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Sandy Fleming

[To Sandy Fleming’s index] [Til Sandy Fleemin’s index]
[This Scots story appears in the Lowlands-L Crypt as well.]

Nine Fragments

[Fae some lowse sheets fund blawin aboot the East Sands, St Andraes, Scotland, 1984]

bi Sandy Fleming

… wisna ane o the raisidents: fae Hamilton Haa wis burnt ther’s been mair a mixtur o gender in the tradítional haas wi the lassies wis displaced bi the fire, sae the vísitâtion rules isna as sair lippent til as thay wis in my brither’s time.

“My name’s Ísabel,” she steppit intae the chaumer, her lang black heid an lowse, draiglety silks blawin oot ahint her wi the sheer eidency o her gait.

Her skin wis white, white an translucent: blue veins coud be seen in her breest, an a reid flush in her cheeks. She wis weerin a basque in black lace ower a white chemise, an a white cotton petticoat abuin a black skirt. She’d a reid shawl or pico tied lowse aboot her middle, the pynt o’d hingin doun on her carrie side. Black fingerless lang-sleeved gloves, a black choker an a wee white reddicle wi a reid fleur-de-lys pattern hingin fae her airm pat a auld-warld, nichts o wine, dine an dance ablo caunlelit chandeliers leuk tae her, an yit the pico gart her leuk gey paisant-like. I did think she made a fair job o the petticoat punk, like thay’v been caain this kin o thing lately, apairt fae her shuin, that wis juist cork-soled sandals laced up the Roman wey. The only question wis what she wis vísitin on me for?

“My aicademic dochter wis wantin me tae spier gin ye’d be her faither,” she made her excuise the time she sat on the bed an set her skirts in order.

“Ay, what’s her name?”

She keekit at me wi her muckle blank een, like the question haed her ficklt. “Suphy,” qo she at last, “Suphy, I dout. She daes biochemistry.”

“What wey can a bejantine dae biochemistry?” I wisna shuir, but I didna think the biochemistry wad been for daein as a first-year subjeck, ye’d first hae tae dae the chemistry an biology, an syne biochemistry in later years, an bi tradítion it’s juist first year students gaes seekin aicademic pârents. But this wis aa deduction for its ain sake: Raisin Sunday wis lang by, it wis faur ower late tae adopt aicademic bairns. I teuk it this lassie wis nae guid at tellin lees.

“Oh, a sceptic,” the colour intae her cheeks skailled bonny ower her white face whan she leuch, syne it drained awa.


… back tae the chaumer it wis lichtit wi juist twathree caunles. I keekit at the reddicle lyin on the bed aside her leukin mair or less tuim, an jalouzed that wis whaur the caunles wis fae.

“I’m no ony great admirer o the electric licht,” qo she, an I settlt doun in the airmchaire wi the coffee, the lateness o the oor an the saftness o the caunlelicht makkin me gled o juist cannin sit an listen.

Ísabel startit bi sayin she haed aye likit vampires, an fae the wey she wis buskit I coud fair credit that. No sae creditable wis the fack that she sayed that whan she cam tae St Andraes an spied aa the gothic airchitectur aboot the place she haed some howp o meetin in wi a vampire, an aiblins even turnin vampire hersel. She wad awa stravaigin the Auld Toun aa oors o the nicht in howp o chancin intae ane. Whiles she wad seem tae can see what donnert she wis bein an wad start tae loss faith, but itherwhiles she’d seem tae can snowk the vera praisence o vampires in the lift, an she’d haud gaun.

“It wis ae winters nicht,” qo she, “a storm haed startit doun in the wee oors an I bieldit mysel in the door o John Menzies, juist staunin leukin up at the snawflauchts birlin sílent aboot the steeple o the Episcopâlian Kirk in the dark, whan I thocht I coud sense something flittin by abuin me, cauld as the snaw itsel.”

Syne Ísabel haed spied a man makkin for the cathedral doun Sooth Street, an gaed efter him throu the snaw. He wis buskit fremmit-like: some kin o braid hat an a lang dister coat that blew oot ahint him like a pair o muckle black wíngs. He vainished doun the Pends, an she startit efter him, an whan she cam roond the corner an gaed inablo the Pends hersel, what div ye think but that she …


… a bittie wi the fricht, an it vainishes, an she hears something flitterin by nearabuin her heid, an syne she leuks up intae the black lift, an the’r naething she can see but the flauchts o white storm birlin doun intae her face.

