BLACK ROSE SOCIETY CREATIVE CONTEST OCTOBER 2022 DIRECTORATE’S CHOICE.
We are happy to present the winner of our community’s creative contest in the special Directorate’s choice category.
“Do You Like This Touch” deserves special mention for asking interesting questions relevant to Vampyre Identity and Vampyre Culture. Congratulations!
Do You Like This Touch?
A Modern Gothic Tale of Love and Transubstantiation
by Alex Greene
There were rumours, of course. In the brief time since I’d come to Bristol, I’d heard them all. There was a vampire at the bottom of a certain street. She had been there since before World War II. Some said WWI. Others, the Crimea War, or earlier. Nobody had seen her, but she always kept her grounds neat and tidy somehow.
Some said she’d had more than her share of lovers: men, women, other genders. They’d all gone into her place, and nobody could remember seeing them coming from there.
She was the reason I’d come here from North Wales in the first place. I had to go and see for myself.
There was only one way to visit her place, and that was by invitation. Yes, this was a vampire who had to invite mortals to see her.
The reply to my letter, handwritten, came one week after I’d sent it. It all seemed so quaint, looking at the precisely-folded envelope, the lightly-scented lavender paper so smooth to my fingertips, the impeccable calligraphy of the address on the envelope which was also exquisitely-inscribed in the single lavender sheet of paper within.
Her letter felt as if it had come from another era; an era of Art Deco, the architecture all sculpted curves and smooth plaster, of ocean liner railings all painted white on staircases and marble statues. A time where one could bump into Agatha Christie or her Poirot. A place of tennis shoes and white slacks and cricket sweaters and jackets, and Bentleys and Bugattis, and cucumber sandwiches served on tables covered with white tablecloths, on silver platters.
I ate my breakfast toast alone in the dining room of the bed & breakfast, itself decked out in a late 1940s style, padding my fingers on a serviette to wipe away the grease so it wouldn’t stain the paper. I’d slit the envelope open with a penknife, and spent the morning inhaling the scent from the page and the envelope.
The invitation had been enclosed in the folded letter, a small piece of cardboard with hand-drawn lettering, and a curious concession to modernity – a holographic decal of authenticity placed in the upper right corner.
The invitation was to visit the estate, and to stay overnight with its owner, Miss Lucinda Cox, for one night – the 31st of October, 2022.
It was raining, the afternoon of October 31st. A hard, heavy rain, beneath a lowering sky the colour of Welsh slate.
I’d just come to Bristol from Wales. The dark colour of slate, slicked with rain to the point where it was almost black, was so familiar to me. The colour of the sky overhead, the cool of the rain on my face, soaking into my coat, felt like a friend who’d travelled down from Beddgelert to be with me.
I’d expected the place to be enclosed behind high walls and a wrought iron gate. I was not prepared for what I saw – a low stone wall, a large open field visible to the street, and some buildings connected by covered walkways and wrought iron colonnades.
The grounds were lush with green growth. Between two of the buildings were flat stones, placed in the growing green like stepping stones. Rain poured down from the gutters on the rooftops into an ornamental pond in a semi-enclosed courtyard, surrounded by one low building. Opposite was an expanse of decking, shiny with a coating of rain, and a wooden picnic bench. Between the buildings, an old-fashioned street lamp, in an Edwardian design, protruded proudly from the centre of a circular flower bed. Other flower beds dotted the manicured lawn.
‘The lamp makes a nice touch, doesn’t it?’
I turned at the sound of the voice behind me. A woman’s voice, honey soft, deep. I found myself thinking of the scent of lavender.
‘The lamp,’ said the owner of the voice, half concealed by the darkness within the open door which had been behind me. ‘I had it wired up. It works. It comes on at night,’ she added, stepping out from the door to stand beneath a balcony overhead.
It was there that I got to see Lucinda for the first time. I had imagined her to be dressed somewhat like Morticia Addams, in a long black dress which would have enhanced her slim, vampish figure, with long black hair down her back and a face like a painted doll, perhaps.
I had not anticipated an average-sized woman with ordinary street clothes – a black turtleneck sweater, sleeveless combat gilet jacket with pockets stuffed with tools, a black canvas belt, black jeans and some sort of black canvas tabi shoes.
The hostess’ face was pallid, though, with drawn-on eyebrows, and black hair done in a French bob. She looked at me with a quizzical expression, and a hint of something else.
