Caroline Farrell is a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland. ARKYNE, STORY OF A VAMPIRE is her first novel. She has also written several feature length and short screenplays and has co-produced two short films of her work, ADAM  and the multi-award winning IN RIBBONS . She is currently working on her second novel. Caroline is a member of the Irish Writers Guild and the Irish Film and Television Academy. https://carolinefarrellwriter.com/
Return: Extract from Arkyne, Story of a Vampire
Caroline E Farrell. 2016 All Rights Reserved.
At Kilronan Pier, Caleb, in a tweed cap, scruffy Aran-knit sweater, complete with unravelling sleeve, leaned against a brightly coloured jaunting car. A money maker from times past, carrying the tourists from the ferry to their destinations, it had belonged to his father, a two wheeled structure with split leatherette seats, decades of age showing in every chipped layer of paint and varnish.
These times, on a good sunny weekend, it might generate a bit of cash to keep Caleb in cigarettes and lately, beer. Mostly though, this type of work was drying up, a dying tradition as the islanders used their own cars and vans as hired taxis, and, along with his unnamed pony, tethered to the vehicle with decorative reins, Caleb’s jaunting car had become more of a novelty than anything else.
As the living, breathing cargo of the just-docked ferry boat emerged onto dry land, and he waited for a potential customer, Caleb smoked a cigarette and watched a group of lads, all around his own age, disembark. Carrying surf boards, and heading up towards the village hotel, their goofy laughter and good humour carried on the warm, windswept breeze as they playfully jostled with each other in a race to be first to the bar for a welcome pint of the cold stuff.
Caleb’s face lit up as he watched them, his interest flickering, though it was only for a moment, before it grew dark again, and just as Paddy Coyle, his own expression unhappily dour, appeared in front of him.
‘What’s up with you, Paddy? Did someone go and die on you?’ Caleb asked, unable to help himself from oozing out the sarcasm as he kept his attention on the rest of the bustling visitors, still disembarking. Mostly day trippers and weekenders, and a few islanders scattered amongst them, back from their business and shopping on the mainland.
Paddy, used to Caleb’s smartass attitude, wasn’t smiling this time. ‘Not funny, man.’ His tone was aggressive and straight to the point. ‘I’ve been hearing rumours – about you and Maeve?’
Caleb took a minute to respond, thinking on his feet. He wasn’t at all surprised by this challenge. It was bound to come out, sooner or later. Was there ever an excuse for messing with your friend’s girlfriend? Probably not, he knew it, even if she had come on to him first.
Nope, no good reason, not even when in the throes of grief. And he was full of regret for that.
It had happened on the night of the funerals. Late into that awful night, after the wake, when most of the population lined the walls of the rustic Mermaid pub and restaurant, thick stone walls bulging at the seams with mourners. Amid copious amounts of food and flowing beer, every man, woman and child from the community had been there, to grieve the loss, but also to celebrate the lives of two of the island’s most vibrant inhabitants. Budgie had gone home hours previously, the stress of the day taking its toll on her aged body, the loss of her only son and daughter-in-law bearing down on her soul to encase her pain in a solid wall of ice.
Caleb had stayed longer than he ought to have done, though he hadn’t been spending his time with the mourners either. At the back of the pub, between the kegs, the crates of empty bottles and a skip full of broken glass, two shadows had played on a wall lit by moonlight as a drunken Caleb had engaged in a rather furtive and non-romantic encounter with the love of Paddy’s life. Too soon, he had pulled away from her, numbed and frustrated as Meave, embarrassed now, struggled to settle her clothing.
I’m sorry is all that he could say, and neither could look the other in the eye as Maeve took a cigarette from him, drew heavily from it, while Caleb, consumed by the need to get away, made a futile attempt to hug her before walking off into the darkness.
He knew that she could have made him stay with her that night. Made him suffer, feel guilty, but to do so would have been a waste of time, for they both knew that Maeve was not the one for Caleb, and she would always find refuge in Paddy’s arms. Caleb, on the other hand, could not find such refuge, even in such a willing embrace. Not from anyone. Not anywhere.
He loved the company of women, and though mostly platonic, had his fair share of contact with the island girls. When it came right down to it though, Caleb wasn’t into the stuff of dating or going steady. And what kind of a girl would stick with him anyway, understand his moods, his strange ways?
Paddy was almost trembling with frustration and jealousy now, but instead of trying to placate him, Caleb couldn’t help himself but to agitate further.
‘Rumours – on Aran – really?’ he quipped with fake incredulity, ‘Man, that must be a first!’
Paddy’s teeth were almost grinding as he tried to control his rage. ‘Did you sleep with her?’
