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.
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. 13 of 36]
The night walk brought the Lord to La baleinière (the whale ship), a small tavern which stood humbly in a dark alley of the Champs Elysées, between deserted dwellings of blackened bricks and dilapidated tiled rooftops. The wooden inscription on the façade bore the carved name of the tavern and below it there was an oil painting that depicted a whale ship towing a dead whale from its stern in a stormy sea.
Next to the entrance stood a dark green plaque informing those concerned that the establishment had signed a contract with the Green Fairy. This meant, of course, that the tavern was licensed to serve absinthe, one of the few Paris taverns of that time to be granted such an authorisation as absinthe was still treated with some caution by the public mainly because of its powerful stimulant nature. Several years later, in the glorious period of Belle Epoque, the absinthe was to gain its wide popularity, especially among the artists and the intellectuals.
At the idea of the green absinthe which - accompanied by some sugar - was capable of stimulating the intelligence and generating new ideas at a frequency similar to the frequency at which a male seahorse releases thousands of its offspring from its chest, the Lord decided to spend his time in La baleinière. The Lord did not easily say no to absinthe, provided it was well-made, with the proper distillation.
Dozens of lit spermacetis provided the illumination of the tavern. The walls inside La baleinière were adorned with paintings regarding whale hunting: imposing three-masted ships with sails blown by the ocean winds, fitted with small vessels fastened to the sides, rough sailors with harpoons in their hands. In the composition of the paintings there was, of course, some hapless whale, which, wounded from the whalers' harpoons, struggled to escape in the sea.
The largest painting of La baleinière stood in the lounge, just opposite the barbench. It depicted the cutting of a huge whale on some shore and next to her the whalers (who looked as tiny as ants compared to her) had set up furnaces with cauldrons in which they burned the whale's pieces of fat to collect the cetacean oil.
The proprietor stood behind the oak bench of the bar. He was plump, with a thick black moustache on his face and he wore a stained apron. Two straps held his loose pantaloons from his shoulders. The Lord approached the bar and ordered a glass of absinthe to the proprietor.
The proprietor uttered a hasty oui monsieur and began the process of preparation: After placing a thick glass on the bench, he filled it by three-quarters with absinthe of green colour, a colour so vibrant in its texture that the glass glowed green hues under the flames of the smermacetis. He then fixed a small silver spoon on top of the glass and placed a sugar cube on the spoon which he moistened with two drops of absinthe. Approaching a lit spermaceti to the spoon, he lit the sugar cube which melted into the rest of the absinthe and then the alcohol inside the glass caught fire. The proprietor extinguished the fire with a shot glass of water and delivered the absinthe to the Lord who was watching impressed the whole ritual.
Taking the absinthe in his hand, the Lord began looking around the lounge for any vacant tables. The lounge was crowded by seafarers stocky in their builds, with hirsute chests showing off their abrasions, with their faces betraying the hardships and grimness of the sea. Through their clenched teeth that held their pipes escaped short and encrypted chats, and from these peculiar crosstalks one realised that they were all whalers. Seeing the Lord examining the lounge area, the proprietor went about to inform him in regards to the unwritten rule of the tavern.
“Monsieur, are you a whaler? Or does your business have direct or indirect interests in whaling? "
"Then, monsieur, I would advise you not to sit in the lounge amongst the gentlemen. You see this is a whalers' haunt and the gentlemen are all whalers. If you sit at a table among them, they will unjustly regard such a move as a challenge and they'll mock you. And if by any chance you attempt any reaction to their mockery, it is more likely that the absinthe they have consumed will light up their blood and they'll cause trouble. So, monsieur, I suggest - with all due respect - to sit on the bar stool to enjoy your absinthe."
