I just plain old-fashioned did not want to go. I tried rationalising. Friends would rationalise for me. But rational pegs don’t fit in irrational holes. I’d project the outcomes into golden, extrapolated futures where, with my financial credibility approved, I’d build a solar-passive home on a small patch of land. With a wife; a dog; the dog we get so our dog has a dog. Chickens. Vegies. Hallelujah! A perfectly-designed, lovingly-nurtured, permaculture-topia.
I could picture an organic, quadruple–plusgood future, with a massive studio, for building incredible sculptures; each one a unique casting of my soul; pieces that sell for sums where ninety percent could go to charities and I’d still live off the interest.
But I couldn’t go. I wouldn’t. I even told myself I shouldn’t. In the end though, those crazy rational voices got the better of me—and I went to do my taxes.
One voice in particular, ultimately sealed the deal. The—I had always supposed—reasonable voice of Cynthia Toussaint. We both worked nine to five, six days a week at Earston’s Art Supplies in the city. We started on the same day, three years ago, when the couple we replaced, resigned after contracting a serious case of pregnancy and moved to Queensland somewhere, closer to the mum-to-be’s family. Kim, our boss-slash-mother figure, after one week, checked to see we weren’t planning the same thing, because it was obvious, after our first day working together, that we’d fallen madly and platonically in love.
We did the maths once. Seven point six work-hours a day we spent together. Forty-five point six work-hours a week. With breaks and beers after work, that averages out to sixty or so hours every seven days. Fifty-three point five seven percent of our waking lives. More than most married couples. And we never fight—not seriously anyway. It helps we share similar tastes in, oh…everything. It’s uncanny. We like and dislike—with some notable exceptions— the same foods, films, beers, climate and books. We had both studied fine art; though Cynthia majored in textiles while I did sculpture. And we love the same music. On our very first day at work, she asked if I minded her putting on some classical.
“What kind of classical?” I asked, curiosity piqued. “Just generic classical or you got something in mind?”
“Umm…Shostakovich. You know him?”
“You know, I swore you were about to say Chopin. You were this close,” I pinched my thumb and fore-finger together, “to never being my friend.”
“But really … I love Shostakovich. Nobody torments the soul like a terrified Soviet composer.”
“Haha! Exactly! How’s string quartet number eight sound?”
“No shit Cynthia, your awesomeness ranking just increased by factors of millions.” That moment, her disarmed smile made Earston’s just that much better a place to work.
Swiping at her screen, she walked over to the speaker under the counter, plugged it in and the familiar melancholic cello filled the store. “You know he wrote this in three days.” She said.
“Ah, I see you read Wikipedia too.”
“Noooo, actually, believe it or not Mr. Smartypants, I actually read it in, gasp, horror, dun dun duuuunnn!…a book.”
“Noooo! They still have those things?”
“Shhhh! I know. Scary. And you think you know a person.”
And so it went on. Our friendship, though conceived on a bed of deeply-trivial sarcastic banter, quickly grew into completely candid revelations about ourselves. The flings we were having or wished we were having. Perhaps a tad unethically, we divulged secrets about our exes—all the gory details. We were open books. It made us free. We never had a fling ourselves, but one night, before a party—we did kiss.
We’d been discussing, ever so pragmatically, why we didn’t just start shagging. I was sitting on her futon as Cynthia, in her black bra and blue jeans, talked to me via the mirror while putting her face on. After some serious laughing fits and references to incest, we agreed to attempt a regulated, one-minute, do-it-like-you-mean-it, French kiss. No groping.
We set a timer, shook hands, placed them behind our backs and leaned into each other. Her lips were delicate; her tongue, gentle and skilled, teasing and toying with my own.
When our sixty seconds was up, we slowly parted. It was true. It felt like I’d kissed my sister. Not that I have one. But if I did, it would have felt like that—maybe with a few more neuroses in the pipes for later on. Our eyes locked in mutual recognition that the experiment conclusively demonstrated our lack of sexual compatibility. Then Cynthia, always questing for incontrovertible truth, took my hand and slid it down inside her jeans.
“Cynthia … What’re you doin?” I asked, taken aback.
“Just leave your hand there, don’t play with it Steve, you perv.” She was fuzzy and warm, but not wet. Then she slid her hand into my pants and cupped it around my recoiling little friend. “You know Steven Barriston March, you’re mother has a pussy too.” She said, tensing her thighs around my hand to emphasise her point. “And my dad has got one of these things.” She gave me two quick cheeky squeezes. “You don’t go playin with your mother’s, do you?”
