Tears time forgot.
Lapsed into emptiness
and arousing lips
delight in melancholy
Beauty in their
Tears time forgot.
Lapsed into emptiness
and arousing lips
delight in melancholy
Beauty in their
Betrayal is my ruin.
Hurled and forlorn hatred;
a rueful awakening
amidst drained azure
If only whispers would lead the way.
Light the way,
to another place
where all is sacred.
If in darkness I weep
then no one can see,
and of my dreams I speak
they are none for me.
Taken from my university assessment portfolio.
The beast, Strigoaicǎ, had birthed from the sombrous earth, her sleep interrupted, disturbed by my presence. Her body moved, as the sun melted away, toward the sienna-painted sky. From the hoar frost-coated creepers, and pearlescent gloom of the wintergreens, she emerged gracefully. Skin of alabaster and russet hair, the Strigoaicǎ was the very vision of beauty; exquisite and rare. She approached me, a fallow-struck haunting tinge. How did I get here? Branches of trees clawed into the velvet sky and I was lost among the protruding crosses of the shallow earth; the cemetery appeared from nowhere. It was intentionally placed, so far from life, near the crossroads. I was alone. No one would hear me die at her hand. Torn silks and satins of ivory adorned her beautiful form. The Strigoaicǎ, unnamed for she lost her name many years ago — a value no longer one to her, for what is a name without existence? — bathed in the icy breeze as it lashed from the woodland surrounds. Her stunning features far surpassed any I had ever seen before in a woman. There was something keeping me from running, something in her eyes which pleaded with me to stay. Stay. Her loneliness, and sad, watering eyes hit me deep within. She lured me. The melancholic siren sang her song; a call by the creature of the night, to lead me to her domain.
Her whispers were cold breaths, dissipating into the woods. If only her sorrow would too.
‘I sleep with the suicides. They are lonely creatures.’ The Strigoaicǎ announced, in a soft voice.
‘Why am I here?’ I asked hesitantly.
‘To show you what I am, what I have done. I no longer wish nor need to be in this world. I have lingered here for years in aching misery. I only desire for someone to know my story, so I can leave a part of me behind. Perhaps he is waiting for me.’
My mouth agape, I could not respond but rather watch her in deafening silence. Behind her, spotted flycatchers danced, hopping in the bluebells. I witnessed the Strigoaicǎ praying silently to herself, and in that instant our minds locked and became one. She took me to her past. I saw her misery through my eyes, and I felt her grief through my heart.
Denied love from this world, my darling took another creature. From then I became condemned to a fate far worse than death.
We were to be wed on the eve of my sixteenth birthday, at the Densuș Church. Strokes of fallow, umber, and auburn within the sky wove in between the azure dusk, it was a sublime background on that wondrous night. I walked into the sanctuary of our Lord, down the aisle of despairing onlookers. My eyes searched for the cause of such dread. My family wept when he didn’t show, yet I was only numb and frozen from shock. I sat in silks and satins atop the cold surface of the stone steps. Anger surfaced momentarily, but was followed quickly by self-pity, then self-loathing. He had left me waiting, hours. When the night’s sky loomed above the slowly scattering guests of the wedding, a messenger came. He delivered me news of my fiancé. The agony in my heart was far too much to bear, and yet I knew that there would be more for me to suffer. I took the letter from the messenger, my hands smoothed over the rough paper, as though it were precious to me.
I cannot take your hand, for my heart belongs to another. I am sorry that I cannot be the man that I promised I would be.
It would have been a betrayal of his heart, he said in the letter, if he were to be mine. I collapsed to the cold, cold, earth hoping death would ensnare me with her harsh, unyielding grasp. Weakness and emptiness stole my body. I desired never to leave where I had laid, beneath the willows, beneath the carrion crows, above the lonely souls, where I wished to weep forever. Drops from the heavens were cast down onto me, and I savoured the moment. The Lord must take me. I felt my life slipping away from me, yet it was only my heart, begging for its aches of heartbreak to burn to cinders. And around me, the raucous cries of the carrion crows deafened the woods. They screamed, relentlessly, wishing for me to leave. Leave.
Damning all the angels who have cursed and mocked me, I desired the sorrow which had latched onto me so fervently. The angels’ love was bitter now. Forcing myself up, I rejected the cross and found solace in the lonely walk upon the pewter cobblestones, towards the town’s lake. The muted greys of faces which passed me were a blur. An emptiness surged within my body and soul. Numbness took a hold of me as I found my way to the bridge, through the haze. My hands reached its icy, stone edge. Tears descended, warming my cheeks, and yet my heart could not be met by this same warmth. I knew what would become of me, if I took my life. Her. I would become her. I envisioned what I would have to do in order to survive. I envisioned the life I would take.
Peering over the ledge, my eyes struggled against the bracing winds. The lake had not frozen over yet, but it would by morning, and that is when they would find my body. Before I could think anymore, I raised myself up, clambered over the rail and plummeted into the depths below. His lover will be my first victim. The waters embraced me as they swirled around me, freezing my flesh and blood.
Will he forget me? He loved me once, I know it.
In the winter of that year, I was confined in the earth. Without my love; a counterpart to share my soul, I was destined to become her; the creature that walks no longer in daylight, but with the night’s shadows. I became the Strigoaicǎ.
Rationale: Currently I am studying the Gothic and Romantic periods, and Romanian mythology for my own personal project. For this particular assessment I wanted to explore a story of a strigoaicǎ, a female vampire. In Tale of the Strigoaicǎ, I focus on the tale that can be overlooked, the creation of the vampire.
