I Am No-Thing
This is the story of the young American paratrooper Matthew Roberts, partisan and vampire, sent to northern Italy in 1943 by the Office of Strategic Services on a secret mission.
There, while hidden by the Resistance, he meets a girl concealing a dangerous secret. The two fall passionately in love and plan to marry as soon as Italy is liberated. However, while going back behind the Allied lines and trying to reach Anzio, the young man meets his fate in form of two vampires, who transform him. He becomes one of the undead: fierce, desperate and bloodthirsty. Will he succumb forever to his inner monster or will he be able to recover at least some of his lost humanity? And, if he meets his love again, will he be able to refrain from killing her?
The author’s passion for vampires began during her teenage years. Dracula was her first love, but she moved on from him because he was intrinsically evil and could not be redeemed. Vampire lore has continued to evolve, however, presenting readers with immortals who are not always monsters, but creatures capable of ethical choices, of redemption . . . and love. Enthusiasm for this new breed of vampires compelled her to write her own stories, I am No-Thing is her second book, with a historical/supernatural plot partially based on her family’s war memories.
I look at the burning house, staring into the fire as it consumes my killers and my victims. Those who made a monster of me and those I killed to satisfy the thirst burning my throat. Perfect behavior for a well-mannered vampire. Clean up after your shit. Leave no evidence behind.
What will I do? Where do I go now? I walk aimlessly away from the flames, avoiding roads and cutting through woods, meadows and fields. I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t care. Of course I can’t go back to the US army now. I would do more damage than a panzer division. And I can never see my Claudia again. All my promises are meaningless now, because I am no longer a man.
I hope she’ll think I’m dead, as indeed I am, and forget me. Maybe she’ll find somebody else to love her as she deserves to be loved. I take no comfort from this thought.
I feel like crying, and I do, but then I realize I have no tears; my eyes are leaking a dense and dark fluid. I’m blinded by rage. In front of me there’s a half-destroyed hut, empty, its roof caved in. It offends me and I start kicking and battering it. In just a few minutes, the dust begins to settle on a pile of pulverized brick and stone. I collapse onto it, my feet bare now, because my boots could not sustain the assault, yet there isn’t a scratch on my skin.
All that I lived for, all that made me what I was, is gone.
My life has been taken from me.
I have killed two innocents already, and I’ll surely kill again. Such is my nature.
My humanity has been taken from me.
I’ll never be able to go back to Claudia now, lest I kill her.
My love has been taken from me.
I’m a beast walking on two legs. “You’ll never sleep again,” they told me. “You’ll never eat again.” And I can’t cry real tears.
My body has been taken from me.
I have nothing. I am nothing. I want to become less than nothing.
I fumble in my pockets and draw out the cigarette case, taking out the cyanide ampoule that Colonel Thompson gave me before my mission on the Apennines. It would have served if I had been taken by the Germans and tortured. I’ve been tortured, sure, but not by the Germans and I had no time to swallow the poison. Now I have time enough.
I let the ampoule fall in the palm of my hand, careful not to crush it with this new strength I can barely control. I bring my hand to my mouth. I crack the ampoule with my teeth and gulp every drop down. Bitter almonds. Right. I hope it’s swift…
Oh, Christ, this is what they told me, but I could not really believe it. But it’s true. I’m invulnerable, both outside and inside. Nothing can kill me but another vampire. I’m immortal.
Even my death has been taken from me.
I’m lying on the rubble curled up in a ball. I’ll not move until thirst overcomes me, and then…and then I’ll do it again. Day after day I’ll be a murderer.
Hang on, idiot. You do have a way to die. Now it’s night, but tomorrow the sun will rise again. It will be enough that you take off the ring they have given you and you will burn. So I have to wait, even if it’s insufferable, even if I can’t escape the memories tormenting me. My life before coming to Italy, my first mission… Avellino.
The invasion of (mainland) Italy began with the amphibious assault at Salerno. The 509th was initially in reserve with the 82nd Airborne Division in Sicily until the beachhead was in danger. While the 82nd dropped inside American lines to reinforce the beachhead, the 509th was assigned the mission of cutting enemy supply lines behind the German defensive positions. The 509th launched its third parachute assault at Avellino, Italy, only to find the drop zone occupied the night before by the 6th German Armored Panzer Division. The 509th operated independently for some two weeks behind German lines in company and platoon size elements disrupting the German rear area. Separate units scrounged for food and water among the Italian civilians until the unit finally reassembled in Salerno on 28 September 1943. Total casualties were 123 killed or captured, including the 509th commander and his entire staff.
