Literary Fiction

Drowning the Sharks

By

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Synopsis

A dark and murderous birth, a chaotic infancy in a decrepit stately home, the world outside on the brink of collapse...

John Ezekiel, devoutly cynical, painfully estranged, creeps towards adulthood with the terrible knowledge that he won’t live much beyond thirty.

It was the time of the Great Dying. Scientists called it the Holocene Extinction Event: a cytotoxic gas venting from beneath the earth and spreading slowly across the surface of the planet. In less than fifty years, they said, it would expunge all human life.

As far as John is concerned, the Gas makes a nonsense of all human endeavour. It makes a nonsense of decency, and honesty, and moral law. He is increasingly horrified at the absurdity of his existence, and woefully unable to comprehend the doomed world he has been born into. We follow his disastrous experiments with love and sex, his agonising search for his estranged father, his struggle for meaning in a life which is rapidly haemorrhaging purpose.

And then, as the earth exhales and reality begins to break down, John Ezekiel – hopelessly adrift in the dreamlike terror of the apocalypse – realizes that he himself is the puzzle which must somehow be unravelled.

Jonah

I belonged to the Devil from the very beginning. My mother killed herself less than an hour after I was born. She was the plaything of a hungry madness, and so malignantly imaginative that she believed I was a changeling – a vampire, no less. She didn’t even live long enough to give me a name, and so my father, in his grief, called me The Infamous John Ezekiel.


And so my name was and is The Infamous John Ezekiel. Death has given me a sort of loony omniscience.


I was born in the time of the Great Dying: in Chaldean House, near the village of Godhelm, in the Old Broadwater Hundred. My father’s name was Nathaniel and my mother was Rebecca. She was just nineteen when she married Nathaniel; he was forty-four. Back then Rebecca was a travelling model for a cigarette company. She travelled all around the country with five other teenage girls. They tried to persuade people to smoke the company’s cigarettes by showing off their pretty legs. The cigarettes were called Velveteen Lights, and Rebecca and the other girls were called the Velveteen Rabbits. She met Nathaniel at a private party in London, and they were married just two months later.

Their marriage was a perfect study in cynicism. Rebecca married Nathaniel because he was rich enough to buy her anything she wanted, and Nathaniel married Rebecca because he was rich enough to buy himself anything he wanted, so he bought himself a Velveteen Rabbit to show off at golf-club dinners.


And two years later, this perfect study in cynicism produced me, The Infamous John Ezekiel. I was an accident, of course. A mishap. I was a little object lesson in what happens when two people have a catastrophic breakdown in communication.

Rebecca was supposed to take a special pill every day that stopped her becoming pregnant, but one night she forgot all about it and I was accidentally conceived. When it became clear what had happened, she kept up a pretence of wanting a child in order to please her rich husband, who kept up a pretence of wanting a child in order to please his expensive wife.

It was astonishing that they managed to keep this up for as long as they did. Rebecca was going crackers for one thing. She was rapidly losing her ability to make sense of consensus reality. Nathaniel was going crackers too: he was rapidly losing his ability to show compassion and tolerance and understanding.


Rebecca’s problem with consensus reality was a supernatural illness called schizophrenia. It was a disease of perception. Nobody knew where it came from, or how you caught it, or how you went about curing it. It never effected two people in the same way, and it came and went as it pleased. It acted with complete impunity.

Schizophrenia made poor Rebecca believe all sorts of strange and disturbing things. She believed, for example, that Jesus Christ Himself was spying on her, and reporting back to the Lord God Almighty with a special walkie-talkie. He was spying on her through the bathroom keyhole, and through the crack in the wardrobe door. He was spying on her from the wormwood bushes at the bottom of the garden.

He was spying on her all the time, and the ether was crackling twenty-four hours a day with reports from Jesus Christ to the Lord God Almighty about the many and varied failings of Rebecca Ezekiel.

And then she started to believe that there was a homicidal vampire out to get her. It lived in the forest around Chaldean House, and visited her at night. It whispered to her through the bedroom window when everybody in the world was asleep except her. Sometimes she believed that not only the vampire, but just about everybody she knew was trying to kill her. She saw ghosts too, and heard voices. The voices called her terrible names and told her to damage herself in all sorts of ingenious ways, which she invariably did.


