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
- – scenes of a sexual nature
- – heavy descriptions of blood and blood drinking
- – Descriptions of decaying flesh
- – Description of violent assault
- – threats to kill or harm others
- – mentions of murder
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
THE LOCK JIGGLING, THEN THERE’S A CLICK AND THE DOOR OPENS
HALEY: Oh god, Alfie!
HALEY: Jesus, you’re freezing.
HALEY: Okay, let me, god, your pulse is so weak. Alfie, doll, can you hear me.
HALEY: I should call an ambulance.
ALFIE: No, no.
HALEY: You’re going to die if I don’t do something!
ALFIE: Just. Blood.
ALFIE: The blood!
HALEY: Oh! Okay! I’ll—
ALFIE: In the mug, bring me the mug.
HALEY: Um, alright, here.
ALFIE DRINKS, WITH A LITTLE SHUDDERING WHIMPER
HALEY: Your pulse is getting better already.
ALFIE: Yeah, it does that.
ALFIE DRINKS MORE
HALEY: You look less pale.
ALFIE: It does that too.
HALEY: It’s incredible.
ALFIE: Almost like it’s vampire blood or something.
ALFIE FINISHES THE DRINK
ALFIE: I shouldn’t have finished that.
HALEY: You have more, don’t you? You said you had three doses left.
ALFIE: Yeah. That was the first half of one of the three, gone.
HALEY: So you have more?
HALEY: So drink more!
ALFIE: I can’t.
HALEY: Why not?
ALFIE: Because! I–
ALFIE: You can’t be here, Haley.
HALEY: It’s a good job I got here when I did!
ALFIE: I know, but. There’s a lot you don’t understand about this and I can’t risk you get even closer, Haley.
HALEY: I just want to understand– –
ALFIE: And that’s exactly why you can’t know.
HALEY: This is such bullshit.
ALFIE: I know, I’m sorry.
HALEY: I brought you some stuff. IVs, fluids, a BMV.
HALEY: You should let me stay with you.
ALFIE: I can’t.
HALEY: But why not?
ALFIE: Because! You know too much as it is. And you want to keep me alive.
HALEY: Of course I do!
ALFIE: Well you can’t! I don’t want you to get hurt, Haley.
HALEY: I don’t want you to get hurt, either! If it’s the blood that’s keeping you alive, we’ll get more of it, maybe if you have enough then–
ALFIE: Stop! That is a dangerous thought, Haley!
HALEY: Dangerous? Why?
ALFIE: Besides the fact we know this stuff has diminishing returns, and it can cause a fever bad enough to kill people in a large enough dose, it’s dangerous because–
HALEY: Because what?
ALFIE: Please Haley. Just don’t push this any harder.
HALEY: I want to help you and I can’t if I don’t understand.
ALFIE: The thing with vampires, right, is that a lot of it is weird and doesn’t make sense, okay? You just have to roll with it. There’s nothing I can tell you which will make it seem any better.
HALEY: The blood, though. I want to understand how it works, how it’s sustaining you. Maybe then I can work out a way to make it last longer, maybe even–
ALFIE: Haley! Stop!
ALFIE: Because. If they heard you talking like this–
HALEY: Who would hear?
ALFIE: The other vampires. They’re still a threat, especially to humans who stick their nose where it isn’t wanted. The only reason they’ve not killed me is–
HALEY: Cas marked you, I know. You explained. Well, sort of. It wasn’t a very good explanation.
ALFIE: We drank each others’ blood. It makes us. Bonded. That’s all there is to it.
HALEY: Oh that’s all, is it?
ALFIE: No, actually. Casper marked me, so they left me alone, but only because it means I am protected. That protection only lasts as long as Casper is providing it. If they find out he’s gone and I’m here alone, they’ll come for me. Please, Haley. I want to keep you safe.
HALEY: What about your mum and Grace and Tammy? You’re gonna die or turn into one of them if we don’t do something, Alfie, and what the hell am I supposed to tell them then?!
ALFIE: I’ve written a note.
HALEY: A note.
