Historical fiction novel, by Dimitris Apergis. Exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS in 36 weekly episodes, in English and Greek languages.
Synopsis: London, 1824. The boss of London's Crime Syndicate, Wilbur Barnaby, assigns two men to travel to the rebelling against the Turks country of Greece and locate the poet Lord Byron in order to obtain a gambling debt of his to the underworld. One of the two men is Welsh Bugs Hamhaduke, the so-called "neckwringer." The other is the enigmatic Lord Greywood. The two men will embark on an adventurous journey to the Greek city of Missolonghi via Paris. None of those involved, however, is aware of Lord Greywood's terrible secret: That he actually belongs to the Order of Strigoi Morti, the oldest and most dangerous generation of vampires.
Gothic Horror and History form a twisted combination in an epic vampire tale.
ISBN : 978-618-00-1549-2
PRELUDE : Guilá Naquitz (1 chapter)
PART ONE : London (4 chapters)
PART TWO : Paris (10 chapters)
PART THREE : Vampires (10 chapters)
PART FOUR : Missolonghi (10 chapters)
EPILOGUE : Los Angeles (1 chapter)
[ep. 11 of 36]
"Let me tell you my story, Bugs. After all, you have every right to know a little about the one who took your life. All the more since we've spent some time together ... Let me tell you my story. I need it so much! It's been a long time since I shared with a human being the story of my course upon the earth. Let me tell you about me.
Let me start as follows: Like humans, vampires are divided into races. I belong to the Order of Strigoi Morti. I see no reason in explaining or describing the qualities of Strigoi Morti because I shall have to speechify about the subject, and no doubt - in these difficult moments you are going through - you do not want someone to babble over your head offering you useless information. Let me just assert that - being a Strigoi Mort - I have the power to transform into different entities. I assume various forms, mainly bat, wolf, reptile forms, I even transform into a mist - green mist. The blood feeds me. I'm not invulnerable, the sun can destroy me. The sight of the cross throws me into vertigo and unconsciousness.
I was born in the year 1214. That, I would say, renders my age at about six hundred years. But I wouldn't overstate - believe me - if I claimed that this long life of mine has so far been as fleeting in the senses as your life. Even if yours is now nearing its end. I was born in a small Transylvanian pasture, a place called Viragfalu, at the foot of the Carpathians, not far from the town of Bistrica. It was a tiny village with twenty huts, all of us farmers, swineherds and sheep-farmers. The name that was fated to me for the twenty-seven years of my human life was Istvan Czonka. I was the seventh child of my family, the youngest brother to brothers and sisters.
In Viragfalu, the villagers - grateful for the few acres of fertile land offered to them by the Almighty - also built a small Christian Orthodox chapel, one of the first in Transylvania, the Temple of the Protectress Virgin Mary. It was a crude adobe structure, with a large wooden cross on top of the triangular facade. As the sun reigned behind the Carpathian Mountains in the twilight of the day, the final red sunbeams blessed the wooden cross, and then the shade of the cross lay magnificently upon the village, making all the families feel safe under the jurisdiction of the Almighty. My older brother, Christian, was ordained a priest and performed the liturgies of the Protectress Mary every Sunday as our faith dictated.
I maintain the sweetest memories from Viragfalu. The deathly gloom in which I have been wandering for centuries now has not been able to abolish the honey-sweet distillate of those twenty-seven years in the village. You wouldn't like Viragfalu, Bugs. You'd hate it. You wouldn't bear its smooth pace. Accustomed as you are to the bustle of the big cities, you would find Viragfalu tedious. It takes skill to appreciate the simple things in life. And I learned to appreciate the things that Viragfalu offered aplenty. The awkward silence of nature just before sunrise, the moist chlorophyll shimmering in the form of scattered diamonds on the cedar leafage at night, the foul smell of dung that nourished the roots of the wheat, the chants of farmers whist they ploughed the earth during the midday, the complaining oxen that dragged the moldboard, the moaning of the millstone during grinding, the heavy winters rounding us up at the lit fireplaces, the feast of spring with the great fire in the center of the village and the outrageous drinkings of red wine, the white edelweiss that sprouted in the fields in July. You wouldn't like Viragfalu, Bugs. You would hate it.
