Stuart stood in the corner, enshrouded by the darkness that afforded him a voyeuristic point of view. He watched the show as the performers continued their dialogue, chatting to each other as if the throbbing crowd did not exist. Their feminine bodies clad in clothes of an era long past, corsets, suspenders and wigs all pertaining to the Victorian era mixed with wild hairstyles and lighting from the present. Every so often the hint of a smile would cross his darkened face as they joked around with each other. One woman in particular was leading the show, both abusing and praising her fellow performers. The bouts of dialogue and comedy were interspersed with songs that Stuart knew well. He had been a fan of this artist for many years, some of those were drenched in blood and pain and the music was the only thing that had pulled him through. The complications had all arisen from the company he kept, the trust and faith he had held for others, things were different now, there was only him. With a grunt and a snarl he pushed himself away from the wall and made his way to the bar to order another round of drinks. A bottle of ale and a whiskey chaser, the only friends he kept in contact with any more. He passed the barmaid the payment and offered her a wink, she responded with a giggle and a smile, watching him return to his place in the shadows. He wore a black shirt with lace frills on the neck and cuffs, a pair of black trousers laced up the full length on each side and tucked into a pair of knee high boots adorned with skulls and zips. His thick dark hair hung around his pale face and down over his shoulders and chest. Dark eye-liner framed his eyes that seemed to penetrate her as she had passed him his drinks, staying locked to her as he downed his whiskey. There was something dark, dangerous and arousing about him. With a sigh the barmaid moved to her next client.
With the show over Stuart had remained in his seclusion until the crowd had dispersed before making his way out onto the street, reclaiming his long brocade coat and skull capped cane from the cloak room. For several moments he stood still in the middle of the pavement, revellers pushing past him on either side, leaving him like a dark island in a sea of joy and fun. Fun, what did that word mean any more, there were moments of pleasure, enjoying the company of a woman or watching porn, laughing at someone else’s misfortune or your own. Music and sex were about the only things that made him feel good any more, even the drink and drugs were wearing thin. With a curse he began to make his way down the street, looking for a dark bar to hide in and drink away the weight of the world, maybe even find a woman’s company to enjoy for the night. Nothing was permanent any more, people were there to use and be used in an attempt to remove the boredom and loneliness of this life. The thought left him feeling glum and he pushed it out, concentrating his efforts on finding his next drink. As he passed a bar he recognised the music that flowed through the open windows. Without a second thought he pushed the door open and made his way in. The pub was lit with red and blue lights and filled with the alternative fashions of the day, the kind of place where Stuart could feel at home. He ordered his drinks and took them to a table in the corner, his eyes flowing over the females in the bar around him as their bodies moved seductively in time to the music that blared out, their colourful hair and dreads swinging over their shapely bodies. One girl in particular caught his eye, her slim body clad in a PVC dress and fishnet stockings, her black hair highlighted by bright pink ribbons tied into bunches at the sides of her head.
Her pale features were edged with dark make-up. Stuart’s eyes drank in the curves of the tight fitting clothes, the shape of her breasts and thighs, as he prepared himself for his approach. Finalising his first words he rose from his seat, just in time to see the woman embracing and passionately kissing her female consort. At first he cursed his luck as he sought out the exit, but after a few seconds he began to chuckle, coldly, to himself. Something of such beauty should not be abused by a man of his own nature. Perhaps in the past he would have been good for her, but now he was just another man, after the same thing every other man was after. As he resigned himself to a night alone he left the bar, feeling both disheartened and amused by the nights events. Choosing a solitary route home he walked into the alleys and back streets of the London town, avoiding the bustling night life and bars of the main drag. The night air was cold, fresh, with a bright full moon. Stuart loved to gaze up at the endless stars on nights like tonight, but here in this city the brilliance of the stars was overshadowed and hidden by the orange glow of the street lights. Just one more sadness for him to bear, another negative effect of mankind’s existence. Everything nature created, man had to tread over. Even raw emotion was ridiculed and humiliated. Once again his thoughts turned to love, both the one he had lost and the one he would never find. All his life he had been scorned for his idealistic beliefs of what love and romance stood for, even his partners had used his naivety to walk all over him and use him. Love and lust were two sides of the same coin, they co existed and yet were separate. Without lust, love is just a strong friendship, and without love, lust is just sex. Stuart had remained firm in his beliefs, right up to the point that his lover of four years had thrown them all back at him, ripping his very core out and leaving nothing but a bitter cold inside him. The sounds of a scuffle ahead broke his gloomy train of thought, he reconsidered his route, planning to avoid the drunken brawl. As he turned to the sanctuary of a darkened alley the sound of a female scream pulled his attention back to the street. As his mind willed him into the secluded and safe alleyway, his conscience pulled him towards the source of the sound. Acting on instinct he approached the circle of flailing limbs. He could see three men, dressed in suits, surrounding an unseen foe. As he contemplated the uneasy feeling in his stomach he caught a glimpse of the thug’s prey. A tall slim girl with black hair and deathly pale features. Her stunning body was clad in a Corset style dress with intricate lace in a dark red and black pattern. All coherent thoughts left his mind as he stood in awe of this raven beauty, even his usually over-bearing protective nature was lost as he stood there, his mouth agape.
“Move along, nothing to see here.” The trance was broken as a fourth man approached. As he recovered his senses he managed to spit a few words out.
“What’s going on?” More than anything he was stalling for time now, trying to gauge the situation.
