Thursday, 13 March 2014


It is impossible to say just how the thing found its way into the man’s body.

Perhaps it came in when he cut himself while sawing a plank of wood, part of his daily job. Perhaps it was something in the water, or maybe a rusted piece of iron in the soil pierced his foot while he was helping in his mother’s garden. Perhaps it was when his neighbour’s cat, which had been ill for a while, bit him. Or perhaps it was some other way altogether.

But it found its way in.


To say the thing was alive wouldn’t be strictly correct; but it was also, certainly, not dead.

If it could have been seen by human eyes, it wouldn’t have looked like much; like a tiny grain of sand, perhaps, studded with knobs and horns. It was little more than a long strand of chemical inside a shell of another, so simple that the simplest bacterium would be a miracle of complexity in comparison. But the lipoprotein capsule, and the spiral strand of RNA at its core, could achieve things that no mere bacterium could, or indeed a blue whale. It could span the gulf between life and non-life.

How long it had hung on the edge of life, in a grey limbo of nonbeing, did not matter, for time had no meaning to it. It had no self-awareness, no instincts, no response to stimuli except chemical attraction; and it had no motivation, no driving force, except one.

It existed to invade; to invade, assimilate, and breed.


It came alive to the taste of chemicals.

They twisted and twined around it, nudged at it with radicals, poked at it with fingers of electrons. It tasted them, pushed them aside as not what it was looking for, and let itself drift further, where the chemical taste was stronger and more varied; in that medley of flavours, it would find what it sought.

It had no legs to crawl with, no paddles to swim, no whipping flagellae or mats of waving cilia to push it along; but it could flow along the rivers of chemicals, and it did, seeking.

Questing, it drifted. It nudged itself through the gaps between cells, which were the size of buildings to it; it plunged between the careening soft boulders of red blood corpuscles, and dodged a hungry phagocyte or two with consummate ease. They did not recognise it, for they had never encountered its like before. So they let it go.

Drifting, flowing along with the chemical river, it found itself between more cells, long and branching like the limbs of a leafless forest. And there, among a tiny cluster of neurons, it finally found what it sought.

Driven by the chemical gradient, it was flung towards a network of dendrites, tiny fibres which to it were the size of subway tunnels. Unresisting, it slammed into them, and in an instant was caught tight.

Strands of protein wrapped themselves about knob-shaped receptors on its shell, like grapnels, and, contracting, pulled it towards them, like a pirate ship boarding another. And, unresisting, it allowed itself to be pulled, for if it had had the ability to want something, this was precisely what it would have wanted.

Like a glacier slamming into the side of a mountain, it rammed the wall of the dendrite, and stuck fast,

Chemical knives went to work at once. They cut and sliced and probed, and slit the proteins of the dendrite wall, making a hole as precisely as a surgeon incising tissue. The dendrite wall could not defend itself. It had brought the danger to it, and it was already far too late to react. Soon, the side of the tunnel was breached, the last barrier had fallen.

The thing had found a way in.

Now the strand of RNA at the core of the beast awoke. It spun, orienting itself, and let the chemical flow bring it to the hole in the capsule. Beyond was the tunnel, open for it. Oozing through the aperture, it entered the tunnel, and began working its way up it along the flow of the protoplasm.

Now it was bathed in a sea of chemicals, among which were those it wanted. Methodically, with no passion but lethal precision, it got to work.  

It began by taking over the cell’s own processes. It reduced the cell to a slave, more than a slave; to a zombie, blindly following the thing’s commands. The cell consumed itself from within, its entire purpose given over to one, and one only – to create clones of its invader. In effect, the cell had become a Trojan Horse within the gates.

It did not take very long. Within only a matter of minutes, the cell was full of hundreds of copies of the thing’s own RNA. The first part of its mission was accomplished. It began on the second, compelling the neuron to churn out new lipoprotein shells to clothe and protect the RNA – and to provide them with means for attachment to more neurons.

 Soon enough, the host cell had ceased to exist; it was only a womb now, pregnant with an army of invaders, where once there had been only one.

Bursting out of their birthplace and temporary home, the troops stormed their world.


As yet, the man felt nothing.


