LADY ANTANASIA, Nicholas Aravindhan

‘When did you become like this?’

‘Like this?’ her voice had a cold sting, ‘Meat, be careful with how you speak to me, lest I turn this conversation into a banquet.’

The glass chandeliers chimed as the autumn wind breezed through the dark hall. Dried maple leaves came fluttering in from the open balcony. The only source of illumination was the red glowing eyes of my interviewee. Dressed in a maroon evening gown, she sat on her leather couch holding a goblet filled with red. She stared at me with intense, scarlet, and glimmering eyes.

Her threat, in truth, was just a compulsion that her people couldn’t resist. Scaring anything at any chance they get. I played along, just to get the interview going.

‘Please forgive me, Lady Antanasia.’ I dipped my head. ‘When were you turned into a vampire, may I ask?’

Her shoulders slackened and her brows ceased to crease. ‘It was in the year 1416.’

I checked my recorder in my pocket and it was still running, at least we were getting somewhere.

‘The fifteenth century? How did it happen?’ I proceeded on to the next question.

The couch creaked as Antanasia leaned back into it, her fingers twirling her raven locks.

‘Let us turn this around, whatever your name is,’ she said.

‘It’s Jona-’

‘What do you hope to gain from this interview? Did you seek an audience with me, hoping I’d grant you the gift of immortality?’ there was a smirk at the corner of her lips.

‘No.’ I shook my head. ‘I’d rather not stay in the shadows and restrict myself to one type of drink for eternity.”

‘Hm.’ Antanasia’s eyes narrowed before taking a sip from her goblet. Her fangs were stained in thick red before she licked them clean. ‘Then what are you doing here? Why would a human come to my domain in the cold of night?’

‘Well for one, the secret’s out. Vampires exist in Romania. People, as far west as Hungary, are too afraid to go out at night. And since everyone sees you all as either animals or a cannibalistic cult, I think we’d all benefit if your side is heard.’ I paused, eyeing her cautiously. ‘But the real reason I am here is that my editor-in-chief from The Guardian thought that the story of Lady Antanasia would sell loads.’

The things I do for my career, I’m probably insane.

‘So you came here to satiate your curiosity?’ an elegant chuckle escaped her, ‘Knowing full well you could be drained to a husk or be enthralled? Why do you think I agreed to this interview little one?’

The constant threats were admittedly scary at first, but at that point it got tiresome. In fact, it was getting annoying.

‘You do realise that if I do not check back with my editor-in-chief, he’ll call the calvary over, and pretty much blow this whole place up, right?’ I told Antanasia.

‘How adorable,’ her chuckle resonated through the hall, ‘The humans are trying to show bravado.’

‘I’m just saying what will happen if you try-’

My feet dangled in the air, a cold vice grip tightened on my throat, and I choked out spittle. Antanasia lifted me up in a split second and her nails dug into my neck.

‘I warned you of how you speak to me, meat,’ she bore her fangs and hissed.

I felt blood pooling in my head, my senses were leaving me, but I managed to wheeze out. ‘Okay, prove it to the world then.’

It felt like forever as I ran through all the morbid endings in my head. Whether this vampire was going to bleed me dry, turn me into a thrall, or just crush my trachea. Through my blurry vision, I saw her scarlet eyes narrowing, and her fangs disappearing behind her lips.

‘Hmph,’ Antanasia huffed, before releasing her grip and I plopped onto the onyx marble floor.

‘Well played.’

I rubbed my neck to warm it up after that icy grip, painfully gasping for air. Thankfully, the recorder was still working in my pocket. I got back to my seat and Antanasia to hers. Sporting that same dismissive expression, she took another gulp from her goblet.

‘I’m just gonna forget that ever happened,’ I said to her.

‘Carry on with your interview, whatever your name is.’

‘It’s J-’

‘I suggest you be quick before I get irritated again,’ she cut me off once more.

I rolled my eyes. One would think that someone over six hundred years old would have acquired some semblance of patience.

‘How did it happen?’ I repeated my question.

‘What?’ she raised a brow.

‘How were you turned into a vampire?’

‘What kind of dull question is that? Don’t you have anything more exciting to ask?’ Antanasia groaned and ran her fingers through her locks. That was the second time she avoided the question.

She tapped her finger on the armrest of her couch and said, ‘This is getting boring, meat. You ought to remedy that, or I may get irritated again.’

