I met a vampire for the first time in January 1992, on the corner of Dalmatinska and Matija Gubec Street. The whole day I had a strange feeling. I couldn’t name it. I could barely describe it. It was like something was speaking deep inside me. I knew there was something I had to do, just like a hypnotized man who was following the idea that the hypnotizer gave him, not really knowing what that idea was. Neither did I. And it scared me, scared me like hell—the fact that something was out of control and I couldn’t escape it. That feeling overwhelmed me. And as much as I tried, pushed by fear and growing despair, its meaning was always left somewhere near, but unreachable, like the name you have on the tip of your tongue but you cannot recall it. And that name was the key to change the world.
I felt it since the morning, when I woke up before sunlight and couldn’t sleep anymore. During the day the feeling didn’t stop growing and as night was nearer it grew worst. Am I losing my mind? Oh, I know that would happen if I don’t do something. Where is the answer? And what is the answer?
Around four p.m. my obsession took its most horrible state. I was delirious. I suffered from a strange attack of claustrophobia. Walls suffocated me. Space closed around me. Out of the house, I must run away from the house and the sooner the better, I thought. No explanation was necessary. Running away was the one and only thing that could and must be done.
It’s been a week since it started, that fever of mine, but it had never been so strong. And never had I been so worried. Although, even before, there were still things that might make intelligent human worried. When you begin to find laps and holes in your memory, moments totally lost, total blackouts, some of them fifteen minutes long, it’s time to be worried. But I wasn’t. Oh, no, I wasn’t.
I knew that other people saw that something strange was happening with me, no matter how hard I tried to act like everything was all right. I saw it in their eyes, heard it in their voices, when they talked to me. I was tired of them. I just wanted to be left alone. Everything will be all right, I was saying to myself. I know what I’m doing. I’m strong. There wasn’t a thing I couldn’t deal with. But days were passing and I was getting worse, instead of better. And then, on that last judgment day, my eyes opened. But it was too late then. Things started to happen.
From the moment I left the house and began my walk down the street, I had a goal. I wasn’t able to describe it yet, but a great burden left me. It was good to walk in the streets because there was nothing of the usual horrible winds or rain or cold, yet to come, few days later. The days were still short, but the winter night began to crawl away, making room for the light. The sun’s strength grew. The sunlight fell on the red tile rooftops, the baroque square net of streets, and the many cafés and shops that run fast and senseless. There were lots of people on the streets because it was Saturday night and it was like nobody was paying attention to the fact that a war was going on, only few kilometers away from the town.
It was raining the night before. The town smelled of rain and the forest that surrounded it. All around the town were islands of greens. A blue ring of mountains edge the valley, in which the city lay. From the square, old streets spread out. The high, old buildings, with their decorated soft, pastel colored facades, were embellished with windows outlined with stone decorations, and terraces with stone fences. Double-winged, narrow windows glanced down on the streets and caught reflections of people. The theatre was right there, on the south, not far away from the Franciscan monastery, if one came walking down East Street. The nun’s monastery was on the right, beside the Kanižlić School. On the left there was an avenue of lime trees, towering the Gymnasium and the children’s playground.
St. Terezia church was a beautiful building with its high tower up above the trees’ summits, its bells calling with clean voice every hour. I still remember the smell of lime blossoms. The air was full of sweet pollen. Tree branches leaning over the windows of the Gymnasium’s classrooms, bringing their sweet nectar in the little rooms with cracking floors, and thick rows of yellow tables, and big, old, green boards on the walls.
I remember that I passed by the cinema, took a glance at its window, and then I went on. It was not my destination that evening. The clock on the tower glimmered and it was showing a quarter to five. I had been walking for almost an hour now. I had not noticed. Time. I had an argument about it with a friend once. Is it a dimension or not? —A little school of dimensions one to twelve.
I passed the mall and then, on Cehovska Street, I took my way east.
It wasn’t long before I felt I was going the wrong way again. I stood in front of a flower shop. The window was full of violets. I was watching them half-consciously. Violet and red spots were flashing in front of my eyes. Not good. Not good. My eye caught a reflection of myself in the glass.
And then it happened. It was like pain was tearing my brain apart, but there was no real pain. It was like I was blinded by the light, breathless, not knowing where I am. My legs felt like rubber. Although, this could almost be a pleasant feeling, if I wasn’t so scared. I stretched out my arm to hold myself; I was falling. My fingers touched cold window glass. I was trying to stay conscious; I was breathing deeply, blood pounding in my head. I was losing it! A tingling feeling was just under my scull, tiny sparks, goose pimples... feeling like something is opening inside of me, like I’m disappearing into myself, the ground slipping under my legs...
