Doyle's Blood Count
Something was putting a curdle in my blood. Now blood is not my best commodity, but I felt something anyway, sending ripples down me spine. It wasn’t the cottage, that was alright. A bit damp maybe, but set on the end of a long beach in Ballinasomething harbor, you could expect that. Maybe it was me time comin’ on, or the sea-air doing things to me. I’m a city girl. From where I was sitting by the fire, I had a view over the whole harbor and the sea seething and twisting like some elemental monster. It was enough to give anybody the shivers on that cold October afternoon, but still, that wasn’t what disturbed me.
The great lover himself, Gabriel Doyle, was sitting across the room from me. He was reading. A book. Now that disturbed me. I mean him reading and me there all primed and ready for the hot stuff.
"Are you goin' to read all day or what?"
"Only a few more pages Phil."
"Well, you can read anywhere. Couldn't you take it back to Dublin."
"Mmmm.....It's me uncle's......very fussy, he is,.....about his books, only a few more pages.”
"Yeah! Well, I'm fed up with it, if I'd known it was to be a cultural weekend I'd have stayed at home.....Who’d read the sort of stuff on these shelves anyway. What was he, a Satanist?”
Three months I had devoted to the job of getting him to take me away from it all. He always made me heart skip a beat, that good lookin' he was. I mean you only had to look into those burning greeny-gold eyes with their butterfly eyelashes, tight red-gold curls all around his head, to know that this lad had hot pan-god blood in his veins. You looked at those ruby-red lips, white sparkling teeth and instantly visions of Mediterranean lands accosted your inner eye. It was Rome, Paris, Madrid, the Costadelfishanchips even, under a white sun. It certainly wasn't the drip drip of the Kerry Gaeltacht and the lend of the loan of his Uncle's cottage while his aunty Mary went on her annual starvation retreat. But a girl can't have everything. Seventy-one days of hoping that he would whirl me off for a weekend of requiting. Well, so far, the only hot stuff I was getting was the sparks out of the fire. He seemed to prefer Dracula, that's what he was reading. I found that rather disquieting but still there was something else. It wasn’t anything to do with lover-boy, I thought, but it was a general undefined sense of evil about the whole place.
Well, I could put that down to indigestion. I’d had the feeling before, in fact, I’m a martyr to it, a sort of general queasyness that affects your mental state making you suspect the nicest people of doing the nastiest things. It must have been that meal we had. It was only chicken, but dear Gabriel had loaded it with garlic….Yech! All I could eat was the meat; even the smell was too much for me. Which is why he is sitting behind the desk and I’m at the fire.
Sitting there by the fire, watching the dying sun watch me, through two ominous-looking eyebrows of black cloud; I had the unhappy sinking feeling that the affair wasn’t going to work at all. Really it had started to fall apart when we landed at the local pub.
All the way down Gay (he doesn’t like being called that), had been telling me about this great pub, the music, the warmth, the hospitality. Yeah.................! It was closed when we got there, due to a death. There was a notice tacked onto the door. The daughter had died suddenly and was being buried that day. Everything was shut and we went on to another village on the headland. Another Ballywotsit, where we met with a bunch of archaeologists drinking in the only pub, a cold dingy hole, which I thought, needed to be scraped out a bit more.
More bad news, someone had wrecked their dig and broken into some as yet undiscovered chamber. They reckoned several chests or boxes of stuff had been removed and stolen. Items of great archaeological value, one righteous bearded creep was telling us, Gay only wanted to know if there had been any gold or jewels there. This was beneath the contempt of the bearded one, who told Gay that there were more things in Heaven and especially Earth, before rejoining his mates.
Yes! I had to admit, that having gone to the trouble of acquiring this lovely hunk of manhood, and even before getting my use out of him, the gilt was beginning to fade. I couldn’t get away from it. He was more than a bit thick. And the pity of it was that I hadn’t all that much energy to spare. I have this, unknown to medical science, ailment of the blood. Sort of a blood-sister to anemia, which left me looking very pale and with no physical energy but otherwise OK. I had plenty of brain activity and I was always ready for a cuddle with the man of my dreams. But any sudden excitement and I was lost….paralyzed….unable to move. Like a rabbit hypnotized by a snake. That was my feeling now….there was a snake in the offing and it wasn't Gay's.
A loud bang put the heart crossways through me. Gay had finished his book and banged it down on the table.
