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. 34 of 36]
PART FOUR : Missolonghi
Myrto fell back into one of the usual crises of depression, from those which trapped her lying in bed, refusing to eat or drink. This time, however, the crisis hit the daughter more sharply and drastically because it had already lasted a whole week, and as a result dark circles formed around her eyes from starvation and the dehydration increasingly worsened her disturbed health. Her hair lost that shiny ebony colour that characterised it and became gray and wretched.
In vain the doctor Agiomavritis gave her opium to suppress the girl's stubborn resistance to be fed: her body had now learned the gambits of the drug and did not submit to its stimuli. In vain did Father Lambros bless her room with sanctifications and gospels, Myrto did not regard the rituals of the Church one bit. In vain did Lady-Asimo bite the young woman's left hand to loosen her clenched fist and finally open her fingers. Myrto, unmoved and silent, was steadily on her way to death.
It was the evening of the seventh day when Myrto - opening her weak eyelids - perceived with her gaze Lord Greywood sitting in the wooden chair of her bedroom, just opposite her. This was certainly an unexpected event and surprised the young woman. Her mother, Lady-Asimo, did not allow anyone to enter her daughter's room other than the authorised persons who worked exclusively for her treatment.
The Lord's feat of accompanying Daphne intact to the Monastery of Panagia Filotheou had already acquired the dimensions of a legend amongst both Greeks and Turks. The downside, of course, was that along with the admiration, this act also inspired the fear in people. Even Kutahi himself was forced to dismiss the events of that fateful night as excessive fantasies of the mob and thus calm his army's panic by attributing the responsibility for the horrific deaths to a wild beast of nature that nested in the area. But even he, deep down, could not offer a fair explanation over this bloody massacre.
The Lord was sitting cross-legged in the chair, indolent, as if he had no worries about this world whatsoever. And how could the opposite happen indeed? He'd drunk oodles of human blood that night on his journey with Daphne, so much that it'd fed him for a whole century. However, this macabre expression of euphoria on his face had alienated the God-fearing citizens of Missolonghi who now suspected that something strange was going on with their noble guest. Meanwhile, the persistent refusal of the Vochorites to refer to the reason why Yagos and his brothers ended up with their right hands broken caused only additional gossiping as to the true nature of Lord Greywood.
As far as the Lord was concerned, there was no doubt about the matter: he had already overindulged himself with the hospitality of the Misolonghians and the sunset clause had officially arrived. His stay in Missolonghi had to end soon. Otherwise, the suspicions of the people would turn more and more fiery against him and his presence would no longer cause anything but useless uproar.
"Spirit… What are you doing here in my bedroom, spirit…?" mumbled Myrto mockingly using the deficient voice left in her lungs.
The Lord woke up from his deep meditation. He looked with condescending eyes at the lying Myrto, not with pity, but with a distant apathy as if he was not willing to give a damn for her bad condition. This indifferent look surprised Myrto as until then the people who took care of her were adopting in their eyes the same disgusting haze of compassion. And if she had to weigh deep inside her all those things that oppressed her in this world, surely nothing would prove heavier than this theatrical and contrived haze of the eyes. This behavioural quirk of people validated in her own consciousness the endless loneliness of human nature, the one that made the journey of life unbearable.
"Your mother ordered me to come and see you." said the Lord before proceeding with a smirk: “Now, I do have to admit that this was quite an unexpected surprise. Your mother persistently refused to talk to me or even look me in the eyes for the entire week after Daphne's departure. She gave me the impression that she did not feel comfortable in my presence. Of course, this is no longer a standalone attitude since all the inhabitants of Missolonghi have begun to shy away from me, one after the other, steadily and gradually."
The Lord let a smiling sigh escape his lips. Myrto always had her dark eyes fixed on him. As if the poor girl was hanging from each word of his.
