A Note for Elizabeth
The streets of London were slicked with hardened ice, the sky was encased in a dome of storm clouds all day and all night. It had been like this for a few days now, and the families mostly kept to themselves. But the weather could hardly dampen their spirits, considering what time of year it was. Each house was decorated in crimson and emerald ornaments, each living room was home to small but fashionable Christmas trees. Even though the weather was the worst it had been in years, the spirit of Saint Nicholas was still shining strong. This was the norm of every house in London. Well, all except one. Mrs Welkes, and her eleven year old daughter, Elizabeth stood at their front window, gazing out into the darkened street, waiting for their beloved father to step over the threshold and greet them with warm smiles and open arms. They waited, but he did not arrive. They waited until the burning street lamp gave in to the cold outside, they could wait no more. They were disappointed, but not surprised by his absence.
Johnathon Welkes was a successful man, a scientist respected amongst scientists. He was also a busy man, and he regretted the times that his work interfered with his family time. But they understood. It was hard for Elizabeth, but she was a good girl, and she was very understanding, and mature for her age. She had a lot of her father's determination in her, and it tore John up inside to miss seeing her grow up. Elizabeth, like so many other children in the area, went to a boarding school to study. She only came home for holidays, which seemed to be the busiest time of the year for John. It was 10 days until Christmas, 15th December, 1933, and John was hard at work, trying his damnedest to finish his research so that he could be with his family on Christmas. He had promised Elizabeth that he would be there for her. And she was so overjoyed to have the opportunity, for she had not had a Christmas with her father since she was five years old. Although she knew deep down that her father might be too busy, she couldn't help but pour all her hopes into his promise, and think that this year would be “the one”.
Johnathon was working through the night, papers littered his desk, essays, documentations, diagrams, photographs, and there were even a couple of models of his subjects. I walked into his office at around midnight to see his pen scrawling madly across paper. I placed a coffee on the corner of his desk and peered over his shoulder at his papers. My eye caught one particular photograph that was so horrific, it still haunts me to this day. My reaction was of pure revulsion and fear, of such force, I knocked John's coffee cup to the floor. His pen stopped moving.
His head remained bent over the paper, “What?” he asked, with a tone of annoyance.
“Sorry, John, it's just that... that picture” I pointed at the foul, disfigured image in the photo, trying my best not to look at it again.
“Filthy beasts” He said. “they're human, but they've altered themselves. I don't know why, I don't know how, and if I don't figure that out soon, I'll miss Christmas again.”
A sharp knock came from the door. John looked at his watch before muttering to himself “of course”. He strode out of his office to answer the door. I followed him, still trying to get the photograph out of my mind. I was afraid of what these monsters might be capable of doing, but I felt that sticking close to a learned man such as Johnathon would be safest for me. I figured that the more I knew, the less I would fear, and I would be able to sleep without images of that photograph torturing me while I sleep. How very wrong I was.
John's colleagues had arrived with a gift that pleased him beyond doubt. They had brought him his specimen to study, dissect and analyze. He led them down to the basement laboratory, helping them navigate the 8 feet long crate through the building. The crate rattled and shook continuously, as if something alive was in there. I followed tentatively down the stairs, keeping my distance, a growing dread sat in my stomach, for I had made an educated guess that the thing in the crate was the same specimen as the monster in the picture. I shivered just thinking about it, but that reaction was nothing to the paralyzing fear I felt when I actually discovered that my assumptions were correct.
Once in the basement, the men used a crowbar to pry open the lid. They turned it over onto the floor, and I had a clear view of the creature within. Almost 8 feet tall, vampirous in appearance (according to descriptions in folklore, at least), battered and twisted wings were bonded to its side, limbs bound, mouth gagged. If it weren't for these things keeping it secure, I would have left then and there, out of the room, the office, the city, hell, I'd probably have been on a ship half way to America before the others realized I had gone. But even with the bondage, and the six burly men restraining the struggling monster, my feet were rooted to the floor with fear. I would have screamed, but my terror had robbed me of that, too. It was only after John stuck a needle into his specimen and dragged the limp body into a prison-like cell, that I found the strength to sit down, and get my brain functioning properly again.
I watched as John gathered samples from the creature, clippings off its wings, blood samples, saliva samples, teeth molds. He worked from behind the locked bars, which caused my stomach to turn, if the beast were to awaken, he'd be dead. But he worked quickly and efficiently, appearing calm and collected, while I sat in the corner, trying to stop my head spinning just thinking about the situation. He then lacerated the bonds holding the creature into place, and it slackened onto the floor. Although John didn't show it physically, he was relieved to get out of the cell and lock his specimen away. He put the samples under microscopes, he took notes, he mixed the fluids with chemicals, he took more notes. I had no idea what he was looking for, and by the way he held his head over his work, neither did he.
The “creature” in the cell started to come around as the drugs wore off. It got to its feet, head almost touching the ceiling, wings had barely enough room to unfold. John had his back turned, and had no notice, so did a few of his colleagues, who were also conducting several small scale experiments. But a couple of others noticed too, and they looked very afraid. The vampire yelled, a long, agonizing, almost wolf-like cry. It rattled the bars of the cell and batted its wings furiously.
“Mi ala fa'hra shi omar!” It yelled. “ Mi ala fa'hra shi omar!”
