The vampire moped for a week.
People have a rather romantic idea of what it looks like when a vampire broods. In Yulric’s day that view consisted of villages laid waste by fire and plague and an unabating dark miasma. During another vampire’s time, it meant maiden’s ravaged and innocence lost in ungentlemanly deeds. Today, of course, it was the existential angst of centuries old teenagers who decry their tragic fate whilst listening to light alternative rock.
The sad truth is that vampires mope pretty much the same way everyone else does: they watch television.
Unlike everyone else though, their legs don’t get stiff and their butts don’t get sore. They don’t have to get up to grab a beer or order a pizza. They don’t bathe, shave, or excrete any euphemistic number, without which they have absolutely no reason to ever set foot in a bathroom. Worst of all, they do not sleep, or at least that’s what Amanda’s moping vampire said from his position on the couch. She couldn’t help but notice that he did occasionally close his eyes and that he was much crankier when he didn’t.
Day and night, he watched. Even late at night, when the only things on were infomercials and phone sex ads, he watched. Every so often, he would appear in a doorway, or round a corner, to ask why some movies were in black and white while the rest were in color. He kept the remote in hand, though and returned quickly to the couch, uttering only the most perfunctory and unconvincing death threats as he went.
It wasn’t that he was intrigued or mesmerized or entranced. Honestly, he didn’t even look very interested. He just seemed…empty. The great fire of Yulric Bile that once threatened to consume the world had been doused and nothing could reignite it.
“Ow!” yelled Yulric, climbing over the back of the couch and rubbing his head. On the other side, a stoic faced cherub stood notebook in hand. At the sight of the small child, Yulric’s eyes flamed, his fangs bared, and even his lungs, which worked selectively, began to creak under the weight of quickening breaths.
“Pestilent, dog-eared child of a worm ridden hag!” he screamed. “I’ll stick your head in that infernal box stove till your eyeballs pop. May your hair turn to leeches and the days of your life peter out into…” at this point he became so incensed that he began switching languages, from French to Arabic to some nonsensical squishing noise and finally into the most incomprehensible of all, Welsh.
The boy scribbled something in his notebook and walked away. Slowly, Yulric’s rage faded. As it did, he slid back down the back of the couch and lay down to watch a woman talk to women about women. That is until…
Up popped the bald, bat-eared head once more. Again, the child stood ready to take notes. This time, the fiery eyes of the beast sought out the objects that had struck it.
“Horseshoes?!?” cried the creature. He picked one up. “Horseshoes? You interrupted the accounts by survivors of the breast plague to test me with iron?” He took a moment to hurl one at the boy. The boy, used to an environment where anyone abnormal was singled out and pelted with welt inducing objects, adeptly stepped aside with the reflexes forged in a thousand games of dodgeball.
Amanda watched the scene play out from the safety of the kitchen threshold. Since the creature Yulric Bile had appeared that first night and taken custody of the living room sofa, Simon had begun a series of identifying experiments. Mostly they involved lobbing various supernatural deterrents over the back of the couch to gauge the level of outrage they caused.
Inevitably, these tests ended in a chase that Amanda would have to break up before death or fire ensued. So, she would tell Simon to stop disturbing their guest, and she would tell their guest to halt his attempts at murder. Both would mutter under their breath and go to their respective corners until Simon found something else he could easily toss.
Except this time. Amanda had suggested the horseshoes.
It hadn’t been a problem, the vampire and the TV, it really hadn’t. Amanda was usually asleep or at work and Simon…well…he didn’t really watch TV anyway. And despite the occasional outburst of unbridled wrath when he tried to remember how the telephone worked, Yulric’s presence on the couch was more than bearable. It was actually kind of comforting. So long as he was on the couch, he wasn’t other places doing other things.
But day followed day and still the vampire retained his spindly clutch on the remote. The weekend came and went. Monday passed and Tuesday too and still no sign that the vampire would voluntarily relent from his silent vigil. Amanda had grown concerned that her haven, her sanctuary, the one bright spot in what had become her tedious existence would be sacrificed on the altar of this intruder’s brooding. Something had to be done. And so, something was.
As the creature and Simon began their grand chase, Amanda stole into the living room. With his fists full of horseshoes, the vampire had left behind the remote which Amanda took up now. Her fingers moved on their own to press the channel’s number. With bated breath she sat through five car insurance commercials until finally the screen turned black, two silver eyes opened, and a husky voice said, “Last time on The Phantom Vampire Mysteries.”
“What is this?”
