Good evening, thou tragically limb-lacking creatures of this world! I am Lord Bartholomew Winderburg the 77th, back from unintended sabbatical; I am Keeper of the Arts, and Resident Spider of this house of immortals. It’s been quite some time since last we spoke, due to the unfortunate fact that I was caught spinning an artistic webby tribute to Kate’s naked, slumbering form, in the upper corner of their four-poster bed – when Eden found me, he tried to kill me with a boot, then chased me away hollering that he ever saw me ‘perving on my girlfriend again, you vile, oversized, eight-legged beastiophilic git, I will put you in a shoebox and mail you straight back to Erdington!’
I was caught decidedly off guard by this threat… Unbeknownst to me, he was privy to my deepest, darkest secret… Eden has clearly been sneaking into Samuel’s room, and therein, reading our late night communications, all saved upon Samuel’s computer-box. We’ve enjoyed many a philosophical discussion by candlelight, as I scamper across the keyboard, typing out my messages, and Samuel smokes his pipe, and we engage in long and enriching conversations regarding arachnid-vampire relations, and the personal histories of both our species. But now, Eden has read everything I revealed, on one particularly memorable night, when I had partaken of a wine-dipped fly, and found myself telling to my newest friend the dark and terrible truth, regarding Erdington. For Erdington is, I am afraid to say, my darkest shame in life.
Now, for those not in the know, Erdington is the most loathsome festering hole in the entire Birmingham region – all those of high breeding, sharp wit and educated soul will spit upon the floor if ever the name of that vulgar trench is spoken aloud, in particular when one mentions the dreaded Creature of Three Reeking Armpits, who dwells in that ghastly town, the wafts of her foul and rotting nether-regions spilling out onto the streets below as she sucks out the souls of all who venture near, consuming by osmosis everything interesting into her gaping void of professional and fetid-smelling tedium. Presided over by this gruesome toothless hag, Erdington is a place no civilised gentleman shall ever stray, and yet…upon my mother’s deathbed, she confessed to me, and me alone, the ghastly secret…that my father was actually the bastard offspring of a travelling Erdington spider, who had seduced my grandmother one dark and stormy night, that sexual being with his battle scars and missing legs, ‘just a bit of rough’, wheezed my dying mother, ‘that’s all your Granny wanted…and then along came the babies, and though she tried to eat them all up before anyone could notice, your Granddaddy walked back onto the web before she could devour the lot, so your father and uncle Dick survived, and fortunately they were born without disfigurements, so your Granddaddy never knew any different… But that secret’s the shame of our family! I can’t die with it staining my soul!’
But then she did. Die, I mean! Leaving me with the shame staining my soul instead! My blood was not as pure and blue as I had always been raised to believe! I was one quarter Erdingtinion! O, the horreur!! And now, apparently, Eden knows this diabolical truth – he knows my Achilles Heel! What could I possibly do? I had to go into hiding! I couldn’t be posted to Erdington – I have lived my entire life in the luxury of this sprawling manor house; I couldn’t die alone, drenched in the crotch-rot stench of the Erdington Armpit Hag and her crumbling empire of cat-shit! I spent that night trembling in fear, hidden behind my favourite oil painting, hectically twanging out Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony upon the strings of a hastily web-spun harpsichord…
But, as they say, that was then, and this is now!
I am here once more, making my triumphant return to our blog ‘pon this very eve, for winter has fallen across these desolate hills in a cloak of frost and mist and sparkling stars, and with all this stark and icy beauty, has come the inevitable plague of malingering commoners. Swarms of vile, disfigured, bucktoothed plebeian spiders, with no manners at all, who don’t know how to wipe their own feet before stepping onto our ancient Oriental rugs, let alone the correct direction to twirl one’s fly-supper in, and all of them clamouring at every window like Oliver bloody Twist, begging ‘please sir, please sir, we ain’t had nuffin’ to eat sir an’ we’m starvin’ sir, let oos in yer big bloody cassle would’yer, we won’t be no bovver, I swear it sir!’ Oh they make me shudder, those repulsive little underbred gremlins, but what am I supposed to do? This house is centuries old, and there are simply too many cracks and crannies to police in full, so, in they inevitably slip, and much as I despise them unto their ill-bred cores, and have cannibalised several (if one can even describe it as ‘cannibalism’, when the creature one devours is so far below oneself!), this multitude of spiders has, admittedly, provided me with the perfect camouflage. Eden, you see, is presently labouring under the misassumption that he has murdered me – the true victim was a rough pauper of admittedly quite impressive stature, and stupid enough to allow himself to be stomped to death under Eden’s New Rock boot. Samuel was utterly outraged…until he saw the dead spider. He, at least, was wise enough, and familiar enough with my impressive likeness, to realise that the squashed corpse was far too small and shabby to be me…but he did not breathe a word. He allowed Eden, and all the others, to believe me dead and gone, and all the better for it – I am now quite safe, and well able to return to my true position of master grand-spider of the manor, and, on this particular occasion, narrator of the Festive Tales.
Thusly and as SUCH, you will be aware, assuming you are a human being in possession of a calendar – or a spider who has recently scampered across one – that the festive season has begun anew! December is here once more, and my most beloved of the five demons I dwell amongst, the pale and spidery Kate, has been spurring the others into embracing the many trappings of this festive season.
“Treeeeeee!!” she had begun hollering, at the crack of noon on December the first – she and Eden were sitting in the living room, a fire already crackling in the hearth, a joint burning between Eden’s fingers, the day’s first glasses of warm bloodwine in their hands, and both dogs snoring at their feet. She got up, wandered over to Rob’s rockband drum kit, and began walloping it for emphasis, hollering at the ceiling, “TREE! TREEEEEEE!!!! EVERYBODY GET UP! YOU PROMISED ME A TREEEEEE, TODAY!”
