Chapter 1: First Session
“No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed.”
-Sigmund Freud, 1905
The doorbell chimed at seven o’clock in the morning, announcing the arrival of Michał’s new client. Casually, he collected the last of the dirty mugs off the low mahogany coffee table and walked them back into his tiny kitchen, depositing them into the sink. Closing the kitchen door behind him, he returned to the front room to check it over once again, assuring himself that all the unnecessary clutter was sorted; The magazines were back on the shelf, the ashtrays were clean and free of old tobacco ash, and the heavy mohair curtains drawn and secured across the rounded art deco windows. Michał stood back and was pleased that his front room actually looked like a therapeutic environment once again. His eyes scanned his overstuffed green Harlow sofa, the low-sitting, leaned back therapist’s chair, and the portrait of Sigmund Freud who Michał believed also approved of the current state of decoration. He approached the portrait to check it for dust but as he did the doorbell chimed again three more times impatiently. It seemed that the young lady really was ready to be let in.
Michał pressed the intercom button to communicate with his visitor.
“Hello?” A feminine voice replied. “It’s Simone Jacobs-LeMonde. I have an appointment with Dr. Davidson at seven.” Her accent was strange to Michał’s ears. It sounded like a typical Richmond/Surrey accent with soft rounded S’s, but the vowels were sharp and exaggerated like an East End Cockney accent. The latter of the two sounded unnatural and put on. Whatever the dialect though, Michał could clearly hear anxiousness in her voice.
“Please come in,” he replied, pressing the switch to release the exterior door.
It would take approximately two-and-a-half minutes for her to make her way up the stairs and along the corridor to his flat—possibly thirty seconds or so more as it was her first time here. Michał’s opened the front door to welcome her and looked out the large windows lining the stairwell. The sun was coming up from behind the building and it flooded the River Thames with light. The hill and street were still overcast in the shadow of the building and Michał thought the entire scene was rather breath-taking in an ordinary kind of way. Rarely did he have a reason to be awake at this hour and it had been a very long time since he had seen Richmond Hill in all its morning glory.
Footfalls on the stairs grew louder and Simone’s voice announced her own arrival. “Dr. Davidson?”
Michał turned his attention away from the window and towards the young woman ascending the stairs. She walked quickly and confidently as if she wandered around unfamiliar buildings all the time. The girl had light brown skin that was the colour of muscovado sugar and she had long black hair that was tied up and clipped at the back of her head. Her face and nose were wide and Michał found it difficult to tell if her features were more handsome or beautiful. She wore tapered leg black jeans and a navy blue blouse that he thought perhaps was tailored to her, but he couldn’t know for sure. She carried with her a large black leather handbag that was closed and bulged irregularly, so much so that it appeared to function more as a suitcase than a woman’s handbag. It hung over her shoulder and she clutched the bag’s strap tightly. Around her neck was a somewhat oversized silver cross which reflected light and for a moment danced across Michał’s eyes. He squinted and extended his arm toward the open door inviting her in.
“Please, come in.” She followed his gesture into his flat and he closed the door behind him, allowing the bolt to click shut as he did.
He motioned towards the sofa. “Have a seat. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”
“No thank you.” She dropped her bag on the floor and he heard a clumsy rattle from within the contents as it encountered the floor. She perched on the sofa and sat with practised poise, crossing her legs and folding her hands neatly in her lap.
“Well then,” began Michał, sitting into his own chair, “What can I do for you today?”
“Your newspaper ad was a real surprise,” Simone began. Michał noted she avoided the question but allowed her to continue. “I work evenings and sleep during the day so it’s hard to find someone to talk to because of the strange hours. I’m sure you know you are the only person willing to meet people outside of normal business or evening hours.”
“I do know. In my experience, I find that some people who need someone to talk to about their problems are not always able to make it during traditional hours.” He paused, giving her time to allow the focus of the conversation to return to her. “So you mentioned on the phone that you wanted to talk about how much you were drinking. What has prompted you to come to me about that?”
