By Willow Taylor
It was long ago, before I was born, that my mother met the vampire. He wasn't debonair, and he wasn't charming. We're not even sure if he was ever human, but she did meet him.
My mother never ate eggs. When I was younger, I didn't really understand that. After all, she ate them in cakes and breads, and even in cheese pie, which is really lovely, cheese, onions, bacon, and ham all held together by egg, but she never just ate eggs. Not boiled, fried or scrambled. But I didn't really understand, eggs were a nice simple and easy thing for me to do if I wanted to be nice and cook her breakfast, before she got up. But of course she wouldn't eat them. It didn't really matter, because my father or the cats would, but I didn't understand.
When I got older my mother told me what had happened, why she didn't eat eggs. She had been opening eggs one day, carefully, separating the yolk and white, saving the shells for some craft project, when she lifted one, and got a terrible shiver down her spine. She ignored it, and opened the egg, carefully. To her horror, instead of a slimy white and a golden-yellow yolk, a patch of darkness oozed out of the brown eggshell in her hand. It grew, and in a moment, formed a man, pale, and fanged, clothed in a draping shroud of midnight black.
"Hello," he said. My mother stared in horror, eggshells still in her hands. "Thank you," he said, fangs flashing. "For freeing me." He smiled, and my mother almost bolted in fear.
"Get back in the egg," she said in a weak little voice.
"Not hardly!" the vampire, because that's what it was, laughed, the tendrils of his dark robe flowed around him as he laughed. "I'm free now."
"Then I'll make you," my mother said, standing up, still afraid, but more of what would happen if the vampire escaped then of the actual vampire.
"Not hardly," the vampire said, and gathered it's shadow-cloak around it and disappeared. My mother stared at where it had been, and swore, on the spot, never to eat eggs until she'd found the vampire, and killed it, or at least forced it back into captivity.
I accepted it without question as was my nature, but mulled over it as the years passed. Why not eat eggs? I wondered. She still used them! And she obviously hadn't caught the vampire, so why wasn't she looking for it.
I talked it over with one of my friends when I was about eight. She claimed she'd found the vampire and killed it. I didn't believe her. I told her she had to show me where she'd found it. She said she couldn't it was on private property. I accepted that, and told my mother. My mother just smiled at me. I was still pretty trusting at that age. I just didn't see why someone would lie about something like that. Of course, thinking back on it now, my friend probably thought she wasn't lying, she was just trading me story for story. After all, if my mother freed a vampire from an egg of all things, why couldn't have she killed it?
When I was older, I told my mother's story to another friend. She thought I was out of my gourd, but that's why she liked me. I was different. I thought about vampires, The Loch Ness Monster, Krakens, and werewolves and Fairies. I believed in them. Keep in mind, I'd never seen a fairy, but I believed that so many people could not believe in something like that without it being marginally true. My friend suggested that if my mother, who was fast approaching middle age, with no sign of finding the vampire, couldn't catch it, maybe I could. That germ of an idea infested me. Why couldn't I find the vampire. If I killed him, wouldn't it be almost the same as if my mother killed him? I kept thinking about it on and off over the years.
Now keep in mind, my friend was a little right. I was a little crazy. I still am. While I've never seen a fairy, I've heard them. I've seen what they've done. The hair on the back of my neck has risen in the wake of a ghost's passing. So I continued to believe, long past the age when most would have discarded the story as a fancy of a parent trying to scare their children. But my mother wasn't like that, and the story had never scared me, just made me think.
When I was seventeen, I started training in hand-to-hand combat. I was a little rounded, and prone to be lethargic. But I was also determined. Which was good because I really stunk. Once in five I could get a move right. My memory tossed bits of training around like confetti, and I never seemed to remember anything when I needed it. Luckily, I had grown up tall, and slightly muscular. My mother often remarked how similar we were in word and deed, but I was growing into exactly what she'd hoped to be when she was younger. And the consistent exercise really improved my health. But in the back of my mind, a voice said "You have to get strong. You have to get good. You have to find the vampire." My friends, hearing this, thought I was insane. I cultivated the image half heatedly. It was easier then trying to describe the driving feeling I had to a handful of not quite goths and gaming freaks. But I never let it bother me that they didn't quite believe me.
