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Improved By Death

by mrmonkey1980 

Posted: 31 July 2006
Word Count: 4277
Summary: This is the first chapter of my completed novel. A unique comedy fantasy about a young vampire and slacker who finds himself the only person inbetween a powerful enemy and the throne of the capital. I've been trawling it round agents and publishers for over 2 years, but no one has been willing to back it yet, because it is so different I think. They are afraid to take a risk. I don't think it's the quality of writing, though I could be wrong and open to any suggestions. Thanks!

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Chapter 1
“Mummy, mummy! Can we have them? Can we?”
“Of course we can Evan, but only if you promise to look after them.”
Warm smile.
“Yes, mummy.”
Big grin.
The woman asked for the two cats in the window. The shopkeeper obliged and Evan left the shop a happy boy.

The instant an advert for cat food appeared, Ramses vaulted the sofa and kicked the TV to the ground. He continued stamping on it, glass and metal shattering like ice beneath his boot, until the face of the cute kitten had gone and the hiss of sparks drowned out the meowing.

Just as suddenly, he stopped and looked out of the open window. The clan leader called to him, the words resounding in his mind, not in the air.

“Ramses! ‘Tis time to discover the Prince. Clan meeting forthwith.”

Nodding in acknowledgment, Ramses then leapt out of the opening and into the night. Unfortunately, he noted as he dropped the three floors towards the pavement, someone had placed their rubbish bin, agape, in his normal landing spot. Into it he went, with a soft splat.

“Eew,” he cried, climbing out of the metallic cylinder.

“What is it with these bloody humans and their rubbish? Every Tuesday this happens!”

Ramses picked up the rubbish bin and threw it across the street. It clattered and banged all down the quiet road. Quiet, because few humans braved the streets at night, the time of the supernaturals.


A startled cat ran from the clattering can.

“Ooh! Lunch!”

After the unsatisfactory revenge he had dealt to the two-dimensional cat on the television, it would be nice to punish the real thing; hear one more feline beg for mercy before he stole it from this world forever. Sure, he knew it would not bring Evan’s parents back - they would have died of old age by now, anyway - but it felt good, extra double-cream good.

Ramses darted across the street, scooped up the rubbish bin – which had now distributed most of its contents along the road – and chased after his dinner. The shabby Persian was halfway down the street, but Ramses moved with an unnatural agility, closing the distance between them quicker than a zip.


He dived toward the feline, the rubbish bin upside-down in his arms.

After landing with a clatter, he stopped to listen. A muffled cry confirmed his success. Grinning, he sat on the rubbish bin and started to tease his prey.

“Okay, I’m going to eat you slowly and painfully if you don’t tell me your rank and badge number!”


“Won’t talk, eh? Come on! I haven’t got time for this! What’s your leader’s plan? Assassination? Bombing? Mind control on the leaders of the world? I must know!”

The cat replied with more muffled wails.

“Fine, play it your way,” Ramses said and moved to reach under the rubbish bin.

The cat scratched at his hand, but he easily got a hold and dragged it out by the neck. Without pausing for more conversation, he took the cat by the tail and swung it into the wall, producing a crack of bone and a splatter of gore.

“My word! There ain’t enough room to swing a cat out here.” Then, with a few quick yanks, he tore the fur from the creature’s neck. “I just hate having hair in my food,” he said before biting into it and draining the blood like it was a ripe orange and he wanted the juice. It was his snack of choice being a vampire, but that was only half of his existence; he busied himself as a cat burglar too - literally, he broke into people’s houses and took their felines, leaving any amount of wealth behind.

Finished, he wiped his mouth on the long sleeve of his black t-shirt.

Octavius has called a meeting, huh? Must mean he has an idea who this new Prince is. I just hope he doesn’t expect me to do anything about it!

He left the body of the cat and ran towards his red pickup truck.

Driving across town, Ramses paid little attention to the wealth of gothic architecture and reinforced Tudor houses with their white walls and black beams. Instead, he enjoyed the space on the roads and made good use of all of it with his bad driving. Eventually, he stopped by the entrance to an underground station. He jumped out, ran down the steps and to the main platform.

