Chapter 8

One of the saddest stories told in modern literature, to me at least, is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Because in a sense I am that monster. Knowingly or unknow?ingly, to much of history, I am the inspiration of nightmares. I am the primeval fear, something dead come to life, or better yet--and more accurate-- something that refuses to die. Yet I consider myself more human than Shelley's creation, more humane than Arturo's offspring. I am a monster, but I can also love deeply. Yet even my love for Arturo could not spare him from plunging us into a nightmare from which there seemed to be no waking.

His secret of transformation was very simple, and profound beyond belief. It is fashionable among New Age adherents to use crystals to develop higher states  of consciousness. What most of these people do not know is that a crystal is merely an amplifier, and that it has to be used very carefully. Whatever is present in the aura of the person, in the psychic field, gets magnified. Hate can be boosted as easily as compas?sion. In fact, cruel emotions expand more easily when given the chance. Arturo had an intuitive sense of the proper crystal to use with each person. Indeed, on most people he refused to use crystals at all. Few, he said, were ready for such high vibrations. How tragic it was that when he had a vial of my blood in his hand, his intuition deserted him. It is a pity his special genius did not leave him as well. It took a genius to take us as far as he did.

A mad one.

Using the magnets and copper sheets, in his secret geometric arrangements, the vibrations from whatev?er Arturo placed over the person were transmitted into the aura. For example, when he placed a clear quartz crystal above my head, a deep peaceful state settled in my mind. Yet if he used a similar crystal with young Ralphe, the boy would become irritated. Ralphe had too much going on in his mind and was not ready for crystals. Arturo understood that. He was an alchemist in the truest sense of the word. He could transform what could not be changed. Souls as well as bodies.

Arturo did not believe the body created the mind. He felt it was the other way around, and I believe he was correct. When he altered an aura, he changed the person's physiology as well. He just needed the proper materials, he said, to change anything. A flawed human into a glorious god. A sterile vampire into a loving mother.

It was, in the end, the chance to become human again that caused me to give him my blood. To hold my daughter in my hands again--what ecstasy! I was seduced by ancient griefs. Yaksha had made me pay dearly for my immortality, with the loss of Rama and Lalita. Arturo promised to give me back half of what had been stolen. It had been over four thousand years. Half seemed better than nothing. As I let my blood drip into a gold communion chalice for Arturo, I prayed to Krishna to bless it.

"I am not breaking my vow to you," I whispered, not believing my own words. "I am just trying to break this curse."

I did not know, as I prayed to my God, that Arturo was also praying to his. To allow him to convert hu?man and vampiric blood into the saving fluid of Jesus Christ. Genius may make a person a fanatic, I don't know. But I do know that a fanatic will never listen to anything other than his own dreams. Arturo was soft and kind, warm and loving. Yet he was convinced he had a great destiny. Hitler thought the same. Both wanted something nature had never granted--the perfect being. And I, the ancient monster, just wanted a child. Arturo and I--we should never have met. But perhaps our meeting was destined. My blood looked so dark in the chalice. The sacredness of the chalice did nothing to dispel my gloom.

Arturo wanted to place my blood above the head of select humans. To merge the vibration of my immor?tal pattern into that of a mortal. If he changed the aura, he said, the body would be transformed. He, of all people, should have known how potent my blood was. He had stared deep into my eyes. He should have known my will would not bend easily to the will of another.

"You will not put the blood in their veins?" I asked as I handed him the chalice. He shook his head.

"Never," he promised. "Your God and my God are the same. Your vow will remain unbroken."

"I'm not fooling myself," I said quietly. "I have broken a portion of it." I moved close to him. "I do this for you."

He touched me then--he rarely did, before that night. It was hard for him to fed my flesh and not burn. "You do this for yourself as well," he said.

I loved to stare deeply into his eyes. "That is true. But as I do this--for you as well as for myself--you must do likewise."

He wanted to draw back but he only came closer. "What do you mean?"

