old habits die hard [story part 49]
April 25, 2013 § 25 Comments
“I’m sorry. I can’t anymore. One more drop and you’ll have to carry me back.” I said as I pried both of them off of me. Him from the wrist and Regina from the neck. I remember I started actually praying around that time, for it to be the last time I feel something like that.
I had never had two of them feeding off me in the same time. In five seconds you feel like your whole life just fell apart instantly. There has to be another component to it, because the drain is not only physical, but emotional too. You actually feel yourself being… taken away. I don’t know how else to put it.
“Or we can leave you here.” Sigismund responded.
“You know what? I’m really tired of you already. I’m the only reason you’re not still in that ice prison in the first place. How about some respect?” I said in frustration. I immediately regretted it, but the pressure and stress was taking its toll. I was on the brink of total collapse, emotionally. physically I felt more than fine, just had troubles keeping warm.
“RESPECT? To a boy?! I’m hundreds of years old. You should watch your tone.” He responded.
“No, you’re not. You were dead for all that time. It doesn’t fucking count. You didn’t live. I did. I know this world. You don’t. How about we leave you here?” I said angrily. I don’t respond well to threats.
Regina was smiling. Not saying anything, just smiling.
“Oh you’re acting like children.” She finally said.
“Well at least I have an excuse. I am one. What’s his?” I said. He growled.
We continued like that for what seemed like ages. I only remember what I said above, because that was pretty much the beginning of it. There comes a point in any discussion where arguments stop to matter and you start attacking the person you’re speaking too. Sure enough, we ended up arguing about who’s the man, as in, who’s the best, man or vampire. You don’t want that discussion, ever.
We were in a makeshift shelter for the day, and we needed rest. We fell asleep, one after another.
The second day we continued the talks started a day before. Regina was explaining as much as she could about the world today to Sigismund, I was most of the time left behind. I didn’t mind, I felt confident she could explain it better but then I started poking more and more into the conversation because it felt like it needed a human point of view too. I was making the case so to speak, for all mankind, hence why I say we continued the talks from the previous night. In any case, today I was terrible.
“How did you get here in the first place anyway?” I asked Sigismund.
“Well I certainly didn’t come here in the winter like you.” He responded.
“Good, because we needed an ice-breaker to get to the shore.” I added.
“An icebreaker?” He asked.
“Yes, you know, a ship that breaks ice.” I added smiling.
He was impressed just at the sound of it. I had a feeling he would like this world more than he should.
I also realized around that time that this was a major flaw – well not really a flaw – but more of an entry point into his bubble. Any person, vampire or animal has an invisible bubble around him, a bubble where he keeps all his confidence and it’s his territory alone. It’s hard to get through that bubble to a person, but I find that it’s usually the best approach to get the person interested or open about something that he likes or would like to know more. That’s why people get close if they have something in common, that’s why dogs like you if you offer them something interesting (not necessarily food) and that’s how I planned on taking on Sigismund.
“Ice breaker you say. Tell me more.” He said.
“Well what is there more to say. It’s a ship, that has a hard bow and breaks ice in fr…” I was interrupted.
“No, not about that, about others.” He said.
“Other… things. Like this ice-breaker.” Sigismund added.
“Like new inventions?” I asked.
“Not really, like things that I’m familiar with, but evolved through time. Old things turned new, like me.” He responded with half a smile on his face.
“You want to know old things turned new? Well how about this: Transilvania is not independent anymore. It belongs to Romania.”
He looked at Regina. She nodded.
“I like him.” He added, and turned back to me.
I want you, the reader, to understand that Sigismund was a real person. If you’ve missed the previous posts, Sigismund is a relative of Regina, his name is Sigismund Bathory, he ruled Transilvania for a while. He wasn’t bad nor exceptionally good, he helped lower Romania (Wallachia) with troops for fighting against the Ottomans (because it was in his interest), but in the end he was driven out after the Romanian armies marched into Transilvania.
