They say that when a vampire dies the leaves of the trees turn white. It was in the fall of the year 2014 the leaves in the small town of Union turned white.
It was an unusually warm fall which the citizens celebrated with evening barbecues and late night strolls. It was a particularly good year for stargazing and insect collection.
Magdalena wasn’t gathering insects and although she loved to stargaze she wasn’t particularly interested in the stars that evening. She had spent the evening at a friends house and was eager to get home and into bed. She had an early morning the next day and wasn’t at all prepared for it.
It had been worth it though to sit with friends for a while and just chat about things that didn’t matter, drink white wine and listen to music. It had relaxed her and in her occupation that was worth its weight in gold.
She was halfway home, walking through the park when she noticed. It happened so fast that she hardly believed her own eyes. The leaves of the trees had turned red, yellow and some were even dark brown already. Only a few were still green. This evening, though, under the streetlight the leaves of the trees all turned white in an instant.
Magdalena, who thought she was alone in witnessing this, gasped and carefully walked closer to the trees. She touched one of the leaves, pulled it loose from the branch and looked at it. White as snow. For an instant she thought it was frost, that something odd had happened and that they had somehow suddenly all frozen stiff but, of course, that wasn’t the case since the temperature was well above zero.
She shook her head and backed away from the trees, still holding the white leaf, thinking that something odd had happened, maybe the trees were poisonous. She almost stumbled over the little old lady who stood with her mouth wide open staring the same way she had.
“Oh, that’s a beautiful sight” the old woman said and took Magdalena’s hand. Magdalena held the her hand for a while, staring with her. Then she turned towards her.
“What just happened?” she asked, wide eyed.
“Oh, I believe a vampire just lost its life” the old woman said, shook Magdalena’s hand a little and then let go of it. “It’s a peculiar thing, isn’t it?”
“A vampire?” Magdalena was a sceptic, and vampires were nothing but monsters in storybooks. She looked at the old woman, but saw no hint that the woman didn’t believe the words she had uttered.
“I didn’t believe either,” she said and smiled a pretty smile. She had her white hair in a bun in the back of her head and wore a crimson coat that almost touched the ground. “But I was here when he was born” she sighed and started walking.
“You met a vampire?” Magdalena asked, curious.
“I did, indeed. And I don’t mind telling the story, but it’s a bit cold to stand out here. If you want to hear it, though, you are welcome to join me for a cup of tea. I live just over there”.
She pointed towards a house right beside the park. It had a large garden that was well taken care of, a red roof and yellow exterior.
Magdalena hesitated. It was late already, too late to make strange visits to strange ladies, but then again this was just a little old lady, harmless and perhaps with a strange, but amusing tale to tell.
“It’s late,” she said and hesitated. The old woman shrugged her shoulders and started walking homewards.
“But I really would like to hear the story, if that’s not a bother?”
The lady turned around and looked at her, “you’re welcome to join me. I rarely sleep” she smiled and Magdalena could see beautiful white teeth.
Probably fake, she thought and followed the old lady to her home.
The lady walked up the empty driveway, up the two steps and pulled a key out of her pocket which she put in the keyhole.
“I don’t suppose I need to invite you in” she said and grinned. Magdalena who wasn’t exactly used to old ladies with a sense of humor just stood there like a fool and tried to smile.
“My name is Antoinette” the lady told her, “you can call me Nette, everybody does. Come in, come in” she then added and swung her hand by the open door to invite her in. Magdalena followed the lady in, who closed the door and took off her coat. She was wearing a snappy grey skirt suit and black high heels. She took the green scarf and hung it on the hanger with the coat and then she walked to the kitchen that was right beside the hallway.
Magdalena took off her sneakers and her jacket and walked slowly into the kitchen, waiting for the lady to invite her to sit.
“You haven’t heard of the Union vampire?” Nette asked her, while filling the kettle with water and putting it on the stove. She turned the knob and waved her hand so that Magdalena would sit down at the kitchen table. “Do you like sweets? I often eat sweets at this time a night, it makes me sleep better”.
