Written by Sophie Ramshaw
- Click here to read Part I -
The walls were lined with old oil paintings – mostly of forest landscapes and night skies, but here and there Grizzly would spot some old portraits of two beautiful people. A man and wife. The lady, he recognised, was the same from the tombstone outside.
He lowered his head and followed the bloody arrows throughout the musky scented hall, stopping every now and then to try one of the many doors lining his path. Each was locked and bolted. With every denied click a pounding echo of fear shuddered through his ears. His poor little old man hands trembled so ferociously he brought Sebastian the nutcracker back out to clutch him comfortingly between his palms.
Then came an uncomfortable churning feeling in his stomach. Like a sickness induced by the mind being aware of another presence in the room. As Grizzly hobbled through the long corridor, the sickly feeling got stronger, and he became certain someone was following him. But where was they? He kept asking himself.
A flourish of candlelight appeared before him and he realised he had come to the end of the hall. There was a thick door surrounded by bloody arrows and flickering torches, with the sign DINING HALL/KITCHEN above it.
Grizzly gulped, but once again lifted his beaten trousers high up his hips and reached his wrinkly fist out to knock politely on the surface of the door. The wood creaked open as Grizzly knocked and he gently stepped inside.
The room was engulfed in darkness, but a sickly sweet aroma wafted through the air. His stomach growled at it, but his brain was less excited. It wondered what could be making that smell from the dark depths of the shadows.
There was a sudden clapping noise from somewhere in the dark, and the room erupted with a series of tall candles like magic. And a golden glow cast twitching shadows across the now visible stone ground. A long mahogany table sat in the middle – laden with meats, vegetables, and foods of all sorts. Mountains of croissants and other baked goods were piled against each other and two wine glasses filled with a suspicious red substance sat untouched on each end of the table.
Seemingly set for two.
Grizzly's heart jolted inside his chest like a pair of maracas working over-time. A strong, fleeing pulsated around his brain and told him to run, run! RUN!
He couldn't move. The sight of all that food screamed at him. He hadn't eaten in so long, and it wasn't fair. He was a good man – a nice man. Someone people should be friends with, not afraid of! He started to cry again and held Sebastian close to his heart. His tears got caught in his unkempt, bushy beard and he patted it dry with a musky lapel. Why did things have to be so hard? He never complained about his life or how things had played out for him, and yet here he was – so desperate for food he was putting himself in such a danger. And he knew he was in danger.
Something gently patted him from behind.
He slowly glanced over his shoulder.
His eyes widened. A strong shiver exploded through his entire body. His mouth went dry.
A pale, slender man with dark eyes and pointy cheekbones stared down at him with a doleful expression, patting Grizzly's shoulder lightly with a set of bony fingers.
Grizzly shrieked and flung himself away, tripping over his own feet and landing painfully on his backside.
This was the man from the portraits. The husband standing beside his beautiful wife, not looking a day older. But how was that possible?
The man clasped his hands together and flashed Grizzly a smile. 'I am so glad you could make it to my home,' he said with a thick Romanian accent. 'But I must ask, child, why do you weep?'
For some reason, this question caused Grizzly to weep even further. As the man talked he flashed the hobo a set of sharp fangs and the dull light from the flames made them glisten and shimmer. Grizzly didn't like it one bit.
The man was almost twice the height of our friendly hobo and hovered over him like a bulimic sasquatch. He extended his hand and gestured towards the table. 'Please, take a seat my friend.' The way the Romanian spoke made Grizzly light-headed and the room spun around him. He felt like he was being mocked and looked at with eyes as hungry as his own. But in a far meaner way. 'I did set it up just for you,' the man added.
Grizzly's brow furrowed and he was afraid to move.
'As soon as I saw you enter my woods I knew we would be the best of friends,' he whispered with a sly chuckle.
'I may have already had supper,' he flashed the hobo a quick smirk, 'but I'm sure I could fit in seconds.' His eyes turned an unnerving shade of red and his fangs peaked out of his gums like two knives ready to start carving.
