Here is an oldie but goodie, circa 2011. It is a vampirish story called “Remember When”.
I was reminded of this story this week while reading George R. R. Martin’s book, Fevre Dream.
His novel is about a race of creatures that aren’t sure exactly what they are. They are like vampires, but also like ghouls and werewolves yet not exactly.
In 2011 I wrote this story called “Remember When” about a lone creature who was like a vampire, but not quite. She too was unsure of what she was.
By Thomas M. Malafarina© 2011 Thomas M. Malafarina“There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery.” ~Joseph Conrad The leaves of memory seemed to make a mournful rustling in the dark.- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Emily stood slightly bent forward in the cold night air, deep in concentration, resting the palms of her tightly clenched hands firmly against the dark rod iron railing, which surrounded the flagstone veranda, extending out from her second-floor bedroom. She looked out into the expanse of empty woodlands behind her home, with eyes accustomed to the night, as the engulfing blackness swirled around her like a shroud of death, embracing her like a dark mysterious lover.
She was completely naked. The pale milky white skin of her back glistened with perspiration in the moonlight; her long blonde hair flowed ethereally in the soft night breeze. She didn’t mind the chill in the air and in fact, she seemed to desire it. Behind her, a set of double French doors stood open wide, the evening breeze rippling the sheer translucent gossamer-like curtains, creating a macabre ghostly dance as the sounds of the darkness surrounded her; crickets chirping, owls hooting and bullfrogs calling from the nearby creek.
The house where she stood was not exactly her home, but it was her present home, located in a rural section of western Berks County, Pennsylvania. She had no real home to speak of, and could scarcely recall anymore, that one particular place she had once thought of as home. She no longer had or desired to have any sort of permanent place to “put down roots” so to speak. Instead, out of necessity, she opted to move often, from place to place, from town to town, from country to country; it was always better that way.
She appeared to be only about twenty-five years old to those very few of her neighbors who had managed to get a glimpse her in the evenings, as she had never been seen during the day, which they all found quite odd. These local women, who liked to gossip with each other regularly, were all quite leery of her, not just because of her peculiar nocturnal lifestyle, but because she was a newcomer to the area, having relocated from places unknown.The particular place where Emily had most recently chosen to reside was a tight knit community of people who all knew each other for many years. They were slow to accept strangers from even just a few miles away, not to mention someone from possibly some distant land.
Most of those same women tended to keep to themselves in their isolated local cliques, having little interest in outsiders. This was especially true when it came to a single woman who was so young, so beautiful and so potentially tempting to their less than trustworthy husbands.
Emily often laughed to herself when she thought of how the older women would be shocked beyond comprehension to know her real age. But then again, if they were ever to discover that closely guarded secret, then she supposed a little surprise would be the least of their problems. No sir, if they were to learn the truth, their days of sitting around their pools sipping margaritas and gossiping would be all over.
She slowly turned to face the open double doorway and looking through the wide expanse to the inside of the bedroom she saw the man laying sprawled on his back across the king size bed. He was likewise naked, but his arms and legs were thrown outward appearing to hang limply, the once crisp white sheets now a disheveled mess, stained crimson.
The brightly painted white walls of the formerly immaculate bedroom were splattered with rose colored stippling, and the man’s entrails lay spilled in a gelatinous heap between the legs of his rapidly cooling corpse; all bloody remnants from the carnage of her animal-like frenzy.
She now leaned her bare buttocks against the cold iron railing and stretched her arms far into the air forming an extended v-shape. The moonlight reflected off her firm, ample breasts, which were coated with shining cherry red blood splotches, as was her tight stomach. The still un-coagulated bloody fluid trickled slowly down the insides of her legs as well, forming a puddle on the patio floor beneath her.
The flagstone stretching out before her was adorned with a path of gruesome scarlet footprints; her footprints leading from the bedroom to the railing where she now stood. She stretched out all her muscles and opened her mouth to an incredibly wide degree releasing an ear-piercing howl, which reverberated and echoed far into the distance, sounding like the cry of some wild woodland creature.
As she did so, two long razor-sharp incisors extended downward from the top of her mouth as well as two slightly shorter yet equally fearsome oversized canines from her lower jaw glimmered in the moonlight. The pairs formed two sets of formidable weapons designed for carnivorous flesh ripping, which she knew they did quite proficiently.
