Kev the Vampire
by Phillip Donnelly
|Cast of characters|
|Chapter 8: The Welfare Bat|
Believing that he would soon find himself ensconced in a castle fit for a vampire, K. set himself the task of securing the financial wherewithal to pay for it. He readied himself to do battle with the Ministry of Social Welfare.
The vampire sifted through centuries of his own memories and the folklore of his ancient race but found nothing of use there. No vampire had ever signed on before. He was the last of his kind and also the first: the first claimant; the first dole bird; the first welfare bat.
Rather than tell the story myself, as in the last chapter, I am fortunate to be able to avail of the blog K. himself was to set up just afterwards. The debut post is below.
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(K’s Debut Blog Post in ‘Vamplog’)
A Social Welfare Guide for Vampires
A handbook for the financially embarrassed bloodsucker
The Dole and Dispossessed Undead
Stripped of our lordly estates and dominions, the modern vampire must throw himself into the embrace of what humans term ‘the welfare state’. This temporary expedient must serve until such time as suitably wealthy ‘familiars’ can be found, who will agree to tend to all of our needs in return for our grace and pardon. These patrons of the undead can take some time to locate, since serfdom has been abolished and the peasants of this new millennium are an impecunious rabble who object to enslavement on principle.
Many vampires may be tempted to try and enter the world of the wage-earner, to chain themselves in the service of the salary serf, but the immortal will find that there are few career opportunities for those who cannot venture forth in daylight or cross running water. Worse still, if they have slept in the ether for centuries, as I have done, then their curriculum vitae will lack the skill sets that most employers are currently looking for.
Instead, the clear-thinking vampire will first possess a human body and thus enabled to travel under the rays of the sun with impunity, he will direct himself to the nearest government department that dispenses money to those who cannot or will not find paid employment. Wrapped in human form, the cuckolds will never suspect that they are abetting a vampire and bringing their end of days one step closer.
However, possession does have its drawbacks. While the risen vampire’s consciousness squats in one-filth of a human mind, his vampiric powers must temporarily be relinquished, and the vampire must grunt and sweat in the weary ways of the human.
While any self-respecting vampire would squirm at the very thought of human cohabitation, as unwholesome as it is unsanitary, it is the only way to secure a fixed income and through this, to secure accommodation. Vampires who do not do abode themselves quickly will find themselves cemetery vagrants and scorned by vampire society. In short, temporary possession of a human vessel is a necessary evil.
To prepare the vampire lord for the distasteful role of welfare claimant, I have recorded my impressions concerning my first visit to the land of the human underclass. I believe that this diary will equip you with a certain degree of foresight. Thus armed, you my fare better than I did.
I ask all other vampire claimants to place their own experiences as replies to this thread, so that we may learn from each other and bring our day of deliverance closer.
Dressed head to toe in gothic black, the badge of all my tribe, I shuffled with the queue, sandwiched between the other welfare claimants. While they were not vampires, there was something of the night about them, and I was on my guard. I inhaled deeply and sought to use my host’s sense of smell to discern the nature of the danger.
The stench of a hundred unwashed armpits assaulted my nostrils, and I closed my eyes to better analyse the cornucopia of decaying aromas.
Imagine my horror, fellow vampires, when I realised the nature of that fecund miasma. I was in the midst of a zombie horde! I was surrounded by the Living Dead!
They are no threat to a vampire in a one-on-one struggle, but flesh eaters are still dangerous in large crowds. Do not let their moronic aspect lull you into a false sense of security, my worthy brethren; the living dead are not as harmless as they first appear. ‘Beware the wrath of the zombie mob’ my father Nosferatu had warned me, and his chilling description of his uncle’s gory dismemberment at their hands flooded over me.
I kept my calm and placed my darkest sunglasses on to disguise me. The queue lurched forward a step but then came to a halt again. Stop start: stop start; it went on for an hour or more.
To most vampires, a zombie is nothing more than an occasional inconvenience, an unsightly interloper we fly over in the worst graveyards, a gnawer of bone and sinew. And alone, they are at best worthy of pity, but more usually contempt, and we wisely give these vile flesh eaters wide berth. But unable to fly from them until my mission was accomplished, I was forced by circumstance to study them more closely.
I was first struck by the unsuitability of the young zombies’ attire: a track-suit uniformity that would appall even the most slovenly of vampires; all the more so given their inappropriateness for the biting cold of a Dublin spring.
Other older specimens wore more eclectic combinations; loose and ill-fitting rags mostly, but they would, at least, offer some protection against the chilling wind.
Zombies are thought to have no fashion sense, but both young and old were clearly embarrassed by their garments, because they kept staring at my own; in sullen envy, no doubt, of my long black overcoat and wide-brimmed Quaker hat.
To remove myself from their jealous eyes, I looked about me and breathed in the building instead. The welfare office, recently renamed the ‘Employment and Engagement Community’, was also in a state of terminal disrepair.
The edifice was originally Victorian, and it had reigned over this part of Gardiner Street for centuries, but the Victorian grandeur was as faded as the corpse of the dead queen herself: peeling grey paint, rotten window frames and graffiti-blasted outer walls all perspired decay. It was a run-down building in a run-down part of town in a run-down country in a continent that was slowly dying.
Through a brown window, I looked without, using my eyes as wings to grant me distance. The sun had reached its zenith, but the clouds confounded its apparent victory and merged to block the firmament. I saw a monster of a cloud, a mean black thing, a cloud from the rapture.
The grimy windows let in so little of the meagre daylight on offer that old electric lights were switched on even at midday, but this only served to heighten the bleakness of the environment within.
