Copyright © 2009 SM Worsey
It started off as a pretty ordinary Tuesday. A mild, dry
autumn day, which seemed a blessing after the recent downpours.
I stretched out my lunch break, eating my sandwiches on a
park bench, for a change.
On my way back to the office, I took a stroll down a quiet
street full of lovely old sandstone buildings that house the ‘posher’ shops in
I was just turning away from a lingering gaze at the
lightweight, folding bike of my dreams, when events took a somewhat dramatic
The street was deserted apart from a man of about my age on
the opposite pavement. He caught my eye due to the eccentric way he was
dressed; big black sunglasses that the weak sunshine didn’t really justify, an
elegant shirt, purple velvet waistcoat, thin black jacket and long grey
I remember thinking that he must really feel the cold, to be
wearing so many layers on such a mild day, but I tried not to pay him an
impolite amount of attention as he bent down to pick up a newspaper that
someone had carelessly dropped.
As he did so, a movement to my left caught my attention, as
a middle-aged man with bushy grey hair emerged suddenly from a narrow alleyway
between two shops. Without seeming to notice me, he pulled something with a
metallic glint from his bag, and aimed it at the younger man.
Some kind of instinct gripped me and I lurched forwards with
a yell, slamming myself into the man’s arm and so deflecting his gunshot
The bullet struck the top right hand corner of the shop
window opposite, causing it to shatter with an almighty bang, as both the
shooter and his target whipped round to stare at me in horror for an agonising
moment, before fleeing in opposite directions.
They disappeared just as the screaming shopkeeper came
blundering out into the street. With a gulp of fear, I ran over to her and stammered an
explanation. Of course, the police and the local paper wanted to hear my
version of events, so I described both men as accurately as I could from the
brief glimpse I’d had.
The paper printed a report the next day, describing me only
as ‘…a local Council-worker in her early thirties,’ as the police advised them
to keep my identity confidential in case this was some kind of gang-warfare
scenario. Not that many of those happen in central Manchester in broad
Even so, it kept me in ‘gossip points’ for days, as everyone
in work kept pressing me about it, and I quite enjoyed the attention.
I’d just about calmed down by Friday morning and was waiting
for my computer to boot up while looking forward to a quiet weekend of chatting
in pubs and visiting relatives, when reception buzzed up to say there was
someone asking for me.
I wasn’t expecting any visitors that day, so felt really
puzzled as I made my way downstairs to the foyer.
It was the man who’d been shot at. I recognised him straight
away, possibly because with the exception of the sunglasses and distinctive
purple waistcoat, he was wearing the same clothes as before.
As I approached, he gave a polite nod and extended his hand. I shook it, feeling startled by how cold the skin was, and
he thanked me profusely for saving his life.
‘That man is a good shot, and he intended to kill,’ he
explained in an accent I couldn’t place at all.
‘Oh, I just acted on instinct, I suppose,’ I shrugged, not
really knowing how to respond.
‘We need to talk in confidence,’ he told me firmly, ‘…there
is a possibility that your brave deed could have put you in danger.’
‘Yes, of course,’ I replied, trying to look into his eyes
sincerely as I spoke, but somehow finding it impossible.
‘I will visit you at home, at a time that suits you,’ he
said. ‘What is your address?’
Now I’m not in the habit of giving my address out to strange
men willy-nilly, and this guy was clearly stranger than most, but in my shock
and excitement I just blurted it out. He scribbled in a little notepad, and
then pocketed it carefully.
‘Come round this evening, if you want,’ I suggested. ‘I’m
free after seven.’
‘I will,’ he nodded with a mysterious, pointy-toothed smile
that reminded me of some pop star I’d briefly been into as a teenager.
I was just about to ask his name when he produced the
sunglasses from a pocket and pushed them on, turning to leave.
‘It would be better for both of us if you keep this
encounter to yourself,’ he told me over his shoulder as he walked away.
I nodded mutely, glancing over at the receptionist, who was
busy with an enquirer and hadn’t heard a word.
‘Who was it?’ a colleague asked as I slipped back into my
‘Oh, just some bloke,’ I replied, trying to sound a lot
calmer than I felt.
Common sense told me not to answer the doorbell that
evening, but of course I ignored it and ran straight down four flights of
stairs to the entrance. The man smiled at me warmly as I invited him in. I hadn’t
really noticed before how sexy he was. We didn’t speak as we took the lift up to my flat, or in the
corridor, but once I’d closed the door behind us, I was burning with questions.
‘Where are you from?’ I asked, pushing the hair from my face
as I slumped against the wall of my open-plan kitchen and living room.
‘I am from Germany,’ he replied. ‘My name is Ludwig.’
