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 -revolting against the Ottomans- country of Greece and locate the renowned 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. 24 of 36]
PART THREE : Vampires
When Hamhaduke woke up, he realised that he was lying on his back on a wooden board. The surface of the board was covered with tar that had dried up. He was unable to move his arms and legs, they were restrained by iron fetters. Thick chains held fast the fetters onto the board.
He looked at the sail that was waving on the mast above him. Then he realised what was causing him itchy eyes for so long: The enormous embroidered cross that, through the ripples of the sail, imposed its draining sight upon him. Below, the motto: CRUX EST SOLUS VIA. He had no idea what the hell that meant. He was not a vampire for such a long time so that he could be fluent in Latin.
He was naked. Not a trace of clothing on him. High above the sky was slowly gaining some light beams of violet and rose that foreshadowed the impending dawn. The sun still needed a little more time before rising.
He turned around and saw the young monk sleeping sat on the chair. He seemed completely overwhelmed by that particular lethargy that weighs on the eyelids in the early break of day. He could hardly keep his sitting posture on the chair.
"Hey!" said Hamhaduke in a barbaric tone to wake him up. "Hey! Hey, you! Wake up!"
The monk opened his eyes startled. He was about to fall off the chair. He murmured straight away some apologies to Hamhaduke and ran to alert the abbot.
"Holy Father! The patient is awake!"
Hamhaduke remained alone for a while. He did not have to employ insight of intellect to understand that he was on a boat which sailed on flowing waters. This was evidenced by the faint sounds of the river's ripples as well as by the light shakes that were being analysed to the treacherous crackles of the wooden structure.
His mind recalled the last remembrance before the darkening of vertigo. Lord Greywood, Baroness von Wasserbaum, the human embryo in the thick-crystal vessel, the poisonous blood of the Baroness, the trap set up for him and into which he plunged himself. His nerves thrived. He attempted to break the iron fetters that held him but was unable to do so. The embroidered cross of the sail constantly weakened him.
He lifted his head slightly to detect the space around him. The wale stood beyond his bare feet. Of the six nails of the wale hung the six scourges: whips with leather straps. At the edges of the straps were tied sharp metal hooks. He pouted in distress.
The hunchback monk passed above him. Even before being annoyed by his choked giggle, Hamhaduke was struck on the nostrils by the mould emanated from the hunchback's habit.
The hunchback was holding a large jar in his hands covered with hessian. The jar's lid was sealed with the hessian and with a twine tied around it. The jar was heavy, and the hunchback dumped it on the wooden bench next to Hamdaduke's board with a thud. He then looked at Hamhaduke straight in the eyes with his choked giggle, and Hamhaduke had thus the opportunity to observe the monk's awful deformity, the extremely disproportionate features that lacked any trace of symmetry in the cheerful expression of his face. In the broad smile of the hunchback shone the one and only tooth in the upper gum and the rest were either missing or rotten.
The hunchback approached Hamhaduke with secrecy as if he wanted to show him something that the rest shouldn't see. The mould struck Hamhaduke's nostrils more intensely, an odour of sour Holy Communion mixed with burnt incense. The hunchback stuffed his rough hands in the folds of his habit and took out a glass vial. He brought it close to Hamhaduke. The vial was filled with preservation liquid and a small wooden cross was submerged in it. On the cross stood a tiny figure fixed with small nails, having the pose of crucified Jesus. Hamhaduke looked at the figure closer. It was the fetus of an unborn rat.
"Ah!" exclaimed Hamhaduke horrified, making the hunchback redden from laughter.
The abbot made his appearance further away. Another monk grabbed the hunchback by the ear and dragged him to the abbot. Crying from the pain, the hunchback managed to quickly hide the vial in his tunic before encountering the abbot. The abbot gave him a loud slap in the face. The hunchback accepted the slap uncomplainingly, lowering his head.
The other monks also gathered near the abbot. They then formed a circle with each other silently joining their hooded heads in the centre.
