There was no way I was going to kiss a self-confessed vampire, was there? She ran the Society of Vampires that I had decided to join - not because I believed in vampires, but because I appreciated the deliciously decadent literature surrounding the concept of the Undead: fiction all of it . . . except the story I have to tell.
She struck me as a gothic creature, combining . . . the fearful gullibility of a heroine who faced the mysteries of an ancient Appennine castle and its villainous owner with battlement brows . . . and the inscrutability of a dark-haired shadow-¬cosmeticked sharp-fingered black-garbed bangle-wristed pin-nosed creature that Satan might one day take as his chosen bride and sell as a hand maiden to God when finished with.
Her name did not suit either part of this forced synergy. Hilda. Yes, that was it. I’d nearly forgotten. Or something is trying to make me forget. Hilda. The one who ran the Society of Vampires. Not that any member believed in vampires. Except Hilda. And me, since.
Then being a rather sociable young man, one who considered himself in charge, even when he wasn’t, I soon worked my way up the hierarchy towards Hilda’s right hind - or should I say left hand? After a short stint as the Society Treasurer, I became editor of the house magazine and membership secretary. The latter position entailed vetting all applications for signs of crankiness - which was understandable, bearing in mind the interest group we attracted. In retrospect, I suppose it was Hilda alone who did not want people in the Society who truly believed in vampires nor, especially, those who had convinced themselves that the they were vampires. This was because she wanted to believe she was the only real vampire on Earth. She needed to be the king-pin: the Queen Bee.
As soon as I realised that she had taken a hankering towards me as a man, I began to back-pedal. It was all very well loving the rich seams of sado-masochism when simply in the form of words and literature - which mentality in many of the other members took the shape of comic strips or Dracula films - but, being face to face with it in Hilda, was tantamount to reaching beyond the well-head of the eye for the unknown regions of the soul.
Then, there was, of course, the occasion when everything came to a crunch. Some of us had been discussing various facets of vampires in Hilda’s bedsit - a dim, and dare I say tawdry, room in a building hidden behind other buildings off the Tottenham Court Road. A few resented how vampires were given a raw deal, whilst others were becoming concerned at the over-popularisation of vampires following the success of a film blockbuster. I cannot now recall who was present, other than myself and Hilda. That day, she had been more in the mode of Poppy Z. Brite/Anne Rice than that of Jane AustenlAnn Radcliffe or, perhaps, the other way round. Whatever the case, she was showing more of one side of her character than the other. She remained the ideal hostess, however, clearing away the scrunched-up silver linings of the wine-boxes we had consumed - before they began to litter the floor like dead duck-billed platypuses, or should that be platypi? Yet, as the evening wore on and the dark shapes of people peeled off one by one, she really got her teeth into one subject. Well, mention of Hilda’s teeth just had to arrive sooner or later, didn’t it? Which brings me back to the kiss I mentioned at the start. But I’m jumping ahead again, as if my thoughts are somehow readier for death than my body.
“I don’t know if we can explain why people like vampires,” I said, knowing this was non-sequitur, but little caring. I knew Hilda had been ranting on about Jung and the Collective Unconscious, but I couldn’t help thinking there was an uncollective unconscious of which even Jung was unaware. Very few people could tap into this more esotenc sump of the universal soul. If I was the only one who knew about it, I compared it to being on board a ship without any of the common passengers or Jungian crew knowing that I was on board. But I never said anything about it - either because I was scared of my pretentiousness being ridiculed or for fear of diluting the esoteric nature of the matter - or both.
“Donald” . . . there she said it, making me more vulnerable with the release of my name . . . “People love vampires because they fear death, and being a vampire is one way of escaping that big black hole.”
“Yes, but, down deep, they enjoy the horror - the thought of drinking blood with fangs et cetera et cetera.”
“The fact they enjoy horror” . . . she picked up the remains of what she thought was the last wine-box and wrung out a few dregs . . . “is like admitting that humanity is basically evil.”
“I’m not going into the old argument about all that!” I had already expounded at length on there being no possibility of the power of good without its balance. Perhaps that was why the others had sidled from the bedsit. Some on all fours.
It is at this point that I should make clear that Hilda had already, earlier in the day, made dubious overtures to me, even before she started emptying the wine-boxes. I suppose the old-fashioned term was “making a pass”. Needless to say, I did not reciprocate her advances in any shape or form, but, since I’ve had to clarify that point time and time again to the police, there is no harm in saying it here. So, when she suddenly lunged forward with her tongue too engorged for her mouth to contain it, I was ready to defend myself. That was the only reason I had the remaining unemptied bag of Burgundy concealed behind my back. It being still floppy and wobbly with wine, like a woman’s breast wrapped in wafer-thin aluminium, I managed to stuff it into her mouth, before she pinned my hands to the sofa with her fingernails. She was not to be foiled, however. I became hysterical with outrage at the unexpected sight of what I thought was a third arm coiling from behind her back - released, as became clear later, from a leather strapping that the flimsy frock concealed. This appendage was like a huge horny sting.
The rest is history. When the authorities undid her other thongs and bone-ribbed corsets, they discovered sagging there a sizeable sac of yellow slime. The doctors stated, in the cool light of reflection, that Hilda had been incontinent, a condition of which she was no doubt ashamed, being as young as she was. The death was deemed caused by reasons unknown. But I know different. She was what an esoteric like me would call an Earth Stowaway - not exactly a vampire, but the next best thing. But I didn’t have to enlighten the authorities - or should I say endarken? Giving me the benefit of the doubt (if anyone could possible wreak a benefit from such a negativity), they let me off with a caution. It is perhaps surprising that the Society has continued in being after Hilda’s so-called death. As I’m less gregarious now, members may be interested to know that I spend my time reading Jane Austen novels, desperately hoping that the words don’t turn nasty. Finally, I wish you well as the new editor of the Society magazine, hoping that you will find it possible to print this as a sort of epitaph - and warning.