“Like I said, nothing for you to worry about.” As Stuart peered over the man’s shoulder he watched in horror as the men began to beat the woman into submission. “We are taking the young lady into custody.” The man was flashing some identification towards Stuart, but he was too engrossed in the brutality of the attack. Blinded by the woman’s beauty and an old fashioned sense of justice he surged forward only to be held in place by the suited thug between him and the scuffle ahead. “Sir, I am asking you one more time to move along!” His tone was more forceful now, but not as forceful as Stuarts knee as it rose to meet the thugs groin with a sickening thud. Unrestrained now a blind fury took hold of him, the logical thoughts of why these men would attack this woman, or what she had done to deserve such treatment were lost in a mist of red. Stuart was not a violent man, in fact he would do anything to avoid confrontation, but when his temper flared he would lose control and stumble blindly into any situation, no matter how hopeless the fight was. This was one of those times, his muscles fuelled with adrenalin, his mind devoid of logic or reason. His hands reached out, grabbing the first man by the shoulders and hoisting him up and away from the stricken girl, before launching a blitz attack on the shocked thug. As his blows rained down the other men reacted, moving from the girl to assist their friend. Suddenly Stuart was surrounded by kicking and punching thugs, but their stance, their technique was different to what Stuart had expected. Rather than drunken men brawling outside a bar, their moves were precise, and controlled. They moved with a skill that was far superior to his own blind strikes. As they began to wear him down there was a shriek from somewhere behind him. A gap opened up in the wall of men around him as one of the thugs disappeared. Suddenly the attackers seemed unsure of themselves, falling back slightly as if deciding which target posed more threat to them. Seizing the opportunity, Stuart began his offensive with renewed vigour, his fists swinging wildly, but with deadly intent, reaching for any exposed target he could find. With a roar he grabbed one of the hapless thugs by the lapels of his suit jacket and pulled him in to a vicious head butt. Blood sprayed from a gash in his victim’s nose, covering his own face with the claret fluid, fuelling his blood rage. As the attackers fell under his blows he became less and less aware of his surroundings until his grip fumbled onto a less threatening target. The woman was now stood before him, his hand at her throat causing his awareness to flood back. Immediately he dropped his hand.
“I’m so sorry,” he mumbled “I was lost in the moment.” He tried to flash a sly smile, but the effect was less sophisticated than he had intended, and much more awkward.
“No need to apologise.” She was smiling, bringing a warmth to his chest that he had not felt in what seemed like an age.
“YOU!” The moment was broken by the approach of the first thug. “You don’t know what you’re doing. You have no idea what you’re messing with.” Stuart eyes burned into the man,
“Maybe not, but I do know that four blokes attacking one girl in a street is not fucking kosher.”
“She’s not a girl, she’s a danger to us all!” Stuart almost burst into laughter.
“Yeah mate, and I’m Baron Samadhi” He chuckled.
“What, Baron who? No listen, she is not just a woman!”
“Maybe you should listen to him.” The girl’s voice was even and without humour.
“Nope, I don’t care if you’re the queen of the damned to be honest, it doesn’t give them the right to treat you like a meat bag.” As he finished he noticed a look of genuine surprise on her face, one eyebrow was raised and he thought he saw a hint of a smile. Once again something inside stirred.
“Listen, I am a government official, and I am telling you to step away NOW!” As he spoke he pulled something from his jacket. Stuart realised it was a gun in the man’s hand and instinctively pushed the girl behind him. “I will kill you to get to her. Make no mistake.” Stuart mind was a blur now, he had never even seen a real gun, let alone had one pointed at him.
“Who the fuck are you, James Bond?” There was a bang and a flash of light, Stuart closed his eyes, waiting for the end. When he opened them again the man was lying on the floor, with the girl just short of him. She tried to rise, but her arm gave way and she fell to the floor. As fear and surprise drifted away from his mind, Stuart reacted, running to the girl. As he rolled her onto her back he checked over her body for wounds. Her dress was torn in places, her face bruised, but the blood gushing from a hole in her shoulder was the main point of concern. Her eyes split open.
“You should have listened to them.” There was a smile on her lips.
“Nah, you’re too beautiful to be dangerous.” He chuckled, embarrassed by his own words he sought to change the subject. “We need to get you to a hospital.”
“No! No hospitals, no police. I must get away from here.” Once again she tried to rise, pulling herself to her feet. For a moment she stood, but her eyes began to drift and, once again, she crumpled into Stuart’s ready arms. “Promise me, no hospitals.”
“You’ve been shot, you have to…”
“NO! Just get me away from here, please. Promise me.” Confused now, Stuart checked the wound over once again. The bullet had passed through, and he knew this was a good thing, but he was no doctor. “Promise me.” She was pleading now. And despite all of his bravado and the promises he had made himself, he could never resist a female plea.
“Alright, I promise. But if you start fading on me I’m calling a doctor.” It seemed like a fair compromise to him. He chuckled, but the intensity of her gaze pulled the smile from his face. “No doctors! Tomorrow, tomorrow we will talk but now we must get away from here.” She began to rise again, this time Stuart rose with her, supporting her weight with his arm around her waist, and hers around his neck.
“Where are we going, where do you live?” Stuart enquired.
“That’s a long story, but right now, anywhere is better than here.” The shroud of mystery around this woman was impregnable, and it began to raise concerns within him. His troubled mind was further burdened by her reluctance to seek medical aid and the men who were pursuing her. Despite all the doubt he continued to support her, heading slowly but surely towards the sanctuary of his home. The girl was growing weaker by the minute, relying more and more on Stuart to bear her weight. Finally, with a gasp, she crumpled to the floor, almost dragging him down with her.
“We’re almost there, don’t give up on me now.” She shook her head. “It’s just up this road. You can make it.” She looked up at him, a thin smile on her battered face.
“You can’t take me back to your home, you won’t be safe. You don’t know what you’ve started.”
“Well I can’t leave you out here now can I?”
