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© 1998 Bobette Bryan
I remember that I awoke in the middle of the night, feeling so very nauseous, weak, feeling as though I was about to die. I called to Maria, my maid, whose room was adjacent to mine, begging her to help me, to relieve my terrible suffering.
Lighting the lamp next to my bed, she gasped when she saw me. My flesh had become as white and as sallow as the sun bleached sands of Mexico, and as sick as I was, I could tell that she was aghast by her frozen expression. She made the sign of the cross, typical of Catholics who thought that something dire was happening or that ones' very mortality was at stake. In my case, she thought me near death, and I would have sworn she was right.
But her action did me no good...no good at all. And I mourned and yelled all the more as the nausea ripped through my body like a sharp blade. And the light...the damnable light...only served to hurt my eyes so terribly.
I begged her to turn off the lamp...I begged her to help me, yet she didn't know what to do and was so shocked that she stood there for several minutes staring at me wanly until at last, she pivoted and departed the room. And I had the terrible feeling that she was leaving me all alone to my suffering; however, she returned a few minutes later, my drowsy mother in tow.
When she first saw me, my mother's expression of horror matched Maria's, but at least Mother always managed to keep a clear head even during the worse of times. And it took her no time to recover sufficiently to issue orders regarding my care.
I've always thought that Mother would have made a good commander of the Army, and the U.S. government had no idea what it was missing by not allowing women such as her into the military. Privately, as hysteria wracked my body, I thought that I should compose a letter to President Taft when I was feeling the thing and insist that he appoint Mother to some high office.
But then, Mother was yelling at Maria. And my thoughts returned to my own present state of near-death.
"Maria, go downstairs. Call doctor Stuart at once!" she declared. "And fetch some water and towels. We'll try to get her fever down."
"No," I rebelled in my hysteria. "No! No! No!...I...despise doctors. You know it!. Don't you...dare bring a doctor here! Just help me. Please. Help me. Please, God! Please, mother!" My mother ignored me.
She knew well that I hated doctors. What had they done for my sick father, who'd taken nearly two weeks to die when his asthma became bad last fall? What had they done for my poor dear baby sister, who'd succumbed to the fever? Doctors were useless--worthless--every one of them. It amazed me that my mother could still have faith in them, but somehow she did.
Still, she didn't voice this opinion or her worse fears despite my harsh protest. She merely sat beside me on the bed and attempted to hold my hand, while she gave Maria a knowing nod.
Even in my sickened state, I knew what my Mother was about and what she was telling Maria. I was going to be seen by the doctor whether I wanted to see him or not. And Maria knew it too. Taking a deep breath, her dark eyes as huge as buckeyes, Maria rushed downstairs to do my mother's bidding.
And I was all over the bed, struggling against myself and searching for some comfort that was not forthcoming. My agony was added to by a strange sizzle on my flesh, and a tingling that came from deep within. I felt as thought a zillion hot pins and needles had pierced my flesh.
"It's all right, dear. It's all right. Everything will be all right." my mother said, as she patted my hand.
But I knew better, and I knew that mothers always uttered those words even during the worse of times. I was at death's door and I knew it. How difficult it must have been for her to see me this way and know that there was not a single thing that she could do to help me just as she couldn't help my father or my sister.
"Mrs. Donavan, I call the doctor. He say he come as soon as possible." Maria said as she entered the room, wash clothes tucked under her arm and dangling from her shoulders, a wash basin full of water in her nervous hands. The water sloshed on the floor, unable to be contanined.
"Turn off the light! Turn off the light!" I yelled as Maria put the wash basin on the end table.
"Just rest. Close your eyes and rest." My mother cooed. "This will pass soon enough."
"She have fever, Miss Donovan?"
My mother looked perplexed. "No. As a matter of fact, I don't believe she does. To me, she feels very cool. Is there a window open in here? I could swear I feel a cold draft."
Maria checked. "Yes, Mrs. Donovan. This one is open." She said, pointing to the middle pane above my window seat--my favorite place in the world, a place where I wrote poetry, did my needle point if I had a mind to, a place where I read, and often fell asleep in the process.
"Well, please, make sure they're all closed and locked." my mother insisted.
"Yes, Mrs. Donahue. Oh, Jesus...Mrs. Donovan--"
At that moment, I drifted off...feeling as though my mind had broken free from my body at last, and I was walking in some place where my spirit felt weightless. I was comforted at last. In a way that I'd never been comforted before. I felt like everything was perfect about me and that I was perfect as well. I was no longer held back by a mortal body, but could float as freely and gently as a leaf on the wind, yet still control my direction.
I came to a great passage. Within were golden rays. They wrapped around me and comforted me. They touched me deep within, destroying any last vestiges of worry or doubt that plagued my body. For the first time in my existence, I felt whole. Complete. I never wanted to leave this place but to stay here always. But there was a gate, and someone, a beautiful spirit with long flowing hair and a long white robes stood at the apex.
"You can't enter here." it said. "You'll never be able to enter here."
"No...that can't be," I said, confussed. "I must enter."
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid you cannot."
"What do you mean. I don't understand."
"You'll understand soon enough." the spirit said.