“Shit! I’m gonna be…”

“Late again, Ramses!” the leader shouted, from the front of the mass.

The Deliric clan of vampires met, as usual, in the white-tiled tunnel of the underground station at Green Park as if someone were giving away fresh corpses, but alas, there was no such feast. It seemed this meeting was going to be the equivalent of the community newsletter once more.

Ramses could see those making comments about him and he sneered back at them. For some reason, the clan held little respect for him despite having been sired by the leader himself, Octavius.

Maybe that was the problem, Ramses thought as he searched for his friends in the crowd. I’m like the teacher’s pet. It doesn’t seem to matter what pranks or deeds I do.

Those not jeering at him made idle conversation with one another, a few sat with their legs dangling off the platform. A particularly scruffy-looking fellow, wearing a ‘Sylvester and Tweety’ top, perched on the tip of a bench as though he were a bird.

“Dude, what do you get up to all the time?” whispered Ramses’ friend, P–Head. “Man, you stink!”

P-Head was his friend because they had both been marginalised by the others. You cannot go around dressed in leather all day and night without getting a few odd looks.

“You can talk.” Ramses gazed at his friend’s long, greasy hair. It rested like a throng of tired worms on his leather jacket. He added to that in a knowing tone, “I hope you and the Gimp cleaned up before leaving the house tonight.”

“Ooh!” confirmed the Gimp.

P–Head stroked his rubber suited companion and replied, “We are very hygienic. I didn’t even burn anything today either.”

Ramses felt honest shock at hearing this from P–Head as he was a pyromaniac. “Wow, that is amazing!”

Through the crowd, the young Ramses then noticed a bewitching woman whom he had never met before, though he had heard rumours. Kenempti she was called. Odd name, very Egyptian. At least they had that in common. They said she had exceptional powers, one of which was the ability to mimic other life forms. He felt intrigued to see her in action.

“What’s she doing here? She’s not a clan member.”

“I think Octavius recruited her for some big mission or something,” P–Head whispered.

“As I began!” a voice cried from the front of the group.

All the people turned and watched the strangely cloaked figure standing on the turnstiles; strange because his robe was pink and he had an ankh sigil painted on his forehead. He was Octavius, the clan leader and Ramses’ sire. Unfortunately, as Ramses had discovered early in his undead life, he had a habit of speaking in the most confusing manner possible. You really had to concentrate on his words to understand what he was rambling about. This often led to much staring at his lips, hence why he wore lip-gloss; he thought people found them attractive.

“Today, in the 3998th year since the first civilisation hit the ground running, I mustered you to beat the dead horse on our fair megalopolis.”

“Mustard? Dead horses? What’s he on about? Lunch?” P–Head said.

“As we have guesstimated, there are tidings of a faddy Prince being dragged in by the cat….”

“CAT!?” Ramses screamed.

“… We shall be reborn with silver spoons in our mouths if we hit upon his nature. Indisputably, he is not of clan Deliric, as this meat and vegetable would be known to us. To this reasoning, I have sanctioned the presence of a mummy at this tryst. She will provide much precedence in our endeavours.” He gestured to the outsider, Kenempti.

After a pause, while the speech formed coherent sentences in the minds of the vampires, the crowd turned to look at her like a bunch of schoolchildren being introduced to the New Kid. She responded with an affable smile.

Octavius then continued, causing the congregation to groan. Some even reached for their spectacles.

By this time, Ramses had lost all interest and noticed a rat near his foot. He knelt down, trying to ignore the strong odour of sewer that hung round it like an aura - especially strong to his super-senses - and showed it his trusty Matever pistol, taken from his backpack. The rat’s nose shuffled over it, trying to determine if this new form of cheese was edible or not.

“It will help you fight the cats. You don’t want to end up as their lunch do you?” A pause for more nose-shuffling, a squeak. “So, you’d help the evil buggers eh? I’m sorry, but I can’t have that. You might be the one that tips the scales. This is war, son.”

Ramses stood up straight, cocked his gun and took aim, but the rat had returned to sniffing around his feet - awfully close to his feet.


“Yeeeow!” Ramses hopped around, gripping his foot. It bled profusely.