She cackled. “Yeah… nothing compares to daddy for me either.”
“You started it!”
She scrunched her features into a mock stern face, then continued. “The point is, there’re people who we find off-limits by nature. I love you too much to wanna fuck it all up by actually fucking you. I mean … if you got paralysed and couldn’t go pee-pee on your own, I would defs hold it for you. I’d even give it a wash… but I don’t want it in me. No offence, but eww!”
“You’re too kind Cyn, really … but I think I’m gunna stop touching my mum’s pussy now.” I pulled my hand out. She threw in another cheeky squeeze before doing the same. She sniffed her hand, miming a dry reach, then proceeded to rub it in my face.
By night’s end, we’d gotten incomprehensibly drunk and gone home with strangers.
And so it was Cyn’s voice—the voice of my closest counsel—that was the final nail in my undone-tax coffin. Avoiding doing taxes for years, was something else we’d had in common. But, like the first kid to jump off the cliff into the river, Cynthia dove in, urging me to follow.
“Bullshit!” I exclaimed.
“No, seriously, Accountant Dracula, that’s what they’re called. They only open at night. It’s quite cool really. A bit hipster, but whatevs.”
“Whatevs … you’re a bit hipster.”
“Fuck yeah maaate, hipstuh azzz cuuuunt.” She rasped, in fluent bogan, before continuing, “But seriously, you should go. It’s so easy. It’s designed for people like us that work all week and can’t get their shit together to do it themselves. You said you’ve been keeping receipts. Just do it. I mean, the tax office owes me money after all this. I was stressing all this time for nothing. Just put your receipts in a shoebox and do it.”
“Hmm. Maybe. How much was it?”
“Fuck all compared to how much I’m gettin back.”
“Really? How much?”
“How much is a lot? C’mon, I wanna know if it’s worth my while.”
“Enough to pay rent for…until like, Easter.”
“Sweet! Really? Easter’s still two months away. That’s like … two grand or somethin!”
“Yeah, somethin like that. It got sent to my old address. Mum told me about it.”
“I know.” She said and handed me a matte-black card, with a blood-red, foil-embossed logo, that could have been a bat, or maybe vampire teeth. The flipside had only an email, and a street name.
“Munster Lane? These guys are ridiculous.”
“Look, the sooner you go, the sooner you get your money back, and the sooner we can piss it all up the wall.”
“Can you even piss up a wall?”
“You’ll just hafta wait n see, won’t ya Stevie.”
Two weeks later, I finally got my shit together and went to Munster Lane. I’d sent an email to make an appointment, and they replied saying I was welcome to drop by anytime after dark. So cheesy. I couldn’t believe I was entrusting my taxes to the equivalent of The Count from Sesame Street. Maybe Elmo could handle my will.
It felt no better when I arrived. The frontage could have passed for an underground bondage club. Above the entrance, buzzing away like a starving bug-zapper, was the Accountant Dracula, bat-slash-vampire teeth logo, in mordant-red neon. The doors themselves were incredible. Ancient-looking, baroque wooden masterpieces, with Bacchanalian bas-reliefs that made Hieronymus Bosch seem tame.
Instead of a buzzer, there was a big bronze door-knocker, with fang-like spurs, that knocked against the hollow profile of a bronze human skull. I started entertaining the possibility that maybe it was a bondage club and Cyn had set me up. All it needed was a congregation of rope-burned swingers to stagger out.
But no … I put it aside, grabbed the fanged knocker, and tapped three times on the hollow skull. Seconds later there was a click, and I pushed open the door.
Inside, I expected kitsch, but upstairs was like entering an antique art collection, except chrome wall-fittings and dim-lighting added a truly modern sterility. Oil portraits, not prints, of imposing figures I didn’t recognise, adorned the corridor in elaborate, gold-leaf frames. The furniture too looked hundreds of years old—studded-leather; embroidered fabrics; sculpted timber—but the black, mirror-like, marble floor, and low, red strip-lighting reaffirmed which side of the Enlightenment we were on. With each step I took, a dark, reflected, marble doppelganger followed below.