I kissed him then, for the first time, on the cheek. "You have to break your vow. You have to make love to me."

His eyes were round. "I can't. My life is dedicated to Christ."

I did not smile. His words were not funny, but tragic. The seed of all that was to follow was hidden inside them. But I did not see that then, at least not clearly. I just wanted him so badly. I kissed him again, on the lips.

"You believe my blood will lead you to Christ," I said. "I do not know about that. But I do know where I can take you." I set down the bloody chalice and my arms went around him, the wings of the vampire swallowing its prey. "Pretend I am your God, Arturo, at least for tonight. I will make it easy for you."

There was one last ingredient in Arturo's technique that I did not witness during my first session. While I was lying on the floor with all the paraphernalia around me, he had set a mirror above the crystals. This mirror was coordinated with an external mirror, which allowed moonlight to shine through the crys?tals. It was actually the light, altered by its passage through the quartz medium, that set in motion the higher vibration in the aura that altered the body. Arturo never focused the sun directly through the crystals, saying it would be much too powerful. Of course, Arturo understood that the light of the moon was identical to the light of the sun, only softened by cosmic reflection.

Arturo made with his own hands a crystal vial to hold my blood.

His first experiment was with a local child who had been retarded since birth. The boy lived on the streets and existed on the scraps of food tossed to him by strangers. It was my desire that Arturo first work on someone who couldn't turn him over to the Inquisi?tion. Still, Arturo was taking a big risk experimenting on anyone. The Church would have burned him at the stake. How I hated its self-righteous dogma, its hypoc?risy. Arturo never knew how many inquisitors I killed--a small detail that I forgot to mention in my confession to him.

I remember well how gently Arturo spoke to the child to get him to relax on the copper sheet. Normal?ly the boy was filthy, but I had given him a bath before the beginning of the experiment. He was naturally distrustful of others, having been abused so many times during his life. But he liked us--I had been feeding him off and on and Arturo had a way with children. Soon enough, he was lying on the copper and breathing comfortably. The reflected moonlight, peer?ing through the dark vial of my blood, cast a haunting red hue over the room. It reminded me of the end of twilight, of the time just before night falls.

"Something is happening," Arturo whispered as we watched the boy's breathing accelerate. For twenty minutes the child was in a state of hyperventilation, twitching and shaking. We would have stopped the process if the boy's face hadn't looked calm. Plus, we were watching history being made, maybe a miracle.

Finally the boy lay still. Arturo diverted the re?flected moonlight and helped the boy to sit up. There was a new strangeness to his eyes--they were bright. He hugged me.

"Ti amo anch'io, Sita," he said. "I love you, Sita."

"I had never heard him say a whole sentence before. I was so overjoyed that I didn't stop to think I had never told him my real name. In all of Italy, only Arturo and Ralphe knew it. We were both happy for the child, that his brain seemed to be functioning normally. It was one of the few times in my life I cried, tears of water, not tears of blood.

The red tears would come later.

This first successful experiment gave Arturo tre?mendous confidence and weakened his caution. He had seen a mental change; he wanted to see a physical one. He went looking for a leper, and brought back a woman in her sixties whose toes and fingers had been eaten away by the dread disease. Over the centuries I had found it particularly painful to look upon lepers. In the second century, in Rome, I had a beautiful lover who developed leprosy. Toward the latter stages of his disease, he begged me to kill him, and I did, crushing his skull, with my eyes tightly clenched. Of course, now there is AIDS. Mother Nature gives each age its own special horror. She is like Lord Krishna, full of wicked surprises.

The woman was almost too far gone to notice what we were doing to her. But Arturo was able to get her breathing deeply, and soon the magic was happening again. She began to hyperventilate, twitching worse than the boy had. Yet her eyes and face remained calm. I was not sure what she felt; it was not as if she suddenly sprouted toes and fingers. When she was through, Arturo led her upstairs and had her lie down on a bed. But from the start she did seem stronger, more alert.

A few days later she began to grow toes and fingers.

Two weeks later there was no sign of her leprosy.

