“…I met this girl…she ruined my philosophy…my heart skips a beat when she comes around”
From “I’d Rather Have A Love” performed by Joe
Writer(s): Derek Louis Allen, Gerald Isaac, Alvin Jerome Garrett
Even knowing this is what her father wanted, what she wanted, Zachary wasn’t sure he could do it. He loved Deborah very much and he believed she still adored him. It was only because of their love for each other that he was now walking across the manicured lawn in the back of his estate in the bright morning sunshine contemplating murder.
No, it wouldn’t be murder for the simple reason that she was already dead; dead, interned, and yet not dead.
The small duffel bag felt heavy in his right hand, not due to the weight of its lethal contents but that of his heart. He’d almost accepted Peretz’s offer to help him, but it would have been a terrible burden to place upon a father who had lost his only daughter once and now was about to lose her again. Yes, he was losing her, but he had convinced him that as her husband, he had to be the one to save her.
Zachary Poole stopped when he entered the clearing and stared at what was to have been her final resting place. He was ostensibly Catholic which explained why he had this built for the two of them and the decorative icons contained therein, but he hadn’t been to Mass or confession in over fifteen years. He ceased having anything to do with the Church after his parents died and he inherited their wealth.
The tabloids called him a “jetsetter,” an “international playboy,” and one of the United Kingdom’s “most wealthy and eligible bachelors.” They met in one of London’s most exclusive discotheques. She was dancing by herself to Marvin Gaye’s “Lets Get It On,” or was it “You Sexy Thing?” He watched as one man after another tried to join her, but she swept them away like they were unwanted moths drawn to her brilliant flame.
Their eyes locked across the room and in that moment, he realized that he was just like all the others who vainly approached her, selfish, shallow, possessing far too much money and far too little maturity. And yet she must have seen something else in him because she nodded her ascent.
Zachary and Deborah danced together until the club closed and then made love for the rest of the night in her flat. They married three months later.
It had been a wonderful five years. He started to laugh and then cry as he remembered how they both thought it was only the beginning. In their arrogance, they believed they would have a lifetime together. That all ended late last week when she didn’t come home from that little charity affair she loved so much. She was found dead next to her Audi in the parking garage just after midnight. She’d bled out, some sort of attack. The killer was bizarre, must have taken some or most of her blood because she had so little of it left in her body.
Her will said to bury her as quickly as possible. She was Jewish though she didn’t practice it, but for the sake of her family, she wanted to observe at least this one custom. Zachary disobeyed the full letter of her request and interned her above ground in the mausoleum instead of burying her. He couldn’t stand the thought of her body under the ground. Peretz insisted but he refused. Zachary had always been such a fool.
He started walking again. Better to get it over with. It wasn’t going to get easier if he waited another hour. This had to be done.
Zachary was startled at the sound of his shoes on the concrete as he climbed the steps after the silence of passing across the grass. It had been mowed recently. She always liked the smell of freshly cut grass. A breeze rustled the tree branches. Birds were singing cheerily. Everything around him was alive and growing. Everything except her.
The third night after she was interned, a thunderstorm punctuated the sky with lighting flashes and thunder giving the impression of an artillery barrage. He was sitting on the edge of their bed trying to will himself to sleep in their room. Since she died, he couldn’t tolerate the thought, and when he did sleep, it was in one of the guest bedrooms.
Zachary looked up at his own reflection in the mirror over her dresser. He remembered how she made such a fuss putting on her make up the night she died. It reminded him of that Eric Clapton song Wonderful Tonight. He always imagined himself in the song when they went out together. If only he’d have gone with her when she asked, but the affair really wasn’t his “thing,” and wanted to stay home and watch Liverpool beat Aston Villa on the telly (which they did not that it mattered anymore).
The window rattled against the wind and rain and lightning sporadically illuminated the night. He turned for a second because of the flash and that’s when he saw her for the first time, an apparition in white, soaked, mouth gaping like a fish out of its element. Then she disappeared.
He rushed over to the french doors and flung them wide, then ran out into the storm screaming her name.
She was gone. She had never been there, which is what he thought at the time. A hallucination born of grief.