Nearly every seat was occupied. Unsurprisingly, no-one looked over thirty; and no-one looked up from their respective devices. I approached the receptionist. She had a gorgeous cappuccino complexion with universally attractive features that only a racist could dislike; a Eurasian analog of French-Moroccan Cynthia. She reminded me how thoroughly stunning Cynthia really was, and how mystifying that I felt no attraction whatsoever. But rational pegs don’t fit in irrational holes.
Dressed sharp, in tight, black business-wear with gun-metal grey buttons, Eurasian Cynthia was tapping away at a sleek, stylish laptop. They both fit snugly with the décor.
She looked up. “Mr. March?” The question was rhetorical, which startled me. I realised that she must have seen my email profile picture, but still—
“Yeah. Hi, I’ve umm … come to get my tax done. But, I umm … I haven’t done it in years though, so …” I held up my shoebox, embarrassed, and still mildly unsettled.
“That won’t be an issue.” She said, smiling with hospitality-trained precision. “Please, take a seat. Mr. Van Pier will see you soon.”
I chose the nearest available armchair-artefact. It was ridiculously comfortable. The other faces in the room were up-lit by their screens; fingers swiping; eyes flittering; headphones guarding against conversation.
“Lisa Kadich.” Eurasian Cynthia announced. A young woman with cherry-red hair, and clothes best described as punk-formal, rose without breaking “i-contact”, as Cynthia calls staring at smart-phones. “Mr. Van Pier will see you now.” She said, palm raised toward a door where the previous client was exiting. In went Lisa Kadich, with her neat little folder, no doubt containing every fiscal detail of her life tabulated in concise columns. I looked down at my shoebox, and saw myself for the arts-student stereotype I was.
When finally I was called, every seat had been filled once over by fresh accountant meat. Strangely though, I never once heard the skull-knocker. With my un-Lisa-Kadich-like shoebox, I made my way to the door.
The chromed-Georgian theme continued inside with yet more portraits, but the subjects were of more ancient stock. This room was carpeted though, which I preferred. On the back wall were three smaller gilded frames. An MBA; a DBA; and a certificate for Waldemar Van Pier: CPA.
“Mr March, glad you could make it.” I gasped and I flinched in a split-second spasm, noticing for the first time the man who’d spoken, sitting at the desk. His skin was smooth and pale; his features fine, yet handsome. His hair was peppered-grey, like George Clooney. And, like his hair-sake, his age was difficult to guess. “Sorry to startle you Mr. March. Rest assured, despite our name, I don’t bite. Unless you request it, of course.” His voice, and the accompanying smile, had a stealthy suavity that could sell the Devil electric heating.
“Sorry. It’s just … I was just … I didn’t even see you there.”
“It happens more than you might think. People walk in, mesmerised by these enchanting portraits I have collected.” From his seat, he gestured towards the figures on the walls, guiding my eyes back along their faces. “Great works of art demand our full attention, I’m sure you’d agree.”
Why would I agree? Like his receptionist, he seemed to know more about me than I remembered revealing. When I looked back, he was standing beside me, hand extended to shake. It gave me another start, which I hoped didn’t show. The grip was surprisingly firm. The hand cold. “Please, have a seat Mr. March.”
I sat down, shoebox on my lap.
“Now, I understand you haven’t completed a tax return in some time, correct?”
“Yeah. No. It’s been three years. But I’ve kept all my receipts and brought in bank statements and pay summaries and stuff. Sorry … it’s all in here though.” I put the box on the desk. Waldemar Van Pier smiled the smile of one who’d seen a thousand apologetic shoebox-ers.
“That will be fine, Mr. March. However, before we proceed, I’ll need you to fill out this disclaimer.” He laid a form on the shoebox. “This entrusts me, as your accountant, to manage your relations with the tax office and permits access to your tax file number, BSB number, account number, etcetera … basically all the numbers in your life. Here, at Accountant Dracula, we like to think of it as an invitation into your numeric house.” Smiling, he added, “Be sure to tick the requisite boxes. Please … no crosses.”
I picked it up, and with my usual grace, managed to prick my finger on the staple at the back. I jerked it up to look. Blood beaded at the tiny wound, and a few small drops fell onto the form. “Shit! So typical, I’m sorry. Umm … should I use another one?”
“That’s perfectly fine Mr. March. A little spilt blood never hurt anyone.” I sucked at my finger as he handed me a pen.
