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The pungent stench of formaldehyde permeates the air as I enter the candlelit basement. Shadows dance on the stone walls, cast by the flickering flames that provide the only light in this windowless chamber. Yusuf Furthermore sits hunched over a wooden table, sleeves rolled up as he meticulously dissects the cadaver laid out before him. This place is called Chris Experimental Animal Farm, and Yusuf Furthermore is an apprentice. He had joined the establishment from two towns away. He hopes surely to learn everything that this outlandish firm could ever offer. From somewhere, a calm musical note arrives – and Yusuf Furthermore strains his eyes to look into the distance. But there is nothing to be seen. Nothing peculiar in the slightest. Nothing at all. But I will approach further. Quietly. Not to be seen. Though I cannot, in any way, be seen. I am the cadaver that is laid out before him. Yusuf Furthermore is on my throat. Whatever it is he is doing, I do not know. I do not need to announce it, but I am a ghost. It was just the other day that I was talking about ghosts and looking at the newly-arrived paintings at the University of Pennsylvania. And now I'm dead. How these things happen defies comprehension. One day you are alive, the other you are dead. Upon that wooden table, I see my throat clearly slit and blood caked on it. Yusuf Furthermore was examining it. His glasses are concave lenses, and I infer he is short-sighted. One of the things I remember is going for a walk at half-past nine. It was the night I was supposed to meet the woman I had never met. We had only exchanged some steamy conversations on Tinder. And ever since, I could not wait to arrange a cumulative meeting at a hotel off campus. The hotel was opposite Chris Experimental Animal Farm. So, in a nutshell, I didn't just leave for a walk – I was hoping to meet someone whom I considered special. So when I reached the hotel, I called her. She picked up and told me she was waiting at the bar. And without further conversation, I hung up and walked into the hotel where I found her perched on a stool like a very special thing. There was excitement bubbling within me, thoughts of all the things I could do to her spreading tenaciously. She was alluring and charming. I greeted her and kissed her cheeks. I asked what she would love to have, and she said martini. That was what I was about to have too. So we settled for martinis and discussed at length. Sometimes I am moved to touch her thighs, sometimes her hair, sometimes know what I mean. But, in praise of decency, I never did any in all those instances. She said she brought a painting of me that she had commissioned a distant relative of Vincent van Gogh. Well, that made me become more invested in this beautiful lady. She showed me the painting. And really, it was the most gorgeous thing I had ever received as a present. This time, I had enough reason to kiss her lips and touch her body a little bit. So I did. She appeared delighted at once, no sign of surprise on her face. She must have been expecting this action from the get-go. 

"Let's go to the room, Samson." she said.

I pretended I didn't hear a single word nor a syllable and continued to drink my martini. But she informed me she had paid for the room. I think this should have been the time I should have saved my soul, the moment I should have chained my..., you know. But no, earthly lust couldn't let me. The blood coursing through my veins was telling me to go have some rapturous fun, to destroy her with all my strength. I looked into her eyes and saw joy calling me on a highway, that highway of endless fantasy.

"Let's go, darling." I said, smiling like a silly cougar.


Inside the room, she pulled her shoes off. Her short latex skirt was glimmering as she sat on the bed. I licked my lips and pulled my clothes. She allowed me to raise the skirt to her waist. My excitement was pumping high as I took my hand to places with warmth and endless pleasure. And in no time, I was doing the chikaboom, chikaboom – sweat pouring down my head. But it was that chikaboom chikaboom that killed me. For when I finally felt the pleasure was enough, the naked mistress left the bed and stood at the centre of the room. I was scared as shit.

"What are you doing, Maria Vamos?" I asked.

But Maria Vamos began to giggle a little bit. I swear, I was bursting at the seams. I wanted to run. 

"A little blood, that's all I need." she said. "I need to draw some fresh blood, Samson."

"Are you a lunatic?" I asked.

"Maybe a pretty one, Samson. But all I need is your blood. Come give it to me, all I've ever wanted. Your neck is all I need. Come give me your blood, Samson."

"You are insane." I said. "Stop this acting. I hate dramas."

"I'm a vampire." she said. 

And that's all I can remember. Simply put, I don't know what happened next. Being a ghost has not been easy. Since yesterday, I've been trying to understand my new form. And, again, I don't know why my intuition has led me into Chris Experimental Animal Farm. I had known Yusuf Furthermore as a worker here, because he was popular amongst students who needed lab rats for experiments. Who would have guessed my body would be lying on his table. I stand facing him as he stares into my throat. He takes his grasping forceps and picks something off the fleshy crevice which has congealed blood. From where I stand, I can tell I have reached rigor mortis. But I was yet to know what had killed me or the nature of my death. Yusuf Furthermore puts the material into his medical tray and begins to scavenge with his hand deep down my throat. My face contorts as I watch what's being done to my body. If I were still human, this would have been painful. And again, it would have passed as abuse had my body been in a hospital and this being done without my family's consent. I wonder what Yusuf's up to. I don't feel any anger, maybe ghosts don't. All I feel is without the intensity of any emotion. I watch further till Yusuf has left my throat a gaping hole. He drops more found things in the tray and begins to look in my direction. For a second, I thought he had started to feel my presence. That he had started to see me. He cuts through my singlet with a sharp knife. And, for the first time, I saw something that never belonged to my body when I was alive. On my chest was a V mark made with a permanent marker. Instantly, Yusuf began to nod his head – like this was a clue to solving something. Quickly, he saunters out of the basement – dropping his gloves. I drift away behind him, following his every step. He goes to the faucet and turns the tap. I watch him wash his hands as he keeps muttering a whole lot of stuff which I struggle to understand with my ghostly ears that are yet to develop fully. I watch him till he goes to bed. Then, as he lies in bed, I go back to the basement and wait for morning to come.