He was a controversial person. Although of Hungarian family (the name Bathory) he was actually Romanian, and prince of Transilvania. He fought side by side with the Romanian troops against the Ottomans, but then he ceded Transilvania to his cousin, Andrei Bathory, who was Polish. This pissed off the Romanians. He also promised certain privileges to the Hungarians living in Transilvania, which were withdrawn by a Romanian governmental gathering later on.
He then changed his mind about the throne, and asked for it back from Andrei Bathory. After he received it, he decapitated a few officials which were Turkish sympathizers, including one of his own family, Baltazar Bathory.
He then ceded the throne a second time, leaving Transilvania to his wife, and went to Prague. A year later he came back unexpectedly, took Transilvania again, only to cede it back once again to his cousin, Andrei Bathory.
After Andrei Bathory died, he came back once AGAIN and took Transilvania, but this time the Romanian troops have had enough of this power-play, went to war with him, defeated him and he returned to Prague once again.
He supposedly died in Prague, the Czech Republic, in 1613, 28 years after Regina was born, 300 km from Cachtice Castle were Regina was born.
But enough with the history lesson.
“Well at least it’s not Turkish.” He replied.
“Oh don’t get me started on the Turks.” Regina yelled from the front.
“We’re here.” Regina shouted at us without turning, and picked-up the pace.
In front of us was the shore, covered in the thickest of fog you can imagine. A single small boat was there, with one person freezing his ass off in it.
He didn’t say a thing. He didn’t raise his head. None of us said anything either, except me of course, I said hello and a pat on the back. He recoiled.
He started the engine, barely. The boat must have been there for a while, and we headed through some really massive waves into the open.
“YOU – wave – CALL – wave – THIS – wave – AN ICEBREAKER?!” Sigismund was yelling through the splashes of water at me.
“TURN AROUND.” I yelled back.
“WHAT?” He responded.
“BEHIND YOU.” I yelled again.
I didn’t see the look on his face, but I can imagine it.
Such a sight must have been something for him. There it was. Now, I know for some of you the name might mean something imposing, and it should, but there are different types of ice-breakers. Small, Medium, Large and Nuclear. I would have loved for him to see the latter, but the truth is this one barely kept afloat, was of medium caliber, but where it lacked in size it compensated in lights. If you’ve ever seen a search boat in the night, with the lights turned on, you know what I mean.
But he wasn’t impressed by the lights nor the size. He was impressed by the material.
“But this is pure iron!” He exclaimed as he knocked strongly on the side of the ship.
“Steel.” I replied.
“Steel? All this is steel? But this must take decades to make, such a large amount of steel.” He replied back.
“Not anymore.” And I pulled myself on board, leaving him behind on the wooden ladder behind me.
I could hear him still shouting behind me.
“And it floats!” He was ecstatic.
I was sure by now that this was truly the best way to get into his bubble. A curios person will be a curios person no matter for how many centuries he’s been dead. Death doesn’t make you boring – or bored – death makes you want to live and know that much more.
As we walked inside the warm bowels of the ship, warmth for the very first time in over a week, he said in a lower voice, to himself.
“I could conquer the world with a fleet of these…”
Oh, I wondered, what an amazing photo would it make of his expression when presented with a Nimitz class super carrier.
As soon as we descended into the ship, a 60 something old man with clear Russian features and with two missing fingers saluted us and kissed Regina.
Oh I wondered… but I didn’t ask. Was this me, 40 years from now?
A cabin with 2 bunk beds, 4 seats was opened for us and we stepped inside. Not a minute later, two men entered the cabin. Two very big and solid men. I jolted to my feet in less than a second, thinking this meant trouble, but as fast as I jolted Regina did too, straight for the neck of one of the men. He didn’t fight back. It was consensual. She was two, maybe three times smaller than the man, and she coiled around him like a snake with both of her feet wrapped around his waist and one of her hands around his head and with the other hand pushed against the metal bar of one of the beds. I could see the man’s face getting red, then blue, then white, as he failed in strength as solid as he was. His feet slowly gave way, his knees started bending and then he left himself go. Regina fell with him but still coiled around him continued to squeeze like an anaconda and breathe heavily as she sunk deeper and deeper until the man almost passed out.
