An Episode of Not Quite Dead.
Episode Content Warnings
- Please bear in mind that this show is a work of horror fiction and frequently places characters in situations which jeopardise their psychological and physical health. This episode contains:
- – discussion of violent deaths
- – references to sex
- – heavy descriptions of blood
- – descriptions of decaying flesh
- – descriptions of the experience of a panic attack (describing the feelings felt during the panic attack including racing heart, breathlessness, and panic)
- – detailed descriptions of needles and cannulas
- – mentions of throwing up
- – swearing
- – threats to kill or harm others
- – non-graphic descriptions of medical procedures
- – descriptions of kissing
They’re back, whoever was at the door, they’re back and—
Please. If this is how I go. I just. I. I suppose–
HALEY: [MUFFLED, DISTANT] I know you’re in there I can see the light from the carpark!
MOVEMENT; WALKING; A DOOR OPENS
HALEY: Jesus, Alfie, you look horrendous.
HALEY: Sorry!? What? No. Just. Here, I brought you some soup. Let me just— 34. Alfie, you have hypothermia. Jesus. When was the last time you went outside?
ALFIE: Uh. Yesterday.
HALEY: Is that… did you steal IV fluids from the hospital? Alfie are those BLOOD PACKS IN YOUR MINI-FRIDGE?
ALFIE: Let me explain—
HALEY: God, Alfie, I thought Casper said he didn’t drink stuff from the blood bank!
ALFIE: He did– he won’t–
HALEY: That blood is so tightly regulated, I– shit. It’s not for him, is it?
ALFIE: I’m not going to eat it!
HALEY: Alfie. I thought. I thought we had months.
ALFIE: It’s degenerative. Every time I drink his blood, the lead time is shorter before I need more.
HALEY: Well. How much shorter? Have you been measuring? What’s you’re dosage?
ALFIE: I’m running on about 500ml. Last time I drank it was… I don’t know. Twelve hours ago.
HALEY: And how do you feel?
ALFIE: Like shit.
HALEY: I– I should run your bloods, let me–
ALFIE: No. We can’t. We—
HALEY: this is the discovery of the century, Alfie. Maybe the millennia. Your boyfriend is a vampire and you– you’re—
ALFIE: I’m dying.
HALEY: Where’s Casper?
ALFIE: I don’t know.
HALEY: What do you mean you don’t know?
ALFIE: I mean I don’t know.
HALEY: Well. When did he leave?
ALFIE: A few days ago.
HALEY: And he didn’t tell you when he’d be back?
HALEY: But. Alfie. His blood is keeping you alive. Your bones aren’t healed they’re just sort of floating in place, if you don’t get more–
ALFIE: I know, Haley.
HALEY: How much do you have left?
ALFIE: Three more doses.
ALFIE: I know.
HALEY: Ah. God. Fuck. Shit. Okay. When I spoke to Cas about this he said you needed what, a litre to force the change to happen.
ALFIE: That’s not what he said.
HALEY: If you’ve got three 500ml doses left, then. You’ve got enough to do it. You can do it.
ALFIE: Haley, you know that’s not how–
HALEY: There’s got to be a way to– I’ll. I know! I know what I can do, I’ll go to the hospital, I’ll get a BMV, I’ve got ice-packs at home, I—
ALFIE: Haley. Stop.
HALEY: I can’t just leave you here to die.
ALFIE: I know. But you can’t stop going into work. I’ve already disappeared, people are going to start asking questions, and–
HALEY: I’ll get supplies. A BMV, at least. I’ll bring them back at the end of my shift.
ALFIE: You’re a good friend.
HALEY: It really is the bear minimum.
ALFIE: It’s more than that and you know it.
HALEY: Right. I. Don’t do anything stupid, okay?
HALEY: Just. Don’t die until I get back.
ALFIE: I’ll try my best.
INTRO MUSIC. EIRA: This is Not Quite Dead. Episode Six: A Friend Indeed.
Haley’s gone now. Back to work. It was good to see her, and not just because she wasn’t some horrible guy in a black mask come to take me away or whatever. It’s been weeks. I’ve… missed her. Even before all this, meeting Casper, it changed things. I saw less of her. Not just because of Casper, but because of the stuff he brought with him. Stuff I wanted to keep as far away from people I loved as I possibly could.
