stuff of legend, simple peasant folklore taking on a life of its own, but I was wrong, very wrong, and I paid the price for my ignorance, a price that haunts me still and will never leave me, no matter what I try.

My tale, if you can call it that, begins in that fateful year in London when the whole of the city was living in the corner of its eyes, waiting for the Ripper to strike again. Mary Ann Nichols and Annie Chapman had both met their fates at the hands of the Ripper at this time, but it would not be long before the three remaining victims would fall foul to his knife and his wroth. I, like many other Londoners of the time, kept up with the Ripper case through the newspapers and whatever gossip filtered into my small shop in Mayfair, as well as my gentleman’s club, where the killings were being frequently discussed over the usual port and cigars. We followed the case, but we never thought it would touch us in the more affluent areas of the city, but I was unaware that what awaited me was far worse than the heinous Ripper killings.

I remember the day I met him, the one who made me what I am, like it was yesterday. I had been working as a chemist in the district of Mayfair for several years and for myself and my family life was good. It was early September, so the warmth of summer had not completely left the air, and I enjoyed pleasant strolls in the late afternoon/early evening sunshine as I made my way to my gentleman’s club a few streets along from my shop. I was looking forward to a relaxing drink and a read of the day’s newspaper, possibly followed by a quick game of billiards before it would be time to take myself home for dinner, but as soon as I entered the lounge I knew something was different. He was new to the club, yet he stood by the unlit fireplace as if a regular, and he carried himself in such a manner that did not so much speak of an air of confidence but more stated his knowledge of the world’s awareness of said confidence, needless to say he intrigued me. Being the genial sort of fellow that I was I gave my hat and coat to the attendant and made my way over to him, extending my hand as I introduced myself, this was my first mistake. Were I able to go back to that moment I would have avoided the newcomer at all costs, I would have continued on home and not ventured to the club that evening, perhaps saving my soul, perhaps saving their lives. Regret is a terrible thing, and for many years it has been my sole companion, perhaps this is why I feel compelled to put my anguish into words, not for monetary gain but to attempt to alleviate some of the burden that has pressed down upon me over the decades, and of course to warn future generations of the evil that I encountered, of the evil that I became.

The newcomer was polite and friendly, if somewhat aloof, but I found we got along famously. We talked at length over a glass or two of port and even played a few hands of gin rummy, something he seemed to excel at, as I lost spectacularly at each hand. When I happened to glance at the clock on the mantle I found, to my surprise, that it was a quarter to nine, much later than I usually stayed at the club and, looking about, I saw that the world outside had grown dark. I apologised for taking up so much of the stranger’s time and excused myself, retrieved my hat and coat and exited the club. All the way home I wondered how we could have talked for so long without me being aware of it, and the more I thought on it the more I realised how little I actually knew about this newcomer to the club. I tried with no success to remember the man’s name, I felt sure he had given it to me but my mind felt fuzzy and I just could not recollect it. I thought perhaps I had drunk too much port but I made it a rule never to have more than two glasses so it could not have been that. All that I could remember was that the newcomer had recently returned to London after extensive travels abroad and that the conversation, or what I could remember of it, had centred mostly on myself. I recalled telling him about Catherine, and our daughter Isabelle, and my shop a few streets away, but aside from his recent travels, even of which I did not find out very much, I knew next to nothing about this man, whereas he seemed to have left the club that night with a wealth of information concerning myself. This was, of course, all part of his diabolical plot that, now, involved me, although I was still unaware of it.

