Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Do You Still Love Your Girlfriend Now That She's Dead Again?

I’m waiting in the graveyard. It's past 4am and it’s starting to rain. It seems appropriate. I pull my coat a bit tighter around me and look at my watch. She’s late. She’s been late before. It’s not exactly surprising that she’s late again.

The first thing Grace ever said to me was that she liked my coat. She touched the sleeve, tugged it a little bit. I liked that. I couldn’t help grinning and she grinned back at me through her black lipstick. It was a party, the first week of university. I had been talking too much because I’d drunk too much but I remember that after she tugged my sleeve I couldn’t think of anything to say. I wanted to sound interesting and alluring but I didn’t say anything. She was rifling through my CD collection and asked if she could borrow some. She’d left hers at home when she was packing. I nodded; she told me which hall of residence she was in. She told me that I should come round and listen to them some time. I went round that night.

Grace and I were a couple for two years. It was fantastic. I could tell you all the little things we did, all the big things, all the dirty things, all the sad things, all the angry things, all the funny things. But I’m just going to tell you that we loved each other very much. Six months ago she was hit by a drunk driver and she died on the side of the road. She was walking back from lectures and she was crossing at a light. Green for her, red for traffic. The driver didn’t see the light change. I’m told that there were lots of people around her when she died. Apparently lots of people tried to help. She always had lots of friends. But she died before the ambulance got there.

The university let me go home for a bit. My parents didn’t try and talk to me too much. They’ve generally left me alone since I started going through puberty and started wearing a lot of black, but they’re alright really. They just knew that they couldn’t help with this. I didn’t leave my room for days. I didn’t speak to anyone. I hibernated.

I finally came back to university last week. I’m living in halls instead of my old house with my old housemates. I couldn’t face them while I was grieving at home, I didn’t think I could face them while I was grieving at a house party.

The first few days were rough. I tried to find a routine. I went to my lectures, I talked to my tutors. I did my work. But it was hard. Every song I played reminded me of her. Whenever I got bored and I wasn’t thinking I’d get out my phone and start to dial her number. Once I actually called it and an automated voice told me that it was not in service. Her parents still live near the uni and I’m always worried that I’ll bump into them. I’m definitely not ready for that.

I’ve been drinking heavily. Last night I’d finished nearly two bottles of wine and woke up at about three in the morning with a brutal headache. I clambered out of bed and headed into the communal kitchen to get a glass of water. I didn’t turn the light on; I just grabbed an empty pint glass and filled it from the tap. I drank two pints without slowing down. As I made a start on my third I noticed that someone was in the room with me. I turned around.

Grace was sitting at the table. She was sat in one of the cheap plastic chairs, looking up at me. Her black hair was tangled and soaked. She wore thick mascara around her green eyes. Her black nail polish was chipped. She was wearing red lipstick rather than her usual black. She was wearing a black dress. This was how the undertakers had dressed her. She was shivering.

“Hello, Mike.”

I can’t put down in exact detail what happened next. I can’t because I don’t really remember it. I remember telling her that it couldn’t be her; it couldn’t be because she was dead. She told me that she knew that.

“But here I am.”

There she was. I remember that I reached out to touch her. She was there alright. Her skin was so cold. I got her into my room and put a blanket around her. She said that it wouldn’t make any difference but she was grateful anyway. I told her that I had missed her so much. She told me that she had missed me too. Then I asked her how she had come back.

“I don’t know. I remember feeling like something had grabbed hold of me, was pulling me out through the earth. When I opened my eyes I was outside, lying on the grass and it was raining. And I knew I had to find you.”

I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me. Her clothes were soaked through. As I kissed her I put my hand on the back of her head and pushed my fingers through her hair. I flinched. I could feel the stitches. I pulled away and she asked me what was wrong. I told her that I didn’t want to hurt her. She felt where my hand had been and laughed as tears sprang to her eyes.

“It’s like I’ve got a fucking fontanel.”

She rested her head on my shoulder. I took her hand in mine.

“Can you put some music on?” she asked. “It feels like forever since I last heard any.”

