Old City – Braganza, Portugal – End of September, 1897
Suddenly, it was the light upon the vampire! Upon the door-latch being unlocked, and the lock being turned with a skeleton-key, suddenly, there came an immediate brilliance of light, shining with all of its force into the unprepared alley-way. That was the inside light—an additional luminous source came into view. A cast-iron lantern's light shone upon the unsuspecting stranger's face. In doing this, the facial features were instantaneously observable in a clear bright light. The face squinted its eyes in reaction to the sudden light.
The face was that of a young woman who showed a great astonishment, if not terror. Although it was a source of exuberance of attraction, the face of the young woman, due to the recent times, had begun to show signs of age brought on through the states of anxiety, day-to-day stress, and something else. Upon that face were etched secrets of the past. Upon that face were etched the sudden realization and comprehension of horror mingled ever so tortuously with outright terror. It was as if it was being hunted, stalked in the dark by a a fierce and unspeakable horror.
It was a haunted face.
Strands of wet hair were coiled and dangling on her face as the hood of the cloak sagged from the deluge of overwhelming moisture. Like a piece of paper held in the rain, it crumpled. The light in the alley-way flickered here there, as if it was performing a sacred dance, continuously. Along with the sound of the storm, there came a sound of metal clinking and clacking as raindrops fell on the cast-iron lantern. There was a hiss now and again as water met fire and hot metal. The eyes of the scared young woman shone luminously a pale yellow-orange in the light of the cast-iron lantern. The eyes wavered a bit before focusing on the task at hand. They followed observantly to the holder of the old lantern.
A face with a grizzled beard stared out at her anxiously and with a high sense of relief.
“GRACAS A DEUS! Thank God you're here!” whispered the man somberly in fluent Portuguese. The woman gave a cry and suddenly lurched forward. The two companions hugged one another in the spirit of reunion mingled with a patriotic strain of esprit de corps. There came a piteous sobbing from the young woman as she laid her wet head upon his chest for comfort. The face of the older man was startled by that sudden outburst of bottled-up emotion, the release of all the stressful tension that has been winding up like a loaded spring. The sobs continued with energetic vigor as wave after wave of tension was released like the heat of the day in the form of will-o'-the-wisps of the fog on this dark night. Up above another fiery silver streak lit up the background of the clouds, causing the clouds to perform a shadow-puppet performance. The eerie performance caused to eye the sky above with a superstitious aversion that had been handed down to him by his father, like his father had done before him. His eyes shone with a new courage as he pressed the young woman closer in the embrace.
“It will be alright...it will be alright...” At those very words, the young woman looked at her with an expression mixed with horror and terror. She attempted to speak but found that she had suddenly been struck dumb from the associated thoughts in her head. The very word—alright–the very word was a mockery to the existence to her safety—and she knew that! She knew that soon certain events would unfold...certain events that cause the town of Braganza to shudder with fear. Then again, if they did shudder with such a aversion of the haunted, it would not be uncommon.
Superstitions still had a iron-and-steel dominion in these parts.
The older man looked at her sympathetically before sighing heavily. He still held the iron-cast lantern in his right hand. The two were silent for what seemed like eons before the older man dared to cut the silence with the sharpened knife of soliloquy.
“You need to come inside, Maria. It is not good to stand in this chilly rain. You'll catch a bad case, if not pneumonia if you stay out here. Come inside, I say! Come inside at once!” Maria considered her options in the pouring rain. Streamlets of water ran down her face and dripped excessively off the few loose strands of hair that had not been matted down by the rain. Suddenly, she looked behind her, as if expecting some monster to pounce upon her from the shadows. She was a prey...by now, her state of mind was that of awaiting her encounter with her predator.
“I—I—” was all that Maria could manage to utter. The older man took a step forward which caused Maria to lurch backwards away from him. The man was taken aback. Was she mad? He had never seen her in such a condition as alarming as this. Something had happened—to her—but what?
“Maria, what is wrong?”
“I—I can't tell you...I'll be fine.”
“You are not fine! You are eyeing every shadow like someone is chasing you--” and as soon those words dropped from the man's lips, he knew. He realized the hidden terror. At that moment, a bright flash of lightning lit up the entirety of the alley-way, causing the black shadow behind Maria to come in few for a split second. The older man's eyes widen as they were smitten terror-stricken. It didn't take long for Maria to see the sudden change in the eyes. She instantly knew what had caused the terror in them.
Instantly, she hit from behind as an evil cackle rung in the alley-way. The last thing that Maria remembered seeing was the cast-iron lantern crashing upon the cobblestones and smashing into a million smithereens. The rustic fire was instantly inundated with the rain-fall and roared up with a brief fury before collapsing upon itself and erased out from worldly existence.
Her thoughts whirled around in her mind in a dystopic confusion common to those who were suffering under the throes of a heathenish nightmare. Her thoughts were as incoherent as that of a madman's, only they were worse somehow, yet she couldn't place her finger on how they were worse. They have a pseudo-stream-of-consciousness element in them that caused her to disorient herself in a suspense-induced euphoria. One moment she is thinking of one thing—the next moment she is thinking of something completely different. Her mental orientation was spinning liking a volatile navigator's compass surrounded by numerous magnets, confusing its polar and subpolar orientations. There were flashes of images, both past and present, pre-haunted and post-haunted, singular and plural, distinctive and unrecognizable, unique and common, bright and dark, and good and evil. The figure that walked in the mist of the night-dreams was a ghost itself, searing its image into Maria's brain. That was how she had become slowly infecting with the “ghost haunting virus'”. All of her life, she had wanted so badly not to believe that but now, in the late present, she could not ignore the fact that she was, for the first time, be forced to recognize her weakness and the ghost bluntly. She was doing to be forced to look right into the face of the monster—CURSE HIM!