Arturo was ecstatic, but I was worried. We told the woman not to tell anyone what we had done for her. Of course she told everyone. The rumors started to fly. Wisely, Arturo passed her cure off to the grace of God. Yet, during these days of the Inquisition, it was more dangerous to be a saint than a sinner. A sinner, as long as he or she was not a heretic, could repent and escape with a flogging. A saint might be a witch. Better to burn a possible saint, the Church thought, than let a genuine witch escape. They had a weird sense of justice.

Arturo was not a complete fool, however. He did not heal more lepers, even though dozens came to his door seeking relief. Yet he continued to experiment on a few deaf and dumb people, a few who were actually retarded. Oh, but it was hard to turn away the lepers. The lone woman had given them such hope. Modern-day pundits often talk of the virtue of hope. To me, hope brings grief. The most content people are those who expect nothing, who have ceased to dream.

I had dreamed what it would be like to be Arturo's lover, and now that he was mine, he was unhappy. Oh, he loved to sleep with me, feel me close beside him. But he believed he had sinned and he couldn't stop. The timing of our affair was unfortunate. He was breaking his vow of celibacy just when he was on the verge of fulfilling his destiny. God would not know whether to curse or bless him. I told him not to worry about God. I had met the guy. He did what he wanted when he wanted, no matter how hard you tried. I told Arturo many stories of Krishna, and he listened, fascinated. Still, he would weep after we had sex. I told him to go to confession. But he refused--he would only confess to me. Only I could understand him, he said.

But I didn't understand. Not what he had planned.

He began to have visions during this period. He'd had them before--they didn't alarm me, at least not at first. It was a vision that had given him the mechanics of his transformative technique, long be?fore we met. But now his visions were peculiar. He began to build models. Only seven hundred years later did I realize he was building models of DNA--human DNA, vampiric, and one other form. Yes, it is true, while we watched the people twitch on the floor under the influence of my bloody aura, Arturo saw more deeply than I did. He actually understood the specific molecule whose code defined the body. He saw the molecule in a vision, and he watched it change under the magnets, crystals, copper, and blood. He saw the double helix of normal DNA. He saw the twelve straight strands of my DNA. And he saw how the two could be conjoined.

"We need twelve helix strands," he confided in me. "Then we will have our perfect being."

"But the more people you experiment on, the more attention you will draw to yourself," I protested. "Your Church will not understand. They will kill you."

He nodded grimly. "I understand. And I cannot keep working on abnormal people. To make a leap toward the perfect being, I must work with a normal person."

I sensed what was in his mind. "You cannot experi?ment on yourself."

He turned away. "What if we try Ralphe?"

"No," I pleaded. "We love him the way he is. Let's not change him."

He continued to stare at the wall, his back to me. "You changed him, Sita."

"That was different. I knew what I was doing. I had experience. I healed his wounds. I altered his body, not his soul."

He turned to me. "Don't you see it's because I love Ralphe as much as you do that I want to give him this chance? If we can change him from the inside out, transform his blood, he will be like a child of Christ."

"Christ never knew of vampires," I warned. "You should not mix the two in your mind. It's blasphemy --even to me."

Arturo was passionate. "How do you know he didn't? You never met him."

I got angry. "Now you speak like a fool. If you want to experiment on anyone, use me. You promised me you would when we started this."

He stiffened. "I can't change you. Not now."

I understood what he was saying. Suddenly I felt the weight of shattered dreams. In my mind I had been playing with a daughter who had never been born, and who probably never would be.

"You need my blood first," I replied. "The pure vampire blood." It was true he had to replenish the blood in the crystal vial, not before each experiment, but often. Old blood did not work--it was too dead. I continued, "But what if your experiment does work and you do create a perfect being? I cannot give enough blood to alter everyone on this planet."

He shrugged. "Perhaps those who are altered can become the new donors."