The crowd turned to him, some of them bursting out laughing, others angry. Octavius halted his speech.

Meanwhile, the rat scampered away from the bang, unharmed.

“Ramses!” Octavius yelled.

Ramses stamped his foot down as he turned to face Octavius, forgetting his wound in the shock of the moment.

A searing pain shot up his leg and triggered a trembling in his lips. Struggling to hold in a scream, he dared not move while in his sire’s gaze.

“Cease thy tomfoolery and pay heed! The donkey’s back is breaking under the straw of your misdeeds! Soon I will have no path to show you, but the path of exile. I necessitate your enterprise, and that of your coterie, to peruse this domicile. There are portents of an intermediary of the Prince there.”

He pointed to a badly scrawled message on his portable blackboard (called Jeff).

“The new Prince’s friend? Okay, we’ll go then shall we? Good,” Ramses said, dismayed that his personal business had been interrupted.

Ramses, limping, with P–Head, and the Gimp behind him, started towards the exit. The crowd cheered them on, a courtesy that lasted until they reached the end of the tunnel.

“And off the pop, the pranks!” Octavius announced.

“Trust us to miss the best bit,” Ramses said.

He loved the pranks because it was his chance to shine. Each member of the vampire clan who had achieved something remarkable that week got to describe it to the clan, whether it be fooling the humans into believing he was a ghost - which all vampires knew did not really exist - stealing an important token from the werewolves or shaming a member of another vampire clan. Ramses enjoyed the play-acting more than anything and his pranks were far more creative than anyone else's.

They’re all becoming stale and boring, like the humans on so called “Entertainment Television”.

“Never mind,” said P–Head, “if we’re lucky we’ll get to burn stuff!” Only P–Head could emphasise that word so much, motioning the ignition of a lighter with his thumbs.

The woman, the mummy, followed them through the tunnel and caught up to them on the magic-powered escalators.

“Yes, well. Kenempti is it?” Ramses said, turning his attention to their new companion.

“Please, Caroline when we are in the city.”

She’s beautiful in a perfect kinda way, he noted before responding. “Okay. So you’re a mummy then? What happened to all the bandages and stuff?”

“That is a common misconception only held by truly ignorant people,” she stated with superiority.

“Andyou’reatightbitchaswell,” he retorted.

Kenempti gave him a scathing look, so he decided to hang back with P–Head.

“Where does this girl come from?” he asked him.

“I told you, nobody knows, except maybe Octavius, but, man do I want to do her!”

“Maybe I should ask him,” Ramses said.

“Why would I need Octavius’ permission?” P–Head asked, bemused.

By the time they reached the surface, the wound in his foot and Ramses’ limp had completely gone. Such was the healing power of a vampire.

Ramses shouted so all could hear clearly. “I’m sure we all have our modes of transport so let’s make our own way there.”

They all responded by climbing into his pickup truck.

“There is no way I’m having that thing riding in my truck!” Ramses protested, pointing at the Gimp, “not after last time! It took me three hours to clean the seats!”


“Oh come on! He’s a nice boy really,” P–Head lied and stroked the Gimp. The discord of rubber and leather made a bitter squealing noise.

“A familiar is he?” asked Kenempti.


“Stupid creatures, but they have their uses. Mindless pawns mainly.” Kenempti laughed.


“What did you just say?” P–Head screamed.

“Right, well. We’ll just go, shall we? Good,” Ramses said, put down by the fact no one showed interest in his argument. He got in the cab, banged the door and ignited the engine.

If it had been their seats, they’d be complainin’, he thought, but dismissed it as quickly as the morning papers - which held little interest for him apart from the star signs and the ‘Pets for Sale’ section.

“Hi-ho Bindybadgy!”

And with that, they tore into the night.

* * *

The pickup truck pulled up outside the house Octavius and Jeff had directed them to a few minutes later - missing a large mass of rubber from the tires - and the troupe got out. They looked up at the building and then at each other. It looked plain enough - a brickwork terraced house, modern, the same as all the other houses on that street - but what secrets did it hide? In this city, anything. Ramses felt curiosity pulling him forward like an eager teenage lover, but if you told him that curiosity killed the cat, he would only have replied “Good!”

