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
I’m, um, rationing the blood now. It’s. It’s surprisingly difficult to do. To be honestly with you whenever I drink the blood I get this sense that even if I drank everything that I have left all at once it wouldn’t feel like enough, even though it’d be enough to finish me off.
This was not the plan. I cannot articulate enough how far from the plan this is, but it’s what I have to work with. All I have to work with. And I don’t want to die, which is a pretty nice thing to realise, though pretty inconvenient in the circumstances.
I’ve been spinning out this little scenario in my head. What would things have been like if I’d not got so hurt? If he hadn’t had to step in and save me like this? If we hadn’t fought so much about making the change as soon as it happened. We went back and forth for days. At first he presented it like it was the only option, but by the time he’d talked me around to it he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He drank my blood and it upset him; I tasted to much like him.
He had wondered how long we could go on like that, a closed loop, each others blood keeping us alive. But returns would be diminishing. He could tell that already, from the taste of me. I was living on borrowed time, time lent to me by the magic in Casper’s blood that kept him upright, but my body, really, is too far gone. There’s no putting me back together. Not with all the kings horses and all the kings men.
Which is how Haley ended up getting roped into all of this shit, because I needed to understand why, I needed to get it, and Casper, he needed some kind of reassurance that this was the only way, that we truly had reached the last resort. And now Haley. She’s involved. And how the fuck are you supposed to explain this to anyone? How the hell are you supposed to live your life and move beyond this, whether I’m dead or not by the end? Just knowing this shit is bad enough, I know. That’s the problem with these recordings now, isn’t it? The more she shows up and tries to help, the more likely it is that it’s going to be her that listens to them first. I won’t blame her. I remember what it’s like, the fear and confusion of being at the edge of all this stuff. I do take some solace in the fact that it’s only the me part of it she’s tangled up in. The mad thing is I was so angry at Casper for not properly explaining things to me right up until the moment that he did. It’s one of those moments that’s like a window in your life. You can look back through it but that’s it. You can’t come back from it.
Course, I was pretty much doomed from the night Ben died. All the weird back and forth afterwards, maybe there were chances where I could have walked away, where Casper could have, but we weren’t going to. Goddamn Ben. He even managed to make dying a gigantic pain in my neck.
Not as much of a pain in the neck as Casper can be, of course. But honestly, I’ve always been into that.
INTRO MUSIC. EIRA: This is Not Quite Dead. Episode Eight: Reason and Regret
After he told me how he was turned, we stayed together for the whole of the next day, not speaking much, just lying close to one another. He brought me food, played with my hair as I drifted in and out of sleep. I didn’t want him to go, but as night began to fall again, he gathered himself up and got ready to go back to work. It was necessary, I knew; he had to go out, he had to find blood. Reluctantly, I let him go, and sat on the windowsill of my bedroom, trailing smoke into the darkening sky as he climbed into his car and drove away.
The moment the car was around the corner I felt the fear in me again. I had until that point been feeling okay as long as I was inside. Logically this made no sense; those things could almost certainly break through doors and windows if they were hungry enough. That was suddenly all I could think about even though it had never occurred to me before. It coiled inside me, the fear.
I– I couldn’t’ live like that, only feeling safe when Casper was there. It occurred to me at once that if I didn’t leave the flat there and then, I never would.
One of my favourite things about York as a city is its many nooks and crannies. There are a dozen short cuts between any two locations, many secret places to uncover if you know where to look. It’s a place which seems to have been built with quick escape in mind. Until then I’d always felt like the city was colluding with me, providing sneaky ways to duck out of awkward conversations, to disappear from a bad night out with nothing more than a few-well-known snickelways.
As I walked the way to my mother’s, I thought of every snickelway as a place something might be hiding, something that might leap out and pull me in.
By the time I got to my mother’s door I was shaking slightly. Mum took one look at me and pulled me into the house with a hug. Tammy breezed in and out of the kitchen, talking about school work, asking about supper, making a too strong pot of tea. It was all so normal. I could feel the anxiety of everything retreating inside of me with every moment. It was almost like nothing strange had happened at all.