When I called her, after Casper saved me, the guilt was… But what else could I do? I had nothing to go on, no idea what we were dealing with, and Casper made it pretty clear that there are no guarantees when it comes to making a vampire. Most people die in the attempt, and of the few who don’t… managed wrong they wake up broken, they become things, stinking, rotting, falling to pieces as they go. Casper calls that hunger a blood debt, and some vampires are born with it, and there’s no way it can ever be sated.
That was only half the mystery though. The real reason I went to Haley wasn’t to try and work out what happened when a person becomes a vampire, but why I wasn’t already dead. By rights I should have been. But the blood. Like when Cas had dropped a single drop from his fist into Linda’s eye, his blood inside of me had brought me back from the brink. For Linda it had only lasted a couple of hours before she crashed back down, of course, but it was long enough for intervene. Long enough for her to live.
I needed to work out why I wasn’t dead, really. To find out if there was a way to fix me before the clock ran out on me. I needed to know why there was a clock.
But that happened later. After I knew why Casper had come to York and what he’d been doing the night he saved my life the first time.
[ALFIE TAKES A DEEP BREATH]
I should probably sleep, but who knows how long I have left, really? And I feel good right now. I really do. So I’ll tell you what happened the day after I fucked Casper for the first time.
We drove back to the city in silence. The sun was rising. I remember he laughed at me when I asked if he would be alright. He promised he wouldn’t catch flame or start to smoke, and when I still looked worried, he put his number in my phone.
He dropped me off at my apartment. He had work, he said.
I walked around in a daze. Everything I touched felt new, changed. Different. I did manage to sleep, but not very much. When I woke up mid-afternoon, I just lay on the bed, turning, restless, thinking about it. The kiss. The sex. The bite. It was all such a strange ecstasy. The smell of him was all over my skin, sunk deep into my clothes, caught in my hair along with bits of twig and leaf litter. There were bruises on my shoulder blades from where I’d hit the tree. My knees were in tatters. The heels of my hands were scraped rough and fizzing. I could feel my muscles aching.
I thought about what he’d said, about the connection between us, and wondered if he could feel what I was feeling then, lying on my bed.
My phone buzzed and my heart leapt: was it that keen that he could sense me thinking about him thinking of me?
But when I checked my phone it was just someone asking if I could cover their shift in three hours.
I was sore and exhausted but I knew I wouldn’t sleep, I was too wired. If I didn’t go to work, what was the alternative? Lie there all day thinking about it all, going through every moment with a fine toothed comb? I couldn’t think of anything more likely to drive me absolutely loopy so I agreed to go in.
It was all fine until about four hours into the shift. It was a particularly rough one for a Tuesday evening because one of the general wards was undergoing an emergency refurbishment to get rid of some asbestos, so there were even fewer available beds than usual and you could barely walk through the triage area for patients. The thing everyone was most annoyed about, though, was that all the work was finished, but no workmen could come and take down the safety measures for two more days, so the ward was fine and perfectly functional but totally inaccessible.
After a couple of hours of stepping over people on the floor I could feel every bruise on my body with a fresh intensity and it was no longer pleasant and exciting. It was irritating how they smarted whenever I reached too far or brushed into anything. It wasn’t like I’d had much chance to sleep the night before, either, not with all the crying.
I started thinking longingly of my break, checking temperatures and fitting IVs, daydreaming about closing my eyes, when one of the other nurses burst into the bay I was in. I don’t remember who it was, but he knew I’d seen them before, the patients with the torn out throats. That’s why he’d come for me.
The guy on the gurney was young, maybe still a teenager. He was holding his hand over his neck, conscious enough that he was trying to speak as people moved around him. Blood was oozing through his fingers, through the gauze on his neck. No sound was coming out of him but I could tell from his lips what he was saying. ‘He bit me.’
On loop in my head I could see it, smell it, the thing that had killed Ben, which had tried to kill me. I’d been so stupid, so wrapped up in Casper, in the bite, in the forest, that I hadn’t thought to ask if there were more of those things. Some part of me had assumed, I guess, that it was the only one, the thing responsible for all the murdered people I’d seen, and Casper had stopped it. But he’d never said that, he’d never explained it at all.
