“I’m obviously a fan of the aesthetics of early horror films, and this story was all about that, especially the portrayal of vampire lore in early films, especially silent films, though saying that in the opening might be giving the game away a bit. It’s also one of a pair of stories I wrote back-to-back dealing with early portrayals of vampires in media–its companion is a very short piece called “The White Prince” that’s in Steve Berman’s anthology of incubi stories Handsome Devil out now from Prime books, which deals more with early vampire novels and specifically Dracula, instead of film.”
Night’s Foul Bird
by Orrin Grey
Last week, a man moved into the building. He lives in the same rooms as us but on the fourth floor rather than the sixth. On the floor between is a plump-cheeked lady whose two sons both died in the War. I call her the “Widow Flowers,” because she is always drying flowers in the kitchen above her sink. She gives them out to everyone as gifts at every relevant occasion. I wonder if she loves them because they’re beautiful but already dead, unchanging, like a photograph, but Mother says I mustn’t ask people such questions.
The new man is strange, pallid and sunken, and his head seems to taper from top to bottom, as though his chin is forming like a stalactite from his face. His eyes are very pale and he has an odd way of staring at you as if he’s actually looking at whatever’s just behind you, instead. Mother says that he’s sweet and that I mustn’t judge. That many of the young men who came back from the War came back just like him. I don’t think he seems young, but Mother says that he’s not much older than me. She blames the War for that, too.
He says his name is ‘Milton,’ but in my mind, I’m already calling him “Mr. Chaney,” because there’s something about him that reminds me of Lon Chaney’s faux-vampire in London After Midnight, which I loved up ‘til the end. Maybe it’s his long coat, which he wears always draped over his shoulders, his arms not through the sleeves. Maybe it’s his shadow, which seems to cling too close to him, to hunch at his back when he stands near walls, as though it’s whispering secrets in his ears.
Mother says that I’m sensitive, but that I should keep it to myself, and that I mustn’t judge people until they’ve given me a reason to, as it says in the Bible. I don’t think that is what it says in the Bible, but I don’t contradict her.