by Walter Eugene Lane
Copyright © 2018 Walter Eugene Lane
Author's note: This is taken from my novel Curse of the Vampyr. It is the
backstory of one of the characters but it works just fine as a stand alone short story.
frosty morning had given way to a pleasant afternoon. Beata gazed from
her upstairs bedroom window at the lush grounds of the manor. Trees and
well-trimmed shrubs stretched out and merged with the wild forest
beyond. The woods stood far past the beautiful lawns surrounding the
elegant estate. To her, it seemed like something out of a fairy tale.
She smiled at that until she recalled that sometimes fairy tales have
monsters in them.
brushed away the thought and let Wiktor come to mind instead. Her smile
returned. His family’s attorney had finalized the agreement of marriage
with her father. Since that time, she anticipated her arrival to
Wiktor’s family estate with delight. After all, it was one of the
largest and most beautiful in Poland. A place of beauty in a land of
sorrow. She frowned. What put that idea into her head?
approached the house. Still in his riding gear, he was returning from
his late morning ride. In the distance, one of the stable hands was
leading his Arabian stallion away.
arranged marriage in this day and age was so odd to her distant
relations in England and America. After all, this was 1912. And that
she should be so happy about it was also very odd to them. They didn’t
understand the Old Ways. They didn’t know that here in this ancient
land the Old Ways still had meaning. Long ago, she cultivated an
ongoing correspondence with several of her relatives, all girls, all
around her own age. She waited for their letters with great
anticipation. To her British cousins, it was foreign correspondence.
Pen pals is how her American cousins described it.
gentle tap at the door. The housemaid’s muffled voice sounded from the
other side. “Miss, lunch is nearly ready if you would like to come
She spoke up. “Thank you, Alicja. I’ll be right down.”
lunch, Beata and Wiktor stepped onto the covered porch. It was a lovely
adornment to the house that ran along the front and the entire west
side. The east side of the house was clear of obstructions except for
the slant-top stairwell that went down to the cellar. Two broad doors
lay over that. She had not been down there.
stopped and stood next to the white railing. Looking out on the vast
manicured lawn that seemed to stretch for miles, they remained silent
for a moment and took in the view.
He spoke her name like it was poetry and stared deeply into her
sparkling blue eyes. “Your name means ‘blessed.’ A blessed name for a
blessed girl.” She looked down, a little embarrassed by his intense
gaze. “But to finally have you to become my wife makes me blessed.”
She looked up and smiled. Her bright, perfect teeth shone like pearls.
He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a long, flat blue box and opened the lid. “I want you to have this.”
smile broadened. Lying inside the box covered in crushed velvet was a
gold necklace on the folded silk interior. Inscribed on the small
medallion attached to the chain was her name. At the jeweler’s, he had
thought at first to give her a jewel-adorned cross, but he decided he
wanted to give her something a little more personal, something with her
name on it.
He glanced down at the medallion and smiled. “Such a lovely name.” He
pulled the necklace out and placed the box on a nearby white wicker
table. “Here, let me put it on you.”
if posing for a photograph, she remained still as he stepped around
her. There was a tickle against her skin as he slipped the necklace
around her neck. Her neck had always been very sensitive to being
touched, but she had steeled herself for the kiss of cold metal against
her skin. A faint click and she knew the clasp was secure. The
medallion lay on her chest. She gently ran her fingers over it and felt
the engraving that had been cut into it.
don’t you wear it tonight at the dinner party?” He smiled and turned
her around. “Everyone is looking forward to meeting you, especially my
She smiled and nodded.
drew her into his arms and kissed her gently. Together, they turned and
walked arm in arm along the porch. “He is bringing his own betrothed.
So tonight’s party will be a chance for the family to meet you both.
She’s a girl from Germany. From what my brother says in his letters,
she is a bit of a bohemian, so be prepared.” Again, he smiled.
am sure we will all get along fine.” She looked at him and raised an
eyebrow. “And perhaps, you will discover I’m not the angel you seem to
think I am.”