‘Do you actually remember how you were turned into a vampire,’ I twisted my question, “Or have you forgotten?”

I had nothing to stop my heart from leaping to my mouth when she shot right up into my face. She peered over, forcing me to sink into my chair. Her hiss stung my ears and it rumbled around the hall.

‘Of course I remember! You miserable speck of feculent scum!’ Antanasia bellowed, ‘No amount of time on this God-forsaken Earth will ever make me forget!’

Drops of blood mixed with spittle pattered on my cheeks. Neither of us moved a muscle. Antanasia’s pale face was inches away from mine, her fringe brushed my forehead. She growled before pulling her head back. Antanasia stepped away and glared into the night sky.

‘I remember it was storming when this very coven came to my village in Wallachia,’ her voice was losing that angered tone.

‘A village? From Wallachia?’ I uttered, wiping off the blood and spit on my face. 

‘Before it all began, the pens were populated with cattle, the fields yielded bountiful harvests. Everything was plentiful.’

‘You were a farmer? For real?’

I was expecting a princess, or a noblewoman maybe. But a peasant? Lady Antanasia, the bloodthirsty vampire, raised cows? She eyeballed me for a second and I straightened up.


She edged towards the balcony, still having that frown on her face. ‘Indeed I was. My family supplied the village we lived in with barley and milk. It was a good life.’

‘You had a family?’ my eyes perked up.

Antanasia froze. I could see the melancholy and reminiscence in her.

‘I had a husband and a daughter. Adrian and Elena.’

Oh God.

‘Adrian was as strong as an ox from ploughing the fields, but he was also gentle and loving towards Elena and me. Our daughter was so pure and joyful, the child could sing like an angel.’ 

‘I suppose I don’t need to ask what happened to them.’ I tread cautiously with my words. Antanasia crossed her arms, she kept on staring into the night.

‘The vampires of the Din Ardelean Coven attacked my village in the stormy night with no warning. I remember fire across the fields and the cows disembowelled. The barn, the lumber mill, everything was destroyed. We heard the screaming, and we tried to hide in the house. But they found us, and dragged us out into the storm.’ Antanasia’s crossed arms tightened, and her shoulders trembled.

‘I was the only one, in the whole village, they didn’t kill.’

All the while, my mind tried painting the scene, but there was no way my imagination could recreate what truly happened to her.

‘I’m sorry to hear that, Lady Antanasia.’ I offered my sympathies, as if it was worth anything to her. But I had to ask, ‘Why didn’t they kill you?’

She went back to her seat and carried on with her story, ‘They spared me because the vampire master of this coven wanted me bound to him in his castle. I remember the fiery pain when he bit into me, no other pain could compare. The moment my heart stopped beating, I became one with his coven. He robbed me but gifted me with immortality, and he said he would give me the world.’

Her tone grew bitter, ‘That didn’t happen, as you can see. Centuries passed since he turned me, and he did nothing. He became old, mad, and useless.’

‘Where is he now?’ I asked.

‘I would not suffer his lies any longer, so I took his life and his coven for myself. His head is now on a pike down in the cellar.’

Pretty macabre. Though, well deserved I suppose. I snuck a quick peek at my watch, it wasn’t much longer till sunrise.

‘Okay…so after that, what did you do?’ I asked the next question on my list.

‘Do you need to ask?’ Antanasia snapped back at me, ‘We ruled here in seclusion for centuries. Then somehow the secret of our existence got out and now you’re here,’ she slurped on her goblet.

She started to look dishevelled. She leaned back, stared at the ceiling, and sighed, ‘Unbelievable. It took until now that I get to be truthful, and to a human of all things.’

Ignoring the comment, I asked, ‘What do you mean?’

‘No one has ever asked me what I was before I turned. No immortal undead cared to ask.’ She pointed at me. ‘Then this bastard comes here, asks these questions, and manages to get a rise out of me. So congratulations.’

Antanasia threw her goblet. Admittedly, I flinched when it shattered into the wall, painting it red. ‘That stupid old man. All he ever did was pace around the halls, whining about expanding his coven. But he did nothing!’

She shot up to her feet, her voice echoed through the darkness. ‘My farm! My village! My husband! My daughter! Adrian and Elena! Dead! Because of him! I got turned into a vampire just so I could watch a stupid old man become senile and useless! He took everything from me! So I took everything from him!’

Her ruffled hair and dress flowed with the breeze, bags were forming under her eyes.

