The Vampire’s House Part I

This was meant to be much shorter, but seemed to flow out of nowhere. Haven’t edited much due to lack of time. Please comment! Parts II and III to follow.

***

Marthus van Elstrom stepped out of his house into the dusky shade of a cool spring evening. The vampire breathed in deeply, eyes closed, then breathed out forcefully through flared nostrils. He opened his eyes. He had done well to plant the laburnum trees on either side of his door, he though, eyeing the sprays of buttery yellow flowers. The heady scent perfumed the air and invigorated him every time he left the house. He buttoned up his expensive coat, turned up his collar with one hand (his other held an ornate violin case), and with a glint eye in his eye and one look behind him at his locked front door, set off down the front steps and into the promise of the night. Within seconds he had reached the end of his road, his booted heels tapping a diminishing staccato as he turned the corner, keeping to the darker side of the street, naturally. There was no one else around, and without the body of Marthus disrupting the otherwise empty space, the way was clear.

All was silent for some moments. Then, as the last rays of sunshine drained from the city, a small silent flurry of air entered the street that Marthus had just left. This flurry, a shimmer, really, that was difficult to focus on – the eye simply slid off, and focused on some other detail; a flower growing in the low wall that ran the length of the street; an interestingly-shaped crack in the pavement – travelled the length of the road until it reached Marthus’s house. It paused at the steps and for a long while was completely imperceptible. Across the road, a front door opened, a blast of noise and light into the gloom and darkness, and a well-to-do woman in her forties exited, pushing a scowling six-year old, squashed into child-sized evening dress, unruly hair macassered down to a semblance of order. Their murmuring faded into the distance, and the shimmer moved again.

It ascended the steps that led to Marthus’s front door. At the penultimate step the shimmer swayed from right to left, then left to right, as if scenting the air for some predator. It seemed indecisive but after a moment part of its shimmering quality seemed to fade as if made of smoke and the other part seemed to condense as if made of a rich liquid, and suddenly there was a small brown mouse with quick black eyes where previously there had been only a disturbance in the air. The mouse hopped up onto the last step easily, running over every inch and sniffing manically at the limen of the firmly-shut front door.

The sniffing appeared to prove fruitless: the mouse sat back on its haunches and cleaned its face, pensive. A moment or two later it ran to the edge of the steps and leaped onto the laburnum tree that was to the left of the door. Within seconds, the mouse had scaled the tree, a brown blur, and leaped again, this time onto the first floor windowsill. There was a small sparking flash and the mouse gave a high squeak as if burned; but it remained on the windowsill. After a pause, it began to investigate the tiny gap between the sill and the window-frame. First, it sniffed at the gap. Then it began to gnaw, seemingly at the gap itself, and then it began it to paw, always at the tiny gap between sill and frame. By now, the mouse had somehow managed to insert itself firmly into the fault line between window and house; an underestimated yet apparently crucial weakness in the vampire’s protective spells. With another small squeak, the mouse vanished from the outside and reappeared a second later, inside, looking out. Then, for the purposes of anyone watching from the outside, it disappeared, and the street returned to true calm once again.

Inside the house, however, a violent scuffle had begun. The mouse had leaped down from the inside windowsill onto the floor, and a young man was now trying to extricate himself from its body. This was no mean feat: the man, though by human standards average, was considerably larger than the mouse skin he was currently wearing. He had already succeeded in getting one arm and half his head out, and he knew from experience that the hardest bit – and the most painful – was his shoulders; he was lucky enough to be slim-waisted, and once the shoulders through the rest would follow quite naturally. He grunted with effort, and sweat sheened his forehead. He strained again, gasped, and his other shoulder popped out. With a slither the rest of him followed, a naked, slimy pile lying in what turned out to be a guest bedroom.

The young man stood up unsteadily, shivering; it had taken a lot of effort to transform himself into a rodent. But he knew he didn’t have time to rest. That charm on the windowsill had taken him by surprise, and though he thought he had countered in time he wasn’t sure alarm hadn’t been set off tingling in the head of whomever had laid it. He looked around. Luckily the room was well kept, though he doubted that Marthus received many guests – at least, many who would require overnight accommodation. But there was linen, which he used to wipe himself down, and clean clothes, which fit him well enough though the style was dated. He stooped and picked up the empty mouse skin that now lay discarded on the floor, a puckered lifeless hollow, and stowed it in a pocket. Dressed, he readied himself for the next part of his plan; the main part, as it were, and the most dangerous.

 

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