I go up to the loo, and I’m confronted with the mess of almost-empty product bottles and the pleasant mix of everyone’s shampoo and conditioner twisting together in the air. The familiar way that the sink has dried toothpaste running in white streaks like paint down the front because you can’t see that bit of the sink unless you’re sitting down so it stays like that, layers getting thicker and thicker.
Outside, a car backfired and I crumpled. Even there, in that space that is so known and familiar, where pieces of me and people I love were baked into the surfaces, the fear had followed me.
My phone buzzed in my pocket; a text from Cas, asking if I was alright. I sit on the floor and listen to my thundering heart, and realised fear wasn’t the only thing I’d brought in here. I took a long, slow breath and feel the ghost of Casper’s cool fingers on my throat. He’d felt it, my fear. Always would. I thought about his words in the forest, how sharing our blood had made me his.
I told Casper I was fine, because I was, really. I’d brought it with me, his blood inside and if I was in danger, I knew he would come without question.
I don’t know what makes me do it, but I grabbed the bleach from the side of the loo and spray it onto the bottom of the sink, wipe it clean with the dirty hand towel. I run my fingers over the pristine ceramic.
In the kitchen, I helped mum fill the dishwasher.
‘You seem different’, she told me.
‘Yeah, I am,’ I said.
On the doorstep as I was leaving, I hugged her again. She’d offered so many times for me to stay, but I turned her down. In a quiet voice I said, ‘I’ve met someone.’
Mum looked surprised. ‘Is he nice?’
I couldn’t help myself but to laugh at that.
Mum ruffled my hair. ‘Look after yourself,’ she told me.
I promised that I would.
As I started walking home, I didn’t feel so scared. I could still feel it, the memory of Casper’s hands on me, the way he moved so fast I couldn’t even see it. It wasn’t the moments he had been frightening, the strangeness of him, it wasn’t the way he bit or fucked or kissed. It was the slow turn of his face into my lap as he’d cried. It was because he wasn’t invincible, he wasn’t indestructible. Maybe he was more resilient than a human, had lived centuries, knew things I could barely comprehend, but he was not a perfect machine; there were bits of him that would break, and he could be scared. And he would come running the second I was in danger anyway.
Trust that he would always come when I needed him.
Trust he’s broken now, but I know he wouldn’t on purpose.
He’d never leave me like this if he had the choice and that–
That’s the most frightening thing of all.
Because they’re out there, the people who did this. Who made those half-made things. They’re out there and they’re looking for Casper and other vampires like him. It’s. The whole thing is fucked and they don’t understand. There is so much they don’t understand. And they might already have him.
Halfway home, a car slowed down beside me. Casper was behind the steering wheel, looking out at me. ‘You went out without me,’ he said.
‘You’d have come if I was in danger.’
‘I would,’ he said. ‘Do you want to get in?’
I nodded and threw my cigarette on the ground as I walked around the hood of the car. Inside, there was soft piano music. Casper smelled of himself, under a thin layer of disinfectant.
‘You drank from other people,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ he said, as we drove. ‘That bothers you.’
‘You can drink from me,’ I said.
Casper chuckled. ‘Not enough, little human. Not without risking your life.’
‘I don’t mind.’
Casper sighed. ‘I do, though.’
My stomach twisted in knots. I didn’t like the idea of other blood on his tongue. It made me squirm.
‘I didn’t realise you were so possessive,’ said Casper, quietly, though I’d not said any of that out loud. ‘I’d never share my blood with them, the way I have with you. It will never be like it is for you and I with anyone else. I can promise you that.’
This still didn’t settle the feelings in my stomach. I looked determinedly out of the window. I was weirdly afraid of the force of the feeling, of the need to be the only one whose blood he tasted. Logically I knew this was absurd.
‘It can’t be like that, I’m sorry. I won’t risk your life,’ said Casper.
I squeezed my eyes shut. ‘Why not.’
‘I already risk your safety every minute I’m with you.’
