A little girl leaned on a headstone of some poor soul who’d died of consumption in 1912. She remembered him. He’d given her some Kendal Mint Cake before every Sunday service. The little girl smiled recalling the mint stickiness, it was a shame she couldn’t taste it then and now
She glanced at the night-time rush on the road.
Cars sped like ants rushing to honey, drawn to their Mecca of sweetness that satisfied all hunger. The humans behind the wheels were the sugary goodness that she craved. Nevertheless, to her eyes these cars that sped across the tarmac were slow, like the old silent movies that she used to watch decades ago, where they were slowed down or speeded up depending on the whims of the plot.
She smiled without meaning to.
She had always liked the way she could condense her personal timeline and make these steel horses crawl, like the beggars discharged from military service whom no one cared for. She felt a heartbeat of sorrow for them, but this was quickly over. They were a prime supply for blood as they neared their frozen death.
The moment that changed her death came slowly, like a puppeteer silently moving the arms of Punch and Judy, a memory of her almost forgotten childhood.
The stick held by Punch finally struck.
The convertible smashed into the Ford Escort in front. A sound like a balloon popping escaped the interior of the 1960s Aston Martin. The occupant, a man in a tight tailored suit, fell sprawling across the tarmac, gasping for breath as smoke and fumes filled the car. The woman in the Ford lay unmoving, her sandy hair matted with crimson. The air was filled with panic. The scenic St John the Baptist Church’s graveyard was marred by twisted metal, poisonous vapour: the iron taint of blood, puke, and defecation. The lines of graves fell like dominoes under the impact of the cars.
She looked on. She sniffed the air. There were at least two dying. She sniffed again, taking a long gulp of the fetid air. There were many more scents in the medley. Each human has a distinct fragrance, a note upon a sliding scale. She could discern age, gender. She could even smell how long a human had lived and when they were going to die, either it be a decade or, a day from now. Two of the humans involved were close to death’s door. These were acceptable targets. One was a woman in her late thirties. She had the scent of lilacs with hints of marigold running through the perfume, like veins of gold cutting through rock. A promising aroma. The second fragrance was a man’s. A darker perfume. Silty. He was a young man, not yet turned into the cul-de-sac of his twenties. It was an aroma of ambition and hope. She found it cloying. Many others were injured, as the collision of the Aston and Ford was the beginning; new collisions spread out across the single road like wildfire. She was only interested in the two who had not long left in the world. She smiled with milky fangs, pointy and elongated, pinching her lip. She had to be quick. Had to get her task done before the sirens sounded and the authorities came.
The young girl moved towards the two scents. The first was the young man, who was trapped. Shrapnel had pierced his body, like a voodoo doll full of pins. She looked down with her ageless sapphire eyes and a thought pricked her mind. She had never had a family. No mother she could put a face too. Her father? Was it the vague person who had fathered her or that hungry man who had turned her on his bloody rampage? The thoughts cascaded through the pinprick. Unbidden, unwanted but so real. Opening a chink in the armour that she had surrounded herself with as she looked down at the man. I want a father… a proper one. He could be it. It didn’t take long until that silent plea, like the insidious weeping fig tree, took root and expanded. What went with a father? And she gazed at the man whose laboured breath was becoming fainter. A mother – She smiled – A real family. No more living on her own on the streets and exposed to the sky’s wrath.
She sniffed and her small nose twitched. Her soon-to-be father didn’t have long. She had to do it now. She knelt beside him and beamed down at him, an angel of death, and gently caressed his cheek. She nodded her head at his scared sky blue eyes that had the sheen of crimson, like the blood moon, heralding death. Shush…Shush…all will be fine. She repeated her thoughts aloud to reassure him, and placed one of her tiny hands over his bloodshot eyes, closing them to her revealed form. Her eyes flicked and her pupils dilated. Sharp fangs revealed themselves and lips tasted blood. She fed as gently as she knew. She did not want to frighten her new found father. Joyful bliss as crimson wine, flowed. She drank with love. Tasted the man’s memories, his dreams and his innermost fears.
Then it was done. He would wake from induced slumber in a few hours. Plenty of time for her to digest all these new recollections, as if her father’s memories had become her own. Her father! There was an excitement in that thought that rivaled the rush of blood passing her lips. There was a dream and hope to be fulfilled. Her long-standing wish. She sniffed the air. Her mother to be, the scent of marigold and lilacs was souring, almost on the turn. There was no time to think or move her father to safety. She must go to her mother and performed the ritual. I’m coming, mother. Don’t die on me, mother. And she hurried to the woman now falling into a coma.
