Sorry, I’m very late on Guardian which was supposed to be done yesterday night. Not only am I going slower because eyes, but the minute I stepped in the house yesterday all the trouble in the world fell on me.
So, I have to work today, and therefore am going to leave you with a Halloween story. I THINK this is out in one of the anthologies, but I just want to go write, so I’m not going to look for it.
This is unproofed, since I’m using an archive copy.
This story was first published in secret history of Vampires or something like that. (A Daw anthology.) It was not the one that was supposed to go up today, but I can’t find the other. Things have vanished, including two set up short stories WITH INTRODUCTIONS by friends. After I turn this in, I’m going to spend a week cleaning my computer.
For now, there’s this:
Blood Of Dreams
Sarah A. Hoyt
©Sarah A. Hoyt 2011. Reproduction in whole or part prohibited without express permission of the author.
Blood Of Dreams
Sarah A. Hoyt
I met him at the base of Impotent Man’s Dream – the local name for the soaring, silver rocket commemorating Soviet Space Exploration. It was a winter night, blind and white as only the Russian winter can be.
Sheets of snow blew past us, clinging to my hair and the scarf I had stylishly draped around my neck. Truth be told, to do this weather justice, I should have worn one of the huge overcoats favored by Russian babushkas. Something huge, and shapeless and impermeable, under which I could layer enough clothing not to feel the sting of the cold and the snow.
But I didn’t have that option. I was wearing what I’d been advised to wear – a knee-length skirt, tight to the knee and slit at the back. Nylons. A molding blouse and jacket. I had at least managed to wear the scarf, even if it was fuzzy and multicolored, and a hat, even if it was little more than an amusing scrap of fabric perched on my head at an interesting angle. My chestnut curls I left free down my back and they were slowly getting crusted with snow flakes. It was all I could do not to allow my teeth to chatter.
The man I’d come across the Atlantic to meet was similarly ill-attired for the weather, but it didn’t seem to disturb him. He wore his customary charcoal grey suit, and he walked in the slow, measured step of someone who has all the time in the world, which I suppose he did.
As he got closer, he smiled at me, a smile that barely uncovered the very tip of his fangs. All the rest of him looked exactly as it had in countless statues, in numberless paintings, and, of course, on the corpse beneath glass in the mausoleum on Red Square. A bald head surrounded by wispy dark hair slopped down to a neat, oval face with large, expressive eyes and a neat moustache crowning small lips. A little beard completed the whole.
He looked to be in his forties and no one who didn’t know it would have guessed he was dead. Much less that he was Vladimir Ilych Lenin, the founder of Russian communism.
He walked towards me, with the unnerving little smile, and I wondered if he would try to attack. To be sure, I didn’t even know what to expect. What I’d learned about this particular man was only that he’d become a vampire early in his career and that he remained alive beneath the ruse of the mausoleum and the preserved body – of which the book by his embalmers was only the latest and most complete scrap of fraud.
Other than that, I knew practically nothing about vampirism. Oh, I knew that it was caused by a virus in the saliva of the vampire. Which is why the only victims allowed to live changed into vampires themselves. And that, after a period in which the bearer became ever more charismatic, a period sometimes as long as twenty years, in which the vampire could gain control of a crowd or a society, it led to undying death. The vampire must avoid light, slept during the day and could only be active during nighttime.
This might seem like an awful lot of knowledge, but it wasn’t. The most important piece was missing – how strong was the vampire? And how great his need for blood?
I steeled myself to his approach, and did my best to return his smile with a small one of my own, endeavoring to look confident and prepared. He would be less likely to try to eliminate me if he thought I had a plan that would either prevent it or avenge me. Something I had learned as a journalist, working in the most troubled spots of the world from Rwanda to Sudan to the wastelands of Afghanistan, was that if you appeared to be in control the enemy was less likely to attack.
An expression of amusement crossed his gaze and I thought he must have seen a lot of people trying to bluff it. But it didn’t matter. He didn’t rush for me. Instead, he stopped in front of me and inspected me carefully, from the tip of my ridiculously high heeled boots – at least I’d insisted on boots – to my snow flecked hair and the little twist of red fabric perched on top of it.