‘So what, you want me to send you away again? Is that it?’
We pulled up outside of my building and I yanked open the door immediately.
‘Are you coming or not?’
He followed me upstairs without saying anything more. He closed the front door and stood awkwardly in front of it as I turned to face him, my arms crossed tight.
‘What do you need?’ he said.
‘Bite me,’ I told him.
‘Just. Do it. Not the neck, I have work, but.’ I kicked off my shoes and pulled off my trousers.
Casper’s eyes slowly coloured scarlet. ‘Alfie. The more I do this. The more I mark you–’
‘The deeper the bond becomes, I know.’
‘It’s not just that. My saliva, it gets into your bloodstream. We’ll begin to smell of one another,’ he said. This stirred something powerful in me.
He shook his head. ‘Other vampires. They’ll know. They’ll know what we are to each other.’
Casper looked ruined, defeated. He ran a hand over his face. ‘it’s already too late, but we could make it so—’
‘I just need this,’ I told him.
‘Just a little,’ he whispered. He led me to the couch, forced me down onto it by my shoulders, and lowered himself to his knees. ‘Just a little,’ he said again, looking me dead in the eyes. I leaned back and stared at the ceiling.
‘Do it,’ I told him.
The sharp knick of his teeth on the inside of my thigh made me gasp, the slow pull of pressure as he drank slow and deep. I put my hand on his head, curling my fingers as deep into his hair as I could manage, tied back off his face as it was. After too short a time, he pulled off and looked up at me, eyes shining bright as my blood on his lips. I took his face in my hands and kissed him rough and deep.
‘Better?’ he asked.
He slammed onto the couch next to me, breathing heavily, and I curled over to listen to the frantic hammering of his heart. He played with my hair as his breathing evened out, and the thuds of his heart grew slower, and slower, until finally, they stopped. The stillness and silence was eerie. I could hear the rasp of his breath, and nothing more.
At some point, I drifted into sleep, and when I woke, Cas was gone.
I could hear the shower running and followed the sound. The door of the bathroom was open. I remember thinking, that’s an invitation, isn’t it? Little curls of steam were catching in a thin sluice of sunlight that was peeking through the curtains, the first rays of the day, and on the hot, damp air, I could smell that rich scent of him, of Casper. I was standing on the tiles before I knew what I was doing.
Cas had his back to me, rinsing his hair. In… in that small dark room the scent of him was maddening, caught in the steam. I’d seen him naked before, of course, but it had been dark, and it had all been a bit desperate, so I hadn’t had a chance to really see him, not like I could then. His body was all long, soft lines. The taper of his hips. The dimples in the muscle at the small of his back. I tried my best to commit it all to memory. There was no way a creature like that would be standing in my shower for long. He must have known I was there but he didn’t do anything to acknowledge my presence.
I peeled off my clothes slowly, item by item, letting each drop to the floor before I started on the next. He didn’t look around at the sound of my belt hitting the floor, didn’t turn as I climbed over the lip of the bath and the plastic of the tub squeaked. He’d smoothed his hair back so his hair was stuck to his neck and his back between his shoulder blades. I reached out, breathing the steam, and stroked around the edge of one of his wet curls.
‘Your hands are cold,’ he said.
He turned to me. His eyes were a soft brown. He took my other hand in his. He lifted my arm up to drape over his shoulder and kissed the side of my neck.
I leaned into him and pressed my lips to his neck, grazing his skin with my teeth. He laughed at me. I could feel it echoing inside him.
‘Are you going to bite me again?’ he asked.
‘So what if I am? What are you going to do about it?’
‘You’ve gone feral,’ he said. ‘What am I going to do with you?’
‘Would I make a good vampire?’ I asked, when we broke apart.
Casper smirked, ‘not quite.’
