history lesson-


by Jennifer-Oksana

Brasil pulses at night with life. The heat, the fertility of the soil, the fertility of everything seems to breed this living. And I had come here, to Rio de Janeiro, for precisely this reason. I craved life, I craved the warmth and moisture and beauty that blossomed here in every cell of every weed that grew in the dirt of the slums where the ignorant North-eastern peasants huddled together against a hideous monster who stalked the night.

"Senhor!" my landlady called before I went for my customary dinner out upon the town. "Senhor, you must be careful before going out tonight. Senhora Bautista, the little one with the beautiful eyes, she has disappeared, like all of the others they have found. And you know, Senhor, that Senhora Bautista lives just around the corner from here."

I did indeed know this, and knew that Senhora Bautista (who was hardly a senhora, being only twenty and having four children all with the surname of de Jesus) must have been desperate to venture onto the streets of Rio at night with this creature about. She had had beautiful eyes, this is of a certainty true. Despite being coarse and poor and illiterate, her eyes had been a liquid black color, like the cafezinho poured in better parts of the city.

"Senhora," I said with a smile. "I will be careful."

"Do you have a cross? Or the Bible? They say the beast is a devil, sent by Satan himself to feed upon us and that those are the only things that will repel him," my landlady said, clutching her black-bead rosary in her right hand. Its crucifix was made of plastic metal, and the face of Christ upon it was particularly gauche. I could scarcely bear to look upon it for the lack of artistry as much as its content.

"I know how to evade such beasts as these, senhora," I said. "Beware inviting stranger into your house, especially foreigners. It is said that devils such as these must be invited in."

Her eyes widened and her grip upon the rosary tightened.

"Thank you, senhor," she said. "I won't let anyone in."

I smiled again. "You are welcome, senhora," I said, taking her hand in mine. "Your hospitality has been exquisite."

"Be careful," she said, releasing my hand.

"Of course," I replied, walking away into the city night.

There had been too many deaths in the neighborhood lately. Ignorant, starving North-easterners or not, one could not ignore that one or two or even three of them a night had been disappearing, either never to be seen again or to be found lying in a nearby lot, drained of blood. No one was out on the streets except for me and I could feel the eyes of the people as they gazed from their windows, lit only by the glow of their televisions. I would have to go outside of the neighborhood for my dinner tonight, find a place with less suspecting residents, perhaps even give up my cozy if threadbare residence with my devout old landlady.

My best chance would be to go to one of the affluent quarters of Rio and find a streetwalker to take somewhere. They like the North-easterners were easily ignored by the government, written off as unfortunate victims of a strange animal attack or perhaps a strange new cult. One could hardly suspect a young Argentinean such as myself of such things. I was a writer and a political commentator afraid of disappearing, of a good family and reportedly, some fame. My poverty was unfortunate, but hardly criminal.

The story firmly in the foreground of my mind, I smiled and headed toward the noisier, whiter parts of town where Americans and rich Brasilians lived like kings. Behind me, the suspicious vermin that crowd this country sent their prayers to Nossa Senhora that I would not return.

I laughed. Peasants. Argentine or Brasilian or Mexican, they were all the same, fearful and aware of the realities of the world, if not the proper way to resolve them. I had been recently in too many houses where the Savior's crucifix was wreathed with garlic, knowing that this would not stop me. Even my warning to my landlady was too late to be effective unless someone told her the way to disinvite me from the house.

And someone was most certainly in town. Ever since I'd come across that vampire king in Buenos Aires with my former charge, the Council had been attempting to locate me, Senhor Juan-Domingo de M., former employee of their pathetic band of Anglo Westerners. As for the girl herself, I was certain Magarida was as dead as my soul, perhaps being comforted by Nossa Senhora for her failure to her Watcher and her people and herself.

Magarida's face momentarily drifted through my memory, with her dark, rather Indian features, complete with those stereotypical white teeth, smiling at me. Her long hair (her mother, the bane of my existence, had refused to allow Magarida to cut it to a sane length) was braided and pinned up as though the year were 1873 and not 1973. What year was it now? 1974? 1975? I didn't know. I didn't care. In fact, let Magarida rot in hell as her flesh must certainly rot in the grave. I was done with her and her Slaying.

I had found a life much, much more enjoyable than the dusty books and reports I had made to those imperialist dogs in Britain. Now that my Slayer was dead and my life as Watcher was over, I had no allegiance to them whatsoever.

But I could still feel them, following about like ghosts. Watching, never doing, simply taking notes about Senhor Juan-Domingo, the former Watcher, the current vampire, Magarida's confidante and possible lover. Were I ever to be caught by the Council, I was certain they'd pay more attention to my illicit liaison with the girl than her incredible failure at the hands of Luis Rey, the self-titled vampire king of Argentina. They would not ask me about my anguish as Magarida fell beneath the waves of vampires Luis Rey unleashed upon us, about the delicious pain of being taken under the fangs of the king himself, or of tasting the sweet blood. No. These things would never interest the Puritan Anglos. Their interest was in the obviously prurient.

The fact that I had truly loved Magarida, that I had only been twenty-three when I'd first met her, and she sixteen, that our partnership had lasted nearly five years before Luis Rey's trap--this would concern them little. They were cowardly cães, dusty dry creatures of a world more delicate and rarefied than the page of an ancient manuscript.

A woman passed by, a thin blonde tourist who aroused no interest in me. She looked over and for a moment, I swore she was not what she seemed. Her features took on quite a different cast--but she looked away before I could ascertain this.

"When did you start thinking in Brasilian, o minho João?" Magarida's voice asked me mockingly. "My love, my João, my Argentino--it's later than you think."

I started, immediately suspecting the tourista, but she had scurried along, probably hoping to find a cab. I put Magarida's voice out of my mind, chalking it up to thinking too much of her recently.

Determined to feast, I headed toward the ruas and avenidas of Copa, looking for a fat prostituta with blood to spare. I was ravenous. I wanted to feed, to taste the flavor of one gorged on the overprocessed Western fare, one whose complacent acceptance of the imperialist system would cause her to open her legs and her veins to greedy predators like me.

Around me and before me and behind me, the world teemed with life and food. I could smell their sweat and blood, the mammalian stink of humanity, and I felt superior. All of these edible things, waiting to flow into my mouth like rivers of wine.

If only Magarida had been with me. I imagined her changed as I had been changed, the way her eyes would flash when she settled on a suitable taste of man, the way her skin would have taken on an unholy sheen after feeding--and I wished for her.

"I've been here," someone with her voice whispered in my ear with warm breath that even smelled like my lost lover's. I spun around to catch the culprit and saw only a red-headed prostituta, who leered at me and said in a different voice, "Senhor, are you looking for a good time?"

"Magarida!" I called. "Magarida, is that you?"

"If you want," the prostituta replied. I shoved her away with disdain--certainly not with a stringy creature like that--and looked over the whole square, searching for the source of that smell. But there was nothing and I again attributed it to my recent melancholy remembrances and my anxieties of being caught by the Council.

I put Magarida out of my mind and continued my hunt.

I saw the girl before she saw me, mostly African, all curve, not particularly beautiful. Her body rose and fell with her breathing and I could imagine gorging on the blood that she would give me after our first transaction. I had learned in Buenos Aires. No street girl trusts a john who wants to stop before the intercourse. Vampires the world over have fed on whores for too many years for them not to wonder, not to consider otherwise.

Besides, I craved the perversity of it, to feel her rut beneath me, pinned in ecstasy (or a believable semblance) like so much meat. A woman in the midst of an orgasm is the easiest to feed upon in any case and the blood tastes strange and thick.

As I walked toward my dinner, I felt something cold draw across my back, felt the watching again. I spun around, looking for the too-neat suits, the pale faces, the too-studied indifference. In the crowds, I saw no one, but I knew. I knew they were near.

