Previous installments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
“Doktor Muething,” Willem said. His skin tingled; he felt cold all over. “You missed a variable.”
“What?” Doktor Muething said, in the listless tone of someone not really listening.
“Listen to me!” Willem grabbed the Doktor’s arm. “Uncle Gunther wrote that vampirism is balance. Life and death together. But there are other opposites that can be in balance, aren’t there? You never switched the vials!”
Doktor Muething stared at Willem, and then at the dead girl on the ground. Finally the light of realization formed in his eyes as well. “I only injected the men with blood from the male vampire....”
“And the women with that of the woman vampire! But the most reliable accounts in all your research are those of male vampires turning women, and woman vampires turning men. Vampirism isn’t just a balance of life and death; it is a balance of male and female.”
The Doktor glanced at the young woman’s body, and then turned back to Willem. “Get a syringe,” he said.
Willem sprang away and into the laboratory, where he quickly found a syringe and filled it with the very last of the blood from the male vampire. Then he ran back outside, to where Doktor Muething knelt beside the young woman’s body. Sirens and klaxons began to blare.
“Air raid,” the Doktor said. “Perhaps being out here isn’t the best idea.” There were explosions in the distance, but they were still much nearer than they had been in recent days. The Allies were coming. The Doktor lifted the woman’s arm and tapped it, looking for a vein. “And these are hardly the correct conditions...Here, I have a vein.”
Willem slid the needle in and depressed the plunger, sending male vampire blood into the young woman’s body. The Doktor then kneeled over her and began chest compressions.
“Masculine and feminine,” the Doktor said, shaking his head. “I must be blind.” He continued the compressions, forcing the vampire blood through the woman’s body.
“Get out of the street!” a soldier shouted from the sidecar of a motorcycle that rumbled past. Willem and the Doktor ignored him, for the transformation had begun.
It was less violent than the previous two. The dead woman began to slowly writhe and moan. Her flesh filled in and took on an appearance of health. The gaping wound in her back healed as though it had never been there at all. Her hair, roughly shorn by the impersonal barbers of the Reich, became long again and more lustrous. Then her eyes opened. They glowed with a pale, green light. Willem and Doktor Muething moved back as the woman climbed to her feet. She was unsteady in her stance, and her eyes flicked around nervously.
“My God, it is so beautiful.” There were tears in the Doktor’s eyes.
“What do we do now?”
“She is weak. She will need nourishment.”
Willem looked down at the woman. The look in her eyes was most definitely hunger, the same look he hadn’t been able to recognize in their previous failed experiment. How could he have missed it, surrounded as he was by hunger on a daily basis? The woman stared imploringly at Willem and Doktor Muething, but she would not come more than a few paces closer. Willem remembered the Crucifix around his neck. If not for that....
It was Commandant Reger, who was approaching from the Officers’ Quarters with two guards in tow. His uniform was muddy and his hair was unwashed; he had obviously not been to bed in some time. Willem recognized the two guards; these two men – boys, really – had stood attention beside him on his first day in the camp.
“What is it, Commandant?” the Doktor asked pleasantly.
“You know damned well that the Allies will be here tomorrow,” Reger snapped. “It is time for you to leave – who the hell is this?” He gestured to the young woman, who was staring up at him with wide eyes. “Herr Doktor, is this prisoner troubling you? And what is a prisoner doing here anyway? I ordered them gathered and taken to...no matter, I will deal with her myself.” He unsnapped his holster and drew his Luger pistol.
“She is no trouble at all, Herr Commandant,” Doktor Muething said as he stepped forward and grabbed Reger’s arm. “Do not shoot her.”
“Get back, fool. I should shoot you as a Jew-lover.” He shoved Doktor Muething aside and raised his pistol – but then the woman was on him. His pistol dropped to the ground as he grabbed her wrists. She bared her teeth and panted horribly as she grasped at him with white fingers. Her strength was as unnatural as her new life, and it was all the Commandant could do to keep her at bay. Her eyes glowed brighter, and it swiftly became apparent that she was too strong for him. She forced the Commandant down to his knees, and terror filled his eyes.
“Shoot her, you idiots!” he screamed, and the two boy-guards awkwardly whipped their rifles around to shoot the woman. After a few seconds of handling their guns as though they were live snakes, both boy-guards fired. One rifle shot tore into the woman’s leg; the other bullet grazed the Commandant’s forehead. The woman barely noticed the wound, which healed over almost immediately. Blood streamed down the Commandant’s forehead.
“Relax, Herr Commandant,” Doktor Muething said as he stepped in close behind Reger and laid a hand on his shoulder. “She cannot harm you when I am this near to her.” As if on cue the woman shrank away, repelled by the crucifix around the Doktor’s neck.
“What have you done here, Muething?” Commandant Reger wiped blood out of his eyes with the back of his hand, and then he stared at the woman.
“I think you know,” Doktor Muething said.
