I once wrote a story called Things that Go Blog in the Night, a rather tongue-in-cheek YA story which was later published in one of the Bridge House Collections. And I thought for a bit of fun I might post it here today. Remember it was written in this slightly tongue-in-cheek way, but hey, it is the day for it. Nothing speaks cheese better than Halloween…
Things that go Blog in the Night
“Make me Immortal”
He reads the post for a second time and says the words out loud.
The date of the post is Monday March 18th, 4.06 am and it’s the last thing Helen Gray has written. It’s the last thing anyone’s written. The Blog is officially dead and so is Helen Gray.
Gary Sparks has done this job for many years and he’s never seen anything like this. He moves the cursor across the screen with gloved hands. Then he hovers over the archive posts, six months’ worth. His eyes are drawn to the subheading:
Strictly No Werewolves
He wants to laugh but he doesn’t.
It seems to be facts and figures, everything you wanted to know or not know about vampires. A school project he thinks at first, even a fantasy. He knows about teenage daughters, about the irresistible abstaining Edward Cullen. But as he reads on it gets weirder.
And very weird indeed.
On March 1st Helen Gray has written in bold letters that her mission in life is to seek out a real life vampire. And she’s written ABSOLUTELY NO FAKES. Only contact me if you’re the real thing.
Gary looks at his mobile phone and wonders if she should call someone. Then he looks away from the screen, glances around Helen Gray’s bedroom. She has a movie poster over her bed. It looks like any normal teenage girl’s bedroom. Purple curtains, purple duvet, pink walls. It’s feminine with a touch of gothic like the arched mirror in black wood over the dressing table.
Gary knows that Mr and Mrs Gray are downstairs. For a second he lets himself imagine what they’re going through. He only has to think about it happening to his Jennifer and he’s pushing the thought to the edge, biting hard on his lip, telling himself nothing like this would ever happen to his little girl.
Except it already has.
Downstairs Dave Hardy will be drinking tea and handing Mr and Mrs Gray leaflets about counselling. He has to, it’s his job. He’ll tell them how in time they will come to terms with their loss. Dave Hardy is eighteen. The only loss he knows about was the BIG V last summer to some trollop whose name he can’t remember. But the Gray’s will listen and they’ll cling onto whatever he has to say, whatever will get them into tomorrow. Whatever will stop them from curling up into a ball and wondering what the hell happened. And Gary should know.
They’ll save the tears for later, for when he and Dave have left. And then they’ll blame each other for not knowing what their daughter was doing.
But as he nods and sympathises, the way he’s been taught to, even Dave Hardy will know this case is different.
Gary looks back at the computer screen and reads more. The post from March 17th says “I might have found my vampire.” That’s all she’s written. Someone called Sammy S has added a comment. “I’m soooo jealous.” He needs to check out the Followers, the number sixty-six somehow jars. He wonders if that’s ironic. He makes a copy of Helen Gray’s Blog before he deletes it. He thinks about what the coroner said, about the puncture wounds on Helen Gray’s neck when they found her. Exsanguination is the word the coroner used. “She literally bled to death,” he said. Although Gary thinks it’s a hoax he shivers.
Whoever did this is one sick bastard.
When he thinks he has what he needs Gary picks up his mobile phone and takes one last look at Helen Gray’s bedroom. When the forensics have finished dissecting this poor teenager’s life the parents won’t want to go into their daughter’s room. But they will go in. Maybe not at first but they will do it. They’ll touch her things because it’s all they have left. They’ll press her clothes to their faces and convince themselves they can smell her there. And they’ll think if they leave the room just as it is maybe it didn’t happen.
But it did happen.
Of course it did.
They found Helen Gray’s lifeless body on the floor of Epping Forest on March 18th, 10 pm. She was found by a dog walker.
Except…now it’s gone.
Helen Gray’s body disappeared from the morgue on March 19th and no one knows who took it or why. No one saw anything.
But Gary Sparks knows different.