“Sae I kent for shuir the war vampires aboot the toun,” qo Ísabel, “the thing wis, thay seemed tae be feared fae me. But tho Cranmore haedna bitten me aathing haed chainged: it’s the differ atween wishin the war vampires aboot, an kennin the ar.”

An sae ae day whan the simmer cam roond, Ísabel wis gangin her gate fae the Naitral Philosophy buildin in the North Hauch up tae the Observatory, an what dis she spy but this lassie comin oot o Purdie, a open parasol on her shouther, her face pure white ablo her sunglesses. A bleezin sun tho the war, Ísabel jalouzed this wis a vampire. Sic a differ the ar atween wishin vampires wis aboot an kennin thay’r aboot, she jalouzed it richt awa.

Ísabel follaed her whaur she wis gaun. Doun the steps atween the Mathematics an Naitral Philosophy buildins, ower the North Hauch an ablo the railwey brig, syne up alang North Street tae whaur thay wis buildin the new librar. The lassie turnt in on the buildin site, an, a gey an orra thing tae see wi aa the leddy-like fantoushery she wis buskit wi, she sclimmed doun intae a hole in the foond o the librar, heystit the lid aff this lang widden box, an got in, lyin hersel doun an pùllin the lid atae ower the tap o her.

Ísabel waitit in this hole on the buildin site that nicht for the vampire tae kythe, but she didna. Syne the nixt nicht, an the nixt. She wondered war it the lang lichty nichts ye git this faur north, or did the lassie come oot throu the day, wi aa her creams an fantoushery for tae gae tae lecturs, an didna bather at nicht? Ae muinlicht nicht she liftit the lid an saw the lassie sleepin thare, an never did she steer. Syne Ísabel touched the cauld fleesh an the een opent. The lassie lowpit strecht for her, her chafts raxed like a puma shawin its fangs, but for aa that she …


… thae hellish sheets o paper an lowpin aff o St Rules Touer or the pier, ay the pier, seein’s the Touer’s shut wi suicides aready; but for the nou I’ll leeve wi the curse an spite her, for the sake o the evidents. In the meantime I minds mysel she haed nae sowel, nane ava, that my hert needna growe sae fain on her, an that she’s awa, I needna loss aa my sleep stravaigin the toun throu the nicht in howp o chancin intae her.

I dinna ken gin I’m sufferin or gin this isna a naitral state: it’s like a snell blast gaun ootthrou my vera hert, come sun come rain, a cauld pinglin fae some spíritual airt. I can haurly credit I juist kent this lassie the ae nicht, it’s like soukin bluid’s juist a metaphor for the wey chancin intae her can drain the vera sowel, leave it like a ringin frost in the hert. Spaek o the romance an glammer o vampires aa ye like, but I howp this scrieve o mine’ll be mair o a warnishment tae the leevin, than instruction tae prentice vampires.

An thon that I sayed afore, taen thegither wi some mair things I’m gaun tae tell, adds up tae a fair pruif that aa this happent: it’s no as tho a sowel like mysel, or for that maiter ony leevin sowel, coud hae plantit sic evidents, gin ye’ll allou the bit play on wirds thare. I’v checked up on this partíclar thing an it’s juist like Ísabel sayed. I didna credit ony o what she wis sayin the time she wis tellin me, but I’m gey an shuir o’d nou.

Onywey, that wisna aa wisna conform tae Ísabel’s plan: it haed turnt oot that the war men wirkin on the fire safety sýstem an thay haed aa the fire doors aff in the corridor an seemed tae be bangin an thrummin awa wi thair hammers an drills aa the lee-lang day. Sae Ísabel haed tae watch hersel an no dae onything tae gar them tent her. It wis a peety it haed tae be Hamilton Haa, but the war nae wey she coud hae kent the war wark bein duin here throu the simmer holidays. Sae she haed tae wait till the men wis awa hame the back o five for tae win oot an git some reid wine.