I knew exactly what to play. She smiled as it started and squeezed my hand.

We sat like that on my bed for an hour or two. Sometimes she would ask me how I had been and I would answer honestly. I would tell her that I had been a wreck. I would tell her that I hadn’t been able to function properly without her. Then she would be quiet for a bit. It was the happiest I had been since she had gone. Feeling her breathing in and out, feeling her hair against my neck. Hearing her softly sing along to the choruses made my heart feel like it was going to burst. When the CD had finished playing she gave my hand another squeeze.

“I’ve got to get going,” she told me. We both stood up. She took the blanket off her shoulders and hugged me. I didn’t want to let her go and I told her so.

“You can walk me back, if you like,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s something you’ll want to see.”

I took her hand and told her that I would stay with her as long as I could. We left the flat, me with my arm around her and her with her head on my shoulder again, walking slowly through the rain. At first I tried to think of things to say but I realised that I didn’t want to hear myself speak. I wanted to hear her, to be with her.

We reached the graveyard too quickly. She stopped me at the gates.

“I don’t want you to see,” she told me. “This last bit, this need to just be me.”

“I love you so much,” I said. She said it back to me. “Are you going to come back?” I asked. She smiled through the tears that she was wiping away with her sleeve

“I’ll see what I can do. I’ll really try. I love you, Mike. Thank you for tonight”

Then she turned and walked away. The newer graves are out of sight from the entrance and I watched her walk past the trees and fading gravestones until I couldn’t see her anymore. But I broke. I ran after her, shouting her name. When I reached her gravestone she was gone. A shoe lay on the grass by the stone. Other than that, it seemed to be untouched.

I’ve spent today in a daze. I think people have tried to talk to me but I haven’t really paid them any attention.

And here I am in the graveyard. It’s raining again and it’s getting late. But she said she was going to try and come back again, and I believe that she can. I’ll wait here all night. I’ll wait here every night.


Hello there.

Yes, we're back to short stories. The story behind the title of this tale comes from another project I'm working on with Ben Sheppard: Anna Land Comes Home. It's a horror script and our friend Iain McGibbon decided to write some music for a horror film. He sent us a 9 minute collection of short themes, with the title "Do You Still Love Your Dead Girlfriend Now That She's Alive Again" and the alternate title of "Do You Still Love Your Girlfriend Now That She's Dead Again?" I pinched the second title, like a thief in the night, and I went about a bit of horror writing.

I thought about writing a zombie short story but I honestly couldn't think of a good way to approach it. Stories of girlfriends coming back from the dead have been done in brutally funny ways in the TV shows Misfits and Being Human lately, so I didn't want to include any body horror. I thought about including a sexual element but I couldn't think of a way to improve on the episode of Urban Gothic called "Necromance" that has a schoolgirl figuring out the best way to compete with her mortician boyfriends' bits on the side. So the idea I had was to write a sort of sweet, Goth, shoegazing romance and that's basically what I've tried to do. It was quite nice to write something that didn't go dark or horrible. If anything it gets nicer. While still being quite dark. You can decide what CD they were listening to.

I'm going to repeat my appeal for short story titles. Either leave them in the comments section or on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. I think it could be quite a fun experiment. I'll start pestering specific people for titles soon but if you're reading this and I don't know you personally, feel free to leave a title below.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Here's a bit of Nick Cave.

Oh go on, one more. This time with PJ Harvey

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Final prologue: Moving Forward

So here we go. The last instalment featuring these characters for a while. If you've been following, you'll know that we've met The Monster, Wendy parts One and Two, The Killer, The Wolf, The Vampire, and The Victim. This is a sort of round-up, to remind you where they're all heading.



He stood in his family plot, rubbing his hands together, looking at his brother’s gravestone. He’d spent the last two days organising a quiet, respectful service for Vincent. The quiet part had been easy. There were not many people still around to pay their respects. Most of their old friends who were still alive would not have risked their necks by coming out in the open for something as public as a funeral. It had been cold but the rain had stayed away. So he could be thankful for that.