"You know of course what that means for us, the spirits..." continued the Lord. "It simply means that I shall have to leave here before things get worse. Unfortunately, this is the price burdening us spirits. We cannot stay for long in small closed societies. Sooner or later, people begin to suspect us. And so, before those suspicions turn into a popular unanimous verdict, we the spirits owe to pack our things and sail to other places. Permanence is not fitting for us."
Then the Lord let his gaze wander to the wefts that adorned the four walls of the bedroom. The one bore a knitted daisy, the other bore a rosebud, a third depicted the pastoral scene of a shepherdess with a flock of all-white sheep. Oh, here's also a hastily made canvas without frame lying on the nightstand, bearing a painted olive grove. That one was made by the eighteen-year-old Elias, the only Missolonghian man who still associated with the Lord as comfortably as before.
"What would you say for a night walk?" asked the Lord after studying the wefts of the walls in silence for a few minutes.
"Yes," replied Myrto in a whispered voice.
"Do you have the strength to walk?" asked the Lord.
"I'll find the strength," she said, trying hard to sit up on the bed.
She put the slippers on her feet and wore the woollen coat on her shoulders. She walked lurching with the Lord to the small pine belt that stood a few meters away from Mastrodimos' house. Her knees betrayed her every now and then as they were unable to support her malnourished body. Sometimes she lost her footing and almost collapsed to the ground due to weakness. Luckily, the Lord was swift in his movements and grabbed the girl by the arm every time she faltered in her balance.
Until they eventually reached the pine belt and then Myrto lay down on the grass, leaning her body on the trunk of a tree. Her left fist, always clenched. The Lord, on the other hand, remained standing, gazing at the Ursa Major in the sky, with his back turned to Myrto. This was a starry night with a bright crescent moon. The summer season now dominated the creation entire - no doubt - and the cicadas no longer distinguished day from night but instead indulged in their song without stopping.
"What do you intend to do now that I'm leaving?"asked the Lord with his gaze stubbornly turned away from her.
"I don't know... I haven't studied it in my mind..." replied Myrto.
"If you continue like this, you will die soon." said the Lord.
"Let me die then." she said in a dry tone.
"This is not an answer, my dear." he counterattacked sternly.
"It's the only one I've got." the voice came wearied from inside her.
The Lord's gaze never ceased to wander in the stars of the clear night. In order to gather every bit of information in regards to the dark universe that ruled infinite above their heads, his eyes forgot to blink and teared.
"All these stars are just distant suns, fiery and bright like our own sun. I owe gratitude to this vastness of the universe, I should congratulate the supreme mind that made the universe so immense that it holds the stars so inconceivably far from Earth at night. If the cosmic order had defined them any closer, I would have no choice but to hide in the bowels of the earth for all eternity. In that sense, it is only οn this planet of dust and water that we, the vampires, can dwell with dignity and seek what the normal mortals want: to make our time in the world as pleasant as possible."
That's what the Lord said and then went and sat down next to Myrto. His eyes made another quick stroll at the black night above them before focusing on Myrto's clenched fist. At every glance upon it, that clenched fist seemed to enshrine all the stars in the sky, and right away the night was then becoming a dome dark and stripped of its sparkling adornments. Everything was absorbed by that clenched fist, even space-time itself, which was slowly and steadily sucked in its terrible vortex, delivering the world to the absolute zero. Everything it seemed to vanish, that clenched fist.
"I have been suffering from restless sleeps these last few days here in Missolonghi. I am constantly turning in my grave as if the honeyed outburst of summer makes unbearable noise and does not allow me to sleep in peace. But I know very well that the beautiful summer is not the cause for this sleeplessness. I recognise your spirit, Myrto. It descends persistently to my funereal rests and provokes me. It's your spirit. It's your spirit that awakens me and begs me, anxious, to open my deadly embrace to it. I know it's you, Myrto. You are the one who deprives me of peace."