There were more of them.
Someone nudged me and I realised I’d been standing there staring and doing nothing for too long. I rushed forward, to try and help the boy. I wadded his neck with gauze, someone fitted him with an IV. We gave him antibiotics, but he’d need surgery to close the wound and muscles, so they sedated him and carted him away.
As soon as he was gone, I f-found myself shaking.
Someone asked if I was alright and when I tried to answer I felt bile in my throat. I only just managed to make it to the bathroom in time.
Sitting on the gross tiled floor, I took out my phone, searched out Casper’s number. Someone’s been bitten, I text him. No reply. I threw up again. He’s alive but he’ll die anyway, won’t he? I text Casper. No response.
I thought of the bite in my neck, the slight gash in my skin; there were more risks here than blood loss and I had no way of communicating this to anyone, couldn’t explain.
I put my head in my hands. I felt a rush of hideous guilt because it had been hours since I’d thought about the fact that Ben had died, was dead, was never coming back. I saw it, the streetlight in his eyes, the blood pouring over my hands, blood which was still all over my clothes, still in a pile on the floor in the bathroom where I’d peeled them of my skin. Blood mixed with the vile ooze of the thing that had killed him. The thing Casper had thrown in the river.
There were more of them.
My head was swimming. I was definitely having another panic attack.
I text Casper again: you have to do something, you have to save him like you saved me.
The phone buzzed in my hands almost instantly.
Are you in danger? He asked.
I told him no, but there’s a guy who’s going to die if you don’t help him.
I’m sorry, said Casper. I can’t.
I don’t remember much of the next hour but I know I spent most of it in the bathroom. I cried so much my eyes ached. I think I text Casper I few more times, but he barely responded to any of it. I was furious. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. Finally, after drinking water with my cupped hands and splashing it on my face a few times, I walked back out.
The boy was already dead; some kind of fast moving infection from the bite, they told me. I nodded.
I felt dead, too.
The rest of the shift I felt like my bones were made of lead. I was moving on auto pilot, smiling, asking questions, changing gloves, fitting IVs, dressing wounds, consoling children. I felt none of it and I barely saw it, to be honest. All I saw, all I heard was the ringing in my ears and all I saw behind my eyelids with every blink was Ben’s face as I held him in my arms on the banks of the river, the boy mouthing that he’d been bitten. I smelled the thing’s rotting flesh in every infection and heard it’s rasping breath in every congested chest.
Finally, finally, my shift was over, but I found myself standing by the hospital’s exit, unable to leave. It was morning. The air was cool but I could tell it was going to be a very hot day even then. It should have felt inviting. I thought about my bed, a shower. But I couldn’t make myself step outside. The hospital felt like a bubble I was inside of and as soon as I walked out of it I would be out in the world, with those things. Those stinking, rotting things that tore and bit and flailed and killed.
I turned back inside. My first thought was to go to the on-call room but then I remembered Other Ben, weeping inside it. He wouldn’t still be there, of course, but I knew it was all I’d be able to think about the whole time.
So instead I went to the closed off ward. The way was blocked with a temporary plywood wall plastered in warnings to wear hard hats but I knew on the other side, they’d basically finished all the work. The little plywood door wasn’t even locked.
Inside it was dark and quiet. Beds were draped in plastic, all the equipment there, too.
I wandered down the ward and lay on one of the empty, plastic covered beds, and stared up at the new, asbestos free ceiling. All the aches I had not felt for hours came back at once. The bruises, the bite, the scratches, the tired muscles. I felt like I was sinking, sinking into the uncomfortable, plastic covered mattress, but I couldn’t sleep.
All I could do was think of Ben and the boy and the thing and Casper, Casper who didn’t come to help.
So I did what any normal person would do in this situation and started trying to find out what the fuck was going on. I was several hours and about three pages into the search results for the term ‘rotting person biting people epidemic’ when my phone buzzed and I dropped it onto my stomach in alarm. Fumbling I picked up. The text was from Casper’s number.
Are you in the hospital? he said. Nothing to do with the boy, or Ben, or the thing.
I was angry.
Alfie it’s important, he said, when I didn’t reply straight away.
Yeah. Are you? I told him.