But now his brother Vincent was beneath the ground in a coffin that had cost most of what Mathieu had earned for accidentally bringing death to the coven and sealing his own fate in the bargain. He had no choices left now. He would do what Émilie Étienne commanded. He was scared. The man he had just buried was the man on whom he had relied to think faster than he could, to be stronger than he could. In return Mathieu would talk. He would negotiate the price, and occasionally negotiate a way to escape a situation with all their limbs still attached to the same places as they had been when they arrived. He talked.

He did not think that he would live very long. There were too many people who had no love for him and his brother. And now his brother was gone. A few days ago, Émilie Étienne’s protection would have guaranteed his safety but now? Now he didn’t know.

He turned away and reached into his coat pocket for the photographs Étienne had given him. Three girls. That’s what they were. None were over thirty. These were the witches he was supposed to shepherd. He doubted any protection he could provide would match the protection they could provide for themselves. The names were written in fountain pen on the back. He had only heard of one of them. Wendy Harris.


It was a few days after the incident and the burns on Madeline’s hands had almost completely healed over. Wendy knew that she had been calling her friends, trying to get some kind of idea of what exactly had happened. She’d asked her if she’d heard anything but Madeline had told her that when she knew something, Wendy would know it too. Wendy didn’t have anyone to call.

So they went on as if nothing had happened. At the clinic, Madeline blamed her injuries on a cooking accident, which it had been, in a way. They waited for another set of parents to bring in their child and in the meantime they simply treated patients. Wendy wondered how she and Madeline would be told about what had happened. Surely they would have to be told. Would there be a letter, a phone call? Would someone come and visit them personally? What would happen with the coven? Would there be elections? Or was that stupid?

Then one morning, a letter arrived. It was sitting on the kitchen table when Wendy came down for breakfast. Madeline sat at the other end of the table, staring at it.

“Open it,” she said.

“Who’s it from?” asked Wendy. She knew it would be official. No one else had this address for her. Madeline gestured to it and Wendy carefully slid her finger under the seal. When she had finished she handed it to Madeline, who read it quickly and put it back in the envelope.

“You’ll have to get packed now,” she said.

“Have you met her before?”

Madeline nodded.

“She’s scary. Intimidating, I mean. If she asks you a question, answer it directly. Chances are she already knows the answer but don’t assume anything. Just do as she tells you. You’ll be fine.”

Wendy wasn’t sure. But she didn’t exactly have a choice. She’d never been to Paris before. And she’d never met Émilie Étienne.


She arrived home at the cottage around two hours after leaving the car and the liquid remains of the vampire burning at the petrol station. She had changed outside the house before running inside to check on the children. Otto was sitting at their bedside and held a finger to his lips as she came in. Alexandra and Florian were fast asleep. She gestured for him to come out into the kitchen, and she closed the bedroom door behind him before embracing him.

“You didn’t answer my call, I was so worried,” she said.

“I didn’t think,” he said. “I just ran. I was scared.”

She nodded, then turned and padded through to the living room. She found a pile of clean laundry on the sofa and pulled on a pair of jeans and an old Zeppelin t-shirt before sitting down.

“Has there been any word from head office yet?” she asked. Otto nodded and sat down next to her, putting an arm around her shoulder.

“They want us to come in one hour. They want to talk to everyone, make sure everyone got rid of their partners OK. Do you think they did?”

Solveig shook her head.

“No. I don’t think so.” She leaned forward and touched her toes with her fingers, stretching out the tired muscles. “We will all have to move. They will have to relocate everything.”

“What do you think the plan will be?”

“I think that they’ll want some of us to run, to keep the children safe,” she said.

“And then there’s the rest,” said Otto. Solveig nodded.

“They’ll want you for that, you know. For the rest,” he told her. She ran her fingers through his hair.

“I know.”


Garrett drove east. He had thought about taking Joanne’s convertible but he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. He liked to drive. He wondered what it would be like in the daytime. He couldn’t imagine it.