Suphy wadna tak the wine, but that wisna the plan onywey. Ísabel drank the wine slaw, bringin a warm reidness tae her face an neck that she coud see wis tempin the ither lassie nearer an nearer her. As the lift gloamed ahint the curtains she laid her cauld haun on Ísabel’s. “I’m wantin bluid, Ísabel,” qo she, “I’m wantin it the nicht, but no yours. No yours. Lat me lowse an I’ll come back. I’ll come back an be wi ye but I canna tak yer bluid.”

Ísabel wantit bitten aa the waur, for that it wis somewey forbid. An the meenit the sun gaed ablo the horizon a chainge cam ower Suphy. Her skin, aye white even tho Ísabel haed washed the paste aff for tae trap her, gaed translucent like gless; her haun, cauld afore, fell freezin sae’s Ísabel coud scarce thole the …


… wis bitten?” spiers I. I keekit at her neck but she wis weirin thon choker. “Sae hou is’t ye’r no a vampire nou? Hou is’t ye’v thon reid in yer cheeks?”

“Like I sayed, I’m stappit fou. But I wis bitten an didna dee,” Ísabel smiled an pat her haun tae her breestbane again, “it’s juist the innocent dees.”

“Weel,” she gaed on, “Suphy, haein souk-souk-soukit awa at the bluid she haedna wantit, teuk a reidness tae her cheeks, an her skin leukit ver’near human again, her strenth seemed tae come back, an even a kin o couthiness, an she laid her heid on my breest.”

“What did ye no want my bluid for?” Ísabel haed spiered Suphy.

“Wi you bein a scientist,” Suphy haed explained, “the undeid needs scientists amang the leevin. We hinna ony great creâtive pouers o oor ain. The vampire brain juist disna hae the spate o bluid that rins in the brains o the leevin. At Purdie I’v shuppit thon cream that saves me fae the sun, forby it’s no me that’s daein the development, it’s skeely scientists an clifty technologists as daes my biddin.”

“An sae you comin oot o Purdie,” qo Ísabel, the wey the Purdie Buildin is whaur the chemistry depairtment is.

“Juist that.” Suphy poored a gless o wine an raxed it tae Ísabel, “Nou drink this for tae repleenish yersel,” qo she, “but it’se no be lang or ye’ll hae tae aither lie at paece or drink bluid gey an aften, whan yer body canna mak its ain nae mair. An bi the by, tak tent ye dinna souk the bluid o ony scientists. Gin ye maun vísit on a scientist, see that ye durk some vaguin body in the by-gaun, an souk yersel fou. It’ll save ye …


… I dinna see that,” qo I. “In a wee toun like this wad fowk no miss, or for that maiter finnd, the fowk ye souks tae deid?”

“The University leuks efter its ain,” she sayed, “the Bute sees tae the transfusions. I didna say I soukit them tae stark deid: even the ínnocent’ll …”

“The medical faculty …” I pat in afore she’d feenished, but syne I haed tae stop an think, no least wi hou the Bute’s richt nixt door tae here; syne I mindit I wisna meant tae be creditin a wird she wis sayin, “… the medics kens aboot the vampires?”

“Thay ken it, but thay dinna believe it,” qo Ísabel, “it’s richt in front o thair faces, but thay dinna see’d. The mind o a cýnic’s a orra kin o thing.”

I turned my heid an keekit at her oot the wick o my ee. “Sae am I awa tae be spendin the nicht in the Bute?” No that I creditit sicna thing: I wis juist gaun wi what she wis sayin.

“Ye’r my writer,” qo she, “ye’r the last sowel in the warld that’s bluid I wad drink,” a chitter gaed up my rigbane tae think that aa she wis tellin me wis haudin thegither even whaur I’d thocht it wis at its maist ridíclous, “an I’ll thank ye no tae fíctionalíze the wey Polidori did, or try tae mak oot ye forgethert wi some stane-auld evil this nicht: set my story doun strecht.”