Someone caught me; someone was asking me is everything all right. Yes, yes, everything is fine, I think. Something that just a moment before was a white, blinding light, slowly became the real world again. Yes, everything is all right. But panic was running wild in me and I started to lose control again, now completely. I pulled the collar of my overcoat closer to my face and started walking. Did I thank that stranger who tried to help me? No, I don’t think I did. Never mind. Walking away.
Hurry, hurry... I was in the dark part of town, now coming from the east, back toward the square. I’m sick. Nothing’s right. Heat in my head, freezing hands, feeling sick. What am I doing here, anyway? I should be at home, in my bed. I should be sleeping. I would love to sleep... like Hamlet.
I passed the big, red-colored building of the fire department. This is not the way home. Just a minute! This is not the way home!
It was dark. I knew how frightening the forest will look. And Kalvarija street was almost in the forest, on the hill and without street lights. Just a little light came from the town and moonlight was the only light making its way between dark trees, that surpass the uphill roadway. That short part from the first houses in Sokolova Street to the first houses in Kalvarija looked wild. People who didn’t live there always imagined horrible things happened here. You could find strange people, doing strange business in the dark corners. And that mass of yellow dirt, on which trees were ingrained, looked like it could topple down at any time. Sometimes, in the spring, during great rains, trees would tumble down, uprooted from where the soil wasn’t very solid. Tree would fall and block the pathway with its fallen crown. And then you would hear the buzzing of a chainsaw, sometimes even in the early morning, chopping dead trunk and freeing the way. Locust trees grow tall and if one of these should fall a pathway would be sealed with its sharp needles. It was impossible to pass it or jump over it without leaving pieces of clothes or skin on its claws, without feeding it with a few drops of your blood. Man-eating trees, I used to say. Yeah, right; my older sister liked to make fun of my words; Freddy Kruger’s reincarnation. But; I was protesting seriously; don’t you see? Have you never seen that forest? Have you never felt branches assembling themselves around you, when you go deep in the bushes? Have you never heard wind caught in branches? Lurking. Sly. Spooky.
I did not feel like going through the dark wood. I was never before afraid of it—never afraid of its wilderness. But, then, I never felt something like this before. And never before was that sound, that secret sound, so clear.
Something was calling from the darkness. It had no voice. But I heard it. Unspoken words rang in my skull. Vik-tooriaaa... whispered with its breath. The fact that it knew my name wasn’t what scared me. What scared me was the way it was saying it, like it knew everything about me. Vik- tooriaa... come closer. I’m here. Can’t you see me yet? Vik- tooriaa... I’m here, just around the corner. I’m waiting for you. I’m waiting for you, only you, Vik- tooriaa...
And suddenly that wasn’t my name anymore, and that wasn’t me. Suddenly, I was able to leave the body of that creature who was walking, seduced by an unknown voice and I was able to see the situation with different eyes, my real eyes.
Yes, she was there, that tall, redhead girl with a black French hat on her head and black, wool gloves, in a dark-violet overcoat, tied tightly around her waist. Walking fast, her ankle boots ringing sharply on the pavement. I could hear the sound of her steps. When the light from the street lamps fell on her long, straight hair, it had the color of melted copper. It went all the way to her waist, surrounding her white, rounded face. That’s me? That can’t be me. I don’t feel like it’s me. And those eyes, what is wrong with those eyes? Those eyes looked like eyes of someone going mad.
That feeling lasted shortly, and it was like alienation from myself. And then I was in my body again and now I was the one who was walking fast, and suddenly I was sure that whatever caused it didn’t matter. I knew that fear would melt away soon. I longed for it.
I turned around. He stood at the corner under the street lamp.
I just passed the drugstore and its wooden and glassy facade. I didn’t see him, didn’t know he was there, until he made his presence known by saying with an unspoken voice my name. And he stood there, his face turned from the light and hidden in shadow. But he was watching me. I knew that he was watching me. I saw his eyes.
And then suddenly something happened in my brain. Thousands of information bits, seemingly without any connection, seemingly meaningless, flashed in my mind, and it was like I was getting aware of each one of them separately. I was aware of how this darkness around us is dangerous and condensed, and that yellow streetlight leaves everything in misty, formless shadows. It was cold, but that coldness wasn’t natural; it wasn’t the coldness of a winter’s night. This time it was like he was the center of it and the coldness was beyond physical sense. It froze my soul. Its condensed power was almost touchable, and it was making the vampire the center of all his being.
