The village of Kallikrati in the region of Sphakia in Crete has a long history associated with revenants and the supernatural. Wild and untamed, the people possess psyches that resemble the trunks of Californian sequoia trees. Their gnarled branches tower into the heavens and seek communion with the divine, their roots on the other hand are submerged in the soil of the Underworld, in the prima materia of rustic behaviours, superstitions and malevolent or benevolent spirits of place.
A very old legend from Kallikrati speaks of a man, a village priest, who became a vampire upon death as a result of his excommunication from the Greek Orthodox Church for sleeping with the wives of married men. The priest’s closest friend, a simple shepherd boy, was of such a compassionate disposition that he continued tending to the priest’s sheep, cattle and goats after his entombment.
One fateful night, the shepherd was caught in a sudden downpour and sought refuge beneath a small proscenium arch that had been built over his friend’s sepulchre to commemorate his lifetime service to ecclesiastical matters. The incessant pitter-patter of the rain was hypnotising, and his lethargy was such that the rain merely hastened his return to the other side, the realm of dreams.
Sometime after midnight, he was awoken by a loud thud that came from a space directly beneath him.
“Get up you little shit,” said a deep, ghastly voice. “I need to come out.”
The shepherd didn’t respond, for he had become paralysed by fear. He couldn’t quite fathom how the priest who’d once blessed wine, anointed holy bread, sworn other priests into office and married couples had suddenly become a vampire. He turned over thoughts inside his head at a million miles per second; could the misfortune that had recently befallen Kallikrati be attributed to this demonic minion? Was it the dead priest who’d desecrated the church, killed innocent children as they meandered about the empty streets late at night and caused dogs to bark violently during the early hours of the morning?
The vampire pleaded to be let out, but the shepherd wouldn’t flinch. He wasn’t quite ready to encounter the unknown yet. He was completely, utterly terrified of the implications of letting such a beast out. It was a few minutes before the shepherd had mustered enough courage to facilitate a verbal confrontation.
“I’m not letting you out,” he cried, “for I know exactly what has become of you. The minute I let you out you’ll be all over me like a tonne of bricks, won’t you?” His voice wavered as his spoke. He sounded meek, submissive.
There was no response.
“But if I must get up,” the shepherd continued, “then you must swear by the powers that have kept you incorrupt that you will not harm me, or inflict any harm upon those who happen to cross your path. Do you promise?”
“Let me out,” the vampire growled.
“Only if you swear.”
“By the powers that bind you.”
“By the powers that bind me,” the vampire repeated.
The shepherd jumped off the grave. Within seconds the lid cracked and the two halves were thrown aside. A dark human shape proceeded to jump out of the pit. Contrary to what the young shepherd had heard about vampiric manifestations, the dead man that emerged didn’t appear to have fangs, protruding nails, talons or anything of the sort. Neither was his flesh in a state of decomposition. Quite the opposite actually. He was young, cheerful, swift-footed and as vibrant as a spring chicken.
“Don’t be scared,” the vampire told him.
“Tell me a good reason not to be,” the shepherd retorted. “You’re dead, aren’t you?”
“A condition we all embrace at some stage,” the vampire said. “Look, I have some business to attend to at the moment, but if you wait here I’ll have a little surprise for you upon my return.”
“Ok,” the shepherd agreed.
The vampire wasted little time in going about his mischief. He sought out and ruthlessly murdered a newly married couple, disembowelled them and returned to the grave a few hours before dawn carrying a loaf of bread and a ceramic jar which held the couple’s viscera. It looked as though his lips and the tips of his fingers were smeared with blood.
The poor shepherd watched in horror as the vampire thrust his hand into the vase and yanked out two livers. Within seconds the shepherd was overwhelmed by a pang of nausea. He tried hard not to gag.
“Have some,” the vampire said, offering half a piece to his new friend.
The shepherd didn’t dare reject the offer, for to do so would have evoked the vampire’s wrath. He reluctantly took the piece of liver. Then he waited until the vampire averted his gaze before dropping it inside the pocket of his shirt, grinding his jaws together as to give the impression that he was actually eating it.
“You know that you can never tell anybody about this, don’t you?” the vampire smiled. ‘Not a soul.”
“Because if you do,” he continued, “I will hunt you down and put a good twenty nails or so through your body and that of your children too.”
The shepherd nodded obediently.
When daybreak finally came, the shepherd sought the aid of the newly appointed village priest in extricating the village from the influence of this demonic entity. The priest was prompt to act, gathering the strongest men he could find and rushing them to the grave in question. When the men lifted the heavy tombstone they laid eyes upon a body that was neither dead nor decomposed; it was alive, merely in a state of suspended animation. Blood from the nocturnal meal had now dried around the vampire’s lips. Some was caked beneath his fingernails. Wasting no further time, the men cut up blocks of wood, hurled them into the pit and set them alight.
Although he was soundly asleep, the vampire knew he was being burnt. He unconsciously detected the presence of the man who’d betrayed him and spat in his direction. It took those present by surprise. Some of them screamed. The bloodied spittle hit the shepherd’s shoe, eating through the leather like sulphuric acid. For the remainder of the ritual, everybody watched from a distance. When the fire finally flickered out, the priest sifted through the pile of ashes in to ensure that dissolution was complete. There was no way that ashes and dust could re-member themselves into a body, and thus the villagers were safe again.
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, as they say, but even ashes and dust (and nails for that matter) have an uncanny way of reconstituting themselves and finding voice through someone else when you’re not looking, or when you least expect it.
I’m going to leave you today with some interesting vampire jokes.
What did the vampire say to his mummy at midnight?
“Mummy, turn off the switch. I’m afraid of the light!”
Why was Dracula not at his desk?
He was on a coffin break.
Why did the vampire’s lunch give him heartburn?
It was a stake sandwich.
Why does Dracula consider himself a good artist?
Because he likes to draw blood.
How are false teeth like stars?
They come out at night.