She stopped and didn’t wipe her mouth. She stood over him, blood still dripping from her mouth, breathing as like she had just finished a hundred meter dash. I was out of there in a second. As I left, the door closed behind me and just through a small crack before closing, as I turned, I could see her face as she was in her true from like this. I shuddered. Oh, if I only knew how close I was and how much control she has over her body to resist such hunger with me next to her, for so many days.
Not a minute later, the two men left the cabin, barely keeping their balance, but ok, and with a smile on their face.
This was a
brave weird new world.
welcome to my world [story part 48]
April 24, 2013 § 12 Comments
I managed to set everything up, set a small fire, light the small portable stove which took quite some time because of the cold, and managed to set-up some ice to melt, boil and cool for drinking water. Regina didn’t need any, and even if she did she managed to just chew on snow even if we both knew that was a very bad choice in terms of maintaining your temperature. I on the other hand, I was worried about germs. I’m not usually even thinking about that, but in that environment right there, that was the last place you wanted to get stuck with a stomach bug.
These are non-details, and most of the time I don’t discuss them because it would be just much more to write and for you to read, but they just expose the real side of it all. It might seem at times as just this long trail of day of adventure after another, but in reality most of it was carefully planned and often turned into misery.
To think of it, a lot of you have been asking me how can you cook in such an environment. It’s simple. You carry one of these. Make sure to choose a propane and not iso-butane one, as the propane one burns at a higher temperature, for longer and works in very extreme cold conditions.
In any case, by the time I finished all that, Regina was appearing from the tunnel I had left her in, almost 3 hours earlier, time in which we kept talking with one another by means of shouting – not very efficient – she was dragging Sigismund behind her.
It wasn’t really a big block of ice, more like the backside was free of ice altogether and the front side had some 2-3 cm of ice. It was still more advantageous to drag it rather than carry it, so there you have it.
She placed it between the small fire and the stove. I said absolutely nothing in all this time. I was looking at my water, not raising my head, peeking at what she was doing now and then, but in the end I didn’t say a word.
I was used by now. She would explain what and when she wanted, and nothing that I said or did could force her to do it sooner.
The ice started to thaw slowly and slowly. Meanwhile we barricaded the best we cold each and every entry and tunnel to trap as much heat as we could. We needed it to thaw it faster because we couldn’t stay much longer. It would take us 2 days to get to the coast and someone was coming for us, on a schedule.
We sat there and talked about hopes and expectations. Regina was positively sure he would come back to life. Surely, he wouldn’t have done that without knowing it for sure?
I was more pessimistic, as always. There is no way you’re bringing someone back to life. Decomposition must have set it, at least on the inside, because it looked more or less like a sleeping person.
The night came and went, and the body continued to thaw. All through the night we routinely burned everything that we didn’t need anymore just to keep the fire going. We were down to our last canister of gas, which I wasn’t letting go of. We needed it on the way back and we both knew it.
As it got free of ice, naturally, the body started getting warmer from the surrounding temperature. Regina turned it from one side to the other like it was no more than a piece of meat, I watched in amazement how for the first time she was getting more or less desperate. The body was getting warm, but nothing else was happening. He was dead.
She stripped off the clothes off him and off her too, and got inside the sleeping back with it. That’s it I was thinking, that’s the last time I’m touching her. I could see it on her face how she was pushing herself to the limit to become warmer and warmer, but unfed, and in that environment, it was hard even for her to keep any kind of effort for more than 5 minutes.
On a number of occasions she collapsed, or how she put it “feel briefly asleep”. I fed her more than I could handle too but at one point I had to open my mouth and say what nobody wanted to hear.
“Regina. I’m sorry, but he’s gone. He’s been gone for 500 years, it’s useless. Let’s put him back in the ice and leave or we’ll end-up there with him too.”
She looked at me, then looked at him, then back at me, and nodded. She got up and started dressing, and me, without wasting any time, I started packing. I was more than happy to get out of there already. Disappointed that we went through all that for nothing, but happy to leave.