"Go away," I murmured. "Deixai, parti, you'll never catch me."

"Even me?" asked Magarida impudently. She was always impudent. It was why I'd fallen in love with her.

"Especially you," I told Magarida. "You're long dead."

For the third time, I left her ghost behind and walked up to the woman in her overblown plumage. She smiled at me, revealing perfect teeth.

"How much for a little fun?" I asked, taking her hand in mine and kissing it. I could feel the blood pulsing underneath the skin as warm and sweet as fine wine. She murmured her price and I slid it into her pocket.

She led me into a shanty off the alley with not even a television to keep her company. I managed not to laugh with delight. No one would suspect a thing and I would be well fed tonight.

We undressed silently, the girl easing herself onto the bed awkwardly and arranging herself in a pose of overblown seduction.

"Come here," she said. I obeyed and climbed on the bed and atop her, as it was not a very large bed.

"You're lovely," I told her, kissing her on the cheek. She wasn't, but it was easier to pretend awkwardness and coax her into unwariness that way.

"Am I?" a familiar voice asked me. "You're the only one who says so."

I pulled away and couldn't believe the sight I saw.

"Maga--" I murmured, unable to deny her any further. She was as much there as I was, after all.

Magarida's face seemed superimposed on the whore's, and I blinked away something that felt like tears as she wrapped me in her embrace, which I willingly accepted. If only she hadn't died. This should never have come to be. But some things, it appears, must be.

"Juan," she whispered. "Mi Juan, meu João."

"Magarida, minha amor," I replied, stroking the arm of the girl. "But you're dead."

"And so are you."

I smiled, enjoying the particular irony of that statement. Magarida had grown a strange sense of humor since her death. We both had.

"Did they bring you back to hunt me, love?" I asked, caressing her breast with my fingernails. The prostituta--or perhaps Magarida--arched her back beneath me. "Or have you been seeking me on your own?"

Magarida's borrowed mouth met mine in a wet and passionate kiss as I stroked her exposed breast and side. She was so warm that I lost myself for a moment and forgot that I wanted to use this body for food, not sex. Instead I petted it and kissed it as if it had been Magarida's, arousing all the old and desperate passions.

"Perhaps one, perhaps the other," she whispered, nibbling on my earlobe. "Time passes strangely for the dead. Don't you agree?"

"Si, minha aparição," I replied, feeling her body shift beneath me. "Has it been so long?"

"The Anglos told me eight years since Luis Rey," she replied. I felt a dull thud in my veins. Eight years? Had it really been so long?

"I don't keep track, love," I replied, pressing my hips into hers. "Will you?"

"Si," she replied. "Why not? There's time enough for the rest."

Refusing to ask or wonder what she meant, I pushed inside of her. There would be time to ask later. For now, it was enough to have my Magarida back with me. We made love slowly, almost delicately, and I was surprised how warm and human I felt in her arms.

She kissed me afterwards with tears in her eyes as I lay in her arms, trying to find a way in my mind to bring her back to me forever.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Are you feeling all right? Does it hurt to be in someone else's body?"

"It's not that," Magarida replied. "It's just that I missed you."

I kissed her gently. "I missed you, too. More than I thought I did," I said. "But don't worry, love. We'll find a way now, to be together. I won't lose you again."

She reached over and touched me with her borrowed hand.

"Desculpa-me," she said. "Meu amor, meu João, desculpa-me, for not saving you before."

"You're forgiven, love," I said. "Come back to me. I'll turn this one--or a prettier one, you should be prettier. We'll be together again, minha Magarida."

She kissed my forehead.

"Desculpa-me," she whispered again. "Desculpa-me."

Before I could reply, I felt the stake slide between my ribs, into the dead, cold tissue to explode my broken heart. Betrayed once more by my Magarida. My death was quick and clean and before my brain could register it, I was dust upon a dark girl's body.