“We don’t know what we’re after so I suggest we spread out. I’ll take upstairs,” Ramses said, cracking his undead knuckles.

“The Gimp stays in the truck. I don’t want him hurt,” P-Head pleaded.

“I suppose,” came the reply from the truck owner.

Kenempti stepped forward. “Let us begin.”

She tested the door of the terraced house. It was unlocked, so she crept inside. P–Head followed, thinking only of swaying hips and the flammability of Kenempti’s long skirt. Meanwhile, Ramses got a good grip on the plastic drainpipe and climbed with the agility of a monkey. Within seconds, he hung by the top floor window and took out of his matching black backpack, a glass cutter. Slowly, he wound the diamond tip round the circle, removed the disc and with a flip of a latch, gained entrance.

He found himself in a large bedroom with a four-poster bed in the centre and a small art collection adorning the walls. Under the covers of the bed, a young woman lay sleeping; the aroma drifted to him like fresh chocolate, triggering memories of a popular vampire flick.

Maybe later, he decided.

From the next room, he could hear the spray and tickle of a shower, so, being as quiet as possible, he began searching the room for any clues.

If I was friends with the Prince, where would I hide stuff? The clan will have to accept me if I figure this one out!

He peeked under books and in drawers, revealing some overpriced jewelry that he swiftly pocketed, but, before long, the inevitable noise of the water-tap closing hit his ears like a railroad spike and a man emerged on the landing with a towel around his waist. For a moment, he seemed distracted by something downstairs and Ramses’ thoughts fluttered to Pee and Kenempti.

Then his nose hairs began to flutter under a faint odour of smoke.

“Oh no! P–Head!” He grunted. His pyromaniac friend had done it again.

The man made a similar realisation and dashed into the room, presumably to get to the phone, but, to his surprise, he found Ramses instead, standing there like an ornate hatstand.

“Shit!” they both yowled, Ramses in annoyance, the man in more of a panic.

He had to take care of the man somehow.

A swift tap to the jaw should knock him out, Ramses decided.

His perceptions changed as he watched the man’s eyes glaze over with an alien sheen. Rough claws sprouted from his hairy hands, then he snorted and advanced on the intruder.

“Oh brother!”

Octavius said nothing about werewolves!

Panicking, Ramses made a grab for his gun, holstered in the shoulder-sling like the cops on TV. Taking no time to aim, he fired. A spark jumped from the frame of the mirror next to the man-wolf, and then they heard a scream. The two of them looked towards the bed to see the woman, now fully awake, clasping a bloody, and slightly deflated, £12,000 silicon-pumped-up chest.

The ooze sluiced onto the covers and mixed with the blood creating a lake of Mississippi mud. Similarly, her screams mixed with wails and choking sobs.

Seeing only blurred shapes through the tears and the pain, the unfortunate bullet catcher hid under the bed.

The man-wolf made a point of wincing at the atrocity before diving at Ramses.

The claws dug a small hole in his shoulders, effectively pinning the vampire to the floor. Ramses cried out, but, pulling himself together, he cracked a knee into his assailant’s groin, followed through with a head-butt.

Quickly, before the wolf-man could recover he fired his pistol again, this time plugging two holes that appeared in the wolf-man’s chest.

“Phew!” Ramses exclaimed and licked his lips. Relieved that the fight was over quickly, he knew he should not hang around for long as werewolves had a nasty habit of healing even the most fatal of injuries.

The woman, seeing her partner apparently killed by an intruder, screamed.

“It’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you… anymore!” Ramses exclaimed, realising.


“I’m a nice person really!”

“… Rrrrrrggggg….”

“I’m sorry about your husband but he was a werewolf.”

“… Ggggggghhhhh!”

And then the sound of sirens.

“Aww crap!” Ramses cried.

A quick look out the window confirmed his fears. Police cars screamed to a halt outside the house.

“If this was a movie I’d probably make some witty comment about doughnuts right now!”

Ramses cursed himself for the Americanism and then, nearly hysterical, he dived under the bed with the woman. She screamed even louder.

He also noticed that the floor was hot enough to fry bacon.