And then, on the night that I was born, Rebecca’s schizophrenia suddenly made her believe that the vampire wasn’t hiding out in the forest at all; it had somehow switched itself for the baby inside her. She couldn’t communicate this news to anybody because she was in a state of rigid panic, up in the master bedroom at Chaldean House. She should have been in hospital of course, but then everybody would have found out that the wife of Nathaniel Ezekiel was a fruitcake.


Nathaniel was in the bedroom too. He was chain-smoking cigarettes and imagining all sorts of appalling conclusions to the whole business. He was imagining, for example, that I would be born expensively defective in some way, or born dead. Or worse still, that I would live but Rebecca would die. He didn’t think that the baby might be born a vampire, of course. Only Rebecca knew about that.

‘Stop it,’ he told her. ‘Stop eating those effing pills.’

Rebecca had suddenly managed to overcome the horrible inertia of her terror, and she was emptying little yellow pills into her shaking hand and throwing them at her mouth.

Stop eating those effing pills,’ Nathaniel said. ‘For Christ’s sake. Stop it, woman.’

He went over and snatched the bottle off her, and rattled it in her face.

‘The effing baby’s going to be born yellow,’ he said. ‘D’you understand that? You’re going to give birth to a yellow child.’

He went and opened a window, and hurled the bottle of pills into the garden. Rebecca began to wail.

‘For Christ’s sake,’ said Nathaniel. ‘For the love of God.’

He stalked out. He went downstairs and sat in the hall by the front door.

‘Bloody hell.’ he said, ‘Come on.’ He was talking about the doctor.


The doctor’s name was Eric John Smales. He was one of Nathaniel’s old drinking cronies from the golf-club. He was an irredeemable alcoholic, and a diabolical choice to attend a child’s birth, but the midwife had locked herself in the bathroom and was refusing to come out. She was crouched on the toilet sobbing into the hem of her coat. Chaldean House was a lunatic asylum as far as she was concerned.


Eric John Smales had drunk the best part of a bottle of whisky before he set off that night, which would have been enough to knock most people flat, but Eric John Smales hardly felt a thing. He needed the best part of a bottle of whisky just to trick people into thinking he was sober. He drove through the rain singing tunelessly to himself, making gentle sine waves up and down the country roads.

A mile or so from Chaldean House, he nearly hit a couple of sodden teenagers trudging hand in hand along the grass verge. They fell screaming into the drainage ditch, but Eric John Smales didn’t even notice. He drove on, still singing to himself, the open bottle of whisky clamped between his skinny thighs.


When he arrived, Nathaniel was still waiting in the hallway. They had a brief exchange at the front door.

‘She’s having contractions all over the place,’ said Nathaniel.

‘Where’s the midwife?’ said Eric John Smales.

‘The midwife,’ said Nathaniel, ‘is hiding in the bathroom.’

‘Oh Hell,’ said Smales, who knew next to nothing about home births and even less about schizophrenia. ‘What are we going to do?’

Nathaniel shrugged. ‘You’ll have to do it,’ he said.

‘Oh Sugar,’ said Smales, and pressed a hand to his forehead. ‘Oh bugger me. And is she being, you know? Obedient?’

‘She’s lying there a picture of young motherhood,’ said Nathaniel.


In fact, Rebecca was waddling naked across the room, holding onto her belly with both hands and making theatrical huffing and puffing noises. She pulled back the curtains and pressed her face to the window. She was checking in case Jesus Christ was out in the garden, talking to The Lord God Almighty on his special walkie-talkie. Rebecca knew that only the Lord God Almighty could save her now, and she needed him to understand the calamitous trouble she was in. She prayed for a sign. She tightened every muscle in her body and prayed with such sudden and savage passion that she awoke the vampire in her belly. It twisted and kicked, and tried to unfold its wings. It demanded release.

She put her hand between her thighs, and then lifted it to her face. There was a smear of watery blood across her fingers.

Saint Steven,’ Rebecca shrieked, and groped her way back to bed.