The next afternoon, there was an item on the news about a neighbor of his a mile away having a break-in. Their five-year-old daughter Emily had been frightened by an intruder. He knew Colin and Sindy from the country club and rang them up to inquire as to the child’s well-being. It’s what Deborah would have done but she was no longer alive to do it.
“It was incredibly frightening, Zach. Poor Emily said it was a ghost. Some woman all in white. She thought it was a beautiful angel at first asking to be let in. When we heard the screaming and got to her room, whoever it was had gone but…and I’ve not told the news this, only the police. She was attacked, bitten. Needed a transfusion. We told everyone we just wanted her checked out medically, but Zach, she’d lost a lot of blood.”
It was Zachary’s blood that suddenly turned to ice in his veins. Lost a lot of blood.
“Bitten where?” Please not in the throat.
“The throat, just like someone with delusions of being Dracula. Can you believe it?”
“She’s going to be alright though, right Colin?”
“Yes, thank God. Doctor said she’s a trooper. I’m thinking of hiring some private security. You might want to consider it yourself. We’ll have Emily sleeping with us for the time being.”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine Colin, but thanks for the suggestion. I might pop around in a day or two or whenever Emily’s feeling up to it. I’m sure Uncle Zach can cheer her up with a nice new dolly.”
“She’d love that, Zach.” There was silence on the line for a moment and then, “She misses Deborah terribly. I don’t know if I should tell you this.”
“Tell me what?”
“Zach, she said it was Deborah’s ghost who bit her.”
“Oh now, Colin!”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. It was just her imagination, grief and all, a child’s mind trying to work it all out.”
“Yes, of course. Sorry I snapped at you.”
“Zach, you have every right. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. The police find anything new on your case?”
“No, nothing. Deborah’s assailant might as well have been a ghost too.”
“Well, let me know if there’s anything I can do. Come around anytime. Emily would love to see you at our dinner table.”
“I’ll ring you up in a few days, set a date and time and all that.”
“Good. Looking forward to it. Got to run now, Zach.”
“Good talking with you Colin. My best to Sindy and Emily. Bye.”
The moment the connection was broken, he stood up and looked out the window in the direction of the mausoleum. He couldn’t see it except in his mind. Zach felt guilty as hell when he took the pry bar from the gardener’s shed. It was impossible. It was ridiculous. But he had to prove to himself it was ridiculous.
What Zachary found when he forced the lid off of her crypt wasn’t ridiculous at all, but it was impossible, or it was supposed to be. There she was as beautiful as ever, as if she had died just moments ago but she was also different. Her hair was matted and it and her gown were damp. There had been a thunderstorm last night.
“Oh my God, someone violated her crypt, pulled her body out into the rain.” Then it occurred to him to look at her feet. Caked with drying mud. He looked back outside. There were no footprints in the grass but they could have been washed away. Going back inside he was about to replace the lid when he saw a bit of color. There were drops of faded red on the front of her gown so small he almost missed them, even against the stark white. It looked like blood.
Hurriedly, he replaced the lid of Deborah’s crypt and ran out of the mausoleum as fast as he could. In his panic, he hadn’t realized he still had the pry bar in his hand until he was back in the house. He just made it to the nearest lavatory before he vomited.
The weather was cold and cloudy on the fourth night after he had her body put in the crypt but no wind or rain. His watch said it was after eleven. He was lying awake in bed still dressed, nursing a bourbon. Maybe if he got drunk, he could pretend it was all some sort of ghastly nightmare. He’d just taken another sip and put the glass on the night stand.
It was a voice but he wasn’t sure if he heard it or imagined it.
“Zachary, I need your help.
“Deborah?” He looked around the room but he was alone. “Am I going insane?”
“I need you to help me.”
The window rattled. He turned and there she was. He screamed.
“Please let me in, Zachary. I need you.”
He was on his feet but he couldn’t will himself to run. Zachary stood frozen staring at the unholy spectre of his wife. Her hands were pressed on the glass of the french doors. Her dark eyes were sparkling with fire, or was it hunger?
“Let me in, Zachary. I won’t hurt you, I promise. I need you. Please help me.”
