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I'm a rockstar. You know that stuff of having your name in flashing lights. All of us here are stuck up in a penthouse. Then we started saying "Rest in peace to Celine." Andrew grabbed a bottle, and we started popping pills. I've been in the hills before. That was last year when I took moonshine and Grat up there. Then we came down and drove our porsche through that dusty desert and round the idle hills. Then we stopped, laughing, our hearts pumping with methamphetamine. Then we lit up and smoked like popstars in a galley. But Grat is in fashion and modeling school right now, trying to be the next  McCartney or the next Naomi Campbell. Damn. It's so hard to believe. So here in the penthouse, Genevieve took my hand and asked me to propose right about then. I got cocky and told her to wait a little bit, say six months. She didn't like that – and of course, I wanted that – and we split upon that. But I still had Grat, so I didn't bother in my heart. So when I got back to Manhattan, I went straight to the dollhouse and asked that they make me a version of Genevieve. I know this sounds crazy. Shitty even. But you know we live in a world that can't stop talking, and that everyone out there has an opinion. And it is certainly useful to have a few of them, especially when a pollster shows up. Even though I know no pollster born of a woman would dare show up at my door. I'd simply break his neck or smash his head. Maybe it's the life of a punk. Or maybe it's just me being Purk. You know, probably I should have been to Madame Tussauds – but that would cost me an arm. So I just settled for this quirky doll house. 

The woman attending to me has a mohawk. I produced the picture of Genevieve from my pocket and told her in a straight-forward manner.

"Make me a doll of this baddie. I need it latest next month."

She smiled and took the picture. "Who's she?"

Frankly, I hate dumb questions. But the punk in me went on a holiday and so declined to show up. "My girlfriend." I said. "I just want to surprise her."

"Really?" the woman asked. 

"Really what? How much would it cost?"

"Wait a minute. We'd make you an estimate. It's not something out of reach. I'd need to phone the cashier."

So I stood there waiting, pressing my phone and looking around the doll house. There were beautiful dolls on display everywhere and on every corner, and I knew if I closed my eyes they would all disappear like a pale sliver of snowflakes in winter's air. So I kept my eyes open, soaking in all the beauty. I'm not really patient with appreciating beauty afterwards. I felt I should call Uzi, but that geezer has never been around enough to be around. Unless he's changed. So I grabbed my pants and restrained myself. I'm a rockstar. 

"Sir, sir!" a woman said, running towards me – her eyes full of joy. "Pictures, please!"

I was about to say no, but I said yes. Click. Click. In half a mo, it was over. In a moment she was gone – like a rollercoaster. Gavvi the movie auteur would be shooting in Paris in the next twenty-four hours, and I have got a role to play. Bob Scott. And the best part of it is that I had forgotten. Blame it on alcohol and ice. Forget that best part, I'm screwed. So that is it, I'm running out of the doll house. I came out, you know, looking like a TV thrown out of a montage. Frankly. No bodyguards came with me, so I just pulled up in a black range. Now I'm speeding like a savage. Maybe I should be saying "Rest in peace to Bob Scott". 


