Everyone knows the story of Vlad Drăculea, dread Prince of Romania, father of all things vampire. But along the border between Bohemia and Moravia, they tell another story about another cruel (and equally difficult to kill) tyrant.
Here’s my rendering of the true (maybe? almost?) tale of the last vampire of the Czech Republic:
1817 in a small market-town in the highlands at the edge of Bohemia. It’s February. Ice coats the trees on either side of the Baroque bridge that stretches over the Sázava river.
Alois Ulrich, the manager of the local estate, spent his life inflicting cruelty on the townsfolk, especially the poor. But now, after suffering from a sudden and mysterious illness, the tyrant is dead and buried. His funeral is well-attended–by people who come to spit on his grave.
Now, no longer afraid of a brutal rebuke, the children laugh as they slide on the thin sheet of ice across the bridge, when a figure suddenly appears between the statues of Saints Cyril and Methodius. It looms large and dark and reeks of new death as it lunges at a nearby child. The others scatter, screaming.
Days later, dismissing the story as child’s fancy run wild, the old scribe sets off from the plague cemetery toward the bridge. The sun is low
in the sky and trapped behind the gray clouds heavy with more snow. He feels the prickling at his neck before he sees the shadows take form.
“I know you,” the scribe breathes. “You are Alois Ulrich.”
The figure turns sharply at his name.
“But you are dead.” The scribe makes the sign of the cross, stumbling back, too afraid to turn away as the living dead tyrant lurches toward him.
After weeks of terrifying encounters, demands are made and an executioner sent for. A small crowd of brave townsfolk gather at Ulrich’s grave as his coffin is opened.
He lay as if sleeping. Months dead and still pink with life.
The priest holds out the crucifix before him like a shield. “I name you Alois Ulrich,” he says.
And Alois Ulrich sits up, his eyes open and still filled with the bitter hatred they held in life.
The priest shrieks and steps back while the executioner frantically swings the blade of a shovel at Alois Ulrich’s head. Fresh blood pours from the gaping wound and Ulrich’s face goes slack as the body falls back into the coffin.
The priest shoves poppy in the creature’s mouth and the executioner bathes it in quicklime–traditional protections against a vampire. They seal the coffin and bury it deep.
Silently the townsfolk slip through the gate at the Lower Cemetery, built in anticipation of a plague that never came. They carry that hope with them–that once again their worst fears will not come to pass. That Alois Ulrich, the tyrant, is finally and fully dead at last.