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. 12 of 36]
Pension Les Paons Fiers. Almost midnight. Hamhaduke was dead. Was he listening to Lord Greywood's story? Who cared? Certainly not the Lord. The Lord's purpose was only to confess the history of his beginnings as a vampire. He did it for himself. He did not expect, nor did he have the luxurious demand to be heard, let alone by a man of diminished intelligence such as Hamhaduke.
"There shall be no requiem mass for you, Bugs. Your funeral will be silent and concise. The Seine shall be your grave."
And so Lord Greywood acted accordingly. And after picking up Hamhaduke like a feather from the pension's room, he carried him in the night over the tiled rooftops to the Seine's banks. Arriving there, he bound him with a coarse rope and a massive stone which he collected on his way and threw him into the river from an elevated balustrade. And Hamhaduke's obese corpse hit the river with a loud splash until the stone finally pulled him to the bottom. And this vile subject vanished once and for all from human sight.
The Lord proceeded to wander along the Seine bank. The Parisian night was no longer defined but by the sough of leaves and the pale moonlight. The Lord walked striking his cane rhythmically on the ground as he used to. Reaching the medieval Pont - Neuf bridge, he stood on it and was left staring at the waters that flowed according to the tides of the deficient moon. Hamhaduke's blood gave his haunted body a purifying euphoria raising the intellect to the utmost. Oh yes, only the human blood could bring such a regeneration to a vampire. The blood of rats is merely a crude substitute.
"That's right, Bugs. I'm no human. I'm a vampire. Or at least that's the name people have given to my kind."
Despite their hard efforts, the vampires had failed to keep their presence in the world secret as they wished. The stories of folklores raged about the undead creatures of the night who drank the blood of humans, but these were mere superstitions (derived mainly from Transylvanian beliefs and myths) that no consistent mind would take seriously into account. But there were also those vampires who didn't care for secretiveness, behaving inappropriately, and they are essentially those responsible for the fact that the world eventually acquired some awareness of the existence of vampires. These uncontrolled vampires did not, of course, go unpunished. For them, there was the Diet of Cluj that made the crucial decisions.
The Diet of Cluj was based in the Guilá Naquitz Cave in Oaxaca of Mexico. In the ancient times it was based in a cave at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, within the Cluj County, which it was named after. Since, with the passage of times, in the Cluj County rapidly grew human settlements and subsequently large cities, the Diet was forced to abandon the Carpathian cave in which it founded its operations and launched a process of searching for other places, places deserted and distant. Mexico's Guilá Naquitz Cave proved to be the most appropriate base for the Diet. It was a cave with depths inaccessible to humans, with stalactites aged hundreds of thousands of years and multiple underground levels that served as vampire hermitages. These features served the secrecy of the Diet's assemblies.
The Diet of Cluj consisted of vampires in the form of bats. The high offices were occupied by the Strigoi Morti as they are the oldest and most powerful race of vampires. In the Diet took place several activities, from discussions of complaints against vampires to even court trials. In the case of a vampire being accused of conduct that was not in keeping with the privacy of the vampires and his actions ran the risk of revealing with unassailable evidence the existence of the vampires to humans, then the said vampire was facing the severe punishment of ostracism or the penalty of forced exposure to the rays of the sun. Oxymoron as it may appear, the punishment of ostracism was heavier than the forced exposure to the sun's rays. And that is because a vampire is an infinitely lonely being by nature, but it nevertheless relies -even at a minimum- on the compassion of its kind. When a vampire is sentenced to be ostracised by the society of vampires, its wandering around the world is domineered by such unbearable sorrow that not even human blood constitutes some solace since the said vampire eventually becomes a being that is resented by the only beings capable of comprehending its particular emotional variations. As a result, it has only to choose the end of its existence as a last resort and expose itself to the sun by its own volition and completely cut off from everyone.
How conventionally the author of this narrative is required to use words such as assembly and discussions in this description! And this is because these words are inevitably defined by a limited range of concepts in human perception. But if a man ever managed to invade the Diet of Cluj in the Guilá Naquitz Cave during its assemblies or discussions, he would then happen upon the sight of myriads of bats hanging from the cave's roof and would not hear but the shrill sounds of screeches and gnaws. This is of course an absurd hypothesis because if a man ever succeeded in invading the Diet during the course of its operations, he would immediately fall into the perception of the bats, and then it wouldn't be but a matter of only a few seconds until the bats attack and devour him.
"Hey! Pst! Monsieur!"
