Do vampires really exist?
WANTED: One Honest-To-Goodness Vampire
“If a vampire did exist, where would I find one? And if there was just one, then there could be others. And if there were others, they should be easy to find.”
Jonathan Hawker sped down the dark, rain-soaked highway, his camera sat on the seat next to him. He always had a tendency to talk to himself while he was thinking.
“And if the discovery of an alien, or a hairy bigfoot could make someone rich, then a real live vampire could make someone very rich!”
Jonathan was an amateur photographer for the Daily Globe, and at twenty-three, was probably the youngest employee the paper had ever hired. Bursting into the publisher's office one afternoon with long red hair hidden and held tightly in a ponytail behind his head, Jonathan begged for a job. He had literally thrown himself upon the mercy of the editor, and as his pleading blue eyes peered out from a face completely pocked in freckles, Jonathan was hired.
The Globe paid him little to no money at all, but John swore he was going to make it to the top--do something totally original and fantastic. “Aliens and bigfeet are old news,” thought John. “What I need is something sensational.” He finally decided he would try to prove to the world, beyond any reasonable doubt, that vampires really did exist just as he had always suspected they did since he was eight years old. John's entire life had been dedicated to the supernatural: ghosts, werewolves, and vampires. He knew that someday he would get a chance to prove it; and now that day has come.
“Photographs won’t be enough,” he mused. “I’ll need to capture one, convince one to talk to me, and to let me do an exclusive.”
As he approached the old cemetery, a very large black dog ran across the road in front of him. John slammed on the brakes and was forced to swerve to keep from hitting the animal.
Pulling over to the side of the road, he folded his arms across the steering wheel and collapsed his head down upon them. “This is gonna be a long night, John.” It started to rain again.
He quickly checked his watch. It was already 11:30. “Damn, I’m late,” he cursed. He was supposed to have met the caretaker at the front gate over a half-hour ago; a man by the name of Smith -- Cyrus Smith.
Smith’s phone message had immediately sparked Jonathan’s interest. He had played it over and over again, and every time he would hear something different. He stared, chilled, at the red number on the answering machine, blinking slowly, steadily, like a heartbeat.
The message made a moaning, wailing kind of noise in the background that Jonathan couldn’t quite make out; it was like the sound of a tape recording played backwards. The connection was scratchy and fuzzy -- in and out, as if the man was calling from another world. The sound of the man’s voice made the hair rise on the back of Jonathan’s arms. No matter how many times he played it, the effect was always the same, it sounded like a phone call from Hell.
“You want to meet a real vampire, heh?” the scratchy voice asked in an old European accent. “Come to me, then. I’ll be waiting for you at the New Moon Cemetery at 11 o’clock. Come and see for yourself.”
Jonathan thought he had a keen sense for smelling out a story, and this Mr. Smith was definitely somebody he wanted to talk to. This guy was either a certifiable nut-case, or he was the genuine article.
The ad he ran in the Globe simply asked for information leading to the known whereabouts of a vampire.
Wanted: One honest-to-goodness vampire.
Will pay top $$$. Contact Jonathan at the Daily Globe
Even though he didn’t really have any money to offer as payment, Jonathan felt that if he actually found a real vampire, he would be able to negotiate a deal.
The front gate was open as Jonathan slowly drove through, and a bas-relief of a large moon was welded into the entrance like a coat-of-arms.
Across the arch in white lettering it read, New Moon Cemetery. Jonathan craned his neck around--straining to see if Mr. Smith was anywhere around.
The car’s headlights reflected off endless rows of gravestones going up a hill and down along a line of trees. The immaculate lawn was laid out like carpet beneath towering pines whose tops were abruptly swallowed-up by the darkness overhead.
“It looks peaceful enough,” thought Jonathan. “Not a place I’d ever want to work at, though.” He wondered then, if the dead ever missed the rain, or the cold and windy nights. Off to his right he saw a small cottage; the lights were out. Jonathan shut down the car and looked the place over from the safety of his automobile. In the quiet that followed he could hear the rain pelting the metal roof and hood of the car. The side windows were streaked, wet and blurry, they quickly began to fog-up from his body heat.
