Time crawled after my family died. No one remained alive that I knew except for the offspring of distant friends and relatives. I became lonely. On my one-hundredth birthday, and then I still counted the years, I decided to make another like me. The idea came in a dream, for I had not met another of my kind yet.
In the dream, I watched myself as though floating above a scene below, of a beautiful woman and me, kissing and working our way towards that intimate joining. Instead of entering her, I bit her neck, hard. Blood flowed and gushed into my mouth. I groaned and drank until I felt bloated, and her heart slowed until I could barely hear it beat.
I bit my wrist, and as the phantom me watched from above, the physical me placed the oozing wound to her mouth. I held her head and forced her to drink. She resisted, but soon acquiesced and drank greedily. At some point, I withdrew my arm, and we fell back on the bed and dozed.
I woke with a start and knew how to make another vampire through this alchemy—the transfer of blood. A gluttonous amount taken and then given in exchange. So, I went out the next night and searched for the one I would change. I took my time and pretended to eat in fancy taverns and danced with many women, all of whom seemed eager for me to do whatever I wished to them.
Part of it was the hypnotic allure the curse gifted me with. I could bespell any human to do my bidding; I could enslave a human. I did not wish for a slave. I wanted an equal, a friend, a lover—a bride.
This proved a difficult task. The first was Isobel. She kept dark, raven hair wrapped tightly in a bun with tiny curls framing her porcelain doll face. It spilled over her shoulders and breasts when I pulled out all the pins—an independent female for those antiquated times, quick to challenge, and passionate between the sheets.
After her making, she would taunt me. “Vlad,” she pouted, “I’m hungry. Let us go and feast on the flesh of humans.”
“Isobel,” I sighed and told her for the fiftieth time, feeling like a wretched curmudgeon, “we just fed. You cannot go out and murder random humans. You have to be careful, or they will know something is wrong and investigate.”
“Then we will kill them,” she trilled confidently as if more killing remained the solution to all vampiric equations.
“We can’t destroy everyone. Then, there will be no one left to feed on. And you mustn’t dispatch every single time. Take a little drink, then lick the wound to close it, and be on your way. Let them sleep it off and think they succumbed to a swoon or drank too much wine.”
“You are no fun,” she pouted and turned away from me. I began to worry. Perhaps some humans could not make good vampires. Maybe a subset of humans would always turn bloodthirsty and be unwieldy. Was it my place to say who she killed or did not? I created her, so I felt responsible, and also, I did not want to have to move around constantly because my bride could not control her appetite.
We enjoyed a couple of years of companionship. In its artistic way, her beauty hypnotized me, and I would brush her hair for hours, draw my fingers up and down her perfect arms. We kissed endlessly, and the pleasure of the simplest caress or massage could be drawn out indefinitely.
Then, one night, she returned with a child, no older than four or five. I entered our bedroom, and the sheets were stained with blood. It smeared over her lips, and the child moaned, barely conscious. “What have you done?” I shouted.
“I am making a child for us, dear. I remember how you made me, and now I will make another. A sweet, little daughter, for me to care for.”
“A child, Isobel? This is no life for a child. She will be forever small. She will need help to survive.”
“I will care for her! I want this!” Her eyes flashed with defiance.
I rampaged the house and broke paintings and furniture, furious, yet unsure what action to take. I left her with the girl and did not return for a week. Transformed, the child clung to Isobel, and my bride tended to her needs. We grew apart, and I no longer kept tabs on how many she killed or by what means.
Occasionally, a man would knock and ask about missing children or women, and if I answered, I whispered into his ear, and he never returned. One night, I arrived home and found the two of them sitting in the parlor. “Her name is Grace. Aren’t you the best good girl, Grace?”
“Yes, mum,” the small child answered. I watched a smear of blood in the corner of her tiny mouth until she licked it away. She cradled a doll and played absently with its dress, smoothing and picking at the collar.
“I always wanted to be a mother, and now I am,” Isobel smiled.
“How lovely for you,” I quietly murmured. Once, I walked into their bedroom, for they always shared one, and they were having a morbid tea party with a young girl. A small table sat full of porcelain teacups and little sandwiches, which of course, only the human girl ate. Both Isobel and Grace took turns feeding on the girl’s wrist, and I witnessed the human weakening. Fury shot through me. “What the hell is happening here?” I yelled while the glass panes in the windows shook. The mortal began to cry softly. She looked around as if my hollering woke her from a stupor.
Isobel glared at me. “What does it look like is happening? We’re eating dinner.” She leaned forward and whispered something to the girl, whose eyes glazed over. Her crying stopped, and she picked up a tiny sandwich and bit into it daintily.
“Why don’t you go back to your cellar and ignore us like you always do, father?” Grace sneered.
“I am not your father and watch your tone. I could snap your head off like a dead twig. You are an aberration, brat.” Grace ignored me and spoke softly to Isobel. I could hear every word but pretended not to. I cared not one word the undead child uttered and wished she would leave my home and never return. Of course, I would have to evict Isobel as well, and even though we barely tolerated each other, I wasn’t ready to abjure her.
“Leave us be, darling,” Isobel crooned. “We will not cause irreparable harm to the child and will return her safe and sound. I give you my word.”
“I will hold you to that. There will be no more child vampires, and there will be no more child deaths. You will wish to meet the sun if you are lying to me, wife.” I said the last word with no tenderness and retreated to my basement.
My only true refuge in those days: the damp cellar. I bolted the door and slept, tunneling into the grave dirt I bathed in to build my strength. When I was cursed, after my death, I dug up the earth I lay on, that I had drawn my last breath on, and saved it. I wheeled it back to my castle by cart. Horses would allow me to touch them and ride atop them. I retrieved that soil instinctively and brought it down to the basement.
As the years passed, I forgot about it. But during this phase, I lay deep and pushed the soil over me. I did not suffocate or need to open my eyes or worry about bugs. And that is where I began sleeping because I did not trust Isobel and her child, Grace, and I felt alone once more.
We ignored each other and more years passed. I lacked the courage necessary to execute them. So I allowed the strange, unbalanced couple to continue living however they chose, as long as they did not break my rule about children. I never asked, and no information passed between us. A fragile, silent truce, I walked that tightrope miserably until I had the courage to birth another bride.
My chosen weren’t literally brides. I used the word romantically. I loved them all. They loved me too, for a time, and then they left. Everyone always left; an inevitable factor entwined with immortality. Even love only lasted temporarily for those of us considered the most beautiful and alluring. It was not conceited to speak the obvious.
Joan entered my life next, and she contrasted Isobel like a burlap sack to a ball gown. Where Isobel had curves, Joan had a boyish figure. I first noticed her one night while searching for dinner. She dressed as a young male, chest bound, hair cut like a pixie. She wore trousers and plain boots, and she worked as a pickpocket.
I grew fascinated and began stalking her. I followed her and watched, bewitched. She appeared to be homeless and slept in a small cave outside of town. One evening, she returned to her cave but turned abruptly before going in. “I see you!” she shouted. “I know you are following me. Show yourself.”
Powerless, I stepped from the shadows and tipped my hat. “Greetings,” I smiled.
“What do you want?” she demanded.
“Friendship,” I replied, and opened my hands to her in a peaceful gesture.
“Liar,” she retorted. “Men never want friendship except on occasion with other men.”
“You are no man,” I said. She bristled. “I won’t betray your secret. In fact, I can offer you a home with plenty to eat. All you must do is say yes.”
“I’m not a whore.” She crossed her arms over her chest and squinted her eyes, distrusting me. Smart girl.
“I swear it. And I do not offer because I desire your body.”
“What’s wrong with my body?”
“Nothing. I quite like it. But, it would not be a requirement of my providing for you.”
“Then why in God’s name would you let me stay and eat for free?”
I tried not to draw back in revulsion as she spoke that name. Part of my curse is physical pain upon hearing holy words or entering a church. I could do it, but why would I wish to be anywhere near the one I denounced so many years ago? The one who took my family from me and abandoned me in my time of greatest need. No, His sacred names were like a lance driven in my side. I stayed far away from bibles and crosses. By choice, not by fear of death.
“Let me put it this way. I am wealthy and I do what I want. If I desire the company of a person, I am free to invite that person into my home indefinitely.”
Joan acquiesced and moved into one of the spare rooms. Isobel and her whelp, Grace, ignored their new roommate, which suited me splendidly. When I eventually made the offer to turn Joan, she said yes without hesitation. We became lovers not long after. I worried less about the other two because my new wife could defend herself. It appeared she brought her street smarts and physical strength with her into vampirism.