His response was immediate. No. Are you busy?
No, I told him.
Where are you specifically? he asked.
Closed general ward, I replied, my heart fluttering in my chest despite my anger. I was ashamed of that. I stared at my phone, waiting for his instant reply, but it didn’t come. I was weirdly nervous. Two thoughts chased each other around my head. The first thought was him showing up here and me yelling at him with perfect articulation, him coming out with an explanation that made sense and begging my forgiveness. Second was Casper coming in there, pinning me to the plastic covered bed with his cool hands and kissing away whatever sense I had left in my tiny, tiny brain. The third thought was almost exactly the same but he would come in and tug back my head like an animal and sink his teeth into my neck. I couldn’t tell if I was excited or scared by the last thought. I couldn’t tell whether the second or third scared or excited me more. I lay there, holding my phone over my face, waiting, waiting for him to say something. Anything.
I don’t know how long it was I lay there hearing nothing but my own heart beating in my ears, breathing slightly too fast. Casper arrived so silent I didn’t know he was there until he called my name and when he did I dropped my phone directly onto my face. I recovered quickly, deciding in that embarrassment that I’d opt for daydream number one, where I yelled at him, but then I immediately undecided this because there was clearly something wrong with him.
Casper was breathing hard and fast. His fists were clenched at his sides. His posture was so stiff he was almost shaking. He was dressed oddly too, with a black hoodie pulled over a cap and a pair of sunglasses.
I stared at him for ages, not sure what to say, until I just said; ‘what are you wearing?’
‘Your shift ended. I thought you’d be at your flat, but you weren’t there,’ he said, like that explained anything.
‘I’ve been known to lay about in other locations,’ I said.
Casper took off his sunglasses and the reason he was wearing them was immediately obvious. His eyes were a frightening scarlet. There was also a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose and a few on his chin and his cheekbones. I was certain they hadn’t been there before. His skin had been smooth, olive and blemish-less. I’d spent a long time staring at it, so I’d know.
Casper drew a strangely shaky breath. ‘You’re fine,’ he surmised.
‘Um. Yep. Healthy as a horse.’
Casper hummed. Some of the tension in his shoulders eased away. ‘You were upset,’ he said, gruffly.
I frowned. ‘There was another of those patients, with the torn out throats.’
‘I’m sorry I couldn’t save him,’ he said, grimly. He sat down on the plastic bed next to mine. Too far away. I swung my legs down so I could face him.
‘But you were scared afterwards, too,’ said Casper. ‘When you should have been leaving.’
‘You felt that,’ I said.
Casper hummed again. ‘I feel you now.’ He took off his hood and his hat and combed his hands through his hair, jostling the curls. He looked up at me. His red eyes were wide and ringed with purple shadows so dark they could have been bruises.
‘You look tired,’ I said.
Casper frowned. ‘You’re perceptive today.’
‘You were there, weren’t you. When that patient I saw die today got attacked.’
Casper pressed his palms together as though he was praying, resting his thumbs over his mouth. He closed his eyes, tightly at first, but slowly, slowly, easing them into serenity. ‘Last night was a bad night,’ he said.
I asked; ‘you didn’t get there in time.’
Casper shook his head. ‘I wasn’t out there at all.’ He opened his eyes slowly. He looked so frightfully washed out he was almost unfamiliar to me. ‘I had a shift. A new porter was shadowing me.’
I felt a wash of sympathy and asked ‘was he annoying?’
‘No, you fool! He was attentive and interested and I couldn’t get a damn moment to myself, not to save your patient, and not to feed myself. I tried, believe me, I did. That’s why I didn’t reply right away, but I couldn’t get rid of him, and by then I knew that either I’d have to suck the poison out of this boy or give him so much of my own blood to bring him back from the brink that it would have sent me into a frenzy, right here, in the hospital, with so many sick and vulnerable people nearby. With you, you and your stupid blood, so, so close. By the time my shift ended the sun was rising and he followed me into the lift, and I hadn’t a drop to eat and it took every ounce of my strength not to turn around and drain this poor trainee.’
