A monstrous child pleads for his parents not to beat and leave him in the cellar anymore. Hellish houses break your soul before you pray for death. A mad truck driver brings more than road rage to a duel for the road. A looming disease turns humanity into the undead. And a man shrinks from his world literally. These are just a few of the monstrous creations by a legendary horror master, Richard Matheson.
Richard Matheson was a screenwriter, novelist and most certainly a master of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. He worked often with Rod Serling on episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “Night Gallery”. His most famous stories, “I Am Legend”, “What Dreams May Come”, “(Bid Time Return) also known as “Somewhere In Time” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man” were made into movies. Many several times over.
Matheson’s most terrifying novel, “Hell House”, has been quoted by Marvin Kaye as “the unarguably most frightening haunted house novel in English literature”.
Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association in 1991. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2010. At the annual World Fantasy Conventions he won two judged, annual literary awards for particular works: World Fantasy Awards for Bid Time Return as the best novel of 1975 and Richard Matheson: Collected Stories as the best collection of 1989.
Matheson died just days before he was due to receive the Visionary award at the 39th Saturn Awards ceremony. As a tribute, the ceremony was dedicated to him and the award was presented posthumously. Academy President Robert Holguin said “Richard’s accomplishments will live on forever in the imaginations of everyone who read or saw his inspired and inimitable work.”
“Blood Son” was written by Richard Matheson and first published in 1951. The short story focuses on a shunned and strange boy named Jules. Jules is desperately wanting to find his place in the world…and become a vampire.
Will Jules get his heart’s desire, and become a child of the night?
By Richard Matheson
The people on the block decided definitely that Jules was crazy when they heard about his composition.
There had been suspicions for a long time.
He made people shiver with his blank stare. His coarse guttural tongue sounded unnatural in his frail body. The paleness of his skin upset many children. It seemed to hang loose around his flesh. He hated sunlight.
And his ideas were a little out of place for the people who lived on the block.
Jules wanted to be a vampire.
People declared it common knowledge that he was born on a night when winds uprooted trees. They said he was born with three teeth. They said he’d used them to fasten himself on his mother’s breast drawing blood with the milk.
They said he used to cackle and bark in his crib after dark. They said he walked at two months and sat staring at the moon whenever it shone.
Those were things that people said.
His parents were always worried about him. An only child, they noticed his flaws quickly.
They thought he was blind until the doctor told them it was just a vacuous stare. He told them that Jules, with his large head, might be a genius or an idiot. It turned out he was an idiot.
He never spoke a word until he was five. Then, one night coming up to supper, he sat down at the table and said “Death.”
His parents were torn between delight and disgust. They finally settled for a place in between the two feelings. They decided that Jules couldn’t have realized what the word meant.
But Jules did.
From that night on, he built up such a large vocabulary that everyone who knew him was astonished. He not only acquired every word spoken to him, words from signs, magazines, books; he made up his own words.
Like-nightouch. Or-killove. They were really several words that melted into each other. They said things Jules felt but couldn’t explain with other words.
He used to sit on the porch while the other children played hopscotch, stickball and other games. He sat there and stared at the sidewalk and made up words.
Until he was twelve Jules kept pretty much out of trouble.
Of course there was the time they found him undressing Olive Jones in an alley. And another time he was discovered dissecting a kitten on his bed.
But there were many years in between. Those scandals were forgotten.
In general he went through childhood merely disgusting people.
He went to school but never studied. He spent about two or three terms in each grade. The teachers all knew him by his first name. In some subjects like reading and writing he was almost brilliant.
In others he was hopeless.
One Saturday when he was twelve, Jules went to the movies. He saw Dracula.
When the show was over he walked, a throbbing nerve mass, through the little girl and boy ranks.
He went home and locked himself in the bathroom for two hours.
His parents pounded on the door and threatened but he wouldn’t come out.
Finally he unlocked the door and sat down at the supper table. He had a bandage on his thumb and a satisfied look on his face.
The morning after he went to the library. It was Sunday. He sat on the steps all day waiting for it to open. Finally he went home.
The next morning he came back instead of going to school.
He found Dracula on the shelves. He couldn’t borrow it because he wasn’t a member and to be a member he had to bring in one of his parents.
So he stuck the book down his pants and left the library and never brought it back.
He went to the park and sat down and read the book through. It was late evening before he finished.
He started at the beginning again, reading as he ran from street light to street light, all the way home.