He squeezed his eyes shut tight and shook his head, but when he opened them and looked again, Deborah was still there. “I don’t believe it.”
“It really is me, Zachary. Please. If you still love me, let me in.”
He put one foot forward, then the other, took another step, and then his hands were on the brass handles. He remembered to unlock the doors, turned the handles, and then pulled. Zachary walked backward until his legs were pressed against the edge of their bed. She walked inside silently as if she really were a ghost. Her lips were red. A small drop of blood was running down her face from the corner of her mouth.
She noticed him staring and licked up the drop. “It’s not Emily’s. I will never hurt her again.”
“A jogger. Don’t worry. She’s alive. I don’t want to do this, Zachary.”
His legs almost collapsed beneath him. “How?”
“There was a man but he wasn’t a man. He was waiting in the shadows. I never saw his face. He attacked me. He didn’t even say anything. I could feel him take the life from me, Zachary. I could also feel him giving something back. He made me…this.”
Her face was cast in the most profound sadness. Deborah looked as if she were crying but there weren’t any tears.
“I can’t…live like this, Zachary, so evil, the blood. I’m Jewish. The blood libel. This is the worst thing…I can’t do this, not to my father. I can’t live like this and make the lie seem to come true.”
“Deborah, oh my poor darling. But how…how can I…?”
“Call my father. Tell him. Tell him about me. He’ll know what to do.”
“But how can he help?”
“He’ll know how to…to end this. He can tell you how to release me.”
“How will he know?”
“This isn’t the first time one of us has been turned. My grandfather. Call my father. He can tell you. Ask him about Noah Gellar.”
“Deborah.” Zachary took a step forward. He didn’t know why. If he could just hold her one more time, maybe…
“No. Not like this. I’m so cold.”
They stood there gazing into each other’s eyes. It looked and sounded like Deborah. Some part of whatever was standing in their bedroom might even be Deborah. But his wife died on a cold concrete parking garage floor. Was what was left of her now even human?
“I love you, Zachary. I will always love you.” Then she turned and vanished into the darkness. Moments later, Zachary walked outside a few steps. There was no sign that she had ever been there.
Just after dawn, he went back to the mausoleum and pulled the lid partly off the crypt. She was there. Deborah looked like she was sleeping. He had to call Peretz and ask him about his father Noah. It was the only way to make sure he hadn’t lost his mind.
That was yesterday. She hadn’t visited last night but after the phone call, Peretz Gellar was at his front door two hours later. It was his first visit. Deborah left the Orthodox community the day she turned eighteen and that and the fact she had the audacity to marry a Goy resulted in him treating his child as if she were dead. If only it had stayed that way.
Peretz filled in all of the gaps, the heinous and unjust history of blood libel that had haunted the Jews for centuries. The horrible accusations of Jews using the blood of Christian children to make their Passover matzah, and this used as the justification for the torture and murder of countless Jewish people since the Middle Ages.
Noah Gellar had been a young husband and father when it happened. His father was the Rabbi of their small village in Poland when Noah died. His father Baruch knew the signs, learned from a clandestine meeting with a Catholic Priest provided as remedy and warning of those not so rare occasions when one of the Undead was said to be nearby. Baruch Gellar had to destroy his own son and since that day, the haunting secret had been passed down from parent to child, or in Baruch’s case, to his grandson Peretz. “This must never be allowed to happen to a Jew,” he said.
Peretz volunteered but the older gentleman’s heart was already broken. It was Zachary’s duty as her husband. She begged him to do it. If he’d been with her that night, he might have saved her. Now he was going to save her in a different way.
He pried the lid off for a third time. She was sleeping as a fallen angel. There must have been another victim, but he hadn’t heard anything on the news. Whoever it was would be the last. Deborah would have to endure this hated existence no longer.
When it was over, Zachary walked back outside and stood on the steps looking up at the dark gray sky. Tonight, he and Peretz would put her in the earth, her head buried separately at the crossing of a trail as is the ritual. Today was the day Deborah finally died. Today she was finally free. No one would ever know her mausoleum was empty. He would change his will to say that when he passed, he was to be buried among the trees in the back of his estate in a very specific location which, unknown to anyone else, would be only a few meters from where his dear wife had been laid to her final rest.