I nipped at him and he chuckled. So fast I wasn’t sure how it’d happened, he had my arms pressed against the tiled wall above my head, pinned by the wrists in one of his hands. With the other, he cupped my chin, tilting my head so my neck was about as exposed as it could be. His eyes, soft before, were scarlet around their blown pupils. He traced his nose over my pulse, then turned to the soft underside of my arm. I could feel his teeth dragging over the skin. ‘May I?’ he asked, and it was weird because he seemed nervous despite the fact that I was once again completely at his mercy.
I swallowed, and the red around Casper’s pupils danced and spun wider. He’d spoken so softly, and seemed, despite the nervousness which was shivering off him, totally in control. I thought about my dream of him storming in and biting me without question and shivered at how much better this was, to be asked, so softly, so carefully. ‘You may,’ I said.
The bite into my arm hurt, of course it hurt, but it didn’t feel like pain, not really. My whole body was a live wire.
I bite his neck again and he sighed, leaning into me. He lifted me up so my legs were around his waist.
‘You don’t look like you should be able to do this so easily,’ I said.
‘Are you saying I look weak, little human?’
‘Not weak, just–’
Casper bit me again, harder this time, rougher, into the muscle of my chest. When he let go I watched blood rise in the punctures in my skin and trickle down, mixing with the water. Casper licked me clean.
I did not have a coherent thought for about twenty five minutes after that. Casper’s teeth, and his tongue, have many talents. I was a shaking mess by the time he was done with me. I sat on the floor of the tub under the stream of the shower as he worked shampoo through my hair and rinsed the blood from my skin. I let him carry me to bed.
My arm, my thigh and my chest throbbed around the bites, but they were already scabbing over by the time I surfaced from the fog of pleasure I’d been sunk deep into. I wanted to steep in the feeling like a bag of tea, let it ooze out of me and colour the whole world. When I moved and looked up at Casper, lying next to me, it was clear we’d surfaced on different shores.
He was frowning at his phone, scrolling through slowly, reading intently.
He shook his head minutely.
‘Has there been another one?’
Casper froze. He looked over at me, kissed my forehead. ‘Don’t worry. You’re safe.’
I curled more deeply into the blankets. ‘I know. But something’s up. I can tell.’
Casper raised an eyebrow. ‘I am not that easy to read.’
‘No, but I’m learning.’ I sat up. ‘What happened?’
‘They found more of them.’
‘The victims with the throats?’
Cas shook his head. ‘The half-made.’
‘Did they hurt anyone?’
‘No. That’s the thing. There have been no attacks for days. Judging from this report the state of decomposition was advanced. They’d need to have been out there for weeks to reach death, there’s no way they could have been avoided completely for that long. There should have been four, five attacks minimum. But nothing.’
‘Maybe they’ve just not found the bodies yet?’
‘Maybe,’ said Cas, but he was shaking his head.
‘Come on, Cas. Spit it out.’
‘Oh, it’s ‘Cas’ now, is it?’
‘You just fucked me in the bath and drank like most of my blood, I think we’re up to nicknames, don’t you? Besides. I never hear you calling me ‘Alfric’.’
‘I barely drank a mouthful,’ he said, and he sounded really cut up about it to. I asked if that was really the thing he was gonna get hung up on here, and then he said ‘nobody calls you Alfric.’
Cas’ phone buzzed in his hand. He groaned.
‘What?’ I said.
‘They’re calling a meeting.’
‘No. The vampires.’
‘Vampires organise secret council meetings by text?’
‘It’s not a secret and there is no council. Also it’s on WhatsApp.’
I burst out laughing.
‘Did you expect us to communicate by raven or something?’
‘I suppose I’ve never thought about it.’
Casper got up and started putting on his clothes.
‘Do you have to go?’
‘So. They’ve asked me to be there, specifically.’
I frowned at that. ‘Why?’
‘Because of who I am.’
I frowned even harder. ‘Who are you?’
Casper snorted. ‘Cas, apparently.’
I threw a pillow at him.
‘Most vampires keep their noses out of each others business. I make it my problem,’ said Casper.
‘And what does that mean?’
‘It means when something goes wrong, I’m the one they call.’
‘So you’re like a vampire cop?’
Casper hissed. ‘No.’