As she released her ear-piercing banshee’s cry, several thick droplets of blood fell from her fangs and landed on her heaving breasts, trickling down along their swell to the sides where they hung precariously for a few seconds, before falling to the ground as if in slow motion. Her eyes glowed with a luminescent white-hot fire and the front side of her face and hair were caked with a combination of perspiration, blood and gore. The fury slowly began to leave her eyes, as she gradually was able to relax, allowing her to return from the realm of savage mayhem to a more rational and reasonable place of calm serenity.
It was over at last, she thought, over once again. She had done what she had needed to do to temporarily quell the insatiable hunger growing inside of her as she had done countless times before. However, each time it became harder to control and of late, the cravings seemed to come more frequently. For now, she could rest, having satisfied both her physical hunger as well as this new emerging feral desire.
She tried to recall the name of the dead man whose prone, eviscerated body now occupied her bed, but she couldn’t. Had it been Brian, or William or maybe Charles? She couldn’t recall and supposed it didn’t really matter anyway. He was nothing more than a mere human and he had served the purpose for which she had brought him here.
Emily followed the path of bloody footprints slowly back to the bedroom and examined the carnage she had created earlier. As she walked, she looked more like a beautiful goddess than a bloodthirsty creature of the damned. Suddenly, quick images and brief glimpses of memory flashed through her mind.
She recalled the man’s dying screams bubbling within his throat as she had bitten deep into his neck, severing his carotid artery then systematically ripping and peeling back his flesh exposing his musculature and spinal column. Looking at him now, dead in her bed she was surprised that she had not completely decapitated him in her blind animal rage. She remembered how she had actually done something similar with several other victims of late. She understood something about her was changing; becoming more aggressive, more savage; something she knew she couldn’t hope to control for very much longer.
She recalled how the man’s eyes had looked pleadingly at her as his lifeblood rapidly drained away and he had finally given in to the creeping black grip of death. The memory of the blood pumping in gushes from his shredded throat began to excite her anew and for a moment, she felt a hot flush growing from deep within her signaling the animal rage was trying once again to take over.
“No.” She screamed inside of her mind, knowing she had to suppress the growing sensations, believing if she gave in to the beast this time it would take over completely and she would remain a mad, savage frothing animal incapable of any rational thought whatsoever. And if that happened, she would be as good as dead. She would no longer be able to hide or protect her secret.
Trying to remain in control while looking at the man she was astonished once again to see how savagely she had disemboweled him and spilled his steaming insides onto the sheets. She couldn’t recall ever doing such a thing before, had no idea why she would have done so this time and had absolutely no memory of doing it either. Something had apparently triggered a fury within her the likes of which she had previously been unaware. She believed she knew what was happening to her; and if what she thought was true, it was likely the same illness that had struck Bartholomew so long ago; the sickness, which had eventually destroyed her lover and mentor.
She decided she would think about all this later as she had important business to attend to and couldn’t dwell on such things. She lifted the sheets and checked the stainless-steel troughs positioned along the sides of the bed, which were there specifically to collect the blood running down over the sides of the bed. These troughs led to a series of glass containers connected to plastic tubing and were positioned underneath the bed. Despite the splatter on the walls and the wasted blood, which had soaked into the satin sheets, she had managed to collect a significant amount of fluid from this man.
Directly below the blood-soaked silky sheets were rubber mattress covers, which allowed most of the blood to flow into the troughs. She had to accept a small degree of waste, as it was what she thought of as a cost of doing business, a acceptable loss in order for her to lure the man to her bed with the promise of sexual favors. Yes, she could have hunted him down and killed him in the street, but this was much more efficient. She mentally scolded herself for permitting herself to get so carried away and for ravaging the man so severely. She was certain this time her actions had caused her to waste much more of his precious fluid than she had wanted to.
Nonetheless, with the new blood from this evening’s kill combined with the supply she already had from a large variety of forest animals and some local cattle, she assumed she should be well fed for several weeks to come. At least the blood would help to take care of her physical needs. However, the more profound craving, the new bloodlust, which came from deeper inside, the desire to hunt, the longing to ravage and kill, was something, which she had fought almost constantly these days. It was a desire, which seemed to be getting stronger and more frequent all the time. She had somehow known it had been there, lurking in the background to a lesser degree for the past two hundred or more years but it had always been easy for her to control until recently.
As she stood staring at the eviscerated corpse, currently occupying her bed, she found herself thinking back to how it all began. Although she didn’t enjoy reminiscing about the long-ago times, she found herself doing so more often of late as if to suggest these memories were all she had. She understood she was completely alone and had been for far too many years and believed she would be for as long as she could endure.