John was now staring at the creature as it repeated this phrase at the top of its lungs. His pen scrawled across parchment, but his eyes remained fixated on the beast. What were these words it was speaking? What language? What meaning? I looked over at Johnathon, he sat there with his papers, pen still flailing madly. When we came down to the basement, the desk and equipment were all neatly organized, now, after the short time while John and his men worked, his desk was as messy as the one in his office, paper strewn everywhere, he had books opened all over the place, and now he was intently observing the conscious daemon's actions. He was writing frantically, absorbing every movement, every action processed by this creature's mind. A full psycho-analysis was unfolding before my eyes, and he sat there writing, mimicking the phrase under his breath, “Mi ala fa'hra shi omar”.
We had been in the basement for hours, but I seemed to be the only one in the room at a loss as to what to do. There came a point where I could take it no longer, my still silence and observations were driving me mad. I got to my feet and shuffled back upstairs to make beverages for John and his team. From the small office kitchen, I could still head the monster's cries. I didn't want to go back down there, so I took as much time as needed to prepare the tea and coffee. Several minutes passed, as I waited for the water to boil, when I noticed a loud crash from below. The lights went out, I could hear some yelling and grunting from the basement, of which I couldn't distinguish man from beast. I stood fast, rooted to the spot, waiting for some indication to move. I waited a few more minutes, listening intently to the sounds beneath me. Were they... dead? I couldn't hear anything any more, such was the sudden, intense silence. No voice or movement could be heard, I was isolated in the darkness, fear starting to consume me, consciousness confusing real with dream. It was all real, no I wasn't imagining things. I was brought to my senses by the sound of slow, heavy footsteps climbing up the stairs.
The footsteps were moving closer and closer. I could hear them just outside the kitchen door. A faint candlestick glow came through the doorway, it was Johnathon.
“Oh, thank God” I said, and I followed him back out into the hallway. “What happened?”.
“They had given the specimen its tranquilizer, opened the cell to take it out, but it failed to react to the shot, and it lashed out and attacked them”, his voice was shaking slightly. “Three... maybe four of them were badly injured. When the vampire lashed out, he also knocked out the power generator.” John went into his office and got his pen and paper. He scrawled something down and folded up the paper. He handed it to me and said “Can you do a favour for me? Take this note to my daughter, Elizabeth, and then come straight back, we need to sort this mess out”.
John walked with me to the door, then I ran down the street. As soon as I turned the corner, I unfolded the message and read, “Dear Elizabeth, I won't be making it home for Christmas this year. I am truly, deeply sorry. With sincerest apologies, your father.”
I folded the note up, regretting the situation John was forced into. He was like a small, innocent creature, being boxed in by an 8 feet tall carnivorous bat. I started running again, his house wasn't very far from his office. The note was crumpled in my hand, my grip on it was unrelenting. I came to a halt outside the house, doubled over to catch my breath. I lifted a fist and knocked on the door. I saw little Elizabeth peer through the curtains of the front window to see who I was. She opened the door to let me in.
“Hello, Elizabeth” I said kindly. “I'm sorry I can't stay this time, I'm just here to give you this note from your father”. A tear rolled down my cheek. It tore me up inside to bring such devastating news to such a young, innocent child.
“Thank you, Mr. Dawson” she said, and she began unfolding the note. Her lip trembled as the news hit her. She looked up from the paper to say something to me, but I had already started running back to her father.
I approached the office to find that the electricity had been restored. I walked through the open front door, and called out, “John!?”
“I'm in the basement!” He yelled back.
I crept down the stairs once again, afraid of what I would find there. The room was pretty messy, quite a bit of blood on the floor, and John stood over a table, strapped to which was the vampire. There were 3 of John's colleagues also standing over the creature, the others, I noticed to my horror, were locked in the cell, piled on the floor.
“Are they... dead?” I asked.
“No, they're unconscious. They should come round soon enough, but I'd prefer that they were dead. They were bitten by the specimen, and if my research is consistent, they have been infected with a virus which will latch on to their brain, release toxins into their blood. They'll have to leech off the blood of others to keep their blood oxygenated, to stay alive.”
“So, how's this one staying alive?” I was revolted by the thought of the werewolf-like disease John was speaking of.
“These wings here”, he said, indicating to the large black wings sprouting from the creature's back, “they're grown over time, due to a genetic alteration from the infection. The wings create a blood stimulation that produces a hormone which balances against the decay. A lot of people who get this disease will die shortly after, because they can't replenish their blood.”
It was disturbing, yet hauntingly tragic, how precise John had been with his research on the existence of such an aberration of nature.
His next actions truly disturbed me more than anything he had done in the past. He produced a hacksaw from his tool kit, lifted one of the vampire wings off the table, and began sawing it off from the unconscious vampire. He held a jar to the base of the wing, collecting its viscous blood. He proceeded to do the same with the other. Then, he slowly raised the jar to his lips, and consumed its entire contents. And at that point, I realized. I departed the room in an instance, up the flight of stairs, out onto the street, as far from his as possible, for I knew that he was void of all human emotions.
From several blocks away, I heard a menacing cry coming from his office, “ Mi ala fa'hra shi omar!”
And I knew that never again, would he see his daughter on Christmas...