But of his entire image, visible and invisible, I was aware only of his eyes, gray, big, persistent, not moving eyes. Those eyes...oh, God, what eyes! Eyes that conquer and do not let go, do not let go, do not let go... That lures, bewitching and mind-taking. Eyes that needed no words. Icy with deep, tiny black purples that were like some kind of hypnotic vortex, surrounded by a chord of gold, spiraling itself deep down into his soul. And when he touched me with his eyes that chord launched itself across space and caught me. I felt like I didn’t want him to let go of me ever again.
I stood motionless and frozen on the empty street. He, there in the corner, his back turned from the light, did not seem to be a living being, like he was a doll someone left as a joke to stand on the corner. Only his eyes were alive. And from that glittering or maybe radiation, I could feel how something was growing stronger in me, freeing itself. Something winced in panic, like something human inside me was screaming recognizing something that breathed with some different life.
New percipience, again isolated from context. His hair was the color of old gold and it was falling on his shoulders and the vague light was making that color darker and warmer. And his face was not pale, it was white, white like paper or the wall that stood behind him and it shone like a human face could never shine. And I was aware that I was forgetting his face every moment and every moment I was getting to know that face again, with the same overwhelming feeling and I thought, really, this is the most beautiful face I had ever seen. And I was aware that the rest of him was a shadow and that it really didn’t matter who he is and what he is, the important thing was that he was here at that moment and I was here, and then that idea repeated itself, the idea in my head that everything is all right, just as it ought to be and that there is no reason for me to be afraid because he was here and I was here and that is just as it ought to be... without the end, making me dizzy and lightheaded.
And lips. I could now clearly see his lips curled in a smile. But what a smile! No one would call it that. More like the grin of hyena, without the sound; or grimace of the hungry beast, meeting it’s pray, knowing that it can’t run from him. Yes, and the lips... There was not the trace of steam on his lips, like there was on mine, when I breathed out, gray transparent little clouds disappearing the same moment when created, taking a flight to the sky. Didn’t he breath? I felt, knew, that he was breathing and I could see the movement of his chest under his dark coat, which he left open, like cold could do nothing to his fragile, slender body, wearing black jeans and a gray sweater. I knew that he was breathing, for if he was not, he would be in a coma, like the one in which he spends his days, hidden from the deadly sun and I knew that his breath was as cold as the air around us.
And all thous informations were miraculously born in my head, like I’ve known it always, only I did not have any use of it. Till now. And not for a second did I doubt it. They were crude facts. They were safety, security. But that security did not diminish my fear. On the contrary, fear spread in my veins like poison, screaming: Run away! Run away! Run away from him! Because I was a human, and he was a vampire. I was a victim, and he did not know...
Know what? I forgot in the second, living in the confusion of the half-amnesia, that was coming and going. What was happening? How did it got like this?
Broken thoughts, bewildered consciousness... standing alone in the night. Hunter and pray.
Elfin, I thought. That was what he was. But something even more than that. Because he was a liar. His beautiful face was only a mask. His dark image was framed in horror. In the beating of his heart echoed lost lives of unknown people. What did my life trespassed in this dark alley? Is this the end? Is this where it all stops, here and now? Will I tonight, in this cold winter night, under the lamp with misty, yellow-gray light, find out what is life and what is death, in the end? From him? Will I die from him and for him?
He moved. I winced astonished, like I just witnessed a marble statue become alive. Instinctively I flinched back. Now it’ll happen! Now he’ll attack me! Now... whatever.
Light fell on his face. White, white, white, but somehow transparent and his skin shining like porcelain. His golden curls tangled on his forehead. His eyes changed color. Now they were blue like the summer sky above the town.
He moved only to make a step and lean on the white wall of the house, to become part of the shadow completely. But I did not really see how he did that. He was just standing on the corner and then he just vanished from one spot and became visible reclined against the wall. Between those two events there was nothing—like he was magically transported to the next spot. There was no time for movement to be made; it was shorter than the blink of an eye. In the lapse between those two events I should have seen something, some movement between.
But there was none. And he just stood there, mocking.
In his behavior; no matter that I could feel his nature and fear it; there was nothing aggressive or attacking. He was standing still, smile undisturbed on his face. More than ever he looked like a doll. Actually, it was like he was a doll that some evil powers had made alive and to imitate human. But there was nothing human in him. Only humanlike.
Oh, if I could only know what he’s thinking while watching me like that; me watching him. Awareness of this strange situation made me spellbound. And somehow I knew, even then, that I could, if I wanted, run away. I could turn and leave and he would not try to stop me. I was saying to myself that only curiosity was making me stay. And the belief that he wants from me something more than just my life. I wanted to find out what that was.
Vik-tooriaaa... the voice again. No, it wasn’t a voice— just a thought in my head. But not my thought. It was he who was pouring unspoken words in my brain, like rain pours through the grass and earth, flooding it. Poisonous rain.