Dread crept into Amanda’s body. As last week’s recap commenced, she looked up to see the ancient vampire staring at the television: in one hand a horseshoe, in the other a struggling eight-year-old held by the foot.
Amanda hadn’t a second to lose. From around her neck came her confirmation cross. In a whirl of blond hair and sweat pants, she was over the couch and backing Yulric against the wall, Simon still writhing in his grasp. Finally, with nowhere else to go, the vampire shielded himself with the child as the young woman stood her ground.
“Look,” she spat at the vampire, “I’ve let you stay, despite my better judgment and the fact that you tried to kill me and my brother. For some reason, I feel responsible for you being here and so I’ve taken pity on you.”
The vampire hissed angrily at the “p” word, but Amanda continued, “…and let you spend day after day sitting on MY couch watching MY TV. However, Wednesday at eight is my time. And during the next hour, I control all. The couch, the remote, the frequency with which you go to the bathroom. ALL! So get behind me, or begone, or whatever. I don’t care. But you will not. Interrupt. My show!”
The cornered vampire and the human shield each gave the look: the universal look of one male to another when they realize the world is not actually theirs. Then slowly, Yulric Bile set down the small boy and raising his hands in submission said, “I merely wished to know what you were watching.”
The furies that had risen up in Amanda packed their bags and left, leaving her feeling kind of silly. She tried not to let it show too much. “The Phantom Vampire Mysteries.”
There was a twinkle in the vampire’s gray, cloudy eyes at the program’s name, if twinkle is what you call it when such a being shows interest. Spark would be a better word. Ominous foreboding, better still.
“May I watch it with you?” he asked. His tone was formal, polite even. Different from before when any sense of genuine manners was marred by arrogance. There was also a hunger there. A need.
Need. Amanda knew that feeling all too well. It was need that had gotten her into this mess. Need that had driven her to her brother’s books. Need that had brought them to this house, and, ultimately, to the secret buried deep in its foundations.
In the background of the standoff, the opening credits began to play. Amanda realized that, without meaning to, her confrontation had made her miss the opening scene of the show.
In desperation to save her evening, she relented. “Fine. But no questions. And no bathroom breaks, except during commercials.”
“I don’t go to the…” he began, but stopped once he saw her look. Logic, obviously had no place here.
“Who is that?”
The question broke the silent anticipation that followed the commercials. Amanda tried to let the interruption go. She tried to ignore the fact that it had been exactly two minutes since her “guest” had promised not to do precisely this. However, she could feel his eyes on her, patiently waiting for a response.
“Phantom,” she said tersely without looking away from the television.
“Ah,” he said, “the human protagonist.”
“No,” she corrected, “the vampire protagonist.”
“Ha!” Yulric let out the hearty laugh of one who thinks they understand sarcasm. Amanda smirked knowingly. He would see soon enough.
“What are those people doing?” he exclaimed. There was a certain anxiety in his voice that pleased Amanda.
“Why, I think they are drinking blood!” she responded in fake astonishment. As she did, she looked at the old thing on the couch. He was sitting up now, wide-eyed, and pointing.
“But why would humans drink blood?” Yulric asked.
“Because, they aren’t human,” she grinned. “They’re vampires.”
Yulric stared at her, eyes wide in panic and fury, then at the television, then back at her. His mouth opened and closed several times. His claws raked at his own skin. And then, without a word, he sat back into the couch, eyes fixed on the screen. Amanda was able to enjoy the rest of the program in peace.
Once it was over, she turned to face her burden. His eyes remained on the television, his arms folded. He was pouting again.
“So, this ‘Phantom’ is a ghost?” he asked without looking at her.
“The ghost of a vampire,” she said kindly. Now that she had been able to watch her show, she found herself far less annoyed at the beast. “He refused to drink blood and so starved himself to death.”
“Impossible,” he muttered still not looking at her. He seemed to blame her for the show’s existence.
“Maybe,” she conceded. “But not in the world of the show. Anyway, this action of sacrifice gives Phantom a special kind of power and allows him to come back to the world of the living as a ghost.”
“And then he solves crimes,” she added rather lamely.
“And the friend?” asked Yulric.
“A vampire,” she answered.
“And the lover?” he continued.
“A human,” she told him.
“And the difference?”
Amanda looked at him, an eyebrow raised. “I don’t understand the question.”
“What is the difference between the friend and the lover?”