He had spent too long in the motel room and had left in a hurry. He hadn’t even attempted to clean up. He needed to put as much distance between him and the mess he had left behind him. He thought about Joanne, and about what was left of her. It relaxed him, until he remembered the reaction that he wanted to achieve but couldn’t. Then he was angry again. He resisted the urge to put his foot down. No need to attract attention. There would be plenty of time for that.

The witch who had given him that stuff in the first place, that...bizarre concoction that had brought back the man he had been, the power he once had, he knew where she had been heading. From Maryland to Connecticut, she’d said. Outside of Boston, somewhere nice, a little gated community. He guessed she’d done well for herself. They all did. Witches. She’d certainly taken enough of his money. He touched the tip of his fang with his tongue and thought about what he was going to do to her. Maybe she didn’t have any more. But she would know someone who did. And she would tell him. Maybe she wasn’t there anymore. If she wasn’t, he would find her.

He put his foot down.


Patrick had gone to make the three women sitting in his living room a cup of tea. He had got as far as boiling the kettle when he had felt his knees suddenly grow weak. He came staggering back into the living room and collapsed in his armchair. Suzy reached over and touched his knee.

“There’s something we need to tell you, Patrick. We want to tell you what happened to your daughter, but we can’t tell you everything. Not because we don’t want to, but because we honestly don’t know.”

He looked up at them. The woman Suzy’s eyes were shining. Polly had her hands on Suzy’s shoulders still, but they were no longer there to restrain her. They were there for support. Even Mary was making eye contact now.

“The drawing in the notebook, that’s your Elsie, isn’t it?”

He nodded. He wanted to say something in reply but couldn’t.

“We found that in a house near where she went missing. A couple of hours’ drive, if that. We found it because we went looking for our friends.”

She turned around to look back up at Polly. Patrick could see a tear running down her cheek. Suzy cleared her throat and spoke for the first time. Her voice had none of Suzy’s earnestness. It was clear, measured, and strong. She looked him in the eye.

“The thing that took Elsie, it’s taken people from each of us. If you can listen, we want to tell you what it what it was.”


She wakes up and looks around. Someone else is in the house. She fell asleep upstairs rather than go back into the basement and now she wonders if that was wise. A clattering comes from the kitchen. She did not clean the dishes. The child’s bones are still in the pot. Maybe she’s in trouble. She pulls the rug off her and gets to her feet.

She treads softly. Whoever is in the kitchen might not know that she is here. She has the element of surprise. She peers through the gap in the door and sees a woman standing by the sink. She wears a long black coat and heavy brown boots. Brown wavy hair flows, tangled and matted, down to just past her shoulders where it looks like it has been hacked off. She is running her finger round the edge of the pot. Whoever she is, she sticks her finger in her mouth and licks it clean. Then she turns.

A long, mostly faded scar runs from above her left eye, across her nose, over her lips, and down to the right side of her chin. Her eyes are wonderfully blue. She thinks the stranger is very pretty.

“Come in,” she says.

She does.

“My name is Elsie,” she says. “What’s your name?”

“I don’t know,” she says, “I can’t remember.”

Elsie smiles.

“It’ll come back to you. You’ll remember everything. But I promise it won’t matter. It won’t matter at all.”

She finds these words comforting and smiles back at Elsie. Elsie picks up the pot and dangles a bone between her thumb and forefinger. It is clean.

“We need to bury these,” says Elsie, “Then we’re going out. Mr. Chalk wants me to show you what you can do.”

“What can I do?” she asks. She worries that she is being too eager but she cannot contain herself. She’s grinning. Elsie does not seem to mind.

“They’re going to be so scared of you,” she says.


Hello there. So that's that. The novel is in progress, and I hope that this has been interesting and fun. I hope it's been an indication of what my writing's like. It's a bit more portentous and less funny than The Novel that Nobody Wanted but hopefully it'll have it's funny moments too.

Also, I'm sorry that this is late. I had a pressing deadline that I think I just about made. Some people have been incredibly generous and helpful and I don't think any of them read this blog, but I would like the thank them anyway. None of them are Michael Sheen, but his time for helping me will come when they realise how brilliant my idea for an Underworld prequel in space is. There is currently an argument raging about the title. What do you prefer: Underworld: Overworld or Underworld: Out of this World? Martin Parsons and Dan Fletcher are respectively to thank for these dueling titles.

