God's Vampire and the Countess
I believed her to be a murderess, a thief of memories, and the greatest of all frauds. She would smile, but there would only be pain. She cared for the sick, but only felt hatred for them. She was a lost and faithless soul wandering the world without purpose or joy in her life. And yet, despite the evil I sensed in her, I believed she could be saved.
I couldn't sleep during the nearly four hour flight from Seattle to Anchorage. True, the pillow couldn't suffice for adequate comfort, but it was my excitement that kept me awake. I anxiously looked out the window, as the plane descended towards Ted Stevens International Airport. I could see an island in the distance, as the plane came closer to the airport. I took out my atlas I had with me, and found the island, Fire Island.
There were three islands with the name of Fire in the state of Alaska, but this one was the largest and most well-known. I didn't know it now, but I would be going to that island quite often. Seeing it for the first time, I didn't see much significance in it. It had neither apparent structures nor civilization, and it was a relatively small island at that.
The plane passed through the clouds, and landed without incident. I had been on a few fights before, but this was the first time flying alone. I was set to be a student at University of Alaska Anchorage. I wasn't sure about my major, but I had time to figure that out later. First, I would finish my general education requirements, and then worry about whether biology would be the major for me.
As the plane came to a stop, I waited patiently as the passengers in front of me grabbed their bags, and slowly exited. I was towards the back of the plane; I had a cheap ticket. When the time came, I took my backpack, and headed towards the front of the plane. I smiled politely at the stewardess, as she greeted me, and then proceeded into the airport.
I collected my two suitcases at the baggage claims, and made way over to the shuttle service. I had brought only two suitcases and a backpack with me. The rest I would buy locally once I found my apartment. I had reserved it a month in advance. All I would have to do is get myself over there, and get my set of keys. I lived alone at the moment, but I was planning to get a roommate to help with expenses.
The shuttle service directed me to where the shuttle vans would leave. I paid for my ticket, and waited patiently for the vans to arrive. I had left everything behind in Washington. I was no longer on speaking terms with my ex-girlfriend, and my friends had already left for colleges across the country. I would still keep contact with them by phone and Facebook.
I had accepted the University of Anchorage Alaska due to a college scholarship I had received. Even with the out of state tuition, I had most of my expenses covered. I intended to do well in sports once I got there in hopes that I could get another scholarship for that. I had considered the weather in Alaska, and wondered how my morning runs would be like. I wanted to be far from my past life, and start anew. Anchorage gave me that isolation I desired.
Thirty minutes later, I boarded the shuttle to downtown Anchorage. Once I got off, I put my suit cases down, and took out a map directing me to the apartment. My preparation for the cold was not in vain. Even in August, the temperature was in the low 50s. I wore a ski jacket and black gloves along with a wool cap. Usually, I would bring these clothes for snowboarding, but now they would be an everyday occurrence. I looked at my map, and was keenly aware that I looked like a tourist to the people walking by me. I soon found the address, and walked my way to my new home.
My muscles in my arms ached carrying the luggage around, as I came to the apartment. I came inside the apartment office, and dropped my suitcases. The woman at desk smiled at me pleasantly, as if she knew I was from out of state.
"How can I help you today?"
"I have an apartment reserved. Christopher Perry," I stuttered. The woman's Alaskan accent was thick, and took me a second to register.
"I will need to see your ID."
"Right," I said, and then fumbled for it in my jacket pocket. I took out my driver's license and a print out of my lease.
The receptionist took my ID, and then typed my name into the computer. "Yes, apartment number 226," she told me.
She proceeded to give me the keys to the room. "Let me walk you over to it," she offered.
I nodded appreciatively, and then took my ID back. I hurriedly put my gloves back on, and grabbed my bags. The receptionist led me to my apartment, and engaged in small talk with me. "Are you new to the area?" she asked.
"Yes, I am from Washington State," I told her.
She nodded, as if confirming her suspicions about me. "It's a little chilly here. Make sure you dress appropriately, or you'll freeze out here," she warned.
"I will take that under advisement," I promised.
She went up some stairs, and opened the apartment for me. I looked inside for the first time, and scanned the apartment. There was a small living room and a kitchen. I put my suitcases down, and toured the place. I checked out the bedroom, bathroom, closet, and then came back to the receptionist.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"Good. I have never had an apartment before, but it looks good," I replied.
She took out a small piece of a paper. "In case you see any damages, write them down on this, and turn it in within the week, or else you will get billed when your lease is up," the receptionist explained.
She handed me two keys, one for the apartment, and another for my room. "If you need anything just call the front desk. We have a repairman that can come out five days a week."
Once she had left, I looked over the apartment again, and considered where I would put the bed, couch, TV, and other items I planned to buy before school officially started. I took my cell phone out, and kicked myself for not calling my parents earlier. I reminded myself that the time zones were slightly different, and then called.
"Hi mom. I'm at the apartment. Everything is fine," I said.
"How was your flight?" my mother asked.
"Boring, there wasn't even a movie," I complained.
"Well, I'm happy you managed to find your apartment. Is it spacious enough?"
I looked around, and confirmed that it was so. "Yeah, you could fit two people in here."
"There's no need for another roommate. We've got you covered," my mother told me.
I knew that, but on the other hand, a roommate had its benefits like playing video games, watching movies, or even playing chess. "I know," I said finally.
"When does school start?"
"The 25th I think," I recalled.
"Make us proud."
"I will," I rolled my eyes.
"Sabrina looks up to you," my mother reminded me, my younger sister.
"I am sure she does," I doubted.
"Well, we're going to have dinner soon. Take care, and call me if you get into any trouble."
"I will," I said.
"Okay, love you."
"Love you too," I said lamely, and hung up the phone.
As I put my cell phone away, I became acutely aware that I was hungry. Putting my gloves back on, I went outside and made sure to lock the door behind me. I decided to explore the city a little before finally finding a Subway. Walking down town was considerably easier and more enjoyable without having to carry all of my baggage.
"I'll have a Spicy Italian," I told the young woman behind the counter, and then gave her directions, as to how I wanted the sandwich.
When she was finished, she brought out the total. "Are you by any chance a student at the university here?" I asked.
"Yes, I am a junior," she said.
"How is it?" I asked, as I took a twenty out of my pocket.
"You're a freshman aren't you," she accused with a smile.
"Guilty," I admitted.
"What I would do is join some clubs. They table every day. You going to join a Frat?"
"I am not sure," I said ignorantly.
"It's not for everyone, but it's something to look into. What's your major?"
"I am thinking biology or something to do with the environment, ecosystems," I said thoughtfully.
She nodded in agreement. "Do you want a drink and chips?"
"A small drink," I allowed.
I paid with my twenty, and got myself a root beer. The toasted sandwich warmed me up, and was quite filling. I was in decent physical condition I thought. After finishing the sandwich and drink, I considered my destination.
The University of Alaska Anchorage was a half mile away, and only took me 10 minutes to find it. Strolling into the student union, I found a few groups tabling. One of them came up to me with a clip board. "Are you registered to vote?" he asked me.
"I did it back home," I told him.
"If you've changed your residence you could register here," he said.
"Sure," I said appeasing him, and began filling out the form.
"Need any help?" he asked.
"I think I got it," I said, as I filled out the last section.
I gave him back the form. "Be sure to vote this November, this election is going to be important," he reminded me.
"Aren't they all?" I thought.
I went passed some of the tables, one was for the Model United Nations club, and another one was for a Sorority. A student government table was also present; the two people sitting there were passing out fliers for the next student council meeting.
I then found a table that interested me, a Catholic Church table. The table was being manned by two older looking students; the table had some brochures. "Hi, I'm new to the area, and I haven't joined a parish yet," I told them.
"Why don't you join St. Ann's Parish then? Are you a Catholic returning home?" one of them asked.
"Coming home?" I wondered.
"Like, returning back to the Church after an absence," he tried to explain.
"Oh, no, I have always been Catholic. I go to church every week."
"Cool. Here's a brochure showing you the directions, and the kinds of programs we're offering," he said giving me one.
I glanced at the brochure, and then put it in my pocket. "I'll be there," I told them, and then walked off.
I found a bike shop near the campus, and looked over the various bikes. Although some of the dirt bikes look impressive, I only needed a street bike that could get me from point A to point B. I found a cheap bike for $150, and rode back home.
I locked the bike at the bike rack, and walked back to my apartment. Entering the apartment, I set myself to work on my laptop. Since I didn't have a car, I would have to buy what I needed off the Internet. I found myself scanning websites for electronic and furniture stores. I inputted my address and credit card number, and then closed my laptop.
Opening one of my suit cases, I pulled out a black sleeping bag and pillow. This would have to do until my real bed was shipped to the apartment. After laying out the sleeping bag, I looked out the window. The sun was still fairly high in the sky. Whether it was the jet lag or the cold I couldn't say, but I was beat. I turned the heater on, and went to sleep.
I slept in Saturday morning, and realized with some dismay that the shower's hot water was limited. This would be a slacker day I realized. I updated my Facebook, surfed the web, downloaded movies, and played computer games. I also scanned random videos on Youtube. Sometime during the day, I went to a grocery store, and filled up the refrigerator and the freezer. In the afternoon, I gave my dad a call, and then explored the city with my bike.
On Sunday, I went to St. Anne's Church in downtown Anchorage, and arrived ten minutes before mass started at 8:30am. The Church was white and modern in design. There were some stained-glass windows, but it reminded me of a school. I locked my bike on the bike rack, and was greeted by the priest with a handshake. The inside of the Church was as modern as the outside. There were wooden pews made of light wood and a large crucifix at the end. It was a smaller church than the one in Washington, but I felt instantly at home.
I blessed myself, and decided to take a seat toward the back. I didn't want to bring too much attention to myself on my first visit. As I looked around, I saw a young woman in the back row to my side. She wore a black dress that went to her ankles and a black coat. She also wore black gloves and a scarf that covered her neck. She wore sunglasses that appeared to be prescription related. She was covered up so much that the only part of her I could see was her face.
I tried not to stare, but she seemed different from the others. There were talkative elderly woman chatting, parents struggling to keep control of their kids, and a few young people. This woman wasn't interacting with anyone, nor was she kneeling in prayer. She had long brown hair, and pale skin which was slightly paler than the average person. I wondered if being pale was an Alaskan trait from not having enough sunlight. Her lips were also pale; she hadn't used any make up.
I turned away from her, and picked up a prayer book. I read through the readings, and then stood as the mass began. When communion began, I took my place in the line, and realized that the woman in the back row was in front of me. I felt a chill go through my body, as I realized that the two of us were last in line. As the line processed, I felt a sense of dread. Had she seen me staring?
As the woman came closer to the priest, I realized she was still wearing her gloves. She formed an X with her arms, and came forward. The priest blessed her forehead, and let her pass. I regained my focus, and held up my hands to receive the host. When the mass was ended, the woman stayed behind, but was not kneeling in prayer. She seemed to concentrate on the crucifix at the altar.
I stepped outside, and talked with some of the parishioners about the weekly activities that went on. I was invited to be a sponsor for the RCIA. I said I would give the idea some thought; I wasn't sure what my Wednesday schedule would be. I approached my bike to go home when I saw her coming towards me.
"You rode your bike here?" she asked me.
I hadn't heard her voice before; it sounded mature, and the accent was a little different. I couldn't place it, but it was slightly different from the Alaskan accents I had come across.
"Yeah, I don't have the money to buy a car, so I ride my bike everywhere," I said conversationally.
"Where do you live?"
I told her the apartment complex, and a general location but not my apartment number. "That's more than three miles from here," she said.
"Yep," I replied, as I unlocked the lock around my bike.
"It's going to rain today. Let me give you a ride," she offered.
I looked up at the dark sky; she was probably right. "Will my bike fit?" I asked. I wasn't going to leave it behind.