It did not take long to find her. The dying woman’s golden eyes were open but saw nothing. The mother she’d chosen had no idea that her new daughter was beside her. Ah, mother…what has happened to you? She went to her knees and stroked the woman’s sandy and crimson-laced hair.
Her nose twitched and she could taste that her mother’s time was running out.
She brushed a finger against her mother’s throat and gently bit down into the vein. Blood blossomed and flowed like lava and surged over her lips, burning her once-human soul and enriching her immortal one. She felt her mother’s experiences, her victories and failures, and most importantly her love for her own parents and siblings. It was sweet and sour, it was bitter and spicy and fulfilling as any restaurant. She looked down with a satisfied smile and longed to have her sleeping mother to hold her. Not long now. She would have that wish all too soon. It was time to bring her mother and father together and wait for the ambulances and fire engines to come to the crash victims’ rescue.
She wiped away excess blood and, with inhuman strength, she lifted her mother to her feet. She carried her to the prone form of her father. Gently did she lay her beside him and sat between the two, pulling their arms around her. It was time to wait. All will be fine… and in no time at all… I will have a family! And more importantly, as she had become faint, she needed to digest the new memories that drifted over her eyes, like slides of old family holidays. It was unsettling. A film reel flashed over eyes, filling her retina with picture after picture of past and present. The emplotment of her father’s and mother’s lives was before her in raised relief.
Her father. At last! His name was seared into her mind. He was christened Samuel but his friends named him, Mule. A silly, rather juvenile pun, and images of camping holidays replayed in her vision. It was endearing and her father the pitiful pack animal carried twice the amount of equipment as his friends. He had shrugged at the name and she saw him smiling, strangely proud.
She felt dizzy as moving pictures of her mother’s most recent holiday ran parallel to her father’s. She was with her work colleges in a spa resort in Bath. Elizabeth was what they had called her. Such a beautiful name… I love it. And she was her Mother! It was almost fantastical. Her fairy tale. An image of Christmas flickered before her eyes. Her mother was there with her family: a sister, brother and a nephew, as well as the grandparents. She saw them playing Articulate. How she ached to do something that simple – to play Articulate with her own family. They were enjoying themselves and the smile that blossomed on the face of her mother as she hugged her father was like the moon illuminating the night, completely magical. She snuggled into her mother’s sleepy embrace, waiting for a glimpse of that numinous smile. It was not long before she fell asleep, warm and in comfort in her parents’ arms.
Sirens and shouts echoed in her ears. Scents clambered at her nostrils. Dominating the rest, a perfume of pears came from a man, who seemed to be directing humans in strange orange suits towards the flames, which blazed in the background. She felt like she was in a sci-fi film, as one of these humans came towards her and the parents she’d claimed. His breathing deep and raspy from behind his oxygen mask. The scent of rotten apples seemed to permeate from the man. It was familiar. All too familiar.
‘Daphne? What are you doing?’
She glared at the man, as he took of his masklike helmet. She could feel blood well from her lips. She saw his long blonde hair fall past his neck, and cascade down his back. His eyes, green and poisonous pierced, her own.
‘Daphne, what are you doing?’
She glanced back to her mother and father. Felt trepidation as they opened their eyes to a little girl in their arms.
‘Daphne, I won’t ask again. What are you doing?’
She turned back to the man, fear cutting at every part of her body, like small blades slashing at her once-human heart. Her unknowing parents looked at her. Small. Fearful. She must have looked pathetic in their eyes and unworthy of being their daughter. They looked at the man; then, even though they had never met before they nodded to each other. A decision made. They did not like him. She could tell that thought was plain for all to see. But she was worried. He was dangerous and they had yet to awaken to their own strength, which her venom gifted. She stayed silent. He moved towards her. She edged backwards, almost tripping up, but arms held her steady. The warm hands of her mother stroked her face, while her father hand squeezed her shoulder, as he moved in front of her. She looked in horror, waiting for the man to tear her new-found family to pieces. She watched as he sniffed the air and then cocked his head at her.
‘Ah Daphne. You think it is that easy?’
He gave her parents a mocking bow, his eyes laughing at her. He pointed at them and spoke. His voice brought back memories she wanted to forget, most of all, of her own turning.
‘Look after your new-found daughter. We will meet again.’
She shivered at the prophetic announcement and watched as Elizabeth and Samuel gazed at her with uncertainly. She scrunched herself in a little ball and closed her eyes and ran towards them, tears welling and wailed at them.
Her parents looked at each other, unsure of what to do. But it was the man who nodded his head and caught her in his arms. The woman joined him and smiled at her. It was a magical smile and one that pierced her immortal soul, and touched her once human heart. It was like the moon illuminating the night. The last thing she heard as she fell asleep in their arms from pure exhaustion, she would treasure.
‘You are safe now, little one.’