He chuckled. “I cannot imagine you as anything less than an angel.”
At that moment, a cloud covered the sun. A dark shadow fell on them suddenly. They stopped and looked around.
the rest of the afternoon, they sat with his parents in the parlor
drinking tea and discussing the upcoming nuptials. The servants went
about preparing for the dinner party. A singular topic of discussion
was Jakob’s new bride-to-be. He had described her in his letters as
four o’clock, the ladies retired to their rooms to rest up for the
evening’s festivities. By seven, the ladies, Wiktor, and his father
were back in the parlor waiting on the guests to arrive. Wiktor’s
mother, petite and lithe, wore an electric blue evening gown that
reached all the way to the floor. It had a floral pattern woven
throughout that was the same electric blue as the dress. The garment
was elegant, almost opulent. Beata wore a simple yellow gown that also
reached to the floor. On the young Polish beauty, the inexpensive
garment looked as elegant as her soon-to-be mother-in-law’s.
aunt on his father’s side and her husband were the first guests to
arrive. Alicja the maid led them into the parlor. She returned to the
front hall to be on hand to greet the other guests as they arrive.
Wiktor’s aunt and uncle stood staring at the stunning beauty as he
introduced the young woman that was going to marry their nephew. His
uncle’s stare eventually prompted a nudge from his aunt—a cue for him
to shut his gaping mouth and sit down.
dinner time, all the other guests had arrived and were seated at the
long table in the dining room—all but Wiktor’s brother and his
bride-to-be. The table was dark, lustrous mahogany. It was stained
exactly like the high wainscoting surrounding the room. Around the
table, they sat and talked excitedly about the two upcoming nuptials
and how glorious it was that the two brothers found their true loves at
the same time and were to be married within weeks of each other.
aunt was commenting on how wonderful an idea it was to have the
weddings in the rear garden when Alicja led Jakob and a beautiful girl
into the room. Everyone fell silent as they gazed on the stunning
German beauty. Her face was finely chiseled like the best of sculpture.
It featured a mildly angular chin that reflected a unique feminine
handsomeness. Her chestnut hair and brown eyes gave her beauty a warm
radiance that filled the room.
Wiktor’s father exclaimed. He jumped up from his seat at the head of
the table and went over. He shook his younger son’s hand with vigor.
delightful to see you, Jakob!” Wiktor said from the table. He stood up
and walked over. “And this must be your young lady, Helga.”
introduced the stunning beauty he’d met at university all around. She
returned all their kind words with a faint smile. She said very little.
They all understood she must be shy and somewhat embarrassed by all the
attention. She and Jakob sat down and joined in the meal.
over, Beata and Helga excused themselves to the powder room. The other
ladies sat at the big table and drank coffee while the servants cleared
up. When the table was cleared, Alicja, at madame’s request, brought in
the large box holding the family photographs. The men all went into the
parlor for brandy and cigars.
to his brother and father, while at university in Germany, Jakob had
been encountering some radical social ideas. He had come to embrace
many of the ideas put forth by the German philosopher, Karl Marx. He
now thought the whole brandy and cigars thing was a clichéd bourgeois
indulgence even though he himself had partaken of this after-dinner
ritual many times. For the sake of peace on this special evening,
however, he kept his new opinions to himself. He even had a glass of
brandy but refused the cigar.
other men would have been shocked at his ideas. They would have been
doubly shocked to learn he picked them up from his beloved Helga. He
didn’t tell them her reticence to speak at dinner was more to keep her
socialist views to herself rather than out of some demure shyness. To
hear her speak at the campus socialists meetings, to listen to her
rants against the injustices of the capitalist system, would dispel any
misconceptions of shyness.
men would have said he was simply beguiled by her beauty and would
follow anything she said. He would deny it but know deep down they were
right. He had made not the slightest objection when she handed him a
copy of Das Kapital and demand he read it.
evening over, the guests gone, everyone retired to their rooms. Alicja
showed Miss Helga to the room she had prepared for her. At the door,
Helga smiled kindly at her and thanked her sincerely for her help.
Alicja was pleased. She usually didn’t get such consideration from
those she served. Miss Beata, however, was also very nice to her. She
wondered if that would continue once the girls married into the family
and she became their servant as well.
heard Alicja close the door behind her. She thought she’d have a little
talk with her later and see if Marx’s teachings appealed to her. She
got her yellow nightgown out of her bag and prepared for bed.
night wore on and was quiet. Asleep in her room, Beata dreamed of her
approaching wedding. In her sleep, she thought she heard some noise.
She opened her eyes and stared into the darkness. Something was making
a scratching sound, the sound that woke her up. It was coming from the
window. She sat up, her white cotton nightgown rustled softly. She
placed her delicate feet on the floor and looked at the window.
wanted to scream but fright constricted her throat, the same lovely
throat her new necklace adorned, the one with the medallion and not a
cross. There was a face just outside the window looking in! She
breathed deeply and looked closer. It was a child! There was a child
outside her window! It was dark outside and she couldn’t see very well
but it was a child.
stood up and approached the window. She looked closely and could just
make out a pair of eyes. It was odd. In the dim light, the child’s eyes
seemed to glow red. She thought it must be some strange property of the
glass. Again, she tried to make eye contact. The child seemed to be
looking not at her eyes but at her throat. She thought maybe the gold
of the necklace, even in the dim light, had caught the child’s eye.
eyes widened at the realization that the child was on the second floor
of the house. How could that be? She concluded the child must have
climbed up the side of the house somehow, grabbing hold of any handhold
he could find. This was not a robbery, she thought. No robber would
make such noise and betray his presence. She went to the window and
opened it. The child did not move.
come in, little one! Don’t stay out in the dark and cold. Would
you like some food? Is that why you are here?”
The child smiled and nodded. The smile revealed a pair of long fangs.
In the blink of an eye, it sprang at her.
loud scream came from from somewhere in the house. Wiktor sprang up in
bed and looked around. Another scream. Beata! Beata is screaming! He
jumped out of bed and drew a pistol from the nightstand. He rushed to
her room. There was Beata on the floor with a thing lying on top of
her. It was sucking at a wound in her throat.
sprang across the room, his eyes and mouth wide open. He could now see
the abomination was feeding on his beloved Beata’s blood.
“Vampyr!” he screamed and fired at it. The thing fell off the delicate girl and squatted, hissing at him.
It croaked, “I was invited!”
father and brother came into the room. They stood frozen in place at
the horror before them. Wiktor’s father was in his nightshirt. Jakob
was still dressed. He’d been awake catching up on some correspondence
that had come for him to the house. He held a long, silver letter
opener in his hand.
Wiktor shot the thing again. Like the first one, this shot made the thing flinch but didn’t seem to do any real harm.
didn’t hesitate. While the little monster regained its balance, he
lunged forward and plunged the silver letter opener into its heart. The
abhorrence fell to the floor in an instant and moved no more. It lay on
the floor on its side with a family heirloom sticking out of its chest.
father fell to the floor in a faint. Wiktor dropped to his knees beside
his dying Beata. He picked her up and cradled her in his arms. He
looked at the wound in her throat and knew it was too severe for her to
survive. Coming from a cast that didn’t allow displays of strong
emotion, he didn’t cry, at least not then and there.
next day, they held a simple ceremony. The stable hands dug a grave.
