You know it to be true, dear reader, as do I. How many people have you misjudged – rightly or wrongly – because of the way they look?
Someone once said to me, ‘you look all sweet and innocent, like an angel, but you have the imagination of a seriously disturbed individual’. Now, those of you who know me will either be laughing hysterically (at the angel part) or nodding sagely at the wisdom of these words. For my part, I took these words as a compliment.
The point, dear reader, is to illustrate the fact that looks most certainly can be deceptive and people are not always as innocent as they may seem.
In the work of horror and fantasy, the perfect example of this is the vampire. For me, vampires are, by definition, enigmas. An enigma, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘a person, thing or situation that is mysterious, puzzling or ambiguous’.
A vampire is elusive, endearing, engaging, enigmatic and erotic. But, at the same time, a vampire is also dangerous, destructive, deadly and devious. Vampires seduce you; they draw you in; they overpower you; they take over your mind; they take away your willpower. And they do all this, just by looking at you. Yet, how do they do it?
They have allure, they have charm and they have their looks. Now, I’m not talking about they’re physical looks – though this does help (check out Gerard Butler in Dracula 2000 to see what I mean!) – but more the look that they have about them. It is almost like a presence, or an aura, that you are powerless to resist. It’s like a drug; a need; a desire so strong, that you are incapable of fighting against its draw.
It is because of this that, for me, vampires are the most enduring of all. They are also the most erotic (but that’s for another blog – maybe) and, above all else, they are the most romantic.
You may be staring at the screen, appalled, right now, but think about it. Don’t think about the Hammer vampires or even some of the more recent concoctions. The birth of true love, for me, started many moons ago, when Bram Stoker penned my favourite book of all time. Dracula IS, without compare, THE best love story ever written. A man so distraught by the loss of the woman he loves; transcends time to find her again. Yet, when he does, when he has the chance to make her his for eternity, what does he do? He says probably the most heart wrenching words ever uttered:
‘I can’t. I love you too much’
He lets her go; he walks away; he sacrifices his own happiness for hers. If this doesn’t epitomise true love, then I don’t know what does. Is this where the phrase ‘if you love someone, let them go’ comes from? Perhaps.
This isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last, blog in which I’ve mentioned vampires. Last week I invited you to start exploring the dark and dangerous recesses of my mind, and you may recall a little girl? A little girl sitting on a bench; a little girl in a red wool coat with black tights and black patent leather Mary Jane’s; a little girl with blonde ringlets; a little girl who goes by the name of Emily.
Emily came to me one night and asked me to share with you her story and so, here it is. I hope you take heed, dear reader.
May fear protect you when the darkness comes.
Til next time.
‘Hello. What’s your name?’
Emily looked up at the man, through her tears. He was smiling at her; a warm smile; a friendly smile.
‘Emily,’ she said, as she gulped back a sob.
‘Hello, Emily, my name’s Jack,’ he said and extended his right hand towards her. It was a large hand; tanned and calloused, with short blunt nails. He must work with his hands, Emily thought. Her gaze traced the thick blue veins that criss-crossed the back of his hand, before they disappeared under the cuff of his jumper.
She extended her own small, delicate hand from within the safety of her black fur muffler. She placed it in his, feeling its roughness against her own soft skin, and shook it formerly.
‘Do you mind if I sit down?’
Emily shook her head. He sat down next to her, careful to leave some space between them. Maybe so as not to frighten me, she thought and smiled to herself. He rubbed his hands together vigorously and turned towards her. The air was particularly cold this November night.
‘Are you all right?’ he said, his voice tinged with concern.
Emily looked up into his eyes, so warm and friendly, and nodded. She wiped the remaining tears away with the back of her hand and sniffed.
‘Here, use this,’ Jack said, pulling a clean cotton handkerchief out of his pocket.
‘Thank you.’ Emily put the handkerchief to her nose and inhaled. ‘This smells nice. All clean and fresh, like the trees,’ she said and smiled at him. He smiled back and glanced at his watch.
‘What’s the matter? Do you have to go already?’ Emily said, her eyes filling with tears.
‘Hey, hey, don’t cry again, sweetheart. I don’t have to go yet. I need to get you home first, don’t I? Are you lost?’
Emily didn’t answer him. She was watching the vein pulsing in the side of his neck. She reached out to touch it; to feel the blood move beneath her fingertips. Jack pulled back as though he had been scalded.
‘Jesus! Your hands are freezing. Put them back inside your muffler; to keep them warm.’
Emily smiled at this, but did as he asked. She clasped her other hand inside the muffler. Both were like ice, despite the warmth it provided.