Saint Steven was the vampire’s name. She hadn’t thought of it herself: Nathaniel had told her. It was Nathaniel, broadly speaking, who had given her the idea that I might be a vampire in the first place. He gave her the idea by telling her spurious stories about his family history. There was already a vampire in the Ezekiel family tree, according to Nathaniel.


In the year 1700, he told her, in that warm and fragrant Arcadia before the Tenebrae came, Titus Ezekiel of Godhelm married Ruth Compton of the nearby village of Caulder, and they had three children, called Robert, Andrew and Jude. Jude was born club footed and hunchbacked, and so it was no real surprise to anybody when he grew up to become a prolific rapist and murderer. He raped and murdered seven women before he was caught, and taken to London to be hanged.

Jude’s brother Robert, the eldest of Titus and Ruth’s children, married Meg Waldron of Maybrook, and Meg was the mother of the vampire. While she was giving birth, the pain was so stupendous that she threw away her crucifix and said that she’d changed her mind about having a baby and the Devil could take it. But even the Devil didn’t want anything to do with the nephew of Jude Ezekiel, so he turned the little baby into a vampire.

And the vampire flew off to live in the forest. He was magical and immortal, and he burned with an inconsolable hatred for the family that had rejected him. A person should think very carefully before becoming an Ezekiel, said Nathaniel, what with Saint Steven out to kill them all.


He told Rebecca all this one night shortly after she’d become pregnant. He didn’t know then, of course, that she was mentally ill. He didn’t know that his ghoulish little folk tale was exactly the sort of encouragement her incipient psychosis needed.

‘I just didn’t know,’ he said to Eric John Smales about six months later at the golf-club. ‘If I’d known, I never would have told her.’

‘If it hadn’t been Saint Steven it would have been something else,’ said Smales. ‘You could have told her a story about Charlemagne and it would be Charlemagne chasing her round. Or Robin Hood. Or anything.’

Charlemagne.’ said Nathaniel.

‘Or Robin Hood,’ said Smales. ‘Or anything.’

‘It’s not even that she might never be well again,’ said Nathaniel. ‘It’s that she might never be well enough again. I just need her well enough. That’s all. It’s not even as if she’s making an effort.’

‘She needs concentration,’ said Eric John Smales. ‘Discipline.’

‘And chlorpromazine.’ said Nathaniel.


Chlorpromazine was an anti-psychotic drug. It turned people with schizophrenia into unresisting zombies. Rebecca was on chlorpromazine for a month, and she shuffled round the house in her nightdress, torpid and anaesthetised. They had to take her off it in the end, because it also gave her chronic constipation, and when she wasn’t shuffling round the house, she was in the toilet, screaming blue murder at her inability to shit.

Nearly everything they tried on Rebecca had some unpleasant side effect or other. Promazine made her shake, thioridazine gave her insomnia and a pronounced twitch, chlorprothixene made her sweat like a horse. At the time I was born she was taking prochlorperazine and diphenhydramine. The prochlorperazine gave her an unbearably dry mouth, and the diphenhydramine made her itch all over. Neither was doing very much for the vampire problem.


When Nathaniel and Smales got upstairs, Rebecca was lying on the bed with her eyes tightly shut. She was mumbling weepily through foamy lips. Smales stood beside her with his bag in both hands, and Nathaniel paced up and behind him, going crunch crunch crunch on all the little yellow pills that were still strewn across the floor.

‘Look at it,’ Nathaniel said, by which he meant his wife. ‘Just look at it.’

Smales nodded dumbly.

‘Effing look at it,’ said Nathaniel.

‘I’m looking,’ said Smales. ‘For Christ’s sake. I’m looking.’

This was a lie. Smales had his eyes tightly shut too. His mind was filling with luridly improper ideas about the naked and helpless Rebecca, and in response, his reproductive organ was slowly engorging with blood. It was getting bigger and angrier, and Smales was frantically trying to soothe it back to sleep by thinking about tumours and haemorrhoids and hip replacement surgery.

‘Is she supposed to look like that?’ said Nathaniel. ‘She looks like she’s got rabies.’

‘She’s fine.’

‘You’re not even looking.’

Smales opened an eye. He stared fixedly at the wall above the bed.

‘Look at that,’ he said. ‘She’s grand.’

‘I’m going for a drink,’ said Nathaniel.


The young couple that Smales had left in the drainage ditch were hurrying across a field towards the shelter of the trees. They could hear thunder, which meant that somewhere close by, the Lord God Almighty was zapping the Earth with divine electricity. They followed a path through the forest to a door in a high stone wall. The door was old and rotten; the boy forced it open a little way, and they squeezed through. On the other side, there was a large and well-ordered garden. They went creeping through the willow trees until they came to a fish pond, and a small wooden gazebo. Away through the rain they could see the haphazard silhouette of Chaldean House.

‘Look at that,’ said the girl. ‘It’s a castle.’

‘Dirty rich bastards,’ said the boy.

They sat down together in the gazebo, and the boy pulled a bottle of cheap wine from his bag. They passed it back and forth, blenching at every sip.

‘This is the life,’ said the boy. ‘Free at last.’

He was seventeen years old; the girl had just turned sixteen. They were running away to get married. They had nowhere to live, and owned nothing except for the things they were carrying, but they had a cast-iron belief that love would somehow make everything okay.


Nathaniel was in the kitchen, throwing back shot after shot of gin. Eric John Smales was still upstairs in the bedroom. He was sitting beside Rebecca, dabbing at her forehead with a handkerchief. He took her periodic groaning for murmurs of gratitude. Every now and then, he had a sly sip of whisky from the bottle in his jacket pocket.

Even the midwife was drinking. She had a flask of wine, which she’d brought in case Rebecca was allergic to analgesics, but she’d given up caring, and was sitting on the edge of the bath, swigging it back herself. It was half past eight.


At quarter past nine o’clock, the snug little bag of fluid that had kept me protected for the last nine months ruptured, and the contents gushed out across the bed. To Rebecca, it looked like acid, eating its way through the shrivelling bedsheets. She flailed around in the air, as if trying to find a light switch in the dark, and clumped Eric John Smales across the side of the head.

He awoke with a jerk.

Sahl,’ he said. ‘Fadl, ptah.’

Rebecca seemed to notice him for the first time. ‘Acid,’ she said.

‘Acid?’ said Eric John Smales.

‘It hurts.’

‘How much? No, I mean how often? And long? How often and how long?’

‘I need a cross. A crucifix. Have you got a cross?’

‘Try to breathe in and out slowly,’ said Eric John Smales.

Rebecca looked at him in bewilderment. ‘You’re not a doctor,’ she said. ‘You don’t even look like a doctor.’

‘Er. Eric Smales? We met once at your wedding. Eric John Smales? Doctor Smales?’

Rebecca started heaving herself across to the other side of the bed. ‘If you’re a doctor,’ she said, ‘where’s your crucifix? Where’s your fucking crucifix?’

Smales stood up. ‘I wonder where Nathaniel is,’ he said.

‘You fucking liar,’ said Rebecca. ‘You fucking liar. He’s not a doctor either.’

‘I’ll just get him, I think,’ said Smales, backing slowly out of the room.


He found Nathaniel sitting with his head on the kitchen table. The room was thick with cigarette smoke. It was as murky as a sauna.

‘I think she’s about to go off,’ he said.

‘In what sense?’ said Nathaniel.

‘The baby. The bloody baby. I think she’s about to have it.’

‘Then what are you doing here?’

A ghostly moaning came drifting down the staircase.

‘Get the midwife,’ said Smales, hopping from foot to foot. ‘Get the bloody midwife. Tell her the waters have broken. The contractions have started. I don’t have a bloody clue what I’m doing.’

Nathaniel sat up. ‘Go and time them,’ he said.

Time them?’

He poured himself another gin. ‘Go and time the effing contractions.’


So Smales scurried back up to the bedroom, and Nathaniel went to the bathroom to try and coax the midwife out. He got down on one knee and put his eye to the keyhole.