The body was put in a casket that was hastily cobbled together. Beata
wore the yellow gown she had on at the dinner party. It was the last
dress Wiktor had seen her in and he wanted to remember her that way:
happy and beautiful. Helga and Alicja had cleaned the wound, dressed
her, and prepared her hair and makeup.
stood around the grave dug in the family plot at the back of the
property. Wiktor said a few words and they left to allow the stable
hands to lower the coffin into the grave and cover poor Beata with
earth. He intended later to order a marble slab to cover the entire
grave. He intended it would simply have one word on it running the
entire length: Beata.
few sad days passed. Time seemed to stand still. Every morning, Wiktor
came out to the grave and said a prayer over his beloved Beata. Later,
he sent Alicja into town to place an order for the marble slab. One of
the stable hands, the one, yet unknown to the family, she was soon to
marry, hitched up one of the carriages and drove her there. Wiktor had
written out exact instructions as to what he wanted. She dutifully
delivered the note to the funeral home. The director told the pretty
maid to convey his deepest sympathies to the family and to assure
Wiktor his instructions would be carried out to the letter. He could
pick up the stone in a week.
next morning, Wiktor made his usual trip to the grave. He looked down
at the sacred spot. His jaw dropped. It had been dug up! Grave robbers
had struck! He screamed, enraged anyone would commit such an atrocity.
He stormed back to the house and informed his father and brother of the
father said, “We should have placed a guard on the grave until the
marble slab arrived. We’ll just have to pay the ransom to the filthy
dogs that did this and get the poor girl’s body back. Later, we’ll pay
our retribution upon these body snatchers.” He nodded solemnly.
went up to Helga’s room. He wanted to check on her and make sure the
horrible news had not reached her. She was upset enough. Beata’s death
had affected her greatly.
gave her door three gentle raps, but there was no response. He scowled.
Like the working people she so faithfully supported, Helga was an early
riser in sympathy to them. He opened the door and stepped inside. She
was lying on the bed in the shadows. The sun rose on the opposite side
of the house, so it was still very shaded in this room. The window was
open—unusual with the nights so cold. There was a coppery aroma in the
air. Must be something from outside the open window, he thought. He
glided across the colorful Persian carpet to her bed and shook her
jerked his hand back. His palm was smeared with a thick, viscous
liquid, warm and sticky. He stepped to the window. By the slight
morning light that came in, he saw it was blood. In disgust, he wiped
it away on one of the curtains. He gave no thought to his mother’s
possible vehement objections.
“Wiktor!” he screamed. “Wiktor!”
rushed back to Helga and touched her other shoulder. She was cold,
stone cold. He put two fingers to the base of her neck. There was no
pulse. His head dropped and he gritted his teeth. In the gloom, he
turned her cold body over. He did not try to deceive himself that she
was merely unconscious. He knew she was dead. No breathing, no pulse,
no movement, she was dead.
tears fell as he lifted her head to kiss her dead lips. The head came
up easily, too easily. In a moment, he was standing straight up with
the head, just the head, in his hands, her body still on the bed.
started screaming. He was still screaming when the others came into the
room. Wiktor and his father joined him at the bed and stared down at
the headless horror there. After some minutes, they led Jakob to his
room and made him stay there for the rest of the day to rest.
approaching night was laden with dread. Wiktor and his parents sat in
the parlor by the fire Wiktor had made himself. Jakob was still
upstairs alone in his room, lying on his bed fully dressed, nearly mad
with grief. He had been like that since his gruesome discovery. Wiktor
had gone up an hour ago and checked on him. He was still the same. The
only thing different in the room was the remains of a torn-up book
lying everywhere on the floor. The cover was intact. It was Das Kapital
by that German fellow.