The Lord heeded the proprietor's suggestion and acted accordingly. Seated on the high stool of the bar, he brought the thick glass to his lips and began to receive minuscule sips from the absinthe to detect with his taste buds the chlorophyll that gave the drink its bright green colour and which was distilled via the double maceration of leaves of absinthe. As the alcohol stung the Lord's palate with its acidity, he surrendered himself to its initial daze with bold twists of the tongue releasing the appropriate amount of saliva that would allow him a smooth tour to the domains of psychedelia. This absinthe was strong but the Lord could appreciate the philosophy of the people who produced it.
"Her name was Euphrosine. I remember it."
A figure of a woman emerged from the whalers' mob. She crossed the dense tobacco smog that prevailed in the atmosphere and approached the bar. After standing beside the Lord without looking at him, she rested the thin glass of liqueur she held in her hand on the oak bench and remained gazing at the painting above the bottle rack. The painting depicted an angry sperm whale crashing a whale ship with her tail and sailors grasped desperately with their cordages and harpoons upon her slippery gray mass. A jet of water gushing foaming from the whale's blowhole as well as its clenched denture betrayed the cetacean's rage.
The Lord could not restrain his gaze from the elegant beauty of the woman while she was staunchly studying the painting. The tawny braids of her hair defined rings in their formation. Her cheekbones were slightly exaggerated, highlighting her turquoise eyes. Her nose was subtle and discreet, as if it emerged uneasy so as not to disturb the harmonious symmetry of her face. Her lips were of the natural purple colour of the wild strawberry, and under her mouth posed the chin, idle in the ecstasy of its perfect curve. Her neck and shoulders were bare until the lace dress with the rosy embroidered azaleas covered her breasts and back.
"Yes, her name was Euphrosine. There is no doubt about it."
The absinthe was nibbling the Lord's senses like a harpist is nibbling the strings of a harp to the sound of melodies, but it was the ethereal beauty of the woman that set the Lord's mind in unprincipled orbits. Having focused his gaze for good on her shapely figure, the Lord felt the deep need to offer her a compliment. And, under the delirious influence of the absinthe, he could not think of a better way of flattery than poetry.
"Mademoiselle, would you allow this humble man hereto to dedicate a poem to you, one that is absolutely inspired by the feminine beauty that you represent so profusely?"
The woman turned and stared into his eyes. The blue-green irises of her eyes retreated hesitantly at the pupils' spontaneous dilation. The shimmering light of the spermacetis seemed to find a coveted refuge as it reclined serene upon her retinas.
“It depends, monsieur. Is the poem indecent? "
"Indecent? No, it's not indecent. It is honest, it is passionate, it could even be described as overzealous. But it's certainly not indecent. "
"Then I'm looking forward to hearing it, monsieur."
"She walks in beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies;/ And all that’s best of dark and bright/ Meet in her aspect and her eyes;/ Thus mellowed to that tender light/ Which heaven to gaudy day denies.// One shade the more, one ray the less,/ Had half impaired the nameless grace/ Which waves in every raven tress,/ Or softly lightens o’er her face;/ Where thoughts serenely sweet express,/ How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.// And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,/ So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,/ The smiles that win, the tints that glow,/ But tell of days in goodness spent,/ A mind at peace with all below,/ A heart whose love is innocent!"
A smile formed on the woman's lips. And in her smile, the cones of the rosy embroidered azaleas extended from the fibres of the dress and framed her glowing face. The absinthe, the woman's beauty and the erotic poetry had shaped a triptych of accord that raised the Lord's feelings to their superlative degree.
"Exquisite, monsieur. And if you claim that you have just conceived it by looking at my face, I shall faint from superciliousness."
"No no. Sadly, no. It's not mine. Despite my involvement with poetry, I never managed to become a poet myself. Therefore, I am condemned to recite verses of others. The poem is by Lord George Gordon Byron. "
“Byron… Does he belong to the classics? Or is he modern? "
"I see ... It's truly encouraging to have such melodic lyrics come out from the mouth of an endlessly lonely man."
This last insinuation of the woman surprised the Lord. It was enough to make him reform his posture on the bar stool. Was there anything exclamatory in his expression or upon his expensive attire that evinced loneliness?
"I admit that this last hint of yours has taken me by surprise, mademoiselle. I had the impression that I was conveying the image of a very social person. It seems I was woefully wrong."
"Your eyes, monsieur, are covered by a cold hue of cyan. It is a hue so otherworldly in its delicate formation and so sad in its inaccessible hearth that it overtly betrays disillusionment, despair, frustration. Your thoughts are lonely thoughts, reflections that defiantly touch the boundaries of incoherence, and that is why they confine you more and more within yourself and sink you into feelings of gloom. Even the complexion of your face has been infected by these gloomy feelings and has completely surrendered to its deathly pallor. In fact, monsieur, you seem as a man more dead than alive."
The Lord was shaken by the impact of such a thorough psychography. He thought that his eyes at that moment - and amidst the inebriation of the absinthe - would be marked by the flaming red hue that suggested boiling desires instead of the pale blue hue that signified its presence during the experiencing of melancholy. Was the Lord melancholy? Yes he was, as he himself ascertained. But why was he melancholy? Perhaps Hamhaduke's blood was not enough after all. Maybe he needed more blood. As soon as he'd leave La Baleinière's tavern, he would no doubt search for some living rat to refresh his glands.
"I am in awe, mademoiselle, of such a detailed reading of my physiognomy, especially from a woman as attractive as you. Would I be so bold if I asked to know the name of the beautiful being that happened in my path and gave me this detailed analysis of my psyche?"
"My name, monsieur, is Adelaide."
"Adelaide ... I'll remember that name ... I ought to thank you, Adelaide. This is because your words have made me happy and now I feel less burdened by the melancholy that'd overwhelmed me. I owe you gratitude."
"Oh, but these words weren't but a small prologue, monsieur. There is so much that can be read in your face, and especially in this unusual pallor of it. But beyond all that, it is your gaze that betrays your thoughts and therefore yourself in person. Your gaze, monsieur, embraces some things with warmth and rejects others. And allow me to say that it not only rejects them, but it detests them hatefully as if they were curses."
"My dear Adelaide, you never cease to stir my curiosity and interest. What are the things you are referring to and which my eyes detest? Please tell me."
"It is many times, monsieur, that, when I stand amongst men, their conversations change subject matter and suddenly they all have the tendency to pertain to my bust, directly and indirectly. And I say this without the slightest pride because I think that other factors more important than the bust count in a woman. But it is a common quirk of men to be overwhelmed by an elegant bust and to focus their attention on precisely this trait of a woman completely ignoring her other virtues. On the contrary you systematically avoid focusing your eyes on my bust. Could this be because natural beauty deeply saddens you? And if so, is this due to some fear? To some traumatic experience perhaps?"
The Lord's eyelids flickered and then shut the eyes as if by their own accord. Yes, Adelaide was right. The Lord did in fact avoid looking at her bust. But that was not because her bust was remarkably shapely.
"Dear Adelaide ... You are absolutely right ... It is true that I avoid looking at your bust ... And that is because it is ... it is ... very ... beautiful ..."
Adelaide's blue-green eyes hardened as they mistrusted this last stumbling of the Lord. The expression on her face suddenly became wild like the sea becomes wild all of a sudden by the blow of the treacherous winds. Her gaze was now trying to violently penetrate this enigmatic aversion of the Lord and discover its deeper causes.
"You are lying, monsieur. It is not my bust that's causing you this obvious discomfiture and makes you look more and more pale in the face. It is another thing that makes you feel distress in this moment."
"I don't understand you, Adelaide ... What else ... could ... could make me ... feel distress ...?"
"What you detest, monsieur, is the little golden cross I wear on my neck. It's the look of the cross that makes you faint. Well? Am I telling the truth?"
Adelaide was telling the truth. The reason the Lord kept his gaze away from that undoubtedly beautiful bust was because she wore a fine gold chain around her neck and a small gold cross hung from the chain. Between her impressive breasts, that golden cross shone in its shape, absorbing the light of the spermacetis and plunging the lounge of La baleinière into a dolorous darkness. At least this was what the Lord felt as if from an intrinsic impulse every time his gaze encountered the small golden cross, and at every encounter his sanity fell into a nightmarish daze.