While the monks were standing in their circle, Hamhaduke's curiosity had wholly focused on the heavy jar with the hessian that the hunchback had laid on the bench. What the hell was in the jar? The hessian was too dense in its seam to reveal some evidence.
The young monk left the circle and neared Hamhaduke. The rest of the monks were standing still with their heads joined together. From the circle, the abbot was looking askance at Hamhaduke with his good eye.
"Lord, have mercy." began the prayer the young monk whispering near Hamhaduke's ear. "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Lord Jesus Christ, listen to us. Lord, Father in heaven. Lord, Son, Redeemer of the world. Lord Holy Spirit. Holy Trinity, one God. Virgin Mary, pray for us."
The young man repeated the words quickly and in murmurs to himself. He then turned to Hamhaduke.
"My brother, receive me as your shepherd and associate me with your divine baptism. Appoint me, o my brother, as your spiritual father, and let me, o my brother, lead you to the light of heaven, away from the delusions of the evil darkness. Believe in me, o my brother, and grant me, o my brother, the blessing of the Divine Providence so that I shall join as your baptist and guide, o my brother, in this ordeal. Because it is the Divine Providence that has brought us close, o my brother, and it is the one which designates us as allies and comrades in the fight against the Devil, o my brother. Together we shall crush Lucifer, o my brother, and together we shall force him out of the far reaches of the universe. I beg you, o my brother, give me your precious affirmation. Let the yes of love be heard from your lips, o my brother." said the young monk, and with eyes full of eagerness he awaited for Hamhaduke's response.
"Take my cock and shut your mouth with it, you snotty brat. And set me free of these chains right now." squealed Hamhaduke.
"Why are you mocking me, my brother?" asked the young monk hurt. "I have done no harm to you. It is only love I offer you."
"Take your love and stuff it in your ass, you little filthy louse. And release me from the chains as I commanded you." counter-attacked Hamhaduke.
The young man lowered his gaze in frustration. He then turned to the abbot who gave quick glances from the circle.
"Holy Father! The patient refused!" said the young man.
The monks dissolved their circle and the abbot approached the young man and Hamhaduke. His cloudy glass eye remained inexpressive, but his other eye was emitting all its relentless rage to the obese vampire. It was an eye that betrayed unlimited disgust for the creatures of the night that wandered the world, an eye determined to annihilate their abhorrent societies from the face of the earth.
After looking at Hamhaduke with sufficiently malicious moods, the abbot raised his face high in the sky as if he obeyed some commands given from above. Then he lowered his gaze again to the vampire.
"So let your will be done, God." he said in a low voice, and the young monk immediately ran to the stern of the boat.
The other monks stood lined up behind the abbot. The young man brought to the abbot a massive hardcover book. The abbot opened the book in front of him, flipping its worn-out paper with spat fingers. Hamhaduke looked at the title of the book that was engraved in gold letters upon the thick cover. RITUALE ROMANUM.
The abbot reached the chapter he was looking for. De Exorcismiset Supplicationibus Quibusdam. The chapter of the exorcism ritual, officially approved by the Latin Church. The abbot handed the book to the young man to hold it before him and began the ceremony.
"Let the exorcism begin." he said, and presented from the folds of his vestments a metallic flask with holy water. "God, whose nature is ever merciful and forgiving, accept our prayer that this servant of yours, bound by the fetters of sin, may be pardoned by your loving kindness."
"Amen." exclaimed the other monks.
The abbot shook his hand and sprinkled Hamhaduke's bare flabby body with holy water. The holy water began to sizzle on the vampire and burn his flesh like vitriol. Hamhaduke surrendered to piercing cries of pain as the irritations bloated his skin.