Casper snatched his hands away from his lips and strode across the room. He curved around himself, bracing his shoulder against the wall. ‘And then I had the foolish notion I should come to you, driven by it, the smell of my own blood in your veins, calling to me, already so delicious and so easy to overwhelm. You’d been so upset earlier in the day, it would have been so easy to convince you to let me inside.’
My mind raced to put together the pieces of what Casper had just said. I opened my mouth, intending to speak, but with no idea what I would say.
‘I went to your flat to kill you,’ Casper said, plainly.
I said. ‘Are you going to kill me here instead?’ The image flashed behind my eyes, him tugging back my head, sinking in his teeth.
‘Your heart is beating so fast,’ he said.
‘You did just threaten to kill me again,’ I pointed out.
‘But you’re not just frightened.’ Casper stood up abruptly and paced down the ward.
‘Are you leaving?’ I asked
He laughed without any humour in it. ‘We’re far beyond that now, I’m afraid.’
I nodded. ‘Can I. Leave a message. You know, for my mum?’
Casper froze. He turned and looked at me. He was livid. ‘I came in bloodlust. The moment I saw your car was gone and you were not in your bed I panicked. I haven’t killed in decades.’
I asked him how the hell I was supposed to respond to that. He threw his head back and laughed, long and sour, the whispered ‘surrender to me. Let me take you. But of course you’ve as good as done that already.’
My mouth went very dry.
Casper rounded on me, looming in the inches that separated our heights, his red eyes wide and distant even as they bored into mine. His brand new fine smattering of freckles deepened the closer he got. Without thought or intent I pressed my finger to one of them, on his cheek bone. His eyes popped even wider and he froze, the steady rhythm of cool breath on my face gone.
‘You have freckles,’ I said, quietly.
‘I what?’ he sounded dazed, drugged even.
I started to drop my hand but he caught my wrist and pressed it more fully to his cheek. His eyes slid closed and he turned his face in my palm, the point of his nose drawing a line from the tip of my finger to my wrist. With a tiny, fractional adjustment of his chin, his lips, so soft, slightly parted, came to rest on the underside of my arm. His cool breath skittered across my skin and all the hairs on my body stood immediately on end.
‘Your heart is racing,’ Casper whispered. His lips ghosted over my wrist as he spoke but he didn’t move away or even open his eyes. ‘Are you afraid?’
My voice trembled as I told him, ‘no.’
A smile spread across his face and he moved fractionally closer again, and now it was not his lips but his crooked, white teeth resting against me as he chuckled deeply. ‘Liar. Foolish boy, I could kill you in an instant.’
He opened his eyes, his smile diminishing a little, though not completely. He turned to me, but didn’t release my hand, his cool fingers keeping it fixed in place. My skin felt absurdly warm where his cold mouth had been.
‘A vampire full of human blood is a near perfect machine. We heal fast, require little if any sleep, and have the sharpest reflexes of any predator. In a darkened room away from UV rays, sat almost perfectly still, a vampire could go on indefinitely, with no need to feast and very little hunger to contend with. I once spent ten years beneath the floor of an old house, simply lying there, thinking, feeling the ecosystem moving around me, though it does become a little dull.
‘Once we start moving a debt begins to be incurred. Just as a human body requires oxygen and sugar to move, a vampire body needs blood. Walking alone, over a long enough time period, will cause a great enough debt to drive a vampire to the kill. The greater the debt, the more violent, the more frenzied the vampire becomes, and also the more weak. A vampire with a large blood debt cannot stop or think; it must kill. All other instinct is wiped away save for that most base of all; the drive towards the slaughter.’
‘You don’t seem like a frenzied monster right now,’ I said..
Casper hummed. ‘Not yet.’
He dropped my arm and my fingers tingled.
‘The freckles,’ I said.
Casper sighed. ‘We are more vulnerable to UV rays; exposure to sunlight will also incur a debt. In the state I’m in it only takes a few minutes for the sun to do some serious damage and I ran the whole way here from your flat.’ Casper laughed. ‘Ridiculous creature, aren’t I?’ he said sourly. He raked his hand through his hair.
I hummed, imitating him. He peered up at me in reward, one eyebrow arched. ‘Quite a pair we make then, me a foolish boy and you a ridiculous creature.’
‘Quite a pair indeed,’ breathed Casper. His shoulders slumped.
‘Is this my fault?’ I asked.
