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. 15 of 36]
He increasingly realised that he was unable to harness his emotions, to completely push away his grief over the unfortunate events of La baleinière. This was not one of his beautiful nights. Yes, this was too one of those bad nights where the Lord was deeply disappointed by the malice of humans, the shameful way in which people can be patronised in masses by perfidious demagogues or by hollow bigotries. It was one of those nights where he felt intense loneliness under his skin. And being so desolate and exasperated he was constantly lost in his thoughts about the bad times the devils of La baleinière had given him in his beloved Paris.
How would Marcus Aurelius put it in his Meditations? For two reasons then it is right to be content with that which happens to thee; the one, because it was done for thee and prescribed for thee, and in a manner had reference to thee, originally from the most ancient causes spun with thy destiny; and the other, because even that which comes severally to every man is to the power which administers the universe a cause of felicity and perfection, nay even of its very continuance. A charming dictum, indeed.
The Lord believed - in a way more passionate than rational - that nature was governed by a power that maintained an indisputable equilibrium within the anarchy of things, by a supreme balancing mechanism that operated with its own mystical rules of ethics in order to impose some justice upon the world's functioning. And that, even if many things in the world appear to human perception as blatantly unfair or as the outcome of unpredictable and unjustifiable chance.
The designation that the Lord had attributed to this power may not have been very different from the concept of Primum Mobile introduced by Ptolemy in reference to the outermost stirring sphere that causes circular orbits within the universe. Or the concept of Primum Movens introduced by Aristotle in wanting to describe the primary cause which -itself being still and perfect- causes all motion within the universe.
The Lord proceeded to put his thoughts in some coherence, bringing in mind the verses of Empedocles of Akragas on cosmogenesis. It was just a spontaneous ratiocination which he gave himself over to without calculating it in depth. So he began to recite the verses of Empedocles, and - paradoxically - he chose to do so by addressing the deceased Hamhaduke from whose companionship he had been disengaged only a few hours earlier.
But come, Bugs, hear my words, for truly learning causes the mind to grow. For as I said before in declaring the ends of my words: Twofold is the truth I shall speak; for at one time there grew to be the one alone out of many, and at another time it separated so that there were many out of the one; fire and water and earth and boundless height of air, and baneful Strife apart from these, balancing each of them, and Love among them, their equal in length and breadth.
Upon her do thou gaze with thy mind, nor yet sit dazed in thine eyes; for she is wont to be implanted in men's members, and through her they have thoughts of love and accomplish deeds of union, and call her by the names of Delight, and Aphrodite; no mortal man has discerned her with them (the elements) as she moves on her way. But do thou listen to the undeceiving course of my words...
For these (elements) are equal, all of them, and of like ancient race; and one holds one office, another another, and each has his own nature. . . . For nothing is added to them, nor yet does anything pass away from them;
Where many heads grew up without necks, and arms were wandering about naked, bereft of shoulders, and eyes roamed about alone with no foreheads.
But as divinity was mingled yet more with divinity, these things kept coming together in whatever way each might chance, and many others also in addition to these continually came into being.
Many creatures arose with double faces and double breasts, offspring of oxen with human faces, and again there sprang up children of men with oxen's heads; creatures, too, in which were mixed some parts from men and some of the nature of women, furnished with sterile members.
During his long-lasting initiation as a vampire, the Lord had learned very well that the purpose of every living being - be it human or animal or plant - was to obtain stimuli, experiences, in any way. This obtaining of stimuli served the purpose of a supreme mind. And what this supreme mind apparently sought in turn was to gather information about this immense symptom of space and time, the symptom we call the universe.
Even a scum like the deceased Hamhaduke - despite his hare-brained and ugly nature - served this supreme mind in collecting information, even if in this particular case the information would be characterised by overtly abominable acts, experiences that regarded the cruel murder of innocent men. Perhaps the consciousness of this supreme mind was not disturbed by such moral issues, it instead absorbed like a sponge any of Hamhaduke's crimes, uncomplainingly, devoid of all compassion and mercy.
