Oisin woke up early the next morning. He looked at his phone. It read 06:00am. It was early. He normally wouldn’t wake up during summer until at least 10:00am. He thought about going to sleep again but decided against it. Getting out of bed, Oisin walked to the living room. If no one was up, he’d put on Netflix. After all he needed a treat, especially after yesterday. Star Trek: The Next Generation sounded good, he thought to himself. Of course, he would have to turn it off when his father came in. He was an ‘Original-Series’ die-hard fan.
Upon walking into the room, he was surprised to see his mother sitting on the sofa. She looked pale. Her eyes were red and her lips were pursed tightly together. He knew that something was seriously wrong. His stomach ached. He didn’t want to ask but he knew he had to.
“Mom is everything ok?”
His mother looked up. He could see where the tears had slid down her cheek.
“It’s Shane, Oisin. He hasn’t been seen since last night. He didn’t go home yesterday after he left our house.”
Oisin now felt like he was going to be sick. He knew where Shane had gone. Maybe he had been right after all. Maybe Byron really was a vampire.
“I think I know where Shane is Mom.”Oisin said.
Oisin’s mother looked up immediately. Suddenly the sadness left her eyes, replaced by a sort of manic anger.
“Oisin don’t you dare start talking about that vampire again. Your father told me everything you were saying last night. Your best friend is missing. It’s time you put away such childish notions.”
Oisin scowled. “It’s not childish. Yesterday Shane and I saw something that we couldn’t explain.”
“That’s enough,” his mother screeched, jumping to her feet.
“Go to your room now! I’ve had enough of this nonsense. The police are coming round to the house later. I suggest you act a little more dignified when they get here.”
Oisin ran to his room. He could hardly believe that he was thinking it, but Shane had been right. Byron was a vampire. That was the only explanation. Oisin realised that if Byron were a vampire and Shane was missing, then Shane was almost certainly dead… or something worse. He felt his stomach drop and then he really was sick. He looked down at his vomit stained carpet.
Shane was dead. His best friend in the entire world had been killed by this man. He was desperately trying not to picture Byron slowly draining the blood out of Shane with his teeth. How on earth could one little home run in a baseball game have led to this? The game had been less than twenty-four hours ago, but already it seemed so far away.
Shane was dead. And Byron was alive. How was that right? How was he going to deal with this? No one of course would believe him. Not the police, not his parents. Nobody. Byron somehow had that effect on people. It was as if there was an enormous problem that was glaringly obvious, but that no one who was willing to address. What was he to do? Byron would almost certainly remember him and the others. He guessed he could run away, but he had a feeling that Byron would find him regardless. No. There was only one thing that he could do. Byron was a vampire and he would have to kill him. Himself.
Oisin washed the vomit off his pyjamas and went downstairs again. How could he kill a vampire? He had seen it done in plenty of old movies. But would a cross and a wooden stake really kill Byron? This was his only option. His parents weren’t religious so where would he find a cross? There was nothing that even looked religious around the house.
Then, out of the corner of his eye he saw it. It was tiny. Barely noticeable. On the windowsill there sat a small wooden cross. He doubted it was half an inch in length. Hadn’t he and his mother been at the supermarket when “one of those nutty evangelical sorts,” (as his father described them) had handed them out? His mother had been too polite not to take it. He couldn’t help but think that maybe those evangelicals had been onto something when they had been talking about damnation. Grabbing the cross, he put it around his neck. Breathing deeply, he realised that he needed to find a wooden stake. Where was he to get one of those though? Looking around his back garden, he saw an old beech tree. Surely some of the wood from that could be sharpened into a decent stake. Oisin proceeded, in a very childlike manner, to try and sharpen the stake with a kitchen knife. It was by no means as good as the ones that vampire hunters had in the movies. Oisin touched the tip of the knife and was certain that just a slight amount of pressure would result in a serious cut. He hoped that this would be enough to pierce the heart of Byron. He walked back into the house and saw his parents. His mother looked worried. She was almost crying. His father looked like he was about to fall asleep. He would tell them what he was about to do, but he knew they’d never believe him. Byron had already had too much of an influence on them. They were just incapable of understanding.
Walking out of the house, Oisin couldn’t hold back his tears. He was willingly walking to death’s door. Maybe he would survive. Maybe he wouldn’t. But that’s not what was important. He had had a good life. He hadn’t asked for this. Shane hadn’t asked for this. All he had wanted to do was have a good summer, and now he was preparing to fight a demon itself.