“But you must. Those men, there will be more like them. They will come for both of us. So just leave me here, go home and forget it all. You don’t owe me anything, and I can’t repay your kindness.” Stuart paused for a moment, his eyes never leaving hers, even after they had closed. “Please, just go, get away.” Again he waited, listening to her breathing becoming shallow and calm, her features softening in the orange glow of the street lights. He stayed there for several minutes, enjoying the warmth of her body against his as her head lay against his chest.
“I don’t owe you anything, and you don’t owe me anything. I did what I thought was right, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do now.” He whispered, hoping she would hear his words from whatever dream she was in. With a grunt he raise her into his arms and slowly, carefully, walked towards sanctuary.
Stumbling through the doorway he dropped the keys onto the floor and kicked the door shut before carrying the sleeping woman upstairs to the bedroom. Carefully he lay the delicate form onto the bed, taking care not to disturb her as he pulled his arms from beneath her. The dress she wore was now tattered and torn in places and blood from various cuts and the gun shot wound had congealed through the fabric. Rising from the bed he made a mental note of priorities in his head, firstly security, then he would see to her wounds before finally allowing himself the luxury of sleep. Having locked the doors and secured the windows, he gathered a bowl of warm water, bandages and cloth and some anti septic lotion before returning to the bedroom. Switching on the bedside light he rummaged through a chest of drawers hoping to find something left by his ex lover, but he found nothing. With a curse his eyes began to search the room, looking for an item of clothing that would make do as a night shirt. Shirt, that was it. Rummaging through the clothes in his wardrobe he pulled clear several shirts, one after the other, for inspection until he finally found one to suit. He chuckled to himself, any one of these shirts would have been fine, but his natural instinct was to find the softest, most comfortable. It occurred to him that this was his downfall, despite his intentions he always ended up pandering to any woman. Regardless, his decision was made and he returned to attend to the sleeping beauty, checking for her pulse and her breathing to allay any concerns he may have. His eyes roamed over her body, initially to find a way to remove her dress, but now he was lost in the poetry of her body, the prose of her curves. Shaking himself free of the spell he moved to her feet, removing the black slip on shoes and laying them on the floor. Slowly he began to clean the minor cuts on her legs, cursing the men for the bruises they had inflicted as he rubbed some of the antiseptic on her open wounds. Now came the difficult task of removing her dress, which would usually not have been an issue, but removing the clothes of a sleeping woman did not sit well with his conscience. The fact remained that she was bleeding form multiple cuts and that bullet hole was not going to clean itself. With a sigh he pulled at the ribbon that held the corset part of the dress together and began to loosen the fabric, searching for the easiest way to remove the garment. The front of the dress gave way completely, revealing bare skin. Stuart was taken aback, he had expected to find a bra covering the woman’s modesty, but now all he could do was stare. Embarrassed and shocked by his own reactions he tried to tear his gaze away from her breasts, and yet he was drawn further and further to this woman’s beauty. As he peeled the fabric further down her body his eyes were bewitched by every inch of revealed porcelain flesh. The curves of her body were even more breathtaking without the dress covering them, each elegant angle called for him to kiss them. It was a mixture of disappointment and relief to discover she was wearing panties, saving him further embarrassment, but denying him a view of her completely naked body. He shook his head, relieving himself of the daze and returning to the task at hand, working quickly, but gently, cleaning the few cuts that littered her torso and face before covering her naked body with the duvet and turning his attention to the major wound on her shoulder. The circular hole still oozed dark ichor in the soft light of the lamp and she moaned slightly as he began to clean the blood away, and louder when he added the antiseptic lotion. Her eyes flittered open for a moment, her lips curving into a gentle smile when she saw him, before closing again as she returned to the sanctuary of sleep. Gently he lifted her enough to clean the exit wound, supporting her weight with one hand, whilst working quickly with the other to mop up the excess blood. As he applied a bandage to protect the wound and staunch the bleeding he noticed that the sheet beneath was sodden with blood and carefully moved her to the other side of the bed. With the major wound now patched on both sides and held secure with a bandage he covered her frame with his shirt and quickly buttoned away temptation. Once again he covered her with the duvet, stealing a sense of satisfaction as she cuddled into the fabric, gently moaning in her sleep. He sat watching her for a moment, resting his weary back against the headboard, the sound of her smooth breathing reassuring him. Fatigue began to sweep over him as he considered moving to the sofa downstairs, but sleep took him before he could rise from the blood soaked bed.
He awoke with a start in the brilliant sunlight of an autumn morning, turning to find the space next to him empty. Shaking the sleep from his eyes he rose, wincing as his long hair peeled away from the blood soaked sheet. He tried to organise his memories of the night before, seeking some sanity in the madness. The men had said she was a danger, they were government officials. Could it be that she was the product of some sort of government experiment, or cover up? Had she left, or was she lying in wait somewhere? Chiding himself he began to descend the stairs, if she had meant him any harm he would be dead already. Besides, she was just a woman, nothing menacing about that, and she had taken a bullet for him last night. None of it made sense and the only person who had the answers had left. Hopefully that would be an end to it. As his senses began to awaken he was drawn to the smell of bacon and the sound of a sizzling pan in the kitchen, his heart began to sink, and yet he was excited to see her again. The kitchen was dim, he recalled drawing the blind last night as he had locked the window. She stood at the cooker, her injured shoulder now masterfully handling a frying pan, which struck Stuart as odd. His limited knowledge of gunshot wounds dictated that if you were shot, and the bullet passed through, there would be significant trauma caused, resulting in the loss of use of the limb. He also noticed the absence of the bruises that had littered her body last night, although a few cuts remained.
“What are you?” The words tumbled from his mouth before he had time to think.
“A vampire.” Her tone was soft, lacking any threatening tones, and yet his blood froze. “Take a seat, your breakfast’s, almost ready.” Her eyes never left the pan.
“You didn’t have to.” His mind was now in complete conflict, one side demanding caution, pleading for him to run, whilst the other admonished the idea of a vampire cooking him breakfast before devouring him. It suddenly occurred to him that the clothes he was wearing were still covered in her blood, would this fuel her bloodlust? Did vampires crave their own blood?
“You didn’t have to bring me here, or look after me.” Now she turned and smiled, Stuart tried to reciprocate the gesture, but his nerves were plain to see. “Hey relax, I don’t bite.” She giggled as she served food onto a plate by the stove as he moved quietly to the window and snapped the blind open, allowing pure sunlight to bath the room. He turned to see the results of his actions, one hand fumbling around for the garlic cloves he kept next to the herb rack. She squealed and a sudden pang of guilt struck him, he had saved her last night, what had changed. As he waited for the screams to begin he closed his eyes. “Now I can see what I’m doing.” Confused he opened his eyes to see her standing just as she had been, but now a smirk sat on her lips.
“How’s your shoulder?” The question was loaded as he meant it to be, but the smile never slipped from her face.
“Much better this morning, thanks to you. So tell me, do you regret your actions yet?” As he pondered the question she placed the plate in front of him before sitting in a chair opposite. Despite her smile and slightly cocky demeanour, her eyes held a tinge of fear and it suddenly occurred to him that she was in a stranger’s house after being chased down by a bunch of hired thugs.
“No,” He stated plainly “I did what I thought was right, and I stand by that. No one has the right to be that brutal to anyone.” In her hands she held a cup, Stuart half expected the contents to be blood by the way she nursed it. “But you should be in hospital, you shouldn’t be cooking breakfast.” He said dumbly, unable to ask her the direct question that was on his mind, why was she fine this morning having been shot last night?
“Good, then perhaps you could remove the garlic from your pocket, it does nothing for your aroma.” She giggled as he placed the garlic bulb on the table in front of him in a deliberate attempt to fathom this woman’s intent. To his surprise she scooped the bulb up and pulled clear a clove, peeling the outer layer before placing it in her mouth. “A clove of garlic a day is good for your heart. Tastes crap though.” She was smiling, a relaxed yet shy display of warmth. “So shall we dispense with the holy water and crucifixes and get down to business?” She rose once again and moved to a sideboard where she turned the kettle on and retrieved a second cup. “Tea or coffee?”
“That’s business?” He muttered, still trying to make sense of it all.
“Well I was hoping for a pint of O negative, but you’re all out.” She was mocking him, and he knew it, but what the hell was she and where did she come from?
“Coffee, please.” He watched on as she placed a tea bag in her own cup, the idea of vampire drinking tea seemed just plain absurd. She had said that she was a vampire, but could she be some kind of human super genetic creation. At this point, anything seemed possible.
“There you go.” She placed the cup in front of him as she nursed her own, her eyes gazing into the brown liquid as if all the answers were there. “I’m no threat to you, or to anyone. However, your actions last night have put you in danger.” She paused, her eyes falling upon him, laced with sincere sorrow. “For that I am sorry. You came to the aid of a stranger and all I can repay you with is more trouble.”
“So you are a vampire?” He was mumbling, almost afraid to hear the answer.
“What do you know about vampires?” The question caught him unaware, what did anyone know except what they had seen in the movies?
“They bite you and feed on your blood, turning you into one of them.” Her laugh was hollow as she placed her mug on the table and rose from her seat. She leaned over the table, her face just inches from his, her eyes bearing down upon him. Unable to move, frozen by fear his own eyes drank in this, his last sight for the second time in the last twenty-four hours.
“Is that’s what you think I’m going to do to you?” She moved even closer, whispering into his ear. “Do you think I am going to suck you dry?” Despite the fear, Stuart now found his eyes attracted to the opening at the top of her shirt, and the bare flesh beneath. At this moment he would quite happily let her suck him dry. The thought brought a chuckle to his throat, and to his surprise, she began to laugh too as she returned to her seat. “I don’t know what to think, sunlight has no effect, you eat garlic. No doubt you bathe in holy water and make crosses for a living.”
“At least you’re honest about you ignorance.” She sipped her tea before taking a deep breath. “What you know, is what you have been taught by governments and kings alike for centuries. It is what they want you to know. It originated as propaganda, one king trying to undermine another. Psychological scare tactics that crossed certain boundaries, and certainly my early ancestors committed atrocities that should never be forgotten or forgiven. I can tell you everything you want to know over time, but time is one thing we don’t have right now. All you need to know is that I am not a murderer, I do not drink human blood, nor can I infect you.”
“I believe you, and you’re safe here.” She shook her head,
“No I’m not, and neither are you.” She cradled her head in her hands, desperate for him to understand. “We should leave here as soon as we can, as soon as you have eaten. The men you rescued me from last night are government agents, it’s not like the police will come and knock on your door. These men will kill you, just in case you know too much, regardless of what I have or have not told you. Do you understand?” Her eyes pleaded with him now.
“Basically, I’m fucked. I can either go on the run with you, or alone, or wait here to get shot.” She sighed, clearly dismayed at the position she had put her saviour in, guilt displayed all over her face as she nodded glumly. “So where does a hot vampire chick run to?” He said, having consumed the last of his sausage and egg. “And where do you learn to cook if you don’t eat cooked food?”
