Come with me/the chains shall never bind you/All your grief/At last, at last are behind you
-Finale, ‘Les Miserables’ the musical
Deniss walked very slowly to the garden, surrounded by his friends. Some of them suggested that he should use a wheelchair, or probably someone could carry him there; but he refused, and insisted to walk there with a walking stick in hand.
It was a beautiful night. The sky was dark but crystal clear, with a million of stars shining. Deniss looked up to the sky, smiled and sat down on the wooden bench in the garden. His friends had lined the bench with some soft cushions and blankets, so that he could sit comfortably.
He had passed his duty as the museum curator down to a younger zombie when he felt that he was not at his best. He planned to move out, but his successor insisted that he should stay in the castle. “That’s your home.” The young zombie said, “Plus, the Museum Café would appreciate your baking. Some of the visitors put the Cafe and pastries as the highlights of their visit.”
So, he stayed for another 100 years in the castle, baking, occasionally giving lectures, and most importantly, writing. After finishing the chronicle, he started to write biographies for his friends and some of those who had fought beside him. He wrote about Stephane, Chris, Satoko, Camden, Elizaveta, and many others. He had never been so thankful to a vampire’s long life expectancy, which allowed him to research and to write, to tell the stories of others.
He knew the time was coming. A few months ago, he could no longer see clearly, and he had to give up reading and writing. Then, his daily movements started to become clumsy, until he realized that he had to move to the ground floor in order to avoid the stairs; at last, he could no longer hold a cup or a glass, because his hands and fingers started to tremble. But he had done all he wanted to do, so that he could face the end peacefully, even with a smile. He no longer had any regrets.
He only told his editor that he thinks that he’s dying, and told her not to expect any more writings from him. But the news spread quickly, after all, his editor knew a lot of Deniss’s friends.
Many of the friends who were still alive flew from all around the world to Switzerland. Deniss rolled his eyes and said ‘I really hope that you have something better to do’, but smiled and accepted the kisses and hugs from his friends. It’s good to see those people.
Koshiro sat next to Deniss and supported him, still looked like a young boy. Zombies don’t age. Others brought some mats and sat on the ground, with beautiful flowers surrounding them.
Deniss insisted to come down to the garden tonight. His friends initially objected, saying that it’s still cold at night in early spring; but Deniss didn’t comply as he used to. Carolina was the first to understand him, followed by others. That might be Deniss’s last hours.
So, they came here.
Deniss smiled while listening to others. He knew that some of them were almost in tears, judging from their voice; but no one was actually crying. It shouldn’t be a sad thing. It’s the natural course of life, and Deniss looked happy.
The old vampire dozed off at around 4am, but still breathing. Koshiro carefully put Deniss down onto his laps, making it more comfortable for the dying vampire.
Deniss fell into a dream. He was in the castle, in a lovely afternoon; the flowers were moving with the breeze, the birds were singing, and the sunlight was warm-wait, the sunlight. Deniss touched his skin, and he didn’t feel any pain or burning sensation. He didn’t usually have such a high tolerance for sunlight. Then he looked at his own hands with disbelief: the skin was smooth and fair, without any fine lines or spots which developed as he aged.
Am I… He closed his eyes and opened them again, and he saw a group of people waving to him. He knew each and every one of them. Camden was the first to run to him, smiling widely and pulled him into a huge hug. “I missed you,” the human said, “I hope Koshiro is well?”
“He is,” Deniss confirmed, “He is travelling around the world these days, on his own.”
Camden released Deniss and jumped, “Great! He told me that he love to travel, but in those days…well, you know.”
Deniss looked at the human carefully. Camden looked young, as young as when he first broke into the castle. “Where are you? I mean, where am I?”
Camden winked. “In your dream, possibly? Since you told us that most of vampires are atheists, that’s the only explanation that I could think of.” He dragged Deniss to where other people were standing and pushed him to a girl, “Your girl.”
Satoko was smiling at Deniss. Deniss returned the smile, staring at her but unable to say a word. The Asian girl opened her arms and tilted her head, as if asking for an embrace. Deniss hesitantly moved a step forward, pulling her into him arms when she nodded to him.
“Satton…”Deniss murmured, “You’re here.”
“I’m here.” She said, “Thank you for your flowers, they were beautiful. Have you received my letter?”
Deniss nodded. “I went to Kansei after everything’s settled. The sakura was…breathtaking.” He pressed his own cheeks to the girl’s, “Glad that you like the flowers. They were from here, at the foot of the Alps.”
Satoko suddenly kissed him. Deniss was stunned for a moment, before responding to it passionately. Really, he didn’t care that there were others in the garden. That’s his dream, and he could do whatever he wanted to do.
“I think you’ll be happy to see them,” Satoko said as their lips parted, “You’ve told me so much about them in those days.” She pushed Deniss forward, where he could see some blurred but familiar silhouettes.
Liza offered her hand, in a professional manner, but wearing her biker jacket and jeans. “It’s great to see you again. And…”she sighed, “What a pity that the Museum Café will never have your pies again.” She whispered with a bit of wickedness, “Even as a vampire, sometimes I could not help but buy some pastries from the café when you were in your office.”
At last, he saw Chris and Stephane walking to him, holding hands and smiling. He suddenly felt that he was about to cry. He had never seen them for the four hundred and fifty years, not even in his dreams. Deniss ran to them, unsurprisingly bumped into them and cried like a little boy. They held him in their arms, without speaking a single word, and gently stroked the vampire’s back. “Are you,” Deniss said while he finally calmed down a little bit, “Are you no longer angry with me?”
His mentors and guardians moved back a little and looked into Deniss’s eyes. “We’ve never been angry with you.” Chris smiled and said, “And we are so proud of you, Deniss.”
“R-Really?” Deniss opened his eyes wide, still in tears.
“Really.” Stephane wiped his tears away, “we are.”
Deniss covered his mouth with a hand, bowed his head and smiled. Even if it’s just his dream, it’s enough. “Wait,” Deniss suddenly remembered something, “Is it actually my dream? Or are you,” he made a gesture, “are you here to take me away?”
Chris held Deniss’s hand. “Well, you know that vampires usually live for five hundred years.”
Deniss blinked, sighed but stood up. “Then…I’m ready, I guess.”
“Deniss?” Stephane asked, “Why?”
Deniss frowned at the question, confused. “Wh-“
“You looked sad.” Stephane looked into his eyes, “Is there anything…?”
Deniss shook his head. “Not really. I mean..I did all I wanted to do. But I…I’ve not said goodbye to them.”
“Oh.” Chris patted him on the back, “We’re here to pick you up, but we didn’t come with…chains, fourches, or whatsoever you’ve read in those Japanese tales. Go and take your time, but come back before the sun rises, alright?”
Deniss turned his head and looked back, feeling someone pushing him on the back. He opened his eyes, and it was night again.
“Deniss!” Koshiro gave him a big smile as he saw Deniss opening his eyes, “We…”
“I saw them.” Deniss said, voice almost inaudible, “Camden, Satoko, Liza and….Chris and Steph.” He poked at Koshiro’s hand, which is placed on his own shoulder, “Camden said that he’s happy you’re enjoying yourself travelling.”
Koshiro was surprised. “You saw…?”
Deniss looked again at the night sky, seeing that some light had appeared from the East. “They’re waiting…I don’t think I have much time.” He closed his eyes again and said, “Thank you. I’m really happy that you’re here…”He smiled and breathed his last breath, “Adieu.”
Koshiro held his friend’s body close, knowing that Deniss had left them. People were sobbing around him, but someone still remembered to ask the vampires to go indoors before the dawn.
The sun rose, and Deniss’s body slowly disappeared in the morning light. Koshiro sighed, and folded the blankets.
“Caro, where had Deniss gone?” Anna, a descendent of Maxim and Tatiana asked the nymph beside her, “He was there just now!” Maxim and Tatiana chose to be converted into vampires many years ago to win more time to work for the revolution and new Constitution, but their daughter, Angelica, and all her descendents remained as human. They said that all of the young people should address them and their friends with first names. “We don’t want to count how many generations there are.” Maxim once said, “And, you’ll probably say dozens of ‘great’ before saying ‘grandpa’ or ‘grandma’. Save some time.”
Carolina knelt down and held the little girl close to her chest. “Does our little Anya remember the stars in the sky?”
“Yes!” The girl chuckled, “Twinkle twinkle little stars! They were so pretty.”
Carolina pointed to the sky, “Deniss had become one of them.”
Anya nodded, but soon dropped her head sadly. “I didn’t count them earlier, and I don’t remember where they were. Will there be one more tonight? How can I find him?”
Carolina kissed the girl’s plump cheeks. “Yes. Find the brightest one tonight, Anya.”
Deniss Vasiljevs, the historian, writer, educator, museum curator and revolutionary leader, died in Chateau de Chillon in his friends’ company, aged 507.