I had not given the stranger much thought since our first encounter at the gentleman’s club that night, although I had a fine time of it explaining to Catherine why I was so late getting home. She was a patient and understanding woman but the fact that I could not remember much of the evening put in her mind the notion that I had indulged in somewhat too much port, and in the absence of a more satisfactory explanation I conceded that this must have been the case and ensured her that it would not happen again. Weeks passed and autumn ushered out any lingering elements of summer, turning the evenings dark and cold, and it was on one blustery Wednesday evening in late October that while closing up the shop for the night he just happened to pass by. At the time I thought it mere coincidence, but now, with what I know, I understand that nothing was happening by chance, everything was going according to his plan, and without my even knowing it I was playing directly into his hands. We walked and talked together for a while, discussing, among other things, the Ripper case, something he always seemed keen to hear my views on, and by the time we had reached my house I had found that I had invited him to dinner. In recollection this was most uncharacteristic of me, as was observed by both my wife and our cook, but whatever had made me forget the man’s name had also fogged my mind to the point where I did not recall inviting him to dinner, only that I found myself standing on my doorstep introducing the enigmatic stranger to Catherine and informing her that he would be joining us for dinner. I could tell that my announcement had startled and somewhat annoyed Catherine, but she was nothing if not polite, so she smiled through the inconvenience and invited the stranger into our home.

This was the biggest mistake of all.

Anyone who is familiar with vampire lore will know that once you invite one of these creatures into your home you are powerless to stop them, no matter what evil they intend to commit, and they are able to enter at will. Through my time as one of these wretched beasts I have learned that this rule seems not to apply to all buildings, it seems only applicable to one’s home. Of course at the time I knew very little of vampires, knowing just what the average layman knew from the childhood tales that were spoken around the world, I never thought I would need to know more.

The evening itself was pleasant enough, any awkwardness at the short notice of the invitation evaporating quickly as the stranger became acquainted with both Catherine and Isabelle, who seemed to like him in return. He did not trouble Hilda, our cook, for very much food, so the inconvenience was minimal, and upon saying goodbye to the man I thought the impromptu dinner had gone rather well, but Catherine was not so easily taken in. As soon as our front door was closed she turned to me with a most irritated expression and asked me what I was thinking bringing someone to dinner at such short notice. Once again I found myself struggling to come up with a decent explanation for my actions, and once again I faltered, and when I told Catherine that our mysterious dinner guest was also the reason why I was late back from the club some weeks before she decided that she did not trust him and felt it best if I did not consort with such types. I could have argued the point that I did not seek out this man’s company, but I did so hate arguing with Catherine so I consented to her wishes and no more was said on the matter, ever.

I had every intention of following Catherine’s request to the letter, but the next time I stopped in at my club on the way home from my shop there he was again. I decided to use one of the smaller side rooms to read the newspaper and was turning around to leave but it was too late, he had seen me. He got up instantly from the armchair he was occupying and walked over to me with surprising speed, as if he could tell I wanted to leave. I attempted to make some feeble excuse that would allow me to leave but he seemed adamant that I stay. I tried to resist but before I knew it I was idly handing my hat and coat once again to the attendant and following my companion to the table where he was sat. Mary Jane Kelly had lost her life to the Ripper just days before and naturally it was all over the press, and my new friend (it pains me to refer to him as such) seemed most eager to discuss the killing and indeed the whole case. I stayed and talked for as long as I thought was polite, but when I tried again to excuse myself and leave the man completely changed the subject, offering his apologies for imposing on myself and my family in regards to coming to dinner. I said it was perfectly all right, but he insisted that he repay me by inviting me to dinner. I tried to respectfully decline but he said he felt it his duty to return my kindness and that he would take no refusals. So as not to seem rude I accepted, another mistake.

As we gathered ourselves to leave I called an attendant over and asked if a message could be relayed to Catherine that I would be delayed. I did not include exactly where I was going in the message, as I did not want Catherine to worry, and handing the hastily scribbled note to the attendant my companion and I made our way to the front entrance. Upon opening the door that led on to the now darkened street I saw a black carriage approach and stop just in front of us. A man of Mediterranean complexion climbed out of the canopied driver’s seat and held the door for both his employer and myself, and with a crack of his whip we were on our way. As I sat back in the plush interior of the carriage I noticed that there were no windows, a small oil lamp provided the necessary illumination for my companion and I to see each other, and the shadows that were cast on the other man’s face unnerved me somewhat. The light falling on his gaunt features gave his face a skull-like quality that looking back was eerily appropriate, for he was Death, and I was completely within his grasp.