It crawled up the nerve. Cell by cell, each soldier in its army storming fresh frontiers, overrunning the chemical ramparts, it forced its way up towards the spinal cord. Once there, it would rise slowly but inevitably to its final destination, the brain.

Then, it paused, for it had encountered something for which it was not prepared, something it had never been faced with before.

Some of the cells it invaded were not open and available for it to exploit. They were already occupied by others, similar to it but not of its kind, which were using them as well, to make copies of themselves. The two armies faced each other, feinting and dodging as they scrambled for resources. But the new invader was far too strong to be resisted, and it consumed the other, snipping it apart with chemical scissors and incorporating it into its own RNA strands.

The victory was complete, but in a sense illusory; the invader had won, but been changed itself in a way hitherto unknown. It would never be quite the same again.

Ravenously, it stormed up the nerve. It was faster than ever now, more aggressive.

And it was infinitely more dangerous than it had ever been.


What’s wrong?” the woman asked. Her brow furrowed in concern. “Are you ill?”

The younger man paused in his hammering and wiped his face. “It’s just a headache,” he said. “I’ll be all right.”

His mother stepped forward and touched his forehead. “You feel warm,” she said. “I think you ought to go and lie down.”

Her son shook his head. “I’ll just finish this cabinet first,” he said. “It won’t take long.” He picked up the hammer again.

The woman stood looking at him for a while before turning to leave. He really didn’t look very well, she thought.  

She hoped it wasn’t anything serious. There were far too many things to worry about these days.


After weeks of travel, at last it had reached the brain. No longer was it constrained to flow in one direction only. All around, now, in all directions, it had cells to take over and exploit, to turn into factories making more clones of itself.

Like a victorious warrior host taking over a great city, it settled down to for the sacking and looting. Cells crumpled to empty sacs as the fresh soldiers erupted forth, leaving toxins to leak out as waste. Neurotransmitters sputtered and began to misfire.

The beast was where it wanted to be. At last, it was feeding.


How is your son?” the old man asked. “Is he any better today?”

The woman’s face was lined with worry. “He says he is,” she said. “But I don’t know. He isn’t like himself at all.”

“His fever has gone, hasn’t it?”

“He didn’t have any fever these last few days,” she admitted. “But he’s acting strange, as though he isn’t really here. When I speak to him, it’s as though he’s listening to someone else talking inside his head.” She sighed. “It’s like he doesn’t fully know where he is, or anything.”

“He’ll be all right,” the man said, reassuringly. “Don’t worry.”

The woman nodded. “I’m sure he will.” She tried to smile, but couldn’t quite manage it. She glanced in the direction of the workshop. It was dusty and silent. He hadn’t touched his tools in weeks.

She shivered, despite the heat. She had never known him not to work.

It was almost as though he were possessed by something.


The beast was feeding.

By now, the changes it had forced in the brain were so marked that entire sections had been damaged beyond recovery. The toxins that the dying cells had drained into the system were wreaking their own havoc, too, poisoning the chemical flows and disrupting messages.

Slowly, but inevitable as the rising tide, the disease was spreading through the brain.


The fever had passed. Even the headaches had gone. The man felt better. He felt more than better. He was full of energy and drive. He thought new thoughts like he had never thought before.

The man felt superb, powerful and great. He felt that he could do anything in the world.


He’s gone.” The woman’s voice was flat. “He just walked out this morning, and I haven’t seen him since.”

The old man looked at her. “Did he say anything?”

“Nothing that made sense.” The woman dabbed at her eyes. “He was ranting like a maniac. I don’t know what he’s going to do.”

“Um.” The man ran his fingers through his beard. “Should I alert the authorities?”

“No!” the woman gasped. “There’s no telling what they might do to him, the way he is now!”

“It’s difficult,” the man said. “I’ll send out a couple of my men to look for him. Once they find him, we’ll see what to do.”

“Thank you,” said the woman. “Oh, thank you.”

“Thank me later, when we’ve got him safe.” The man turned away so that she could not see the worry in his eyes.


A crowd had gathered around the sick man. Some came to yell abuse, some came to gawk. Some came to listen and try to make sense of his raving. Soon enough, a good few of them began raving too.

Violence was probably inevitable. It did not take long to begin.

Sometime after that, the authorities came.


Some said the death sentence was too harsh. Others said it was far too good for the likes of him.