"That is a huge perhaps. Also, I know people. This will be an exclusive club. It doesn't matter how good your intentions are now." I turned away and chuckled bitterly. "Who will be given a chance at perfection? The nobility? The clergy? The most corrupt will feel they are the most deserving. It is the oldest lesson of history. It never changes."

Arturo hugged me. "That will not happen, Sita. God has blessed this work. Only good can come from it."

"No one knows what God has blessed," I whis?pered. "And what he has cursed."

A few days went by during which Arturo and I hardly spoke. He would stay up late making models of molecules no one had seen, afraid to talk to me, to touch me. I never realized until then how he saw me as both a gift and a test from God. Of course I had given him my immortal perception on the matter, but he had seen me that way from the start. I brought him magic blood and delicious sensuality. He was sup?posed to take one and not the other, he thought. He lost his intuitive sense that kept him from mistakes, I believe, because he no longer thought he was worthy of having it. He stopped praying to God and started muttering to himself about the blood of Jesus Christ. He was more obsessed with blood than I was, and I had it for dinner every few days.

One evening I could find Ralphe nowhere. Arturo said he had no idea where he was. Arturo wasn't lying, but he wasn't telling the whole truth either. I didn't press him. I think I didn't want to know the truth. Yet had I insisted he tell me, I might have stopped the horror, before it got out of hand.

The screams started in the middle of night.

I was out for a walk at the time. It was my custom to go out late, disguised, find a homeless person, drink a pint of blood, whisper in his or her ear, and put the person back to sleep. Except for evil priests, I didn't often kill in those days. The cries that came to me that night chilled me through. I ran toward the sounds as fast as I could.

I found five bodies, horribly mangled, their limbs torn off. Obviously, only a being of supernatural strength could have committed these acts. One per?son, a woman with an arm lying beside her, was the test one still alive. I cradled her head in my lap.

"What happened I asked. "Who did this to you?"

"The demon," she whispered.

"What did this demon look like?" I demanded.

She gagged. "A hungry angel. The blood--" Her eyes strayed to her severed arm and she wept. "My blood."

I shook her. "Tell me what this demon looked like?"

Her eyes rolled up into her head. "A child," she whispered with her last breath and died in my arms.

Sick at heart, I knew who the child was.

Far away, on the far side of the town, I heard more screams.

I flew toward them but once again I was too late. There were more shredded bodies, and this time there were witnesses. An angry mob with burning torches was gathering. They had seen the demon child.

"It was heading for the woods!" they cried.

"We have to stop it!" others cried.

"Wait!" I yelled. "Look how many it has killed. We can't go after it without help."

"It killed my brother!" one man cried, pulling out a knife. "I'm going to kill it myself."

The mob followed the man. I had no choice but to tag along. As we wound through the dark streets, we found still more bodies. A few had had their heads ripped off. What was the mob thinking? I asked myself. They would fare no better against the monster. Of course mobs and rational thought are not comple?mentary. I have seen too many mobs in my day.

When we reached the trees on the edge of town, I left the rabble to search for the monster myself. I could hear it, two miles-ahead, laughing uproariously as it tore off the head of an animal. It was fast and strong, but I was a pure vampire, not a hybrid. It would be no match for me.

I came across it as it ducked from tree to tree, preparing to attack the mob.

"Ralphe," I whispered as I moved up behind him.

He whirled around, his face covered with blood, a wild light in his eyes. Or I should say, no light shone there. His eyes were snakelike. He was a serpent on the prowl, searching for the eggs of another reptile. Yet he recognized me--a faint flicker of affection crossed his face. If it was not for that, I would have killed him instantly. I had no hope he could be converted back to what he had been. I have intuition of my own. Some things I simply know. Usually the bitterest of things.

"Sita," he hissed. "Are you hungry? I am hungry."

I moved closer, not wanting to alert the mob, which was closing in. Ralphe had left a trail of blood. The stuff dripped off him; it was enough to make even me sick. My heart broke in my chest as he came within arm's reach.

"Ralphe," I said softly, all the time knowing it was hopeless. "I have to take you back to Arturo. You need help."

