She had been saved by a vampire. The last vampire. His name was Karl. He was 2,456 years old.
It was 1945 and Soviet troops were relentlessly advancing, street-by street, through the smoking ruins of Berlin. Karl had been there, watching from the shadows as the sun set over the shattered, burning rooftops. Over the centuries he had rarely seen such carnage on such a grand scale. He saw her as he ventured out onto the street. She was being led towards the darkened entry of a narrow alley by four Russian soldiers. She glanced over her shoulder, as if she could sense his presence, met his smouldering green eyes and smiled. Before she could turn back around, the soldiers lay dead, blood streaming from their throats in fountains, and Karl was leading her away firmly by the hand. She was not afraid. Her name was Ada and she was 8 years old.
Seven years later, they sat by the fire reading together at Karl’s home on the outskirts of Bratislava. After discovering that Ada’s family had been killed, he had brought her here and had been raising her as his own ever since. It was a cold evening in the dead of winter and the wind clattered at the window shutters as icy rain came down in sheets outside.
“What were those men going to do to me”? she asked suddenly in Aramaic, a language he had taught her. She closed her book in her lap, and looked him straight in the eye, waiting for a response. Until this moment, she had never talked of the day he had saved her. His thick black hair fell unevenly over his pale face and his thin red lips trembled ever so slightly before he spoke.
“They were going to rape you and kill you”, he said as steadily as he could.
She nodded and asked: “How did you kill them so quickly? Their… their throats were ripped out…”
He sighed heavily, closing his book as well. “Addy, I knew this day was going to come sooner or later. There is a lot you don’t know that I should tell you.”
When he told her that he was a vampire she did not seem the least bit surprised. He explained that many of the things she had read about vampires were myths: daylight cannot kill vampires or even immobilize them – they just find it unpleasant. Similarly, garlic, crucifixes and holy water have no adverse effects on vampires. They sleep in beds and not coffins. They do not need to be invited into a house before being able to enter. They are reflected by mirrors.
“What about the blood”? she interrupted. “I hear you go out sometimes in the middle of the night”.
“That is true. The only thing that nourishes me is blood… Fresh blood”.
“But we eat regular food together every day”.
“I’m just keeping you company, Addy”, he said. “Human food actually only makes my hunger worse”.
“Do you kill people when you go out in the night”? she asked softly.
“I feed mostly on animals in the forest”, he said, a shadow passing across his wan face. “I will only kill and feed on humans who are very, very bad. Like the men in Berlin”.
She sat in silence, thinking hard and chewing on her lower lip. He stared at her darkly, waiting for the next question.
“Why don’t you have any friends”?
“Friends”! he laughed mirthlessly. He had not been expecting that question.
“Yes, of course, friends. I have my school friends. Why don’t you have – you know – vampire friends”?
“There are no others, Addy”, he said with a pained expression on his face. “I’m the last one”. He spent the next hour telling her his story. He had been bitten almost 2,500 years ago while sneaking through the hills around Athens to see a girl, named Eleni, he had fallen desperately in love with. After the quick but excruciating transformation, he felt the terrible weight of the curse almost immediately. Immortality in the twilight, neither dead nor alive, insatiably hungry when not draining the blood from the living and despised by God. Outcast forever. Unlike the other vampires, and they were few in those times, he immediately yearned for his lost humanity and pined for the girl who he now could never have. The vampire who had bitten him tried to goad him into biting Eleni and making her one of their own but he could never think of inflicting such a ghastly fate on his first, and only, true love. His unwillingness to propagate, as well as his preference to feed on animals rather than humans, quickly alienated him from the other vampires. He became an outcast among outcasts and was left to wander the globe, through century after century, bereft and alone.
“Ironically”, he said in a dull voice, “For so long now I have hungered for, and will never have, that which humans fear the most: death”.
“It doesn’t make any sense”, she said bluntly. “How can you be the last vampire if none of you can die”?