"I do not hide it, Milord, that my mind is always with you. And I also don't hide from you that there are plenty of times when I happen upon you in my dreams. Inanition has made my sleeps now crippled and unnatural. But when I manage sometimes and fall deeply asleep and my mind does fly away from the sun-vineries of oblivion, it is you I always look for fearless before the dark nightmares approach me. My spirit finds the rest it seeks when it reaches your damp and shady grave. In your arms I sleep light and the nightmares immediately regress to a desultory flee without returning."
"You are young and ignorant, daughter, and it is precisely that light naivety of yours which leads you to such foolish reasoning. This is made clear by the gullible and unconsidered impulses which you adhere passionately without a second thought. The dilemma you pose to yourself in this case is not a choice between life and death as an old and experienced mind would study in an elegant manner. What you stubbornly wonder about with your unruly mind is a life that is anything but life, an endless wandering in gloomy descents and filthy stench. You don't even place one bit of concern in straightening the difficult life you are going through and try to beautify it. With too much arrogance you reject the time that was given to you from high above and you eagerly crave a curse, knowledge of which you do not possess any and you can not imagine at all."
"My dear Milord, I attribute this uncompromising refusal of yours to give me that which I so earnestly ask of you in your lonely supernature. You are a spirit and as such I, the common simple mortal, stand helpless to comprehend your own depths. Forgive me, however, when with such boldness I adjudge that you are also a being horribly recluse. And this is exactly the reason why you deny the burden of responsibility to offer the coveted anointing to this aching soul before you and take it away from its darkness of martyrdom. And it is clearly the same reason why you avoid the inseparable companionships of people but instead you are relentlessly fixated to your indecipherable solitude. It is this endless loneliness of yours, Milord, that defines you callous towards my desperate pleas, for fear that any unwanted companion may be imposed upon its back."
"O unfortunate daughter, do you understand how hastily you make silly ascertainments, reaching conclusions that are vague and groundless? You therefore think that it is my lonely conduct that prevents me from giving in to your frivolous pleas? And have you examined this loneliness of mine so deftly that you accuse it of such hostile secretiveness? Learn then, you foolish and brainless girl, that although I am a nature truly lonely and I generally shy away from close human ties, I rarely feel alone in this turbulent world. And learn also that in this macabre course of mine over the centuries I have acquired the special ability to obtain the good nectar of humans before I part with them forever, just like the bees collect the pollen of the flower and then undistracted fly back to their hive. As paradoxical as it may sound to your young and obstinate ears, my dear Myrto, it is this ability of mine that releases me from my barren carapace."
"My dear Milord, I urge you not to regard my attitude as shameless audacity and to allow me to observe that in that passionate speech of yours you have inadvertently fallen into a jocular slip, a common idiom of people as a whole but mainly of men. You've just now bragged about the merit you extracted in your macabre course over the centuries and generously flattered the curse from which you, with excessive prudence, take care to protect me. So if the journey of a vampire in spacetime is so edifying, why do you deprive me of the opportunity to taste its wise teachings? Why do you exclude me so cruelly and overtly from its dear knowledge?"