Vik-tooriaaa... so mocking and very, very evil! And I trembled, suddenly being aware that he could, only if he would like, repeat that word again and again, with that mocking evil no-voice, till I went mad and never could I, never run away. It was in my head, for God’s sake! To set myself free from it, I would need to open my skull, tear my brain out…yes, that I would need to do! Open my skull and with my fingers tear that gray and bloody tissue.
Like he could hear that desperate thought of mine and like he is so fond of it, for the first time he made a sound and laugh. The voice was scattered on the street like the sound of crystal pearls breaking on marble. That was no laugh. All the dead screamed from their graves! All souls that he captured inside of him now cried.
- Vik-tooriaaa... said his voice and then he laughed again and he moved away from the wall, slowly; a human movement. The laughter made his eyes shiny with tears. Then his laugher died away but his shoulders were still shaking from little explosions in the depth of his vampire chest.
And I? I was still standing on the same spot, pale and afraid, trying not to think, not to give him ideas how to torture me, not relieving my fears, because no matter how impossible it seemed, he was reading my mind. And on second thought - he was a vampire. What could be more surprising?
- She’s afraid - he was mocking me. Demoniacaly. Infantile. He stood closer to the lamp, putting his hands on his hips and shaking his head side to side, spitting his evil words like an evil mocking child – Afraid, afraid, afraid…
I started choking on my own saliva. My heart was beating in my chest with that horrible tiddy-boom, tiddy-boom rhythm of fear. He looked so horrible and so impossible. But again, there was nothing unearthly about him. Just an evil boy who was mocking me.
- Stop doing that! – I heard my voice, but I went silent that very instant. What now? How to speak to him? And what was that terrified whisper that I uttered to that mythological creature? And who was crazy here, him or me?
Suddenly, he turned his head from me, but did not stop laughing under his breath. He let the lamp illuminate his face, so it become visible to me. Yes, beautiful, very beautiful. I never saw such a beautiful face on a man. And very young, younger than me. Or at least he was younger than me, when he died.
Horrible idea! What are you?
He looked at me. Just for a second. And like he wanted to say: don’t you know?
And then he was gone.
I sighed, like someone slammed fist against my chest and took all air out of my lungs. I froze for a moment, stupidly staring at the spot from which he disappeared. And suddenly a thought was formed in my mind: a ghost! Because that idea horrified me so, I disregarded it. But what else? Then I was strong again, and suddenly I turned to the street and saw him again.
He walked to west, with slow, lazy steps, with an ease of a cat. He knew the moment I saw him. He knew the moment I moved, without thinking and went after him. He knew what I felt. He knew I could not resist going after him. That was unthinkable.
Stupid, to go after the creature who could move around so fast and for whom I could not say what he would do next. Who could say what would he do next? For now, he was just letting me follow him. That was his goal, wasn’t it? But where is he taking me?
He went left, on Kempfova Street and kept moving slow enough so I could follow him and then he was on the street of St. Roko. The street was no longer empty. Suddenly, there were people around us.
For some strange reason I was convinced that he would now disappear. He could not show himself to people! People did not know of creatures like him! He was a myth! He was impossible! And if I felt him and knew what he is, even before I saw him, what was stopping any other person to know, just the same, as soon as his or her eyes fell upon him…
He walked through the crowd and I was following him. People can’t see him, I said to myself, and suddenly there was some bitterness, heaviness and despair in me. But why could I? Why me?
But couldn’t they, really? He passed one couple, the wings of his dark, heavy coat flew around him and one end touched some woman’s leg. She lifted her eyes and looked straight into his face, lit by the light from the windows. And I saw she was surprised, because of something and I saw the man embrace her closer and when they passed me their steps were fast, but they, no matter that they saw him, were not aware of his nature. Their faces spoke of that. Their carefree eyes spoke of that.
And the vampire turned around, looked straight at me and smiled.
And then we went further. Him in front of me, me – following him.
For five minutes we were walking down the streets to come again to the same place where we started. I was already aware that it was just another of his infantile jokes, but I did not stop myself, not even when he went the same way, like he was some mechanical toy with broken controls. I hurried, but now he walked so fast that I almost ran after him.
And then he vanished again.
I was furious; enough furious to stop being afraid. I was angry, humiliated, desperate and ready for anything. And when I caught up on him and saw his slender, blond-haired figure standing in front of the door of someone’s yard, I was crazy and thoughtless enough to try to go to him and take hold of him. And what was the thing I would do to him if I caught him? Well, that I didn’t know.
He looked at me, but it was like he was looking through me. He stood there, keeping his gloved hands on the door’s frame. There was something in his eyes I did not like.
Violent continuation of the game summoned me up.