He didn’t hear a word of the scolding he got for missing lunch and supper. He ate, went in his room and read the book to the finish. They asked him where he got the book. He said he found it. As the days passed Jules read the story over and over. He never went to school.
Late at night, when he had fallen into an exhausted slumber, his mother used to take the book into the living room and show it to her husband.
One night they noticed that Jules had underlined certain sentences with dark shaky pencil lines.
Like: “The lips were crimson with fresh blood and the stream had trickled over her chin and stained the purity of her lawn death robe.”
Or: “When the blood began to spurt out, he took my hands in one of his, holding them tight and, with the other seized my neck and pressed my mouth to the wound…”
When his mother saw this, she threw the book down the garbage chute.
In the next morning when Jules found the book missing he screamed and twisted his mother’s arm until she told him where the book was.
Then he ran down to the cellar and dug in the piles of garbage until he found the book.
Coffee grounds and egg yolk on his hands and wrists, he went to the park and read it again.
For a month he read the book avidly. Then he knew it so well he threw it away and just thought about it.
Absence notes were coming from school. His mother yelled. Jules decided to go back for a while.
He wanted to write a composition.
One day he wrote it in class. When everyone was finished writing, the teacher asked if anyone wanted to read their composition to the class.
Jules raised his hand.
The teacher was surprised. But she felt charity. She wanted to encourage him. She drew in her tiny jab of a chin and smiled.
“All right,” she said. “Pay attention children. Jules is going to read us his composition.”
Jules stood up. He was excited. The paper shook in his hands.
“My Ambition by…”
“Come to the front of the class, Jules, dear.”
Jules went to the front of the class. The teacher smiled lovingly. Jules started again.
“My Ambition by Jules Dracula.”
The smile sagged.
“When I grow up I want to be a vampire.” The teacher’s smiling lips jerked down and out. Her eyes popped wide.
“I want to live forever and get even with everybody and make all the girls vampires. I want to smell of death.”
“I want to have a foul breath that stinks of dead earth and crypts and sweet coffins.”
The teacher shuddered. Her hands twitched on her green blotter. She couldn’t believe her ears. She looked at the children. They were gaping. Some of them were giggling. But not the girls.
“I want to be all cold and have rotten flesh with stolen blood in the veins.”
“That will… hrrumph!”
The teacher cleared her throat mightily.
“That will be all Jules,” she said.
Jules talked louder and desperately. “I want to sink my terrible white teeth in my victims’ necks. I want them to…”
“Jules! Go to your seat this instant!”
“I want them to slide like razors in the flesh and into the veins,” read Jules ferociously.
The teacher jolted to her feet. Children were shivering. None of them were giggling.
“Then I want to draw my teeth out and let the blood flow easy in my mouth and run hot in my throat and…”
The teacher grabbed his arm. Jules tore away and ran to a corner. Barricaded behind a stool he yelled: “And drip off my tongue and run out my lips down my victims’ throats! I want to drink girls’ blood!”
The teacher lunged for him. She dragged him out of the corner. He clawed at her and screamed all theway to the door and the principal’s office.
“That is my ambition! That is my ambition! That is my ambition?”
It was grim.
Jules was locked in his room. The teacher and the principal sat with Jules’s parents. They were talking in sepulchral voices.
They were recounting the scene.
All along the block parents were discussing it. Most of them didn’t believe it at first. They thought their children made it up.
Then they thought what horrible children they’d raised if the children could make up such things.
So they believed it.
After that everyone watched Jules like a hawk. People avoided his touch and look. Parents pulled their children off the street when he approached. Everyone whispered tales of him.
There were more absence notes.
Jules told his mother he wasn’t going to school anymore. Nothing would change his mind. He never went again.
When a truant officer came to the apartment Jules would run over the roofs until he was far away from there.
A year wasted by.
Jules wandered the streets searching for something; he didn’t know what. He looked in alleys. He looked in garbage cans. He looked in lots. He looked on the east side and the west side and in the middle.
He couldn’t find what he wanted.
He rarely slept. He never spoke. He stared down all the time. He forgot his special words.
One day in the park, Jules strolled through the zoo.
An electric shock passed through him when he saw the vampire bat.
His eyes grew wide and his discoloured teeth shone dully in a wide smile.
From that day on, Jules went daily to the zoo and looked at the bat. He spoke to it and called it the Count. He felt in his heart it was really a man who had changed.
A rebirth of culture struck him.
He stole another book from the library. It told all about wild life.
He found the page on the vampire bat. He tore it out and threw the book away.