HALEY: ‘I’m sorry that it’s come to this but I need you to know it isn’t your fault, and…’ Alfie. This is a suicide note.
HALEY: You can’t expect me to– how can I?!
ALFIE: Please. Haley. You cannot tell them the truth.
HALEY: This is too much to ask.
ALFIE: I know. I’m sorry. But think about it. How the fuck are they going to believe my boyfriend was a vampire? How the hell are they going the believe that? Surely you’ve been listening to me about how dangerous all of this is, even if you’ve been disregarding it. Surely you don’t want to get a literal child mixed up in that even if you don’t care about yourself.
HALEY: There has to be another way.
ALFIE: There isn’t. I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m alive because of this blood and nothing else. There is no saving me, not really. And so, I either die or… well. You know. So that means I have to do what I have to do to carry on. And when I do that, you can’t be here, and my mum and my sisters definitely can’t be here.
HALEY: Oh. Oh my god. You’re going to try and become a vampire, aren’t you.
ALFIE: I don’t have another option. I don’t know where Casper is, and– I just have to try. I don’t know if it will work but I need to try.
ALFIE: What do you expect me to do? Let them think I’ve gone missing and spend the rest of their lives looking for me? I can’t do that to them.
HALEY: No, Alfie, I expect you to get better.
ALFIE: That’s not going to happen! Look at me! I’m falling apart, I can barely sit up, and the odds of the change being successful are vanishingly small, and even if it does work, how can I trust myself around them? Casper says I’ll be violent, the drive is hard to resist when you’re new, I couldn’t live with myself if any of them were hurt, Haley, this is the only way it can be.
HALEY: No. There’s another way.
ALFIE: There isn’t. And you have to stop coming here. The vampires will notice if you’re visiting too much, they’ll sus out that you know something. They might find out what happened to me, that I’m vulnerable and Casper is gone, and they will kill both of us. Do you understand that? No hesitation. They are not like him. They’re reasonable and they aren’t animals but they don’t care about human lives the way Casper does. Any human who knows they exist is a threat to them, especially now, with everything that’s happened. Please promise me when you go you won’t come back.
HALEY: Alfie, I can’t.
ALFIE: Please. You have to.
HALEY: But you’re my best friend. Maybe—maybe we can find more of the blood, maybe we can get another vampire, and–
HALEY: Why not?
ALFIE: Because where does it stop?! How much would you take before you proved it to yourself that there’s no volume of the blood which could save me? How many vampires would die, while you tested that theory? How many people would die to sustain them?
HALEY: You said Casper was scared, before he left. It’s not other vampires he’s afraid of, is it?
ALFIE: I love you, that’s why I can’t risk you staying, do you get that?
HALEY: I don’t want you to die.
ALFIE: And I don’t want you to die either! Unfortunately, my number is well and truly up, one way or another, but yours doesn’t have to be. Don’t condemn yourself to this, Haley. You deserve so much better.
HALEY: Ugh! Fine! Fine, I’ll go!
ALFIE: And you have to promise not come back.
HALEY: I promise.
ALFIE: Thank you, I love you, idiot.
HALEY: I love you too. Please don’t die.
ALFIE: I’ll try my best.
INTRO MUSIC. EIRA: This is Not Quite Dead. Episode Ten: One for the Road
I’ve drunk some more blood. Went for 50ml this time, diluted in 300ml of salt water. It’s. Well, it’s made it so I can think clearer, which is actually making the pain worse if anything. I’m just going to keep talking because I need to do something and moving hurts and there’s nobody I can call, so this is the limit of somethings that I can do. I am right, about Haley. Eponine and Ros, they made their intentions for me clear. Casper promised they wouldn’t hurt me as long he he was around, and now he’s just. Not around. I don’t want to attract any unnecessary attention. It’s not like Haley can help, anyway. She’s brought a bunch of medical supplies but part of the process of the change is that you have to die and everything she’s brought is about extending life. Which would be nice, but I’m pretty sure even with a ventilator we’re talking minutes to hours here. Even with a whole ICU of interventions. Otherwise Casper would have taken me to a hospital. Or, rather. He’d have let me stay.