We sat in silence as the carriage wended its way through the streets of London, the noise of the horses and the occasional crack of the whip the only real sounds to be heard, and with no windows in the carriage I quickly became aware that I did not know where we were, or indeed where we were going. The journey lasted long enough for me to assume we had passed through at least two districts and when we stopped for a moment and I heard the driver get down from the carriage I heard a gate being opened. The carriage jolted back into motion briefly and then stopped again, the driver dismounting for a second time, closing the gate behind him. Another short burst of movement and the carriage stopped for the final time, the door then being opened by the driver.

‘Welcome to my home,’ he said. ‘Dinner will be a short while, in the meantime allow me to give you the tour.’ Standing before me was a grand, three storey building of elegant design, and as I walked the short distance from the carriage to the front door, the gravel of the driveway crunching underneath my shoes, I looked over my shoulder and saw the house was set in small but attractive grounds, a wrought iron fence with double gates encircling the house. The man’s driver stood by the open front door and remained motionless as we both passed through, closing it quickly behind him. The interior of the house was well appointed and reflected the sophistication that its owner seemed to exude, and as we made our way down the hallway the driver disappeared through a side door.

‘He is seeing to dinner,’ he explained after noticing my quizzical look.

‘Do you not have a cook?’ I asked, surprised that a house this large did not have more staff.

‘I have no need for such things,’ he said with a wave of his hand. ‘My man is most reliable.’ We continued on throughout the house, me being shown the various artefacts that had been collected on his travels, and it was all very interesting, but once again the conversation turned to the Ripper killings.

‘I hear that the Ripper has sent one of the victims’ kidneys to the police,’ I said, retelling a rumour that had filtered into my shop.

‘Indeed? How inventive,’ he said, sounding almost impressed.

‘The man’s clearly a lunatic,’ I said. ‘I sincerely hope they catch him soon. Not a corner of London is safe until they do.’

‘Oh come now,’ he said, with a strange smile on his face. ‘So far he has only preyed on ladies of the night, has he not?’

‘Well, yes.’

‘Then I would not worry, my friend, as you do not appear to be one of them.’ I smiled slightly at the joke, but the man’s jovialness at such a morbid topic startled me. I wondered at the time how anyone could be so flippant in the face of such brutality, but now I know that he was playing with me, toying with me as a cat would a mouse before the fatal blow was struck.

Dinner was announced soon afterwards and I was led to an elegant dining-room where the Mediterranean man served a rich meal that was both delicious and intriguing. I had not tasted anything like it and we dined in relative silence, our plates being cleared away once we were finished.

‘I trust dinner was to your liking?’ he asked after we had finished eating, leaning his elbows on the table and tenting his fingers.

‘Very much so, thank you,’ I said, before taking another sip of wine. ‘I don’t believe I have tasted anything like it before.’

‘Oh I am sure you have not,’ smiled my host.

‘This really is a magnificent house,’ I said, looking around the dining-room.

‘Why thank you,’ he said. ‘It’s home.’

‘May I ask you something though, what is it that you do to be able to afford to live in such luxury?’ My dining companion simply smiled at this question, as if my very asking of it amused him.

‘I get by,’ was his only answer. I would have pressed the matter further, out of sheer curiosity, but before I could the carriage driver cum manservant reappeared to take our plates away. I watched the silent figure leave the room once again before turning back to my host.

‘Well, it has been a most agreeable evening,’ I said, noticing the time on the grandfather clock in the corner. ‘But I really must be getting home, my wife will be expecting me.’

‘Of course,’ he said, rising gracefully from his chair. ‘But I promised you a tour of my home, and you have not yet seen everything.’ I wanted to decline, stating that it was definitely time I left, but my mind once again felt blurred and off kilter. I recalled clearly only having one glass of wine with dinner so I was sure I had not had too much to drink, but before I could collect my thoughts enough to insist that I made my way home he had come around the table and was leading me out of the dining room and down a corridor.

