"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

"The only joy in the world is to begin...." Cesare Pavese

Saturday, November 30, 2019

X for Demetrious (2011) by Steve Duffy

"X for Demetrious" (2011) by Steve Duffy is the story of Eastern European immigrant Demetrious Myiciura, his life and death. It is also a riff on ways in which fear of vampires robs victims of life and sanity as surely as vampiric activity itself.

Duffy spares no punches in portraying Myiciura's mental and physical disintegration:

....The bottles and jars he arranges around the room, the cloudy piss mixed with salt for the virtue in it. The last time his bowels moved, he took the shriveled sordes and crushed them up with garlic, for the windowsill. See, here: this is Myiciura, and he is protected, yes, he knows wherein lies true magic and real influence. Baseness raised to power and made sound. Oupire, tread not in this house.

....He held the candle high above the cot, saying, "Papa, it's morning, how are you." His father's eyes—black as raisins in the kneaded dough of his face—followed the light. "Papa," Demetrious said, "papa," and then he saw it, the fear deep down in those staring eyes. Incomprehensible, never before seen or dreamed of, yet now overmastering. How long had his father been lying there in the dark while the rest of the family slept, struggling with a terror that could not be held in check?

In this instant Demetrious learned a great lesson: that there is dread at the heart of all things, that fear comes to all men at the end and reclaims them for its own. Birthed in blood and chaos, we struggle a little while till inexorably we are undone, and horror waits panting at both ends of existence. He opened his mouth, wanting to ask his father what he saw in the wavering candle flame, but the words would not come. Instead he watched, fascinated and aghast at the same time, while the old man took one ragged sucking breath, and then another. He waited a long time for the next breath to come, and somewhere in that everlasting interval, he realized that his father was dead.

....In the course of the war, nearly all the Jewish vampires disappeared, rounded up at dawn, when their powers were waning, and taken away by the soldiers. Myiciura watched in bleak satisfaction from his window as the trucks drove away in the thick mist of morning, leaving behind empty houses, suitcases scattered on the cobblestones, a vivid splash of lifeblood up against a wall. Taken to where? "Up the chimney," everyone said, then changed the subject, as if they feared being overheard. Again, this made sense to Myiciura: fire, you see, father of true iron, the sacred principle behind it all. The rushing force of God's breath drawn through the furnace, to rid the world of all contagion. For a while, Myiciura slept more easily….

But history seems in the end to be on the side of the vampires, and Myiciura dies in a rented room, in a nest of his own fear and filth.

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30 November 2019

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