Damn it! What the hell was the supreme balancing mechanism of the universe being served by a being that was irrationally vicious towards other beings, woefully lacking in spirit, ugly in nature, and with crude aesthetic, with a body poisoned by malnutrition and abuse?
And if, according to Plato, in the sensate world of matter every being isn't but the perishable imperfect reflection of an eternal archetype existing in the perfect notional world, could one claim that Hamhaduke corresponds to a perfect imperishable idea of the notional world? Is there, then, somewhere in this cosmic edifice a Hamhaduke that is perfect and gracious and virtuous? This thought made the Lord laugh out loud since Hamhaduke certainly did not possess attributes on him so redeeming as to suggest such a theory.
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs ... Why are there Βugs in this world? Thus wondered the Lord and straight away contemplated the idea of the obese corpse that would soon give way to the silent decomposition at the bottom of the Seine. His coherence was now in danger of derailing into the territories of irrationality. Order. Thoughts must be put in some order.
“During my stay in the Senterdu forest - those oneiric seven days - I quenched my thirst into a trough with water, one surrounded by barbed sowthistles. In the center of this small pond stood a white lily and around it made circles a shoal of tiny tadpoles. In that water lily I swore my love for Euphrosine every time I drank water. Exactly, Bugs. I never took Euphrosine out of my mind in Senterdu. And I was never troubled by the fact that she was infertile. If I should be charged with a crime in Euphrosine's case, it would be that the hatred that later overwhelmed me made me forget Euphrosine completely and move fully towards my avenging purpose. I was consumed by my excessive hatred for an extremely long time, enough to erase within me every trace of my love for Euphrosine. If I should be charged with a crime in Euphrosine's case, Bugs, it would be that I failed to bridle within me a human impulse as fiery as hatred. One would expect that a vampire would be above or beyond any human impulse. And yet, the heavy condemnation of the vampires is that they experience human impulses at an intensity incomprehensibly greater than experienced by common mortals. Especially those impulses that cause confusion and pain and melancholy. In regards to Euphrosine, my sin is that I did not try hard enough to transcend my human nature. I didn't try hard enough. That was my mistake."
But of course, vampires too serve the purpose of the supreme mind in gathering information about the universe. Since vampires exist, it would constitute an oxymoron to claim otherwise. In spite of their undead nature, the vampires also have experiences of their own, though these experiences have to do with the deathly dimension of the world. This is because the world seen from the vantage point of a vampire doesn't form but a caricature of life, a pompous farce whose connotative allegories collapse under the weight of incoherence and all meaning inevitably leads to macabre.
Even so, the conclusion is logically inferred that the supreme mind needs this peculiar information too, that is, the information regarding the vampires' wanderings in the gloomy valleys of death. Because that's what the world is for the vampire: gloomy mournful valleys.
Thus, the supreme mind enjoys some benefit from the vampires' existences. But what kind of benefit do the vampires get from the function of the universal machine? None of course, except perhaps the occasional pleasures of the drinking of fresh blood. Vampires suffer from a permanent heaviness upon the sternum, a knot that burdens their motionless heart. They are those beings who have managed to touch slightly the cosmic grandeur and then they were condemned to a lonely course upon earth, always gazing that grandeur from afar, always unable to touch it again. That is why their existences become empty and, as they themselves realise how futile their escapes to entertainment are, they indulge in a shameless predation of humans to satisfy their thirst for fresh blood and thus achieve the desired brief pleasure.
But there are also vampires with the wisdom of some centuries such as the Lord. Those have learned to seek the spiritual rewards in the art and in the intellect. Those have developed an appreciation for human intelligence and are therefore contend to feeding themselves only on the blood of animals if necessary. Those merely want - just like the Lord - to make their time on the world as pleasant as possible.
[to be continued next Friday, 24 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