The next blog post will either be a short story based on a title by Dr. Iain McGibbon of Phenalia I, friend and collaborator on the project I am working on with Mr. Ben Sheppard, or it will be a sort of open letter to you lot about what this blog should be. I can't commit to keeping putting novel chunks up, I really don't think it would work. One plan I have is to ask you lovely readers and Twitter and whatnot for titles for short stories. I would then write a story with that title. For reading. So let me know if you think of a good one! Or a bad one. That could be fun.

Anyway, thanks again for reading these prologues. I've really appreciated the kind words and the comments. Hopefully at some point there will be a finished novel with these characters. Until then, maybe someone will want The Novel That Nobody Wanted...

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Seventh Prologue: The Victim

Hello there. Welcome to the latest instalment of the prologues for my horror work in progress. So far we’ve had The Vampire, The Monster, Wendy parts One and Two, The Killer, and The Wolf. This is the final prologue, initially titled The Fool. But now it's The Victim, and it presents the last group of characters before the plot starts properly. For now, please enjoy.


Patrick Keel had settled into a routine. He would get up, check Elsie’s room, make a cup of tea, drink half of it, and check the post. When he checked the post he would look under the flower pot by the front door to see if the key was still there. He had left it there when Elsie had first started going out at night with her friends so she wouldn’t have to wake him up when she got home late and drunk. It hadn’t moved since she’d gone. Then he would go inside, turn on the television, and let the day go by.

He didn’t get visitors more than once or twice a year. His brother and sister would ring him once a month to check in on him. Make sure that he was eating properly, that he was keeping the house in a reasonable state. They used to come round to visit but they could never find anything to bother him about and he had nothing to say to them. He would just sit there, politely answering any questions they had. He would give them a quick hug when they arrived and when they left.

The doorbell only rang when someone wanted to sell him something. He would turn them away with firm but gentle refusal. He always answered the door. He always answered the telephone. He checked his emails regularly. He’d even kept his fax machine. Just in case. It was unlikely, of course. But just in case.

The police had been round a few times after it had happened but they hadn’t been in touch for a long time now. He used to call them every day but he’d made himself stop. It was useless to bother them. They would call if they found anything. He couldn’t get too angry that they’d stopped looking; they had a lot to deal with. He knew that they had stopped looking, no matter what they told him. Of course they’d stopped. It had been two years.

He’d even gone up to where she’d last been seen. He’d spent nearly a month going around, talking to people, handing out photos of Elsie. “Have you seen my daughter?” Some people had, and that would always get his heart racing. But they’d always seen her a couple of days ago, they’d seen her with her friends, they’d seen her before she’d gone into the woods. It was never anything they hadn’t already told the police.

He had been inconsolable. Worse than inconsolable. His friends and family had been right to worry. There had been talk of his moving in with his brother, or his sister moving in with him for a bit, just to keep an eye on him. They had always used that phrase. “Just to keep an eye on you.” He’d always found it so sinister. He didn’t understand how it was supposed to be comforting.

But now. Now he was alright. He had reached some kind of balance. He’d found an equilibrium. He looked after himself. He was eating. He washed his clothes. He used the vacuum cleaner. But he didn’t leave the house if he could help it.

He knew Elsie was gone. But he knew that she was alive. He could never explain this to anyone and wouldn’t dream of trying to, but he would know if she was dead. He had no doubt about that. He had no way of finding her but he knew that she was alive. And if anyone came to talk to him about Elsie, he would invite them in, tell them what he knew, and listen to what they had to say.

So when the three women arrived at his front door and told him that they wanted to talk to him about Elsie, Patrick invited them in.

The older one introduced them. She was called Suzy, and she was a good fifteen years older than the one that kept touching her arm and her shoulder. That one said her name was Polly. Patrick would have put her in her late twenties. Polly and Suzy both had long black hair, though Suzy’s was streaked with grey, they wore similar clothes, and they were clearly a couple. The third woman, who Patrick guessed was in her thirties, was called Mary. Mary had short red hair, dressed sensibly, and she stood about a foot apart from the others. Patrick supposed she didn’t know them very well, but that wasn’t really any of his business.