“Ah, I was getting to that”, he said. “About 250 years ago, vampires were becoming more and more bold in their attacks and their numbers were swelling. The secret was out – humans knew we existed and, naturally, they were terrified. And with good reason. It was clear that the vampires wanted to exterminate most of the human race – a sort of genocide, if you will – by either killing them or transforming them into vampires. Those that remained would be enslaved for their blood. At the time the plan was hatched, there were still fewer than a hundred vampires living in a handful of nests around these parts. One early morning, I made a decision and I killed them all as they went to sleep just before dawn. I set the nests on fire, the only thing that can kill a vampire, and they were all gone forever – like blowing out candles on a Birthday cake”.
“Why didn’t you kill yourself too”? she asked in little more than a whisper.
“One of the cruellest parts of the curse is that vampires can’t commit suicide. Believe me – I’ve tried and there is no thing or force on this earth capable of killing me. A thousand stakes could be driven through my heart and nothing would happen. Only another vampire could kill me”.
“You’ve never been tempted to pass on the curse for company? Or the hope that you could make one kill you”?
“Every, single day I am tempted”, he said slowly, as if each word hurt him to speak it. “But burning those nests is just about the only good thing I’ve ever done, apart from rescuing you”.
There was a long silence as they both became lost in their own thoughts.
“Have you ever been tempted to bite me”? she asked finally.
“What”?! he said in alarm. “Ada”, he said firmly, “I could only ever protect you and care for you – I could never, ever, hurt you”.
“Why”? she asked, in genuine innocence.
“Because, Addy, I just love you so much”.
Karl and Ada started having sex not long after she turned 19. It would have happened a lot earlier if Ada had had it her way. She completely and totally adored him. He was not just her saviour and protector. He had taught her more in 11 years than most people could hope to learn in a life time. She was fluent in eight languages, she knew world history and geography inside out, he had supplied her with hundreds of books to read which she had gone through voraciously and he had taught her to play the piano. She was not nearly as good on the piano as him but he would jokingly remind her that he had been practicing for two and a half thousand years and that was the only reason he could play like a maestro.
Also, he had only been 21 when he had become a vampire and, apart from the pallid complexion and overly red lips, he still did not look a day older than the “day he died” (as he would sometimes refer to it). She found him devastatingly handsome. She found the clothes he wore, the way he walked and spoke – all exuded an indescribable hyper-sexuality.
Her advances had started about a year after he had revealed his true identity. Despite the desire etched across his face, he pleaded with her to spend more time with humans and meet human boys. However, although she had friends, both girls and boys, she was only truly happy when she was with him. The only person who sexually excited her was him. Although she resented being rebuffed, she never stayed angry with him for long because she knew that he was only trying to protect her.
When he finally succumbed, one evening in front of the fireplace, it didn’t last long but neither of them would ever forget it. They tore each other’s clothes off feverishly and as he entered her she gasped loudly. It felt like shock waves coursing from her vagina, up her arced spine and through the roots of her hair. As he moved faster and faster inside her, her vision became blurry in delirium. He suddenly threw his head back and screamed up into the ceiling. As stars exploded in her head, she looked up and saw the razor-sharp fangs plunging down towards her throat.
He bit her hard and long through the jugular and drank deeply as he ejaculated inside her. When the spasms in his hips stopped, he lifted his head, mouth smeared with blood, and looked into her eyes. He expected to see terror there but instead she just looked bewildered.
“Don’t be afraid”, he said, wiping his mouth.
“I’m not”, she said, trembling slightly under his powerful body. “Am… am I a vampire”?
“No”, he said, smiling weakly. “You would have to drink my blood now and only I can shed my own blood”.
“Do it”, she said, anxiously. “I want to taste you”.
“No. Never. And I do mean, never, Addy”. He said it so emphatically it was almost menacing.
“Play for me, then, will you”?
He walked over to the piano and began playing Beethoven’s Appassionata, her favourite, stark naked. As the opening notes floated through the air, she drifted off into a beautiful, dreamless sleep.