“I don’t understand it. He’s in perfect condition. Look.” Regina said, and cut him on one of his hands and thick, dark red blood started slowly oozing out.
“Everything should be more than fine. I’ve been in much worse situations that these, and I had no problems recovering.” She continued as she peered open one of his eyes to check for a reflex. Nothing.
“Well maybe we need a defibrillator.” I said, not in a serious manner, as I was taking apart the last things and shoving them down in the backpack.
But Regina did take it seriously, and with a flick of her hand, through the left side, under the arm, she was inside him. I could hear ribs cracking, see blood flowing out and for the first time in my left, feeling dizzy from the sight. Something about considering the body dead, and not alive, made such images much harder to bear. Something about me being in that very same position not so long ago.
It didn’t take long and Regina gasped. The second she gasped I looked at her, and he was looking at me.
I froze completely. No way. This isn’t possible. This is beyond natural.
But then again, you don’t need to be a vampire to be trapped in ice and still have flowing blood through your heart 500 years later. Here’s a human that managed to do that. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know this.
Regina pulled her hand out of him and turned her head towards his eyes. I could see it in his face, frozen and stiff still as it was, that he knew who she was on the spot.
He couldn’t breathe properly, he couldn’t move and he was not healing.
“Drink. He needs to drink.” She shouted towards me.
Not sure of how I felt about that, or even with the time to think, without hesitating, because that’s why I was there in the first place, I jumped towards them and pulled my wrist out, shoved it in his mouth.
I looked at Regina and she looked at me smiling.
“Nothing is happening.” I said and I pulled my wrist away slowly.
“He doesn’t even have to power to draw.” She responded. To draw meant to pull or grow the fangs. He couldn’t bite down and to be honest, he didn’t even look like he knew what was supposed to happen. Confusion was in everyone’s mind, especially mine, but he was winning this round.
Regina bit down on my wrist instead. Once, twice, three times and then let go.
I shoved it in his mouth again and in that second his eyes widened, they started getting darker and darker. I could feel his fangs extending and I felt the bite. Oh I felt it alright. It wasn’t like anything I have ever felt before. His fangs felt ten times bigger and thicker than Regina’s. He was clearly no cat.
Aggressive and insatiable, he kept drinking and drinking. I could feel him getting warmer right there. His breathing was stronger and his hands were gripping mine with more force each second. I started getting cold shivers in less than 20 seconds and then I tried pulling away. He let go the second I tried doing that. It was, by all means, a surprise. The appetite in him did not give any indication he would give-up so easily.
“I can’t see.” He said, in Hungarian. I don’t speak it, but I understand it on some level.
I stopped looking at my wrist and opened my mouth in amazement.
“It’s all too unclear.” He continued.
“But I would recognize that smell from a thousand rivers apart.” He said that as he started getting up.
I guess his vision got clearer by the time he stood up, and I stood back, because the very next thing I saw was Sigismund coming towards me. I knew that look.
“Sigismund. No. He’s almost drained.” Regina exclaimed.
He didn’t listen. Oh god. We’re in trouble.
“No!” She shrieked and pinned him with ease against a wall. He was barely breathing from how hard she was squeezing him.
“He’s… what I was to you.” Regina continued.
He stopped when he heard that, not that he had any other choice.
And then, with still a frown on his face… and an expression of confusion, he said: “So much strength. Anna, my dear…” as he got close and cuddly with her, and started caressing her cheek and holding one of her hands. I could see it in her face that she was melting down, almost like a 15 year old girl getting her first kiss. I didn’t know what it was. Love, respect, submission, missing someone for too long. I liked it and disliked it in the same time.
“How are you so strong?!” He then exclaimed in a loud, deep, angry voice.
Then he started making heads and tails of what was going on. He looked at our clothes. He looked at what was around him and everything that we have been using, the gadgets, the stove, the backpacks, the materials.
Eyes wide opened, he said almost startled:
“How long have I been in there?!”
“Well, when and how did you end-up there?” Regina asked.
“Soon after… soon after I’ve last seen you.” Sigismund responded.