‘Hello there,’ he said, in a gentle singsong. ‘Hello Mrs Higginbottom. I’m very sorry about all the shouting, I really am. And I’m sorry my wife’s being difficult, but she’s quite ill, you see. And I’m sorry I threw a bedpan at you. I was just a bit overwrought. But it’s time for you to come out and do your job. I don’t want to report you to the coven of midwives or whatever it is.’

He tapped on the door.

‘Mrs Higginbottom,’ he said. ‘The waters have broken. She’s having contractions. I think she really is about to go off. I’ve got a doctor here, and he orders you to come out and do your job’.

He waited.

‘Doctors outrank midwives,’ he cooed.

And then a tiny, tremulous voice from behind the door said ‘How far apart are the contractions?’


Nathaniel ran to the bedroom. Rebecca was on the far side of the bed, eyes brimming and wild. Smales stood by the door, looking blearily at his wristwatch.

‘Well?’ said Nathaniel.

‘I’m doing it,’ he said. ‘I’m bloody doing it.’

Nathaniel,’ Rebecca gasped. ‘Can you get me a crucifix?’

‘A crucifix?’ said Nathaniel.

‘I’ve got a terrible secret.’ She held out a limp arm.

Nathaniel looked guiltily round at Smales, and then went and sat down on the edge of the bed. He took Rebecca’s hand between his own.

‘I’ve got a terrible secret,’ she said again.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ he whispered. ‘Forget about everything except the baby. It’ll be alright, I promise. I’ll look after you.’

‘Do you still love me?’ she said.

Nathaniel looked round at Smales again. ‘Of course,’ he said.

She shut her eyes.

‘Of course,’ he told her, through clenched teeth.

She made a low wailing noise. The colour drained from her face. She sat rigid and quivering, clutching Nathaniel’s hand until the veins stood out on her wrist.

‘Effing hell,’ said Nathaniel, buckling under the pain.

The noise rose slowly in volume. It seemed to reverberate through the whole house. Nathaniel was almost on his knees. And then Rebecca collapsed against the pillows; the wailing strangled itself out in the back of her throat, and she lay heaving for breath.

‘Well?’ said Nathaniel.

‘We’d better call it two minutes,’ said Eric John Smales.

Nathaniel gently retrieved his hand, and went to deliver this information through the bathroom keyhole.

‘Already?’ said the midwife, ‘Already?’

Rebecca, perhaps by force of will alone, was going through labour at almost miraculous speed.


Down in the garden, the two runaways had finished off the bottle of cheap wine. They were drunk and playful, and chasing each other round and round the willow trees. Every few minutes, a mournful howling came from the direction of the house.

‘What do you think it is?’ said the girl.

The boy shrugged. ‘A dog?’

‘Sounds like a person.’

‘Maybe it is,’ said the boy. ‘Maybe someone’s doing it.’

‘Really?’

‘There’s probably a woman lying up there, and her boyfriend’s got a massive one, and every time he sticks it in her, she screams. But she likes it too.’

‘Does she?’

‘Definitely. You can hear it in her voice. She’s seeing stars.’

He grabbed the girl around the waist, and wrestled her back to the gazebo. They collapsed laughing onto the bench.

‘Frank?’ said the girl, looking suddenly serious. ‘I think I want to do it too.’

‘Right now?’ said the boy.

‘I want to do it over there.’ She brushed the wet hair from her face. ‘I want you to fuck me under that tree.’

The idea of fucking in the middle of a rainstorm was a tremendous wheeze for both of them, and they skipped across the grass, and lay down together among the roots of one of the willow trees.

The girl looked serious again. ‘I want to come so hard I see stars,’ she said.

Coming meant having pleasurable muscular contractions in the reproductive organs. It was what all the fuss was about.


The storm grew stronger. Great curtains of rain went sweeping through the garden. Thunder broke overhead. The girl pushed the boy aside and said ‘Quick, get a johnny’, and the boy climbed off her and hobbled back over to the gazebo.

