I’ve never been a big believer in fairy tales. I’ve never enjoyed flights of fancy. I’m not a fan of horror films, ghost stories or urban legends. Hell, I don’t even like the wizard of Oz. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty grounded guy. It’s why I decided to take Biology at university. Science is the study of reason, so believe me when I tell you that what is happening…defies reason.
I hit eighteen in what felt like a flash, a rush between the tender age of sixteen and the sudden present. A drunken haze, really. I lived in London, so the lads and I spent most of our formative years getting hammered when we weren’t at school. My grades took a bit of a dive in college and I didn’t get into any of the big old institutions my dad wanted me in. So into clearing I went. Newcastle University.
Fucking hell, I thought to myself, what a hike. Manchester was north enough, never mind Newcastle. But it was the only place that would take me, so off I went. It rained the entire journey, a wet September greeting that reflected my foul mood. If only I’d known.
The city proved…different to what I’d thought. London was enormous compared to this place, a tightly woven mixture of old and new. It’s got to be admitted, even after all of this, Newcastle is an eerily beautiful little city. I stepped off the train at night and quickly found myself lost, wandering through dark streets and wondering where the hell the flat I’d sorted even was. I had to ask a man in the street. His dark eyes were ringed black by a lack of sleep. A flat cap sat over shaggy hair and he had to look up from under it to see me. He looked surprised, but seemed to pity me and gave me hurried instructions.
“Head up that street and gan towards the right, you’ll see a big building with a green tower on the top and seahorses on it. From there you can loop round and then head to the biggest, highest building you can see.” He broke off for a second and looked at his watch. “Just make sure you get there before ten, youngin. Doesn’t do nee good to be about after then.”
I almost laughed at him if not for the deadly serious look on his face and those strangely sunken eyes. He looked…sorry? As though he was apologising to me for something. The man ducked back under his cap and turned away. I thanked him and headed up in the direction he’d told me. It seemed like the people were all in a similar state of mystery as that guy had been, walking quickly with their heads down with faces hidden under caps and hats.
Bloody Northerners, I thought to myself. I checked my watch, it read 21:00. I knew I had a room for the night, in a flat my dad had sorted out for me online. It was bunking with a guy who worked shifts, so I was going to miss out on the halls of residence thing. I wasn’t happy about that, but when you apply to a course as late as I did, what can you do?
The streets wound on and I found myself passing into a more modern looking area, with a big entertainment complex that featured a big glass facade. It looked almost abandoned. The lights inside were dim and I could see a few guests eating meals in one of the restaurants, through the glass. Waitresses stood nearby, arms folded and looking as though they were desperate to leave. I’d been told Geordies were friendly, but nobody I’d seen so far looked it.
Up past the modern buildings I went, crossing a road and passing a big bus terminal. That looked almost abandoned too. A bus with ‘Arriva’ written on the back was parked in a bay. The driver looked at me as I crossed the road. He lifted his arm and tapped his watch then shook his head. I looked at mine. 21:30. That had went quickly. What was it that other guy had said about ten? I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember.
I couldn’t see the building the guy had mentioned to me. My backpack felt heavy now and I was beginning to get frustrated. Where the fuck was I? Why was everyone acting so strangely? It’s not like Newcastle was some backwards village. It’s a city famous for nightlife! I stopped on the pavement and scanned around. No drunken students, no louts hanging around anymore. Just people with their heads down, hurrying wherever they were headed. Even the bus driver across the road pulled away. Everyone was rushing somewhere. I felt dizzy. I pulled out my phone to check directions and found I was just another ten minute walk away, so I let my feet lead me and followed the map, with my head down. Just like the locals.
My watch read 21:50 by the time I got to where I needed to be. A thin block of flats that stood over the whole city, elevated near the city library and dominating the sky like a massive gravestone jutting to the heavens. Bewick Court, it was called. My new home. It cut a dark shadow across the concrete garden that stood outside it. I rang the buzzer for my new room-mate. I realised to my chagrin that I didn’t even know his name. Always unprepared.
While I waited for an answer I noticed a woman running behind me, streaking through the glow of a streetlamp. She moved pretty quickly. Almost impossibly so, far quicker than a jogger. I don’t think she made any noise, either. I watched her blaze down a ramp and disappear around a corner. I could have sworn I heard a scream in the distance.
