FOOL MOON, Friday the 13th & it's HALLOWE'EN-THEME Night at the Cabaret Macabre, where the Zombies hang out. They look like death, with blood-shot eyes, ghastly white complexions, asphyxiated blue-black lips. The men wearing nooses for ties, the women in chains for necklaces & manacle bracelets - bondage is the fashion among this set. Bright Young Things that go bump in the night are doing the Dance of Death on the Disco floor, howling & wailing, rattling bones, voodoo-music from the obi-man synchronised with flickering strobe. By the end of the record there are piles of corpses.
Vamps snog & hump in spooky corners giving playful puppy lovebites. They're only having fun, it's just a bit of harmless plasma. The clientele aren't easily shocked.
Devilish-difficult to decipher decor in the dark. A cross between crypt & dungeon. Cobweb curtains courtesy of the management's specially-trained black-widow spiders. Rabid bats hang upside down from chandeliers, candle wax dripping off their leathery wings, guttering flames extinguished by chill draughts from behind the blood-stained arras. 'I smell a rat' mutters a tricky customer beneath his alcoholic breath, stabbing his sword-stick into the thick fabric. The distinctive stinking odour of brimstone tobacco smoke heavy in the putrid air, Dry Ice vapour, ectoplasm. Stock mock shock horror movie special F/X. Interior design by Hieronymous Bosch. Unearthly delights, undead stylish.
Centre, spotlight, seated alone at a ouija-board table, someone whose features look somehow familiar, your fiend & mine: Uncle Dracula, now a pale shadow of his former self. Perhaps he's anaemic, lacking red corpuscles. One of the Guinless. He's not that sanguine about his prospects tonight. You couldn't blame him for appearing bored. He's seen it all before. He's one of the regulars. Everyone knows he's claimed more victims than we've had hot dinners. His victims are his hot dinners - no cold stiffs for him. They lose their flavour when rigor mortis sets in.
The pub grub here is strictly for carnivores, catering for cannibals a speciality. It's the kind of place to go if you like your steaks rare. The Tomato Ketchup is real Hollywood blood.
Old Drac, though somewhat long in the tooth by now, still has an appetite for life, fancies a bite to eat. He reads the menu, but chooses the waiter instead. The scream as sharp teeth pierce the jugular isn't heard above the hubbub. Drinka pinta blood a day, that's his motto. Tonight he feels like getting blotto on cheap red Rhesus positive. People are generous about giving blood. The waiter's leftovers, suitably seasoned, will serve later as a kosher meat curry. As token of his gratitude, Drac leaves a tip in the clammy paw of the raw new cadaver, and, in accordance with the ancient custom, a coin on each eye. His thick Transylvanian accent & ill-fitting dentures make 'Thanks' sound like 'Fangs'.
The stand-up comic is telling sick jokes. Have you heard the one about the Marquis de Sade? The audience laugh till it hurts. The comedian over-confident now makes the fatal mistake of cracking a joke in good taste. The crowd turns hostile & starts throwing blunt objects. A promising career is abruptly cut short. Audience participation. Manslaughter on stage. It's a hard act to follow.
How about some Hari-Kari live before your very eyes? It must be admitted the performer has guts. For an encore, he decapitates himself, neatly catching his head on a platter. Some people will do anything to attract attention, but going for a cheap laugh is professional suicide. When he takes his final bow, the spectators in the front row are drenched in blood from the severed neck. Wild applause as the topped trunk topples and crashes to the boards. Showman that he is, even on his last legs, he rises to the occasion, dragging himself to his feet to do a soft shoe shuffle like the death -throes of a headless chicken. Dead funny if you're queasily amused.
Dracula yawns. He's feeling less than jocular. Call this entertainment? Why in his day.... The Count, it should be explained, is an old-fashioned gent at heart. He has certain standards. Would not stoop to sheer sensationalism. He disapproves of new-fangled video-nasties, preferring horror of a more traditional sort.
Once upon a time a man could make his mark. Drac usually made his on the neck. Now he wouldn't scare a four-year old. They are weaned on stronger stuff. Nowadays, multiple murders, chainsaw massacres, mass infanticide, gratuitous genocide, hardly raise an eyebrow let alone make the hair stand on end. A pair of filed canines seems tame in comparison to an all-out Nuclear Holocaust.
He reminisces, calling to mind the good old days, when there was still something sacred to desecrate, when evil merited a capital letter. Then it was possible to blaspheme, offend, be thoroughly outrageous. What was there left for him but to retire gracefully, with his scrapbook of memories, a fading silent film star, past it, left behind? How could he compete against the real world?
He sighs. Where have all the Werewolves gone? Hirsute brutes with hidden soft centres, entirely at the mercy of the changing moon. Those that are poor languish in NHS asylums, while the wealthy undergo long & expensive psychoanalysis under Dr Jekyll, Harley Street specialist. Fascinating cases all. Basically nothing wrong with them that can't be cured by a packet of razorblades & the paperback Freud.
The poltergeists are getting rowdy. Glasses of wine & spirits flying. Yes, they're having a smashing time. Chaos & mayhem at the bar. The drinks here cost you an arm & a leg. The mutilated survivors stagger thru the debris. Gorgeous naked witches from the local coven form a circle, chanting wickedly seductive spells. Anyone for an orgy? They do things with broomsticks that Mary Poppins never dreamt of. Let them take you for a ride. Later the skeleton staff of the club will hide in cupboards. Someone will order a Molotov cocktail & shortly after the place will become a blazing inferno. Happens every weekend.