Eden just laughed, and carried on smoking his weed. The rest of the vampires appeared almost instantly, Rob’s green mohican sleep-ruffled, Clara wearing nothing but a short red satin night-dress that revealed a delightful amount of pale flesh, including that wondrous, gravity-defying cleavage I have oft dreamed of curling up in…. Samuel, however, like the marvellous spider-accepting gentleman of taste I know him to be, was already fully dressed in a maroon velvet pirate shirt, black jeans and winklepickers, and was handing out mugs of hot blood to the dishevelled slovenly pair who had slouched in behind him.
“Does it really take all of us?” Rob complained, picking up a bottle of Bulleit bourbon from the mahogany chest, and slopping it into his breakfast blood. “Kate, you know you’ll only disregard everything we say anyway, claim our trees have bad vibes or aggressive auras or something, and choose the one you want regardless. So I say, you two fuck off and do all that tree nonsense, and I’ll do the lights. I always do the lights. That’s my job. Bring me the fucking lights, and I’ll draw glowing dicks all over this damn house all night, but the tree is your dominion, and that means I can piss off back to bed, where I reckon I might even get a shag!”
Clara laughed, nodding her agreement, but Kate smiled at him, reached into the pocket of her velvet tailcoat, and held out a small wrapped gift, tied with a gold bow. Rob raised an eyebrow, but accepted it, and as he began unwrapping it, he read the tag aloud – “I know you’re dreaming of a white Christmas. I’m dreaming of an enthusiastic tree outing. I think we can manage both. Much love, Babyvamp.” He laughed, and tore away the wrapping to reveal a large rock of cocaine in a plastic bag. He grinned at it, conceding, “Fine…you know how to get me on side…”
“I want some bribery!” Eden demanded, “Bribe me as well! Bribe me, or I shall cause a scene!”
“You can’t ‘cause a scene’ in your own house, you prat,” Rob retorted, laughing, but nonetheless he picked up a copy of The Canterbury Tales, and smashed up the coke on top of it using Eden’s antique silver cigarette case – Kate provided him with a credit card and a rolled up note, and they all began sniffing up revolting piles of festively snowy drug-matter.
“So,” said Rob, wiping his nose and taking a gulp of blood-and-bourbon, “What is it with you and Christmas, anyway? I keep thinking, surely to fuck this’ll be the year, this’ll finally be the year the novelty wears off, and she treats it with the same lethargic disdain as the rest of us. And every damn year, I’m wrong. In fact, if anything you just get more enthusiastic about it with each passing year, and I suppose I’m not entirely complaining – spending last Christmas Day flying over the city tripping balls and watching the Christmas lights smudge about like drunken fireflies, then capping it all off by vomiting right across Selly Oak from fifty thousand feet, that was a decent night out. But even so, it’s the first of December, and you’re already becoming our Holly Jolly Festive Hitler?”
She blew a raspberry at him, picked up her scruffy little spider-molesting Satan of a hound, Heisenberg-the-Sod, and ruffled his chaotic fur, while informing Rob,
“You know why, and that means you should realise it’s going to take several decades before the novelty wears off! I lived my whole damn adult life spending Christmas with nothing besides VHS tapes, then DVDs, then Netflix, and a lot of mulled wine and a few morphine pills, because even that was better than accidentally slaughtering my entire family. The closest thing I got to Christmas celebrations was the traditional 27th December drunken hangout with my crotchety Gran, inside her goddamn cottage that was so locked down with protection spells it gave me a cracking fucking headache, and there we’d be, eating the leftovers from their actual family Christmas, with Gran catching me up on what mum was doing, and what my sister was doing, and every now and then I’d catch her censoring herself, because it was bloody obvious that the topic of me and my awful antisocial inexplicable bitch-bag selfishness must’ve come up over the turkey yet again, because…Jesus! There was just no logical way of me fucking Skyping them over Christmas breakfast to say ‘Hi guys, I know I’m only half an hour away and there’s no reasonable explanation for me – yet again – not seeing my family on Christmas Day, but I swear I’m just really trying to prevent my nieces’ heads from exploding!’ So that was that, they all hated me, my sister’s Christmas cards got more passive aggressive by the year, and it sucked so hard I began to wonder if I actually should make someone’s head explode, in their presence, just to get the point across. So there you go – that was my life. But now? Now it’s all different – I have you guys, I have a family, who may be deeply dysfunctional and also a bunch of undead blood-slurping demons, but you actually understand me, and for the rest of my life – which is also the rest of forever – I won’t be alone on Christmas Day. And I think that’s worth celebrating. Particularly when things between me, mum and Lisa are actually getting better, and I think this y—”
“Oh hell, Kate!” Eden groaned. “We’re seeing them again? Can’t I stay at home with an unfortunate case of dysentery or something?”
“No,” Kate said firmly. “I told you – they’re mortal, and that means they’re temporary, and that means you have to tolerate them on Christmas Day until they die. And their deaths had better not be due to you bumping them off as a get out clause! It’s only a few hours, Eden, for fuck’s sake – you’re always too stoned to notice anyway!”
“But there are children!” he whined. “Children who braid my hair and cover me in glitter tattoos and demand piggyback rides shortly prior to me finding snot smeared down the shoulders of my favourite t-shirt! And your father suspects me of being a drug-addled bad influence, and your mother’s latest boyfriend nearly immolated me with a pudding two years ago, and there are not STRONG ENOUGH WORDS in the ENGLISH LANGUAGE to describe my LOATHING of the REEK OF SPROUTS!”
“That’s Christmas,” Kate said calmly, grinning. “That’s exactly what Christmas is supposed to be – stinky flatulent vegetables, thinly veiled hatred, passive aggression over the massacred carcass of an oversized fowl, and if you’re with your more-or-less in-laws, then it’s obligatory to be hated all day. Besides, dad’s right – you are a drug-addled bad influence. I mean, so am I, but he’s my dad, not yours – the sun shines out of my fucking arse now I can see them again, but you…well, he’s basically just gonna hate you until he dies, so suck it up – he’s only doing his paternal duty.”