The law didn’t care what people thought, so the sentence was carried out anyway.


The beast was dying.

It had devastated the tissues available to it, and now, starved of fresh cells to infect, it was beginning to shut itself down. Particles had migrated away from the brain to try and find routes to exit the body. A great many had succeeded, but once outside, they had sunk back into non-life, until they could live again.

Suddenly freed from the constant inundation by toxins, the brain stuttered and paused. It needed to heal itself, as much as it could. It decided on desperate measures.

Like the shadow of an eclipse swooping over the landscape, a coma slipped down on the brain.


I’m sorry.” The old man’s face was lined with dust and sweat. “I really am very sorry.”

The woman said nothing. Her face was as of stone.

“I’ll see to his burial,” the old man said.

The woman still said nothing.


The beast was dead.


The man blinked and opened his eyes.

It was completely dark, and the air was thick and stale. He could taste dust on his lips and in his mouth.

His head and body ached appallingly, the pain most intense in his wrists and feet. He tried to move, and groaned aloud. The noise echoed around him.

“I must be in a room of some kind,” he thought. “Have I been sick?” He could not remember being sick. He could not remember much of anything.

Groaning again, he tried to sit up. With difficulty, he managed it. Someone had covered him with a cloth, wrapped tightly around his torso and legs. Slowly, laboriously, he managed to strip it away.

“Where am I?” he asked, plaintively. “What is this place?”

There was no answer.

Stumbling to his feet, he staggered across the floor. His hands encountered stone, rough and crudely finished. He didn’t remember any room like this. Exploring further, his fingertips encountered a crack. He could feel a faint trickle of fresh air round the edges. A doorway, he realised.

Leaning for a moment on the stone to gather his strength, he pushed. It yielded slightly.

Taking a deep breath of the increased flow of air, he ignored the pain and pushed again.


He saw the woman a long time before she saw him.

She was making her way up the path to the opening of the cave where he had been interred. For it was a cave, he had realised in the dawn’s light, and he had been buried. He had no idea why he’d been buried when he hadn’t died. He had no idea about a lot of things.

But he was hungry, and thirsty, and he ached all over, and he needed help.

Climbing stiffly to his feet, he shambled down the slope to where she stood, peering into the cave. Hearing him come, she turned, uncertainly.

A faint memory came to his mind when he saw her face, a memory attached to a name. Mary, that was it. Mary.

“Mary,” he whispered through his parched lips.

“Rabbi!” she said, and ran towards him, arms outstretched. “Yeshua! You’re alive!”

“Don’t touch me,” he said, suddenly terrified. “Don’t touch me.”

Copyright B Purkayastha 2014

Purkayastha's Believe It Or Not No. 1

Amazingly, one can be a left-wing liberal and supporter of gay rights, and still despise Barack Obama for the terrorist-supporting, mass-murdering, hypocritical, imperialist, corporate shill and blood-soaked war criminal he is. One doesn't even have to be white and/or racist to detest him for all this. 

That is your Purkayastha's Believe It Or Not for the day.

You're welcome.

(This is dedicated to all the wonderful self-professed liberal people who suddenly develop an allergy to me when I say what I honestly feel, whether openly or via my comic strip, about the Nobel Peace Prizident and Supreme Warmonger in Chief. Again, you're welcome. )

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

From The Baboon Chronicles

Once upon a time, in a remote valley, there lived a troop of baboons.

The troop was fairly large, and considered itself fortunate, for the valley was well-watered and fertile, with plenty of fruit and grubs to eat; and the leopard, which they all feared, never visited it.

“We are so fortunate,” the baboons said, “that we must be Blessed. There must be a Great Baboon who is very pleased with us.”

“He must be sitting on top of that mountain in the distance,” some of the baboons replied. “From there he can see us, and everything we do. If we are to stay in his favour, we must keep pleasing him.”

“Yes,” the other baboons agreed. “Let us, therefore, take the best of the fruit and grubs we collect, and leave them at the foot of the mountain, so that he may be content and happy.” And so this was done.

Time passed, and the baboons grew increasingly curious as to the nature of the Great Baboon who had so blessed them.

“If he’s so powerful,” some of the baboons said, “he must be very large and strong, and more than us in every way. His fur must be thicker and more lustrous, his teeth longer and sharper, his eyes keener, and his rump even redder than ours.”

