The door behind the panel hung on blackened strap hinges as wide as her thigh. Though she found she could stand upright in the passage beyond, William was forced to assume a hunch in order to descend steps hewn from clammy bedrock, their treads worn concave beneath ponderous timbers butted overhead, so that the passage resembled the shaft of an abandoned mine. A single naked bulb protruding from the wall like a waxy rhizome provided an uncertain light. The chrome-like smell of groundwater seeping through the rock conspired with the impoverished air to turn her misgivings into physical discomfort.
“Now you know how the gerbil feels.” he suggested, leaning back against the wall and allowing her a view of the landing dimly apparent below. She drew him back toward herself.
“We need some sort of thing... I’ll... I'll touch my nose, if I want out. Don’t forget.”
“Or you could just ask to leave."
“No! I don’t want it thinking I’ve bottled out.”
“Christabel, if it even looks at you the wrong way, I’ll rip its fucking head off.” he promised.
“Please don’t ever do anything like that in front of me.” she whispered, then smiled, leaning closer to him in the darkness. “But that did sound very butch.” He bumped her with his hip, grinning, and they concluded their descent, Susan waiting while he pounded on another ponderous door.
It was hauled back on shrieking hinges and a pallid, knuckle-faced inmate shuffled forward to squint at them, affecting myopia in order to survey Susan intimately while it slathered a tube of panstick over its chin. The creature stepped aside to allow them in, a flesh-coloured skull cap imprisoning what remained of its hair in the absence of a wig. A terrible smell wafted from the lurid green satin of its housecoat.
“Heh... mighty nice a ye t’ git back th’ wernce after ah call ye three score fuckin tahmes.” Siobhan muttered, returning to a dressing table and seating its sagging frame upon the velvet stool. Summoning the will to gaze at their surroundings, Susan found they stood inside a domed chamber almost the size of William’s bedroom, though it seemed much smaller in the stagnant darkness, the sloping walls daubed with lime and streaked here and there with gruesome splashes of brown. The blue stone floor was intensely cold through the soles of her boots, as if sealing the pit of an obsolete hell. A sooty encrustation marked the ceiling where it flickered orange over an iron candelabra, a floating aroid stink exuding from its icterical tapers. The same candles stood on the crowded dresser, once the pride of some post-war debutante, sickly kitsch amid the shambolic herd of balding, uncouth colonial pieces, fashioned by farmers' sons in a twisted spirit of apathy and repression. Nailed to the plaster were a trio of polyester rugs featuring white tigers disporting in a rainbow jungle and a band of Arab horsemen carousing through an oasis, the second identical to the third, but for a slight chromatic variation. Their arrangement curled Susan's toes inside her shoes, as did the taste already forming on her tongue, of aged orange candy rolled in graveyard soil. Siobhan’s wardrobe hung from a stand, the vintage gowns sagging like the freshly-flayed skins of alien fauna.
The dresser mirrors returned a perfectly faithful, if gruesome, triptych of the creature, contrary to popular supposition, while it flicked dust from a pair of electric blue lashes and began their application. William sat down on one of the daybeds, long arms lying in passive disuse on either side. The vampyre devoted a jaundiced eye to Susan.
“Thought ahd git meh a better fuckin look at lil White Dove, since ye seen fit t’ ella-vate her t’ the rank of kint say ye weren’t fuckin warned." Its manifestly anaerobic state produced speech that was airless despite its rancour, the wingless observations flopping at her feet.
“I didn’t ask to be told if that makes you feel better." she replied.