More than anything he wants me to be okay, and making me a vampire was not a way to guarantee it, but it’s the only way that might be a shot, now. So there we are.
I do keep thinking about them, though. The half-made things. They don’t think or feel, Casper said, the only thing alive in them is the drive, that’s why their bodies rot and crumble. So it wouldn’t be like a thing that was happening to me, just something that happened to my corpse. I wouldn’t feel it. I wouldn’t know it. It’s not an experience; it’s a stage of decay.
ALFIE TAKES A BREATH
But still. I don’t like the idea of being a thing. Something that hunts and ravages without care or consideration. Nuzzling like a newborn for milk. I can’t. I won’t. Ugh.
But the only way to guarantee that won’t happen is to just… die. Which would mean I would be dead, obviously. And if I’m dead, then. That’s it. Sorry, I know that’s obvious it’s just. A lot. To consider.
Like. Obviously we all die, don’t we, but looking down the barrel of it like this… it’s a lot to wrap my head around? Maybe functionally it makes no difference if I become one of those things, but still like, I don’t want to hurt anyone, I don’t want this thing that I live inside of right now to become something that hurts people, so I just. I cannot. I don’t– I don’t want that. Violently, I don’t want that.
And so the question is…
Do I not want that more than I want a vanishingly small chance of dying and waking up again?
There will be pain, both ways, I know that, but Casper always fumbled when he talked about what it was like to feel the change. Maybe if I could pick his brain, have him go over it all again, really understand… but I can’t do that because he’s not here. So I just have to go on ‘it burns, there will be thrashing’ as the best explanation of it I’m going to get. And if I don’t try to make the change, the pain I feel will presumably be like the pain that creeps in when I need to drink more of the blood.
I can’t remember how it felt before Casper saved me the second time. Maybe it’s because my skull was in pieces and I’d probably got some terrible concussion. Or you know maybe it’s something Casper did, maybe he made me forget again. Maybe it’s severe brain damage. Yeah that’s probably likely.
He offered, after he nearly killed me right after the meeting at Ros and Eponine’s place. He offered to kiss me and make me forget it all, forget about all the half-made things, about vampires, about him. It might be easier that way, he said. If he told them he’d glamoured me like that, they might leave me alone. I might be able to just live my life without fear of repercussions from them.
The ‘might’ hung heavy in his offer, though. Almost as heavy as the weight in my stomach I felt when he spoke. I tried not to think about what it had been like before the forest, before the first night he let me drink his blood. The confusion, the weird slipperiness in my own head. Maybe the reason I try not think about it too much is the glamour itself, making me shy away from it all still. Maybe it’s just because it hurts so much.
He’d taken so much of my blood by then that it would have hurt him physically if he tried to walk away. He could live with me at arms length if I wanted that, he promised he would always leave if I asked, and I knew he was true to that because he’d always done it before. But the bond goes both ways. I didn’t want him gone. I still don’t want him gone. It’s like a piece of me is missing, now he’s not here. A low and quiet constant panic in the back of my mind, threatening at any moment to flare out like a jet of fire and burn its way to the forefront of my mind.
Will it go, I wonder, if he dies? Would I know he was gone? Would I feel it?
If I died what would that be like for him? He feels all my emotions, my pain, my panic, so he’d feel that too, wouldn’t he? He’d feel me go.
If I was a vampire would the bond still be there? Or would it be like for him that I had died, and that draw, that pull, that strange need to be around me wouldn’t be attached to me anymore because the human me, the one whose blood was tying me to him, he’d be dead.
What if those vanishingly small odds turn out to be in my favour after all, and after all of that, I find Casper and we stop whatever is going on with the people taking the vampires. What if after all of that he doesn’t want me anymore?
I guess it doesn’t matter whether he wants me or not if I’m dead. So maybe this is the wrong thing to be worrying about right now.