“No, no,” other baboons answered. “Red rumps are only for us ordinary baboons. For the Great Baboon, that could never do. No, the only possible colour for the rump of the Great Baboon is blue.”

“That is an insult to the Great Baboon,” the first group of baboons retorted. “The Great Baboon could never have a blue rump. Why, the very idea is ridiculous!”

“Look who’s talking,” some of the second group sneered. “They think they can set down rules for what the Great Baboon could be like. Why, they’re setting themselves up above the Great Baboon himself!”

“Heresy!” the rest of the second group agreed. “They are going to make the Great Baboon angry with their presumption, and he will punish us all. We must destroy them!”

So the blue party attacked the red party, who fought back. Great was the slaughter, and much blood flowed. The red party fought with teeth and claws, because they thought it was blasphemous to use sticks and stones. The blue party had no such inhibitions, and therefore, after a long and hard struggle, ultimately prevailed.

“We must destroy the remaining red heretics,” the blue party decided. And so it was done.

Then one day the lightning flashed continuously round the top of the mountain of the Great Baboon, and the thunder came rumbling across the sky, terrifying old and young baboon alike.

“The Great Baboon must be angry,” the baboons whispered.

“We have done nothing to make him so furious,” the baboons said. “We have given him the best of all the fruit and grub we found. We have destroyed the blasphemers who dared suggest he had a mere red butt. So he must be angry over something else.”

“Perhaps he is ill,” some of the baboons suggested.

“That must be it,” the others agreed. “He must be in agony.”

A peal of thunder sounded, so strong that the land seemed to shake.

“He must have a thorn in his paw,” suggested some of the baboons. “That is a cry of agony just as when one of us gets a thorn.”

“How can the Great Baboon have a thorn in his paw?” the others objected. “That is patently ridiculous. He must have a pain in his belly.”

“And who are you to say what he may have and may not have?” the first lot shot back. “Do you mean to say you know better than the Great Baboon himself?”

“Heretics!” shrieked the second group. “They must be eradicated, for the greater glory of the Great Baboon!”

And so there was slaughter. In the end the thorn-paw group prevailed, and killed all their stomach-ache opponents. And only moments afterwards, the thunder stopped and the sun came out.

“That proves it,” the thorn-paws said. “We were right, and the Great Baboon is pleased.”

And, three days later, the thunder came again.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2014

The Monster Shop

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    On Kay’s sixth birthday, his parents took him to the Monster Shop to buy him a monster, because they’d promised him one and all the other kids had theirs.

The Monster Shop was just behind the Vampire Guild, and as they walked past it, a vampire came shambling up to them.

“Bleed you,” it offered, “for free.”

“No, thanks,” Kay’s dad said shortly, and tightened his grip on Kay’s hand.

“Just a little blood,” the vampire suggested. Its teeth were long and stained with clots. “It’ll do you good.”

“My husband said we aren’t interested,” Kay’s mother snapped, and tightened her grip on his other hand. “Please leave us alone.”

“Or we’ll call the Stakeholders,” Kay’s dad threatened.

“All right, all right.” Blinking nervously, the vampire stepped back. “I was just trying to help.” Kay looked back at it once. It was looking after them forlornly, and he felt very sorry for it.

“Why didn’t we give it a little blood, mum?” he asked. “It would have made it happy.”

“You should never talk to a vampire,” Kay’s mum replied, staring down at him. “Never, ever, forget that.”

Kay noticed that she hadn’t answered his question at all, but he knew from the tone of her voice that to ask again would mean trouble. And he did so want a monster of his very own.

Then they were outside the Monster Shop and he had other things to think about.

The Monster Shop was surrounded by drifting mists, which glowed one moment red, another green, and the next yellow or purple, so that one never really knew what it looked like. All Kay could see were the drifting letters of the name, which came out and in of the mist in thick, curling letters. He was very proud that he could read it.

“Now, Kay,” his mum told him for at least the seventh time, “remember this. You can look around, but we’re going to decide the monster you’ll get. If we say no, it means no. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Kay said reluctantly. He could hear intriguing noises from inside the Shop, whistles and hoots and strange warbles. “What if I don’t like it?”