Walking down the street, Oisin saw it waiting. 273. Swallowing hard, he knew what he had to do. Opening the gate, he walked towards the house. Nothing happened. 273 simply sat there as if there was nothing strange or disturbing about it. He felt his heart beat. It was racing at a hundred miles an hour. Looking at the front door, he decided not to approach it. He knew that Byron would come racing out if he approached in this way. Bypassing the front door, Oisin went around the side of the house. He creeped slowly, passing by the decaying wood and walking through the overgrown lawn. There seemed to be no other way in. Oisin walked around the house again, yet there still was no back door, no cellar entrance, no secret tunnel. The only way it seemed he could get in was through the front door.
Then Oisin saw it. On the left-hand side of the house, there was a window. A window he hadn’t seen earlier. An open window. Oisin blinked. He was confused. How could a window have suddenly appeared out of nowhere? It simply didn’t make sense. He had walked past this wall at least twice, and there had been nothing but yellowing wood each time. Approaching the window, Oisin could now see more clearly into the house. He was looking in at the back room. It looked like something from the 1970s. The furniture was worn and dated and had a thick layer of dust over it. There were cobwebs on the ceiling and there was a definite hint of damp and mould about the walls. Oisin climbed in, careful not to make any noise. Placing his feet down onto the old, worn carpet, he saw what looked like little black grains of rice around the room. Seeing a rat run past a skirting board, he realised that these were not grains of rice. He walked out of the back room, his heart beating even faster than it had been beforehand. He walked through the entire house, cross in hand, expecting Byron to appear at any moment. But he didn’t appear.
Oisin walked around the whole house twice, but there was no sign of Byron. He walked into the hall, moving his head around. He was totally stumped – where could Byron be? There was no trace that anyone lived in the house. Then he saw it, in the same way he’d noticed the house, he now saw a small door at the edge of the stairs. It was as if the door had always been there, but he hadn’t noticed it. It was plain enough, but unlike the rest of the house it most definitely was not dirty – it was clean, almost new. Grabbing the door knob, he pushed it open. The room was dark, but he saw a set of stairs at his feet. More terrified than ever, he knew Byron was down here and he would have to face him. Counting the stairs as he walked down them, to take his mind off the approaching terror, he looked back up and saw the dim light from the upstairs hall. Turning back to the completely black room, he doubted he could see more than two feet in front of him. Putting out his hands, Oisin tried to feel his away around the room. He felt the wall, which was smooth like plaster as he moved his hand across it.
Oisin then felt string touch his wrist. He stopped and pulled at it, and a light came on in the room. It was still dim, but he could see a bit more clearly. The room was bare, apart from a cabinet next to another door. It was old and Victorian with little holes all over it which Oisin suspected was wood worm. Below the brass handles there was a key. Oisin knew he probably shouldn’t turn it, yet he found that he just couldn’t help himself. Holding his breath, he turned the key and the cabinet opened. Then he saw it. Bottles lined the cabinet, filled with something red that looked an awful lot like blood. Oisin felt like he was going to be sick again, imagining Byron killing victims and storing their blood away for a late-night snack. Yet, Byron was nowhere to be found. Oisin looked to the door next to the cabinet. He started to breathe heavily again. He knew Byron was in this room, it was the only room left. Once he went in here he would come face to face with the man who had killed Shane. Oisin grimaced at the thought of this but walked to the door, cross in one hand and stake in the other.
The room was dark, but in the very centre there was a dim light illuminating what looked like a bed. Oisin walked towards it, and as he neared, he started to make out a figure. There was someone lying on the bed, but it wasn’t Byron. No, they were too small and frail. This was a woman. As Oisin neared the bed he could make her out more clearly. She was small, very pale and had brown, straight hair. She was asleep and appeared to have some sort of drip with blood running through it attached to her. “What the hell,” Oisin said. He didn’t quite know what to do, this woman sure looked like a vampire. Was she some other victim of Byron’s? Then, he saw her eyes briefly open, like the eyes of a dying old woman. Panic rose within him. Surely, she would call for help or attack him if he didn’t do something. Oisin raised the stake in the air, ready to strike it through her heart. But then he heard that cold shrill voice.
Oisin turned around and Byron was looking at him, his eyes now completely white.
“What?” Oisin replied, trying to sound tough.
