Andy took one last toke at the bones of a very juicy joint, then chucked the remnants into the fire. He was floating nicely but his mouth felt as dry as several deserts.
What I need is a drink, he thought.
But the gin bottle was empty. So was the half-pint tonic bottle. He looked at the empty bottles for a few disgusted seconds, then took them out to the dustbin and flung them in. They broke with a satisfying crash. Water. Yecch! But that was all there was. It was a little better than nothing. And it would put the fire out.
While he was in the kitchen, he decided on a midnight snack. So he got busy with bread and butter, hoping that there was something decent in the fridge.
Bloody hell! Andy looked up from slicing a firming loaf. Where's that draught coming from?
The back door was still open. He pushed it to with a foot and returned to his butty making. Suddenly, he stopped.
What the hell have I been smoking!? he asked himself. I'm sure I saw a bat on the window ledge. Right! There it is.
As he stared at the vision, willing it to vanish into thin air. So it did; in a sort of way.
The bat transformed itself into a pillar of white smoke, which then condensed into a man dressed in either the height of fashion or a very ancient suit. Its battered condition suggested archaic, if not prehistoric. As Andy gaped at him, the man bowed stiffly from the waist and said:
"Huh?" said Andy blankly.
"Mumble, mumble," repeated the man. At least, that's what it sounded like to Andy.
"Whatcha say there, man?" said Andy.
"Aha! You are Inglis, no?" said the man.
"I am English, yes," said Andy. "Are you puttin' me on?"
"I mean, what do you expect in bloody England, man?"
"Yes," said the visitor. "Am making explain of myself. I am on mysterious tour. Am not certain where I am appearing."
"Oh!" said Andy, baffled. "Who the hell are you, anyway?" The man looked too weird even for the drug squad.
"I have the honour to presenting myself. I am being Compte Crudala." The visitor bowed again.
"I'm Andy." Andy bowed in self-conscious imitation of the intruder. "And this is my hovel. Three quid a week, the roof leaks, but only when it rains, and there's a damp patch in every room. Whatcha want, anyway?"
"I am being vompeer," said the Compte. "Am craving of your bloods."
"Ho, ho!" Andy extended a leg in the visitor's direction. "Pull that, it's got bells on it."
"Is more usual to be biting of the neck. But if you are insisting..." The man took a step forward.
"Hang about." Andy withdrew his leg as he found standing on one slightly beyond his capabilities. "Look, mate, either you tell me what you want or piss off out of it. I can't say fairer than that."
"I have explained already." The compte assumed a pained expression as he managed to get his grammar right for the first time. "Are you not understanding? I am wanting your bloods."
"What are you, a bleeding vampire, or something," demanded Andy, becoming tired of the hallucination. What the hell was in that grass he asked himself. A ton and a half of THC?
"Yess, yess," persisted the compte, nodding vigorously. "You are making comprehend. I am vompeer. I am desiring of the bloods."
"Sod you, mate. Get out of that!" Andy shouted in triumph, snatching up the bread knife and a passing fork to improvise a cross. He held it up so that the shadow cast by the light over the sink fell squarely on the alleged vampire, who smiled gratitude.
"Am not needing instruments of cut. Am using own dentifications." He opened his mouth wider to display a matched pair of three-quarters-of-an-inch-long, yellowish fangs. "Is quite sufficient, thanking you."
"It's the sign of the Cross!" howled Andy in disgust. "You're supposed to be paralyzed."
"Aha!" said the vampire. "I am observing. But you are making the error. I am not Christian vompeer."
"Balls!" scoffed Andy. "You've got to be."
"Regrettably, not myself. I am never baptize." A small tear of regret trickled down one cheek.
"Gotcha!" Andy leapt forward to belt him over the head with a foot of very solid sausage. "Garlic! Shrivel up and die, matey!"
The vampire rubbed his head gingerly. A small tear of pain trickled down his other cheek. "Misunderstanding again. Vompeers are liking of garlic. Is essential to cookery of some dish."
"You mean, there's nothing I can use to stop you?"
The vampire scanned the kitchen rapidly, then beamed. "Yes, there is not."
