A pebble loudly plinked against my rear window and made me jump out of my chair. These plinks always seem minute and like a great device for secretive and/or romantic gestures in movies. Trust me, if you’re sitting alone in a quiet room, focused on your work and it's dark outside, a pebble against your window will give you a heart attack, figuratively. Since I was already on my feet, I walked up to the window to figure out who had thrown the rock and whether or not I should call the police. I looked outside and made out the silhouette of a man in a suit whom I had not seen before, of about average height and weight, standing in the inner courtyard of my apartment complex and looking up at me. I felt a little startled. I had expected a couple of kids in hoodies, a drunk or maybe no one at all. The classic ding-dong-ditch prank usually involved running away after the ding-dong part. But the man didn’t seem drunk and too well-dressed to be a junkie. I opened my window, to ask him about his business and maybe use a few four-letter words, but as soon as I opened it he disintegrated into a cloud of smoke, right in front of my eyes.
I looked at the spot where he had stood, dumbstruck. A second later an ice-cold breeze blew past me, despite the warm summer evening and I quickly shut the window, more out of instinct than a conscious decision.
“She was innocent, you know. A pacifist. Never hurt a fly.” The words had come from behind me in the room and until now I had believed that I was alone in my flat. I could have shit a brick at this moment, but instead, my legs just gave out, I dropped to the floor and turned towards the voice, my back resting against the heater below the window. There he stood. It was the same man who had stood in the courtyard down below mere seconds ago, the same suit and the same build. A few last tendrils of black smoke still wafted through the air around him and quickly dissipated. I could see him much clearer up close and in the light of my room. He was in his forties, the first few grey strands of hair appearing on his temples, his skin as pale as an old bone in the desert. His suit was the expensive kind, maybe even hand-tailored. He stood there calmly, taking my measure as my knees were shaking and sweat was breaking out of every pore.
-“Who the…? What??” I stammered.
-“Do not play dumb with me human, I will not succumb to your misdirections. I picked up your scent last night and I can smell it right now, stinking up this room.” he said in a calm calculated voice, that vibrated with power and barely contained anger.
-“My smell???” I yelled, equally confused and scared now. “Who the fuck are you?”
-“I am the master of the ancilla you murdered last night.”
-“The ancilla, the fledgling child of the night”, he explained.
-“Wait... child of the night, like... vampire? Like from the stories?”
-“Oh please. Do not pretend you do not know of us. I already told you, your smell betrays you.”
-“So... what? You think I’m a vampire hunter? Is that what this is?”
-“Yes, you would call yourself a hunter, would you not? A word that carries so much more dignity than what you really are, a cowardly, indiscriminate murderer.”
I looked about at him, my mind frantically trying to process the situation. I combed through my hair with my hand nervously, opened my mouth, closed it, opened it again, and finally got a few words out.
-“Come on man, do I look like a bad-ass vampire hunter to you? I’m an IT guy, not a killer. The most violent experience of my life was a barfight seventeen years ago, and I just sat in a corner shitting myself for the most of it. I’m a fucking nobody.”
The master, I guess that’s what I would call him, paused for a second and let his gaze wander across my shabby living room and workspace. I could see that it didn’t paint the prettiest of pictures. My couch with the curry stains on it, my dusty bass guitar that I hadn’t played in years, the dirty laundry I had piled up on a chair, meaning to stuff it in the washing machine at some point, the pot I had eaten mac and cheese straight out of that was still sitting on the coffee table in front of my tv, crusty noodle remnants stuck inside of it. I usually swept the floor and cleaned up the worst of the filth, when I got visitors, but I hadn’t had any in a while, thanks to Covid-19. He fixed his eyes back on me and I could see a whole other kind of disdain in his face, that made me want to melt into the wall. How had I let things go so bad? I got up from my spot on the floor, groaning along the way at a new bruise on my back I had just incurred, and dusted myself off, trying to look a little less disheveled.
-“I must admit, I had expected a more formidable opponent, not…”
I could see that he was looking for something kind to say, but couldn’t find the words, so I finished the sentence for him.
