“God help me!” shouted the vampire as he stood looking out from his boring castle over his boring lake onto the boring village below.

“I’m so bored!”

As he strayed from his Gothic residence and went for a boring stroll around his boring little lake island underneath the same, boring old stars, he wondered how he could end it all. As he stopped to suck the blood from an unappetising little mouse, an idea began to take shape in his stale old head.

You see, the vampire (who lived somewhere in the heart of England about two centuries ago) was desperately depressed and longed for death. The prospect of living forever terrified him greatly and he wished he could die of old age like mere mortals could. He was bored of hunting, sick of killing and lonely, since his wife had been destroyed by vampire hunters a century or so back.

His problem was the same as anybody’s in his situation; he wasn’t brave enough to kill himself. He had considered wandering out at noon under a blazing hot sky and getting a lethal dose of sunlight, but he’d heard it was a slow and excruciating death. He could not bring himself to do it, rather in the same way a man finds it nigh on impossible to strangle himself.

It was while that unfortunate, umpteenth little mouse was being drained towards his doom, that the vampire formed an ingenious plan. He reckoned that if he could lose his pointed teeth, his killing faculties would be useless and he’d eventually starve to death. Feeding gave him no pleasure anymore, as humans had long since wised up to him and carried all the normal defences, so he was reduced to searching for wild animals that usually tasted lousy. He hadn’t tasted human blood for three decades.

The vampire therefore arranged for his servant to row across to the village and bring the finest dentist he could find to the castle and have him extract his pair of killing teeth. He would offer the dentist riches he had never dreamed of in exchange for the operation – like most vampires our hero was extremely wealthy – and that would be that.

One night later that week a dentist arrived at the vampire’s castle.

“Well, I must say,” he said, “this is the strangest job I’ve ever had!”

“You shall be well rewarded for it,” answered the vampire, giving him a bag of gold bullion, “there’s half in advance.” “Now if we can just get on with it,” he added tetchily.

The vampire sat down in his great oak armchair and the dentist began pulling violently at the first tooth. As you can imagine this was enormously painful two centuries ago without anaesthetic – even for a vampire. As he squirmed in his seat and tried not to scream the vampire noticed the dentist’s neck. It became more and more appealing, which may be difficult for a mortal human to understand but it’s something akin to having given up smoking only to be surrounded by the whiff of people lighting up cigarettes around you all day. The temptation was insufferable. The thought of delicious human blood was tormenting him and he was famished to boot. Instinct triumphed over depression, and up jumped the vampire, sinking his teeth into the poor man’s neck. He shortly died.

The vampire feasted with some relish until the blood was no longer warm, but within hours he felt worse than ever and terribly guilty about double-crossing the dentist. There was only one thing for it – somebody would have to put a stake through his heart while he was sleeping. A few seconds of pain and it would be all over.

The vampire’s servant went once more to the village and headed for the local inn. He explained that he needed someone to kill his master while he was sleeping, at his master’s own request, and proceeded to read a rather moving suicide note the vampire had written.

“It’s a trick!” shouted a villager.

“Look what happened to our dentist. We never saw him again!” said another.

The servant replied, “To him or her that does the deed my master offers enough gold to live comfortably for the rest of their days. Think about it.”

Eventually a young priest stepped forward said, “I’ll do it – and I don’t want the reward. Doing God’s work is reward enough for me. As far as I’m concerned your master is evil and it would be better for everyone if he were destroyed. I’m ready when you are.”

The servant and the priest arrived at the castle three hours before sunset, as the vampire slept soundly in his coffin. The priest sharpened an oak stake he’d picked up at the woodman’s and prepared to plunge it into the vampire’s heart. The problem was, he was still very young and as he placed a cross here, a sacred wafer there, a clove of garlic here, fiddled, fussed, dithered and dallied, he started to wonder whether he had the courage or even the right to commit murder – even if it was a creature of the Dark One. He procrastinated so much that eventually the sun fell and the vampire awoke, climbing sleepily and noiselessly out of his coffin.

“WHY AM I STILL ALIVE?” he bellowed. In a fit of sorrow and rage he picked up the stake and thrust it into the young man’s face, killing him instantly.

Overcome with guilt and unbearable sadness at still being alive, the vampire knelt down and wept for the first time since he’d lost his humanity over four centuries before. Tears welled up in the servant’s eyes; he’d grown extremely fond of his master by now.

A month later the vampire screwed up his resolve and decided he would try one more time to end his miserable existence. Having killed two villagers already it would be difficult to persuade a third to come freely to the castle, so the servant went about the task of finding the right person for the job very discreetly, dropping hints here and there to try and gauge potential candidates’ suitability.

Sooner than he imagined, he found a local fisherman who seemed strong and fearless.

“Stake through the heart?” said the fisherman, “No problem!” “Fifty gold bars up front and no dirty tricks.”

Handing him fifty gold bars there and then, the servant took the fisherman on the long path toward the lake. They clambered into a rowing boat and headed for the castle, moon and mist crowning the still, cold waters. When they arrived it was just after midnight. This time the vampire had rather bravely chosen to be awake, so as to make sure there was no repeat of the incident with the priest. He was by now so weary of life that he believed there was no chance he would kill the stranger before the stranger killed him. He was so low that he barely had the spirit to catch a mouse. He was so down he hardly had the energy to shout his torments; they had been crushed into a whimper.

The fisherman walked into the great hall, where the vampire was sprawled on a huge mahogany dining table.

“For pity’s sake, now you’re here, hurry up and get on with it!” was all the vampire could say. His last words were to be rude, impatient ones.

“One stake through the heart coming up right away, sir!” asserted the fisherman, striding towards the table.

The vampire screwed up his eyes and waited for the end. All of a sudden he felt a faint tapping on his rib cage and he heard the fisherman say,

“Doesn’t seem to be working, sir.”

He opened his eyes to see the fisherman trying to stab him with a raw rump steak. At first the vampire’s eyes blazed red with a fury the fisherman had never seen, making the man take a step back in fear. Then a curious thing happened. A smile started to spread slowly over the vampire’s face. The smile turned into a titter, the titter into a giggle, and the giggle into a full-blown laugh. Then the vampire threw back his head and laughed and laughed and laughed. It was the loudest laugh anyone had ever heard in England. He laughed so much that he fell off the table and staggered around the great hall. It got louder still as he began rolling about the floor uncontrollably. He boomed and he roared and he chortled and he guffawed and tears fell down his reddened cheeks. His fists banged the floor, his legs scuttled about as if he were being tickled and before long he was laughing so loudly that a chandelier fell from the ceiling, whipping and gouging the mahogany table. He laughed yet more and louder still; bits of masonry were falling and crumbling all over the hall, so the fisherman and the servant had to take cover. As the volume increased another notch the table finally split into two and all the windows cracked and shattered. Snorting and roaring, the vampire tried to pick himself up off the floor but could only flop down and laugh some more.

The truth was, the ‘steak’ through the heart was the only proper joke he’d heard in well over a century, a time during which he’d forgotten how to laugh and had rather completely mislaid his sense of humour. He had at last rediscovered his joy of life, thanks to the fisherman’s jest.

Eventually, after well over two hours of thunderous laughing which had left both mortal men practically deaf, the vampire managed to pull himself together and sat up rubbing his tear-drenched eyes. By now his castle had been reduced to little more than a pile of rubble and ruin. Then suddenly from out of the wreckage crawled the fisherman. He walked over to the vampire and said,

“Only a joke, sir. Sorry about that.”

He pulled a short wooden stake from under his overcoat and slew the vampire.