If only he had disappearing like ghosts do in the old movies, bit by bit... His complete disappearance from my sight made my head spin. But, then, he was no ghost. He only moved to fast for my eye to see. And I knew there is no such thing as a ghost. Ghosts were make-believe. And that was a thing that he was not. He was real. He was real and deadly like every other real creature.
I hesitate only for a moment and then I started to run. In only a few steps I was at the gate. And… you know, I didn’t doubt it for a moment, that he wouldn’t wait for me to steal the last glimpse of him.
He walked, slowly, down the long, sandy road, through the yard. The sound of his footsteps was absent all together. Now he did look like ghost, or like he pretends to be. I put my hands on the door, and tried to reach the bolt, but I told myself in that same moment: what’s the use? And I was right. Because, when I looked at him again, that creature, the vampire, was gone. I turned around, sure that he was somewhere behind me, trying to catch me unprepared, but he was not there, he was nowhere in sight.
And I knew I probably would never see him again. Not tonight, maybe not ever. And thinking about that, I suddenly couldn’t decide what option was more frightening to me: never to see him again, never finding answers to my questions that, in time will start to eat me alive, or to see him again.
I stepped back from the door, thinking how I didn’t even catch a glimpse of him jumping over it. I suddenly felt so very tired. Barren and hopeless. Wasted. Used.
And that is why I become so angry. I wanted to scream. How my peaceful and safe reality became this… this… nightmare?! And why me? Why me?!
What do you want from me; I whispered into the darkness. The darkness was just blank space, emptiness. It was keeping the answers back. The darkness was still and deaf and dumb, motionless. But the night knew. And it didn’t feel like sharing the answers. Not with me. Not with anybody. It closed and swallowed up all the meanings that was important to me.
O, how obsessed I was after that first time I saw him. And how desperate I was, living in confusion, all the time! I had to fight for every breath I took, like something was latching on my chest, stealing life from me. And I kept telling myself: It was a vampire I saw and I know that to be truth. And, yes, there was a meaning, somewhere beneath the surface, but the strangest part in all of it was that it had something to do with me. With me!
Clues, I thought to myself. The vampire should leave traces and clues and the bodies of his victims. In a town, as small as this one was, he will be discovered soon enough. People may not know what he is, but I will know, and I’ll find the place where he hunts for blood, I will find him and demand answers. And I don’t care, I said to myself, if I risk my life looking for him. I can’t stand this anymore! I can’t go on living like this, not knowing! I must find him!
No, I must hide myself in a mouse hole and pray for my life, that other, so optimistic part of my brain, was saying.
Meanwhile, I searched for him, even though I was frighten out of my mind, walking in the dark, midnight streets all alone. I was obsessed with him: the more I looked for him, the more I was scared of him, the more I wanted him. And the strangest thing was that in the month I was trying to find him, there was not one murder in town. I mean, absolutely nothing. The clues were only the dark fantasy in my mind.
Finally, I was tired of that game and realized that there must be a logical explanation for everything that happened. Thus I decided that I must be crazy and that vampires are not real, that it was all in my imagination, my sick imagination. I told myself, so don’t think of that no more or you’ll drive yourself raving mad.
I almost convinced myself. But then…
It was some nights later. For a few days I tried not to think about him. I tried very hard, especially at night. Looking back, I knew that he knew what I was trying to do. He was playing with my mind, you see. And he played it so well, like a virtuoso playing the piano. On the other hand, that was what he was, and you’ll see later what I mean.
So he chose the night when the cold wind raved through the valley, in which bosom the town laid.
All that night the wind played its tune, making the house and its shutters creak and rumble with that strange, unnatural sound, as if some invisible hands were trying to rip them off. The wind found little cracks, no one ever knew existed. It’s high, buzzing sound filled the house. It was like the house was some kind of an instrument and the wind played it and sang in the language only night speaks. Sobs echoed through the rooms, making the house so frighteningly alive; the cold walls being the cells of a gigantic organism, starting to awake from its long lasting sleep, hearing the call of the wind, answering to the rhythm of its song. As if the house was a creature, trying to get away with everything it hides inside.
The room, where I was that night, was small, crowded with furniture and bookshelves, up to the ceiling. Never before did I feel this room so catastrophically small. The uneasiness I tried to hide even from myself, was now awakened with that emotion. I felt scared alone, trapped between the walls and what happened next didn’t help a bit.