Alas - the year 1241 was destined to mark the end of my mortal life. What was I? An uneducated farmer-boy whose world was beginning and ending at Viragfalu. In the year 1241, the Golden Horde of the Mongols, led by the slaughterer of men Batu Khan - the great-grandson of the former Emperor Genghis Khan - invaded Europe with insurmountable forces and arrived in Transylvania by burning and exterminating the conquered populations. In Viragfalu, however, we lived in our own bliss, having complete blindness about the executioner approaching our small piece of land.
It was spring. It was a day on which I had an argument with my elderly father. The reason was so insignificant that I don't even recall it. Or maybe I don't wish to recall it. Or I just don't trust my memory. I could claim that our quarrel regarded the issue of my marriage but that would only be a guess. No matter what the reason was, I left my family house angry, with that particular rage prompted by the naive youth. My purpose - as it was shaped by the unstructured reasoning of the moment - was to leave Viragfalu forever and never come back.
Of course, I knew I was going nowhere. Where would I go! A whole life of twenty-seven years I had never set foot outside Viragfalu. I therefore compromised in shame with my lack of courage, and decided to stay in Senterdu - the forest that stood near Viragfalu - for a few days until I found the will to return home. The stubbornness made me spend seven whole nights amongst the tall oaks of Senterdu. I was fed with the acorns of the branches and with the bulbs I dag out from the earth, food sometimes bitter in taste but I endured it. A small trough of water quenched my thirsting.
The hours at Senterdu passed indolently as a turtle's slow crawl, especially in the perception of a young man with deficient patience as I was back then. For that reason, I took out the flute that hung from my neck with a string and I was constantly playing the only melody I knew, the melody of an old Viragfalu shepherd song called The Edelweiss of My Village. But the melody turned out to be meagre in notes, and the time - which I so persistently longed to make less monotonous - became even more immense than the vast Senterdu forest, until the repetition of the melody tired even the lifeless stones.
So I began to attempt variations of the melody by adding and removing notes here and there, both with gusto and with confidence. My only mentor in this creative excursion was my own ears and I could only rely on their own judgement to compose the musical arrangements I was aiming for - even with the dose of sweet naivety that defined me. I was practising incessantly, so much that I thought the oaks would somehow come to life and crush me with their branches.
At night I heard the howls of the wolves. It was that pack that had settled in the Senterdu forest long ago and had caused awe and wonder to the villagers of Viragfalu since it was never approaching the village and its livelihoods. This was despite the fact that it was a pack of gray wolves. A fellow villager once informed us that he had happened upon the pack one night and that the wolves' eyes were blood-red and shining. But none of us had taken this testimony as a strange phenomenon because the moonlight of the night can often create all kinds of illusions when reflected on the eyes of a beast like the gray wolf. So we let the wolves alone to their peaceful lives in the woods just as they left us alone and peaceful in our small Viragfalu.
As I heard their screams at Senterdu - I don't hide it - the fear came unto my backbone and gave me shivers. But I was too proud to go back home so soon. So I climbed onto an oak tree and arranged my light night sleeps on a sturdy branch whilst blowing in my flute the various melodies instilled by the moments' inspiration. The second night, I could hear in my ears the wolves walking under the oak. I turned my gaze down and witnessed them looking at me with their flaming red eyes. They could be thirty in number, maybe fifty, maybe a hundred, they fooled me at counting. Their gray coats were gleaming silvery reflections under the pale moonlight. They stood still. They didn't bother me, they didn't threaten to devour me. What I was reading in those fiery eyes was simply the curiosity to get to know the man who plunged Senterdu's flow into the heart of endless music. And after having their fill of my face enough with their flaming red eyes, they left just as quiet as they came.
But that wasn't to be my last mystic experience in Senterdu ...