‘Have we not been down here already?’ I asked numbly, my words not feeling as if they were my own. My brain felt clouded, as if I could not hold on to a thought for long enough for it to crystallise, and all the while I was being led through this man’s house when I should have been on my way.

‘I have many treasures,’ he said, keeping his hand placed gently but deliberately in the middle of my back. ‘But none more precious than what I have to show you.’ We continued around a corner until we came to a door, which he opened and gestured for me to go through. Once again I felt as though I should respectfully decline, but the words would not form in my mouth, they simply rattled inside my head and died, leaving me helpless to comply to his wishes.

Through the door were a set of stone steps that led downwards, which I found myself descending, my insistent host a step or two behind me. At the foot of the stairs was another door, this one larger and heavier looking than the previous one. He stepped in front of me and unlocked the door, once again motioning for me to go through, and as soon as I did the fog that seemed to be strangling my mind lifted, and the sight that met my now focused eyes made me question whether it was reality or fantasy.

Stretching out before me was a high ceilinged room with rows of metal cages, all containing hunched, naked men. The reek of sweat and waste filled my nostrils as I took in the horrific scene with a sense of mounting dread and confusion. The men were all snarling and hurling themselves around inside the limited space of their respective cages, it was a truly disgusting sight. I felt my stomach turn as I looked in revulsion at the poor wretches gnashing at the bars, and that is when I heard the door slam. I whirled around to see him standing there, twirling the keys to the room I was now trapped in on his long, thin fingers.

‘Well? What do you think?’ he said, a maniacal smirk sitting in place of his usual calm expression, his voice changed somehow; harder, colder. Fear struck me at my very core, the man was changed into something despicable, and in that instant I knew I was in danger.

What is all this?’ I asked frantically, backing away from him, desperate to put some distance between the two of us.

‘What I wanted to show you,’ he said, the evil smirk remaining fixed on his now demonic features. ‘These are my babies.’ He gestured to the rows of stinking cages with an air of such twisted pride as to turn my throat dry, truly he was mad. He continued to stare into me with his cold, piercing eyes before continuing. ‘All of them were like you once; everyday gentleman, nothing out of the ordinary, until I came upon them of course.’ His smile widened to reveal a pair of elongated fangs, much longer and deadlier looking than the average person’s teeth, and risking a fearful glance towards one of the cages nearest to me I saw, to my horror, that the forsaken individual inhabiting it also possessed similar dental anomalies. I looked back to him, this demon in my presence, steeling myself as best I could for the attack that I felt sure was about to occur, but he just stood there, drinking in my fear.

‘By the way,’ he said, almost conversationally. ‘I must commend you on your pallet.’

‘What?’ I stood, frozen with fear, wondering what this monster could possibly be talking about.

‘Your dinner,’ he replied. ‘Not everyone can stomach human flesh.’

‘What?’ I felt a wave of nausea overtake me and for a moment I thought I might vomit, but I was too petrified for my body to be working properly, and all the while this devil, this inhuman creature simply stood there, revelling in the terror that he caused.

‘Oh yes, some of these fine fellows could not bear more than a mouthful, until now of course, but you fared spectacularly, well done.’

‘What are you?’ I asked, stammering somewhat from the tremulous fear that struck my soul. Part of me knew the answer to this question, the part that still believed those old childhood tales of monsters and demons, but the rational side of me would not allow the thought to take seed. Still, the asking of this question seemed to amuse him greatly.

‘Why my dear boy,’ he said, chuckling evilly. ‘I would have thought it was obvious. I am your demise.’

And with that he struck.

 

***

 

I thought I was dead, or would have had I the capacity for rational thought, but at this point I must beg the reader’s indulgence, as my tale grows hazy for a time. At first I had no idea what had happened to me, or indeed what was now happening to me, I felt sure that he intended to kill me, but as time wore on the realisation crept into my mind that I was in fact not dead, at least not in the strictest sense of the word.

For you see, I was now a vampire.

