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. 16 of 36]
"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.” said Lord Greywood with eyes glistening from exultation. His undead spirit had now reached a state of absolute bliss that - alas! - was only temporary.
Hamhaduke had not died yet despite the enormous loss of blood. He groaned bleeding, hitting occasionally his weakened fists on the floor. In complete despair now, he brought his right hand to his neck to stop the bleeding of the two holes caused by the Lord's fangs. His body shivered with sudden jerky movements every time the idea of death approached his rationales.
"Don't fight it, Bugs. Let it happen. Let it come sweet and calm. You have lost a lot of blood. It is no good to fight it. The more you resist this death, the more excruciating it becomes." said Lord Greywood, observing with guilty pleasure the anguished efforts of Hamhaduke to keep himself alive.
Hamhaduke, disobeying the Lord's advice, began to take continuous sharp breaths to keep the air in the lungs. His bruised face was sweating more and more and his eyes goggled as if they stared at the scythe of Grim Reaper ready to reap his soul. Succeeding in turning his body face down with an awkward movement, he began to crawl on the floor moaning. His purpose was to reach the bed, and more specifically his overcoat hanging on the bed railing.
The Lord approached curious Hamhaduke's overcoat and, stuffing his hand in the inner pocket, pulled out the pistol. A smirk formed on his lips. The same old incorrigible Hamhaduke! Even at the last moment of death, his thoughts concerned murder - even for revenge.
"I'll take that, Bugs. It won't serve you anyway. I'm a vampire. That is, I'm already dead. But also alive. Undead. And as such, the bullets can't hurt me. All you'll succeed with the pistol is to create unnecessary noise." said Lord Greywood and, taking the pistol, sat on the boudoir's stool.
Hamhaduke turned his body wearied on its back. His eyelids were flickering as he glanced at the ceiling. His right hand did not let the holes upon his neck for a moment. He stubbornly refused to surrender so easily to the embrace of death. As his teeth were clenched together, Hamhaduke was taking quick breaks from his nostrils producing an unbearably annoying noise. As in his life he inspired nothing but disgust, Hamhaduke was just as disturbing in his death.
A soul was about to leave the Les Paons Fiers pension any time now. And what a soul indeed!
Studying the livid face of the wheezing Hamhaduke in the light of the lamp, the Lord had only to resort once again to the stoic reflections of Marcus Aurelius. This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material? And what its causal nature (or form)? And what is it doing in the world? And how long does it subsist?
Hamhaduke was merely the outcome of a rotten environment. His entity had been called upon since its very birth to function and survive within the very system that nourished him. If Hamhaduke had chosen a life of virtue, the system within which he evolved might have desired his elimination. Perhaps - if not certainly - Hamhaduke had been deprived of his right to be virtuous but rather he was forced by his origins to conform to the immorality that surrounded him.
And if that is indeed true, could one then suggest that Hamhaduke may be hiding deep inside him a man of virtue who was simply not given the opportunities given to other people? And if so, what kind of opportunity could Hamhaduke be given in order for some elementary justice to be administered?
The Lord once again referred to Marcus Aurelius. The nature of the universal has this work to do, to remove to that place the things which are in this, to change them, to take them away hence, and to carry them there. All things are change, yet we need not fear anything new. All things are familiar to us; but the distribution of them still remains the same.
Change ... That was the word that was bothering the Lord's mind as he sat on the boudoir stool above Hamhaduke. Perhaps Hamhaduke would eventually have some essential utility to the universal machine but would have to undergo some change in order to function properly. Perhaps - and again, perhaps - Hamhaduke was a vital cogwheel whose direction of movement had to be simply reversed in order to serve the purpose of the primordial cause. If this were true, who would be responsible for implementing the change in Hamhaduke?
"What the hell is this godawful world we both found ourselves in ...! Don't you agree, Bugs?” said the Lord, but he of course received no response from Hamhaduke. Hamhaduke remained absorbed in his continuous sharp breaths, those that still held him alive despite the catalytic loss of blood. Hamhaduke's determination even at these last moments was truly commendable. The Lord had never encountered a similar case before.
