Speak To Me
By Charlotte O’Farrell
The weekend after her grandfather died, Amy spoke to the vampire for the first time. She sensed he had been lurking in the shadows for a while, growing gradually stronger as he observed her struggles over the past year or longer.
That weekend, in the dark, with nothing but the silence of impending winter outside, he introduced himself. At once he was all around her, surrounding her body and brain; he was blending with the darkness as it spread to every corner of her room. Inside her head. He had no form as such. He made the midnight blackness thicker, somehow — when he was within it, it was an opaque shape, actively drawing light into itself rather than just the absence of light.
“I know you’re there,” whispered Amy.
Without speaking aloud, he asked her about her grandfather. About his death, and how she would never see him again, and how she never got to say goodbye. She felt him drawing these memories out of her with his persistent questions, and she had no choice but to give in, to gift him her grief. She felt it pouring out of her but that didn’t lessen it. In fact, it grew, as he repeated his questions again and again, forcing her to replay the worst experiences of her life.
The vampire’s breath grew faster and heavier as she recounted these experiences in a loop. She felt tears sting her eyes. Before they had a chance to fall down her cheeks, they flewaway from her as if they had been vacuumed up, and disappeared into the shadows. The vampire fed on them and grew a little more defined, a little more real in her room.
Dawn arrived, eventually, and the vampire retreated into the black recesses of Amy’s room. Every night that week he returned and bombarded her with more questions. Why weren’t her friends inviting her to all the things they used to do? Was it because they hated her? Why wasn’t she getting the grades she needed? Was she stupid? Sometimes he would skip the questions and just repeat statements — “yes, you’re stupid. No, you’re not enough. You never will be”. Amy shrunk, body and soul, under the weight of his assault. She didn’t argue; she couldn’t.
Soon she started noticing him following her around during the day — always hiding in the dark, of course. He would be there when she got home before her parents arrived back from work, and would sap her life force to the point that she couldn’t summon the energy to turn on the light and banish him temporarily.
Yet somewhere, in the crumpled and beaten down victim that Amy had become, there was a part of her he couldn’t reach. He had tried. His whole attack was aimed at this core. He had sucked away so much from her, but this little bit of her remained off limits, protected by some invisible force.
Amy dug around in her belongings, summoning what little strength she had left, and found a nightlight. Her grandfather had bought it for her when she was a child to “keep the monsters at bay”. She dusted it off and changed the batteries. The vampire seemed fearful for the first time, and screamed at her from the cracks between the kitchen cupboards that it was pointless, she was ridiculous for doing this, she should stop and not bother.
It took all of her strength to drown him out. She could feel him drawing her towards the dark. She focused on nothing but the light. When it was up and running, she held it in her hands and thought of everything that made her soul light up: dancing class with her friends, happy memories in the park with her grandfather, painting and reading and watching her favourite plays. As each memory filled her up, she felt the vampire squeal in pain, as if she had brandished garlic at him. With each smile, each laugh, the light burned brighter and he shrunk a little more.
He’s still there in the shadows, but weakened. Drowned out. Amy suspects he’ll never leave entirely but he doesn’t have the strength to keep her awake at night with his persistent questioning anymore.
Now it’s the vampire’s turn to cower in the dark.
As the theme is Halloween, I’ve explored the idea of a vampire as a metaphor for depression, as per the brief.