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.

beataThe 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.

She 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?

Wiktor 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.

An 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.

A 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 down.”

She spoke up. “Thank you, Alicja. I’ll be right down.”

After 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.

Not yet.

They 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.

“Beata.” 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.”

Her 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.

“Beata.” 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.”

As 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.

“Why 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 brother, Jakub.”

She smiled and nodded.

Wiktor 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.

“I 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.

For 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 very beautiful.

Around 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.

Wiktor’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.

By 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.

Wiktor’s 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.

“Jakob!” 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.

“How delightful to see you, Jakob!” Wiktor said from the table. He stood up and walked over. “And this must be your young lady, Helga.”

Jakob 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.

Dinner 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.

Unknown 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Helga 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.

The 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.

She 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.

She 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.

Her 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.

“Oh, 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.

A 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.

Wiktor 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!”

Wiktor’s 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.

Jakob 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.

Wiktor’s 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.

The 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.

They 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.

A 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.
The 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 outrage.

His 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.

Jakob 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.

He 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 gently.


He 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!”

He 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.

His 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.

He 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.

The 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.

That 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 away.

Cook 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 stay.

Wiktor 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.

“Don’t 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.

“Yes, 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.”

They 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.”

“No, Wiktor!” his mother insisted. “It’s of no consequence. You can look in the morning. It’s probably just some animal knocking against something.”

Wiktor 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.

The 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 ghost stories.

He 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.

Whoever 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.

“Who 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.

 He 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.

His 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.

A 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.

There 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.

Wiktor 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 out!

His 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.

His 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.  

He 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.

He 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.

He 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.

He 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.

On 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.

He 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.

He 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…

Just 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.