In The City of the Living, I Am the Dead

A Short Story by Andrew Pritchard

July 24th, 2008

I sit at the cherry wood table in my kitchen, casually sipping a glass of Glenfiddich and reflecting on my past. Today is an important day for me; not that it's my birthday, technically speaking it's my deathday. This day, July 24th, has always held monumental importance for me. Every hero starts somewhere and it was on this day, twenty-eight years prior, that I underwent a remarkable change from villain to hero.

I have loved comic books since they came into prominence in the twenties or thirties, but my favourite hero has always been Batman. I actually modeled myself after the caped vigilante; I found him inspiring. Incorruptible, moral, and vicious. I also possessed these qualities, although it took me some centuries to become moral. Morality has never been a strong suit of mine, as you will soon discover, but since Batman came along I had been 'on the fence' so to speak with my career choice.

I remember myself on that day, in 1980, my deathday. I was 27 years old that day, a rich, eligible young bachelor with a terrible secret that everybody was dying to know. Around the same time of day I was standing by my window (or was I sitting on the couch?), holding a small tumbler of Glenfiddich over ice. I still have the outfit I wore that day – it is hanging in my closet right now, in plastic, fresh from the drycleaners. The suit is Giorgio Armani, an unconstructed tan jacket with a steel grey shirt underneath accompanied by a subtle vanilla and black striped tie by Christian Dior. The only reason I bought the suit was that it was the same one Richard Gere wore in American Gigolo and women told me I resembled him.

I get up from my table and stare at it for a moment, looking at the small grooves and the occasional knife mark. I walk past the guest bedroom, down the hall and into my bedroom where I pick up a copy of Kafka's The Metamorphosis from my teak wood nightstand and read the synopsis. I drop it back on the nightstand and try to remember the book since I haven't read it in a while. However, I seem to be drawing a blank regarding what happens in the novel. I put the book down and glide towards the walk-in closet to get the suit – the Armani I was wearing this day, twenty years before. I take the suit out of the closet and tear away the cheap plastic to reveal beautifully textured Italian fabric.

I remove the hanger that the jacket is draped upon and lay the suit on my King sized bed. I have to take off the suit I'm currently wearing; a Hemp Saville Row Blazer (1,595), Keaton End-on-End French shirt with opaque blues and whites and a solid white collar (365) with a solid black satin tie (185) all by Ralph Lauren, Prada slacks (479) and finally, Salvatore Ferragamo 'Diego' loafers with golden gancini bit detailing that I picked up from Saks Fifth Avenue earlier this week. Being somewhat forgetful, I have to walk back to the closet in my boxers (Tommy Hilfiger) and dress socks (Donna Karen New York) to grab hangers for the suit I just took off.

The silk shirt slips itself over my head and buttons itself; the tie hovers through the air and ties itself in a sloppy Windsor knot around my neck. I stare at the knot for a moment and fearing my burning red eyes, the knot straightens itself and actually looks marvellous. I jump in the air and decide to hang a few feet from the floor so my pants have an easier time of completing my outfit.

I walk to the mirror and look at myself. I haven't aged a day since then. Funny thing was, twenty-eight years earlier I had stood and looked in this same mere and saw nothing but the clothes, there was no man dressed in them he was transparent and simply not there. Nowadays when I look at the mirror, I like what I see. Physically, I haven't aged a day but that's quite common where I was born. Perhaps it is a cultural difference (or maybe a species difference) but my kind just didn't age. We never grew old, never tired, never sick; we were immortal. This was one of the benefits of being a super hero – just like the comics; I would always be around, always. Batman never aged (except for perhaps in Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns and its sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again), so why would I?

Forgive me for keeping my deepest secret from you, but I figured you wouldn't be as shocked, or maybe not think it as outlandish if I told you a bit about myself first. Jonathon Swift once made a modest proposal to eat children in order to survive; and I had to do something of the same sorts to ensure my survival, so do not try to judge me too harshly by what follows...

