Old Thyme 4. Kandy’s

On the northern side of Roseland, Old Town sat in the corporate shadow of skyscrapers. Brick buildings housed craft shops, pubs, and apartments where artists and bartenders lived. Evening shoppers in search of the next must-have statement weaved around packs of hippies. Marijuana smoke so heavy, the haze threatened light from streetlamps. Caught between Old Town and downtown Roseland on a nearly vacant side street, Augustus found his destination. It was another brick building which he might have missed if not for the sign stopping him in his tracks.

Kandy Fangs seemed like an odd name for a record store. The kay and eff had unnatural descenders with a candy swirl dripping like blood from fangs.

"Kandy Fangs Music Store sign"

Augustus checked his note, and sure enough, this was the correct address. Through the window, he could see rows of tables holding cardboard boxes. A young couple thumbed through music albums within a box. Augustus felt like moving on, but the odd shop title pulled him toward the door like a mosquito to a lantern.

The scents of fresh wood and floor cleaner welcomed Augustus, and a snappy tune calmed his nerves. Danceable, he thought, Susan would have enjoyed it. The couple talked excitedly over an album. Behind a small counter in the corner, a woman sat quietly on a stool. She flipped through a magazine without a glance at Augustus approaching her.

“Been open long?” asked Augustus. Doubts about Jack Mills ever coming here began to sink in.

The clerk flipped a page and continued reading. “Two months,” she said.

Old Thyme 3. Vampires on the Mind

When the body of Nurse Constance arrived at Thyme Funeral Home, Augustus recognized the corpse for what it was.

A message.

Just weeks earlier his newborn son, Samuel Thyme, had been stolen away by Nurse Constance and the old man in the dark Cadillac, a debt paid in blood by the mother. Susan had died due to complications—the physician’s way of saying she had died of a broken heart.

Augustus had considered following. He had tried drowning his misery, one bottle after another. Even while he pressured the police and persued his own investigation, he took to drinking like a fish.

Susan had called the old man in the Cadillac, Patriarch, the first of their kind.

The first what?

Augustus had collected all manner of books on the occult. He poured through them between cases of beer. Down in the city, he asked around. And he started seeing them everywhere.

Even before he was ready to admit it, he knew what he saw. Vampires. He saw them in the pubs and on the street corners. He even saw them in the damn library.

He had vampires on the mind.

There were days he didn’t know if they were only in his head. He didn’t want to know. He saw their fangs when they sneered at him. He saw their iridescent eyes. Even when he wasn’t drunk out of his mind, he saw them still. Even And now one sat across from him at the pub.

“I’m looking for Ithuriel”, said Augustus. That was the name he had found in an old tome describing the first of their kind.

The vampire stroked his goatee as if primming for a date.

"bottle"

“You know not what you say,” said the vampire.

“He took my son!” said Augustus. He slammed his fist on the table knocking a bottle over.

A hush fell over the pub.

They all looked at him with thirst in their eyes.

Slowly, Augustus stood. He recognized the threat before him. He was about to lose his life, or drench his own hands in blood. Either way, his son would be lost. Excusing himself, he slipped away and stumbled for the door.

The rain felt hot like blood streaming down his face. He fled from the vampires on the mind.

Old Thyme 2. Patriarch

Back in the sixties, Roseland was a dangerous city for a young woman on her own. Augustus Thyme and Susan Mills married for convenience. Susan turned out to be a big help at the funeral home, selling caskets and scheduling funerals. Business improved. Love came eventually, and soon after, Samuel Thyme arrived.

Strong lungs, the child let the entire hospital know he had met the world. Standing beside the hospital bed where Susan rested, Augustus held his son snug in his arms. When the nurse arrived to take Samuel to be checked over, the joyous father refused to let go.

“It won’t be long,” said the nurse. Her dark curly hair shined purple in the light. According to the tag on her uniform, her name was Constance. “We’ll be back in a jiffy,” said Constance, smiling.

Augustus continued admiring his son a bit longer before surrending him into the arms of the patient nurse. As he watched Nurse Constance carry Samuel Thyme out of the room, a tear traced down over his warm cheek. He smiled so big, it nearly hurt.

He turned to his wife, and spotting her long face, his grin melted away.

“Susan, what is?” he asked. “Is everything well?”

She forced a smile. “Nothing, Augustus,” she said, “just so glad to see you happy.”