morning, after the stable hands buried Helga’s remains, all the
servants, stable hands, the cook, even faithful Alicja, quit without
notice and left. This murder and Beata’s, along with the hauntingly
empty grave, were too much. The servants all vowed not to stay another
night or ever return. They had gotten rid of the thing that killed
Beata. And they knew what it was. And they knew what Beata now was. All
the promises of doubled salaries did nothing to dissuade them. Wiktor
overheard two of them whisper to each other “Vampyr” as they hurried
was dressed in a gray, wool frock, her gray bonnet tied over her gray
head. She had her dark blue coat on and her large, packed, black bag in
her hand. As she walked toward the door, she told Wiktor’s mother, “Be
sure and count the silverware. I assure you nothing is missing. The
only thing that is gone is that large, sharp butcher knife I so often
used. It’s of no special value. It was always sitting out in plain
sight. I’m sorry, ma’am, I have no idea of what’s become of it.” She
headed for the door and paid no heed to the pleas by Wiktor’s mother to
glanced at the darkening window. Night was falling now. Wiktor’s mother
got up from her cushioned chair and lit the candles. She had half
expected Alicja to come do it until she recalled they were all gone.
worry, mother,” Wiktor said, “I’ll ride into town tomorrow and hire new
servants. By the weekend, we’ll be fully staffed again, I promise.”
“Yes,” Wiktor’s father said.
dear, I know.” She began to pull the heavy curtains of the windows
together. “When your father and I were first married, we could afford
no servants. That was before he made his fortune. I kept our small
house in the city for years, didn’t I, dear?” Her husband nodded. “I’m
not totally helpless.”
“I checked the pantry,” Wiktor’s father said. “Plenty there for a long time.”
Wiktor’s mother sat back down. “I will miss Alicja, though. She became much more than a servant girl to me.”
all settled into their chairs; mother and father each picked up a book
and began reading. Before she left, Cook had prepared them a cold
supper. They had eaten it just before they retired to the parlor. Now,
the candles lit, the curtains drawn, it was night. The sun was set and
it was time to relax, if that was possible. They sat before the fire
and, from outside, they heard something slam. To Wiktor, it sounded
like the closing of the slanted cellar doors. He recognized the sound
from the many times he’d been down there, came up, and closed them.
Wiktor’s father looked up. “I wonder what that was.”
“I’ll go see.”
Wiktor!” his mother insisted. “It’s of no consequence. You can look in
the morning. It’s probably just some animal knocking against something.”
nodded. He agreed with his mother. There was nothing of value in the
old cellar and there was no way to gain entry to the house from down
there. Let it be, he decided. They had had enough for one day.
night dragged on under a pall of sadness. The two young women who were
to soon join this family hearth were dead, horribly murdered. They
could not understand any of this. That word the stable hands had used
came to Wiktor’s mind: Vampyr. He shook his head. He was in no mood for
tried to think, but it was difficult to think clearly. His mind was
dulled by sorrow and fatigue. The thing that killed Beata was dead. He
had shot it and Jakob had stabbed it. The rest of the family did not
know; it was too horrible to tell them, but one of the stable hands, an
older man, had taken a long knife and cut off the little monster’s head
before they took the carcass into the woods and buried it. Whatever the
evil spawn was, it would do no harm ever again. So it was not that
which killed Helga. So who, or what, did kill her? And why did it
sever her head? And where was the blood? There was some on Helga’s
neck, but given the atrocities done to the poor girl, her bed should
have been awash in it.
killed her had somehow taken the blood with him. But why! And Wiktor
was sure that whoever had done this must have been the same fiend that
stole Beata’s body from her grave. It was too incredible to think it
was a coincidence that two such heinous crimes in so short a time were
the products of different agencies.
could hate us so much?” He realized he had said that out loud. He
looked up at his parents. They were so engrossed in their reading they
did not catch what he said.
took up a book of French poetry, something by Victor Hugo. He had been
a devotee of his work since he was a young Lieutenant in the army and
used his poems to court his first wife. He would read Hugo’s poems to
her to pass the time in an attempt to win her over. It worked. They
were married within three months of meeting each other. After they were
married, he confessed to her the only reason he bought the book of
Hugo’s poems was because he and the author shared the same first name
though spelled differently. It had simply caught his eyes more than the
other books in the bookstore. He had hoped to read Hugo’s poems to
Beata. Sadly, that was not to be.
mother set aside her book and rose to retire. She told her husband to
come along. It was too late for old men to be sitting up. They left and
worked their way up the curving staircase to go to their rooms.
few minutes later, he heard his mother screaming and his father
shouting. He sprang from his chair; the book tumbled to the floor.
