With laboured breathing “ from the damp, death-laden air of the decaying house, to say nothing of his fatigue and fear “ Nicolae walked out into the chill evening air of the Transylvanian foothills, congratulating himself on account of the antique jewellery now residing in his pockets. It had taken a longer, more nerve-racking search through the old mansion than he had intended, and had he known beforehand that it would have taken him until sundown to find his quarry, he would sooner have attempted to hold up the Banca Nationala single-handedly and unarmed. But as luck would have it, here he now was, alive, unharmed, and significantly richer.
His high spirits sank, however, at the sight of the two black-uniformed police officers striding towards him through the unkempt grounds, their batons drawn. What (curse them) were the odds? Of course, he knew from bitter experience that some police enjoyed nothing so much as hounding (and hurting) Roma, but the idea that these two had followed him all the way from Sibiu on the off-chance of catching him at something incriminating was too far-fetched. No, this was a pure trick of malign fate: he had spent too long looking for the jewellery, had been forced to turn on his flashlight, and they must have been driving past and seen the light. Doubtless, that would have been a suspicious enough sight in this isolated and apparently deserted old house, but the facts at least were in his favour. It was not as if the owner was likely to press charges, after all.
Still, he reflected, as their grim, slightly smirking faces drew closer, no harm in playing this one carefully.
Im sorry if this is private property, he said, meekly. I swear I didnt know, sirs. It looked empty to me. I was just taking a leak, is all. I¦ No! Please, theres no call-
He was unable to punctuate the sentence even with a scream, as the baton slammed into his stomach, knocked the last gasp of wind out of him, and made him keel over at the officers feet, white lights flashing in his eyes and a fireball raging in his guts.
Dont give us that, you stinking gyppo, advised one of them. ˜Taking a leak, is it? More like taking a fix of smack. We know your sort. Hey, Petru? What dyou reckon the chances are if we search this hovel, well find ˜someones little stash? Pretty decent, eh?
Yeah, could well be, sneered the other officer. Could well be. What do you say, mate?
Ive got nothing¦ I swear, choked Nicolae, wondering if this was really the best answer and quickly being answered in the resoundingly negative:
Right: you ˜old ˜im down, ordered the first officer, whereupon his comrade stilled Nicolaes agonised writhing by planting a boot over his sternum and pressing down with an almost suffocating intensity¦ but this was the least of his pains: for the other officer took this opportunity to administer a barrage of blows to his feet, his legs, his arms, and his sides, each strike igniting a fresh furnace in his central nervous system.
Like most of his family, Nicolae had not had much schooling, his parents (God rest them) having felt that a Rom educated among gadje was merely an outsider twice over. He was, however, somewhat self-taught, and familiar with the concept of pain as an autonomic self-defence reaction. Even in his agony, he cynically wondered why, in that case, he was unable to do anything but flail about pathetically, rather than fighting back effectively. So much for intelligent design¦ not that resistance would have achieved anything except ensuring that they would beat him to death. He almost wished that they would have the mercy to strike his head and render him unconscious, when it dawned upon him that the assault had ceased. He could not hear them speaking, though he seemed to discern, though the white noise in his eardrums, a faint scream. Then silence, darkness, and “ blessedly “ numbness reigned. Whether this meant that he was paralysed or not, he hardly cared, as anything seemed a better option than his recent ordeal.
Dont be afraid, Nicolae. Im going to take care of you.
That was a disquieting thought to just pop into his head¦ but it was hardly unexpected that he should suffer delusions after such a pummelling. A sense of lightness and motion came over him, vague through the fog that shrouded all of his tortured senses, and the only think that had any clarity was that seemingly alien personality that spoke again, in a soundless voice that, for some reason, he knew beyond a doubt to be female:
You took my jewellery, I know¦ but I forgive you. You have no money, and no work. Yes, Nicolae: I know your mind, and I am a fair judge. Thus, I have dealt fatally with those two thugs. For I cannot have them leading others here, and I have no desire and little use for their kind. Now, open your eyes. Dont be afraid. There will be no pain, I promise you.
The words appealed very little to his confidence, but they carried an inexorably soothing undertone. Nicolae opened his eyes, and looked up to a cracked, cobwebbed ceiling, fitfully illuminated by candlelight, along with the loveliest face he had ever seen: classically perfect; with skin like fine, slightly roseate porcelain; framed by long, wavy blond hair. Only two small details marred it: the red-irised eyes and the long, sharp canine teeth peeking through her compassionate smile.