"S'at raght? Guess every night's a fuckin hentai night now, aint it?" Siobhan smirked, warming to the subject. "Mebbe ye kin riddle me this... rumour fuckin has it old Red here gits in t' double figures with his icy fuckin devil-wood... can ye con-firm or de-ny?" William bit a loose claw from his fingertip and spat it onto the floor, shrugging at her narrow, pointed glance. "An kin ye tell meh... do it blow hot or cold up there aginst ye chit'lins?" It was visibly gratified by her wordless stare, and turned back to her companion. “Fuckin lights look on, but there aint much home, ah'd sey." it chuckled. "Used t’ be th' thing standin tween a cooter an ye private fuckin dealins was a edu-cational whuppin, but ah kin see ye aint raised a guiding fuckin hand t' this wern.” the vampyre complained. “Ye gotta git em in th’ house an git em too full a child t' fuckin run. Mah mammeh, she fed critters, cut corn, cook’d, chop wood an still bend over fer mah pappy when he durn whissle at her... only peep ye fuckin heared outta her were when she squit out another fuckin mouth t’ feed down bah th’ tater yard.” Siobhan directed a thumb at Susan. “Ye cud still set her on the path, an hev yeself a fuckin tahme into th’ bargin. Even eight month gone, ah bet she still look thirteen from be-hind."
Taking out a cigarette, William looked to Susan with a wide-eyed grimace, touching his nose repeatedly. She pressed a dry smile into submission.
“You could have told me that on the phone.” he sighed. Siobhan swore and ripped off its misplaced lashes, shaking its little bullet head; its mouth dropped open and its eyes wrinkled up into slits, and Susan watched in horror as something resembling a monstrous sneeze was propelled in her direction, a spray of cold, watery blood from its flared nostrils splattering her even as she jumped back. The vampyre sat wracked by silent, gaping laughter at the sight of her expression.
“Did ah git ye?” it cackled hoarsely. She stared down at the dark spots soaking into the suede of her coat. “Are we gonna fuckin sit here lahk she aint a im-pediment t’ e-ffectual fuckin communication much longer, ‘cause yew surely aint th’ only shit ah got t’ deal with.”
“I’m not standing out there on my own.” she told them.
“She’s not standing out there on her own.” William reiterated.
“So ye fuckin what now? Ye know bout everywern?” it demanded of her; she stood frustrated in her inability to command the silence as expertly as William, who sat as tacit and unreadable as the stone beneath her feet. Siobhan circled its lips with orange gloss and precious little regard for physiological convention. "This shit's got more fuckin gut-laughs than a wall-eyed re-tard with a flayin knafe... in-formin yer bitches... gittin chugged fer th' soshul pages, bein a degenerit fuckin drug fiend or de-jayin nekkid or some other hell-bound fuckin outrage... an ye jest hed t’ fuck that piece Opal were raisin up straight, then ye jest hed t’ put her in th’ river when it turn out about as good a idea as jammin ye dick in a fuckin hornet nest... brung untold fuckin shit down on us... rott’n po-lice... now ye gummin' them shitpumps from th' Old Side jest prior to 'em kickin down our fuckin doors..." Tearing a glittering sheath from the rack of gowns, the vampyre dumped its robe and began struggling into the dress, tugging it over the bony little processes studding its sunken cadaver. Breathing slowly, Susan moved toward the door, hoping for some merciful draft of sodden air from outside. William lifted a hand against the sight of the creature's ensemblé.
“Siobhan, sequins are for the living.”
"Teh! What kinda live bitch kin rock all this at wernce? There aint one!" the vampyre retorted.
"No one with a fucking dumpster full of missing minors and a don't-ask organ trade gets to tell me to tone it down."
"Heh heh heh, that's raght... ye don't git t'be older then Satan hisself without knowin how t' slap th' fuckin blame down on the rah-chus. Now this cooch durn know us all by our first fuckin names, an a shit an a shave aint gonna help yew beat the fuckin line-up when she's durn yappin t' th' gover-mint!"
"Actually, I think I will stand out there on my own." Susan asserted, glowering at him beside the door.
"Ye kin square ye fuckin tab b'fore ye go." Siobhan muttered, squinting harder as it slapped a cloud of powder onto its nose with a greasy puff.
“We're having liquidity issues." William advised languidly. "Opal ripped Ed Brazilian-styles, so have a fucking heart.”
“Boo fuckin hoo. That ol’ split-tail frauds her ‘sociates lahk a tick bites fuckin curs. Aint no con-cern a mine." the vampyre observed, wiping a case of cocktail cigarettes from the dresser. “Git ye asscheeks topside an settle up... ah'll tek what ye got on ye. Aint none a us gittin any fuckin younger.”
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce