Two Sides of the Same Coin
I can barely remember much more than four or five days before I was embraced. I don't even remember my own last name. But since that day, my memory has held vivid images captive. Some good, most bad.
I remember painting for three days straight without sleeping and barely eating. It was late April and I had unsuccessfully solicited my work to local galleries around New York. Apparently it was too dark for what they were looking for. How was I supposed to deny my muse and paint happy scenes? That's not important. My muse was acting up and I had finished the third layer of a painting when I stopped to breathe. I turned around to go get a glass of water and found a man sitting in the huge armchair by the window. He had this excited grin on his face. Kind of unnerving now that I think back on it. "I love your work," he said. Before I could open my mouth, he had already taken my hand, kissed it and sat me down on the couch. "My name is Maximilian Desidarius. I am a patron of the arts so to speak. I, like you, am a painter. I would like to help you improve your gift."
"Wha... huh... how did you?"
"I've been watching you for weeks. I was considering killing you, but your work enchanted me so. And now, I find it behooves me to help you. That is, if you want my help?"
He began to explain everything. Kindred, living forever, making me a vampire, everything. I stared at the corner and started to cry. This completely confused him. But it was all so frustrating. Here I was, a poor, single woman, living alone, pursuing an impossible dream and this falls in my lap. Eternal life. But more importantly an audience for my work. He said I could have time to think about it, but in my mind, there was nothing to discuss. It was more than I could have dreamed.
"I'd just like you to be aware, there may be some mild discomfort." With that, he took me in his arms and emptied my veins and replenished them with some of his own blood. "Mild discomfort" is an understatement. As I died, unearthly screams emanated from my vocal chords. Max had to hold his hand over my mouth so it would not rouse the neighbors. My body thoroughly exhausted, I slept for five days. When I awoke, I was hungry.
Max and I stayed together more than 30 years. In the beginning, I was the student and he was the teacher. I honed my skill and he showed me around to local galleries and introduced me to other masters who helped me improve as well. It was during war times, so there were several artists from around Europe who fled for their safety.
Things started out really well. He would tell me something about my work, I would improve it, he would smile, and life would go on. My work was and still is very surreal. He liked this aspect and told me that he could see very deeply into my soul when he looked at my paintings. Eventually, I think, he began to see into his own soul through them and I don't think he liked what he saw. He would get angry with me and tell me it was all wrong. I'd get home and find half of my canvases slashed and Max cowering in a corner. It was frightening to watch his degeneration from a talented artist into a mad man. As a result of his constant criticism, I am never satisfied with what I do. I'm constantly reworking and recreating the same idea over and over again.
What I remember most about our time together and definitely not fondly, were the arguments. We fought constantly. He would hover over me while I worked and mutter and make comments, causing me to make mistakes. When I'd make the mistakes, he'd get angry. I'd blame him for causing me to make the mistakes and we'd argue about that and bring up old arguments long since dead. It would always degenerate into one of us, usually me, storming off and slamming doors. Max would come in apologize and it would be better. But the next night the whole cycle began again. As a result, I spent less and less time in my studio working and more time wandering the streets looking for other material. Max would worry. I even caught him following me once or twice. As retaliation, he would disappear for days. We constantly threatened to leave each other but we both knew, at that point, we'd be miserable if we parted. A bizarre love-hate relationship, at best.
Gradually it regressed to a pure and simple hate relationship. I had drawn the sketches for a series of portraits I was about to do. When I was prepared to make them, I couldn't find them anywhere. I asked him if he had seen them. He just sat quietly in his chair by the fire reading the newspaper. It dawned on me and I screamed, "Why!? Goddamn you!? Why!" I lunged for the fire to try and retrieve them but he jumped out of his chair to restrain me.
"They were not worthy of paint. You can do so much more than that. Why would you even think of lowering your standards to that? It is for the best. I'm doing what's best for you."
I cried struggling in his arms, punching his chest with all my strength, little as it was. "AAAGH!" I screamed, "You are not my keeper! You are not my muse! You don't know anything about me!" I broke free of his embrace and punched him square in the jaw. I felt like I was ten but it was how I felt. I felt small and violated. I ran out into the solace of the night. I expected him to follow after me, but he didn't. Probably knew if he did, I'd cut his hands off with a rusty razor blade. Or die trying. He had gone too far. He'd destroyed my art one too many times.
When I returned, he was waiting for me, walking stick in hand. The minute I walked in the door, Max swept behind my legs, bringing me to my knees.
"Don't you ever speak to me like that!"
WHAK! To the back, forcing me to the floor.
"I made you who you are!"
WHAK! To the hands, breaking three of the fingers on my right hand and two on my left.
"You are nothing without me!"
WHAK! To parts of my curling body, rolling into a ball.
I endured the beating, curled up in a protective little ball. I kept telling myself that what he was saying wasn't true. But the little demons of doubt kept prancing inside my head taunting me. What if he is right?
"NOOOOO!" My eyes glazed over, my fangs were bared and I went for his throat with my nails. I clawed at his eyes, and kicked him in the chest. He tried to deflect my kicks with his stick but with one kick, I broke it in two. He retreated, the fight at a draw.
"Get out," I whispered, pointing to the door with my broken hand. Air wheezing in and out of my exhausted lungs.
"I'll be watching you. You can't get away from me. One day, I'll find you again."
"Get out." He left and I fell to the floor, a crumpled mass of defeated flesh. Soon after the incident I found a shady spot in the wilderness where no one would find me and went to sleep for the next 50 years.
Since my embrace, I have been plagued with nightmares. I remember on several occasions waking up screaming with Max shaking me awake.
Since my embrace, I have been blessed with nightmares. I would wake up screaming and frightened but when I painted what I saw, my work had more truth and substance. Any paintings of mine that are not based on a dream or nightmare, looks awful and soulless to me. The nightmares give me subject matter and painting them gives me solace. I am able to come to terms with my fears. Almost. My fears are great and simple paintings cannot ease them completely. A few people have tried to help but have failed miserably. It frustrated them that I wouldn't let anyone in to help and felt there was nothing to help really. I would paint, feel better and move on. There was nothing to talk about.
My most vivid and captivating nightmares came during the week I slept after my embrace. Three-headed monsters and slimy creepy crawling things everywhere. Usual nightmare stuff. But what scared me the most were the eyes and faces of the monsters. It's hard to explain, but the only emotion I feel when recalling them is terror, pure unadulterated terror. Eyes fascinate me; they are windows to the soul. By looking in a person's eyes, you can uncover their innermost terrors, fears, dreams, and weaknesses. Some kindred have the ability to hide their true feelings from others but their eyes will betray them every time. I often wonder what people see when they look into my eyes? Can they see the pain? The terror? The memories?
Memories? What are my memories? I can't remember anything from my mortal life. I can't remember my family, if I had a family, where I'm from, my last name for chrissakes. WHO AM I!?
I was a painter of a very high calibre. About 250 years into my vampiric existence, my gift left me. I sought out a childe to live my dreams through. I sought out for one who would make me famous or at the very least give me the same thrills of creating I couldn't muster any longer. What I found was Sara. I was enchanted by the darkness of her work and the rawness in her style. She was the one. Or I thought she was. I embraced her and took her under my wing. I taught her everything I knew and when that ran out, I took her to others so she could learn more. In this way, she blossomed and I was happy. For some reason that I don't understand, she doesn't remember who she was before I embraced her. I know, but am not about to tell her. Her mortal life has passed. What could she possibly gain from knowing the truth? It's not who she is now, there's nothing she can do with that information.
Unfortunately, Sara got a little cocky. I tried to keep her from veering off in artistic directions she didn't want to go in, but she didn't listen. She started making mistakes, then she'd have the audacity to blame me for her mistakes. As punishment, I would destroy the works that were not worthy of paint. It all came to a head in August of 1935. She had done up a few sketches for a dreadful series of works. I destroyed them. They were not worthy of paint and I told her as much. She screamed at me, blaming me for various things and whatnots. Me! Her sire, she screamed at me? This would not do. I could not have my childe disrespecting me and all that I had given her. Everything I did, I had done for her, and this is how she was repaying me? Of course, I beat her for her insolence. Amongst other things, I broke her hands. She would learn not to speak to me that way again. She fought me off, broke my weapon and ordered me to leave. I left but never stayed very far away. I watched her for the next couple of days. Watched as she packed up her things and went away to be in torpor. While she was out, I carried on with other business.
A few years back, her idiot brother Stephen came looking for her. The neonate practically demanded I tell him where she was. Foolish child. I will watch him however; he may find her before I do. And then I will see my dear Sara again. No one has ever stood up to her beauty, talent and potential. I have embraced others, but they were all so careless and stupid. They either got themselves killed or I did the job myself. No, no, Sara was the one. I will find her.
Two Sides of the Same Coin © 2001 by Jessica Robinson. Reproduction of any part without permission is strictly prohibited.