The dusky twilight brushed the ruined stone walls as the sun sunk low upon the horizon. Upon the outcrop of rock, blasted with the waves of the barren North Sea, stood the glowering remains of a once great castle, home now only to a flight of gulls and crows. The wind whipped about, shrieking and cutting with its icy edge.

Down a dark stairwell, clammy and green with dank moss, and into a crypt beneath, upon a stone plinth O’Nealius lay. He needed to recover his strength before he went on. A tourist might have mistaken him for a human – young and in his prime, dressed in a dinner suit, as though he had lost himself after a night out and stumbled there by mistake.

The light now slowly ebbed away, and darkness was upon the face of the earth. His eyes opened wide, and darted about the room, taking a moment to convince himself that he was safe. His night vision was perfect, and he could see best when the light was worst. Sitting up, he satisfied himself that he was safe, and that he had eluded his attacker. It was during the daylight hours that he was at his most vulnerable, falling into deep sleep when the world awakes, and when the sun had risen early that morning he wondered, as his eyelids fell, if the slayer would discover him where he slept, and stake him there.

But he had eluded his attacker.

‘Foolish human,’ O’Nealius thought. He stretched his arms, shaking off his slumber, then leapt to his feet, invigorated by this reprieve. ‘If he couldn’t find me today, then he’ll never find me. Now I have the advantage on him.’

He raced up to the open ruins above, and listened to the caws and cries of the circling crows and gulls. ‘My children, hear me! I live yet!’ Their cries reached an hysterical pitch, as though cheering his emergence. Then, with a wave of his hand, they flew away as one body, and circled widely over the land to which this rocky outcrop was linked, only by the narrowest pathway through sheer, sharp cliffs. A few moments later they returned, and he listened to their shrieking, terrible song.

He understood them: the human was not nearby.

‘Then I shall go out once more, and feed.’

He hurried to the pathway, that cut down steeply towards the beech, before steeply re-ascending to the mainland, then halted as though walking into a glass wall, and staggered back. He took a moment to recompose himself, then tried again; again he was repulsed, more painfully than before, as though this glass wall were now throwing him back.

He smelt the air, and his hair stood on end: the unmistakable stench of KFC, strewn across the pathway in a deep line. He could not abide cheap food, and fast food was especially repellent to him. He raged and roared, confounded once more, for he had underestimated his attacker.

‘Why not stake me in my sleep? Coward! Come face me! Come face me! You should have staked me as I slept!’ but as he recovered from his passion, he understood: this was revenge. The human did not want him to die just yet; he wanted revenge, for all that had been taken from him. First he would imprison him, then he would torture him, for just beyond the line of the foul, fresh KFC was a picnic hamper, filled to the brim with foie gras, fresh baguette, claret, champagne, port wine and calvados. These fine things put the vampire in a trance, and he drifted as though led by the nose with a rope, drifted towards the hamper on the other side. The wall of KFC repulsed him, but he resisted it repulse and strived forward with all his might. He began to penetrate into the heart of the KFC minefield, where the stench grew fouler still, and the opposing forces of the KFC pushing him back and his own strength pushing him on exerted unnatural, unbearable pain on his body. Soon he began to cry out, and the birds went berserk above, shrieking and flying through the air in chaotic panic as still his voice filled the night sky with its piercing cry of agony and despair.

His strength gave in, and he relented; the KFC wall violently repulsed him, and he was flung back against the sharp stone wall, then fell to the floor in a broken heap.

All was calm, as the gulls began to descend upon the KFC minefield, and pecked away at the bad food, breaking the prison door whilst the vampire lay there, beaten and still.

It was not until several hours had passed that he rose once more, his body riven with agony, and looked in the direction of the picnic hamper, filled with so many fine, exquisite things. But that smell: it was gone. That stinking, rotting smell of vile fast food had gone. He looked to the sky and blessed the birds, for he knew it was their deliverance, whereupon he ran into a sprint and fell upon the hamper, tearing the corks from the bottles with his sharp, protruding teeth and savouring the contents of all he saw.

‘You meant to break me; imprison me and drive me mad. Now I am free, enjoying your largesse, so foolishly arrayed, and when I have supped on your generosity, human, I shall sup on you…’ He trailed off, and grew drowsy: the trap was now complete, for he had not yet finished gorging before the sun broke over the eastward horizon of the sea. He had not time to utter his final curse on the human before falling on his back, in posture so much like a sunbather on holiday.

Only at the height of midday did he come down to the bottom of the path. James looked about him, surveying the scene of gluttony and gorging with bottles and food wrappers lying around the hamper and the sleeping body. He took a moment to look upon the face; to study the face of the one who had taken his lover from him; to see if there was any mark of sorrow, or humanity, or anything that would make James hesitate even for so much as a heartbeat before driving that stake through its heart. But there was no such thing: just the hardened, knotted brow and the red, wine and blood stained lips to give away the vampire’s heart.

He whispered the word, as though to dispel unreality of what he saw: ‘O’Nealius’.

James knelt down beside the sleeping body, placed a stake above the heart, and with a single blow of the mallet drove it down. The vampire made no stir, no sound, but turned immediately to dust; and the birds were gone.

© Ian O’Neal

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