The Vampire of Menlo Park by Chris Philbrook

The Vampire of Menlo Park

 

by Chris Philbrook

 

Thomas Alva Edison 1910:  Nature is what we know. We do not know the gods of religions. And nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. If God made me — the fabled God of the three qualities of which I spoke: mercy, kindness, love — He also made the fish I catch and eat. And where do His mercy, kindness, and love for that fish come in? No; nature made us — nature did it all — not the gods of the religions.

January 10th, 1883

Menlo Park, New Jersey

 

 

            It was early evening, and a heavy snowfall that deadened the world had just begun outside.  A frightfully young intern wearing the best set of clothes his family could afford approached the intricately carved cherry door that marked the entrance to the office of one of the 19th century’s greatest minds. His family had sacrificed much for Geoffrey to get this after school job, but in his mind, it was all worth it.  The great door was ajar a few inches, and the young man rapped his knuckles hesitantly and adjusted his spectacles before speaking.  The door emitted a bit of a creak as he spoke, “Mr. Edison sir?”

The Wizard of Menlo Park was always at work.  No matter the hour of the day or night, Thomas Edison was shut into his office, or into one of his basement level laboratories, working on the next scientific achievement that would make the American life better.

“Geoffrey, you may enter,” Edison responded.

The pre college intern took a deep breath and pushed the ornate door in, stepping a few feet into the wide and deep office.  He stopped ten paces from the massive desk where Edison sat, sipping on a crystal goblet filled with blood red wine.  The man was flanked on either side by tall windows that had been shuttered firmly against the light and cold.  The room was cool, lit by several of the electric lamps Edison had invented himself, and it reminded Geoffrey of a mausoleum.  Edison was only in his mid thirties, with a long, powerful face, bold chin, porcelain skin, and a thick head of dark hair, parted strongly to the left side.  Presently he wore a pinstriped vest and a fine cotton blouse, buttoned straight to the neck.  He was handsome, and unforgettable.  Geoffrey looked in many ways the same as the inventor, though he was sickly.  A childhood bout with typhoid fever had stunted his growth, but left his mind untouched.  Geoffrey aspired to be a scientist like his idol, Thomas Edison.

“Mr. Edison, sorry to intrude.  I came up to tell you that Mr. Bradley asked me to let you know that he’s gone home for the night.  I’ve just come from the electric lamp factory.  The snow is quite thick.”  Geoffrey’s palms were clammy, and his breath the tiniest bit ragged.  Being around Edison made him unreasonably nervous.  He looked around to the fine wallpaper and tall bookcases to obscure his thoughts.  The office felt cold, but was quite luxurious.

“Very good Geoffrey.  Do you have time for me to ask you a few questions young man?”  Edison took another small sip from his goblet, leaving a tiny trace of the thick red wine at each corner of his mouth.

“Of- of course Mr. Edison.”  Geoffrey smoothed out the front of his slacks nervously.  It also served to dry the sweat on his palms.

Edison licked the corners of his lips in a strange manner.  Geoffrey almost thought it was vaguely sexual.  But that couldn’t be.  “Geoffrey when you stay up late at night, how do your faculties operate?  Are you able to function in a scientifically sound manner?”

Geoffrey had to think carefully.  He wasn’t sure how to answer.  “Well sir, I don’t typically stay up past nine or ten at night.  I’ve got school early in the morning, and then I come here immediately afterwards.  I suppose I would say that if I were to have a task to focus on, I can stay up late and be useful.  School studies, for example.”

Edison’s expression hardened, and he looked boldly at Geoffrey, making a powerful eye contact that Geoffrey couldn’t break away from.  He felt his heart quicken as Edison’s eyes bored into him, evaluating him, rooting him still on the hardwood floor of the office.  The power of the man!

            Edison broke his eyes away after an eternity and lifted the goblet in his large hands once more.  Geoffrey noticed for the first time how long and delicate the mastermind’s pale white fingers were.  Edison swirled the thick wine in the ornate crystal repeatedly.  Geoffrey watched as the lush red liquid coated the smooth glass making the shape of a parabola over and over again.  Finally Edison put the wine in his mouth and with a single swallow downed the glass’s contents.