I wrote this for the Thursday photo prompt – Sanctuary #writephoto hosted at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. The idea is to use one of Sue’s photos (see the top of this page) as the inspiration for authoring a poem, short story, or other creative work.
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece of flash fiction called Night Prayer which featured Jewish vampire Moshe Cohen. My friend ProclaimLiberty who is Jewish and who lives in Israel made a number of comments about the inappropriateness of such a character relative to the centuries long injustice of blood libel being laid at the feet of the Jewish people.
After some careful consideration, I decided not to pursue the character, but given some of “PL’s” suggestions, I used the concept in this story reasoning that, given an environment where vampires were possible, it would also be possible for a Jew to succumb to the curse. However, I built in the necessity for the Jewish vampire to be eliminated quickly for the sake of that person and all Jewish people.
When I saw Sue’s photo, for some reason, I immediately thought of a large British estate owned by a wealthy young “jetsetter” around 1975. I don’t know why I chose that year except that in the 1970s, there were a lot of TV shows and movies about parapsychology, the occult, and such. I was “forced” to move the date to 1980 when I couldn’t find any appropriate disco music in 1970 (Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” came out in 1973 and Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” was released two years later).
I looked up Internment at Chabad.org and discovered that placing the body of a Jew in a mausoleum is forbidden unless the Jew is buried underground and the structure is built around the grave. Yes, Zachary violated these wishes, but Deborah wasn’t at all observant during their marriage, so he didn’t realize the importance, especially to her father Peretz who is an observant Orthodox Jew.
Sorry if the theme of vampires is getting a little old by now. These events occur outside of the Sean Becker universe (though I suppose they don’t have to) so this is a stand-alone tale of love, loss, horror, and redemption.
Addendum: I thought I’d have this story pull double-duty by also submitting it to Lyrical Fiction Friday hosted at The Next Chapter. The idea here is to take a lyric posted by Marquessa and use it or another lyric from the same song as the inspiration for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work. The lyric for this week is “…I met this girl…she ruined my philosophy…my heart skips a beat when she comes around”
I thought it spoke to my character Zachary. He met a girl and she completely changed his life, not once but twice.
19 thoughts on “Love’s Blood”
Your tales are always so well crafted, James.
Thank you, Sue.
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I don’t know where you found the notion of beheading and burying the head “at the crossing of a trail”, as a ritual for terminating the vampire curse, but I noticed in it the hidden universal symbol of Catholic superstition which is a “cross”. I suppose, in this story, being eternally haunted by cruciform imagery must be viewed as poetic justice upon the apostate Jewish woman who had been already “destroyed” by her departure from Judaism and her anti-Jewish marriage. Such a story offers unrelieved sorrow and tragedy and heartbreak all around. How depressing!
That’s what I’d call a truly “grim” fairy tale, and definitely not my idea of thoughts to entertain before bedtime. [:(]
Very few vampire tales are happy ones. PL.
I suppose not, though some of the more romantic ones seem to aim for a hopeful bittersweet outcome. I suppose that’s really a form of the psychological state termed “being in denial”. (Which takes me back to your suggestion of a brief happy event for an ancient Egyptian vampire during the plague that turned the waters of the Nile to blood — making a very pleasant notion of “being in de Nile”.) [;^)]
“being in de Nile.” That was horrible. 😉
In this case, since the requirement was to quickly dispatch the Jewish vampire, there was not going to be a happy outcome. Now the Gellar family bears two tragic secrets.
Kind’a makes one wonder about that family, that they should be so attractive to vampires.
Actually, I just needed a way for Deborah’s father to know how to dispatch a vampire and of course, creating additional tragedy adds to the poignancy of the tale.
As far as the beheading and burying the head at a crossroads, I read that somewhere decades ago and it stuck with me.
I totally enjoyed reading your story! You have a great way with words! Congratulations!
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Thanks, Cecilia. I appreciate the complement.
An excellent take 💜
I do love a good vampire story!
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Fascinating cultural references.
Thanks. My wife is Jewish so I know a little bit about it.
Thanks again, Marquessa.