A tale of vampires and the newly dead
Rain. Not a hard rain, but just the sort of rain that chills you but isn't enough to wet you down through to beneath the skin.
All momentous occasions begin with a rain like this. Not enough to make you want to say 'bugger this for a lark' but enough to sow the seeds of discontent that grow into something magnificent - or malevolent.
You could imagine that Genghis Khan might have stood under a rain like this before deciding to amass his angry hordes and run riot across Asia.
Or that Guido Fawkes might have walked through a rain like this before reaching a tavern where he just happened to meet up with some fellow drinkers who also just happened to be unhappy with the presently ruling monarchy.
Darren was unhappy too. He'd been passed over yet again for that under manager job he'd been so keen to get, losing out to that bubbly blonde Cassie who could shake her elegantly permed curls at the hardest hearted cynic and walk away with a contract. And a recommendation for a follow up contact that would invariably lead to another. And another after that.
Sitting in one of the window seats of the Buslinthwaite branch of Coffee Land, he sighed and looked out at all those potential customers hurrying about their business, unaware that the future happiness of their loved ones would be at risk if, in the unfortunate circumstance of their principal wage earner falling under the No.37 bus, they were unable to meet their next utility payment.
'You ready to go?' asked Dolores, reaching for his cup and looking toward the door. 'Yeah, I suppose so', Darren harrumphed, grumpily, not relishing having to move out from the warmth of the shop out into the world shivering under the dour November skies of this West Yorkshire town.
Darren was a remarkable person, inasmuch as he really wasn't. He had an indistinguishable face and dark hair that fell across his eyes whatever he tried to do with it. He was probably the worst possible person to choose to be an insurance policy salesman, but he was similarly inept at interview techniques and could never manage to be short-listed for a second interview after having failed to make any impression at his first. He'd applied for this job by post and, rather than getting an application form by return, he'd been surprised to receive a large manilla envelope full of policy documents and supporting literature; the understanding being that he sent these back filled in with customers' bank details and signatures each week and he then received his payment by cheque each month.
He'd just come away from the Rock and Anchor Life Security Buslinthwaite Gold Achievers' quarterly team meeting with yet another warning that, unless his sales figures improved dramatically, he could well remain at the bottom of the 'high fliers' pyramid forever. Cassandra O'Connor, on the other hand...
Cassandra O'Connor was a phenomenon and a bafflement to Darren. She'd started as an envelope filler three months ago and was now regularly out selling the West Yorkshire General Manager by over 70 percent each month. She'd begun working the streets with Darren - who had memorised every aspect of the entire product portfolio and could quote it all verbatim at will - but she could do the one thing that he couldn't. Sell.
Darren's sales techniques relied on his two principal characteristics; his unobtrusiveness and his persistence. He could knock at a door and then have walked in before the resident had even noticed him standing there. And once he was in, once he'd caught their attention, he could wear anyone down with an unceasing stream of information about policy yield parameters and syndicated corporate security benefits until they finally agreed to sign, just to get him back outside again. That is after they finally managed to acknowledge his existence. There'd been a number of occasions where the owners had just never actually noticed him and had walked past him and had locked their front door behind them, leaving Darren locked in until their return. And others where they'd just walked around the house unaware of Darren trailing around after them, trying to catch their eye.
Cassie, on the other hand was totally inept, regularly dropping her product portfolio and then graciously accepting help picking up the hundreds of ring-bound pages and envelopes that had sprung out her binder with a click and a rustle. Invariably the resident would pick up something that caught their eye and then, wanting to do something to stop those tears welling up behind those incredible long eyelashes, they'd opt for the long term benefit package and have signed the document before they realised what they'd done.
Darren sighed and pulled his collar up, stepping out into the rain. The street was empty apart from a lone taxi just pulling away from the taxi rank just across the road from the coffee shop. The nearby street light flickered and then went out.
It couldn't have taken long but it was the longest few seconds that Darren had ever experienced. He watched and felt and heard and smelled every single detail as it happened, as though the whole world was running at one-hundredth normal speed and he was an independent observer, studying it for a life-science project. The smell of dry skin, the smearing of make-up, the bright-penny coppery taste in his mouth; the speed of it all overwhelmed him even though he stood seemingly detached from it all. There was such a sense of inevitability and then...