“I’ve made arrangements with your parents Geoffrey.  Starting next Monday you will be removed from your school, and granted an early diploma.  I have need for a late night lab assistant, and if you feel that you can follow my exact instructions, and respect my needs for complete privacy and secrecy, I would like to offer you that position.”  As Edison finished his statement he leaned forward on the desk, interlacing his long fingers together and resting his powerful chin atop them.  His dark eyes- were they red?  leveled off at Geoffrey, and suddenly he felt as if he had no choice in the matter.

And he didn’t.

“I would be more than delighted sir,” Geoffrey said, his voice almost not his own.  The young man could swear that Edison was mouthing the very same words along with him.

Edison leaned back in his plush, high backed leather chair and smiled, “Very good Geoffrey.  Please take the rest of the week off, and spend some time with your family.  Please arrive here at 5pm on Monday.  Bring a dinner for yourself.  From then on, you will be kept very busy helping me.  We have a world to change, after all.”

“Thank you Mr. Edison!”  Geoffrey said with genuine glee.  “I will do my best to prove my worth to you.  I won’t disappoint!”

Edison smiled again, “Beware my wrath Geoffrey.  Other assistants of mine have later said that I am quite… bloodthirsty.  Ravenous, in my needs.”

Geoffrey could only manage a series of elated nods.  He was beyond ecstatic, and Edison’s vaguely sinister tone went entirely over his head.

“Close the door when you leave Geoffrey.  Have an enjoyable night, and do be careful  in the snow.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Edison sir.  Thank you again,” Geoffrey said as he backed out, pulling the heavy cherry door shut.  The sturdy lock caught with a metallic snap and Geoffrey turned around, leaning against the door, grinning ear to ear.  He couldn’t be happier as he started to walk hurriedly down the hallway to head home.  He was to be Thomas Edison’s personal assistant!

His mind mercifully obliterated the memory of Edison’s smile, and the two long fangs that had slipped out through it.

*****

Geoffrey knew that time didn’t dilate.  It was scientifically impossible for a minute to take longer than sixty seconds, and the same theorem held true for the length of a weekend.  However, the remainder of the week that Thomas Edison offered him the job as lab assistant, and the weekend he spent with his family felt like the longest stretch of days that had ever passed on this blue and green Earth.

When Geoffrey entered the building everyone else was leaving for the night.  Only the managers and senior staff remained, and they were bundling up against the cold as Geoffrey stripped off his layers.  Mr. Bradley, the hawkish, bearded man who worked as one of Edison’s manufacturing managers was tightening a scarf around his neck as Geoffrey unbuttoned his sweater.

“You’re going to want to leave that on,” Bradley said gruffly, fishing around in a tall, pressed copper bin for his walking cane.

“What sir?” Geoffrey asked, his fingers hovering over a brown button.

“Your sweater.  Mr. Edison keeps the basement laboratory quite chilly.  The colder temperatures serve the experiments he performs down there,” Mr. Bradley responded.  He pulled an ornate cane from the bin, topped with a carved brass head of a bird of prey.  It was beautiful, but had a darkness to it that Geoffrey couldn’t quite place.

“What research does Mr. Edison do down there, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Mr. Bradley put the tip of the cane to the floor and leaned hard on the brass bird.  He searched for an answer for some time, long enough for Geoffrey to button his sweater all the way back up.

“I don’t know Geoff.  No one really knows.  He only brings down a single assistant at a time, and when they are let go, they are sent away to boarding schools, or universities far abroad.  Their secrecy is bought with an education, or a bribe.  In fact, I’ve never seen or heard from any of his assistants once they’ve left his employ in that basement.”

Geoffrey swallowed with a very dry mouth.  He felt silly for being scared.

“I will say this Geoff, I will not work with Mr. Edison at night.  Not since he took ill a few years ago.  He’s changed.  Harsher, colder.  Obsessed with lighting the night, fearful of candles in an irrational way.  Fire in any form, truthfully.  Where are the stoves on this side of the building I ask you?  And I couldn’t tell you when he last took a meal.  He’s quite strange now.  Be wary boy.  Very wary.”

“Wary of what?  Do you think he’s gone mad?  Thomas Edison, genius of our age, mad?”  Geoffrey was half frightened, and half shocked.

Mr. Bradley leaned in close to Geoffrey.  The teenager could smell the coffee on the businessman’s breath as he spoke, “I won’t be with him at night, and I had this made.  Just in case.”  Mr. Bradley lifted his cane and gave the brass head a twist.  The top of the cane came free, and he lifted it, revealing a slender, foot long wooden spike.  The tip was as sharp as a pencil’s.