He stretched his hand. “Call me Lenin,” he said.
It would, of course, have been safer not to touch him at all. But then I might as well admit my fear.
So I stretched my hand and gave him my name, in a voice that came out unexpectedly fluted and high.
“You wished to speak to me?” he said.
I nodded. I’d left the little rolled up note, beneath the edge of his glass sarcophagus, where he was likely to find it upon opening the lid and reaching out, early evening. It said I knew what he was and that I wished to speak to him. In a way it was a bit of blackmail, and in a way, like all blackmailers, I was scared. I didn’t want to push my luck and wasn’t sure where the boundary lay between safe pressure and the kind that would backlash. “Yes,” I said. “But not here.”
And I headed through the blind snow to the side street where I’d parked my little rental car. Confident that he would follow me. Or at least wishing to appear so.
I did not hear his steps behind me, but when I opened the passenger door of my car, he was there, sliding in.
A small, confined space might seem a bad choice of place to be confined with a vampire. But I assumed he’d find it uncomfortable to attack me while I was driving and perhaps get ripped apart. My informer had told me that they didn’t like getting severely wounded, that it could take them months to heal. And that Lenin, on display as he was, sleeping in his glass coffin all day, could not afford it.
I’d believe that. I’d believed so much, already and risked so much on this quest. I drove through the blinding snow in which my car headlights made no more than a faint web of light a few inches wide. But I remembered the streets – having learned them by heart – and the turns and presently fetched us up in front of the modest hotel I’d chosen.
We got out in front of the reception, where light shone brightly through the plate glass window. The hotel was one of the few that had someone at the reception desk at all hours. As well as a valet to park the cars, and a couple of burly guards to keep them safe through the night. At least two of which were alert and paying attention and the others within reach of a frantic scream.
Lenin either acknowledged the futility of attacking me here, or his curiosity in knowing how I’d learned of him was greater than his need to obliterate the threat. He followed me up the stairs, three flights to my room. For obvious reasons I didn’t care to take the elevator.
When we got into the room, he looked around and sniffed, as if detecting some sort of odor. Then he smiled fully at me, showing me his fangs. “There is no one in the rooms on either side or above,” he said, with a sort of gleeful malice. “Even if you have the room bugged or if you are bugged, no one will get here in time to save your life.”
The room, though opulent by old Russian standards was spare by either Western standards or the standards of new Russian luxury. It had a single bed, a desk and straight-backed chair, and an arm chair in the corner by the window, where the open curtains showed the unending panorama of swirling snow. A mirror on the back of the shutting door reflected the window and the snow.
It felt cold and lonely, as if I were the last woman alive at the end of the universe. I wondered if he was projecting that feeling. I knew vampires could influence people, but how? Could he reach into my feelings and make me feel things?
I smiled at him, feeling cold sweat trickle down the back of my neck. It wasn’t true or not exactly, but could someone get to the room in time to save my life if he attacked? Somehow I doubted it. “How do you know there is no one nearby?” I asked instead, affably.
“We can feel the life nearby,” he said. “We can hear the heartbeats. The nearest ones are downstairs.” He grinned again. “This means you are at my mercy. How did you hear of me? How did you find out the truth about me?”
“Oh, don’t be foolish,” I said, and smiled in turn, with confidence I didn’t feel. “If I told you that, what reason would you have for keeping me alive?”
“What reason do I have in any case?” he asked. “You’re nothing but a mortal who’s somehow stumbled onto my true nature. Why would anyone believe you? And if I kill you, who would care?”
There was something to his features, a sharpness, as if wolf-hunger were shaping his thoughts and moving him towards a goal I would not like. He could smell my blood. It was a disquieting thought. It took all my well-practiced will power to put a smile on my lips. “Reason enough. You’re not as secure as you might think you are, in your glass coffin. There is talk of burying you.”