During my seven-day stay in the woods, I ascertained - even with this frivolous and raw mind which I carried in my head - that those wolves only appeared at night. Where were they hiding during the day? I wondered. This, of course, was not particularly worrying in my reckoning as I did not risk staying on the ground for a long time whilst collecting fruits from the earth and filling my flask with water. As a result, the hours in Senterdu were anointed by the ceaseless melodies of my flute upon the oak branch, and that pastoral song from which I cast off to my musical odyssey was nothing more than a faint gleaming amongst those outbursts of new compositions. Sailing in the vast seas of spirit with my humble flute, I made another observation: The wolves ceased their nightly howls when my notes sounded in the woods. This prompted me to believe that the wolves liked my presence at Senterdu and that my music was dispelling their restless demons. Even the wandering sparrows, silenced their tweet when a new idea was burgeoning from the tubes of my flute.
The second night I found myself weaving my tunes in the company of the stars that were shining in the dark celestial dome. I was gazing at the constellation of Leo in order to stimulate my creative oestrus while at the same time I was giving quick glances at the crescent moon that shyly stood aside. The time came when my mind was clouded by the long hours of exercise and my eyelids were dropping like heavy curtains from somnolence. So I let my flute on the side and set out to get some sleep, from those rough sleeps that I was managing upon the oak branch. But before my eyes went about to fall asleep, I saw a spectacle I had never encountered in those twenty-seven years of my mortal life.
Within the blackness of the forest that the astronymphs of the night could not diminish with their distant glimmer, I saw flaming red eyes staring at me from the oak branches, countless eyes, so many that my vision consisted of none else than luminous red dots in the pitch dark of Senterdu. Once again I was overwhelmed by fear and tried to better discern those creatures whom the eyes belonged to. I saw that they were bats, a whole swarm of them, hanging upside down on the tree branches. I noticed that with the finish of my music, they began to shut their impotent eyes one after another until the forest was submerged in the normal darkness of the night. Now overwhelmed by awe, I made the decision to experiment with them and blew new tunes into my flute. And then the eyes opened, and the pitch-black Senterdu was again defined by those myriads of flaming red dots. When the music stopped, the forest darkened again.
I experimented with the bats in this way until the fatigue wore me out for good and I could not get the sleep out of my eyelids. So I allowed myself to fall asleep, even for a few minutes. But - whether I wanted it or not - I fell into a deep sleep. I may have believed at heart that these creatures of the night were now my friends and wanted to protect me from any threats. Or maybe that was what I longed to believe. And that, I would say, the conviction - but also the desire - was that made me surrender so resignedly to the mercy of lethargy. At dawn, the bats were already gone. They didn't bother me or attack me during that deep sleep. As I they did not bother me the following nights, they would rather visit me to enjoy my music.
But I could not take out of my mind that those red eyes of the bats were identical to an unnatural degree to the red eyes of the wolves. Senterdu was now appearing before me with a riddle whose solution could pose risks to my own life. But so much was my happiness for beginning this peculiar friendship with the creatures of the night that the risk of death was completely removed from my senses, and I now considered myself a member of their own kind - a creature of the night.
But this too wasn't to be my last mystic experience in Senterdu ...
On the third day, as I was collecting bulbs from the earth in daylight, I saw with the corner of my eye a white anthropomorphic apparition standing twenty feet away from me behind an oak trunk. She seemed to peek at me and always kept her presence hidden. I called her but she didn't answer or move from the trunk. Then I approached her and - as I neared her quite a bit - she began running among the trees until she vaporised and disappeared. Looking around, I discovered more white anthropomorphic apparitions - other males, other females - wandering around in the woods. From that ethereal sight of theirs - characterised by the pervasive haziness of the fog - I concluded that they were all ghosts of dead people. That was at least the conjecture I made with my mind.
I approached an apparition representing a beautiful woman with a basket in her hand. She stared at me forming a smile on her airy face. As I moved about to touch her, her smile froze and was replaced by anxiety and she withdrew away from my hand. Insisting, I stuffed my hand in the blurry texture, and then the female spectacle was dispersed into a myriad of bright photo-particles until it disappeared before me, and in its place emerged a rosebush with red blossoms and pointy thorns upon its stems. My fingers were pierced by the thorns and bled.