“Mr. Bradley that’s quite strange.”

The older businessman shrugged, and examined his odd tool, “It’s made of ash.  Ash is a good wood Geoffrey.  There’s a power in it.  Science hasn’t shown us why, but many cultures have recognized that.  Call me superstitious, but I feel better knowing I have this.  Be careful Geoff.  You’ve a bright future ahead of you.  I would hate to see it lost.  Good evening.”

And with that, Mr. Bradley left the warm confines of the building, trudging out in the packed New Jersey snow.

Geoffrey didn’t feel much warmer after the door swung shut.  A chill had set into his bones that would take a good long time to fade away.  He picked up the small black lunch tin his mother had filled for him, and he set off down the hallway to Mr. Edison’s office.

 

*****

The time with Mr. Edison passed quickly.  The vast majority of it was mundane when compared to Mr. Bradley’s odd paranoia, and soaked through and through with the science that Geoffrey wanted so badly to learn.  One sunless night turned over to the next, and one week into another, and before he knew it, the New Jersey winter had given way for the burgeoning warmth of spring.

Geoffrey thought it odd when Mr. Edison asked him to come in later and later as time progressed.  First it was half past five for a week, then six, then half past six.  It wasn’t until Geoffrey realized that his arrival times to the basement lab were only scant minutes after the sunset each day that he felt something was amiss.  It couldn’t be a coincidence.

It didn’t help that in three months of working with Mr. Edison, nine or more hours at a stretch, all he consumed was glass after glass of thick red wine, all from the same locked cabinet.  Not one meal, nor bite of food.

His curiosity could take no more.

“Mr. Edison?”  Geoffrey asked in a moment of solitude.  The two men had just completed a round of esoteric experiments on filament composition. Thomas was trying to find a bulb filament that would illuminate longer.  The search had consumed them of late.

“Yes Geoffrey?”  Edison said dismissively as he penned immaculate notes into a leather bound journal.

Geoff sat his own notebook down on the lab counter and took a deep breath before continuing, “I’ve been your assistant here for several months now.  I want you to know I’m thankful, but I have some questions.  Personal questions I’d like to put forth, if you don’t mind.”  Geoffrey adjusted his spectacles on the bridge of his nose.

Edison lowered his quill- he favored using an inkwell and quill late at night, and picked up his ever present goblet of red wine.  “Previous assistants have asked personal questions Geoffrey.  Many of them did not like the answers they received, leading to their resignation, or termination.  Ask what you will, but be mindful that the answers you seek might only muddle your feelings.”  The genius sipped at his wine, and inclined his head, indicating for Geoffrey to speak.

Geoffrey swallowed down yet another dry mouth as his heartbeat thumped loudly in his ears.  He steeled himself, and asked his first question, “Why do we only work at night?”

Edison was quick to answer, “I dislike the sun.  Also, it amuses me that the research we do to eliminate the darkness of night is done at night.  I find it fitting.  Poetic.”

Geoffrey nodded apprehensively.  He didn’t quite like that answer, but was scared to press the issue.  “I also wondered about your diet sir.  We’ve spent so long together these past few months, and I’ve never seen you eat so much as a single bite of food.  All I’ve ever observed you eat or drink is that wine sir, and that worries me.  How you stay well is mystifying.”

Edison cracked another wry grin, revealing teeth stained pink from the wine, “I’ve found that my stomach has a gentle constitution since I took ill several years ago.  I eat very little now, and my wine soothes my humors.”  He lifted the glass chalice and took another sip to emphasize the point.

“I see.  I guess I just- well, I find it odd that we aren’t using the larger laboratory upstairs, where the others work, and you avoid sunlight entirely, and you never eat.  It’s very odd, and I worry.”

“Don’t fret Geoffrey.  I am as healthy as an ox, and I plan on being around forever.  If you play your cards right my son, I might just keep you around here for a good long time as well, and you will learn more science than you can imagine.  We will change the world!  Now, fetch me another bottle of the red please.  I seem to have run out.”  Edison downed the remainder of his glass and motioned for the sturdy wine cabinet in the corner of the low ceilinged room.  Bolstered by the distraction of the small task, Geoffrey hopped up and retrieved the last heavy red bottle.  He shut the stained glass door to the now empty cabinet, and started walking back to Edison.

