ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the June 17, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] siliconshaman and [personal profile] janetmiles. It also fills the "bites" square in my 6-10-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.


"Echoes of Another"


August brought dry weather and sultry heat,
the market square filling with many fruits.
Victor and Igor bought a bushel of cornels for
making breakfast preserves and healing syrup.
Adam stuffed himself with bilberries,
turning his fingers purple and blue.

There were plenty of herbs, too.
Dénes had gone picking guelder rose
for making spirits, and brought back some
of the bark that was so good for cramps,
along with bundles of wood betony
for sore heads and shattered nerves.

As they rode home through the gathering dusk,
tiny lights winked in the grass beside the road.

"Licurici," Adam said, having learned
the Romanian word for fireflies.
Sorin had been going on and on
about them in the village that afternoon.

"See them light up?" Victor said to him.
"They look like sparks, but they aren't hot."

"Why?" Adam asked.

"That's how they find each other in the dark,"
Victor said. "I have no idea how
they make light without heat."

"What fascinates me is how so many of them
flash at exactly the same time," Igor said.
"How do they know when to blink on or off?"

"I don't know that either,"
Victor said with a laugh.
"Perhaps we should study them.
A cold lantern would be very useful."

"Licurici," Adam said again as they
came over the crest of a hill.

"Those aren't fireflies," Victor said sharply
at the same time Igor observed,
"That looks like trouble up ahead."

At the bottom of the hill, a swarm of sparks
resolved into distant torches held by
some of the men from the village.

Pulling alongside, Victor passed the reins
to Igor and said, "Keep Adam with you."
Then he climbed down from the wagon.

"Be careful," Igor said as Victor left.

"What's going on here?" Victor asked
the villagers milling beside the road.
"Did someone get hurt, or lost?"

"We're hunting a strigoaică," Bálint said.

"What?" Victor said. "You came out here
after a bunch of superstitious nonsense?"

"It's not nonsense," a new voice protested,
and good lord that was Ilona,
dressed in someone's borrowed trousers.
"Artúr says he saw her, teeth and all!"

"Does Kálmán know that you're
running around chasing wild geese?"
Victor asked. There had been trouble,
earlier in the spring, with strangers
coming to stir up the villagers.
"I can't imagine he'd approve,
no matter what Artúr thinks he saw."

"I did more than see her," Artúr said,
pushing his way through the mob.
"The strigoaică tried to bite me!
I got a piece of her, yes I did.
All we have to do now is
hunt her down before she heals."

"So you -- what? Assaulted some woman
who looked different?" Victor said.
You should have used your eyes
and your mind, not your fists!
Have you learned nothing from us?"

"But she's a menace," Bálint said,
waving his torch in the air.
Sparks fell from it in long trails.

"It hasn't rained in two weeks," Victor said.
"Have you gone absolutely barking mad?
Give me that before you set Gyuri's field afire!"
He yanked the torch out of Bálint's hand
and stubbed it out in the dirt, taking care
to make sure that every last ember went cold.

"The rest of you, snuff your torches too,"
Victor said. One by one they obeyed,
except for a few people holding out.
"Ilona, drop it and go home to your wife."

"But it's getting dark," Ilona complained.
"We won't have anything to see by."

"The gibbous moon is already rising,"
Victor said, pointing out the pale blob.
"That's more than enough light
to get you back to the village,
as long as you stay on the road."

"What about you?" Bálint asked.

"I'll be searching for Artúr's victim,"
Victor said. "Something tells me that
the poor woman probably needs a doctor."

"Or a gravedigger," Artúr said.

"You can be sure I'll send you the bill, Artúr,
and I'll not have it paid in barley either," Victor said.
"You had best hope that I find her alive,
or it's a magistrate I'll be sending instead!"
The mob began to break up under
the force of Victor's scolding.

Victor watched them go,
then walked back to his wagon.

"What seems to be the problem?"
Igor asked as Victor settled beside him.
"I heard snatches of conversation,
but I couldn't catch all of it."

"They were hunting some poor woman
whom Artúr mistook for a vampire
and apparently injured," Victor explained.
"We need to find her and take her to safety
in case those idiots decide to come back
and finish what he started."

"Gyuri's barn is the closest shelter,"
Igor said. "We can check there first."

There was nobody in the barn, though,
nor the little woodshed they searched next.
They moved on to the neighboring farm
which belonged to Árpád.

The horses in this barn sounded restless,
and an investigation of the stalls
soon turned up a huddled form.
"I found her," Victor called softly.

"I've come across a lantern,"
Igor said, shifting Adam so that
he could be supported by a single arm.
Moments later a match flared.

In the newly kindled light they could see
tangled auburn hair covering her face
and blood splotched over slim, pale limbs.
Her forest-green dress was ripped
and stained in several places.

Igor set Adam in a corner of the stall.
Then he and Victor moved to check for injuries,
carefully patting their way over the motionless form.
"I'm not finding any head wounds," Igor said,
"but she's been hit in the face a few times
and I can't get her to respond to me."

"I have a fracture here," Victor said
as he probed her right forearm with gentle fingers.
"These are defensive wounds."

"Here too," Igor said, turning her left hand
to show a slash across the palm.
"Blisters as well -- I can't imagine
how she managed to get those."

Victor's gaze fell on a stout branch
lying in the straw that padded the stall.
One end of it was slicked with blood.
"It looks like she was holding onto this."

"Her right ankle is swollen," Igor reported.
"It could be broken, could be just sprained,
but she must have needed help to walk."

Yet she had still come far enough, fast enough,
to get well ahead of the mob chasing her.
That was interesting.

"I believe it's safe to move her," Victor said.
They rolled her onto her back,
mindful of her injuries.

She moaned at the motion, and
the two doctors grinned at this sign of life.

"Well, she's no beauty," Igor observed,
now that they could get a clearer view of her face.
The tip of her nose turned up like a tiny leaf,
and odd pockmarks framed her mouth and cheeks.
When he brushed his fingertips over them,
she turned into the touch.

"That's no reason for Artúr to beat her,"
Victor said with a scowl. Something
about her made him feel protective.
"He claimed that she tried to bite him."

"If she did, she wouldn't be the first," Igor said.
"It's no secret among the village women that
he's a terrible kisser, and fresh with his hands."
He stroked her dimpled cheek with his thumb.

The woman's mouth opened then,
flashing razor-sharp, triangular incisors.

Both men jerked back in shock.

"Either she has some sort of
bizarre dental condition that
I've never even heard of,"
Victor said slowly, "or else
vampires are real after all."

"That's unexpected, but it doesn't
change the fact that she needs help,"
Igor said. He turned to Adam.
"Can you be a good boy and
stay right here while we put
the hurt lady into the wagon?"

Adam nodded, fingers in his mouth.

Between the two of them, Victor and Igor
managed to move the woman
without jarring her injuries too much.
She whimpered but did not wake.

Igor stayed in the wagon bed with her
while Victor went to fetch Adam,
saying, "You were so good for us tonight."

By the time they got back to the castle,
it was full dark. Victor put the lights on
while Igor set Adam in his crib.

Then they carried the woman to the lab
so they could clean and treat her wounds.
Igor closed the cuts with tiny, precise stitches
while Victor wrapped the sprained ankle.

She finally woke up as Victor was
applying a splint to the fracture,
her gray-green eyes wide with fright.

"It's all right. You're safe here,"
Igor said as he laid a reassuring hand
on her shoulder. "I'm Igor, and that's
Victor putting your arm back together.
What's your name?"

"Csilla," she said, her voice
rich with some lilt of accent
that Victor couldn't recognize.

He tied off the last tail of bandage.
"There, that should do it," Victor said.
"Do you think you could walk, if we help?
There's a guest room right down the hall
where you can stay until you feel better."

"I can walk," Csilla said.
"I'm stronger than I look."

"We noticed that," Igor said.
"You must have come a long way
for someone so badly injured."

The fear flared again, and
Victor could see the tension
ripple through her body.
"We won't let anyone hurt you,"
he said. "What Artúr did was wrong,
and he'll be paying for it."

She gave him an appraising gaze,
and then all the alarm seemed to fade,
her muscles relaxing again.

"Can you tell us what happened?"
Igor asked as they helped her stand.

"The man flattered me with false words,
and tried to put his hands on me," she said.
"I fought back, but he was very large,
and so I had to flee from him."

"Good for you," Victor said.
He couldn't help remembering
a similar encounter of his own.
"Some men are swine."

They walked Csilla down the hall
and settled her into the bed,
propping up her injured arm and ankle
with mounds of extra pillows.

"Try to get some rest," Igor said.
"That will help you heal faster."

"I won't heal," Csilla said softly.
"It's kind of you to offer me this place,
but I should probably leave soon."

"What makes you say that?" Igor asked.

"Do you know what I am?" Csilla said.

"Not really," Victor admitted.
"I know you seem different,
but I am not about to take
Artúr's word for anything."

"I am of the strigoi viu, the living touch,"
Csilla said. "In English, a vampire.
I must feed on human blood
to heal injuries such as these."

"All right, how much?" Igor asked,
already unfastening his shirt cuff.

"More than you could spare," she said.
Victor made a protesting noise,
and Igor's fingers paused.

"How about a little now, and then
more later from another source," Igor said.
"What would it take to get you started
on the healing process?"

"A cup or two," Csilla said.
"More than I usually need, but
not enough to do any harm.
I am gentle with my donors."

"How bad will it be?" Igor asked.

"The bite will be uncomfortable,
as I'm too weak to lull your mind.
My saliva will numb the skin
after a few moments," Csilla explained.

"Any side effects?" Igor asked.
"I don't particularly credit the sources,
but I have heard some rumors."

"Afterwards you'll feel tired, and
you may have vivid dreams," Csilla said.
"Your sensitivity to feelings will grow,
echoes of another person that
can guide you toward compassion.
Others of my kind will be able
to smell that you've fed me."

"I can live with that," Igor said
as he finished rolling up his sleeve.

"You had better be careful with him,"
Victor said to Csilla.

"I give you my word," she said,
and Victor began to feel that maybe
he could trust Csilla with Igor's safety.
For some reason she inspired confidence.

She couldn't move much,
so Igor sat on the side of the bed
and stretched his right arm behind her,
supporting her against his chest
as he offered her the left arm.

Victor interrupted to clean off the skin
with a cloth dipped in pálinka.

Csilla mouthed the soft skin of Igor's elbow,
licking over the surface before she bit him.
Igor winced, and she stroked the back of his hand
to soothe him as she lapped up the blood.

"Igor?" Victor asked quietly.

"I'm all right," Igor said. "It just stings."
Csilla hesitated, her mouth going still
against the small wound. He petted her hair.
"Shh. Take what you need. You're not
hurting me any more than I can bear."

Victor watched closely until
Igor seemed to relax somewhat.
"How are you feeling now?" Victor asked.

"Better," Igor replied. "Like she said,
my arm doesn't hurt anymore.
In fact nothing hurts. I feel
a little tired and dreamy."

Victor cupped Igor's chin in his hand.
"Your pupils are dilating," he said.
"There must be some narcotic effect.
Any hallucinations?"

"Don't think so," Igor murmured,
sinking deeper into the bed.
"Doesn't feel like the laudanum.
Just ... nice and cozy."

"That's good to hear," Victor said.

"Victor? My back doesn't hurt,"
Igor said, a note of confusion in his voice.

"Let me check it?" Victor said.
Igor nodded, so Victor reached over
and felt his way down the hump.
His fingers sank into the softened flesh.
"Amazing. Your muscles are so slack,
I can feel all the way down to the bones.
I could never get this deep before."

"Yeah, hurt too much," Igor said.
"Hardly feel you now. Find anything new?"

Something firm pressed against Victor's fingers.
"Bone spurs, here and here, at the worst spots,"
he reported. "No wonder your back hurts
most of the time, with those poking you."

"Ngh. That I can feel, when you press on them,"
Igor said, shifting in place. Victor let go.

Igor had nearly fallen asleep by the time
Csilla lifted her lips from his skin.
There was no bruising, just two neat slits
tucked close to the bend of his elbow,
already sealed and well on the way to healing.

Looking at the bite, Victor wondered if
vampire saliva had curative qualities too.
"Time to get up," he said with a pat on Igor's knee.

"G'way," Igor mumbled, pushing his hand off.
"Lemme sleep." He snuggled into Csilla.

Victor sighed. "I doubt I could carry him to bed.
Do you mind terribly if he shares with you?"

"Not at all," Csilla said. "I feel better now.
He's given me the strength to start healing.
You should get him an extra blanket, though.
He'll feel chilled from the blood loss."

"We'll have to shift him too," Victor said.
"He can't sleep on his back." Together
they managed to get Igor turned on his side
with Csilla curled against his back.
Victor draped a blanket over him.

Looking at them cuddled together,
Victor felt an unexpected pang of jealousy.

"You needn't envy me," Csilla said quietly.
"Even asleep, his heart turns toward you."

"I don't -- we're not --" Victor stammered.

"Lovers?" she said with a smile.
"Clearly -- and yet you still love.
Be grateful for it, and never doubt it."

Victor was no expert on emotions,
but Csilla seemed to know far more,
and so he took her word for it.
It made him feel better about
leaving Igor with her.

She was nowhere near recovered yet,
but at least she was stable for now,
despite the significant injuries.

Victor entertained churlish thoughts
toward Artúr as he made the first
set of notes for calculating the bill.

Then he went to check on Adam,
who was already sound asleep,
curled up in his crib.

It felt strange for Victor to sleep alone
after so long sharing a bed,
and his hand kept straying over
to Igor's side of the mattress,
the empty sheets a vacuous ache.

Finally he wrapped himself
around Igor's pillow and
managed to nod off that way.

* * *

Notes:

"Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself."
-- Mohsin Hamid

Read about Transylvanian fruits and flowers. Bilberries are similar to blueberries. Cornelian cherries are small sour red fruits, also known as cornels.

Wild medicines of Transylvania include guelder rose and wood betony.

Fireflies are known as licurici in Romania.

Vampires are known by many names and variations. Here you can see references from Romanian and Romani cultures. Strigoi include strigoi viu ("living strigoi") and strigoaică is the singular feminine form.

Ignorant peasants with torches and pitchforks are prevalent in classic horror, such as this scene from the 1931 Frankenstein.  Victor and Igor have been teaching the people in their village about rational thought, but some are learning faster than others and scared or angry people in large groups can be dangerous.

(These references are graphic.)
Defensive wounds are incurred by the victim while trying to fend off an attack. For instance, slashes on the palms come from blocking knife strikes aimed at the main body, while forearm fractures result from blocking heavy blows. Police training about domestic violence aids officers in identifying the predominant aggressor, partly by distinguishing offensive from defensive wounds. This is also useful for health care providers who may wind up treating the injuries sustained in domestic violence or sexual assault.

Vampire bats have sharp triangular teeth. I thought it would be interesting to go with this model, rather than the wolflike or snakelike fangs that are more commonly portrayed.

For the purposes of this series, the name Csilla is pronounced "SHILL-a."  ([personal profile] thnidu notes that a more common Hungarian pronunciation would be "CHILL-a" and I found various others too, just couldn't find my original link for the one I used.)

Bone spurs are small bumps that can accompany other types of back problem, including those that cause kyphosis or hunchback.

Jealousy is a possessive emotion that can wreck relationships if left unchecked. Know how to deal with it.

Another intriguing post

Date: 2014-08-22 12:42 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Victor needs to compare A with B, presence with absence, periodically. He doesn't see change as it is happening in his personal life (he doesn't really have the personality for it), but man, when something shifts the NEW balance, he notices immediately. Not bad, only different.

So, how long will it take her to heal?

Re: Another intriguing post

Date: 2014-08-22 02:20 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Innnnnnteresting take on vampires. So one doesn't *become* one, but one gets *empathy* from the bite... Hrrrrrmmmmm.....

Re: Another intriguing post

Date: 2014-08-22 04:22 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Let's hear it for connecting story-lines! Good one.

I like that she's using the inside of the elbow, just like the Red Cross vampires.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-22 05:03 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Interesting trivia: the name of the stone carnelian is derived from the Cornelian cherry, the fruit of which it is said to resemble. I can readily imagine that a river-tumbled pebble of the darker shades of carnelian would indeed look like a small cherry.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-09-15 06:59 am (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
"Csilla" is a Hungarian name, and it begins with an affricate - "chilla", not "shilla" - unless it's pronounced differently in Romanian. And since Romanian also has a /t͡ʃ/, I don't think it would be.

Re: Well...

Date: 2014-09-15 12:10 pm (UTC)
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio http://tinyurl.com/9q2gkko (Dr. Whomster)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

My first reference in the above comment is to Wiktionary (mobile site, but also of course the full site). It has both symbolic (/ˈt͡ʃilːɒ/) and audio pronunciations. The closest English approximation would be "CHILL-lah".

Edited (links) Date: 2014-09-15 04:54 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-08-22 10:56 am (UTC)
ext_74: Baron Samadai in cat form (Default)
From: [identity profile] siliconshaman.livejournal.com
Now that's how vampires are supposed to be written!

Thank you!

Date: 2014-08-22 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
That is an awesome compliment. *happydance* I'm glad you found this so satisfying.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-22 04:29 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I just love Victor here. Scolding the torches and pitchforks mob into behaving. It made me giggle.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-03-07 10:10 pm (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
I love that Victor isn't a *mad* scientist, he's just disappointed. Lol, I can imagine the way those pitchfork and torch people felt when he pointed out how ignorant and harmful they were being. He's a good guy, and go Igor for offering a blood transfusion (blood taken orally isn't exactly a transfusion, but still, very good of him.)

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