Rolling onto my side, I dragged myself to my knees. I opened the front of the scarecrow’s coat and looked at the hole in my chest. It was black and scorched-looking, and blood pumped from it in a black stream, which ran down over my stomach.

Leaning forward, I gritted my teeth and forced my thumb and forefinger into the wound. Blood rushed over my hand in a cold stream. Blind, I felt for the tiny lead balls that Sophie’s father had pumped into me. One by one, using my fingers like tweezers, I pulled them out, and I couldn’t help but wonder why the parents of my girlfriends all wanted me dead. Was I really that bad?

With all the shot removed, I staggered to my feet, the sound of the dog barking from inside the house echoing out across the surrounding fields. With the hole in my chest starting to congeal over, I went back to the front door. But this time I didn’t even think about knocking.

Raising my foot, I put the door in. It flew off its hinges and shot up the hallway in a spray of splinters. The dog bounded into the hall and raced towards me. With my own fangs out, I snarled back at the dog. Seeing me looming in the doorway, claws raised and fangs glistening, Archie made a whimpering sound and raced away back up the hall.

“You call yourself a guard dog?” Sophie’s father roared as he came running back into the hallway. Then, seeing his front door lying in splinters and his dog pissing up the lampstand, he looked at me. “What in the name of sweet Jesus is going on -” he started. But before he had a chance to get the rest of his words out of his mouth, I was on him.

Pinning him to the wall, and with my fangs just inches from his face, I ripped the shotgun from his hands and said, “Is Sophie here?”

“But I shot you,” he gasped, looking at me as if I were some kind of ghost.

“And it fucking hurt,” I hissed. “So don’t do it again, it’s not very nice.”

“But you should be dead!” he cried, and again I could see the fear in his eyes. “You’re a Skin-walker, aren’t you?”

Then, realising that I should be keeping my Vampyrus form hidden, I looked away and withdrew my fangs. “Yes,” I whispered. “I am a Skin-walker.”

“I knew it,” he breathed, trying to wriggle free from my grip on him. “You’re just like the others.”

“What others?” I asked, looking back at him.

“You know,” he said, sounding breathless.

“You’re one of them. You want Sophie.”

“Where is she?” I asked him, tightening my grip, not understanding myself what was really going on. Why would Skin-walkers be looking for Sophie? And what the fuck were Skin-walkers anyway? If I were going to find anything out from Sophie’s father, I would have to get him to trust me, to understand that he had nothing to fear from me, nor did his daughter.

“You don’t recognise me, do you?” I asked him, lowering my voice, but still keeping hold of him. He’d already shot me once and hadn’t even blinked.

“I’ve never seen you before,” he mumbled.

But we had met before. He hadn’t liked me much, but we had met before – before the world had been pushed. But I didn’t exist in this new world; no Vampyrus did and never had. I was a complete stranger to him and I guessed I would be a complete stranger to Sophie, too.

This was now a world full of Skin-walkers, as he called them. It was full of scared men like Sophie’s father, who thought little of killing any complete stranger who came to his front door asking to speak with his daughter. He had never been like that in the world that I knew and remembered. Sophie’s father hadn’t been a desperate man. He had been quiet, respectable, and a lawyer. The sort of man that was shit-scared of his own shadow, not a man who went brandishing a shotgun in your face.

If he had changed so much, what about Sophie? How different would she be? If her father didn’t recognise me, then she wouldn’t either. The time that we had shared together had never taken place in this world. I had never existed – never been a part of her life. The Sophie from this world hadn’t studied music – she didn’t play the piano – she was different. So what, then, was the point in trying to find her? She didn’t know me and I didn’t know her. I’d find out as much from Sophie as I would a complete stranger on the street.

Why then had I come looking for her? Did I really believe that she would remember me? And if she had, would she have even wanted to know me? I’d come looking for her because I wanted to find something familiar in this strange, new world.

I wanted something to connect me to my past.

Although I had spent years above ground, it wasn’t really my home. The Hollows was where I truly belonged, but they had been shut off to me now. I was the only Vampyrus left. My only true friend, Murphy was gone.

Realising how freaking stupid I’d been to even consider coming back to find some small chink of my past life, I let go of Sophie’s father.

He slumped against the hall wall. I looked into his eyes and smiled to myself. How could I have expected him to remember me, yet I couldn’t even remember his name? I turned my back on him and walked back down the hallway towards the ruined front door. The dog lay whimpering on the floor.