I didn’t ask him to make me forget, when he offered. I was groggy, it was difficult to think. I don’t remember anything of the journey back to my flat, but Casper said it had been two days before I was fully conscious again. I remember floating on the edge, but it’s all kind of fuzzy. I knew I was home, and he was there. I remember he was running a cool cloth down my chest, apologising quietly about thirty times a second. He lay next to me, the chill of his skin a relief against my burning body. He picked at the hair stuck to my forehead and kissed my temples. He told me to send him away. He told me he’d never forgive himself. I was still not properly coherent. He was so careful with me. It didn’t even occur to me to be scared of him.
He was furious at himself. He’d called into work on my behalf, let them know I had a terrible flu. That was actually how he and Haley first met. She came to the door to make sure I hadn’t been abducted. Casper pulled the blankets up to my chin as I lay unable to move, to hide the ragged bite marks he’d stitched together himself. She checked my temperature and agreed I didn’t need to go to the hospital and I wasn’t dead. She whispered some stuff to me and I replied but I don’t think it made much sense because I have no memory of what either of us actually said.
Unlike the first bite he’d made on me and those he’d marked me with since, the new one was rougher, the skin frayed at the edges. Casper’s blood had done some work to staunch the blood loss but it wouldn’t seal the cut. He licked it like a cat; something in his saliva made the skin go cool, numb and tingly, but the ache wasn’t just in the bite itself, it radiated all down my arm and into my jaw. And the fever from drinking so much of his blood raged hot and livid inside me. I sweated buckets, so much that Cas had laid me on a towel so I wouldn’t ruin the mattress.
I remember him sitting with me under the cold stream of the shower as I sobbed, bundling me into blankets, holding my head up so I could drink something hot and sweet. I remember sleeping curled against him, separated from his chill by layers and layers of blankets.
And then I woke up and I could think.
Casper was asleep, but the sound of me sitting up made him open his eyes.
He reached up and laid his hand on my forehead. ‘The fever’s broken.’
I nodded. ‘I feel like I can think again.’
‘That’s good,’ he said. He sat up, his back to me. ‘I’m so sorry, Alfie.’
‘Apologise like that.’
‘I almost killed you. An apology is the barest minimum of what I should be doing.’
‘But you didn’t kill me.’
He turned to me, livid. ‘What!?’
‘You were scared, you were hungry, your instincts kicked in. And you still didn’t kill me. Even though your teeth were literally in my neck, you stopped.’
‘That doesn’t change the fact that–’
‘Stop. Okay, yeah, I’m angry you almost killed me by accident. It was fucking terrifying, actually. Is that what you want to hear?’
Casper said nothing. On shaky legs, I made my way to the shower. Casper followed, and for a moment I thought he was going to join me, but he didn’t. He leaned against the sink as I clambered over the lip of the bath and stood under the warm stream. It felt good to wash the sweat away. I touched the tiles, my fingers trembling a little, and as I stepped out of the bath again, Casper handed me a towel. He turned away as I towelled myself off.
He helped me change the sheets – by which I mean he mostly did all the work as I uselessly fumbled with the pillowcases. He came with me to the kitchen as I rummaged around for food, buttered my toast when my hands were shaking too much. When I trailed back to bed, he came with me, but perched silently on the end of the mattress, watching. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I just slept.
When I woke again, Cas was in the kitchen. I checked my phone for the first time in days and saw Haley had sent me about twenty frantic texts about the hot guy I’d failed to mention to her beyond the vaguest notion I’d been seeing someone on and off. I text her back, promising I’d explain the next time I saw her, and drifted back into sleep.
Casper brought me a sandwich, which he left under clingfilm on the bedside table for me to find when I woke again. He was cleaning the bathroom.
I hauled myself out of bed to sit in the window and smoke, the duvet around my shoulders. It was raining; I watched the droplets hit a puddle that was gathering under the streetlight across the road, watching the tiny splashes race towards the gutter.
Casper emerged from the bathroom. I beckoned him over but he didn’t come. He sat on the end of the bed, not looking at me.
‘When’s your next shift?’ I asked.
‘I’ll call in sick.’
‘So I can look after you.’
I frowned. ‘When was your last shift?’
‘You know when my last shift was.’
‘I don’t remember.’
‘It was before I nearly killed you.’
‘Oh. But. You said I’ve been recovering for days. How have you been eating?’