One night near All Hallows’ Eve, we strolled down a sidewalk, while I instructed her about the various creatures of the night. She learned how to spot other vampires and how to scent werewolves and the fae. We didn’t see many fae in those days. On this occasion, we spotted a creature I had heard of, but never seen in person – a zombie.
We interrupted a group of zombies destroying a tavern. Six of the creatures threw furniture, broke it against counters and walls. They were all male and of various sizes. One, a huge bear of a man, with mottled skin and ragged clothing, had a human on a table and feasted from his stomach.
Joan gasped. “What are they?” The monsters had not yet spotted us, which surprised me. I thought our scent would betray us. Back then, beings like these had not been officially named.
“They are known by various monikers: grave monsters, demons, the Devil’s Children, rot cannibals. They are powerless against us. Their flesh is weak and their heads are easy to pull off. They die instantly. Would you like some adventure tonight?” I smiled at her and she grinned mischievously back.
We entered farther into the restaurant. I approached the belly-feasting zombie first. I grabbed his shoulder and yanked him upright. Then, I hopped up onto his shoulders and placed both hands against his ears and twisted. I jumped in the air with the dead ghoul’s head in hand and threw it like a cannonball out the open door.
Joan laughed and clapped her hands. “I want to try!” I bowed and gestured for her to engage the other creatures. Knowing the human with the violated stomach would turn into the same creature as his murderer, I beheaded him as well.
They noticed us by that time with a couple running for the door and the other three charging forward, prepared to fight. I couldn’t let the escaping zombies leave the scene, but I also couldn’t leave Joan with three to fight alone.
She yanked the head off one in seconds and already moved to attack another. The undead man did not wish to die and gave her a nasty fight. He raked claw-like nails down her arms, but she held firm. “Go,” she yelled, nodding at the door.
She didn’t need my help, so I dashed after the fleeing zombies. I watched as one of the escapees ripped into the neck of a passerby. The woman who accompanied him screamed. I dispatched the ghoul with another shoulder-head-amputation and checked the injured mortal only to find him dead. No one survived a zombie bite. If you lived or died, the result was the same and the contagion won either way.
I turned to the woman. “You must leave immediately. Go straight home. Run. I will send for the police.” I employed a dose of hypnosis to my instructions, so she would obey. I couldn’t save her companion, but I could help her.
After another beheading, I tracked the remaining runner. He proved more of a challenge than the rest of his gang. Smarter, faster, and stronger. I trapped him in an alley and he spun around, ready to attack.
“What are you waiting for, mate? Afraid?” I taunted him.
Rumor said that zombies didn’t talk, but this one managed to slur a few words still. He must have been newly made. “Kill you, vampire.” He breathed heavily and bits of flesh fell from his mouth as he spoke.
“Get on with it then.” I motioned him forward.
He walked toward me. When I swiped at his head, he jerked back. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. I picked up a rock the size of a hatbox and tossed it up in the air. Once, twice. I didn’t wish for the creature to suspect the moment I planned to throw the large stone at him. When I did unleash it with vampiric speed, the monster dodged again.
“I tire of this game. Come forward and accept your death with grace.” I grinned. I flew at him and the ghoul caught me. I punched him and my hand came away with rotting cheek flesh. He managed to knee me in the goolies, and I got properly pissed. I grabbed an arm and pulled it off, then used it as a bat to pummel his chest and head. I threw the arm to the side and grabbed the other one. He attempted to twist away, but I had him. After tearing off the remaining arm, I finally detached his head and returned to the tavern. The damned prick had soiled my custom-made suit and my shoes were ruined.
I found Joan surveying the restaurant, ensuring none of the creatures had invaded the back of the kitchen. “Did you get them, then?” She walked toward me, looking at the gore-soaked wreck of my garments.
“I did. We should leave. Let me make another quick round to ensure we don’t leave any of the victims intact. I need a very hot bath.”
We left the establishment secure that none of the creatures remained. I never discovered the aftermath or checked how the investigation ended, but those events concerned me little. Upon arriving home, we threw our clothes in the fireplace and watched them burn while soaking in a hot bath. Together.