The doors in the next room, which lead to the terrace, suddenly retreated to the wind and opened with a great whoosh! A triumphant whirl of air entered the room. One horrible idea possessed my mind, something I couldn’t even put into words because that meant…that made the possibility of…
It was midnight already and everybody in the house slept, my father, mother, and older sister. I sat on the couch all crouched up, watching some bad SF movie, unable to figure out what is going on and who is chasing who or why. My concentration was very bad lately. My blackouts were back. Sometimes I felt like I was suddenly awakened from a bad dream. But there was no relief in that awakening. My life became a nightmare and there was no place I felt safe anymore. Reality was a thing that existed no more. When that door flew open, all attempts to convince myself that I’m OK vanished like soap bubbles. The textbook of vampire behavior states: this is the way he enters your world again.
My parents house was a two-story building, but in my mind there was no doubt that he could climb it, if he decided to do so. Even my cat, Frances, mastered that skill. And I knew that vampires can do much more than cats. And so…
Regarding the cat, he was laying at my feet, curled in a big, shiny, black ball that didn’t care about the roaring winds or about the vampires muffled, demoniacal laughter. I cared. I thought I’d die from horror; that’s how much I cared.
Well, at last something was happening. Actually it was exactly what I wanted, to meet the vampire and make him explain what that incident, from a month ago, was about. But suddenly I wasn’t so sure if that was such a clever idea. Abruptly, I realized that I was putting everybody in danger: my family, people I knew, people who lived nearby and who I probably didn’t know, but who could have a vampire cross their way, a vampires whose target was I - I, a magnet for trouble.
But I was on my feet already, opening the door of my room. The wind tried to tear the door from my hands. The sounds from the next room become ear-deafening. The whole house creaked and moaned, so it became difficult to hear. And it was so cold. I began to shiver.
My sister’s room was at the end of the hallway. My parent’s room was on the right. I stood in the hall and tried to find some movement there. Not a sound. Good.
I turned on the light in hallway. The little, dark staircase on my left seemed like a sinister jaw, waiting for its victim. The little window in the hall did not let much light from outside. The town was under a blackout because of an air raid. It looked so gruesome and dead.
I’m feeling this strange because of this unnatural situation, I tried to convince myself, but left that idea, soon enough. It was no time to lie to myself.
Suddenly I became aware that the wind quieted down and the sounds in the house likewise kept back, but the uneasiness was still there. The shadows in the hall were harsh and the darkness in the corners were like tar; diminishing space.
My heart beat like crazy. I thought of Bernarda, my dearest friend, a girl I grew up with and who was more of a sister to me than both of my real sisters, Asja and Đurđica, and how I wished she was here. But I haven’t told her. Nor could I tell anyone else. My heart started to shiver again.
And then I was in the dark room.
Quickly, I turned on the light. The room was empty. My frightened eyes investigated the dark corners, looking for the place in which someone or something could hide. Oh, how I trembled! And not only from the cold, although the door, that led to the balcony stood wide open, swinging in the wind, letting the cold air in.
It was like a Hitchcock movie. I wondered whether something would grab me if I reached for the door. I thought I was seconds away from a heart attack. I tried to convince myself, this is no movie, girl, this is life, plain and simple. Nothing so dramatic can happen in real life. But, still, I just stood there, shivering like crazy.
It was difficult to decide to move. All my strength left me. And when I did start to walk, it felt like it wasn’t happening, like I was dreaming. Minutes passed. Or so it seemed. I jumped when a big green leaf of the philodendron tree, that stood in the corner, brushed up my knee. It scared me more than anything in my life. Slow down, I told myself. Don’t panic. It’s nothing. Just close the door and everything will be fine. There’s no one here, you see? No one.
And as I reached the door I did not slam it like I ought. No. I rushed on the balcony, like some hero in a bad movie, ready to fight with the dark forces of Hell, if necessary. The cold air griped me and a wind suddenly rose; it almost made me lose my balance.
I stared in the dark until my eyes grew large, but there was no one to see. Still, I could not convince myself that the darkness was just darkness and nothing was hiding in it. For a moment I closed my eyes, hoping that fear will leave me, but that was not to happen so soon. So I turned, entered the room and closed the door firmly behind me.
It’s all nerves, I told myself and almost laughed hysteric. If I keep on like this I’ll drive myself insane. That is, if I’m not crazy already.
I was in my room again, and the light was turned off, and the town looked dead and motionless like before. I approached the window thinking, no town should look like this, not even by night.
Suddenly the cat jumped from the bed, making some strange, snarling sound, starting me. Well, Frankie, what’s wrong with you, I thought. Yes, what was wrong with that animal? He hid himself under the book shelf, and kept looking at me with those big glowing eyes of his; he seemed pretty moon-stricken. Crazy cat, like I was the one that startled him.
Sssss… Francccccsssss… come on, you big, old cat. Don’t make me come and get you out.