“Well, that’s too bad then,” his dad said. “In that case I think you’ll just have to manage without a monster.”

“That’s not fair,” Kay replied. “Everyone else has a monster.”

“Well, you aren’t everyone else, my lad,” his father told him. “You’re you. And we didn’t have monsters, growing up, your mother and I.”

They passed between huge carved pillars which constantly twisted and writhed, and through metal studded doors which swung open at their approach with a flourish of trumpets.

“So cheesy,” Kay’s mum muttered, loud enough for him to hear.

“It’s for the kids,” his dad replied. They entered and Kay’s mouth dropped open.

“Wow,” he said.

Monsters were everywhere. They crawled and hopped and slithered and flew. Tiny ones scuttled and scurried, big heavy ones stomped and slithered, a particularly huge one in a corner didn’t move at all except for breathing holes opening and closing. They were blue and grey and orange and yellow and colours in between. One, which looked like a star with many long twisty legs, came rolling round and round and round like a wheel and nudged up against Kay’s legs.

“Wow,” he repeated, looking down at the monster. It was lavender in colour and had brown eyes at the end of each leg, which looked up into his face solemnly. “Mum, dad, look at this one!”

“I am not for sale,” the monster said. It blinked all its eyes at once. “In fact, this is only the display section. The merchandise is through the far door.”

“You talk?” Kay’s dad asked blankly.

“Yes, of course,” the monster said. Its legs twisted and writhed and rubbed together, and Kay realised that it was using them to make its voice. “I am, actually, one of the staff. An assistant manager, to be precise.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kay’s mum replied quickly. “We didn’t realise.”

“No, no.” The monster waved a tentacle. “Why should you apologise? There is no human staff here. We’re all monsters.” It bowed on its legs. “And what are your requirements?”

Kay’s mum and dad glanced at each other. “We wanted, uh,” Kay’s dad began with uncharacteristic hesitation, “for our son –“

“Say no more.” The star monster looked Kay over again with its many brown eyes. “We have a department specialising in children’s monsters. If you’ll follow me –“

They followed it through the far door and into another huge room with stairs going up and down and strips of the floor moving sideways. It all looked very confusing and very fun to Kay, who didn’t understand why his parents were acting so nervous. The star monster guided them to a staircase which began moving as soon as they got on it. It rose and fell and twisted round other staircases, and Kay enjoyed every moment.

At last they came out on to another floor. It was so huge that it seemed to go on forever. Kay saw rows and rows of monsters, all sitting behind glass walls, which dwindled into the distance. There were another mum and dad and boy in the distance, walking towards them. Then he blinked and realised that the mum and dad and little boy were his parents and he, and that the room wasn’t quite as big as it looked. It was just that the walls were all made of mirrors.

The star monster looked at Kay again, by the simple expedient of bending a few of its tentacles over backwards as it led the way. “How old is the young gentleman?” it asked. “About six, I presume. Ah, yes, I think you should look at this one.”

The monster it pointed to seemed like a mass of iridescent bubbles which reached almost to the ceiling. It glistened and twitched and swayed gently about, and made faintly musical noises. Kay loathed it on sight.

“Guaranteed completely safe and harmless, and it’s decorative and low-maintenance,” the star monster said.

“Oh, how pretty!” his mum said, clutching her hands together under her chin. “What does it eat?”

“How much is it?” Kay’s dad added quickly, before the start monster could reply.

The star monster poked at a screen on the glass. It turned white and numbers floated across it. The star monster peered at them and mentioned a figure. Kay’s parents both turned as white as the screen, and Kay breathed a sigh of relief.

“I could show you something a little, um, more economical,” the star monster suggested.

“Oh yes,” Kay’s parents said together. “Something much more economical.”

The star monster seemed to be thinking. “All right,” it said. “I believe I have the very thing.” It rolled off purposefully, and they had to walk so fast to keep up that Kay hardly had the time to look at all the strange and fascinating monsters on either side.

“Here we are.” The star monster pointed at a creature which looked something like a translucent purplish slug. It extruded gelatinous eyes and moved them back and forth. “It’s not only harmless and educational, it’s completely impregnable to all damage. You can stab it and burn it, and nothing will happen.” It began listing other things about the monster, but Kay wasn’t listening.