I completed the form, finger in mouth, but when it came to signing, I balked, suspended in restless doubt. I heard Cynthia’s voice come, counter-pointing, chastising my paranoia. Van Pier’s followed, mollifying my misgivings with reassuring vocal valium. What was I afraid of? Afraid of getting the money I was owed? It was stupid.
Feeling sufficiently ridiculous, I signed my name.
“Hey, did ya hear someone sent Cory Bernardi a giant rainbow dildo!” Cyn was speaking, still half-way through the door. I opened shop that day, and was pulling paints to the front of shelves when she came in. She hadn’t seen me, but she knew I was there.
“Some queer activists sent that fuckwit Bernardi a—”
“Yeah, nah, sorry I heard you, it’s just—”
“Shit, Stevie … you ok?” She asked, the excitement at comical political vengeance morphing swiftly into genuine sibling concern.
“Yeah, look, I’m fine, it’s just … I don’t know, it’s weird.” She probed me with her x-ray emotional vision. “Hey, what time is it?”
“I think it’s cuddle-time for Stevie-boo.” She came and gave me a big squeeze, rubbing my back with big soothing strokes.
“Aww … thank you. But, no, seriously, what’s the time?”
“I dunno. My phone’s been weird lately. I think it has the flu. Why? Where’s yours—”
“Weird? Weird how?” I asked, sounding edgy.
“I dunno, just weird. For some reason the numbers aren’t displaying. No time, no dates, I can’t even dial out. It’s really annoying but—.”
“Fuck! Yours too? I knew it!”
“Knew what? Jeez Steve, what’s going on?”
“It’s that accountant. Or somethin… Somethin’s happenin.”
“Accountant? Accountant Dracula? What’re you talking about dude? What’s the accountant?”
“The numbers. They’re all gone. Everything. Everywhere. It’s all gone. My phone. My clock. The fucking prices on the shelves. They’re all gone.”
“Fuck dude, I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I looked at her, eyes pleading, stressed, then hurried to the door, locked it, and flipped the open sign to closed. I turned to face her again. She’d never looked so worried. I started softly, but knew no amount of cushioning could pad my anxiety. “Look… I know how psycho this sounds but, I’m telling you, Van Pier, he’s done somethin. He’s fuckin gotten into my head, into my whole life somehow and just … how else can I say it… He’s stolen all the numbers. Evaporated them, or somehow sucked out the numbers part of my brain. Your phone’s not infected Cyn, I’m telling you … It’s him.”
Years ago, a girlfriend, Tania De Silva, and I were smoking a spliff when, out of nowhere, she just flipped out. Not violently. Just went a little … mad. Started rambling incoherently, convinced suddenly we were both dead, as though the fruit-loop fairy just clicked her fingers and poof—Tania was gone. I was terrified. Terrified it was permanent. Terrified by what I saw; the loss of someone—young, bright and lovely—to madness. I was witnessing Howl. It didn’t last, but the way I looked at her that night, a bystander to insanity, was how Cynthia now looked at me.
“Steve … just umm … let’s go sit down, ok? Maybe take today off. I’ll call Kim. She—”
“No … Cynthia, I know what you’re thinkin, but I’m serious. Hear my rant, then call me crazy, ok?” She nodded apprehensively. ‘Ok, so it all really started this morning when I checked the clock in my kitchen, and there were no numbers. I was like, weird … but maybe it never had numbers in the first place. You know, sometimes things just escape your attention. Maybe I just assumed it had numbers coz I could always tell the time. But now I can’t even do that. If I try and tell the time, all I can say is, it’s early, or noon or evening or something. Not the actual time. Anyway, then on the way here, I stopped off to buy chocolate, and there were no prices. I looked around and, there were no prices for anything. So … ok, maybe they were doing stocktake or something. No big deal. But then I noticed the chocolate itself. No weight. No barcode numbers. No numbers in the nutrition facts bit. No numbers on the packaging at all. I was like, what is going on? Anyway, I went up to pay for it, went to use my card and …my fuckin card had no numbers. No expiry, nothing. I checked the receipt … no date, no time and no price.”
I could see Cynthia wanting to rebut, but I powered on. “There’s more. After that, I went to catch the bus, and the timetable was blank. Not so strange, right, Transperth fucking up something as simple as a timetable? So I checked my phone. No time. No date. I mean how do you explain that? Then the bus came. No number. Well … There was something there but I couldn’t actually read it. Suddenly all the numbers in my life have disappeared, or if they’re there, I’m incapable of reading em … like I’m suddenly number-blind and dyslexic.”
