“Good morning, my favourite people.”
David’s voice chirped into the tiny mic at his throat with the fake enthusiasm that only those who have to face the camera can summon early in the morning. He took a moment to dazzle the audience with his recently uplifted smile, the one he had spent a fortune on.
“The sun is out again after a week on this fabulous morning. From where I am standing at the entrance of Highgate Cemetery, the world is doused in shades of amber, bright and cheerful. But don’t be fooled. If you want to sleep peacefully again, then it’s time to wake up.
Now that you’ve rubbed sleep away from your bleary eyes and given me your full attention, let me share the exciting program we have lined up on JTV today, exclusively for you, its valued viewers.
This is David Williams, warmly welcoming you to JTV’s ten o’clock morning news. If you haven’t been hiding under a rock during the last fortnight, you know the disturbing news reports reigning the air waves.”
David paused a moment to let the people collect their thoughts and continued,
“Yes! I’m talking of the events that have plagued the citizens residing in Oakshott Avenue, South Grove and Hillgate Hills, right around this famous cemetery. They’ve been intrigued, scared, and terrorized by inexplicable sightings of unholy spectres, one guest they surely didn’t bargain for even though we all love a generous dash of spirits. Pun intended!
All’s not right with the world, folks! Being scared out of your wits is no fun.
You all are aware of the Gray Ghost, a specter that has beset the more dedicated of the early morning joggers outside the west side forever. Poor thing wants his share of fresh air posthumously too.
The reign of this familiar specter has been usurped by the reports of a tall dark figure in coattails and a tophat, straight out of the pages of an eighteenth century novel. Some might believe it harmless as the Gray Ghost but there is someone who firmly believes it is an entity evil enough to murder us in our own beds and bleed us dry of the last ounce of blood. None other than Sam Winchester, believer of ghosts and self-proclaimed exorcist who has hogged enough newsbytes in the last fortnight with his horrifying tales of misty evenings, dark figures with red glowing eyes and mysteriously murdered cats inside the cemetery, a place where, according to him, the dead don’t lie quiet.”
David paused and dropped the smile for a more sober look. He wanted his audience to believe the veracity of their guest even if he didn’t. Secretly, he thought it was all baloney, a figment of imagination of a raving narcissist who wanted his two minutes of fame before his final curtain call.
He directed a piercing look into the camera and satisfied that the viewers felt uncomfortable enough, continued,
“Mr. Winchester believes that the mysterious gentleman in question, who has taken to haunting the cemetery recently is a vampire, a night walker and a leecher of bloods, reposing in peaceful slumber in one of the graves of Highgate cemetery right now.
This modern day Van Helsing has vowed to end this menace. In an exclusive tie up with JTV, he has agreed to proceed with his crusade against evil, right before you on your TV screens. The rituals might generate considerable thrill and involve feline sacrifices. So watch at your own risk.
Finish Your chores and load up on the popcorn, preferably with lots of garlic. Today will be written down in the annals of British history as the day that married fantasy, horror, and reality and JTV the channel that brought you all the lurid, gory details.
Time for a break, wonderful people. We will be returning with Mr. Winchester in the afternoon who will apprise us about his plans and preparations for this epic battle.
Susan here will now take you on a tour of the cemetery. Sit tight in your seats and watch where the mysterious figure was first spotted or where the dead cats were found, drained of all their blood. Where do you think the vampire’s lair can be? The Terrace Catacombs or Lebanon’s Circle? The poll is running on your screens. Vote for your favourite option right now. Don’t go anywhere. We will be right back.”
Once the camera was turned off, David let the smile fall off his face. Time enough to dazzle the crotchety old spinsters, glued to their TV screens. Right now he had to ensure that their star performer was arriving as per schedule.
The TV crew was elated at the size of the crowd that gathered around the cemetery as soon as word leaked of the shoot. Their vampire vanquisher would surely make their TRP hit the charts. At the same time they tried to keep a semblance of control around the shooting site.
David stood in the sunshine, suave as ever, not batting an eyelid at the huge crowd. He had eyes only for his guest, Sam Winchester. Next to him, Sam in his formal suit and brogues, gave him stiff competition in confidence, if not in looks. He stood tall but looked shrunken, a husk of an erstwhile impressive personality.
“Mr. Winchester, aren’t you scared of facing the vampire?” David began with the question that must have been foremost in everyone’s minds.
“You think just because I’m an old man, feeble in body with HIV, my mind is feeble too? No sir! I’m not some doddering and delusional old fool. I’ve made a lifelong study of vampires and know how to proceed without endangering my life. Even if I die in the proceedings, I’ll consider it my debt paid to humanity.” Sam replied haughtily, with an intensity that belied his frail looks.
HIV! David smiled inwardly. He had been right about the two minutes of fame.
“Please tell us for the benefit of our viewers, how do you propose to lure the vampire out into the open?” David continued.