It didn’t sound like any German accent I’d ever heard, but
I’m no expert on such things. ‘I’m Melissa,’ I told him. ‘Would like you like some wine?
‘No thank you,’ he replied, walking over to the huge,
sliding window that lead out onto my balcony.
The nights were closing in, and the hazy amber lights of the
city were spread out below us, with the fainter glimmer of pure white stars
above. He stood there with his back to me for a moment, looking out
at the scene, then turned to face me again.
‘I am new to this country,’ Ludwig explained. ‘The man who
tried to shoot me must have followed me here.’
‘Why the sunglasses?’ I asked, realising it was a bit rude
to change the subject.
‘I am very sensitive to sunlight,’ he replied
‘Oh, I see,’ I nodded. ‘I’ve heard there’s some condition
My voice trailed off because I realised that I was just
waffling conversationally, and this was clearly not why this man had come. ‘Will you sit down?’ I asked, feeling suddenly awkward.
He did, perching delicately on a wooden chair. I sat on the
arm of the sofa, facing him.
‘You said I might be in danger?’
‘I am in debt to you,’ he replied gently. ‘You saved my
life, and I will do whatever I can to repay that.’
‘However,’ he continued more gravely, ‘my attacker will be
very angry that you thwarted him.’
‘Will he come after me?’ I gasped.
‘He will not shoot you,’ Ludwig replied, shaking his head.
‘You acted in innocence, and he has no reason to take revenge. However, there
is a strong possibility that he could kidnap you.’
I had a dozen questions by this point, but all I could ask
‘To get at me!’ he replied fiercely. ‘He knows I will
come after him, if he touches you. He understands my code of honour.’
‘He will look you up,’ Ludwig continued. ‘The paper said
where you work, so it’s only a matter of time. Then, he’ll want to talk.’
‘He’ll tell you I’m evil and deserve to die, and will try to
convince you to arrange a meeting somewhere quiet, so that he can appear and
‘If that doesn’t work,’ he concluded, ‘he’ll probably kidnap
‘Who is this man?’ I asked, finding my voice at last.
‘Henning Gont. He is a vampire hunter,’ Ludwig replied.
‘So you’re a vampire!’ I exclaimed.
This whole conversation had now gone very surreal. There I
was, shouting; ‘So you’re a vampire!’ at some bloke sitting at my dining
table in the same kind of way that I might say, ‘So you’re a footballer!’ or,
‘So you’re that famous writer!’
‘I am indeed,’ he replied calmly. ‘Do you feel that
‘You don’t seem…’ I began, but stopped myself. That’s
not what he was asking. ‘My gut feeling is that I can trust you.’
He smiled then, a really expressive grin that seemed to
light up his whole face. ‘You certainly can!’ he assured me. ‘I won’t harm a hair on
So I asked more questions, and he went on to explain that he
could walk around in daylight, but not if it was bright and sunny, that he had
lived as a human until the age of thirty two, which was when he’d become a
vampire, over a hundred years ago.
‘So can you fly? Turn into a bat?’ I asked eagerly.
He nodded patiently. ‘I will leave here as a bat.’
He stood and walked over to the window again. ‘If Gont
contacts you, or you have any kind of news, please summon me,’ he requested.
‘How will I do that?’ I asked, joining him.
‘I can enter this place any night I like, now you have
invited me in,’ he explained, ‘…but I will respect your privacy. To summon me,
simply leave this window slightly ajar. I will notice, and fly in.’
A thrill ran through me as he said that; I couldn’t help
myself. Then, before my eyes, he gave a flick of his long coat and
instantly became a fluttering, squeaking bat. I slid the window open and the bat flapped out into the
night, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
I met some friends for drinks the following evening and I
was determined to talk about it all, but I just couldn’t do it. I’ve got a pretty open mind, and have always believed in
ghosts, magic and so on, but most people don’t, and I couldn’t work out what to
do if they thought I was lying or deluded. So I kept Ludwig to myself.
On Monday evening, I cancelled my vague plans and opened the
sliding window to leave a bat-sized gap, before settling down impatiently with
a novel. It was gone ten o’clock when he came. I watched the bat
flutter onto the rug, then silently transform into a tall, pale man.
‘What happens to your clothes, when you’re a bat?’ I asked
‘I’ve never been asked, and honestly haven’t worked it out,’
he replied, looking wryly amused. ‘It must be magic’.
‘Mr Gont came to my office,’ I reported. ‘He was in
disguise, and asked me to meet him in a café on my break, so I did.’
I then went on to explain that Gont had told me that Ludwig
was a dangerous vampire who was likely to contact me soon, and that he needed
to be killed before he could harm anyone. I had pretended to be shocked, and said I’d refuse to take
part in any plan he had, on the grounds that I was too frightened.