Yes, Nicolae, she said, in beautifully refined tones, while his heart beat like a Gatling Gun. I am the mullo that haunts this place, although I have been a goddess, believe it or not. Alas, none would remember my name now, but as you know¦ as you heard from those men talking at the bar of the Crama National, the last recorded occupant of this house was a wealthy recluse known as Daciana Mircea, who supposedly died in 1876¦ though there are rumours to the contrary. Call me by that name if you wish. Now, darling, please dont think me rude, but this is important. I can only read your conscious thoughts, so please concentrate. Those men at the bar: you are quite certain that they were just ordinary people, idly chatting? That you only came up here on the desperate hope of finding something, and not because they knew for certain that I was here? That they were not officials of any kind? Not police, Securitate, priests, or foreigners? They will not be coming here, nor sending others?
Dont think so. Just drunks, he thought, empathising with them. For he felt so warm, numb, and apathetic, it seemed only reasonable to suppose that she had injected him with neat vodka¦ or that he was dying, and even that thought failed to reawaken his fear. With a relieved smile, the lady reached out her slender fingers and, daintily but efficiently, tore apart his leather jacket as if it had been paper. She retrieved her jewels from the pocket before discarding the remnants of the jacket on the floor, then set to work upon his jeans, t-shirt, and underwear. This process caused him more embarrassment than pain “ no pain at all, in fact “ but when it was over, and he dared a quick glance down his naked form, he rediscovered his sense of despair: ugly, multicoloured bruises covered him like a garment. Even the ladys imperturbable face was disturbed by a look of intense pity, but it soon settled back into calm benevolence, as she ran her gentle hands over his discoloured skin, causing no pain but a powerful sense of arousal.
Youre beautiful, you know, she remarked, making delicate passes along his inner thighs. Such a sweet figure¦ almost feminine, if youll pardon me. The curve of your hips and thighs is positively hourglass. See what those vicious brutes have done? But dont worry. When I have healed you, you shall be lovelier still. Irresistibly so. That feels good, does it not? she asked, as she teasingly stroked the erection that his numbness had somehow failed to suppress. Yes, darling. So good¦ and it can get so much better.
Slowly, she descended, and began kissing his stomach, his thighs, and his taut manhood, which she proceeded to take into her cold, wet mouth. Her lips, tongue, and teeth all cooperated in stimulating him to an intense climax, although his pleasure was slightly compromised by the sight of blood upon her lips and canines as she drew away from him, with a euphoric expression. Deftly and sensuously, she removed her light, lacy black dress and panties, climbed upon the bed, and came astride him, her glistening wet vagina directly over his mouth.
Drink deeply, my poor pilgrim, she whispered, not that he needed any encouragement. Her beauty and the sweet feminine scent would have been quite sufficient. Even so, it was an effort of will for him to move even his tongue, but it seemed that the more he tasted of her nectar, the easier it became for him to move. His tongue explored deeper and more eagerly, while the lady encouraged him with little gasps and moans of all-too-dignified delight, which seemed almost a challenge for him to reduce her to an uncontrollably emotional orgasm. He redoubled his efforts¦ and how much easier they now seemed. He still felt weak and dizzy, but his powers of movement and sensation were almost wholly restored, and his arousal was positively through the roof. He raised an arm, intending to touch her lovely, statuesque breasts, but was paralysed anew at its appearance: it was no longer bruised, which was an obvious plus, but nor was it recognisably his arm, which was rather less promising. It was too slender, and the hand that adjoined it was too dainty by far. Noticing his confusion, the lady gave an airy laugh, and shifted from her pleasant station to lie alongside him, thus affording him a clear view of his¦ of her body.
Nicolae stared in bewilderment at her clear, undamaged skin; her perfect breasts; and her moist vagina, throbbing in anticipation. Then she laughed¦ or rather she giggled, in a somewhat drunken fashion, while her partner looked on, benignly as ever.
Im dreaming, arent I? she theorised aloud. Those bastards have gone and beaten me unconscious, or into a coma, worse luck.
And would you care, my sweet Nicoleta, if you were never to wake up from this dream?
Hell no. She laughed again. As long as I can keep this dream up, they can drip-feed me for the rest of¦ Oh! was the best conclusion she could manage, as the fair ladys mouth descended once more between her legs. As she licked, nibbled, and thoroughly explored Nicoletas sweet virginity, her lover was less restrained than she had been in expressing her delight: Nicoleta cried, gasped, even doubted her ability to bear so much pleasure, and eventually exploded in an outpouring of joy¦ and of clarity. Her first climax as a woman was too real an experience to be denied, and confusion and despair clouded her joy. As she broke down in tears, the lady embraced her, and spoke soothingly:
Im sorry, darling. Truly I am, but there was little else I could do. The state you were in, you could have died, and there are no others I could have called upon for aid. All I could do was make you as I am, and since that had to be, do not hold it against me that I made of you such a companion as I could love wholeheartedly. Is that such a terrible thing for you? Your pleasure just now, my lovely Nicoleta, was real enough.
My brother and sister¦ they know-
They know that you came here tonight. Yes, darling, but you neednt worry about that either. Should Andrei and Michal follow you here, I shall deal with them no more cruelly than I have dealt with you¦ my beloved.
Two weeks later.
Elisabeta, a second-year law student at Lucian Blaga University, had been paying for her board and tuition with an evening shift in an all-night shop on Strada Balescu, and was now so used to strange customers that she was rarely without a canister of pepper spray in her purse. Nonetheless, the two that came in this evening were enough to awaken even her inured sense of amazement. They were both exceptionally beautiful young women, though one “ a dark-haired, possibly Roma girl of about twenty “ was apparently blind (to judge from the dark glasses she wore on this chilly winter night) and, sadly, confined to a wheelchair. This was a curiosity in itself: a heavy, wooden, antique device; that looked as if it belonged in a Victorian gothic novel. Appropriately, therefore, the invalid wore a long, pink gown, heavy with floral lace and satin ribbons, looking for all the world like an overgrown doll. This effect was not in the least harmed by her clear, porcelain-like skin, nor by her vacant expression, nor by the fact that she kept sucking her thumb.
The other woman, who manoeuvred the ungainly hulk of a wheelchair with amazing ease and dexterity, was fair-haired, in her mid-thirties or thereabouts, and attired very bravely in a light, shift-like dress of black lace, over sheer tights that were equally an invitation to frostbite. If she was feeling the cold, however, she concealed it brilliantly, and the only evidence of any discomfort was the fact that she was persistently blinking. Eye problems were obviously rampant in this family, and Elisabeta did not doubt that the pair were related: not that they shared a great deal of resemblance, aside from their clear, almost shining skin, but there seemed almost to be¦ a rapport? An aura? A spiritual bonding? Elisabeta gave up trying to find a term for this vague intuition of her overworked brain, and attended to her duty:
May I help you? she asked, having noticed that the able-bodied woman was looking around with some confusion.
Have you any disposable diapers? she replied. Large ones, preferentially. Something that will fit my daughter, here. She has¦ problems.
That was apparent. Poor girl, thought Elisabeta, but felt warmth and admiration for the mother. How many of that invalid girls generation, born disabled and especially to such young mothers (and probably in the declining years of Ceausescus inhumane regime, as well), had been abandoned to rot and starve away in those death-factories perversely known as the state orphanages? In spite of her disabilities, this girl had been fortunate indeed in her parentage, at any rate. Even so¦ there was something inescapably pitiable in such a lovely creature being condemned to a half-life of darkness, immobility, incontinence (evidently), and idiocy. She had taken her thumb out of her mouth now, allowing Elisabeta a much clearer view of her sweet face, not much obscured by the small, round lenses¦ which now seemed to be looking directly at her. Perhaps she was not completely blind, after all.
Pretty lady¦ play with Miki?
She thought for a fleeting moment that the invalid girl had spoken, but her mouth had not moved, nor had her mother reacted, so she put the disturbing impression she had received down to tiredness and an overactive imagination. The girl returned to sucking her thumb again.
Please dont stare at my daughter, admonished the mother, gently, but still making Elisabeta feel painfully like some Peeping Tom or a spectator at a freak show.
Im sorry. I didnt mean¦ Shes beautiful, stammered Elisabeta, feeling wretchedly foolish, though it seemed to soften the fair lady considerably. She smiled, and stroked her daughters hair, causing her to murmur softly, with incoherent pleasure.
Yes, she is. Very beautiful, arent you, Michal? Though rather a handful. Now, if we might return to the question of those diapers, my dear.
As Elisabeta apologised again, and directed her odd customer to the baby care products, neither of them noticed the black saloon car silently pulling up outside.
Shes here, Mr. Rakovic, said the burly, dark-suited driver into his short-wave radio, but theres a civilian with her. What do you want me to do?
Stay put, replied a crackly, yet authoritative voice. Im leaving the central station. Just passing the synagogue. Traffics good. Ill be there directly. If she leaves first, trail her discreetly, and keep radioing me directions. But dont try and take her by yourself, for goodness sakes.
I wont, Mr. Rakovic¦ and thank you for your concern. A true Christian, you are, sir.
You would know better than I, came the reply, following a derisive laugh, having only been defrocked these three months. But we certainly share a cause.
Indeed, sir. These vile abominations¦ corrupters and defilers¦ and the ecclesiastical court accused me of desecrating that grave! Imagine what might have happened if I hadnt beheaded and burned that demonic whore.
Yes. We could have taken her alive, and thus been spared this present inconvenience. But spare me the ideology, Serghei. Just tell me if shes still there.
Yes, but I think¦ Shes coming out, sir! Where are you?
Piata Mare. Ill be there in seconds. Intercept¦ but dont shoot her in the heart if you can avoid it. Shoot to incapacitate.
Serghei drew his revolver, checked that it was fully-loaded with sanctified silver bullets, and stepped from his car at the very moment the antique wheelchair; its lovely occupant; and its even lovelier attendant (whom there was no mistaking, in spite of her blue contact lenses) emerged through the shop door. The fair lady immediately fixed Serghei with a hard, emotionless stare, and though his heart skipped a beat, it did not deter him from training his gun upon her.
Dont try anything, he warned, fear and disgust struggling for dominance in his voice and expression. These bullets can kill you, so just-
Bullets, dear? interrupted the fair lady, calmly, but with an acidic undertone. And where, pray, could you be hiding a gun? Not in those pretty little panties of yours, surely?
His hand was empty. How¦ ? He was bitterly cold all over. What the¦ ? He looked down, and regretted it: his body was, inexplicably, that of a pale and shivering girl of no more than fourteen, barefoot and naked, save for a pair of pink satin panties. Looking up, the view did not improve: the lady had left the wheelchair and was advancing towards him, smiling very unpleasantly, and displaying a great deal of fang in the process.
Relax, sweetie. Im a very gentle eater¦ as a rule. You might even find this experience quite-
Shoot her, you fool! shouted a voice from the window of another black saloon, now pulling up on the other wise of the street, causing the fair lady to pause in her deadly intent, and her helpless little victim to dissolve in tears.
But sir, said Serghei, mortified at the sound of his high, girlish voice. Look what shes turned me into. How can I- ?
She hasnt turned you into anything, you weak-willed idiot! Shes hypnotising you! The gun is still in your hand!
At this point, it seemed to have occurred to the fair lady that the new arrival was a far more dangerous prospect, and she made in his direction, leaving Serghei to ponder his condition. With her concentration elsewhere, he soon began to feel warmer, and to feel a welcome sense of metallic hardness between his fingers. The illusion had, within seconds, passed completely, to his intense relief.
Nasty man not like to be pretty girl?
Innocently intended though the question was, Serghei found it infuriating beyond endurance, and had no difficulty in identifying its source: the fair lady was trying, not very successfully, to pursue Mr. Rakovic, who was backing up the street and taking shots out of the car window, causing her to lose a lot of time in ducking and diving. That only left the creature in the wheelchair, and Serghei was not given to discrimination (except insofar as he despised her entire hell-spawned species). He turned his gun upon her, and advanced to point-blank range.
Hey, Mister Bond, came a decidedly unfriendly voice, close at hand. He swivelled in its direction, revolver and all, and found himself looking into the shop door, the grim face of a young female store clerk, and the business end of a canister of pepper spray. The following seconds were sheer chaos: the searing mist hit him full in the eyes, in his shock and pain he reflexively fired a shot (and never saw its target, though he did hear a brief scream), and he suddenly felt himself being knocked to the pavement by a tremendous force, while infantile yet aggressive thoughts flooded his consciousness:
Not hurt nice lady! Hate you! Hurt you too!
Whereupon the pain in his eyes was overshadowed by a far more acute pain in his neck, but this was short-lived¦ as was he.
Hearing the shot behind her, and having no luck in catching up with the saloon and its trigger-happy driver, the fair lady turned back. Outside the shop, the first attacker was sprawled on his back, motionless, with Michal on top of him, her teeth fixed in his neck and her hands (needlessly) pinning him down. Whilst the lady certainly felt no regret for the assassins demise, this was a sight to concern her: Michal was, as far as she knew, the first of her kind “ an immortal created from the milk, rather than the blood of her mother “ and the only nourishment she had received since her rebirth was more of that same milk. What effect blood might have¦ and then her fears were confirmed, as Michals body was racked with spasms, she pulled away from her victim, and began regurgitating copious quantities of his blood into the gutter. The fair lady held her tenderly until the retching had subsided, then helped her back into the wheelchair, sad-faced but seemingly not the much worse for wear.
Miki¦ not feel so good.
Im not surprised. Silly girl, replied the lady, affectionately. Blood isnt for you, darling. Thats for big girls. Why did you want it, anyway?
Nice lady in shop try help Miki. Man hurt her. Hate him, hate him¦
The fair lady followed her daughters gaze into the entrance of the shop, where Elisabeta lay, her eyes glazed and staring; a bloody, nine-millimetre hole bored into her forehead. Shedding a quiet stream of red-tinged tears, the lady approached her, and sensed the unmistakable vibrations of life still persisting in her injured body. Daring to hope, she laid her hand upon Elisabetas skull¦ but sensed almost nothing. Barely enough subconscious brain activity to keep her heart beating. No thoughts, no dreams, no memories. A soul imprisoned in a brain that was now little better than a clockwork motor, incapable of sentience.
And this was to be her reward for possibly having saved Michals life? Not if I can help it. The lady bit her wrist and let the blood trickle into Elisabetas mouth, and her tears became tears of joy to perceive the gradual reddening of her eyes, and the lengthening of her canine teeth¦ but still no evidence of mental recovery. Well, we must hope for the best.
Who were they? asked Nicoleta, later that night, in the bedroom of the decaying mansion in the foothills.
I dont know, dear, but it was a planned ambush, answered the fair lady, gravely. Sibiu is fast becoming too dangerous for us, I fear. If those butchers dont know about this house already, it wont take them long to find out. We shall have to move.
Thats easier said than done. Especially with those two.
Nicoleta gestured towards the cage-like structure in the corner of the room, occupied by two beautiful girls, both wearing short, frilly dresses and disposable diapers. They crawled, lay, and played upon a tangled mass of satin bedding, scattered here and there with toys (both of the childish and the adult variety). Often they would hug, kiss, and touch each other with unashamed intimacy; all the while emitting joyous cooing sounds. There was little discernable meaning in these noises, although if one concentrated very intently, one might have detected a very vague conversation that was taking place on an entirely different plane:
Miki like be touched here. Lisa touch Miki here?
Silly Lisa. Me touch you. Feel nice?
Nice¦ Like¦ Want¦ Nice¦ Oh! Nice¦ Ohh!
Lisa like. Now you. Touch Miki. That right, good Lisa. So nice. Like so much¦
I trust youre not suggesting we abandon them, Nicoleta.
Of course not! What do you take me for? Thats my sister¦ or whats left of her. Im just saying, it wont be easy. With Andreea and Antonia as well, theres six of us. Even if we leave everything behind, well never get everyone into the Trabant, unless one of us goes in the trunk.
Youre right, of course¦ Nicoleta, she said, after a thoughtful pause. My jewels “ the ones you once tried to steal “ are in the broken music-box under the loose hearthstone in the back parlour. Id like you to take them, go down to the road, and stop the first truck or large van that you see. Commandeer it by any means short of killing the driver. Frighten them¦ knock them out if you must¦ but make sure you give them the jewels.
Alright¦ How about half of the jewels, though? I mean, just in case we need something to trade for more petrol, suggested Nicoleta, aware that her mistress, for all of her power and intelligence, was painfully out-of-touch with modern realities.
Very well. Their value is considerable. It should suffice. I shall alert the others. Before leaving the room, she cast another look over her baby daughters, who were now locked in a very affectionate embrace. Elisabeta was healed of all physical injuries, but her rebirth had not restored her mind. She would have to grow up all over again¦ and I will make damn sure that she gets the chance, resolved the lady, and left the innocents to their play.