“Well, then, let’s take it slowly.” Regina said.
“It has been more than 400 years my dear.” She continued.
“The year is 2007.” She said and waited for a reaction.
Oh and the reaction came alright.
This is all Sigismund:
“WHAT?! You fool! Oh, that fool! You’re both incompetent!”
“I slept too long! He was supposed to wake me centuries ago!”
He was exclaiming at the walls and at Regina as he was pacing back and forth.
“And you! You! Why are you here?!”
“Why are you still alive?! YOU KNEW EXACTLY WHAT YOU HAD TO DO!”
He almost growled towards Regina. He was 100% steaming.
“Regina…” I tried telling her we ought to start going and talk along the way. A small distraction, because he wasn’t headed the right way. The calm way.
“REGINA? Is that how you call yourself now?!” He continued.
“You were supposed to pass your gift and die! YOU KNEW THAT! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!” He raged on.
What?! I thought. Well this is certainly productive.
“And you bring a human with you?! A human?! Have you lost your senses?!”
“Of course you have. You’re too old. Your mind has seen too many lives!”
Regina wasn’t saying anything.
“Look at him! He’s terrified!” He said, with his hand turned towards me.
Hei! (Truth is, I was a bit terrified, I would be terrified even of a mouse that angry.)
Speaking of which, he was very different of how I imagined or how Regina described him. He was much shorter for starters, shorter than me, thin, very pale, very narrow compared to me. Regina was bigger than him in any way and any direction possible, and she is average by our standards.
“Sigismund. Things have changed. A lot.” Regina finally said.
“CLEARLY!” He responded.
“We number in the millions now. A lot of humans know about us!” She added.
He gasped. And stopped in his path.
“We can feed in peace, by willing humans offering to us. We don’t need to kill anymore.” She added.
His eyes widened in anticipation, but he was still very much steaming angry.
“Most of the humans willingly donate their blood in special receptacles that keep it for months! You can buy it just like clothes!” She continued.
That didn’t sound right.
“Millions?! ARE. YOU. INSANE?!” He responded without a hesitation.
“There is no way there are millions of us. From where did they come from?! How can they survive?!” He said.
“They come from me. They come from you. You made me a queen.” She responded.
He was almost shaking with contempt.
“And the humans… the humans number in billions. Over 7 billion of them!” She continued.
That seemed to just increase his contempt.
“Rats… like rats…” he added.
I didn’t like that, but I didn’t say anything. By all means, he might be right.
“So you’ve built yourself an empire. An empire where humans offer to you willingly, billions of them?!” He asked.
“Yes my dear. And we…” She trailed off, and then picked up another thought “There are legions upon legions of carefully trained kins, stronger than you could ever imagine.” She responded.
“Well, you’ve done it. You doomed us all. Humans and vampires alike. You, my dear, you are death, standing in front of me.” He added.
I didn’t understand a thing. I was expecting him to be proud, happy. Yet he was an angry old man, really old man.
He then looked at me.
“Is this true?!” He asked me.
“Yes, it is.” I responded, in Romanian, as I got closer to him. The closer I got, the stronger I felt. I was taller and almost looking down on him. I knew that wouldn’t make any difference, but I needed the feeling at the time. I was feeling too irrelevant in the whole ordeal.
He understood me well, but did not switch to the language. He had even more contempt for me now that he had before.
Then he saw my necklace, and his expression and everything about him changed. From raging and confident, he turned small, scared and paranoid. In a second.
Without taking the eyes off me and the necklace, he continued the same line of thought.
“If they ever find out about this… we’re going to suffer. All of us. This is not what they wanted.”
I knew very well who ‘they’ were. I couldn’t believe ‘they’ were such a great influence on him too. He was talking about the black eyed kids.
“They already know… they never tried to stop me, and I never saw them again. They can’t stop me now. I am too old, to angry and too strong for them to do anything against that. I think you’ll be surprised.” Regina said.
“Their plans might have been changed.”