An experiment ...! This is what this godawful world needed in order to make a new start and its iron wheels to finally move on the right rails. An experiment - a strong kick to the rusty steam engines of this cosmic generator that's producing space and time - to unblock the clogged water pumps and replace the hollow structure with a new one and all humanity to become one flesh with that supreme mind that's only receiving knowledge without caring one bit about right and wrong, moral and immoral. Maybe thus would the reprobate rules eventually be overturned in this edifice, this strange symptom we call the universe.
The Lord was on the verge of a major decision, one that could determine the course of the entire world. Because even the wise and gentle of men had the right to experiment with nature in order to investigate to what extent the laws that govern it were bent. Even if in these experimentations lurk risks of incalculable detriment.
"Bugs, I am about to embark on a very risky venture, a venture that is completely against my principles and one that I could possibly regret very bitterly. But I made the decision to attempt it in order to see in propria persona the extent to which this diabolical world is spreading to and whether it improves if we transgress its boundaries. Nod if you hear these words and you understand them, Bugs. Nod because - I swear - I'm not far from changing my mind and shut your nostrils and mouth and throw your corpse at the Seine."
Amidst his persistent sharp breaths, the livid face of Hamhaduke turned to the Lord. With great effort the head nodded affirmatively twice.
"I'm going to give you a new life, Bugs. Although I would be honest if I warned you right from the start that what I am giving you is not life really but only as death it can be regarded. But a cretin like you may appreciate this death more than life itself, since you never considered the value of life in a positive light. Nod if you hear my words."
Hamhaduke's eyelids barely managed to stay open anymore. The head nodded affirmatively twice.
"Do you swear faith and allegiance to me, Bugs?"
Even Hamhaduke's breaths were now extremely difficult to handle as his forces had deserted him and his obese body was now performing the necessary functions due to the little will left in it. The head managed to nod affirmatively twice.
"Do you vow to follow my commands to the letter, Bugs, and honour me as your master and guide?"
It was obvious that death had reached for good Hamhaduke's vital tissues, and the oxygen in his lungs no longer provided any meaningful service but was mechanically and in vain performed to salvage an irreversible condition. Yes, Hamhaduke was only a few seconds before the sail to the opposite shore of death. And yet the head managed to nod affirmatively twice.
"Do you understand, Bugs, that if you break the vow of loyalty you just gave me, the punishment I shall impose upon you will be so gruesome that it will outweigh any morbid imagination of your deficient mind? Do you realise that from now on your existence will be eternally interconnected with mine and shall have as its primary purpose to obey my commands? Nod, Bugs. Nod only if you perceive the importance of my words."
That dehydrated mouth that was taking its faint breaths wide open momentarily closed its lips so as to articulate some words, and then Hamhaduke's voice came out in the form of a whisper: "I beg you ... release me ... master" And the head, once again, managed to nod affirmatively twice.
The Lord's gaze lowered under the criticality of the new developments. And in this lowering of the gaze, his eyes glowed in the seas of flaming red. There was no time to waste now, no time for meandering meditations and researches to the teachings of the great philosophers. Now was the time for action and the deeds necessary needed to be fast and accurate.
The Lord took the knife (the one that Hamhaduke had bought the day previous) and, with his left hand stretched out, he cut the veins of his wrist over the livid face of Hamhaduke. Blood began to flow from the veins and drip into thick doses in Hamhaduke's mouth, who greedily gulped the red substance into his throat. Very soon now, the haunted blood of the Lord would be operating inside Hamhaduke's body, awakening each of the glands that had succumbed to the throes of death.
When the Lord had poured enough of his blood into Hamhaduke's mouth, he brought his cut wrist to his lips and licked the wound. And then as if by some miracle the wound healed at once. He then stood on top of Hamhaduke who was still swallowing the blood in his dried larynx. The first contractions of the body came as were expected in such cases where a human being transformed into a vampire, and Hamhaduke began to flail like a fish on the floor as his body gradually accepted the new blood and his nature turned from mortal to undead.
"Remember, Bugs, that the only reason I am doing this is to give you the opportunity to atone for all the heinous crimes you committed as a human being. And woe betide you if you deviate from the purpose I set for you. Because in that case I'll take back that power with the same ease I gave it to you. And then I shall kill you. Don't ever forget that, Bugs."
O dark power ...! So let your will be done, and let this profane body finally be delivered to your relentless fermentations. Because the existence of a vampire is in line with the dictates of antimatter, and death itself now sets the course for these undead beings on the world. And if there are still aspects of Hamhaduke that resist your lethal fury, let it be clear to them that they are not given a choice hereto and that they owe now to abandon this man who was anyway crossing his life as a subject dead of spirit. Otherwise they too are in danger of becoming flamed by the demonic rage.
O dark power ...! Burn, raid, infect, annihilate these cells that until recently served the vicious whole. A second chance is offered to this human abomination and it will do well to seize it wisely. For from now on, his sole and ultimate aim will be to provide fellowship and service to Lord Greywood.
Behold! The vampire Bugs Hamhaduke!
Hamhaduke sat up on the floor with his back straight whilst the supernatural forces of the vampire were forcibly regenerating his until then dying body. And being so lacking in his perception, he could not grasp these supernatural powers but he rather stood languid in the gloomy delirium that was unravelling all around as well as inside him.
He turned his face to the Lord, and in this newly formed gaze shone the hankering of gunpowder inside hard cast iron shells, incandescent mortars that begged to explode in the touchstone pillars of the world. Hamhaduke's eyes were now changed and resembled those of a carnivorous feline: vertical black slits were the new pupils, and their irises now glowed the colour of platinum.
Hamhaduke's attention was focused on the flame of the oil lamp swaying tremulous upon its wick. In Hamhaduke's newfangled intellect, the flame formed iridescent flares that spread across the entire room and revealed the supposed secrets of the universe. And the term supposed is used so unreservedly by the author because delusions of this sort are normal in a person's thinking when he's initiated into the haunting of Strigoi Morti.
"Master! I'm almighty ...! Almighty…!”he said with a pride that made him swell like a stuffed turkey.
The Lord, under the circumstance, ought to detach Hamhaduke's concentration from the flame of the oil lamp. And this was because if he let Hamhaduke continue to look at it spellbound, it would be more likely that they would spend the rest of the night in the pension's room, and in addition Hamhaduke would completely succumb to stupefaction which constituted anyway an inborn trait of his.
"What would you say about a night walk, Bugs? There is so much I need to teach you now that I have given you this power."
"With pleasure, master!"
How blatant indeed was the difference between the vampire Hamhaduke and the Hamhaduke of the past ...! While the two men were walking along the wide open Rue de Tuileries, Hamhaduke remained silent studying his newly acquired senses that allowed him to transform with his imagination each stimulus into visions and sounds of bizarre inspirations.
The sough of acacia leaves was now broken down into musical chords harmonised with the warmth of the night, the moon and the stars of the dark sky now glowed carpets of silver leading to supernal channels. The bad habits of the past - such as the sucking of the thumb or the persistent picking of the nose or the smacking of the lips in moments of intolerable boredom - had now given their place to a Hamhaduke who looked like a timid little kid eagerly trying to learn about the world all around him.
But there came the time when Hamhaduke was overwhelmed by the unbearable melancholy that was to be expected in these early stages of the vampire, and then he remained desolate, resting his body upon the trunk of an acacia. The Lord knew what it was which plunged Hamhaduke into this unusual contemplation, and so he hastened to inform him of the existence of this black hole that stood haughty and frightening in the consciousness of a vampire.
"It's the black hole, isn't it Bugs? Like a completely shadowy moon. It is that black hole that sometimes expands unto your entire vision and then the heaviness upon the sternum becomes suffocating. Over time, you will learn to manage this black hole until you subdue it to your own benefit. For now, all you have to do is observe it coldly as it observes you. You may study it if that makes you happy. But be prepared for the possibility to be wholly swallowed by it."
"I'd just never imagined such darkness, master. I had never imagined that life may hide such gloom in its heart."
"What is it you feel looking at this black hole? Do you feel dismay? Despair? Horror? Anger? Confusion? Unhealable grief perhaps? Or is it exultation that you feel? I urge you, Bugs, to be clear and honest with me."