"It's not my lucky day, is it?" said Andy reflectively.
"Are you in a hurry?"
"What meaning?" returned the compte suspiciously.
"I mean, are you in a rush to drink my blood?" Andy shuddered at the thought. "Or can I have a last request, like?"
"You are wanting me to singing?" said the vampire
"No, you bloody idiot! I mean, can I eat my butties and smoke a last joint before I join the ranks of the living dead?"
"No time for cookings."
"No time for smoking of joints of meat. I must to my grave return before morning."
"Geez! What an idiot! I didn't mean joints of meat. I mean... Oh, never mind. Just watch."
Andy had finished his sandwich by now, building it on auto-pilot. He slid the creation onto a plate, wondering if he would ever have to bother with another lot of washing up, and led the way into his spartan living room, where he squatted on the thread-bare rug in front of the fire. "What's this about returning to your grave?" he asked. "Does that mean you'll shrivel up and die if sunlight falls on you?"
"Where are you getting such story?" said the compte, amazed. "Grave is being English slang word for bed."
"Where are rats?" The vampire sounded both alarmed and disgusted.
"What? Oh! That's just a slang expression. A real one. Not like grave being slang for bed."
"Is!" protested the vampire. "No, am using wrong word. Is being different word meaning hole in ground."
Andy forced himself to think even though his skull felt stuffed with cotton wool. It was a way of staying remotely in touch with reality. "Pit?" he realized eventually.
"Yes." The vampire gave him an unexpected thumbs up. "Whatever word." He dismissed the English language with a wave of a long-fingered hand. "Vompeer have to sleep after all night being on prowl."
"Why the hell don't you go out during the day?" said Andy through a mouthful of sandwich.
The vampire shrugged vaguely. "Most people not at home in day. You ask plenty questions."
"Well, I need to know these things. For when you gobble all my blood and I join the ranks of the living dead."
The vampire assumed a puzzled look. "You are saying this two times now. Is joke, yes?"
"Is no bloody joke," said Andy uncertainly. "You mean that's not true either?"
"You are believing that without bloods you are still living?" said the vampire incredulously.
"That's the way you got to be a vampire in the first place, wasn't it?" said Andy indignantly. "Another vampire came and drank your blood when you were still human. And gave you the disease that made you one of the living dead."
The compte began to rock from side to side, laughing helplessly. Then a measure of control returned. "Of a silliness, this idea. Vompeering is hereditational. I am vompeer because mother and father also vompeer. When I am drinking of your bloods, you are dying, not becoming vompeer. If so, world become full of vompeer and no one to drink blood of."
Andy looked vaguely disappointed, and began to build a nice, fat joint with the remains of his stash. He lit up, drew smoke deep into his lungs, and leaned against an easy chair, smiling.
"You are finish eating?" asked the vampire hopefully.
"Hang about. You said I could smoke a joint as well." Andy held up the roach for the vampire's inspection.
"Ah, smoking cigarlet, not meat. Is called joint now?" The vampire inhaled. "Is of strange odour."
"You smoke? Want to try it?"
"If you are pleasing." The compte took a big drag; and almost exploded from coughing.
"Try a smaller drag. And hold it in your lungs as long as you can. You do have lungs, don't you?"
"For the breathing? Yes, have got." The compte wiped his streaming eyes on a shirt cuff and tried again.
"Tell me one thing," said Andy. "Why do vampires drink blood instead of eating food like the rest of us?"
"Am eating too," said the compte in a far-away voice.
"What?!" gasped Andy.
"Am eating too. Is just that we cannot enjoy foreign food.
Something wrong with cookings." The compte picked up a spare garlic sausage sandwich and nibbled at it cautiously. Then he stopped, looked at it quizzically, and took a larger bite. Then he crammed the whole sandwich into his mouth and chewed happily.
"I thought you couldn't eat the food?" protested Andy, sneaking a sandwich before the vampire could clear the plate.
"I am not understanding either." The compte sprayed crumbs in all directions in a most unaristocratic fashion.
"It's German garlic sausage," mused Andy. "It's from your own country, so you can eat it. But the bread isn't. And the butter's Irish."
