Fiction

Faith For The Wicked

Arjun Iyer

December 12, 2018

Fiction is one of those genres a writer can have a lot of fun with and let his imagination run wild. When Arjun submitted this piece to us we were immediately drawn to it because of the way he treated a dark storyline- that of a vampire on the hunt for prey. The twist- the vampire has very strong morals and only goes after those who have wronged society. But what can he do when his nosy neighbours prevent him from feeding- succumb to his bloodlust and go after the innocent or stay true to his principles? Written with a touch of comedy, we are sure you will enjoy reading this piece as much as we did. 

I’ve always been fascinated with people’s obsession with worshipping gods. People believe that gods protect them from the evils of men. But when you ask someone what ‘evil’ is, they say “Whatever the gods say is evil, is evil.” So, that means it could be from their own evil deeds that the gods are protecting humans from. Much like a goon, who extorts protection money from shopkeepers in order to protect them: from himself. Clearly, grammatical syntax wasn’t the priority for the people who came up with organized religion. They call Diwali the “festival of lights”, which is ironic since none of that light seems to illuminate my nature to the people. They pray to their gods and goddesses for protection against the wicked and the evil and then they approach me with an easy smile, and a platter of sweets. Apparently, gods have a sweet tooth, and there’s always enough to offer: to both humans and vampires.

But I am not a vampire of faith. I neither believe in a God nor in the Devil. Only myself. Because I exist, and they don’t. At least not according to anything empirical. I do believe, however, that festivals such as Diwali are a good initiative. With all the pomp and show and the noise of the fire-crackers, it’s so easy for people to lose themselves in the revelry. Which makes it easier for me to abduct them. A country whose culture often baulks at and monitors physical touch is quite carelessly liberal when it comes to religious festivities. An arm across the shoulder is an excellent way for me to position myself for what comes next. Yes, we do go for the jugular, at least that’s one thing about vampires that popular media got right.

I’d made my rounds, I’d kowtowed to all the garishly decorated idols, I’d given people my greetings and received theirs in return. Now, all that remained was the hunt. Like any good hunter, I’d had my eyes on my prey for the past four hours. It was crucial that I kept my bloodlust in check. It heightens significantly when I’m standing close to my prey. And I’d been saving this one for a special occasion, like tonight. A few more minutes, and then I would have him where I wanted him.

“Well, well, well! Look who it is. Our very own recluse. All dressed up and socializing.”

As a rule, I don’t hate anyone. To me, life is about survival (especially with my condition) and my time is better utilized trying to perfect my camouflage and blending in with society rather than hating someone/something. But at that moment, I was willing to make an exception to the rule, because the last people I wanted to see at the gathering were the ones who lived in my building. “Oh. Happy Diwali aunty, I didn’t know you would be coming here. All of 20 kilometres away from the building.”

“Oh, you know me, relatives here, and relatives there. But enough about me, what are you doing here? You never come to the functions in the building or even the locality. You have any relatives living here? I would love to meet them. You’ve lived with us for a full year now and I haven’t seen even one of your family members drop by. Have they abandoned you?” she asked with a suspicious look in her eyes.

“Uh….” This was slowly turning into an inquisition. And one which I had to escape if I had any chance of fulfilling my nocturnal objective. I looked around to see if my quarry was still in sight. He was.

“Who are you looking for?” the kind yet annoying woman inquired before her husband thankfully cut-in.

“Enough of your questions, Mamta. The young man obviously wishes to be left alone. Take a cue, can’t you?”

“No! No! sir you misunderstand, I was only….”

“Say no more young man. I was young once. In fact, Mamta and I have quite the colourful stories from our time at such gatherings before we got hitched. Don’t we?” He looked at his wife adoringly. A sentiment which wasn’t being reciprocated because Mamta aunty wasn’t done with me, “Hey, are you here with your girlfriend? Does she live close by? Are you two sneaking around?”

“Aunty it’s nothing like that I’m simply…observing. You always ask me to go out and socialize. So…”

“I wanted you to socialize with us and the rest of the building. Come now, confess. Where is she? What’s her name?”

I looked to her husband for some support, but he seemed more interested in the dress sense of another lady. Lucky for me, his wife saw the same and pinched his arm, “That’s enough you. Come now, we need to get back for dinner. Would you like to join us?” she asked me.

“Oh, for goodness sake Mamta, leave the boy alone. I’m sure he has other more exciting plans for the night. Don’t you?” He gave me the kind of grin that most men give each other when sharing a bond. I tried my best to give it back. I think I managed a sneer of sorts.

“Alright, alright. You go on ahead. But remember. You owe me a story. Whatever you do, use protection. I’ve seen enough young men and women in my clinic these days.”

With her penchant for talking, I’m surprised she gets any patients at all. I bade them a hasty goodbye and hurried into the dense crowd in order to locate the object of my desire. I found him standing by a food-cart and smoking in solitude. Perfect.

I crept towards him. Keeping my body close to a wall so that I projected no shadows in the light of all the diyas that were burning bright everywhere. I slipped my false dentures out so that my fangs could breathe and tingled with anticipation. A few more steps, and then bliss.

