Dermot McCool was like two yards of string - youngish, thinnish, prematurely balding, and with an Adam’s apple that bobbed when he spoke. He would do anything for his friends, though, provided it was indoor work with no heavy lifting.
Now, he was looking at something that would light a fire in the hearts of his countrymen.
Something dreadful was preying on them. First had been that village in Galway - a hundred and twenty souls, all inexplicably dead, drained of blood. The corpses lead all the way here to Dublin, and folk were whispering of the work of the Devil. None had the courage, though, to do more than whisper, and to check their bolts and bars at night.
He had…investigated…and now he would tell the world - well, Dublin, to start off with - what he had found. The truth. And he knew how he would tell them. The printed word. He had decided, in this year of Our Lord 1753, to use the printed word to bring news to Dublin. News about these ghastly murders, and about those responsible; the two devils who looked like angels.
The first copy of his bulletin was in his hand now. His simple cousin Padraig had carved him the letter blocks and made a tray, or screen, where he could arrange the text. He had ink and paper - enough for two dozen copies, if he didn’t spoil any of them! Surely the coffee houses would pay to have a copy each? Today Dublin, next year, who knew? He had the very first copy in his hand. The big, bold heading read
Shall set ye freed
That was the name of his bulletin, The Truth. But should there be a ‘d’ on freed? Or was it free? Not that it mattered if he sprinkled spare letters around the screen - more for their money, really.
As he mused over the ‘d’, it was perhaps fortunate that he couldn’t hear the conversation across the street.
“Just do this for me, Angelus!”
“No buts! You’ve eaten the chambermaid in the last five hotels. Just do it!”
“No! This man is going to tell everyone about us. I refuse to be hunted throughout this miserable country.”
The man’s voice took on a cajoling tone.
“Darla, sweeting, wouldn’t it be nice to be famous, be known the world over?”
A tiny foot tapped, impatiently.
“Angelus, if you loved me, you would do this little thing.”
There was a rap at Dermot’s door, and a voice said, urgently, “Ye’re the man asking about the murders? I have bad news for ye.”
Dermot flung open the door. “What bad news?”
An iron fist grabbed him from his threshold. “Why, me!”
When the vampire was done with him, it set fire to his little house. As the flames curled around the first edition of what might have been, it looked as if it read
Shall f eed
And it had.
THE END 14 January 2004
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AUTHOR'S NOTES: Ireland’s first ever newspaper was published on 22 February 1685. But just suppose that had been a bit later. Say, in 1753 or 54 … With apologies to Terry Pratchett, from whom I have borrowed ‘The Truth’.