“There was talk of burying me almost twenty years ago,” Lenin said. “It hasn’t happened yet. I still have loyal followers. People who would never allow the symbol of the revolution to be swept away or defiled.”
“They let your statues be cut down,” I reminded him.
He blinked, as if thinking of this for the first time, and took a deep breath and shrugged. “What does it matter?” he asked. “Statues are just statues. My body, they won’t touch. For too many years worshiping me was the only religion allowed.” He put his hands in the pocket of his suit pants, making them bulge in a way for which they weren’t designed, and bunching the coat above them. He took a step nearer me. “They worship me. They won’t let me be buried.”
I shrugged. “Well, perhaps not, but recently they have reburied Anton Dinikin with all honors, have they not? And did he not fight against the Red armies?”
He stopped and chewed on his moustache, then taking his hands from his pockets, he opened his arms in a show of helplessness, a show of willingness to listen. He chewed on the right corner of his manicured moustache. “Very well,” he said, and backed up, to sit on the arm chair. He crossed his leg, one over the other with the accustomed ease of the diplomat who has listened to every story and sat, smiling, through the longest speech. Not that he was a diplomat, of course. But he had pretended to be one at times, and clearly the training held. “Very well,” he said again. “It is possible my nightly excursions through the city have missed something, if not of the state of the city, at least of the state of the world. So tell me how do you propose to make me more secure?”
He came to the point too fast. I expected to have more time to work on him with those womanly charms that, I’d been assured, worked on vampires as well as on living men.
I gained time, standing in front of my mirror shaking out my curls. “You need another life,” I said. “If this one should come to an end. I could get you sequestered from your coffin and…”
He shook his head. I saw it in the mirror and realized that at least that one myth had been wrong.
“If they should decide to bury me, I’m sure they would do the thing thoroughly, making sure that I was in the coffin first. Perhaps even making sure I was staked first. There are people in the hierarchy that know the truth. Some that have to, of course, like the people who pretend to be responsible for preserving my body. They are well compensated and some…” He grinned, fangs gleaming. “Are allowed to write books about it and profit by them. But there are people who know, and some of them might still be alive and in power.” He looked scared suddenly – or not so much scared but as though the memory of something scary had crossed his mind, making his eyes widen and his mouth open a little in an expression half-shock and half fear. “They staked Stalin, you know? Staked him and buried him.”
I remembered not to show surprise. Or rather, I remembered not to act as if this were old news, and I were surprised he knew it. Instead, I trembled a little and my eyes widened and I said, “Stalin? He was one of you?”
He chuckled, delighted, as if he were a child who had bested me in a game. “Oh, you don’t know everything, Miss American reporter, do you now?”
I shrugged. “Staling is not being discussed now. He seemed like old history. Though he might have,” I said, judging it the time to drive in a little wedge of jealousy, “had more influence on communism than you did.”
Lenin didn’t take the bait. He shrugged. “Not on communism,” he said. “On the regime, on the government of the Soviet republic, but not on communism. Communism would never have existed anywhere, it would have died a ghost without me. I took the poor clay of the March revolution and issued my April Theses and I set everything in motion. Everything to make the dream of communism come true. The dream of a perfect state where there would be no inequality and no injustice.” He paused and frowned. “Only it all seems to have been too much like a dream that lasts a short time and from which you wake to find the real world intruding upon your thoughts.” He rubbed the middle of his forehead with two fingers. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I didn’t count on the way people would refuse to cooperate, refuse to be perfected. Or perhaps it was Stalin. He never had any finesse. But at least… he died for his trouble. Truly died. Staked and buried in the kremlin.” He looked up and tilted his head at me.
Was it my impression that his fangs were growing longer. Probably. Only the same little bit of them protruded beneath the lips as he smiled, a slow lazy smile. “And now we come to you. You have somehow found my secret. And you want to help me.”
“Why are you in the glass coffin at all?” I asked, trying not to think that I’d come into this willingly. I’d willingly set my neck within reach of his fangs. “And why did you make Stalin a vampire and your successor, if you did not wish it?”