Still in good shape for a man of forty-five, he sprang up the steps in
mere seconds. He followed his parent’s cries to Jakob’s room. His
parents stood at the door gaping at the terrible scene inside. Wiktor
looked in and his jaw fell.
was Beata! She was on top of Jakob on the bed! Her teeth were sunk into
his brother’s neck and she seemed to be drinking his blood!
“Vampyr.” Without knowing, he whispered the word.
He stepped into the room. “Beata! Beata! Stop this madness!”
She looked up at him and hissed, her red eyes glaring. She resumed her feeding, paying him no regard.
heard a thud behind him. He turned and his father was on the floor. His
eyes were staring wide and he did not move. Wiktor closed his eyes and
shook his head. Of all the times for the old gentleman’s heart to give
mother held onto the door handle and worked her way down. She got on
her knees. She took her husband’s dead hand and patted it, hoping to
revive him even though she knew he was dead.
father gone, he must save his brother. He bounded over to the bed and
grabbed Beata’s shoulders. He pulled with all his might to get her off
Jakob, but he could not budge her. Her strength was incredible, far
beyond what her small frame should be capable of.
drew a fist back and swung against the back of her head. She paid no
heed. He heard another thud. He glanced at his mother. She lay passed
out on the floor. He hoped she had not died as well.
looked at the bed. The big butcher knife he’d seen Cook use in the
kitchen so many times laid there on the corner. Even in the frenzy of
this madness, he wondered why it was there. His eyes stretched wide as
he recalled Helga’s severed head.
“You heinous fiend!” He drew back and struck her again.
Beata was annoyed by these interruptions. She swung her fist around and behind her and caught Wiktor in the ribs.
crashed to the floor, pain erupting in his side like a slow explosion.
In the service, he had broken ribs before. He knew Beata had just
broken at least two on his right side. He gritted his teeth and tried
to struggle up from the floor. This thing that used to be the woman he
loved was destroying his family. He had to stop it.
looked at the dresser. He wondered if the gift his mother had given
Jakob when he was confirmed was still there. He reached up and grabbed
the handle of the middle drawer. This was the drawer he’d last seen it
in. But that was nearly twenty years before. He grunted and strained,
working against the awful pain racking his body. He could hear the
sucking sound Beata made as she bled his brother to death. He had to
hurry. He managed to pull the drawer all the way out of the dresser.
Its contents fell around him.
the floor lay the gold cigar case he’d given Jakob for Christmas years
ago, the one, for some reason, he stopped using recently. Surrounding
that were odds and ends, but the object of his search was not there.
His brother’s cross, the one his mother had given him at his
confirmation, was nowhere to be seen. He knew the odds were against it
being there after all these years, but he had to try.
dropped his head and closed his eyes. He tried to think of something
else to do. To his horror, the sucking sound stopped. He knew that
meant she was finished; the job was done.
fought the rage that made him want to scream. He still had his mother
to protect if indeed she was still alive. He had to keep his wits about
him and do something. But what?
A sound more terrible than the blood sucking began. It was the sound of soft footsteps coming toward him…
before dawn, before she had to return to her secret lair in the cellar,
Beata the vampire stared up into the night sky. The others were all
gone now. No one alive was in the house. She knew this was her new
existence. She knew she was now a creature of the night. It thrilled
her. Beata means blessed, but now she was cursed and she loved it. She
reached up, as if to pull the moon down from the sky and bellowed howls
of laughter into the night.
If you enjoyed this, I invite you to check out my
old-school vampire novel The Curse of the Vampyr HERE.