Birth of Fate
By Johnny Nys
Published: April 28, 2008
Updated: April 28, 2008
Annabelle Duffling awoke with a scream. Before she had her eyes fully open, the darkness of her bedroom was scared away by the single flame of the candle in Nora’s hand as the maid burst through the door.
“What’s wrong, Milady?” the woman, three decades her senior, asked.
Annabelle wiped the hair out of her eyes and straightened her cotton petticoat. She smiled at Nora. “Nothing, my dear. A nightmare, I’m sure, though I can’t remember what it was about.”
Nora returned the smile, believing the lie. “If you will permit me, Milady, nightmares are good for the mind. They shake loose the tension of our waking life. I believe you have been very tense lately, Milady.”
Annabelle sighed. Nora was a dear friend next to her maid, although her father would have none of that. Fraternizing with the help wasn’t suitable behaviour for a woman of her status. But more often than not, Nora was the only human being she could talk to, the only human being who actually acted as one.
“Tense?” she asked. “Whatever are you on about, dear Nora? What is there to be tense about?”
“You don’t fool me, Milady,” Nora said, as she closed the door. She walked over to the bed. “The world is changing. A new Queen, Prince Albert crossing the channel, your own marriage … it never seems to end, does it?”
“No talk of my marriage, please, Nora,” Annabelle said.
Nora smiled again. “So I was right. No, I won’t discuss it, this clear cause of your nightmares.”
“What an awful suggestion, Nora!”
“Not as awful as your future husband, I’d say.”
“Then you say too much!” Annabelle slid out of bed, walked to the door and held it open. “I want you to leave.”
Nora bowed her head. “I’m sorry if I have offended Milady.”
Annabelle took the maid’s free hand in hers. “You haven’t, dear Nora, but you should be careful of what you say, where you say it and who might be listening.”
“Sir Duffling won’t hear it. He and his friends drank an entire keg of wine tonight. He’ll sleep till noon, I’m sure.”
“Nora!” Annabelle half screamed, quickly closing the door.
Nora giggled. “Apologies, Milady. But the truth is the truth.”
“Some people would rather ignore and forget the truth,” Annabelle said. “Now please, I want to go back to bed. And you should too.”
“I will, Milady.” Nora opened the door, stepped into the hall and turned around. She gave Annabelle the candle. “Here. To find your way back to bed.”
“What about you?”
“Don’t worry, Milady. These eyes see more than you think, and sometimes more than I’d care to see.” She closed the door.
Annabelle walked back to bed. She put the candle on the nightstand, crawled under the covers, then turned her head to blow it out. Blackness enveloped her once more. It was a moonless night and a storm was drawing near. She could hear it in the silence surrounding the house. She always knew when a storm was coming, when rain would fall.
When her eyes adjusted to the dark, the outline of her wedding dress in the corner of the room scared her more than her recent nightmare. The dress was real, her marriage was real and a week from now her husband would really be chasing her around the house, as he had done in the dream world.
Her father had many business associates on the mainland, some fairly handsome and perhaps men whom she might learn to love. But the one whose eye she had caught, involuntarily, was far from attractive.
Herr Frederick Richter from Köln, Germany, was an old, bald, fat pervert as far as she was concerned. If only her father could see it. If only he would allow himself to see it. But no, only money and wealth mattered to Sir Duffling. Money bought you all the happiness you needed and marrying off his daughter to his wealthiest associate would ensure a solid future for both of them.
Annabelle had stopped arguing with her father about the importance of love. It had been a long time since Sir Duffling had anything to do with love. Sixteen years, as far as Annabelle knew, for that was the day she was born and her mother had died from too much loss of blood – or so Nora had told her when she had been old enough to hear about it.
Dear, sweet Nora. Not just a maid, not merely a friend, but also a surrogate mother. She understood what was troubling Annabelle but she was in no position to do something about it. Nobody could help her. She wasn’t only her father’s daughter but also his property. Nobody dared touch another man’s property.
A stroke of thunder startled her. She pulled the covers over her head. She waited, breath held, listened for the second burst.
It came, but it was closer than the first, louder and strangely sounding of breaking glass.
Suddenly the room turned frigid. She peeked over the covers at the window. The drapes billowed in the wind. Shards of glass crackled under a pair of booted feet. A dark figure approached the bed.
She wanted to scream for Nora but a clammy hand covered her mouth. The covers were yanked away and flung on the ground. A dark, deep voice whispered, “Sveet Annabelle, oh, sveet Annabelle.”
How did he know her name?
Of course he knew her name. The Dufflings were a well-respected family. A burglar wouldn’t choose their house by accident. He would know very well who lived here.
“So beautiful, so vary beautiful,” the man said. His accent wasn’t unfamiliar. She had heard it before, when her father had introduced her to her future husband.
“Somethink happened to me, sveet Annabelle. Somethink bad. I von’t be able to marry you.”
He spoke with such sadness. She found his eyes in the dark, twinkling with a strange inner light. If only she hadn’t blown out the candle. Annabelle tried to struggle but Herr Richter was far too strong. She couldn’t move an inch. He wasn’t holding her down with his hands alone, but with his mind as well. Inside her head she heard his voice, resonating, drilling, immobilising. Even when he didn’t speak out loud she could hear him rambling. Soon she realised Frederick Richter wasn’t an ordinary man anymore.
“Sveet, beautiful Annabelle. It hurts me so much zat I can’t be wiz you. I’m dying. No, I’m already dead. No, I don’t know what I am. Zirsty, so zirsty. But don’t vorry, I von’t hurt you. How can I hurt you? I love you. I vant you.” He ripped her petticoat with his other hand, baring her legs and lower body. “I vant you so much.”
The cold wind touched her body, made her shiver. Then she felt something else, something even colder, hard and hairy, creeping up her bare legs. She glanced down but it was too dark.
“What are you?” she mumbled through his fingers, barely audible to her own ears, but he had heard her.
Frederick Richter shivered. He squeezed her mouth shut. “Vhat am I.” Not a question but a statement. His eyes stopped twinkling. “I vas a man last week, I am no man today.” The hairy thing at her legs had reached her abdomen. “It came two nights ago, vhile I was sleeping in my cabin. It took me, turned me into zis, took my life, my future. Took you away from me.” She felt it push against her. “But I can’t let you go, sveet Annabelle. I love you. Truly love you. I need you. I can’t face eternity vithout having had the pleasure of having you.” She gasped as it entered her.
Minutes, hours, perhaps mere seconds later, the thing disappeared from inside her. The hand let go of her mouth. The pressure on her body and mind was gone. She screamed.
This time Nora opened the door gently, probably convinced it was nothing but another nightmare. It truly was one, but one that had taken shape in the real world.
Holding another candle in front of her, Nora stopped halfway the bed when she saw the broken window. “Milady? What happened?”
Annabelle jumped up in bed, looked around the room. Frederick Richter was gone.
Nora came closer, used the candle to light the one on the nightstand and brighten the room further. The wedding dress in the corner was gone. He must have taken it with him during his flight from the room. But how could he disappear so fast?
“Annabelle? You look sick …” Nora only called her by her name when she was really worried. That didn’t happen often. Nothing seemed to worry Nora much.
Annabelle fell off the bed into Nora’s arms. She stumbled to her knees and threw up on the maid’s shoes.
The next morning the news of Herr Frederick Richter’s disappearance from the boat on which he had crossed the channel reached the house. He was presumed dead, fallen overboard and drowned, his body lying on the bottom of the sea.
Annabelle and Nora knew otherwise, but they didn’t inform Sir Duffling. As soon as they had the chance to leave the breakfast table, they retreated to Annabelle’s room.
“You have to go,” Nora said.
“What do you mean?”
“You have to go far away. I have a cousin living in Scotland. She won’t talk. Can’t, because she has no tongue.”
“No tongue?” Annabelle asked.
“Long story. You won’t show for several months yet. That will give us time to make the preparations. When the time comes, tell your father the grief is too hard on you. Tell him you were really looking forward to marrying Herr Richter. He’ll buy it, I’m sure. He’ll let you go on this holiday and I’ll take you to my cousin’s house. You can have the baby there without anyone knowing.”
“Baby!” Annabelle said. “What makes you think …”
“It wasn’t a mere ghost that visited you tonight. Frederick Richter’s body is gone for a reason. He still needs it. He’s a ghost trapped in a corpse.”
“How do you know?”
“Sometimes these eyes see more than I’d care, remember? There are stories, legends, much superstition but the real thing is more frightening than you can ever imagine.”
“Dear Nora, whatever are you on about?”
Nora grabbed her by the arms, squeezed and left red marks on the flesh. “Listen to me, Annabelle! Trust me! To the rest of the world Frederick Richter is dead. But he knows you know he isn’t. Not really. He won’t do anything yet. He said so himself, as you told me. But months, years, decades from now, he’ll come back. And there’ll be no stopping him. Except for this one thing. He made a fatal mistake and provided us with a weapon of such force we have to hide its existence. That’s why you have to go and have this child in secrecy.”
“Do you mean …”
“Yes. A vampire’s offspring is the creature’s worst enemy.”
The nightmare just got darker. Annabelle lost all feeling in her legs. She buckled, grabbed the bedpost and sat down. She mumbled, “A vampire …”
“He told you the truth. It happened very recently. He’s still bound to mortal life, which means another vampire transformed him against his will. He’s resisting. That’s why he didn’t drink your blood. That’s why he raped you. He’s in denial. But he will get over it, in time.”
Nora sat down beside her. Annabelle lay down, put her head on her lap. “Oh, dear Nora. Why me? Why?”
“Sometimes things happen, Milady, for no apparent reason. Perhaps the future will tell. If we live long enough to see it.”