Gary Sparks always knows different.
“Bodies don’t just disappear,” the morgue attendant had said. “In all my years I have never seen this. A couple of centuries back people robbed graves,” he said. “They sold the bodies to medical schools. But not anymore. Not like this.”
When they leave Gary presses his hand to Mrs Gray’s arm. “I’m so sorry,” he says. “We’ll do everything we can to find whoever did this.” She nods. He looks at Mr Gray and sees the way his eyes are rimmed in red, his skin grey. He looks away. They’ll want to know everything – but not yet, it’s too soon. Gary knows that right now it’s all they can do to keep breathing. But when the shock passes they’ll want to know, they’ll need to know what someone did to their child, all the bloody details and they’ll want to know why they have no body to bury.
“I wish I could tell you,” Gary wants to say but there are no more words left, not today. He turns to Dave and gestures towards the car. Today they’ll leave them be. For now.
Peter South receives a phone call just after midnight. He isn’t sleeping. He’s always been a light sleeper and tonight it’s the neighbour’s cat wailing in the backyard that wakes him. His wife, who can sleep through anything, only stirs on the telephone’s second ring. As he adjusts to the darkness Peter sees there’s a crack where the curtains don’t quite meet, a thread of silver light stretching towards him. He reaches for the phone.
“Yeah?” he says.
There’s only one type of phone call that comes this late and already his hands are trembling as he fumbles with the receiver.
“Do you know where your daughter is?”
It’s a scratchy voice, deep, almost a growl. He thinks it’s a man’s voice but he can’t be sure.
Peter South sits up in the bed and taps Barbara’s arm.
“Well do you?” the voice says again.
He nudges Barbara again, this time frantically.
“Who is this?” Peter says. “Who are you?”
“Do you know where Samantha is?” Then it laughs. A deep guttural laugh, the type that pimples flesh.
Barbara peers bleary-eyed from the nest she’s made in the duvet, mouths the word, “What?”
Before Peter can say anything the line clicks off. Now it’s just silence. He holds the receiver, looks at it as if something just died in his hand.
“What’s happened?” Barbara says, pushing herself up on her elbows.
“Some prankster,” Peter says. But even as he says it, even as he gets out of the bed, presses his toes against a cold wooden floor, he can’t shake the feeling, the sense of foreboding, the Knowing.
The landing has a strange orange glow where the light from the street lamp seeps in through a stained glass window, a depiction of a gargoyle. Samantha loves it. He hates it. The bloody thing is watching him. He thinks he’s going crazy. He thinks he’s dreaming. He thinks he needs to stop thinking.
At Samantha’s door Peter hesitates, his hand hovering over the handle, eyes scanning the homemade sign, “SAMMY’S ROOM. PARENT-FREE ZONE.” Very slowly he teases the door open. The curtains are drawn across. He can see the milky glow from her computer. She’s left it on again. Then his eyes shift across the room, follow a trail of clothes.
And that’s when he sees.
There’s an empty bed.
An empty made bed.
A voice comes from behind him, the same scratchy voice from the telephone and when he turns he sees.
Sammy hasn’t gone.
Sammy is standing right there. At first he’s relieved, he lets out the air he’s been holding onto and stretches out his hand towards her. It’s only when she opens her mouth he sees; it’s the last thing he EVER sees: a flash of long white teeth.
What happens next is unspeakable.
Another Child Missing
Tom Stokes (15) has been missing since last night. The last person to see him was his maths teacher, Richard Fletcher (43) from Epping High School who said he saw Tom playing football with classmates on the field and believes he left the school around 4.15. Police were alerted when he didn’t arrive home. This follows a recent bout of teenage runaways from the Epping area. Police are calling for any witnesses who might know something about this latest disappearance. Parents in particular are advised to be extra vigilant, to know where there children are at all times. This follows the disappearance of school girl, Helen Gray who’s body was discovered in Epping Forest last month and later stolen, allegedly by youths, but the body has still not been recovered. Last night the missing boy’s mother, Gillian Stokes, claimed her son knew Helen Gray. “Helen and Tom were good friends,” she said. “Perhaps more than good friends. Tom was very upset when he heard what happened to her. If you’re out there, Tom,” she pleaded, “Please come home.”