He said nothing.
‘Jesus, Cas, go to work! Get something to eat! I’m not on death’s door, I won’t cark it whilst you’re out, I promise.’
‘You want me to leave?’
‘Temporarily, so you can get something it eat, yes, I want you to leave.’
‘Jesus fucking Christ, yes, temporarily. Go and come back afterwards.’
‘You want me to come back?’
‘Yes! That’s what temporarily means.’
Casper looked at me through narrowed eyes as though this might be some kind of trick.
‘Go, now! And bring me something to eat on your way back, too.’
Casper nodded, but he did leave.
I flopped my head against the wall with a sigh, and fell asleep there, somehow, despite the chill from the window.
The sun was rising when Casper woke me hours later.
‘Sorry,’ he said, shrinking back as I opened my eyes.
‘I was just going to lift you to the bed.’
‘Still can,’ I said. My neck hurt from my awkward sleeping position and I winced as I turned to look at him.
‘Are you in pain?’ he asked.
‘I’m fine, Cas.’
His eyes were wide, expression blank.
‘Did you eat?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Do you want me to leave?’
‘No,’ I said, frowning.
His arms were limp at his sides. I forced myself to fully face him. ‘What’s wrong?’ I said.
Casper shook his head.
‘Casper, come on,’ I said.
He turned away. ‘I’ll make you something to eat,’ he said.
‘Wait—’ I said, but he was already leaving the room.
He made me pasta which was surprisingly tasty for someone who didn’t eat human food anymore. I told him that, and he flinched. ‘I eat it recreationally, like I told you.’
‘Oh yes,’ I said, remembering the way he’d eaten the Kinder Bueno and sighing a little.
‘Do you hurt?’ he asked, worriedly.
‘I mean, yes, my neck is fucking killing me, not going to lie, but otherwise I’m okay. You know that. You feel me don’t you? What’s going on, you’re being weird.’
‘Do you not remember what happened?’ he asked.
‘What, do I remember that you almost drank me to death? Yes, I do.’
Casper shrank a little into himself. He clenched his hands into fists, opened them again. ‘Would you like to forget?’
‘I could make you forget it happened if you want.’
‘Jesus, Casper, no! No I don’t want that! Why the hell would I want that?’
‘I—’ the words seemed to get stuck in Casper’s throat. He ran his hands over his face. He got up from the bed.
He walked closed the door as he left for the living room.
With a sigh, I forced myself upright on my still-shaky legs and followed him.
‘Would you please tell me what’s going on?’
Casper looked up at me, stricken. I reached out to rest my hand on his cheek, but he flinched away.
‘Don’t you want me to touch you?’ I asked.
‘Why do you want to?’
‘Because, Cas, I like touching you, but I won’t if it’s not what you want.’
Casper sat as still as a statue across from me. ‘Why would you want to touch me?’
‘I miss you.’
‘I’m right here,’ he said.
‘Yes, but– but. You’re not.’
‘I don’t understand how you can want me near you after what I did.’
‘What you…’ I was completely confused for a moment. ‘For heaven’s sake, Casper, it was an accident!’
‘I almost killed you!’
‘But it was a mistake.’
‘Have you lost your mind? Had I drunk any more, you’d have gone into cardiac arrest. You were less than two litres away from irreversible shock. What I did was abhorrent.’
I was suddenly furious too, days of frustration bubbling to the surface at once. ‘Don’t fucking lecture me about this, Cas, don’t tell me how to fucking feel about this. I know what it’s like to be hurt on purpose. I know what it’s like when people say ‘I lost control’ and they’re telling a lie. I know. Okay?’
‘I like it when you bite me. You’re usually very careful. That time you weren’t. So we make a rule; you don’t bite me when you’re not able to be careful, okay?’
‘I should not need to be told this.’
‘You’re a vampire! You told me yourself how hard it is to keep the drive at bay, and you made a mistake. We know why it happened. And I’m fine, Casper.’
‘You’re not fine. You’re hurting. I can feel it. The fever’s gone, but you’re still unwell.’