“We do eat cooked food, but right now I don’t have time to explain, go upstairs and pack anything that you will need. I don’t know if you’re ever going to come back!” The gravity of her words slammed home, and despite the feeling that he should be more dismayed, he felt nothing. This house, his past life, meant very little in the long term, memories and trinkets of a failed marriage, lost hopes and dreams. He grabbed a duffel bag and began to throw spare clothes into it, ignoring his more flamboyant evening wear in favour of more practical items. Frilly shirts and lace up trousers had their place, but not on the run. Having said that, if he were going to spend the rest of his life in a vampire coven maybe he would need them. He smiled as he dismissed the thought and continued to pack until startled by the sound of his mobile phone ringing. Without a thought he retrieved the handset and answered the call. “Don’t answer it!” Came a flustered cry from downstairs, but it was too late. He held the device to his ear, but said nothing.
“Mr Brooks, if you are still alive I suggest you leave your house and go to the nearest police station now. You are in danger of being infected by the woman you took home last night. I recognise that you were only doing what you thought was right and commend your actions. But it is now time to leave this to the professionals.” A shadow in the doorway caught his attention and he turned to see the woman standing there, a hurt and pleading expression on her face.
“I understand,” he said simply before hanging up as she rushed to him, tears welling up in her eyes. Her actions and demeanour confused him, surely she should be angry, not sad.
“Listen to me,” she pleaded, placing her hands either side of his face and directing his gaze to her. “You must not go to them, do you understand me? It’s a trap.”
“What you mean is if I go to them you’re fucked and I get a free pass.” She shook her head.
“They will kill you, do you understand?”
“So you say, but give me a reason to trust you over them.” She struggled for words, seeking something to give her leverage.
“I can’t, I have nothing.” She paused for a moment. “I will hand myself in, I will go to the police station, but you must run. You can watch me go in, see me captured, but then you must run, as far away as possible.”
“Why is my safety so important to you? Why would you care? You can run away from here without me.”
“I would not be here if you had not helped me, it makes no sense to send my savour to his death. It’s just a matter of honour, and that is all we have left.” So this is what a vampire looked like, he thought to himself. Far from the blood sucking demons from the tales, they were honour bound pacifists, or maybe just weak. No, not weak. She had taken a bullet for him, and if she had not fought alongside him there is no way they would be having this conversation.
“Fuck it, I never liked this place anyway.” A wave of relief flowed across her face as she released her grip on him and took a step back. “Just in case I’m wrong and you end up eating me for dinner, can I at least know your name?” He was grinning.
“Ruxandra,” She returned to him, leaning in seductively “and I only suck in times of dire desperation.” With a wicked smile she turned away and begun to rummage through his, now half empty, wardrobe. He took a last look at his dingy, unkempt bedroom before turning to leave his old life behind.
They said little to each other for the first few hours, instead they each ambled through their own thoughts as they left the bustling streets of London, travelling by train to the suburbs. To his surprise Ruxandra appeared to be in awe of the underground trains and other technology that surrounded them. Finally Stuart broke the silence.
“So where are we going?”
“To be honest, I don’t really know.” He was a little disappointed, he had expected to be whisked away to some dark castle. “I need to do some research, so I suppose a library would be a good place to start.”
“So you’re a vampire that knows nothing about vampires?” She looked a little disheartened, maybe disappointed.
“You don’t understand, I haven’t set foot outside of the mausoleum in centuries.” She shook her head, realising her statement made no sense to this man who had no idea where she had come from. Taking a deep breath she began her tale. “I was captured over two hundred years ago, held in cell blocks like a criminal, but not in a prison as such. I mean, there were no criminals, well no human ones. Every so often they would bring a new group in that they had hunted down, and then they would take some away, never to return, no idea where they went. So you see the only things I know of this world are what I have seen or read in books and magazines. We are simply held as prisoners, presumably because they think we are a danger to the human race, I don’t really know or understand it. So I need to find someone, or something to help us.” There was a desperate tone to her voice as she spoke.
“So, this is all down to the government?” She nodded hesitantly, as if she were unsure of his response. Stuart turned his gaze out of the train window, watching the English countryside of the green belt fly by.
“We’ll get off at the next station and find a library, or an internet café.” There was so much to take in, and every ounce of it seemed too farfetched to be real. Yet here he was, on a train, with a vampire on the run from government agents. “So what about covens, and all the Transylvania connections, do they exist?”
“Yes and no. I told you it’s all down to centuries of propaganda. Transylvania is our home turf, if you like, we originate from there, or what is now part of it. Our roots can be traced back to Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the impaler as you would know him. At that time in history we would call him brutal, a murderer, but the practices he used were standard for the time, certainly no worse than England’s Boudicca. Anyway, the nobles of the time spent their time in debauchery and various dark arts, alchemy and such, some of which included the use of human blood, which required murder. There are records of bloody orgies where they would bath in the blood of innocents, this is where we believe the mutation came from.” She paused for a moment, searching for a glimmer of understanding in his face, he was certainly intrigued. “I’m not a scientist, and so I can’t say for certain, but the theory is that interbreeding within the noble families and the consumption of human blood or flesh caused a mutation in the genes. This lead to the birth of the vampire. All I know of Vlad, from our history, is that he was a great warrior king, and that after the death of his first wife he became disillusioned with honour and justice and began a life of debauchery. You have to remember that our history is different to yours, we have been erased or twisted depending on the needs of the people.” She chided herself for allowing her thoughts to drift away from the subject.
“So Vlad was the first vampire?” She shook her head.
“He was never a vampire, he was the forefather if you will. There was a province called Wallachai which had two vying noble families called voivodes, the house Draculesti, and the house Danesti. Simply put the two rival families fought over the throne. Now Wallachai was part of Hungary, but that’s another history lesson. What is important is that this legacy that Vlad began of orgies and human sacrifice was carried on and expanded throughout Hungary, which is where the mutated gene began. The first known vampire was Elizabeth Batheroy, but the chances are that her ancestors carried the gene too. Vlad died in fourteen hundred and seventy six and Elizabeth wasn’t born until fifteen hundred and sixty, so it took ninety years for the mutation to take full effect, or at least until it was noticed.”