"Holy Lord, Almighty Father" continued the abbot. "Everlasting God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who once and for all consigned that fallen and apostate tyrant to the flames of hell, who sent your only-begotten Son into the world to crush that roaring lion; hasten to our call for help and snatch from ruination and from the clutches of the noonday devil this human being made in your image and likeness. Strike terror, Lord, into the beast now laying waste your vineyard. Fill your servants with courage to fight manfully against that reprobate dragon, lest he despise those who put their trust in you, and say with Pharaoh of old: "I know not God, nor will I set Israel free." Let your mighty hand cast him out of your servant, Baglen Hamhadocke, so he may no longer hold captive this person whom it pleased you to make in your image, and to redeem through your Son; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever."
"Amen." exclaimed the other monks.
The abbot sprinkled Hamhaduke again, forming the point of the cross in the air. Hamhanduke was screaming from the burning of the holy water but also from the venomous words of the exorcism that pierced his ear drums like pointy daggers.
"You old fith! Stuff my bollocks in your mouth, you scum! I'll gouge out your eyeballs once I get off these bounds!" growled Hamhaduke, trying in vain to break his chains.
"Be silent, serpent! Your demonic sceptre has no power over this servant of God!" shouted the abbot at him, and continued. "I command you, unclean spirit, whoever you are, along with all your minions now attacking this servant of God, by the mysteries of the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the descent of the Holy Spirit, by the coming of our Lord for judgement, that you tell me by some sign your name, and the day and hour of your departure. I command you, moreover, to obey me to the letter, I who am a minister of God despite my unworthiness; nor shall you be emboldened to harm in any way this creature of God, or the bystanders, or any of their possessions."
"Amen." exclaimed the other monks.
The abbot once again sprinkled Hamhaduke's naked body with holy water causing burns to his flesh. From Hamhaduke's throat now sounded roars and barks and howls. His body was convulsing until it began to expand and lengthen dictated by wild instinct, beyond wills of mind, as if it were trying to slip away from its chains like a slimy eel.
"Fuck you! Here's my name! I'll fuck you, you old fart! I'll fuck your ass and keep fucking you all the way to hell! The devil be my witness!" seethed Hamhaduke's rogue voice from inside his mouth.
"I adjure you, ancient serpent!" the abbot continued angry. "By the judge of the living and the dead, by your Creator, by the Creator of the whole universe, by Him who has the power to consign you to hell, to depart forthwith in fear, along with your savage minions, from this servant of God, Baglen Hamhadocke, who seeks refuge in the fold of the Church. I adjure you again, not by my weakness but by the might of the Holy Spirit, to depart from this servant of God, Baglen Hamhadocke, whom almighty God has made in His image. Yield, therefore, yield not to my own person but to the minister of Christ. For it is the power of Christ that compels you, who brought you low by His cross. Tremble before that mighty arm that broke asunder the dark prison walls and led souls forth to light. May the trembling that afflicts this human frame, the fear that afflicts this image of God, descend on you. Make no resistance nor delay in departing from this man, for it has pleased Christ to dwell in man. Do not think of despising my command because you know me to be a great sinner. It is God Himself who commands you; the majestic Christ who commands you. God the Father commands you; God the Son commands you; God the Holy Spirit commands you. The mystery of the cross commands you. The faith of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints commands you. The blood of the martyrs commands you. The continence of the confessors commands you. The devout prayers of all holy men and women command you. The saving mysteries of our Christian faith command you."
"Fuck them! Fuck them all, you cocksucker! Fuck the saints and the apostles and heaven and paradise! You shall all become my whores, and I will fuck you in the furnaces of hell, you rotten cretins! I will fuck you forever and ever!" vociferated Hamhaduke amidst the pains of holy water, shaking his body lewdly hither and thither.
"Depart, then, transgressor!" the abbot continued. "Depart, seducer, full of lies and cunning, foe of virtue, persecutor of the innocent. Give place, abominable creature, give way, you monster, give way to Christ, in whom you found none of your works. For He has already stripped you of your powers and laid waste your kingdom, bound you prisoner and plundered your weapons. He has cast you forth into the outer darkness, where everlasting ruin awaits you and your abettors. To what purpose do you insolently resist? To what purpose do you brazenly refuse? For you are guilty before almighty God, whose laws you have transgressed. You are guilty before His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom you presumed to tempt, whom you dared to nail to the cross. You are guilty before the whole human race, to whom you prof erred by your enticements the poisoned cup of death."