“This is the last bottle sir,” he said as he walked around one of the larger lab counters.

“Oh dear.  I’ll need to send for more tomorrow.  This bottle should get me through tonight though.  Do bring it here.  Be careful,” Edison snapped his fingers impatiently.  Geoffrey thought it looked almost nervous, almost frantic.

Disaster struck.  Geoffrey, lost in thought about Edison’s near manic moment, cut the final corner near the lab counter too short, clipping the bottom of the bottle on the hard soapstone surface, shattering it.  The red wine issued out the broken bottom in a flood, covering his best slacks and creating a substantial spill on the smooth tile floor.  The cleanup would set them back the rest of the night.

“Oh no Mr. Edison!  I’m so sorry!”  Geoffrey said, looking down at the floor and the red spill.  His foot was in the center of the mess, and he turned slightly, causing the foot to skid and slide on the wine.  The consistency of it struck him as odd, and he knelt quickly, putting a knee and a finger in the dark red pool.  He lifted the red fingertip to his nose, but before he even smelled the coppery, iron filled blood, he knew what it was.  He stood, and saw a look that was beyond rage, and something entirely inhuman on the face of his mentor.

“Mr. Edison-” Geoffrey said, suddenly very frightened for his life.

Edison moved- no, Edison launched over the lab counter like an enormous predator cat.  Geoffrey didn’t have the time or sufficient reflexes to move, and literally before he knew it, his head was bouncing off the tile floor, and he was blacked out.  When he came back to consciousness, Edison was crouched over his chest with one hand holding his neck against the floor in a grip that was vice-like.  Edison looked positively feral, and radiant with rage.  Long yellow-white fangs came down where the canines should have been in his mouth, and now for certain, Geoffrey knew Edison’s eyes were red.  They glowed not unlike the red embers from Edison’s light bulbs.

Geoffrey was taken aback by how cold he felt against him.

“I SAID BE CAREFUL!” Edison snarled in Geoffrey’s face, his mouth stinking of rotten blood.  “Now I’ll need to feed Geoffrey!  And you are the only meal here tonight!  What will I tell your parents when you’re a husk in a closed casket?  Moron!”

Geoff couldn’t breathe.  Edison’s claws were shutting his windpipe, and he gasped and sputtered, trying to say something, say anything that might buy him his life.  Finally, as he was about to succumb to the blackness once more, Edison let up the tiniest bit, and the closing circle of death retreated.

Geoffrey coughed, “Mr. Edison, what are you?  You’re cold, you’ve been drinking blood?  You- you’re a beast!”

The fingers tightened again, “Do not presume to tell me what I am boy.  I am primordial!  I am advancement beyond humankind, beyond the brittle flesh of the living!  I am the first of an old kind to take back the blackness of night.  I am a vampire!”  Edison snarled, baring the fangs once more.

What was a Vampire?  Geoffrey choked out a broken series of words, “What?  How?”

Edison looked down to the pool of blood and ran his hand through the spill.  Blood red fingers disappeared into his mouth one by one, and he suckled on them like a babe at a teat.  The tiniest amount of the vitae seemed to stabilize the monster that had erupted.

“I was approached by a wealthy businessman while on holiday in Europe.  He gave me an offer I could not refuse.  Eternity to research my obsessions.  All I need sacrifice was my life, and the sun.  But you see, that is not a loss at all my boy, for I have created electric light.”

Geoffrey nodded slightly.  Edison’s hand had loosened more.  It seemed like the blood had calmed him.  “But you also need to drink blood?  Do you kill?”

“Vampires are ageless creatures from beyond the curtain of death young boy.  Not human, not alive, but more.  Yes, I need to drink blood to maintain my existence.  Yes the sun is my bane.  Yes I must kill now and again but sacrifices must be made Geoffrey.  To advance science you must question everything, even morality, even God.  Every soul that meets their end in my red wine glass furthers mankind as a whole.  It is a small price to pay, murder.”

Geoffrey was nearly speechless.  Nearly.  “Who dies?” he asked.

Edison was now sitting on his haunches, gargoyle-like, “Anyone at first, when the thirst is strongest.  But now, just immigrants.  I have several men who offer jobs to immigrants getting off of boats in New York City.  A few every week is more than enough.  In fact, I’m contributing rather substantial funds anonymously to the creation of a new immigration center.  It is to be called Ellis Island.  But no one will know I have anything to do with it, right Geoffrey?”  Edison’s glowing red eyes flared as he looked back down at the young man below him.