"I remember it. Yes, her name was Euphrosine."
In order to avoid the sight of the cross that relentlessly insisted on sapping all his supernatural powers, the Lord abrasively turned his gaze away from Adelaide and to La Baleinière 's lounge, focusing his attention on the whalers' talk. But the vertigo he had fallen into because of that small golden cross had now spread its tentacles in such a way that the sailors' conversations were now broken down into faint distant echoes.
"And Captain Tourmac said ..."
"Aye! Captain Tourmak! A natural born seawolf! "
"Up with the sails, lads! Heave-ho!"
"Aye! Heave-ho! Blow winds! "
"And then he took three gold ducats out of the pouch."
"A golden ducat to the one who will set eyes first on a Beluga whale," he said.”
"Aye! Beluga! "
"A golden ducat to the one who will harpoon her first," he said.”
"Aye! The harpoons are ready! "
"And a golden ducat to the one who will kill her," he said.”
"Aye! Beluga! Hunt the bitch until she's tired and dead! These are three golden ducats!"
The dizziness that haunted the Lord's thinking was now truly unbearable. It was not only the unceremonious conversations of the seafarers who had dragged him into a vortex of confusion and madness, it was also Adelaide's piercing gaze who was plotting her next questions to make him confess his secret. And that little golden cross did not stop for a moment to glaze over its venomous glare.
"Oh, the tragic irony! ... I had to find myself on the bottom of the Seine to remember her name ..."
Higher! The Lord had to raise his gaze higher, higher than the tobacco smog and the sailors' conversations, higher than Adelaide's inquisitive mood. Strenuously lifting the eyelids that fell like heavy curtains upon his eyes, the Lord remained gazing at the magnificent painting that stood on the opposite wall of the lounge and depicted the shredding of a whale. But it was such his nausea when he concentrated on the oversized scythes of the whalers by which they removed the huge pieces of the cetacean standing on wooden scaffolds, that he fell in unconsciousness and almost collapsed onto the floor. He made another desperate attempt at holding on to his mind, this time focusing his attention on the lifeless eye of the dead whale. Unfortunately, this attempt did not help. The whale's eye betrayed a violent and agonising death, and the painter had used all his craftsmanship upon the nonplussed expression of the cetacean.
"So monsieur? Will you confirm my guess? It's the little golden cross that makes you fret, isn't it?"
A slight sigh escaped the Lord's mouth as he turned his face back to Adelaide. The Lord was trying in vain to resist the rampant devastation he suffered because of the cross. His powers were now completely weakened and he was barely standing up under the paralysing effect of this small but extremely harrowing object. The words were now articulated as whispered mumbles from his lips. And the absinthe was evaporating gracelessly in his body, plunging his mind into its death throes.
"So tell me, monsieur. It's the little golden cross that causes you this fainting. Isn't it?"
"Dear Adelaide ... I haven't ... the slightest idea ... what you're talking about ... Why would ... the cross ... cause me ... fainting?"
"I know your kind, monsieur. I've encountered other gentlemen like you in the past. And they were all characterised by the same pallor on the face and the same azure hue in the eyes. So I shall ask you straightforward, monsieur, and please answer me with all sincerity. Are you a varkolak?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm asking: Are you a varkolak?"
"That's right, monsieur. Varkolak. You are a varkolak. Am I telling the truth? "
"Damn me, Adelaide, if I know what this is. What is a varkolak? "
"The varkolaks, monsieur, are the creatures of the night. It is those people who have renounced God and have pledged their souls to the Devil. And for that reason, they wander their existences at night and are doomed to view the world from the spectrum of death. The varkolaks, monsieur, are the people who have chosen to walk on the threshold of life and death forever. And they've made that choice because they were cowards, because they yielded upon looking at the dark canyons of the world. And it was precisely because they were cowards that they became easy prey to the Devil who approached them and then collected their souls as spoils. These are the varkolaks, monsieur. And you are one of them. You are a varkolak. Aren't you?"
