DESPAIR by David North-Martino ©2006, 2019
1st place winner in the 2nd annual Déjà vu Horror Contest at Dark Recesses Press. Originally published in their 4th issue.
I awoke naked and in pain, pulling my share of covers off of Norman who had stolen them during the night. The cool cotton soothed my bare skin, especially where the diffused light, searing between the Venetian blinds, had touched my flesh.
He didn’t know how fortunate he was to be with me. So many men longed to see the woman behind the voice. And they should, for even though I use many, my true name means desire. And it was in sleepy desire that I nuzzled against his nakedness. Ice.
Instinctively I recoiled—leapt off the bed—felt the wrath of the sun—and thrust the blinds shut.
My eyes adjusting to the semi-darkness, I crept over the threadbare rug to the foot of the bed. Knuckles white, I grasped the end of the covers and whipped them to the floor. Norman’s naked body illuminated the darkness.
Where had I seen that glow before? It brought on memories of paste-on glow-in-the-dark stars and oddly my parents and their untimely deaths.
The puncture wounds on his neck suggested what had caused his untimely death. Vampire!
Laughter threatened to escape my lips. An asylum of thought invaded my mind, straightjackets and Thorazine. My photo-toxic youth had been filled with vampire romanticism and blood wine eroticism, but I had never considered myself so foolish as to believe in the legend of the undead.
I don’t like to travel during the day, when the Sun spreads its wicked light throughout the world. Even though mid-September slowly crept toward October, the day wasn’t cool enough for my brim hat, opaque scarf, and trench coat.
The cabdriver didn’t give me a second glance; he called into dispatch, mumbling too close to the microphone. An equally incomprehensible voice squealed back high pitched pain and I wondered how the driver could translate the squawk into speech.
We rolled lazily down route 119 passing the Entering Massachusetts sign. The driver didn’t speak and I didn’t encourage him. I needed time to think, time to decide if the coldness of my heart could mourn my dead lover.
The woods rolled by, a blur of green and bramble, as the meter clicked off the miles.
Then, as the woods receded I saw it, the mansion, enshrouded by an emerald fog, superimposed on a hilly clearing. The structure, a collage of gothic architecture, stood among homes of modern design.
“Do you see that?” I asked the driver.
He glanced to the right, where I had pointed, and then brought his attention back to the road.
“Right there—that mansion?” I was so sure I had never seen it before.
“They all look like mansions to me Miss. You should see where I live.”
We passed by in silence. The mist that encircled the manor radiated an electric white that mirrored the color of Norman’s corpse. I knew I would have to return, until then I would remain haunted.
When the sun fled the horizon, I awoke. Loneliness bled back into my reality. Norman’s passing brought more than the residual depression I always felt after a night of unemotional sex, it left me with a numbing emptiness.
I called Susan and let her know I wouldn’t be available for work. Usually when the men call me for phone sex I find it a great distraction, even a release. But tonight I couldn’t bear to talk dirty or fake orgasm. Tonight I needed to go hunting.
Leaving my apartment I walked through the sleepy darkness, the unnatural quiet of the quaint downtown. Instinctively I knew I would see him—Norman’s killer—but I had no plan as to what to do when I found him.
St. Augustine’s church bell tolled out the hour.
I saw him.
A beautiful man, he exuded glamour as much as the same haze that enshrouded the manor. I swooned, like a foolish schoolgirl enamored by a first crush, and I had no choice but to follow him.
He darted into an alleyway. Fear followed me as I approached the darkness. His phosphorescent glow lit the passage a lighter shade of dark. I followed him to a fire escape. He lifted his arm, a stiff gesture, and the stairs descended. He climbed effortlessly. Unable to escape his thrall I followed him and found my ascent pure labor.
He gestured again and a window opened.
My foot slipped from the stair. I looked down to secure my footing and when I looked up again, the landing by the window stood empty.
When I reached the window I looked inside. His glow revealed a woman sleeping in the nude, the covers helter-skelter, and her body twisting as if caught in a lurid dream.
He savored her the same way I had once savored wine, taking a sniff of her scent before plunging his fangs deep into the soft tissue of her throat. Her unseeing eyes shot open. Her mouth bowed in either terror or ecstasy, perhaps both. Her pupils clouded, her lids slackened, the rosy hue of her mouth and nipples frosted white.
He looked up at me, his mouth frighteningly attached to her ecstatic body. His lips drew up into a half smile, restricted as they were by the flesh of her neck. Laughter filled his eyes. He was not satiated, could not be even by a harem of blood slaves, and he wanted me next, I felt his need deep in my veins.
Jagged panic cut the strings of his glamour.
Rusty rails burnt my flesh as I slid to my escape. The pavement came up fast, shocking the soles of my feet with an electric pain. Glancing back in horror I saw him smiling from the window, fresh blood giving him the countenance of a clown.
The coldness of death chilled the air behind me. I didn’t look back, couldn’t bear to see his evanescent form, smell the sickly sweet odor of his recent meal.
The keys jangled their warning as I stabbed at the entry-way lock. Any moment he would be upon me. The bolt unbarred. I pushed inside, shut the door, and ran up the stairs. My apartment lock fought me for entrance, a battle I won out of sheer tenacity and will.
