An involuntarily silent, gliding gait

In this excerpt from the short story My Dear Emily ©1962, Joanna Russ describes a vampire waking up at the crack of dusk:

He wakes up slowly, mistily, dizzily, with a vague memory of having fallen asleep on plush. He is intensely miserable, bound down to his bed on hoops of steel, and the memory adds nausea to the misery, solidifying ticklishly around his bare hands and the back of his neck as he drifts towards wakefulness. His stomach turns over with the dry brushy filthiness of it. With the caution of the chronically ill, he opens his eyelids, careful not to move, careful even to keep from focusing his gaze until– he thinks to himself– his bed stops holding him with the force of Hell and this intense miserable sickness goes down, settles… Darkness. No breath. A glimmer of light, a stone wall. He thinks: I’m dead and buried, dead and buried, dead and– With infinite care he attempts to breathe, sure that this time it will be easy; he’ll be patient, discreet, sensible, he won’t do it all at once–

He gags. Spasmodically he gulps, cries out, and gags again, springing convulsively to his knees and throwing himself over the low wall by his bed, laboring as if he were breathing sand. He starts to sweat. His heartbeat comes back, then pulse, then seeing, hearing, swallowing… High in the wall a window glimmers, a star is out, the sky is pale evening blue. Trembling with nausea he rises to his feet, sways a little in the gloom, then puts out one arm and steadies himself against the stone wall. He sees the window, sees the door ahead of him. In his tearing eyes the star suddenly blazes and lengthens like knife; his head is whirling, his heart painful as a man’s; he throws his hands over his face, longing for life and strength to come back, the overwhelming flow of force that will crest at sunrise, leaving him raging at the world and ready to kill anyone, utterly proud and contemptuous, driven to sleep as the last resort of a balked assassin. But it’s difficult to stand, difficult to breathe: I wish I were dead and buried, dead and buried, dead and buried– But there! he whispers to himself like a charm, There, it’s going, it’s going away. He smiles slyly round at his companionable, merciful stone walls. With an involuntarily silent, gliding gait he moves towards the door, opens the iron gate, and goes outside. Life is coming back. The trees are black against the sky, which yet hold some light; far away in the West lie the radiant memories of a vanished sun. An always vanished sun.

‘Alive!’ he cries, in triumph. It is– as usual– his first word of the day.

 

1 Comment

  1. markonit

    …dag… I thought that I was the only one who woke up in this manner..!

    Like

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