I looked at the blood and then I looked at Senterdu's ghosts and I wondered if those images would ever appear in the presence of another person instead of mine. Since no villager ever mentioned a testimony regarding ghosts, I realised that it was only me who had the privilege of their companionship. So apart from the companionship I was given at nights, I now enjoyed companionship during the day too. And Senterdu's nights and days were now bewitched by the sweet sanctity of a higher conception, a divine hypostasis that was until then unthinkable in my own senses.
Oh yes, I was happy! Why was I happy? There, in Senterdu's wild vegetation, I had achieved a sacred alliance with nature itself and its magic paradoxes. And this is not an achievement succeeded by many people.
Yes, I was really happy ...
On the eighth day I saw the smoke emerge in the skies. I could trace the smoke locus from where I was: The smoke came from Viragfalu. Heavy rhythmic steps echoed in the forest, and from the tremors of the earth that did not differ from an earthquake I realised that it was millions of people and horses walking together through the Borgo Pass. I approached the noise of the steps and upon reaching the Pass, I hid behind the trees and saw the Golden Horde of Batu Khan moving northwest through the gigantic Carpathian hillsides. They were countless in number, warriors with squamous iron armours and hardened leather, footmen and horsemen. The shields and swords hanging on their bodies were soiled with mud and blood. Their smoked faces buried under large crested helmets. Three warriors dragged the animals with a rope. Pigs, oxen, goats. It did not take much effort on my part to recognise that these were the animals of Viragfalu.
Hidden as I was behind the trees, I could see the man on horseback leading that multitudinous army as the head of an overlong centipede. His armour was defined by a grandeur that the rest lacked, it was adorned with red pennons of victory on the shoulders and a long fringe of ebony horsehair upon the helmet. A tufted moustache with pointed tips posed under his flat nose. He was short in stature and fat in build, difficult for one to identify him as a warrior since his figure would not allow him a wide range of movements in the case of hand-to-hand combat. Those slit eyes, however, betrayed the man's merciless nature, the conquering bulimia of an entire empire. The Mongol Empire. And I couldn't but imprint upon my memory the face of Batu Khan within the horror that overwhelmed me in regards to Viragfalu's fate.
It was that same horror that put wings on my feet and made me run furiously towards the village. And upon reaching it, the horror turned into despair as I encountered the holocaust that stood before me in the form of a swaying fire upon ashes and cinder. The tranquil life that flourished all day long in the small society of Viragfalu had now been replaced by the utter charring. Those humble huts of adobe were swallowed slowly and methodically by the wrathful flames, and the ember in the air was so dense that it burned the lungs and covered the sun transforming the day into night.
My eyes turned to the large pile of human carcasses that had been surrendered to the enormous fire. I recognised every one of Viragfalu's blackened faces. They were dead now. They were now bereft of mortal worries, and the fiery Chimera wiped out their wretched figures from the world. And it was their silent submission to the mercy of burning that made my eyes flood with tears. All of them had been slaughtered by the Mongol sword and then stacked roughly and rudely in this very pile. My family. Diana, Ildico, Rosa, Melinda, Christian, Matthias, Carol, Henrik. My plangent cries mourned their tragic loss.
My mother ... That muted presence of our home that was constantly weaving our clothes in the loom was now transformed into scattered cinders floating in the air like the silky lint-seeds of dandelion. I could smell her scent ... Mother always bore the scent of cedar to her skin. The loom was made of cedar wood and her skin was stealing the fragrance of the loom. Within that stifling smoke I managed to smell her scent ...
The fire was dying down in the temple of the Protectress Virgin Mary. And among the burnt ruins of the temple stood a solid wooden scaffold that resembled gallows. Nearby upon the fumy soil lay the bulky rope of the bell, untouched by the flames. Was it a mere irony of luck? My mind - amidst all this confusion - paired the rope with the gallows. I had to do nothing but end my life in order to follow my family to the opposite shore of death. My decision was not made so quickly. In my mind the thought of revenge gleamed angrily. Yes, I did have the strength and courage to catch up with the Golden Horde and kill Batu Khan. With a knife or even with my own hands. I'd most likely be slaughtered myself by the conqueror's sword, but revenge - even as a failed attempt - would put the situation in some rudimentary balance. But when I contemplated that the revenge - however sweet it was - would not bring my loved ones back and that it could not turn back time to prevent the evil being done, I yielded wearied by the burden of desolation. Acts had no longer a crystallised purpose and therefore acts would be in vain, acts of no value.