"Murders, worms, disgust, blood, shit, rottenness, whores, sorcerers, scums, sickness, faggots, slime, stench ..." mused Hamhaduke in pain.
"Therefore, I adjure you, profligate dragon!" the abbot continued. "In the name of the spotless Lamb, who has trodden down the asp and the basilisk, and overcome the lion and the dragon, to depart from this man, to depart from the Church of God. Tremble and flee, as we call on the name of the Lord, before whom the denizens of hell cower, to whom the heavenly Virtues and Powers and Dominations are subject, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim praise with unending cries as they sing: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. The Word made flesh commands you; the Virgin's Son commands you; Jesus of Nazareth commands you, who once, when you despised His disciples, forced you to flee in shameful defeat from a man; and when He had cast you out you did not even dare, except by His leave, to enter into a herd of swine. And now as I adjure you in His name, begone from this man who is His creature. It is futile to resist His will. It is hard for you to kick against the goad. The longer you delay, the heavier your punishment shall be; for it is not men you are condemning, but rather Him who rules the living and the dead, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire."
From Hamhaduke's rutty pharynx now poured out a a torrent of shrieking profanity, some of it in Latin. It is not known from what hidden territory of consciousness Hamhaduke obtained the Latin scurrility. Being as rabid as he was, he opened his mouth wide, displaying his upper fangs that were constantly growing.
The abbot approached him, examining those sharp fangs. He presented from the folds of his habit a crucifix made of Holy Wood and rested it on Hamhaduke's forehead. The Holy Wood burned the skin, making Hamhaduke scream in fierce pain. As he removed the crucifix from the forehead, the abbot noticed the burn that had formed on the skin in the shape of the cross.
Opening Hamhaduke's mouth with his fingers, the abbot re-examined the elongated fangs. Determining that they had reached their maximum size, he made a nod, and at the spot neared the hunchback along with another stocky monk. The hunchback untied the twine in the lid of the large glass jar that stood on the bench and pulled the hessian that covered it. Lifting dazedly his head from the tyrannical curiosity, Hamhaduke saw the contents of the jar. He screamed coarsely with his all the voice that'd been left in him as he watched in horror that the jar was filled with thousands of vampires' fangs. They were whole, along with their roots.
The abbot made a second nod. The stocky monk approached Hamhaduke, holding in his muscular hand a large metallic gripper. He forced Hamhaduke's mouth open with his free fingers and clasped one of Hamhaduke's fangs with both sidepieces of the gripper. He pulled it with force and the fang was uprooted from the gum. The unutterable pain of the nerves thundered Hamhaduke's skull. The torment he had suffered so far had completely obliterated his vocal cords, to the point that his painful screams now sounded like hollow blows of no intensity. The monk repeated the same procedure with the other fang, and the nervous pain penetrated Hamhaduke's backbone like lightning. The fangs were deposited in the glass jar, along with the rest. How many hapless vampires must have been tortured at the hands of the Black Brotherhood of the Cross…!
"Therefore, I adjure you every unclean spirit!" the abbot continued. "Every spectre from hell, every satanic power, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was led into the desert after His baptism by John to vanquish you in your citadel, to cease your assaults against the creature whom He has, formed from the slime of the earth for His own honour and glory; to quail before wretched man, seeing in him the image of almighty God, rather than his state of human frailty. Yield then to God, who by His servant, Moses, cast you and your malice, in the person of Pharaoh and his army, into the depths of the sea. Yield to God, who, by the singing of holy canticles on the part of David, His faithful servant, banished you from the heart of King Saul. Yield to God, who condemned you in the person of Judas Iscariot, the traitor. For He now flails you with His divine scourges, He in whose sight you and your legions once cried out: "What have we to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Have you come to torture us before the time?" Now He is driving you back into the everlasting fire, He who at the end of time will say to the wicked: "Depart from me, you accursed, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels." For you, O evil one, and for your followers there will be worms that never die. An unquenchable fire stands ready for you and for your minions, you prince of accursed murderers, father of lechery, instigator of sacrileges, model of vileness, promoter of heresies, inventor of every obscenity."