‘And are you frightened?’ Ludwig asked, taking a step
I looked him over for a minute. He certainly had a
formidable presence; and those teeth didn’t help. Yet…
‘Gont was edgy and arrogant,’ I shrugged. ‘I took an instant
dislike to the man. I didn’t want to help him.’ I folded my arms. ‘You said summat about a code of honour?’
‘There is a bond between us,’ he replied quietly. 'You protected me from one of the few people in the world
who knows how to kill me, so I will care for you.’
He was looking at me intently as he spoke. I studied his
face properly for the first time. His black hair was very ruffled and textured
in a way that wasn’t quite messy. His eyes were a slate purple colour, and his
stubbled chin darkly stained with blood.
‘Don’t suppose you can wash your mouth?’ I asked.
He went over to the sink. ‘I had to feed,’ he explained.
‘How?’ I asked, wondering whether this was a foolish
He looked up at me, water dripping from his face. ‘Do you ever wonder about human potential?’ he asked,
mysteriously. 'Do you ever get excited about what you can do? The power
your race has? I have lived a long time, Melissa, and I’ve seen the very best
and worst in people.’
I handed him a towel and nodded.
‘I see humans struggling against immeasurable odds,’ Ludwig
continued. ‘People with almost nothing. No food or shelter. No clean water. No
love. Yet …I also see people with wealth and influence beyond
their ancestors’ wildest dreams, drunkenly slumped on park benches, wasting
their lives in a haze of intoxication and self loathing, taking their pathetic
insecurities out on others …and do you know what I want to do?’
He stepped over to me then, placing his hands on my
shoulders and looking down into my face. ‘I want to bite them. Drain some of that wasted life
force. Take it for myself.’
‘I was late coming here,’ he explained, squeezing my
shoulders slightly ‘…because I bit such a man tonight. I saw him follow
a woman along the canal with violence in his eyes. Lust and loathing. So …I
knocked him down.’
‘Humans are twisted,’ Ludwig concluded. ‘They just won’t
admit it. They think they are made in the image of God. They are deluded.’
I said nothing. He knew that I knew he was right. That was
all the assurance he needed.
‘Can you fly …as yourself?’ I asked eventually.
‘You want to fly with me?’ he replied, eagerly. ‘Come on. I
will show you.’
I turned the light off as we stepped out onto the balcony.
‘This is all about trust,’ he grinned, grabbing hold of my
hand. ‘If you let go, you fall.’
Before I had a chance to react, he sprang upwards into the
cold, dark night, pulling me with him. We soared above the deserted street, level with the rooftops
of the solemn brick buildings that survived as a monument to an earlier
industrial time, faintly lit by the amber glow of sodium. We swished past all
the converted mills with their balconies and roof terraces, and headed out
along the canal.
‘We need to keep away from bright lights,’ Ludwig told me.
‘Stick to dark places. People may look up and notice us pass overhead. They
will think it is a bird, or a plastic bag. The power of denial is very strong.’
I could see vague shapes moving along the ground with no
colour or distinct form, almost like shadows.
‘Spirits,’ he informed me, as if reading my mind. ‘Some are
bound to the place they died. Others move freely. I can see them all.’
‘Can we go higher?’ I shouted, exhilarated.
We glided beyond the reach of the tallest windows, and I
gazed down at the city I’d grown to love and fear. It is a grid of structures from every modern age, separated
by streets, trees, and paved and grassy spaces. Within and below the buildings
move animals, humans and spirits, each of them restless, incomplete.
We dropped silently onto the balcony and re-entered the dark
flat. I let go of Ludwig’s hand with reluctance and turned on the table lamp. It was gone midnight and I’d normally have been in bed, but
right then, I felt more awake than I’d been in years.
Ludwig stood expectantly just inside the sliding window, as
if waiting for me to speak. I wanted to touch him again, so I moved over and brushed my
fingers against his cheek, emboldened by an urge I didn’t try to understand.
Reaching up, I allowed my hand to trail through his hair, and then slid it
slowly down the back of his coat.
‘You don’t owe me anything,’ I whispered. ‘No obligations.’
He didn’t reply, but put his arm around me and drew me
closer, then began to nuzzle my neck with unexpected tenderness.
‘You’re so warm,’ he murmered into my hair.
I realised that he was irresistibly drawn to my neck, and
wondered whether he had to fight an urge to bite. We stood like that, breathing deeply, for some minutes, and
then Ludwig pushed me away slightly.
‘You need to know what you’re getting into,’ he said. ‘You
have to think about this in the cold light of day.’
