1 – The old cemetery

I am Otto. Okay, officially I am Ottomar van Breekelenburgh-Hoofmeyer, but most people think that’s too long. So do I, by the way, but that’s the family I was born into.

Let’s try this again. I’m Otto. Otto van Bree. And I have a problem. My problem is that I’m allergic to blood. You’d think that is an easy thing to get over but when you’re a vampire, that shines a new light on it, doesn’t it? It’s like a living person being allergic to food. Food is survival, and not eating is… putting a different spin on life. Sure, I’m not bothered by dying because I’m already dead. I did mention something about a vampire, didn’t I? That’s me, and also that’s why I am here and now where I’m originally from.

I belong in the 17th century. That’s where everything started. That’s where I was born as the child of normal people and that’s where I grew up. That is where I learnt to read and write, because my parents were doing pretty well, and that’s where I fell in love for the first time. And bitten. No, the biting wasn’t part of the first love; she wasn’t a vampire.

You know… the weird thing is that I had just spent an evening visiting her and her family when it happened. It had been a wonderful evening. Annegien and I sat next to each other and sometimes we even held hands. Now I can hear you think: is that a fun evening with your sweetheart? Let me tell you that things were very different from the twenty-first century, but of course, you young ones wouldn’t know about that. Annegien’s parents trusted me because they knew and trusted my family. The Van Breekelenburgh-Hoofmeyer family was well respected and that gave me certain privileges. Like holding Annegien’s hand at her home. You can’t hear me sigh but I could have had a wonderful life with her.

Unfortunately, on that blasted evening, after saying goodbye, things went wrong. I was somewhat inebriated by the powerful port her father liked to pour and so I forgot the warning not to go home using the old cemetery as a shortcut. It was rumoured that it wasn’t a safe place, but with a drunk head from the port and a drunk heart from being with Annegien I was too stupid and chose the shortest route. That was how I discovered that the old cemetery was indeed not safe. “An unsafe place full of lowlifes,” was said, but I didn’t care.

At first it was just difficult to navigate the cemetery, because during the day almost no one was there either, so all the trails were hardly maintained. Everywhere there were branches and twigs, and in many places there were bits and pieces of the bad life, left behind by robbers and other unpleasant folk. I had fallen several times already, and the port in my veins made getting up harder and harder.

The first notion something was really wrong at the cemetery came to me when I smelled the stench. That was around me everywhere and in the dark I couldn’t find my way. I had a fancy dagger with me but that would be worthless in a fight. Still I held it in my hand. I had used it to chase off madmen and drunkards before so I hoped I could do the same here. Nothing was further from the truth, though.

Something rushed past me. I sensed it more than I could see it. I already mentioned it was dark. The creature slapped the dagger from my hand and broke two of my fingers as it did so. I still think that my screams of pain were heard in the centre of the town. Indeed, not safe.

Then something hit me from behind and I fell down in the dirt. I realised my life was about to end when I noticed three shapes approaching me. One of them knelt down on my back. The smell of cheap, red wine was disgusting. The second shape grabbed both my arms and twisted them behind my back. The third one knelt next to me.

“Ye should not have come here, weakling,” the voice said. The man spoke Dutch with a foreign accent. “Ye know this place, right? But ye’re lucky, we’ll let you go. Not now, not like that. But when all is done.” It made no sense at all.

“Get off me,” was all I could say before I got a whack in the head that made me see all kinds of new stars. I am glad I never saw those again, truth be told. The last thing I remember after that was a short, burning pain in my neck, after which I fell asleep. At least, that is what I thought then.

The odd thing was that I woke up without a headache. The port from the cellars in Annegien’s house was usually headache-inducing so this was a very strange experience. The next strange experience was that the ceiling looked like rough, wooden planks.

“He is awake,” I heard someone say in an odd accent. I had heard that before. Then I remembered. The night before, at the cemetery. I tried to sit up and got halfway. Then I got nauseous and fell back on the hard mattress, which had to be a sack of straw. The next moment I felt a hand beneath my head. I looked up again and saw the face of a young woman, about my age. She was filthy and she had big, dark eyes in a pale face.

“Here. Sit and drink. Or you will perish,” she said. I was shocked. She helped me sit up and held a bowl in front of me. I drank.

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