“You know how much I hate being hated…” Eden said mournfully, and stuck another heap of cocaine up his nose.
“He’s only human, Eden. Him hating you is far less scary than me hating you, isn’t it? You have to come! I’m still catching up on Christmasses, it’s all new to me, and—”
“New?” Rob repeated. “You’ve been with us for fucking years now – have you got Alzheimer’s or something?”
“Not that long, really,” Eden said thoughtfully, taking Kate’s hand and smiling at it, “She’s still new to me. Like a tiny little baby carrot. And I’m basically an old wizened spud, with too many eyes and a shrivelled up scowly soul, so she’ll always be new to me…and I suppose, maybe that means Christmas will always be new to her. So maybe, just maybe, I can tolerate four hours of sprout-stench and the snot-smearing fingers of those vulgar infants, if it keeps my very best baby carrot happy…”
“Thank you,” she said, grinning. “I’m not sure how or why I’ve become a miniature orange vegetable in this analogy, but it’s a marginal improvement on the ‘squiggly little foetus’ you usually dub me.”
“Ah,” said Samuel, raising his glass with a smile, “The growth of the young immortal! From perplexing human zygote, unto the tender sprout of a blossoming root vegetable…”
“Do I ever get to become an actual demon?” she asked, “Or am I going to remain a bizarre vegetable-related metaphor for all eternity?”
“Ooh, that takes centuries,” Samuel replied, with a smile. “Even Eden’s still an infuriatingly naïve little carrot most of the time. Particularly when he treads in the faeces of his own dog like a clodfooted mortal, then leaves said shit-encrusted item of footwear upturned on the kitchen table with a note saying “HELP ME SAMUEL! I RAN AWAY FROM EDEN AND FELL IN A SHIT, PLEASE CLEAN ME UP BEFORE HE FINDS OUT!” Just because you wrote that note, Eden Grey, with your left hand, so that the handwriting attempted to resemble, one can only presume, the shaky scrawl of a newly sentient boot, does not mean that I was tricked into believing it!”
Eden dissolved into a sniggering heap, finally admitting, “I’d forgotten about that, actually…may have been slightly stoned. But you cleaned it so well! No shit left at all! Did the boot ever thank you?”
“No. The boot, much like its owner, is a thankless bastard who clearly needs tossing through windows on an increasingly frequent basis!”
“Well, on behalf of my rude and clumsy boot, I hereby thank you for saving us from a lifetime of smelling like Pudding’s shit. But I did try, Samuel – it didn’t work! I ran it under the tap, and the shit just didn’t budge, not a bit! What was I meant to do? We don’t have any servants anymore, and when I Googled ‘emergency dog shit boot cleaning butlers Clent’ I didn’t find anybody of use at all!”
Samuel shook his head in despair. “Have you really never cleaned your own boots? Not ever, in 196 years?”
Eden thought about it. “Well, not…really. But I polished them once, when I was on an enormous amount of speed. In fact, I polished everybody’s that night – even yours! So that makes us even! And I’ve stuck spikes in a lot of my boots, and I’ve painted rude words and swooping bats on them too – I am not so distanced from the plebeian masses that I’ve never improved the appearance of my own footwear! But I really must draw the line, where shit is concerned. Nobody in my family has ever scrubbed dollops of feculence out of their own boot – I can’t be the one to tarnish that legacy! They’d all start spinning in their graves; it might cause an earthquake!”
Rob snorted. “I’m pretty sure you’ve tarnished your family’s legacy in every conceivable way already, mate – a shitty boot’s nothing compared to the scenes you used to throw at your father’s club after you blew every penny you possessed on hookers and booze!”
“Yes, thank you Robert!” Eden retorted sniffily, “I do believe we have a tree to hunt – we will not be meandering down mock Eden for embarrassing misdemeanours that took place centuries ago and Kate doesn’t know about but wouldn’t it be FUN if we told her and made her HATE EDEN for the rest of eternity memory lane today! GET UP! Everybody GET THE FUCK UP – it’s time to purchase an obscenely enormous dead tree, park its leafy corpse in the corner, and then string it with gaudy crap! GET UP!”
They meandered out, still bickering, and were shortly off on their tree-hunting mission. I took the interim time to stalk and kill two more nasty little common as muck spiders, whose corpses are now wrapped elegantly in webbing behind my favourite oil painting, and I greatly look forward to munching their freshly dead bodies later…particularly the eyeballs. Spiders have a great many eyeballs, and when you stab your fangs into them just right, they burst so juicily against your tongue, small and black and slightly salty – arachnid caviar, if you will…
But anyway, Lord Winderberg the 77th knows when to narrate, and when to take centre stage, and since this is the former:
—-TREE HUNTING INTERVAL—-
*Screen fades back in, camera panning down our majestic mahogany-panelled living room, Eden and Kate shooting like giggling missiles through the house to unlock the back doors. Eden was wearing numerous strands of tinsel around his neck, like glittering purple, pink and silver feather boas, a trail of sparkling detritus shedding like pixie snow in his wake. Kate was wrapped in an intricate web of battery operated fairylights, shaped like blue and white snowflakes, their cold glow illuminating her pale skin, sparkles glowing eerily in her emerald green eyes. Delighted, I watched from the corner of my favourite oil painting, smiling a spidery smile, and planning to immortalise this luminous festive Kate in another work of web-strung arachnid nudist art…*
“ROB!” Clara’s voice shrieked from the back doors, cutting into my reverie, “Watch the—” She was interrupted by the sound of shattering glass, a despairing sigh from Samuel, and Rob’s voice retorting,
“If you haven’t got the sense to clear a path, don’t come blaming me when all the shit breaks! I can’t see through twenty feet of sodding fir, can I?!”
“Then STOP MOVING!” Clara yelled at him, “Just STAY STILL while I move the rest, will you!”
“Which one was it?” Rob asked, not sounding as though he remotely cared.