“But what wad ye be tellin me the nou for?” spiers I, “It’s no like ye’r vera auld or …”

I wis cut short the wey she leuch at this. We haed a bit o a airgyment here, tho, anent hou auld coud she be gin the librar wis still bein built afore she wis a vampire, juist seeven year back. She juist didna want tae admit tae no bein as auld as the hills. But, “Ay, I’m young, juist a young vampire,” she sayed in the end, “undaith is fou o opportunities for the likes o me. An yit my wark here’s aboot duin, an I’m wantin it pitten doun on paper sae’s it’s no lost ance I’m awa, sae’s new generâtions o vampires can lift thair destiny. But tae git back tae Suphy, she wis gaun back an forrit in thon chaumer in Hamilton Haa, wringin her luifs at the vera thocht o Cranmore.”

“Cranmore here?” she haed sayed, an syne she’d stoppit an stuid like a stoukie in the middle o the chaumer. “Ay, he’s wauken, I finnd him nou. An he finnds me! He feels my fear!”

Syne she haed kneeled afore Ísabel an taen her hauns in her ain, “Ísabel, for fear onything happens tae me this nicht, mind this ae thing mair, my greatest discovery: vampirism is the only disease we ken o that can traivel fae species tae species! Never forget! Nou dicht ye the trinkums fae the door, sae’s we can baith win awa afore he comes.”

Ísabel haed duin what she wis here for, an she’d nae mair raeson no tae lat Suphy lowse. She’d pat her haun up, an still bein maistly human, haed soopit awa the garlic an relígious decorements fae abuin the door. An the meenit she did that, the door blew in, wi hou Cranmore haed aready landit oot in the througang an wis juist waitin on the door bein dichtit for his entry. Ísabel wis dung on the fluir, Cranmore cam inben an steekit the door ahint him, syne stappit richt ower the tap o her, the tails o his coat like twa black wíngs owerheid, deepinin the mirk o the chaumer. He keekit aboot, at Suphy couryin in ae corner, an syne at Ísabel tryin tae heyst hersel. The meenit he spied the marks on her neck his een turnt back on Suphy.

“I ken this lassie,” qo he, “ye’v drunk the bluid o a scientist.” He crossed the chaumer wi ae lowp an pùlled Suphy up bi the hair, syne landit her sic a clamihewit ower the heid wi the back o his haun that less skaith wad been duin wi a hammer. But Suphy, cornered an stappit fou wi fresh bluid, played spang on him an thay focht, the time Ísabel hunkert inby the door haudin her luifs tae her lugs for tae no can hear the neives ca’in an feet kickin, the banes crumpin an sinnens brustin, an her kennin that gin thay cam ony nearer a single dunt fae aither the twa o them coud feenish her near-human corp for ance an aa. She teuk her chance for tae git throu the door, but it wis lockit: Cranmore haed opent it an shut it, an somewey it wis still lockit. Ísabel gethert up garlic an set it oot in a airc in her corner, for tae keep the ither twa awa fae hersel an the door. An aa the while the vampires focht: it wis like a collieshangie atween twa wild baests. But whan the first signs o licht cam keekin fae ahint the curtains the twa o them settlt, an startit on at Ísabel tae lat them oot afore sun up. Ísabel juist waitit on keek o day, tho she kent fine the war nae wey she wis gaun tae can cross the chaumer an pùll back the curtains. But whan the dawin cam glimmerin throu she spied the keys lyin juist ootside her safe circle an instant grippit them. At that meenit she thocht she wis saved, she’d never hae …


… by an weeks gaed by an never a sign o Cranmore or Suphy. She doutit thay wis destroyed in the fire like she’d howpit. I wis gey dumfooonert at aa this. We ken Hamilton Haa wis burnt thon simmer an we wis telt it wis wi a blawlamp hivvin been cowpit while aa the fire doors wis aff for pittin in new fire safety meisures, but here wis a lassie tellin me she wis the ane haed startit the fire. Aither aa this happent or she wis a helluva leear. An yit my first impression haed been that she coudna lee tae save her life. I startit tae wonder gin the warna some truith ahint aa this, I’ll no say.

Ísabel coud still dree daylicht an haed nae mind tae gae soukin onybody’s neck, scientist or no, but she kent her vampirism wis advancin slaw, an come the winter she wis skippin lecturs an tutorials for tae jouk the sunlicht, an gangin aboot the toun in the nicht oors, an thinkin what a peety she’d perished Suphy athoot first gittin a haud o the formula for thon paste o hers.

