On. Off. On. Off.
Amanda let the revelation of her house’s ownership wash over her.
On. Off. On. Off.
It was one thing to appear at a window claiming to be a vampire. Turning up again and attacking her brother was pretty awful too. But claiming to have owned a suburban house for over three hundred years was insane, stupid, and utterly inconceivable.
On. Off. On.
“Could you stop that?” she said, her patience snapping as she considered impossibilities.
“With the light on,” she clarified.
“How does a tiny switch ignite a glass candle?” asked Yulric, partially to her, partially to himself, but mostly to the universe at large.
“Electricity,” she answered. After a minute’s thought, she clarified, “Bottled lightning.”
“Ah,” he said. The intricate workings of various circuits, wires, and fossil fuel burning power plants were beyond him, but dominating an awesome power of the natural world and confining it to a jar was something he could easily understand. His respect for the troublesome blonde girl grew. “I suppose the jars are kept in the walls then?”
“Sure,” she said patronizingly. He flipped the light switch off and on again, this time imagining how the action moved a jar lid over just enough for slivers of lightning to eke out, which wasn’t so far from the truth.
“So, you are my landlord,” she reasoned. “All those checks…er…,” she paused to think back to what Simon’s books would call them, “…notes of script I paid, they were all going to a man buried under my cellar.”
“Though it has been some time since anyone considered me a ‘man,’ I imagine your notes of script have mostly gone to the bank in whose hands I left the deed in trust. So, in essence, yes, your statement is correct.” The vampire picked a picture up off a table. “This is very well done. Who is the artist?”
“It’s called a photograph. It’s a...” She sought an idiot’s definition of what a photo is.
“Picture made from light,” he interrupted. “Photo meaning light, graph meaning drawn. Not that difficult.”
“I suppose not,” she conceded. “So, the bank just kept the house for you all this time. Renting it out, taking the…money. All the while you were…”
Yulric looked up from the photograph. He gave a condescending chuckle which only made Amanda angrier. “Brandenberg and Sons, or whatever it may be called now…
“Premiere Bank of Switzerland,” added Amanda. She’d seen the name on top of her bills enough to know it by heart.
“Ah yes, well, these moneylenders and I have a very…special relationship that comes with being its oldest…” he chuckled again. “… living client.”
He glanced back at the light portrait in his hands. It showed a whole smiling family: mother, father, daughter, and oddly well-behaved baby. He wondered how long a light portrait took to make, how one wielded the light, and how much pain it inflicted on the subjects during the process. This last idea made him smile. He would have to look into becoming a photographist.
While Yulric’s mind swam with misguided ideas of how photos were made, Amanda was summoning up powers of her own, powers which she possessed in abundance: powers which her brother called “Pure undiluted contrariness.”
“So over three hundred years go by and they just hand your money back like that?” she snarked.
Yulric’s head snapped around at her words. “Three hundred years?”
Amanda smiled, finally having made a dent in this thing’s impenetrable superiority. “Over three hundred years.”
Yulric stared at her as if the words themselves hung in front of her face. Could it really have been so long? Surely not. Deep beneath the earth, he had been vaguely aware of events: a war or two, strings of foreign tenants who came and went, not to mention those blasted Quakers. Then, there had been the African slaves, the English mystic with the love of orgies, and those long-haired children who giggled and did not bathe.
So fifty years then, he thought before looking again at the automatic candle in the ceiling and the portrait of light. Maybe one hundred.
Utterly bemused, Amanda pressed her victory. “For over three hundred years, no one wondered. No one questioned. No one suspected you were even here. How is that possible?”
Amanda’s triumph, striding fast and confident, smacked into the easily given answer like a toddler’s head into a kitchen table: there was a moment of wonder and confusion before realization set in and it fell to the floor crying for its mommy. Meanwhile, Yulric examined the room once more with new eyes. Here and there, his 17th century gaze found 21st century technology. Lights lit by themselves. Machines moved on their own. Missing were familiar trappings of household life like churns and looms and body odor. Those that remained, like tables and chairs, were comprised of strange designs and, often, even stranger materials.
And then there had been the horror from last night. The mechanical metal behemoth that had appeared in a flash and trampled him horribly beneath its wheels. How long had it taken to invent such a weapon?
A hundred and fifty years! He thought. No more!
Between her utter defeat and the pathetic old man this creature had suddenly become, Amanda couldn’t bring herself to be combative anymore. She left him to his ever more frantic analysis of his surroundings and got herself a beer.
If there had been any lingering doubts as to the nature of the thing in her living room, those were settled upon her return.
Yep, it’s definitely a man, she thought.
Yulric Bile had found the TV.