‘You must be Vervain,’ she said.
‘You’re Lucinda,’ I replied.
Lucinda nodded. ‘Come on in,’ she said, taking my hand and leading me into the house. Her hand felt cool to the touch, and smooth, like porcelain or marble.
Once inside, I looked around at the atrium. Overhead was a wrought iron-and-glass roof, onto which the rain pounded from the dark clouds overhead. The atrium felt larger than I thought it would be, from that roof to the staircase, down to the chequerboard tiled floor beneath my feet.
Marble columns lined the walls, and a grand stair curled up to the right, while exits led to corridors to my left and right. Planters and hanging flower displays were everywhere, their occupants thriving.
I kicked off my boots, and let the soles of my feet feel the cool of the ceramic tiles through my stockings. I stood there for a while, awed by the opulence on display.
‘Do you like this touch?’ asked Lucinda, her honeyed voice sending a shiver down my spine. It felt as though her voice were penetrating my body. She was so close to me.
‘Yes,’ I replied. My voice came out a little hollow, as though I were fighting to get the words out, like trying to speak in a dream.
‘It makes me happy,’ Lucinda said. ‘I like to live among things which make me happy. Everybody likes the things which make you happy, don’t you agree?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, feeling rapt. For a moment, I realised that she had not let go of my hand since she’d brought me into the atrium. I debated letting go, but part of me kept my hand in hers. It felt good to be holding her hand.
Her cool, porcelain-smooth hand.
‘Do tell me, Miss Vervain Stone,’ said Lucinda, ‘what brings you here, into my parlour?’
‘I wanted to meet you,’ I replied, looking into her dark eyes, feeling increasingly lost in her gaze … her voice …
‘Usually,’ Lucinda said, ‘people want to stay away. You are different. You can tell me what makes you different, Miss Vervain Stone, can you not?’
‘I …,’ I began, pausing when I wondered what to say.
‘You like to say the truth, because you prefer to be truthful, don’t you?’ Lucinda said, her sentence ending with a downward vocal inflection. ‘And because the more you are true, the more you like to feel inside, and you are realising that, aren’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said, as my mind wandered away from having second thoughts about coming here.
Lucinda stepped closer, looking directly into my eyes. ‘And as you realise what you really want,’ Lucinda said, ‘it’s as if you’re happy with that, and as you focus your awareness on that happiness, which you notice inside you, and you can show me where it is, you soon find that feeling pouring out of there, now.’
Her breath played against my face. It smelled nice. Clean. I found my free hand touching my solar plexus, as a warm yellow ball of pleasure seemed to grow in intensity, shining into every part of my body as Lucinda’s voice just flowed into and through me, the warm contralto vibrations making every part of me resonate with warm, heterodyning pulses of bone-deep pleasure.
‘And you should remember,’ Lucinda crooned, ‘how it felt, to fully let go, now, which means it’s time to just … let go … to the point where your unconscious mind, when it’s ready … can say hello.’
‘Hello,’ I felt myself say.
And then my world went blank.
I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was, or even who I was. Lucinda’s hypnotic voice had me literally entranced and enthralled.
I vaguely remember being taken to a chamber and told to undress out of my soaking wet clothes. She let go of my hand. It felt cold, the palm exposed to the air of the room.
I undressed. Someone took away each item of clothing as it came off.
‘Look at yourself in the mirror,’ whispered someone. I was unaware of anything else at that time. Just the voice in my ear.
There was a mirror beside the window in the room. The rain pounded against the glass, its sound lulling me deeper into trance. I saw myself in the mirror.
‘You like yourself,’ said the whisper.
‘I like myself,’ I replied, my voice hollow and empty.
‘You love your body,’ said the whisper. ‘You are happy in your skin.’
‘I love my body,’ I replied, believing the whisper. ‘I am happy in my skin.’
‘Feel happy,’ said the whisper. ‘Release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin into your body.’
That warm glow returned, suffusing me with a sense of joy, encouragement, and belonging. The person in the mirror was smiling.
‘Come with me,’ said the whisper, and I felt cool porcelain-smooth skin wrapping around my palm again. Part of me became aware that Lucinda was in the room, and I felt happy again to be with her.
She led me from the room, along seemingly-endless corridors styled in Edwardian fashion, plush carpeting under my bare feet. We reached the grand stair which I had no recollection of climbing, and descended gently with Lucinda leading me by the hand, slowly, until I felt the cold of the tiles beneath my feet again.
‘You are thin. You must be starving,’ Lucinda said. Her hands caressed my bare upper arms, my shoulders. ‘The kitchen is warm. Let’s feed.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I haven’t eaten since breakfast.’
Lucinda smiled, and led me around the back towards the kitchen annexe. The design of the kitchen was modern, this much I can recall, with a central island counter for food preparation, black granite tops, steel and chrome, and black glass cupboard doors revealing aluminium shelving. Lucinda’s voice accompanied me as I wandered about the room, and it was as if it was important that I remember this room in detail.
Particularly the disturbing way that Lucinda kept referring to this room, not as a kitchen, but as “my favourite feeding place.”
The dopamine was kicking in, hard. With a happy grin, I let Lucinda lead me to one of the tube metal stools surrounding the kitchen island, and sat down, looking out into the middle distance.
There was food in front of me. Vegetarian cooking. Lucinda touched my shoulder, and whispered something, and I came back in the room, looking down at the meal.
‘I didn’t know what your food preferences were,’ she said to me, ‘so I went for a vegetarian meal. Broad beans, chickpea fritters, and red sweet potato slices. You’ve got a choice of dips. If they’re a bit bland for you, I am sorry. I don’t like the taste of hot spices on the tongue.’
I ate as though I were starving. Truth to tell, I truly was. When you’re living on a shoestring, you have to put aside preferences. Picky or fussy eaters don’t last long when the cash flow dries out.
There were two courses of dessert – small, round honey cakes topped with a dark, almost purple jam I’d never tasted before, and an ice cream which had the same flavour, bursting on my tongue like little exclamations of ecstasy.
‘Plum,’ whispered Lucinda. ‘I have a small stand of plum trees around the back. Damsons, too.’
‘You mean these were harvested by hand?’
‘But of course,’ Lucinda replied, her hands caressing my back. I felt her kiss my shoulder, very gently. Her breath was warm against the back of my neck. It felt like being bathed in warmth.
‘What do you eat?’ I asked, my voice growing hollow again. I felt my consciousness slipping. My eyes kept closing; my thoughts wandered away for moments, lost in little bursts of bliss from the eating and from the tart plums, and her kisses.
‘Would you like to know what I feed upon?’ asked Lucinda. I nodded. She approached me from the front, her arms slowly sliding up my arms towards my bare shoulders, the skin of her palms so smooth and cool.
‘Are you sure?’ she asked, drawing near to me, her breath in time with mine, her hands sliding upwards to the back of my neck, the scent of lavender everywhere.
‘Yes,’ I whispered.
‘Do you consent?’ she asked, her mouth close to mine, her breath filling my mouth, my throat, my lungs.
‘Yes,’ I breathed, my heart pounding.
Lucinda’s lips touched mine, the cool flesh pressing against my own lips, yet so soft. I felt my breath leave me, and enter her. Something else flowed within me, as well; the soft glow of joy became a current, flowing into and through her like a golden electric current.
I felt the glow of joy transform into a wild ecstasy. Part of me wanted to unleash that ecstasy onto Lucinda, but I felt her presence, stemming the tide, controlling the volume, as though she had a finger on some sort of spigot, keeping the outpouring of heat and desire down to an acceptable level.
Lucinda had the control. All I could do was sit, and offer the trickle of pleasure emerging from me. An offering of my breath, my energy, my prana, to her.
What felt like hours passed.
I lay on a cot in a room attached to the kitchen, my body weary as though I’d just spent the night awake and was just crashing now. My spirit, however, was still aglow with passion; yet it was muted, a glimmer of its prior radiance.
‘You must feel wasted,’ Lucinda said, from the kitchen. ‘Feeding does that.’
I got up, cursing my clumsy body. I felt unsteady, as if I’d sunk half a dozen shots while out clubbing, yet without the warm buzz one would expect from inebriation.
Lucinda looked at me curiously. ‘Are you alright?’
‘I think I need some fresh air,’ I said, making my way towards the back door of the kitchen.
‘It’s unlocked,’ I heard her say, as I rested my hand on the stainless steel handle, chill to the touch. The door opened, and I was outside.