"Devilish woman, you so brazenly waste the female cleverness you're blessed with in distinguishing black from white in people without discerning the gray. And after doing that, you then cynically conclude that the entire world around you is nothing but a shallow smear that's no worth laboring and toiling for. But I am a spirit, I am not a human being. And being a spirit, I'm not here to tell you beautiful things about this world. I am here to tell you things ugly, to speak about disgust and grief and horror. And because it is obvious for everyone to see from the firmness of your words that you have made your fatal decisions, I shall not be sparing in honest or accurate descriptions with all their explicit particulars. So here is the raw truth, my cunning Myrto, you who pretend to comprehend and know everything: Being a vampire, everyone and everything around you will stand dead and motionless, as if this world is sunk entire in a stagnant swamp from which no escape can be regarded. Even your closest relatives - like your old father or your mother - will no longer be posing in your own eyes but as relics in decay, puppets submissive to the strings of a vicious and invisible power. And their love - oh their love! - will no longer resemble in your eyes anything but a withered flower which awkwardly sprouts from their bowels having a sight that's both bitter and sad. And then, my dear Myrto, with great ease you will adjudge love as the most frivolous and negligible flaw in this nakedness of humans. Like a storm, the overflowing sarcasm shall overwhelm you and you shall be completely immersed in the sweet indifference, in an apathy so monstrous that even the sun is cooled by its icy spell. Empty now of emotion and compassion, you shall be seeing the creation all around you as a faceless structure where life and death suggest an inseparable substance, where nothing really happens since nothing is considered. Black cinders shall define the steep path that you'll be called upon to cross and below you the earth will be paved with ashes and skulls and wild drylands. The only thing keeping you in this hell shall be the blood of the living, and immediately the red elixir of life shall become in your peasant consciousness the clause for your desired oestrus. How is it really possible for a repugnant being that has such a heavy need for human blood to feel any regret or remorse or guilt for people? - Just think about it. In order to tame your bloodthirsty instincts and to be freed from an eternity full of persecution and enmity and desolation, from your unseen inwards you shall need to draw such power equal to which even the sceptred nature itself will refuse to guess. And then, my dear Myrto, you shall bitterly accept that eternity as a whole is tragically fleeting and that time is such an unsound concept that it eventually becomes worthless and ludicrous. And if you do finally complete this awful sequence of things, you'll be left with nothing but that bitter aftertaste on your lips, an indelible aftertaste, as if your journey on the world was as vain and hollow as a forlorn straw-hut in the eye of the cyclone.»
"My beloved Milord, I feel passionately moved by your good intention and deeply appreciate the honesty that's emerging from your nature and the pure straightforwardness you've employed in the descriptions of grief and suffering. But once again, I shall urge you not to be insulted by my audacity and to let me tell you that all these nightmares you have listed with the glamour of a poet for my own good are not experiences unknown to my own senses. Being torn by the horrible illness, my days and nights are already passing through the gloom and grief of the unchanging times. And the loved ones that you have already likened to lifeless puppets are already posing in my eyes as relics deplorable, moving hither and thither without purpose or cause. My paths, Milord, are already blackened by the holocausts of the merciless sickness. Because this sickness which afflicts me, Milord, regards nothing in its passage but only burns and ruins everything that stands alive and beautiful before it. My mind will not endure for long. I feel it. Some day this poor mind will bend from the brutality it suffers and will just say goodbye to me and depart. And it is, Milord, that moment which I fear most of all. Because if my mind leaves me helpless in this human prison, I may no longer have the judgement to do what needs to be done so that I set myself free from the rotten quietus all around me. These are the reasons that prompt me to request your terrible anointing and to take me away from this darkness that is constantly thickening and depriving me of both spirit and soul. I urge you once again, dear Milord, to respect the vigour which I gather arduously from this undernourished body of mine in order to beg you. Show the pity I invoke and do not ignore my desperate prayers so unconcernedly."
Overwhelmed by contemplation and affection, the Lord stretched out his hand in the hollow air of the night and offered his index finger to the naughty sparrow that until then had been chirping and fluttering around. The tiny bird hurried straight to the Lord and rested upon his slim finger. The Lord admired its graceful sight - its bright orange line starting from its belly and parting on its wings - and was somewhat relieved from the melancholy of the moments.
This relief, however, wasn't shared by Myrto. She had all her attention on the critical response of the vampire as well as on the fist of her left hand that was stubbornly held tight so that it would not open on its own accord and spill all the remaining senses out of its rosy palm. She paid no attention whatsoever to the beautiful bird. Her black eyes shamelessly disdained it. Her ears would not deign to listen to its sweet chirping.
"What you are asking me to do is a crime, Myrto ... Please ... Stop asking it from me ... I shan't bear such a burden on my conscience ... Now that I have met the person in your face, I can no longer imagine myself doing such an evil deed to you ... " mumbled the Lord with difficulty, and thus ended the meeting of the two.
