Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 38)

Throughout the vast shadowy world of ghosts and demons there is no figure so terrible, no figure so dreaded and abhorred, yet dight with such fearful fascination, as the vampire, who is himself neither ghost nor demon, but yet who partakes the dark natures and possesses the mysterious and terrible qualities of both.—Rev. Montague Summers

If there is in this world a well-attested account, it is that of the vampires. Nothing is lacking: official reports, affidavits of well-known people, of surgeons, of priests, of magistrates; the judicial proof is most complete. And with all that, who is there who believes in vampires?—Rousseau

The rest of the site was an alphabetized listing of all the different myths of vampires found throughout the world. The first I clicked on, the Danag, was a Filipino vampire supposedly responsible for planting taro on the islands long ago. The myth continued that the Danag worked with humans for many years, but the partnership ended one day when a woman cut her finger and a Danag sucked her wound, enjoying the taste so much that it drained her body completely of blood.

I read carefully through the descriptions, looking for anything that sounded familiar, let alone plausible. It seemed that most vampire myths focused on beautiful women as demons and children as victims; they also seemed like excuses created to explain away the high mortality rates for young children, and to give guys an excuse for infidelity. Many of the stories were about bodiless spirits and warnings against improper burials. There wasn’t much that sounded like the movies I remembered, and just a couple, like the Hebrew Estrie and the Polish Upier, who were even that interested in drinking blood.

Only three entries really caught my attention: the Romanian Varacolaci, a powerful undead being who could appear as a beautiful, pale-skinned human, the Slovak Nelapsi, a creature so strong and fast it could massacre an entire village in the single hour after midnight, and one other, the Stregoni benefici.

About this last there was only one brief sentence.

Stregoni benefici: An Italian vampire, said to be on the side of goodness, and a mortal enemy of all evil vampires.

It was a strange relief, that one small entry, the one myth among hundreds that claimed the existence of good vampires.

Overall, though, there wasn’t much that fit with Jules’s story or my own observations. I’d created a catalogue in my mind, and as I’d read I’d compared it with each myth. Beauty, speed, strength, pale skin, eyes that shift color; and then Jules’s criteria: blood drinkers, enemies of the werewolf, cold-skinned, and immortal. There were very few myths that matched even one factor.

And then another problem, one that I’d remembered from the horror movies that I’d seen and that was backed up by today’s reading—vampires couldn’t come out in the daytime, the sun would burn them to a cinder. They slept in coffins all day and came out only at night.

Annoyed, I snapped off the computer’s main power switch, not waiting to shut things down right. Through my irritation, I felt overwhelming embarrassment. It was all so stupid. I was sitting in my room, researching vampires. What was wrong with me?

I had to get out of the house, but there was nowhere I wanted to go that didn’t involve a three-day drive. I pulled on my boots anyway, unclear where I was headed, and went downstairs. I shrugged into my raincoat without checking the weather and stomped out the door.

Overcast, but not raining yet. I ignored my truck and started east on foot, angling across Charlie’s yard toward the nearby forest. It didn’t take long till I was deep enough that the house and the road were invisible, and the only sound was the squish of the damp earth under my feet.

There was a narrow trail that led through the woods here; it wound deeper and deeper into the forest, mostly east as far as I could tell. It snaked around the spruces and the hemlocks, the yews and the maples. I only vaguely knew the names of the trees around me, and all I knew was thanks to Charlie pointing them out to me from the cruiser window a long time ago. There were lots I didn’t know, and others I couldn’t be sure about, because they were so covered in green parasites.

I followed the trail as long as my anger pushed me forward. As that started to fade, I slowed. A few drops of moisture trickled down from the canopy above me, but I couldn’t be sure if it was beginning to rain, or if it was simply pools left over from yesterday, stored high in the leaves above, slowly dripping their way to the ground. A recently fallen tree—I knew it was recent because it wasn’t entirely carpeted in moss—rested against the trunk of another, creating a sheltered little bench just a few feet off the trail. I stepped over the ferns and sat down, leaning my hooded head back against the living tree.

This was the wrong place to go. I should have known, but where else was there? The forest was deep green and far too much like the scene in last night’s dream to make me comfortable. Now that there was no longer the sound of my soggy footsteps, the silence was piercing. The birds were quiet, too, the drops increasing in frequency, so it must be raining above. The ferns stood almost as high as my head, now that I was seated, and I knew someone could walk by on the path, three feet away, and not even see me.

Here in the trees it was much easier to believe the stupid words that embarrassed me indoors. Nothing had changed in this forest for thousands of years, and all the old myths and legends seemed much more likely in this ancient green maze than they had in my mundane bedroom.

I forced myself to focus on the two most important questions I had to answer.

First, I had to decide if it was possible that what Jules had said about the Cullens could be true.

Immediately, my mind responded with a loud and clear No. It was stupid to even consider the idea. These were silly stories. Just morbid old legends.


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