Her fingers polished over pristine pearls that draped from her neck. Her tailored dress followed her impatient footsteps. Maids in long stiff uniforms frantically trailed behind her, always careful never to get too close. It wasn’t but two hours ago that servants had been on their hands and knees, viciously scrubbing the floors, dusting every nook and cranny. Ingrid worked hard for the arrival of her cousin. Screaming at every butler and maid, demanding they put their blood, sweat, and tears into her perfect home (well, as long as it didn’t get onto her newly purchased rugs.)
Ingrid soon found herself by the front of her house, the maids sputtering past her to line up on each side of the door. Slow, heavy knocks sounded from the entrance. One of the maids quickly opened the door, and in stepped her cousin, Hainford.
“Hainford, darling, how lovely it is to see you again. You look…,” she paused to take in his appearance. His clothes were dignified, wealth stitched into every seam, holding together the elegance of his suit. But such high praises could no longer be said for his face. The once polished characteristics of a nobleman were no longer ingrained in his features. Instead, he was now sickeningly pale, with dark circles swallowing his eyes. She could even see sweat dripping from his brow, despite it being the middle of winter.
‘Dear Gods’ she thought. ‘He looks like some commoner!’
“Dashing. Positively dashing.” She finally managed to say with a strained smile. “Oh come now, Ingrid. You are too ki-” violent coughs erupted from his throat. His hand desperately clutched his mouth, as if he could contain the blood that was spat from his lungs. The blood, mixed with spit, oozing like snot dripping down his wrist .
“Oh, honey,” Ingrid clutched her white pearls, disgusted.
“Dedrah.” She snapped her fingers towards one of the maids.
“Well don’t just stand there, get the man a handkerchief.” Dedra’s hands fumbled into each pocket, before she hurriedly pulled out the cloth. She then clumsily made her way to Hainford. Bowed slightly, she presented the handkerchief to him. He hastily brought it to his mouth, whipping away the blood that had collected around his lips and fallen down his chin. His eyes lifted to connect with Ingrid’s, embarrassment now coursing through him.
“Ingrid, my sincerest apologies. It wasn’t my intention to get blood on your nice floors.” “Oh dearest cousin, it’s no trouble at all, really.” She smiled, ever so sweetly, hoping it was enough to mask the nauseated feeling that was bubbling in her stomach. Silently, she prayed that this would be the last time Hainford would ever cough blood on her best carpet. It was not the last, but the beginning of many days, and months, that she would endure the melody of his violent hacking. Hainford’s sickness had engulfed her home. Casting dark clouds to hang over the manor. The sweet air made from pine and fresh mist had now gone stale with infection. With each breath they drew, they would inhale a little bit of Hainford into their lungs. Ingrid had tried everything to heal him. She brought in doctor after doctor. And when that failed, she had opened her arms towards God, calling in priests to exercise whatever had consumed her cousin. She just wanted it to end. She had pushed through too many sleepless nights. Too much money she had thrown at every dead-end answer. At this point, she was sure Hainford wasn’t even alive. He was just a corpse, clinging on to the fruitless thought that he would be saved. After what felt like an eternity, he finally submitted to the inescapable clutch of death. Ingrid could not even begin to comprehend the joy she felt when his heart stopped beating. With his final goodbye, he gifted her the illusion of a clearing storm.
In the weeks following Hainford’s funeral, Ingrid noticed her chest felt tight. Each breath is a little more painful. And coughs that would last longer and longer. Having witnessed the horrendous deterioration of her cousin, she sensibly summoned a doctor.
“Ah yes, Ms. Mallory, the death of your cousin solidifies a theory I’ve been working on for months.”
“Really doctor? And, if you don’t mind me asking, why wasn’t I made aware of this during poor Hainford’s sickness?”
“Ms. Mallory, the discovery I have made is not one to be taken lightly, and can very well change the course of history.” His puffed face had shined with offense, with his mustache curling into an even deeper frown. Ingrid tried not to recoil while looking at the bits of his lunch that had made a home in his beard.
