She Creates Her Vampire

Jan 24, 2013 by     Comments Off on She Creates Her Vampire    Posted under: Brian Wrote This, Fiction

“Why would you even want to make a vampire?” I ask her. “They’re not cuddly, mopey kittens, you know.”

Madalina climbs out of bed, the late-afternoon sun gilding her pale skin … “I know that,” she says. “I already have a kitten.”

“Why would you even want to make a vampire?” I ask her. “They’re not cuddly, mopey kittens, you know.”

Madalina climbs out of bed, the late-afternoon sun gilding her pale skin. She makes a face at me as she picks her bra off the floor. “I know that,” she says. “I already have a kitten.”

“Vampires are not moodily romantic dream lovers,” I continue. The sheet covers my crotch, which in repose is always vaguely embarrassing to me, like dishes that haven’t been cleared from the table. “They do not pine for your beautiful soul. They’re ravening beasts with no shred of humanity. Pure, amoral predators.”

Madalina circles the black lace bra around her rib cage, backward so that the rear clasp is just below her breasts. She hooks it, then turns it around and slips her arms through the straps. It still amazes me I made it to my mid-thirties before finding out girls do it that way.

“You have been telling me all along that vampires don’t exist,” she replies, stepping into her panties. “Therefore, they are not anything—they are what we make of them. And I am making mine.”

She begins lighting the candles that cover every surface of her oversized studio apartment. It’s a great effect—the amber candlelight brightens as the orange sky out her window goes cold and dark. She calls it capturing the fading sun, which sounds magnificent when she says it in Romanian, and she whispers to herself in that language as she lights each candle. It’s not exactly magic, but it’s definitely a ritual.

Madalina is my first real witch. I’ve dated a few pretty, earnest girls who talk about a “goddess” that embodies what they see lacking in patriarchal society, but don’t actually believe in anything beyond themselves. Madalina’s not one of those.

I met her in a tarot workshop. I don’t believe that you can tell the future with a deck of cards, but I believe you can find insight as your unconscious mind responds to symbols—like playing a game of word association with your subconscious. Taught by her grandmother, Madalina already knew how to read the cards, and was there to polish her technique and deepen her insight.

I thought her black-dyed hair was too severe, and she was a little curvier than “my type.” But there was an intriguing trace of accent in her careful English, and something compelling about her dark eyes. That she was, in an overheard aside from a skinny hipster chick, “unapologetically busty” didn’t hurt, either. Madalina looked you in the eyes when you spoke to her. A lot of women look away, either shy or wanting to be left alone.

I’ve never had the confidence to flirt with real intent—I talk to girls for the pleasure of the moment, and end up in bed with a small and unpredictable percentage of them. Eventually we were discussing metaphysics over cappuccinos at the only coffee shop I know of where the java doesn’t taste like lava. Americans do not know how to make coffee, she told me, and I agreed. She also told me that she believes in magic. Serious, talk-to-ghosts, cast-spells, raise-the-dead magic.

“You cannot believe in raising the dead,” I countered.

Madalina shrugged. “Actually, I do. I do not think it would be easy, and I would have no idea how to do it myself, but I take everything I believe in and fit it logically together, and …” She shrugged again. “I believe magic manifests the will, and that magic can change the world.”

Our first date found me sitting cross-legged in her apartment, on a hardwood floor intermittently crusted with candle wax. In the flickering glow of a stolen sunset, we worked a spell to heal her landlady, or rather, to heal the biopsy results she was awaiting. I was also, by this time, trying to work a more prosaic spell to get her out of her very tight jeans and sweater. While my mundane magic was a failure, the biopsy came back clean.

“I like you as a friend,” Madalina told me a month later as I walked her home from the last installment of the tarot workshop. “To be honest, when I think of a capital-R relationship, you are …”

“Friendship material,” I finish, and she nods. “That’s not a problem. I wouldn’t want anything, you know, complicated. But I do like you …”

And that’s how we started hooking up. I’ve been careful not to mess up the friendship, to make sure that getting together doesn’t just become about the hookup.

Madalina comes out of her bathroom, a wisp of black silk robe open over her bra and panties, her hair up in a makeshift chignon. I’m in my jeans, sitting on the edge of her bed among twenty-five flickering candle flames. She pauses in the doorway and regards me with a smile. “You have been working out, haven’t you?”

I’ve been trying to get to the gym more often, wanting to look better to her. But I shrug. “I’ve been going to the gym longer than I’ve known you.”

She gives me that sidelong, suspicious glance with her smoky eyes. I call it the gypsy look, but she’s adamant that she has no gypsy blood. Her father is ethnically Romanian, and her mother’s family is “white Russian,” which she defined for me as “the people who had money before Communism.” She is careful and proud of her lineage, particularly on the Russian side. The matrilineal line is rife with tales of the supernatural—aunts who spoke to ghosts, a grandma who saw the future—as far back as the great-great grandmother who was a maid to Tsarina Alexandra, and who allegedly gave birth to an illegitimate daughter of Rasputin.

“You do not have to be jealous of my desire to make a vampire,” she says. Which is probably the most awesome sentence anyone’s ever said to me.

“Jealousy doesn’t enter into our relationship,” I remind her. We’re both free to see other people, with the understanding that we’re each looking for something other than each other. In Madalina’s case, she is looking for tall, dark, and dangerously sexy. Or sexily dangerous. A strong, smoldering man who’d all but force himself on her. It would be a pure cliché, if she didn’t also want that dream pirate to be a vampire—Dracula by way of Frank Langella, though, rather than glitterdoll by way of Robert Pattinson. In the eight months we’ve been FWBs, she hasn’t had more than two dates with any other man. It’s nice that my competition is entirely fictional.

I, on the other hand, spent a good month dating a beautiful redhead, lean and petite, who teaches yoga. Madalina had claimed credit: She’d forced me to describe my perfect girl, and I’d described Susan almost exactly—only to have Madalina insist we do a spell to conjure such a woman. And less than two weeks later, I met Susan. Madalina seemed genuinely happy for me, but Susan was no more the perfect woman for me than I’m anyone’s perfect man. And over dinners, in bed, walking in the park, talking movies on the way home from the theater, everywhere Susan and I went together, I was surprised at how much I missed Madalina.

I don’t tell her this, of course, because it breaks the rules. I find her more attractive every time I look at her, and more interesting every time I talk to her. It’s impossible to see her as I once did—a potential roll in bed while waiting for the right woman to show up. I see it as a natural evolution. This is what your thirties are supposed to be about: figuring out who you really want to be with, moving past “types” and fantasies and contradictory impulses. Trading unrealistic dreams of hyper-stretchy redheads and rock-and-roll bad boys and start to appreciate deeper aspects of deeper people. But Madalina has shown no sign of similarly reappraising me, and until she does, there’s no reason to tell her how I feel.

“I am glad you are not jealous.” She comes back from her small kitchen with two bottles of mineral water, Perrier in green glass, because she disparages the plastic bottles Americans drink everything from. She hands me a bottle and perches on the antique stool with the fussy wrought iron legs—her only chair. She opens a drawer in her desk and pulls out the silk pouch containing her tarot deck. “I am nearly ready to create my vampire, you know.”

I’ve been dreading this. The one thing about Madalina I’m not in love with is her willingness to take her magic to very dark places. I refused to participate when she sacrificed a pet-store rat in a ceremony—unspeakably ancient, yet downloaded from the internet—that would allegedly increase her knowledge and skill as a magician. I’d been aghast, and she’d merely replied that those rats are sold as food for pet snakes, that she’d killed nothing that was not already doomed.

Mina, her black cat, comes out from under the bed and brushes against my leg. I’d thought she’d named the cat after herself, after a nickname for Madalina, but she’d scowled and said “Wilhelmina,” and I’d nodded—Mina Murray, Stoker’s vampire victim who set the standard for ravishment by bloodsucker. I’d asked Madalina if she’d be as cavalier about sacrificing Mina in some improvised black mass, and she looked at me in horror, as though I’d made the leap from swatting flies to barbecuing nuns.

Madalina shuffles the cards gently and lays five of them in a pattern on the desk. I can’t see them, and haven’t been invited to look. I’m used to this—she asks small, secret questions of her cards and does a two-minute reading—so I simply look at the back of her long, white neck.

“If you’re asking the cards whether we should make out for another half hour, I hope they’re saying ‘yes.’”

She looks over her shoulder at me, all sly grin and provocation. “You did not used to be such a one for … postcoital passion.”

“Decadence and kink,” I reply. “Inevitable fate of any ongoing sexual relationship.”

“I’m glad you think so,” she says, and puts away her cards. I don’t know if her slight smile is due to our conversation, the cards, or both. “Now let’s conjure a demon.”

This is the first part of Madalina’s invented recipe for vampirism. Traditional vampires make one another in a chain of infection, which was not a path open to us. Madalina thought about incubii, the mythical male sexual demons that ravaged sleeping women. A demon—specifically, a thirst demon, incarnated in a human body, would approximate a vampire pretty well.