“Dyslexia’s for letters, Dyscalculia’s for numbers.”
“Ok, dyscalculic, fine, whatever, I’m fuckin freakin out Cyn! This can’t all be coincidence. I mean, was it after you went to Van Pier your phone stopped working?”
She considered it. “Umm … yeah, I guess, just after that, but I dunno, maybe their website is infected.”
“But I didn’t visit their website. Neither did my chocolate. How’ve you not noticed anything? How’re you getting to work on time? Or payin for stuff?”
I could see, for me, she was keeping her calm. “I always get up early, and Tari leaves the house the same time as me, so … I mean, sometimes I’m a bit late, but … for the most part, I hardly check the time. And I ride my bike everywhere, so the bus thing, I wouldn’t know. And I guess I always just check the colour of the notes, or shape of the coins, or use pay-wave.”
“What’s the latest you’ve been for work?”
Again, she considered. “Well … after we took that acid at Rhianna’s. That next day, I didn’t come in til lunch.”
“How many hours was that exactly?”
“I dunno … a few.”
“How many’s a few?”
“Fuck Steve!” My manic-ness had finally gotten to her. I was sounding almost belligerent. I softened again.
“Cynthia, please, I’m fuckin scared here, how many is a few? Count on your fingers if you have to.” She looked down at her hands. Her face changed. She’d looked down with an anger I’d not seen before. Now, an unsettled shadow crept over her like clouds across the moon.
“You can’t do it can you? I knew it. I’m telling you Cyn. This isn’t me losing it. Somethin crazy is—”
She was elsewhere. Deep in the shock of disillusionment. She was looking at me, but she was seeing her fingers, unable to form single digits. Scouring her mind for potential flaws in my argument—but falling short. I felt for her. I had fallen some time ago.
“Did you sign the form?”
“Huh? Form?” She sounded concussed from the psychic hit she’d taken.
“The form. At … Accountant Dracula … God, just saying it creeps me out. You know … the disclaimer thing. Did he make the joke about it being their invitation into your numeric house?”
She looked up with welcome cognisance. “Yeah … I did. And he did say that. And to tick the boxes—”
“—and not use crosses. Crosses, Cynthia. Invitations. Into our houses. Ac-Count-ant Dracula. I mean, fuck’s sake, the guy was pale as death. Even his name sounds like …” I didn’t want to say it. It would sound crazier outside than it did inside.
“So what? … you think we took our taxes to a vampire that feeds off the numbers-lobe in your brain? What the fuck? They’re called scammers, Steve! Not vampires!”
“Scammers don’t erase numbers from clocks. Or stop you counting fingers. You think I wanna believe this shit? This shit’s fucking insane. But I invited him in. And when I picked up that form, I stabbed my finger on a staple and some blood fell on the page and—”
Cynthia fixed me with reeling eyes. Mouth agape. Not an empty stare. A stare filled to meniscus with brutal realisation.
“Noooo…” I said, “You didn’t… Holy shit, Cynthia, you did. You cut yourself too. “
Now she was nervous. “Just a paper cut. I thought, you know, typical Toussaint, but yeah, some blood got on the form, and I asked, should I use another one, but he was like, no, no … a bit of spilled—”
“—blood never hurt anyone.” We finished the sentence together.
I couldn’t say when we closed up, but after struggling all day to sell things without no arithmetical faculties whatsoever, we agreed to return to Munster Lane. There was no plan. Just go and see the door; the sign. Go see if our fears would be amplified or assuaged, nearer to the presence of Van Pier.
It felt surreal walking through town, how normal everything was while we faced a para-psychological crisis. How many people felt like us right now? Could no longer say when they woke up? Or remember their phone number? Or their own birthday? It could only be a small number. Like numbers mattered anyway? I couldn’t give a figure now if I tried; or even think it. Besides, if me and Cyn were Van Pier’s only victims, it was still too many. Of that I was sure.
It was twilight when we reached the fashion and jewellery stores on King Street, and rounded the corner into Munster Lane. The people milling in front of the Arts Centre seemed somehow complicit in the tension building inside us as we followed the lane around. Never had I been so prepared for something unexpected; or so shocked when I encountered it.
“No … fucking … way! Steve … Steve! It’s not here! What the fuck? This was it, right? It was here? Tell me this is where you came too!”