“You asshole!”

My target spun around in confusion and I had no choice but to improvise by wrapping my arms around him in an enthusiastic hug and give him the season’s greetings. He pushed me off with a sense of bewilderment and asked, “Who the fuck are you?”

“He’s an asshole is what he is.” We both looked at the source of the voice and I beheld yet another specimen from my building making his way towards me. The gods had taken it upon themselves to punish me for my atheism tonight. I feigned a violent cough and slipped my dentures back into place and forced a sheepish-grin.

“Of all the times I asked you to come with me, you never once came. And the one time I don’t ask you to come, you end up in my backyard. What is it? Tell me.”

“I…didn’t realize that you frequented this location.”

“I don’t ‘frequent’ this location, I run this place. This is one of my homes during this season. Every pandal you see here is 100% Girdhari Brothers.”

And here I thought he was merely a decoration enthusiast. Mamta aunty was right, I did need to get out more and learn about the residents of my building. So that I know how and when to avoid them. I looked for my prey and saw him give me a rather menacing look before walking towards the parking lot. That could be my last chance. I bade my current nemesis a hurried good-bye before moving towards my target.

“Just a minute you. You’re not going anywhere until I know what you’re doing here.” It’s always baffled me why people ask questions that are easily answered if they merely observed their surroundings, “I came here for the same reasons as you. To enjoy the festivities. It’s a beautiful gathering.”

“Yes, it certainly is. But you never show up for the gatherings in the building. Why here?”

It seemed that everyone fancied themselves a bit of a detective these days, “Oh, just observing. Everyone says I need to get out more.”

“We want you to hang out more with the people of the building. Are you here with a girlfriend? Do you even have a girlfriend?”

I was getting the strongest sense of deja-vu, “No, I’m not here with a girlfriend, I just need to breathe.” I tried to get away from him but he was eager to stick to me like a limpet.

“Hey, who’s she? Do I know her? I mean I know all the pretty ones. I know all the ugly ones too come to think of it. But hey, if you want to hook up with someone you just let me know. I can do more than just put up pandals, if you know what I mean.” That same grin with which men brand each other as members of a brotherhood. For the life of me, I hadn’t the faintest idea as to what I’d done to make him feel like we were close friends.

“I’m just passing through. I want to visit other pandals. I’ll let you know if I have any romantic inclinations.” I legged it like a bat out of hell. An appropriate phrase to describe me. I caught up with my objective as he meandered in the parking-lot, texting on his phone. Given how people get with their phones these days, I didn’t even need to mask my footsteps to get close enough. I walked swiftly towards him and remove my dentures once-again, licked my fangs and calmed myself with a long breath as I rehearsed the flow of actions in my head. Five steps. Three steps. Two. One.

“BEGONE YOU ABOMINATION!”

It really wasn’t my night. I was once again discovered by my quarry and this time, he was positively livid, “Just who the fuck are you anyway?” he made his way towards me with the clear intention of an altercation, but before I could respond, my latest obstruction hove into view. A homeless lunatic.

“He’s an abomination. He goes against Him. He banished his kind from the heavens and hell wouldn’t take him either, so he lives among us.” The beggar trailed his atrophied leg behind him and ranted and raved at me. The only other thing I find curious other than my existence in this world, was the fact that it’s only those who have psychological problems truly see me for who I really am. Perhaps it’s their heightened perception that makes them wary of me, but just as animals sense danger, so do people with the maladies of the mind- they find me frightening.

“Begone you creature from Hell. Go back to the shit-pot you crawled out from.” He yelled.

For a madman, he certainly possessed a fertile imagination and a colourful vocabulary. But I had no time to ponder at the beggar’s eloquence. My hunt was now thoroughly ruined, “Are you one of those freaks that are coming out of closets these days?” he asked of me.

“What? Oh No! No, my car was just…”

“Don’t give me that, you tried to feel me up back there didn’t you? You fucking freak. Stay away from me.”

Despite his homophobia getting on my nerves, I remained calm, “Listen I am not…”

“Away! Stay awayyy from him.” The beggar bellowed from afar.

I looked around the parking lot and found people staring my way. So much for being stealthy and inconspicuous. I decided to initiate a tactical withdrawal, “I’m sorry. I thought I parked my car here, I was mistaken.”

“You damn right you were mistaken, you fucking sissy. Don’t forget who I am. You hear?”

“You haven’t told me who you are.”

“Vikramjeet Thakur. Burn it into your brain. If I want to, I can have you thrashed six-ways to Sunday and then ask you to pay me for letting you go.”

Just like you did to those school-kids two years ago. Yes, I am aware of what you’re capable of Mr. Thakur. I’ve kept you for a special occasion. But not tonight. I bade him adieu and made my way out of the parking-lot with haste. I heard his SUV speed out of the parking lot as I came to stand by the bus stop.

The bus ride back to my building was incident free. I didn’t run into anyone who knew me. It was clear that my building’s diaspora had put a wrench in my meticulous plans. I may not be a vampire of faith, but I am one of principles. Vikramjeet Thakur deserves to die. It is I who must see to it.

