THE VAMPIRE STORIES
by Andrew J. Müller
Artwork by Ivan Lloyd Smith
"And everybody was here
They was telling their own sad stories
Im sorry Im not so clear
And time will take you aside
You better cover your eyes - or youll cry
Cos I know sunsets arrived."
Tanita Tikaram, Sunsets Arrived (1990)
The agony coursed through him once again, and he pulled his knees up to his chest. Centuries without any pain had made him unaccustomed to any discomfort at all, but this was hell. As he scrunched up he could feel his swollen internal organs pushing against his ribs. He knew that it was his heart, spleen and liver grown to obscene proportions which was ironic considering his lifestyle. His heart hadnt beat for several hundred years and yet it was this leaden organ which was putting pressure on his lungs which he still used to drag in the oxygen he needed - not to survive but to keep his muscles functioning, now with every breath excruciating agony his muscles were quickly starting to deteriorate; centuries of overuse had stretched their tolerance thin like an elastic - and like any elastic the pressure had become too strong. When they finally stopped getting the supply they needed deterioration had been rapid and absolute. He could hardly lift his legs, and his arms ached constantly. Briefly the agony dissipated and Alberto dê Máyer, fifth Earl of Puglia, stretched out flat slowly. He looked around at the dark room in which he lay; hundreds of miles from his Italian home - although, of course, it hadnt been Italy when he had left it in 1734. This was America - Land of Opportunity! It had certainly been that when Alberto had arrived; hundreds of people with few laws. No one had noticed when people had started vanishing indeed, even now few people noticed when he took someone, even fewer really cared.
So how had he come to this, a wasted, pain-wracked figure laying in a darkened room waiting for an agonising slow death to claim him? It had begun a few nights ago in a dark alley in downtown Austin where he had made his base these last few decades .
Alberto stood in the doorway and watched the people pile out of the club. He was waiting for someone to break away from a group and head down his little alleyway. Experience had taught Alberto that someone would soon be along. In any event patience was something that Alberto had in obscene amounts. There was nothing like being around for five hundred years to teach a man that five more minutes meant nothing. Alberto had been born in a small mountain top town in Puglia some years before the Renaissance had kicked in. He had been 32 when he had been taken. For many years he had moved around Europe until the local population had become too suspicious, or too sick to provide the necessary food. Then Christoph Columbus had discovered a new land. Alberto had travelled from Liverpool in the hold of a ship and had arrived in New Amsterdam - as it was then - before moving to Baton Rouge because it reminded him of home.
America had proved the perfect feeding ground. Thousands of people who nobody knew. Now in the wonderful Twentieth century picking victims from the night-time crowds was almost too easy for Alberto. There was a disadvantage to modern America though - one which had emptied San Francisco and Chicago of his kind. The AIDS virus. It was something that even his people could not metabolise properly. Only a very few blood disorders caused problems for his kind. Most of them were rare, or easily detected - but AIDS was as big a problem to his people as it was to their prey.
But Alberto was careful, and had learned how to tell HIV Positive individuals. Ahah! At last, a man was peeling away from one of the groups coming out of the club and heading down the alley. Alberto watched him as he walked past, and then quietly followed. As soon as he was out of sight of the main road, Alberto swooped forwards and bore the man to the ground. For a few seconds the man struggled, and then like an animal which has given up the struggle he stopped and stared up at Alberto. Alberto smiled, showing his inhuman teeth. Then he leant forward and sank his teeth into the mans neck and began to feed. Five minutes later he dropped the empty cadaver and began to look through the mans pockets. It was a habit of Albertos to try and make his attacks look like robbery. A few dollars in a wallet, an ID card made out to "Mark Mankovich", and a bottle of pills. Alberto held them up and - using his extra-sensory vision - read the label. "Deferiprone". Alberto shrugged and pocketed the items. Never heard of Deferiprone, but hed look it up on the Internet when he got home.
Two days passed and the bottle of tablets sat at Albertos home forgotten. It was on the third morning (which was evening, of course, to his human prey) that Alberto first felt unwell. It was a nagging ache from his stomach. It caught him by surprise - he hadnt had any pain since he had come to America, he hadnt lived so long without being very careful. He had fed last night, so had no real need this day. Instead he switched on his PC and launched himself onto the Web. After checking his Email and a quick look at www.vampires.com (which his people used as a remarkably public private information exchange) he did a search for Deferiprone.
The results, when they came up, were not good. Deferiprone was an experimental drug being used as a substitute to painful injected drugs for the treatment of a blood disorder beta-thalassemia. This disease, it seemed, was very common throughout the world - particularly in warm climates. It was a lack of Haemoglobin A which was severe without treatment, causing wasting and poor body development in children. Victims lose their appetite, their energy and then become jaundiced. Alberto couldnt care less about these problems - jaundice was part of the vampires lot anyway. But the reading was becoming more and more worrying if untreated the liver, spleen and heart enlarge and a human victim would eventually die from heart failure. Heart failure was no problem to Alberto - his heart had stopped long ago - but nevertheless the remaining problems seemed to be something he had no wish to go through.
He read on. Treatment consisted of blood transfusions - hah! How Ironic - and a course of apparently painful 12 hour periods hooked up to a pump filled with deferoxamine to rid the body of excess Iron deposits caused by the extra blood. Deferiprone was a new drug being used to replace these courses. Hmm. Well, probably one course of the medicine would be sufficient for Alberto to clear Mark Mankovichs blood from his system completely.
Alberto retrieved the bottle of pills and undid the top. Immediately the hated stench filled his nostrils and he threw the bottle into the furthest corner of the room. He returned to the Net and looked up the ingredients of Deferiprone. Mostly nothing of any significance - but the binding agent used to keep the pills from turning to powder contained extract of Allium sativum - Garlic. Wouldnt you just know it.
Suddenly Albertos world had turned in on itself. Centuries of care had crashed around his ears. He could either die from the extremely unpleasant consequences of his heart, liver and spleen bursting or the equally painful method of ingesting the hated Garlic.
Which was how Alberto dê Máyer came to be laying on a cot in a darkened room with pain coursing through his body in waves. He knew he couldnt have much longer. The constant stench of the Garlic from the discarded box of tablets had made him light-headed, and the pain from his expanding internal organs was making it impossible for him to breath. The wasting of his limbs was coming close to immobilising him.
Alberto had clung on to life for centuries more than any normal human being could have done. But over the last painful couple of weeks he had come to the conclusion that maybe - just maybe - he had overstayed his welcome. Hence he had set his alarm clock for 2 p.m. With a gasp of pain he rolled off the bed and dragged himself across the room towards the window, fighting the nausea from the spilled pills laying on the floor under the sill.
When he reached the floor under the window, Alberto paused for a moment. He thought back over his life - and perhaps more importantly the centuries that had followed it, and a slight smile played over his pale and wasted features. Perhaps there was a God after all, and this was his final, clinical revenge.
One last effort then, to pull himself up onto his knees. He knew he was beyond standing; but this would be enough. He reached up and opened the venetian blinds. Brilliant sunlight poured through the slats and burnt away Alberto dê Máyers skin, then his flesh and then his bones. The bottom half of his legs, shaded by the wall, remained for moments longer before eventually crumbling away leaving just a heap of grey dust. Albertos last thought had been how lovely to see the Sun once more and then he was gone - an ancient terror destroyed by a modern one.
Sunset's Arrived first appeared in IN FRONT Magazine in June 1999
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© Artwork - Ivan Lloyd Smith
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