If we told you you were about to read a sweet, charming vampire romance that will touch your heart and stay with you for days, would you believe us? Trust us. Trust Barry Charman.
Looking for Morticia Addams in All the Wrong Places
by Barry Charman
Scarecrow throws my coffin out the window and calls me a jerk.
After this come my black candles, my silver rings, even my DVDs. In five minutes flat I’m standing in a field of debris, wondering how my life just exploded.
I like a bit of drama, but this all feels a bit final to me. I sit on the curb and look up to see a cloud glowing as it drifts before the moon. I made a lot of vows under a moon just like that. Not that me and Scarecrow ever got properly married, we’re not exactly conventional. But I guess whatever the honeymoon was, that was it.
All because I laughed when she put blood in her cereal. Jeez.
They say love is a coffin made for two, but nobody ever talks about the splinters. I get up and start kicking my casket into a heap in the corner. I pocket a couple of the rings and pick up anything I’ve got a use for. Then I look up at the black window, already closed.
She never made it easy to love her, but I guess that’s why I stuck around. Oh well. Time to move on. Before the argument, I was able to grab my coat as I stormed out, it’s got all I need in it to get by. That gives me a strange sense of relief and despair. Hell of a thing, a life you can pack into a coat.
I sift around the rubble a little longer, getting maudlin as I compare our love to a stack of driftwood churned through bloody water. I snap out of it and hit the road. I want to get my head down before sun-up.
The streets are usually empty this time of night. Well, the night is not what it was. I stop to listen and experience the world around me. A palimpsest of impressions. Shivers. Sounds.
Ahead, I see two silhouettes dancing under a streetlight. Because the night calls, and all must answer, I walk forward. My curiosity wanes as the picture becomes clearer. A woman is being taunted by a man in black. Dirt shakes from his hair, leaves tumble from his sleeves.
He is night, and she is day.
“She dumped me!” I cry out, startling the two of them. The man freezes; he had been lurching closer and closer to the woman, but now he stops. The woman darts little looks at me that quickly go back to the other man.
“I mean, it wasn’t love necessarily, but there’s no need to be brutal.” I hop up onto the bonnet of a parked car, sitting cross-legged while I contemplate my audience. “Calls herself Scarecrow. I asked her once what her real name was, but she said she’d lost that, over time.” I felt a stab of regret for her. She needed another spider in the web, but she didn’t seem to know it.
I look at the man in black and shake my head. He’s stumbling around aimlessly, while the woman looks unnerved by every second that’s being added to the clock.
“I’m Alan. Alan and Scarecrow, don’t laugh.”
She doesn’t laugh.
The man groans.
“Oh shut up,” I wince, “do you need someone to cut the umbilical, that it?” I go over to him and pat him roughly on the back; worms leap out of his mouth and he seems to settle down at last.
The woman had dropped her purse, so I pick it up and hold it out to her. She looks at me for a moment. “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”
I shrug. “One of them, one of you. Potato, potato.”
She takes the handbag; it’s fair to say she looks fairly stressed out
“Can I walk you anywhere?”
She shakes her head.
“Look, I don’t want to be forward, but do you have a shed or anything? Like I said, just been kicked out, and I did kind of help you out here—”
She pulls a face. “Oh God, I don’t know.”
“Come on, it’ll be really progressive of you, your neighbours will think you’re really trendy.” I give her a winning smile, but she sees something pointy in it that she doesn’t seem to like.
“I don’t think so.”
I sigh. This night just isn’t on my side. I glance over at the man, “Oy, Lurch, you gonna be all right?”
He waves me on, then staggers off. I shrug. “Freshmen.”
The girl gives me a weird look. She starts to walk on, so I start to walk with her.
“I don’t need any help, thanks.” She gives me a tight smile that makes me flinch. Poor girl is scared stiff.
“If it’s any consolation,” I say, gently, “there are women out there as bad as the men. I should know.”
“Is that how you…?”
This is getting personal, quick. I give her a shrug. “Sort of. I walked into it like an idiot.”