"I own a truck. It will fit in the bed."
"That would be great. Thank you," I said appreciatively. "So, what's your name?" I asked.
"Anna," she said.
"My name's Chris," I introduced.
Anna nodded acknowledging my existence, and then walked over to her truck. I brought the bike over to her black Ford. She opened the bed of the truck, and assumed I would place the bike in it. I looked over at the large truck; it was different from what I would have expected. I had figured someone like Anna to be driving a small car, not a monster looking truck. I put the bike in the bed just as it began to rain.
I got into the passenger seat of the truck, as Anna started the engine. I noticed that she was still wearing gloves as she took hold of the steering wheel. "So…are you from around here?" I asked.
Anna pulled the truck out of the parking lot, and down the street. She turned on the radio which played soft classical music. "I have lived in Anchorage most of my life, but I was born in St. Petersburg," she said.
So, she was Russian; that was the accent I had detected. "I am from Washington State; a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage."
"As am I," Anna revealed.
"Really, what major?" I asked curiously.
Anna hesitated to answer. "I'm only taking classes for leisure: Japanese." I noticed a slight twitch, as she said "Japanese."
"That's cool. I was thinking of majoring in environmental science. There is a lot of parks and wildlife here."
"True," Anna confirmed.
"So, do you go to St. Ann's often?" I asked. It would be helpful if she knew more about the church.
"I have been to it a few times a year. I probably won't be there next week."
I had remembered that Anna had crossed herself; she must not be Catholic. "Why did you come if you're not Catholic?" I asked hoping I wasn't prying.
"My parents weren't very religious, I haven't been to a church in years," she said.
I wonder what she meant by years; she didn't look like she could be much older than me. "Why the change?"
She hesitated before responding. "Every faith seems incomplete to me when it comes to the universal question. Why we are here and what is our purpose in life? I want to feel this confidence, this love Christians talk about. I don't feel it."
There wasn't much I could say to that. "Don't you ever feel odd coincidences beyond your control? There was this one time when I broke my ankle while snowboarding. Then this guy came out of nowhere, and helped me back down the hill to the first-aid station. My dad wanted to give him something, but he refused and took off. I never saw him again."
"It looks like you had a guardian angel that day," she remarked.
"Yeah, I think so," I smiled.
"What about the bad times? When everything goes wrong?" she asked me.
"That's when we rely on God the most. Do you remember the tsunami that hit Indonesia?" I asked.
"Everyone, from all over the world came together to help people. Food, water, shelter, medical supplies; I think it was one of the most generous displays by people in a long time."
"So suffering and misery serves a purpose. It brings us together, and makes enemies friends. An interesting thought," she said with a hint of cynicism.
Ann drove up to the apartment complex and parked. "Thanks for the ride," I said thankfully.
Anna nodded, and then we both got out of the truck. "You live here?" she asked.
"Yeah, I have an apartment, a year-long lease," I said vaguely.
"Can I see it?"
It was an odd question, and it made me slightly uncomfortable. The apartment was still a mess from unpacking. "Sure," I said politely.
She walked slowly with me to the apartment like she was in no hurry, and then walked with me up the stairs to the apartment. It was hard for me to see her expression through her sunglasses, but she appeared to be studying the scenery.
I unlocked the door and went inside. "Can I come in?" she asked.
"Of course," I replied.
She stepped in, and then looked around the room. She jerked slightly, as I turned the lights on. She seemed to ignore the mess, as she took a tour of the place. "You just recently arrived here," she observed.
"Yeah, I came in last Friday. All yesterday I have been unpacking and shopping on my computer. Church has been the most exciting thing for me this whole weekend," I said trying not to sound lame.
"I see, since you don't have a car you order everything online," she realized.
"Right, so where do you live?" I asked.
"I own several houses in the area. My favorite is on Fire Island," she said.
"Oh cool, I thought the island was inhabitant," I recalled still blown away by the fact she owned so many houses. Her parents must be exceptionally rich.
"It is," she dodged.
"You must have a boat then. How are the waters?" I asked. I had heard the waters around here were rather rough and icy cold. So cold, a human wouldn't be able to last for a few minutes.
"Treacherous, but the island is only three miles from the shore, so I risk it," she smirked.
I smiled at that; I liked that adventurous attitude of hers. "Other than your boat, is there a way to get to the island?"
"There is a ferry for tourists. But you can call me, and I will bring you across."
"That would be great," I said, as I took out my cell phone out.
I plugged her number in, as she gave me the ten digits. "You ready for my number," I asked.
"My phone will have it when you call me," she said dismissively.
So, the ball was in my court then. "That works," I allowed.
"I should get going. Let me know what classes you're taking. There's a good chance I have taken the course before, and I take excellent notes."
"Sure thing," I said.
She turned to the door, hesitated as if she were thinking about something, and then left down the stairs. I watched her walk down the path towards the parking lot. Once she was out of sight, I took a seat at the table and assessed the situation.
If I could believe everything she had said she would have to be amazingly wealthy and smart. Where were her parents? I didn't want to ask too many personal questions, but I assumed they were dead. That would explain why she owns multiple houses, a large truck, and a boat. She must have inherited these things from her deceased parents. Still, other things didn't add up. She was taking college classes only to learn Japanese. Who did that?
The more I questioned her lifestyle the more intriguing she became. She had gone to the church even though she didn't believe. I had met my fair share of unbelievers. While some kept to themselves, others openly mocked the Church for being backward in a modern world.
As I thought about it, there were some definite benefits to being friends with her. That truck of hers could easily haul a new TV set or any piece of furniture. I also hated the idea of riding my bike in below freezing weather. I hadn't learned the bus routes yet; it was on my list of things to do. I then realized I was simply using her, and that wasn't what I wanted. It dawned on me that my apartment was the opposite direction of the coast where she would take off back to her island. Slightly unsettled, I opened a pot pie, and put it in the microwave.
The next day, I went to class for the first time, it was a general ed. class on environmental science. The class was short; the professor gave out a syllabus. I looked down the list of books I would have to buy. It wasn't bad, just one textbook. The class schedule was radically different from high school. There were five tests throughout the semester, and I had the option of throwing the worst grade out.
After class, I went to the bookstore, and charged the textbook to my student account. While inside the student union I found a table featuring a chess club. I had played a little chess before with my dad. "Can I join?" I asked knowing the answer would be yes.
"Sure, sign here," a blond woman said, motioning for me to sign a piece of paper on the table. I printed my name, email address, and telephone number. I realized with a start that Anna's name was also on the list.
"Do you happen to know Anna?" I asked curiously.
"Do we? She's our best player," the guy next to her said. "It's like she can read people's minds. She can't be beat."
I nodded impressed. "Well, maybe she can teach me a few pointers," I suggested.
"Good luck with that," the blond woman smirked.
"The first meeting is today at 5pm. Here's a flier," the other said giving me a flyer with times and locations.
"I'll be there," I promised.
I wasn't sure why I had become enthusiastic about a chess club. To join a chess club would have labeled someone an instant nerd at my old school, but with thousands of students, it didn't seem to matter what I did. I was one of thousands, insignificant. There were no noticeable cliques here, as there had been back in Washington.
A few hours later, and one more class finished, I found myself in a room filled with small tables. A few players were already present including Anna. She seemed bored, as she moved a chess piece. I walked over, and realized she was winning by a landslide against the rather hapless player.
Her opponent seemed uncertain, as he moved a chess piece hoping it wouldn't cause a checkmate. Anna gracefully selected her queen, and checkmated him. "Good game," he smiled offering his hand.
Anna politely shook her opponent's hand with her black gloved hand, and let him take off to another table where he would have better luck. Anna smirked, as she examined the board, the majority of her army remained intact.
"I didn't think we would meet again so soon," Anna smiled at me.
"Well, I played a little chess back in Washington, and then I saw your name on the list," I said truthfully.
"Well, so you know, you have no chance against me," she said.