‘Don’t be absurd. You’re not responsible for me being a monster, Alfie.’
‘No, I mean, this, right now. Is it because of the other night?’
Casper closed his eyes and his hand curled around his own forearm, the place where I had drunk from two nights before. ‘Ah,’ he said quietly. ‘In part, it is because of that,’ Casper replied.
Casper whirled around to face me. ‘You’re sorry?’ He spoke so loudly and suddenly I shrank back from him. His eyes tightened with regret. ‘You almost died and I saved your life, you don’t need to apologise for that.’
I don’t know why but in that moment it seemed like I had only two options. It was my fault that Casper was in this state, barely able to keep himself together. He’d saved my life once, and millenniums more through the sheer force of his monumental restraint in not simply pouncing forward and killing me. He was now at the edge of his reason, at the end of an incredibly long fuse burnt entirely to ash. If I did not offer him the very little I could to help, he would leave, and things would become worse, and eventually, he would kill someone.
‘How much do you need?’
‘Of what?’ said Casper.
Casper stared at me. ‘You can’t offer me that.’
‘What happens if I don’t?’ I said.
Casper shrugged. ‘I— I haven’t thought that far. Your heart is racing, and with the heat coming off you… god—’
‘So that’s it? You need it all?’
Casper closed his eyes. ‘I want to sink my teeth into you and feel the last spasms of life send you limp in my arms. But I could get by with less, just enough until my next shift, tomorrow.’
I frowned. ‘God. You’ve not been drinking the fucking donor blood have you?’
Casper scoffed. ‘Of course not. That blood is precious. I take it from the sick who can afford to lose it, and from those on the edge of death who won’t need it much longer and who won’t suffer for the loss of it.’
‘Good.’ I said. ‘And if you don’t drink my blood now?’
‘There’s a good chance I’ll kill you, the longer I stay here,’ said Casper.
‘And if you leave?’
‘I’ll kill someone else,’ this was easiest for him to say of everything so far and for the first time a real thrill of horror ran down my spine.
‘Well, that settles it.’
Casper looked up at me, amazed. ‘Really? You fear more for the life of a stranger than your own?’
‘I’m a foolish boy, remember?’ I muttered. ‘Now let me do this.’
‘There’s no guarantee I’ll be able to stop once I’ve begun,’ Casper warned. ‘I cannot rely on my patience now it’s been worn so thin.’
‘Okay then,’ I said. I went over to one of the medical cabinets and opened the drawer which should have the butterfly cannulas in it. Miraculously, it was stocked. I pulled my top over my head, and the cannula out of its packet. I tried to take a deep, steadying breath, but succeeded only in making myself aware of how hard and fast my heart was beating, how violently I really was beginning to shake. ‘We’ll make it so you don’t have to use any self control at all,’ said.
Casper’s hands closed around my wrists. He was squatting in front of me, our eyes level. His voice was soft but it was clearly taking a great amount of effort for him to keep it as such. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Making it so you don’t need to use any self control at all, now how much do you need?’ I tried to pull my hands away and give another go at placing the cannula.
‘Too much,’ said Casper. ‘A pint. Maybe two.’
I nodded. ‘I can manage that. That’s a blood bank donation. That’s fine.’
Casper scoffed. ‘You would need to be in a more robust state to be allowed to give that much for a blood bank donation.’
‘But it won’t kill me,’ I said.
‘No,’ Casper agreed. ‘No it won’t.’
I nodded. ‘Get two of the syringes for administering liquid food into an NG tube. That’s 1000ml, all together.’
He brought them over to me. I swallowed, nodded, and looked down at my still shaking hands.
‘Wait,’ said Casper.
‘You can’t talk me out of this,’ I said.
‘My reason is fast drying up and I’m afraid I no longer have the willpower for that,’ Casper said. He raised his chin and drew a long breath, then toed open the cabinet’s bottom drawer, exposing a row of bags of saline. ‘It won’t help with the actual blood loss but it will stop your pressure from dipping too low, which should stop you from going into shock, at least.’
‘I’m not going to go into shock, Casper. I know what I’m doing. I’ll be fine. Drowsy, maybe, but fine.’