As soon as Michał mentioned drinking, he saw tears well up in Simone’s brown eyes, but he could also see she was fighting against their release. She blinked them away and leaned back into the sofa. “I’ve had this job for, well, since I left school at fifteen. It’s a different kind of job and we can talk about that in a bit. I guess the point of the story is that I took over the family business and my father—. Well, he died two years ago.” She didn’t notice as she said this her tear ducts weren’t holding back and began to trickle along the back of her cheekbones. Her voice remained steady though as she spoke. “He meant so much to me and we had so much in common and he was killed on the job. After it happened, I kept working because I know that’s what he would have wanted me to do. And I work and I work and, and it just started to hurt when I came home. So I started out just having a few drinks to unwind and that turned into drinking until I went to sleep. And then it turned into drinking a bottle of wine until I passed out, and one bottle became two and two became three and then I realised I lost count and now, now I—.” She stopped to catch up with herself and she wiped the wet paths away from the sides of her face. “I realised that it’s causing problems in my life and I need it, the drinking, to stop.”
“I see.” He paused to let her relax. “Well, I think I should begin by telling you how analysis works and what you can expect from it.”
“I suppose this is where I tell you many things which are common sense. Naturally, our sessions are entirely confidential. There is only one thing that I would break that confidentiality for, and that would be if you plan to hurt yourself or other people.” To this Simone’s eyes fearfully widened but Michał remained calm.
“That could be a problem,” Simone said.
“Do you plan to hurt yourself right now?”
“Well, I don’t mean to.”
Michał nodded. “When I say hurting other people, I don’t mean emotionally necessarily. I mean a preplanned attack on other people, like terrorists or murderers.”
“People. You mean people, right?” she said, with bizarre relief.
“Yes. Well, I suppose depending on the counsellor you could be reported for abusing animals, but I haven’t ever felt the need to do that in the past.”
There was a pause and Simone thought about this. “Right. OK. Here’s the thing.” She looked up at Michał and looked into his eyes. She appeared deadly serious, composed and very nearly threatening. “Are you ready?”
“My work I mentioned before? I kill vampires. I’m a vampire slayer.”
He could feel her eyes inspecting him for a reaction. He remained steady, allowing what she said to hang in the air and give her a chance to realise she was safe and would be taken seriously no matter what.
“Well, as vampires are neither people nor animals, I suppose there really isn’t anyone for me to tell about your occupation.”
At this, she leaned deeply against the back of the sofa and her entire body relaxed in relief. Clearly, this occupation was a larger burden than her drinking or her father’s death.
“Wow. You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to tell someone. I mean, I know it’s difficult to accept and not everyone is prepared to believe me and—well, it’s just nice to know that you’re not going to treat me like I’m crazy.” Simone thought a moment about what she had said and she sat back up straight. “You’re not going to treat me like I’m crazy, right?”
Michał smiled and shook his head. “No. I don’t believe you are crazy.”
“Good,” Simone said, under her breath as if to herself.
“I’m sorry,” Simone said. “I’ve never done this kind of thing before. What am I supposed to say? Do you want me to tell you about my childhood or something?”
“If you like. This is your time and it’s up to you how you use it. I do have some questions. Why don’t you talk to me about when you were younger and maybe that will answer them without me needing to ask.”
“Yes. That sounds good,” she began. “Well, there really isn’t much to tell, though I guess it could be exciting if you’re not me. I grew up here in Richmond. My father raised me here mostly. I guess I had a happy childhood. My first memory is of Daddy teaching me about vampires through bedtime stories. Seriously. I didn’t know the Three Pigs, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Cinderella weren’t victims of wicked vampires until I was like, fifteen or something like that. So, my mum died when I was six. You might know her. She was a supermodel. Olivia La Monde? I remember a bit about her, mostly playing with her in hotel rooms. She was really pretty though, even by today’s standards. Looking at me, you’d never know it but there you go. Anyway, after mum died, I was sent to boarding school in Paris. I studied there during the school year and in the summers I came home to Richmond where Dad would leave me with an au pair. Oh!” Simone stopped herself. “I missed a part. Mum was killed by a vampire.” She retraced her thoughts and continued. “Anyway, after I got a bit older and I learned vampires were real, then Daddy trained me. He taught me how to shoot a compound bow. He taught me fencing and I won my school’s competition for a couple years. He also taught me Tae Kwan-Do, Kung Fu, and Drunken Boxing, which I can tell you has been useful on many late nights in Shepherd’s Bush.”
Simone anticipated laughter from Michał but his face never broke a smile. She continued.
“Well, when I was fifteen, I discovered that my chemistry teacher at the boarding school was a vampire. Monsieur Lefurgey. He was my first. The problem was while I could fight just fine, my investigating skills had a lot to be desired. Between being angry at seeing a bunch of my friends die and GCSEs, I didn’t keep what I knew a secret from my friends or him.”
Michał interjected. “How could he be a vampire? I thought school hours were in the daytime?”
“Oh! The chemistry lab was in the basement. Would you believe Lefurgey lived down there and came out at night to stalk the girls’ dormitories? He was a freak. Well, the whole thing came to a head during class one day and I attacked him. I went into class and dumped a jar full of dried peas I nicked from the kitchens onto the floor. He tried to make me clean them up but I wouldn’t move. So he freaked out, went totally schizo, and bent over to start counting them. Oh, some, but not all, vampires are OCD like that. Especially the smarter ones. I don’t know why. Well anyway, when Lefurgey went down to count them, I kicked his teeth in and he transformed. We fought in front of the entire class. He tossed me over a chair which broke, I grabbed the chair leg and staked him. One poke to the heart and he was dust among the peas.”
Crossing his legs, Michał leaned in towards Simone. “What happened then?”
“The other girls freaked.” Simone rolled her eyes and tossed her hands into the air in an exasperated gesture. “They didn’t know and didn’t want to know. They all ended up in therapy for years. The school was mad because the kids said they saw me murder a teacher but there was no body and no blood. The kids were all scared and thought I was going to kill them—which is ridiculous because I saved their lives! Some of them even said I was a witch and cast a spell turning him into dust. Anyway, they suspended me on a violence charge, saying I beat the teacher to the point where he ran away and couldn’t be contacted.”
“I thought I was going to be in so much trouble, being suspended and all. I remember waiting in my room for Daddy to collect me. I was crying. I thought I was going to die. But when he arrived though, he was smiling. He closed my bedroom door so the teachers couldn’t see and he dropped down to his knees and hugged me and kissed me and told me he was so proud of me. It was the first time I can ever remember seeing him happy since mum died. So he brought me home right away and I haven’t been back to school ever since. My training became full-time and within a year I was slaying vampires on a nightly basis.”
Simone finished and searched Michał for a response of any kind. Michał looked back at her not offering anything to confirm the experience. The two sat in silence for a few minutes. Simone’s eyes eventually dropped away from Michał’s face and into her own lap. She began wringing her hands together as she struggled to punctuate her story with any kind of thought.
“I guess what I’m here for is to try to get over my father. I think that the reason I drink so much is because I want to get over him, but I don’t—I don’t really know how. He taught me a lot of things but this. This is one thing he didn’t teach me.”
“It’s good that you know why you are here and what you want from it. That will be what guides us in our discussions.” Michał said this, giving her the option to bring the conversation back to the sessions themselves. “Why don’t you tell me about what it’s like when you drink?”
Simone’s face seemed to turn dark as if she blended in with the shadows on the wall. “The last time I drank would be yesterday, about this time, after I came home from my rounds. I went vampire hunting at the Roehampton end of Richmond Park. They like it there because the park is so big and it’s easy to feed on cyclists and perverts in the middle of the night. I staked a few vampires. The first few were new and hadn’t found any victims yet. They were beginners, fresh from the dirt, and didn’t put up much of a fight. The last one, he had a bit more to him. He looked English—not that that means anything because vampires can live to be so old that they can eventually become English when they’re not. Anyway, he looked English and wore a Harlequins rugby top. He knew how to fight. I think it was some form of Southeast Asian form of boxing because there wasn’t a lot of footwork involved. Anyway, he required a bit of work but I managed to hit him in the chest. For the last couple hours of darkness I couldn’t find anymore and eventually, I just walked back to Richmond Gate. The sun came up and I went home.”
“Then what happened?”
“I got to my house but I just… I just couldn’t go in. I don’t know. I think it was because I knew if I went in there, I would drink. It was the first time when I felt like, ‘I don’t want to drink, but I also can’t stop myself.’ So I went to the bridge over the train station and watched the trains and tubes go for a while. Sometimes I have to take the first tube in the morning to get home from where I went slaying, you see. Anyway, I love morning rush hour. I see so many people going into the city. Beautiful people like men in suits, women in shoes and pencil skirts, students carrying books, all beginning their day. And then I look at me on the train on the opposite platform. I’m usually alone in the carriage, going against the natural flow of the underground.