A johnny was a thin rubber sheath that a man wore on his reproductive organ while he was fucking. It was a useful thing if he didn’t want to fertilise the woman, because pleasurable muscular contractions aside, the awkward spin off of a correctly performed fuck was that the male reproductive organ squirted a quantity of deoxyribonucleic acid into the female’s reproductive organ, where it would mix with the female’s deoxyribonucleic acid and produce a tiny seed. Then the female, whether she wanted to or not, would unpack and assemble that tiny seed into a brand new human being.

The girl lying under the willow tree, hitching her soaking dress up over her hips, certainly didn’t want a tiny seed inside her, but she urgently wanted pleasurable muscular contractions in her reproductive organs.


Rebecca was on the point of producing a brand-new human being. She’d only been in labour for an hour; the average was eight. But even an hour wasn’t quick enough for Rebecca. She wanted nothing more than to be rid of me, so she started pushing with all the strength she had.

Out,’ she squeaked. ‘Out. Out.’

The midwife, who’d finally come out of the bathroom on the understanding that Nathaniel would stay downstairs, was patting herself on the chest with one hand and fanning her face with the other.

‘Dear God in Heaven,’ she said. ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph.’

‘Try to breathe slowly and evenly,’ said Smales from the other side of the room.

‘Lord Jesus Christ on his throne,’ said the midwife.

Out,’ said Rebecca, ‘Out. Out.’


When most babies were born, they came out head first, but I came out arse first, which was a remarkable piece of providence of the part of the Lord God Almighty, because my mother took a shallow pewter bowl from the bedside table and whacked it down between her legs. She was valiantly trying to kill the vampire of course, but as it was, all she did was slap her half-born son on his tiny, rouged buttocks. Nathaniel had spent most of the evening using the pewter bowl as an ashtray, and there was a confetti swirl of ash and cigarette ends.

‘Jesus fucking Christ,’ said the midwife.


And at that moment, a bolt of holy fire flashed down out of the heavens and struck the fifty-five gallon drum of petrol behind the tool shed. The tool shed was tucked away behind the willow trees, over by the garden wall. It was full of murderous pieces of metal in all sorts of interesting shapes and sizes, and when the fifty-five gallon drum of petrol exploded, all those murderous pieces of metal were blasted through the garden, and scythed nearly everything flat.


Rebecca screamed, and I slopped out onto the bed.


Nathaniel went running out into the apocalyptic ruin that used to be his garden. The conservatory was wrecked; the willow trees were tattered and burning; the gazebo had disappeared, except for four shattered timbers sticking up out of the ground; nearly every window he could see had been blown in. And there were thousands of smouldering magazine pages raining down out of the sky. One of them stuck to his shoulder, and he peeled it off. It was a picture of two splendidly healthy-looking blond men in a shower stall. One of them was trying to force his reproductive organ into the other man’s anus.

Nathaniel stuffed the page into his pocket, as another one unfurled itself around his leg. He looked at that one too. It was even worse than the first one. There were three men on a dirty mattress. One of the men was black, and the other two were white. They were all wearing sailor’s hats and blue neckerchiefs. The black man was on his hands and knees, and the two white men had plugged their reproductive organs into his mouth and anus. Across the top of the page, in big red letters, it said:


Jack Tar: Semen Demon. Jack’s Finally in the Black!


Nathaniel looked at his garden, at all the magazine pages fluttering down onto the grass. They were stuck up in the branches of the trees, and plastered to the walls of his house.

The thing was, the tool shed hadn’t only been full of tools. The gardener also used it as a secret hiding place for his mail-order pornography, which was nearly all pictures of brawny young men futilely trying to generate brand new human beings. The gardener was married, with ten-year-old twins, and it was socially forbidden for him to enjoy the sight of young men treating evolutionary imperatives with such disdain.

Nathaniel ran inside and phoned the police and the fire-brigade, and then ran back outside again, and started desperately collecting magazine pages. He stuffed them all together and threw them over the garden wall, and then went back to get more.


Upstairs, I was lying on a towel in the bathroom sink while the Eric John Smales cleaned me with a wet tissue. There was a wooden clothes peg on the stump of my umbilical cord, which was the sinewy tube that supplied a baby with blood and nutrients during prenatal development. Cutting the umbilical cord was often a joyful moment for parents, because it signalled the baby’s physical independence from the mother. In my case, Smales had cut it because he was terrified that Rebecca might try to kill me again.