That night turned out to be short in its passing, but its dawn was long and bitter. Looking at the poisoned sunrise, Myrto made the fatal decision to end her life. So she took a sharp blade and cut the veins of her left hand. As her left hand's fist remained firmly clenched, she stuffed the blade in her mouth, gripping it in her teeth, and thus managed to make the crucial cut in the veins of her right hand. In vain Lord Greywood raged in his grave, trying to stop her. "Stop ...! Stop daughter ...!" screamed the spirit of the awakened vampire, but Myrto refused to listen. Bleeding, the woman lay on her bed, waiting for death to come and take her.
By the will of the equitable fate or by the coincidence of blind chance, Lady Asimo realised in time the bleeding daughter and immediately did all the necessary things before handing herself over to the furious panic. Lady Asimo was a woman of strength, with a soul carven by both the rational and irrational of this world. He tied Myrto's hands with rags to stop the bleeding and ran yelling to the doctor Agiomavritis for help. The entire Missolonghi was aroused by the cries of the deranged mother. Agiomavritis hurried to treat the girl and to bandage her wounds with linen gauzes. Fortunately, the participants acted quickly and stopped the blood loss, and Myrto's condition was stabilised.
As the sun of that day finally set, the Lord visited Myrto again in her bedroom. This time, however, his gaze did not seem glassy and in apathy like the previous night. The fiery red reflections that testified to tumult and anger were now pouring out of his eyes. And when they sometimes calmed down giving way to the blue aura of melancholy, the Lord changed various forms in his haunted hypostasis as if he could barely restrain the beasts and the vipers that threatened to escape from the human body.
His primary thought - the one that buzzed around his mind like a stinging wasp - was to put aside the gentleness that characterised him and reprimand her in the strictest way possible for her stubbornness. However, her pale face and glazed eyes, which seemed to have seen death at a close distance, constantly discouraged him and for this reason he chose to talk to her within a calm and condescending ambience. And, unlike last night, the Lord did not argue with her at all, nor did he object to her breathless deliriums. He listened to Myrto reverently and responded to her in all sincerity without denying her anything at all.
And they talked, and talked, and talked the two of them that night for a long time. And their conversation was as peaceful as the serene surface of a lake in a season of complete stillness. And in those occasional imperceptible shifts, their conversation suddenly acquired emotion capable of burning churches made of bricks and forested mountains. But their conversation remained calm and the fires were extinguished immediately as logic and amity completely entranced the words. It was pity and unfairness that the walls of the bedroom were bare of books so that the feeling of each moment could refer to the pages of some profound author. As neither of them was holding a pen or paper, notes were not recorded to describe each heartbeat. If a painter were present in the room, he would imprint the mellow aura all around him upon a canvas, prompted by unbridled oestrus.
And the Lord eventually gave in to the daughter's request as he had no other option hereto. He therefore condescended to giving her the vampire's anointing and take her with him away from Missolonghi.
Before offering her the crucial bite, the Lord urged Myrto to be patient for only one day in order to enjoy for the last time the sunshine of the Greek blue sky. This was because - as his exact words were - the daughter would not be able to see the sun again in the centuries to come. He advised her to relish and appreciate to the fullest every sunbeam, to research every beautiful play of light upon the retinas of the eyes, to administer due honour to the sweet vibrancy of nature that took place under the dominant sun. Don't leave anything unattended during the hours of the day - thus he ordered her.
And so Myrto acted following the Lord's advice to the letter. And never during that time of sunshine did Myrto feel any remorse for her decision to become a spirit of the night, nor was it possible for the hot summer's fever to change her unyielding view of things. So that day - her last one as human being - flowed with the joy and the apathy standing equal in weight. Because how was it possible for the charming buzz of the insects and the polychrome coquetry of the flowers to touch the young woman's uncompromising soul? None of the two partners - the Lord and Myrto - was of course surprised by this development. Given the daughter's perseverance, complete indifference was expected in this case, even with that wonderful splendour of the sunlight.
