Could she kill him? That was the question that raced through her head. Could she kill the child she had raised? It had started, the final battle had begun, humans would call it the final reckoning, a time when the souls of the dead were weighed and judged. But what did humans know? Humans were just bystanders, witnesses of events to come; they had no part in them.
The real battle was between the Dhampirs and the Vroloks; the hunters and the hunted; the race that would become the hunted, was yet to be seen. Isabella had taught this so-called child of hers to kill, but she had not taught him what he was; she had not told him that the woman he thought was his mother was predestined to be his nemesis, and that he was predestined to be hers.
John was her child in part. He was the child of one of her descendants. She had made his father a Vrolok because he had looked so like a lost love, but only his outward features bore any resemblance to her former husband. His character was quite different; he had betrayed her once before with the Dhampir’s mother, and now she suspected that he had betrayed her again - telling his Dhampir child that Isabella had killed his mother. He had, of course, left out his own part, Isabella surmised. That was just like him, to leave out any relevant details that would tarnish his unblemished character in his child’s eyes.
She should have killed him years ago but he had saved her life more than once, and in return she had let him live after his first betrayal. But if he had done this - if he had started this war - she would not be so forgiving. She would kill him with his own son’s blood; for that was the only thing that could kill a Vrolok - a Dhampir’s blood.
The Vrolok Isabella, stood by a six hundred-year-old tree stump in the town of Guernica. The Kings of Spain had stood where she now stood and sworn oaths to democracy. The Spanish Civil War had been raging for a year now. If Isabella had learnt anything in her five hundred years on this earth, it was how to survive. Vampires chased death. If you want to find a vampire, go to the places where people are dying; vampires will be there to help them along. Isabella knew her child would know where she was; perhaps, she thought, she had taught him too well.
Suddenly, a siren broke the silence of the night, interrupting Isabella’s thoughts. Something was about to happen; planes started circling overhead. The ground started to shake in sharp, sporadic movements as perpetual as a heartbeat. Fires erupted in all directions, lighting up the sky; the town started to come alive. People were running but there was no safe haven to run to. This was a slaughter Isabella enjoyed slaughters; she would watch for a while, and then she would strike.
Something caught her side, and it burned slightly. Isabella was not used to pain; she rarely felt it but she was not afraid. These new weapons that travelled through the sky were unrelenting, as they dispatched pain and death. She would have expected them be able to wound her slightly, but she would be able to recover from the wound. She lifted up the edge of her jumper to see where the hot metal had penetrated her side. She was startled - instead of the wound healing immediately, it was still bleeding; the pain was getting worse, spreading throughout her body. This was no ordinary man-made wound. Isabella fell to the ground, her eyes closing as she fell, blanking out her vision. Her eyes opened again when she heard a familiar voice.
“That wound won’t heal quickly, mother.” Isabella’s eyes closed again as she slipped into unconsciousness.
Isabella awoke in the Santa Maria Church. She was lying on the floor of the church with other wounded. She had been presumed to be another victim of the awful atrocities inflicted by the German planes. Isabella could hear people crying all around her. People were in mourning but through the cries she could hear an argument far away from the church. She heard voices she recognised.
“You should have killed her! It may have been your only chance,” Nicolae shouted.
“That would have been unsporting,” John replied.
“Unsporting? You sound like her.” Nicolae sighed. “Do you know, do you really know the creature that is lying in that church? You are no match for her.”
“In the last year I have killed many of you.”
“Not like her,” Nicolae continued, “she is more powerful than any of us. She controls the wind, makes fog pour out of the sky to shield your vision; she can hear things miles away, and can walk in sunlight unharmed. She is the most powerful creature on this earth.”
“I am a match for her!” John continued.
“No you are not! You are a boy, just a foolish boy,” Nicolae shouted to his son.
“I could have killed her last night.”
“No, you may have caught her off guard, but she knew you wouldn’t have killed her. She knows your thoughts before you do,” Nicolae stressed.
“That’s not true . I was going to kill her,” John insisted.
“What stopped you?” The Dhampir did not answer his father. “Let me guess; you looked at her white skin, her black hair, her green eyes, and couldn’t bring yourself to harm her.”
“I can’t explain it. She looked briefly at me, but it was enough to stop my intentions,” John replied.
“She controlled you, with a mere glance. Just think what she could do if she were not injured.”
“I can kill her,” the Dhampir said resolutely.
“You won’t even get close to killing her. I was a fool to think you could be a match for her.” The vampire turned to walk away from his son but did not make it to a fifth step. The Dhampir quickly cut his arm open with a concealed blade and thrust the sword though his father’s back, into his heart. His father fell to the ground and looked up at his son. Blood was spilling out of his mouth.
“You are no match for her,” Nicolae shouted.
“Maybe not, but you will never know,” John rebutted.
Isabella had heard enough, a whisper of sadness penetrated her mind; after all, she had shared several lifetimes with this man. Sadness for the loss of another was an unfamiliar emotion - she hadn’t felt it in thirty years. She didn’t like this feeling, so she dismissed it. She had convinced herself that she would have killed Nicolae herself, but now that he was on the brink of death, she wondered if she would have dealt him a final blow?
She smiled. She probably would not have killed him, and she had it in her power to save him. Maybe she would save him; she still had time to decide After all, eternity with a scoundrel was far from vapid. He was predictable enough never to be a danger to her. She would save him… perhaps. Isabella sensed a familiar presence within the church.
A Dhampir had entered the room. She looked around. There he was - John, her son, the man who was determined to kill her.
The two stared at each other but not as mother and son; that time had passed. Today they were Vrolok and Dhampir. The wounded lay all around them. Isabella propelled a thought into John’s head. “Not here! Outside.”
Isabella walked outside, only to find there was nothing left of the village. The houses had been reduced to rubble, and the fires continued to burn. John squared up to her amongst this wreckage; his intent was stronger than it had been last night. This would be a fight to the death.
The question raced through her mind again. Could she kill the child she had raised? She was reminded of an event twenty years earlier, when the man before her was just a babe.
“We should kill him!” Nicolae said.
“You’re quick to issue a death sentence on your own son,” Isabella replied.
Nicolae, trying to control the conversation, said “You know it is the right thing to do.”
“I can’t bring myself to kill him.”
“I can’t believe you, of all people, are going to let him live. You slowly tortured and killed every member of his family.”
“Maybe I think his family’s debt has been fully repaid. There is no need for any more blood to be spilt; especially not the blood of a child who even has a drop of my blood running through his veins.”
“So you will let him live, and grow up to kill us both?” Nicolae continued.
“Maybe you. But he will never be a match for me.” Nicolae was annoyed. He knew his son could never be trusted not to lash out at his parent and adopted parent.
A shout from John brought Isabella back to the present.
“Why didn’t you kill me?” John asked. “Why didn’t you kill me long before this?”
“Don’t think it was compassion, do not be under the illusion that I am going to tell you about a latent maternal instinct when your tiny hand grabbed my finger. I am not that creature; I never was and never will be.”
“As a mother you showed me nothing but compassion,” John replied.
“I let you think that.”
“Why did you raise me then?” John asked.
“I had to keep an eye on you, just in case this day would arrive,” continued Isabella.
“I don’t believe that.”
“You still believe I am a doting mother?” Isabella said superciliously.
“Let me show you the creature I am, so you can attempt to kill me with a clear conscience.” Isabella approached the young man and he flinched from her touch. Isabella’s lips curled up into a smile. “You know I won’t kill you… not yet.”
John let Isabella touch his forehead, and a memory surfaced in his mind. It was as clear and vivid to him as if he had been there, but this had happened before he was born. John had shut his eyes in reaction to Isabella's touch and when he opened them he was in a different place and time; he saw Isabella and his father in this new place.
They were standing on the Odessa steps, looking out beyond the port to the ocean.
“We have come here too soon,” Nicolae said impatiently, “everyone is saying it will be autumn before the ships revolt.”
“Who is everyone?” Isabella enquired.
“The Central Committee.”
“I did not know you were on speaking terms with the committee,” Isabella remarked sarcastically.
“I happened to kill one of their mistresses the night before last. She was quite talkative before I slit her throat… I think we should go somewhere else. I am bored with this place.”
“You can’t wait two months?”
“I am hungry and sick of having to converse with my prey to lure them away from the crowd. You know I don’t like to talk to anything I am about to kill.”
“Alright, Alright. I will speed things up.” Nicolae smiled. He loved this woman.
“What are you going to do?” Nicolae called after Isabella as she walked away.
Isabella turned, walked backwards a few steps and said. “You’ll see. Keep watching the ocean.”
Nicolae watched and waited as instructed. Isabella would not disappoint him.
John, the silent observer of these events, followed Isabella to where she was going. He saw her board a ship, and watched in silence as the ship set sail for Tendra Island.
Military exercises were being carried out but no one seemed to notice a woman among these armed men. She walked right past them but they did not see her; they continued doing what they were doing.
She went straight to the galley of the Battleship Potemkin. The cook was serving up meat for them to eat. He was not using any meat that had been rotted by the heat of the summer. Isabella whispered in the cook’s ear.
“Why are you not using that meat?”
“It has turned,” the cook answered.
“It is good enough for them.” Her voice penetrated his mind and changed his thinking.
“You’re right. It’s good enough for them.” Isabella watched as the cook served up the meat for the hungry men to eat. A couple of them took a few bites, and the taste disgusted them.
“This meat is rancid!” One of the crew shouted.
“You’ll eat what you are given, Grigory,” shouted the captain of the boat. Grigory rose to his feet and ran over to the captain, attacking him with a lance. The captain struck out at Grigory; his intention was just to wound him to calm him down, but Isabella had more sinister intentions. She stood behind the captain and pressed the sword further down into the man’s chest. She then quickly stood beside another sailor who had witnessed the event, and said “He has killed that man. He killed that man in cold blood. Are you going to stand for this?”
“No, I am not,” said the sailor, grabbing a sword from one of the other officers and starting to hack into the captain. The other sailors looked over in astonishment; Isabella hardened their hearts, shouting: “Help him!”
The sailors began to pounce on the officers, cutting them to pieces. Before they were finished, several of them had been brutally killed. The sailors' mutiny had started the uprising early.
John was now transported back to the Odessa steps where his father was still waiting and watching. Night was about to fall but the sun was still strong. Nicolae would usually have found it impossible to stand in this light; it seared his skin but he wanted to see what Isabella had in store. In the distance he saw a battleship waving a red flag. It was about to happen, thought Nicolae.
There was a workers' strike in Odessa, and the people were only too happy to admit the mutineers into the port. Isabella descended back onto the shore, and Nicolae greeted her. Observing the dead bodies, he said, “You started without me.”
“Oh don’t worry; there is more to come,” Isabella replied.
“How did you manage it?” Nicolae asked
“All rebellions are hastened by hungry men.”
Time raced by, and suddenly John realised it was the middle of the night. Isabella and Nicolae were waiting in the streets of Odessa. The ground started to shake under the steady tramp of soldiers.
“It has begun,” Isabella whispered. John could not see very well but he knew the two ungodly creatures he was with could see perfectly in the dark. The troops came to a halt, and the streets fell silent. The silence was shattered by a scream, and then another, and another. Isabella looked around at Nicolae. They ran out into the streets to kill and feed. John could not keep up with them; he lost them among the panic-stricken crowd. John was stumbling around in the dark when he saw a 19-year-old boy standing with his sister. His sister was clutching his hand. The pair looked terrified; they were looking around them apprehensively, jumping at each and every bang. In the distance, they saw a woman walking gently towards them. She smiled comfortingly, her look telling them without words that when she got there, all would be well. But John knew it would not be well, as the creature approaching them was Isabella. The pair were transfixed by this beautiful woman. She was illuminated by the moonlight; she looked like an angel sent by God to rescue them. Her every step was languid; she was gliding towards them. John started yelling at the top of his voice.
“Get away from her; she is not what you think she is!” The boy and his young sister could not see or hear him. His warning was useless - Isabella continued towards them.
“Where is your mother?” her voice seemed comforting, reassuring; she would show these children where to go. Even John believed the illusion for a brief moment. Isabella lifted her hand to caress the side of the little girl’s cheek, and said, “I will take you to your mother.” She leaned forward and kissed the older boy’s neck, draining the lifeblood from his body. As he slipped away, he was not scared or frightened. His sister did not even realise what was happening as her brother’s grip loosened and he fell into the dirt of the street. Isabella bent down and looked at the young girl. A single tear ran down the girl’s cheek. Isabella wiped it away. She turned her back on the child and walked away. Isabella had let the little girl live, and was leaving her alone in these turbulent and violent streets. She would not survive. Isabella then ran to join Nicolae, and John watched in horror as the pair ran through the crowd, killing everyone in sight. They were ruthless and indiscriminate, killing soldiers, men, women; it didn’t matter. They must have killed a hundred people before John covered his eyes and looked away.
When John looked around again, he was back in Guernica, with Isabella at his side.
“You see, that is the creature I am,” Isabella began, “I have been witness to, and taken part in, every atrocity of the past four hundred years.”
“I don’t believe you. You are not that person.”
“I am not a person at all.” John started to weep; he refused to believe that of his mother. She had been there to pick him up from a fall; she had been there when he had cried. Now he realised it had all been just a lie.
“You seem shocked; Nicolae told you what we are.”
“I didn’t really believe it until this moment.”
“Believe it.” Isabella insisted.
“I do now,” John said with gritty determination, “you have made it easy for me to kill you.”
“Oh no!” Isabella leapt forward and grabbed her son by the neck and lifted him off the ground. She stared into his eyes and said, “It will be far from easy to kill me.” Her words were sinister and determined. Isabella let him go, and he fell to the ground in a heap. She turned from him and looked out across the ruined town.
John jumped back onto his feet and stepped back from Isabella. He was frightened, and for the first time realised the extent of Isabella’s power. This was no ordinary vampire. She was stronger than any vampire he had come across. He took his gun and dipped a bullet in his still open wound. Isabella turned and smiled, her face malevolent and beautiful. It chilled John to the bone. She stood and waited for him to shoot. The shot rang out, and Isabella calmly batted the hot metal away from her before it could strike her.
That question raced through Isabella’s mind again. Could she kill the child she had raised? Isabella flew at John. The answer was yes, yes she could…