March 28th, 1980

I work for a large pharmaceutical company in New York, New York. I've been here for a couple of months now and I like it just fine, but I'm somewhat torn between the working life as a chemist and my real aspiration of becoming like Batman and creating an identity as a super hero. In one of the comics I read yesterday, Bruce is told that when you commit yourself to an ideal you become something more than man. I already am something more than man, but I haven't devoted myself to an ideal just yet.

It's four o'clock, and the owner of the company is working late keeping tabs on our research and making sure we are actually getting somewhere with it. I decided to do the right thing and slip out of work early to pick up his two daughters from school. I can assure you, although my method was a bit unsound, I did get what I wanted with no harm done to either of them.

I walk to his office and with a smile on my face, I tell him to relinquish complete control and ownership of his company to me or I would kill the girls. I don't have a gun in my hand or anything; I guess it must have slipped my mind. Either way, he loves his daughters and would surely want to shield them from something as monstrous as myself.

"I'm phoning the police, get the fuck out of my office, Royce" he yells at me. His face is red with anger, and his rotund fat turkey neck shakes when he bellows my name.
I stare at him smiling. "What's so funny? You're going to jail asshole... are you insane?!" he asks, seemingly more angered by my smile.

I grab one of the girls by the throat and place one of my well manicured clawed fingers to her jugular. "Do you know what I am, Mr. Kensington?" I ask him calmly whilst staring at his daughter's neck and her deathly pale skin.
"A maniac... I've had it... this is it... I'm calling them Royce." He says to me in the calmest tone he's used since I entered his office.

"Perhaps, Mr. Kensington, perhaps I am a raving lunatic; but you must know by now that you're going to relinquish complete control of this company and its research to me." I say firmly. He tries to look me in my eyes, they're still humanly blue, but I'm baring my canines at him like a wolf, hissing gently.

"Get out of my way," he says and tries to push past me for the phone. He doesn't realize what he's doing (I'm honestly not going to kill the girls, I swear, Batman wouldn't, so I wouldn't).

I have limited patience; I thought this would be a bit easier. I grab his arm and twist it firmly behind his back until he is on his knees. He looks up at me, into my eyes, now fiery red like the coals of a hot fire, and I can see he is completely terrified. "Now you see me for what I truly am!" I hiss at him with my tongue tucked behind my razor sharp canines. He begins to sob, and I can tell he now fully comprehends the possible outcomes of the situation.

He mutters "Wha... wh... w... wha... what?" to himself, wild-eyed and shocked. "Please I'll give you it, I'll give you it." He said with snot bubbling out of his left nostril, a bit of it had trickled down onto his lip as well.
"I'm a generous man, Mr. Kensington, and I greatly appreciate your compliance with me and for this you will be rewarded, I promise." I tell Kensington as I help him to his feet and dust off his cheaply made, ugly beige suit. "You and your daughters will remain unharmed, I promise no harm will come to them should you remain tight lipped about what just occurred here. You will be paid a salary of 10 million on a yearly basis and still have company paid-for flights for yourself and your family. Does this work for you, Mr. Kensington?" I ask, smiling sweetly at the fat little man.
"Y... ye... yeah, yeah sure- sir, yes, sir I mean – ahem" he manages to stammer out. After all this, I walk him and his daughters out of the building and to their Mercedes in the parking lot. Once they leave, I return to Kensington's office and sit in his leather office chair, placing my feet up on the desk (I have a nice pair of A. Testoni loafers on) I smoke a small Cohiba cigarillo and blow clouds of smoke towards a portrait of Kensington shaking hands with the President.

July 24th, 2008

And now we return to the present once more, where I am still staring at myself in the mirror in my New York loft, obviously a lot happier of a man today than I was then. Forgive me once more; I think I've probably confused you all greatly by what just happened back in 1980. You're probably wondering why I had to threaten Kensington and his family in order to take over the company, as well as why Kensington so eagerly handed the company over when I showed him my teeth instead of a gun.

