Kev the Vampire
by Phillip Donnelly
|Cast of characters|
|Chapter 7: The Rapture and the Realtor|
‘The blood is the life! The blood is the life!’ That is all the mysterious Patient K would say at first. Dr. Mac Pherson gradually pieces together the story of K’s life: his gruesome school days at the Holy Bleeding Pelican; his drug- and alcohol-induced visions; his wars with Social Welfare zombies, and his attempts to use his meagre housing allowance to rent a castle. Dr. Mac Pherson learns of K’s romantic misadventures as a dishwasher in Bavaria and how comically difficult life can be for the quixotic would-be vampire in the 21st century.
A man’s home is his castle, we are told, and all the more so for a vampire. K.’s alter-ego, Dracula, ‘remembered’ his Transylvanian castle, perched atop the Carpathian mountains and all its gothic turrets and cavernous dungeons.
He smiled at memories of the happy hours he had spend there, torturing Turks and defiling virgins. He remembered his silk-clad Elizabetha, silent and serene, a beauty so deep that it would stop a charging boar and make it wish to play the lute in homage to her.
The mealy-mouthed terraced estates of Dublin 9 were to him a poor substitute, one he wished to leave immediately. House after house rested on its neighbour, like rows of drunks frozen in time, and all of them sagged under the oppression of sameness.
Things had changed much in the centuries he had slept. In his time, peasants had been confined to wooden shacks and were the chattel of their lord and master, but now these serfs called themselves equals of blue-blooded aristocrats.
As he walked down Walsh Road and headed to the thoroughfare of Drumcondra Road, not a soul bowed or scraped before him, which irked him greatly, but then he realised that he was inhabiting a peasant form and that, to the rabble around him, the Lord of the Dracule was no more than a young peasant lad.
Raiding the memories of his host, he noted that an estate agent was conveniently located nearby, and it was to this establishment that he directed himself.
Dracula was much impressed by the breed of estate agents. He felt they possessed a rapacious vulpine nature and a seething seedy intellect that marked them as hunters rather than hunted. Their hypnotic powers are the stuff of legend, even to the undead, and his father, Nosferatu himself, had summoned one to Transylvania for one-to-one tutoring sessions on deceit and dissimulation.
However, Dracula also recalled that the relationship between vampire lord and estate agent, though cordial at first, soured quickly.
He recalled that his father, who was a man of few words and quick to anger, soon lost patience with Mr. Herbert Hargrieves and his petitions to renovate the family home and to place the Dracule castle on the property markets of London.
The end came one stormy evening, as prescient wolves howled outside the castle walls and the two acquaintances sat uncomfortably together in the dining hall. The estate agent attempted once more to direct Nosferatu’s attention to his latest renovation plan, and he referred to a series of graphs and tables that meant nothing to the ancient vampire.
“Now, Nosferatu, as you can see in Graphic 12, should you decide to lease your property to a reputable tenant, whose credentials we could assure you of, then after only making slight changes to the décor, you could expect a return on investment of 8% in the first year, rising to 12% in the second year. While this is a healthy ROI and far above what you could expect from any bank, I really do feel that if you would consider a more radical refurbishment of Castle Dracule, we could double or even triple the return on investment in the medium term.”
“The children of the night, what wonderful music they make,” Nosferatu said, unable to concentrate on the estate agent’s words and preferring instead to listen to the lyre of the lobo.
“I fear the tenants’ association might feel differently, but...”
“What are these ‘tenants’ you speak of? The only ‘tenants’ I know are the wretched serfs who plough my land and the sheeted dead, whose tenancy will last until the final trumpet... normally.”
“English tenants are of a different nature, sir. They are free and monied men. They are renters. Now, if you would move on to Graphic 13, you can see that should you sub-divide the castle into apartments, then the returns could be out of this world!
“Holiday homes are the way of the future, Lord Dracule, and with the new Istanbul railway line set to pass only three miles to the east, this castle is in a prime location for holiday lets. Location, location, Lord Dracule. Location is everything. One must speculate to accumulate, Nosferatu, speculate to accumulate. That is the motto of the modern businessman: speculate to accumulate.”
“I have nothing with these words,” Nosferatu replied, laconically and with a voice hoarse from a thousand years of sorrowful silence, drawn out by the ennui of ages.