Even heath would not thrive here, so wuthering was the despair and so dissolute the desolation that the walls of the building had absorbed over the years. ‘Buildings are made by their inhabitants and not their architects,’ I said out loud. An aged zombie backed furtively away from me, frightened, as corpse-chewers are, by coherent speech.
And so twisted were the emotions of the desperate and beaten masses who had come here for sustenance that their pain distorted time itself. I, being immortal, sensed this twist in the fabric of time and grew wary, fearing a time beast might emerge from the shadows. I jerked my host’s head from left to right nervously, to better discern if a time beast was staring through a crack in the continuum that separates dimensions, but I saw none.
Time stopped and the queue shuffled. After a period that only I recognized to be a thousand years, I arrived at the front of the queue. The quest was reaching its denouement.
I handed a form that I had completed through the bars that were the final impediment to task fulfillment. The form was called an ‘Employment Assistance Identifier’ and with it I hoped to secure a number. In this confused time, forms have grand titles and people are given numbers.
I entrusted the document to a large, faceless woman who guarded the sentinel post of Hatch 5. I noted the dust in the creases of her skin, the folds of fat that connected her chin to her chest, and I saw the sad dead eyes of the ghoul. In this place, the dead serve the dead, and head lice are the only living form.
“Mr O’Donghaile, why has you defaced government property in this manner?” she asked, in a tone that mimicked bored sarcasm.
“I can assure you, dear lady, that I have done nothing of the kind,” I replied.
I was anxious to curry favour with this representative of the human state, or at least, not to antagonize her. In situations like this, one must realise, pen-pushing mortals wield all the power, and even vampires must appear to bow before them and wait for the night to come.
“Mr. O’Donghaile, you’ve put a line through part of your own name and written Kev O’Dracghaile over it.”
I cursed myself for this act of self-destruction, which I must have absent-mindedly committed during the millennia I had spent in the queue. I decided to make light of the error.
“Yes. I am not a Dong, but a Drac, you see.”
“You look like a dong to me,” she said, smiling slightly.
“Then look at my dong, ye mighty, and repair the ruin.”
The woman sighed, and a lesser mind might have taken her tone as dismissive, but I recognized it as weakness. I wondered if she was so debilitated that the feeble remnant of my vampiric powers might be enough to sway her. A weak mind is easily wooed.
I spoke to the welfare officer in my deepest darkest voice, adding a hint of Boris Karloff to my accent; speaking slowly and lunging from one phrase to another.
“Look into my eyes, Welfare Officer Bannon; look deep into my eyes... You are feeling sleepy... very sleepy. You are falling under my spell... You are...”
“A busy woman, Mr. O’Donghaile. Now, have you actively been seeking employment since you left school?” she asked curtly, interrupting me before the full power of my hand movements and wavering tapering fingers could exert any real force over her.
“Yes, I have been very... active, especially at night.”
“Have you been engaged in any work, paid or unpaid, since you left school?”
“No, dear lady, I dote only on your pleasure and the state is my only mistress. My remunerations are not financial and my rewards are not of this world.”
“What positions have you applied for in the last week?”
“Alas, nothing suitable has arisen. Nothing in my field of expertise has emerged from the ether.”
“And what exactly is your profession, Mr. O’Donghaile? On the form, you’ve listed your vocation as ‘V’.”
“I am a va...” I began, and only cut myself off just in time, but I was unable to think of an ending to the word I had begun, to the secret I had half-told, and the deafening silence was punctuated only by the tapping of her pen.
“A ‘va’, Mr. O’ Donghaile?”
“A va... a va... a vacuum cleaner technician. I eat the air, promised crammed. I hoove the r’s.”
“Are you trying to be funny, Mr. O’ Donghaile? I get a lot of wannabe comedians in here, you see, so it’s hard to tell. Are you going to give me an occupation to place in the box or am I going to pick up my stamp that says ‘claim denied’?”
“Then call me a va... a va...”
“You’ve told this one already.”
“A vacataire! A vacataire! I take any and all employments; great or small; long or short term. I am open to any and all takers.”
“Good, then please return next week after having completed at least three interviews.”
“Well, I shall try, but...”
“If you do not show yourself to be willing to work, Mr. O’Donghaile, your welfare claim will be rejected.”
“I see... And when might I expect some kind of financial remuneration for today’s endeavours?”
“Due to the staff recruitment freeze, new claimants can expect a wait of eight weeks or more.”
“Eight weeks?! But couldn’t we expedite matters? I have financial commitments. I have already bid on a castle, for example, and...”
“Next!” she hollered, and a zombie brushed me aside with a gruffness extreme even in one of his ilk.
“Alright, bud,” the interloper slurred.
“My business here has not yet been consummated, my good sir...”
“You lookin’ for a smackin’, bud, or what?”
I considered volleying a verbal castigation in his direction, but then he opened his mouth to snarl at me, and I saw in the rotten teeth and purpled gums of my assailant that this zombie could not be reasoned with.
And so, ejected by the meanest of minions, I, the last of the House of the Dracule, was forced to leave the House of the Welfare Damned in ignominious defeat.
The Zombie Horde basked in the glow of their easy victory and all heads turned to watch me leave, nudging each other and laughing at me, mocking the fallen vampire lord. Oh what bitter bile rose in my throat! What acrid vinegar coursed through my veins!
“I shall return!” I turned to say and, having said it, I left.
Oh fellow vampires and darkly bedight Lords of the Night, how boldly you must ride, in sunshine and in shadow, if you seek for Eldorado among the grim ushers in the House of Social Welfare.
(End of Blog Post in ‘Vamplog’)
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To be continued...
Copyright © 2011 by Phillip Donnelly