"I just feel awe. Yes, only as awe I would describe what I feel. Awe, because this is a gloom I had never encountered until now. But if you ask me whether I'm happy or sad at the sight of this hole then, master, I'm afraid I do not have a fair reply to give you."
"This black hole is a consequence of your human nature. Think of your human nature as an extremely jealous and revengeful woman. Now that you've abandoned her for another woman - that is, the undead nature - she's acting in retribution. Hence the black hole that is essentially her wound upon you so that you can remember her forever. What you owe to do now is to defy the pain of the wound, to transcend this human nature without ending up completely neutral from her. To do this you will need time dedicated to continuous reflections and to the cultivation of the spirit. I'll show you, Bugs. I'll show you how you can beat the black hole."
Hamhaduke's cold insensitivity - the one that made him a brutal criminal in his mortal life - proved a powerful asset in this regard. This is because most vampires in their first steps wobble under the burden of this black hole that, like a sea's maelstrom, relentlessly sucks all the sweetness of the hallucinatory conceptions and sinks them into circumspections of impasse. Yes, Hamhaduke's temperament was solid and that served the Lord.
Soon, however, the first passers-by, women in fancy hats and men in oversized collars, made their appearance on Rue de Tuileries. And then Hamhaduke's undead hypostasis turned wild, sending the intellect to oneiric places.
In Hamhaduke's eyes, people were now regarded as nothing else but mere entities of intricate blood vessels. His impulse for fresh human blood suddenly sprang to his senses, and his upper canines - for the first time - began to elongate as if of their own accord. This reaction was, of course, normal; the Lord however ought to appease the excitations of Hamhaduke in order to guide him to the true virtues of a vampire.
"Master, I thirst! I thirst for fresh human blood!"
"Calm down, Bugs. Calm temporarily within you this burning desire for human blood. Try to look beyond the blood, try to expand your range of thinking by controlling this irresistible desire for human blood. Only then will you deepen the supernatural skills you have been given and only then will you enjoy the enormous benefits of a powerful vampire."
"But, master, my whole body is burning with the need for blood. Even my canines dictate that it is my duty to quench my thirst with blood. And in particular, with human blood."
"Calm down, Bugs. I'm asking it as a favour that you exceed this temptation and focus your attention on the admirable skills you now have and which you owe to refine. Someday you will thank me for my incitement, believe me. But now turn your eyes away from the blood. The time will come when we will talk about human blood. This will happen in time."
This is always the mistake that the vampires lapse into in their first steps: They are unable to resist this sweeping thirst for fresh human blood. And for this reason they hurtle with voracity upon the human race in order to satisfy their thirst, wandering about like brainless wild beasts instead of intelligent entities, incapable and unwilling to manage the black hole that follows their rationale like a curse.
Therefore, not only do they not sharpen their spiritual abilities as they owe to, but they also endanger the secrecy of vampires, which forms an inviolable rule of their kind. When a vampire is ruthlessly engaged in human hunting then he inevitably draws unwanted attention (and publicity) upon him. And of course, anything but appreciated is such an eventuality by the Diet of Cluj which decides (with concise procedures) the ostracism or elimination of this vampire.
But, one moment! Just a moment please! Let the author of the narrative make this exhortation so imperatively in order for the continuity of the two men's night walk not to be lost. And this is because Hamhaduke suddenly discovered that the laws of gravity are not accounted for in the undead nature and that vampires have the ability to soar at any distance they wish above the ground.
"Master, look! I'm flying! Hahahaha! I can fly!” he exclaimed, and his obese mass began to hover in the air like a hot propane balloon. Passers-by at that point in the scene were thrown into an enthusiastic applause, thinking of the two men as street illusionists, of those who perform magic tricks in public. How could the unfortunates know that they actually had two vampires before them!