“Well, you can leave the words to us. We’ll handle all the advertising — that’s all part of the all-inclusive package we offer. Now, I’ve got one word for you, Nosferatu: renovate!”
“Ray... no... vate,” Nosferatu repeated, almost spitting out the word.
“Precisely, sir. Renovate — that’s the key! Renovate. Let me paint you a picture. First, let’s spruce up the outside of the castle. Now, let’s be honest, Nosferatu, it’s a tad on the gloomy side, isn’t it? I’m seeing garden gnomes in place of gargoyles and a tennis court and a swimming pool in the courtyard. And we must renovate the inside too. I’m seeing French windows, bright colours and soft cushions. I’m seeing electric light in all the rooms. Let’s have no more gloomy darkness and smelly candles.”
“I like darkness!” Nosferatu rasped, and the candle threw a long shadow behind him, which seemed to grow and move of its own accord.
“But you need to put yourself in the mind of the buyer; you need to see what kind of home they want.”
“This castle is the home of the Dracule. It has been so for generations past. We want no strangers here. We need no change. We command time. We live. Forever...”
“Time waits for no man, Nosferatu.”
“Time waits for me!” In a fit of rage, he took the fountain pen from Mr. Hargrieves’ hand and lunged it into the agent’s jugular, and before his spouting blood could reach the table, Nosferatu had decapitated him with his own clipboard. He held the severed head before him and asked it in what graphic it had foreseen this eventuality. He laughed loudly at that; so loudly, in fact, that his son, Dracula, came to the room to investigate the source of the mirth.
When Dracula entered the room, Nosferatu threw the head for his son to catch and told him to place Mr. Hargrieves’ head on a spike outside the castle gates; and under it to place a placard, written in Mr. Hargrieves own blood, that read ‘Realtors Beware!’
As the vision of the placard dissolved in the Vampire K.’s mind, he found himself in front of the plate glass of the estate agent’s window, confronted by a hundred tiny placards, each one an advertisement for a different property to rent or to buy.
Each one contained a picture of the property above a bullet-pointed description and on top of both, a header. There were detached houses, semi-detached houses and terraced houses; there were apartments with one, two, or three bedrooms; and finally, there were ‘studio apartments’, that consisted of nothing more than a Spartan room with a bed and worn furniture.
K. looked in vain for castles and wondered what had happened to his own family estate after his ancestral home was burnt and razed to the ground in the peasants’ revolt.
The questioning reader of this tale will no doubt be wondering how he or she is privy to the events and thoughts outlined in this chapter. ‘Where do these notes from the underground of K.’s mind come from?’ you may ask. Has your faithful reporter, you might wonder, grown omniscient in the dark role of the narrator?
No — I am no novelist!
They events described were, of course, related to me by K. himself, our unfortunate protagonist, during the course of our many sessions, and I have summarised them and rendered them in written form so that you may know the fantasies of my charge. Were I Beelzebub, I might have commanded fly witnesses to rest on walls to render accuracy to the account, but I have only the powers of an enquiring mind at my disposal.
But analysis depends on the material that is analysed. Where is the objectivity in the subjective description of a madman?
From the moment K. entered the estate agent’s office, there were two sources of information, and I laboured long and hard to tell the event’s not from K.’s flawed perspective, but from the estate agent’s, whom one would assume to be of sounder mind.
I journeyed to the establishment several times, and although initially well-disposed toward me, the realtor refused point-blank to offer me a thousand words of prose to describe his interview with K., regardless of how many times I pleaded with him to do so, both face to face and in an increasingly terse email correspondence.
As I said in the beginning, I have a nature that tends toward the obsessive; and in hindsight, I should not have persisted so tenaciously in my attempts to turn realtor into writer, but I did so in the quest for truth and objectivity; and although I was forced to apologise to him in writing and to promise to cease and desist, I still feel that he over-reacted in contacting the hospital authorities to make a formal complaint of harassment.
And so, having divulged myself of the above, I return you to the scene:
K. opened the door of Centurion 21 and was greeted by a middle-aged man with a smile as false as his teeth. The corners of his mouth turned upwards, but his eyes did not smile. The magnetic power of the eyeless smile attracted K., and like iron filings to a magnet, he felt himself pulled across the room and he seemed to float above the coffee-stained carpet.
