A Tale From the End of
F Lewis and Gordon Lewis
The Optimum Pose
The Night Wind Wailing
Sixpence More The Richer
The Forest of Dark Wine
By Simon Exton
“Every time that I
look in the mirror,
All these lines on my face getting clearer.
The past has gone, in the night like dusk to dawn.
Isn’t that the way?
Everybody’s got their price in life to pay.”
THE MISSION : “Dream On”
A slim trail of bluish smoke
rose lazily from the Sobranie Black Russian as it smouldered
in the ashtray, slowly filling the air with it sweet vapour.
Annabelle reached across with an age-gnarled hand and took
a long and satisfying drag before shifting her attention
back to her photograph album. There, captured in a series
of fading sepia tones was the story of the summer that changed
her life forever. She looked back through the decades at
pictures of elegant dinners, midnight tennis matches and
rowing trips, country excursions and art galleries.
Like any summer before it, 1928 had seen a succession of
wealthy British youngsters flooding into her native Paris
to sample its legendary decadence for a few months before
returning to their stuffy English homes. Annabelle Trieste
had already been the talk of Paris for the past few years,
although she was barely twenty. As thin and as graceful
as a willow, blonde and delicately beautiful, she suited
the fashion and spirit of the time. She had an endless succession
of admirers and countless offers of love, marriage and a
luxurious life in Paris, Rome, London, Venice, Madrid or
a dozen other chic cities. She’d chosen to play the
field - in Paris she could live life and take lovers as
she pleased, in fact it was almost expected that she did.
‘28 had been a summer unlike the others before. True,
there was the carefree hedonism, the wild partying and the
coquettish flirting as before, but this time there was true
love as well as the game of love. Something deep inside
spoke to her as soon as she’d caught sight of Celeste
Trelawny. She’d been sitting at the bar of a fashionable
hotel, wearing an exquisitely tailored dinner suit that
made her look as exotic and sophisticated as a brunette
Dietrich. Against the fashion of the time, she wore her
hair long and unfettered, flowing over her shoulders in
liquid waves of chestnut silk. The very fact that she was
there unchaperoned was shocking enough, but the blatant
invitation in her eyes as soon as she saw Annabelle was
nothing short of scandalous. They’d had dinner together,
Annabelle’s escort for the evening the furthest thing
from her mind. The two girls had found themselves drinking
champagne and waltzing by the Eiffel Tower at two am before
a night of blissful passion in Celeste’s hotel suite.
That night had been the first of many - they’d hardly
left the suite for a fortnight as they forged a bond as
strong as any marriage vows. Then the game of love had begun
again in earnest as they’d taken lovers, both men
and women, to their bed in a series of passionate menages,
but always finding the ultimate solace in each other’s
embrace. At the end of the summer, Celeste had stayed in
France and the two women moved to a small pension in Bordeaux.
Next summer they’d returned to Paris, but the dizzy
swirl of lights and music paled into mere gaudiness compared
to the tranquil splendour of the country. They moved back
to Bordeaux, to the vineyards and balmy nights and honey-sweet
Of course, by then she’d known Celeste’s secret,
the reason why she shunned the daytime. Celeste’s
appetite could not be sated by the rich red wines of the
region, but by the dark liquid that flowed in the veins
of her human victims. Celeste was careful- most of the time
she merely sipped from the sleeping servants or drove miles
from home to sate herself fully with a kill, but her favourite
draught was always from Annabelle herself. It was as if
there was some sacred ritual they performed every few weeks
- Celeste’s bliss at the rich crimson gift and Annabelle’s
passionate frenzy as this intimacy heightened the ecstasy
of their lovemaking immeasurably. The strange chemicals
in Celeste’s saliva flooded Annabelle’s blood
and brain like the rarest and most hypnotic of drugs. They’d
been sharing this intimacy for over half a century and it
was still as spellbinding as ever.
Turning the page, the years of memories flooded past - nearly
ten years in the valley spent in blissful contentment has
passed in a heartbeat. If Celeste had noticed that Annabelle
was ageing, she said nothing, but Annabelle knew herself.
She could see that Celeste still had the face and body of
a teenager, while the passing years were taking their toll
on her. The lines and wrinkles were few and only small,
but they were there. Then, suddenly, all hell had broken
War had come to France and shattered their tranquillity.
Few photographs marked this time, full of grim-faced idealists,
Celeste and Annabelle prominent among them. They’d
joined the Resistance from the beginning, hating the oppressors
that had come to their beloved land. They’d fought
together until the land was free again and they tried to
regain their lives, only to find that the war had soured
the life they’d had. They couldn’t relax in
the area as they had before, knowing the blood that had
been spilt there on both sides. A tear pricked at Annabelle's
eye at the sight of a picnic photo from 1938. Of the dozen
happy people smiling out at her, only Annabelle and Celeste
had survived the war. A few she’d seen gunned down
before her eyes. Most had simply disappeared from their
homes in the dark of night.
Unable to bear the pressure of their memories, the couple
said a sad goodbye to France and spent the next two decades
travelling the globe- Italy, Monaco, Greece, America. There
were a few pictures from the Aoka rebellion on Cyprus, but
the women found that they could not summon up the passion
that they’d felt in the struggle to liberate their
own homeland. Finally, they moved to the land of Celeste’s
The scrape of a key in the
lock and the creak of the front door woke Annabelle from
her doze. There, shaking the snow from her brunette mane
was Celeste, returned from the shops. She looked every inch
the young beauty that Annabelle had met in Paris nearly
sixty years before.
“Hello, chérie,” she called, her voice
still youthfully husky. Once again, Annabelle wondered why
she stayed with a haggard old woman when she could have
anyone she wanted. First they’d been accepted as sisters,
then mother and daughter, now grandmother and granddaughter,
but they still shared a bed. She’d summoned up the
courage to ask once, on her sixtieth birthday. Celeste answered
that she loved Annabelle’s ageless soul and that didn’t
grow older, only more beautiful.
Celeste strode across the room and sat on the sofa by Annabelle,
pecking her briefly on the cheek as she leaned across to
take a drag of the cigarette. Annabelle could feel the ripe
swell of Celeste’s breast through the thin fabric
of her shirt.
They sat together for hours, pouring over the photos and
reliving old memories until Annabelle could stay awake no
longer and they retired.
Jasper Cornell peered out
of his bedsit window, the lenses of his binoculars peeping
through the drawn curtains. He considered himself a student
of human nature, possibly the next Desmond Morris. He told
his brother Gareth the copious notes and photographs he
took, the dossiers he compiled on his neighbours were research
notes for his book, but this didn’t even fool Gareth.
He knew that Jasper almost never left their musty-smelling
room, venturing into the outside world only to cash his
giro and buy the essentials of food, fresh notebooks and
film. The dossiers were the sum total of Jasper’s
For all Jasper’s isolation, Gareth’s was more
pronounced. He left the house only once a fortnight, to
cash his giro. If Jasper had been able to do that for him,
Gareth would not have set foot outside for years. The small
room he shared with his twin brother reminded him of the
comfort and security they’d felt at St Anne’s.
The boys had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics in
infancy and committed to the St Anne’s asylum. Parental
visits had always been infrequent and, with the arrival
of the boys’ baby sister in their eleventh year, had
stopped altogether. They’d grown up in the safe, regimented
confines of the asylum, protected from the outside world
and it from them. Staff rotation meant that the only constancy
in their lives had been each other and the building in which
they lived. Then, with the advent of the Care in the Community
program, the twins had been expelled from their home to
fend for themselves in an outside world they knew nothing
about. A dingy bedsit had been found for them, but otherwise
they’d been abandoned by the authorities.
Tonight, the object of Jasper’s fascination was the
gorgeous young woman who’d recently moved into the
house opposite with her grandmother. She’d become
his fixation, watching her coming and going through his
binoculars. He was so fascinated that he’d actually
ventured outside to catch a glimpse of her in the flesh.
He saw the light flicker off downstairs and knew that the
girl must be going upstairs to bed. It was nearly five am
and he knew that the old woman must have been asleep for
He dressed warmly, cramming his woollen hat onto lank and
greasy hair as he left the building. It took him scant moments
to skirt round to the alley behind the girl’s house
where he clambered up a ladder he’d left out the night
before and positioned himself on the shed roof in the shade
of a large yew tree. He watched in rapt fascination as he
saw a bedroom light flash on and the girl walked into the
room, followed by the old woman. His excitement mounted
as he watched the girl peel off her shirt. He dragged out
his camera and started preserving the event for his file,
the camera shaking as he fought to control his own lust.
He watched her shrug herself out of her jeans. The old woman
sat down on the bed, already dressed in a night-gown, and
the girl, now gloriously nude, crossed the room and sat
behind her. Her legs entwined the old woman and, gently
pulling the white hair out of the way, she pushed her head
to one side. Through the magnifying magic of the camera
lens, Jasper watched as the girl’s fangs broke the
old woman’s throat and she started to drink. After
a moment that seemed to last eternity, the old woman collapsed
onto the bed, a rich red trail running down her neck and
onto the night-gown. Horrified, Jasper preserved the entire
event on film before rushing back home and lying shaking
on his bed, quaking in fear and lust.
“Thank you, chérie,”
whispered Annabelle as Celeste climbed into bed and switched
off the light and wrapped her lithe body around Annabelle’s.
“Damn,” said Celeste as she realised that the
curtains were open. She wasn’t worried about the neighbours
spying - they’d been careful when choosing this house
to get one with very overgrown hedges - but she was worried
about the morning sun. She couldn’t afford to make
a mistake like that. After all, if she were badly burnt,
who would look after Annabelle?
“See, Gareth, I told
you,” Jasper gabbled as Gareth gawked at the photos
in open- mouthed shock. “She’s a vampire and
she’s holding that old woman hostage and feeding on
Gareth took a look at the pictures and switched on the ancient
television. He twisted the tuning dial so that the screen
showed snowy static and the set hissed white noise at him.
Cocking his head to one side, he listened in rapt attention.
This was the way the twins’ schizophrenia communicated
with them, imaginary voices whispering cryptic instructions
through the white noise. Slightly behind his brother, Jasper’s
movements unconsciously mimicked Gareth’s. After a
moment or two, they started nodding their heads excitedly.
“Yes, yes!” Jasper cried. “The Voices
say we have to help her. We must stop the vampire! Jasper,
what do we need to kill a vampire with?”
“Erm... a stake. A sharp wooden stake to drive through
her heart. Then we cut off her head so we need a big knife.”
“Right, I’ll get those and then tomorrow night
we’ll do it. Just before dawn - that’s when
the Voices say is best.”
The next night, Gareth and
Jasper spent hours alternately listening to the TV static
and ranting about how they were about to free the world
of a Controller, how they’d all be able to think so
much clearer after the monster was dead. They believed absolutely
what their imaginary voices told them. Jasper thought that
he and Gareth would be able to handle the fiend, especially
if her poor victim could help them at all.
The lights in the front room went out at just before five
am. The fearsome vampire killers, as they romantically described
themselves, went into action half an hour later.
The sound of shattering
glass woke Celeste instantly. Sitting bolt upright in bed
roused Annabelle from her slumbers.
“Hush,” Celeste whispered. “I’m
going downstairs to take a look. You wait here.”
She was out of bed and rushing downstairs, dressing-gown
flapping, before Annabelle could even manage to stand up.
Crossing the room, she pulled a long-forgotten box from
the back of the wardrobe. Opening it, she looked down at
the reassuringly solid shape of her wartime revolver. Another
box revealed a dozen bullets. Carefully, she started to
load the gun.
Jasper was the last to come
through the shattered French windows. As he crunched his
way over the last of the broken glass, Celeste arrived at
the bottom of the stairs.
“What do you want?” she demanded before her
nose was assailed by the strong scent of garlic, along with
a smell of unwashed clothes almost as strong. The sharpened
stake in his hand confirmed it - this pathetic individual
thought to destroy her. He had to be stopped, obviously,
for her sake and for Annabelle’s.
Celeste looked into his face, pasty and acne-ridden, the
complexion of someone who rarely saw daylight, fresh air
or soap, and felt not a twinge of remorse for what she was
about to do. This was sheer survival, kill or be killed,
just as it had been against the Gestapo. Not only was this
intruder a threat to her own life, but to Annabelle’s
too. That was something she could not possibly allow.
Jasper licked his lips, mesmerised by his proximity to the
object of his lust. Celeste noticed the look in his eyes
and the way his gaze flickered away from her face. Spotting
her opportunity, she shrugged her shoulders out of her robe
and let it fall to the floor. Naked, she was both a distraction
to this worthless voyeur and seemingly less dangerous. She
crossed the floor to him and stood before him, barely inches
away from him. She could smell his fetid breath and feel
the urgent excitement flooding from his mind. Reaching down,
she plucked the stake from his unresisting hand and threw
it to one side. Then she slid one hand around his neck,
repulsed at the way his slimy skin shivered at the sensation
of contact. Suddenly, with one lightning-quick movement,
she snapped his neck and let him fall to the floor like
a discarded doll.
“Anni, it’s OK. I’ve dealt with it,”
she called upstairs as she moved into the centre of the
hall so Annabelle could see her from the upstairs landing.
As she was waving up to her lover, a scream of rage pierced
the air behind her. Spinning round, she saw Gareth descending
on her at a run, stake levelled like a jouster, face contorted
into a hideous rictus of loathing. The stake caught Celeste
mid-chest, missing her heart but splintering her sternum
and knocking her to the floor. Her skull impacted on the
wooden floor with a sickening crunch of broken bone.
Gareth stood up and ran to the foot of the stairs, his confused
mind full of thought of rescuing the old woman. He was just
in time to see Annabelle level the ancient gun at him. A
second later, his arm blossomed red with an electric jolt
of pain. He collapsed to the floor.
The recoil of the shot ripped the gun from Annabelle’s
hands and sent it skidding across the floor. She let it
go, burying her face in her bruised hands as she wept for
her fallen lover. After a few moments, she moved towards
the top of the stairs where she found Gareth, staring over
the banister, down at Jasper’s lifeless body. She
met his uncomprehending eyes with a look of pure venom.
“You! You’ve killed her!” she screamed
as she leapt for him, clawlike hands outstretched for his
throat. He tried to dodge to one side but was too slow.
Together they plunged head-long over the landing banister,
a chaotic pile of thrashing limbs and breaking bones. They
hit the wooden floor beside Celeste's motionless body with
a shattering thud and lay still in death together.
Silence descended on the house as the four bodies lay still.
It was broken by the rhythmic drip of Annabelle’s
blood as it seeped from her split-open head. It pooled on
the floor and spread out until it matted through Celeste’s
splayed-out hair. Although unconscious, her vampiric metabolism
sucked it up. For the last time, Celeste was drinking from
her lover. Soon a crepital grinding disturbed the quiet
as her shattered skull healed until a few hours later, she
came round. With a roar of pain and rage, she ripped the
stake for her half-healed chest, releasing another spurt
She found Annabelle’s broken corpse lying next to
her, tangled with that of a young man identical to the one
she'd killed. His neck was splayed out at an unnatural angle
and his eyes stared with the glassy stillness of death.
Lifting her up gently, Celeste took Annabelle to their bedroom
and put her to bed, climbing in next to her as she had done
almost every morning since 1928. Dawn came and she slept.
The next evening saw no change in the house. Celeste awoke
to find the twin corpses downstairs where she’d left
them. Dressing quickly, she collected the photograph album
from the front room and, picking up Annabelle’s cigarette
lighter, started to light the furniture. Soon the room was
ablaze and spreading out into the hall. She left through
the back door, slipping into the alley and driving away,
never again looking at the town of Bournemouth.
The stand-offish neighbours who’d ignored the sounds
of a struggle the night before called the fire brigade as
soon the blaze was visible from the road, but it was too
late to save the old house. Just as Celeste had intended,
it became Annabelle’s funeral pyre.
Within half an hour, a red mini was heading north. The driver
was an attractive brunette, weeping softly to a worn old
tape of jazz standards, with no real destination in mind.
© 2000 Simon Exton