"Not being from Germany," mumbled the compte through another sandwich.
A mental light bulb glowed. "Maybe it's the dope!"
The compte drew dense, bushy black eyebrows together.
"Maybe you need a smoke before you can eat foreign
"No," said the compte, not completely sure what Andy was going on about. "Am smoking of cigarlet before." He crammed the last sandwich into his mouth.
"This isn't tobacco, mate," Andy pointed out. "Well, not much of it. I reckon you've never smoked this stuff before."
The vampire thought it over, then nodded, his mouth too full for speech. "You have right answer," he managed after vigorous chewing. "Taste is like at home."
"I guess it's obvious, really. You can do all sorts of things stoned you'd never dream of doing in your right mind. Like eating revolting foreign food."
"There is being more of food? And joints."
"What's up?" grinned Andy. "You're acting like you haven't had a decent meal for ages."
"Not eating of food since leaving Old Country," said the compte sadly.
"How many days ago was that?"
"It is the tenth of April of year 1754 since I am leaving."
"Well, burn my brain!" said Andy with great feeling. "Why the hell did you leave in the first place?
The vampire looked very uncomfortable and changed the subject hurriedly. He was mildly stoned, but not uninhibited enough to reveal that embarrassing episode to a stranger. "Food, joint," he prompted.
"I'm okay for food, but I'm out of grass." Andy displayed a few brown pinheads of resin in his stash tin.
"Grass is easy getting. Is big park near."
"No, no. Grass is just a slang name for the stuff. It's got nothing to do with the stuff that grows on lawns."
"You can get more?"
"I don't know. I'm a bit stony right now."
"Pliz?" frowned the compte.
"I'm...never mind. How are you fixed for cash?"
"Why am I needing money? A vompeer take what he want. Who will stop him?"
"You've got a point there, matey." A thought struck Andy. "Tell me, when you change into a puff of smoke, can you put something into your pocket and take it with you?"
"Of course. Anything on person or in pocket of garment affected by spell of change." The compte looked at a signet ring with a blood-red ruby on his left hand, then produced a silver box from an inside pocket. "If not, would appear naked. Very bad in winter." He ran a finger up and down the lapel of his black, formal jacket.
"Great! I've just thought of a place where they've got lots and lots of grass. Where a bloke like you could get us plenty."
"Great, also," beamed the compte. "If I am getting of grass, you will be preparing of food?"
Andy nodded with a smile. The vampire giggled and moved closer to him. He had a faint smell of something ancient; pleasant, like old books rather than a graveyard reek.
"Are you keeping of secret?"
"I guess so," shrugged Andy.
"Am heartfully sick of bloods," whispered the compte, his dark eyes scanning the room as if in search of eavesdroppers.
"I suppose you would be after all that time," said Andy, unmoved by such heresy. "I had a tooth out a while ago. My mouth was full of blood for ages afterwards. That was enough to make me sick of the taste." He crawled away to a corner of the room, and returned with a crumpled evening newspaper.
"Grass," said the vampire urgently.
Andy tore a section from an inside page and handed it to his visitor. "This is what you're looking for. They're about so big." He demonstrated an object the size of a one-kilo bag of sugar with his hands. "And you might have to look around a bit before you find them. But for chrise sakes, don't let anybody see you. Okay?"
The compte nodded eagerly, then decided that he ought to be shaking his head. "Where?"
"Just down the road from here. Where the cross-Channel ferries dock. The Customs grabbed this lot out of a van this morning, so the grass should still be there."
"Customs!" The vampire wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"You think you can find the place? It's only about a mile
"I find," nodded the compte. "Which way?"
Andy led him to the back door. He pointed in the general direction of the waxing Moon. "Go that way till you come to the sea, then left a bit."
"Good." The vampire began to dissolve into a column of white mist.
"And if you can lay your hands on a couple of bottles of wine and some brandy..." added Andy, ever the optimist. ■
A small, dark object flapped away to merge with the night. Half convinced that he was in a dream, or hallucinating, Andy closed the back door and picked up the bread knife and went into sandwich making mode.