Well, to make a long story short, I came to New York in early 1980. I had been educated first at King's College London where I received a B.Sc. in both Biology and Chemistry and later at Cambridge where I received a M.Sc. in Chemistry. My early years, up until I was about seventeen were quite boring; I was a bit of a hermit and did nothing but sit in my room reading comic books and books about vampires. I sometimes ventured out to parties in warehouses and abandoned buildings while I was attending King's College and it wasn't too long before I discovered a small club of wanna-be vampires. The whole fascination here is that unlike lycanthropy (werewolvism), vampirism is able to be imitated by humans, although they cannot ever feel the hunger and need for blood that a vampire feels.

After a while, drinking cow and chicken blood didn't satisfy me and I started to lose interest in the whole fantasy world I created for myself as an adolescent. I was nearing twenty years of age when one night (for the first time in six months) I decided to go out and have fun with my wanna-be vampire friends. This was most likely a decision based on the fact that school had been getting me down lately and I needed to escape into my fantasy realm once more. I was in desperate need of a laugh and a good time, nothing more.

We were walking down a street about two blocks away from Piccadilly Circus and I remember staring at the bright, flashing, neon lights with a great sense of loneliness... I felt pretty fake and alone when I was pretending to be a vampire. The sun was being chased from the sky by the cloak of darkness. Richard, Evelyn, Jonny and I were walking down a side street, our shoes clacking against the cobblestones, drinking fluorescent pink pig's blood from glass milk bottles. Each of us also carried a 20 rib-eye steak. These were all compliments of Jonny, who bled a pig he captured from a farm and stole the steaks from his father's butchery in Hackney.

Taking a bite of the raw beef and washing it down my throat with a small swallow of the thick blood I turned to Jonny and said, "Thanks for the grub and blood, mate"

He nodded back in agreement with a smile, and almost as suddenly as he smiled, the smirk disappeared. His face went white, as if he'd seen a ghost. Like a school girl, he shrieked, "IT'S HIM, MATE, FUCKIN' 'ELL, DRACULA 'IMSELF!' I wasn't taken aback, but immediately intrigued. I turned around to face this supposed Dracula, courageous and curious.

It was a vampire for sure, but not Dracula, not Vlad 'The Impaler' Dracul; he was merely a suspected vampire. "You're fools... you call yourself vampires?" he laughed, and as he laughed I stared in awe of his massive, razor-sharp, pearl-white canines as they gleamed in the light from the lamp post he had hidden behind.

I bared my inadequate teeth back at him, blood oozing from between the spaces. I hungrily ripped at the fat slab of meat in my hand and gulped the rest of the pig's blood, smashing the bottle on the ground. I picked up a piece of the smashed glass up and stared at the vampire as I dug it into my wrist and drank my own blood hungrily. "Take me, make me one of yours" I screamed at him, blood running down my forearm and over my hand.

That was my first meeting with a real vampire, and certainly not the last (it took me until 1999 to kill the last). After taking me under his wing, the vampire, who was named Nikolai (a Russian and a communist) eventually allowed me to drink from him on July 24th, 1978 (hence why I previously stated that July 24th was my deathday). I had different perceptions of the world then; I thought it to be a filthy place, void of anything good, riddled with crime and poverty. Perhaps it was this outlook that first turned me on to vampirism, I'm unsure, but my penchant for fighting crime was definitely spawned later that year when I discovered Sylvia.

The hunger for human flesh and the thirst for human blood had become the driving force in my life and though I still drank only bagged human blood I stole from the blood bank, vampires are a predatory creature and the desire to kill and maim is at the forefront of their very thought. I couldn't silence the voices begging me to mutilate a human being; the hunger for violence could not remain docile after my transformation from human to vampire.

So, now that I've revealed myself to you, are you horrified? Obviously not, merely intrigued by it as I once was; you're still reading and if you will bear with me for a few more pages we can finally get to my deathday and the importance of my second year of death.

