BLOOD ROSE

Vernal Equinox 2001

FICTION

DF Lewis is the recipient of the British Fantasy Society Karl Edward Wagner Award 1998.

He has some 1300 different stories published in printed books and magazines from 1987. He has appeared for five consecutive years in YEAR'S BEST HORROR STORIES (Daw USA) and has stories in literary journals such as STAND, ORBIS, IRON, PANURGE and LONDON MAGAZINE. His work appeared in THE BEST NEW HORROR Vols. One, Two & Eight. In addition, he has several 'honourable mentions' in YEAR'S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR. along with many stories in professional book anthologies. His acclaimed novella "AGRA ASKA" was published in 1998, and he produced the paperback book Only Connect written in collaboration with his 78 year old father.

In 2000, he produced two novel-length accretions called MISCREANT IN MOONSTREAM and EMOSS CRACK which are autonomously seeking their own market.

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DF Lewis


Tnce upon a time there was a vampire, and he resided in the city, basically minding his own business. Nobody knew about him since everybody was moonlighting. The waves of world recession were crashing over the dams, and even vampires, no doubt, found it hard to get blood from stones.

He lived in the city's periphery, accommodating himself in a large house called Rollingside. Those of you owning cellars with outside access should beware of such Earth stowaways (as vampires have been called in some circles), especially if you seldom check out its integrity as a safe haven for you and your family ... simply waiting for the odd rare occasion when Hell breaks loose (which, according to the political complexion of the world, is becoming even rarer) and, then, you would have to clamber down there, with daughter Maisie giggling a lot, your partner Rachel mothering over the supplies, little Dick squawking fit to wake the very bogey-man he fears at the bottom of the dark bunker stairs and, finally, yourself, heart in mouth, yet proudly responsible and decidedly in charge.

You had, of course, no reason to suspect that an Earth stowaway lurked in the cellar of Rollingside. You had even less reason to believe in the existence of such creatures. If anyone used the word 'vampire' in your presence, you were apt to guffaw loudly, slap the culprit on the back and buy him another drink in the hope that he might give you another laugh. After all, you are relatively strait-laced, if good-humoured, well-respected, a slightly unimaginative individual who took his manly duties seriously enough to make you avoid anything resembling a free spirit. And, what were vampires, if they were not free spirits?

Well, of course, there did come a day when you needed to visit the cellar. It was not exactly an international crisis that caused such out of character behaviour - more your own fears.

You had had a dream.

And dreams were usually things to ignore, if they were not forgotten first, which, of course, they almost invariably are.

But this dream was sufficiently vivid for you to have recognised every corner of Rollingside, as the dream took you on a guided tour. There was Maisie's teenage hovel at the back of the house, walls covered in pop promos. Rachel's sewing-room, stocked with the tiniest and largest needles you had ever seen. Dick's nursery, all as realistic as it was during waking hours, except the jack-in-the-box was perceptibly larger. Your own den, full of stuffy books, most concerned with the business whence your salary derived - and, yes, that old typewriter that was clattering away as if it were a word processor. However, the trip round the cellar, was the dream's tour de force. Even the impenetrable darkness was penetrable enough to discern the dark shape cowering in the corner close to the old mangle you couldn't remember stowing in the cellar all those years ago. Yet, of course, it rang true that it was there.

The shape moved. But you woke up before you could establish the shape's nature. Shapes were often simply that: an almost formless form that shouldn't have been there in the first place. And, today, being a national holiday, you were determined to establish the state of the cellar for real. Rachel was in her sewing-room, making knickknacks for sufferers of the recession. Maisie listened to some choking noise which she called music; well, if she weren't listening to it, she must be deaf! Dick was on his afternoon nap, having, all morning, driven you mad with his own incessant madness. Indeed, Rollingside was culling no fungus, as you often said, when in a puckish mood.

But you were not in a puckish mood today. The dream had been unsettling and the door to the cellar was sticky. You examined your hands for tell-tale stains. Your hurricane-torch splattered the walls with a light they had not seen for as long as it takes a page from one of your stuffy books to incubate a visible foxing. You tentatively tread downwards, knowing that the steps were dependable stone.

Slowly, did it.

Ah, there was the mangle in the corner, remarkably similar to how you recalled it all those years ago, forgetting for a moment that a dream had reminded you as recently as last night. No nondescript shape close to it, however. But why should there be? Dreams were never real.

The door to the outside showed not even a glimmer of its presence, thus summoning a glow of satisfaction to your heart. You had sealed it up all those years ago, leaving not even one crack to show the light through. Playfully, you gave the mangle handle a quick turn, expecting a rust-choked groan to issue forth. It was, of course, immoveable. A cause for a smile. There was nothing more comforting than knowing nature was a stickler for entropy's rights.

You squatted in the corner, to gain a few moments' quiet meditation. Your den upstairs was never sacrosanct enough, not sound-proofed, a place from where either Maisie, Rachel or Dick could easily flush you out upon the slightest pretext. Here, you were supremely alone.

Stowed away - like the mangle.

Someone else, the person you never wanted to be in the first place, left up the stone steps, and you heard the door slam decisively shut. You were now even more solitary, with him gone. Simply a shape. Not even a bag of bones. All the life-blood squeezed out. And not one dream to disturb you.

Heaven, you thought, sheer heaven. A breaking surf-wave of Nirvana.

And, the mangle turned of its own accord, grating the dust-laden air just as if it were a blood-into-stone processor.


 

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Vernal Equinox 2001 Issue, Updated March 21, 2001

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