“You’re curious, that’s not a good thing, let me tell you.” I think of the dark alley and the pale woman, she’d turned me on and then turned me into something else. “I always liked a certain girl. Dark, mysterious. Always ended up going out with these cold Gothic girls. My mom would laugh at me. ‘Gomez had Morticia,’ she’d say, ‘but you’re looking for Morticia Addams in all the wrong places.’ Her point was love should always come first…”
I trail off, suddenly feeling very old and sad. I think of the boy who liked dark-haired girls, the man who wanted his Morticia, then the shadow who came next and had nothing. I think then of Scarecrow, the black lipstick she bought but didn’t need anymore, her skin as white as snow, and twice as cold. So beautiful, but she’d sooner kill a man than love him.
She gives me a blank look, and I look at her, appalled. “Addams family?”
She shakes her head.
“Hand that runs around the place, butler who’s a zombie?”
Her eyes widen. “Are they neighbours of yours?”
I don’t answer. The things that were strange became normal, and the things that were normal became strange.
“They were in love,” I mutter, “deeply.”
We walk in silence until we come to an apartment block and she stops. “This is me.”
“No shed?” I give her a smile that has been pretty emptied out by the day.
“That’s all right.” I glance up at the moon and wonder how much time I have. “Take care of yourself, okay. And keep the curiosity at bay.” I nod briefly and then turn away.
“You’re not like them,” she says, abruptly.
I half turn back. “How would you know? We’re not much changed on the inside. Still love and look for love and get kicked about by love. I never look at the sun, but then I never did before.” I shrug. “Life goes on, that’s what it does.”
“It must be hard.” She isn’t looking at me anymore, but she’s frowning into space, as if there’s a knot in a thought she isn’t sure she should be unravelling. The moon slips past a shadow, and I see her more clearly than ever. Her hair is auburn, the texture is rich, like it started another colour but was then dipped in blood, and curly, like a swarm of smiles.
The moon makes her skin as pale as milk. There are five freckles on her nose that, once counted, cannot be forgotten.
“It can be,” I say, softly.
“What happens when the sun comes up?” she asks.
I spread out my arms. “I turn to confetti and get thrown towards happier people.” My arms drop, and I feel the strange truth of it.
“Would you…” She looks at me, hesitates, and then allows the thoughts to connect. “…Would you like to come in? There’s a basement, I guess you could, uh, find a spot.”
“Thank you.” I don’t know what else to say.
She gives me an uncertain smile. “I’m Ruth, by the way.”
I smile back, equally uncertain. “Thank you, Ruth.” And then she leads me inside. “I won’t stay long, I promise. I just need to walk up some walls, get back on my feet…”
She nods. Halfway up some stairs, she turns and looks apologetic. “We don’t have any coffins, or anything.”
“That’s okay,” I say, thinking many things, “I’ve sort of outgrown mine, anyway.
I wake at twilight to the sound of bats cooing to the dark.
I sit up and open my eyes. The basement is perfectly black, but I see everything as if it were moonlit. “We have moons in our eyes,” Scarecrow had said once. I wonder if her world is any darker now?
I stretch, and then pace a little. Above me the building groans and creaks. I wonder if I should visit Ruth, or would she prefer space?
I think of the smiles in her hair.
Emerging from the basement I startle a woman passing the door, she stops and gasps. I quickly flash her a grin, and slick back my hair to be presentable. “Morning!”
“Morning?” She looks blank for a moment, then darts me a worried smile back and hurries up the stairs. I watch her go, and wonder what sort of fuss she’ll make.
There’s always a fuss.
A couple of near-misses later, and the building’s beginning to feel a little small. I think about going for a walk, but I don’t have a key. Ruth said she’d give me one for the front door if I stop by, so I head up to her flat.
She’s in flat sixty-nine, it’s not as kinky as sixty-six, but it still raises my eyebrows. I knock, and she looks startled when she opens the door.
“Sorry, I can come back…”
“No, it’s okay, I was just talking on the phone to my mum, I blurted out about that man, and then I should have stopped talking but I didn’t.”