His eyes flashed with anger. He showed his teeth in a snarl. For a moment I thought he’d spring at me. But instead he punched the arm of his chair, hard. “He tricked me. The Georgian swine tricked me. He came into my room, when I was… When I was dying and becoming … as I am now. He so maddened me. He told me that as soon as I was in his power he’d stake me. And he’d have Trotski killed. I was…” He cleared his throat and seemed to recover a little self-control. “I was ill. I could not prevent my anger from rising. I sprang for his neck.” He paused and took a deep breath and I felt he was controlling an anger that would have, otherwise, taken him over the edge and into the abyss. “But he’d calculated it and it was near dawn when, as my body changed, I’d started to fall into the sleep of death. Though not a full vampire yet, not yet shunning the sun, I was already controlled by the cycle of the day.” Again the open arms and open hands, in a show of helplessness. “I didn’t drain him, as I meant to. And when I came to, later, he was already on the way to becoming one like me. I couldn’t drain him. And when I became fully dead, a full vampire, he had me placed in the mausoleum as a way of having me watched. Of knowing where I was. He didn’t dare stake me then, not yet, as he was not sure whether this would mean I’d turn into ashes and people would wonder where my body had gone. But he had me on display. Where I dare not move night or day, I dare not leave the mausoleum because of that damned honor guard.”
He got up and went to the window and looked down at Moscow. “It all looks so different now. I really believed it was true, you know – Marxism. I believed that the rich and the poor would grow further and further apart in their modes of life and that a proletarian revolution would result. I was only trying to accelerate things, trying to bring about the brighter day. I thought it was inevitable and it would cause a blood bath whenever it happened. I was only trying to make it happen faster. For Sasha, you know. My brother Alexander. He rebelled against the Tsar and he was hanged.” He sighed. “And now Sasha is dead, and I’m here, but other than that… Was everything I did no more than a passing diversion in the course of history? Is man never to live in a truly equal society?”
“You believed so much,” I said, judging the time to be right. I could hear rustling in the room next door and I judged that the person waiting there was growing impatient. If I did not move fast, he would let Lenin know of his presence. He would reveal himself. Try to take things with force. As he had suggested at first. “That you found out about the vampire legend, in Siberia. You found that there were indeed vampires, creatures who lived forever and who fed on human blood. But they didn’t die immediately. No. Vampirism was like an illness, and in the incubation period, leading up to the death, the vampire became… powerful. Capable of influencing individuals and groups. You were a man of thought, Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov. But you were not a leader. You were one of these men more comfortable in the real of words and thoughts than dealing with real men and real people. You knew if you became a vampire – or a vampire larvae – you could do it. So you sought out an old woman, in the freezing vastness of Siberia, who gave you to drink ashes of a vampire, dissolved in blood.”
He chuckled, more surprised than amused. “Blood. I purchased my dreams in blood, it’s true. The blood I drank, the blood I had to spill. And my blood, the blood of my family. Because of being a vampire, I never had children. I would have liked to have had children with Nadezhda. Now Nadezhda is gone and my communist state is gone and you say they will soon bury me. Even if I remain alive beneath the dirt, or if I dig myself out, what good is there in it? What good will my life have been?”
I turned around and grinned at him, in turn. “You can make me into a vampire,” I said. “Into one like you. And then I’ll have the strength and the charisma to get into politics in America. To get to the top.”
He grinned in turn. “Is that all this is?” he asked. “You want the power? You know better. I gave Stalin the power and look what he did? He made an unsteady dream even shakier. I would never…”
“Listen, it’s not just the power for power’s sake,” I said. “I too have a dream. We know more about how the world works now. About we know how to control things with money. You ignored human nature, but people will do a lot for money. We can manipulate international markets. We can equalize classes, distribute wealth and knowledge. We can make the world a better place. If I get to the top of the most powerful nation in the world, I can do all that.”
For just a moment, he grinned at me, then he sighed. “All those dreams cost in blood.”