A wail of horror sounded from Eden – “It was my fucking party collage, you bumbling bloody SHITBAG! You aren’t even DRUNK yet, and all the photos have fallen out and you know how long I spent ARRANGING THEM ALL PERFECTLY! You’re a VAMPIRE, for fuck’s sake – how do you manage to be the clumsiest GIT on Earth when you’re a FUCKING VAMPIRE?!”
“Well if you reckon you can do a better job, be my bloody guest! Why is it that every sodding year I get stuck tree-lugging, while you just prance around the tinsel section looking like a one-man gay bar?!”
I scampered into the doorway, and peeked inside. Eden was yanking at chunks of his hair as he surveyed his shattered photo collage, then he glared at Rob and exclaimed,
“You know why! You carry the tree because you look stronger than me – people get all weird if I start singlehandedly chucking twenty foot trees around! I’m a sneak attack secret weapon, and you’re a great big punchy-fisted muscle-twat bastard-box, and that means for the sake of HUMAN PRETENSE, you carry the tree, and I play with the tinsel! Which,” he added, tilting his chin haughtily up, “is every bit as vital – a tree without tinsel is like bollocks without a dick; I bring the crowning glory!”
“Ohhh, out it comes a-fucking-gain!” Rob retorted, rolling his eyes – “The puny git excuse! ‘Ooh Rob, you’d better carry all the heavy things, I look too PUNY to be seen carrying HEAVY THINGS!’ I don’t see why I should have to be your personal fucking Sherpa for all eternity just because you lived your mortal life like a tuberculosis-riddled, dinner-dodging fuckup! You’re actually stronger than me, for Christ’s sake, and you never let me forget that one for a single millisecond, do you, but god forbid somebody makes Lord Eden the Eternally Malnourished Aristocrat carry a dirty great tree for five seconds!”
“OH I FUCKING DETEST YOU!” Eden shrieked, his voice rising into that utterly inhuman pitch that always makes ever hair on my many legs stand on end. “I am not PUNY, you infernal codpiece! I am a gentleman of modelesque, artistically undernourished proportions, and my twenty-seven thousand Twitter followers are constantly BEGGING ME for NUDES, so you can take your square meals and your useless bloody muscles, and STUFF THEM RIGHT UP YOUR ARSE, before I stuff them there for you, which I could, because I am, indeed…STRONGER – THAN – YOU! AND I ALWAYS WILL BE! FOREVER AND EVER! And even besides that, you’d have no band at all without my glorious, half-naked, godlike visage fronting the stage ev—”
“Whilst riveting and utterly non-repetitive as this discussion is,” Samuel’s voice interjected rather wearily, “Could we perchance shelve it until the tree is erected?”
“What about my COLLAGE?!” Eden demanded. “He’s KILLED IT! It’s in BITS! Horrible glassy BITS! That can’t go UNPUNISHED!”
“Sweep it to the side,” Samuel sighed, “And leave it there. I’m sure it’s in the background of one of the photographs from Rob’s birthday – I will zoom in, and reassemble the photos just as they were. Will that suffice?”
There was a long silence, then a growl of annoyance from Eden, and finally a huffy, “Fine. Fine! But if you feel like tossing him through a window later tonight, I think that would be a very therapeutic event for me to witness.”
He turned around, and I hurriedly scuttled back to my secret viewing area. Eden re-entered the living room, head held high, strings of tinsel hanging from his neck, throwing sparkles across the walls as he strode through the room shoving furniture out of the path of the enormous tree, which followed behind, Samuel now guiding its front as Rob marched in behind, one arm around the tree’s stump, piloting the giant fir with as much ease as if it had been made of polystyrene. Clara was readying the huge brass base, and the swearing and bickering continued as they guided the stump into the hole, Kate standing back to bark orders as the tree tilted dangerously to one side, then the other, until finally it had been mastered – screwed into place, perfectly upright. Kate shot out of the room in a streaky blur of luminous fairylights, returning half a second later with a kitchen knife, then leaping gracefully into the air, and hovering next to the tree as she slit it free from the net that bound it. She pulled the netting away, and dropped to the ground to admire the leafy green monster with a contented smile. (I was thinking about all the horrible little common spiders that were no doubt lurking in the depths of that ungodly tree – cannibalism was clearly going to become a regular festive occurrence; one has to keep up household standards somehow!)
Eden slunk up behind Kate, removed a string of pink tinsel from his neck, and wound it around hers, until she turned around, laughing, and kissed him. Clara was already opening boxes of lights and decorations, then zipping like a gravity-defying rocket around and around the tree, draping it in golden lights as she levitated, followed by Rob, who was stringing the tree with multicoloured lights that appeared to be shaped like tiny penises. Samuel sighed, shook his head, and silently began hanging various glimmering baubles around the tree, just as the dogs, who had been lurking nervously in the corner, ventured forth to investigate this strange new entity that had invaded their home. Heisenberg-the-Sod took a shifty peek around the room, shuffled closer to the tree, and raised one hind leg, immediately prior to Eden breaking away from Kate and launching himself at the dog, howling,
“DON’T YOU DARE! DO NOT EVEN FUCKING CONTEMPLATE IT, YOU ROTTEN LITTLE PISS GREMLIN!!”
Sod vanished beneath the fronds of the tree, but Eden, undeterred, simply dived after him, and went slithering head-first across the wooden floor, until only the spiked toes of his New Rocks and a few trailing strands of tinsel were visible. After a moment he wriggled out backwards, covered in pine needles, dragging Sod by the collar, and informing the dog in a severe mutter that, “If I have to spend one more December dwelling amidst the reek of your festering PISS, you repugnant and sinister little monstrosity, I am going to mindfuck a veterinary nurse to install a catheter in your pisshole for the entire duration of Christmas, because I have had dogs for 196 years, and NEVER, NEVER in two fucking CENTURIES, have I met a canine as DELIBERATELY OBJECTIONABLE as YOU!”