Gary folds the newspaper under his arm looks out of the tinted car window, takes in the California sunshine. It isn’t the first time his job has taken him overseas, but it is the first time in a long time he’s travelled so extensively. The toll of teenage deaths is rising. And now this. This time it’s a High School English teacher, Joyce Taylor. Like Helen, her bloodless corpse was found with inexplicable markings. They say her attacker was interrupted. Although no one will connect the teacher’s death with the runaway teenagers in Epping Gary Sparks knows different.
Gary Sparks always knows different.
Dave Hardy also knows different.
And Harry Jenner certainly knows different.
Harry Jenner works in LA and has worked with Gary before, but only once. As they park outside the teacher’s house, on the edge of Laurel Canyon, they all know one thing for certain, even before they check, even before they look through the school teacher’s things, they know they will find her name amongst the list of followers of Helen Gray’s Blog. But of the twenty-five followers they can still account for, and in spite of all the measures they’ve put in place, what they don’t know is which one will be next.
But what Gary Sparks and Dave Hardy and Harry Jenner all know is…
It happened in France, a small village just north of Normandy. He was a retired professor who had followed Helen Gray’s Blog for six weeks, that is until the Blog mysteriously disappeared. Something that convinced him he had always been right.
June 12th. 4.13 am. The professor wrote in Twitter:
|It’s official. I’ve seen her. I’ve seen Helen Gray … she’s here|
Less than a minute after the eccentric vampirologist, Pierre Laurent, went Tweet in the night he was dead. As dead as all the others. Gary missed it by a second.
With the press of a button the tweet went to 121 followers, 12 of which re-tweeted it before it was deleted by Gary Sparks at 4.22 am. By 4.37 he had deleted the others. As he’d pressed the button to delete the last one he’d looked at Harry Jenner and shaken his head. “We need reinforcements,” he said. “A helluva lot more reinforcements.”
That’s when he called the Boss – the Chief of the Vampire Hunters himself. There’s only one real way to kill a vampire. Gary shuddered at the thought, and reality it’s nothing like the movies.
Mrs Gray pegs the last of her husband’s brown work trousers on the washing line and turns back towards the house. What she sees bends her mouth into silent disbelief. It’s only there for a second but it isn’t the first time it’s happened.
The name breaks apart on her lips as the peg bag falls to the ground.
She thinks she’s going crazy. People tell her it’s normal – part of the process. They tell her at least she knows her child is dead, not like the others that have disappeared. At least there was a body. Like that’s some kind of consolation. They tell her she has to accept what happened and move on. Like it’s that easy. And they tell her at least she’s not waiting for her child to come home.
But that’s where they’re wrong.
As she starts to walk back towards the house Mrs Gray is certain that this time she really did see something. She really did see Helen standing at the window, glowing, almost like an angel in the summer sunshine. But like all the other times, in a blink she’s gone. But she knows her husband has seen her too. She knows this for sure, she sees it in his eyes. But Mr Gray doesn’t believe in things like that.
It’s Mrs Gray that thinks they have a ghost in their house.
Epping is the epicentre. It’s a bit of a mouthful but it’s what the Hunters have called it. It’s been four months since Helen Gray’s body went missing and the disappearances in Epping have finally stopped. Now there are global pockets of people disappearing and unexplained deaths, but that kind of thing happens all the time. It’s easier to explain. But what Gary Sparks knows and what they all know is the quiet time is coming to an end. This is a new generation. And this generation takes what it wants and it takes it NOW. Once they get the taste… Gary closes his eyes and pictures his Jennifer, his beautiful Jennifer. He wants to forgive Harry Jenner for what he made him do. He has to forgive him. But that’s almost as hard to do as… he pushes the thought to the very edge of his conscious and lets it go.
