Dr. Quasdonovich’s Solution
by Ross Smeltzer
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
The doctor was equipped with a response. Doubtlessly, it was the work of careful composition. “I have been working on the problem for some time now, luckily. I pored over ancient grimoires and conducted countless studies of my own. I have tinkered with strange magic and even stranger science.
“In the meantime, I took it upon myself to kill those whom I fed upon immediately upon their revivification. I spent many nights beside gravestones and charnel houses, waiting for my progeny to emerge. When they did, I throttled them.
“This method, though unsustainable and taxing, mitigated my own impact on the situation. Last night, however, I discovered an elixir, which should eliminate our every worry and should secure our permanent exceptionality. Science, as it so often does, has furnished a solution.”
The doctor motioned to the Romani on the table. “I suspect, Varazdin, that you are very hungry. We will eat the creature before us.”
Famished, Varazdin fell upon the Romani. He tore at its throat, broke its weak bones and left its skin mottled with black bruises. The doctor, hardly less hungry than his guest, rent the Romani’s stomach, cracking ribs to reach the steaming organs beneath. The two lapped at pools of oily blood.
The Romani died quickly. When the doctor had had his fill, he untied the corpse, retrieved from his pocket one of the vials he had been clutching earlier and plunged a syringe into it.
The blood on his hands soaked the delicate device. It rapidly filled with jade liquid. When it was bursting, he thrust the syringe into the forehead of the dead Romani. Varazdin watched the jade liquid drain away.
“We will rest,” the doctor announced portentously. “You will sleep with me in the caverns beneath this place. In the evening, we shall return to this room, and you shall see our deliverance.”
The two strigoi left the room, staggering; their bodies distended with blood, and their faces painted with darkening gore. They entered a long corridor that descended into the caverns.
Varazdin marveled at the paintings that hung along the corridor’s walls. “You have amassed quite a collection, doctor,” he croaked. He felt envy welling within his swollen belly.
“Thank you, it has been the work of many years, as you know. I delight in them. Many of them have gone unseen by human eyes for decades — hardly a tragedy, I think you will agree. Their fumbling, anesthetized senses are undeserving of such beauties.”
The two slept contentedly that day, untroubled by either hunger or thoughts of pending insignificance.
They awoke the next night and returned to the doctor’s study. The table, covered in black smears and splotches, was unoccupied. The dead Romani had, seemingly, been transformed, and made his escape. It appeared that Varazdin and the doctor had sired another of their kind.
“I am unimpressed, doctor. I thought you had devised a way to prevent this sort of transformation,” Varazdin said. He struggled to stifle his laughter.
The doctor was smiling cattishly. He walked to the far wall of the room, where windows admitted thin splinters of moonlight. “Varazdin, I suggest you come here,” he said, motioning to an area just before one of the windows.
Varazdin complied and, as he approached, he nearly stepped in some congealed and clotted black slurry. “That,” the doctor explained, “is what becomes of us when we are exposed to the sun. Our dread of the daylight is well-founded.
“And yet, I discovered in the course of my research, that this dread can be removed. It has a biological basis. I don’t wish to explain the particulars of the pineal gland and its functioning among our kind. Suffice it to say that the pain we feel upon encountering the sun’s rays is generated by this gland; as it does for all things, pain serves as an alarm. I learned that this pain can actually be turned to pleasure; it takes only the application of certain compounds in the right proportions.
“The wretch whom you very nearly stepped in — the being who is now nothing more than an inconvenience to my domestics — was injected with this compound, as you saw. It awoke soon after death but did not seek out a dark place, as we are compelled to do.
“It felt the sun on its cold skin and delighted in the sensation. It came to the window, intent on imbibing the gold, streaming light of morning. It may have rejoiced for an instant or two, astonished by its existence and by its newfound vitality.
“You must faintly recollect the wonder you felt upon your revivification. It was glorious to be alive again and gifted with heightened sensations, enhanced perceptions, and a keener, more finely-tempered mind, yes? It felt all these things — for an instant. The sun smote it immediately, leaving the residue you see before you. The creature’s agony must have been acute,” he added, chortling with delight.
The doctor paused. “Our numbers have not been augmented. An animal that was once my menial is not now my equal. You will, I am sure, affirm the favorable outcome of this test.” His smile broadened.
Varazdin found his host’s exultation unendurable. He congratulated the physician on his latest triumph and asked: “You have written down the recipe for your heaven-sent elixir, yes?”
“Of course, my friend! It is an easy recipe, though, I must confess, it was the product of considerable application and thought.”
“May I see it, my most learned friend?”
“Of course.” The doctor turned and gingerly took hold of a scrap of yellowed paper from the nearby table. He was eager to display his newest discovery.
Varazdin retrieved a dagger from within the folds of his doublet. As his companion turned, he thrust it into Quasdonovich’s spine. He completed the assassination quickly, following the procedures and formalities needed to dispose of one of his kind.
The doctor, antique beyond calculation, disintegrated quickly, leaving an oily, viscous stain on the fine wooden floor.
Varazdin wiped the dagger clean, and stuffed the doctor’s recipe into his jerkin. He had grown tired of his companion, and he had reflected during his slumber. The logic of perfect exclusivity — a notion of the doctor’s invention — needed to be taken to its necessary conclusion: Varazdin could preserve and enhance his station by functionally neutering himself and by exterminating his peers. Only in solitude could he find Quasdonovich’s “perfect exclusivity.”
Varazdin determined to relocate to the doctor’s tower. It would be improved, but his station, which he intended to increase, necessitated a correspondingly imposing fastness. He found and spoke with his new footmen and retainers, supplying them with their first orders, as well as the regulations that would now govern their short and unimportant lives.
He entered his coach and bade his steeds return him to his former home. He would retrieve the choicest of his menials and bring them to his new abode. The others would be disposed of in the manner befitting their kind.
Manfred Dyrftig shuffled into his master’s new study. It smelled strange. Long shafts of light lay on the wooden floor; one of them illuminated two pools of a black gelatinous substance. Experience had taught him not to contemplate the horrors he encountered during his days.
Manfred, his back crooked from decades of toil, dutifully began scrubbing the floor, eradicating the black stains and making the old surface glow in the sunlight, just as his master had instructed.
Copyright © 2014 by Ross Smeltzer