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.
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.
December 11, 2012 § 25 Comments
As soon as I opened my eyes the crying stopped.
I looked around and except the fact that there was a great deal of rumbling going on from the wind that picked up outside, everything seemed normal. The first muscle that I tensed, not moved, just tensed, Regina opened her eyes too.
“Let’s go.” That’s all she said. No good morning, no how are you.
“Did you hear that?” I asked instead.
“No. What?” Regina answered lazily.
“The… baby?” I reluctantly said.
“Crying baby?” She answered.
“Yeah. You heard it too?” I asked again.
“No, but I woke up a minute ago and heard you doing shooshing sounds as if you were trying to calm down a crying baby. I think you were dreaming.” She put my fears to rest. But it felt really, really vivid, and I didn’t remember any dream about any baby. I remember I woke up and was consciously awake without opening my eyes, and I remember there was a crying baby.
I didn’t say anything else and we both stood up and shivered and hugged ourselves and then one another.
And with that we started zipping up layer after layer of clothes. Onions. It was already as cold inside as outside and I’m surprised to this day we didn’t freeze to death in any of those nights, during sleep.
It was so damn cold you could hear everything cracking. Rocks, our own skin and entire forests cracking and screaming at us… forests which we got rid off after the first few miles… the island became barren and lifeless. Nothing grows inland, nothing. Nothing should be alive there. It’s un-natural and we were but an anomaly that nature was desperately trying to fix.
It was still dark outside. Actually, it was mainly always dark except for 3-4 hours in the middle of the day between 10 and 14. We really, really shouldn’t have chosen the middle of the winter to go there.
In Siberia (and we were north of it) temperatures become so cold that trees explode, blue sparks fly from falling timber, mercury freezes and exhaled breath is transformed into a shower of ice crystals called “the whisper of the stars”.
Initially I didn’t know for how long we would have to walk. Regina thought we would need to go just (and just is a strong word) 10km inside the territory, from the shore, but we ended up going more than 30km in one direction because of the spot where we got left off. One thing always remained in my mind during the whole thing: Who the hell is going to pick us up?
The very few hours of dim light that we had that day were also the hours that showed us the immense whiteness and bareness we were going deeper into, and with each step, the trees were getting shorter, sparser and the snow was getting harder, taller. Everything was telling us to go back, every fiber of our bodies. Nature didn’t want us… but that’s just the thing, we were used to that feeling. I grew up with it my whole life, and Regina… she was the most un-natural thing by our standards, and I’m sure she felt a hint of what I was feeling too.
These were the last familiar shapes we would see. From here on there was nothing but white, endless flatness.
We were just past a small patch of trees when the snow started getting really, really heavy. We had to stop and clear a little patch of our own, a patch of snow, make some sort of a ditch to hold it off so we can have space to maneuver and put on these small little ski-like things to help us move more easily. We put them on, Regina looked like a cat with shoes on, she paced back and forth a few times trying to get the hang of it and before I knew it she got further and further and then disappeared into the trees behind me.
She came back shortly from the other side, all giddy and much faster.
“I think I got it!” She announced.
“Good.” I answered.
“Now let’s move, I’m freezing already.” I added.
We must have walked for another few hours when, after sundown, the mother of all snow-storms started, one of many, and even though both of us still felt like going more, we still had a bit more energy, we were forced to take shelter. This wasn’t a decision that we took rationally, more like forcibly. The wind and snow were blowing so hard in our face that we just had to lie down and start digging in the snow. There were no more rocks, there were no more woods. All that remained was pure white snow and glaciers. We dug ourselves inside the snow and formed in under 10 minutes a little space inside. We sealed off the entrance and stood there in the dark, all wrapped and tangled with each other.
There was no food for today, there was no nothing. We just stood there and waited for the storm to pass.
It was a couple of hours until it passed and meanwhile, we also managed to catch a bit of sleep, if even half an hour of it. I was once away awakened by really disturbing noises of children crying. I was having a recurring nightmare. To top it off, this time I remembered the whole dream. Wether it’s relevant to the story or not, something was happening in my head. I dreamed of the baby crying, it was me. I saw myself as a baby. I saw my mother as a young girl. I saw the two shapes of a human with their faces white as chalk and their eyes dark as tar. I saw them picking me up and closing in towards my face. I saw myself being terrified out of my bones, I saw and heard myself crying like no baby has every cried before. It was the kind of cry you hear a baby let out when he’s born. It was as scary for me as being born was. We don’t remember our moment of birth, of course we don’t, but I would pretty much bet that if we could, it would be a terrifying experience.
Nonetheless, nightmare or not, every single minute of sleep was important. After the snow passed a really eerie silence fell over the whole area, it felt like literally we were the only living beings in the whole universe.
You cannot imagine how dark such a night up there can be, especially when it’s very clouded and not a single shred of light passes through the clouds. No stars. No moon. It literally is like you’re blind-folded. Nonetheless, we had to stop and eat.
“So tell me…” I let out while still chugging in a hot tea.
“Where are we actually going? How do you even know where we’re going?” I added.
“Well we have this…” She said, and she pulled out a small rudimentary GPS unit. Don’t imagine anything with maps, colored or with a touch screen. No. It was the kind that only displays hard data, such as a compass, coordinates, altitude and others. Analog display.
“It’s not working.” I observed.
“It’s frozen.” I added.
“So now what?” I asked.
“Well we’re close anyway, all we have to do is keep the direction.” She responded.
“That still doesn’t answer my question. Where are we going?” I pushed.
“I don’t know really… I only managed to get this location out of pure… logical deduction.” She responded.
“The tale that I told you about, it speaks of magic numbers…” Regina said.
“Magic?” I responded, feeling a bit confused.
“Well of course it’s not magic. But it’s a tale. What do you expect?” She responded with an appropriate answer for the expression on my face.
“In any case. Each number has a story and a function, and if met together, form different threads of fate.” She continued.
“This sounds like a tale, and I’m starting to regret coming here… We’re following a children’s tale for Christs sake!” I shrieked.
“It’s NOT a children’s story. Listen to this:” – And as she said that she pulled out a small notebook, opened it, leaned towards me and shone some light on it. In it, her handwriting. She pointed out at the last line.
So you see, as curios as one is, one thing is sacred and should never be broken. You must follow your heart and understand that there are good numbers and evil numbers, and the most evil of them all are 81 and 95. – I was confused.
“This doesn’t make any -” I was interrupted.
“Read on.” Regina said.
You must never let them meet, you must never let them see the light of day. You must not awake the evil which they hide.
“I… have no idea what you’re thinking about, but I call bullshit.” I said while taking the last sip of tea.
“Oh…” She sighed.
“81!” She screamed.
“95!” She screamed again.
“Never let them meet!” She was louder now and shrieked as standing up. Irritated that I didn’t understand.
“What the hell does that mean?!” I responded on the same tone while also standing up. We were preparing to leave.
“It means that 81 and 95 already meet!” She responded more calmly.
“What?” I was still confused.
“Latitude! Longitude!” She exclaimed.
Holy mother of everything warm she might just be right. I pulled out the map and looked at the last position the frozen GPS indicated. We were there. We were literally another days walk from the exact place where 81 and 95 meet.