“So I’m watching these trains from the bridge like, and I kinda realised in a weird way that the tube network—it’s like blood. The commuters getting up in the morning, drinking their coffee, getting on their tube trains are like the fresh blood. They are what bring life to the city. The inbound tube trains are the veins giving the fresh, life-giving blood a way to reach the heart. And then there’s me. I always ride against this flow. While they are riding the trains going in, I’m riding the trains going out. And at the end of the day when night falls, they ride the trains going out, and I ride the trains going back in.
“So, while I was on the bridge I imagined all the tubes and the ones that suck out most to me were the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines. They’re blue. And then I realised, I’m the blue blood. I flow in the blue veins. I’m the blood that’s all used up, with no more minerals and oxygen to give the city life. Wherever the life-giving blood goes, I have to go in the opposite direction and with me, the rest of the undead bloodsuckers of the city follow.
“I thought about this on the bridge for maybe an hour. I’m not dead, but I’m not giving life either. I don’t remember much at school but for a while I thought I was like a white blood cell, killing off the viruses and bacteria that infect the red blood cells. Like I’m what’s keeping everyone else healthy. And that’s good, right? We need white blood cells. But then my thoughts kind of turned. The white blood cells, they don’t ever get anything back for their efforts. They fight, and fight, and fight and when they don’t have any more fight left in them, they die and another one takes its place namelessly and without a word. Like his existence didn’t matter whatsoever in the big scheme of things. And I got scared looking at those trains. I don’t think I wanted to jump but, I just thought jumping was less scary than going home. So I went home and I started drinking just to stop thinking. I think I dozed off on the sofa at some point but I woke up again and I don’t know what I was thinking but I took my bottle into the front room to talk to Daddy.”
“I’m sorry. What do you mean talk to your Daddy?”
Simone jumped, surprised that the rhythm of her consciousness had let her disclose something out loud she hadn’t really intended to.
“Well, it’s out now. You already know I kill vampires for a living so I may as well tell you because I can’t look any crazier. My father. He’s not buried. He is at my house in the front room. When my mum died, he cleared it out and had a glass coffin put in which is where he kept her. Well, when Daddy died I didn’t know what to do with him, so I ordered another glass coffin and put him next to her. I mean, I think that’s what he would have wanted. To be with her, you know?
“Anyway, I went to talk to Daddy and that’s where my memory gets hazy. I don’t remember what we talked about but I woke up on the floor, on time at seven, ready for another night of slaying.”
Michał uncrossed his legs to lean forward more. “How do you feel sharing your home with your mother and your father’s bodies?”
“Please. I know it’s freaking strange. I know how strange this is. They should be cremated and in urns or buried or something. I know this. But, he didn’t tell me what he wanted when he was killed. I just had to figure something out. The cases are temperature controlled and I have a guy who keeps the bodies fresh.” Simone shook her head and raised her hands to cover her ears. “Why am I even saying this? You don’t care.”
“I do,” Michał replied. “Just keep going with your thoughts.”
Simone didn’t look convinced that anyone would find what she was saying believable but she kept going, coaxed on by Michał. “It does feel strange. I don’t dislike it, but I know it feels strange. It also feels like another unnecessary secret I’m keeping. My friends—I do have friends—when they visit I have to close up the room and pull a drape in front of it so they don’t think there’s a door there. And I feel guilty. Like I should be able to share that I keep my parent’s preserved corpses down the hall and to the left. But I know they don’t want to know that. Who would?”
Michał shifted in his chair again and brought his eyes up to meet hers. “We have about ten minutes left for our first session. I want to let you know so you can wrap up anything else you want to say and then I can suggest a possible plan to help you, which you can give me your feelings on.” Simone nodded her head and he sensed that she was relieved to stop talking for a bit. “I think that you are right in believing that mourning your father’s death is the key to learning how to control your drinking. For the next session, I would like you to think about what you’ve talked about here with me. I get the feeling that for you, this session was like exhaling a big breath of air that you’ve been holding in for quite some time and a lot came out thick and fast. Next time I want you to think about details, things you might have forgotten to mention. I was quiet for most of this session to give you the chance to unpack your anxieties but I will be asking more specific questions next time. Also, we will need to discuss further a therapeutic contract. This will set up a few boundaries between us so that you feel what you say is protected and I can make suggestions which I think will help you and your situation.”
Simone stood up without invitation and picked up her bag. “Thank you, Dr. Davidson. Will we meet again next Wednesday at the same time?”