The Lord smirked slightly. He had nothing else to do in the occasion. The cross had absorbed all his vigour, leaving the weak body now at the mercy of Adelaide and of La baleinière. So, accumulating some of the tavern's contaminated air into his lungs, the Lord only managed to say:
" Varkolak ... Now, this is a funny name indeed ...!"
Adelaide withdrew two steps back full of repugnance. Her turquoise eyes eructed sparks of intense disgust as if she felt threatened by the being standing before her, this peculiar creature under the strange name - varkolak!
"Varkolak! You are a varkolak! Varkolak! Varkolak! Varkolak!"
The seafarers' discussions were interrupted at once, and in the lounge of La baleinière there was complete silence. Funereal silence. So funereal that it seemed as if it was in desperate need of a grave. The whalers turned their rough faces towards the Lord and in their eyes one could discern nothing but surprise and hatred. Even the smog of tobacco seemed to have frozen in the atmosphere totally stopping its continuous swirls.
"You must be joking, fair daughter! What business does a varkolak have here amongst us?" asked one of the whalers, the most stout and monstrous in build.
"He's a varkolak! Look at him! He can't even look at the cross! He has pledged his soul to the Devil! He is a varkolak, I tell you!” squealed Adelaide.
"No ... No ... That's not the way things are ..." said the Lord groaning, but his expression of unbearable choking on his face as Adelaide was bringing the golden cross near him testified to the bitter truth.
"Bastard!" growled the stout whaler and, rising from the chair, approached the Lord and threw a strong blow at his jaw.
The Lord fell on the floor. Although his senses had been weakened by Adelaide's small cross, his nostrils were able to reap the smells of the whaler's hand. They were the smells of deep sea, whale blood and burnt cetacean oil. Half-unconscious as he was by the blow, he was surrounded by furious whalers whose soft spots were sufficiently disturbed at the hearing of the word varkolak. This would not seem too paradoxical if one were to consider that all of them were wearing small chains with crosses around their necks. It was obvious that the horror of the wild sea had turned them all into religious beasts ready to devour anything that posed to their perception as sacrilegious. Another whaler threw a kick at the Lord's side while a third one began searching in the inner pockets of his redingote, discovering the pouch with the golden louis.
"His pouch has thirty louis in it!"
"Aye! Let's take it! Let's take his coins and throw him into the Seine!"
"No! This is cursed money! It's the Devil's money! It will bring us disaster!"
"No! They won't hurt us! We shall take them from the Devil so that we can reinforce the work of God with them!"
'Fools! This is money made from the blood of innocent people! They will strike us like a plague if they come to our pouches! The spirits of the fallen souls will hunt down our consciences like raging Furies!"
"Silence! Only Fulbert, the proprietor, can make a fair decision on the matter! The varkolak chose to visit his own tavern and thus Fulbert becomes the victim of this affair! So let him determine what needs to be done!"
The mob of the whalers opened before the Lord as the Red Sea split into two for Moses to pass. And then, at the deep end of the passage, Fulbert, the proprietor, appeared, with his elbows resting on the bench of the bar, visibly shaken by the events. He gave a quick look at the surroundings of the seamen who nailed him with their eyes awaiting a decision on the issue that arose and then turned to the Lord.
"Is it true, monsieur? Are you a varkolak? Have you really pledged your soul to the Devil?" he asked.
"No ... No ... Things aren't exactly like that ... I'm not what you think I am ..." the Lord managed to mumble with his lower lip bloodied by the fist, and unable to react under the sight of the small crosses hanging on the whalers' necks.
"There is only one way to find out the truth." said the proprietor and, leaning under the bar, he presented a large wooden cross adorned with a bunch of garlic and he placed it on the bench. "Do me a favour, monsieur, and look at this cross. And tell me without fear and without passion that you would sacrifice your own life for Jesus."