And on top of that, I started researching. Bits and pieces, trying to find any legend of a vampire in an egg before my mother's story, and all traditional ways to kill a vampire. They never could quite picture a vampire that wasn't like Dracula. I could. I never drew the image that I saw in my dreams, but I kept it in my mind, to reference against descriptions. Somehow I had a feeling that if anyone could find this vampire, it would be me.
There were so many creative ways that had nothing to do with sunlight or stakes through the heart. Quite a few I discarded as useless, because the vampire had no grave. Sometimes I wondered about my own sanity, chasing after something that quite possibly had only been a vision of my mothers. But belief was ingrained into me so hard that I couldn't quite stop believing.
My high school graduation came and went. It didn't seem like such a big deal. It really didn't seem to be the deal everyone was making out of it. To me, my life wouldn't really begin until I found and confronted my mother's vampire. I got a job, worked as long as I could stand it, and hoarded the money. I traveled to where my mother had lived when she met the vampire, and scouted around.
The strangest thing was, as I entered the apartment, the hair on the back of my neck rose. Something was in the apartment, whether it was a vampire or not, I didn't know. The landlord let me into the apartment my mother had been renting, thinking I was looking it over as a prospective tenant. I looked around, and sighed. I was left alone, and I sat down with my back against the wall. The place did feel funny.
It hadn't been a slum, quite when my mother lived there, but it was a good deal closer now. I didn't want to leave my mother's house to live on my own at that point, but as I sat there, I thought about doing just that, taking my chances, and renting this apartment. A sudden drifting melancholy over took me, and I wondered why I was doing this, wasting my life. I wondered if I was insane, if there was even such things as vampires. There in the dingy apartment, I let my tears out, burying my face in my arms. At last I'd cried myself out, and felt as hollow as a dried up eggshell. I decided I'd go home, and maybe find a real job. I closed my eyes and dreamed.
In my dream I was in the house I'd grown up in and very small. I climbed the attic stairs and sat down in the drowsy warm air. I heard a noise over by the Christmas decorations, and curious walked over. I decided I wanted to look at them, and opened the boxes, admiring them. At that time, among our ornaments was a few dozen of these beautiful handmade ornaments my mother had crafted, made of hollow eggshells, each one filled with a different scene in tiny figures. I lifted them out and looked at them. In each scene was a shadow figure, dark and foreboding. I kept looking at the ornaments as the attic grew dark around me, at last, I looked up and saw the dark figure hovering over me, as if I were a scene in an eggshell. I dropped the egg I was holding at it shattered. I looked among the pieces and saw no dark figure, just the peaceful scene my mother had crafted. I broke every egg, and the dark figure I had seen in each one was not in the pieces. I looked up again, and the dark figure hovering over me was gone.
When I woke, my resolve to find the vampire was renewed and I returned home. Now, I began scouring newspapers, tabloids, and going about investigating every report of vampires. What I found were crazies, and goths, people who, against all odds, wanted to be vampires. And my money began trickling away, as I went about. And I had no real skills. So I did the only thing I could. I had gotten over the years, very good at research. So I went about and sold articles to newspapers, bits of history and sensationalism that every good paper needed a little of. And I continued in my searches, spending far too much time awake at night, nurse thermoses of strong coffee and boxes of NoDoze. I spent time at Sci-Fi Conventions, alternately trying not to yawn and laugh at the speakers. But most of my time was spent in graveyards. I broke up a great deal of vandalism. And it was in a graveyard that something happened that would change my life forever.
I was very tired that night, and grumpy. I was hardly at my best. I let my flashlight flicker over gravestones, not looking into the light, but at the edges of it. I had enough experience to know that you could avoid a beam of light, but the fringes would get you. Suddenly I got the feeling of behind watched and looked about me, trying to figure out where it was coming from, and if it was dangerous.
