One could argue that the people of Bacaş county are not living but merely surviving. Their apartment blocks have been firebombed and gutted by ignoble, blood-hungry vampires; their countryside is marred by the presence of werewolves and corrupted fauna; and their villages and farms are occupied by hostile things resembling scarecrows that have been animated by dark occult magic. And then there are those who do not do even so much as survive.
For the people who still count themselves among the living, one must wonder what the value of life is when it entails eternal imprisonment within the confines of one’s own home, whatever or wherever that may be. Cucuvea, an owl-turned-human more ancient than the Third Age, has resided in the heart of an oak tree for the last five centuries protecting the binds she has placed on the immortal thralls of a being named Lilith. I’ve heard of this woman in my dreams; she professes to have many names, claims to be older than life itself, and takes great pleasure in inflicting pain on others. If that’s the case, she must be quite pleased with her work in this part of Romania.
There is also Hasdatean, a self-descriped wampyr who has taken up residence in Father Lucian’s church northwest of Harbabureşti. The vampires used to be a proud and noble people who occupied great estates in which guests were fêted and entertained and serially sampled by the fangs of a more discrete and refined breed of night-dwellers whose brief and gentle touch effected a sanguine caress that was pleasurable for the recipient. In contrast, these modern strigoi – Romanian for “ghosts” – are mindless brutes who murder and feed without thinking beyond their next meal. They keep the bodies of abducted villagers attached to metal poles and use them as “field rations” when their raiding parties come up short.
Ghosts, because they haunt this place. The nameless vampire hunter whose flames had ended the debased life of that tainted young boy told me that he’d been hunting vampires for quite some time. It’s all he did. He’d hunt me, too, if I didn’t atone for the sins of my society by going out and killing the ones he couldn’t. He knew his limitations – did I know mine? There was no rest for him, nor for Zaha, a young Romany woman who counts herself among the Draconists, a group that sees Dracula as a martyr who died to protect the old ways – the noble ways. The strigoi represent everything that she, Dracula, and the vampire hunter are against.
I wonder to myself whether one is alive at all when one’s days are spent fighting against things: creatures, ideologies, bondage. Is there no time at all to simply enjoy being alive?
Not here. Not now.