But it wis ane o thae winter nichts whan she wis stravaigin the toun she turnt the corner at the tap o the Pends an thare wis met bi Cranmore hissel on the vera spot she’d first ran intae him. “Did ye think fire wad perish a vampire, ye fuil?” qo he as he grippit her. “A peety puir Suphy mistimed her exit. But tell me, Ísabel, what ken ye o Suphy’s discoveries? What did she tell ye?”

“Sun paste,” Ísabel startit wi the ane that wis forritmaist in her hert, “an she got some road wi some kin o airtifícial bluid, an she sayed vampirism is the only disease that spreeds fae species tae species.”

“What rubbish,” qo Cranmore, “some guid her paste did her in the end. Tae think I cam aa the road here an aa the war gaun on wis sic nonsense.”

“Suphy seemed tae think the species tae species discovery wis a gey wechty maiter,” qo Ísabel.

“The flu spreeds fae species tae species,” sayed Cranmore, “it’s a watterfoul disease that spreeds tae humans throu sous.” He lat oot a souch that pinglt like a snell northern blast on Ísabel’s still ower human face an neck, syne he snirlt, an she teuk that for a smile. “Ye ken, fae the landin at Whitby,” he sayed, “technology haes ca’d forrit lowpie for spang. I’v duin my bit an aa, no hauf. It wis the radio I made first, but the ae thing I’m espaecially prood o’s the televísion set.”

“Wis that no John Logie Baird?” spiered Ísabel.

“Ye hae tae lairn tae think on the leevin as tools, my dear,” qo he. “But Suphy … guid tools, I dinna …


… wey o gittin aboot.”

“But how no some kin o bird that can flee even better than bats?” speirs I.

“Uize yer heid, min,” qo Ísabel, “baukies flees better at nicht, wi thair sonar an that. I can shup mysel intae onything in aa creâtion, as lang’s I ken the cratur, it juist depends what kin o transport I’m wantin. The’r things flees better than bats in the mirk, but thay’r no o this warld, or ony warld; ye wadna want tae be ane for the ilkanicht. Sae I keekit up at the tap o St Rules Touer an wantit tae be up thare, an like that I flew up, an chainged back intae human form for tae view the toun laid afore me. Juist ablo me wis the spires o the cathedral, for aa the warld like rocket an gantry. My ee follaed whaur thay wis pyntin an thare abuin me wis the stars. An whan I saw the stars, I seemed tae can hear them cryin on me aa ootthrou the parsecs an parsecs o black vacuum.”

“As a astronomer ye ken that’s impossible, divn’t ye?” qo I.

“I ken,” qo she, “but things is oorier than ye think, mair eldritch than ony scientist can meisur. An yit the cries o the stars wisna aa I heard: I heard the cries o spacefaurin craturs that flees in the gowlins o the galaxies, an I pat what Suphy haed sayed, that vampirism is the only disease that can be passed atween species, fornent what Cranmore sayed that the flu daes as muckle itsel, an I saw it. I saw what Suphy wis sayin. It’s no aboot species on the Yird: vampirism is the only disease we ken that can be transmittit fae the tae alien species tae the tither, that’s what Suphy kent.”

I haed tae stop her again. “Suphy coudna kent that,” I sayed, “we dinna ken ony alien species, nae theory can be seyed wi a sample space o ane.” I’m nae scientist, but I ca’s the crack wi the science students gey an aften. Syne I haed anither thocht, “Forby gin she’d kent aboot thae craturs?” I’d jalouzed aiblins Suphy haed heard the craturs the wey Ísabel haed.

“I dinna think she kent them, but I thocht on that,” qo Ísabel, “I think what Suphy first fand wis that vampirism can infeck inanimate maiter, no juist the leevin. Ye’ll no finnd my name in the Student Directory, for example. I’m matriculate, but I’ll bate an ye canna finnd me in the matriculâtion roll. An gin vampirism can infeck inanimate maiter, it maun can infeck alien species an aa.”

“That’s some idea,” this is me, “gin a body juist happent tae be keekin at the richt page o the Student Directory at juist the richt meenit, thay’d see yer name bein etten strecht aff the page.”

“No like that,” qo she, “thae things stravaigs time, it wad be like the typesetter misses my name in the first place, an my name’s somewey illegible on the matriculâtion roll an that. Evidents that the undeid gaes amang the leevin’ll never be alloued.”