(From the History of 509:
The German soldier emits only a low gurgle when Caputo slits his throat. But the other German, the one I felled with my carbine’s butt, is still breathing. Caputo gives me a very hard stare, then proceeds to do what I’m obviously reluctant to do myself and dispatches him. I try not to wince and help Caputo bury the bodies under a pile of rubble inside the bombed house.
So far, so good. We climb to the second floor, from which we can see if somebody is approaching, and prepare for a long wait. He passes the canteen to me and we both drink. It’s hot and nightfall is still very far away. Obviously, Joe Caputo believes I’m a pansy, and I wonder what he would think if he knew that I play the piano too. At least I used to. He’s from Trenton, New Jersey, a place where real men, particularly the ones of Italian descent, surely don’t play the piano. They might own a car repair shop, like Joe’s parents, or pursue other manly professions. In any case, he has decided that he will be my protector till we get back to the lines. If we do get back to the lines, that is. We have lost contact with the rest of our platoon, and we fear that many of our comrades are now dead or captured.
I wonder what my problem is. At the beginning of Operation Avalanche, when we were parachuted over Avellino, I went about my pathfinder job quite coolly, ignoring the fact that after a while our platoon, the first to be dropped, was discovered and fired upon.
This is my first time in combat. When we were sent to North Africa I didn’t participate in Operation Torch, as I was asked to give extra training to new recruits, which meant I was not selected for the disastrous El Djem mission. Then, during the landing in Sicily, the 509th was held in reserve.
In Avellino we soon realized that a full panzer division had positioned itself between our battalion and the rest of the Anglo-American army. I fought, trying to save my life and that of my fellow soldiers and to inflict damage, if I could. I have surely killed, as I’ve seen enemy soldiers fall under my shots. But cutting somebody’s throat in cold blood is an obscenely intimate act, and I found I could not stomach it, despite my combat training.
Those two Germans under the pile of broken plaster had been exactly where we ourselves wanted to be, inside a ruined house that would be a perfect place to hide until nightfall and then run down from the back of the building into a small valley. From there, Ciro had assured us, we would find a shortcut, allowing us to bypass the enemy and reach our lines undetected.
So we decided to dispose of them. I lured the two enemy soldiers out of the building by speaking their language. They came out, and I took the first down with the butt of my carbine, while Caputo crept behind the other.
“How come you speak German?” Caputo now asks me.
“My late maternal grandmother was Austrian,” I answer “and she insisted I learned the language.”
What would my Oma think of me being here now, fighting the army of her most famous countryman, the little corporal whom, since the Anschluss, she had hated and despised from the depth of her heart? She would probably be very happy, but very concerned for my safety, too.
And she would have reason to be. If it had not been for Ciro, I’d be dead by now. Our platoon had been ambushed by a much larger enemy force. We were pinned to a wall, answering to the fire, but clearly surrounded. Caputo and I were near the corner of the wall encircling a farm house, crouching behind a broken hand cart. A whispering voice had called to us in the local dialect: “America’, venite cu ‘mmia,” urging us to follow him. And, miraculously, we had been able to creep around the corner unseen and follow the farmer, who drew us inside through a gate. “Trasite int’o pozzo” he had said, indicating the well and giving us each a straw, mimicking the action of breathing through it.
So we clambered into the well, a task made relatively easy by several protruding stones, and slid under the dark water, guns and everything, The water was shoulder deep. When we heard German voices, we ducked our heads in too, breathing through the straws.
We remained there a very long time, frozen by the cold water, until Ciro came for us, long after the Germans had gone.
In the following days, brave beyond belief, Ciro concealed us, fed us, lent us clothes to put on while our uniforms and equipment dried, the carbines and pistols probably ruined. It was clear that we had no other course now than to try to go back, as indeed our engagement rules dictated, in other words saying that, when one or two soldiers lost contact with their unit and could not fight effectively anymore, they should try to avoid capture and find their way back to their lines.
Finally, when it is dark, Caputo and I leave the bombed house through a back window and creep down the slope, starting to run once we’re under the tree cover. Ciro has given us very clear instructions, describing our road to safety. At a certain point, however, Caputo stumbles and falls, uttering a string of profanities. A sharp, nasty metal wire has cut through his boot. He manages to rise again and, limping slightly, resumes his run at a slower pace.
We travel all night and some of the following day. Finally, thirsty and famished, we hear voices. We approach cautiously, remaining concealed behind some bushes but, thank God, they’re speaking in English. We’ve made it!