“Well,” began Amanda, “Sasha is the woman who loves Phantom and the reason why he died as a vampire. He refused to drink blood for love of her. Nora, on the other hand, is Phantom’s best friend, confidant, and comrade-in-arms who secretly loves him and is, in all actuality, a better match, but…”
The creature waved his hand to cut her off. A good thing too as it allowed Amanda to retain a semblance of dignity. She had very nearly divulged the hours of message board discussions and fan-fiction she had spent on the Phantom-Nora relationship. Not that he would have known what any of that meant. To Yulric, a “shipper” was someone who hired out boats.
“What I meant,” he clarified, “is how can you tell which is the vampire?”
“Because Nora drinks blood and Sasha doesn’t,” replied Amanda.
“But did not this Sasha drink the blood of a vampyr…” He said the last word as if a skunk had just sprayed directly into his mouth. “…to heal herself?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Then how?” The old man was now looking at her again. His eyes were growing in anger, but the muffled, futile anger of one who refuses to believe the sky is blue, gravity works, or people evolved from primates.
“Well, Nora is super strong…”
“Marginally,” he interjected.
“Barely,” he interrupted.
“If you can starve to death, you are not immortal,” he countered. She had to admit, he actually had a point there.
“And much hotter than Sasha.”
“Ha!” Yulric laughed mirthlessly. “Incorrect. Nora was said to be quite cold to the touch.”
“I mean that Nora was much more attractive, physically. Sexy. More beautiful.”
Yulric said nothing. He just looked at her.
“Sasha,” she continued, trying to put it in terms the creature would understand, “is more…pretty. Not as beautiful. Therefore, she is human.”
There was a long stony silence between the two: the beautiful young girl and the decrepit undead man. Eyes locked. They gazed at each other for a long time before…
Laughter. A shrieking, dry, dead laugh erupted out of the creature on the couch. Yulric Bile flopped back into the cushions. His bones crackled and popped as he clapped his hands appreciatively.
“So, this is what we have become,” he cackled trying to catch his breath…or whatever he did instead of breathing. “What you have made of us. Millennia of legend and lore and now we appear to you as mere adolescents in the height of beauty and bloom. Tell me, are all the stories of my kind thus? Are vampyrs always immortal champions with rosy cheeks and marble physiques?”
“Sometimes they’re bad,” she said. He laughed even harder.
“Indeed, sometimes we are bad. Using our seductive features for nefarious ends, no doubt. Immortality. Beauty. Power. All rolled into a single drama. A very pleasant fiction indeed.”
“Mostly,” said Amanda.
“Mostly?” mocked the vampire. “Is there a downside to their existence? Is the curse of the Phantom, having to choose between locks of gold or tresses of auburn?”
“No, the show is ‘mostly’ fiction,” replied Amanda. “Because The Phantom Vampire Mysteries is written, produced and acted by real living vampires.”
The laughing stopped.
Yulric Bile spent every hour of every subsequent day pouring over episodes of The Phantom Vampire Mysteries. He finished the first five seasons in less than a week, including commentary, special features, and Easter eggs. The latter were painful to watch. Not because they ruined the illusion or were badly produced, but because they were Easter eggs. Even a reference to holy days could hurt.
It was amongst these hidden documentaries that Yulric found what only true fans of the show had discovered and what only the most rabid, insane, or Amanda fans of the show, believed: that vampires were, in fact, real and that most of the cast and crew were among their number. Here was an interview with the producers explaining their desire to rectify the lack of opportunities in the television industry for the undead. Here was the director discussing about the difficulty of filming an action scene due to the actor’s super speed. Here was the one human actress talking about how great the rest of the cast were and how they were just like everyone else.
When he had exhausted every episode, interview, and extra, he moved on. He searched for anything with vampires in it: other TV shows, other movies, other books. It was all devoured until Yulric had become an expert on the modern vampire, from the poem written to impress Lord Byron to the popular teen drama about two vampires in love with the same girl.. Finally, after three weeks of nonstop research, Yulric came to a decision.
Perhaps not at the most opportune time.
“You will take me to meet the vampires,” Yulric said.
“GET OUT!” screamed Amanda pulling the shower curtain out of his hand and hiding behind it.
“Not until you agree…” Yulric was cut off by the most vicious, wrathful stare this side of himself.
“OUT! NOW!” she barked.
Yulric decided to appease her. He did after all still need her assistance. “Very well,” he said with a little bow after which he exited the bathroom.
The vampire was waiting on the other side of the door when Amanda finished her shower.
“You will take me to meet the vampires,” he repeated.
“We are not having this conversation right now,” she snarled.
“And why not?” asked Yulric.
“Because I’m wearing a towel!” she shot back.