He’d phoned for an ambulance too. He told them he was at a botched delivery. He said the midwife was drunk, and the house had been struck by lightning, and the mother had hit the baby with a pewter pot. He gave his name as Edwin Smalls.


Rebecca was in the bedroom, curled up under the bloodstained sheets. She was beside herself with fear. The explosion, which had cracked the window in half, had sent the midwife over the edge too. She was on her knees beside the bed, dead white and trembling. She was patting the bulge she assumed to be Rebecca’s head.

‘There there,’ she was saying. ‘There there. Jesus loves all his little children.’


It wasn’t very long until Nathaniel discovered the two dead runaways underneath the willow tree. At first he thought they were still alive. He thought they were brazenly copulating in the ruins of his beautiful garden, that they were somehow responsible for turning his private property into a homoerotic wonderland.

He roared with outrage and stamped on the boy’s bare buttocks.

‘Get up, you pair of effing bastards,’ he said. He put his foot to the boy’s hip, and pushed. The boy slid bonelessly onto the grass. There was blood everywhere.

‘You pair of effing bastards,’ said Nathaniel, and ran inside to get Eric John Smales.

The two teenage runaways had been riddled by a four-pound bag of carpentry nails.


‘Look at this, now,’ said Nathaniel, pulling Smales over to the willow tree by his shirt cuff, ‘Just you wait till you see this. Look. This is the next effing thing. Look.’

‘Er,’ said Smales.

‘Look what the bastards are doing,’ said Nathaniel.


Ten minutes later, an ambulance arrived, and then a little fire engine from the village, and twenty minutes after that, a police car. By then, Rebecca had been divested of the placenta, sedated and put to bed. The placenta was an organ that grew in a pregnant woman’s uterus. Its job was to connect her to the baby through the umbilical cord. After the baby was born, the placenta was useless and had to come out too. It sat in a salad bowl on the bedside table like a great red jellyfish.

I was downstairs, asleep in a bassinet on the kitchen table. The midwife was in one of the guest rooms. She had been sedated too. She was lying there in her bra and knickers, singing softly to herself.


The plan was to take us all to hospital, but then Rebecca got out of bed, and clambered out of the skylight in the top corridor. She had quite an audience. The policemen and the fire-brigade and the ambulance crew were all down in the garden. Nathaniel was down there too, with Eric John Smales. They were furtively gathering up magazine pages and stuffing them into their pockets.

Rebecca didn’t have a stitch on. She climbed laboriously up to the apex of the library roof. Everybody felt a warm little thrill of fear and anticipation. One policeman turned to another and said ‘Well I wouldn’t say no’, by which he meant that he would gladly squirt a quantity of deoxyribonucleic acid into Rebecca’s reproductive organ, should the opportunity ever arise. It was an absurd thing to say under the circumstances, but he couldn’t help himself. The Lord God Almighty had made him so hopelessly hard-wired to procreate that he even saw someone on the point of committing suicide as a potential mate.


Rebecca believed that the Lord God Almighty had told her to jump from the library roof. She believed that He had told her that the only way she would be free of the vampire was to put an end to herself. The Lord God Almighty had descended from Heaven, and was waiting for her in the garden. Only Rebecca could see him.

She staggered for a moment, and then steadied herself. There was a beatific smile on her face. She rocked slowly on her heels. A crowd of men surreptitiously jockeyed for position around the blackened remains of the conservatory. Behind them, in a halo of warm blue light, stood the Lord God Almighty. He sent a telepathic message to Rebecca, telling her that she was forgiven for everything, and she held out her arms in gratitude and relief.


And then, still smiling, and with her eyes wide open, she pitched slowly forward, and rolled weightlessly into space.

About the author

Dunstan Grey is a waif and stray. A dislocated Brit, he has lived in the UK, France, Turkey, and the USA. He currently lives in the Czech Republic. Inspiration comes from the many curious things he sees on his travels, the people he meets, and the often farcical situations he gets himself into. view profile

Published on February 14, 2021

100000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Literary Fiction