How did I end up with such a weirdo for a landlord? Why couldn’t I have got the nice old lady who would bake me the occasional cake? That’s what Ben got. Me? I got the ghost. I call him that because of the permanent grey pallor which he displays. It gives me the creeps every time I see him. If I have to talk to him I can feel the cold sweat begin to form on my forehead even as I approach. And now this. The rent is due and my account is empty. A lack of planning has caused an imbalance in the cashflow situation. So I have to ask for an extension from Mr Friendly.
Standing outside his door gives me a sense of dread like no other. Whenever I have to visit, which is infrequently, just knocking on the door takes an extreme act of will. When he opens his door it is always just a crack, he obviously prefers to conduct business on your threshold rather than his. Every time I have knocked on his door I have sensed something, like a chill, and this time is no different.
Once he opens the door I explain the situation. I have always been a good tenant, this is a one off situation, it will never happen again. He nods, but then shakes his head.
“All debts must be paid,” he says, “somehow.”
What does that mean? We both stand there for an uncomfortable amount of time until he suggests I come in for a chat. I am astounded and don’t know quite how to respond. But he opens the door wide and, before I am fully aware, I am suddenly walking in. He closes the door behind me. Did he lock it? When I turn back to look he has already moved next to me and taken my arm, drawing me towards the living room. It looks surprisingly normal. Unlike my host, who appears more bloodless than normal. My guess has always been that he is a heavy smoker. His colour is fairly typical of the older nicotine addict. But I don’t see any evidence of that around. No ashtrays, no smell.
“I have never liked being in debt, or indebted to others,” he proclaims.
He definitely has an odd way of speaking at times.
“I’m not too happy about the situation, believe me,” I reply. “I’ve been badly let down by someone, so I feel terrible doing the same to you.”
Then he just sits there for some time, looking around and thinking. I don’t know quite how to extract myself from the position I currently find myself in. It seems to take an age before he looks back at me.
“There is, perhaps, one way out of this unfortunate situation,” he says.
Then we return to silence, which I eventually have to break.
“And that is?”
“It’s a delicate matter, one which most people would find difficult to understand,” he says. “I have a health condition, very rare,” he continues. “I’ll just come straight out with it, I need blood.”
Did he really just say what I think he said? Am I hearing things?
“And the Health Service can’t help you?”
“No, it’s a bit more complicated than that. It needs to be fresh.”
Fuck me, this is freaking me out.
“I know how this sounds. Believe me, this isn’t the first time I have had this conversation. I recognise that face. A mixture of shock, confusion, and revulsion.”
He goes on to explain about his life, his needs, how he was born this way. He wishes he could change, be normal, has even considered ending it all. But the instinct of survival just seems too strong. So he continues to claw his way along. But his wish not to cause harm to others makes it a struggle.
Once he has finished I surprise myself with the sympathetic feelings which I have for him. All these years I have known that there was something, but I could never have imagined.
“How much do you need exactly?” I ask.
“Not as much as you would think, to survive anyway. It’s not like in the movies.”
“So, you are a…?”
“A vampire? That is what you would call me, although my kind have different words,” he says shaking his head and smiling. “As to how much, actually just the smallest taste can keep us going. Some are more greedy, just as with humans, we just don’t get fat that’s all.”
He laughs at this joke and then remembers himself, it wasn’t a good look.
“Sorry, I joke when I get nervous,” he says. “In all seriousness, it would be as simple as a quick suck every day and no biting. Just a small puncture and I could actually collect enough for a few days, it can be kept that long. You have the perfect blood for me, so I don’t need so much, not when it’s top quality.”
“I feel like some meat on the shelf being discussed.”
“How do you know I have the right blood?”
“I can smell it.”
That’s creepy. Has he been sniffing me?
“It took a long time before I could control my feelings. Imagine living your life on such a strict diet, when everything you need for health and vitality is located in your refrigerator. It can’t be equated with trying to lose a few pounds, it’s more like you are constantly starving yourself,” he explains.
I have so many questions I would like to ask. But I get the feeling that they can wait. I can feel in my heart that the decision has already been made, even if my mind still can’t quite believe it. I know I am going to help this man, if that is what I can still call him. No, that is unfair. His words have displayed more humanity than many other people in this world do, and in his pleading eyes I can see a soul crying out for help and companionship.
“So, how do we begin?” I hear myself ask.
Words © Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites