I’ll tell it the way it was.
How much can you love?
Enough to swear your soul?
It was a quiet bar in Memphis I saw her first. The bar – Bobby’s Blues – lived up to it’s melancholy name. It was empty except for myself, the bar-tender and an old man named Al Steinowitz. Al was a permanent fixture of this bar, just as much as the optic-spirits, the bar-stools or the golden rail. The bar-tender, Larry, stood factitiously – bar glass in one hand, towel in the other. His hands gleamed the rim of the glass monotonously; unnecessarily. His eyes held a gimlet stare at nothing in particular. He was the stereotypical bar-tender you’d associate with westerns, all he ever seemed to be doing was cleaning the rim of a glass.
Al sat in the corner – as he had done every single night for the last forty years. His one and only drink placed methodically in front of him like a prized trophy. He had performed the same devout ritual ever since I’d been drinking in this bar. He would enter at around 8:15 every night, he would tip his hat to Larry – who would return the compliment with the same curt greeting. Al would then sit down on the same stool he always sat and lay a crisp $5 bill on the bar in front of him (always a $5 bill). He would then lower his head and remain in a deep cocoon of introspective thought for the remainder of the night. Meanwhile, Larry would take the five dollars and replace it with a single shot of Bourbon, at some point over the last forty-odd years a silent covenant had emerged allowing Larry to keep the change. The Bourbon would remain untouched until around 10:30 each night, upon reaching this time Al would stand, pick up the glass, utter a short inaudible phrase, drain the glass in one and then leave without a word.
I once asked Larry the reasoning behind this strange behaviour. His reply was short and very confusing, “Some people just love too much, mister”. I decided not to pursue the matter any further.
The night she came into my life was a very bitter fall evening. I took my place for my regular night’s drinking at around 8:00pm. I had been hitting the bottle quite a lot since Carla died. I enjoyed this bar mainly as it was both lonely and depressing – which at the time was about the direction my life was following. I felt I had a lot of commonality with this particular bar. I’d been a regular for almost nine months now and in all that time I had seen four customers – aside from myself and Al. It was hard to believe Larry kept the place running on such a minimal amount of takings, perhaps he’d once robbed a bank and was living off his immoral earnings, or maybe he’d once received a vast inheritance – who knew. Anyway he’d kept the place going for a long time and it didn’t look like he was getting ready to stop just yet. I had never seen anyone enter with someone else, everyone who came through the door was alone. This was very much a ‘singles-bar’.
As I reached my third double and as Neil Diamond moodily performed ‘love on the rocks’ from the battered-old Wurlitzer, I glanced at Al’s unusually empty stool and them checked my watch, 9:13. My curiosity prompted me to ask Larry what was with Al.
“Don’t think we’ll be seeing him tonight mister”. Larry always called me ‘mister’ no matter how many times I asked him to call me Stu.
“Why’s that Larry?” I asked inquisitively.
“‘Night’s his anniversary”
“Anniversary for what?”
Larry turned away, he was well-versed in the Southern culture of not discussing ‘other folk’s business’. He returned to his ritualistic position – cleaning his glass and staring vacantly. I was reaching a high level of curiosity. I returned to my beverage as though it would provide me with the answers. My brain worked over-time, running through different theories.
Wedding anniversary? no, i don’t think he was ever married birthday anniversary? memorial anniversary?
It was at that point that the door swung open, bringing in a blast of icy-cold wind along with the fall-bleached and wind-burned leaves.
In she had stepped.
Now I’m not one to believe in love at first sight, but I do, however, believe in advanced physical attraction on a primary ident. Simply, I fancied the pants off her. I can still see her shake the leaves from her exquisite long, golden hair like a scene from a love-story. I can remember the sweet nauseating feeling in the pit of my stomach as she turned her ocean-deep blue eye’s up to mine and locked our gaze. I looked into those eye’s and was immediately hit with a peculiar hypnotic effect. I felt like I was floating in a brilliant blue sky – I felt alive. She smiled an intoxicating smile through poinsettia-red lips, revealing pure white teeth. To this day I have never been so affected at the sight of a woman. I am ashamed to say I forgot all about Carla at that moment. All I wanted was to swim into those eye’s and be lost in their beauty for eternity. I imagine Al Steinowitz had felt pretty much the same.
It was another hour of glancing stealthily at her across the bar before I finally plucked up the courage to go over and say something.
“Hi” I greeted weakly, I’d never been so nervous in my life.
“How ya’ doing” she replied, her voice made me tingle. I knew even then I was falling for her, I couldn’t help it. Something about her seemed to ‘pull’ you towards her. It was like she had a tractor-beam reeling you in.
“I’ve never seen you in here before” I stated feeling foolish, I might as well have been even cornier and said ‘do you come here often’. I turned away sheepishly.
She didn’t seem to notice my cliched opening, “I’m new in town” she explained ” just moved here from Virginia”.
The fact she obviously thought I wasn’t trying to pick her up seemed to ease us both. The small-talk continued with numerous questions flying around. Brief history’s, origins and so-on. I won’t bore you with formalities. I’ll just say she was originally from Nebraska, both her parents were dead and she had no immediate family. Her name I will remember eternally, Maria.
I finally got around to asking her if she would like a drink.
“Sure, dry white wine please” was her conformal reply.
I called Larry over. “Larry, usual for me and a small white wine for the lady”.
“No mister. ‘fraid I can’t do that”.
“Larry? Why not? What’s wrong?”.
“I will not serve that woman” he protested stubbornly.
I was becoming angered. I didn’t care for the contemptful look he’d just shot her. I grabbed him by the lapels and pulled us both face-to-face. I don’t know what came over me. My mind just seemed to fog over and I couldn’t think straight.
“Larry, what in god’s name is your problem”.
“Stu, that woman is nothing but trouble, stay away from her”.
I let go of him feeling dazed, firstly he’d called me Stu which he’d never done before – that confirmed the severity of his concern. Yet, it was the warning which concerned me most. How could Larry know her? She’d only moved into town recently and even she had said she’d never been in here before. I was about to ask Larry to explain himself when her harmonious voice kissed my ear-drums lightly.
“C’mon we’ll go someplace else”
I was about to argue that I wanted an apology from Larry before I was going anywhere, but something about those eye’s and her sweet voice made you forget everything else and follow her hypnotically.
“Yeah, we’ll go someplace else” I repeated.
We left ‘Bobby’s Blue’s’.
I haven’t been back since.
Outside the day had drifted into night. The air was moist and thunder-heads loomed in the East.
“Gonna be a storm” I remarked casually.
“Let’s go back to your place”.
“Sure” I answered being careful to hide my pleasure.
It was a ten minute walk to my apartment, the conversation was relaxed and surprisingly intimate considering we’d only just been acquainted. The storm I’d predicted kicked in just as we’d reached my front lawn.
A lucky escape.
A rather bizarre incident occurred next. I just managed to glimpse a shadow covertly sliding down the side of the house.
“D’you see that?” I asked pointing in the general direction of the shadow.
“There’s nothing there” she replied calmly yet authoritatively.
“No, there wasn’t anything there”
That was the second time I had let a topic go just because she had told me too. It wasn’t like me not too pursue a situation once I had started. I usually wouldn’t give up until I’d found the answer. That night I just gave up straight away, my usual belligerence was stunted by her presence. It was like some weird mind-domination trick. I told myself not to be so silly, I was just imagining it.
We entered the house and I groped for the light-switch.
“Damn! Storm’s knocked the power out”.
Maria then touched the switch and the lights illuminated into life.
“H…h..how d’you do that?” I exclaimed.
“I didn’t do anything” she replied with the same abstract calmness she’d displayed earlier.
“No, you didn’t do anything” I answered agreeably.
We both sat on the couch. I wasn’t ready for anyone else to go into the bedroom, not so soon after Carla. I told her the bedroom was being decorated. She didn’t mind.
I left her on the couch while I went and got a bottle of wine and two glasses. I placed them on a tray and went back to her. As I placed the tray on the table I caught her reflection in one of the glasses. The reflection was of a woman at least a hundred years old. Long grey hair, more wrinkles than an elephant, haggard skin hanging limply from a bland framework of bone. I shrieked.
“What the hell is going on?” I screamed “who in the hell are you?”
“What?” she asked puzzled. She was still the stunningly-beautiful woman of before.
“Y….y….y…you’re r..r.r.reflection. You were..were….”.
“You didn’t see anything.”
“No, I didn’t see anything” I said appeasedly.
I sat next to her unoblivious.
I poured the wine and handed her a glass.
“To love!” she toasted.
“Love” I obliged.
The soft chink of the glasses was much louder than it should have been. Some kind of psychic echo had formed in my mind giving me a shattering head-ache. Something was affecting me.
She slurped her wine grotesquely, like a dog. I didn’t comment on it.
“How much can you love?” she asked suddenly.
“What?” I answered baffled.
“How much can you love?”.
“Could you swear me your soul?”
“I’ve only just met you”.
Just then she grabbed my chin and brought our eye’s together, so that once again I was peering into that great blue sea of beauty.
“Your soul?” she asked from seemingly far away. All I could think of was swimming in that invigorating and indulging water, feeling all my pains fade away as the gentle waves cascaded over and licked my body with purity. I only thought of the water beneath those mysterious blue eye’s….
“Yes..” I began sub-consciously.
For a second, just a brief one, I believe I saw death in those eye’s. The sea turned to a river of dark blood and rotting corpses decayed beneath a black moon. Then a dark figure appeared on a dark horse….
Then it was gone – if it had been there at all.
The sea returned.
“You have sworn your life too me. Now I will kiss you and take you to the peak of ecstasy, to new realms of orgasmic pleasure and then… I will take your soul”.
“OOhh YES!” I Screamed mesmerised. My mind was lost in the sea.
“My kiss is eternal. I give you eternal life – in your death”. As she spoke her beautiful face sunk in on itself; collapsed and then reformed into a repugnant half-reptilian, half-feline head. Vampirical fangs emerged and a dry hissing sound rumbled from the darkness beneath her black mouth. Putrid air was released as she spoke.
“Oh you’re so beautiful!” I proclaimed hysterically. My mind had been warped by the deep hypnotic power of her eye’s.
She spoke once more “Come my beauty. Let us live forever….”
I believe if the shot-gun hadn’t gone off at that point she would have taken my soul right out of my body.
The thing which had formally been Maria was rocked back by the volley of fire. I was thrown over the couch by the velocity of the shot and landed painfully on my wrist, twisting it underneath my body. Excruciating pain shot through my arm like a lightening -bolt. My ear’s were ringing from the volume of the gun-shot. I stood painfully dazed, the trance broken.
“AL!” I clarioned in disbelief.
“Come away lad. NOW!” he demanded.
I couldn’t move. My feet were planted firmly, my wrist throbbed dully at my side, my mind couldn’t understand what had happened, it locked my body right where it stood.
“Al what the hell is going on?” I asked shaking my head in an attempt to clear the cob-webs.
“Vampire! For God’s sake get away Stu!”.
Now my paralysis broke, I bolted over the couch, banging my sore wrist and screaming in anguish. I just managed to evade the vampire’s lunging hand.
“How the hell do you know AL?”
“Centuries ago. My soul she took, doomed am I to walk this earth for eternity”.
Larry’s word’s came floating back like ghostly images, each one pranging at my exhilarated heart…’Some people just love too much’. yeah, some people love enough to swear their whole life how old was Al? how old IS Al?
My chain of thought was broken by a second fusillade of deafening fire. This time the vampire caught the cartridge shell’s in mid-air. I watched dumb-founded as it swallowed them and burped mischievously.
Now it pursued Al predatorilly, Al fumbled with two more cartridges, hands shaking violently he succeeded only in jamming his finger in the cartridge chamber and snapping it with a sickening crunch. The gun fell to the floor impotently.
Al sank to his knees. The vampire towered over him, spittle dripped from it’s fangs like venom, it’s hollow eye’s laughed mockingly at him. Then two claw’s sank deep into the adipose flesh of his neck seeping a rich flow of crimson blood. Al closed his eye’s and smiled; after centuries of toil he was about to receive his refuge.
The vampire drained his jugular with the same sickening slurp as it had drunk the wine earlier.
Al’s lifeless – and soulless – body slumped to the floor and was still.
The vampire turned to me.
“Get away. Don’t come near me” I screamed in tears. I’m not ashamed to admit my bladder gave way and I was filled with a warm and somewhat pleasant sensation.
It didn’t listen, it only advanced closer. I retreated; falling over the rug. I landed flat on my back. I glanced to my side and was over-joyed to see the fractured remains of the couch-arm – a remnant of the first shot-gun blast. I picked it up with my good hand and stood facing the vampire. I made my stand belligerently with the domestic stake held forward like a bayonet.
I wish I could tell you I took the stake and plunged it deep into the vampires black heart. I wish I could tell you that – but I can’t. For as the vampire cringed away genuinely affrighted, I made my fatal mistake – I looked into it’s eye’s…
“I love you Maria” I said endearingly as I dropped the stake.
“And I you” she returned as she stepped closer.
“I will swear you my soul”.
We shared an eternal kiss.
The reason I share this story with you is to serve as a warning. From an eternal walker I tell you this:
If, one fall night you happen upon a seductively beautiful woman named Maria. Take heed these words: Do not look into her deep blue eye’s.
For once you have done that you will be prepared to swear your soul for her.
And your soul she will gladly take.
How much can you love?
From a young age Paul had a strong passion for the written word and a love of the escapism that it presented to him. Everyday life somewhat over-took this passion recently but Paul is making a concentrated effort to reignite the flame and produce a body of work that will find an audience amongst like-minded lovers of fiction – He finds it a thrill to think that his words will be read and enjoyed by an audience of people he has never even met.
Paul is a graduate of the University of Central Lancashire and holds a post-graduate teaching qualification. He currently works in graphic design and writing occupies a place in his life as a part-time hobby and passion that hopefully one day may lead to more.
Paul lives in Preston, Lancashire with his loyal Labrador retriever Bobby.