As I walked back to my building, I took a moment to admire the decorations that adorned it. The residents loved the structure, as they loved each other. A rare occurrence under any circumstances these days. For all their annoying sweetness, they certainly knew how to take care of each other. Even to a new tenant such as I, the building represented everything that I was denied: a home, a family, a bond. They even left a plate full of fruits and sweets by my doorstep, with a card that bore all the artistic hallmarks of the building’s children, unfortunately, the sweets and fruits were being devoured by ants, so clearly there wasn’t much foresight involved in this act of kindness. As I said, annoying. But thoughtful.

Once home, I tried to assuage the bitter disappointment of my hunt by re-cleaning my apartment and working out all the excess adrenaline. While the real thing would’ve been infinitely better, I resigned myself to the prospect of having to suck on a blood-packet from the freezer. My thoughts were dwelling on the taste of a carotid-artery, I forced myself to instead think about the failure of tonight’s plan. What I could have done different, what I should have done different, or if the whole venture was doomed from the beginning. As I continued to ponder these questions, the doorbell came under assault from someone who either suffered from palsy of the fingers or lacked social graces. It was probably the latter. I found myself face to face with Mr. Biswas. A former journalist who currently ran a small local-paper out of his own apartment named “Maansik Jagran”. A man with years showing on his face and physique, but the eyes still retained that inquisitive spark.   

“This is a pleasant surprise.” I greeted him cordially and invited him inside.

“No thank you, I shan’t take much of your time. I just came to give you this.” He handed me a rather voluminous bundle wrapped in garish wrapping paper, “The festival-edition of my paper. And since you’re big on vocabulary and grammar, I thought you could give me your two-cents about how it’s written.”

“Well, I’m honoured that you hold me in such high regard. Thank you. I shall certainly give you my two cents in the morning. Are you sure you wouldn’t like something to eat? To drink perhaps?” It was a task not to stare at this veiny neck as I uttered the word ‘drink’.

“I’m certain.” He leaned in and took a quick sniff, “I’ve always wanted to tell you this, I love how your apartment smells. Even with that tannery out back, you manage to make your apartment smell fresh.”

“Regular cleaning combined with an obsession with fragrance. Also, I get my share of odious fumes at the workplace.”

“Yes, you work in the meat-industry, don’t you?”

“Official title is ‘Quality Assurance Executive’ but, I’m merely a butcher. A professionally trained one. But a butcher nonetheless.”

“You’re quite neat for a butcher.” He laughed at his own joke. A joke which I’ve been hearing since the beginning of time. People are repetitive.

“Butchers need to be neat. Else we spoil the meat.” Giving my best shot at humour, I finally shut the door on his laughing face before breathing a sigh of relief. The festival-edition primarily contained commercial leaflets for various stores and shops in the area. However, Mr. Biswas did have a knack for writing. His words were crisp and to the point. Not to mention he went into extraordinary detail regarding the going ons of the surrounding area. The paper included a series of pot-hole accidents that were never reported to the national press. There also seemed to be a pounce of cats that were terrorising the window gardens of other residents. And the divorce rate in the surrounding area had gone up by 48%. You couldn’t deny, it was a riveting read.

I took the packet of blood out from the freezer and let it thaw on the dining table as I continued perusing his version of the local news.

“Donation for the festival-fund?” I heard a rather harsh voice call out from the outside. After a brief exchange of words my neighbours closed their door and not before long my doorbell was subjected to further brutalization, I opened the door to sound my firm refusal to donate to any fund that celebrated gods.

“Not interested.” I replied casually and proceeded to close the door without waiting for a reply.

“Do it for the children. They’ll bless you.”

“I don’t have any children.” I replied curtly before stopping myself from closing the door.

“Please, sir. For the children. Festival donation.” The man had a lazy-eye and his two front teeth were missing. He rattled his coin-box again in anticipation. I smiled and ushered him into the house, “If you’ll wait here a moment, I’ll get my purse.”

I ventured deeper into the apartment and removed my dentures. Looking in the mirror with a smile before tripping the switch that controlled the lights. I took care to hold the hand that held the coin-box as I bit into the side of his neck and held his slender frame while he struggled. I hate a mess. Coins can roll into the most uncomfortable crevices. I am not a vampire of faith. I much prefer principles to faith. But tonight, as I drained the blood out him, I couldn’t help but wonder that perhaps there is something to all this ‘faith’ business.

I shifted my position and twisted the man’s neck for better access. His eyes were now looking at the last page of Maansik Jagran where a public-service announcement warned people to keep a close lookout for an attempted child-molester in the area. The overworked and under-concerned constabulary was doing everything in its power to bring him to justice but had been unsuccessful for three months. The man was described as having a lazy-eye and two missing front teeth.

Arjun Iyer

Arjun Iyer

Arjun hails from the city of Nagpur and comes from a long line of teachers and academicians. He holds a Post-Graduate Degree in International Business from San Francisco and has been writing poems and short-stories on/off since 2011. You can follow his Instagram page, where he reviews books and movies, here.