We like the dark, my kind. It’s just as well, because no sliver of light chinks its way into this forsaken place. I have only the damp walls and the chittering rats as muses for my senses. Even the wardens provide little interaction; my meals are pushed through the hatch once a day. I eat my thin soup to the sound of hurried footsteps retreating up the corridor, and then nothing. The guards’ unease is not surprising. They can sense something about me. What they feel they cannot say, but it is there nonetheless.
Their inarticulacy is unsurprising. I do not conform to their preconceptions of how a vampire might act. I don’t hover menacingly like Christopher Lee and I’m certainly not involved in a nauseating love triangle with a werewolf. I have neither fangs nor superhuman strength, and my interactions with garlic and mirrors are likely as unremarkable as yours.
There is one uncomfortable fact which still holds true to the legends – we must feed. You can keep your bodily fluids, though. Your blood tastes exactly the same in my mouth as it does in yours – claggy and retch-inducing. Perhaps we used to indulge in such base pursuits. I don’t remember. I do know that we have evolved to survive on something much more nourishing – emotion.
I once took succour from joy, the more widespread and bounteous the better. I fed upon your emotional by-products; a cry of joy as a baby is born, a belly-laugh at a joke down the pub. Not so sinister, is it? Of course, these were merely aperitifs, barely enough to tamp down an appetite. My main source of nourishment came from sporting meets, music recitals, that sort of thing. Ah, the swell of the crowd, the noise, the sweat, the passion…being part of a throng like that could sustain me for months. With every roar, every surge, I could feel strength pushing through my veins.
Greed was my downfall of course. Soon, jousts and hunts were not enough. The joy wasn’t…feral enough for me. Real emotion, unbridled joy, that’s hard to come by. Hope became my drug of choice. The storming of the Bastille, Gandhi’s march, Mandela’s liberation, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Times Square during the moon landings…I was there for all of them. A lot of nourishment to be had, but also a lot of unrest. I suppose it was only a matter of time before my presence was deemed suspicious.
My cover was sprung at the Arab Spring. I guess some intelligence service somewhere had me at one too many rebellions for their liking. The soldiers described me as a usurper of the peace as they led me away. I’m still not sure what that means other than I’ll not be leaving this hole again. At first I thought I’d starve. Cut off from hope, joy, excitement. What was down here for me? Surely I would wither.
Not so. It transpires that living underneath the living streets simply requires an adjustment of the palette. It’s not cries of revolution that titillate me now, but rather the moans of my fellow prisoners. I lay here in the dirt and bask in their whimpers and dream-prompted mumblings. Thin fare, to be sure, but I’m learning to savour smaller portions.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order