“So what was she like?” Ruxandra sniggered.
“Have you never heard of her?” Stuart shook his head. “My god, how much has history been manipulated. She was convicted of eighty murders, but they suspect there were hundreds of victims. She would have village maidens brought to the castle and they would disappear. Witnesses said she would beat them and molest them. There was a rumour that she bathed in the blood of innocents to maintain her youth, hence the connection to Vlad. But we know that her youthful appearance was due to the vampire gene.” A sadness crossed her face. “And that is where the propaganda begins. Enemies of the state would spread tales of this evil woman and her family that drank blood and ate human flesh, her mother was a witch, her uncle was an evil alchemist, even her nurse maid was said to dabble in the black arts. As time progressed those of us with the vampire gene would band together, living in castles owned by nobles that shared our plight. We were labelled products of devil worship, cast out and condemned, but more than anything we were feared.” Her eyes drifted of into the distance, as if living a bygone era.
“So what of the holy water, crucifixes and everything else?”
“Largely we were forced underground, but never left alone. Fear breeds contempt and hatred, and so the people sought to destroy us. The church was the first to stand up for the people, condemning us as heretics and devil spawn. They claimed we were possessed by demons and that we must be cleansed by fire. Stories flared up in the surrounding countries, of the atrocities we committed, of how we would sneak into villages at night and decimate the population. Of course, the church had the divine weapon to use against us, the cross and their holy water. It was nothing more than a publicity stunt, we can protect you from these evil blood sucking monsters.”
“Wait a minute, you said Elizabeth kept her youthful appearance due to the gene, so is she still alive?” She chuckled.
“You are paying attention then.” He smiled at her. “No, she was punished for her crimes, but not sentenced to death, that would create too much of a scandal. They bricked her into her rooms, leaving only a slot to deliver her food daily. She survived for four years without fresh raw meat until her system finally gave up and she died.”
“That’s it, your blood sucking evilness is to consume fresh meat? Does it even have to be human?” She laughed, a full throbbing laugh, filled with genuine joy. It seemed so wrong at this time, from a vampire.
“No, any meat would suffice, but the fresher the better.”
“So you could, maybe, sneak into a village and decimate their butcher shop.” Stuart grinned, enjoying her jovial features.
“How do you think we survived? Sneaking through windows and drinking the blood of young maidens whilst they slept?” They continued to laugh as they disembarked the stationary train onto a fairly empty platform. The sunlight seemed to radiate from her pale face as he found his gaze sucked into her beauty once more. “There were those, mainly the males, that would sneak into town and seek comfort in a women’s arms, usually a prostitute, the offspring from such relations would often be one of us, and thus the legacy continued. Of course there were criminals in our culture who would be punished either by the criminal system or by our own officials. As overseas travel became more accessible some of us went on our way to see the world, seeking to escape the shackles of our reputation. We even held positions of power. Tell me, what do you know of the French Revolution?”
“The peasants got sick of the nobility living it up and oppressing them, so they rebelled and killed the noble folk.”
“Never a mention of the vampires that had influenced and tainted the noble blood lines?” She turned to him, it was an honest question.
“No way, you’re trying to tell me that the French Revolution was a culling of vampires. Next you’ll be telling me that you met Frankenstein and helped him create a monster.” He laughed, but her face remained solemn. “Okay, so the French culled the vampires, that I can believe, but creating life in a dead corpse?”
“No, again it has been twisted.”
“Whoa, Frankenstein is a story. Nothing more.”
“Yes, as was Dracula, written by a man who was told what to believe and fill in the blanks.” She paused for a moment, biting back anger and calming her thoughts. “I have read both books, and I can tell you that neither of them is a true account, but both are based on real people, I can also tell you that I am a direct descendant of Vlad, who was portrayed as Dracula in the book.”
“Go on, this I have to hear. Who was the real Frankenstein?” For a moment she was angry, was he mocking her. “And how are you related to Vlad?”
“Vlad had two sons with his first wife, Mihnea and Mihail. Mihnea was married twice. The second marriage bore him a daughter, Ruxandra, whose name I bear. I could draw you a family tree, but rest assured, I am of that bloodline.” She seemed smug, and Stuart was truly awestruck as he tried to contemplate the ages of these people.
“Are they all still alive, I mean not Vlad, but those that did have this gene?” She chuckled again, the humour returning to her face.
“Some of them, others simply vanished, or were killed.”
“Fair enough, so tell me about Frankenstein.” He seemed genuinely intrigued and listened intently as they continued their walk into the quiet suburban town.
“Frankenstein is the name of a castle in Germany, not the man. His name was Johan Conrad Dippel, and he studied theology, philosophy and alchemy. Unfortunately he was rather outspoken and this provided many enemies, especially within the church. Now he was very interested in the human spirit and the connection between heaven and earth, even to the point that he once boasted he had created a life elixir called “Dippel’s Oil“. He grew up at castle Frankenstein, and once tried to purchase the building, using the secret ingredients of his oil as payment. It is true that he practiced alchemy and used electricity on dead animals, but there were stories of him using human cadavers and even live humans, that were just not true. As to the novel, I can only assume that Mary Shelly heard of Dippel’s exploits and used them for a basis to her story.”
“So did you meet this guy, Dippel, was he one of you?”
“I spent a while searching for a cure. I just wanted to live like every other human. I came across Dippel at the university he was attending, and for a time we were lovers.” Her face was downcast. “But it didn’t last. How could it, he was aging and I still looked the same as the day we met. Also he became more brutish, I hear he eventually turned his back on his own faith.”