She nods. “Sorry.”
I shrug. “That’s okay, I’m used to it.” She steps out of the way and I walk in. I wonder what advice her mother gave her. Two worlds had been mashed together, the dreams of night and day, different people had different attitudes to the collision—
I stop. Everything is pink. Okay, not everything, but the non-pink ratio is all wrong. I give the room a quizzical scan. Ruth is standing in the corner, watching me. “Are you all right?”
“Fine.” I go over to the pink curtains and gingerly move them so I can look outside.
In what some people call the night, there is a world of abstract beauty. Shadows are courting each other, there is a silver serenade in the darkness, and I see them, waltzing through dust mites that scatter like confetti.
“It’s not much of a view,” Ruth says from behind me. “These buildings were all built too close together, they crowd each other out of the sun…” She trails off, uncertain what point she’s trying to make.
I look back at her and nod. “The problem is shared by graves.”
Ruth fixes a smile on her face, which I like because she is not sure how to respond, but is not willing to offend me.
It’s the little things.
I dash off a grin that I hope settles her, then give the night a final look. I find I want to be out there, but I don’t necessarily want to belong.
An odd thought. Everyone wants to belong.
You know the night calls, but you do not always know who will answer. It is an intriguing state to abide by. I glance back at Ruth, and look at the phone still in her hand. “What did she tell you to do?”
Ruth frowns. “Oh, just, you know, ridiculous stuff, really.”
“Go through the silver, rummage around in the spice rack for some garlic, that sort?”
She cringes a little, gives me a quick nod.
“Well, she knows her stuff. You said I could have a key to the main door…?”
“Sure, I’ve got a spare…” She rummages around a cluttered desk. Waiting, I lift up some photo frames and study the smiling faces within.
Something occurs to me, I glance over at her. “Oh, I met the super on the way up.”
She looks up, surprised. “You did?”
“And one of your neighbours, she was a bit startled, at first…” Ruth’s jaw drops, I quickly fix her with a sincere look. “I told them that you were kind, and that it meant a lot to me. I think they understood.”
Ruth looks unconvinced of this. I spread my arms, give her a non-threatening gesture. “I can live among you, you know. I mean, if I wanted to. I’m not exactly climbing up the walls…”
I pause to consider. It’s important she knows I care enough to weigh such a question. “No, I know people. If I scare anyone it’s because I’m different, not because I’m scary.”
I walk back to the window and look out, I don’t even know I’m doing it.
“Are you going out?”
I peek through the curtains. A pale woman goes by; across the street I see silver figures dipping in and out of dark patches.
So much life.
I look back at Ruth, I see a shade of the fear in her that I glimpsed in the people on the stairs. I don’t like it.
“Let me show you the night.”
She looks startled. “I don’t know…”
“You’ve only ever known half a world, think about that.” I reach out and brush her hand with mine. She jolts slightly, perhaps I’m cold, perhaps I’m not as cold as she expected.
“What about that man, the people like him…”
“The night will be busy,” I concede, “but I’ll be there.” I lean back, and then nod over to the window. A black square of night framed by willowing pink drapes. “Don’t you want to know what’s really out there?”
She doesn’t speak. She swallows, as if a protest had got lodged in her throat. I watch the movement in her neck— pink as a lily craning towards the sun— as the air bubbles back down.
Then she surprises me, as the bravest people often do.
“All right. Show me.”
Stepping into the night, I feel my skin crawl, the closest it ever comes to recognition. I look up to the moon, and allow its light to illuminate me.
Behind me, Ruth comes down the stairs and looks nervously around. Her collar is up, and her hands thrust deep into her pockets. She’s wearing black, as if she thinks the night will recognise her too.
It took her ages to find enough black to throw it all together. I didn’t mind, time does not weigh on me.
She falls into step by my side, and I start walking. “Can you see anything?” she asks.
The night is alive with the dead and more, but I think it best not to tell her this. I want to show her the good things.