Something was bothering her, Augustus could see it like paint on a wall. Her gaze avoided his. Color drained from her flesh. His heart thumped.

“Susan, what is it? What’s happened?” Susan clamped her eyes shut tight. “Remember my driver that night we first met at the funeral home?”

The black 1958 Cadillac with the tall fins, Augustus remembered it well. The old man in the driver’s seat had waited in the car while Susan had made arrangements for the passing of her father, Jack Mills. The creepy look in that old man’s face haunted him still.

“Dad had made a terrible mistake,” said Susan. Her voice cracked as she held back her tears.

“What sort of mistake? What does it have to do with us?”

Nosferatu: Devil in Detail

Clearly popularized by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, Dracula, “nosferatu” has appeared in numerous movies, song lyrics, and books. Researching nosferatu in our family library, I had trouble tracking down the origins of this term. Augustus Thyme, my grandfather, began the tradition of collecting an assortment of books on vampires and the occult, so I consider our library extensive on this subject. Along with some internet library research, I came up with a possible origin.

Stoker identified his source as British author, Emily Gerard, which she used the term in her travelogue, The Land Beyond the Forest in 1888. Note that transylvania is Latin for “through the forest.” In her travelogue, Gerard identifies nosferatu as a Romanian word for vampire: “More decidedly evil is the nosferatu, or vampire, in which every Roumanian peasant believes as firmly as he does in Heaven or Hell.”

However, nosferatu isn’t Romanian.

Earlier in 1865, the term also appeared in a German-language article by Wilhelm Schmidt discussing Transylvanian customs for an Austro-Hungarian magazine, according to Leonard Wolf in Dracula: The Connoisseur’s Guide (1997). It seems possible that Gerard could have come across Schmidt’s article while living in Austria-Hungary.

Perhaps nosferatu is based on the Greek word, “nosophoros” (νοσοφόρος), which means disease-bearing. The classic film, Nosferatu by Manau uses the disease theme, which may persuade modern opinion on the Greek origin. There may be a connection, but I can’t find any evidence between the Greek word and Gerard’s Romanian reference. The romance languages borrowed a few words from Greek, so there is a possibility. Even if so, what word in Romanian did nosferatu refer to?

More likely, the term is a misinterpretation of sounds or spelling across languages Denis Buican in Dracula et ses Avatars: de Vlad l’Empaleur à Staline et Ceausescu (1991) and Manuela Dunn-Mascetti in Vampire: the Complete Guide to the World of the Undead (1992) suggest two similar Romanian terms as candidates: nesuferitu and nefârtatu, based on necurat and nesuferit, respectively. Nesuferitu refers to the occult as “the unclean,” and nefârtatu is “the insufferable one” for the devil.

While reading old books in our library, I’ve noticed how easy it is for meaning or spelling to alter when translated from other languages. My money is on nosferatu originally referred to nefârtatu, the devil, and taken by Gerard to refer to a very evil creature, a vampire.

The “devil is in the detail” if only we could truly know it.

"Nine signature"

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Lamia

April showers bring May flowers and funerals, or so it seems.

Winter might be the season of death, but here at Thyme Funeral Home, our busy season is in the spring. I have no idea why, and my father has never ventured a guess. No matter how slow business is at the start of April, Daddy hires seasonal employees, because without failure by the end of April, death marches through our doors.

Every year, for nearly a decade now, the same woman has worked the morgue on weekends. Daddy didn’t even call this year; the woman just showed up the first Saturday of April. She plans to stay on through June like every year.

I call this woman, Lamia.

She isn’t particularly pretty, and doesn’t smile all that often, but she’s nice enough. She paints a corpse like painting a canvas, beautiful and creepy, and she’s licensed for embalming, too. Daddy claims he likes her for her dependability. I can’t argue that. Hell, she even hangs out when there isn’t much to do. I believe Daddy prefers her expertise in the matters of their kind.

She’s one of them. Sort of like a vampire, fangs included. She despises being called a vampire, but doesn’t seem to mind, Lamia. I had forgotten her name years ago, and started calling her by the latin word for vampire. She never complained, so that’s what I call her to this day.

Whenever an unexpected guest of their kind arrives, Lamia knows just what to do. She quietly consoles ignorant friends of the lost one, and convinces them that cremation is best. Never a casket for them, always the furnace.

Lamia seems to enjoy burning her own kind, and that’s what I like best about Lamia.

"Nine signature"