Web Site: 24/7 Caffeine Nights
This is a very short vampire story...or is it?
By Darren E Laws ©2002
Rosalind Beckworth closed the electronic diary on her screen and rubbed fatigue and tension from the back of her neck. She could feel the muscles tighten further, and longed for the light touch of a lover to ease away her pains.
She sighed. ‘No lover tonight.’ and pushed back on the office chair, wheeling it away from the omnipresent computer screens that surrounded her.
A night-traders job was laughingly know as the graveyard shift and those unfortunate enough to work it ‘Vampires’; Bloodsuckers, cashing in the misfortune of weak foreign markets for the profitability of the portfolios of the real leeches; the huge corporations and conglomerates that together made up WorldCorp.com; Planet Earth as a global commodity.
The squeak from the back of her chair reverberated like a shout above the gentle hum of the computer monitors and whirring hard drives. There was no one else in the office to hear it. The Nigerian office cleaners had long since finished emptying the bins and wiping their bright yellow dusters over electrostatic charged melamine surfaces, before scurrying back into the mysterious white van that collected them for a night’s work. Nobody was likely to show until 5am, when the first of the morning crew would begin to amble in. Rosalind looked at the large chrome framed clock strategically placed at the end of the trading room. Placed so everyone could see it, if they needed to. Most employees were well aware of the time of the opening and closing of the various markets around the world, without need for referral to the second and minute hands moving inexorably round its undistinguished face. Rosalind knew she would be in bed in her waterside flat before sun-up, she always was.
The apartment was once a tobacco warehouse, skirting the River Thames, in what was then, one of the poorer districts of London. Now it was situated in the more affluent quarter of a City teeming with ‘life’. New blood had been injected into the Capital, yet somehow it always left a bitter taste in her mouth. ‘Life’ without heart or soul, and the unbearable loneliness of a cosmopolitan city, then again, loneliness was something she was used to. Her lifestyle meant that making friends was never easy; meeting lovers was damned near impossible, not that she didn’t love; she loved, she enjoyed her games, vented her desires, but not as often as she would like, there were just too many diseases and risks these days.
Rosalind stood and walked over to the huge windows of the glass-fronted building that looked out onto the street below. No matter what time of the night she looked out, there would always be some form of life, somebody out there, going about their job, in much the same way as her. She often wondered if they were like her. She could usually tell if she managed to get close enough. There was a scent, a look, something tangible, but at the same time ethereal. The pale, sallow skin deprived of the sun’s natural life-giving properties, the whites of the eyes shot with blood streaks and yellowed with a nicotine hue.
A taxicab whizzed past. The familiar diesel engine sound rattled of the walls of surrounding buildings, echoing into the night. She longed to be in the backseat of the cab, listening to the inane chatter of the driver, who would talk incessantly just to keep both parties awake. Rosalind looked back at the clock on the wall.
‘Half an hour to go.’
The warning buzzer of a commodity she was tracking suddenly sounded, breaking her from her reverie.
‘Back to work.’ She crumpled the plastic cup she was drinking tepid vending machine coffee from and let it fall into one of the numerous bins placed around the large office. Before she reached her screen, Rosalind knew ‘CobaltTrad.Inc’ were falling through the floor in Singapore; rumors had circulated all week, even during the ungodly hours she worked. Soon the phones would start ringing, with frantic shareholders wanting to sell their stake in the company, desperate men and women bleeding sweat from every pore, before their investments were erased only to be picked over by the vultures eagerly watching the price plummet, who would then in turn venture to put a speculative toe in the murky waters and buy cheap stock.
‘Down 227.’ Rosalind read from the screen.
Reuters ticker-tape flashed along the bottom of the screen which was slowly filling with rows and rows of red underscored companies catching the plague of panic, and lack of confidence. It wasn’t just CobaltTrad.Inc that was going into free-fall. Rosalind glanced at the screen next to her; all the eastern markets were plummeting. She settled into the uncomfortable office chair and slid back in front of the screen, allowing a small smile of satisfaction to creep across her lips. The phones began to ring, one at first, followed quickly by another and another, until a confused, panicked cacophony shrilled throughout the office. Rosalind watched the stock prices falling, imagining shareholders and Company CEO’s falling with them, many literally to their death, hurling their bodies from great heights, as in the past. Their suicides would be a metaphor for the market conditions and sometimes the only escape, the only survival plan for the families left behind. The streets would be paved with blood, wet and glistening, the reflection black in the light of a full moon. The blood, a dark, sticky fluid running into the gutters, washing into the drains, feeding the svelte, raven black rats and vermin with their hungry open mouths, noses twitching with the copper smell of its freshness.
‘All in all,’ Rosalind thought, ‘it seems quite apt.’
She answered a phone. ‘…all of your stock? Okay.’ She tapped in a code into the computer and clicked the mouse. ‘Done.’
And just as suddenly the markets began to stabilize. CobaltTrad.Inc’s price began to increase and from the other end of the line Rosalind could hear her client whimper before the phone connection terminated. A continuous tone replaced the gentle sobbing of a grown man. One by one the phones stopped ringing; it was just another night, like many others. The market caught a cold, not the plague, not some new virus that threatened Commerce, more of a sneeze really, but Rosalind knew the day was coming when the contagion would become a reality. A new ticker tape from Reuters spooled across her screen.
First company to map human genome.
Rosalind clicked the accompanying link and was taken to PharmaGeneone’s share price. She watched it escalate, putting on over 30% in a matter of minutes. The sound of the electronic lock at the entrance door to the office broke Rosalind’s attention. She looked up to see David Markham enter. He was the first of the morning watch.
It was time to go home.
‘Hi Dave.’ He was fuckable, but much to Rosalind’s regret, he was also gay. ‘You might want to look at PharmaGeneone. Seems they’ve finally mapped the human genome.’
David nodded, his interest more confined to the bacon sandwich and coffee he was consuming.
‘Give it five years and we’ll all be immortal.’ Bacon pieces and masticated bread flew from his mouth, along with the nonchalant string of words. The thought depressed Rosalind. As soon as David sat down, she logged off her computer screen and stood.
David continued chewing and swallowed the sandwich with a gulp of coffee, washing down the larger lumps. He nodded acknowledgement, before garbling.
Rosalind looked at the window, and the darkness outside in the street. It would be light within the hour. Plenty of time to get home and close the blinds; shut out another day.
‘Imagine,’ David said, ‘living forever? Cos. that’s what we’re looking at here. Living forever. Somewhere in the human genome is the key that will turn off ageing and disease. Imagine?’
‘Yeah…imagine.’ Rosalind was tired. She had no desire or need to imagine.
‘So, it’s the weekend, what you gonna do?’ David asked.
Rosalind knew David wasn’t interested in what she was going to do. It was small talk, polite chit-chat. Even if she told him, she was sure he would not believe her anyway.
‘Oh, I don’t know. Maybe watch the sunrise. I haven’t seen the sunrise in years.’ She slipped her coat over her shoulders and collected her bag. As she passed, David thought he heard her say.
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|Reviewed by Tyrone Banks
|Excellent read, the ideas flowed,the images were brilliant -- if this is the style that you are utilizing for "Turtle Island", it will be a winner!|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|excellent write, darren! :)|
|Reviewed by Joyce Scarbrough
|So odd to get a sense of poignancy from a horror story. A tribute to the author's ability to reveal all of the character's essence. Great writing!|
|Reviewed by Joyce Scarbrough
|Excellent piece of writing, Darren. Spare, energetic, dialogue scintillates, leading the reader on, suggesting, merely suggesting the payoff. Well done. Give us more.|