A piercing cry of pain and agony escaped the Lord's throat at the sight of the cross, so loud that it shook the eardrums. And upon this desperate reaction of his, the wrath fired the blood of the whalers who began to beat him mercilessly. The Lord's painful appeals to stop did not manage to be heard within the anarchic uproar. But once the whalers came to their senses, they stopped the violence and turned to the proprietor to hear his decision.
"Go ahead then, Fulbert! Give us a decision! What are we to do with this scum? And what are we to do with the money he has in his pouch?"
The proprietor studied the angry expressions on the whalers' faces and then fell into meditation, twisting his thick moustache with his fingertips. He was smart enough to realise that the sailors were not only waiting for a reason to lynch the Lord, but they were also expecting a convenient verdict in regards to the thirty gold louis. If anything else, the proprietor ought to satisfy his customers on this occasion. And for this reason he turned to the Lord having in mind the mob's expectations.
"Let me tell you a story, monsieur. And with you, the story will inevitably be heard by those in attendance." he said with a dose of suppressed sympathy in his voice, and continued: "Once upon a time, monsieur, lived a man called Job. Job was a man of virtue and generosity, and for this reason God blessed him and his family with wealth and prosperity. Every Sunday God sent an angel to Job. And the angel asked Job, "Tell me, Job. Is life beautiful or ugly?" And Job always gave the same answer: " Life, Father, is beautiful, and I praise God for the wisdom with which he made the world." And God felt overjoyed for having such a faithful and dedicated subject in his kingdom. Once Devil came to visit God. And the Devil said to God, pointing at Job: "Do you really think, Almighty, that Job would praise You in this way if You did not reward him with such a happy life?" God knew that the Devil was a skilful scoundrel and that his tricks were intended only to establish his sovereignty in the world. That is why his response was straightforward and sharp: "Job is a man of faith, virtue and generosity." The Devil then counter-attacked by saying to God, "I bet, Almighty, that if you gave Job a life full of misery and sorrow, he would not be faithful to You anymore but instead he would curse You all day long.” At this remark of the Devil, God was offended. And, though He knew the Devil's devious nature, God decided to accept the bet to prove to his mischievous competitor that the faith of his subjects was steadfast and sincere. So He sent immediately a thousand tragedies and misfortunes upon Job, mishaps ruined his business, his wealth was lost forever, accidents happened to his entire family which was wiped out. And Job remained alone and with his body riddled with sicknesses. Persecuted by martyrdom and disease, ostracised by human societies because of the terrible curse that plagued him, forsaken by friends who turned away from him forever, Job found refuge in the desert, hiding in a pot, patiently waiting for death who was delaying his coming. And then God sent the angel to Job. And the angel said to Job, "Tell me, Job. Is life beautiful or ugly?” And Job raised his eyes red and tearful with confusion and anger and looked at the angel. And through his clenched teeth that foreboded unholy anathemas, he managed to respond with his soul burdened by pain: "Life, Father ... is beautiful ... and I praise God ... for the wisdom with which he made the world." And then God rejoiced with love when He realised that He had won the Devil's bet. And he gave back to Job all that He had taken away from him in order to test him. But, monsieur, the Devil wouldn't quit so easily. And he was determined to defeat God in a similar bet because he knew that human nature was profoundly weak and that Job was only a rare exception to the rule. Since then, the Devil meets God and proposes to him the same bet having previously distinguished a particular man among the crowd. And God always accepts the Devil's bet with a dose of bitterness as He knows that the Devil discerns weak people who are ready to apostatise when faced with the slightest hardship. And when, monsieur, people insist on praising God as Job did, then God rejoices in winning the Devil's bet. And of course He rewards those people for the courage they show. But there are, monsieur, and those people who are frustrated with the trials that are being imposed upon them. Those are weak, selfish and malevolent people. Those people, monsieur, not only renounce God and His miraculous works after the tribulation, but are also eager to align with the Devil by pledging their souls to him for a life of endless bliss without caring one bit about goodness and justice in the world. And then God becomes sad, monsieur. And He is sad because those people are the varkolaks. And they have been a varkolaks all their lives without knowing it, but the ordeal they have suffered has given them the coveted opportunity to pledge their souls to the Devil in order to live a life of comfort. The varkolaks, monsieur, is the worst kind of people. This is because they contaminate humanity like leprosy by transmitting the vicious doctrine which they live by. Therefore, there is no better solution in their case than to completely eliminate them. We have to rid the world of the varkolaks, monsieur. And that is what we, the people of God, have to provide for."