They wanted to know if Patrick could tell them anything about Elsie’s disappearance that hadn’t been in the papers. Patrick gave them a description of each of the items of clothing that she had taken with her, what kind of reading glasses she used, and what kind of car she had driven off in.

“She went missing in November, is that right?” asked Suzy.

Patrick nodded. That had been in the papers. He didn’t really mind going over it all again.

“Have you seen her since?” she asked.

“What kind of a question is that?” he replied. Suzy seemed to realise that she had phrased it badly and began stammering as Patrick leant forward in his chair.

“I don’t mean have you seen her. I’m sorry, that came out wrong. What I mean to ask is, has there ever been an instant, just a moment when you’ve maybe felt her presence, when you thought she might be close by?”

Patrick looked at the three women very carefully. Polly had put her hand on Suzy’s shoulder, either to reassure her or to stop her talking. Mary looked embarrassed but not mortified. He wanted to know where this was going.

“Of course I have. I wake up thinking that she might be asleep in her bed. If I hear a car slowing down as it goes past I think it might be her. But it never is, is it?”

Mary nodded comfortingly, as if to say that she understood completely. This irritated Patrick a little but he tried not to let it show. He wanted to give these people the benefit of the doubt.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Keel. But I’m not talking about that. What you’re talking about is perfectly normal. What I’m asking is quite different. I’m not asking what you’ve hoped for; I’m asking what you’ve felt.”

“Why? What is this about, what are you trying to get me to say?”

Mary stood up and picked up her handbag. She took out a battered brown notebook and opened it to a page near the middle before handing it to Patrick. What he saw got his heart racing. His heartbeat clamoured in his skull.

“We don’t know where Elsie is, Patrick. But we think we know who took her. And we’re looking for him too.”

In the notebook, in pencil, was a detailed sketch of a young woman’s face. In the drawing she was tilted forward with what looked like a noose around her throat, her hair obscuring most of her features, but Patrick recognised her instantly. He wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be crying or bleeding. There was a note under the drawing.




I hope you enjoyed this latest prologue, I'm sorry for the delay but things have been pretty hectic for me at the moment. I was very keen to get this done though, as Patrick, Suzy, Polly, and Mary are the only really human characters in this novel. Mathieu is a killer, these four are normal people. Suzy, Polly, and Mary have a history which will be explained in due course, but I wanted a group of characters who were really driven, who really had a purpose. One observation several people had of The Novel That Nobody Wanted was that the characters sort of drift aimlessly, but I think all of the characters in this have very specific motives and desires.

But what next for the blog? Well, there will be a post either next week or the week after with a small snippet of what's in store for each of the characters, but that will be it for this group for the forseeable future. I'm very pleased that the people I've had feedback from seem to like it, or at least find it interesting.

In the near future there will be a short story that I'm working on, but I would also like to hear if there are any requests. Throw some story titles at me if you like. Otherwise, we'll see how it goes.

Thanks for reading. Shall we have a song? Here's Lou Reed and John Cale:

Monday, 2 January 2012

Sixth Prologue: The Vampire

Welcome to the latest instalment of the prologues for my horror work in progress. So far we’ve had The Monster, Wendy parts One and Two, The Killer, and The Wolf. This is the vampire prologue. It's not pleasant. Please be advised that this is, if not horrifically graphic, rather dark and nasty. I don't know if it would be an 18, but it definitely would be compared to the other prologues. Please bear that in mind. This has the "If you don't like horror, wait until the next post" caveat.

If you fancy a bit of dark, unpleasant vampire horror fiction, please: Enjoy.


Garrett came to with a start. He must have dozed off. All those years and he was still so sloppy. Still, not too much to worry about. It was after three, no one would be prowling around checking on rooms this time of night. He peeled the sheets off himself and shuffled out of the bed and into the bathroom. He turned the water pressure as high as it would go and stretched out his arms. The hot water was more than welcome. The puddle around his feet turned red quickly as he stood, head bowed, as close to the shower head as he could get. It was the good thing about the more expensive motels rather than family owned places or apartments, he noted, that you could normally get a decent shower.

