Bram Stoker's Birthday

Pit was in an elated mood.

It was the winter of 1888 in London. A light snow had covered the city yet thick soot continued to live on the surface of everything in the place.

Pit hefted the full sack of dry goods on his shoulder and darted across the wet cobblestone street as carriages zipped by, drivers screaming obscenities of the most heinous order as they burst through the settling fog.

An urchin wretched in the gutter, hot green slime splattering the filthy stone basin. A shopkeeper across the way opened his door and peeked out onto the increasingly busy road.

As the fog grew thicker and the church rang 7 bells in the distance, Pit cut south down the alleyway off Leicester Street.  He bound up the staircase and slipped the key into the lock while twisting the handle, all in one fluid motion.

He closed the door softly and winced when he thought of the time.

Quickly he filled the kettle and placed it on the stove. He set the basket of scones near the fire to warm.

As he walked down the hall towards the office, he could hear muttering through the thin wall.

He tapped lightly on the door and opened it. The door made an odd creak as it swung.

The office appeared to be empty.

Then, from the shadow in the corner:

"Did you know, Pit, that there are bats living in Africa that can drink up to 8 fluid ounces of blood from a sleeping victim in one night?"

Pit was startled and cautiously approached the desk by the window.

"You are late again, Pit. Third occurrence this week."

"Yes, m'lord. I do apologize. Sarah was ever so colicy this morn, and...fussy, too."

"Tell me something, Pit; does little Sarah put shillings in your pocket every week, thus keeping you off the street, left as meat for the bastard beggars and grime encrusted vagrants of this fair town?" the shadow said softly.

Pit shivered at the way he had said Sarah's name. He blinked slowly.

"N-no, sir, you do and I am forever grateful. Eternally, in fact."

"Please, Pit.  Do not show me your loyalty by grovelling, show me by being punctual from now on, boy." the shadow said, almost whispering now.

"Yes, sir. Understood, fully." Pit said as he backed out of the room quickly.

"Fussy, indeed." said the shadow as the door closed.

Pit put the tea bags in the white china pot, a fine new blend he had procured at market yesterday. He then rushed the pot and basket of warm scones onto a small silver tray.

He peered out the oval window of the side door onto the balcony at the top of the stairs and spied the day's newspaper.

More troubles every day, thought Pit as he quietly opened the door and snatched the paper. The snow was turning into a grey sleet as he closed and locked the thick wooden door.

He slid the paper onto the tray and hurried back towards the office through the dark hall.

He tapped the door and entered the office, carefully balancing the tray with his small hand.

Behind the desk sat Stoker.

His black hair was neatly combed with a part to the left, bits of grey forming at his temples. With a near constantly furrowed brow, his forehead had three lines of stress. His eyes darted to and fro, rarely making contact with whom he was speaking to. 

Stoker's black suit was rumpled, the grey vest unbuttoned, one of the elbows of his jacket appeared to be frayed. Stains of brown, greenish sweat around his collar showed he had not cleaned in some time. Although there was no sunlight in the office, he had on a queer set of bizarre dark tinted glasses, obscuring his eyes.

His skin was slightly yellow and he had blemishes around his neck and chin. A light sheen of moisture seemed to cover him. Pit wondered when was the last time Stoker had bathed.

Stoker acknowledged him with a nod and muttered something about the draft in the room, eyes wandering to the small fireplace.

"Come in, come in, Pit. Let us enjoy some tea, yes?" Stoker said, as Pit stood stock still in the doorway.

By "us" he meant "him", of course, as Pit was never welcome to partake in any form of dining with Stoker. Yet Pit still caught himself before sitting in the chair opposite the desk. Stoker's vocal cadence could often betray his intent.

Pit placed the silver tray at the far end of the desk and unfolded the newspaper for his master.

It was a large French made desk, much too big for such a small office. It was gaudy and most visitors made note of it, too Stoker's odd delight. He often enjoyed provocation and, in a fit of perverse enjoyment, would cast out many a caller from his dark quarters. By all accounts, Stoker had a talent for repelling people, "disagreeable sorts" as he often called them.

Pit remembered Stoker arguing aggressively with the prestigious Brixton Agency designer about it's inclusion in the layout. The designer had exclaimed it was not fashionable, too bourgeois! Stoker had scoffed, calling the designer as daft Scotch layman and dismissing him from the job, halting renovations for two weeks. Feelings were mended after Stoker's accountant placed a few more pounds in the agency's account, without Stoker's knowledge.

Stoker rarely apologized. His stubborn nature generally managed to find a way of impressing the opposing party, somehow making them more kind and courteous upon their next visit. Some may call this charm, others manipulation.

Stoker looked up through the odd tinted spectacles.

"Ah! I see you admiring my new eye glasses. Straight from Düsseldorf, the knowledged doctors there swear it reduces the headaches caused by dastardly amounts of paperwork. And did you know, Pit, the nefarious effects of sunlight upon the human eye? Why, it's out to rob us of our sight, every one of us!"

Stoker gestured carelessly towards the stack of paperwork on the grand desk and snorted dismissively at the window.

Pit nodded and silently poured the tea and placed the basket of scones beside a small plate.

The clacking of the carriages outside grew louder as the business day began to move, gears in the distance began to grind, thick black smoke belching into the muted winter sky.

Stoker squinted and tapped the shiny desk with his ring finger.

"Tend to the fire, Pit." Stoker said, slowly.

Pit turned and poked gingerly at the embers with black tongs, then placed two small sad looking logs on the hearth. Pit noticed scraps of paper around the bottom of the fireplace.

A productive night, he thought to himself, smiling slightly.

"Pit, my astute young assistant, do you know what day it is today?"

"Why, yes, sir, 'tis your b--"

"Yes, yes, it is my birthday. I do not care for my birthday, never have. Other's birthdays? Yes, all good fun, a time of celebration and mirth, splendid and exciting, fine wine, good company. But not my own. I know this to be strange, I cannot fully explain it. Perhaps some stray remnant from my impoverished youth."

Pit knew Stoker had no "impoverished youth" (Stoker's father had been a middling banker) but he, like many a guilt ridden English aristocrat, sought disingenuous company in the plight of the poor. Pit stood stock still, looking at Stoker as a small amount of sunlight crept into the room through the curtains.

Pit prodded the fire with the tongs, sending a few sparks up the flume.

"Is Higgins planning something?" Stoker said, barely audible.

Pit turned and blushed, clasping his hands.

Stoker shook his head and clucked his tongue, a brief smile appearing on his wet face.

"What is this? Is that juniper berry on this tea?" Stoker said.

Pit nodded. "It's the Tenning's blend you requested, aye, sir."

"Oh, well, I find it most disagreeable now. Take it away." Stoker said firmly.

Stoker carefully took a scone from the basket and cut it open with a long ivory handled pen knife that seemed to magically appear in his hand.

He mumbled and opened the drawer, retrieving a small red jar. He quickly opened it, then glanced at the motionless Pit, then nodded towards the door.

Stoker's brow furrowed deeper as Pit removed the tea cup and pot from the desk and slunk out of the room quickly, closing the heavy door behind him.

As Pit walked down the hall, Stoker inserted the knife into the red jar, and carefully removed a small amount of reddish brown gelatin, applying it to the steaming scone.

Ozone filled the room as Stoker bit into the bloody scone, eyes closing in a state of ecstasy.


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