Death of a Vampire (or A Door Opens To A Dark Room)
(My work truck out front a Brooklyn jobsite – Photo by Joe)
On the subway back to Manhattan I sat with a vacant expression. I was dog tired from a long day at a thankless job. I do demolition, which is miserable work. It’s especially bad when you have to gut the interior of an old walk-up, where plaster over wire mesh-and-lath walls and ceilings were made to withstand Armageddon. Add soot-covered insulation that falls like snow and nobody wants to work. No one is happy, least of all me.
On the train, I had a protective hand over my canvas, black messenger bag that was on the seat next to me. Inside were various papers and notes, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel, my camera, and laptop. My attention drifted from the subway ads, to the girl across from me that would be very pretty if she didn’t seem impossibly distant, to a middle-aged Latin male with a pencil thin beard, to the grit in the cracks and seams on the floor of the shiny new car.
When the doors slid open at Bergen Street station, I saw Benny, “the cigar store Indian” standing as if the engineer had stopped the train explicitly for his entrance. My vacuity gave way to anger. I rolled my eyes and turned away. Benny sat next to my messenger bag. He seems to have a GPS on my position. It would be impressive if he wasn’t such an annoyance.
Yesterday, too, Benny had tracked me down. It was on my lunch break that he startled me. I had found a quiet spot on the third floor of the four-story walk-up we were gutting. Covered in dust, my eyes shut, I sat in a dilapidated office chair with my feet up on a pile of rubble. I cracked an eye. Particles gleamed with sunlight. To my surprise, I saw Benny’s thin frame appear and thought I was dreaming. That was, until he spoke.
“Even though Robert is a stolid, undead thing, a vampire,” Benny had begun, his voice just loud enough to be heard over the drone of meringue music that came up through the bare plank flooring, ”he has picked up on our intentions to kill him. I believe the odd spirit warned Robert. Now he knows my face. He will know yours. And it will be soon, a week, maybe less, that he will find his way to your door. Let’s kill him tonight, get it over with. Time is of the utmost importance.”
I had told him, “no.” True to his word, he had sought me out the next day.
The train rattled on into Manhattan and Benny had yet to say a word. It made me suspicious. Dressed in an old three-piece-suit that he had worn on all the occasions I’ve seen him of late, Benny–who is homeless–didn’t smell, nor was the suit dirty.
The trained neared Wall Street station, when at last he spoke. “You have the weapon I gave you,” he said resolutely as if I would need it soon.
I didn’t respond, though closed my grip on my messenger bag. Inside the bag, the blade he spoke of-was ensconced between the pages of The Life of Pi. It was a knife made from hardwood. Days ago after I had agreed to help him kill the vampire, Benny had presented me with it. The knife had a finely carved handle and a double-sided, blunt blade that came to a point. Because it wasn’t sharp, I had thought there was a mystical aspect to the wooden knife when used on a vampire. In the middle of a sleepless night the realization came to me that the knife wasn’t meant to slash. It could be made useful only by a violent plunge.
“I wasn’t of sound mind when I had agreed to help kill the vampire,” I said under my breath, eyes set past Benny, down the length of the bright subway car. Many of the riders looked dazed, between moments of “life.”
Benny scratched his nose with his index finger. His nails were very clean for an old homeless man.
“I was caught up in the moment,” I added before my cell beeped with an incoming text. “It was the Seaport,” I said, looking down at the phone. “That place gets the best of me.” I read the message and gazed about like an angry owl.
“What’s wrong?” Benny asked, with sudden sensitivity.
“Where’s Robert going to be tonight?” I asked.
“He usually goes to the Pathmark on Cherry Street and sucks the blood from the rats.”
“My lady is shopping there right now!”
I spotted our Camry in Pathmark’s parking lot under a bright fluorescent street light. Benny told me to follow him around the side of the supermarket. He said we should wait by the dumpsters for Robert, but I wanted to check on my lady friend(LF).
I went through the automatic doors and made my way across the front of the store between the cashiers and front end caps. I spotted her in a short black dress and gray leggings. She was pushing a cart in the coffee aisle with her back to me. The pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts) were with her. They were dressed in jeans and stylish shirts. Given a quick glance, they looked like suave hipsters. But if one could espy their shopping ritual, they would see num and nuts dance about my LF in orbital patterns as they competed for her attention.
Num and nuts aside, my LF looked fine. Very fine indeed.
Benny grabbed my arm. “Look,” he said and pointed to a “man” who stared at us through the large front windows. I had never seen Robert clearly, yet I was certain it was him.
The vampire had a long, thin, pasty face and the most vapid look in his eyes. He raised his hand which seemed to have webbed fingers, and gave a single slash at his throat. Even then, his face remained expressionless.
Benny took off with hurried strides and waved for me to follow, though he didn’t look back. I caught up with the old man outside. Robert was nowhere to be seen in the parking lot. Without pause, Benny stalked around to the side of the supermarket. One spotlight fell on three trailers that were parked in loading docks. Aside them in the dark shadows was a dumpster that connected to the building.
Robert climbed to his feet from under one of the trailers and raced straight at Benny. The vampire raised his hands above his head. His shoulders rocked side-to-side while his legs were rigid.
Benny ran to meet Robert. At the last possible second–in a lightening quick motion–the old homeless man pulled out a wooden knife similar to the one that I now had in my pocket. He hardly had time to rear back. They met with a crash and a sickening thud.
Benny staggered back. He had impaled Robert through the breastbone. When it seemed I couldn’t turn away, I noticed to my right an unusually sleek space in front of the building’s grimy, white cinder-block wall. It was as if I was looking through a door to a dark room. A wide-bodied creature was “in there” and I saw vague motions flutter about it. I couldn’t make out a single feature or see the true outline of the creature’s shape.
My eyes jumped to Robert, who now spoke.
“There are many forms of death,” the vampire said in a surprisingly provocative voice. His lips were withered and a “new light” budded in his eyes as they met mine. “The one that comes for you is rarely by your own choosing.”
Benny stepped forward, and with the palm of his hand, smacked the knife deeper into Robert’s chest. The light rose in the vampire’s eyes. It was like he experienced a moment of life before death. Seconds later Robert fell face first. His body smacked soundly on the asphalt.
It was only then that Benny turned to the queer darkness, which had begun to dissipate.
“What is that?” he asked.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Eight - April/May 2010 – “Something to do with Vampires”