"Hold your horses, Bugs. Of course you can fly. You're a vampire now. Try to get used to the idea." said Lord Greywood and, with the handle of his cane, grabbed Hamhaduke's foot and brought him back to the ground. The Lord understood that it would be extremely difficult for him to teach a naturally coarse character such as Hamhaduke to be restrained in the manifestations of his emotional outbursts and to keep his vampire status secret from his surroundings. However, he could not blame him in this instance. Gravity is indeed a curse for man. Weightlessness - the ability to float in the hollow ether without an obtrusive connecting link to the earth - equals no doubt to divinity.
"But Lord, I can fly! I can fly! I bet you can't fly!" bragged Hamhaduke with naive euphoria.
"Do you really believe that I am incapable of flying?" said the Lord in an ironic tone of voice.
"Well? Can you?” said Hamhaduke.
"Allow me to counter your question with another question. Can you, Bugs, transform into different entities like I can?” said Lord Greywood.
“No… I guess not… You? Can you transform yourself? Show me then!" said Hamhaduke.
The Lord looked around and, as he saw that there were no people nearby, he transformed into a green mist before Hamhaduke's surprised eyes. He then took the form of a bat and fluttered around Hamhaduke, who was now watching in a trance. He then took the form of a python and wrapped his body around Hamhaduke's leg, making him freeze in horror at the sight of the serpent. And then the Lord returned to his original form dressed in the satin suit of Saville Row.
"Incredible! How do you do it? How do you do that, master?"
"I'll try to explain it to you as simply as I can. What I do in principle is to obtain a view of time as a sequence of successive still pictures. Then I locate the borderlines between these successive still pictures. Being a vampire, I have the ability to slip into a borderline and then I am given unlimited freedom to process the material of which I am form and to give it another form. All this is of course done in an infinitesimal amount of time."
"Master, I want to learn to transform myself too! Teach me, I beg you!"
"These are skills that a vampire develops over time, Bugs. Do you remember that I urged you earlier to look beyond the craving for human blood? I did this so that you focus your attention on the innermost parts of your new hypostasis, to survey this tremendous power which you are now endowed with, to exercise your supernatural qualities. Know thyself, Bugs. Self-knowledge is the strongest weapon for the vampire. Self-knowledge in humans is often driven by the fear of mortality, it is the unintended consequence of an instinctive reaction to the realisation of temporality and death. Vampires on the other hand, since they are not possessed by the concerns of mortality, make the usual mistake of believing that self-knowledge is a totally pointless exercise. That's a tragic mistake, Bugs. Only when a vampire fully embraces his nature can he make his way into the world as an enlightened being. And of course, he also acquires skills like the one I just showed you."
"Self-knowledge, eh? Hmm, I'll remember it, master. I shall practice in self-knowledge then! But ... how exactly can I practice in self-knowledge, master?"
“One practical method would be to start behaving to people with courtesy. Courtesy had never been an asset to your personality while you were mortal, had it now Bugs? So seize the opportunity now that you're a vampire and treat your surroundings with the same courtesy that you would like to be treated. As an English proverb says, courtesy is worth a lot and costs nothing.»
"Courtesy ... And is courtesy, master, enough for me to achieve the desired self-knowledge and to acquire the supernatural skills of a vampire?"
“With courtesy you will create the right conditions to penetrate yourself and read him. The aesthetic quality of character is a prerequisite for achieving self-knowledge. And that is because the process of self-knowledge usually proves to be painful and soul-crushing and requires descents in places that are foul-smelling and squalid. But as Marcus Aurelius would put it, dig deep within yourself, for there is a fountain of goodness ever ready to flow if you will keep digging.»
"All right then. I will apply courtesy to my character. And I hope - based on what you claim - that I too shall be able to transform myself into different entities like you someday."
"How exactly do you intend to apply courtesy to your character, Bugs? Please show me. This is a spectacle I would really die to see."
Hamhaduke looked around and his eye caught a middle-aged lady in plain clothes and a pink scarf on her head arriving from the deep end of the Rue de Tuileries. He went straight to an acacia and cut from the soil of its root an asphodel that had sprung shy into the spot, of the species Narcissus Poeticus, white with a purple corona. He ran all honeyed to the middle-aged lady and offered her the asphodel whilst speaking to her in fluent French. The woman's face blushed like a red beetroot from joy.
«Une fleur d'une beauté humble pour la plus belle femme du monde.»