‘But I’m not dead. I’m not even dying.’ I lay down on the couch. I sighed and closed my eyes. ‘Did I ever tell you about Ben?’
‘He’s the man who died by the river,’ said Casper.
‘Yes,’ I said. I stared up at the ceiling. Casper lay down next to me, not touching, not speaking. I’m not sure he even breathed. But he listened as I told him about Ben and what Ben had done. I told him about Ben so he would understand that there are worse things than vampires. I told him so he would know I had nearly died before and it wasn’t because someone lost control it was because they wanted it in ways that nobody should have it. I am not going to tell you, whoever is listening, what it was that Ben did, because you don’t need to know. Not because he’s dead, not because it doesn’t matter, but because it’s not what’s important here. Because it’s not what’s important about me. I have only told three people in the world about what happened; my mum, Haley, and Casper. It’s my experience to share. And I don’t want to share it here.
What I will say is Ben could be caring. He could be nice. Not everything he did was part of some twisted game to keep me close. I imagine he hurt Other Ben the way he’d hurt me, um, maybe not exactly the same but in the same sort of ways. Maybe they’d not been together long enough for it to start by the time Ben died. Maybe it’s sick of me to hope that’s the case. I don’t know.
What I do know is that when Ben hurt me it wasn’t because he was a creature that needed blood to live, who put a herculean effort into kindness and compassion to overcome a drive to kill which by all accounts I’ve heard is violent and almost impossible to overcome. When Ben apologised afterwards, maybe he did mean it, but when he hurt me again it was not an accident. It was not. An accident.
He didn’t lose control, no matter what he said
ALFIE SIGHS AGAIN
Casper can be frightening, sometimes. Sometimes he moves in ways that make it very clear he is not a human thing. He’s cold to the touch. He has no pulse. His teeth are too sharp and when he’s overwhelmed he needs to bite things. He’s not a human. He is a vampire. Drinking blood is what they do. Did I want him to kill me? Fuck no. Did I want him to bite me? Fuck yes. Was I mad at him for almost taking things too far? Yes. I was. I was really angry about it, actually. But I was also tired, and sore, and grateful that he was there.
‘You’ve looked after me,’ I told him. ‘You’re listening to me now.’
‘If Ben wasn’t dead, I’d kill him,’ said Casper, quietly.
I laughed. ‘Well, thanks I think. But I wouldn’t want you to.’
‘Because you would be upset if you killed him. And I don’t want him dead. I never wanted him dead.’
‘Maybe I could have at least broken him a little.’
‘It’s okay. Just. I know what you are, alright? You don’t have to keep apologising for that. I know it must have been hard to stop, once you’d started going like that. I can’t imagine how hard.’
‘When your heart, it– god, Alfie, I couldn’t bear it. I wasn’t in my head, it was just my body. All I could think about was the way Eponine was looking at you, like she was going to tear you to shreds. I should have stopped sooner, it didn’t even occur to me that I was– that I could’ve— until it was almost too late.’
‘But it wasn’t too late. And you did stop. And you should have stopped sooner. I’m not dead. I’m here. I’m okay.’
‘You are here. I will not accept that you’re okay.’
I sighed. ‘That’s fair I guess. Is there a trip to the nice noodle place in it for me?’
‘Yes. In an hour, when the sun’s gone down.’
‘Okay,’ I said. I rolled over to face him. He was lying on his side, eyes wide, fixed on mine. I ran a finger down his cheek. ‘Thank you for stopping. Thank you for looking after me.’
Casper shook his head.
‘Thank you for trying,’ I said.
Casper squeezed his eyes shut.
He could be so stubborn, sometimes. He really could.
He never made a mistake like that again, and after a few weeks, he could finally bring himself to sink his teeth into me like he had before. It was delicious. For him and for me I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it.
ALFIE SIGHS DEEPLY
I miss it now, too.
It’s funny. Everything hurts but I’d do almost anything for a little bit of that sort of pain again, the rush of it, the sharpness, the briefness. Like a violent kiss.
EIRA: Not Quite Dead is written, performed, and edited by Eira Major, under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution License. Live, laugh, bite.