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. 31 of 36]
PART FOUR : Missolonghi
"You're a spirit ... aren't you?"
It was customary for the Lord, after the sunset, to sit alone for a few minutes in the back yard of the Barbagrivas' tavern and meditate on the dreams he had while sleeping in the sunshine, inside the marble tomb of the old cemetery. This was, of course, natural. He was sleeping very deep, and his dreams were too tense to release his so easily from their web. And who ever said that vampires don't dream in their sleep? This must be claimed - no doubt – by airy-fairy writers seeking inspiration in folklores of nations or by the elderly storytellers who impart the legends of the past to future generations. How is it ever possible for anyone to claim that vampires do not dream in their sleep when they have no knowledge of the subject? Yes, even the vampires dream.
It was, therefore, a great surprise for the Lord to see Myrto in full view during those brief idle moments of his before his nightly excursions in the city's cafes. For the truth of the matter, the surprise was such that it made him turn abruptly on the wooden chair where he sat. The Lord was aware of Myrto's mental illness, he knew of the endless confinements to herself, of her deliberate alienation from the world. The fact that Myrto left her home and walked to the Barbagrivas' tavern to meet him filled him with both awe and awkwardness.
“Myrto…! Hell, this is a surprise ...!"
Her face was pale like his, due to malnutrition. The exaggerated simplicity of its oval shape seemed to represent a stream of consciousness untouched by human notions such as those of hope or optimism, the unremarkable physiognomic additions of the straight nose and the slender purple lips seemed hopelessly obligatory by the nature of things, as if the face abhorred its distinctive features and longed for its implicit anonymity. The regions of her eyes were anhydrous from starvation and lack of sleep. But this sad cachexia of Myrto was offset by the vibrant black colour of her hair, the glistening melanin that preserved the sweetness of youth for the time being.
"You're a spirit. Aren't you? Am I telling the truth?" she repeated. Her voice was forced to its sentences — as if she was pressing her lungs to exhale the air — and then it diminished until it articulated the last syllable in the form of a whisper.
The Lord of course did not respond to her question. It was not possible for the time being to answer such a question with an emphatic yes or to dismiss it indifferently and coldly. He just lowered his gaze and remained pensive in his chair. He let his reflections follow their own flow until they finally reached their final destination: Lord Byron, the dead poet. Bloody hell!
"With all these festivities and all that revelry, I had completely forgotten why I set foot in Missolonghi from the outset. I'd supposedly come here to visit the place where Byron's heart was buried, to pay my respects to his memory. Instead, I'm spending my time from tavern to tavern and from company to company and from wine barrel to wine barrel. All this time I have been here, I am doing nothing but getting drunk. I guess I am releasing oppressed consciences, I can't explain it otherwise." he said, and pulled his silk handkerchief out of his tailcoat's pocket. He blew into the handkerchief from his mouth and then began to smell it thoroughly with his nostrils to check whether his breath smelled of alcohol.
"You're a spirit. Aren't you?" insisted Myrto.
The Lord sighed softly. He put the handkerchief back in its place. He looked at Myrto deep in the eyes.
"Can you take me there? At the place where Byron's heart is buried?" he asked.
"I'll take you there." she responded sharply.
It was obvious that Myrto had sneaked secretly out of her home without her mother, Lady-Asimo, noticing it. It was obvious because her hair was uncombed and tangled, her appearance was overall sloppy with her loose light coloured dress and the humble torn sandals. Had Lady-Asimo taken notice of her coming out of the house, she would have forced her into a chair to comb her hair and adorned her with luxe and silk. It would have never been possible for Lady-Asimo to let her young daughter go outside like that, dishevelled.
While they were walking, the Lord could smell the peculiar smell of isolation coming from Myrtos's body, the assorted aroma of the various herbal remedies imposed on her by the doctors in order to relieve her nerves. Some herbs smelled beautifully, others not so much. Some smells hummed from freshness, others were sour and unpleasing. The Lord was constantly watching her left hand. The palm of her left hand clenched as ever, closed, fist, refusing to open its fingers.
During their walk, the two happened upon a few cafes, and the patrons - as usual - greeted the Lord heartily, and some even took the fezzes off of their heads to pay their respects. Despite that for the Missolonghians the Lord was a scissorlegs, shamelessly embracing the European culture of dressing instead of their own traditional attire, they could not but appreciate the fact that the cashmere tailcoat fitted the Lord's figure perfectly and made him look both noble and elegant. As for the Lord, he always felt a temporary embarrassment when he walked in tailcoat and trousers amongst men in richly adorned vests and pleated skirts. He was not used to this particular situation yet.
The Lord discerned the warm emotion of the Missolonghians that night, the fervent way they shook his hand or bowed to him in their sincerest efforts to imitate the ethereal kinesiology of the aristocracy. The Lord was clever enough to understand that this emotional charge of the people had not to do with him personally as much as with the fact that he accompanied a lady who, as was well known, hardly ever came out of her home.
