I swung my full carmine cape across my wide and bony shoulders as a simple defense against the low evening sun as I left my watchmaker shop in the precinct of Grays in Essex, inserted my spiky key into a rusty lock and twanged it shut. The weather was quite foul on this celebratory weekend of Jevil, close and light, and the dark and welcome cold of winter seemed a dream away. Why our Saviour did not choose to die during a more pleasant time of year, I have never understood. Moreover, never questioned it aloud either. But I should not complain. We Vampires have many occasions to be grateful, so it is not all hope and light. My name is Broakcan, and I am eighty-six this high summer. Born in the beautiful and fearful occult shadow of night, which naturally accounts for my clear and tight pale skin, strong dark hair and angled physique. Full-bodied suckling added to my growth, and made my eyes the colour of my cape and my sharp teeth as edgy as nature. I snort. I work. I’m keen. A perfect specimen for my race. Strong, virile, bull-like…yet lean, powerful and untamed...just as my wife likes me. I’m Latin. Yes, Quella my wife, whom I am about to meet. What a female! A crown of two thorns, part human creature, part Vampire, a deep orange edible source of a woman. Full breasted and bloodied, her red milk runs from her nipples like no others. Fountains of goodness. Our children are cursed I tell them. Cursed like no other. I order them to be grateful, but, as you will discover, often they are not. I have two. A boy and a girl. Wasis, the female, already has had coitus I am glad to tell, but the boy Lavis... What a disappointment he has grown to be. Two years younger, sure and intelligent, but he shows no interest in our beliefs, and to be clear about him, sometimes I wonder where he gets his strange ideas. The lamb within him is so powerful it is difficult for my ever patient Quella to get him to suck real nourishment with us instead of that heathen and impure vegetable scum on which he nibbles. He has no stick. His balls are watered, and I have seen his eyes glow with some unearthly light occasionally when the sun is high. He’s sickly, weak and, as much as I love him, for he came from me, I hope he will die and leave the rest of us in peace. Although with the luck Heaven has given him, he’ll probably outlive me and my allotted quota of centuries. The times I’ve caught him studying over his prescribed reading times for school when he should be hungering, simpering and yelping with his friends like a normal young vamp I cannot tell you. He is, in short, an embarrassment to my family name of Jaspetic. But my female... She gave away her virginity at school during her one-hundredth and eightieth dark moon and I remember the pleasure my wife and I felt over our evening meal the evening she told us. As usual for her, she described in detail the physical event itself, and what the half-Vamp was like. As I soaked up blood from my plate with some soft cow’s skin, I could not have been more proud, especially when she mentioned that he had to be escorted away by his friends to a clotting house for a transfusion because she had soaked and sucked him dry. I remember that feeling only too well in the early days of my courtship with Quella although she still bleeds me well enough…sometimes more so if I am rough and take my time. I am meeting her and the nestlings at Kaveller’s restaurant in the High Street, and it’s only a short walk. But long enough to be pestered by young people imitating humans and their behaviour. They look completely stupid with their human-like masks and gracious platitudes. I was about to mention that I don’t know why the parents allow them to act as they do, when I remembered that Lavis dresses and acts in a similar manner. Really, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that he’d prefer to be a human rather than a member of Vampire Sapiens. I can see them now through Kaveller’s green front window waiting for me in our usual area, and I reach into my pocket, withdrawing a pleasant-smelling horse’s nail and slipped it into my mouth. The last thing I ate was some baked cheeks for breakfast, and besides being hungry, I had a feeling that my breath was unpleasantly sweet. No need to put Quella though that. I could see already by the way she silently sat, her chin resting lightly on four fingers, that she was not amused by Lavis’ appearance. Wasis was softly scratching her mother’s long and lean arms with a hard red fingernail in a drifting sort of way, but was equally silent. As much as I loved my family, I wasn’t looking forward to this outing. I loath these family traditions that insist we eat out on Human Night. Perhaps when the nestlings leave the home we’ll have an end to it. Kaveller’s was a family owned business, and served good wholesome food, nothing special or fancy, although Sertis Kaveller had been known to boil up a whole carcass or two for a festival or a Union. Unusual, I can tell you, for a man who insists on his food being cold and wet, but business buys business so they say. Moreover, it was Kaveller’s ability to serve nourishment beyond what he would normally eat which made him an elegant businessman. He was a dark-red, glowering sort of Vampire, eternally locked away in his oily kitchen, huge-bodied with a red mouth like an open wound, and with lips ragged and gutted from years of eating flesh and bits of bodies. When visited, he could usually be found chewing the gristle off a stick of bone or sucking at some other organ. I like him. Entering, I kissed Quella, glad to have her scorching red lips touching mine, and I realised she smelt the horse’s nail. Her front incisors also briefly but gently tore at my lips, but long enough to silently imply that she wished we were on our own. However, we were not. Wasis and Lavis looked their usual bored selves. Both were dressed unusually. Even for them. Wasis was in the sinful colour of white, and that overrode any kind of unflattering style. Which was short and cut away from both legs. She looked like a tramp not a Vamp, and I looked away quickly, shaking my head, glad we were in our usual corner. Wasis...After I looked him up and down in silence, Quella met my eyes, and she was as shocked and felt as hopeless as myself, as I exhibited a face of extreme disappointment. Before I sat, I could not contain myself. ’What in the name of Hell are you wearing boy?’ He never answered as the question was rhetorical, but let me describe it. It was a suit. A thin, pale-blue, single-breasted suit. Underneath he wore a plain white shirt and a dark tie. A glance under the flaxen table, and I saw brown leather shoes. Lace-up shoes. Plain and common. His face was covered in white makeup, lightening the obits of his eyes, while rosy cheeks sank his pallor into humanness. He looked outrageous. I sat. ‘You are walking home on your own, because I’ll be blessed if I’ll be seen with you in the street looking like that.’ ‘He has ordered a plate of vegetables.’ ‘And you let him Quel?’ I almost spluttered, broken-hearted that my son looked so derisible. ‘The boy’s old enough to do what he wants, Broakcan. We cannot force him to eat what he doesn’t want. It’s only a phase. Let him be.’ ‘It is not a phase, mother. I’ll want to look like this and wear this forever. Its smart, and everybody of my age is doing it.’ ‘It’s sick Lavis and you are embarrassing the family. I’m telling you again, you are not walking home with us looking like that.’ ‘I don’t care.’ I smacked my fist down hard on the table, and for a second, just a second, the conversation between the thirty or so customers, stopped. ‘You bloody well will care when I stop your allowance boy, and you’re eat properly if I forbid any vegetables to be brought into the house.’ ‘Then I’ll starve and die father...’ ‘Lavis?’ Quella’s arm reached across, and gently placed her long forefinger quietly across her son’s mouth for she could see their food arriving. ‘Hush now too, Broakcan.’ she offered a smile at her husband, ‘I ordered your usual.’ I was grateful to see the plates arriving, and Savne, one of two waitress’ and Sertis’ only daughter, eased her way through the crowded tables and, as head of the family, had my starter served first; Magryana. A steaming warm bowl of kidney, liver and nail bits. My wife and my daughter had chosen thin spits of undercooked red muscle prepared in a sauce I could smell, but not identify. My son however, had ordered water, and he sat there sullen as ever. When the first morsels touched the insides of my mouth, it became awash with saliva, and for a moment, until I first bit into a wedge of liver, I forgot about him, and his fixation with imitating a human, and turned my attention to my host and the mysteries that made up his menus. What was that special ingredient that Kaveller used to turn something so plain and almost vulgar into a dish so tasty? I could smell that whatever I was spooning into my mouth was a mixture of human, pig and chicken, but my rasped tongue hinted at something else. Something unidentifiable. For the moment. Perhaps I would ask Sertis for a tour of his abattoir sometime. Perhaps I might see or identify something, a bag, a horn, a leg...some hair...anything which might help solve the issue of how Sertis had managed to turn bland flesh into a dish so exquisite. However, I knew holy well that he would never tell me. He would never betray the recipe to an outside family member. Propriety would have dictated that he would have slit the throat of every live animal and human that he had out back rather than reveal that family secret. As the offal and the magic ingredient slid down my throat, my often scarlet imagination pictured my son, Lavis, four hands width higher than he was in reality, proudly wearing a dark cape, a strong jaw jutting, eyes black as a raven’s, nails as sharp as an eagle and teeth as sharp as mine, standing proud and tall with a magnificent crop of long dark hair standing next to Savne Kaveller in the House of Conjugation, their Union about to allow him in to the inner sanctuary of the dark and secret world of Sertis’ kitchen... However, the boy himself spoilt that daydream by choking on a piece of turnip. Being the closest, Wasis slapped him hard on his back, and cleared the obstruction, but it brought my attention back to the table and the four of us continued eating silently. In the background, a trio of mournful violins filled the atmosphere. I cast my eyes over what the nestlings ate, slightly annoyed at the extra cost of Lavis’ meal, for Kaveller, I knew, had to buy those revolting and colourful knots in since his growing license to farm them out back had been revoked. Moreover, that was only recently. A few months previously I believe. A half woman, the type we are supposed to socially accommodate nowadays, obviously one of those New Age types, a vacuous vegetarian of probably of no merit whatsoever, had complained that she could taste blood in her clear vegetable soup. An inspector was summoned; an examination had taken place and some blood, mostly human for dark’s sake, was discovered to be seeping through to the earth where the vegetables grew. Unfortunately, the examination of his wild yard did not stop there, for several bodies; both human and animal were unearthed in various decomposed states. Some dead, and others in the process of dying. Those that were dead were taken away for examination, and those that