Part Two – SubTerranea: Vampire Central
Ten – Billy came calling
By the time I awoke fully from my transfer-induced doze on the winter bridge in Perveen’s arms, I found myself in what can only be described as some grey-stoned, Medieval-looking castle. Not only had she brought us somewhere out of sight, but my initial sensation was that we were also outside time itself. Where my queen was now, I had no idea.
It was not only the look of this bedroom, which I viewed from inside a gigantic four-poster bed, with heavy Jacquard quilt covers and curtains of the same filigree ivory base trimmed with scarlet red borders and thick golden rope, but the atmosphere, too, felt…mm, tilted, as if its fulcrum had been shifted and everything was unsuccessfully attempting to regain composure and a sense of equilibrium. For the first time in this vampire life, I was starting to feel unsteady, very much the state I sensed the world in which I’d awoken to be.
Shadows danced and jumped against walls from banks of candles. Hundreds of them, of many heights and thicknesses and all of the same sickly yellow, bone-coloured ivory hue, portended the smell of fresh-cut roses subtly on their flickering flames to impart an air of the outside. It was pleasant enough, but did little to dispel the sense of claustrophobia I had begun to feel both here and similarly at the mercy of Perveen earlier, as I was in this fledgling vampire state.
I was still weak from the kiss of the vampire but had regained enough strength to swiftly stave off the bout of giddiness threatening to topple me as I slid to my feet from the exceptionally high four-poster. It was not cold (or at least, the only chill I felt could have been attributed to some phobia or another), but instinct led me to the nearest stand of candles to light the fire that stood prepared directly in front of the grandiose bed. I guess there was still a part of the human in me that refused to let go of the creature comforts of an earthly home.
I crouched, simultaneously recalling the stealth and agility in my limbs that my own transformation into this vampire state had endowed me with. Before the flame of the candle got within a foot of the kindling, I imagined the fire roaring – to my amazement, the first tongues of fire started licking the lower logs without so much as a touch of the alighted wick in my hand, now melting wax down onto my thumb. I recoiled, almost toppling backwards into the food of the bed, but stabilised in time and found its edge, watching the fire spring to life in the hearth, a gaping hole of ancient stone that would have easily swallowed a grown man.
With mesmeric attention fixed on the burgeoning bonfire, I failed to hear the heavy bedroom door open. A breeze from the corridor outside stirred the fanfare of flames, casting shadow hither and thither, misty shapes playing out battle scenes around the chimney breast and walls, disappearing into the deepening darkness of the furthest corner of the room, where I could make out what looked like yet another door in the murk. The door closed behind me, the shadows stopped dancing and plunged that opposite corner once more into blackness – I couldn’t say whether I’d made out a door jamb over there or not, but my attention was now diverted to the party that had entered the room. It was Billy and his, by now, familiar, trusted cohorts.
in his fashion, Billy spoke no words, but it was clear I was to go with them as his two wingmen parted for me to lead on between them. The corridor ahead, alighted with infrequent torches along its length, stretched out before us to a tiny head of light, some way off in the distance.
I fancied I heard the clamour of a busying crowd coming from the pin-prick of light’s direction. It sang of industry, much like the clatter of the school kitchen heard from a nearby classroom as staff prepare for lunchtime. But surely that was not it.
I turned to seek some reassurance from Billy, but he had gone, only his trustees stood at either shoulder behind me in the corridor, which stretched out just as far the other way, if not further. They nodded in unison in the original direction, towards the ghostly sound of a workhouse kitchen that undulated on the breezes that wafted past us in the semi-darkness, feeling disappointed that they did not bring with them the odour off goulash or mint custard.
A prod in my back broke the day dream. I don’t know what I’d done to upset these two fellows, but their hostility was almost palpable; I must admit, neither did I much care for them.