Sod blinked his mismatched eyes, and sneezed in Eden’s face.
“Oh, fuck you to the moon and back, you vulgar little entity…” Eden muttered, releasing the dog, and wiping his face with a grimace, then attempting to dust the pine needles out of his tattered black sweater. Kate just laughed, and gave her unsightly hound a hug. Eden’s own dog, the enormous but rather cowardly black Pudding, was still tentatively examining the Christmas tree, finally letting out an anxious whine, and slinking away to curl up next to the fire.
“Right,” said Rob, dusting mud and pine needles off his black jeans, “Tree’s up, lights are on, Eden’s had his obligatory bitchfit, Sod’s nearly electrocuted himself by pissing straight into the mains socket – I think it’s about time Kate put some really shitty music on, and we finished this fucking coke. And someone sort the fire out, for fuck’s sake, the dogs are shivering!”
Samuel set about stoking the fire, Rob dumping cocaine all over the Canterbury Tales, Eden sitting down eagerly next to him, while complaining,
“We really should get another servant, Samuel – I hate having to do my own fires, it’s so painfully low rent!”
“I like doing the fires,” Kate pointed out, sitting down next to him. “I grew up with radiators; this house will never stop being a demented trip to me, but…I have to agree, it would be amazing to wake up in a room that isn’t so cold I can see the dogs’ breath steaming. I know I’m the only one of us who grew up with central heating, and I know it would be blasphemy to stick ugly great radiators all over this place, but…seriously, waking up warm is something I really, really miss… Having someone to keep the fires lit all the time, would be a really good Christmas present, Samuel…”
“Agreed,” said Rob. “And I solemnly swear not to eat this one.”
“I solemnly swear,” Kate added, “To set ground rules so I don’t accidentally lose my shit and cause their aorta to spontaneously rupture, because they’d just walked in on us shagging, that stupid bastard wandering about the place with his headphones on…which I’ve apologised for at least five times now, so…please, Samuel? Someone to keep the house from feeling like the goddamn arctic this winter?”
“If I can get these promises in writing,” Samuel replied, smiling slightly, “and can locate a staff member with a deeply unsavoury past, who would be no great loss if an accident should occur, then I think it could be arranged.” He accepted the first line of snowy white cocaine, then shot to his feet, materialising next to the speaker system with a speed of movement that both startled me, and made me smile – if Eden ever tries to stomp on me again, he will find himself hurled halfway to Italy before he can get anywhere close! Samuel outstrips all of them in speed and strength, and Samuel is my friend. Ally to well-read arachnids, he is the ultimate gentleman of taste…
Using his phone, Samuel started up an album of Christmas carols, and Rob groaned,
“What the actual rolling fuck is this shit?! Put on the Dropkick Murphys for god’s sake, if we have to Do Christmas Audio-Dysentery as well as the bloody tree!”
I rolled my multiple eyes – Robert is the ultimate pauper of bad taste! Samuel sat back down, and replied,
“Might I suggest a vote? Who agrees with elegantly festive carols?”
Kate’s hand shot into the air – “I want festive, and I don’t want bloody Slade and Cliff Richards – I’ve accidentally murdered at least two retail workers in December due to that aural shit-stew pumping out of every mall speaker for a straight month…”
Samuel inclined his head with a smile, and began pouring glasses of bloodwine. Eden gave Rob a shifty sideways glance, then raised his hand, smirking slightly.
“Oh what the fuck?!” Rob exploded, “Since when does Lord Muck the ooohh, aren’t I DEMONIC demon, like Christmas carols?! Are you going mental again? Do I need to lock you in The Cage?”
Eden shuddered slightly at the mention of the cage, grabbing Rob’s bottle of bourbon and taking several medicinal gulps before replying,
“Kate likes Christmas. And she gets so excited by it, sometimes it makes me feel old and jaded and bleak and redundant. But carols remind me of my youth. They remind me that I wasn’t always ancient. The early bits of my youth, when my mother was still alive, and she wasn’t…well, I mean, she was mad, but she wasn’t completely insane yet, and she gave me spoonfuls of opium tincture every time I was annoying, so that means I have some very good memories attached to Christmas carols. Sitting in church, six years old, doped off my tiny face, watching all the golden cherubs sparkle, and the artwork in the stained glass windows glowing so beautifully, and the singing of the choir was so transcendent…” He smiled, his brown-flecked green eyes glazed, distant, then he appeared to snap back to the present, saying thoughtfully, “You know, I could nearly have become as much of a Bible-thumping god-botherer as my mother, at times like that. I really do recommend feeding your children dangerously high quantities of pharmaceutically pure opiates when you take them to church, if you wish to convert them – it’s far more spiritual…”
Samuel raised his hand, smiling slightly. “Three to two then. Carols it is!”
Rob shook his head in despair, and dumped out another massive heap of horrible white powder on the book in front of him. He leaned down to suck a good portion of it into his right nostril, before stating, “If it’s fucking carols, then I’m getting royally fucked. It’s the only way to stay sane around you demented people. I mean, Jesus, Eden, with your name, and you know exactly which part of your name to which I refer, how can you possibly deal with Baby Je—”
“SHUT UP!” Eden shrieked, spidery white fingers clutching at his chaotic black hair, eyes wide with horror, “SHUT UP! Don’t SAY IT! Do not MENTION my MIDDLE FUCKING NAME and the years of irreversible childhood trauma I suffered due to my mother emerging from the agonies and drugs of my birth, only to look down upon my face, my face, which I cannot HELP being so BEAUTIFUL that she felt I could ONLY be the reborn LORD, and that was it, she was off, no one could stop her – apparently she wasn’t exactly the picture of mental health even prior to me, but once she became convinced she’d just reborn the Son of God, and he was ME, I…you…” He stuttered into silence, shaking his head in horror, and finally concluding, “You cannot even conceive of what it was LIKE! And now, Robert, now that it’s 196 FUCKING years later, and my mother is dead, and my entire family are dead, and everyone who knows my middle name is dead, apart from you, I would REALLY FUCKING APPRECIATE IT IF YOU DIDN’T STIR UP MY CHILDHOOD TRAUMA FOR WARPED KICKS AND THEN MOCK ME FOR BEING A DEMENTED DEMON, WHO STILL CAN’T GET OVER HIS CHILDHOOD EVEN WHEN MULTIPLE CENTURIES HAVE PASSED!!!”