Casper glanced at me, grimacing. ‘Humour me,’ he said. I watched in silence as he hung the bag on an IV pole nearby, winding the tube over to the little sterile field I’d set up to place the cannula. He turned, eyes immediately on my arm. ‘Your hand’s shaking,’ he said softly.
He shook his head. ‘Stop apologising.’ With an angry scrub with the alcohol gel, he returned to his half-crouch before me, and gently took the cannula from my hands. There was a sharp bite of pain as it pushed into my arm, and then nothing. I released a shuddery breath. He brought the syringe up and drew back the plunger, bright red dancing immediately along the tube and into the syringe. Casper hissed through his teeth and then hummed softly, watching the blood splutter out in time with each useless throb of my heart.
‘There are more of them out there, aren’t there?’ I said. ‘The things that killed Ben?’
Casper sighed. ‘Yes. Many more of them. More than there should be.’
‘And they’re everywhere?’ I asked.
‘No,’ said Casper. His breath hitched as he removed the first syringe. He licked his lips.
‘Is that what the blood debt does?’
Casper shook his head. ‘No. They are… attempts. Half-made vampires. Dead but for the drive.’
‘What does that mean?’ My head was spinning. Casper adjusted his hold on the syringe and placed a cool hand on top of mine, his fingers stroking my knuckles. My eyes fluttered closed. Casper’s hand moved from my hand to my neck, guiding me sideways fall on the pillow.
‘Do you need to stop?’ Casper asked.
‘No, it’s okay. Tell me what you mean. Dead but for drive?’
‘The drive to kill. It’s hard to control for all of us when we’re new but. Making a vampire is a delicate thing. Most attempts fail entirely. And even then then more than half of the ones that might seem like a success at first are not. The heart stills. Life twitches back into the body. But the heart does not beat again when they taste that first drop of their maker’s blood, like it should. The change is half-made. The body remains dead but the drive is enough to move it, seeking food. But without a heart that beats the blood they drink, the thirst can never be sated. No amount is enough.’
‘Their makers put them down, if they’re sensible,’ said Casper. ‘The ones that don’t, within a few days, their body begins to break down, as all dead things do. Eventually the carcass disintegrates enough that even the drive cannot keep it moving, and they go to pieces, like any other corpse.’
‘So there’s an un-sensible maker in York?’ I asked.
‘Perhaps,’ said Casper.
I wanted to ask more, but Casper was pulling the syringe away. He laved his tongue over the end. His eyes rolled back into his head. When he looked at me again his gaze was an even more violent scarlet than it had been before. ‘Saline,’ he said softly. He put the syringe down with a gasp, and ran his hands roughly through my hair before hooking me up to the already hung saline bag.
‘So you don’t know where there are so many attacks?’ I asked, but Casper didn’t answer.
I heard a low moan. Casper had his back to me, his shoulders hunched. He stayed like that for some time, moaning softly, until he threw his head back with a huge gasp.
Then he came back.
He sat on the edge of the bed. His eyes were so incredibly red they were almost glowing. The freckles were still there but the shadows under his eyes were almost completely gone. He ran his hand through my hair again. ‘So good to me,’ he whispered, his eyes flickering between each of mine. ‘So wonderful.’
‘Don’t go,’ I saudd.
Casper hummed. He made to get up from the bed and I grabbed at the hem of his black jumper. He stilled under my hands, though there mustn’t have been any strength in my grip. ‘Stay,’ I said, as firmly as I could manage.
His body, cool as ice under his clothes, relaxed onto the bed. He wound his arm around my bare shoulders, carefully arranging the IV line so he wouldn’t jar it. I closed my eyes and relaxed against him, turning my head against his side, filling with the smell of him, honey and peaches and booze and musk, cold radiating through his jumper, chilling the tip of my nose like a winter morning.
I could still hear my own heart in my ears, but beneath it, a second pulse, faster, frenzied. Casper’s heart in his chest.
‘Sleep,’ Casper mumbled.
I hummed in agreement, and did as I was told.
I should probably sleep now, too. I–
I should sleep.
I’ll get to the rest of it later.
EIRA: Not Quite Dead is written, performed, and edited by Eira Major, under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution License. With guest performance from Alex Peilober-Richardson as Haley. Live, laugh, bite.