Geoffrey shook his head, his eyes fixated on Edison’s long fangs, “Of course sir.  Nothing you say shall ever pass from my lips.  I understand completely.”

Edison continued.  He was fervent, zealous, “Your predecessors Geoffrey, some were just incompetent, and they saved the lives of immigrants, feeding me instead of the foreigners.  But some, like you, asked the questions.  You are the smart ones Geoffrey, the inquisitive minds.  But are you different from the others?  Can you handle the truth of who and what I am and persevere in the face of that reality?  For the good of science?  For the good of mankind?”  Edison looked away, then back again, but with a different kind of smile entirely, “Or will you become just another cabinet of red wine for me?”

Geoffrey nodded emphatically, “Sir I understand.  You’ve given everything to be one of the world’s most prolific minds, and I’d do the same.  No one can understand what it means to truly seek knowledge in the way you have, and the way I wish to.  I would do anything for the world, for science.”

Edison’s eyes lost their raw flare and faded back to a normal color as he regarded the boy on the floor below him.  Geoffrey watched as his eyes drifted down to the throbbing artery in his neck, then back up to his eyes.  Edison’s fangs slowly retracted back into his gums, much like a cat’s claws.

“You seek eternal life?”  He asked softly.

“I don’t seek eternal life Mr. Edison.  I wish to seek.  To learn, to study, and to know.  If that means I must be as you, I accept that sacrifice.”

“You cannot know what you say, you are far too young, too naïve.   You have not yet proven yourself loyal enough to receive that gift.  You’ve sacrificed so little.  But I shall spare your life for this night.  I have a strange faith in you that I have never possessed over my previous aides.”

Geoffrey was ecstatic, “Thank you good sir.  I shall prove my worth, as I said.  I know I will.”

Edison stood, the knees of his pants, and his face covered in blood.  “I suggest you never drop another bottle of my wine if you wish to live Geoffrey.  Quite literally it is the one thing that is keeping my teeth from your throat every night.”

*****

            It took Geoffrey two full weeks of sleepless days to build up the courage to approach Mr. Bradley.  He knew it had to be done, and the only man who Geoffrey thought knew enough about Edison’s… condition, to be of any assistance.

Geoffrey couldn’t fail in this, or Edison would kill him.  And drink him.

Mr. Bradley sat in his office, his hat resting on the top of the spike filled cane in the corner.  Mr. Bradley wore only his vest, and he was sweating profusely.  The early summer heat had risen dramatically, and the assembly line was even hotter.  Several of the immigrant workers- those Mr. Edison hadn’t drained of blood- called the sweat den the devil’s den.  Mr. Bradley wiped his brow with a white handkerchief and shuffled some forms on his desk, looking for something in the numbers and words.

“Mr.-, Mr. Bradley?”  Geoffrey asked from the doorway.  Geoff had come into work far earlier than usual, specifically to meet with the man about Mr. Edison, and his… needs.

Bradley looked up from his sweat stained paperwork and assessed Geoff.  “You’ve gotten a bit pale Geoffrey.  All these late nights with Mr. Edison have taken a toll on your complexion.”

Geoffrey laughed nervously, “They’ve certainly taken a toll sir.  Speaking of which, I was wondering if I could steal a few minutes of your time?  Regarding Mr. Edison and the… condition you spoke of?”

Bradley sat the paperwork down and stared at Geoffrey.  There was an uncomfortable stretch of silence, and Geoff thought Mr. Bradley might’ve forgotten what he was referring to, or wanted nothing to do with the conversation.  Finally he motioned for Geoff to take a seat in the hard wooden chair near his desk.

“What is it you need to talk about?”  The plant manager asked, pulling the bottom desk drawer out and producing two tumblers and a bottle of scotch.

Geoff watched him slowly pour a finger in each tumbler, mesmerized by the brown, oaky liquor splashing up the sides of the glass.  Finally he spoke as Bradley pushed the drink across the desk to him.

“Mr. Edison has changed sir.  Before I started to work with him, something dire happened.  Something I think you’ve suspected all along.”