“Please don’t hurt my wife,” Byron’s voice cracked.
“Please don’t hurt her and I’ll explain everything to you.”
Oisin was confused. He’d expected Byron to be in a coffin. That he’d have to stick a stake through his heart.
“Ok,” Oisin murmured. Byron walked towards Oisin, in an almost friendly, welcoming manner.
“Back,” Oisin shouted, holding up his cross and jumping backwards.
“Boy, you’re wasting your time with that thing.”
“Put it down. I’m not a vampire.”
“What?” Oisin said in a very confused manner.
“I’m not a vampire. Please put it down. You’re hurting her.”
Oisin looked to the woman, and although he wasn’t sure – he thought her skin didn’t look as pale now.
“Ok, I’ll put it down.” Oisin lowered the cross, keeping his eyes on Byron.
“My name is Rufus Byron.”
“Yeah, I know that,” Oisin tried to stop his voice from cracking as he said this, but he failed.
Byron nodded his head, “Alright you know that. You think I’m a vampire don’t you?”
“It seems pretty obvious doesn’t it with those teeth and those bottles of blood.”
Oisin continued to watch Byron and although he wasn’t sure, he got the impression that Byron was surprised and a little nervous that he knew about the bottles of blood.
“I’m not the vampire, she is.” Oisin looked round at the woman lying on the bed.
“This is my wife Alisa.” Oisin continued to stare at the woman. She seemed totally lifeless. And although Oisin knew nothing about the supernatural, he got the impression that this woman could very well be one of the undead.
“Did she kill Shane?”, he asked.
“No, Shane isn’t dead.”
“He’s not dead.”
Byron gestured to another part of the room. Looking over, Oisin saw another dim light – one he hadn’t noticed earlier. He was starting to realise that this was a recurring feature of the house. It often hid things in plain sight, but still, somehow, not quite in sight.
Lying on the ground in the light, Oisin saw what looked like the lifeless body of Shane. Oisin ran over to him. Shane was even paler than Byron’s wife, but he did somehow appear to be breathing.
“What have you done to him?!”
Byron almost appeared angry at Oisin’s question yet steadied himself. “I let him live, I could have killed him you know. But instead I put him in a deep, deep sleep. After all these years, I wasn’t going to kill someone.”
“What do you mean after all these years? I don’t know what you’re talking about or what’s going on. You’re not the vampire but she is. You haven’t killed Shane, you’ve just left him in this… whatever it is! What in the hell is going on?”
“Let me explain from the start. As I have stated, my name is Rufus Byron. I was born in 1845.”
“That’s nearly 180 years ago!”
“Don’t interrupt. As I said, I was born in 1845… to a not particularly wealth family. We emigrated from England to New York whenever I was eleven, I think. It’s so long ago now that I can’t totally remember. The bulk of my life is nothing worth talking about. My family then became rich. My father was able to make a fortune selling arms to the Confederates and the Union in the lead up to the Civil War. We had a good life in America. I inherited my father’s fortune whenever I was nineteen years old. I was living the life of, well, a modern-day Playboy. Soon after I met her. Alisa.”
Oisin observed as Byron looked over at her. And just for a second, a glimmer of a smile appeared across his face.
“I’ll never forget that night she walked across the ballroom in that red dress. Instantly I fell in love. I know you’re a young boy and you don’t want to hear about some long, dull, protracted romance. So I’ll move on. We were married less than a year later, and we had eight very happy years together. Then in 1873 it happened, she got ill. Very ill. Alisa was dying.”
“Typhus. I tried everything. Every doctor in New York was contacted. Every scientist. Every expert. I even had priests come to the house and pray for her. I was unfortunately defeated. She continued to fade away. Then he came.”
“A man. A man I haven’t seen since. He wore a black suit and a purple tie.”
“Who was he?”
“I never knew. I remember I was at Longacre Square. I was waiting for a carriage home. I was at the crossroads. I remember it was quiet. Too quiet now that I think about it. There wasn’t a single person in the square. Then out of the shadows he came. He walked slowly towards me and then stood next to me. He started to talk about himself. He was vague and generic about himself. He said he was in town for some business, but he wouldn’t say what. And then he asked me if I would like to save my wife. I remember I told him everything. Every detail. He told me he could cure the fever, but in return I would have to do something for him. I foolishly agreed.”
“Why did you believe him?”