Something had to be done about my hunger for a kill and it came to me one day while sitting in my apartment reading the newspaper. On the sixth or seventh page of the newspaper I read that there had been a teacher from Ipswich who had been discovered drugging her fifteen year old students with a sedative called Rohypnol which was relatively new to Europe (1975 if my memory doesn't lie). She had then put the students in her car and took them to her house to have a candle lit dinner with her (they were tied to the table of course). During these dinners, she fed the poor buggers more Rohypnol so they passed out, and then she tied them to her bed and mounted them, raped them. This woman had committed these horrible crimes to six teenagers at her school, Scotland Yard had issued a warrant for her arrest, but she had fled the country for the U.S., the name on the warrant was Sylvia Fairbank.

Being a recent university graduate and newly made vampire, I started looking for employment in New York. Within five weeks my friend's father found a job for me as a research assistant at the pharmaceutical company which I took over (of course by now you must realize that Mr. Kensington finally gave in to my request for his company when I made it known to him that I was a vampire).

As I boarded the plane from Heathrow to JFK, I tried to justify taking her life to myself. I still had human emotions and most of my morals were intact, but I was feeling a bit queer about the whole situation now. I tried to picture myself as one of the lads she had raped; the trauma she must have caused them both at the time and how it would affect them later on. This seemed to soothe my nerves and give me the answer I was searching for. This woman was a criminal; she deserved to be brought to justice. She deserved death, in my mind.

One of the perks of being a vampire is that women fall for you instantly. We're considered erotic, us vampires, and my darling, Sylvia Fairbank, fell for me. So as not to offend mortal readers with my superior sexuality, I will elaborate briefly on why women are attracted to us. My skin secrets a scent that when smelt by a mortal woman's nose, takes on the properties of whatever scent the woman is most attracted to and aroused by. The scent also intoxicates their perceptions of me – I might look like Richard Gere to one woman and Rod Stewart to another. Therefore, I have an advantage over mortal men. Let us escape then, to that old, familiar day...

July 24th, 1980

I've been tailing her for a couple weeks, her name is Sylvia Fairbank, and she will be my first. The hunger building inside me is uncontrollable... I briefly lose sight of Sylvia while staring intensely at a curvy woman in a red dress, do curvy women taste better? Who knows, time will tell... Sylvia is quite curvy.

Luckily, I look ahead and she walks into a small cafe on Lennox Avenue. I slow my pace and when I get to the door of the cafe, I reach in my pocket for a pack of cigarettes. I pull a cigarette from the pack, and light it with a gold Zippo I that I stole from Nikolai when I killed him. After flicking the cigarette out onto the street, I enter the restaurant and see her sitting at a table by herself with a notepad out and writing furiously.

This is the moment I've been waiting for. I can smell her blood as I approach. Oddly enough, my penis is semi-erect. Is that what happens to vampires when they find a kill? They get horny?

While walking by her, I bump the table hard enough to spill her coffee all over her work and it drips down from the tablecloth onto her blouse. "Oh, Christ," I mutter (good acting of course), "I'm so sorry miss, forgive me. I've ruined your blouse... maybe I buy you a new one?" I ask her as I raise my eyebrows.

After wiping the coffee stain deeper into her blouse and jeans she looks up at me, furious. After seeing my face and breathing in my scent, her demeanour changes drastically. Her soft, round featured face suddenly has fewer creases in it and then contorts into a smile. Her eyes which were once cold turn warm and appeared glazed, as if she's high.

"No, no." She says casually, "but dinner would be nice, Mr...?"

"Flatley... Royce Flatley miss," I say to her in my singsong cockney accent. "I beg your pardon but is that an East England accent I heard?"
"No, Chelsea actually," she lies, breaking eye contact and looking back upon the dark brown coffee stain on her blouse and jeans.
"Liar," I say to her in a joking manner. The want to dig my claws into her jugular and cover my mouth over the geyser of blood that shot out was becoming a need, I almost reached out and did the deed right then and there, but I was patient, I knew I had to make my kill precise, clean and untraceable (although the police could not kill me I didn't wish to be annoyed with them). I would do it in the loft that I had in Manhattan.
"Think what you wish then Mr. Flatley, but I must be going"

"Please Miss, forget your work for one day and come by my place, we'll get you out of those clothes and into something a bit more comfortable." I said coyly, hoping to Christ she would comply with my request.

