Author: Andrew Wright
The seconds, the hours, the time
I don’t write
sharks do bite
At first, the pain
I somehow wain
but the sharks keep biting
deep, into my flesh
into my vein
There’s golden staph
on their teeth tips
I know, I’ll die
if the words inside me
I do keep
I want to weep
like a mother
wants to keep a grown child
but I don’t
The words form like lava
ready to erupt
And no matter, whether
to keep them in
or let them out
The words sprout
just as sharks
Andrew Mansell, 4 JUL 2015.
Once the result of a blood test is known, people don’t care where their tubes of blood end up. In fact, blood is the last thing to cross their minds. If questioned, I suppose, people screened as healthy would hope for their drawn blood to end up at the Red Cross, used to save lives in transfusions, but that’s far from the truth. You see, after testing and being stored for a week or so, all the blood is supposed to be disposed of as bio waste and incinerated. Well, disposing of the blood is what I do officially but unofficially, it’s a feeding frenzy.
People see me as a lab rat working at The Pathology which on appearances is correct but there is a little more to it – I’m a Vampire on the graveyard shift, pardon the pun. Start at 10pm and finish at 6am – times that many a generation before me have killed for. Mostly, I go about my duties unnoticed as the people on the late shift are always half asleep, well what human wouldn’t be? That’s fine with me, especially in summer as I start late and finish early, avoiding the annoying lingering twilight and early sunrise that really can burn. You know, I barely have to hide my fangs from the zombie people down here. Long gone are the days when I had to grind my own fangs down not to be noticed.
Back to the blood – I prefer the rare types, A or B negative or if I’m lucky AB negative as the plasma from these leave gorgeous hints of red and white blood cells on my palate, quenching my thirst, my hunger. The more common varieties of blood, O and A positive don’t do it for me, just like cheap wine – I dread the day of ever returning there. Of course, drinking from the lab blood tubes may make me out as settling for second rate, in some ways I agree, but when your daily bread is before you, it’s far more satisfying to eat right away than to take home and put in the freezer for thawing on another day.
Only one human down here in the basement seems to be wary of me, the new woman. She’s alert but that may just be beginner’s enthusiasm. Once she’s been here a while the blush from her cheeks and the sparkle in her eye will pale as the tiredness sets in. I must say though, if I were a human, I would dare to call her attractive. Sometimes, I sense her watching as I remove labels, which contain names and blood types, off the blood tubes. Although the pathology may be a recession proof business, these personal details are some kind of insurance if I ever end up in the street. Just look at Uncle Sava, he thought cannibalism would last forever. Besides, if I feel like a feast, I have a readymade donor list. If only donors would give their lives as enthusiastically as they give their blood.
The new woman wanders off, leaving me uninhibited with the tubes. I discard the positive blood samples and seal them in bio waste bags, leaving the negative blood for my disposal. I take the lid off a tube, Sandra Carey, 9 The Boulevard, Ivanhoe, AB negative – clear, and let the beautiful blood trickle down my throat. I’m overwhelmed and feel lured. I imagine a moonless weekend, paying Sandra a visit, hoping to be invited in, and then, feast time. By the way, tomorrow is Saturday, only one nap away.
I always keep the emptied blood tubes with me as they remind me of the entree, the taster I sampled of the main meal awaiting. I flick the electricity off to Sandra’s house and wait for her to come out. I’m so glad she’s alone. I’m feeling an intimacy fast develop. She walks out slowly, holding a candle that casts no shadow. She takes forever just to open the fuse box. I can’t take my fix off her as she fumbles about and I barely notice myself creep to within striking distance.
‘Excuse me,’ I say. ‘Do you need a hand?’
Surprisingly, she doesn’t flinch. ‘Why, yes,’ she says calmly. ‘I’ve lost power.’
If only she knew the power she was about to lose. Such provocative words I think as I flick the electricity back on. ‘There.’
‘Thank you.’ She smiles. ‘I’m useless with these sorts of things.’
‘My pleasure,’ I say and stare at her, waiting for, wanting an invite in. You know, I’ve never been pushy or rude. It would be against my morals to invite myself in. Her look somehow triggers a sense of familiarity with me.
‘Would you like to come in for a coffee?’ she offers. ‘It’s the least I can do.’
‘Sure,’ I say but imagine drinking a brew far more intoxicating.
I follow her inside and up the hall to the kitchen that is lit only by her candle – suits me. This human almost seems inhuman. I stand close and watch her attempt to grind some coffee beans. She grapples about as if coffee’s just arrived from another planet. Anyway, I raise my focus to her neck, her jugular to be precise. I lean towards her and my breath begins to warm her neck. She turns in a heartbeat and confronts me with her fangs. I sway back.
‘Don’t be so surprised,’ she says in a wickedly gorgeous way. ‘You really had no idea. Did you?’
‘You seem familiar now.’
‘The Pathology, perhaps.’ She teases.
It starts to come to me. ‘The new woman!’
‘Her name’s Silvana and she’s a Vampire woman, to be exact. ‘She drops the coffee beans and they disperse over the kitchen floor. ’
‘I knew it.’
‘But you didn’t.’
‘Yes,’ I sighed. ‘But I wanted you not to be human.’
We move close to each other and our fangs almost touch.
‘That blood you officially dispose of.’ Silvana pauses and gently puts her knee between mine.
‘Yes.’ I say as my knees squirm, wanting to tap each other but can’t.