Caleb could feel the bile of temper rising in his throat now. He wanted to punch the guy, to wipe that unwarranted possessive entitlement off his face. Behind Paddy’s eyes however, Caleb could read the other stuff. The love he felt for Maeve, the need he had for her, so much of his happiness depending on the reciprocation of her feelings. Paddy was a lifer, would never leave this island, and finding someone to share this insular way of life with was the biggest challenge he would ever know. For all of that, instead of hurling himself into a physical altercation, Caleb turned away.
Paddy’s self-control was not so restrained, however, and he grabbed Caleb in fury, leaning in close to his face. ‘I’m telling you to stay away from her, do you hear me?!’
Caleb had two choices now; give Paddy a reason and the two of them could kick the daylights out of each other, or refuse to take the bait. He chose the latter, saying nothing as they eyeballed each other until Paddy broke first, letting go of Caleb with an aggressive shove to storm off and nurse his jealous, lonely rage.
As he took a calming breath of air, he noticed a dark haired stranger, just disembarked from the ferry, staring at him. Probably another artist, come over here to paint or sculpt or to write, he thought, seizing the opportunity to make a bit of money for the day. Certainly looked the part in his long, black overcoat and unruly hair; la vie de bohème, this fellah might need a guide to show him around the island, or at the very least, a jaunt to wherever he was staying.
Caleb moved in quickly, sizing up the visitor as he grabbed the man’s luggage and threw it into the back of the jaunting car. The bags, though meagre enough, looked expensive, and Caleb made sure to read the name on the tag; H De Rais.
The stranger so named, and completely unfamiliar to his surroundings, was caught off guard, and momentarily bemused by the younger man’s actions, did not react in the slightest as he found his bearings.
‘A twenty spot and I’ll take you anywhere,’ offered Caleb, already opening the door of the jaunting car.
Henri did not move. ‘I just need directions.’ He gestured towards a taxi van, filling up fast with new arrivals. Just as he finished the sentence however, the loaded vehicle took off at speed and drove swiftly by, the last one of many that had been queuing there just minutes before.
‘Won’t be another one for about forty minutes,’ Caleb informed him, ‘Seriously, I can never understand why everyone is always in such a rush around here. You know, to hurry on Aran is a terrible thing.’
Henri watched the queue of people still growing at the taxi pick-up points, and also, the people gathering behind him, all of them only too happy now to take a jaunt in the pony and trap. He eyed Caleb sharply.
‘Do you know where Arkyne House is?’
‘I do indeed,’ Caleb answered with a raised eyebrow. That was a first, he thought, returning his scrutiny to this unusual man, good looking enough for another bloke to notice, and yet, on closer inspection, Caleb sensed that the stranger was not altogether well. A man who did not sleep, or if he did, it was not the comforting kind, ‘And I’ll get you up there as fast as any engine can.’ He offered Henri his handshake then, but it was left there, hanging in the air, unreciprocated while Henri held his gaze, looking directly into his eyes, the same dark intensity of his own rendering Caleb to an uncharacteristic discomfort under such scrutiny. With effort, he managed to break the connection first, opening the door of the jaunting car for Henri to reluctantly climb aboard.
The journey was uphill all the way on the narrow roads, past the scattered fields, all littered with unyielding limestone rock. The jaunting car strained and creaked, and the pony faltered in its canter as the sun faded behind the incoming clouds as the Aran rain began to fall.
Henri pulled his overcoat lapels up in a futile attempt to shield his face from the biting icicle droplets that were stinging at his skin, surprised by Caleb’s unflinching stance against such a harsh change of weather. ‘See that turret over there?’ he pointed towards the ancient ruins of the castle, ‘That’s Cromwell’s wall. Since you’re going to Arkyne, you might be interested to know how that place has connections with the old house.’
Henri didn’t answer, though he stared hard at the ruins as they trundled past, and Caleb could feel the negative vibe coming off his passenger, a vibe that instinctively warned him to stop talking, which, given his own circumstances, he was happy to oblige.
The rest of the journey was taken in silence and when they finally arrived at Arkyne House, Henri wasted no time in stepping out of the jaunting car and unloading his belongings. Caleb jumped down from his seat for one last try. ‘I can help you to take your stuff inside, Sir, if you like?’
Henri was practically scowling now, an unhappy man, no doubt about it. ‘That won’t be necessary,’ he replied, offering Caleb a fifty euro note, ‘Keep the change, I can manage from here.’
Without hesitation, Caleb accepted the money, whistling with delight as he climbed back up into his seat and urged the pony to get going again.
This shitty uphill trip had been worthwhile after all. With a wide, cheeky grin, he tipped his cap in a gesture that could be interpreted in many ways by a stranger not used to the mannerisms of an island lad such as Caleb as he moved off quickly, and with a much speedier path now as he descended downhill.
His smile had vanished quickly though. If trouble walked with anyone, it surely was keeping company with that man, Mister H De Rais, and Caleb did not like having a sense of it; not at all.
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