"Go ahead then, Fulbert! Tell us what we're going to do with this scum!” shouted the mob.
"Over there lies the cordage with the anchor tied," said the proprietor, pointing to the thick nautical rope with the heavy metal anchor that adorned a wall of the lounge. "With the cordage and anchor we shall bind the varkolak's body. And then we'll throw him to Seine to drown. It makes no sense to kill a varkolak ourselves because his soul will be sent to the Devil anyway. So let the Seine determine the fate of this shameful creature."
"And what about the money, Fulbert? What are we to do with the thirty louis he has in his pouch?” shouted the mob.
"I fully empathise with the view that this is money made from the blood of innocent people," said the proprietor. “But money is money and people are people. And money was invented solely to serve transactions between the people and to -inevitably- separate people into different social classes. Money alone does not mean anything. Money only acquires its significance when being in human possession. And only then does it have the delineation that suits it. If the man is good then the money is good too and serves the purpose of God. If the man is evil then money is evil too and it serves the Devil. So I hereby decree that the thirty louis be shared among us, the people of God, to use them in the right way and thus to justify the souls of the unfortunate innocent men. And the sharing between us shall be just and evenly since we all worship God with equal devotion."
"Aye! We're fourteen, Fulbert, and the coins are thirty! That makes two coins for each of us and two coins remain! What are we going to do with the two remaining coins?" shouted the mob.
"The two coins remaining shall go to the tavern," replied the proprietor. "And I swear to you this very moment that these two coins shall be invested to make a statue of the Crucifix of white alabaster. And this statue will stand beside the entrance of the tavern to fend any passing varkolaks off in the future and to let them know that this is a place of God and is attended by people who honour the good and the right. And let fire fall from heavens and burn me if I break this oath."
“Bravo Fulbert! You are truly an admirable judge with wisdom that Solomon himself would be jealous of! May the Almighty bless you and your descendants throughout the centuries!" cheered the mob at the proprietor.
"Oh, let the poor wisdom be and do not over-praise it," said the proprietor. "Because with too many praises, wisdom ends up being nothing but a quirk. And it is well known that quirks in humans are abundant, but the quirk of wisdom is unfortunately hard to come by. And leave my descendants alone, away from the varkolaks of this world. Because as a parent I too dreamed of a good life for my children in the service of God, free from mishaps like ours in this matter. This world needs work to become right and - I won't hide it, comrades - I am often ashamed that I am handing over to my children a world so deficient and sinful. But let's quit talking talk now. This is no time for talk. This is the time of action. So let's get rid of this vermin in the Seine to make our place clean again!"
And so did the pious devils of La baleinière. And after having mercilessly beaten the Lord, they bound him with the cordage and the anchor and threw him to the Seine. And the anchor was heavy and it dragged the poor Lord right down to the bottom of the river. And his body lied onto the sandy bottom of the Seine next to a rusty chimney and to three crabs quarrelling over which would eat first the live slimline shrimp they pulled between them. And the Lord stayed there, in his watery grave, and the slippery eels bypassed him, swaying their serpentine bodies and throwing quick glances at him.
[to be continued next Friday, 10 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.
His books are published in both English and Greek languages, by the OKYPUS PUBLISHING. https://en.okypus.com/okypus-publisher
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