I could have screamed. The rain outside was pouring over me, drenching and chilling me to the very bone. Every square inch of me recoiled from the battering of the thick raindrops. My nerves conveyed an agony to my brain, and I was suddenly made acutely aware of the reality of my situation. All the warm illusions were cast aside, and I realised that I was naked.
And I had been naked for some time.
I looked back inside the kitchen. Lucinda was almost directly behind me. The quizzical look on her face turned to concern. The slight half-smile of amusement turned down.
‘Please,’ I said, as she extended a hand, ‘don’t touch me.’
I let myself in, and stood a while in the kitchen, dripping, shivering. Lucinda reached for a closet, and took out a fluffy towel, which she dropped onto the kitchen island. I began towelling myself down, pausing for a moment to close the kitchen door. Lucinda left the room, returning a few minutes later with my clothes – all neatly folded, with my boots on top.
The clothes were cool, but dry. I looked up at Lucinda. ‘How did you do that?’
Lucinda’s mysterious half-smile came back to her face. ‘If you want to leave,’ she said, ‘you are free to do so. Put your clothes back on, regardless. You’ll want to feel comfortable.’
‘That was a heavy feed,’ I said, putting my clothes back on. ‘You took a lot out of me.’
‘I took more than I had planned,’ Lucinda replied. ‘I wanted to take a sip only, but … oh, Hecate, your prana was nectar. I couldn’t help it. I’m so sorry.’ She paused. ‘Wait,’ she said, her expression quizzical again; ‘you sound like you’ve done this before.’
Lucinda stepped towards me, scrutinising me. ‘You have been fed on before,’ she replied. ‘I … who’s fed on you?’
‘The last one was in Wales,’ I replied. ‘He was so old, and so gentle. He said he preferred male prana, but mine was like a vintage wine, from his old days before. He treated my prana like a connoisseur tastes a wine from a fifty-year-old bottle.’
‘Did you tell me where he lived?’ asked Lucinda. ‘Was it Beddgelert?’
‘That’s where I came from,’ I replied. ‘It’s not where I live.’
‘What do you do, then?’
I looked at Lucinda. ‘I wander,’ I replied. ‘I stay as long as I can. I let people like you feed from me, and when I get weak, I move on to the next one.’ I shrugged into my coat.
‘Do you live with them?’
I looked at Lucinda again. ‘The last one, the one in Beddgelert, was generous. I could live in hotels for a while. Practically a year. But the money’s running out again.’
‘So you’re looking for the next one, like me, who can give you shelter,’ I heard Lucinda reply.
‘Only,’ I said, ‘to be honest, I’m running out of Vampyres. I’ve gone to them all. Not all of them are good. The Beddgelert one sent me away with a generous packet, and I can’t go back to him because he’s … retiring from the scene.’
Lucinda looked shocked.
‘It’s late,’ I said. Lucinda checked the clock behind me, and nodded. I’m always good with timekeeping. I don’t need a watch.
Lucinda paused. I could see her biting her lip as she pondered. ‘What are you thinking about?’ I asked.
‘Could I … could I ask you to stay with me the night?’
‘I don’t want you to overfeed on me,’ I replied. ‘I don’t want to go into a coma.’
Lucinda shook her head. ‘I’m sorry for overfeeding on you,’ she said, stepping towards me, and placing a hand on mine. It felt warmer than before.
‘What are you …?’ I began. She caressed my face.
My eyes closed. I inhaled lavender. I felt warmth. I felt energy.
I let out a moan of pleasure, as Lucinda completed her approach towards me, burying her face in my chest, breathing on me, caressing me.
Releasing some of my stolen prana back into me.
‘Stay,’ she whispered. ‘I won’t hypnotise you tonight.’
I reached for her face, and saw earnest desire there. She did not need to hypnotise me into taking off my clothes again.
The night of Halloween 2022 was a night of sharing. We shared our prana. We shared her bed. She smelled faintly of lavender. Possibly something she’d dabbed on her skin. I found myself sniffing and kissing her arms and shoulders, my eyes closed, chasing the scent.
That night, I felt light, as if part of me were floating free of my body. I felt Lucinda all around me, a silvery glow, bathing my golden form in its cool radiance.
‘I cannot stay,’ I said to her, unsure of whether I were saying the words out loud or projecting them somehow.