When morning comes, I wait for Yusuf Furthermore to arrive. And while he tarries, I look around frantically and try to use my hands. But I can't touch anything. Perhaps all spirits pass through this stage before they can begin to lift things and send messages to people. I hover around recklessly till I find a note lying on the floor. I swoop down and look at it carefully. It's written in cursive, and with yellow ink:

From the grave, I wander.

From the grave, I saunter.

Blood is all I want,

The blood of men. 

I am the terror that sees no error,

Leaving little flowers everywhere.

I leave the note on the ground, pondering heavily. Yet, Yusuf was yet to arrive. I begin to wonder if he's still asleep, or if he's still alive or dead. A little rat races down the basement and disappears into a pocket-size hole. My corpse still lies on the wooden table, no sign of putrefaction. Desperately, I go to check on Yusuf whom I find standing from his bed and yawning voraciously. It's half-past eight. He gets up, washes his mouth with Listerine and goes to boil tea leaves for breakfast. A fat loaf of bread sits on the three-legged circular table in the little compartment he uses as a house. There is a knock and he goes to look at the peephole of the door adjacent to the door of his living quarters. He nods and goes to lock the door of the lab. He removes the latch and lets the door open. A woman stands in front of him, and they discuss for a minute or so before he locks up again and opens the two windows of the living quarters, rays of early morning sunshine darting about the entire room. He pours himself some liquid milk and stirs the creamy stuff, taking a lick before pouring the hot liquid from the kettle into the cup. He sits and begins to eat. I watch him for a while before drifting away and back into the locked lab where I find my body lying on the floor, my eyes open. But yet, it would seem I was dead – if not for these eyes that bore the semblance of those with life. I bent and examined them for signs of blinking, but they were still and cold. I couldn't say what made it fall, but I knew something was wrong. I waited till Yusuf entered and saw what I had seen. He stood a little bit nervous, before wearing his gloves and jerking me with all the strength he could muster. In no time, my back found the wooden table. Then I heard him say "Vamos". And, immediately, I knew my hearing had improved. "It's the Mistress of Death herself", I heard him say. I may have known this all along, but it had rather stayed in the subconscious. And now it was clear. I had been killed by Maria Vamos, the beautiful woman from Beverly Hills. The classic belle who had fallen for an undergraduate of Pennsylvania University. I should have known something was wrong. But look at me, I'm dead now. And now I wish there is something like a second chance. It's amazing how we begin to know how to live when we are dead. I watch Yusuf Furthermore do a further autopsy before wrapping me up in a body bag. He exhales deeply before taking a bottle of substance I can tell is voodoo out from beneath the table. He makes certain incantations before leaving the lab. I follow him, even as he leaves to board a taxi. The taxi skids past Pennsylvania University and I see crowds of people who I guess are discussing my disappearance. For the record, I had left my cell phone in the hostel that night. I think love is the most twisted curse of all, a fantasy we all glorify. Now I stop hovering above this speeding taxi and bend myself into the window, sitting next to Yusuf. In his hand is this amulet, a talisman of some sort. I can infer Yusuf knows the nine yards about vampires or the walking-dead. The whole stuff is becoming interesting, an adventure of some quirky sort – at least to me. Soon, the taxi stops in front of a complex. I watch Yusuf pay the taxi driver. I watch him step out. Me I don't, until the taxi begins to speed back. I drift away and rush back behind Yusuf who is now standing in front of a door marked "Beverly's Vamos, Attorney at Law ''. I want to laugh, I want to cry. Believe me. I can't believe this. Yusuf pushes the door and enters. I drift in. The receptionist offers him a seat on hearing who he is looking for. I join him to sit as the lady makes a quick call. Soon she informs us that we can see Ms. Vamos. I rise before Yusuf and dash into the room only to find Maria Vamos seated on a swivel chair, turning round and round. 

"Good day." Yusuf says. 

"Good day."

"I'm Yusuf."

"Alright, sit down. How may I be of help?"

Yusuf brings out the amulet. Ms. Vamos goes into a fit.

"Your time's up, Vamos. I'm a vampire hunter. Solomon is dead. But I'm not letting that slide. I have read about you and how you committed suicide thirteen years ago because of unrequited love, and subsequently came back to hunt men. But this will be the last, the last of your V marks."

I watch Yusuf cast a spell on my nemesis before leading her out and into a taxi. I didn't know where the taxi was heading, but it wasn't long before we arrived at the station. Vamos confessed to being the notorious murderer and serial killer of about fourteen known cases. So with that she got tried and jailed. And everyday, I hover from Chris Experimental Animal Farm to the penitentiary to see the face of my manacled adversary. And today, as I drift around the prison, I find Maria in Cell No. 47. She is seated on the floor. Maybe she can see me. I don't know. But as I slip in through the bars of iron, I hear her say: "Not again."

And yet, it is not clear to me if a vampire is worthy of any prison. I think all I can do is wait till I can really move my hands.


Marvel Chukwudi Pephel, also known as Poet Panda, is a Nigerian biochemist, writer and poet. He has contributed research papers to the field of Biochemistry as Nwachukwu Godslove Pephel. As a poet, Pephel's work explores themes of love, life, nature, and social issues, with a unique blend of creativity and scientific insight. His poetry is characterized by its lyrical style, depth, and emotional resonance. His work is a testament to the intersection of art and science. He is a fan of the surrealist painter Salvador Dali, and writers Helen Oyeyemi, Ray Bradbury, Irving Washington, Edgar Allan Poe, Frank G. Slaughter and Philip K. Dick. He calculates what he calls "Creative Functions", an experimental but effective way of writing short story endings before their beginnings.


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