The Vampyre

James Peadon woke from a dreadful nightmare on the morning of January 6, his heart pounding and his body shaking.

Simply a dream, he told himself, as he laid in the dark, his breathing out of control. Only a dream and nothing more.

When he was calmer, James sat up and lit a candle; its feeble flame filled the cabin with shadowy light. Unconsciously, he rubbed his neck.

His fingers came back bloody.

Heart in his throat, James got up, grabbed the candle, and hurried to the wash basin. Using a hand-held mirror, he checked his neck.

Two puncture marks marred his flesh, the skin around them was raised and angry pink.

It wasn’t a dream.

Terror descended over him. Standing there in the weak flicker of light, the smooth, shiny glass clutched in his hand, James swooned and nearly fell.

She came back to me.

In the dream, his beloved Mary came through the window, her face black and rotted. Her eyes glowed the color of blood, and she seemed to hover more than walk. Paralyzed with fear, he could only groan as she slipped into bed next to him.

She was really here…

James dropped the mirror into the basin and went over to his nightstand. A crucifix sat next to a Bible. He picked it up and sat on the bed, holding it to his chest the way a little girl would hold a favorite doll.

When murky sunlight fell through the window some hours later, he felt safe enough to move.  James set the cross aside, hurriedly dressed, and left the cabin.

Outside, snow covered the ground. The trees surrounding the homestead were barren and skeletal, putting him uncomfortably in mind of the risen dead.

Saratoga, his horse, greeted him from the stable. James absently stroked his hide. Birds cawed and wheeled in the sky, their outbursts, to James at least, like the ravings of a madman.

After feeding and saddling Saratoga, James rode him to town. The road leading from the cabin to the turnpike stretched seven miles, its flanks harassed the whole way by dead trees. Several times James glanced up and fancied he saw a terrible face peering at him from around a gnarled trunk; though he knew it was impossible, his heart leapt every time.

The main road into town was dotted with homes and businesses; taverns, an inn, a blacksmith. The town of Windsor itself sat in a dip along the Connecticut River; from afar, its dominating feature was the spire of the Congregation Church near the schoolhouse. James vaguely remembered a service led by or featuring George Washington. He was a child then, and his sole memory of the event was Washington standing by the pulpit, his hands clasped awkwardly before him. He was so tall, like a stately oak. James wasn’t quite sure he knew who the man was then, but he was impressed by him nonetheless.

In town, people nodded to him and said hello. He nodded curtly and mumbled his own greetings.

At the church, he tied Saratoga to a hitching post and went in. A wooden board by the door had the day’s date and a message: JANUARY 6, 1798: GOD IS GREAT.

In the vestibule, James removed his hat and clutched it in his hands. Beyond, the nave opened wide, wooden pews facing the pulpit. Reverend Mathews was standing there, preaching to a crowd of no one, practicing his Sunday sermon.

The old holy man noticed James and quit speaking, his booming voice hanging thickly in the air: “God’s will be done…”

“Good morning, Mr. Peadon,” Mathews said.

James nodded. “Good morning. I was wondering if perhaps we could speak.”

Mathews closed his Bible and stepped down from the pulpit. “Of course. Come.”

James walked into the nave. Mathews sat on one of the pews and motioned James over. James sat.

“What do you wish to speak of?” Mathews asked.

James opened his mouth, but closed it again. He knew what, but not how.

“Mr. Peadon?”

James took a deep breath. “Last night, Mary came into the house.”

Mathews flinched. “Mary? Your wife?”

James nodded; he didn’t trust himself to speak.

“But, Mr. Peadon, your wife is dead.”

“I know,” he whispered.

Mary Peadon, née Pratchet, died November 14, 1797, in child birth. The child, a boy James named William, died an hour later. James held him through the night, rocking him, but unable to look upon his shrivelled blue face.

“She’s dead but she’s alive.”

James pulled down the collar of his shirt.

Mathews gasped. “She did this to you?”

James nodded.

Mathews touched the wound, grazing it with the gentleness of a doctor.

James shuddered.

Mathews withdrew his hand. From the corner of his eye, James saw him wipe it on his trousers.

When Mathews spoke, his voice was low. “I’m a practical man, Mr. Peadon. I believe in God. I believe in the supernatural as it pertains to Him, but I’m not in the business of superstition. What you are proposing, then, flies in the face of my beliefs. You are absolutely certain that Mary did this?”

James nodded. “I swear to you. Before the throne of God.”

Mathews sighed. “I’ve read stories,” he said, “of things like this happening across New England. Just last summer a gaggle of townspeople in Massachusetts exhumed a girl and cut her head off as her family died of consumption. They say that when they removed the head, she screamed.”

James shuddered again.

“Vampyres, they call them.”

“I know.”

Mathews took a deep breath. “We will dig her up,” he said. “And we will see.”

Mathews got up and disappeared. James stayed where he was, his heart pounding and his stomach rolling. He looked up at the cross behind the pulpit, and felt, distinctly, a presence. The presence of Providence, he thought, or the presence of EVIL; he couldn’t tell.

When Mathews returned, he was holding a shovel in each hand. “Come,” he said.

“Now?” James asked.

“Now,” Mathews nodded. “If Mary really is a vampyre, we must destroy her at once. Come.”

Trembling, James got up and followed the Reverend into the sun-washed churchyard. Mary’s grave was beside the wrought iron fence facing the street. In the summer, a tall tree gave it shade. Today, however, the tree was as cold and dead as she.

Mathews was the first one to dig, working with a strength and gusto that James could scarcely imagine him having. James started to dig as well, and soon he was perspiring, the numbing cold of the day forgotten.

“If such things can be,” Mathews said, “my understanding of Scripture will collapse. Demons actively stalking the world…” he shook his head.

People passing in the street gave them funny looks. One of them, Jake Ruthwen, the apothecary, asked what they were doing.

“Scientific experiment,” Mathews grunted.

Shortly, they reached the coffin. They threw their shovels aside, and Mathews dusted the dirt from its lid.

“Stand back,” Mathews said.

“Be careful.”

Mathews pulled the lid open.

Mary reposed in splendor, her face ruddy and unblemished, her eyes closed but fluttering as if in sleep. Blood smeared her lower lip and her burial dress.

“My God,” Mathews breathed. “They do exist.”

He reached down and touched her face.

“Warm as the living.”

James stood in dumb shock. The face he had once loved, the lips he had kissed…full and intact, as beautiful as the day they met. A wave of horror washed over him, and he felt his mind beginning to break.

He climbed out of the hole and fell to the ground. It cannot be…

“Mr. Peadon,” Mathews said. “Mr. Peadon, come back.”

James rocked.

The way he rocked his son.

The way he rocked his dying wife.

“We must destroy it.”

James shook his head. No, he mouthed silently. No. No. No.

Mathews rose up from the grave, the shovel held high, its blade pointed down.

James squeezed his eyes closed.

Mathews brought the shovel down.

Mary screamed; her high, ear-piercing wail reverberated through his soul.

He wept then, openly and unabashedly.


At nightfall, James rode home, making sure that Saratoga kept a slow and even pace. Mathews offered to let him stay at the church, but he refused. He could see to himself, he said.

Even so, the thought of returning to the cabin, far in the dark winter woods, frightened him.

At home, James put Saratoga in his stable and fed him. The sky, clear and full of stars when they set out, was now clouded. Wet flakes of snow started to fall.

Inside, James lit as many candles as he owned and arranged them to provide light for every square inch of the cabin.

He sat in bed with the Bible, listlessly searching for answers. Past midnight, he nodded off.

Later, he came groggily awake. For a moment, he didn’t know what woke him, but then the sound came again. Scratching at the door.

Something wants in.

His blood ran cold.

Someone wants in.

He shook his head.

Mary was dead.

It was an animal. An animal and nothing more.


Setting aside the Bible, James rose unsteadily to his feet. The scratching intensified.

Moving slowly, like a man in a dream, James took his musket from its corner and made sure it was loaded.


He moved to the door.


Unlatched it.

A cold wind blew; the door flew open and a vortex of snow cascaded over him. The candles died, plunging the cabin into darkness.

The only light was the natural luminescence of the snow.

And in that luminescence, James saw the thing on the doorstep, the small, red-bodied horror he once rocked through the night. Its face turned up to him, its eyes black and its tiny mouth crowded with pointed fangs.

“Papa,” it said.