‘And yet, there’s nothing. Here I am, hiding in the shadows with the rest of the vampires. Doing nothing but feast until my mind rots. Like that old man.’ Her body trembled. ‘I’m in limbo, going on forever in an abyss with only my memories to tear me apart.’

‘So what is it that you want?’ I calmly asked Antanasia.

She gazed out the balcony again for what felt like ages. She had a thousand-yard stare, and the quivering in her body slowed to a halt.

‘I want to see my family again.’

I stood up immediately, ‘What?’

There was a mix of despondency and resolve in her. ‘I know redemption is beyond me, and I cannot ask for forgiveness. For the lives that I have taken over the centuries, for the pain I’ve inflicted. Whatever happens to the Din Ardelean Coven, I’ll have no part of it. Do what you wish with my story, but I will not carry on like this anymore. I want to be with my Adrian and my dear Elena again.’

She sauntered to the balcony and dawn was almost upon us.

‘Jonathan?’ she turned back to me.

Well, I’ll be dammed. She actually paid attention.

‘Would you stay with me? Until the end?’

I needn’t reply. I turned off the recorder in my pocket and joined her on the balcony. We both stood by the parapet, I felt the air getting warmer.

‘I’d almost forgotten the warmth of the sun. I remember basking under it, with them in my arms.’ Soon after, light was breaking at the horizon, and she turned to me.

‘Thank you, Jonathan. Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye, Lady Antanasia.’

Nicholas Aravindhan grew up in Singapore and is currently studying for a BA in Creative Writing in Sydney. He served in the Singapore Armed Forces as an Ammunition Technician for two years. An enthusiast in palaeontology and Japanese culture, he is currently writing his own novel series, ‘Tokyo Juraki’ which encompasses both elements.

Picking Pockets, Elise Fowler

I, Jacob Henly, state the following to be a truthful account of my whereabouts and activities on the night of Tuesday 8th June.


Working in the city on weeknights you’re always going to meet some crazies. Most customers are those finishing late in the office or off to work night-shifts. Sometimes, you have the every-night’s-a-party types stumble in to refuel on Gatorade and processed sugar. But, you never really get much of the homeless coming in.

It was a Tuesday night when she came rushing into the convenience store where I work; her head down, hands stuffed in her pockets. She was quite obviously homeless with her messy hair shielding her face and old clothes dirtied irreparably. My boss always made it clear to us employees that we need to ‘keep a close eye on them hobos. Their fingers are surprisingly quick for the amount of drugs they’re hopped up on’. Yeah, my boss is a bit of a prick. I never really understood this warning because I’ve never had any of them come in, so I don’t usually pay him much attention. But, looking at this one, I thought his warnings were on point.

Working alone in the city isn’t always the safest job, but me being male, six foot two, and having some meat on my bones help a lot in sticky situations. As in, my height means I can easily keep an eye on those suspicious-looking customers who spend a bit too long looking through one aisle only to purchase nothing. This one hadn’t left aisle 3.

I put down my phone, where I was writing up my statistics essay for uni in my notes, and stood up to have a look.

The girl leaned forward and paused as if to pick some things up and turned away from me for a moment. She then moved quickly back up the aisle, as if to flee out the exit. I scrambled awkwardly out from behind the register, banging my knee against the doorway in the process. Dammit, I’ll get a nice bruise out of that one.

She was almost at the exit, but I got there first.

‘Sorry mate, but I’m going to need those back now,’ my tone spoke of no nonsense and I turned my palm up to her.

Dirty blonde hair clung together in dry clumps. Her eyes darted around the store, returning to me, jumping from me, and back again. She breathed in deep fast breaths as she backed slowly away from my advancing figure. In her front pocket, she held something. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it didn’t belong to her.

She was shaking quite violently. I’d dealt with plenty of kids stealing here, but none of them had looked as terrified as the one before me. Her eyes screamed at me when they skittered past mine, her feet shuffled as if she was ready to bolt at any time.

I stopped my advance, ‘Come on, just give it back,’ I tried to smooth my rough voice, but failed. It sounded more like a low growl.

Her clumped hair whacked her cheeks as she jerked her head back and forth. Her dress hung off her, cracked, creased, and stained. The dress came to just above scabbing knees, dried blood smudged over her shins. Her feet were bare.

‘Look, I’m not going to hurt you. But, you have to give it back… now,’ I used my normal voice this time, hoping for a better reaction this time.