I know this now through the advantage of hindsight, I could not have known at the time I was sired, for I knew nothing then, nothing other than the insatiable hunger and rage that filled me so violently. I remember very little from the beginning, just that every emotion, every drive, every urge had been replaced by this anger, this hatred, this uncontrollable desire to destroy everything around me. It was not as if I could see myself from some neutral standpoint and wonder in helpless amazement at what was making me act this way, there was nothing of me left. Every aspect of who I was had been abruptly swept away and in their place was this void; I was a creature, an animal, and had it not been for the monster who sired me I would have remained that way forever.

I do not know whether to thank him for what he did for me, the very idea now seems almost laughable, but had he left me in the initial state I would have stayed a soulless, remorseless beast for all eternity. Do not get me wrong, I am indeed a monster, but if he ever did anything for me it was bring me back to the shores of humanity, or what passes for humanity with creatures like us, and allowed me to regain a semblance of who I once was.

The only problem is that it worked too well.

Since becoming a vampire I have obviously been endowed with an abundance of time, and one of the things I have done to pass the decades is to read. Anything and everything I could get my hands on I would devour, learning and re-learning about the world that I once belonged to, and I feel it prudent of me to clear up some misconceptions about vampires as perpetuated through popular fiction. We are not graceful creatures, nor are we tragically beautiful children of the night, or any other of the sickening clichés that have been bandied about in the last hundred years or so. We are monsters, pure and simple. We are death, we are terror, we are fear, and to think anything else is to be hideously misled. Being a vampire is not some romantic venture bringing everlasting youth and beauty, it is the violent stripping away of everything you hold dear, being transformed into some unholy bestial abomination that is forced to exist within the shadows.

That is, unless you are brought back.

Once a person is sired their soul is instantly damned, forever cursed within a foul shell of living death, but this is just the beginning. Being sired did not mean that I was a vampire proper, at least not yet, it would take time for me to remember how to comport myself correctly in order to be able to hunt in society, which after all was my sole purpose now. The incredible hunger that drove me did not subside over time, I just learned how to control it, and this is thanks to the one who made me. For all the loathing and disgust I hold towards him and every one of our kind I know now that considering what I could have stayed as I do owe him some form of twisted thanks. Had I been left in the beginning stage I would never have become a sentient being again, never been able to exist in the real world, not that I really do now, but what little ability I possess to pass unnoticed would never have been mine.

It is hard to imagine but there is actually something worse than being made a vampire, and that is being made a vampire by a creature who has no intention to fully sire you, meaning they do not intend to take the time and effort required to bring the animalistic creature you have become back from the jaws of savagery and remind you how to act like a human being. In this way I suppose I was fortunate, if you can call it that, the one who made me never made light of the demonic process, he only made those who he fully intended to train back to civility, some sort of grisly hobby you might say, but in my time I have come across poor, feral creatures who were sired and then left to fend for themselves, it is never a pretty sight.

So my training began, what little I can remember of it, and as time passed I started to notice more thoughts entering my mind, more varied and coherent than the constant drive to simply kill and feed, and by the time I became aware of the world around me again at least two decades had come and gone. We were in a new century and I was once again walking on two legs, speaking in almost full sentences, I was even wearing clothes again. I was becoming something akin to my old self, but with all the thoughts that were now swimming lucidly through my head there was something nagging at me.

‘I…I had a wife,’ I said one day, carefully forming the words as though they were sticky and cloying in my mouth.

‘A daughter too,’ he said airily. ‘Pretty little thing.’

‘What…?’ I began.

‘Happened to them?’ he said, finishing my unspoken question. ‘Well I couldn’t very well have them poking around asking questions, could I?’

‘What did you do?’ I asked, feeling the anger and dread rise inside me like a wave.

‘What did I do?’ he said, laughing to himself. ‘My dear boy, you should be asking what did you do.’

And then he told me.

I killed them, I killed them both.

 

***

 

Madeline couldn’t read on any further, the tears were welling up inside her eyes and as she attempted to disengage from the unbelievable story that she had just read she felt the presence of someone else in the room.

‘So now you know,’ said Sebastian, who appeared from the shadows.


Submitted: October 06, 2014

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