Rockstar-style, I sat in the first class. Not like I like this much of the time, this mixing up with people thing. That's why I prefer private jets. But the one on my hangar needs fixing, and the engineers are asking for "a world of dime". Again, here, I have to snap pictures with these rich folks screaming "Ah, it's Mr. Purk Money!" I'm introverted, but since I got famous I am learning to shed a little bit of my introverted self. And considering those pictures mean a lot to them, that's the least I suppose I could do. After all, that's what I'm a star for. During the journey, after the photo shoots, I began to think once again about the doll – that Genevievey doll. I know why I need that doll, that semblance of a human – for when I can't have Genevieve anymore, for when I'm finally married to my Grat. But damn, Genevieve's full option. But I want Grat. Lord knows. So I need a doll to look at when my veins try to push me to seek out fly Genevieve. I don't wanna cheat. Grat's a good girl, and frankly I thought all good girls were the same. But I knew I was right with Grat. Then I would stay in five-star hotels mixing codeine and methamphetamine (ice) with Grat. That's how good Grat was. We never argued for once. It was all laughter. Every now and then we would puff smoke and pass. Smoking was that essential ingredient of our lives. And we really thought it was cool and sexy like in the movies. I don't think I want to sound ironic in any way. Grat was a good girl. Forget the smoking part, even though it was the general perspective of goodness for all the woke fellas I ever had. But that wasn't just what Grat was good for. Don't venture into thinking that. Grat was a rare gem. I could feel it deep in my soul whenever she was around. Everything around her showed it. It was like being good from the inside or like being open like a wound. But yet I didn't know why Grat was attracted to my kind of life. Sometimes I would make the move to tell her that smoking was not for a girl like her, that it was like decorating beautiful dolls with paper mache. But I knew that would put a strain on our relationship, even though I would joke and say relationboat. That's how crazy I get sometimes, the reason I think Grat should have left to gather together all the pieces of her inestimable love donkey years ago. But she stayed, loving me more than I could ever love in return. But suddenly loving Grat left to study in New York, trying to be a model. I don't know what she want to be a model for. Just when I had become plain vulnerable. Maybe you can feel my pain, maybe you can touch the edge of it. Maybe you can even stretch a hand and dip a finger into my marrow to see how colourful it is, this seering pain. I can't be cheating on the one I love. That shit doesn't sit well with me. All the romps I have had was just for the fun and the hell of it. I know you feel where I'm coming from. I may be a punk, but I am a real gentleman on the inside. I have had beautiful girls all over – Tokyo, Paris, London, name a place on this planet. Groupies, musicians, models, what else? But I didn't let all that change me. Those, frankly, are things that come with fame. Things that you could just be saying "No, no" to and then find them creeping all over you with the "Oh, yeah, yeah!". And then some of us love the lifestyle, and so settle for baby mamas. Which as a matter of fact can be an exciting thing if you can keep up with all the drama. But that just won't work for me. I just want Grat Seine whose absence is making me saner these days – in the sense that I have cut down on my drug use. Should I then be wanting her absence more than her presence? No way! It's a love on the brain, whatever that means. I want my girl back. I'm a sinner, I know. But God forgives. I remember the last time I told her I don't know how to love her the way she loves me, and she replied: "Cut me that crap. If your love finishes, tell me, I will hotspot you. Don't be a sick toadstool in a hot sauce." Then I held her and we laughed till the cool breeze blew her hair onto my face and I tried kissing her while parting the hair. I don't know what I could do without Grat. Never think I could live a moment without her presence, which is the reason why I think her absence is the opium that may cause my actual death. 

So when I reached Paris, it was a cool afternoon – and the French cafés are often the best place to want a latté. So I slouched towards one where I took gulps unrecognised as anyone who sings. And that, I tell you, has a good feeling in itself. Because, sometimes, fame itself can be a burden. But it can be so hard to believe. Unless you have been there. So at the end of my gulps, I walked quietly and phoned Gavvi who quickly came with a chaffeur who picked me. It was only when I entered the limo I realised that some persons who pretended to just be eating were actually snapping me with those phones they held aloft. What then happened to my intelligence, or the punk in me? That I sure do not know.


Growing up, I'd say I would never have thought – nor even dare to imagine – I would amount to scarcely anything in this world. Though my sister had once written in the magazine Optic that she knew I had a gift and that our parents were much eager to nurture the hidden talent they saw. I would have written back to disprove that, but instead I grabbed my pants. I can't say with any authority that she was consciously making anything up. But I do know that I grew up in a very different house, with two very different parents from those my sister describes. Our perceptions of things might have differed from the very outset of living, even though I have my utmost doubt this was ever the case. I was no precocious child. The music I found in my veins, I should say, was a miracle I discovered during the remains of my days at PD & D. When we would skip Math class for fear of being flogged by Dr. Mazel the Math teacher who left university to teach in high school. Got that? That was how I discovered rap music with the George brothers. But, sometimes, when you have fame people remember the least possible things that could ever happen. If there is anything to be gained, that I sure would never know. 