Magdalena sats down and nodded her head, “I wouldn’t mind some sweets” she said. The lady took out a bowl filled with candy wrapped in colorful paper. She put the bowl on the table and asked Magdalena what kind of tea sheliked.
“I’ll have what you’re having, I’m not usually much of a tea drinker”.
“I like peppermint” Nette told her, pulled out two rose covered cups with saucers and two tiny spoons with lion heads at the end. When she was finished she sat down opposite Magdalena and smiled.
“I was younger than you are” she started, “a bit naive, I’m sure and I suppose the trouble I got in was because of that naivety. Back then this part of the town was farmland, it belonged to my father but the church stood where it stands, obviously, up on the hill. There was a pathway through my father’s land to the church so that the townsfolk didn’t have to walk all the way around it. My father had even planted trees on each side of the pathway. You know the path, it’s still there.”
Magdalena nodded without interrupting the lady. She knew the pathway. It led through the neighborhood by the church and past the church into the forest area beyond. She knew a lot of people ran there, but she rarely got the opportunity.
“My father planted cherry blossoms in the pathway and he planted the trees that are in the park as well. The ones whose leaves turned white today.
I remember it quite well, because he asked me to help me. He said he’d got the trees from old lady Marcquez who grew trees on her farm and owed my father for some favor he’d done her. It took a Sunday afternoon and when we were finished my mother had baked an apple pie for me to take to the old lady.
And so I walked the pathway to the church, beyond the church and towards the farm were Miss Marcquez lived. It was a nice old house and well kept. It had turned rather dark when I got there but I was used to being about in the dark. It didn’t scare me.
I knocked on the door and a man answered. It took me a back, I had never seen anyone but old lady Marcquez in her house before.
He introduced himself as Peter and he invited me inside. I told him I had a pie for the old lady and he took it and brought it into the kitchen where the old lady sat. I believe she was knitting. She smiled at me and thanked me for the pie and she introduced the young man as her nephew. He was older than me, not by much but enough so that I felt he was an adult while I was still just a kid.
They invited me to join them for pie and coffee and I accepted, figured that it would be rude not to. So we sat down and ate and we talked. Turned out Peter had led an interesting life even though he was young. He’d travelled to Italy, seen the Colosseum and the leaning tower of Pisa. He’d been to Paris and met royalty in England. It was very exciting for a girl like me who had never been anywhere.
I believe I was smitten right from the start. He was charming and worldly and very different from the boys I knew from the town and its surrounding farms. My father would probably have frowned on this but he had asked me to bring the pie and before we knew it it was late.
Peter was chivalrous and offered to escort me home. I declined at first but he wouldn’t have it, said he didn’t send a lady alone at night through the dark under the full moon. I hadn’t known it was a full moon. I remember I was a bit surprised that he knew, it was very cloudy that day, big dark clouds. I had taken a raincoat with me, just in case it started to rain.
I didn’t argue with him though. So we got out and he walked with me. We took a large circumvention around the church and when we got to the pathway near my home I told Peter that I could take it from there, that he could return to home.
He just shook his head and kept on walking with me. He was so interesting to talk to and when he asked if I would come visit again soon I enthusiastically told him that I would. I asked him how long he would be staying and he said he didn’t know.
I was young and naive and I was in love at first sight. Have you ever been in love?”
The old woman, looked at Magdalena and waited for an answer. Magdalena shrugged her shoulders and smiled.
“I have” she said, “it didn’t work out though”.
“If it’s your one true love it will work out” the old woman told her, “and he was mine. Peter Marcquez from far away”. She smiled and Magdalena could see her changing as she went back in time to the memory of Peter.
“I met him often after that. Every chance I got I snuck up to Miss Marcquez’ house. And can you imagine my joy when the man who I imagined could get any sophisticated lady in the world said he loved me? I got weak in the knees and almost swooned. It is such a nice feeling, being in love.” She sighed, got up to get the kettle from the stove. She poured water in both cups and then she returned the kettle to the stove. When she sat down she reached backwards and untied her hair. A flow of beautiful white hair fell over her shoulders.