Wind howled again like it never stopped. Outside the window clattered like someone forgot to close it. And…
Just a moment! How is that the shutters were not pulled down? And how is that the light is…
… turned off…
And then it happened. I didn’t get to turn around or shudder when from the darkness, one ice-cold hand grabbed my throat, another shut my mouth and a body fell on me, pulling me down on the bed.
I was paralyzed with fear. I could not breathe. My heart stopped in my chest, quite literally. I could not hear it anymore!
But I saw his face so clearly above me, his great gray eyes that were blazing with hate. His face glowed in the dark. His lips where pulled back, in a demonic smile, revealing his fangs.
I winced, trying, in vain, to free my hands.
He gasped out and hid his face in the shadow.
- Don’t scream. It’s better for you not to scream. Do you understand? I can kill you faster than you can open your mouth.
His Croatian was almost perfect. I said almost, because there is always that something in foreigners voices. So I knew he was a foreigner even before he told me anything about himself.
He pulled his hand from my mouth, like he didn’t really care if I screamed or not. Or maybe he would like just that, so it will give him a reason to do something I would not like.
- Why would I need an excuse? - he said, mocking me. And again I was petrified with the feeling that he was READING MY THOUGHTS, and again panic overwhelmed me, with sense of danger and infirmity. And then, unexpectedly, I realized that I don’t have to speak, because he knows what I’ll say before I say it. So I thought, I will not scream, and he giggled arrogantly and said:
- I know.
He watched me for a while and that petrified me. I did not want him watching me! I did not want him here! I didn’t want to have to look at him! But, still, I stared at him like a child, trying to understand, while excited fear turned my blood into ice crystals. His eyes radiated unnaturally, but they didn’t seem alive. They were glassy, like his porcelain skin. His fingers were still on my neck, tight like a chocker, but they weren’t hurting me. I felt them cold and smooth, but nothing more. I mean, they weren’t unpleasant. As much I was scared and in danger, I was aware of this. I expected them to be repulsive; I expected some natural reaction towards that something that he was. But there was nothing like that. Only fear.
A thought entered my mind: he needs only slightly to twist his hand to crush my neck like bird’s. A twist to tear gorge from the living flesh. Just like that. Simply.
Is it better now?
His hand withdraw. The unspoken voice sounded even more ironical then when he spoke. Suddenly freed, I pushed myself away from him, as far as I could. I still could feel his fingerprints, like icy seals on my neck.
He continued to stare at me from the shadows, not speaking. That was a strange situation and it started to get even weirder. For a while we just stared at each other. Was I as exotic to him, as he was to me?
That feeling, that I was not in danger, was back, but I knew it was false. It could not be true. It was utterly illogical. I could not trust it. Fear was the only thing I believed in and I let myself be completely possessed by it (on the other hand, I could not do anything against it), knowing that fear will eventually be the only thing that’ll never fail me.
The vampire’s face suddenly lit up with one little, vicious smile. He looked so incredibly young—seventeen, eighteen years old. A demoniacal transformation on one so young redoubled the horror of his image and his whole existence. His face was, at the same time, so innocent and tender, yet filled with malice and one could say where one begins and the other ends. That was a twofold treachery.
- She’s looking for us. Why is she doing that?
I was still silent, numb and stupefied with fear. He leaned his head a bit and a dark-golden curl of his hair fell on his cheek. The smile on his lips started to melt away, until it disappeared completely from the face of that animated doll. His thin lips become almost a line.
- You should be more careful with your wishes - he continued.
His face was now stern, doll-like and motionless. Even when he talked there was no facial activity. Only his lips moved. Not even his eyes could be called eyes of a living creature, and that was worse of all.
Something began to change in me. My strength slowly started to return in my body. I felt hate. Hate was in my throat. And eventually, hate began to speak from me:
- I want you out of here. No one asked you to come. No one searched for you. Disappear like you came.
- Oh, oh! - he laughed suddenly, his voice flared up in the air, leaving a sulphuric trace in my mind - What a confident child! What a stupid child!
- What are you doing here? What, the hell, do you want from me?!
- What do we want from you? - His gray eyes become sharp and poisonously green - What do you want from us?
- Nothing - I said, suddenly confused - Why would I want anything from someone like you? Live me alone! Go away!
- No. That is not my plan.
Faster and maddening light spun in his pupils, with every second. And with every second I felt weaker and weaker because of his eyes. My strength was dying away again. I had no energy to fight back, no energy to protest. Oh, he was such a liar! Such a fraud! I felt like crying. I wanted him to go away so badly. I wanted him to stay even more. I needed answers.
- Why all this? Why did you call me?
- Call you? - he repeated, sounding like a mocking echo. - There is no need to call someone like you. You heard. You came. Who the wind is calling? And those that hear and understand its song follow the wind. You knew it and followed it.