And finally the sunset arrived, and Myrto sat on a colina to study it, following the Lord's advice. And this last sunset of Myrto's happened to be the most enchanting of all the sunsets that had blessed Missolonghi up until then, a sunset shocking in its beauty. The sun sank orange in the unmoving mirror of the lagoon and, in this slow immersion in the far ends of the horizon, the entire celestial dome was painted with the myriad tinges of red until the fiery circle vanished entirely from the cosmic canvas and the colour palettes raged with mauve and emerald pinnacles. All these happened before the cool darkness of the night spread over the earth.
The Lord came out of his tomb and met Myrto, as was agreed between them. And then the two of them went to old-Mastrodimos and lady-Asimo to say their last farewells. Out of her ignorance, the poor lady-Asimo had prepared for her daughter a luchbox for the road and woven overcoats that reached to the lower legs. With a condescending smile on his face, the Lord calmed the affectionate mother: For this journey, no lunchboxes or overcoats were needed. Lady-Asimo listened to the vampire's suggestion and hugged Myrto with too much warmth, as did old-Mastrodimos, and they exchanged loving kisses with each other. Before parting, the elderly couple urged the Lord to guard their daughter like a crown-jewel. The Lord gave them his word.
Then the Lord and Myrto walked to the pine belt that stood close to the home of the Mastrodimos' family. Raising her eyes to the starry night and gazing at the crescent moon that was getting smaller and smaller, Myrto offered her naked neck to the vampire. In the midst of that sweet horror of hers, the daughter refused to look at the Lord's transformation into a carnivorous beast, and with her mind she shut her ears to prevent the savage roars from deviating her from her purpose. The Lord's crooked fangs were inserted into Myrto's velvety skin, and then the beast began to drink the blood of the pierced carotid - not a lot of blood, only as much as was necessary for the occasion. Myrto screamed in pain and along her the wolves howled from the dark caves of the mountains in the far corners of the earth.
Half-conscious, the woman collapsed on the ground, completely surrendered to the demonic impositions of the spirit. The Lord took a blade out of his tailcoat's pocket and cut off his wrist. Plenty of blood flowed straight away from the severed veins. The Lord spread his torn wrist over Myrto's wide-open mouth, and then she began with a burning desire to drink the gulps of the red elixir into her throat. Such was her bulimia that she suddenly found her lost strength and rose in great rage to grab the Lord's wrist and bring it to her lips. She sucked the contaminated blood with force, she swallowed it with brutal savagery, her thirst touched the inmosts of the Lord, stunning him all over from head to toe. It was as if the daughter was taking revenge on the vampire for the pain he had caused her a little earlier.
As Myrto drank enough blood from the wrist, the Lord pulled away from her and perched leaning on a pine trunk to lick his wound. Myrto, on the other hand, remained on her knees, wandering her gaze all around her. The haunted blood of the vampire acted with relentless fury in her weak organism, it transmuted with dominant power every human consciousness, it relentlessly conquered her mortal senses, destroying with steel and fire any resistance in its terrible invasion. Until this supernatural effect of blood completely forged the daughter, and its monstrous energy accumulated to her body's delicate tips. Thus, that stubborn fist of her left hand was finally loosened, and at the opening of the rosy palm, Myrto moaned as if by erotic oestrus.
Her eyes never stopped looking at the tall pines around her, refusing to blink, wide open incessantly in order to consolidate every datum of her new hypostasis. She was overwhelmed with childish awe as she realised the long branches of the trees spreading like tentacles and surrounding her with the warmth of a tender hug. But it didn't take long for her to feel the terror in her skin as soon as those branches sprouted threatening appendages, ready to encase her with their serpentine lengths.
It was at that very moment that the macabre superpower of the vampire revealed its true face and the deep gloom gripped the daughter's heart with its incomparable sadness. Her face acquired, suddenly, a pallor such that had no equal, as the spectacle that was happening before her was now touching her vulnerable inmosts along with her eyesight. It was now the Lord's duty to act appropriately in order to avert the further downfall of the ignorant daughter. And for this reason he bent down to her ear to whisper words of encouragement to her.
