The sound of spades being stuck in the dirt. Pushed in, to the hilt, lifted. The dirt flung away, landing not far behind the digger. A thud. Another thud followed by a crack. More hurried digging. Scraping of metal on wood. The sound of wood splintering.
Nicolae could hear them. They were close, so very close. At first, the characteristic sequence of sounds had held no meaning to him. He had barely been able to distinguish them. All other senses lost to him since…well, since he lost the sense of time probably, his well-aged ears had become well-attuned to these specific noises. The sporadic sounds – grave robbers only conduct business around the midnight hour, and hardly every night – were the only thing that made him alert, woke him from the daze that had enveloped his once-brilliant mind. To Nicolae, the muffled sigh of a coffin opening rang louder than thunder in a lightning storm.
All was quiet now. The robbers had concluded their business for this night. Nicolae receded back into his stupor. Occasionally a thought or memory surfaced, almost all related to the noises grave robbers make. The sounds in the night had become the singular focus of his being.
Funny, he thought, when a memory of different times surfaced, how the sounds completely slipped his attention when he himself was conducting business at the midnight hour. A long time ago, he had performed exactly the same series of actions while hurriedly digging his way down toward a coffin. Terrified of being caught, the only sound he’d heard back then was his own ragged breath.
He’d crossed the country from village to village searching for that one specific grave. Six times he had to dig. Six times he’d strained his old, tired body to the limit to reach the coffin that he hoped contained the key to his deepest desire. It had been worth it, on the sixth attempt he’d found what he needed.
A child in an unmarked grave. No older than nine, no longer than three turns of the moon deceased. The marks of violent death brandished upon her unclaimed, broken corpse.
He’d needed her heart. The heart of the fallen pure.
It was the final ingredient in an archaic, obscure formula written in an even older, obscurer language. He’d chased whispers of rumors of hints to the existence of the formula across twelve countries, three continents, and half his lifetime. After the search came the laborious process of translating the now forgotten language. To learn the ingredients to be consumed and the rituals to be performed. It had taken him years to complete all the necessary steps. Now, all was ready. And none too soon, of years he did not have many left.
He ate her tragic, decaying heart on hallowed ground, under the light of a blood moon.
Afterwards he did not feel any change within himself or the world around him. He could do naught but wait. Two months filled with varying states of anguish, hope, and despair crawled by before he learned whether all his efforts had been in vain. They had not, he had succeeded. He had gained powers beyond mere humanity.
Nicolae should have been ecstatic, but when he opened his renewed eyes on his renewed existence, he realized he had forgotten about one small detail. A tiny, inconsequential thing not even worth considering during his previous life, yet a monumentally important oversight considering his new state of being.
Nicolae screamed in rage for the thousandth time. Why had he not drowned every single one of his good-for-nothing money-grubbing relatives at birth. The vultures had buried him before his blood turned cold. He imagined them surrounding his coffin in their eagerness – all fake tears and barely concealed smiles – as the sexton lowered his remains into the freshly dug hole.
Damn them. Damn them all.
The sound of spades being pushed into the dirt brought him out of his reverie. The sounds seemed closer still. Then again, that might just be wishful thinking. All he did these endless days and nights was engage in wishful thinking. He wished, he prayed, he pleaded, for someone to dig up his grave. Because being immortal while stuck in a box under six feet of dirt was getting really, really, really old.
My own story of Brasov
The city of Brasov lies in the center of Romania in a region called Transylvania. Nearby, watching over the border with Wallachia lies Castle Bran. Always interested in things that go bump in the night I could not resist a visit to the castle commonly believed to be the dwelling of the undisputed king of nightcrawlers – Dracula. To really spice things up, I planned my visit around Halloween.
Transylvania, alas, did not live up to my expectations. No thick fog carpeted the hills to obscure the wanderings of creatures best left unseen. No eerie sounds pierced the foreboding moonless night. No shadows lurked outside my bedroom window. And the real ‘Castle Dracula’ would fit better in a princess fairy tale than in the story of the infamous bloodsucker.
I figured the undead could also suffer a disappointing day, or eternity….