‘I fix problems.’
‘What kinds of problems?’
‘Alfie!’ he was angry, properly angry. There was an edge to his body language, a specifically inhuman slant to the way he stood, to the red glare of his eyes.
He told me later, much later, curled on the sand at Whitby beach, on the last good day. The day before it all went wrong, when I very nearly died and it took almost everything Cas had inside of him to keep me alive. The day that brought me here, to the floor of my flat, alone and without him.
After Cas woke up a vampire, with Antoinette who had turned him, things were dark for him for a while. Those first weeks and months when you’re new are difficult, he said, mostly focused on the drive. The change itself causes a blood-debt; your body has been through a lot and you need to drink a lot of blood to replenish it. It’s a vulnerable time, and it should be managed carefully by the vampire who did the turning because most new vampires don’t have the luxury of being told what will happen and how it will feel before they’re turned.
For Casper, everything was brand new and it was agony.
He killed a lot of people, and it was messy business. Now Cas knows how to break the skin and leave only the barest of marks, but then, he was ravenous, and he ate almost as raggedly as the half-made did. His victims suffered, and the more he fed, the more he came to regret it. As his mind grew clearer and the blood debt began to balance, he also began to resent Antoinette, despite her guidance and teaching.
They left the city Casper had lived in and went across Europe for several years, and now and then, Antoinette chose a new vampire. She plucked them from bars and opera houses, lured them in as she had lured Casper. Most of the attempts ended in failure, and Antoinette made a few half-made things which she had Casper put down immediately, but by the time he’d been a vampire for a decade, he and Antoinette were joined by Ida, Alessandro, Dario, Valeria and Paolina. Between them, they could drain a whole village in a night.
Anoinette left most of the guidance to Casper; she had little patience for her new cohort until they could manage themselves without supervision. The five whose names Casper could remember were only the ones who managed to live through the change and their first year in their new not-quite-lives.
It was the youngest, Paolina, who changed everything.
Antoinette met Paolina on a beach on the Iberian cost of Portugual. She was young as a human, too, perhaps in her late teens, but very beautiful. A group of sailors were camping on the shore, their ship moored a mile off the coast, and Paolina and her sisters were entertaining them, playing instruments and dancing for tossed coins.
Antoinette arrived in her fine silk and watched Paolina intently. She was flattered and intrigued by this strange, bold woman walking alone in the middle of the night. Antoinette called Paolina over, and they walked down by the water, their toes in the shallow waves, and talked under the moonlight.
Antoinette turned on Paolina in the mouth of a cave, drained her almost dry, then forced her own blood down Paolina’s throat. When she was done, she went back to Casper and the others, and together they finished Paolina’s sisters and all the sailor’s on the shoreline, bar one, who Casper knocked out cold and dragged to the cave for Paolina to feast on if and when she awoke.
It was a long change, longer than usual, and on the second night of sitting with her motionless body in the cave, Casper had been about to give up, but finally she stirred. She wasn’t like the others had been though, no fire of frenzy in her eyes once she’d drunk a single drop of blood from Casper’s finger. He offered her the sailor but she wouldn’t drink him, not until Casper had cut his throat and the blood was flowing free and the drive overwhelmed her and she had no choice but to drink.
Paolina did not take the news of her sisters’ deaths well. She mourned them for weeks, she would not feed unless forced to, even though she must have been in agony.
Casper’s not sure why she was the way she was. It’s possible she was too young when Antoinette turned her, though he’s heard tales of younger children turned who were only more ruthless as vampires than any turned adult he’d met. Perhaps Antoinette did not give her enough blood when she made the change, that’s why it was so slow, why she would not hunt. She would look at the carnage her siblings raged and weep until blood was spilled and undrunk, and she couldn’t fight the drive anymore, instinct overwhelmed her, and she fed. Every time it was like it was a burden to her.