“Hello?” A voice made me jump. It came from the speaker above the buzzer panel.
“Er. Hello there. I’m James. I’m new here, for university. My father’s been in touch about me living here?”
“Oh. Oh Yeah. I’d forgotten. You’d better come in, quickly. It’s almost ten.” I heard a buzz and I took hold of the door, pulling the handle and swinging it open. As I held the door I noticed my watch read 22:00.
A shrill, blood-curdling scream sounded behind me. I turned around, door half open. My jaw dropped.
From where they’d come I had no idea, but in the time I’d spoken to the voice at the buzzer they’d gotten behind me. Close behind me. Silently they stood, and now silently they moved towards me. Five men, each pale as snow with black sunken eyes that shone In the darkness. They all wore old suits that would seemed comical if not for the deadly purpose and eerie way they moved towards me. Something about the men was off. Something was wrong with the way they walked. Very, very wrong.
They didn’t step. They floated.
Ice seemed to grip my heart, freezing me to the spot between the warmth coming from the inside of the building and the cold of the night. The temperature seemed to recede more and more as the beings inched towards me. Time seemed to creep as their inexorable advance continued. I noticed with a silent shiver of dread that they all held their mouths agape, long white fangs protruding over blackened lips. Their eyes glittered with hunger. I was powerless, petrified like a stone as they advanced on me.
And then I was flung into the interior of the building, pulled into warmth. The door slammed shut on the men and I saw a tall red-haired man bolt the lock and offer me a hand.
“Fucking hell, that was close. I told you to come in!” He said. I panted, each breath like warm honey that revived my lungs and let me breathe again. I took his hand and stood on shaky legs. All I could see were those cold, hungry faces.
“What the fuck was that? What the hell is going on here?” I blurted. Everything about this city was wrong. The fear, the hurrying, the detachment everyone had from each other. It all made sense now, seeing those pale men floating towards me. Don’t be out after ten, the man had warned me. Now I saw why.
“Newcastle’s a dead city now. I can’t believe nobody warned you.” My new flatmate guided me through the hallway and I turned back to look at the glass panel of the door.
Sunken black eyes, hungry and shining, looked back at me. I darted my eyes away and let my new flatmate guide the way. He took my to my new room, a flat a few floors up labeled 106. He let me take a seat on the leather couch and handed me a drink. I took it in earnest and didn’t even look at it before I took a big, deep gulp. It tasted warm.
Rupert looked at me again, serious now. “They’re vampires. They own everyone. The police, the banks, the transport, the media – everything. They come out at night. Nobody can leave the city. Newcastle was the first to be taken.”
Vampires? I’d have laughed at him if it wasn’t for what I’d just seen. “Shit…everyone? How come they don’t have you?” I asked.
I’ll never forget the laughter that crackled forth from my new roommate. Deep, mocking.
“They do.” He replied. He fixed me with a stare. Bright, shining eyes. Long, sharp fangs. A cruel emptiness in his expression, barring one need. Hunger.
I looked down at the cup in my hand. Dark red liquid sloshed inside it. Warm…it had tasted warm. The vampire laughed again and though I felt frozen to the chair, I met his hungry gaze with tears rolling down my face.
“I’d have let those few have you but…I’m starving. I wanted you to myself.” He moved across the carpet without ever bending a knee, sliding inhumanly towards me. I felt his breath on my neck and then a sudden rush of agony as his teeth split my skin, piercing my veins. He began draining my blood, slurping it down. The cup fell out of my hands and red stained the carpet. Then my own dark ichor started to rush down over my body, staining my clothes. Staining the chair. Blood, everywhere. From the cup, from my throat.
The vampire pulled back just as I was sure I was going to die. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and chuckled. I found myself shaking with the shock of it, aching from the blood loss.
“Welcome to the family.” My flatmate said.
I am scared now, my friends. Scared of what I might do to you. I have been In this city for weeks, finding much to love in the night and the dark places of Newcastle. I watch the river roll through at the quayside, I visit the castle ruins where hundreds of years of pain feel just a moment away. And each night, after ten, I hunt. I feast. Because each night, when the clock strikes the time, we are allowed to feed. Anyone who is not turned and remains on the street, whether they’re young or old, becomes a target – a meal. And we… are… hungry.
Do not come to Newcastle. Do not wander the streets at night. We live amongst you.