"Please...please...let me in....let me in. Let me in!" I yelled. But to no avail. As suddenly as I'd drifted off into this strange spectral void, I was back in my body, the pain seeming all the worse--and the first thing I heard was my mother's urgent voice.
"Oh, my God, speak to me. Please--please, Charity. Speak to me." I tried to do so, but I was too weak. No words would come. No words could stir me. I was locked in a terrible black world, feeling nothing other than the horrible pain that seemed to suffuse every cell in my eighteen-year old body.
"What is it, doctor? What's the matter with her?" asked Mother.
It was several minutes before the doctor replied. "I don't know, Madame. I've never seen anything like this before. When did the illness strike her?"
"During the night--she was fine when I saw her last evening. You saw her last, Maria. Was she okay when you saw her?"
"She fine, Mrs. Donavan. She went to bed early. After dinner, she write a bit and then rested, but spider bite her neck a few days ago while she sleep."
The doctor brushed my long red curls aside in order to inspect my neck. "Are these the bites?" he asked.
"Well, it doesn't look like much of anything. She would have become sick long before now if the spider had been poisonous, but she could very well have food poisoning.
Has anyone else in the family taken ill?"
"No...no one. But, I don't know what she had for dinner last night. She went to the McCauley's ball yesterday evening and took her dinner there."
"I've heard of no one else taking ill following the McCauley ball, Madame. Still, it might be advisable to give her a mustard tonic."
"Go, Maria. Prepare the mustard like the doctor said. Have Helen help you. She's prepared them before."
"Yes, Mrs. Donavan."
"Is there nothing you can give her for pain, doctor?"
"Yes, but I'm hesitant to give her anything until I know what the cause of her illness is. I could only be worsening things."
"Please, doctor. Please give her something. I can't bear to see her suffer so!"
"Very well. I'll give her a bit of morphine."
I felt the needle pierce my flesh, I felt the fluid rush into my body. Strangely, I believe I even tasted it, but it did nothing for me. Nothing. My pain continued. In fact, it heightened even more, and I was on the very verge of passing out from my horrible suffering. I'd endured more, much more, than most human's can stand. And though before where I fought off death, I now wanted nothing more. Only death, I knew could relieve the horrible pain that had completely conquered my young, healthy body. If only I could return to that wonderful world of golden light.
Instead, I felt the doctor's warm hands upon me again, tapping me here, tapping me there. Looking at my pupils, looking inside my mouth, listening to my lungs and to my heart. But that's when he pulled back abruptly. And said, "What the..."
"What is it doctor?" came Mother's nearly hysterical voice.
"Nothing to fret about. I fear my stethoscope is malfunctioning."
Next, he laid his head next to my chest so that he could hear my heart...but again he determined nothing.
"Is everything okay?" asked Mother.
The doctor didn't answer. Instead, he picked up my wrist and examined it. "Doctor--"
"I just can't seem to hear her heartbeat. I--I..." After a couple of minutes, he added, "I'm sorry, Mrs. Donahue, but I believe she's dead."
My mother's horrible sobs filled the room. At that time, Maria had returned with the mustard poultice, which she sat down on my chiffonier in order to comfort my mother.
The doctor, put his instruments back in his bag, and then he handed my mother a white handkerchief.
And there I lie, trying to scream, trying to rebel that I was not dead, but nothing came. I was stuck in some limbo between life and death, and I desperately wanted to escape. Either destination would suit me.
But just as my pain reached a pinnacle...just as I thought I could bear it no more...I felt a sudden change.
The vibrancy of life flowed through my veins again, and my worries and pain ceased. My breathing became light and as airy as the fluffiest cloud. I felt a wonderful sense of renewal like a freshly budding flower in the springtime. The sizzle continued to make my flesh tingle, but now it didn't burn. Instead, it seemed to fill me with some kind of satiation, but at the same time, with some strange kind of yearning.
I opened my eyes, hearing my mother gasp. When Maria and the doctor saw me, they gasped too. All three rushed to my side as I tried to speak. Still, even though I felt that my strength was somehow growing, my voice was weak. Still, as each second passed, my vigor grew as well. Before long, I felt stronger, perhaps, than I had in ages.
"Mother! Maria!" I said. Again, Maria made the sign of the cross, as the doctor rushed forth to examine me. That's when the hunger grew...it grew and grew and grew...and some animal like instinct took over. Suddenly having the strength of ten men, I pulled the doctor onto the bed, and riped his collar from his pale neck. As he screamed, I pierced his vein easily with my teeth and thirstily drank his blood.
Maria and Mother watched as I did so. Wide eyed, neither uttered a single word. And when I was finished, I tossed his white corpse onto the floor. I thought my mother would condemn me for what I'd done. I thought that she'd scold and yell at me. Instead, she yelled at Maria.
"Maria, get Greg and Allen up here to get rid of that body at once. Have them take it down to the cellar. We'll bury it later."
"Yes, Madame," Maria replied,racing from the room. My mother came to sit beside me, patting my hand as she smiled.
"There, there. Didn't I tell you that everything would be all right. The worse has passed. Now, you'll only grow stronger, and you'll never have to feel pain again. You'll never have to die. And, see, doctors are good for some things."
I laughed, mother joining me. And that's how I began my life as a vampire.