The streets are quiet, empty, or so she thinks. I can hear the dance of the leaves, the sighs of the moon. It dictates not only the tides, but also the flow of our dark blood. I tell Ruth this and she looks startled. “What does that mean?”
We stand in the middle of the street and consider the moon. Our lighthouse for lost souls. “We are not alone,” I say.
A woman is standing in a recess of shadows, I can see her clear as day. Dirt tumbles from her hair, but she does not care. She is staring at the back of her hand, fixated by the air on her skin. She has only recently turned from the day.
I gently lead Ruth away, and I keep her to the light, and point out the shadows, and the people of the night.
We cross a bridge, and I point out the people sitting near the moonlit water. They are basking in its cool blue glow. The breeze in the air is gentle, and one of them is singing to another.
“What are they singing?”
I try to catch them, but the words are too personal, so I let them slip through my fingers. “I’m not sure, but it is not for us.”
I lead her on. Across the bridge we watch as a woman runs up the side of a building, followed by a man. They stop on the roof and hold each other, their eyes blind to anyone else. They begin to dance.
“Won’t they fall?”
I laugh. Taking Ruth’s hand, I lead her gently on. Until we come to a dark tunnel. “See those silver lights?”
“I don’t— oh, oh yes!”
“Eyes lit up by the dark.”
I stare into the shadows, and feel Ruth tense up. I give her a quick grin to show it’s all right, but then something lurches forward.
Its skin is grey, completely washed out of all colour, like a body that’s been left in water for too long. This is someone who turned long after they died, you cannot call them undead, because they are so far past death they cannot make any claim on life.
Its sex is unclear, even its appetites are unclear. It looks at us and moans, poor creature.
“What is it?” Ruth is trying to contain her fear, or disgust, and I admire her for that.
“A revenant. Not one of us, not yet a ghost. Something in between.”
“Can we do anything for it?”
I shake my head. I gently wrap my fingers around her wrist, and slowly pull her away. She looks down at my fingers, and we both pause a moment.
Then a twig snaps.
I look around, I have been remiss. There is much here in the night. This tunnel is abandoned, I realise, and then I understand why.
There is a woodland nearby, and it is full of revenants, slumped against trees, caught inside bushes, clawing through the dirt. They are seeking their own graves.
I do not wish her to see this.
I turn to Ruth, intending to get her away before she understands, but it is too late. “How many are there?” she asks, looking around.
“It’s fine,” I begin to say, “they probably don’t even know we’re here—”
But then the rain comes. First one drop, and then quickly a deluge. It irritates the revenants, agitates them, upsets what little sensitivity they have left. Suddenly they are pulling themselves away, tearing themselves free. The one from the tunnel stumbles quickly forward, bumps into Ruth and makes her scream.
I reach out for her, but another revenant is suddenly staggering into me, clawing at my coat. Its once-a-mouth moans a forgotten name, begs a mercy I don’t possess. I mutter a token apology, and push it away. But then there is another, and another—
More forcefully, I shove them away, barge through them. Their form of death is not transferable, or so it is believed, but that does not make them any less dangerous in numbers. If roused, they will bite, maim, claw. I recall tales of groups of them tearing flesh from strangers, sleeping in quilts of skin, keen to be covered in something more recently alive than they.
“Ruth?” I call out her name, but there is no response. The rain bisects everything, blurs my vision, slathers my face. I try not to taste it, but their rot is everywhere.
I crouch low, so they can’t see me. Few will be smart enough to follow my actions. Keeping low, I move about, looking through the stumbling legs for a glimpse of Ruth.
I meant to show her something beautiful of the night, so she might understand me better, but what have I brought her to? What if she joins the night?
I live it, but I do not recommend it.
I dart forward, and then see a gap. I push my way through, and then straighten. The area before the tunnel is now polluted with the revenants, all of them wandering around in unfocused panic. The tunnel could be a place of shelter, but they seem to have forgotten what any of this means.
There is only the rain on their back, and the vague memory of something else.
But there is no helping them.