-“Not a pathetic, poorly shaved, and overweight loser in his mid-thirties, wearing flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt in a sad and half-hearted attempt to seem jovial?”
-“Your words, but yes. Also, you do not seem like any of the hunters I have previously encountered.”
-“Why, what are they like?” I asked, a little bit out of curiosity and mostly out of a hope that he would at least not kill me in the middle of a conversation.
-“Mostly of a unique religious fervor. Lots of crucifixes, self-inflicted wounds, holy words scribbled on walls and so on.”
I shrugged, trying to think of a follow-up question but unable to think of anything in my state of fear. He seemed to consider his options, a slight frown forming on his forehead.
-“Where were you last night, between 7 and 8 pm?” He asked, probably trying to figure out my Alibi, just in case.
-“Aehm... home, mostly” I answered, “I picked up a pizza around 7:30”
-“Where did you pick up your pizza?”
-“Di Parma, a few blocks from here.”
-“Did you notice anything out of the ordinary?”
-“No, not really.” I hesitated a little. Then I elaborated. “I got there around 7:30, paid for the pizza, went to the bathroom, got back to the front of the house, my pizza was ready on the counter, so I picked it up and left.”
-“Did you see anyone unusual?”
-“Not really,” I answered. He took a few seconds to think up his next question. I guess he was mulling over the possibilities.
-“How long were you in the bathroom?”
-“About 15 minutes… I ahem… had to take a dump.”
He looked at me with his deep, penetrating eyes, which made me want to shrink away into nowhere, wishing I had found a more dignified way to present myself. Even though he was about the same height as me, I felt like a tiny, insignificant insect in front of him.
-“Well then.” he said.
-“Well then?” I echoed.
-“It seems I have been mistaken. My apologies. I should take my leave.”
-“Just like that?” I asked, surprised with myself at how little the thought of dying scared me at this moment.
-“I will have to erase your memory before I go.”
-“I’m afraid I must insist. It won’t be painful though and I assume you will prefer it over being killed to ensure your silence.”
-“I would have assumed killing was kind of in a vampire’s nature.”
-“I can guarantee you that your human works of fiction hold very little substance, regarding a vampire’s nature. I could try to explain, but it would be in vain, considering what comes next.”
-“Ok,” I said, giving a small nod of consent and scratched the back of my neck. “I suppose you can show yourself out when you’re done.”
He returned the nod, then laid his head back, his eyes had become hollow red sockets with me noticing. He stared up at my ceiling and stretched out his arms. I could feel the heat draining from the room, energy gathering in his hands. It felt a bit like standing next to an open fridge and was gradually getting colder.
I was anxious to find out how the ritual would go, I rarely got to see vampire magic in action, but I probably wouldn’t get another chance to strike as good as this. If there ever was a perfect window of opportunity, this was it. At arms reach, I had an ebony stake and a silver tanto hidden in a compartment on the underside of my desk. I retrieved the stake in a single fluid motion, leveled it at the master’s chest, and rammed it deep into his heart. He began turning into a pile of ash before he had any time to react. I stood still, my weapon still firmly held in a two-handed grip while he crumbled around it. I breathed out a puff of condensation into the freezingly cold air in my room. It took me a second to relax and unclench my muscles.
“Tracked by scent”, I thought. I hadn’t even known they could do that. Guess I shouldn’t kill one of them so close by and then casually stroll home while eating pizza. I had always wondered if there were more hunters out there, but apparently, they were of a different breed than me. I guess they probably were worse, the way religious zealots often are, but then again, maybe not. I suppose a bored serial killer, who had accidentally stumbled across new and exciting prey a few years ago, would already be considered pretty “evil” by most people. Not that I cared what most people thought. I took a look at my room and the large pile of ash next to my desk and sighed. I really ought to fix the place up. Despite “Pathetic loser who couldn’t be a threat to anyone” being my cultivated look, I was overdoing it a little. Also, even I would have a hard time finding an excuse for dumping the remnant of what looked like half a campfire in the middle of my room.