“It’s not possible,” Reger said. “They don’t exist. You’re a fool and you’ve wasted your time on a fool’s task.” The woman panted even louder, and the Commandant lost his temper. To his guards he shouted, “Would you two PLEASE KILL HER!”
Willem shook his head silently. These boys had never once seen death this close. Willem had seen enough for a lifetime. They raised their rifles....
“Don’t,” Doktor Muething said. In his hand was the Commandant’s dropped Luger pistol, and his hand was steady as he leveled it at the two boy-guards. “I assure you, my young friends, I have no desire to kill the youth of the Fatherland – but I will do just that if you don’t put those guns down and get away from here.” And then he raised his other hand in a fist and brought it down, hard, on the base of the Commandant’s skull. Reger flattened to the ground, moaning. “Go, boys,” the Doktor said. “You do not want to see what is going to happen next.”
Willem glanced at the two boy-guards who stood beside him now, just as they had two months before. He remembered their names at last: Georg on his right, Herbert on his left. The young woman stared at them, eyes gleaming, as they nervously pointed their rifles at her. Willem took a quiet step back, and then two or three steps away. The woman crept closer to the two boys, and they dropped their rifles at the same moment and ran. The woman rose to follow them, but Doktor Muething called out to her.
“Don’t go, my dear. I have what you need.”
She turned back to Doktor Muething, who had tied the Commandant’s arms behind his back with the Commandant’s own belt.
“Muething,” Reger mumbled. “What are you doing?”
“She needs sustenance,” the Doktor said. There was a strange look in his eyes. The Commandant began to struggle, but Doktor Muething appeared to have far greater physical strength than Willem had ever given him credit for.
“No!” The Commandant’s eyes were wide and he kicked and squirmed to no avail. He could not get away. Willem’s flesh went to ice.
“Come, my dear!” Doktor Muething’s voice was calm, malevolent. “Your first meal awaits you.” He stuffed the Luger pistol into his belt and lifted the Commandant to his knees. Willem’s eyes were wide as he looked on. He saw the Commandant’s pants become wet inside the legs.
“Muething, no!” Reger’s voice, always so arrogant, now sounded of nothing but childlike terror. “You can’t do this to one of your own!”
Doktor Muething laughed at that. He actually laughed, a deep-throated laugh from the depths of his belly that was still harsh and without the slightest hint of mirth. “One of my own, Reger?” He stopped laughing suddenly, and his eyes glistened as he leaned forward and said through clenched teeth: “She is one of my own.” And with that, he shoved the Commandant forward. The Commandant landed with a thud on the ground just two or three paces from the woman. She looked up at the Doktor, who nodded once and then took four steps back. The woman sprang then, and Commandant Reger could do nothing but scream as she took him in her arms, pushed his head back, and sank her teeth into his waiting neck. His shrieks only blended in with the blaring klaxons, the air-raid sirens, the distant exploding bombs, the reports of gunfire from the newly-consecrated execution fields. Reger’s screams as he perished at the hands of a vampire were just one more voice in a fugue of death.
The Doktor turned away from the woman who fed on the Commandant and grabbed Willem by the elbow. “Come, young Schliemann. We will not be welcome here with either our own or with the Allies.”
Willem obediently followed the Doktor, finally managing to tear his gaze from the vampire they had created. “Switzerland?”
“The only remaining haven in Europe for men such as I,” the Doktor said. “How fortunate that I was assigned to the camp nearest the Swiss border, don’t you think? My mother’s diamonds were able to buy me that much.” A knowing smile played at the edge of his lips, and Willem understood.
“We murdered one of our countrymen,” Willem said.
“As I said before, he wasn’t entirely my countryman. As for yourself, I am sure the feelings of guilt will fade in time.”
Instead of going inside the officer’s quarters, Doktor Muething led Willem around the building to a low maintenance shed. There, under a tarpaulin, was a fully-fueled motorcycle complete with sidecar and two packed rucksacks.
“So my worldly belongings are in the end reducible to one of these bags,” the Doktor said. “Oh well. I shall start anew. It seems a good time for it, at any rate.” He pulled on a leather jacket and a helmet, and gestured for Willem to do the same. “You drive.”
Willem climbed onto the cycle, and the Doktor boarded the sidecar. Willem looked at the Doktor for a moment, and then he shrugged. “Reger was a pig,” Willem said. “The Allies would have executed him anyway.”
Doktor Muething gave Willem a squeeze of the shoulder. “Drive, Willem.” he said. “You are not so young anymore, I think.”
Willem kicked the motorcycle to life and drove off. They went unchallenged through the camp gates; there was a lot of coming and going these days. Willem knew the roads around here very well, and soon they were headed south. He took the smallest roads, the ones that wound up into the mountains and through tiny villages where he had come with his uncle to heal the sick. Eventually they came to the border, where a single guard merely nodded and opened the single wooden barrier across the road.
Anonymous-looking Germans heading to Switzerland were common enough, it seemed. Willem and the Doktor rode through the gate, out of Germany. Neither would ever return.