"Boo," a voice said behind me. I whirled, flashlight beam high. "OW!" yelped the voice. "Have you no respect for night vision?" I turned the flashlight off, and let my eyes adjust to the quarter moon's light. The owner of the voice was a man, a little taller than me, perhaps a bit older, he had a faint smile on his face. The moonlight washed all the color away from his face, but he still seemed tan.
"So," he said, gesturing at the near abandoned graveyard splendor around us. "Come here often?"
The man's name was Andrew. He had been searching for a vampire's grave too. But out of curiosity, not obsession. Well, at least not the same kind of obsession. Andrew was creating his own curriculum and was determined to be the first actual Professor of the supernatural. Not just the Paranormal, the actual supernatural. Besides that, he was a calm, handsome man, and a good cook. Andrew was also a fantastic kisser.
It was strange to have someone other than my mother who believed me completely, and supported my decision to hunt the vampire. Andrew listened carefully to my story, and even offered a very new angles that I hadn't considered. For me it was like a dream come true. I can't speak for him, but Andrew always seemed the happiest when we were together, tracking down a rumor. We were in love, and partners in a way many couples never were. But of everything that he understood about me, Andrew always knew that until I found the vampire, we wouldn't be together forever.
Sometimes I left for weeks, tracking down rumors of vampires, threading my way through graveyards, as Andrew was caught in his classes. A year passed.
I found nothing, no sign of the vampire.
Then one day, I was sitting at the counter of a diner, drinking mediocre coffee and dozing, as I came back from yet another trip where I had found nothing. I was about ready to give up, go home and marry Andrew when I saw the article in the newspaper. About a poor woman, who suddenly, without warning began wasting away from some unknown anemia. It was a wild goose chase, but I noted down the town, and headed out.
It was a pleasant white house, with a few chickens pecking in the yard. A sign out front said "Fresh Eggs" I guessed it was the place. I parked and walked up the walk to the front door. After only hesitating a moment, I knocked. A worried looking man answered the door, and looked me over. I opened my mouth to say something, and realized the truth would be nothing more than preposterous.
"Hi," I said at last. "How much are your eggs?" I looked discardable, I was sure. I was riding a motorcycle, and for me that meant scuffed boots that had belonged to my father, a black leather jacket that had seen better days, and hat head from the helmet.
I told them, in the end, the truth. I was lucky. They were so worried and scared by the wasting sickness they were willing to believe anything. I guess I was lucky they were old country folk who gave up myths slowly. I offered to stay and look for any night visitors. They took me up on the offer.
Before the sun set that day, I went around the house and blessed each side, asking the household spirits to protect all within. Then I stood in the front entrance and said softly "By the name, the invitation is revoked." That had been a common thread in many of the legends I'd read concerning vampires, and if I was wrong, it didn't hurt very much. I settled down on the porch with a thermos of tea. It promised, as the sun went down to be a very long, lonely and cold night. I tried not to think about Andrew.
When the vampire came, he didn't sneak. He came out of the night like he was a piece of the black starless sky detaching itself to come for a visit. He didn't slip like a thief of life to the bedroom window and force his way in. He sauntered up to the front door, as if he belonged there, as if he owned the place. He put his hand on the door knob and pulled. It didn't open. He scowled in the dim moonlight, and I saw his face. My mother had been right. He was not handsome, but at the same time, he wasn't hideous. He simply was, and he wasn't human. Despite this, he was oddly compelling, and I jerked my eyes away. A fascination he didn't have to be charming and handsome - his very existence fascinated the eye. As I stored the details of his appearance awry in my mind, he became increasingly upset as the door would not open for him. I could hear the lock turning and opening from where I sat in the shadows, but the door didn't open.
"You aren't welcome here," I said softly, moving swiftly out of the shadows. The vampire turned and looked at me.