Ada spent the rest of her life with Karl. They traveled all over the world together including some of the desolate places he had roamed through the long years, howling into an abyss of loneliness for all eternity. La Rinconada. Kerguelen Islands. Nunuvut. Motuo County. Gobi Desert. Tristan da Cunha. Coats Land. Easter Island. Sahara Desert. He told her once that these were the places he would return to after she died. She had cried for days. No amount of pleading to transform her ever remotely swayed him. She even tried tricking him. She had learned that vampires startle easily and that they bite when startled. She would often creep up behind him when he was concentrating on something, shout “Boo”!, get bitten and then stick something extremely sharp into him with all her might. There was never a drop of blood – even when she once shoved a pick axe straight through his eye.
One afternoon, when Ada was in her mid-twenties, they were lying in bed in a Venice hotel room when she suddenly asked: “Why me”?
“Why did you save me? Over time there must have been thousands, millions of people like me you could have saved. Who could have loved you. Like me. Why did you choose to be alone for so long until me”?
“It wasn’t much of a choice. I wasn’t accepted by either vampires or humans. As for humans, you’ve noticed how they react to me. To say the very least, they find me unsettling”.
“Still doesn’t explain why you chose me”.
“You were, and remain, the only human who has ever looked at me for the first time and smiled. I mean – a real smile – a recognition that I am not, well, a monster. The most amazing thing is that, at the time, you were being led to your death. Also Addy, remember you came to live with me when you were only a child. You had nowhere else to go.”
“You must have been with a lot of women though”, she said coyly, reaching under the covers and stroking his penis. She had never mentioned the subject before because she had assumed the number must have been in the hundreds, if not thousands, and he had been the only man she had ever been with.
He rolled onto his side to face her and said: “Addy, you are the only one”.
“What”?! she cried, sitting bolt upright and staring intently at him.
“Not… I mean, not even Eleni”?
“No”, he sighed resignedly. “I was going to have sex with Eleni the night I got bitten”.
“Oh, my God…”
As the years passed, Ada aged well and it was only when she was approaching 50 that she became self-conscious about having wild sex with a vampire who was, physically, frozen in time forever at the age of 21. He reassured her over and over again that she was as beautiful to him as she always had been. She knew he meant it and did her best to shrug off the fact that, in the context of eternity, she would be dead very soon and that whenever time itself ended, if it ever did, he would almost certainly have forgotten all about her.
Not long after her 60th Birthday, Ada was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had two, maybe three, months to live. When the end was nearing, she refused to be admitted to the palliative care centre at the hospital in Bratislava. She wanted to die at home with Karl. A live-in nurse was summoned and Karl moved the piano into the bedroom so that he could play for her when she was lucid.
One evening in the late autumn, as he was gazing out the window and watching the last of the leaves fall through the twilight under a gentle breeze, the nurse appeared at his side and put a hand on his shoulder.
“How is she”? he asked quietly.
“Not long now. She won’t make it through the night. She’s asked if you will come and play for her”.
“Thank you. You can go home now. I’ll take care of her until… until the end”.
“Are you sure? I can stay”.
“Yes, please. And thank you for everything. I know I frighten you but Ada will be fine with me”.
After the nurse had gone, Karl went to their bedroom. Ada was sleeping fitfully. He kissed her lightly on the lips and then sat down in front of the piano.
She woke up an hour later. The music was so beautiful. He was playing Appassionata for her. Through half opened eyes, she could see his shoulders were shaking and that he was crying. She had never heard or seen him cry before. And then her eyes opened wide. The long streaks of tears lining his cheeks were not regular tears. He was crying blood. Although her body was wracked with disease and she had almost no strength, pure adrenaline got her out of bed. She crept up behind him as he played and, in a voice as loud as she was able to summon, shouted: “Karl”!!!
Startled, he swung around abruptly and sunk his fangs deep into her neck. He quickly released her and in one deft move she licked a long rivulet of blood from his cheek and swallowed it down hard.
“Addy”!!! he screamed as she felt the agonizing transformation take its grip. He had been right – the crushing weight of the curse, with its insatiable hunger, was more oppressive than death itself. But at the same time she felt the tumours ravaging her insides recede and then disappear. She felt an energy revitalizing her body and when she looked in the mirror above the piano she smiled. She was young again.
“Shhhhh”, she whispered in his ear. “You have given everything to me. It’s my turn now. You will never be alone again”.