- Like me? - I cowered, folding my arms around my knees, trying to suppress my trembles. I was horrified by the idea that I was talking to him as if he was human and horrified how easy that was - What am I, to understand this language that you speak of?
He didn’t answer. I stared at his eyes; certainly I could see light overflowing in them, colorful shadows melting in to one another, like in a kaleidoscope.
- Moreover, now it’s too late. You can retreat no more.
Panic griped me.
Why does the wind come? To bring turmoil to the soul. Do you know your turmoil? Do you know - me?
I winced. My head said - no. I don’t know you. How could I; someone like you? You’re not real, now I can see that. I am just dreamed you. And soon I’ll wake up.
- It’s such a strange dream - he said. An expression of complete surprise went over his face. But then, suddenly, his eyes became ravenous and cat-like.
- I don’t believe you - I whispered through my teeth. The impish boy took that like it was a good joke.
- And what is the difference? What you can make from that? You don’t need to believe my words. You don’t need to believe in me. I’m not a god, who depends on believers. I will be - despite. I’ll exist - regardless. I’ll stay - because I am.
I was aware that I was foolishly staring in him, but I did not care. The words he spoke, in that strange whisper, were like a song, but I didn’t know their meaning. My ears heard, but my mind forgot it next moment. I was in some kind of a half-dream, in which everything sank down in slow motion, like pictures on a computer screen with a memory problem. I squeezed my elbows with my palms, trying to get a grip of myself. I felt like the world was reshaping in something new, its fabric falling apart and I was sure that I’ll, very soon, foll through that time-space gap into nothingness.
- Why is this happening?
- Is that the question you seek an answer to? - he asked and I was on the edge of hysteria. At the same moment wind hit the windows, which were not properly closed, and they flew open, slamming into the walls. I cried out and rose my hands, trying to defend myself from some unthinkable horror. The wind invaded the room, icy cold, upsetting the vampires golden hair. But the vampire himself didn’t move a muscle. Not even his eyelashes flattered. His glassy eyes didn’t blink. After a while only his lips moved:
- Maybe you should ask: Why is this happening to me?
- Go away! - I whispered desperately. In my mind, forgotten debris of prayers shuffled like Tarot cards, but I did not believe in the devil and I did not believe that the creature before me was of satanic nature. I did not believe in prayers. And he? He didn’t care at all. He existed. He was. And that was the only thing that mattered to him. And what was he, then? Some unearthly force? No. Just some great shadow that materialized itself, enslaving the soul of one that used to exist and is now feeding itself, like the devil would, on the lives of mortals? Something that knows no death, because he is death, born in death, anew; to be as he was when alive? Not alive, but not dead, something between - undead. Beyond God’s reach. And that is why prayers could not reach the one that has no name.
- You can’t banish the wind - he said, and then stood back, with golden curls around his face, in the room that was filling with air running wild. His figure, normally pretty frail, suddenly began to grow, until the top of his head touched the ceiling. His hands became two clawed pads, and his chest swelled beneath his little head.
It’s an apparition. It must be. I don’t believe in this vision!
But my heart was beating so fast, I thought I’d die, and I didn’t care if this was real or not.
In the next moment he stood before me, like he was before and now he grinned mockingly.
- You don’t know the difference between reality and illusion - he said, now completely normal again, a golden-haired boy with an undead mask-face.
- And what are you? Real or not?
He stood by the window and leaned through, but somehow that motion was so unnatural. For a while he did not answer. His face was hidden under his hair.
Slowly he turned to me, the smile never leaving his face.
- That is for me to know… - he said, and then turned away from me again - … and for you to find out.
And he was gone. Disappeared. Just like that. Only, I still heard his voice saying: Am I beautiful? And the voice of my soul in my head said, softly and spellbound, like the voice of someone who just died: O, yes - very. Very. Very.
Dead silence. Only the wind hollowed outside. Everything else ceased to move.
I sat still, letting the time go by. Only the sound of the church bell startled me. The cat in the corner still snarled unnaturally. Somewhere in the background there was another sound, like a whine, but there was no one else in room but me.
And it was me whining.
Slowly, I leaned and tried to pull the shutters. I pulled. Nothing. Broken. Of course.
I stood up and reached for the window. Don’t look down, I said to myself. Don’t look down. You know he is still there. You don’t want to see him again. You don’t want that.
I stood by the window, looking at the vampire, petrified again. He stood in the empty garden, like he was a little lord, smiling. Wind waved his black overcoat and that golden hair of his. The evil of his smile was so persisting and eternal. And there was something more, that childish innocence in him. And that was worst of all. Completely disarming. He looked like a boy who just performed the greatest joke of all.
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