“ My apologies, Doctor, I didn’t mean to offend you, not by any means. It just saddens me that my sweet late cousin could not even know his own ailment.”
“Understandable, but I regret to inform you that Hainford Mallory was indeed a vampire.” Silence had set between the two of them. Ingrid stared at the doctor, irritated that he could ever state something so outrageous.
“A vampire?! You’re saying my cousin died because he was a vampire?”
“No no, don’t be ridiculous. He died and became a vampire. His sickness was just the transformation into his final sinful form.” He had said it as if it were the most obvious conclusion that even an idiot could understand. And Ingrid was no idiot.
“Fine then, Doctor, how do you suppose the diagnoses of my symptoms? I am sure that I would notice if I were bitten by a vampire.”
“ I thought the answer was perfectly clear. Hainford obviously rose from his grave, and in a living undead, fashion turned you into a vampire. It really is quite simple. But do not worry Ms. Hainford, this is only the beginning of the transformation, meaning that I can still make you human.”
“Come now Ms. Hainford. This is not the time for your womanly emotions to get the better of you.”
“You’re not listening, Doctor. I said, Get. Out!” The sound of the doctor’s chair, scraping against the floor, fills the room.
“Talk to me once you’ve regained your senses. Now good day Ms. Mallory.” He flashed her a tight smile, and was shown the way out by one of the servants, leaving Ingrid to steep in the information that he left behind.
But as not even a month had passed, she did not recover. Her bones grew weak. Crushed under the weight of her body. Her chest began to collapse onto her lungs. And she, like Hainford, coughed blood. Every medicine the maids gave her, tasted like poison. Ingrid began to lash out at those who came into her room, no matter if they were there to help her. She even went as far as to throw a pair of scissors that stuck into a servant’s eye. And every time she would look at herself in the mirror, she became more repulsed at what looked back at her. Sweat seemed to leak from her forehead. She no longer wore expensive dresses, crafted from the finest fabrics. No, now she only wore her nightgown which was stained with her blood. Finally, she caved, ordering a servant to bring her the doctor. The very one she had exiled from her house.
He stepped through the threshold of her room, making his way towards her bed, where she lay propped up by pillows. In his hands, he carried a wooden bowl, the top of it covered by a blue cloth.
“Ms. Mallory, I see you aren’t doing so well.” She scoffed, turning her head. “ I don’t care whether I am human or vampire, or whatever idiotic creature you believe me to be. Just make me better… please.” She looked desperately into the doctor’s eyes, and he grinned triumphantly, thrusting the bowl in his hands onto her lap, as well as a fork. “Here. Eat this.” He unveils the contents of the bowl. She almost vomited at the smell.
“And what exactly is this?”
“You’ll feel better. Now eat.” She stabbed one of the dark red chunks, gagging as she brought the content into her mouth, she hoped that it would at least soothe her aching throat. She swallowed, piece after piece, until there was nothing left. She looked back at the doctor, his eyes shining in delight.
“Tell me, what did I just eat?” she pleaded.
“Now Ms. Mallory, do remain calm when I tell you this.” she nodded.
“It was dear Hainford’s liver. I figured feeding you pieces of him would act as an anti-virus of sorts. Now tell me, sweetheart, how do you feel?” Disgusted. How did he think she’d feel ingesting something so vile? She had just eaten her cousin, but she supposed it’s what he deserved. She had let Hainford into her home. Extended her charity that few have ever witnessed, and this is how he repays her. Dooming her now shortened life to being a waking hell.
Both dead and alive, he had managed to be a nuisance, nothing but an ugly stain on her life. If I am unable to be at peace, cousin, then neither shall you, she thought.
“It wasn’t too bad, Doctor. In fact,” she extends her bowl towards him,.
“I would be delighted if you gave me some more.” She offered him a bubbly smile, staring intently into his eyes. Demanding he say yes.