Conjuring demons is an interesting subject. There is the idea, historically established but essentially unproven, that demons exist, spiritual entities of a malevolent nature that can be summoned and commanded by knowledgeable practitioners. There’s another, less folklorish wing of modern magic that suggests you can make, if not a demon, then a supernatural entity that will do your bidding. When Madalina and I cast a spell for her landlady’s biopsy, we imagined that our wishes for her health, whatever energies those wishes could represent and harness, were focused in a sigil of our own devising, and then incarnated (or ideated—there was no actual, physical body, of course) as what the chaos magicians call a servitor. A do-it-yourself angel of intention that we sent to heal the old woman.

That was Madalina’s idea for a vampire, to manufacture such an entity ourselves, rather than scour online lore for some bribable Babylonian demigod. (In movies and TV shows, it’s always easy to get, and then read, ancient grimoires in dead languages. In real life, such information is hard to come by, and supposing the part about summoning the demon worked, but the part about controlling it didn’t?)

She scoops up an unwilling Mina and puts her in the cat carrier in the kitchen, to keep paw prints out of our magic circle. Usually we lay down a length of yellow rope to form our circle, because it’s really hard to chalk a hardwood floor. But this is the real deal, so Madalina casts the circle with two round cartons of Morton’s iodized salt, looping an inch-high circle with a ten-foot diameter, nearly all the open floor space in the room.

We sit in the middle, crosslegged, facing each other. Madalina leads the working, and I am there to support, to lend my energy. She has the tools of a magician—at her left knee a small silver bowl (actually stainless steel and meant for mixing shaving lather). At her right knee, there’s our ritual knife, used symbolically, and to focus energy like Harry Potter’s wand, but never for cutting. Between us, there is a thick white candle burning. I smell paraffin and smoke, undercut by the scents of Madalina, musk and floral hair products. We do our standard invocation together, ritual words in English that establish and purify our workspace. Then Madalina begins speaking in Romanian. Her native language feels more authentic to her, and the sound of it is to me more mysterious and evocative—and sexy to the point of distraction.

“Envision it between us,” she whispers, staring into my eyes. Her gaze shifts to a spot between us, and slightly above. I imagine a ball of energy, a pure desire floating two feet above the candle flame. A small black hole of want, the blossoming seed of our thirst entity. If you do this enough, if you surrender yourself to the energy and the mystery and the winking flicker of the candles, you can very nearly see the thing you seek to conjure. Madalina tells me that reality is entirely consensual, and if enough people believe something enough, reality will follow.

“This thing is between us,” she says, seeing it. “This thing between us is desire. My desire to be possessed by a creature of the night. Your desire to possess me.”

Surprised, I look at her. “I already possessed you once this evening,” I say. In-ritual banter is frowned upon, but I want to know what she means about me when she speaks of desire and possession.

“Not the way you want to possess me,” she says. Her eyes come down to mine, now, but they seem to see past me, the way her low, smooth voice comes from further than her dark lips. “Not the way I want to be possessed.”

I did not count on this exercise laying bare my unrequited love. I know that there is no way I’m going to be her Vlad Tepes, her Lestat—the Cernunnos to her Rhiannon, or whatever. But what does it mean to make this explicit, and why would she pull my longing, my pain, into this ritual, when distraction is anathema?

“Do you desire me?” she asks.

“Yes.” Why is this suddenly about me?

“Do you love me?” she asks.

“Yes.”

She leans toward me, her breasts swelling out of the robe. “Does that desire consume you?”

The word sticks in my throat. “Yes.”

She picks up the ritual knife, black-handled, with a seven-inch blade. She grips it tightly and touches the point to my abdomen. Reflexively, uncertainly, I put my hand over hers, holding it in place. This is getting crazy. The room is much too warm, but my skin is all gooseflesh. I want to twist the knife from her hand. The point pressing against my skin, finding the resistance of tensed muscle.

“Would you open yourself to be filled with that thirst that floats, manifest, between us—would you let it consume you?” she asks, and already I feel consumed by desire. “Would you let it transform you? Would you be cast into eternal darkness, lit by nothing but blood-red desire?”

I say the word a fourth time, and one of our hands moves the knife, suddenly. I gasp at the pain, the invasion, and I feel doubt wash out of me even as I feel filled with something new, a purified lust—desire both magnified and gratified. Thought fades, and I surrender to the thirst as I surrender to the eternal night.

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