The disappearance of Carmilla was followed by the discontinuance of my nightly sufferings.
You have heard, no doubt, of the appalling superstition that prevails in Upper and Lower Styria, in Moravia, Silesia, in Turkish Serbia, in Poland, even in Russia; the superstition, so we must call it in these enlightened times, of the Vampire.
If human testimony, taken with every care and solemnity, judicially, before commissions innumerable, each consisting of many members, all chosen for integrity and intelligence, and constituting reports more voluminous perhaps than exist upon any one other class of cases, is worth anything, it is difficult to deny, or even to doubt the existence of such a phenomenon as the Vampire.
For my part I have heard no theory by which to explain what I myself have witnessed and experienced, other than that supplied by the ancient and well-attested belief of the country. Indeed, I can now say with great authority that that superstition is founded upon truth, though some details are in error.
The day after the hideous scene in the side chapel, the memory of which still chills me, the formal proceedings were to take place in the main Chapel of Karnstein. My father and the General had intended to do this alone, with the stranger in the gold-rimmed spectacles. But with Carmilla's absence haunting me still -- I jumped each time I heard a rustle, thinking it perhaps her languid step dragging her hem across the ground -- I begged and pleaded to be allowed to accompany them on what the General insisted on referring to as a “hunt”.
It was the stranger, who was introduced to me over dinner as Baron Vordenburg, who said finally that I should go, and told us of his ancestor, to quiet the General’s voluble protests that I should be exposed to the final ending of so hideous a monster. The tale he told troubled me, as he spoke of a young man deeply in love with the beautiful Countess Karnstein, whose portrait hung where I might see it before sleep, and immediately upon opening my eyes in the morn. That piteous Mircalla, he told us, had been haunted by a demon vampire, and had died young, but this favoured suitor developed eventually a horror that she too might come under suspicion of being such a creature, and the remains of his idol outraged by a posthumous execution. He told us of her mortal shell being spirited away, but I, in my girlish curiousity, asked rather about Mircalla herself, her nature. The kindly Baron made his best attempts to tell me of what his ancestor and related writings had passed down of a clever, passionate, tempestuous creature. I grew cold as he spoke, for the stories thus collected formed a picture of a charming girl indeed -- charming as Carmilla herself. The humor and wit and learning -- ah, but Mircalla had been a girl of rare energy, ever found hunting in the manner of her day, the last to go to bed and beating the cocks to dawn. It was only at the end of her life, said the Baron, that his ancestor had recorded a mention of Mircalla languid, exhausted; she died but a few days after her sudden ailment began.
I went to sleep deeply missing my dear companion, dreaming troubled dreams of the tale she had told of her near-assassination in her bed, and the cruel love she spoke of with such knowledge, and woke several times in the night, but saw neither specters nor the girl herself, only the painted portrait -- oh, not hers, surely not hers! -- in the light of my candle.
We breakfasted in rather a grim silence, save for only the General, who had enough exuberance and excitement for all of us. I did not, at least, miss Carmilla then, who would never have been seen at such an hour, nor would have consented to the trek to the ruined, once-grand Chapel any earlier than late afternoon.
The grave of the Countess Mircalla was opened; and we all recognized our beautiful guest in the face now disclosed to view. The features, though a hundred and fifty years had passed since her funeral, were tinted with the warmth of life. Her eyes were open; no cadaverous smell exhaled from the coffin. The two medical men, one officially present, the other on the part of the promoter of the inquiry, attested the marvelous fact that there was a faint but appreciable respiration, and a corresponding action of the heart. The limbs were perfectly flexible, the flesh elastic; and the leaden coffin floated with blood, in which to a depth of seven inches, the body lay immersed. Even I, an uneducated miss, knew the conclusion which had to be drawn from such signs.
A stake was drawn, the point tested, but I -- I darted forward, and myself touched the hand which had so often held mine. Even now I could not tell you why I did such a thing. Perhaps it was that I hoped to feel that hand cold, and prove that this was only a monster with my dear friend’s face, and not my warm friend herself; perhaps it was that I had been exposed to far too many nurse’s tales in the schoolroom, and hoped that a loving touch here in her very grave would break the curse which death had placed upon the young Countess.
She had not moved as the men had examined her, but at my touch the open eyes cleared, the ruddy lips moved. Carmilla’s ever-present languor was even greater now, though her fingers stirred feebly under mine, their warm grasp lax, though her eyes burned with that strange ardour, brighter than I had yet seen. I could hear my father crying out behind me, feel my shoulders being tugged, yet I could not turn away from that lambent gaze, nor break away from her hand.
“Mircalla?” I asked, and at the name of that long-dead girl, the Baron hushed even the General. Perhaps he wanted for his records what came to a vampire whose living name was spoken once more.
“For your dear sake,” spoke the girl whose hand I held, or perhaps whose hand held mine, for truly I could not tell, “have I been Carmilla. Name me again, my darling, and have then what you will call.”
I drew in my breath to speak, and hesitated so long that my lungs began to ache. No longer did I doubt: Mircalla, whose portrait I had so admired in Carmilla’s very presence, was Carmilla, was also Millarca. Was it Bertha’s own blood in which she floated, or only the poor dead of our own village? Mircalla was the name of that lively young queen of the old Vordenburg’s heart, but it was Carmilla I had known, Carmilla who had held my hand so close, whose warm lips and sweet breath had so often brushed across my cheek and throat, who had so frequently spoken of entwining our lives and had even spoken of entwining our deaths. I was young, and had cherished maiden dreams of leaving our isolated home, a grand season, breathless declarations of love from counts and dukes after my hand: I had not thought of such things in some few years, having come to realize that father’s pension was grand only here. But had I not had breathless declarations of love already?
That strange attraction I had felt from the first sight of her face held me again, as did the equally queer repulsion. My mind sought backwards, found again that adorable voice speaking of all things acting as Nature ordained. If vampires existed, were they not also natural creatures? My hand flexed on hers, and with the last of my breath, I spoke: “Carmilla.”
She must have been gathering her strength all the while I thought, and must have realized that at my back stood the men who wanted her death, for upon the instant that I named my friend, her lax grip on my fingers shifted to a steel grip on my wrist, she lunged from her coffin, and tore me from the grasp of the other hands about my shoulders. Never in all my years had I known breathing being could move so swiftly as we did then, the world blurring even more than when I rode the fastest horse in the stables; we were in some dark heart of the forest, sunlight barely peeking through the dense leaves, when she stopped and laid me out upon the damp mossy earth.
Her weight held me down, and that luxuriant brown hair tumbled down to cover my breast as I panted, bringing with it the sweet scent of her warm flesh. Despite the horrors of the coffin, there was no scent of blood upon her. “Darling,” she breathed, pressing kisses to my cheeks, even to my open mouth. Her warm, soft lips slid sleekly down my throat, brushed the lace of my bodice. “Darling, darling, I told you once of love, how cruel and selfish it is, the moreso for its very strength, and I love you so; now you are mine as I promised.”
The sharp pain came again then. I think perhaps I cried aloud, and yet I could not move, and then the almost sweet melancholic exhaustion I so remembered. “Hating me through death and after, I thought,” I heard Carmilla whisper, that hideous gloating tone in her voice once more, “but oh, you are mine forever.”
I will not tell of what came after that, for what we did I would then have blushed to write of, and you I think would blush now to read.
I write all this you suppose with composure. But far from it; those days bring to my limbs yet a tremor, and the thought of what might have been had I not accompanied on that fateful trip, had I said some other name, had she not the power for death’s ‘and after’, has unstrung my nerves more than once, and only my dearest one’s playful caresses can ease my fraught mind. I
pr hope we never meet in person, for the depths to which I would descend to protect her, or she me, should not be plumbed. I have learned since that time that particular persons draw a vampire’s engrossing fascination, looking very much like love to those charmed by the sight, and in such cases the deepening enjoyment of both parties is very like to a courtship. There will be no other such courtships for my beautiful monster, and no other Generals to go a-hunting.
You and I have for some time corresponded upon the superstitions of the region in which I was raised, both delighting in the other’s familiarity. This will be my last letter. Send nothing else to this address; there will be no persons waiting to receive. Of the Baron, or my father, or the General, indeed I cannot tell you further, save only that I have not seen them from that time to this.
The closing signature is smudged, and the name indistinct. It might perhaps be Laura, or again Alura, or perhaps Luara.