"I know you," he said with a smile, showing strange, sharp teeth. "You freed me."
"No," I said. "that was my mother." The vampire laughed. It was a terrible wonderful sound.
"And now you've come to stop me," he chuckled. "How quaint. The last time it was a son avenging his father's wrong. This time, a daughter, her mother's."
"Last time?" I said. From my side I pulled a knife. In my other hand was clutched an old diehard, a wooden stake. The vampire looked at me in contempt.
"Yes. Do you suppose I was born and created in that egg? I was trapped." His eyes flickered over me. "You can't kill me like that."
"I don't have to kill you," I realized. "I just have to wound you and follow you till the sun rises."
"The sunrise is hours away," the vampire said, stepping away from the door. "And if I cannot have my right from one place, I shall have it another." He was right., A wooden stake against an active vampire, no matter what the horror movies said, was foolish. I know it was foolish. I threw the stake at him anyway. It twisted uselessly in flight, coming at him sideways, it wouldn't have hurt me, let alone a strange dead creature. He dodged aside anyway. Into the handful of salt that I threw after the stake. His clawed hands flew to his eyes and suddenly, I realized I had no idea what to do. If I came close enough to attack him with the knife, he'd grab a hold, and I'd never see the dawn again. I wished for a gun, a crossbow, a slingshot. I cursed the path that had led me to that moment. And I charged anyway.
We crashed over the railing of the porch, though the screening. though the screening, and landed on the packed dirt and scrabbly grass of the front yard. His hands remained at his eyes, trying to clear the salt. It seemed to be hurting him. I raised my knife, and aimed for the thin slit of death white skin I saw at this neck. The vampire threw me off and ran. I ran after him, tripping over the garden hose, stumbling and still following. Lights went on in the house. I heard people moving, I ran up a rock that was in the back yard like a jungle gym and leapt like a cougar onto the vampire's back, borne on the wings of adrenaline. We both crashed to the ground again and rolled. He got his fingers wrapped around the lapels of my jacket. I threw my arms up, scattering more salt, and slipped down, freeing myself, barely. The vampire flung the jacket aside, and leapt for me. Once again we crashed backwards, through a wall this time. Chickens flew in every direction. On the floor of the chicken house, I was trapped by the vampire. He had me by the arms, just above the elbows, pinning me to the ground. I stabbed at the vampire with the small movement I had available, and flailed my legs around. He paused a moment, to bat the knife away, and bared his fangs. My scrabbling fingers came across a smooth, rounded object. I crushed the egg into the vampire's right eye. The vampire screamed and leapt back, I scrabbled again, trying to regain my knife. The vampire glared at me, his cloak of darkness swirling around him like a thing alive.
"I will remember this," he hissed. "And I will see your daughter." I threw another handful of salt, and the vampire fled. On legs that felt like they were made of lead I pursued him again, as the vampire blended with the night.
"Git down!" a voice shouted, and I obeyed without thinking. There was loud BANG and the vampire stumbled, then blended with the night. The husband of the vampire's victim came and helped me to stand.
"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it," he said. "Thank you, miss, but you're out of your mind." He was right. Because even after that, I kept looking.
That was the only time I'd ever seen the vampire, or any other. I carried it in my heart, proof that I wasn't insane, as I renewed my search. Fruitless years passed, with Andrew helping me all he could, patiently waiting for me, supporting me in every way. It's sweet. But he's waiting too. When I've seen this through, we're going to get married. Raise children. Children who will grow up believing in the impossible. Because if no one believes in the impossible, when the impossible happens, no one will be able to deal with it. But it doesn't matter now.
Because tonight, I've found him. I can't reach him in the day, so it has to be at night when he's most powerful. I've been waiting for this for years. Preparing. Dreading. I don't know which of us, if either will survive the confrontation. But I hope, someday, my own daughter can think back on my story, and say
"It was long ago, before I was born, that my mother fought the vampire."
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
The Vampire's Egg © 2001 by Willow Taylor
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