“Good!” he pronounced, “That’s one great book.” He stretched luxuriously. “God! I’m stiff. I don’t usually sit still for so….” He massaged the back of his neck.
" Well you weren't chained to it." I riposted smartly, "I didn't know you could read without moving your lips."
"Yeah, well yeh don't get to be the boss just readin' Zane bleedin' Grey."
"Oh yeah!" I sneered, "Dracula is pretty high falutin'. I read it . It's just a scary bodice ripper, d'yeh like to frighten yourself? Wouldn’t it give you the creeps?” I asked, just to keep him talking. The longer he talked the more chance his breath would have to recover from the odour of the garlic.
“Wha….?” His eyes had the dull shine of a dog having its ears scratched. “The book…don’t be bloody silly! It’s a good read but a terrible load of nonsense. The figures would never hold up.”
Something outside caught at the corner of my eye but when I looked there was nothing there; it had probably been a bird.
“What figures?” I asked. He was scratching his back now. It was like talking to a dog.
“Gotta go to the lav.” He stood up. “Tell ya in a minute.” He went out and the room got dark. That was when I began to be afraid. I hadn’t noticed the gloom in the room until he left and when I did I was afraid to move over to switch on the lights. I might draw attention to myself. It was a great relief to hear the cistern flush, he came back after a while his face shining. He loved to wash his face.
“Yeah. Like I said before, the figures won’t hold up. Any book-keeper would laugh at that story, sure according to that, the whole world would be full of vampires.It’s like a whadya call it? An expeditious curve or somethin?”
Definitely a thickee this one, I thought. Aloud I said," No Gabriel dear, that would be an exponential curve, like this." and I waved my arm appropriately.
Something outside the window waved back at me and I shuddered into immobility. I couldn't speak nor could I move to take my eyes off the monstrous creature that was standing outside the window. My heart was slowly squeezing it's way along my windpipe towards my mouth as my eyes met those of the monster looming outside, a sardonic smile twisted it's misshapen face, while it's hands, more like talons, made gestures, which coupled with the awful face, seemed obscene. I wanted to scream. I would have screamed but with my heart in my mouth I could only gag pitifully.
Then I heard Gay's voice shouting at the monster through the window.
"Hey Lug!' He roared, "long time no see, how are yeh?"
Yeah! Well it turned out that the stand-in for Frankenstein's monster was a drinking pal that Gay always met when he came down here and his name was Lug O'Connor, they had a long chat through one of the smaller windows with Lug trying to persuade Gay to come and get legless with him at the boozer. But Gay said I was too sick to leave alone and reluctantly Lug trudged off into the Celtic twilight.
Jasus! I thought, I coulda done this at home in better weather. Oh! I had a great view out of the french windows, double-glazed they were and they took up most of the outer wall of that room in his Uncle Donal's house. You could see all the way down the miles of wet sandy beach to the mountains towering up in the sky. A great place to be in October and I could see the mast of the Turkish trawler which had run aground just a night or two ago and not a soul aboard. What happened to them all? It fair gave me the shivers to think about it.
Outside the light of day was fading, objects seemed to lose their solid presence and had begun to shift fitfully in the changing light. Standing with his back to the french windows Gay smiled down at me, his teeth gleamed brightly in the gloom.
"D'yeh know what Lug just told me?
"Yeah." I said,looking up in his face, an' I could see that he was in a male “educatin' the stupid little woman mode." He told you that I was miles outa your league so you might as well go out with him and get fluthered."
" What? Ah quit messin' will yah? He told me a very interesting thing. Jayes! Talk about coincidence. In that book over there that I just read, it tells you all about how Dracula got to England and how he drinks the blood of the sailors every night, right? Then the ship wrecks somewhere on the English coast and he comes ashore and takes the blood of some poor girl and leaves her for dead. D'yeh see the coincidence?"
"Am I stupid or what?" I asked sharply, Just to keep him at heel. But, to tell the truth, I hadn't seen the C. until he brought it up. But then I hadn't just read the stupid book either. But he was right. That was, more or less the way it went................and I didn't like it one bit.
"Tell you what," I said. "It's getting dark out an' that big bleedin' window is showin' us off to every Sean, Pat and Seamus that passes by, so why don't you close the blinds and give us a bit of privacy?"
He was between me and the window and as I spoke this great black figure suddenly appeared clinging like a huge bat to the window frame, it's cloak snapping soundlessly in the gale.