Bradley downed the finger of scotch and immediately poured twice as much into the glass.  He swirled it around and licked his lips, “What can you tell me young man?  Make no statements that aren’t fact.  In this manner I suspect there’s precious little we can afford to guess on.”

“I believe Mr. Edison is a vampire, Geoff said quietly, looking over his shoulder at the open office door.  He felt a bead of salty sweat trickle down his cheek.  He couldn’t tell if it was from the sweltering humidity, or from nerves.

“Where did you learn that word?”  Mr. Bradley asked, sipping at the scotch.

“I read it in a book.  Mr. Edison also said it a few times.  It caught my curiosity so I did a bit of research,” Geoffrey replied, sipping at the harsh liquor.  It burned his throat as it slid down, and he wondered why anyone would drink it.

“I think you’re right Geoffrey.  I’ve wondered for a good long time since Mr. Edison took ill, and since he stopped eating and going out at day.  I’ve also thought it strange how he talks poorly of religion now, saying it’s all bunk.  I’ve Romanian blood in me, and my mother and father told me of the blood drinkers.  Have you seen him drink his wine?  It’s blood, isn’t it?”

Geoffrey sipped the liquor, and slowly nodded.

“I knew it.  I’ve known all along.  He is one of God’s forsaken.”

“I don’t know what to do Mr. Bradley.  I accidentally dropped a bottle of his… wine the other day, and he nearly killed me.  Teeth as long as a wolf’s, and eyes that glowed like coals.  He had such strength sir.  He held me down like a bear might hold a river salmon.  I was able to talk him out of killing me, and since I’ve been able to stay in his good graces.”

“He’s a murderer.”

Geoffrey nodded, “I think he’s been killing people every week since he took ill, as you said he did.  What do we do?”

Bradley’s hand shook as he tipped the tumbler once more this time draining it.  He started nodding, building in rapidity to the point where Geoffrey though the man might be having a small seizure.  Finally he stopped, setting the glass down on the wide oak desk with a clink.

“What do we do sir?”  Geoff asked again.

“We kill him, like my ancestors did in Romania, the same way they have for centuries.  I will drive my ash stake into his cold dead heart.  And to be sure, we shall strike his head from his shoulders, and bury one far from the other. Are you with me Geoffrey?  Do you have the courage to do this with me?”

Geoffrey reached across the desk and picked up the bottle of scotch.  With shaky hands he poured an inch of the liquor, and downed it immediately, wincing from the scorched throat it gave him.  He nodded, almost of a different mind, “Yes Mr. Bradley.  I don’t see as if I have a different choice in the matter.”

The factory manager got up and walked around the desk, closing the office door gingerly.  He sat back down, and produced a clean sheet of letterhead paper from a stack.  He picked up a pencil, and started to jot notes.

“What are you doing?”  Geoff asked.

Bradley looked up and scratched his beard with dirty fingers.  Geoff thought there were a few new gray hairs.  Quite a few.

“First, we plan.”

 

*****

 

“He sleeps in a dormitory in the basement,” Geoffrey told Mr. Bradley two weeks later.  It was then deep into the core of the humid New Jersey summer, and the heat was crushing in the mid afternoon.  The sun bored through the slats in the window shade like daggers made of flame.  Glasses of iced tea one after another did their best to fight against the dehydration, but it was a lost cause until the sun went down.

Bradley looked over the notes Geoff had written earlier and nodded.  They had their plan.

The manager spoke, “My mother once told me that the vampires are weaker during the day as they sleep.”

Geoffrey didn’t know how to respond, so he nodded.  He felt his heartbeat quicken.

“We go now.  We do this and end it all.  Today, Thomas Edison meets his end Geoffrey, and we will either be hailed as heroes, or criminals should we do this wrong.”

“I don’t know if I-”

“You’ve no choice.  Take the cane, I’ll get the torches.  Today, we use only the light that fire provides us.  Edison’s electric light will not shed justice in this, the good Lord’s matter,” Bradley stood, and for the first time, the manager looked confident.  Righteous.  Just.

Geoffrey grabbed the brass headed cane and followed the man out into the hallway towards the stairs that would take them down to where Edison’s cold, dark lair was.

 

*****

 

Edison’s body was in a container that looked exactly like a seven foot long water chest.  A large padlock hung from it, but Geoffrey knew it to be false.  Like the chest it hung from, it was all only for the sake of appearance.  A single ornament designed to dissuade the viewer from the real purpose of the chest.

In his left hand Bradley held the lit torch they had made from a scrap of wood, a handkerchief, and some of the vodka the Russian immigrants from the factory drank so freely.  It burned bright and clean, casting orange light and black shadows across the finely appointed apartment.  In his right hand Bradley held a large cross.  He made the sign of the holy trinity and motioned for Geoffrey to approach the chest with him.

The young man held his breath, his heart hammering away.  Adrenaline coursed through him, electrifying his every nerve and muscle, much like Edison’s loved energy might.  He had never felt so alive, or so close to death.  It was a queer exhilaration.

“Open it,” Bradley said quietly.

Geoffrey walked around the newly minted vampire slayer and took the torch from him.  He handed off the hawk headed cane and with a nod, lifted the padlock, raising the lid of the water chest as well.  Bradley had already unscrewed the spike from the cane, and had it at the ready.

“Good afternoon Mr. Bradley,” said Edison from the corner of the room, several feet from the chest.  His voice was low, and full of malice.

Bradley spun, producing the holy cross at the area of the bedroom Edison had spoken from.  Geoffrey lifted the torch to try and shed more light on the vampire, his hand shaking like a leaf blowing in a pre-storm wind.  The shadows, impossibly black and thick peeled away from the corner of the room like a cloak unfurling.  The darkness was unnatural, and the torch’s flame did little to pierce it.  Edison took a step forward into the room, his fangs bared casually.  He looked omnipotent.

“In the name of God I command you to hold still unholy beast, creature of the night, Satan’s spawn!”  Bradley shouted, his voice booming with a religious might Geoffrey was astounded by.

Edison’s eyes flared like the torch’s flame, and he rooted his feet to the floor.  He was held firm.

“I have come to you as an agent of our holy God to end your murderous ways!  I shall drive this stake made of ash into your dead, evil heart, and I shall stop this blasphemy of the living order!”  Bradley raised the head of the cane high, showing it to Edison as he might show a shard of the holy cross itself.  Edison’s eyes showed something Geoffrey had never seen, and never expected them to; fear.

“Be gone, foul demon of Satan!”  Bradley yelled, and he brought the stake down into Edison’s chest.

The wooden stake busted apart against the white shirt Edison wore as if it were made of tissue paper.  Tiny shards of wood fell impotently to the floor as Mr. Bradley’ hand thumped into Edison’s flesh.  All that remained in it was the brass hawk’s head.  The factory manager, full of the fury of his holy God, had done no more than wrinkle the vampire’s shirt.

Edison smiled, and wordlessly backhanded the man hard enough to twist his head completely around.  Geoffrey stood, open mouthed, watching Mr. Bradley’s face contort and twitch, turned entirely around to the wrong direction.  Beyond that, he watched as Edison caught the body from falling, and sink his teeth into the limp neck of the dying man.  There was a wet, sucking sound as all of the man’s vitae was drained from him.  It took less time to turn Mr. Bradley into a dried husk than Geoffrey imagined it would’ve.

Edison dropped the carcass on the floor as he might’ve discarded a spent cigarette.  He looked up at Geoffrey and smiled once more.  Geoffrey lowered the torch, and stood his ground, frightened of what would happen next.  Edison walked slowly over towards him, stopping when he was mere inches away.

“The cane?”  Edison asked.

Geoffrey swallowed.  His whole life hung in the balance, and his next words would tip it one way, or the other, “Balsa wood.  I switched it earlier today when Mr. Bradley was at lunch.”

Edison smiled, “Very clever.  I always knew he disliked me.  Even before I was turned into a vampire.  He was so poor at hiding his faces.  A good poker opponent though.”

Geoffrey smiled, and beamed.

“Well done my young boy.”

“Anything for science Mr. Edison.  Anything.”

“Make your arrangements for travel.  Your parents think you’re going to Germany to school.  You won’t be seeing them again, ever.”

“Very good sir.”

“It will be nice to have reliable help here in the laboratory Geoffrey.  Now all that’s left, is a body double to pretend to be me.  Someone to grow old, and marry, and be seen during the day when I cannot be out and about.  We’ll start that search immediately after you’ve become as I am.”

“Very good sir.”

Edison put his arm lovingly around the young man and the two gazed at Mr. Bradley’s desiccated body.  “The sacrifices we make for science.”

 

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