“You’re also too arrogant.” He added.
close your eyes and turn away [story part 47]
April 19, 2013 § 6 Comments
Just like that, we walked forth into the white nothingness that was ahead of us, and we continued walking and we were determined not to stop until we reach whatever it was we were searching.
No more stops, this was the last stretch.
In front of us, sticking out of the snow, was a 2-3 meters tall grey, old battered stone – in the distance. As we continued to approach it, with the sole thought in both of our heads being to seek shelter, the stone continued to grow larger and larger and by the time we got near it, the stone was actually the head of a small opening in the snow, in which nothing but darkness could be seen when looking down. No matter how much snow we threw inside of it, it wouldn’t fill up, no sound would come out of it and no light would reach the bottom.
“We’re going down there” Regina said, and with that she jumped inside.
I had watched one too many documentaries to know what a crevasse was, and know that once inside you’ll never get out, no matter what kind of creature you are. The icy walls would make sure you would meet your doom down there.
Before I even had the chance to finish my thoughts, Regina popped her head outside of the small opening.
I was left with my mouth wide open.
“It goes to the right! Don’t go straight down, we’ll never get out of there. Come, through here.”
She was right. It forked into a number of different caves, made out of crystal-clear blue ice mixed in random spots with solid dark bedrock.
In here there was no snow on the ground. The ground was actually… earth. Pure, stone-frozen earth, but earth. I hadn’t seen dirt for what by now seemed ages. It was strange seeing in there. And the cave, it was marvelous. Scary, un-ending, but marvelous. Shining the lights on the crystal-clear blue ice walls offered nothing short of a spectacle of blue and green light reflected in each and every corner of the cave – or should I say cave system because it seemed to have tunnels leading in all directions that got gradually smaller and smaller until they turned into a mere crack in the wall.
“This is nice and all, but we can’t stay here. We’re very close.” I said while we continued to walk inside one of the tunnels.
“I have a feeling we are already here.” Regina responded. The tunnel continued to narrow and lose all the rock inside, forming into nothing more but an ice tunnel with a dead-end.
“Well then, it seems this was all for nothing. There’s nothing but ice and rocks here.” I said.
“Really? Then what is that?” Regina responded, and stopped.
We were both looking with our eyes wide open, in the dead silence of this time forgotten cave, with nothing but darkness behind us, at something that was not supposed to be there.
A perfectly carved stone block.
This rock was of a different color. Of a different texture. This was not the same bedrock from which the cave was made. This was brought here, by hand, piece by piece.
The stone block was made of several different pieces that fit together almost perfectly, held together by what seemed nothing but ice. It was as if a cracked container was filled with water and held in place until it froze solid. Or maybe did it crack because of the pressure of the ice? Who knows.
Regina took a step forward and I grabbed her hand.
“Regina, no.” I said.
She yanked her hand out of mine and took another step, slowly.
“Why not?” She responded.
“The story. What if it’s more than a story?” I said.
“That’s why we’re here. If the story is true, then one thing and one thing only can be in here.” She said with a determined voice and started jamming the knife sideways under one of stones at the end. With a hard pull of the stone, she yanked it off and shining the light on the ice beneath it, unclear but in the same time perfectly recognizable, was a human-shaped face.
I completely froze.
This was it. We had done it. She was right. Now what?
“Now what?” I asked.
Regina looked at me confused.
“I don’t know.” She answered.
This was not an answer that I got too often for her. Regina answering that she doesn’t know what to do next was rare, because she was used to plan in advance. A lot. Most people don’t plan in advance so much, but she did. She always had that next step, but I guess this was as surprising for her as it was for me.
We stood there in the dark, with a frozen dead body covered by a few centimeters of rock-solid ice, looking at one another.
“Do you want to take him out?” She asked.
“Me? I don’t even want to be here!” I responded quickly.
She started digging around the other stones that was covering the rest of the block. I stood there idly and watched.
“We’re staying here tonight. Go back to the main entrance and light a fire. I’ll be there when I’m done.” Regina said.
I didn’t know what ‘done’ meant but the idea of a cozy small fire didn’t sound bad, so I obliged.