He found himself taking his outstretched hand without thinking. It was cold and clammy, and K. wondered for a moment if he really was the last of his kind. There was something of the night about this man; something inhuman in the reptilian eyes of this agent of the Twenty First Centurion.
“Good afternoon, Mr...”
“Mr. D. Call me D.,” Dracula. replied, feeling that he should keep the family name of Dracule a secret, at least for the present, in case this estate agent was bound by honour to avenge the bloody death of his predecessor in Transylvania.
“Mr Dee, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Jonathan, Jonathan Cretin.” The estate agent pronounced his surname ‘cray-tyne’, rather than ‘cretin’, as was written on his name badge, which K. took to be a secret sign, a kind of verbal freemason handshake. Both had kept their real identities hidden, knowing how cruel humans can be to the parasites that feed on them.
“So, perhaps you would like to begin by telling me something about your property needs, and I can guarantee you that we at Centurion 21 will do our best to satisfy them.”
“I want... my dream home.”
“And we’re here to make your dreams come true, Mr. Dee. Did you have a particular location in mind? And were you thinking of an apartment or a house, Mr. Dee?”
“Something more exotic, then, Mr. Dee. Well, we at Centurion 21 like a challenge and we pride ourselves on being able to satisfy all property needs.”
“My heart bends towards a castle: something gothic; something dark; something well away from prying eyes.”
The estate agent’s eyes began to water and his mouth salivated. His heart raced at the thought of the commission. Sweat started to seep from his armpits, quickly darkening the underarms of his acrylic shirt. He smiled again, and this time his eyes smiled too.
He studied the customer more closely. There were no signs of outward wealth, he noted, but not everyone believed in displaying wealth. He had once dealt with a millionaire who only wore second-hand rags on principle and had missed out on a plump commission by judging only from outward appearances. He had never forgiven himself for it — or forgiven his colleague who won the commission — and he would not make the same mistake twice.
“A castle! Well, everyman’s home is his castle, as they say. And what put the idea in your mind, Mr. D., if I may be so bold?”
“I am a traveller from an antique land, but time has robbed me of my birthright. My family once held a castle, a lofty and lonely bastion in the centre of their wide and wild estates, in the lands to the east; and there they turned back the Ottoman horde and changed the coarse course of history; but the tide of time turned and flooded us; leaving us shipwrecked in the mist; depriving us of lands, of castles and of queens.”
“I see. Well, let’s put the past aside and look to the future, because it’s in the future that we all will live. And we at Centurion 21 want to make your future happen for you. But first, let’s focus on the present. The good news is you’ve come to the right country for castles, sir, because of the length of our history. Now, just let me search our database... We don’t put properties like that in the window, of course. And what price range were you thinking of, sir.”
“Well, my recent and hasty arrival on your shores has left my finances in a confused and perilous state; and truth be told, I do not know how easily I can lay claim to my family’s diverse estates an holdings. But I should think that I could devote some half of my current incomes to the castle, if it meets my needs, and that would amount to some sixty a week, I should think.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. D, did you say ‘a week’?”
“Yes, that is how my income shall be received and that is the manner by which I should like to settle my accounts.”
“Well, it is highly unusual to rent a castle by the week, but we at Centurion 21 excel in unusual circumstances. Perhaps a one-year lease paid in weekly instalments could be arranged, at some small premium.”
“Very well, do as you see fit. I am not a man of business. I leave all such matters in your hands; but please remember, no more than sixty a week. Perhaps more later, if...”
“If? If what, Mr. D?”
“If my dole money increases.”
“Your ‘dole money’?”
“Yes, my dole money. Indeed, I have an appointment this very afternoon with the state’s representatives at the Department of Social Welfare on Gardener Street, and I will have more concrete information regarding my finances at that time. Would you like me to return then so that we can finalise our business?”
“That won’t be necessary, son.”
“‘Son’?! I assure you I am not your ‘son’, and if my father were to hear you address me as such, you would follow your forebear Hargrieves to the spike!”
“OK, OK. Calm down. Now, why don’t you quietly be on your way and I’ll call you as soon as castle becomes available for 60 euros a week.”
“And with this our business is ended. I await your messenger.”
Copyright © 2011 by Phillip Donnelly