‘Emily, I asked you a question. Are you lost? Is that why you are crying?’
‘No, Jack, I’m not lost,’ she said, in a tone that belied her years.
‘Then why are you here?’
‘I always come here.’
‘What? On your own?’
‘Yes. I like to come here. It’s where I meet people. It’s where I help people.’
‘What do you mean?’
Emily shrugged. ‘People come to me; to talk. It helps them. I help them. Just like I’m helping you, Jack.’
‘What do you mean, “helping me”? I’m talking to you because I’m worried about you, out here on your own, so late at night. You might get hurt.’
Emily smiled at this. She liked Jack. His kindness and his innocence set him apart from the others. Maybe she’d keep him. He would be good company.
‘Where do you live? It’s time I took you home.’
She didn’t answer him. He sighed and slumped back against the bench. Emily shuffled across to be closer to him. She could feel the warmth radiating from his body.
‘Emily, answer me. Where do you live?’
Still, she didn’t answer. She wasn’t listening to his voice. She was listening to his heart beating strongly in his chest. She was listening to his blood flowing through his veins. She was tracing the veins on his hand with her tiny finger.
Jack shifted, as though dislodging an unwelcome pet and, placing his hands on her shoulders, turned her to face him.
‘Emily, you should not be out here on your own, in the freezing cold, at this time of night. It’s not safe. Anything could happen to you.’
‘Will you walk me home then?’ she said, pushing herself off the bench and holding her hand out to him.
At last, Jack thought. What the hell was a kid her age doing in a park so late? Some people didn’t deserve to be parents. He hoped she lived close by; he needed to be back around ten, but he also wanted to give her parents a piece of his mind.
He looked down at her as she led him through the park. She was so tiny and delicate. She looked like an angel.
He was so glad he’d found her. The last thing he needed was for her to get caught up in this. Tonight was his chance to catch him. Fifteen men had gone missing here; their bodies having been discovered a couple of days later, in the bushes behind the bench she’d been sitting on.
They had been runners; walkers; dog owners; cyclists; single; married; fathers; grandfathers; teenagers. There was no real pattern, except that they were all men and that their bodies had all looked the same – grey and empty; a look of surprise evident in their eyes.
Jack looked at his watch again – nine thirty – it was going to be tight. The timing was crucial. It had to look natural.
His radio crackled to life then, making them both jump. God, which part of “no contact” didn’t they understand!
‘Yeah,’ he said into the mouthpiece. He listened for a few minutes and then switched it off; to make sure it didn’t disturb him again.
‘What was that?’ Emily said, staring up at him; her forehead creased in concern; her mouth set in a line.
‘Just the station checking up on me. I’m a policeman,’ he said, hoping to put her mind at rest.
Emily was not happy. She had liked Jack. Not now though; not now she knew what he was. Tears filled her eyes again. She had liked him so much, much more than the others, but he had disappointed her. He had made her sad and she didn’t like to feel sad. She stopped abruptly.
‘I’m tired. Will you carry me?’ she stared up at him, a pout decorating her rosebud lips.
Jack stooped to pick her up and was surprised by how heavy she was. She nestled into his shoulder, her arms around his neck; twining her fingers in his hair.
‘How much further?’ Jack said.
‘Not much. There’s a way out of the park, behind that bench up ahead.’
Jack picked up the pace and was soon wading through the long grass behind the bench.
‘Wait a minute,’ he said, stopping and looking around. ‘We’re back where we started.’
As realisation dawned, he felt a cold sweat swathe his skin and a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He tried to release her, but she was too quick for him. He winced as he felt her teeth puncture the delicate skin of his neck, and fought to push her away, but she was too strong. His neck felt like it was on fire and the pulling sensation against his flesh was becoming unbearable. He felt the delayed kick of adrenalin and pushed against her with all his strength, but to no avail. She had clamped herself to him like a limpet.
Exhausted by the effort and weakened by the loss of blood, he slumped to his knees. Emily let go of him and stepped back. Jack looked up at her, only to find her delicate features transformed into those of a monster; blood smeared across her lily-white skin.
He watched, helpless, as her face morphed back into the angel he had met on the park bench. The angel of death. He could hear his pulse slowing; could feel his heart strain to find the strength to beat. The black and white dots started to form before his eyes and his breathing became laboured and ragged. He had no reserves left to draw on. He let the darkness embrace him.
Emily smiled to herself and returned to the bench; a little girl of four feet in height, with blonde ringlets, green eyes and un-naturally pale skin; a little girl of eight years of age, who was so much older; a little girl so full of innocence.
© Marie Anne Cope 2005 (Updated 2013)