When he was satisfied that he had cleaned himself up properly he draped a towel around his waist and went back to the bed. Something felt different. Something was missing.

The realisation of what had happened came upon him suddenly. He removed the towel and looked down at himself. His penis hung useless, limp between his legs. Garrett briefly attempted to make it respond before running dates through his head, trying to make some sense of the last three weeks.

Three weeks ago he had been in a bar somewhere in Maryland when he had realised the pretty redhead he had been working on was a witch. In an effort to avoid any unpleasantness he’d come clean instantly and apologised for his intentions. She’d assured him that there was no harm done and they’d spent an enjoyable evening comparing world-views, at the end of which she drunkenly agreed to give him what she assured him was a temporary but very real solution to the problem that had plagued all vampires since the dawn of their existence: The fact that when a vampire came back, his manhood did not, that his manhood died with his heart. It had come at a considerable price, and with the warning that the effects wouldn’t last more than 18 days from its use.

A couple of days passed before Garrett actually decided to consume the concoction. It couldn’t have looked less like a traditional herbal remedy. He knew for a fact that no store that sold Echinacea carried sexual aids containing the preserved sexual organs of at least four different members of both human genders. The foul crimson mess had been crammed into a jam jar and sat in Garrett’s duffel bag until he told himself that it was, at least, worth a try.

He had forgotten how strong desire could be. He understood need, the impulse to feed, but this was something else. It was sexual, which he had expected, but it wasn’t just that. It was aggressive, it was violent. Seduction was still a part of his method but the final act had changed dramatically. The ferocity of his attacks now that lust was part of the equation had unsettled him. No longer were his victims left pale and wan with a couple of pin-pricks on their necks to show that something had gone wrong. Now whoever found the body would be hard pressed to tell that they had been human, let alone women. But there was something else. As he debased and ruined their bodies he was assailed by memories that were more than a hundred years old, memories he’d thought he’d forgotten. The face of a whore in a lamp-lit Montana brothel who had laughed at him. The mocking laughter of his companions. The freezing snow-covered woods he had trampled shamefully through on his way home. Their return was unwelcome. He had thought himself above things such as guilt and shame. He would sit at the end of the bed and wonder if this was a tenable situation.

Not that he had any trouble with killing. That wasn’t what kept him at the scene of the crime for hours longer than was sensible. No. He had been like this, in the same state, for so long that this new thing, this new impulse gave him pause. It was possible that the witch had slipped something into the concoction, though he doubted that. Was this something that had always been with him that he’d repressed, or was this something new? Then there was the aftermath. It was impossible to clean up the mess by himself, and he had left the bodies for whoever would come to clean the room. Someone would notice, someone would catch on. But this new aspect was too urgent.

His time was up, and he wasn’t ready. He’d realised that, although it was unnerving and impractical, it was utterly addictive. It rose so quickly and it carried him away. Actions he wouldn’t have even considered before came to him naturally now. After taking the witch’s remedy he’d gorged himself on women as he headed West. It had seemed only appropriate to head for America’s heartland with this renewed vitality. He had completely lost track of the days as he haunted the motels along the quieter highways until he had arrived here. There was a convention in town. Accountants were meeting to discuss how best to adapt to the harsh realities of the current recession. It had been too perfect. Garrett had seen a couple of recessions in his time. He had checked into the motel, stolen a name tag, and assumed an identity not his own. As he scanned the room for the right sort of woman he had felt that he was where he was supposed to be.