Grizzly screamed at the top of his lungs and jumped up from the hard ground – bounding passed the vampire with every ounce of strength he had left. He burst out of the dining hall and ran as hard as he could back through the creepy corridor of creepiness – desperate and begging all the Gods for energy.
'I ain't done nothin' wrong! I ain't done nothin' wrong!' he screamed.
Sweat flung from Grizzly's forehead and he prayed for the strength to escape. He knew the outside was a cold and desolate place for him, but now he decided he'd rather take his chances with the unforgiving weather, than become some mean vampire's midnight snack! He flashed a glance behind him as he frantically sprinted down the isle. The visage of the pale-faced Romanian stared relentlessly back at him, levitating off the floor and rapidly following behind him with his chest thrust out like a hummingbird.
Grizzly squalled and jerked his head back in front of him.
He managed to run his way back to the main hall and grasped the thick handles of the two large wooden doors as quickly as he could. He heaved and pulled for a few moments before they gave and swung open with a noisy creak. He bolted down the stairs, past the monument and back into the forest – never looking back again.
The vampire stopped at the entrance and called out to the hobo as he bounded away. 'No, wait!' he yelled, holding out his arms. 'I just want to be friends!'
It was too late. He lost sight of the man in the dark fog wafting from the forest and had spooked him to the point of no return. He let out a long, disappointed sigh and slowly skulked back into his mansion.
'I'm so lonely…' he said to himself.
The wind picked up and slammed the doors shut violently, but he took no notice of it. Instead, he slumped down on the end of a velvet sofa and covered his face with his pale, bony fingers.
'Stupid Alphez!' He slapped the side of his face and starred solemnly at the floor. 'Stupid vampire! Stupid, stupid, stupid!' There was a golden-framed mirror hanging from the wall beside him, he turned to look at it and saw the reflection of the couch staring back at him. 'Was it something I said?' he asked with a shrug. He glanced over to the red arrow he had painted months ago, welcoming visitors to his dining hall. After all, Alphez was a fabulous cook and he wanted to share his talents with the people. He hadn't had a proper dinner party in nearly three centuries. And that was upsetting.
He shook his head at the arrow and huffed. 'Perhaps the red paint is a tad off-putting?'
Alphez stopped and cocked his head at something on the floor. A small, wooden something that stared back at him with a friendly face made of acrylic paint. It was a small toy nutcracker with a weather-beaten paint job and well-loved personality. Alphez flashed a look at the main doors, believing the artefact must have belonged to the friendly bearded gentlemen.
He picked up the toy and swayed back into his dining hall, placed the nutcracker on one end of the table before taking his place at the other. He raised his glass of priceless Italian red wine and took a sip.
'Ahh,' he sighed, 'good year.'
He looked up at the stiff nutcracker and smiled at him. 'Welcome to the Mikkael Mansion!' he said, humouring himself. 'I hope you like your stay here. May I ask you name, sir?'
There was no reply.
'Hmm,' nodded Alphez. 'The silent type, are we? Well that's okay.' He studied the face of the nutcracker and tilted his grey head at him. 'You look like a Sebastian if you ask me.' He raised his glass again and grinned at the toy. 'Well, Mister Sebastian, here's to the start of a most wonderful friendship!'
Alphez looked over his shoulder at a large painting of his late wife, Mona. She smiled down at him with all the grace and beauty he always remembered her exuding. He nodded at her while a small, perfect tear rolled down his undead face. 'You wont have to worry about me anymore, my dear,' he told her. 'I finally have a friend.'
He sighed and closed his eyes, breathing in all the delicious aromas of food from the table. He smiled to himself and thanked that friendly hobo, hoping maybe one day he might possibly return for his nutcracker, and the three of them could become the best of friends. Paint landscapes together, cook banquets and host dinner parties, maybe even start a band, who knows?
It sounded unlikely. But a vampire can dream, can't he?
And he did have eternity to wait and see, after all.
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