“Wait up, so you’re saying you had a relationship with a normal person, without turning them into a vampire?”
“No one has ever “turned” into a vampire. You’re either born as one or not. Look.” She bared her teeth, which all looked normal apart from the very slightly oversized canines. “The canines are sharper in order to tear meat, there are no venom ducts, no extra gimmicks. They are the same as yours, but bigger.” Stuart smiled at her, allaying some of her fears.
“Alright, no need to brag.” She returned a warm grin, it was refreshing to dismiss some of the old myths so openly, even more so to have someone accept what she said.
“In the mausoleum we were treated like monsters, something to be feared. I have never spoken to a human being that was not encased in a protective suit, never been able to express myself, or my beliefs. You have no idea how much this conversation means to me, but I am grateful to have you here, and more so that you listen to my rants.” Her face took on a sheepish guise and Stuart found himself wanting to protect this woman, to shield her from the world. The bizarre circumstances in which they had met, and the situation he now found himself in only seemed to fuel his enthusiasm, and he wanted to know more.
“So what does a vampire believe? I mean, you talk about the church as though it is the enemy, so I’m guessing you don’t believe in God as such. Do you even believe in anything?”
“Well, what do humans believe in?” Her gaze was expectant, but he could only reply with a blank stare as all the religions of the world flooded his head. “Exactly, we have the same religions, the same beliefs. There are Christian vampires, Islamic vampires, Buddhist vampires and some are atheist. Basically, all of the worlds religions apply to vampires as much as humans.”
“Okay, but what about you, what do you believe?”
“I believe the grass grows, I believe the world turns, the sun rises and sets. I believe I don’t know enough to claim to know a god.” The answer was simple and elegant, nothing less than Stuart had expected, and in a way it made her as beautiful inside as it did outside. “What do you believe?” He laughed.
“I believe that God has no interest in me, so I have no interest in him, so until I know otherwise I’ll just do my thing as I always have.” He felt her arm interlocking with his, sending a shiver of pleasure down his spine.
The couple wandered through the streets, Ruxandra watched the cars, planes and helicopters with a fresh excitement that made the world around them seem somewhat less drab to Stuart. After a few minutes he spotted an internet café and the pair entered, taking up position at a table with two monitors. Ruxandra’s eyes were everywhere, from the pine tables, to the strip lights above. Everything seemed new to her. Stuart thought back to his history lessons and visits to museums and such, recalling the furniture displayed there. The furniture would have been solid wood, the lamps would have been gas, or candles. Certainly this was all something new to her.
“What are these things?” Her focus was now on the screen on the table.
“These, my dear Ruxandra, are the gateway to the world. They are called computers, and they are linked to another invention called the internet. Come and sit here, I’ll show you.” He indicated to the seat next to him and she obliged him. Once again her eyes filled with awe as the glowing screen presented images to them.
“By the way, just call me Rux. So this internet is like a library, inside the computer?” She waited for his mocking tone, but to her surprise he merely explained the invention and progression of the online community.
“So there are millions of these machines all over the world, and you can send messages or information to each one?”
“Yeah, if you have the address.” A young woman approached them.
“Can I get you a drink or anything?”
“Umm, yeah, that would be good. Do you take cards?” The woman nodded. “I’ll have a cappuccino.” He turned expectantly to Rux.
“Umm, one of those cuppateanos.”
“Two cappuccinos please.” Stuart could see the uncertainty in his friends eyes and tried to counter it with a warm smile. “Sorry, tea and coffee aren’t what they used to be.”
“What did I just order?” Now his infectious laugh reached her core, bringing a smile to her nervous lips.
“It’s a type of Italian coffee, but if you don’t like it we can order you a tea, okay?” She nodded as they both turned their attention back to the screen in front of them. “So this is called a search engine. You simply type a word in here.” She watched as his fingers punched the lettered buttons in front of him. “Ruxandra, well you didn’t make the first page, but there are plenty of people who carry your name. Here, look, a singer, a retired tennis player, a poet.” She stared at the writing on the screen, all of the women displayed did indeed carry her name.
“What does it say about Vlad?”
“Ah, well, let’s see how much of your story is true.” His tone was light and jovial, further assurance was given by his warm smile. Once again his fingers tapped over the buttons.
“That’s him.” She gasped.
“Not much information here, let me try something else.” He began searching through the information, occasionally pointing out information related to her story. The further he delved, the more she was impressed. “Shall we see what became of your friend Dippel?” She nodded enthusiastically.
“Oh my.” She whispered, her hand reaching out to touch the image on the screen. “It has been so long since I saw his face.” Her eyes moistened and she blinked away the tears, still transfixed by the image on the screen. The moment was interrupted by the arrival of their drinks. “We don’t have time for this.” She muttered, wiping the tears away with the sleeves of Stuart’s shirt that now adorned her frame. “We need to find help.” Stuart nodded, feeling sorry for the woman, but also a tinge of jealousy. He began to search the web for vampire sightings, there were hundreds globally, so he refined the search to the United Kingdom. Finding a few tales of interest he scribbled down the details on the back of a leaflet advertising a local event. Rux sat silently watching him as he worked, still feeling a little sad.
“Right, I got some details, but god knows how we get to them, they’re both near Scotland.”
“Back to the train station then.” The pair finished their drinks hurriedly and Stuart approached the counter to pay. With the transaction completed he returned to the table where Rux waited. “Shall we go?” A sudden surge of panic gripped his heart as he realised he was leaving a paper trail.
“The debit card, damn it!” He whispered in a harsh tone, taking his seat again at the computer. His companion watched on as he tapped the keys, his jaw clenched, refining the contours of his face.