At the sight of Myrto now walking amongst them, the Missolonghians formed on their faces smiles in the shape of the moon's meniscus. The morale of all was suddenly and miraculously raised, and the wine glasses all at once began to be emptied into the larynges at a speed three times faster than before. Such was their joy that wonderful night. A company of four street musicians passed by the two, playing the bagpipe and the violin and the lute and the tambourine. While playing their instruments, they were loudly hitting the ground with their shoes.
I kissed a red lip and thus painted mine
And on the scarf I wiped it, thus painting the scarf,
And I washed it in the river, thus painting the river,
And the tip of seashore was painted, as was the centre of the sea.
The eagle came down to drink water and his wings were painted,
And the sun's half was painted and the moon in its whole.
The Lord pulled a coin out of his pocket and threw it at the company. One of them grabbed it with his fez, shouted "thank you," and then the four began to walk away singing until they were swallowed by the night.
The two finally arrived at the newly established cemetery of the city, where the remains of the fallen fighters of the Revolution were buried, the place that was to be renamed Garden of Heroes several years later. Myrto led the Lord to a marble gravestone lying on the ground. Above it, the inscription: HERE LIES THE HEART OF THE GREAT POET AND BENEFACTOR OF THE GREEKS, LORD BYRON. Date of birth, date of death. Two verses from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage":
Rock, river, forest, mountain, all abound,
And bluest skies that harmonise the whole
"You're a spirit ... aren't you?"
The Lord's eyes welled up. They rose teary towards the sky and then Mother Night enshrouded the Lord in her starry veil. He felt his undead nature shiver now, reborn in her macabre tumulus. He was light, free from that constant tightening in the sternum, which only the vampires are called upon to endure.
"I had to come here to this place, where the poet's heart is buried, to understand. I had to come here to realise that the final destination in this perpetual wandering of mine on this world was Missolonghi. My destination has always been Missolonghi, all roads lead here. I knew it, I believed it, I was certain of it. And yet I stubbornly denied this reality. I could not accept it so unobtrusively, I remained driven by that feverish desire to challenge the truth that was so generously given to me by the divine omens. I wanted to crash like a rotten tub upon the rocks, to bleed shipwrecked upon wild reefs in order to verify the truth of the omen, in order to have the meaning of my destination revealed to me in its purest and most genuine form. And now that I am finally here, at the heart of the poet, I am now perceiving even the most obscure endpoints of my existence. I do not recognise the concept of error in the course I took in the world, wrongness is not definable within the canvas of my journey, everything was done aptly and according to the dictates of the highest plan. I never felt tragedy, pain and loss aren't but delusions of inaccessible consciousness, illusions inside an unchiselled crystal, fleeting arousals of that microgland that saw and harked the mortal world and now sails naked to the dream-isles of the immortals. Alas…! The tragic irony of the matter ...! A poet had to die so that I would feel the redemption I was seeking. It took the death of a poet for that."
Around the marble gravestone, dense batches of hibiscuses had sprung up and which looked like they had acquired their deadly purple colour from the decomposition of the dead heart. These did not smell, they were just shy of their own beauty and surrendered their wide open petals to the caress of the nightly ostro. The owl on the cypresses would not stop its hoot.
"You're a ghost ... aren't you?"
"Why do you wish so longingly to know?"
"I know your kind. In our place, we call them vourkolaks. They are the creatures of the night, they abhor the sun. Byron knew about your kind. I discussed with him many times about you. He did not believe so much that vourkolaks really existed. I believed. I told him various stories that I had heard about vourkolaks. He always listened with interest but never believed them for real. You're a vourkolak. There is no doubt in my mind."
"So what? Now that you have ascertained that I am a vourkolak, what is it you are looking for?"
"I want you to make me like you. I want to become a vourkolak, creature of the night. I know you can make me such."
The Lord's lips smirked. He turned his face to the tall cypresses and then to the deficient moon that reigned over their pointed peaks. It was as if the owl had perceived that the Lord was looking at her and it stopped its hoot for a short while, frightened with goggled eyes. The silence of the cemetery made a deafening noise, as if nature was expecting the answers she needed otherwise she threatened to destroy everything like a vengeful chimera.
"You don't know what you're asking for. You have no idea about this."
"I do not care. I just want to leave the world. I can't stay any longer in this nightmare. Only you can help me, I know that. I want you to transform me, make me like you, one of your kind. "
The Lord again lowered his gaze on the marble gravestone. How truly beautiful stood the hibiscuses around it! Byron would surely take delight in them from where he lied.
"You're so young. And so naive."
[to be continued next Friday, 14 August 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]
Subscribe to the OKYPUS website to receive weekly newsletters.
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.