She was right. We were here, but it wasn’t. No hardcore door. Just some big heavy-duty, generic-brown, wood-panelled thing, with NO SMOKiNG—small i—proclaimed roughly in white paint. There was a Henderson’s Security sticker, edges peeling, that looked many years old. How many, I couldn’t even guess at, because the “accountant” that appeared now to never have been here at all, sucked that part of me dry. I looked up—no bat-slash-vampire teeth neon—just heritage-red bricks, windows and guttering. Cynthia was cupping her mouth and nose with her hands, like a gas-mask protecting her from the madness in the air. Normally, we’d both be blabbering away, detailing how weird, how scary, how impossible this all was. But we stood silent, fixed on what wasn’t there.
I don’t know about Cynthia but I wasn’t only contemplating the lack of neon, or the door. I was reliving my entire experience with this non-place. The décor. The receptionist. Van Pier. The form. Blood. Tangible memories, now fighting to be more than hallucinatory heat-shimmer, rising off a road we now seem never to have travelled. We stood, dazed, mired in potential insanity; robbed of our faculties, by what … a phantasm? With a phantom office? What was Van Pier? Some primeval spectre? An agent of madness itself? A demon, arisen to exploit a new evolutionary niche, like plastic-eating bacteria? What was his end game…money? The financial system? Numbers themselves?
Pythagoreans believed mathematics and numbers were the essence of all things.Were numbers to Van Pier, as sunlight was to plants? Had he materialised, from whatever realm he inhabits, to prey on us for numerical-chlorophyll, only to dissolve, satiated, back into dormancy?
Suddenly, a more horrifying question stung me, like a thought-wasp … what were we? As his victims; were we also now his servants? When Cynthia handed me that card, convincing me to go, was she in-thrall to him? She hadn’t even noticed the changes. Was I resistant? Immune somehow to the “zombie” virus? No. I wasn’t immune. I was already gone—the living, uncounting, dead.
I needed some concept to cling to. But even irrational pegs weren’t fitting these irrational holes. Cynthia had called him a scammer. Perhaps, at worst, we’d been done by an inter-dimensional con-artist; mind-jacked; left crippled by neuro-larceny—but alive. What would life without numbers mean? Compared to, say, life without sight; without feeling below the neck—we’re almost getting off light. I could still hang out, talk shit with Cynthia; eat good food; keep good health; enjoy ocean sunsets. Swimming, dancing, singing, sculpting, laughing—all totally doable. I could definitely fuck without counting.
I’d find new ways of thinking about time. Or go old-school. We rendezvous before dawn; hour of the wolf. That sort of thing. Maybe, I’d even learn to embrace it.
“Steve.” It was Cynthia. “I wanna get outta here, let’s go, yeah?” Who knows how long I’d been staring. It was a question I’d have to stop asking. I shook my head, as though maybe the craziness would fly off, wet-dog style, then put my arm around her. We left, walking slowly, to nowhere. Where was there to go? And what to do? There was no precedent. No hotline to call. No numbers to dial. For all we knew, we were freshly immortal, the dyscalculic undead.
We crossed into a bustling Northbridge, every person a member of my new all-defining categories: those that count, and those that don’t; those who spilled blood on the form, and those who’d never believe us if we told them—we, who don’t count. Then my thoughts became words and I was raving at Cynthia.
“How long has this been happening? How many doors in how many lanes? How many of us no longer count? All those paintings, his collection; were they his vessels, like Being John Malkovich; a long line of Van Piers, stretching back to Mesopotamia, stealing cuneiform counting-systems from the minds of ancients?”
“I don’t know.” She said. It was the truth.
The electric-orange glow of urban night-time filled the air as we meandered listlessly up though Highgate and Hyde Park, towards her place in Mt Lawley. I wasn’t going home. And Cynthia needed the company as much as me. I didn’t want to go anywhere alone. Everything felt precariously new. I was fluctuating between anxiety and resignation. I felt violated. I felt cheated. I felt stupid for not turning around when I first saw that ominous neon sign; for not trusting my gut. But then, I also felt stupid for feeling stupid; like I could’ve predicted a numeracy-digesting vampire would set up shop in Munster Lane in the guise of an accountant. Whatever I felt, what’s done was done. We were only a short walk now from Cynthia’s house, an address I used to know, postcode and all. Just a short walk. But, whether we truly were now immortal, or just distraught and handicapped mortals—and only time will tell—we still had a long, long way to go.