He decides he's getting too damned old for this sort of thing, secretly longs for a quiet night in, cosy in his coffin with Tales of Supernatural Terror or some such soothing bedtime reading.
Leaves early, wearily retrieving cloak from cloakroom. The evening-dressed bouncers look bloody mean, wielding meat-cleavers which they've used on more than one occasion. Once they would have called him sir. Why, he was dead before they were born.
Wrapped snug against the thunderstorm, he slinks furtively down violent alleys, merging with shadows, avoiding vulgar mercenary muggers. It's no longer safe to stalk the streets at night.
Good Christian Souls are all asleep by now, gruesome crucifixes above their snoring heads, garlic hanging from every door. That stuff gets up his nose. Can't quite understand his bad reputation. Thinks of himself as a philanthropist really - a kind of mobile Blood Transfusion Service. He's not greedy. Takes only what he needs, no more, & the lucky donor becomes immortal, one of the living dead. Most people would hardly notice the difference, they're half dead already.
He hastens past the Carpenter's Workshop, now closed for the night. The Carpenter, a man devoid of moral scruples, has made a killing at his sharp practice whittling cut-price stakes. Sometimes the Count feels like a persecuted minority, an endangered species. Ain't it a crime that a sadistic bloodsport like slaughtering innocent vampires should be allowed in this politically-correct day & age?
Three balaclavered vandals, late back from the Sack of Rome Winebar, spray graffiti slogans discreetly where they can't be seen. They take it in turns to piss & puke in a public phonebox, sticking two fingers up at society & down their own throats. They throw a few bricks thru neighbours' windows, then meekly trot home, their duty done. The youth of today, anaemic-looking lot, not worth his notice.
A gang of skinheads swaggering along the opposite sidewalk, 666s tatooed on their closecropped skulls, swastika armbands & regulation heavy-duty bovver boots. They glower menacingly at the poofy-looking figure in effimate cloak, not one of their kind. But just at that moment, conveniently, something nearer catches their malevolent attention: an unlucky black cat, its ninth life squandered, squashed flat (by a passing hearse no doubt), now rotting in the yucky gutter, asking for aggro. Obligingly, they put the boot in & boot in puss. Upstart hooligans with no breeding. Not at all Drac's class of villain. Equal Opportunity, he thinks, can go too far. Necro-philistines, why don't they pick on someone their own size & species, preferably alive & able to fight back? Not wishing to give them the chance, Drac hurries on.
Leather-clad Hell's Angels, Cocteauesque Messengers of Death, burning up the long night street, en route to little white-haired fuckless mothers fretting in their widowed beds. With sawn-off shotguns underarm, they fire at random as they speed away.
The Count catches a stray bullet between his incisors. Tasting the hot metal, deciding against it, he spits it out disdainfully, as if it were an inferior wine unworthy of his aristocratic palate. When it comes to inflicting grievous bodily harm, he's not impressed by alienating technological innovations. Prefers the more polite personal touch. He's always tried to cultivate a suave bedside manner - just a little prick on the neck, so. He's not some ill-bred butcher, more a skilled surgeon, a true white-collar black-tie & cape etc professional. Apparently that counts for nothing nowadays. He's lumped together with the likes of common criminals & all manner of plebian anti-social elements. Proles the lot of 'em. The tabloid press give him a hard time with their lurid banner headlines (PENSIONER IN BLOODBATH ORGY or GORE GALORE FOR EURO NOB). He needs some better PR. He has an image problem. Sometimes he thinks he's just a figment of other people's imaginations. All he wants is a quiet life, as a genteel collector, a connoisseur.
He passes a house with lights ablaze, pulsating to repetitive beats. There's a party going on. Silhouettes gyrating in the windowframes. Fancy-dress by the look of it. Half-a-dozen Dracula lookalikes, or rather crude caricatures in jokeshop costumes, spill out of the open front door, raucously laughing & pointing at him. Such goings-on would not have been heard of in his day. Boring old fogey, Dracula could be a pain in the neck sometimes. He's a trifle peeved but nonetheless flattered that his notoriety has travelled this far. His name & image taken in vain. He receives no royalties whatever, however.
Long past curfew, but never fear those fiery red eyes staring at him from the blackness. It's only the man-eating Doberman-Pincer on the 4am patrol of the android police, doing their rounds beating up honest citizens for their own protection. The cold beads of sweat on the back of his neck take him by surprise & he hastens his gait, almost jumpy now at the sound of his own footsteps echoing hollow on the broken-glass-strewn pavement. Past the graveyard, thru the fog of cliches, trying not to notice those looming ghostly shapes, his imagination playing tricks at this ungodly graverobber hour.
Relieved, he turns the rusty key, pushes open the creaking oaken door, to be greeted by his faithful ravening wolf & cute pet leeches. For a long, long while, he paces the cold stone slabs of his ancestral vault, lost in deep thought. Time for a nightcap. Pours himself a Bloody Mary to steady his nerves, the last thing he needs is any bad dreams, - ah, Mary, he remembers her well, nice girl she was. Sacrificial virgins of the right blood group nowadays are hard to find. Is it too much to ask for a few sweet drops? His intentions are honourable. He takes serum seriously. He has to be careful, doesn't want to catch any nasty diseases. What's the one about the gay medical student who, starting at Guy's, got given his First Aids kit? It's no joke.
Glances at the mirror as he takes out his teeth & grins. He looks a fright.
By sunrise, he'll be safely tucked up for the day.
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