“And?” Yulric feigned ignorance.
“AND wearing a towel is not the best bargaining position,” she replied sarcastically. “SIMON!”
“Yes!” came a voice from downstairs.
“Can you come up here?” she called out. The boy appeared, sweaty and disheveled, wearing a dirty apron and holding a trowel. She didn’t even want to know why. “Watch him,” she instructed and disappeared into her room.
The vampire glared at the boy and vice versa.
“So, the shower didn’t work, huh?” said Simon wiping his hands on his apron.
“No,” Yulric scowled, “it did not.”
“I told you,” Simon gloated.
Yulric refused to acknowledge that with a response, true though it may have been.
“I don’t suppose you know anything about masonry?” asked Simon.
“That depends,” Yulric replied.
The door opened and Amanda appeared in her hospital scrubs. “Thank you Simon.”
“Don’t mention it,” the boy said, taking up his trowel and hopping down the stairs once more.
“Now, you,” she said turning to Yulric.
“You will take me…” the vampire began.
“FIRST OF ALL,” she spoke over him, “never, EVER go into my bathroom again.”
“I don’t…” Yulric protested.
“You can’t…” he growled.
The vampire snarled. “Or what?”
“Or…I’ll throw out the TV,” she threatened.
Yulric’s eyes went wide. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“I don’t need it. Simon doesn’t watch it. I really don’t see a reason why we need a TV in the first place really,” she said. “Do you?”
Yulric fumed impotently. Through gritted teeth, he answered, “Very well. Now…”
“Second,” she interrupted him again. The vampire hissed in anger. “Any future conversations we have will be predicated on both parties being fully clothed. Is that understood?”
Cracks were forming in the vampire’s teeth. “Yes.”
“Good,” she spat. Taking a deep, calming breath, she continued. “Now, is there something I can do for you?”
The vampire took some deep, unnecessary breaths. Killing the girl where she stood would not give him what he wanted. And the elaborate tortures that immediately came to mind, might put her off cooperating. So, with a tiny bow, he adopted a demeanor previously reserved the most insufferable of Templars. “Dear lady, I humbly beseech your aid in acquiring an audience with the vampires.” He ended with a flourish of his arms and another bow, which he held looking down at the ground in a grand display.
“That was overdoing it a bit,” she said.
“The French never thought so,” Yulric retorted, still with the deceitful charm in his voice.
Amanda thought long and hard before answering. In the end though, the ancient creature’s request lined up with her goals exactly: namely getting him off her back and getting in with the undead. “Fine,” she conceded. “I will take you to see the vampires.”
Yulric bowed again, even lower.
“Stop that,” Amanda said embarrassed at the ostentatious display. He stood with that horrible impish smile still etched on his face. She went to leave and to her horror, he made a move to go with her.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“You said you would take me to see the vampires,” he answered in tones both polite and utterly condescending.
“Not now!” she exclaimed.
He bit his tongue. Hard. Black blood dripped down his mouth before he spoke again. “Why not?”
“I’m busy,” she pushed past him and descended the staircase.
“Doing what?” he inquired, his politeness was running out and the anger was rising again.
“Working,” she shouted back at him.
“You said…” he began.
“Look,” she appeared at the bottom of the suitcase, “I said I would take you to see the vampires and I will. When I have time. But now, I don’t. So…” she thought of something impressive to say, but had clearly run out of steam. So she gave an awkward nod and walked out the door.
The vampire remained at the top of the stairs. A smile, a real, horrible smile spread across its lips.
“Simon!” he called.
“What?” the boy shouted back from somewhere in the house.
“What is your sister’s work?” he asked.
“She’s a nurse,” replied Simon.
The vampire was fairly certain that the young woman had not recently conceived and so assumed the boy was using the word in a medical context.
“A nurse where?” he shouted.
“Shepherd’s Cross Hospital,” Simon answered. “Why?”
The eight-year-old received no reply. In fact, Simon could not help but note that the vampire was unusually quiet the entire evening. Not that he lost too much sleep over it. He was too busy building a forge in the backyard.
 The microwave. Another challenging conversation, and as Yulric didn’t yet understand what could and could not be put inside, he wasn’t allowed to touch.
 And well she should, since she was.
 She obviously had no idea that the interview with the vampire actors included comments on how hard it was not to rip out her throat and lap up the blood.
 You know, that one. The one that isn’t that other one.
 St. Jerome of Aquitaine. Jerome the Devout, though no one called him that. References to him in the letters of his fellow knights are believed to be the first usages of the word “douche.”