“So let’s get this straight,” he said to no one in particular, “I’m lying under a bloodstained bed, next to a woman with a burst breast…”


“Yes. Under a bed with a woman with a burst £12, 000
breast, next to a fresh corpse that could get up and kill me at any minute, in a burning building which is about to be stormed by the police!?… I can’t be here!”

So he got up, leaving the screaming woman -


- and her dead husband and hopped out onto the landing.

The flames climbed the stairs rapidly.

With a quick scan, Ramses Niblet, attractor of trouble, noticed three things: an open hatch to the loft, P–Head jumping through the landing’s window (followed by a subsequent ‘oof’) and a cat that jumped out in front of Ramses onto the landing.

“This is getting to be too much,” the cat burglar whimpered, exasperated.

In the next few moments, things became somewhat of a blur. He was aware of himself kicking the cat down the stairs and into the flames, with a perfect amount of spin, but it felt as if he were suddenly in the passenger seat of his mind and someone else was driving. However, this act of primal necessity did seem to please him enough that the distant, secondhand feeling subsided to only an arm’s length.

“Now to get out of here,” Ramses concluded, shaking his head.

Making a grab for the hatch above him, he glimpsed the menacing silhouette of a demon on the other side. It looked large, larger then any American, and long like a snake.

Could it be....?

Ramses did not even dare think it. They had been extinct for centuries, wiped out because of the threat they posed to just about every other living being.

But if it is, what is it doing here? And how did they manage to cram it into a tiny attic? And who are ‘They’? Animal cruelty would have something to say about that!

Ramses needed an escape route fast, preferably before it noticed him. He deduced that if P–Head jumped out of the window he might as well too.

So he did.

On the way down, he watched P–Head roll off a policewoman below and run out of his rapidly narrowing field of vision. The poor, unfortunate policewoman was about to have another person land on her.


Cold hands on boobies.

“Sorry!” Ramses gyrated off her and went after P–Head.

The small street was now blocked with police cars. Ramses noticed policemen both inside and out of the vehicles, but he paid them no attention.

Running round one squad car that had parked haphazardly in the middle of the road, Ramses was greeted by a second, coming the other way. With an insane chuckle, he jumped on its bonnet as it skidded round the corner. Amazingly, he managed to keep his balance, but the driver did not have such keen reactions and the car crashed into the first, throwing Ramses through the air, still laughing and now whooping, into the side of the building.

Car-surfing is not something you see everyday so the Gimp thought this deserved a cheer as Ramses ran scrambled to his pickup truck. Beyond the police cars, he could see the rest of his friends and so drove in their direction.

Suddenly, a flaming shape fell onto the front of the truck. Ramses screamed and swerved the vehicle desperately trying to shake the spectre off. The burning cat writhed, its horrid wail piercing his ears, until it finally collapsed on the bonnet.

In the panic, he almost ran the truck into Kenempti.

“Get in!” Ramses yelled, briefly hitting the brakes.

“You do not have to tell me twice,” she replied.

“Hurry up!”

“Looks like he does have to tell you twice, Caroline.” Pee smirked, following and taking all-too-long a look at her backside.

They found relative safety in the back of the pickup and braced themselves as the winds of acceleration bustled around them.

“My hair is going to be a terrible mess!” Kenempti cried.

“We’re escaping from a burning house surrounded by police and you’re worried about your looks?” P–Head exclaimed.

“A bane of being human I suppose. At least for now.”

This piqued the vampire’s curiosity. “What are you?” he screamed above the wind.

“Complicated,” she replied.

Meanwhile, Ramses struggled to keep the pickup straight as they sped between the rows of uneven houses. “That’s not the only thing!”

“What’s that?” Pee asked, their voices barely audible above the rush of wind.

“I saw something in the house, something bad!”

“WHAT’S THAT?!” Pee cried.

P-Head’s expression changed from one of subtle shock to one of liquefying terror as the words dropped. Through the corner of his eye, he had detected movement, but it had taken him time, too much time, to register what it was.

Traveling at what must have been twice the speed of Ramses’ clapped out old pickup flew the unmistakable bulk of a dragon.