"It's the black hole, isn't it, Myrto? 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, Milord. I had never imagined that life may hide such gloom in its heart."
"Don't lose your strength, Myrto. They are many those things which we have to do. A new future awaits us, a glorious course opens before us, a world that is both magical and mysterious. Believe me. Great things await us. All that is needed of us is simple and strong will."
"Like what things?"
"Each thing in its own time. Our priority right now is for you to learn the kind which you now belong to. You have to get to know your peers, immerse yourself in the creatures of the night and share their worries, listen to their passions, contrast their instincts with the instincts that now occupy you. You shall be initiated into the laws and doctrines of this superior race of which you are now a member through my own mediation."
"And how will that be done, Milord?"
"Oh, it shall be done in a wonderful way, you shall see it with your own eyes. We'll be transformed into bats, you and me. I shall show you the method, being petite and light as you are, you will learn quickly. Observing me, you shall follow me, waving your newly formed wings. And then we shall fly to the ethers together - but be aware! - always under clouded skies and nights of deep darkness. We shall fly over vast oceans and foamy seaways which sink even the most experienced of frigates. Whenever we happen upon some hospitable reef in our journey, we shall be lodging in some sunless hideout of it for a short rest and then we shall continue our course to its final destination, fearless and equipped with a tireless zeal."
"And what is that final destination, Milord?"
"Oh, it's a place such as which you've never imagined, my dear Myrto, and I urge you to keep this in mind throughout our entire flying course. Together we shall travel beyond the wild seas, where the eternal land of America stands. Once we reach those territories, we shall move to Mexico, and more specifically to a place baptised with the name Oaxaca by the local natives and which in the Aztec language means old tree. A magical city dominates the heart of Oaxaca, the city of Mitla, and is adorned entirely like a bride with palaces and temples of the Zapotecs in honour of gods of the past, buildings imposing in appearance and defiant in time, covered all by ornate mosaics and hypnotic friezes. Once we fly over them as bats - you'll see! - suddenly the artworks will come to life and sway their carved stones and vivid colours to seduce you in their terrible vortex. Don't be discouraged! Continue flying with me and let the ancient shrew below you cast her own spells. Being with me, you shall have nothing to fear. Just three miles northwest of Mitla, we shall find a wooded area with wild vegetation but also with rocks as sharp as blades that sprout here and there scattered in order to discourage any aspiring explorers. Locals are always avoiding the area, warning visitors to do the same, claiming it is haunted by some force unruly in the laws of nature. They even erect statues with scary mormolyceums in order to prevent human foot from stepping in those places. None of the educated naturalists, of course, take seriously the urges of the natives and dismiss them as silly superstitions. But guess what, my dear Myrto. The natives are telling the truth because the area is really haunted and the force that nests in its lands soon declares its presence and finally drives away even the bravest or most unbelieving of visitors. Mind you! ... The power does not apply this practice thoughtlessly. It has its reasons, and in fact reasons absolutely fair on the occasion. This is because it intends to keep a cave that's based in its den a well-sealed secret: The Guilá Naquitz Cave! That cave - learn it now that you've become one of us - is the central base of the whole world's vampires. It is a senate that legislates, a court that rules, an inferno that punishes, a paradise that rewards, it is both headquarters and hermitage for all vampires. Its length extends to the bowels of the earth, its dormitories crowded with Strigoi Morti like us. This hidden cave is the sacred temple in which the Diet of Cluj exercises its tremendous power. There, before the Diet of Cluj, you must present yourself and you shall do well to inspire a good impression in them, since I am the one who provides the guarantee for you. If you fail, I fail with you. The Magister, the oldest of the vampires, shall examine you, a spirit that carries an entire millennium upon its shoulders. He will ask you questions and many of these questions shall be traps in order to detect any deeper motivations that prompt you. Be obedient and honest with him. Do not deceitfully hide the truth from him or mix the truth with lies. This will infuriate him unimaginably and -trust me- you would not wish to pit the Magister against you. Whatever his judgement may be for you, accept it with reverence and always show due humility. The Magister may seem harsh on his outside, but he has a nucleus full of the wisdom's nectar. He shall give you the right direction."