“He gave me a necklace one evening. A beautiful silver cross he said would protect me. It came in a small chest, beautifully covered in silver on the inside and carved with fine…” The old woman went up and left the kitchen in a huff. A few moments later she came back with a beautiful, albeit very small, wooden chest. She put the chest in front of Magdalena and smiled.
“I was over the moon and I put it on and swore to never take it off. He said he liked seeing it on me. He said it made him feel happy to know that I was safe.
I didn’t think much of it at the time. We were all a bit more god fearing back in those days. My mother taught us to fear god, my father wasn’t as religious. Later I thought it was funny that I had never seen Peter in church on Sundays but he often met me behind the gazebo near the church after mass.
Then one day he was upset. It was a nice afternoon, probably a Sunday since we were lazing around. But he was worried that day. He paced around and looked over his shoulders and when I asked him what was wrong he mumbled and told me that someone had caught up with him. It was dreadful. His anxiety made me anxious and I wanted to relief him of the stress but I didn’t know how.
So I kissed him.
We had kissed before but this was different. This wasn’t a polite, I like you kiss. This was a passionate, I want you kiss.”
Antoinette giggled slightly and slapped Magdalena lightly on the hand. “Open it” she said.
Magdalena opened the box before her and took out the silver cross. It was beautiful and looked freshly polished. She lifted it up to the light and examined it closely. There were small carvings on the cross she couldn’t really make out, delicate patterns.
“It’s beautiful” Magdalena said and put it back in the box.
“It is,” the old woman smiled, “I always keep it close”. She sighed and took a large clunk from her cup and picked a candy from the bowl in front of her. Magdalena did the same.
“He kissed me back. He was very passionate. Afterwards he said he had been waiting for me to make the first move. He said he didn’t want to push me into anything I didn’t want to do.
We did it outside in the grass. It was uncomfortable, rather cold and I couldn’t imagine doing anything but spend the rest of my life with him.
But a peculiar thing happened while we were doing…” the old woman hesitated and grinned. “The deed” she then added and blinked an eye.
“He asked me to take my necklace off and in the height of his passion he bit me.
Afterwards he was devastated. I didn’t understand why. He apologized relentlessly, shook his head and paced around some more. He said that he had done me a great disfavor.
You see, if you know something about the vampire lore you know that you become a vampire when you are bitten by a vampire. What most people don’t know is that you have to be bitten by two different vampires to actually turn into one. It’s much like human procreation, I guess. The two vampires create a new one.
I told Peter that day that I wanted to marry him. I had lost all my inhibitions and I wasn’t shy of telling him the truth. He smiled and said he was glad and that he was going to do anything he could to make it happen but he said there was great danger to take care of first.
I didn’t see him for a week. I’d heard from my father that a new load of workers had come to work in the fields. The summers were always filled with strangers who came to work and went when the harvest was in the houses, moving on to different work.
That day a man came to stay with us. He was dirty and old but a good worker and my father offered him to stay in the barn.
Peter didn’t like it. He implored with my father to make the man leave. He asked for my hand in marriage and asked if we could be married quickly and go to live with his uncle in Venice.
My father said yes to the marriage but he wanted me to turn eighteen first and my eighteenth birthday was still half a year off. And the man stayed. I believe his name was Valdemar. Peter was distraught. He said he had to get me away from this man before he realized, and of course I couldn’t understand a thing. I thought he meant my father. I was both sad and happy.
Then one evening I was on my way to meet Peter. It was a late day in August and getting colder. I was taking a detour through the fields, walking past the barn I noticed Valdemar was leaning up to the wall of the barn smoking a cigarette.
I greeted him and moved on. He made me uneasy and Peter had asked me never to be alone with him. I thought it was just jealousy, which was very strange because he wasn’t a looker exactly. But Valdemar greeted me and asked me were I was off to in such a hurry.