The Guilá Naquitz Cave's hermitages gave the vampires the opportunity to stay for as long as they deemed necessary. The vampires in those hermitages were in a state of heavy hibernation that could last for centuries. When Lord Greywood - about six hundred years ago - took his revenge against Batu Khan and his descendants for the loss of his family, he chose to stay in the hermitages of Guilá Naquitz in order to calm down his tormented nature. He stayed in the hermitages for fifty whole years, being in this deep lethargy, even when he sometimes flew out into the night hypnotized to feed on the blood of animals. Fifty years later, the Lord eventually found this lethargy unbearable. He decided that this practice did not suit him and that he wanted to spend his new life as a vampire amongst the advances and progresses of men. He therefore abandoned the hermitages of Guilá Naquitz in search of experiences while at the same time refining the human spirit that never ceased to be an aspect of himself.
"Hey! Pst! Monsieur! I'm talking to you! "
"What do you want?"
"What I would like, monsieur, is the pouch with the golden louis that you have in the pocket of your redingote. And I would greatly appreciate it if you gave it yourself to me nice and calm in order to avoid any unnecessary distress."
"I am very much afraid, monsieur, that at this moment this is impossible. You see, the pouch with the golden louis in the pocket of your redingote remains much too tempting a prey to let this opportunity go away so easily. In addition, I 'm holding a knife in my hand. So give me the pouch and then I'll disappear from your sight like a mirage of the desert."
"I said, get lost."
"Monsieur, I must warn you that I am a great master on the knife. If I have to make use of it, the chances of you getting out of the current situation alive are tragically null."
"If you do not get lost as I decree, I shall have to show you my evil self. And - I assure you - you shall not like my evil self one bit."
"Monsieur, I'll also have to let my knife become the judge in this situation. Before I do that, however, I wish to inform you that my intention was not to take your life but simply to rob you. But since you are not convinced by my polite conduct, I haven't but to renounce any responsibility for the tragic outcome of things."
A roar of a wild beast, a stare flaming red like the lava from an awakened volcano, and two sharp, threatening elongated fangs were evidence sufficiently convincing to make the aspiring thug run away like a scared rabbit. The Lord was again left alone to gaze upon the Seine. Then he took a stroll on the deserted streets of the city, far from the bustle of downtown. That night was much too beautiful to let it slip away without enjoying the magical aura of the southern wind. Anyway, the sun still needed a few hours until dawn.
The vampires were not spared even by the bulimic appetites of the writers who found breeding ground in the mythology of these nocturnal creatures. First and foremost was none other than writer and physician John William Polidori, a close friend of Lord Byron. In 1819, inspired by the social persona of Lord Byron, Mr. Polidori wrote the novella destined to become the beginning of a giant wave of literary excursions into the legend of the vampires. "The Vampyre" achieved enormous success as it exploited the general tendency of the reading audience of that time for the genre of Gothic Horror. Having read the novella, Lord Greywood was fortunate enough to also attend its theatrical adaptation in London 's English Opera House (afterwards Lyceum Theater).
The hero of the narrative, the vampire Lord Ruthven, did not differ much from Lord Greywood in the matter of the esteem he enjoyed in the elite circles and the bon viveur philosophy of life he embraced. Beyond that, Lord Greywood did not find many points of association with Lord Ruthven as Lord Ruthven was driven in his actions entirely by the vampire's inmost impulse for fresh human blood. Lord Greywood, on the other hand, had learned to tame this impulse and to guide it according to his will, dictated by higher moral principles. In other words, Lord Ruthven was a beast that did not care for human suffering and whose sole purpose was to quench his thirst for blood. Lord Greywood was not like that, and he knew very well that many other vampires were not like that either. As a result, Lord Greywood had only to reject Polydori's "The Vampyre" as a meretricious read aimed at popular entertainment without high demands.
Even Byron didn't manage to resist the charm of vampires. In his poem "Giaour", written in 1813, there is an excerpt that refers to vampires, even with a dose of literary license. Lord Greywood had memorised it.
But first, on earth as vampire sent,
Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
And suck the blood of all thy race;
There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
At midnight drain the stream of life;
Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
Must feed thy livid living corse:
Thy victims ere they yet expire
Shall know the demon for their sire,
As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
Thy flowers are withered on the ... -
Shots. Shots and screams. Shots and screams and thumps. They sounded from the Rue de Penthievre, which was parallel to the Rue La Boetie. Lord Greywood decided to give up his lazy stroll down the dark Rue La Boetie in order to see the cause of all this sudden commotion. He climbed like a cat on the wall of an old house with rotten shutters, and then, loping over the tiled roofs, stood on top of a dwelling's facade where he had a panoramic view of Rue de Penthievre. A squad of thirty men of the National Guard, dressed in the dark blue uniforms and with the kepis of the folded visors on their heads, fired rifleshots at a shabby and crumbling three-storey house. Their carbines' bullets devoured like deathwatches the decaying wall of the façade, causing thick plasters to unstuck and break into a thousand pieces on the ground. As the Rue de Penthievre Street lacked streetlamps, the men of the squad had lighted multiple torches around to illuminate the field of action.
