Summer was winding down and in a few days the autumnal equinox would bring longer nights, a relief for vampires like Joyce. But lately Joyce had been in the dumps. She wasn’t getting any younger. And she wasn’t getting any older. Since 1980, she had been 55 years old and that’s how old she would always be.
She cut the engine of her Buick Skylark outside the office of EZ Kare, a vinyl siding company where she worked.
A vampire’s life usually starts with a kiss. It had been the new guy at the company Christmas party of 1979. Their eyes met from across the room and she had blushed. Then after too many drinks she was kissing a vampire in a janitor’s closet. It had been a lark. She never behaved like that, and now she was fixed in time in St. Paul, at this job.
Joyce’s cubicle was in the back of the office, away from the windows and under a fluorescent lamp that was starting to burn out. It was the murkiest corner in the building and about three rows away from where anyone else sat. It had been her cube for years. She liked to think that her work had meaning to the vinyl siding enterprise, but mostly she was left to her own devices. She didn’t have a computer at her desk. Her cube was a tomb left untouched by workplace technology. Plenty of time to catch up on learning computers, Joyce thought. And yet, she couldn’t see the point of tackling a new and complicated skill.
The smell of rain came from an open door. Mr. Egloff, her boss, said his “good mornings” then pointed an umbrella over the cubicles at Joyce.
“Did you get my email about the newsletter?” He asked a little too loudly. “Make sure you use the pictures I attached from the vinyl convention.”
Joyce hissed through her fangs.
“And make it look nice, not like you used a typewriter.”
So many employees and employers passed through this office since Joyce started there. Their faces and names jumbled like fallen leaves raked into a pile. And now the shadow of another equinox drew nigh, and with it, another quarterly newsletter.
The worst part about being a vampire in St. Paul was being the only vampire in St. Paul. She was alone and it was autumn again. She would never taste the passionate kisses of another, never feel the intertwining of all the loose ends of her former life. But for a middle-aged vampire, the emotional gravity of such things didn’t apply. Vampire immortality was like an endless and joyless summer for Joyce. She felt stuck. She needed a change of season. Birth, growth, reaping and death no longer cycled around a natural axis. The Earth spun without meaning. All this time to kill in a world made for mortal man dashed a vampire’s grit and determination to better herself and to improve the human condition.
Every company newsletter Joyce had written since 1980 contained subliminal messages directed at individual employees. Reading the publication gave the sensation of being seduced and violated at once.
Joyce used a lot of clip art to illustrate the work. In fact, she crammed the images into every page. Joyce was a vampire and she knew how to do secret things like set perfect margins on a typewriter and how to make clip art look amazing. The images she pulled from her cabinet were perfectly cut and were matchless in their variety. They didn’t fill empty space at the bottom of the page in a daft attempt to make the newsletter look fun. None of them were pictures of Thanksgiving turkeys dressed like pilgrims.
She cut and rejoined the art into collages that revealed immense craftsmanship that was wasted on the readership of a company newsletter.
Nonetheless, the office was always enthralled by her ability to turn paper into something that had a physical presence leaping from the page, with an emotional current running throughout. It was artistic, but Mr. Egloff would be pissed, because Joyce should just stick to the company’s newsletter guidelines.
She worked very fast because she was a vampire. But she also worked fast to push away the sorrow of being the same age evermore. The TV in her mind’s eye turned on, and as she worked, she watched the scene from that breathless night of her last kiss.
Company news, tips for staying healthy during flu season, and the grip-and-grin photos from the vinyl convention were all in there, but they were presented in a meta-language of illustrations ripped apart and reassembled into meaningful hieroglyphics. She decorated the clip art by typing over the same place hundreds of times. Each page was splendid in design and hewn by the hammering of typewriter keys.
Then she would be alone at her desk, the finished newsletter before her.
Vampires can’t cry. But Joyce felt tears welling up as if her eyes were constipated. This quarterly newsletter was a masterpiece, she knew. It was 50 pages long and told an allegorical story of man’s natural place among the changing seasons. It told of early man and his wonder about how the earth bloomed in summer and then fell into the darkness of autumn and winter. The newsletter was an amazing account of the equinox.
Mr. Egloff flipped through its pages, searching for the photo of his grinning face at the convention. Then he stopped. His eyes focused on a faraway horizon as a sad but beautiful thought whispered in his head.
“Your human lives pass me by on tiny rafts that will reach the sea I shall never know. Shine brightly in the short days and the long days and illuminate your precious lives’ journeys.”
Front page image by smussyolay.