P–Head shrieked and frantically started tapping Kenempti on the shoulder. When she turned to him, he could only stutter incoherent syllables.

Ramses slammed his foot down so hard on the accelerator pedal that he felt his ankle crack like dry spaghetti.

All the effort made little difference. The beast was upon them in seconds and swooped so low that its chitin armour scraped along the roof of the cab. It sounded like a million fingernails on a blackboard run through the world’s biggest amplifier. Its intensity was ear shattering. Kenempti’s screams were as whispers from the afterlife in comparison, it even made the Gimp seem mute. It dug into their brains, a cacophony of chattering crickets, but just as everyone felt their heads would burst, it stopped.

There came a second of silence, and then a dull thwack.
The dragon pulled up into the air, more graceful than any aerobatics team, but whipped its tail in the movement, catching Kenempti full in the chest.

She flew from the truck like a doll and rolled across the merciless tarmac.

“You gotta stop!” Pee screamed at Ramses. “Kenempti’s fallen off!”

“No time buddy,” Ramses muttered, desperately glancing between the rearview mirror and the road.

A troop of police cars stormed down the road in their direction. They represented a minor threat, not equipped to deal with supernaturals - the Prince’s Peacekeepers dealt with that - they probably only chased the coterie for their own pride, but the gang could not afford any delays with the dragon chasing them.

Ramses took a long look at the motionless body in the rearview mirror and watched, helpless, as it vanished around a corner.

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Comments by other Members

Lammi at 10:34 on 01 August 2006  Report this post
You're right, it is unusual! I thought it would be light humour till I got to the line about Ramses drinking the cat's blood. So gothic-horror-humour, would you say?

There are some witty lines (enjoyed the one about the definition of a cat burglar) and some striking images, but the style's rather clunky. I'd say it needs a trim, concentrating especially on speech tags, and as a general rule you're better using 'said' rather than a whole raft of synonyms - whispered, cried, screamed, yelled, announced, stated, retorted, yowled etc - unless the line really requires it.

And keep reading; see how the authors you like link their speeches and actions and scenes together so that one line flows onto another.

Dee at 19:51 on 02 August 2006  Report this post
I agree with Lammi. You’ve got the basics of a good story, but it needs more work. It’s almost there… but not quite. There’s too much exposition and too much confusing first-draft stuff. For instance:

So he got up, leaving the screaming woman -
- and her dead husband and hopped out onto the landing.
The flames climbed the stairs rapidly.

This is like reading notes. You’re telling us what’s happening, rather than narrating a story. I think this is why it hasn’t been taken up by an agent. You have the story, but you haven’t developed it. I hope that you can take my feedback in the spirit it’s given. All I can recommend at this stage is to repeat Lammi’s advice to read, read, read. Study what you're reading, and analyse why the writing works, then apply it to your own.

I realise this is going to be very dispiriting for you but, in the longrun, I hope it helps.


mrmonkey1980 at 23:49 on 19 August 2006  Report this post
Do i reply in here? Well, thanks for your comments. Must admit to my dissapointment though since its about my 4th or 5th draft and it still sounds like a 1st? I hate to sound like one of those newbies who is desperately defending their dreadful work but a lot of it is style, particularly the example pointed out by Dee. Are you at all familiar with the type of work I've presented?

Anyway, I'm sick of working on this piece for now as I have just completed a re-edit (believe it or not) so I'm going to ignore it for a few months.

Dee at 00:10 on 20 August 2006  Report this post
Are you at all familiar with the type of work I've presented?

Well, yes, actually I am.

You did say "Go on! I can take it!". Sorry if I misunderstood what you meant by that. One of the things we have to learn, if we want to develop as writers, is to take feedback and use it to… well, to develop our writing…

mrmonkey1980 at 00:18 on 20 August 2006  Report this post
Fair enough. I just asked to see if it was a conflict of styles. As coming from a straight contemporary fiction background quirky fantasy may seem all the more odd. I've taken a lot of feedback onboard and always do, which is why i put "Go on, I can take it" its just, yes the work may need it, I've just put so much into this already I can't believe it needs more! I didn't mean for anything said to come across as standoffish it's just how things often read on the internet.

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