‘Can you spare a little for me?’ Silvana asks although I’m positive she knows my answer.
‘And what do I get in return?’ I say, stalling the hopeful inevitable.
‘How about we check the depth of my coffin?’ Silvana whispers.
My knees answer by pressing her knee tight. ‘Now, you’re talking.’ I eventually whisper back.
Andrew Mansell, a short while ago.
Walking around to see Liam, I settled on the nicest way to describe him – Natural. A pre consumer is what he calls himself though. Everybody else just calls him an unemployed loser. He’s not down about this though; on the contrary, he’s full of optimism, he has a degree in conservation. He’s also odd which most people see as indifference but I see originality. Besides, he’s never boring and that’s all that matters. Last week he told of his shutdown process and prioritisation. When unable to afford electricity or gas he’d stop cooking and make a bottle of no-name sauce and a loaf of yesterday’s bread last a week. In winter his jacket from high school was his heater and in summer his undies were his cooler. To save water he’d walk to the park and use the public toilets, said they were safe during the day, but if desperate he would just go in the back garden. He only washed himself when it rained heavily enough. I don’t know what he’d do if he had to pay the rent. Luckily my mum’s the landlord and Liam’s an old mate despite him kissing my sister once.
Waiting for Liam to open the front door, I noticed a downpipe that used to be firmly fixed vertically to a brick wall of the flat, was diagonally strung up by pieces of wire. And instead of entering the ground, the pipe had been duck taped to the edge of a kid’s plastic swimming pool. Mum would have a fit if she ever came over. Liam opened the door.
‘I see you’ve solved the water problem,’ I said.
‘Do you think it’s for drinking or bathing?’ Liam asked.
I didn’t answer as I was immediately distracted by Liam’s outfit. He stood barefoot, wearing a school uniform dress much like the one my sister used to wear. I must say, I was glad the dress was cut below his knees. It then occurred to me that perhaps Liam had more than kissed my sister once.
‘I’m not even going to ask.’ I smirked, not sure how to laugh and cry at the same time.
‘About what?’ Liam twirled his finger in the edge of his beard that had been tinged blue, the colour of sunny days.
‘Couldn’t find the Tbars?’ I asked
‘What?’ Liam stared at me, nonplussed. ‘Everything else is dirty or won’t be dry till later and what were the odds of you coming around?’
‘At least your hair’s not long enough for a pony tail.’ I smiled.
‘That’s an idea.’
Photo by Quinton Malfait
Get out of the rain, tells the naked man
Turn on your headlights, tells the driver of a black car
Eat your vegies, tell the parents of a concrete garden
Support the environment, tell the directors of oil corp
I’m tired, you tell but you sleep with the light on
Mind your own business,
I’m told as I look through a broken window.
Andrew Mansell, September 2014.
Photo by Nick Normal
After setting up my new 3D printer, the first thing I thought to print was a girlfriend. I imagined her voluptuous figure – persimmon shaped breasts, taut bottom, wavy blond hair and eyes the colour of summer skies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally into outer surfaces. Her personality was to be – caring, helpful and intelligent. Her clothing stumped me though and I hoped the dress I printed stayed on her forever, saving me the cost of going clothes shopping. I was a uni student who spent my last dollar on a 2 year lease plan just to get the printer. I could have printed her naked but decided that was taking things a little too fast.
That’s when I remembered Gregory and the 200 dollars he owed me. I thought if I could get that money back, the dread of shopping with my new girlfriend might be bearable. Hell, we could probably even see a movie and grab some munchies. Gregory was always broke though, despite him being the instigator, the one to say let’s go out! or how about we order a pizza? or your place will do for the party. It was only later on, when payment was needed, that he’d open his wallet to reveal a black hole.
Gregory had been bragging about a new job for weeks but his stinginess remained a constant, sort of like the stains from bird droppings on an abandoned car. I’d lost count of how many times asking him for my money back. If only I were a pickpocket. If only I could print a pickpocket. Yes! I remembered one of my favourite shorts and clicked on The Hitchhiker.
I couldn’t bring the pickpocket, who described himself as a finger smith, from Roald Dahl’s story back to life as that would be plagiarism – frowned deeply upon at uni but rife on the internet. In any case, I needed a pickpocket with less class than a fingersmith, like one of those thieves that prey on tourists in Barcelona, somebody with a permanent three day growth, glazy eyes, who cared not if his jeans were ripped – somebody who appeared to be unassuming like Gregory or me but with a hidden talent to boot. That way, I wouldn’t raise suspicions when introducing the pick pocket to Gregory as a uni friend or even an overseas student.
I made my pickpocket thinner, shorter, smaller and weaker than me, cunning but not too clever, just in case my new character got out of control and I needed to rein him in. Above all though, I concentrated on the fingers, long and thin, flexible with fingernails that melded seamlessly into the fingertips. With my digital blueprint set, the printer grunted and got to work, beginning at the feet. Bones, tendons and flesh grew before my eyes; designer runners way cheaper than those from a factory outlet came to the fore. In a seemingly random pattern the printer moved upwards; ankles, calves, thighs, hips appeared momentarily to be covered by my made to order, ten year old, navy blue jeans. Then came the gut which I made a little flabbier than mine. I’d always wanted an inwards belly button and gave him one. The upper torso soon covered his ribs and raspberry jelly like heart. His arms were long and thin to match his fingers but also strong and strained like steel wire.