The woman’s name had been Joanne and she was now spread over the surprisingly comfortable double bed. She had been slightly older than he had been going for recently. He would have said she was about fifty, appearing about ten years older than Garrett. She’d made an effort. She looked a little sad, was a little overweight, a little past her prime, and she’d seemed genuinely flattered that Garrett would buy her a drink. She was perfect. She was looking for a bit of comfort. But she had fought like a monster when she’d realised what he was doing. It was a popular misconception, Garrett would tell anyone who was prepared to listen, that the lonely ones offered their necks up willingly, that they’d secretly been hoping for this anyway. Bullshit. Garrett knew from experience that the lonely ones were even more determined to cling to life. Still, the scratch marks on his chest and back had almost completely disappeared. The same could not be sad for the wounds he’d inflicted on her. The only part of her body that had been detached was the head, but to say that the rest of her was intact would be inaccurate. Three weeks ago he would not have thought himself capable of such visible cruelty. The sexual aspect of the violence troubled him. He knew what would be interpreted from what he had done to the body, the wounds he had created. Ripping, tearing. It hadn't stopped when her heart had. He hadn't even slowed down. And all with his hands and teeth.

But back to the problem at hand. He told himself that it was possible that the spell was still working, that he was just temporarily unresponsive, but he knew that was wrong. He could feel something missing. Whatever had been woken in him was slipping away and was being replaced by anger. Obviously it may not have been tenable but he was not ready to let it go. It was too soon. Moving quickly over to the bed, he lifted Joanne’s head from the pillow and crushed it against the headboard. It may have been a small and pointless gesture but it calmed him nevertheless. He took a deep breath, drawing his hands across his face to feel the gore, now only lukewarm, dribble across his features. He stuck out his tongue as it made its way towards his mouth. He would find the witch and make her give him more, make it permanent. Of course she had told him that it would be temporary, she wanted more money. And if she wouldn’t help him, then he would just have to show the greedy bitch what she had done to him. He picked up his towel and got back in the shower.


Hello there. Well, I promised a vampire, and this is him. Garrett comes from a couple of ideas that I was working on, and has been heavily influenced by a lot of the research that I've been doing lately for a mostly unrelated project.

So, vampires and sex. Put simply, if you take the classic vampire with no heartbeat, clearly he has no use for his penis. No circulation. No...engorging. This has not been a problem for a lot of modern vampires. The vamps in Buffy, Angel, True Blood, even Twilight are obviously able to perform. If you look at other vampires such as the ones featured in Anne Rice novels, they aren't. They are lovers, but they do not perform the physical act of love. As far as my reading goes, none of them seem especially put out by this distinction. Clearly, Garrett's sexual organ is central to his story, and finding the right way to write it was very difficult. The idea that an immortal is still worried about his ability to perform is funny in a sad, human way, but Garrett’s not a sad character, he is a monster. I wanted the idea that when he lost his sexual urges the first time some horrible part of his nature was actually sublimated, and has now been awoken. Garrett is a serial killer who murders and mutilates women. This led to the second tricky part of this, which was writing the violence. In the end I decided that it wasn't necessary to write the murder itself and to not describe the gore in too much detail. I’ve written before on this blog that writing explicit gore isn’t something I find particularly easy, and I decided that it wasn’t necessary here in any case.

I was also keen to write a vampire who would not be desirable. We all love vampires to be the alluring, beautiful creatures that plant a delicate bite on a proffered lovely neck, and I've written a few of them myself, but if I was going to have a vampire be a main character in what I was writing (which is my intention for Garrett), I wanted him or her to be different from that. But I also didn't want him to be purely animalistic. What I'm interested in is the idea that he's experiencing a second change, and for him to be as excited by it as he is scared, like human characters are when they're turning into monsters. I will try and do this is in a well-judged and well-written manner, unlike my explanation here. I wanted him to be American, and as I’m sure you guessed he’s named after Pat Garrett.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. This was more of a challenge than I thought it’d be which is why I’ve gone on a bit more than I usually do in these postscripts. I don't whether I made the right judgments. I hope you liked it. Oh, aside from the writers I already referenced, big influences on Garrett are Poppy Z. Brite’s killers in Lost Souls and Exquisite Corpse, and my favourite motel hell would have to be the cereal convention in The Doll’s House, Neil Gaiman’s stunning second Sandman volume.

Recently, I told someone that The Novel That Nobody Wanted is actually called Lovely Creatures, and she asked if it was about women. I nicked the title from this Nick Cave song: