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Vampyrrhic It Begins in Darkness
By Simon Clark
Copyright © 2002
All right reserved.
1. The Hotel Room. Midnight.
She was twenty-three years old; fair-haired, dark eyed.
She couldn't sleep, even though she'd been in bed for more
than an hour.
The reason for this sleeplessness?
She was frightened. So frightened it felt as if her heart had
become frozen into a great ball of blue ice. It chilled her
blood from head to toe.
The conviction that someone was pacing the hotel corridor
outside her door had lodged itself deep within her brain.
Pacing up and down, up and down. She heard nothing, that was
true, but she sensed it. If she closed her eyes she could
feel, as if they were her own, those silently pacing feet,
pressing down against the dull red carpet beyond her hotel
room door. The feet, in her imagination, were always bare.
She pulled the sheet up as far as her nose and closed her
But the feet continued to pace silently outside her door. Bare
toes sank into what remained of the pile of the
thirty-year-old hotel carpet.
I could open the door and see who's there.
The same thought always occurred to her.
But to open the door she would have to drag aside the heavy
chest of drawers that barricaded it.
Also, lately, she had begun to imagine who it might be on the
other side of the door, pacing relentlessly hour after hour,
night after night. Her imagination always wickedly conjured up
pictures of a fat man with bloodred holes in his face where
the eyes should have been.
The first lord of mischief is Imagination. It was always eager
to slip into her mind's eye those images that are calculated
so accurately to frighten.
Bernice, before you switch off the light, look under the bed
for the lurking psychopath-and is that a severed hand in the
bottom of the wardrobe? And don't forget the hungry rat
lurking in the S-bend of the lavatory as you sit on the toilet
seat. Can you imagine the pain of such a bite?
She looked at the door again, the massive chest of drawers
that she lugged across the floor each night jammed tight
against it. Now barricading the door was as much part and
parcel of the bedtime ritual as brushing her teeth, kicking
off her slippers and-
Yes, yes, admit, Bernice: checking under the bed for that
wild-eyed psychopath, who'd slither out the moment you were
Needless to say there was never anything under the bed-only
clots of fluff and (the first time she'd nervously peeked
there) a balled pair of gray socks left by some long-departed
hotel guest. These she'd poked out with a coat hanger and
carried at arm's length to a bin on the landing as if they
were radioactive or something.
And now her imagination, with exquisitely sadistic glee, was
telling her that someone paced the landing.
-someone without eyes, Bernice; someone with only holes, big,
bloodred holes, where the eyes should be; and he's got a big,
fat, bloated body, and big, fat fingers; and he grins as he
snaps on latex gloves stained with body fluids of sweet young-
With an irritated sigh she sat up and switched on the bedside
light. No, Bernice, she told herself firmly, there is no one
pacing up and down outside the door. It is your imagination.
Your stinking, lousy, rotten imagination.
But deep down she knew if she opened the door that would be
that. The same fate waited for her as awaited the man in the
2. Video Diary. Half-past Midnight.
She thought: Alcoholics must do exactly the same thing. They
see the bottle of vodka. They know they shouldn't reach out
for it, unscrew the cap, drink. But they can't stop
themselves. The bottle has this power over them. It can make
them do anything. The suitcase in the bottom of her wardrobe
exerted the same kind of influence. She meant to throw it
out-let it take the same one-way trip as the dust-infested
socks to the municipal dump!-but she couldn't.
It was as if that tan imitation leather suitcase called her
name; told her to flick open the silvered clasps, lift the
lid, gaze in wonderment at the contents-clean clothes in bags,
reporter's notebooks held together by a rubber band, a pair of
white trainers, the soles messed with a black tarry substance.
Then the camcorder. And the videos. Those bloody, stupid,
awful videos. She should burn them, she really should.
But like the alcoholic's bottle of Smirnoff, lying there
snugly amid bags of frozen peas and sausages in the freezer or
wherever the lush had hidden it, those videos-those bloody,
stupid, awful, terrifying videos called her name. In her
mind's eye she could imagine-just as she could imagine the
bloated alive/dead man, eyeless and monstrous, pacing beyond
her door-she could imagine the camcorder videocassettes. There
was one she always found herself watching (it chooses me, I
don't choose it, she'd tell herself with a fatalistic sigh).
It bore the handwritten label VIDEO DIARY-ROUGH EDIT.
Watching it was the last thing she wanted to do.
For a full minute she stared at the wardrobe, picturing the
tan suitcase, the videos inside, cushioned by the carrier bags
stuffed with clean clothes ... it chooses me, I don't choose it ...
Then with the defeated sigh of an alcoholic who'd promised
there'd never be another bender-never, ever, EVER!-she went to
Bernice, this is the last time. Do you hear?
Shivering, scared, yet strangely eager, she got ready to watch
the damned thing.
3. The Dead Box. Seven Days Ago.
All hotels-great and small-have a Dead Box. OK, so they give
it different names: Lost Property Office, Deadman's Dump, Junk
Room, Dross Hole, Abandoned Belongings Store, Shit Pit, and
many more epithets.
Anyway, in the Station Hotel it was referred to as the Dead
Box by the hotel's proprietress. She said it easily, with the
kind of smile that hinted the name Dead Box had a hidden
meaning; something more than a little salacious. Bernice had
smiled, too, unsure whether Dead Box was supposed to be some
deliciously funny double entendre.
How she had come to find herself mooching through the contents
of the Station Hotel's Dead Box she hadn't a clue. It might
have been that on her day off from the Farm she was at a loose
end, that it was raining, that she was bored with the town's
single shopping street, that ... oh, what the heck. She'd found
herself in the room under the stairs and that was that.