«Merci beaucoup monsieur! C'est un gentil geste de la part d'un gentilhomme de classe inimitable!»
«Oh c'est juste une réaction désespérée à ma crainte pour votre présence magnifique!»
«Oh mon cher monsieur! Vous êtes si doux! Si je n'étais pas marié avec mon mari, je tomberais dans tes bras aimables et je voyagerais avec toi jusqu'au bout de la lune!»
«Vous êtes marié? Oh quel dommage pour moi! Votre mari est un homme très chanceux en effet. Mais peu importe. Je te verrai dans mes rêves ce soir et je ferai le voyage vers la lune avec toi.»
«Bonne nuit mon cher monsieur. Fais de beaux rêves. Je n'oublierai jamais la lune de ce soir. Je prierai pour toi.»
«Bonne nuit ma belle dame.»
The woman continued on her way, smelling the asphodel in a state of absolute bliss. Hamhaduke returned to Lord Greywood who was watching awestruck this brief conversation. It may be that Hamhaduke finally found the nature he needed. Perhaps some people may have to become vampires to be better.
"Well, master? How did I do?"
"The word wonderful wouldn't be enough to describe how you did, Bugs. I admit this was truly unexpected. You have my most sincere congratulations."
"Master, how the hell could I talk in fluent French to that woman? I didn't know a word of French. Does one learn French when he becomes a vampire?"
"Now that you're a vampire, Bugs, your mind is running ten times faster than normal. This is due to your self-preservation instinct which is activated to its maximum potential. In addition, your senses receive even the smallest information and analyse it over and over. You are therefore able to process the French chatter you hear on the street by passers-by and capture the French language at a tremendous rate."
"Hmmm, that means I'm smart now. Isn't that right, master?"
"You're clearly more agile than before, Bugs. But, according to Heraclitus, much learning does not teach understanding. So I advise you not to rest on the view that you are smart but to insist on keeping your doubts about your mind's quality. Self-doubt, Bugs. Many people are frightened by self-doubt but no wise man is embittered by its fruits."
The two men's walk brought them to Place du Carrousel. As they arrived at the square, Hamhaduke stared at the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel that stood majestically in front of the Tuileries Palace. In 1836 another arch was to be erected nearby, the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, which is double in size and remains one of the most famous monuments of Paris to this day.
The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was the grandiose expression of Napoleon's pride - before meeting his defeat by Duke Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 - admittedly imposing in its appearance of nineteen meters' height and twenty-two meters' width, with the eight columns of Corinthian order supporting the pediment with the elaborate anaglyphs of Napoleonic victories. However, Hamhaduke's immoderate interest did not of course lie in its historical representations or in its artistic aesthetics, as Hamhaduke had little respect for history or art. The reason why Hamhaduke stood so bewildered was because the statues of the Arch - the sculpture of Peace on the quadriga framed by two gilded angels at the top of the pediment as well as the statues of the eight soldiers of the Empire that stood on the capitals - suddenly acquired a life of their own and their bodies were now moving as if by some miracle.
The marbled soldiers descended from the arch and formed a circle around Hamhaduke with a disciplined stride. And after doing so, they began to dance with movements perfectly synchronised with each other while bowing their marble bodies at Hamhaduke. Then descended from the arch the Statue of Peace accompanied by the two gilded angels, while the four marbled chariot horses completed the dance of the soldiers standing on their two rear legs.
The soldiers, jumping, grabbed Hamhaduke by the hand and led him to the Peace, who swayingly was removing her mantle revealing her shapely body. The two gilded angels fluttered around Hamhaduke and with gentle slaps on his back urged him to dance with the naked Peace. Full of enthusiasm but also unable to believe the weird spectacle that was taking place around him, Hamhaduke caught Peace from the hips and proceeded to a princely waltz with her, with the soldiers and the horses and the angels surrounding the couple, swinging their marbled shapes. And the acacias musically veneered the whole with their cheerful sough.
"Master! This is really amazing! Hahahaha! Is this all really happening or am I just dreaming?"