His attention was drawn to the monster in the next enclosure. At first it seemed just as though a heap of old ropes and canvas was lying there, a mess of flap and tangle. But as he came closer part of the flap rose, and a pair of eyes appeared.

They were interesting eyes, large, round and brown, and they looked at him with the same sense of wonder as he was looking at them. One of the flaps rose and fell, and he heard a faint squeaking noise.

“What’s that?” he asked. This was something he had been specifically ordered not to do. But the monster was so interesting that he couldn’t resist. “What’s that in this box?”

“Oh, that?” the star monster barely bothered to look. “That’s nothing much. We aren’t really expecting to sell it. It isn’t really good for anything.”

“So why have you kept it for sale?” Kay’s mother asked, and he realised, again with relief, that something must have gone wrong with the deal for the purple gelid monster. Probably it was the price. With his parents it usually was the price. “If you aren’t expecting to sell it, why keep it at all?”

If it was possible for the star monster to blush, it would have at that moment. Its tentacles drooped in embarrassment. “We don’t know really what to do with it,” it said. “Nobody wants to buy it.”

“Why not?” Kay’s father asked. “Is it dangerous?”

“Not dangerous, no,” the star monster replied. “No, no, not dangerous at all.”

“Where did you get it?”

The star monster’s tentacle eyes glanced at each other. Since they all glanced at each other, the star monster lost its balance and fell over. “Um,” it said, picking itself off the floor, “I’m sure I can find the information for you, if you’re interested, sir. It’s been here ever since I began working in this store, and that’s been a good many years now.”

“And nobody’s tried to buy it in all this time?”

“No,” the star monster admitted. “We just have no idea what good it is for anything. And as you can see, it isn’t pretty. Now if you’ll look here at this other monster –“

“Dad?” Kay said, breaking another command. “I want this one.”

His father hadn’t even heard, fortunately. He was looking at the thing in the case. “How do you feed it?” he asked.

The star monster didn’t look too happy at having its attention drawn back to the tangle of flaps and tentacles. “It draws in nutrients from the air,” it said. “It really doesn’t need any food at all.”

“No food?” Kay’s father scratched his chin, a thoughtful expression in his eyes. “No food bills?”

“It has never had to be fed in all these years.” The star monster sounded surprised. “Do you actually mean you are thinking of buying it?”

“That depends,” Kay’s father said. “How much?”

The star monster blinked several times. “I believe we can give you a special discount, sir.” It touched the screen and scrolled through the figures. “In fact, I believe you are in luck. It’s yours for only...” it poked at the screen and read out a number. “It’s the cheapest item in the entire store.”

There was a brief pause. “Going by your other prices, I’m not surprised,” Kay’s father said. “But we’ll take it.”

“Dad!” Kay said, happily. “It’s just what I wanted.”

“Shush, Kay,” his mother said. “Your father is talking.”

Kay stopped listening to his father talking about warranties and vaccinations and went to look at the monster. It had raised itself a little on its tentacles and was peering at him with its brown eyes. It raised and lowered its flaps, and he heard the faint squeaking noise again.

“I think you’re trying to talk to me, is that it?” Kay asked. “Are you talking to me?”

The monster squeaked a little louder.

“Do you want us to take you away from here?” Kay asked the monster. “Is that what you’re saying?”

 The squeaking got louder and he saw the tentacles twitch, as though beseeching.

“Yes, we’re going to buy you and take you away,” Kay said. “You’re going to live with me and be mine!”

The monster crawled a little closer on its tentacles and all its flaps undulated together. The squeaking was very loud by now but nobody except Kay seemed to hear it.

“All right,” Kay told it. “Just wait a minute, can’t you.” He glanced at his parents, who were reading some papers the star monster had given them. The star monster didn’t look very happy.

“I’m sure you’ll get full satisfaction,” it was saying, “but I could show you a lot of monsters which are much better. Full pedigrees, too.”

“Not in our price range,” Kay’s father said. He signed the papers and handed them back to the star monster. “Is that all?”

“Yes. Would you like us to deliver your purchase or will you take it with you? We’ll provide a travelling case, free of charge, of course.”

Kay’s parents both turned to glance at him. “We’ll take it with us,” his mother said.


A drop of blood,” a voice whined. “Just a drop.”