Inside, I ran through the apartment, checked the window locks, and drew the blinds. His spiteful laughter echoed into my home as if no walls barred his entrance.
“Come to me. You will come to me.”
His voice, disembodied and ephemeral, ravished my soul that night, sent me into fits of hair pulling and maniacal laughter. For the first time I could recall, I welcomed the return of daylight.
The next night I did return to him. He made it easy. Back on route 119 I let the twilight mist be my beacon and suffered the citrus face of an old cabby, once, when he saw I was carrying a wooden stake I had used as a prop one forgotten Halloween, and then a second time when I asked him to let me out on the side of the road with nothing around but the darkness and the music of crickets.
After handing him a wad of cash, gleaned from my dead lover’s wallet above and beyond services rendered, his face turned alkaline and he made quick work of squealing the tires on the old converted station wagon. With fear betraying my footing I ascended the hill toward the mansion.
The manor door opened of its own accord the same way they always did in black and white horror movies. My trepidation was tempered only by my curiosity and desire to see this creature destroyed.
“I told you, you’d come back to me.” He descended a fog enshrouded staircase, same out of date attire, same highbred bone; a handsome structure in which to hang the pale flesh of his face. With a twitch of his fingers the door, now behind me, slammed shut. Claustrophobia set in. The foyer in which I stood was enclosed by walls constructed of thought in a space that I instinctively knew was transcendental to time.
I raised the stake, my mouth dry, my mind numb. A wave of his hand and the staircase evaporated. He stood what could have been no more than five feet from me, the walls shifting and swirling around us as if we had taken up residence in a cloud.
“I see you have come to run me through with that splinter. Go on little girl tell me why.”
“Because you killed my lover.” For the first time I could recall, tears stained my cheeks.
“I don’t know that you can call it love when it’s paid for. But it was not I who killed your, as you say, lover. Let me show you something.”
I didn’t let him do anything. My hand slackened and the stake clattered to the floor. My spirit tossed and turned but my body wouldn’t obey.
Frightening speed. An eye blink and he had bridged the distance between us. His mouth hovered agape, a mere inch from my vulnerable throat. I closed my eyes, anticipating the pain, the sweet release. I longed for him to take me then, to flow into his veins, to flood into oblivion. A rage overcame my craving for him, for death, pulling my musculature, restructuring my bones. That part of me unbound, limbic, Precambrian, I pushed free of his will and tossed him into cumulous.
The walls shifted again and he stood by a four poster bed which held last night’s victim, chained and helpless, enough blood left in her apparently for another night’s feed but now it was me who craved the blood that throbbed so close to the surface of her skin. A mirror faded into form over the bed, not for any Bathory pleasure but to show me what I had become.
A face stared back in that mirror, my face, hideous, sunken, fangs protruding over lip, the flesh wrapped tight around bone.
“What have you done to me?”
“Nothing,” he said. “You’re a Defensive, a latent vampire. The legends speak about the Defensive’s ability to blend in with their prey, the necessity to kill only when provoked. That is, until they learn of their true selves.”
“I don’t understand.” I didn’t want to understand, I only wanted to run then, run and never stop.
“Remember when your parents punished you, and you killed them, drank their blood?”
I didn’t need to remember, the image of them, of me, so young, so evil, projected now where the mirror had been. My tears continued to flow, every repressed memory breaking through the gates of my subconscious.
“When you’re lover struck you in his drunken stupor…oh, but I see you’re remembering that too now. His blood allowed you to see the mansion, allowed you to see me. Oh, but I’m being rude, my attack has awakened your thirst. Maddening isn’t it? You need the blood of the living, yet I have none to give. No matter, I left enough in her for you.”
The woman screamed, her nails raking at my flesh, jangling the slack in the chains, but once I had wrapped my hands around her midnight curls and exposed her lovely throat she found it quite difficult to struggle.
He waits for me at a cheap motel in upstate New York. We’ve only spoken over the phone, if you call our conversations speaking. He wants to meet me, they all do.
I knock on the door to room 9. I listen as he hesitantly leaves the comfort of the bed and pads over to the door. The padlock clicks, he hesitates again, then with what I’m sure is all his courage he opens the door.
He’s not much to look at but I can see by the relief that floods his face he is quite pleased by my appearance. You never can tell what you’re going to get when you’ve only talked to the woman on the phone.
He steps back to let me into the dim, dirty room. Inside I have no patience for words, I unbutton my blouse. His legs seem to give out and he quickly lowers himself to a seat on the bed.
He looks around the room, uncomfortable.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“What name do I always use with you, you know it don’t you?”
“Tell me your real name, just your first name. I need to hear it, I’ll pay you more.” His nails-raking-on-chalkboard voice makes me want to shut him up.
Instead I smile bitterly at this poor wretch of a man. His facial expression seems to reflect some displeasure in what he sees in my smile.
I will the change before his horrified eyes and now I’m sure he doesn’t like what he sees in my smile. He scrambles backward on the bed, hyperventilating, probably soiling his pants.
“My name is Desiree,” I say to him. “But all my lovers call me Despair.”