"This is a great question from which you can start your reasoning, Bugs. Bear in mind Baruch Spinoza, the philosopher: He who wants to distinguish truth from falsehood must know quite well what is true and what is false. So think about it and judge for yourself. Is this all true or is this all a lie?"
"But what else can it be but a lie, master? Are statues alive? Is there a soul in marble?"
"Can you claim with such certainty that there is no life in statues when the statues themselves dance with you? Are you so shrewd that you can tell the truth from the lie so easily? And what would you reply to Michelangelo if he told you that I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free? Would you have the nerve to tell him in person that he is just dreaming?"
"But alas, master, if I were expecting an artist's explanation of reality! They are moony and their minds daydream away, in the company of fairies! I may be uneducated, but I'm not so ignorant so as not to discern the difference between reality and illusion. It happens that I have gone through some heavy drunkenness in my life and I also happen to know what an illusion due to excessive drinking is. And there is no doubt in my mind that all these statues that dance are just an illusion and nothing else."
"What I recommend you do, Bugs, is to look beyond the paradoxical partying that is happening right now all around you. Ask yourself why this power that you now possess reveals to you all these bewildering visions, trace the quintessence of all these spectacles, discover their deepest cause, do not remain on their superficial dimension. And when you do that, then think: If by an artwork the artist aspires to make a crucial intervention in reality and to mutate or distort it or direct it or even create reality in the first place, then how strange is this dance of the marbled statues? Since a work of art is the projection of an artist's idea onto the world, could ultimately all this insanity around you be the absolute truth - the truth of art - the experiencing of which is the sole privilege of the vampires and not of the common mortals? Maybe in the end art really speaks to those who have assimilated complete darkness into them."
"These are too deep-thinking concerns for my own bonce, master. For one thing, I'm sure though: No matter how many philosophical quotes you lay out, you will never be able to convince me that all this frenzy is reality and not a figment of my delusional imagination. I know what reality is, master. And the statues that dance are definitely not reality."
"Never mind, Bugs. I won't insist any more. I do not wish to challenge your intelligence any further. Just enjoy this show."
Hamhaduke continued the waltz with the naked Peace and with the angels fluttering around and with the soldiers hopping concerted in a perfect circle. Until the acacias stopped the music of their soughs, and then the statues quietly loped onto the Arch, assuming their original poses. And then, in the centre of the square, appeared a little blond girl with a red overcoat selling matches.
"Will you buy a matchbox, monsieur?" said the girl to Hamhaduke.
Upon seeing the girl, Hamhaduke discerned - under the red overcoat and through the pores of the tender skin - that heart that was pumping blood with deafening drummings. The coveted red substance flowed into the girl's entire body, and in its unending flow it relentless invited Hamhaduke to quench the thirst of the vampire. Not even that innocent girlish look could abate this orgiastic impulse.
"Go on then, Bugs. Give this poor girl some coins. It would be a sin to leave her starved for tonight. Or do you really mean to tell me that you covet the blood that flows through her veins?" said Lord Greywood.
"But, master, I feel this urge ... This overwhelming impulse that's conquering my rationale and demonstrates so passionately that I owe to quench my senses with human blood. How can I oppose my own nature so naively? Do I have the right to disregard my natural instinct with such contempt?" growled Hamhaduke anxiously at the sight of the blood that made its circles in the girl's body.
"Bugs, are you really so weak in judgment that you crave the blood of a young and innocent human being? Are you ready then to succumb to this fiery temptation by completely ignoring the fact that this girl has not harmed anyone in this world and has not yet learned life? Go on then, Bugs. Make a decision. Do you prefer to serve this thirst for blood by killing the girl or will you strive to impress me - your master and guide - with your good will? You are free to choose. Make your move, Bugs." said Lord Greywood.
Hamhaduke looked at the girl who offered him the matchbox. He slowly extended his hand to her, ready to grasp her and bury his elongated fangs into her delicate neck.
"Will you buy a matchbox, monsieur?"
However, a subconscious urge made him change his mind at the last minute. Perhaps it was the fear he felt for his mentor, Lord Greywood, who stood by with his stern look at the purpose of each movement. Hamhaduke pulled his hand back and placed it in his jacket pocket, taking out a few coins from inside. He again extended his hand to place the coins in the palm of the girl. But upon touching her, the girl disappeared before him like an apparition.