It was the vampire, of course. Kay’s parents turned in unison to glare at it.

“I thought I told you.” Kay’s father said, “go away.”

“Leave us alone,” his mum added.

“A drop each, that’s all I ask.” The vampire cringed as it spoke. “It will do you good – gives immunity. Just a drop, please. I won’t even charge you for it.”

Kay, who had begged and pleaded to be able to carry the monster’s travelling case, was so filled with happiness that he felt sorrier than ever for the vampire. “You can have my blood if you like,” he offered.

“Kay!” his mother said, shocked. “You are not to talk to that creature!”

“But mum –“

“No buts, young man!” His mother dragged him by the hand, her feet going click-click on the pavement. “One more word and we’ll take that monster right back to the shop and get a refund!”

“As for you,” Kay’s father told the vampire, “one more word from you, just one, and I’m calling the Stakeholders. See if I don’t.”

Kay had no idea what that meant, but from the vampire’s expression thought it was probably as bad as the prospect of losing his monster. The poor creature was shrinking back into the shadows, a frightened expression on its face.

“Dratted things,” Kay’s father muttered. “I heard there are people who want to give them human status. I ask you, what is the world coming to?”      

“It’s the devil,” Kay’s mum said. “Vampire-lovers are afflicted by the devil.” She shook Kay by the shoulder. “And never you forget it.”

Kay didn’t say anything.


Later that evening, Kay lay in bed listening to his parents argue in the next room.

Strictly speaking, he shouldn’t have been able to listen to them argue. They didn’t shout and yell at each other or break things. But when they fought, they did so in forced whispers which carried clearly through the chinks in a bedroom door and into a boy’s ears as he lay cuddling his monster.

“We can’t afford it,” his father was saying. “Not after we bought that...thing...for the boy.”

“It was the cheapest in there.” His mother sounded exasperated. “You’d have had to pay a lot more for any of the others. And it is his birthday.”

“I should never have let you talk me into buying it,” his father grumbled. “And now you want me to spend more? No way.”

“What do you want with the money you’re saving, anyway?” his mum snapped. “It’s not as though you’re using it for anything that I can see.”

“Never you mind. It’s my money, I can do with it as I want.”

“No, it is not your money. You have a responsibility to your wife and son, and if you think –“

Kay tried to shut his ears and turned to hug the monster, which caressed his face and arms with its tentacles. It was warm and dry, not at all gelid like the purple slug thing, and its touch was reassuring and comforting. And it was speaking to him. He listened to its squeaking.”

“That’s nice,” he whispered when it had finished talking. “And you actually came from there?”

The monster squeaked a little more.

“I suppose,” Kay said, “that you hate them all, for keeping you in a case like that.”

The monster squeaked back, sounding surprised.

“Well, I’m glad you were waiting for someone like me,” Kay said. “I’m sure we’ll be very happy together, for ever and ever and...”

He was interrupted by a snarl from the next room. “Very well, then,” his father snapped. “Tomorrow that damned monster goes back to the shop for a refund. All right?”

“And what about Kay?”

“What about him? You’re the one who wants the money! And for what? A vacation.”

“All right,” Kay’s mother replied, also not bothering to lower her voice. “So it goes back. If that’s how low you want to get, fine with me!”

Kay turned to the monster. “They’re planning to send you back!” he said, shocked. “They’re planning to split us apart!” He began to cry. “I’m not going to let them take you away!”

The monster squeaked and rustled.

“But what can I do?” Kay asked. “They’re big and grown up. They can do anything they want.”

The monster reached out a tentacle and touched him gently between the eyes. It squeaked.

A little later, Kay began to smile.


The Vampire Guild’s door was huge and old, and coloured like dried blood. The doorvampire, who had been engrossed in a copy of Guts’N’Gory, looked up.

“Who are you?” it asked. “And what do you want?”

The little vampire smiled nervously. It had fresh blood on its lips and its transformation wasn’t yet complete. The tentacles and flaps still bulged beneath the shoulders of its pyjama top. “I want to come in,” it said. “I want to join the Guild, that’s what I want to do.”

The doorvampire leaned back and stared at it. “And what do your parents say about that? Got their permission?”

“My who?” said the little vampire, and the tentacles shook as if in silent laughter.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2014