Tap, tap, tap! Someone rapped on the rear window. Jonathan nearly jumped out of his seat. He turned to look, but couldn’t see anyone.
Click, click, click, click, came a sound at the driver’s side window. Jonathan hurriedly twisted back around, honking the car’s horn in the process. He sensed an uncomfortable adrenaline rush which made him feel claustrophobic, trapped in a cage.
A tall dark figure stood very close to the car persistently clicking a long fingernail on the window. Jonathan couldn’t make out the top half of the person from his vantage point.
“Uh--Mr. Smith?” he called out. There was no answer.
Jonathan tried to get the electric window down, but it wouldn’t work without the motor running. He heard the discernible click of the door-locks as he pushed the wrong button. Fumbling frantically with his car keys, Jonathan tried to turn on the ignition so the window would work.
A large face as white as the moon bent down and looked into the car. The man’s head was completely hairless, even his eyebrows were missing. His eyes were large and black, showing practically no whites in them at all.
In frustration he let out a plume of hot breath, fogging over the window; Jonathan thought the man’s eyes had suddenly flashed red.
“Mr. Smith?” he called out again. Visibly shaken, he finally got the key turned on and rolled down the window. He started to apologize for being so late, but no one was there. Curiously, he stuck his head out the window and looked around, feeling the cold rain hit his face. “What the hell, now where’d he go?”
“Ahhh!” Jonathan stood straight up in his seat, nearly pushing his feet through the floorboard. “Jeez, man!” Sitting right beside him was the bald-headed man, the man who just moments ago had been on the outside of the car.
“So, Jonathan, you’ve come after all,” he said, triumphantly.
“That’s impossible! How’d you do that? How’d you get inside my car?”
The man just smiled, curling his thin lips upward and exposing jagged, rotten teeth. He wore a long, floor-length overcoat trimmed with black animal fur. His hands were overly long and white as if the man was made entirely of alabaster. He suddenly shook himself like a dog--splattering water all over the inside of the car.
“Not a fit night out for man or beast, is it?” The man’s voice sounded hoarse and tortured. The same voice Jonathan had heard on his message machine.
“Uh, no . . . I suppose not. Are you Smith? Cyrus Smith?”
“In the flesh, so-to-speak. And you must be Jonathan Hawker from the Daily Globe. Correct?”
“Yes. I, uh . . . got your message. Sorry I’m late.” Jonathan, feeling out-of-sorts, tried to bravely slip back into business mode. “It took me awhile to find this place in the rain. Hell, I didn’t even know they had a cemetery way out here.”
“This is the old cemetery,” Smith explained, in his droning, raspy voice. “It holds most of the original founders of the city, plus a few other unknowns. People don’t use it much anymore. I still keep watch over the place, though, making sure no one tries to get up and leave.” He smiled again.
Jonathan laughed, nervously. He felt very uncomfortable with this guy sitting so close to him. He had an instinctive urge to get out of the car and take off running. “Uh, about the ad,” he ventured, holding back his fear.
“Yes, yes . . . the ad. Wanted: One Honest-to-Goodness Vampire.”
“Yes, Mr. Smith, what can you tell me?”
“Tell you? Nothing. But I can show you.”
“Okay . . . show me then.”
“First, there is the matter of payment.”
“Well I, uh . . . don’t have any cash on me right now. But if you can show me irrefutable proof, we both stand a chance of becoming very rich indeed.”
“I don’t want money! I have no need for it. I am already richer than any ten men!” He stopped to rub dripping water from his forehead. “But I would ask a small favor of you. As payment, shall we say, for the proof I will provide you. A trifle, really. What I would accept as payment would simply be your constant vigilance of the New Moon Cemetery.”
“What? You mean, you want me to work here as the caretaker?”
“Well, that doesn’t sound too hard. Yes. I’ll do it.” Jonathan would agree to anything to get a sensational. He felt very close. “Now, do you know where I can find a vampire?”