Just as I was about to step back out into the night, Sophie’s father called after me. “You’re not like the others who came looking for my daughter,” he said.

“How do you figure that?” I asked back, looking over my shoulder at him.

“The two who came before you were far more dangerous,” he said. “I could see it in their eyes. Killers, they were. You’re crazy, but you’re not a killer.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I shot you,” he said, “and you’ve left me standing.”

Looking straight at him, I said, “The only reason you’re still standing, is because although you don’t remember me, I was once in love with your daughter.”

Then, turning away, I left him standing alone in his hallway, Archie the dog licking his boots.



When I awoke the following morning on Marty’s sofa, both he and the girl – couldn’t remember her name now - had gone. With my mouth tasting like road kill and my brown hair sticking out like I’d been dragged through a bush backwards, I climbed the stairs to Marty’s bathroom. After taking a pee, I ran myself a bath.

Kicking off my clothes, I strolled into what used to be mine and Marty’s bedroom. His iPod was sitting in the dock that I’d bought him last Christmas. I switched it on and started to listen to Mama Do The Hump by Rizzle Kicks. Swishing my butt to the music, I threw open his wardrobe.

Pushing his shirts and trousers to one side, I smiled to myself on seeing that there were a few of my own clothes left hanging from the rail. Ah bless, he hadn’t been able to throw them out. Taking a sweater and a pair of my old jeans from the rail, I jumped backwards.

It was the box. It sat there on the top shelf of the wardrobe. It was the shoebox, the one with the letters in it. They were the letters which had ultimately ended mine and Marty’s relationship. I had set fire to them. I had destroyed them in front of Marty to prove that they didn’t mean anything and that I had no idea who the sender had been. But the letters had kept coming.

As soon as I had destroyed one, another arrived in the post the following day. The address on the front was always the same, smudged and unreadable. Only my name was legible – written in the spidery scrawl that covered the envelopes and inside pages. How the postman knew where to deliver the letters was a mystery. I had taken to waiting for the letters to arrive and when I heard them land on the mat, I would race into the hall and yank open the front door – but there was no postman outside or anywhere to be seen in the street.

The letters at first made Marty smile. He believed they were from some secret admirer of mine. But he soon became pissed off, as the letters became more personal. I lost count of how many times I tried to convince him that I didn’t know the identity of the letter writer, but some of them were so personal that even I began to wonder if I hadn’t in fact known him in some other life – some other time perhaps. But that would have been impossible. The saddest thing about it all was the fact that, while those letters were partly responsible for ending my relationship with Marty, they were the most beautiful love letters I had ever read. They were so full of warmth, sadness, and yet in places, anger. The sender spoke of the love that we had shared, but over and over again he asked for my forgiveness – he was sorry that he had scared me. What could he have done to have scared me so much? I didn’t even know him.

Sitting on the edge of the bed that I had once shared with Marty, I took the lid from the old shoebox and peered inside. As I feared, the box was full of those envelopes, with the address smeared in black ink across the front of each of them. But I had destroyed these letters over and over again. Had more arrived since I’d left?

Taking one of the letters from the box, the smell of stale tobacco smoke wafted from the dog-eared sheets of paper inside. I looked down at the untidy scrawl and the letter was identical to the one that I had been sent so many times before – the same letter I had ripped up, burnt, and flushed down the toilet a hundred times. I didn’t need to read the letter. I knew whole passages by heart. Turning it over in my hands, I looked down at the signature and wondered if I would ever find out who the sender really was. He always signed the letters “Potter.”

The song by Rizzel Kicks finished, and I could hear the sound of water sloshing into the bath tub. “Shit!” I gasped, hoping that the water hadn’t overflowed onto the bathroom floor. I placed the letters back into the box and hurried down the landing. The water lapped around the edge of the bath, and I turned off the taps just in time. Releasing some of the water, I lowered myself into the tub and laid back. Closing my eyes, I thought of those letters again and wondered who “Potter” was. Maybe they were intended for another Sophie, that’s what I had always told myself and Marty during the arguments that we’d had over them. Marty had become convinced that I’d been having an affair with this Potter. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to convince him that I’d never even known anyone with that name, let alone could have slept with him, Marty never really believed me. I could see the suspicion in his eyes as he peered at me through the smoke that curled up from the tip of his cigarette. And sometimes in that smoke, it was like someone was staring back at me. Whoever it was scared me. Copyright 2016 - 2023