I move away, skirting the area, my eyes roving for Ruth. Suddenly I see something—
A small body, lying to one side. Completely still. The revenants stumble around and over it, but they ignore it.
I hurry to her side and lean over her, sheltering her face from the rain. “Ruth! I’m so sorry—”
Her eyes open. “Are they ignoring me?”
I just stare at her at first. “Yes.”
“I thought they might. I didn’t know what else to do.”
I smile, then help her to her feet. My fingers are back around her wrist, and then I am pulling her away, free of the revenants and their patch of night.
“Those poor things…” she mutters.
We stop when we come to an all-hours café. “Get you a drink?”
She nods, she hasn’t said much since the tunnel. She goes to a booth, and I get her a warm coffee. I put it down and sit across from her. We have a window seat, and the rain patters gently by our faces.
She sees there is only one drink. “You don’t drink?”
She nods. “Just when I think you and my ex couldn’t be any more different…” she smiles tiredly.
“Being dead isn’t enough?”
Something about that cuts through the moment, and her humour wanes.
I don’t like to see it go. “I’m sorry about the, uh…”
She warms her hands on the drink. “Did you know they’d be there?”
I sigh. “You never know where the revenants gather, but you avoid it when you work it out. I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“What do they do?”
I give her the only answer possible. “They wait.”
She nods. “Well, apart from them, the night was pretty interesting.”
“Glad you thought so.” I watch as she sips her drink, pausing to blow on it. I do not remember when such an action was automatic.
“So what happened to you two?”
I look up. “Sorry?”
“You and, what was her name, Scarecrow?”
I shrug, do I even know? “It’s hard to grow apart when you’re dead, but that’s life, I guess.”
Her head tilts, she frowns while trying to give me a quizzically supportive smile. I don’t know what the expression’s called, but I dig it.
I reach for something more substantial. “Truth? I was looking for a certain person. But I had the inside confused with the outside. Scarecrow had the look, but not the love…” I trail off, the words leave me feeling empty without them. It’s a truth I didn’t want to weigh. “There’s no fool like a dead fool.”
“You don’t act like you’re dead.”
“Not now,” I say quietly. “But we were a horror story. That’s how people looked at us, that was what she liked. But I didn’t want that. Just because I’m dead doesn’t mean my life has to become that.” These words are more honest than I was expecting them to be, and I pause, thinking of what I could have been, what love could have made of me. Outside, across the street, two newlydeads stagger down the road, claw in claw. We watch them until they’ve gone out of sight.
“I’m sorry if you saw anything you didn’t want to,” I say.
“No, that’s okay, actually, you made me feel alive.”
We sit in silence for a moment, as she considers what she just said, and I marvel at the honesty.
“Thanks,” I mutter. I feel a little odd.
We get up and leave. I walk her back to the apartment block, saying I understand if she wants me to go, if she’s at all freaked out. We pause on the threshold, her key in her hand. “I liked seeing it through your eyes,” she says, nodding slightly towards the night.
“And I like your eyes.” It’s glib, but sometimes you just have to say what you feel.
I watch as she fights a smile. I can see her weighing a response. Ultimately she just meets my eyes. Sometimes a moment held is worth more than whatever lips might tell you.
Ruth opens the door and walks forward, but I hesitate. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
She’s quiet. “Do you think you might?”
I can only shrug. Part of me thinks I should just turn and dive back into the night.
Ruth watches me. “Are you talking as one of them, or just as a man?”
I can’t answer that. Her warm hand reaches out and wraps around mine, she pulls me gently inside, and my doubts surrender to the light.
Sometimes people find each other. They are day and night, but they find that place in between that is both, and then suddenly they find something that is more.
And then they can stop looking, and finally start living.
Barry Charman is a writer living in North London. He has been published in various magazines, including Ambit, Firewords Quarterly, The Literary Hatchet and Popshot. He has had poems published online and in print, most recently in Leading Edge and The Linnet’s Wings. He has a blog at http://barrycharman.blogspot.co.uk/
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