"Well, I'm not normally that kind of girl –" (sure she wasn't; lying whore) " – but there's something about you. Yes, yes... I... I think I will come." She seemed even more out of it now; she looked like she had just drunk New York dry and woke up wondering where she was. This was just how I wanted her though.

We make our way back to my loft in Manhattan by taxi; my erection is now throbbing in my Armani suit, the unconstructed tan jacket and steel grey shirt with a tie by Dior. When getting out of the taxi I try my best to pull it up so that the waist band of my pants keeps it snug and secure but it seems to have a mind of its own and I give up; giving my crotch the appearance of a pitched tent.

We get to my apartment and there is a few Batman comics lying on the mahogany coffee table in the foyer. I place my keys on the same table and head for the kitchen where I take out two tumblers and pour out two Gelnfiddich's without ice. She walks into the kitchen, thumbing a comic from of my precious Batman collection.

"Oi, what in the bloody hell do you think you're doing?" I snap at her.

"Oh um, I'm sorry, I didn't know." She says dumbly. I snatch the comic from her hand and it tears. "I'm so sorry!" she says.
I'm not even angry; my gaze is transfixed on one box in the bottom strip of the comic - an image in which Batman dives from the roof of a skyscraper to save his arch-nemesis, The Joker. I'm utterly speechless. Batman starts fucking with my conscience... great.

"I'm... I'm sorry, Royce." Sylvia says in a child-like tone.

My teeth have begun to grow, larger and sharper than any humans, the canines extending themselves out of my mouth and down past my lower lip much like a rodent. Bats are rodents, I think to myself and although bat's have nothing in common with vampires, they do have something in common with my favourite masked avenger. My teeth shrunk a bit at this thought.

My nails kept growing though, and I reminded myself what I was here to do; fight crime. Kill this bitch, I told myself. She's a rapist, scum. She pollutes society and contaminates humanity with her presence. She's a poor excuse for life, a predator. My teeth grew to their full extent at this thought.

I jabbed my one clawed hand into her left shoulder blade, and the other I used to push her face to the side so I could suck from her neck. My fangs sank into her neck like a knife through hot butter.

She gasps, moans, and instead of trying to fight it she puts her hand to her breasts and rubs them gently. What the fuck? I think to myself, still feeding. She pulls the low cut blouse down so she is only wearing her bra, then pries her big voluptuous breasts from her shirt. Her nipples are standing at attention like two little soldiers and the blue vein running course through the areola of her right breast beckons me to bite and tear at it.

I smack her on the back of the head and she falls to the floor. I'm frustrated, anxious. I bend down to grab her by the hair and I notice the comic lying on the floor beside her. The image of Batman and The Joker falling stares at me, I stare at it. It seems to speak to me more now; justice isn't about vengeance and retribution... it's about what is moral, what is right. I'm not the jury, but I am the judge.

I walk over to her on the floor but she doesn't appear frightened by my appearance, but rather intrigued.

"Do it again, feels so good..." she says, her eyes still have that same stoned look in them.

I decide to honour her request and feed on her until she loses enough blood to pass out. I bind her hands together with fishing line and take her to the hospital. She waits in my car as I use a payphone to call the police and inform them of her crimes abroad and the warrant out for her arrest. I tell them I wish to remain anonymous and hang up, take her body from my trunk and scream for someone to help.

A kid, maybe nineteen or twenty, answers my screams with a joint hanging from his lip.

"Jesus Christ man, what happened to her?!" The kid says when he sees the blood pouring from her neck and breast (what, can't a guy have a little fun with a nice pair of boobs?).

My eyes like hot coals, my teeth like the wolf's and my claws like the cat, I grab him by the throat.

"I did." I say through clenched teeth. "Take this woman inside, but you tell New York that I exist, and I'm watching for those who think they're above the law."

"You're a... you're a vampire? Please man, don't kill me, I don't wanna dieeeeeeeeeee" the kid says.

"It's not you I'm after, boy. Moral, upstanding citizens have nothing to fear. It's those that want to cause this city harm that will be sleeping uneasy tonight. You tell all of them; in the city of the living, I am the dead."