“Sae what’s the pynt in me writin yer story doun whan it’s juist awa tae vainish fae exístence, or the like gaun tae happen?” I spiered.

“A story aboot vampires?” this is her, “wha’s gaun tae credit it, forby anither vampire? The’r nae need for it tae vainish gin it’s no awa tae pruive onything.”

“Sae what if I incorporatit pruif intae the story?” spiers I, “What if I pit doun facks, an times and dates an places, that fowk coud check up on?”

“Syne thae partíclar bits’ll disappear.”

I haed tae admire her lugic, I’ll no say. She wis never aback as faur as that. But I pressed the pynt, I daured her gie me some unconterable …


… wanna cross the spaces atween the stars, but the undeid is perfit adapt.”

I noddit my heid at this, “Thay leeve forever, thrives in the mirk, thay’r no feared fae the cauld.”

“Ye’r on the richt road thare,” qo she, “we dinna even hae tae breathe, as lang’s we lie at paece. It’s a kin o suspendit animâtion. An Suphy’s mention o airtifícial bluid, is that no a thocht? But in the vast gowlins whaur the’r nae galaxies, whaur michty craturs flees, that feeds on naething but the energy that bleeds in fae the disjyned cosmos that thay cam fae, thare, the’r nae need for bluid. The’r little licht, an nae warmth, an abuin aa, nae Cranmore haudin a body back. Thae auld anes, thay canna see’d, that vampirism is the salvâtion o humankind an mony anither intelligent species, for that the leevin’ll never win the stars, but in a million year, a thoozand million year, even efter the sun itsel haes passed awa, ther’ll aye be something left o humanity, for that ther’ll aye be the undeid, an the things humankind an aa ither kind haes lairned’ll be keppit tae the end o time, wi the wey vampires, the true vampires that gaes whaur I’m gaun, never chainges.”

I thocht aa this throu, leukin intae her een, a orra cauldness in them richt eneuch despite o the warmth fae the steidy caunle-lowes. “Soonds like ye’r no the same as ither vampires than?”

“I’m a scientist amang vampires,” she sayed. “Suphy wisna a richt biochemist, she controlled biochemistry students; Cranmore wisna a technologist, he gart technologists lowp here an thare like on a dambrod. But I’m a richt astronomer, I can dae my ain thinkin an lift ane or twa new things afore my hairns at last faas tae undeid. We shoud be durkin mair scientists. Write that doun in yer scrieve, for ither vampires tae tak tent.”

I set aa this aby in my thochts, it soondit sic redd. “What’s yer fùll name, bi the wey?” I tried tae soond juist aff-the-luif spierin this, an we’d see wis her name in the Student Directory or no, gin I coud juist git her fùll name afore she thocht tae lee aboot it.

But she kent what I wis aboot, “I can see ye dinna credit my story.”

“I’ll credit it if thon that ye says turns oot richt whan I check up on’t,” sayed I, “that’s whan I’ll credit it.”

“Ye dinna hae tae credit it,” she sayed, “ye juist haes tae write it. But I hae tae awa nou, it’s time I wis awa.”

“What wey can ye no juist pit it aa doun yersel?” this is me.

“It’s like Cranmore lairned me,” qo she, “the leevin’s oor tools.” An at that she up an ran oot the door, the caunles aa blinterin ahint her, syne aa scomfished, sae’s I wis left scrubblin for the doorhaunle in the mirk. The war nae sign o her in the corridors whan I got ootside, nor ootby the front door o the Haa. The sky wis gittin licht an I coud see the war naebody aa up Queens Gairdens, but I ran onywey, I ran aa the road alang Sooth Street an keekit up at St Rules Touer, I ran doun throu the Pends tae the herbor an on up tae the St Mary Kirkheuch, an stuid thare pechin, an leukin aa aboot me for ony sign o her. I keekit up at St Rules Touer again, ower at the castle, an doun at the herbor: an thare, oot on the sea ayont the pier, cam the first bricht keek o the sun.

An that’s aa, juist the sun, an the sea, an the cathedral ruins, an up, faur up in the lift, a straik o white vapour, vainishin awa tae the wast like fae a jet fechter ‘plane oot aerly fae Leuchars airfield.

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