"I know," I said.
"You know…," she repeated.
"I have a proposition for you. I'll do my best to defeat you, but you play to draw," I offered.
"A draw?" she questioned.
"Right, you play defense the whole time, so I don't take any of your pieces and you don't take any of mine," I explained.
"We could be here for a long time."
"I don't mind."
"I like your humility. You know your place before a chess master. I'll take black," she said, and began setting up her pieces.
Some of the other chess observers who were waiting their turns turned to see us begin our game. When the pieces were all set up, I moved a pawn forward. Anna moved her own pawn, and then stared at me, as if trying to read my next move.
"So, how was Japanese class?" I asked.
"The professor assigned a lot of reading material. We have to read 20 pages in Japanese, and write a one page paper on it," Anna said, as if it were nothing.
"That seems rather advanced," I said shocked.
"It's an upper division Japanese class. I passed the Japanese beginners test," she explained.
"I am fluent in a few languages, but I have been putting Japanese off for a while," she said.
"That's impressive," I expressed, and made another move.
"I have a lot of time on my hands."
I made another move with my knight hoping it would look clever. She lazily moved a piece foiling my perfect plan. "Classes were okay today, not too much work assigned. College is based a lot on tests," I observed.
"College isn't about learning, it's about discipline and performance. You learn on your own time," she said.
"I guess you're right," I allowed. "One of the topics was about Climate Change. What do you think?" I asked.
"It exists. I have been monitoring it," Anna said unconcerned.
I wondered how she was monitoring it. Did she have a weather station on her island too? "Are you concerned at all?" I asked.
"Not really, as long as my island isn't flooded," she sounded bored.
"Do you own the entire island?" I asked.
She gave me a mysterious look. "I have a claim on the land through an ancestor. The authorities don't bother me, and I don't bother them."
"You ever go fishing?" I asked, as I made another move with a rook.
Anna blocked my attack without even having to look at the board. "Certainly, but I prefer to hunt."
My eyes lit up at that. "What game?" I asked.
"Moose is my favorite but usually deer."
"Really, I bet they get pretty big here," I said, referring to the moose.
"Nothing I can't handle," she smiled.
"What kind of rifle do you use?" I asked.
"A 1769 Russian musket," she said, as if it were nothing.
I simply stared at her. "A musket?" I repeated.
"Hunters used to hunt with them centuries ago," she reminded me.
"I know, but isn't that hard? You have to get the gun powder out, and make sure it doesn't get wet. They're not terribly accurate," I said critically.
"That's the challenge. Of course, I could take down a moose with an automatic AK-47, but where would the sport be in that? I try to kill the animal with one shot, but if not I have to track it down for miles."
"Why not let it go?"
"I have to end the animal's suffering. Besides, I have to give my dog something fun to do."
"That sounds exciting. What kind of dog do you have?"
Anna considered me for a moment, and then made another move on the board. It's still moose season now. Why don't you join me sometime," she offered.
"I would love to, but I don't have a license for this state, and I don't have a rifle," I said disappointed.
"I will be the one shooting, and it's on my land. I own a cottage outside the city limits. There won't be any interference."
"How about this weekend?" I asked.
"I would like that."
The chess adviser came to our table, and looked at our board; it was still a draw with only four pawns destroyed since the game had begun. "It's been thirty minutes, and you haven't beaten him yet Anna," he said surprised.
"I am giving him some pointers. He won't learn if I checkmate him in three moves," Anna reasoned.
"Young man, you are playing against the best chess player this university has ever had," the chess adviser said proudly.
"I sure can't beat her defenses, but I'll try," I said with a determined smile.
"Not today Chris," Anna said, as she sacked my king.
We stood up, as two new players took over the table. "Thank you for not crushing me like a bug back there," I said gratefully.
"Don't mention it. I'll see you soon," she said, as she picked up her backpack, and turned away.
Author's Note: I appreciate any and all reviews, and in return I will be giving out constructive reviews to the stories of those who have assisted me by sending criticisms, compliments, observations, and comments on this story.