"What was it then? A ghost?"
"No Bugs, it wasn't a ghost. I just made an interference with your hallucinations, just like the interference that artists make upon reality. Just don't just ask me how I did it. This is an alternative method of hypnotism but far more complicated. You're too much of a beginner to understand it. We'll waste our time pointlessly."
"Why did you do that, master? Did you want to try me out to see if I would succumb to temptation?"
"Exactly, Bugs. It was a test. I had to submit you in this dilemma in order to clarify the limits of your strengths."
"So? How did I do?"
"You did well, Bugs. You performed your duty as a newly formed vampire. You preferred to snub the impulsive thirst for human blood rather than disappoint your mentor. You kept that vow of loyalty you gave me. You chose wisely, Bugs. "
"But master ... That thirst ... How long shall I manage to snub it?"
A rat passed running alongside the two men. With a lightning-fast move that would not be captured by human eye, Lord Greywood grabbed the rat and kept it alive in his handful before the stunned Hamhaduke. The Lord's fangs were elongated and, as they became long and sharp, they were forcibly stuffed into the rat's stomach, achieving two holes. The Lord then offered Hamhaduke the bleeding rat that was clinging to life shaking its feet nervously.
"Drink the rat's blood, Bugs. The blood of rats will calm within you the lethal thirst of the vampire. The blood of rats is sufficiently refreshing for vampires, Bugs - you will realise this in your thinking - and its taste leaves traces on the buds that are no different from the traces on human blood. Learn the blood of rats, Bugs. Learn it and get used to it. And the time will come when we shall talk about human blood too. This will happen in time. Trust me. Do you have trust in me, Bugs?"
"Fine. Now drink."
Hamhaduke took the rat in his hands and brought it in his mouth. And after doing so, he began to suck the animal's blood greedily until it was completely dry and then threw its carcass away.
“Ahaaah…! I've quenched my thirst! Now I feel better. Much better."
"Fine. And now it's time to rest, Bugs. The sun will rise any time soon. You know of course that the sun kills the vampires, don't you?"
"You mean I'll never see the sunshine again, master?"
"Exactly, Bugs. Sunrise is over for you. From now on, you will only be wandering at night. It is, unfortunately, one of the prices a vampire has to pay. Don't worry though. You'll get used to it, you'll see."
"And where shall we rest, master?"
"Come on. I will show you."
Lord Greywood led Hamhaduke to the cemetery du Calvaire, where the Montmartre Abbey stood, the place where the Lord used to sleep in the form of a bat in a small boxroom during the sunshine hours. The Cemetery du Calvaire was the oldest (and smallest) cemetery in Paris, devoid of human visits, with mausoleums of reputable families and with marbled angels adorning the tombstones.
The Lord would be transformed into a bat. Hamhaduke though? Since he was not experienced in transformations, the Lord had to find a coffin for him. So he lifted one of the tombstones of the cemetery and, dragging up the coffin that was in, he emptied it from the bones of the dead. And after he had done all this, he drew the coffin to the abbey and handed it over to Hamhaduke.
Hamhaduke cringed at the idea of sleeping in a coffin. But as he lay in it, he finally embraced his new bed and fell asleep. And then the Lord closed the coffin's lid and went into the little boxroom of the abbey in the form of a bat until the hours of sunshine pass.
The first evidence of this weird experiment of Lord Greywood's was rather positive. Hamhaduke proved extremely receptive to the Lord's catechism, displayed an unprecedented zeal for learning in regards to his new supernatural qualities, possessed the appropriate vigor of character to cope with the usual maladaptations of the initiation of vampires, and revealed traits of his psyche that were until recently completely unknown. And if his enthusiasm was sometimes lacking restraint and his pompousness was occasionally acquiring cyclopean dimensions, his disarming childishness counterbalanced all these negative parameters and showed a Hamhaduke that was likeable and charming - meaning no relation whatsoever with the Hamhaduke of the past. Yes, maybe some people need to become vampires to be better.
[to be continued next Friday, 1 May 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.