Looking back now, she could believe forces beyond her
understanding had guided her into that room with the sloping
ceiling that followed the forty-five-degree angle of the
stairs, illuminated by a single light bulb hanging by its flex
from the ceiling.
For various reasons hotel guests sometimes leave without
checking out. The obvious one is that they don't want to-or
can't-pay their bill. To avoid arousing the hotel
receptionist's suspicions, they saunter out without suitcases
as if just going for a stroll 'round town. They don't return.
The suitcases-usually themselves worthless, containing clothes
certainly worthless-are packed away into the Dead Box. The
Station Hotel's abandoned suitcases dated back more than a
hundred years, and contained a range of clothes that Bernice
Some caused a lump in her throat. A tin trunk contained a
Victorian bride-to-be's trousseau, consisting of crisp cotton
underwear, and a still neatly folded nightdress for the
honeymoon that never was. This stimulated Bernice's
imagination. Had lovers eloped? But why had they never
married? Perhaps the groom had gotten cold feet the day before
the wedding and left his fiancée at the hotel with the unpaid
bills and the precious trousseau bought with what little money
the girl had been able to salt away from her work as a parlor
Some of the older suitcases were grimly fascinating. A hundred
years ago, those hell-bent on suicide would book into hotels
where they'd carry out the deed. It was a common enough
practice. A man wants to die, but he doesn't want his wife or
children to experience the shock of finding his body. So he
takes a room in a hotel. He stuffs towels where the door meets
the floor and walls to seal the flow of fresh air as best as
he can. Then he turns up the gas lanterns without lighting
them; he lies down on the bed, fingers knitted together across
his chest, where he listens to the whisper of coal gas
flooding the room, then his lungs. In the Dead Box Bernice had
held up a note written in ornate copperplate ... I end this life
gladly. There is no one else to blame but me.
There is no one else to blame but me.
Victorian suicides were courteous and thoughtful even on the
eve of their deaths. They went to the trouble of making sure
that no one blamed themselves for their suicide. Invariably
they ended the note the same way: There is no one else to
blame but me.
Bernice wondered why the next of kin hadn't collected the
suicide's belongings. Not that there was anything of real
value. And who would really want a dead man's socks and
underpants, after all?
She looked at the firm, decisive signature in black pencil:
William R. Morrow. I wonder which room you died in, Mr.
She tried to stop the little voice in her head that rushed to
supply the answer. Supply it eagerly and with pictures-Mr.
Morrow choking his eyes out on the coal gas.
So: in which room did you die, Mr. Morrow?
Mine. The little voice had said. He died in my room, number
406. Choked his dead eyes out. Shut up, she'd told it; you're
only trying to frighten me. Besides, no one really chokes
their eyes out. Savvy?
Later, Bernice had felt compelled to ask the question: "How
many people have killed themselves in the hotel?"
The proprietress gave her usual mischievous grin. "Not
telling. You'll only sprag to the other guests and frighten
them away. Now, if you find any treasures buried in there,
you'll share them with me, won't you?"
Then Bernice struck gold. She found the suitcase containing
the camcorder and the videos. The pang she felt in her stomach
was a mixture of surprise, delight, curiosity-but,
underpinning it all, dismay.
The sense of dismay intensified.
Now, in her hotel room at half-past midnight, she knew why she
"Because I knew you were there all along," she said to the
videotape that she held in her hand. "You were waiting for me
to find you. And to uncover your secret."
Feet on carpet. Feet on carpet. The sensation of someone
pacing beyond the door barricaded by the chest of drawers came
strongly again. Bare feet on that worn red carpet. Oh no, Mr.
Morrow, eyeless and hungry and as dead as dead can be, you're
not coming in here to share my bed. Don't you get tired, Mr.
Morrow, with that endless pacing? And that endless staring at
my bedroom door with those two bloodred holes where your eyes
should be? What if I was to open the door and see if there
There was only one way to gag the wheedling voice. She pushed
the tape into the video machine. Shivers shot up her spine as
the loading mechanism pulled the cassette from her hands and
swallowed it whole into the guts of the machine-a weird
sensation that she could never get used to. The way it seems
to grab the tape from your fingers as if you'd change your
mind and do something else instead.
Change'd be a fine thing.
No; there were no options in that lonely hotel room at
midnight, with the rain falling silently on Leppington's
It was either the video.
Or move the chest of drawers, open the door, see what paced
Oh, good evening, Mr. Morrow. Grown bloated, green-lipped and
eyeless in our grave, haven't we? Come to bed and cuddle up
close; I have a lovely bare throat; veins as thick as bananas-
She shivered a deep, cold shiver that went to the roots of her
heart. That damned voice in her head. Wittering nonsense all
the time. She had to shut it up.
There was only the video. It disturbed her and it frightened
her. But what choice did she have?
She switched on the TV, turned it low so as not to wake the
other guests who were no doubt sweetly and wonderfully asleep,
and pressed the "Play" button on the video machine.
Then, as if she'd lit the blue touch paper of a particularly
dangerous firework, she ran back to bed, huddled up tight,
knees pulled up to her chest and watched the screen, the
blankets shielding her body as far as the tip of her nose.
The title came up on the screen:
A VIDEO DIARY
It wasn't a video diary. It was a horror story.
Excerpted from Vampyrrhic It Begins in Darkness
by Simon Clark
Copyright © 2002 by Simon Clark.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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