“If you met the man with the purple tie then you too would be drawn in by him. He was friendly, charming, comforting. He even warned that it might not be the best solution for me and that the devil was in the details, but I agreed I would do anything to save Alisa.”
“I went home and he got another carriage. And sure enough Alisa was better. She woke up and for a day or so she was her old self again – happy, joyful. But then she gradually started to fade, and she got sick again. Not the Typhus this time. She started to crave blood. When she couldn’t get any she became like that. I had to start bringing her blood or she would die. That’s what the man with the purple tie did for her – gave her a life like that.”
“Is that what you’ve been doing? Killing people and taking their blood for her?”
“No, I’ve never killed anyone. I know that that’s what he wants me to do and I’m not going to play his game. I’ve been killing animals for over a century now to try and feed her. Your friend saw me killing one last night. A rabbit, I think, from the woods. That’s why she’s like that. Alive but only just. The animal blood can sustain her, but she needs the blood of a human in order to properly thrive. Maybe one day the man with the purple tie will return and release me from my debt and cure her properly but I doubt it. He cursed me to become like this. More vampiric as more time passes. I’ll never be free. But I guess he kept his word. Alisa is alive after all. The typhus didn’t kill her.”
Oisin wasn’t sure, but just for a second, it seemed as though Byron’s lifeless eyes had teared up but then instantly returned to their normal state.
“Now you go. Forget this place, take your friend with you and we’ll pretend this never happened. Say you found him wandering in the woods a few miles from here, dazed and confused. They’ll probably send him to some psychiatrist, but he’ll be fine. He’ll get over it.”
“Good boy.” Oisin meant to leave quickly. He believed Byron. Looking at Byron now, he was different. Damaged, yes. But evil, no. Still he did not know why but he felt an uneasiness about him as if something different, something truly evil, had entered the room. Something with the most malevolent int
“Come on Shane, we have to go.” Oisin helped Shane to his feet and started to leave. Not quickly but not slowly either. And then he felt it. Did the earth shake just a little? No, surely it was his imagination. He started to walk out with Shane and then it happened again but more. Far more.
“What was that?” Byron asked.
“The earthquake,” Oisin said.
Then the floor moved a lot. The room shook like it was being violently pushed, but this movement wasn’t like that of an earthquake. This was something different. Oisin heard the upstairs of the house falling then the sound of glass breaking. Byron who had fallen jumped to his feet. Oisin looked at Byron, bewildered. The earthquake seemed to be ending. Looking to the door, Oisin saw blood. A large pool of blood was slowly ebbing its way into the room, creeping across the floor like a virus trying to infect everything around it. Byron returned into the room. Oisin had not thought it possible but somehow, he looked even more pale and gaunt than before. Byron walked to Alisa’s bed and the blood-filled bottle that had been being dripped to her was nearly empty. Oisin suddenly felt very, very scared. Byron looked over his wife. He knew she would soon fade if she didn’t have blood. Oisin continued to look at Byron. Getting up, he knew it was time to leave. Byron continued to stare at his wife. There was maybe enough blood to last her another half an hour. Oisin was walking out of the room now with Shane only half-awake, stumbling behind him.
“Wait!” Byron yelled at the boys. The boys stopped, Shane didn’t hesitate at all, turning around with a dazed smile on his face. But Oisin felt his skin grow cold and start to goose-bump. Turning around, Byron looked the way he had earlier. The same soulless look was in his eyes.
“Boys I am so sorry.” Byron’s mouth again started to quiver like a rat, the yellow incisors showing. Oisin went to scream but before he could even let out a yelp there was nothing, just black. Byron let out a howl, and there they lay. Both boys on the floor. Dead. Blood slowly starting to ebb out of their necks.
“God forgive me.” Byron wailed.
“Oh, I couldn’t see him doing that, but I might.”, a voice spoke. Byron turned around and there he was. The same man He hadn’t aged a day. His tie, his suit. Everything was identical.
“Good job, Byron. You finally played my game.”
Byron was lost for words. How could this be? After all this time – what was the man with the purple tie doing here?
“I’ll leave you be. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” The man with the purple tie winked at Byron, then he heard it. It was a yawn.
“Rufus, what time is it?” Alisa asked. Byron turned around and Alisa had sat up and was smiling at him. His mouth dropped. His wife was awake and talking after all these years. He turned again to face the man with the purple tie, only to see nothing. There was no one there. Just a blood-stained floor.