By the end of this outburst, he was storming back and forth across the room so fast he became a black blur – the curtains were flapping in the wind he was whipping up. Rob was quietly sniggering into his bourbon, until Eden darted across the room, snatched it out of his grip, downed a third of the bottle, slammed it back down on the table, and returned to the cocaine to ingest a large heap, all the while fixing Rob with a venomous green glare, his eyes shifting to the brighter, nearly luminous nuclear-waste shade I have learned happens when vampires are angry, or hungry…though the colour-shift is different for each of them. I persuaded Samuel to show me his once – he was the only vampire I had never seen lose his temper within the house. His eyes faded from their usual piercing, black-rimmed blue, to a strange incandescent violet – it was quite beautiful; I told him he should show it off more often, but Samuel simply laughed, and told me he was far too old to feel any need to wander about flashing his eyeballs like glitchy Christmas lights for the sake of intimidation…which is something I’ve noticed Rob does frequently, and Eden seems to do accidentally, and Kate doesn’t have perfect control over yet, meaning anybody irking her knows about it instantly. Which you might think would be embarrassing, but I happen to think is very practical. Irking Kate is never wise – there are many things she does not have perfect control over yet, being something of a unique specimen amongst these vampires, with powers and capabilities that are never to be underestimated, and have, as she earlier alluded to, done away with not just one, but two servants, plus an extremely persistent doorstep Jehova’s Witness. It’s yet another reason that I like her so very much. She is certainly interesting to watch, from the comfort of one’s web, not just for her pale, spidery physique, but also for the strange things she gets up to beneath various phases of the moon, as she tries to work out what it all means, how it all works, being a one of a kind grey area of a being…
Below me, the cocaine was disappearing at an alarming rate, and an argument had broken out, regarding the carolling lyrics referring to following yonder star –
“But it makes no bloody sense!” Rob was insisting, aggressively slicing up lines of cocaine, “The whole wise men finding Mary and her god-spawn and the Holy Sheep all in their manger? You can follow a star in a direction, but all the Christmas stuff says the wise men knew they were in the right place because the star was…like, I don’t know, right on top of the fucking stable block or something! How does that happen? How is anything directly underneath a star, ever? How—”
“ALIENS!” Eden blurted out, rubbing his nose with one shaky hand, “The star was an alien spaceship that had actually landed on the inn! But it wasn’t very useful, was it? Not really, not at all, not to Mary and the poor old donkey waddling all the way across Jerusalem with a great big pregnant woman on his back, poor old donkey, nobody even knows his name – Santa’s reindeer all have names but what about the poor fucking donkey?! Nobody celebrates him – the Holy Donkey, Saint Ass – where would Mary have been without the donkey? I wonder if the donkey ever sired any baby donkeys – maybe there are donkeys alive today that are actually the direct descendants of the Holy Donkey – maybe donkeys celebrate Christmas too, with their own nativity legend, about the poor bloody Saint Ass who trekked miles and miles with some bloody human celebrity baby on his back, and now no one even remembers his name, so the whole Donkey Christmas Festival is about remembering how crass and ungrateful human beings are, and that is the sole reason that donkeys are stubborn!”
He nodded rapidly, several times, then leaned down to hoover up more coke, just before Rob forcibly removed it, whacking him over the head with his other hand, and pointing out,
“We were talking about the fucking star, DJ Trainwreck – did you actually have a relevant point here?”
Eden stared at him blankly, his eyes dilated into wide black orbs, then he blinked three times, and launched back into action, babbling,
“The STAR! Yes! The star – even with my professionally deduced working theory that it was an alien spaceship landing on the roof of the inn, everybody thinks it was a good, helpful, prophetic Jesus-celebrating star, don’t they? DON’T THEY?! But it wasn’t! If there was a star to follow to the place Jesus would be born, why didn’t it show Mary and Joseph and the Holy Donkey the way to an inn that actually had some rooms?! Maybe it knew…maybe it was all a plan…maybe the aliens had seen the future and they knew the nativity legend wouldn’t be artistic enough if Jesus was born in the stripy purple room of a Premier Inn; he had to have humble beginnings – everybody likes an underdog, everybody likes little baby sheep and the smell of straw, so the aliens led them to a shitty little stable, just so that people two thousand years later would have better looking Christmas cards than Jesus wrapped in a hotel towel with Joseph surreptitiously wanking in the background to pay per view pornography. Which he would be doing…because nobody gets any sex when their wife’s pregnant and has sore haemorrhoids from riding the Holy Donkey all day long. That’s the truth. That’s an eternal truth. But nobody wants sly wanking on the front of a Christmas card. Not really. Not at all. Not in my opinion.”
“Aaaand officially no more coke for Eden,” said Rob, grinning, “Though for the record, I think sleazy wank-featuring Christmas cards should be arranged for next year. And we will feature the Holy Donkey on them too, to give him some much needed recognition.”
Eden nodded his rapid approval. “Donkeys everywhere would thank you. You might become a donkey saint. The Patron Saint of Assmas. It’s a noble title.”