Her wide eyes stopped moving and focused their intensity right on me, but she didn’t move her hands.

Enough was enough. ‘Oi, show me your hands now, girl, or I’ll call the cops.’ My voice echoed throughout the space in the small store, ‘You want to spend the night in jail? Huh?’

Her already wide eyes grew and she released a small sob.

She lifted her arms first, guiding her shaking hands out of the pockets. Freshly drawn blood clung to the fingers and palms, though I saw no source for it on her. In one hand she clutched some blood-stained package of bandages, in the other was a travel sewing kit. Both sourced from aisle three, just as I’d thought.

My first thought was, well shit, she can keep them now. My second, how could she afford those nails? Blood dripped off fake nails. Even covered in blood, they were pretty fancy. Look, I don’t know a lot about nails and shit, but I know they’re not cheap. My girlfriend gets the stupid things and has to keep getting them done. She’s always complaining to me about how much they are – certainly a lot for the homeless. Wait, is she, though?

My feet jerked me back a few steps as my eyes focused on her hands. The blood didn’t seem to be coming from anywhere, it was smudged all over her hands but wasn’t too concentrated in any area. I looked to her knees. Maybe it’s from them, I hoped. But the grazes on her knees were too shallow to produce that much blood, and they were already scabbing.

‘I think I need to call the ambos,’ I said to myself, more than to her.

A small, mousey voice burst from her mouth. ‘No, no. I’m fine.’

‘No offense, but you don’t look it.’

‘It’s not my blood.’


I felt my body locking up and shying away from her. I reached in my back pocket for my phone, ready to dial 000 and get this chick out of here and away from me. I dug into my pocket to produce nothing – my phone was still on the counter. Shit, shit, shit. Suddenly, she dropped the bandages and sewing kit back into her pockets and grabbed the front of my shirt with both hands, the blood transferring there. I felt my lip curling and my neck tensing up as I strained as far as I could away from her.

‘No, please! You have to help me. Someone hurt him and he won’t wake up. He’s bleeding so much. Please. Please, help me!’ Her voice was as rough and frantic as her eyes. She moved her hands to my right arm, her fake nails digging into my forearm, ‘Come with me, please. He’s going to die!’

My whole body was numb, making it easy for her to pull me out of the exit and onto the street. I couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening to stop her from pulling me along, let alone realise that I should have locked up the store.

She rushes me down the block, the streets quiet. All I could think was how loud my

She pulls us to a stop in front of an alley. Her hands release me only to shove me roughly into the dark alley.

Oh shit.

Lying haphazardly half out of a dumpster bin was a body. The top lid was closed on him, securing him in place.

Oh God. This guy’s dead for sure.

I felt her body come up behind me. She nudged me closer urgently, ‘Come on. You have to help him. Move!’ Her voice was curt and echoed through the alleyway.

My breath caught in my throat, choking any words trying to get out. My body was as stuck still frozen as my eyes – focused solely on his misshapen form.

There was blood… everywhere.

I heard a groan from behind me before the girl barged past me towards him. She went to lift the lid with plastic-gloved hands.

Wait, when did she get gloves? When did she put them—

My thought process was cut short when I saw how she was trying to hold up the lid with one hand and pull him out with the other.

This girl is nuts.

My jarred body jerked forward to help, but I stopped before them – unsure and reluctant.

‘Just, pull him out for me. Please!’ she huffs.

My neck tightened with the idea of touching a dead guy and I was about to tell her this when I saw it.

His chest was moving.

‘Wait! Stop! Stop! He’s alive!’

‘Of course he is! We need to help him. Hurry!’ She continued to try and keep the lid open for me.

Gritting my teeth, I grabbed under his armpits and wrenched him out of the bin. His body hit the floor as she let the lid slam close.

‘Oh God,’ I whispered as I took in the sight before me.

The guy’s stomach – along with his t-shirt – was cut open, the wound wide with blood bubbling out. How he was alive at this point, I had no clue.

She kneeled beside him and looked up to me, ‘Come on!’ she grabbed my hand, pulling me down as well.

‘Here,’ she rummages inside her front pockets and produces the stolen bandages and sewing kit, ‘do something.’

‘What the hell am I supposed to do!?’ I hissed at her, ‘I work at fucking 7 Eleven!’

‘Please. Please!’ her hands shook as they fought mine. Pushing, shoving, until I finally gave up and took the items, ‘I don’t know what to do!’

I sat back on my heels and scrubbed my face with my trembling hands. ‘Why can’t we call an ambulance—’

‘No! No! We can’t! He… he’s into drugs… and he has some coke on him,’ her eyes bored into mine, ‘please. Please! Just help him.’

When I don’t move, she rips open the sewing kit, spilling the contents on the floor. Her hands weren’t shaking anymore. They were still as she opened the packet around the string and threaded it through a needle.

Once she had prepared the needle, she grabbed my hands in one of hers and put the needle carefully between my fingers, ‘go. Do it. Please.’

Her pleading eyes screamed up at me.


I turned to his body and focused down on the wound at his stomach.

‘God. How did this happen?’

Her breath stuttered out, ‘Um. We… we were making out back here, when… when this… guy came up to us. He w-wanted his wallet. But, he said no. And h-he had a knife… and,’ tears ran down her cheeks as she gestured towards his stomach.

She moved my hands into position, ‘please, you have to save him. If you don’t, he’ll die!’

I squeezed close my eyes and sucked in a huge gulp of air, opened my eyes and got to work.

He was still bleeding bloody bad. Only seconds after starting to stitch him back up, my hands were dripping.

I focused on stitching the poor bloke together – silently thanking God and my mother for having the sense to teach me how to sew on my own buttons.

While I focused my attention on stitching this poor bloke up, she moved to his head. She bent over and laid her forehead against his nose – staring intensely into his eyes.

‘Wake up… just, wake up,’ she mumbled into his vacant face.

The wound was pretty big so it was a while before I had done a semi-decent – that’s being generous – job at closing the wound. Once I got to the end, I lifted the left over needle and string and I was wondering how I was going to cut it off when the girl sat up from her position and handed me a steak knife.

Where the hell did she get a steak knife from?

Ignoring my thoughts, I took it in my hand and cut the string.

‘How’s he going? Is he still alive?’ Her voice was strangely calm. But, I didn’t pay much attention to that, rather, I quickly reached my fingers to feel for a pulse at his neck – like they do on TV.

But, before I could feel anything I noticed another wound.

Along his neck and down his chest were deep gouges still leaking blood. I’ve seen wounds like these before. Not in real life – but in movies and stuff.

‘Jesus, these ones weren’t done by a knife. These are, like, fingernail wounds or something. How the hell did that happ—’ I stop, a gasp caught in my throat. Bloody expensive-ass fake nails could have done it.

No. No, no, no.

The alley way was silent except for my stuttered breaths.

A breathy chuckle sounded from behind me.

I turned.

She stood before me; her unruly hair was now controlled into a low bun. A trench coat covered her stained dress and she now wore high heels.

What the f—

Her heels clacked on the pavement as she came toward me – stopping just before me. Fear gripped me and held me firm.

She raised her taloned hand with a flourish and laid it against my cheek. Her nails raked their way down my cheek, stopping at my quivering lips. She whisper, ‘thanks for this, Jacob.’

Her body retreats, enabling me to breathe once more.

However, amused eyes keep me still as she backs out of the alleyway. When she reaches the entranceway, she pauses – her whole body and demeanour changing.

Her eyes widen and her mouth slackens in an expression of horror. She lets out an almighty squeal and runs out of sight.

I looked down at my blood stained exterior and the knife cradled in my palm.

‘Wait! You can’t do this,’ I choked out of trembling lips.

A smirk darkened her face, ‘What makes you think that I can’t, hey?’

My eyes jerked around the filthy alleyway as I search for something, anything to get me out of this shit.

‘You’re a hobo! The police won’t believe a word you say over a uni student,’ the thought came out of my mouth before I could stop it. Probably not the best idea to provoke a crazy chick with a knife.

Her smirk disappeared as she strolled back to me, looking around her as she went. As she got closer, she pulled out another knife – identical to the one still in my hand. She swung it around, stopping it at my face.

She leaned in closer, ‘So, murder-suicide it is, then.’

‘What! No!’

Her arm pulled back and then plunged. The knife dug into my stomach for a second before being sliced back out again.

I felt the cold ground hit my back. The knife fell out of my hand with a clatter.

My vision was closing in on itself. The last thing I saw was her fuzzy figure stumbling out into the street.

‘Help! He’s killed someone! Someone help!’


That is all I recall.


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