Julia ... she said her name was Julia.
The image of her standing in front of my desk still burns in my mind. One look at her face, and I knew right away she was not human. But there she was with those gray eyes - those piercing bright eyes upon me, framed by her beautiful wavy auburn hair.
Somehow she knew my inner thoughts, my secret plans, and my fears. I could tell she did.
Then she spoke. Her voice was soft as a whisper and somehow captivated all my senses; that accent of hers was European, no doubt. Her English was perfect, but that little trace of Georgian accent remained, giving her away in an elegant way, almost intimate.
I was tired. The day had started very early, and I hadn't eaten, like I usually did since leaving the publishing company to open my own. Life had settled into this pattern: skipping meals, long hours, and not much of anything else.
I looked at her right hand. Her soft skin was too white. She was not wearing any rings, just an expensive watch-Cartier. Then I noticed the black laptop bag slung over her right shoulder. On her left hand, she was holding a leather backpack.
"I want you to take a good look at this," she said, placing the bag and the backpack on my desk.
She moved with care, neither too fast nor too slow, making sure my full attention was on the two items. I dared to look at her eyes again. They spoke to me. I felt the urge to run out of my own office, but I couldn't move. I wanted to stay and get closer to her. My eyes moved down her silky-skinned thin white neck to take in her beautiful blue dress. Everything about her was perfect, and yet never before had I felt so much fear.
Then suddenly, my attention was on her face: Almost no makeup. She looked so stunningly fresh and young-twenty-one years old, or perhaps twenty-two?
Her jawline moved as she spoke, and the only thing I could think of were those pink lips of hers. I followed their movement like in slow motion, understanding every word like as if they were the very first words I had ever heard in my life. Something about "the most important story of my career," about me making sure it gets published, making sure the world knows.
"One last thing," she said from her position. "All the credit must go to Kamille Blackwell."
I nodded without knowing why.
Then everything stopped. There was no time, no other sound inside my head, but her voice and that name-Kamille Blackwell.
Slowly, she moved backward, looking for the darkest place in the room. Then she turned her head toward the glass window to look outside.
"Let everyone who cares read his story," she said softly, staring out at the night.
Julia. She said her name was Julia.
I felt dizzy. I closed my eyes for a brief moment, and when I opened them, I was alone again, sitting in front of my desk. I looked at my computer monitor; the digital clock showed it was 8:09 p.m. The framed pictures of my kids sat next to the stapler. My eyes rested on the laptop bag and the leather bag. "She's gone," I found myself saying out loud in a sad voice. I looked toward the office window, then toward the door, noticing that they were closed. I never heard her coming in or leaving.
Somehow I knew that I would never see her again.
I couldn't get enough of what I was reading. I passed my fingers over the notebook covers. The engraved details were remarkable, the vintage pages, the odor of old ink, the handwriting.
I opened the first volume for the third time and reread the first entry: "To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did." It was a simple sentence; yet it carried so much meaning, strength, and truth.
I read about a man, a Gypsy, about the places he had traveled and people he had met, dates and specific thoughts. I read about the night, about blood, thirst, and immortality. I browsed over words, full sentences, and entire paragraphs written in Spanish and Portuguese, or maybe both, then in French, and later in English.
Is this a joke?
I knew what I saw in my office was real. She was real, and I understood why all my senses told me to run away from her. It was my primal fear picking up on the sense of danger, the possibility of certain death.
I read the sentence again: "To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did."
I closed my eyes, realizing that in order to go on, I at least had to consider the possibility that what I was about to learn was, in fact, true.
I opened another volume out of more than a dozen inside the leather backpack. I studied the cover. It was dark blue with the word Journal engraved in a golden font.
There was another sentence handwritten in the first page: "Insouciant sui generis." Next to it was the name Kamille, and then in the bottom-right corner, "Munich 1903."
I flipped the pages and realized I couldn't understand what I was reading. German-the entire notebook was written in German, during the years 1902 to 1907.
I found my way to the laptop. The desktop screen contained only one folder named "Gate." I double-clicked on it, and a series of word documents were revealed to me. I opened all of them and read them over and over. I couldn't stop. What I was experiencing was both incredible and frightening. There I was, reading in first person this Gypsy's words, his thoughts, and his confession.
It has been more than six months since I read his journals, and I still can't believe it. I have cross-checked places and names. Some of them do check out. Others are dubious due to the absence of public records lost to wars or/and acts of God.
From all the entries I could, and will, publish, I believe the ones you're about to read are the most faithful to that first entry from the first journal. I will do the transcript word by word.
The following will challenge your senses and beliefs, but it doesn't matter whether at the end you believe it or not. What matters is that there was once a man who became more than a man, and there was once a woman who forever haunted his dark heart.
The woman's name was Kamille Blackwell, and the credit is all hers.
Gadriel Demartinos, New York, March 13, 2011
The Distant Past
These are the words written by the Gypsy. All dates and locations signify when the entry was made.
October 30, 1792, Martorell, Spain
"¿Qué es un dios?" I said out loud. (What is a god?) I was back in the outskirts of Martorell, holding up a wooden crucifix that was given to me that day by a priest who was visiting the town.
My father, Stevo, kept his distance, thanks to the bonfire between the two of us. The night had turned cold, and the flames were the only thing keeping us warm.
Stevo didn't make any sudden movements; rather, he chose to stay close to the fire while enjoying his cigar. He looked at the crucifix in my hand.
My father was a man of few words, choosing to speak only when he felt the moment was right. I, on the other hand, at twelve years of age, was beginning to show traces of the character that would soon define me. Our trips to Barcelona were getting old, and his patience was running thin; he was fed up with my doings and the ever-increasing claims regarding my thievery.
The country was going through a tough time, and uncertainty was ever present. Government raids against those who were considered subversive, mainly those too poor to pay taxes, those who didn't serve in the army, or those who were not working were rampant. Public discontent was increasing, and business opportunities, for both legal and illegal citizens alike, were scarce.
Gypsies were never welcomed by the Spanish crown, mainly because as nomads, we never truckled to authority or asked for permission to do anything; rather, we settled in wherever we saw fit. To add insult to injury, we were never part of any census, which drove the authorities crazy. I can tell you of entire tribes where all males and females shared the exact same first and last names, making any type of established control count or organization impossible. Back in those days, our way of life became a major problem, causing weekly confrontations involving the military, the church, and us.
My father had seen it all. His father, Tamás, was arrested, accused, and executed for stealing horses from one of the wealthiest families of Portugal. The fact that there were no witnesses and no evidence, and that my father spent the entire week traveling with him all over Lisboa could not save Tamás from being beheaded. No court or jury was ever needed. The norm was death to all Gypsies, was what happened countless times throughout history.
My father knew how life was for our kind, and he did the best he could to prepare me for what was to come. "Who gave you that?" he asked.
My gaze moved with curiosity around the edges of the average-looking wooden cross. "Back in town, a priest was speaking to a group about a savior. A man called Cristos. He said that Cristos died on a cross just like this one, for us," I said.
Stevo inhaled and exhaled from his cigar, looking at me silently.
"He called him his god. What's that?" I asked.
My father stared at the flames for a moment and then looked back at me. "Do you remember that story your grandmother used to tell you when you were little?" he asked.
I remembered sitting down next to my cousins in our tent at night and loving the tone of Luminista, my grandmother, while she told stories about legends of ancient times; stories of past relatives and their doings. I remember her long silver hair and the deep wrinkles all over her face in the light from a gas lamp. Among the stories she used to tell us was one that her grandmother used to tell her when she was a kid. It was the story of a Gypsy who led a campaign against the Christian crusaders hundreds of years before my time. His name was Andrzej. My grandmother used to say that we as a clan were blood related. I used to daydream of one day becoming a man just like him.
Andrzej was a typical Gypsy. He was a brother and a son. In no way was he exceptional; nor did he ever wish to be. He was also a father and a husband, until the day crusaders came to his tribe. They came talking about a savior. A man-god called Cristos, a man-god who died for Andrzej's sins-at least, that was what they told him. Those crusaders asked for my people to submit to this god, Cristos, to renounce our ways. However, we couldn't do this because what they called "pagan" was our way of life. Our culture and heritage, passed from generation to generation, was our only true-blueprint. For people like us with no country, no flag, no origin, that would have represented a definitive end to our identity, a permanent death leading to the assimilation of an imposed culture and everything that it implied.
The Crusaders came back in larger numbers, this time not to preach but to conquer. Their banners and flags rose as giant waves all over the slopes, covering the entire forest, swallowing towns in a storm of death and destruction. There was no escape for my people. Hundreds of thousands died in those decades of terror.
"Do you remember what she used to tell you about Andrzej?" Stevo asked.
Andrzej, the Gypsy who made an army out of the survivors of the so-called purification of the land. He was a husband who lost his wife. A father who lost his children and a son who lost everything he once held dear by the will of the armies of the "true" religion of the man-god Cristos.
For over three years, Andrzej and his men waged an all-out war against these Crusaders-freeing towns after town, burning churches, and executing priests. His intention was to get rid of every Crusader, every representative of the faith who had brought an end to his way of life. He was indeed a willing enemy of the man-god from Rome. He was declared enemy of the church. They used to call him Diabolosk, a pagan term for those who had an alliance with the devil. And indeed, for a time, he seemed to have been protected by a "higher" force. Andrzej faced bigger numbers and better-trained forces, but somehow he defeated them over and over, prompting a massive campaign from every angle of the nation. Then Andrzej was forced out of Spain.
He headed toward Asia, where he would continue his campaign with the support of foreign armies.
"Yes," I said, without letting my gaze break away from my father's. "I remember Andrzej."