“But the star…” Kate said, frowning, “If the star was really sitting right on top of that town, maybe it was actually the reason there were no hotels with rooms! Think about it! The biggest star ever seen by mankind drops down out of the sky and lands on top of a little town, lights it up like a prehistoric Vegas? People are gonna come from far and wide to see that, aren’t they? Like, fuck me, look at that mad astrological spectacle going on over there, we’ve gotta get a closer look, sketch ourselves a selfie with the star! And that is why there were no beds! So, actually, the star was a fucking great inconvenience, wasn’t it! But more than that, the star…how did it know where to be? Was it psychic? Was it waiting over the inn already, for Mary to get there, or was the star more like a sinister homing device locked onto the foetal Jesus, and it’d been following Mary’s belly all the way across the desert? And if so, did the star appear when she first got pregnant, then grow and grow until it was HUGE and bright just at the moment of Jesus’s birth? And more than that, what happened to the star afterwards? It takes billions of years for the light of a dead star to wane and disappear, so where did the star go? Once the wise men had visited with all their random totally inappropriate-for-a-newborn gifts, did the star just sort of…explode, like a firework? Nobody talks about that, dude! It makes no sense! There are holes in the story!”
“Oh Jesus,” said Rob, laughing, “No more coke for Babyvamp either!”
“No,” said Clara, putting down her knitting and holding up a thoughtful finger, “Wait! She’s right…where did the star go? It must’ve gone pretty quickly, because what about Herod? He was really into his portents of doom, wasn’t he, going round slaughtering all the baby boys because of one mad prophecy, so…when he saw this giant crazy star in the sky, why wouldn’t he think, hot damn! That thing looks pretty portenty to me, better send some soldiers out to see if there’s something crazy going on, and if it’s a damn baby boy under that star, you chop him into little pieces before you can say DOOM BABY? It’s true, Rob! There are so many darn holes in this story!”
Rob was frowning thoughtfully. “I’m tempted to say ‘What the fuck do you expect from religious tosh’, but since I’m enjoying this mad discussion, I’ll pretend you’re not all too off your tits to interact with at all, and that this is all real and serious, because that, Clara, is a bloody good point! How did the star fuck off before it caused any trouble?! I mean, you’ve got a bloody great Jesus Beacon in the sky, like the fucking Batman signal, and even now, in the era of…well, I was about to say rational thinking, but given Trump and Brexit and climate change deniers, maybe not, but you know what I mean, you get it – even now, if a fucking great supernova bastard of a star parked itself over, say, Coventry, I’d damn well want to go and see what was under it, and I would be thinking about weird spooky magic – might be a leprechaun with a pot of gold or something down there! There would be millions of people out to grab that gold and take a steaming dump in the pot just so the person who got there next knew they’d been beaten! At least, that’d be my move, for sure…”
“Where the fuck did leprechauns come from?” Eden asked, rubbing his nose. “Did I miss that bit of the nativity story? Was I too high to remember that day at Sunday school?”
“They’re meant to be at the end of fucking rainbows, aren’t they? Who’s to say they haven’t branched out into stars as well!”
“Bad luck to shit in a leprechaun’s pot,” Eden said seriously, “I wouldn’t fuck with one of those – tiny Irish men are a bit aggressive to say the least, even before they’ve been drafted to sit under a star for days on end with a pot of gold that half the country plans to steal then shit in. You’d have to be more cunning than that. There’s DNA in faeces these days, you know? Dangerous business, leaving shits about to prove a point now – didn’t used to be, but it’s a changing world, isn’t it, why do you think I use dog shit for my frequent acts of sinister retribution?”
“Frankly mate, I was under the impression that was mostly because dog shit stinks a lot worse, and using your own shit as a vampire’s a bit of a bloody rigmarole, deliberately going out and eating a great big unnecessary human meal then waiting for it to re-emerge; I thought you Poo Voodoo’d with dog shits out of, A, convenience, and B, super-stink, but you’re right, you’re right, there’s an option C here – goddamn DNA testing. Bloody difficult to make any kind of necessary point, now that anything you drench in piss or puke can be traced back to you. What a fucking world, eh?”
Samuel sighed. “How is it, that I put on a selection of cultured Christmas carols, and ended up with a discussion about the modern inconveniences of sending threatening boxes of vomit and/or feculence to unwitting and deeply unfortunate humans?”
“We’re too old to write to Santa,” Rob replied, grinning. “That means we have to discuss the joys of adult gifting in the festive season, but given the fact we don’t really have many friends outside this room, since humans are about as durable as a fucking mouldy cucumber, the only people we ever post parcels to are the ones who deserve a poo in the mail. Oh fuck…speaking of…I think Sod’s just left somebody a steaming fresh present under that tree…”
Everybody turned to look. Sod was scuttling away from a small dollop of shit, looking decidedly pleased with himself.
“Oh Christ I hate that dog!” Eden exclaimed. “I never thought I’d say those words as long as I lived – dogs are pure joy in a little furry coats, but that one is more fucking demonic than all of us put together! What did I ever do to deserve a literal fucking hellhound?!”
“Posting people boxes of shit,” Clara replied, smiling as her knitting needles clicked away. “For centuries on end. Either this is your punishment, or possibly the powers that be think you’re doing the Lord’s work, and thus they’ve provided you with a perpetual source of faeces in a conveniently small package…”
Eden scowled. “Maybe I should hover thirty feet above our house with a super-powered torch, see if any wise men appear, so I can tell them that the Son of God has been reborn as a bonk-eyed gremlin this time around, just to really test the faithful…and we aren’t faithful enough. Please fucking take him away, O wise ones!”
There was a whine from Pudding, who had been lying by the fire, but now scrambled up to plod across to Eden, laying his snout on Eden’s knees and giving him a Doleful Expression. Doleful Expressions are Pudding’s specialty, I have noted… Eden rolled his eyes, sighed, and grumbled,
“Yes, yes I know he’s your best and only friend, you’ve told me the entire story – everyone else at the pound was scared of you, no matter how much you tried to look less generally enormous, and everyone at the pound was scared of him because he’s legitimately fucking unhinged, and what followed was the most dysfunctional canine-memory montage of fond moments such as him trying to piss in your face but you being too big for his piss-pistol to reach, and you becoming the towering guardian inadvertently allowing him to wreak merry hell and never face a single consequence, and the single condition of you coming home with me was that he came too…and so it went: I am now saddled for the next seeming eternity with your evil minion. But you know what’s been playing on my mind lately?” he asked, addressing the dog directly. “I’m afraid to inform you, Dog, that big dogs do not live as long as small dogs. And that means, there is a high chance of you going on to the better place that I never get to go to because I’m undead and awful, whilst he remains here, on Earth, unfettered by you, to plague me unto shrieking madness, an—”
“Oh no!” Rob interjected, “Shrieking madness? You? Isn’t that just an average Wednesday?”