Casper, he had not questioned any of it until then, he had not really had the time or chance to. Despite his resentments of Antoinette. They moved so quickly, barely lingering longer than a week in any city and town. He barely spoke to humans, except when he was intent to kill them. It was so easy to just be, and Antoinette was a master of living in the moment. Following her lead, their trail of bloody ruin across Europe was not just the simple fact of their nature as vampires but a privilege. Vampires were the superior form, she said, and humans were on earth merely to sustain them. It wasn’t that Cas believed her, exactly, more like he’d never had any reason not to.
Not until Paolina. No matter what anyone did or said, she would not hunt. She would not kill. She would not be a vampire, even though that’s what she was. The others put up with it, held her hand when she was sad, shared their kills to make her eat and stop her from wasting into nothing. She was a one of them; it was their duty to care for her, despite her strangeness.
Casper grew fond of Paolina. As the years wore on and she began to recover from her sisters’ deaths, she become the best company in their strange little psuedo family. She was an excellent violinist, and it transpired that she also had an eye for architecture, something Casper very much appreciated. He grew increasingly close with her, this strange little creature who would not kill, and made sure she was well looked-after even though she wouldn’t take care of herself.
Until one day Antoinette got sick of it.
Casper woke one night to find Antoinette returning to the house whose inhabitants they’d killed the night before. She smelled like blood, but not the feasting kind. The rich, boozy smell of vampire blood, a smell that set Casper immediately on edge.
Paolina was gone.
Things were not the same for Casper, after that. The others seemed to move on, they were sad, of course, but they accepted Paolina’s loss as though it was inevitable, accepted Antoinette’s story that she’d got hurt on a hunt and refused to feed to replenish herself. Casper never believed it though. He could smell Paolina’s blood on Antoinette’s mouth, in her veins. And he began to doubt their way of life, and Antoinette’s role as their leader.
What was she doing, traipsing across the continent, killing and making new un-lives as she went? What was her goal, her purpose, for she must have had one? It could not have only been companionship, because Paolina, for all her sulking, was funny and charming and sweet. Antoinette’s rhetoric sounded different to him, then. She didn’t just think that humans were made for vampires to feast upon, she believed it was their only purpose. She didn’t just love their little family, she believed she was crafting something to be exalted, a superior caste, that they were greater beings. She was an aspiring conquerer.
What’s more, where she drew the line between ally and prey was fickle and changeable and just being a vampire wasn’t enough for you to be seem as important. You had to be the right kind of vampire. You had to do as she did. You had to agree with her without question. You had to fall in line.
Within a year Casper had drained her dry.
The story spread through the scattered communities of vampires over the world like poison through blood. It was unheard of; a vampire killing their own maker. Word followed Casper around, his reputation arriving ahead of him in every city and town. Mostly the story was that he’d avenged his sister. The cause didn’t matter though; he was a pariah. No one would speak to him. Vampires do not kill their makers, but Casper had.
Some years later Casper was spending the night outside a small town in rural Russia. A young vampire, not yet a year into their un-life, had heard he was nearby and came to ask for help. There was a vampire who had tried to turn a whole town, and failed to make only a single true vampire, the one who had come to Cas for help. Half-mades were ransacking nearby villages; in the cold of the Russian winter, their bodies stayed solid and lasted longer.
Casper put down the half-mades and then spent months hunting down their maker.
This story travelled even faster than the first one. Before he knew what was happening he had become the one other vampires turned to when something was wrong. Casper Novotny, the avenger.
And that’s why he was in York.
Course I didn’t know any of that when I asked Casper to let me go with him to that vampire meeting. He said no, obviously, but he did let me come along in the car.
That was probably a mistake in hindsight, but honestly, I think he’d have done anything I asked.
There’s no use worrying about that now. It’s done, it’s happened. I’m going to die. Or become one of them. That’s all there is to it.
No point crying over spilled milk.
Or spilled blood, I suppose, in this case, though for some reason it feels like spilled blood is worth crying over. I’m going to drink a little more of the blood now. See if it helps. Then maybe I’ll try to get a bit more sleep.
EIRA: Not Quite Dead is written, performed, and edited by Eira Major, under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution License. Live, laugh, bite.