“Of course, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” Cyrus Smith started to laugh. It was not pleasant sound, more of a mocking chortle. “Yes, I can show you.” Jonathan saw the red flash in the man’s eyes again. In a blur of motion, he was gone.
“What the . . . .” Jonathan caught a glimpse of movement in his rear-view mirror, just as that big hairless white head suddenly appeared behind him. Cyrus leaned over the front seat, pulling Jonathan’s ponytail and forcing his head back.
He whispered hoarsely into Jonathan’s ear. “Are you sure you want to see?” Smith’s other hand rested on Jonathan’s shoulder--holding him very still.
“You . . . you’re a vamp . . . .”
“Yes,” he chuckled. “I’m a vampire. But vampires don’t like to be found, Jonathan, they like to be the ones to do all the finding.”
Jonathan saw razor-sharp teeth appear in the mirror just inches from his neck. Smith’s breath was foul and the stench was more than Jonathan could endure. “I’ve been looking for someone to replace me here in this land of the dead. And you so graciously have accepted.”
“But I can’t! I just said that! I came to do an exclusive story on your life. Take some pictures -- become famous!”
“Pictures? Vampires never like to be photographed! And I have no need of notoriety. I like my existence to be kept quiet . . . secret. That gives me the freedom of mobility. You see, I long to travel abroad again, make my mark upon the world. I’ve been held down here for way too long now.”
Cyrus pointed out the front windshield. “See all those graves out there? Those are all my ancestors: relatives, friends, and lovers. Every new moon they awaken and come to visit me. My presence here keeps them from wandering off and getting discovered and bringing destruction down upon the rest of us. For years I’ve been hunting for exactly the right person to take my place, to guide and protect my family as I have done throughout these many years.”
Jonathan was desperate. He didn’t like how this whole thing was turning out. He clumsily felt his camera sitting next to him in the seat, got his hand under it, and while Cyrus spoke, he lifted it up and pushed the shutter button. The car lit up in a brilliant flash of light.
In that flick of an eye, Cyrus disappeared. Then, just as suddenly, he was outside the car again; reaching in through the open window and angrily grabbing Jonathan by the front of the shirt.
John soiled his pants.
“That’s wasn’t smart, Jonathan! Wasn’t smart at all!”
Kicking and screaming, Jonathan was violently pulled out of the window.
A few days later, Jonathan Hawker’s car was found by the local police at the front gate of the New Moon Cemetery. A search was carried out which turned up nothing at all. And in the end, Jonathan’s personal effects were brought to the editor of the Daily Globe, which was the closest thing to family that Jonathan had ever known.
It was several weeks later when the editor received a plain brown envelope in the mail. He set it on his desk and studied the return address:
New Moon Cemetery
2666 Lamsite Way
New Orleans, LA.
Curiously, he tore it open. A photograph fell out upon his desk. He picked it up, examining the picture.
It was a single snapshot of Jonathan, blurry and out of focus. It looked like it had been taken from the inside of his car. Jonathan’s face was horribly seized in terror: eyes bulging; mouth gaping open as if in a scream. There was something directly behind him; the editor grabbed his magnifying glass to take a closer look. It showed two red dots floating in the air--nothing else. It looked like an over-exposure. The editor shrugged.
Casually, he flipped the photo over. On the back was scribbled a short but cryptic message:
Here is genuine proof of the existence of Vampires.
I desire nothing in return for I am happy now in my new
Do not make any attempt to contact me, for
tomorrow will always be my permanent address;
where a New Moon fills my window.
He dropped the photo into the garbage can. “The kid never could take a good picture.”
It was the night of the new moon. A young man with alabaster skin sat outside a small cottage with a notebook and pen upon his lap. His long thinning red hair hung down over the shoulders of his black fur coat. His shocking blue eyes flashed red then focused out into the distance. A tortured grin stretched across his freckled face.
He looked out upon the gravestones and markers, watching the lines of the dead filing slowly down the hill toward him. Tonight he would interview as many of them as he could, writing down everything they said as part of his new collection of memoirs. They were his most valued possession, the proof he so desired to obtain, but now could never share with anyone.