were not Sertis was told to destroy immediately which he did. Thankfully, my esteemed chef was allowed to keep those, although he was given a menacingly huge fine some weeks later when it was discovered that the dead human bodies contained a number of viral organisms. However, as most of us Vampires are immune to almost all of those, virtually everybody I spoke to could not see the point of judging and punishing the owner of the grill house. Except the point really was to bring even more attention to those kill joys who seem to excel nowadays in upsetting the traditional values which so many of us hold dear. Unfortunately, I was sitting next to one of them. Even though he was my son, I had no idea what he wanted to do with himself. He is so strange! As I glanced at his powdered face and suit, part of me felt like eating him, and that would dispose of the problem. However, as we are not allowed to do exercise that right anymore (not since the law was changed a hundred and fifty years ago) and after suffering his weak ways since he was a sickly child, I had exhausted my solutions. Probably he would leave and fall in with some bad lot. I guess he would be dead within a few years. The main course arrived, and its fragrance filled our section of the room, while Lavis covered his white nose in a mock act to annoy me I imagine. Strange boy because he used to love this dish when he was younger, and before he had these irrelevant and homeless ideas put into him. Our main meal was a combined dish, Posryava, and lay, steaming hot, on a burnt black bone dish of ribs, edged together to make a seal, and was as huge as a pig’s belly, oval and deep and partitioned out into three compartments. On the right were a heap of golden tongues, eyes and genitalia of every different species of animal and human we were legally allowed to eat. To the left were dozens and dozens of mouth-sized grilled portions of animal and human meats, each with its own wooden forked stick ready for dipping in the deep brown oily sauce, which waved gently in the middle tray. As Savne gently placed the feast on our table, at least three of us were licking our lips with anticipation. Lavis had to wait another few minutes before his muck arrived. We three proper members of my family did not stand on ceremony. Sticks were taken; meat jabbed, dunked in the mouth-watering brain, white-blood and bone sauce and ate. A previously ordered bottle of warm mixed blood wine accompanied our meal, and after satisfying my hunger with a few first pieces, I lifted my glass, noticed how opaque and clingy the liquid was, as it should correctly be, and smiled at Quella. ‘To you my dearest. May we live forever in propinquity.’ ‘You are getting weak and emotional Broakcan.’ She smiled with a slight grimace, her earrings glinting in the glowing green light of the fire that smoldering and occasionally flickering in the hearth. Nevertheless, I could see she was flattered, and her already stained lips became infused with the gently effervescent quality of the wine. It made her and her irrepressible long dark hair look even more beautiful than she already was, if that were possible. Lavis’ food arrived, and the way Savne banged it down in front of him should have warranted some sort of reprehensible reply from me, but I hadn’t the mind to do it. Were I serving, I would have done the same. Quella had also, upon her early arrival, ordered side dishes of eggs, and part of the joy of this particular meal, or one way of enjoying this dish, was cracking them apart with our front teeth, ripping off their tops before firstly fully immersing the meat from the plate into their yolks before plunging the morsels into the sauce. It was a savage way to eat, and not altogether fully accepted by the so-called more refined members of those with whom we ate occasionally, but as a family we enjoyed it, and we spent some moments snorting our way around the table. I was on my third egg when it happened. My normally silent boy spluttered violently and stood, his chair flying backwards as he grasped his neck swaying gently as if a breeze was about him. It was a surreal few moments, this suited boy, spoiling our evening. He quickly fell to his knees crunching his chin and breaking the sharpest of his upper front teeth on his own china plate as he crashed downwards taking a great deal of our food with him. There he was, covered in mostly monk and animal body parts and quite still. We were told later that his immediate unconsciousness had a great deal to do with his non-recovery, for if he had been able to cough, it may have been quite possible to loosen the offending chunk of undercooked carrot. It is now a week later and Lavis has arisen, deemed not to be allowed to continue, something I did not contest at the enquiry, and therefore been sold on for meat. The white service at the disassembling theatre went well enough and many came. Some were even his friends. It is ironic that my useless offspring’s life, such as it was, was ended by the very same mad and insane habits which he senselessly promoted. Before he rose, it was my duty to read the address, but there was no prosody of sorrow within my voice. My friend, Sertis Kaveller found himself under investigation once more, but I did not press charges, and nor did Quella impress on me the need to. For I also knew how she felt about her only son. The truth was, he was just a wicked and evil boy, and he deserved to be sold on. However, as I made it clear that he was to be sold on outside of Grays, at least there will be no possibility of any part of him entering into me when we visit Kaveller’s again in two weeks time for Quella’s one-hundredth birthday. We do plan to have another son one day.