He learned the selection by heart.
He knew how the bat made its wound. How it lapped up the blood like a kitten drinking cream. How it walked on folded wing stalks and hind legs like a black furry spider. Why it took no nourishment but blood.
Month after month Jules stared at the bat and talked to it. It became the one comfort in his life. The one symbol of dreams come true.
One day Jules noticed that the bottom of the wire covering the cage had come loose.
He looked around, his black eyes shifting. He didn’t see anyone looking. It was a cloudy day. Not many people were there. Jules tugged at the wire. It moved a little. Then he saw a man come out of the monkey house. So he pulled back his hand and strolled away whistling a song he had just made up.
Late at night, when he was supposed to be asleep he would walk barefoot past his parents’ room. He would hear his father and mother snoring. He would hurry out, put on his shoes and run to the zoo.
Every time the watchman was not around, Jules would tug at the wiring.
He kept on pulling it loose.
When he was finished and had to run home, he pushed the wire in again. Then no one could tell.
All day Jules would stand in front of the cage and look at the Count and chuckle and tell him he’d soon be free again.
He told the Count all the things he knew. He told the Count he was going to practice climbing down walls head first.
He told the Count not to worry. He’d soon be out. Then, together, they could go all around and drink girls’ blood.
One night Jules pulled the wire out and crawled under it into the cage.
It was very dark.
He crept on his knees to the little wooden house. He listened to see if he could hear the Count squeaking.
He stuck his arm in the black doorway. He kept whispering.
He jumped when he felt a needle jab in his finger.
With a look of great pleasure on his thin face, Jules drew the fluttering hairy bat to him.
He climbed down from the cage with it and ran out of the zoo; out of the park. He ran down the silent streets.
It was getting late in the morning. Light touched the dark skies with gray. He couldn’t go home. He had to have a place.
He went down an alley and climbed over a fence. He held tight to the bat. It lapped at the dribble of blood from his finger.
He went across a yard and into a little deserted shack.
It was dark inside and damp. It was full of rubble and tin cans and soggy cardboard and excrement.
Jules made sure there was no way the bat could escape.
Then he pulled the door tight and put a stick through the metal loop.
He felt his heart beating hard and his limbs trembling. He let go of the bat. It flew to a dark corner and hung on the wood.
Jules feverishly tore off his shirt. His lips shook. He smiled a crazy smile.
He reached down into his pants pocket and took out a little pen knife he had stolen from his mother.
He opened it and ran a finger over the blade. It sliced through the flesh. With shaking fingers he jabbed at his throat. He hacked. The blood ran through his fingers.
“Count! Count!” he cried in frenzied joy. “Drink my red blood! Drink me! Drink me!”
He stumbled over the tin cans and slipped and felt for the bat. It sprang from the wood and soared across the shack and fastened itself on the other side.
Tears ran down Jules’s cheeks.
He gritted his teeth. The blood ran across his shoulders and across his thin hairless chest.
His body shook in fever. He staggered back toward the other side. He tripped and felt his side torn open on the sharp edge of a tin can.
His hands went out. They clutched the bat. He placed it against his throat. He sank on his back on the cool wet earth. He sighed.
He started to moan and clutch at his chest. His stomach heaved. The black bat on his neck silently lapped his blood.
Jules felt his life seeping away.
He thought of all the years past. The waiting. His parents. School. Dracula. Dreams. For this. This sudden glory.
Jules’s eyes flickered open.
The inside of the reeking shack swam about him.
It was hard to breathe. He opened his mouth to gasp in the air. He sucked it in. It was foul. It made him cough. His skinny body lurched on the cold ground.
Mists crept away in his brain.
One by one like drawn veils.
Suddenly his mind was filled with terrible clarity.
He felt the aching pain in his side.
He knew he was lying half naked on garbage and letting a flying bat drink his blood.
With a strangled cry, he reached up and tore away the furry throbbing bat. He flung it away from him. It came back, fanning his face with its vibrating wings.
Jules staggered to his feet.
He felt for the door. He could hardly see. He tried to stop his throat from bleeding so.
He managed to get the door open.
Then, lurching into the dark yard, he fell on his face in the long grass blades.
He tried to call out for help.
But no sounds save a bubbling mockery of words came from his lips.
He heard the fluttering wings.
Then, suddenly they were gone.
Strong fingers lifted him gently. Through dying eyes Jules saw the tall dark man whose eyes shone like rubies.
“My son,” the man said