“Yes, we will.”
“And how much do I owe you for today?” She opened her bag and taking a sneaky look, Michał discovered that the noises he had heard earlier were the rattling of several ornately decorated wooden stakes and knives clattering against one another.
“One hundred and twenty pounds.” He went to his small desk and wrote out a receipt. When he looked up from his pad, she was holding three new fifty pound notes.
“Please keep the change.”
“No, no. I can’t do that I’m afraid,” he said, smiling. “I could go into the details of why not, but then I’d have to charge you for another fifteen minutes and you’d owe me about that much money anyway.” She sheepishly smiled and Michał opened a small cherry wood inlay box and handed her thirty pounds. “I look forward to seeing you next week Simone.”
“Thanks. You too,” she said, smiling weakly. Now that the session was over, Michał allowed himself to look at her beauty again. Her smile was broad and strong, showing several white teeth, some of which were slightly crooked but they suited her. Simone took the change and dropped it into her bag, closing it tightly. Then, Michał followed behind her and unbolted the door, stepping back to allow her to exit.
“Seven o’clock, next Wednesday,” she said. He nodded and as she left, he closed the door behind her.
After bolting the door, Michał returned to his front room. He was tired from having been awake all night. He would have ordinarily been in bed by now. He raised the palms of his hands to his temples and rubbed them deeply to release the tension. Simone was his first client in about three months and somehow he felt out of practice, even though he had been counselling for what seemed like forever now.
He made his way to the kitchen and slowly washed the coffee mugs dropped into the sink from earlier that morning. He thought about Simone and her situation. It didn’t seem that complicated from his point-of-view, although he wouldn’t judge too quickly and he would give her plenty of time to determine her own outcome. Based on one session, and by her own admission, he felt that she had not grieved properly since her father’s death. After he died, she had been so focussed on doing what ‘he would have wanted,’ she displaced the grieving process and repressed her anxieties. But as time went by, her stifled grief grew louder and so she drank to stifle them; either out of fear of saying goodbye to her father or perhaps because she lacked the skills to cope with grief properly.
Michał set his clean coffee mugs down on the countertop and pulled a cigarette out from the box in his shirt’s breast pocket. It was his habit to have a cigarette and a small dinner before he went to sleep for the day. Opening his old refrigerator, he inspected the contents and saw very much what he expected: a few chilled bottles of Chablis, a couple bars of chocolate, a jug of milk and the four plastic containers of blood pushed towards the back of the shelf. He reached in and pulled one out. As he did, he relaxed is temples further and allowed his fangs to drop and his forehead to arch. Considering that he just finished washing out the cups, he didn’t want to dirty another dish so he leaned over the sink and bit into the bag, puncturing the plastic and allowing the chilled human blood to leak out from his fangs and trail satisfactorily down his throat.
After finishing the bag, he turned back towards the sink and rinsed the blood out of it before disposing of the plastic into the kitchen bin. He then lit a cigarette and smoked in the kitchen, counting each time he inhaled so that he did not go over ten drags. Then, after disposing of the end, Michał quickly stepped into the toilet leading off a short hallway to wash his face and brush his teeth. It was times like these that Michał missed having a reflection. It would have made both jobs easier. He always wondered what he must look like with fangs. The irony of course in possessing them meant that he could never see them for himself. It was no matter for the purpose of washing though. He could smell blood if it was still present in his mouth or face and now that he was finished, all he could sense was peppermint and fluoride-treated water.
In his bedroom, he had a four poster bed, each side covered with a large thick tapestry he had set up as an extra barrier against sunlight. He also had windows and they were covered with Venetian band curtains and blackout curtains to block out the sun, especially as it set in the evening hours over the River Thames. He always thought that three was a lucky number so, between the blinds, curtains and tapestries, he should be safe as he slept.
After slipping into his striped pyjamas, he lifted the tapestry and sat on the edge of the bed. He picked up a pad of paper and pen that had been left on his nightstand. He wrote a note to himself to call Charing Cross Hospital for more blood supplies and then to also call his friend, Samuel. He wanted to ask if there was such a thing as a vampire slayer in real life and not just some silly thing a teenager could see on TV or in a movie. It was quite possible that Simone was deluding herself, caught up in some kind of psychotic phantasy but maybe not. It was only fair that he check the possibility of a real vampire slayer existing in this strange world before he dismissed it.