Terror disfigured his bloody expression. Obviously the transformation had not been pleasant for him. "I will not go back there!" he shouted. "He made me hungry!" Ralphe paused to stare down at his sticky hands. A portion of his humanity did indeed remain. His voice faltered on a lump of sorrow in his throat. "He made me do this."

"Oh, Ralphe." I took him in my arms. "I'm so sorry. This should never have happened."

"Sita," he whispered, nuzzling his face into my body. I could not kill him, I told myself. Not for the whole world. But just as I swore the vow inside, I leapt back in pain, barely stifling a cry. He had bitten me! His sorrow had vanished in a lick of his lips. I watched in horror as he chewed down a portion of my right arm, an insane grin on his face. "I like you, Sita," he said. "You taste good!"

"Would you like more?" I asked, offering him my other arm, tears filling my eyes. "You can have all you want. Come closer, Ralphe. I like you, too."

"Sita," he said lustfully as he grabbed my arm and started to take another bite. It was then I spun him around in my arms and gripped his skull from behind. With all the force I could muster and before my tears overwhelmed me, I yanked his head back and to the side. Every bone in his neck broke. His small body went limp in my arms--he had not felt any pain, I told myself.

"My Ralphe," I whispered, running my hands through his long fine hair.

I should have fled with his body then, buried it in the hills. But the execution was too much, even for a monster like me. The life went out of me and I wanted to collapse. When the mob found me, I was cradling

Ralphe's body in my arms, weeping like a common mortal. My ancient daughter, my young son--God had stolen them both from me.

The mob surrounded me.

They wanted to know how I had stopped the demon child.

A few in the mob knew me.

""You take care of this boy!" they cried. "We saw you and the priest with him!"

I could have kilted them right then, all fifty of them. But the night had seen too much death. I let them drag me back to the town, their torches burning in my bleary eyes. They threw me in a dungeon near the center of town, where the executions took place, taunting me that they were going to get to the bottom of how this abomination was created. Before the sun rose, I knew they would be pounding on Arturo's door, digging into his secret underground chamber, collecting the necessary evidence to show the feared inquisitors. There would be a trial and there would be a judge. The only problem was, there could be only one sentence.

Yet I was Sita, a vampire of incomparable power. Even the hard hand of the Church could not dose around my throat unless I allowed it. But what about Arturo? I loved him but could not trust him. If he lived, he would continue his experiments. It was inevitable because he believed it was his destiny. He had enough of my blood left to make another Ralphe, or worse.

A few hours later they threw him in a cell across from me. I begged him to talk to me but he refused. Huddled up in a corner, staring at the wall with eyes as vacant as dusty mirrors, he gave no indication of what was going through his mind. His God did not come to save him. That was left for me to do.

I ended up testifying against him.

The inquisitor told me it was the only way to save my life. Even chained in the middle of the high court with soldiers surrounding me, I could have broken free and destroyed them all. How tempting it was for me to reach out and rip open the throat of the evil-faced priest, who conducted his investigation like a hungry dog on a battlefield searching for fresh meat. Yet I could not kill Arturo with my own hands. It would have been impossible. But I could not have him live and continue his search for the sacred blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus had died twelve hundred years ago, and the search would never end. It was a paradox-- the only solution was agonizing. I could not stop Arturo so I had to let others stop him.

"Yes," I swore on the Holy Bible. "He created the abomination. I saw him do it with my own eyes. He changed that boy. Then he tried to seduce me with the black arts. He is a witch, Father, that fact is indisputa?ble. God strike me down if I lie!"

The old friar at the church also testified against Arturo, although the inquisitor had to first stretch him on the strappado to get the words out of his mouth. It broke the friar's heart to condemn Arturo. He was not alone in his guilt.

Arturo never confessed, no matter how much they tortured him. He was too proud, his cause too noble, in his mind. After the trial, we never spoke. Indeed, I never saw him again. I didn't attend his execution. But I heard they burned him at the stake.

Like any witch.

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