"What's up with you now?" He could see my face under the lamp but since I couldn't speak he had to follow the direction of my eyes."Holy Jasus! He exclaimed and took an involuntary step back from the window. "Who the hell.........." Then he laughed. "Christ! He almost had me goin'. Must be the local Parish priest, I'll have to let him in. Let on you're my sister Philomina.........My God! Another coincidence, that girl in the book, her name was Mina."
We stared at each other for a moment without either of us uttering a word. I suppose he was waiting for my usual sarcastic comment, but all the sarcasm had drained from my being along with my blood, because I knew that that creature outside was a vampire and he was going to let it in. I wanted to scream my lungs out, but as usual in moments of stress, I was incapacitated.
As he undid the window bolts, he called "Just a minute Father." Then they blew open and the room was filled with the smell of ozone and the great black creature was between us, bearing down on me. I caught a shocking glimpse of two staring red eyes and a snarling canine mouth, which, almost in the act of biting clamped suddenly shut and the red eyes screwed up in a very pantomime of rejection. And you know, while the last thing I wanted was to have the life's blood sucked out of me; it still felt bad to be rejected.
Gabriel meanwhile had closed the French windows again, it was a struggle but the sound of the gale died and the creature was still in the room with us and still hungry.
"Well I bet you're glad to be in outa that Father." He smiled and stuck his hand out, but remembering, he took it back again apologizing, "Better not get too close Father, me breathe only reeks of garlic." He nodded towards me. "That's my sister Philomena there, she's a bit heavy with the stuff but otherwise she's a marvelous cook." He could lie like a politician, the charm he had.
The Vampire had been making shapes to attack Gabriel but he must have smelt his breath because he backed off and fell into one of the easy chairs. It appeared to be at a loss what to do. Gabriel, of course, noticed nothing and he even began to prattle on to it all about his numbers theory. I felt sick to my soul for him and at the same time I wanted to kick him up the arse.
But anyway, and here he was off on another tack. " You cem on a good night Father," he said, speaking in a very suck-up tone as if he wasn't, every other day, boring the arse off of anyone he could get to listen to him about how the idea of God was strictly for fools, priests and old ladies of either sex. " I have here," he went on, in that same pretentious suck-up tone, "something that you don't see everyday or every bleeding century, never mind year. Me oul' uncle, the Da's brother, has this collection that you wouldn't believe an' him a so-called bleedin' atheist. He only has the strangest collection of Holy scapulars in the whole bleeding Catholic world. Yeh know these things are supposed to be of fairly recent origin but I have one here that I can hardly believe. It's the scapular and relic of St. Patrick himself and the holy relic in the scapular is only the remains of his holy penis. Here it is...." and so saying he threw the sainted scapular right into the Vampires lap. The creature gave a convulsive leap and a strangulated cry but Gay didn’t hear it, so busy he was sorting through his uncle’s collection. “Jaye’s!” he yelped, “here’s two more, Blessed Oliver Plunkett and St.Frigid Brigit of Kildare. What d’ya think of that father?”
But then he stopped and turned around, for the thin strangulated scream that was coming out of the vampire’s mouth got louder and louder, creeping down through the register but all the time getting louder until it seemed to fill the whole room with it’s throbbing groaning roar. Objects had begun to shudder, then a book exploded off the shelves, then another and another and the glass in the window cracked and still the voice groaned on like as if all the souls of all the lives it had ever plundered were fighting their way free at last out of the vampire hell in which they had been held, coming out of it’s mouth in a steady stream of groaning ectoplasm and taking it’s body with them. The skull exploded, adding to the roaring crescendo with myriad popping noises as even the bones of the body that must once have been a man melted into the mist of ectoplasm that seemed now to fill the room. I was half aware that Gay, the atheist, was down on his knees with the big old wooden cross that his uncle had found on Croagh Patrick in his two hands held above his head and him praying to almighty God with all his breath and all that was left of the Vampire was an empty suit of clothes and a cloak, not to mention the Sandy-man's hat that reposed on the pile. Otherwise, all that remained was a thin plume of smoke and the strong farty smell of sulphur. It is said that St Patrick was celibate and he threw the snakes out of Ireland, and all through his holy life he had controlled his manhood; but now after all, he had done some good with his penis.
Gabriel, on the other hand never got to use his with me because that bloody vampire converted him into a holy joe and the last I heard of him he was out in darkest Africa converting the heathen.
You can never trust an atheist.