She thought of these sometime melancholy moments as her time to “Remember When”. During these quiet reflective moments after a kill, she often found herself recounting her rebirth from the human she had once been into whatever manner of creature she had become, and tonight was apparently to be no exception.
She recalled how as a young woman living in the coal regions of Pennsylvania during the early 1800’s, she had been practically starving, penniless, forced to work as a prostitute just to try to survive. As a young adult, Emily had moved from small mining town to mining town frequenting bars with the hopes of finding some drunken miner who might be willing to part with some of his meager wages in exchange for her companionship.
Emily Flannery, as she had been called during that time, had been brought to the United States in her mother’s womb from Ireland and was born shortly after their arrival in Pennsylvania. Her mother had also been a prostitute and Emily had never known her father. She doubted her mother ever had any idea which of her many clients the father might have been either.
When her mother died some fourteen years later, Emily found herself alone, with no home and no means of support, in an area where jobs for young girls were few and far between. Some of her mother’s prostitute friends had taken Emily in, partly out of pity and partly out of greed for the moneymaking potential they saw in the beautiful young girl. The women immediately began teaching her the trade, so to speak, and she began working the streets in earnest just before the age of fifteen. She was quite developed for such a young girl and with the right clothing and makeup, she could pass for much older, although many of the men preferred thinking of her at her real age. Most of the other prostitutes believed Emily was a natural and was born for the profession, which in a way she literally had been.
She practiced her craft, as it were for about ten years until at the age of twenty-five, she met someone who changed her life, forever. She recalled how she had been entertaining one particularly odd young gentleman of about thirty years old who seemed much different from anyone she had ever met before. He had a dark, brooding sort of personality, was something of an expensive dresser, apparently wealthy and was someone who seemed much more refined than most of her regular working-class clients. He only sought her favors in the late evening hours and would always leave before dawn. Because of his wealth and because of the special attention he always paid to Emily, he soon became her highest paying and most preferred customer. After a time, she was permitted to call on him at his own luxurious home.
Unlike most of men she encountered, he seemed genuinely interested in Emily and spent many hours talking with her and asking her many intimate and personal questions about her life. She told him of her tragic past, the death of her mother, her introduction to prostitution at such a very young age, and how although she longed for a different kind of life, she was forced to do what she did simply to survive. When he offered her a chance to take control of her life, of her future, and to break free of her current situation, she was extremely interested, although she assumed, he was simply stringing her along as other men had done in the past.
The man, whose name was Bartholomew, spent so much time with her, that at his request, he soon became her sole patron, and she began to trust him completely. Although she knew little of real love and was uncertain if she could love any man, she realized by his actions that Bartholomew had truly fallen in love with her and she believed she might someday be able to learn to love him in return.
Perhaps it was simply a fantasy or maybe she was lying to herself, she didn’t know. But she did know it was something she needed, something she longed for more than anything else in the world.
One night while they were together and she was honestly and genuinely making love to him, not just doing the job he paid her to do, he seemed to suddenly begin to change right before her eyes. The scene came back to her brief in horrifying fleeting visions, never really forming or becoming cohesive images. She recalled hearing him making animal like grunting noises, which, although this was nothing new to the often-vocal Bartholomew, it somehow seemed more savage than what was typical. She noticed the muscles in his arms and chest tighten and saw his back and shoulders appearing to grow, perhaps double in size.
His face seemed to change as well; his eyes became white-hot glowing orbs as four large fangs began to protrude downward from his impossibly wide-open mouth. Even the rest of his face seemed to take on an animal-like appearance as his ears grew large and pointed, sliding back along the side of his skull as his nose seemed to become more of a snout, like that of a pig or a bat. His skin took on a grayish tint and was covered with slick perspiration. She could smell a foul stench all around her as if she was trapped inside a cave filled with wild animals.
Next, she recalled a sharp pain across the front of her neck as he apparently had savagely ripped at the flesh of her throat. She remembered seeing his wildly insane eyes, crimson covered fangs and blood-splattered animal face fading as everything in her field of vision suddenly went black.
Emily didn’t know how long she had been unconscious, but when she awoke, she was in the basement of Bartholomew’s home in the pitch darkness illuminated by a single candle. She was lying on the floor on a blood-soaked mattress, chained to a nearby water pipe as Bartholomew sat quietly across the room from her on a rocking chair. He was naked as was she and she felt a cold damp chill racing through her body, colder than any she had ever felt before.
Of all the scattered images, she could or could not recall from that fateful evening, that one particular image was by far the most vivid. She remembered the sight of Bartholomew sitting in the rocker and recalled looking into his familiar loving eyes filled with such great despair; she realized something must have gone horribly wrong.
Bartholomew came to the side of her blood-soaked mattress in tears and fell to his knees pleading for her forgiveness. She tugged at the chains, which held her and was suddenly terrified of the man whom only a short while ago she was sure she was beginning to love. He explained the chains were just a temporary measure for her protection until he could make the entire situation clearer for her.
He told her how he loved her more than life itself. However, because of what had happened he feared she’d never be able to return his love and might even grow to despise him. Emily was quite disoriented and didn’t understand what he was saying, as the fear within her steadily grew, but she nonetheless forced herself to remain calm and to listen to what he had to say.
Bartholomew said he had once been human like her a long time ago but was human no longer. He explained how he was actually not really thirty years old but was in fact over three hundred. He said he had been transformed into some sort of demon, a beast, through a curse placed upon him by an old village witch. And although it was true, he was wealthy and loved her with all of his heart, he was no longer a man, but a vile creature; one whose nature he, himself still didn’t completely understand.
Then Bartholomew told of how he noticed during the past year or so, changes were beginning to occur in him which caused him to lose control over what he referred to as “the beast deep within” him.
He said while they were making love, he was thinking about of how much he adored her and could tell by the look in her eyes that she too loved him. That single realization had made his emotions surge to the point where he thought he could stand it no longer. Then, with his guard down, he had not felt the beast come forward, and as a result, he must have lost control because he blacked out and could remember nothing.
When he returned to awareness, he had seen he had ripped Emily’s throat out and he was certain he had killed her. He had become so distraught at the thought of his taking the life of the only woman he had ever loved that he brought her body down into his cellar to be with her alone for one last night. He told Emily he planned on sitting by her side all night, with the intention of killing himself in the morning. He told her the sun was deadly for him and planned on ending his life by walking out into the morning sunlight and allowing it to burn the flesh from his body.
Emily didn’t quite understand everything Bartholomew was saying and new nothing of the creature he claimed to be. So much of what he said made little sense to her, but she still trusted Bartholomew and listened intently so she might learn. She could see the genuine love and sorrow in his expression and instead of feeling anger toward him; she only felt sadness and pity.
He looked up at Emily from bended knee with pleading eyes and begged her to stay with him. He said he would explain everything to her if she would just give him a chance. Despite everything, she realized she still loved and trusted him, and understood she had no life without him, so she agreed. Then she soon learned she too had become the same type of being as Bartholomew. The witch’s curse had spread like a disease from his blood to hers.
She lived with Bartholomew for the next several years as he did his best to school her in the ways of the creature he was and which he had unknowingly made her. He didn’t have an actual name to refer to what manner of beings they were; he simply knew they were different from the humans. He understood they were neither alive nor dead, they didn’t appear to age, and he had no idea how long their life span might be.
Some of the local townspeople told tales of creatures that were somewhat similar to her and Bartholomew, beings they referred to by many different names. Some of the Greek immigrants call them vrykolakas, while the Romanians called them strigoi. Some other Eastern European miners called spoke of vampyrs. Still others told tales of werewolves and shape-shifting lycanthropes. Still, none of these tales corresponded exactly with what manner of creatures they were. Emily was unsure how to describe them, and Bartholomew never cared enough to embrace any of the many possible descriptions.
He explained she had been the first in his long life to ever be transformed into a creature such as he was after an attack and he knew of no other beings like them anywhere in the world. He always assumed there must be similar beings somewhere, but he had never encountered any. To the best of his knowledge, they were alone together.
Bartholomew preferred to live in the present rather than dwell on the past, and taught Emily whatever she needed to learn to survive in her new condition. He showed her how to hunt and feed on the blood of others and how best to avoid detection from the local population. He explained her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Bartholomew warned her about how the sunlight could burn her flesh and would destroy her. He explained she could quite possibly live forever if she chose to but could also be killed if she were not careful and fell into the hands of the humans.
Whenever she recalled this particular instruction, she couldn’t help but appreciate the irony, as it was a band of such self-proclaimed demon hunters who had captured Bartholomew and driven a wooden steak through his heart then impaled him high on a pole, as the morning sun rose brightly and burned his body to a cinder. The crucifix and garlic which the superstitious fools had hung around his neck and the holy water they had sprinkled on his forehead as well as the wooden steak they had driven through his heart did nothing to harm him whatsoever; nor did the silver daggers they plunged into him time and time again. But once they had managed to overpower and immobilize him, they were able to allow the sun to wreak its havoc upon him.