Sam gave him a look similar to the one librarians reserve for the more loquacious of their visitors. Then he replied, stressing each syllable, as if explaining something to a particularly slow child.
“Vampires cannot venture into daylight. Sunlight incinerates them to dust. Nothing I do will lure them out in the open. So I propose to do nothing of the sort.”
David felt he could murder the older man. Still he pressed on, with his beatific smile plastered on his face.
“But surely you have a plan to tackle this evil? We’ve all gathered here to watch you in action.” He gestured towards the crowd, swelling up by the minute. He could even see some placards but they were too far away to read.
Sam again looked at David like a teacher looking at a student with a particularly asinine query. David swore he would kill the man.
“Of course, I have a plan. This vampire has an affinity for cats and they for him. The dead cats prove he likes cat’s blood. I have a cat here with me. I will simply let it find the grave where the vampire is sleeping. Then we will open the grave and drive a stake through its heart. The cat will have to be sacrificed because of its affinity with the vampire though.” Sam finished.
A roar went through the crowd.
“DON’T YOU DARE!”
“LEAVE THE CAT ALONE!”
The crowd surged. The policemen who had gathered in case of any untoward incident, tried their best to control the line but in vain. People burst through like water breaching a dam. David looked at the incoming wave and understanding dawned on him like revelation.
PETA had arrived, with placards denouncing the cowardly act of the cat’s proposed murder.
The crew abandoned all pretense of shooting and ran. PETA members were known for their love for animals, not for those planning to kill them on live TV.
A hail of decayed tomatoes, oozing their scarlet insides, besieged the TV crew. The foul odour of rotten eggs permeated the air, the yolks briefly smiling on the victims before exploding with their gag-inducing stench.
David spied a group of giggling youths, inexplicably holding a few shining stakes, running straight towards him. Fear skewered his insides much before the stakes could. He took hold of Sam Winchester, who didn’t budge. David turned to find him screaming at the top of his voice,
“It’s a conspiracy. This is my moment of glory. I won’t let anyone take it from me. I’ll be the one to vanquish the vampire.” Then he ran ahead inside the cemetery gates.
David sprinted after Sam. He stopped in his tracks, as the youths with the stakes, came abreast and then overtook him to run ahead.
If the infernal boys didn’t want to murder him, why were they running around with stakes?
A surprised David didn’t see where his feet fell. He lost his balance and hit his head on a tombstone and passed out.
Consciousness seeped into David, pulling him back into the world of the living. It was night but the cemetery was washed silver in the light of the hunter’s moon. He was still inside the cemetery, lying under some damaged bushes. A sickly sweet smell, with an undertone of the copper tang of blood, assailed his nostrils and a faint noise reached his ears. The sound sent shivers up his spine.
He pushed up on one arm cautiously, and took a look around to ascertain the cause. Mayhem reigned in the cemetery. The neat bushes had been broken through by the marauding teenagers. The ivy lay tangled on the ground in heaps. Corpses had been pulled out from their graves, and staked. They lay on the ground, mute spectators to the horror unfolding before them.
A tall misshapen form, almost like a giant owl on sharp clawed feet, stood with its back to David. The wings held a supine form in their hands, while its head bent down over the inert body and made satisfied slurping sounds. The shiny brogues hanging from the lifeless feet were enough to establish the identity of the poor soul.
Oh God! What is this thing?
David wondered and somewhere from the depths of his journalistic repertoire of useless information, his mind threw the answer back to him.
A surprised exclamation exited his lips and the sound shattered the quiet of the lonely cemetery. The creature turned with a snarl. David found himself looking into red eyes and a rapacious beak, matted red with blood. He closed his eyes and prepared to meet his maker as the thing screeched loud enough to deafen him.
Several moments passed. When no exotic birds of mythological origins landed on him to tear his throat out, even after several minutes, David shook off the fear-induced stupor and found he could hear people calling his name. He opened his eyes and saw some men approaching with flashlights.
The bird had flown with the mangled body into the trees. From where he lay he could just ascertain a pair of red eyes, hidden in one of the thicker ash trees, eagerly waiting for solitude to continue feasting again. David concluded it was time to let his presence be known. A well timed moan escaped from his lips.
In no time, he had been pulled out of the bushes and revived. However, he steadfastly refused all knowledge of what happened while he was unconscious. He had a reputation to maintain and tales of exotic bloodthirsty birds would hardly help towards the promotion he had been aiming for.
After all, the vampire was vanquished, if not by Winchester, then by the virus in his blood.
“All’s well that ends well,’ he muttered. Then they all left the cemetery where the dead lay quiet once more.
Name: News reporter
Place: Highgate Cemetery
Animal: Exotic bird
Thing: foul odour
For more information on ‘strix’ the following wikipedia article can be referenced.
Some of the meanings of ‘exotic’ are unnaturalized, bizarre or fantastical. Hence I decided to use a bird of mythological origins for my animal prompt.