So now I'm Bob Scott, at least for this movie. The legendary musician who faked his own death. There have been conspiracy theories in the music industry, so I think Gavvi is just trying to cut his teeth on one of those. While inviting me to take the role might feel like a great privilege, I have my own misgivings. But because of the relationship I have with Gavvi, I accepted. Principal photography would begin at the Louvre where Bob Scott first worked before finding fame. While the Louvre might be a great place to shoot a movie, I have my own fears. I know I haven't told you. I'm a vampire. Wait, wait, don't rush. It's not my fault. It's one of those things that can happen to anyone. One person is born blind, another deaf, and yet another dumb, and none of those had control over that outcome. That is how it is. I was born a vampire. Don't hate me for it. I'm a great guy. See, I don't bite. It's just that I need blood to survive. I belong to the class of vampires called Retromumps. We need blood pints and supplements to survive. If we don't take that in a week, then we go poof and become cosmic dust. It's not my fault, you see. It's a rare condition that has stayed recessive in my genealogy. My ancestors had that, and so did my great grandfather. It's paternal, and my dad was lucky not to have inherited it. Now my fear stems from the point that my grandfather was killed in that museum. Yes, Musée du Louvre. He was killed for having been found drinking copious amounts of blood from a flagon. He worked there, and in those days laws were a tad strict. And then, it was easier to smash a diamond than it was to smash a prejudice. A judgement was quickly pronounced upon him, and he was killed. People feared vampires, no matter what type you were. And he was black. And according to my mom, as she was told, he died with what Nigerians call "Pensuwa '' shoes. They had simply beaten him till the shoes on his feet went north and south. It had been funny – at least to me when I was a kid. But not now I am in the same Louvre. Imagine I suddenly start craving blood. Okay, let's skip that part quickly. The workers at the Louvre are at once ecstatic on recognizing me. I wear my sunshades and keep a straight face as I walk through the Louvre being led by Gavvi and bodyguards. And since I had learnt to hustle, nothing can come between me and my money. Could it be because my own father let me down? No. It's a forever young thing on my mind. I'm a matching band. I'm the mountain peak up so high. And now, for a moment again, I am thinking about Grat and that Genevieve-y doll. The paintings on the museum walls were of a remarkable quality, most of them in glass. Mona lisa, The Scream, Love Who Just Stole a Rose, Psyche and Amor, Psyche in the grove of Cupid, Cupid and the Honey Thief, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, The Persistence of Memory, etcetera. All of these were housed in glass casings on the walls of the museum. And all these casings were locked with keys, even as there were security cameras in their numerous numbers. I moved along with Gavvi, the men carrying the equipment behind, the other actors, and the stone-faced bodyguards. And as I walked, it felt as though there was some Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. I was feeling a great unease. We reached a door that opened by itself to let us in. Inside was a large expanse of room. The walls were green. 

"Yo!" Gavvi says. "This is where we'd do the shooting, Purk Money."

I shrugged, still having my glasses on. "You are the man. You brought me here. You know what works."

Next, the men started setting up equipment. I turned and went to sit on a leather seat. And just there where I sat, I had a great hallucination. It was  not like anything I have ever known.

There was this goat, and there was this man. And so the goat picked an axe and smashed the geezer's neck.

I was still struggling with the entire stuff when a worker tapped my leg. "Whiskey, sir."

I exhaled deeply and took the bottle. "Thanks." My head was almost spinning right about now, and I could think of no immediate response to this. I opened the bottle and took a sip. My eyes hurt.


"Excuse me asking, are you okay?" Gavvi asks.

"Yeah, sure." I say to him, rubbing my eyes. I had removed the glasses when I couldn't take them anymore.

"You don't look that bit." Gavvi insists.

"Well, I must reiterate," I say. "I am fine. It's just a matter of time and everything, as regards my eyes, will be alright."

"Alright." Gavvi says. "A man should be held by his words. "Let's begin shooting, everyone! It's the making of Bob Scott – a Man for the Ages."

Then the woozy images come again. I hold my head. 

"Come on, Purk." Gavvi says. "Ten-thirty alright for you? We could postpone shooting till then. Look at you, man. You need help. What's this holding your head thing? Is the whiskey too harsh for you? Come on, somebody give him a hand!"

I am led back to my seat. I slump in and rest my head on the backrest. I trust I need hardly underline the extent of the discomfort. I can only say now that in all honesty I fail to see how I might reasonably have prevented the situation developing as it did. In any case, I could just cancel the whole Bob Scott stuff – maybe this would have been the preventive measure for an unforeseeable situation. Once again, and I do not mean to undermine the severity of the suffering being experienced as at the moment, I think about Grat my dear and that Genevieve-y doll I talked about at the quirky doll house in Manhattan. Gavvi comes to sit with me. He rubs my head with a cold towel.

"Had sleep last night?" he asks. 

I nod.

"How do you feel then?"

"Dizzy, and my head aches." I answer.

"No problem. Rest for a while. We will wait." he says to me before standing. "Alright, people! It's a little break here. Catch a drink or two. Bite a burger or more. I've got a situation to deal with." And as he talked, all I could see was blue skies.


After a while of resting, I asked to ease myself. I was quickly shown around that I was – in quite a remarkable space of time – able to make it to the gents with such ease I never knew I could accord myself. The headache had gone, so I was feeling very much better. Quickly, I reached for the knob of the door. I turned it and peered. I had expected to see a lavatory pot or just walls and a floor as the dictates of a room should go. But instead I found that if I stepped in, I would be lost forever. I closed the door and held myself. To be sure my fear ought to be, I opened the door and peered again. Lo, the hollow was there like a vast space above the earth – such that if I dared to heed to the stubbornness in me, I would be gone forever like a mass of dust. I restrained myself and managed to close the door. The thought alone made me grab my pants. Where was I? Is this my mind playing a trick on me? Is this the height of my hallucinations? I turned and walked slowly away from the door. Where then was I to pee? I simply threw away all the gentlemanliness in me and peed on the wall of the hall where I stood. I flung my phallus, zipped it and got going. Never will I let anyone hold this against me. I'm still a mountain. I'm still a tall tree. In the ring of life I would still reign loud. So I returned to my seat. In a little while I felt the familiar taste and knew it was time to drink my bottle of blood. There was unease all about me, but I knew I had to do it. I wasn't ready to die either. But I picked courage and went to my bag. The crew were returning from their break right now. Their eyes were on me, I could feel it. But I didn't care. I opened my grey bag and rummaged for the bottle. I found it and lifted it out. I stood on my feet. Right now, I thought about Grat and that Genevieve-y doll again. I stood even as Gavvi was approaching. I uncapped the bottle and put the lid right to my lips. And then I was taking everything in gulps. Quick, fast, steady. Everything. And by the time he was face-close, I was licking my lips. As he approached for a handshake, I closed the bottle and got ready to shake him.

"You look better now," he said.

"Yes, I am." I replied and took his hand.

"Can we begin shooting now?" he asked me.

"Sure!" I replied. "I'm a rockstar. Want me to climb a rock to prove that bit?"

"Hehe. No, no, Purk." Gavvi laughed and we finally settled in for the acting.


After the shooting, I left Paris for my condo in Manhattan. And as I traveled back, I kept thinking about Grat and that doll. But the doll especially. I began, even, to wonder why I was suddenly more fixated with a mere doll. And for those dull moments, nothing came to my mind. So I got home, and drove later, in the day, to pay for the life-size leather doll. The only thing on my mind was that it would replace the desire to have Genevieve in no time. At least I wouldn't desire those big hips of Genevieve anymore, as long as I could look at the doll and say with all my heart, "Isn't this all there is?"

So when the news of the doll being ready arrived one afternoon, I was in the cumulus clouds. I drove quickly to have the doll. And the first thing that struck me instantly when I saw the doll was how astonishing it looked. Its hips and lips and chest size were exactly those of Genevieve's. I thanked the doll house and took my "gift" home, saying to myself: "This is what my heart has ever wanted." 


So I continued to live with the doll, even as Grat finished for the semester and came to see me. And as attitudes go, Grat didn't like the doll at all and was always talking about it. But I didn't see what harm a lifeless doll could do, until one evening I returned from the studio to shower. Perhaps it was witchcraft, perhaps it was whatever thing. But then, I saw the doll waiting for me in an unusual place, blood stains on its hands. I stopped in my tracks and watched the doll closely. As it was nothing I had given a name, I just said, "What the hell is it doing here? Is this where I left you?" So, angry, and thinking it was Grat who brought it down here, I rushed to grab it by the waist – not even paying a fraction of attention to the blood stains. But as I tried to lift the doll up, I realised it was simply a task not worth doing. The doll kept itself to the ground with so much weight I got frightened and looked up. And in that instance, I realised what was happening. The doll had been possessed by a spiritual entity. While I had read about doll possessions, I had never thought it to be possible. So as the doll looked at me with its malevolent eyes, I charged past it, shouting, "Grat! Grat dear! Where are you, my darling Grat?!" 

"Grat is dead." the doll said. And when I stopped and turned, it waved me a goodbye and walked past the door, closing it with a dead chuckle.

I slumped to my knees. For it is, in practice, simply not possible to be strong in face of horror of this magnitude. Not simply possible for even a vampire.

BIO: Marvel Chukwudi Pephel, also known as Poet Panda, is a Nigerian writer and biochemist. His writing stays in the intersection of weirdness and the familiar. In 2021, he was invited to the Sixth Chinua Achebe Literary Festival. He has synaesthesia. 


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