I said I was going to meet my friend Peter and Valdemar said he knew him. Asked me if I knew who, or what he was. I walked forward, quickly but ran to keep up with me, casting the cigarette stub out into the mud.
He said my friend wasn’t to be trusted, he said a lot of things that I didn’t believe but I understood that Peter had been right, that I should stay away from him.
We had come to the pathway with the trees when he attacked me. He bit me in the neck and drained a lot of blood out of me. I was awestruck, numb with fear and disgust of having this person, this stinking man, so close, violating me. Hurting me.”
The old woman sighed took another sip of tea. Magdalena was halfway through her cup. The tea wasn’t bad, it was soothing.
“What happened to you?” Magdalena asked.
“Well the bite was severe and suddenly Peter was there fighting Valdemar. They fought for a while, violently thrusting each other back and forth with strength I had never seen before. I felt dizzy from blood loss, but while the men were fighting I noticed something happening in the leaves of the tree.
You see when a vampire is born, the leaves of the surrounding trees start to bleed. The Union Vampire was born. The men fought, I lost consciousness only to wake up in Miss Marcquez’ house, weak but alive and doing better. I felt strange, I felt weak and strong at the same time. I was nauseous and I was devastated. He had torn a big piece of skin out of my neck but I was healing quickly.
I later learned that only a few hours went by from the time I was attacked and to the time I was almost completely healed.
It’s the beauty of being a vampire”
The old lady smiled. Magdalena thought it was a strange smile, she couldn’t be sure if she was pulling her leg or if she should be concerned, but of course what the old lady had said was outrageous, there was no such thing as a real life vampire.
“I married Peter on my eighteenth birthday. My father never knew. When he died we sold the land and facilitated for this place. We travelled the world. We saw many things but I always missed this place. So we came back here and settled down in this house.”
Nette stood up and nodded her head. Magdalena stood up, reluctantly and followed the lady. She was still holding the cross in her hand.
They went through the living room and into a small bedroom to the left. It was a small bedroom with a double bed, nightstands on each side with white lamps, a small wardrobe stood in the corner and a small chair by the window.
“He died earlier today” Antoinette said, “The Union vampire” she smiled. “Of course, the legend never said that there were two of us and legends die easily in the modern age. People don’t believe in such things anymore”.
Magdalena started to back out of the room. Clutching the cross in her hands. “He was a loving husband, my Peter and he always wanted us to have a child. Of course, we couldn’t the normal way, like couples do. It’s not in our nature”.
Magdalena stumbled on an embroidered chair and fell, sitting right on the chair.
The old woman stroked the dead man’s cheek and pulled the silver dagger out of his chest.
Then she looked at Magdalena. “Have you ever wondered what the world looks like when you’re not a human being? It’s a beautiful place. Of course it was beautiful before too, I remember that but everything becomes clearer, more vivid when you become a vampire. It’s a good thing and it has so few downsides.”
“Vampires kill people” Magdalena protested.
“Oh don’t be like that,” the old woman said and approached her slowly, “we rarely kill people. Why would we do that?”
Magdalena tried to get up, she turned to get out of the door but the old woman was upon her faster than she thought possible. She bit in her neck and sucked. Magdalena tried to fight it but the old woman was too strong.
“Please” was the last thing she mumbled before she lost consciousness.
The leaves of the trees changed again later that night. They bled a blood red liquid, for a second time that century. Magdalena never knew who the second biter was, she never knew what methods the woman had gone through to make her the way she wanted her.
She had her suspicions though, suspicions that made her smile, because who knew how strong a child of the two lovers could get?
The world had become more vivid. The moon was brighter, the colors sharper and the darkness deeper.
It was a brave new world for her and after putting the dagger into the old woman’s heart so she could join her Peter, Magdalena went outside to watch the stars.
It was a dark new world but the taste of blood made her euphoric and there were so many people in the world. She would have her fun, before the leafs turned white for her too.