Tuesday 13 March 2012

Aunt Minerva, Dracula AD 1984

Born on a submarine Asa Uttinfrer had not seen the sea since. Her Papa a ship captain she had grown to her current twenty years without long enough in his company to ever really quarrel. Her stepmother (if distant) had been glamorous, generous, condescending but never wicked. Home schooled in her family’s native Swedish in London she had never left further than Highgate where developing a fear of heights she had returned instantly to the familiar safety of south London. Asa had had boyfriends, was certainly not a virgin, had never watched television and only once when thirteen sneaked into a retrospective at the Brixton Roxy to see her one and only film. For the week that followed Dracula had tried to make her one of his brides. Dracula (she had later learned) was less dangerous than a scrap-yard dog. There were millions of ways to kill Dracula. He died all the time, every film. It was those that didn’t that she had to watch for. Not that she had to watch for anyone at all since in seven years Asa had not once returned to the cinema. She hadn’t much liked Christopher Lee after that, nor much more Robert Smith. The baby-goths that haunted the bus stop outside the house on Half Moon Lane played at the darkness with their charity-shop lace and Grandmother’s gloves and would have wilted to have been stalked by Dracula. Instead they smoked black-menthol and because of which Asa had as now to weed the raised flower beds of her father’s house for the butts that grew there end-up by morning.
               Asa alone most days in the dressing-table house, with its old wood and fresh polish, read. Her stepmother did not try and keep her in. Her stepmother rather wanted her out, about, using the youth and beauty she had herself left behind, albeit not without a fight. Asa had the radio, and her books, and the music-centre so new ten years before, and an allowance from her father that grew monthly barely spent. Returning to the house having seen to the gardening she saw again the picture she had drawn of her father in felt-tip on scrap paper. She had believed her Papa a pirate. She had had to grow older to know how silly that was, then older still to know conversely that it was true. There was very little call for submarines to carry cargo. The stain on the kitchen door was showing through the paint again too. The mark where Dracula had burst into flames having chosen dawn to enter the house. At thirteen Asa had been ready with stakes and holy water, communion wafers, and a good book. She had had all day to prepare after all. That evening one of Dracula’s thralls had come to the door before nightfall to worry her, to scare her - or to plain just tell her not to go to bed that night, as she had pointed out. He had been quite rude about it all and Asa at thirteen and home-schooled having never been exposed to the idea that girls were weaker had made the idiot say sorry after hitting him square on the nose with a brick.
            Asa had seen one film in her life, that once and seven years before. Asa read instead, and not just books (though plenty of those) but magazines too. Fangoria and Screen, old copies of Afterimage and Camera Obscura. Anything at all to do with film, she read and had even written for. At least three times a week fanzines would fall on the mat. If it was to do with horror, or any film indeed, she would read it and know it, rarely now finding anything new at all. But it was revision, practise. Because at twenty Asa Uttinfrer was the world’s leading authority on how anything and everybody that had appeared on the silver screen died.
            When she went out, however rarely, she wore Docs because they were practical and a parka because it was warm. She carried a torch because in Herne Hill a short cut to anywhere meant crossing Brockwell Park. She never forgot her keys, and always carried a short-handled crowbar.
              She had never heard of Aunt Minerva, which was a shame because Aunt Minerva had most certainly heard of her.

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