‘I’m just acting on instinct again,’ I grinned, giddy with
‘Getting close to me could change you,’ he explained. ‘You
will be energised. Influenced. You’ll notice things most humans chose long ago
not to see.’
‘Think about it,’ he urged, taking a step towards the
window. ‘Only summon me again when you are sure.’
I was sure. I left the window wide open the following
evening. He swept in as dusk settled heavily over the city.
As Ludwig scooped me up in a hug, I hooked my elbow round
his neck and kissed him eagerly, sliding my other hand under his shirt.
‘You’re bold!’ he said, sounding amused and slightly
‘I’m not normally,’ I giggled, attempting to undo the
buttons. ‘It’s been ages since…’
I didn’t get to finish, because he swung me around onto the
table; my legs spread either side of his hips, then ran his hands up and down
my back, kissing me with a passionate urgency. Then he drew back and smiled at me.
‘You don’t have a man, do you?’
I shook my head. ‘No. Will you sleep with me?’
‘Sleep?’ he asked, puzzled.
‘Oh, you know,’ I explained, flustered, ‘I mean err, go to
bed and stuff.’
He started playing with my hair, deep in thought.
‘I want to be your lover,’ he replied, ‘…but you must
keep it secret. Most humans would hate and fear me. Do you understand?’
‘Yes of course,’ I nodded, putting my hand on his cheek.
We went to my bedroom and spent hours getting really
intimate with each other. There was a passionate intensity about Ludwig that
aroused and thrilled me, combined with his eagerness to please. He really seemed to crave my body heat, pressing himself
against me constantly, while kissing and nuzzling my face. Eventually, I fell asleep with my arm draped over his chest.
The alarm clock rudely woke me just a few hours later. The
cold, thin sunlight streamed around the edges of the curtains. I was alone.
Cursing, I rushed to get showered and dressed, and then as I
went to grab my cardigan from the wardrobe by the door, I spotted a dark,
huddled shape in the corner. It was a roosting bat. I smiled and blew a kiss as I left.
A car followed me home from work. I didn’t realise until I
was turning into my street and spotted it closing in behind. Worried that
someone was stalking me, I ran the last few yards to the door. As I swiped the entry fob, I peered through the car window
as it pulled up onto the pavement. My heart skipped a beat. It was Henning
I cooked a stir-fry and was eating it when the bat woke and
transformed into Ludwig.
‘I always sleep as a bat,’ he yawned.
Trembling, I told him about the car straight away.
‘You can’t come here any more,’ I sobbed against his
shoulder. ‘Gont will find and kill you.’
‘He is determined,’ Ludwig sighed sadly. ‘There is a history
between us. He won’t rest until one of us is dead.’
‘Can you kill him?’ I asked, hopefully.
‘I can’t bite,’ Ludwig replied. ‘He will have taken herbs that would poison me. I would have to strike him down at close range. Difficult.
He has a range of guns …with silver bullets.’
‘There must be a way,’ he growled, pacing the floor.
Finally, he stopped and knelt by my chair. ‘I will leave here once it is fully dark and fly to London.
There are two vampires there. One had dealings with Gont’s accomplice recently
…and defeated him.’
‘Are there many vampires?’ I asked, drying my eyes.
‘Not any longer,’ he replied. ‘About a hundred, worldwide.
We generally avoid each other, but meet once a year, and have a loose kinship.
We agreed some time ago to only bite people once. To keep our numbers low …by
not making more.’
‘I was one of the last,’ he added, with a slight smile.
‘Wish I could come with you.’ I ruffled his hair.
‘I need to go alone, as a bat,’ he explained. ‘I will stay away some time. Gont will soon realise I have
gone. He will leave you alone and widen his search.’
Ludwig left as soon as it was fully dark. I tried not to cry as he flapped away down the street,
because I felt relief that he would be safe for a while, at least.
That was a month ago. I try to just get on with my day-to-day life, like before
…but things have changed.
My friends have become boring, frustrating. I find it
difficult to take them seriously. They talk about television, clothes and
gossip. They put each other down.
I have flown through the air and looked on this city from a
great height, and once you’ve done that, you realise how small people are, how
each moment is just one brief event that follows hundreds, thousands of years
of human toil and experience.
I smell things on people. Sometimes fondness or excitement,
but more often jealousy, insecurity and fear. This repels me, and I find myself
spending more time alone.
I’m surrounded by spirits. Some are a vague presence, but
others will touch me, talk to me. I roam the hills, parks and streets with
spirits following me like a pack of dogs, their bright forms swirling round me
as I skip and laugh.
Gont monitored me for a couple of weeks, but gave up and
disappeared when he realised that I was never with Ludwig.
I scan the sky every night. I miss him.
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