*

ERASED

posted Sunday, 23 December 2007

The vampire licked his lips – the only way to show what he really was.

Sam watched him out of the corner of her eyes, losing contact, in the meantime, with her husband and daughter in the crowd. Shopping sprees — during these times when the days were still grim and brown-coloured since the end of rationing — were just a few vital oddments gathered on errand runs rather than huge decorated packages humped from shop to car.

Sam’s daughter would one day hump shopping from shop to car when she was eventually married and with her own daughter whom she’d name Sam after her mother … as Sam herself had named her Robyn after her own mother in turn.

Time no longer flowed forward, it seemed, but in a confused ebb and flow. Generations failed to stick to the direct lines of antecedence and posterity. Sam and her family were worse than most – just as her daughter Robyn turned round and scolded her father (Sam’s husband) about dragging his feet, telling him she’d put him to bed early if he didn’t buck up.

The vampire watched the family (Sam, Robyn and Sam’s husband) from a distance, shadowing them between street corners, using some other families as subterfuge for speaking out loud, attaching himself sometimes to this or that group in an attempt to seem natural in that precise place at that precise time; whilst – amazingly – convincing strangers that he was related to them by blood as well as by chance-encounter: a skill learned during the war when everyone grew closer in face of a common enemy.

Even vampires could summon homely loyalties from bombed wasteground and blank frightened faces. He wanted to share shopping sprees and today he’d homed in on Sam because she was still pretty despite having to give birth and endure a whole war with a child under seven and a husband who she had to hide in the cupboard because he was scared of fighting.

Alien invasion was better than the anger of friends once stoked to breaking point – and the latest war was indeed one between friendly peoples. The cut-&-thrust and the sword-edges were stained with the brightest possible bloodstains since blood – brightened under the strain of anger – remained bright whilst blood – shed in sorrow or in mere tiredness – faded to a dirty brown archipelago upon whatever surface it had mapped out the story of its spillage.

“We need some soap,” said Robyn to her mother, then giving a frown of annoyance because Sam, too, was dragging her feet along with her husband (Robyn’s father). “Buck up, you two, you don’t know when they’ll run out.”

The husband made faces at his daughter. Dirty ones. Sam simply leered with a mindless wafting motion with her arm. Shopping was intended to be a pleasure, especially shopping as a family on a trip up to the city. They could afford slightly more than just window shopping. They stared together through the glass at the various cakes of soap, in a choice of pastel colours, yet clumsily carved from the mother soap: a huge haystack they could just see at the back of the shop where other customers darkly bartered for the best cuts from it.

Sam failed to see the reflection of the vampire stood just behind her.

Several folk ran out of the shop doorway clutching the best bars sawn from the mother soap, imagining they had heard a siren in the sky. The habits of war are reluctant to be shrugged off.

Everyone was rabbit scared. The slightest noise would send them scuttling from every exit into the street and gaze up into the heavens for signs of invasion. Friends often disguised themselves as aliens. And planes built in local hangars were often seen masquerading as flying saucers or rocketships. Not that anyone really believed it wasn’t their own imagination transmogrifying everything into a dream.

Robyn took Sam by the hand – beckoning to her father to follow in their wake – and led them towards the underground entrance; serviceable as an air-raid shelter during the war, now used as a makeshift one for imaginary raids; though shelter from imaginary raids was harder to find because shelter itself couldn’t pierce the armour of imagination whilst the raids could always break the rhythm with their random shards of invisible shrapnel. Imagination could be harmed by imagination.

The vampire followed in their wake. He had no wife and daughter of his own. The girl called Robyn kept looking in his direction as if ensuring he was still there. The woman called Sam pointedly ignored him, hoping against hope that he wasn’t there at all. The soap would have come in handy to wash the bright war-paint from his face; pity the family hadn’t managed to buy any yet.

Shopping sprees were notorious for missing the wood for the trees. Useless luxuries masquerading as necessities and vice versa. He licked his lips. He chewed on nothing. He needed loose slime at the very densest to quench his hunger. A line of lorries slowly moved along beside them, clearing the sluices of the city.

In the sky, stray objects ricocheted from horizon to zenith in displays of imagination feeding upon imagination to produce ill-carved realities raised up to hurt you because you were imagination, too. Things became harder the more you thought about them. Tears welled in the vampire’s eyes as he watched his two loved ones vanish into the earth like frightened rabbits to their burrows; corpses dead set on concealment from their only friend.

The vampire rubbed hard at himself with an ill-cut cake of unblended soap. He raised himself toward the imagined sky where God in his Heaven was busy setting off false alarms.

(unpublished)

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