‘You do not have to,’ Lucinda replied. ‘But you cannot live this life you are living forever, either.’ I felt her touch my … my spirit, for want of a better word. I sensed her looking at me, without eyes. ‘Do you see what I am doing?’
I looked at her. ‘Yes,’ I thought.
‘Do you consent,’ Lucinda asked, ‘to let me do this to you?’
‘Yes,’ I replied.
‘You do know that there is no going back.’
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Do it.’
Lucinda reached. Pressed. Pulled.
There was a moment of profound agony.
And then it was done.
When I woke up, Lucinda was lying beside me, in a tangle of satin. The sky outside the window was grey, but it was dry. The bedding felt cool and dry. I sniffed it as we got up and made the bed together. I could only detect the faint scents of plums and lavender.
We both dressed, and went down to the kitchen, where we prepared some tea.
‘We all allow ourselves one indulgence,’ said Lucinda.
‘And yours is tea?’ I asked. She nodded.
‘Wonder what mine would be?’ I asked.
‘You’ll know,’ Lucinda replied.
Later, we both reached for our coats. ‘It’s cold outside,’ Lucinda said. She was right. The November sky overhead was dull grey, with some blue patches breaking through. The hard rain of the night before was over, and the piercingly cold wind was breaking up the clouds.
I looked at Lucinda, who regarded me with gleaming, passionate eyes, and a faint half smile of satisfaction. ‘I’m not going to forget this,’ I told her.
‘Nor I, you,’ Lucinda replied. ‘I’ve left you a little something. Check your banking app.’
‘How did you know I use a banking app?’ I asked.
‘With your lifestyle,’ Lucinda replied, ‘I would be surprised if you didn’t.’ Her half smile broadened into a grin. She leaned over to kiss my cheek, a dry-lipped kiss. I returned the gesture.
‘I don’t normally say goodbyes,’ Lucinda said.
Warmth caressed the back of my neck. I turned. The sun had broken through the clouds. A warm ray caressed my face.
I spun around to see if Lucinda were enjoying the sunlight, too.
I was alone.
‘Where are you heading?’
The young man looked at me from across the table on the rocking train. The carriage was crowded, but we’d both found a table seat and sat facing one another, our luggage on the seats next to us.
The man had a lightly coloured goatee beard to go with his sandy hair. He had an eager look, but I didn’t sense lust from him; more curiosity.
‘Birmingham,’ I lied. ‘And after this weekend, back home to Bristol.’
‘Oh, so you live there?’ he asked. ‘Your accent doesn’t sound Bristolian.’
I shook my head. ‘I came from North Wales,’ I said, ‘but I’ve been travelling about the place.’
‘You must be rich,’ he said, ‘considering the rail fares.’
I thought of the healthy sum of money in my bank account, last time I’d checked my banking app on my phone. ‘You have no idea,’ I crooned.
‘Who do you work for?’
I gave him a half-grin. ‘I don’t,’ I said.
‘Oh, so, it’s an inheritance,’ he said.
I nodded. ‘You could say that,’ I replied. Impulsively, I reached out to touch his hand. ‘And you? You look like a student.’
‘I am,’ said the man. ‘The name’s Roger. I’m going home to Preston. That’s in Lancashire. My folks live there.’
‘I heard your accent,’ I said. ‘I’d figured as much. Have you liked travel?’
‘I love studying in Bristol,’ Roger said, ‘but I want to get home for this week. My sister’s given birth.’
‘Oh, how lovely,’ I said. ‘What’s the baby’s name?’
‘My sister’s called Holly,’ Roger said. ‘She wanted to name the baby Lucinda.’
I sat back, shocked by the name.
‘You look lost,’ Roger said. ‘Have I said something wrong?’
‘No,’ I replied. ‘Just that I … I knew someone called Lucinda.’ The half grin came back. ‘She meant something to me, for a time.’
I watched Roger nod and return his attention to the phone in his hand, which had just rung. A Whatsapp call. I reached again, and let my cool, smooth fingers caress the skin of the back of his hand.
‘Excuse me,’ I said, my eyes catching his as he looked up at mine, locking his gaze so he couldn’t look away at the live feed of Holly and baby Lucinda. ‘I just wanted to ask … do you like this touch?’
Written by Alex Greene and submitted for Black Rose Society’s Creative Contest October 2022.
BLACK ROSE SOCIETY 2022