Emily recalled how toward the end of his life Bartholomew hadn’t really been himself for quite some time. He had started to change shortly after their first decade or two together in a way very similar to how she was now finding herself changing. He had become more savage, more animal-like, caring less about his physical appearance and well-being and more about satisfying the ever-increasing bloodlust. Emily believed it was this; Bartholomew’s giving in to his growing savage nature, which caused him to drop his guard, allowing the human hunters to capture and destroy him.
When she had spoken to him about this phenomenon during one of his more lucid moments he explained how over the years, the physical need for nourishment began to diminish but a much deeper, much more feral need arose. He warned her it might not show up for two hundred years or more, but she should watch for signs of its coming and to try to learn to control it.
He described the feeling as something akin to what humans of their day called senility. Yes, it might have been true they were immune to virtually all of the diseases, which plagued humanity, giving them the potential for very long lives. However, perhaps it was the fact they had both started out as humans themselves, with human brains, which may have been a major contributing factor to the onset of the mental disorder. Neither of them knew for sure and since there were no others of their kind to provide the answers to their many questions, they could only speculate.
Sometimes it seemed these events had happened such a long time ago to Emily, yet when she was playing “Remember When”, it was as if it had just occurred yesterday. Now it appeared that after more than two hundred years the same horrible affliction, which had taken her beloved Bartholomew, was wrapping its tentacles of insanity around her brain as well. And for the first time in a very long time, she was genuinely terrified.
She imagined herself transformed into a raving drooling beast unable to stop herself from rampaging and killing without purpose until she too was captured and killed. She didn’t like the idea of someone else deciding when it was her time to die. There was something so horribly undignified about the idea; it sent pangs of revulsion to the very pit of her stomach.
She knew she was alone in the world, the only one of her kind; she too had never found another like her. She had been able to travel all over the world during the past more than two hundred years thanks to the fortune that Bartholomew had left for her.
She understood he had, in fact “created” her quite accidentally. Bartholomew had fallen in love with Emily and had been heartsick when his savage side took over and he had thought he had destroyed her. Until she had awoken from her slumber of death and discovered she shared the same condition as he, Bartholomew had never known such a thing had been possible.
For a time, he had considered trying to create others of their kind, perhaps produce an army of beings just like he and Emily but decided it might be more prudent to wait a bit to observe her and see what effect the change might have on her. However, as his mind slowly began to deteriorate and he slipped further into the belly of the beast, he never had the opportunity to do so.
Emily looked around the bloody bedroom having returned from her mental journey to the land of “Remember When”, back to the present. She felt strange, as if she were walking a tightrope high above a crowd trying not to lose her balance and fall to the ground below. She felt as if she were losing a tug-of-war with her animal side and soon would slide into the world of the beast, knowing if she did, she might never return. She felt as if she were hanging onto to what little still remained of Emily but would soon be lost forever.
While she still was able to think rationally, Emily made her decision. She looked at the blood-splattered digital clock on the dresser next to the bed. It was five thirty-two in the morning. Sunrise was less than a half-hour away.
She walked purposefully down the stairs to the first floor of the large house and out into the kitchen where she searched through a utility drawer and found several disposable lighters as well as a metal canister of lighter fluid. She systematically walked from room to room, setting fire to all of the drapes, curtains and virtually anything that would burn.
Next, she returned to the second floor and repeated the process throughout that level, ending at her bedroom. She could smell the acrid odor of smoke wafting up from the lower level as the fire spread. She looked out through the open French doors with their curtains ablaze and could see the sun beginning to rise over the eastern horizon. How long had it been since she had seen a sunrise? She had forgotten just how beautiful it could be.
Emily started to walk slowly out once again onto the flagstone veranda feeling the pull of the beast within her trying to force her to flee to safety, but she knew what she must do. This would be her last sunrise and she planned on spending what time she had remaining playing “Remember When” and thinking about her long-lost lover, Bartholomew.
Still naked, she approached the railing of patio and reached her arms high into the air, giving one final mournful cry for her lost love as her skin began to steam under the growing light of the sun. Soon her flesh bubbled into large puss filled blisters, which quickly popped open and subsequently burst into flames. Now her cries were those of an animal in pain as the flesh began to slough from her bones, which in turn crumpled onto a pile before catching afire and burning quickly to dust, which blew away in the morning breeze. As Emily’s conciseness faded to nothingness among the searing pain, she was able to “Remember When” one final time and thought only of Bartholomew.
About Thomas M Malafarina