Jan Nepomuk Neruda (1834 – 1891) was a Czech journalist, poet and writer. He was part of the Czech Realism and May movement.
Neruda was also often at the forefront of introducing new literary trends into society. In line with that is this supernatural short story.
It is a tale of supposition, of questions and assumptions. Neruda appeals to the inner fears, the vivid imagination, the superstitious nature and the subconscious of the reader.
He hints and we imagine, he leaves holes and we fill in the blanks.
A family is spending the summer months in a warmer climate, due to the failing health of their daughter. At first they hardly notice the presence of the stranger, and assume he is merely an artist looking for inspiration.
Long black locks floated to his shoulders, his face was pale, and his black eyes were deeply set in their sockets.
The imagery panders to preconceived ideas of the bloodthirsty monster. Pale, mysterious and yet undeniably alluring.
The beautiful pale girl was either just recovering from a severe illness or else a serious disease was just fastening its hold upon her.
What is it that draws the artist to the girl and not to one of the others? The scent of death is upon her, an invisible connection between the two of them seems to be floating upon the air.
Hardly had we found a suitable spot and settled ourselves when the Greek appeared again. He opened his portfolio and began to sketch.
He sits in silence, interacts with none of them and is quite content to sketch the object of his desire.
The air was as clear as a diamond, so soft, so caressing, that one’s whole soul swung out upon it into the distance.
The artist is playing the pied piper of Hamlin, enticing the sickened soul into the picture. Trapping her essence on the paper. Meanwhile the family and the girl’s lover are oblivious to the events taking place around them.
Each felt for himself a whole world of happiness and each one would have shared his happiness with the whole world.
He takes a final look at his work of art and takes his leave. Satisfied that he has received that which he wished to take.
We had scarcely even noticed the Greek, after an hour or so, had arisen, folded his portfolio and with a slight nod had taken his departure.
The young man, the lover, is filled with a sudden need to find out the identity of the secretive artist, who has spent the entire afternoon sketching them. He also really wants to see the sketch.
“We call him the Vampire.”
“Fine trade! He sketches only corpses.
That fellow paints them beforehand—and he never makes a mistake—just like a vulture!”
In her arms lay her daughter pale as chalk.
How did he do it? Has he sucked the energy or her soul from her body? Has he somehow managed to gain access to her blood at some point in time? Or does he perhaps possess the most extraordinary powers of clairvoyance?
On one sheet, sketched with a crayon, was the head of the young Polish girl, her eyes closed and a wreath of myrtle on her brow
The eerie prediction has come true, the sketch and the artist have captured the present whilst it was still the future. The stealer of breaths, life and soul has gained another victim.
For free downloads of the above mentioned story:
Download to read The Vampire by Jan Neruda at Feedbooks.
Download to listen to The Vampire by Jan Neruda, which is part of the Short Horror and Ghost Collection 006 at Librivox.