“My blood,” I said, tossing my head aside to reveal my pale neck. “And you can have it. Just not all of it.”
“How did you find out?” he asked again. “About me.” Somehow he’d got out of his chair and he was right next to me.
I shrugged. “Old letters. Old papers. But I’ve told people. People would know.”
He smiled, fangs gleaming. “No one would believe you.”
Close up, he smelled of mothballs and old wool. His hands reached for my arms, gripped them with the strength of vises. “No one would believe you,” he said.
The bite on my neck hurt very little. Like a pinprick or an injection. I wondered if vampires, like certain poisonous animals, had an anesthetic in their fangs that dulled the pain. And then the world grew dim. And I realized he was not going to stop. That he was going to drain me completely, not just infect me with the virus that caused vampirism. That I would die here.
The door shook, rattled, and opened. “Let her go,” a voice with a strong Georgian accent said.
He dropped me. “You?” he said.
I thought at least it was true that vampires had good manners. They could not talk with their mouth full. I tried to giggle, but I couldn’t even stand, and I fell to the floor, in time to look up and see Joseph Stalin stepping between myself and Lenin.
Stalin was attired as I’d always seen him attired, in the year and a half I’d known him – after he’d chosen me and tracked me down through a web of shared acquaintances and contacts. He wore Armani, well cut and better made. “Me,” he said. “Me, the Georgian Swine.” His tone of voice implied there would be vengeance on the one that had uttered those words. “Me. Why would you think they staked me, before they buried me in the Kremlin?”
“Krushchev,” Lenin said, wiping away from the corner of his mouth a trickle of my blood. “He would never have dared to denounce you to reveal the stories of oppression under you, even to a limited number of people, unless he knew you could no longer get at him.”
Stalin laughed. “Krushchev. Dear Nikita knew nothing of why I’d had you – or myself – embalmed, as he thought. He put me in the mausoleum, beside you, because the crowd demanded it and not because he realized he needed to keep an eye on me. And he had me buried because he found me embarrassing.” He smiled, displaying the pockmarks that disfigured him ever since he’d had smallpox as a child. “I wasn’t as pretty a corpse as you. But I dug myself out, little by little. As long as it took, I dug myself out. And I spoke a word in Brezhnev’s ear, when he became Secretary General. And that was the end of the nonsense. It was only when I had found my way through the Russian … illegal merchant network, and when I found communism a hampering of my ability to make money and increase my power that I spoke words in the right ears and allowed Gorbachev and his glasnost to flourish.” He waved his hands in a self deprecating manner. “You have before you one of the most successful businessmen in Russia. Oh, no one you’d hear about in the papers. But all the ones you do hear about owe me money.”
“I should kill you,” Lenin said, somberly.
“You should,” Stalin said. “You should have years ago. But you didn’t. And now you can’t kill me. Or her. Because I might not have as much charisma or strength as you have. But I have quite enough to ensure you don’t kill her. You don’t want to fight me, Lenin. Your corpse might be disfigured. People might find out.”
For a moment, Lenin hesitated. But then he turned and made for the door.
As Stalin bent to offer me his hand to rise, I could hear Lenin slapping frantically at the button.
I felt woozy and weak and too close to death for my taste. That death that I’d now arranged to meet – through being infected with a powerful vampire’s blood – much sooner than would otherwise have happened.
“It will all be worth you, you’ll see,” Stalin said. “The part of the virus that induces charisma seems to lose force with each generation. I’ve infected people – a young student on a tour of Russia once, for instance. And though it still can make someone president of America, it doesn’t seem to be as intense. They don’t seem to command the following they should. The following that made Lenin and I living gods. You’ll be as powerful as I am, you’ll see. You’ll maneuver to lead the west. I’m very close to owning the East. Together, we will rule the world.”
I nodded, but my neck hurt, and I felt very far from powerful as I leaned on his stocky body that smelled only of very expensive cologne. “And then I’ll die.”
He grinned at me, his fangs stubby amid his large, broad teeth. “Don’t let that worry you, my dear. Our kind always rise.”