"That place you mentioned, Milord ... that cave ... will it help me, you reckon, to be rid of the horrible disease that is ravaging me? Do you think that this Magister is capable ... as being the ancient spirit you described ... to lead me away from the sick nightmares that haunt me? The reason I'm asking you, Milord, is because - I'm not hiding it from you - I thought that with your precious anointing I would be reborn into a carefree and liberated creature. And yet, I think I was fooled by my high expectations so much that I was finally blinded by the bright destination I was constantly gazing at in front of me without considering the narrow path beneath my feet. Because - I do confess it, Milord, and I beg you not to reprimand me - the gloom that haunted my mortal rationales becomes now occasionally more unbearable and truculent than before. And since the dead heart in my chest no longer means to beat with a human impulse, my corpse is completely surrendered to a macabre vertigo. But, I shall bother you no more with all this silliness of mine. I am truly impetuous, aren't I ...! Instead of expressing gratitude, I force you once again to endure my whining. Forgive me, Milord, that I am still inexperienced in such temporary side effects. Because that's what they are after all, aren't they Milord? Nothing but temporary side effects. Isn't it so? Say it to me, Milord, so that I hear it from your own lips."
"Oh yes, of course, my dear Myrto. They are really only temporary side effects. The matter hereto doesn't require much pondering. Unfamiliar as your vulnerable body is still with the superpower of the vampire, it reacts awkwardly to its outbursts of excitement. The scotodinias and the vertigos shall go away, don't let them worry you. And to answer your initial questions, I declare to you impartially and unequivocally that -yes- in the cave of Guilá Naquitz you shall find the peace that you seek. Because in there, cloister beings who are very similar to you, and when you approach them and associate yourself with them, you shall share your pain and very soon you'll understand that your own pain is no different to theirs at all. That would be enough to delight your destroyed consciousness. And as for the Magister, know that you will never find such a skilled therapist anywhere else in the world. The Magister, my beloved Myrto, is the only entity that can touch your horrible disease and expel it. Rest assured that all these words of mine are completely sincere. And you shall see for yourself, our time in Guilá Naquitz will become in the end a grand celebration, an enchanting festivity that mortals are incapable of dreaming or imagining about. Therefore embrace the precious anointing that now blesses you and acquire the new knowledge that is now flowing in your blood."
This is what the Lord said in order to abolish the daughter's fears in her first steps as a vampire. But, whilst he was telling her all this, Myrto's attention was constantly distracted by the raging of gloom all around her, which with its deadly buzz betrayed the altered essence of things. The contaminated blood in her body was still proceeding its witching rituals and its spell was already expressing itself upon the woman's sight: Her gray hair regained its former radiant ebony colour, the dark circles around the eyes vanished and gave way to the pale skin and the irises of her eyes had mutated into silver-gray stains like those which define the stares of carnivorous felines. Even so, an invisible tinge of disillusion lingered in her expression, as if her high expectations had been forever refuted by the undeniable reality.
"I'm sorry, Milord, that I didn't listen to everything you just told me, but my mind was wandering elsewhere. This place, Milord, now offends my senses in a manner blatantly suffocating. Forgive me. I feel like I'm suffocating over here."
The Lord sighed in melancholy. Looking at the stubborn creature before him, the Lord became more and more aware of Myrto's quintessence behind this bizarre apparition of Strigoi Morti . It was not a vampire standing here before him. It was Myrto, just as sweet and rejective as before. Only her clenched fist of the left hand was missing to complete the whole.
"We are in the open countryside, with the clear night uninterrupted above our heads. How the hell can you suffocate over here?"
[to be continued next Friday, 4 September 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.