He sees Dave in his eye line tapping his watch he knows one thing: they have work to do.
Austria, late summer, a house on the edge of the Black Forest. Home of the last Follower of Helen Gray’s Blog. There are Hunters in the forest, back ups, waiting. They have to succeed this time. If they can’t stop her now they don’t know who’s next or where – playing catch up is never the way they like it. What they still don’t know for certain is how many she’s changed and how many she’s killed but they think their tireless efforts have paid off. They’ve worked meticulously and they’re as sure as they can be that they got them all. What they do know for certain is someone can only be changed if they truly believe it – if they really want it.
“How ya holding up?” Harry says and Gary looks at him. It’s what he said that day. It was a long time ago and Harry’s eyes are filled with the same remorse. Only that time it was entirely Gary’s doing – his own rookie mistake that cost him everything. He should never have gone straight home, lead it straight to Jennifer. He catches Harry’s eye and he knows what’s he’s thinking. That it goes with the job. That’s it’s why they exist. Two months after Jennifer disappeared Gary told his wife he didn’t love her anymore. Fact is he loves her so much the ache still cripples him but it’s better this way. It’s better because he doesn’t have to look at her and lie about who he is or what he did.
Gary looks at Dave who’s standing next to him, eyes wide and eager. “You’re not ready,” Gary says. He sees the disappointment in Dave’s young face. “Your time will come,” he says. “There will always be a next time.” As he says it he looks at Harry who proffers a weak smile.
Together they stand in silence, Harry Jenner, Dave Hardy and Gary Sparks. They watch beams of light sweep up from the bottom road, a passing motorist, then it’s gone. An owl hoots, then only silence except for the soft whisper of the wind in the night time forest.
So they wait.
And they wait some more.
And still they wait.
There’s a light on in the house, a shadow moving behind glass. Gary looks at his watch, it’s almost 2 am.
At 2.33 am the light in the house goes out.
And finally as Gary Sparks moves his feet restlessly someone calls out from the forest and they know the hunt has started. Someone’s smelt something. As the scent grows stronger Gary Sparks feels his flesh crawl, hairs standing up, his limbs stretching. He turns to look at Harry but all that’s left are his torn clothes and somewhere in the forest a wolf like creature stalks its prey.
Mrs Gray lays her book down on the table, face down, spine broken and she looks across at where Mr Gray sleeps soundly. Through the curtain, next door’s Christmas lights flick on and off in the room; they’re always forgetting to turn them off. Mr Gray’s face turns red in the light.
Slowly Mrs Gray slips her legs out of the bed, dips her toes into fluffy slippers and shuffles across the bedroom. She stops in the doorway, looks back, just to make sure, before she walks along the landing and goes into her daughter’s bedroom. It’s just the way she left it, for when she comes home.
But Helen Gray hasn’t been home in a long time.
While Mrs Gray sits down at the computer, waiting for it to boot she looks at her daughter’s things, at the poster above the bed, the face of a young man so handsome she could weep. Then she looks at the screen and taps at the keys. Her computer class did pay off in the end. She finds the page, presses the New Post button. She likes the name she came up with, it has a real ring to it http://doyoubeleiveinvampiresblogspot.com/
She types a message: Only follow if you believe. She looks at the row of icons. She already has 105 followers: true believers. By tomorrow it will be one less.
She kills the screen. Then she walks towards her daughter’s dressing table, eye level with Helen’s gothic mirror. Mindlessly she still looks in it.
When she reaches the bedroom door she stares at her husband, motionless in the bed, pale skin changing colour in the festive flicker.
Mr Gray is sleeping soundly.
Perhaps a little too soundly.
© Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, Bridge House Publishing, Devils, Demons and Werewolves, 2010.
Have a good weekend … bloggers (mwar mwar mwar…)