“What’s the matter?” He shook his head, afraid to reveal his own stupidity. With a sigh he relinquished the truth.
“I used my bank card, which means they can trace us… me to this location. Then they can see what computer we used and look at what we were looking at. In short, they’ll know where we’re going.” She looked confused.
“But the pictures have gone, how will they know?”
“It’s not that simple, the computer records the history! Fortunately for us, I learned some tricks.” She watched on for a moment as his fingers danced across the keys like a silent pianist, his face determined and defiant in his battle with authority. “Right, that should fuck things up a little. Let’s get out of here.” Swinging his coat on as he rose and placing his mobile on the table, he grabbed her hand and led her out of the small café at speed, so much so that she almost lost her footing. It felt bizarrely pleasant to have this man controlling yet protecting her, even more so because he knew what she was. After a quick stop at the bank they were back on the run.
Rux sat opposite Stuart as the train stumbled towards the north. Her eyes drank in the view from the windows, first the city with all its new technology and overbearing buildings. Everything seemed so bland and dirty, not like the regal stonework that she had seen before her imprisonment. The factories churned out smoke as the horde of cars sped around belching out more filth. People dressed in plain clothes and took little time to converse with passers by as they hurried to their destination. She felt out of place, lost in time. As the grey city streets began to fall away, replaced by the greenery of the country, she began to relax. Nature was one thing that had not and would never change, reliable and steady in her beauty and majesty. The green fields and valleys calmed her soul and she turned her attention to the man sitting opposite her. His hand supported his chin as he watched the world fly by, the fatigue beginning to show on his face and yet the determination remained. She knew little of society today, but she knew that this man was special, unique. Even in her own time there were very few people that would have accepted her so openly and without question. This man had placed himself in harms way more than once on her behalf.
“Thank you.” She said, suddenly aware that she had never shown her gratitude for all he had done. His weary eyes fell on her and a thin smile cracked across his lips.
“You’re more than welcome.” His defined check bones and thin lips framed by long dark locks of hair and a chiselled chin made his piercing dark eyes penetrate further into her soul. “The things us men will do to get a woman in our bed.” He chuckled, bringing a fresh glow to his features. “Try and get some sleep, we’ve got a long journey and several hours to kill.”
“More like days” She countered, to be met by a sympathetic gaze from her companion.
“Things have advanced since the last time you took a train ride.” Again she felt a pang of regret as she realised that the world she had called home had long since passed. As her eyes dropped to her lap she felt his hand gently laying on her own, a sense of warmth in a cold and forgetful world. “I know all this is hard for you, and, well, if you need to talk, or ask questions… I mean, we’re in this together now, okay?” She nodded, as they remained silent for a few minutes, the lost girl composing herself and resigning the memories she had to the past.
“How long will it take?” Her eyes never left her lap.
“About four or five hours.” Again there was silence, her head remaining bowed. “Talk to me Rux, tell me what’s in your head.” Her eyes rose to meet his, red rimmed and full of tears, the droplets leaving streaks down her cheeks as they escaped. She remained silent, grappling with her thoughts and inner turmoil. “Let me help you.” Stuart’s voice was pleading now, his protective instincts taking over.
“Help me?” she chuckled, coldly. “How can you help me? This world, everyone and everything I loved is gone, taken away by them.” She was hissing now, her teary face full of anger and resentment. She felt him take hold of her other hand, encasing them both in human warmth, grounding her wild anger. She began to weep quietly now, the pent up emotion bubbling up through her calm exterior. Immediately Stuart moved to sit next to her, cradling her head to his chest and securing her body against his own. It had been centuries since she had let these feelings out, the injustice of a people enslaved through no fault of their own. “So much effort to escape and now all I want is to go home, but where is that? Where do we live now? Are there even any of us left in this polluted world of filth?” She felt the warmth of his hand against her neck. “Everything I loved is gone, wasted away while we sat in that damned prison.” She was whispering now, the anger and bitterness swallowed by hopelessness and loss.
“Not everything is gone, some things just changed.” His words did little to console her and he knew he had little comfort to offer. “Tell me about what you enjoy.”
“Music was my life, we would dance and play in the rose gardens of the châteaux. Whilst you slept I wandered into your garden, looking for some redeeming beauty outside of that box you call a home, but there was nothing.” Stuart chuckled.
“I’m not much of a gardener to be honest. Besides, that’s not my home any more is it.” Her eyes met his once again, guilt filling her face. Stuart took a moment to stroke a stray hair from her face before continuing. “Rux, it doesn’t matter to me, really. That place was a box, full of sad memories and dead dreams. The point is that this world has left me behind too. People are too far up their own arses to give a shit about things like honour or charity, but that doesn’t mean we should sink to their level.” His hands cupped her cheeks, raising her face to look at him. “I promise you this, I will stand by you and we will search this damned earth until we find answers and others like you, and when we do we’ll expose your captors and right some of the wrongs.” His eyes glowed with purpose as she drew comfort from his words.
“Why does this mean so much to you?” She whispered.
“Because I’m tired of hiding who I am, I’m tired of this pointless drudge. This world needs a wake up call.” Rux settled her head back onto his chest and closed her eyes as a comfortable silence lulled her gently to sleep. Stuart watched her sleep for a few minutes, suddenly aware of how passionate he felt about this woman’s fate. There were things he wanted to do for her and he made a mental list. Firstly she needed some clothes, shoes and whatever else. Then he was determined to find some music that she liked, and take her to a suitable venue, anything to cheer her up. All of this would have to be planned around their search for the remnants of her people. As Stuart pondered over the logistics of his plans he drifted into a comfortable sleep.