The first sunbeams emerged from the horizon scorching Hamhaduke's naked body. He was writhing and rampaging from the unbearable pains. The burning of sunlight does not share common things with the burning of Holy Water. The sunbeams penetrate the flesh of the vampire until they reach the bones and shake off any threshold of endurance. Hamhaduke was gazing wearied at the devastating sunrise, now deprived of his murderous fangs. He knew very well that he'd soon turn into flames and ashes.
"Depart, then, impious one!" the abbot continued. "Depart, accursed one, depart with all your deceits, for God has willed that man should be His temple. Why do you still linger here? Give honour to God the Father almighty, before whom every knee must bow. Give place to the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His most precious blood for man. Give place to the Holy Spirit, who by His blessed apostle Peter openly struck you down in the person of Simon Magus; who cursed your lies in Annas and Saphira; who smote you in King Herod because he had not given honour to God; who by His apostle Paul afflicted you with the night of blindness in the magician Elyma, and by the mouth of the same apostle bade you to go out of Pythonissa, the soothsayer. Begone, now! Begone, seducer! Your place is in solitude; your abode is in the nest of serpents; get down and crawl with them. This matter brooks no delay; for see, the Lord, the ruler comes quickly, kindling fire before Him, and it will run on ahead of Him and encompass His enemies in flames. You might delude man, but God you cannot mock. It is He who casts you out, from whose sight nothing is hidden. It is He who repels you, to whose might all things are subject. It is He who expels you, He who has prepared everlasting hellfire for you and your angels, from whose mouth shall come a sharp sword, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire."
"Amen." exclaimed the other monks.
The circle of the sun was now showing its celestial fiery body from the east. Vapours were emerging from Hamhaduke as his flesh was now catching fire like flammable matter from the clean morning sunbeams. His wretched moans hardly mitigated the miserable pains of burning.
The six monks gazed at the sunrise and, in a coordinated move, rid themselves from the robes that dressed their bodies and stood naked before the sun. That was an additional surprise for Hamhaduke, a horrible surprise before his end.
He stared appalled in chilling terror the monks' backs. They were full of the striated scars of flagellation. A closer look at those scars revealed the deep ditches formed in their length by the hooks of the leather straps of the whips. A weak hoarse cry escaped Hamhaduke's throat, so distraught in its sound that it betrayed his universal disgust for everything that happened in this mad and perverted world.
"To hell! To hell with all of you!" he managed to mourn as a version of an ultimate salutation to the world.
The monks each took their own whip and knelt bowing to the rising sun. And after doing so, they began to whip their backs praying in one voice:
“My soul extols the Lord;
And my spirit leaps for joy in God my Savior.
How graciously He looked upon His lowly maid!
Oh, see, from this hour onward age after age will call me
How sublime is what He has done for me,
the Mighty One, whose name is `Holy'!
From age to age He visits those
who worship Him in reverence.
His arm achieves the mastery:
He routs the haughty and proud of heart.
He puts down princes from their thrones,
and exalts the lowly;
He fills the hungry with blessings,
and sends away the rich with empty hands.
He has taken by the hand His servant Israel,
and mercifully kept His faith,
As He had promised our fathers
with Abraham and his posterity forever and evermore."
Glory be to the Father.
As it was in the beginning."
Hamhaduke managed to let a long, plangent howl before his body was completely lit. The monks proceeded passionate to strike their backs with the whips, scraping their flesh with the sharp hooks and flooding the wooden floor with blood and staining the open sail with crimson spots.
And the boat sailed on the river heading towards the full sun as the fire consumed unperturbed Hamhaduke's last remains.
[to be continued next Friday, 26 June 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 Apergis 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.