Looking around at the creation that was now mourning its earlier beauty, I shrivelled in disgust. Why was I disgusted? I was disgusted because I could not accept the fact that life could encompass such a cruel concept, the concept of unbearable tragedy, especially in regards to a man as good and deeply religious as I was back then. I lost my faith in God, I lost my faith in life, I lost my faith in the world. And then I saw clearly that good and evil made no sense in this barbaric place. And the revenge which I longed for so much for a few moments over the burnt Viragfalu would serve nothing but the history and the continuation of this vicious world. So I detested the creation around me and I rejected God, at the same time unleashing blasphemous curses on the temple of the Protectress Virgin Mary who did not protect her faithful subjects as she ought to. And, having made the decision to hang myself from that gallows, I pledged my soul to the Dark Forces, imputing heavy charges upon God, the creator of this incoherent Babylon.
I made a noose on the rope and then tied the rope to the gallows. Then I passed the noose around my neck. Cruel curses poured out of my mouth again, curses intended for God and all his saints. I prayed within me that there would be some fiendish power, some force opposed to the imperfect construction of the universe, and whose sole purpose would be its complete elimination so that such misery would never be again experienced upon a human consciousness.
Before I let my body fall from the rib and the noose strangle me, I noticed the gray wolves' pack approaching the burning village. I was not surprised by their visit. The pack, yes, only appeared at night but - as I mentioned before - the ember in the air had completely covered the sun, abolishing the essence of day. In addition, the smell of burnt human flesh could not escape the trained nostrils of these beasts. If you are hungry, my dear friends, now is your chance. And within these cinders you shall be served, you shall also find a body of fresh flesh. My own. Goodbye, creatures of the night. And enjoy your meal. And I fell.
As the noose was tightened round my throat, life's last shreds grafted my senses before handing me over to death. The aroma of cedar. A faint note of the flute. The soft powder of stoneground wheat. The sweet and sour taste of unripe raspberry.
A white edelweiss ...
But this wasn't to be my end ...
I woke up in the dark Senterdu of the night after a lethargy so deep that dream and reality formed an unbreakable unity. Life and death now posed as illusive metastasies in the chaos of things, though they did not exist they produced faint actions and reactions all around with no meaning. The dead leaves of the oaks lying on the ground seemed to have their own autonomy in a parallel universe that kept them alive by applying rules counterbalancing the natural flow of nature. Even the oaks themselves seemed to bear physiognomies upon their old trunks and to converse with each other through murmuring soughs. A secret gland in my head urged me not to rest upon these paradoxical visions but to detect the quintessence of the phenomena. Within me I felt power, tremendous power. And the black heart in my chest struck grand beats as it pumped the hatred into the muscular body that was given to me.
I looked around at my new brothers. My love for the new family that welcomed me into their embrace flowered effortlessly in my newly acquired intellect. I was sharing with the gray wolves that stood around me the same instinct for fresh blood. I approached a trough of water and contemplated my new appearance upon its mirror surface. I was wrapped in dense gray fur. On my face now posed the muzzle with threatening jaws and sharp canines. Two red fires for eyes. I sounded from the throat a mighty howl to celebrate this new beginning of mine, and the pack of gray wolves - my new brothers - accompanied me with howls of excitement. And Senterdu flared up in the night from the feast of the gray wolves.
I had the form of a wolf. But I was no wolf ...
With a slight blink of an eyelid, the wolves transformed into bats before me. They formed a flying circular zone around me and urged me to produce wings upon the shoulders so that I could become a bat too. I closed my eyes and let the hatred that was constantly recycled within my body set the procedures necessary and then the black wings sprouted on my back and lifted me high up. I flew along with the other bats, following their rotation until we settled on the dense foliage of the oaks and hung upside down from their branches. Looking around, that reminiscent image of the blackness characterised by myriads of red spots came back to my mind. And that, even though my eyesight was poor and I derived any stimuli based on my new sensors. A few minutes before dawn, the bats - my new brothers - left the oak branches and headed for a cave in the Carpathian mountain base, and then I flew behind them. We all remained hanged from the roof of the dark cave throughout the sunshine. My brothers then informed me that the sun had ended for me and that if I ever exposed myself to the rays of the sun, I would die.
I had the form of a bat. But I was no bat ...
I avoided Viragfalu and its environs. It was all covered by a column of green mist that started from its grounds and was rising endless into the skydome. I was overwhelmed by pain as I stared at the column from afar, an unbearable heaviness in my heart. My siblings, the wolves, refused to advise me on whether I should visit the village. The matter lied clearly upon my sole will, away from proddings or deterrences. One night, I walked away from the herd and visited Viragfalu alone. The column of green mist stood before me as an inaccessible fortress, majestic, frightening, deathly. The swirls of the green mist haunted my eyes as if they were heralding some severe punishment in the event I would violate the column. I shook the awe out of my mind and crossed the boundaries of the column. Coming now to Viragfalu, I witnessed the unceasing alternation of opposite images: The tender moments of serenity in the village were replaced by the depictions of Mongolian brutality and then back to prosperity and then back again to the flames. I inhaled deeply into my body the green mist until it all accumulated inside me. I was left naked bearing human form on the black earth of Viragfalu, and locked in my naked human palm a little of the soil that was now sprouting the shy edelweiss through the ashes.
I had the form of a man. But I was no man ...
As I returned to the pack, the wolves surrounded me with growls and informed me in regards to my ascension to the hierarchy of spirits: I was now a Strigoi Mort and as such I no longer had a place in the family of gray wolves. I was told that they had never dared to go through the green mist themselves and that those who do it are initiated in a circle of skills beyond their own as well as paying the price that corresponds to them. As a Strigoi Mort, I could transform into a human being and thus commingle with the societies of humans and feed on their blood. I was also told that the Strigoi Morti were existences omnipotent but also endlessly lonely and that one needed to have huge supplies of endurance to suffer the excruciating burden of their loneliness. The wolves told me that the Strigoi Morti were no mortals like they were but eternal and that they could never be destroyed unless exposed to the rays of the sun. The wolves told me that they were terrified of the solitary wandering in the world for centuries that would now become my destiny. They told me I had now set my own course and that I had to follow it exactly as I had set it myself. Then they bid farewell and turned away from me, regarding me now as an alien threat. I left Senterdu with my first purpose determined for this new journey in the darkness of the world.
For the next fourteen years, I travelled the earth harnessing and perfecting the supernatural powers of a Strigoi Mort. I sharpened the gift I was offered with complete dedication and acquired the mastery in my transformations as well as in the methods of obtaining fresh blood. I was fed mostly on rat blood and sometimes on human blood. My journey was not purposeless, it had a destination. After having studied my nature as a Strigoi Mort , I arrived at the Batu Khan palace, on the west bank of the Russian river Akhtuba. I transformed into green mist and visited Batu Khan in his bedroom. I gave him a death countless times more torturous than the death I gave you, Bugs. The death of the green mist is overwhelmed by horrible nightmares that tarnish the life's final shades so much that the human soul staggers in its path to the kingdom of Death and ends up lost and full of suffering.
Before Batu Khan died, I assured him that I would kill his children in the same way so that his seed would be wiped off the face of the earth forever. And so I did. A year later, I visited Batu Khan's elder son, Sartaq, as a green mist, and made him pay for his father's sins. A year later I visited his other son, Ulagchi, and executed him. And then his other son, Toqoqan. They all died a death ugly and acidulous and ridden by nightmare. And, by ending Batu Khan's bloodline, I finally achieved some peace with my haunted existence.
Ever since, I have been wandering the earth forgotten by time, being as dead as I am alive. I sail the centuries like an empty frigate is imperilled adrift upon the waves of the fathomless oceans. My presence in the world is characterised by constant transformations and fresh blood. And by the darkness of the night of course. I haven't seen the sun for six centuries now. I missed the sun, I do admit it. But I didn't lust after the sun enough to take the decision of seeing him with my existence paid as a price.
I discovered many things as a vampire in these six centuries, things I considered superior to the sun. Most important of all, I regarded the art. The art in all its forms. I fell in love with music, nourished my lascivious senses with the theatre, found my connecting link with humans through literature and poetry, through painting I awakened pleasures deep within me. Art has made me appreciate the potential of the human spirit and to look beyond the human blood that quenches my thirst. And - forgive my boastfulness- it is exactly this engagement of mine with the arts that strongly demonstrates my progress as an entity. Because I started out in this world as an uneducated farmer and I now possess the sharpness of spirit to judge and to deepen my views in regards to art and expression. Forgive my boastfulness.
I do not regret those six centuries in which I have walked the earth as a vampire. How could I …! I saw many magical things over these centuries, I witnessed great achievements, I met people whose names are indelible in the books of History. Yes, I do remember the moment when I stood before Giovanni de Dondi's Astronomical Clock and wondered for the first time about the enigmatic vastness of the universe. I was in the grounds of the Aztec Empire during its heyday, when the magnificent Temple was still erected in honour of the god Huitzilopochtli. I experienced the agonising nights of the Fall of Constantinople as the centuries-old walls of the Byzantine capital were decimated by the Ottoman canons. I drank tea with the 3rd Dalai Lama at a spring's evening in 1578 at the Drepung monastery of Tibet and convinced him to accept the invitation to the meeting with the Mongol ruler Altan Khan and later convert the entire Mongolia to Buddhism. I lived through the glorious period of the Renaissance, I met Michelangelo while he was painting the roof of the Sistine Chapel which was still unoccupied of the angelic figures, I entered Leonardo da Vinci's atelier when Mona Lisa wasn't but a half-made canvas surrounded by charts of notes. I enjoyed William Shakespeare himself portraying the Ghost in a theatrical performance of Hamlet, I held a discussion with René Descartes in person on a cold November night about soul and intellect, and whilst being drunk I had already confided to him that I was a vampire. I do not regret these six centuries. I retain in my consciousness memories that every human being would envy, even if he does not know the gloomy paths in which the vampire is called upon to meander his existence.
I transform into all kinds of creatures, I take various forms. I become a wolf, a bat, a reptile, an eel, a green mist ... I became a master in all my transformations except one. Only one transformation remains stubbornly difficult, full of formidable pitfalls, defined by high demands. And this is the transformation into a human being. Yes, the human existence is called upon to walk through rambling labyrinths and intricate pathways. As a human being, I have to encounter crossroads that present me with riddles devoid of rational resolution, but are there solely to torment the intellect. Whichever path I choose, it will not be any more correct than a path that is completely wrong. The human soul - if it wishes to be superior - is doomed to a journey interwoven with doubt, Bugs.
You will ask me reasonably: Then why do you insist on transforming into a human? I insist on transforming into a human being because I feel the need for it. I am in need of the human imperfections with all their consequences, I need simple human happiness just as I need human misery or human melancholy, I need the challenge of human existence. I need the human moments as intolerable as they may be, always hoping for the best, firmly believing in perfection. The human form hurts me, I do not hide it. But it's the human form that gives me the excitations I seek, Bugs."
[to be continued next Friday, 27 March 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]
Subscribe to the OKYPUS website to receive weekly newsletters.
A few words about the author
Dimitris Apergis was born in Larisa, Greece, in 1978. He graduated in BA (Hons) Film Studies in the UK. He lives in Greece.
Dimitris has received multiple awards for his literary work.
In 2018 he received the First Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his novel Gerard & the father. Additionally, in 2018 his novel Gerard & the father also received the First Literature Award at the 8th International Literature Contest held by E.P.O.C. (Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus) under the aegis of UNESCO.
In 2017 his novel ‘At the Whiskey County’ received the First Literature Award at the 7th International Literature Contest held by the Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus under the aegis of UNESCO.
In 2015 his novella ‘Jazz Room’ received the Second Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers.
In 2013 he received a Praise from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his short story Labyrinth
In 2012 he received the First Literature Award from the MONITOR Press for his short story Acid Rain