"Dear gentlemen! You have committed illegal occupation of this property! In the name of the law and the king of France, I demand that you surrender! Get out of the house with your hands up! I warn you that our patience has now run out!” said the squad leader on his horse holding a bullhorn in his mouth that made his voice thunderous.
"Bread and democracy to the people!" sounded the young man's voice from the house, and then the young man, appearing through a window, threw a brick at the squad.
Focusing his gaze on the windows of the house, the Lord spotted six men, all of them young. It did not take much thought to surmise that they were students of the Universite de Paris. This was testified by their youth jackets with the oversized shoulder pads and the blue shirts of raised collars. The Lord's speculation was verified when one of the young men threw out of a window a bunch of leaflets, printed on a lithographic plate. The southern wind scattered the leaflets throughout the block and along the Rue de Penthievre. A leaflet arrived near the Lord who grabbed it with a sudden movement of the hand to read it.
REPUBLICAN STUDENTS MOVEMENT
UNIVERSITE DE PARIS - FACULTE DES LETTRES
The masks fell off. The true faces have been revealed. King Louis XVIII - forsaking his original promises of respect for the achievements of the Revolution - unveils the vicious intents of the Bourbons. His celebrated prime minister, the flouter of the people, Count de Villèle, asseverates his intention to oppress the lower classes and especially the working class. The super-conservative General Safety Law and Press Law were enforced only to cripple the workingman within his absolute and convenient silence. The working class not only lives in the complete disdain of its democratic rights, but also suffers from burdensome economic measures such as the irrational bread taxation. The ideas of the French Revolution have once again become prey of the draining aristocracy. The Monarchy of the Bourbons must fall. The French people must have a rostrum of speech. Join us for a new France. For a France that shall be ruled by the people and shall serve the people.
REVOLUTION IS THE ONLY SOLUTION
Eight squad men appeared carrying a ram made from the thick trunk of an oak. The squad leader gave the battle cry and then the eight men began to rhythmically knock the ram upon the double door of the house. The ram's thuds on the wooden door shook the entire house. As the door showed the first signs of retreat, the six young students began throwing bricks at the eight men of the National Guard. One of the bricks hit a guard on the head. The guard screamed in pain as the blood from the wound rolled over his face. Two other men in the squad undertook to carry the injured guard away from the field of action.
"Men! Load!" commanded the furious squad leader to his men with the bullhorn in his mouth. The guards began to fill their carbine barrels with gunpowder and bullets.
" Vive la France !" shouted a thin student from inside the house and scattered another bunch of leaflets in the air. Judging by the two students whom he saw clearly in the windows of the house, Lord Greywood concluded that the young men lived there by following a particularly meagre diet. The black circles around their eyes were an undeniable sign of starvation.
"Men! Aim!” said the leader through the bullhorn and the squad men turned the long carbines with their bayonets toward the house.
"Down with the Bourbon Monarchy! Power to the people!” sounded a passionate voice from inside the house.
"Men! Fire!" screamed the squad leader and the squad opened fire with the carbines to the house and deep cracks formed on the façade from the successive blasts and huge plasters collapsed on the ground.
The students hid in the interior of the house in order to be secure. The seven Guardsmen who mounted the siege ram continued to strike strongly the double door until it fell down. The squad then stormed into the house, shouting imperatively at the students to surrender.
The commotion inside the house abated for a few minutes and the only voice sounding from inside was that of a squad guard barking orders to the six students. The Guard leader gave the signal and then four more men of the squad went into the house. There was a silence that lasted for a few seconds. Then the six students appeared from the crumbled door with their hands locked with iron handcuffs behind their backs. A chain was crossed in the handcuffs holding the students rounded up together and the squad men kept their long carbines pointed at them.
In view of the chained students who were now heading for the cage carriage, the squad burst into loud cheers. Four guards came out of the house carrying the students' lithographic printing machine. They managed with difficulty to load the bulky metal machine over a cart dragged by two horses. Under the signal of the leader, the National Guard squad along with the cage and the cart left the place, delivering the Rue de Penthievre to its desolate darkness. The cracked facade of the building now stood as a silent evidence of the conflict. Lord Greywood abandoned the Rue de Penthievre and disappeared into the night. Until his way brought him to La baleinière, a small tavern in the Champs Elysées.
[La baleinière = the whale ship]
[to be continued next Friday, 3 April 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]
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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 several 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