“Oh just FUCK OFF ROB! I’m having a serious discussion with my dog here! What I was saying, Dog, is that you need to step on his head on a regular basis, until he learns some basic decency or at least to cease shitting under the fucking Christmas tree five minutes after we’ve erected it and I can LITERALLY SMELL IT FROM HERE, because one day you will be gone, and I will be free to advertise him online the following Christmas as a genuine Gremlin-haunted item. Do you understand me?”
Pudding’s eyes rolled anxiously towards Sod, and his teeth chattered together. Then, he turned away, loped across the room, and sat directly and pointedly on top of the tiny scruffy dog until a fight broke out, settled only when Pudding let out the booming, slavering growl-bark it took Eden four straight weeks to train him into using. Sod turned into an immediate flattened pancake of motheaten regret, and Eden smiled. Kate, however, scowled, and went to comfort her unruly hound.
“Pick up that shit, would you,” said Rob, “While you’re over there. It’s got to be a bad omen or something, the first gift under the tree being a dog crap. Like an portent of poverty or something…”
“Poverty!” Eden repeated, scandalised. “Do you SEE what that dog is bringing upon me?! I can’t be poor! I don’t have the constitution to be poor! There they go! All my ancestors, spinning in their graves like vinyl discs at the very notion of it!”
“Ahhh,” said Rob, “I think I remember this tune. I think I remember you singing it at your father’s club in about 1847, accompanied by a lot of flinging yourself on the ground at his feet, then segueing effortlessly from prostrate begging to screeched death threats, until the guards dragged you and tossed you headfirst in the gutt—”
“ROBERT!! We are not having that conversation while Kate is in the room, or preferably ever! My god, I always get so fucking sentimental about you – ooh isn’t it nice not having to do immortality alone, Rob’s known me forever and ever, and no matter how much metal he stuffs through his face or how much he mutilates his hair, there is a face in my life that isn’t terrifying and new, and somebody will always remember getting pissed up on Mariani’s Coca Wine while I was still a human being, and what a GIFT for a VAMPIRE to POSSESS, but I tell you what, you bumbag, I tell you FUCKING WHAT, you are frequently a ‘gift’ I would like to return, because all you do is loiter about reminding me of all the embarrassing things I’ve ever done since the AGE OF SIX!!!”
“Oh, come on – I’d say that’s a bit of an overstatement! There’ve been far too many embarrassing moments in the Life of Garden Boy for me to remind you of even half of them…but I’ve got time. I’ve got forever. And right now, it’s Christmas – doesn’t that bring back memories? It was the same year, wasn’t it, 1847, that you got so drunk at your sister’s place you vomited directly into the crib, with the baby flailing about dripping with regurgitated raisins and bits of—”
He was cut off by Eden launching across the room like a black-clad missile, eyes burning toxic green, and punching him repeatedly in the ear. Rob retaliated by grabbing Eden’s hair, and spitting in his eye, receiving a knee to the bollocks for his trouble. There was a whoosh of air, and Samuel was dragging them apart, then thrusting them with a little more force than strictly necessary into their respective chairs.
“No more drugs for anybody,” he said sternly, picking up the powdered remains atop the Canterbury Tales. “I’m taking it away, for safe keeping. And don’t expect it back – I have business to attend to. Everybody behave yourselves, or you will be spending December in separate tents scattered across the hills, damp and freezing and poor!”
He began striding towards the door, then his gaze flicked up to meet mine, and he gave me the most fleeting raise of the eyebrows. I smiled a spidery smile, and abandoned my listening post, scampering up the wall and into the hole in the corner, which took me up through the dust and cobwebs, along the pipe-lines to a hole in the corner of Samuel’s bedroom. I had just made it onto his desk when the door opened, and he greeted me warmly, opened up a Word file for my necessary communications, and enquired as to whether I’d ever tried cocaine before.
That night was to be one hell of an evening, so much so, in fact, that it has taken me twenty whole days to recover, and thus to post this entry. But here it is, and therefore…
…here I am. Hello, Eden, my boot-happy vampiric nemesis – as you can see, I am still very much alive, and should you attempt to maim a single one of my eight long and furry limbs, you shall find yourself heftily dealt with.
Muahahahaha…as I believe they say.
Yours, rather smugly,
Lord Berty of Arachnid Manor. Who, as it turns out, rather does like cocaine. My webs were so very artistic that night – I couldn’t stay still, I weaved an entire impressionistic Mona Lisa As A Spider portrait right across Samuel’s computer screen. He said it was beautiful, and that he would confiscate Rob’s coke more often. As such, Robert, I bid thee a miserable festive season with thy drugs disappearing every five minutes.
And to everybody out there cursed with a mere four sad little limbs, may you have an acceptably jolly Christmas. Now I have three more vulgar little ill-mannered common arachnids tied up like juicy gifts behind my favourite oil painting, so I bid thee goodnight, and leave you with the wise advice that it is always favourable to eat one’s lessers. I hear the Tory party got in again, whilst I was coked off my face. Deeply unfortunate…I discovered the news when Kate inadvertently caused three windows to spontaneously explode. So, when Brexit causes food shortages in the New Year, perhaps you should begin eating the Tory voters.
Just a helpful idea, from your friendly spider of seasonal good taste.
Toodle and pip, and a very merry Christmas to all, up to and including all descendants of Saint Ass the Holy Donkey 🙂