STOKER SYNDROME • by Paul A. Freeman

My name’s Kari Herman, and I’m not sure whether I murdered my landlord. Hopefully I did, in which case that’s an end to it.

This is what happened.

Mr Rasnov Alba Claud, or R. A. C. as he preferred, was my Eastern European landlord. He owned Carfax Towers, where I resided in a twenty-first storey hovel. He never ventured abroad in daylight, and that’s what put me on to him. During the daytime he was not to be seen behind the concierge desk when I scuttled back from the grocery store or the laundry-room, nor was he in the manager’s office watching comings and goings on CCTV. Nor did he ever supervise the surly contractor workers in their repair and maintenance work inside and outside Carfax Towers.

Instead, my pale-faced tormentor made his presence felt once a month, on rent day. Every thirtieth day of the month, around midnight, he came to my door demanding his dues. He was flanked by two silent, Neanderthal heavies, their eyes hidden behind sunglasses. The reason for the lateness of his visits was twofold. Firstly, at such an ungodly hour I was likely at home. Secondly, he wanted to make sure I wasn’t subletting or cohabiting.

“Ms Kari Herman!” he’d say, all charming-like, in his broad Romanian accent. Then he’d consult his little black book and cough politely before adding: “I think you have something for me.”

At this point I’d excuse myself, without inviting him or his goons across the threshold, and scrape together whatever cash was lying about the flat.

What followed was humiliating. I’d press some scrunched up fivers and tenners on him, along with any higher denomination coins I came across and Mr Claud would shake his head sadly at my inability to keep house. Then, during the next four weeks, I’d be subjected to arbitrary visits from Tweedledee and Tweedledum to recover the remainder of the debt.

It was on one of these midnight visits, when his lips curled up into a sneering, sharp-toothed smile at the grungy banknotes and coins in the palm of his hand, that I initially suspected Mr Claud was not who he purported to be. His pointy canines, his apparent aversion to sunlight, his pasty complexion, his minions who did his bidding unquestioningly!

It could mean only one thing.

Not long after my disturbing discovery, I began to notice how insidiously vampirism was pervading Carfax Towers. As ever, young women in scanty attire stalked the corridors after sundown. There was something more alluring about them now, though, as they ran their tongues lasciviously over their ruby-red lips and unusually-sharp teeth. Their powers of temptation were stronger, too, ensnaring the scores of young men selling drugs on the stairwells. Apparently, they were Mr Claud’s undead concubines.

I had to be certain though, that my landlord was at the centre of this vampire infestation. I visited the library, pored over every book on vampires and vampirism and viewed every vampire film in the video section. As it turned out, Bram Stoker’s novel told me all I needed to know. ‘Dracula’, the most notorious of vampires, was from Transylvania, a region of central Romania, the country from which Mr Claud hailed. This coincidence, on top of the others (his pale complexion, his aversion to sunlight and the mind-control he exercised over people), was significant.

The clincher was yet to come, though. On the next occasion Mr Claud stood on my threshold, I craned my neck to one side, taking in the oblong of glass set in the front door of the flat opposite. It was frosted, but even so I could detect no discernible reflection. Then I looked down, at the little black book grasped in my landlord’s hand. On the front cover the word ‘Rents’ was embossed in capital letters. Printed below was his name, ‘R. A. Claud’, an anagram, I suddenly realised, of ‘Dracula’.  

To keep the chief vampire at bay the following month, I nailed a crucifix to my front door and smeared the door jamb with raw garlic. Yet still Mr Claud turned up with his thugs to extort the rent. His aversion to garlic was clear, however. He gagged on the aroma and claimed he was allergic to the vampire-revealing herb. As for the crucifix, I can only guess that the fervent religiosity of former times is no longer an effective test for vampirism in our modern era of faithlessness.

Meantime, my circumstances were deteriorating. My credit cards were maxed out and my obsession with vampires was taking its mental toll. I was on the verge of being evicted, thrown onto the streets where I would be vulnerable to the predations of R. A. Claud. Somehow, I had to permanently solve my landlord problem.

So I snapped a leg off of one of my dining room chairs, sharpened one end of it with a kitchen knife and waited for the end of the month.

On his next visit, I opened the front door and without hesitation thrust the improvised wooden stake into his chest cavity. A torrent of blood gushed out, soiling my welcome mat with gore. The shocked expression on R. A. Claud’s face as the promise of eternal life poured out of him exhilarated me. Yet before I could push the stake home to make certain, one of his human minders shoved me to the ground, while the other whisked his howling master away.

At trial, the judge deemed my state of mind a mitigating circumstance in the murder of R. A Claud. The bewigged buffoon branded me insane, schizophrenic, and has had me incarcerated in a mental institution for life. Meanwhile, whenever I ask about R. A. Claud, I’m assured that he’s definitely dead.

But is he? I never actually saw him die. So now I kneel beneath a barred window every night, praying that the wound I delivered him was fatal and that it’s merely a bat I hear flitting about in the darkness beyond my cell.

Paul A. Freeman says: “You submit a bio. You’ve never written one in the second person before. You think it sounds weirder than the third person. You tell your cat as much.”

Rate this story:
 average 3.7 stars • 39 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction