// CEDRIC’S BASEMENT //
He has been using a computer with an arcane monitor, chunky and beige; reminiscent of the 1990s. Beside the computer sit a number of more modern peripherals, including a fingerprint sensor.
CEDRIC has just found out about the death of ELIZA PANCAKES, a young vampress who had been turned just a few years prior by VLADISLAUS STRAUD.
CEDRIC turns off the computer and sighs audibly. A number of his lifetime habits have been difficult to kick, and this is one of them. What use is breath to the eternal undead? But it’s a comfort to move his diaphragm and remember the cleansing scent of rainfall.
Since the disappearance of FRIDAY PERKINS, STRAUD’s townhouse in the Forgotten Hallow lay fallow until E.PANCAKES volunteered to steward the property. Not wanting to leave B.PANCAKES without the protection of his supernatural wife, CEDRIC offered the empty apartment next to his own. The benefit was two-fold; B.PANCAKES provided legitimacy to what was otherwise a strangely quiet apartment.
But now it lay to him to deliver the news to B.PANCAKES that his wife had died of sun exposure. He pauses for a moment before ascending the stairs – He can hear the reverberations of the television BOB is watching.
The two apartments are joined by a door to BOB’s kitchen. The plain kitchen is done in sky-blue tile completed with high-end appliances. BOB had brought his own; the man had once aspired to become a chef.
CEDRIC knocks on the kitchen doorframe before entering BOB’s space. A dining table stands between them.
HEY BOB. YOU GOT A FEW? I GOTTA TALK TO YOU.
A silence hangs in the air for a moment. BOB can feel the seriousness in CEDRIC’s voice.
YEAH SURE. WHAT’S UP?
CEDRIC enters the space. He likes it here, as much as one can appreciate the blare of electronics in the face of the Change. His former roommate had done up the wall and put in modern speakers; the depth of sound made the glare of the screen less oppressive. BOB pauses the game.
MIGHT AS WELL JUST TURN IT OFF.
BOB obeys. Quietly the room feels empty.
YOUR WIFE… IS DEAD.
BOB says nothing, simply sits in stunned silence before bowing his head.
IS THERE… ANYTHING I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT IT?
SHE… DIED TO SUN EXPOSURE. SOO, STRAUD’S ASSISTANT, FOUND HER. BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, OR WHY SHE WAS OUT THERE.
BOB keeps looking downward, feeling small. No words pass for some time.
Y’KNOW WE’VE BEEN TOGETHER SINCE HIGH SCHOOL.
SOPHOMORE YEAR. WE WERE IN A PLAY TOGETHER.
I LIKED HER SINCE THE START.
I’M GOING TO MAKE SOME COFFEE, YOU WANT ANY?
Ordinarily CEDRIC would refuse.
SURE. I’LL HAVE SOME.
CEDRIC, BOB get up from the couch and walk back into the kitchen. CEDRIC lets BOB go first. BOB removes a bag of coffee from the cabinet and uses an electric grinder to produce grounds. When the sound ceases, BOB starts talking again.
SHE ALWAYS WANTED MORE. WHEN SHE BROUGHT THE PROFESSOR HOME, I REMEMBER…
MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS THAT SHE WANTED A DIVORCE.
BOB laughs mournfully.
WHAT A JOKE.
BOB pours the grounds into the coffeemaker.
BUT I CAME TO LIKE THE PROFESSOR. AND I THOUGHT HER CHOICE WAS FINALLY THE RIGHT ONE FOR HER.
BOB hands a coffee cup to CEDRIC.
IT TOOK ME SOME TIME TO REALIZE THE TRUTH OF THINGS, BUT IT SEEMED LIKE IT WAS WHAT SHE’D ALWAYS WANTED… TO BE SOMETHING, TO BE SOMEONE – SPECIAL.
Soon the bubbling of the boiling water is audible.
SHE WAS ALWAYS HAPPIEST WHEN CHASING DREAMS, BUT I THOUGHT:
FINALLY THE CHASE IS OVER, FINALLY SHE’S GOT THE DREAM IN HER HANDS.
THE FREEDOM TO CHASE DREAMS FOR THE REST OF HER DAYS.
BOB, CEDRIC catch each other’s eye contact. BOB fears saying the wrong thing; he talks about something known only catty-corner to his own plain existence.
AND YOU KNOW, AFTER WE FINISHED FILMING THAT COMMERCIAL, I THINK I FINALLY KNOW HOW SHE FELT.
BOB sighs and winces as if to break down into tears, but his face remains dry as he regains composure. The coffeemaker begins to croak as it drips into the carafe.
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. BUT I NEVER WANTED TO DISCOURAGE HER.
WE SHOULD HAVE PROTECTED HER, BOB. WE FAILED HER. WE DID.
WHEN I FINALLY ACCEPTED THAT… THERE WAS MORE TO THE WORLD THAN JUST THE LIVING… THE ORDINARY… THE NORMAL.
AND IT TOOK ME SOME TIME –
I THOUGHT FINDING THE PROFESSOR WAS THE BEST THING THAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED TO HER.
TO GUIDE HER…
BOB smiles weakly.
AND I EVEN GOT CLOSE TO HIM WHEN HE WAS DOING THE SIX-WEEK ABSTINENCE.
HE CAME TO OUR HOUSE, TALKED TO ME, I GOT TO KNOW HIM, AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT.
I’M SURE A PERSON LIKE HIM DOESN’T HAVE REAL FRIENDS BUT…
HE MADE EVERYTHING SEEM REACHABLE TO ME. SUDDENLY ETERNAL LIFE WAS AS REAL AS, I DON’T KNOW, SOME NEW THEORY OF QUANTUM GRAVITY. REAL ENOUGH, ANYWAY.
(pause) SORRY, I WAS ALWAYS A SCI-FI GUY.
BOB pours the coffee.
YOU KNOW ELIZA WANTED TO BE A VET WHEN WE WERE KIDS. AFTER WE GRADUATED WE MOVED OUT WEST AND SHE DID THAT FOR A FEW YEARS BUT SHE DROPPED OUT ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH.
SHE WAS NEVER THE SAME AFTER. ALWAYS HAD THIS SADNESS ABOUT HER.
YOU WANNA SIT DOWN?
CEDRIC nods. THE PAIR sit adjacent at the dining room table. The small table, done in blue silks, seems overdressed for the simple apartment.
WE CAME BACK HERE. BUT SHE WAS JUST NEVER THE SAME AFTER SHE DROPPED OUT.
BOB sips on his coffee but it’s still too hot to drink.
Y’KNOW LAST YEAR WHEN WE REPAINTED HER BATHROOM IT WAS THE HAPPIEST I’D EVER SEEN HER. DEFINITELY THE HAPPIEST WE’D EVER BEEN WORKING ON SOMETHING TOGETHER. I REALLY THOUGHT WE WERE TURNING A CORNER. THAT SHE WAS –
I THOUGHT SHE SEEMED TO BE ADJUSTING WELL TO THE CHANGE TOO. I DON’T KNOW, BOB–
SHE’S REALLY GONE? I MEAN, REALLY GONE?
CEDRIC pauses gravely.
YEAH, SHE’S REALLY GONE.
BOB finally drinks his coffee.
MANDARC SAID SHE COULD HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP MOONGAZING, WE ALL KNEW SHE LOVED TO GO OUTSIDE WITH HER BINOCULARS. BUT SHE WOULD HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN OUT THERE FOR HOURS.
BUT HOW COULD SHE? HOW COULD SHE BEAR THE PAIN? THE SUN? WOULDN’T THE PAIN WAKE HER? BUT HOW COULD–
BOB stops mid-sentence. There’s just nothing to say. He stares into his coffee, where the surface is matte and steaming.
I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE AFTER ALL SHE’S BEEN THROUGH, SHE’D WANT TO GO THIS WAY. THIS SOON.
BOB, I’M NOT GOING TO SAY WE HAVE NO ENEMIES, AND YOU KNOW YOUR WIFE, SHE NEVER HELD BACK WHAT SHE THOUGHT. BUT WE HAVE NO PROOF.
NO ONE SAW HER SINCE… WHEN?
ALL THAT WE KNOW SAYS YOU’RE THE LAST ONE WHO SAW HER, LAST TUESDAY WHEN SHE STAYED OVER. WHEN SHE –
SHE SEEMED SO… HAPPY.
BOB, CEDRIC sit in awkward silence. BOB drinks his coffee loudly while CEDRIC has barely touched his.
I… I’M… THIS IS OFF-THE-RECORD BUT–
SHE HAD ATTRACTED THE IRE OF A YOUNG WOMAN WHO WAS JEALOUS THAT STRAUD DECIDED TO BESTOW THE GIFT ON HER.
IT WAS ALL WELL-AND-GOOD WHEN THE CLUB WAS BOYS ONLY BUT WHEN ELIZA JOINED…
WE HAVE NO PROOF, REALLY IT’S NOT EVEN WORTH DISCUSSING SINCE THE GIRL HAS BEEN OUT-OF-TOWN FOR ALMOST A MONTH. BUT I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW.
SHE’S PALE SKINNED, A FULL HEAD OF DARK WAVY HAIR. RED EYES.
RED EYES. NAME’S FRIDAY PERKINS. FORMER CONSORT OF ONE MANDARC SOO. SOME OF US ACQUIRE THE GIFT THROUGH HAPPENSTANCE, SOME OF US ACQUIRE THE GIFT BY SEEKING IT OUT. FRIDAY WAS ALREADY GIFTED WITH WHAT WE CALL THE TALENT – SHE CAN CAST SPELLS AND CREATE THINGS FROM SEEMINGLY NOTHING. SHE COULD INVOKE MAGIC. SHE WOULD HAVE HAD TO GIVE THAT UP TO BECOME A VAMPRESS, AS OUR MAGIC IS A DIFFERENT PATH THAN THEIR MAGIC, AND STRAUD WAS UNWILLING TO SEEK THAT OUT WITH HER.
I DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHY SHE WANTED TO BECOME A VAMPIRE BUT IT WAS CLEAR FROM THE FIRST DAY I MET HER THAT SHE DESPISED ALL OF US IN HER OWN WAY.
AND ELIZA MOST OF ALL.
COULD SHE HAVE SENT SOMEONE ELSE?
WE DON’T KNOW. WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. IT’S POSSIBLE THIS HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH FRIDAY. PROBABLE, EVEN. BUT I JUST WANTED YOU TO KNOW. IN CASE YOU EVER CROSS PATHS.
I… I THINK I NEED TO BE ALONE NOW.
CEDRIC leaves the apartment through the front door.