The Strigoaicǎ (strih-gwah-ih-kah) has her roots in Romanian mythology. Her origins defy the modern vampire, in culture and creation, for the strigoaicǎ is full of so much depth and character. In my story, Tale of the Strigoaicǎ, the creature was created in dying before marriage, by suicide. Without a husband, she is doomed to become a vampire. Dying unwed and suicide are two ways in which a woman can become the strigoaicǎ. The male equivalent is the strigoi. The folklore is rich with ‘procedures’ to be carefully followed when burying the dead:
“In Roumania, bodies are disinterred at an interval of three years after death in the case of a child, of four or five years in the case of young folk, and of seven years in the case of elderly people. If decomposition is not then complete, it is supposed that the corpse is a vampire.” (Murgoci 320)
It has been very difficult finding information of the Strigoi or Strigoaicǎ, especially in English. What little I could find of the myth and funeral traditions was from a Romanian book titled, Datinile poporului român la înmormântări (Traditions of the Romanian people at funerals). Rough translations indicate that the aforementioned deaths (before marriage and by suicide) are only two examples of how a person can become a strigoi or strigoaicǎ.
I wanted to encompass what I feel are the key conventions of the Gothic (and vampire) genre: unrequited love and revenge. The Strigoaicǎ is left at the altar. Her fiancé falls in love with another woman. Driven by revenge, the heroine turns herself into a vampire. I do not reveal the details of her revenge, it is only implied that she has successfully done so. Although she is so full of fury that she decides to side with evil, when she speaks to the second character (in her later years), a softness is there. Perhaps the Strigoaicǎ did not find the satisfaction she was looking for in her revenge. She is burdened still by her love for her ex-fiancé that she desires death; an end to her misery as an immortal creature.
The date in which the Strigoaicǎ turned is significant, for the Gothic has its roots in medieval literature and culture. The lovely Richard Davenport-Hines makes the distinction between ‘Goths’, Scandinavian and eastern European tribes of the Middle Ages, and ‘Gothic’, referring to the architectural movement and also literature – much to my delight. “[The Gothic] has provided fantasies of dystopia – invoking terror, mystery, despair, malignity, human puniness and isolation – which since the seventeenth century have gratified, distressed or chilled consumers…” (Davenport-Hines 1) According the Davenport-Hines, the fear associated with the Gothic, originates from “the Goths’ ferocity” (1). I digress, however the point is that although the opening of the story, Tale of the Strigoaicǎ is set in the nineteenth century, predominantly it is set in the medieval period, as the Strigoaicǎ’s past is revealed. The aim ultimately was to show a connection between the two periods of time.
The heroine, facing the reality of unrequited love, deliberately becomes a vampire in order to seek revenge on her fiancé’s lover. She desires to haunt — “a fundamental part of Gothic Fiction.” (Giuffre 1)
The journal entry (or letters) is a popular convention in Gothic literature, as demonstrated by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I echo that idea, even if only in a small way with the use of the dates in the beginning of each segment.
Setting is very important in Gothic fiction: a desolate wasteland far removed from the real world, populated by extreme characters, or referred to as ‘excess’ by Susanne Becker. Jerrold E. Hogle notes:
“…a Gothic tale usually takes place (at least some of the time) in an antiquated or seemingly antiquated space – be it a castle, a foreign palace, an abbey, a vast prison, a subterranean crypt, a graveyard, a primeval frontier or island, a large old house, an aging city or urban underworld, a decaying storehouse, factory, laboratory, public building, or some new recreation of an older venue, such as an office with old filing cabinets, an overworked spaceship, or a computer memory. Within this space, or a combination of such spaces, are hidden some secrets from the past (sometimes the recent past) that haunt the characters, psychologically, physically, or otherwise at the main time of the story.” (Hogle 2)
In Tale of the Strigoaicǎ, I detail the setting in relation to Hogle’s definition, and apply the use of a cemetery. Of course, I did wish to dabble in Becker’s idea of excess as well. However, for my particular story, I wanted to create excess in the form of setting; I use emotive writing to detail the scene. The setting is unknown in the first segment, however it does move to Romania when the Strigoaicǎ recounts her tale.
This will be a long review (or essay)… but I have so much I want to discuss!
The Treatment, by Suzanne Young, picks up where The Program left off. Being agonisingly left on tenterhooks by the first novel, I made sure I had the sequel in my hands days after finishing the first.
Check out my review of The Program for a quick recap. If you’re way too impatient…
The Program follows Sloane as she fights to avoid the clutches of the Program, which aims to “cure” her of her depression. The cure involves removing all memories the Program believes to be a threat to a person’s well-being. Despite all her efforts, she was eventually flagged after her boyfriend, James, was taken. All her depressing memories were erased, including those of James, who the Program believed to be a critical reason for her depression.
Against the odds, Sloane and James found each other and recovered a few key memories. They proved as a threat to the Program and its success, and have been on the run ever since.
Back to The Treatment…
Sloane and James are still on the run from the Program. They are deprived of their memories, however they now have possession of the Treatment, a pill which has the power to restore all memories. But, they only have one.
While on the run, Sloane and James are constantly plagued with the burden of the Treatment. Does Sloane take it, or James? Or do they hold onto it in the hopes of it being replicated?
To me, I thought the answer was pretty obvious: have the pill replicated. But I never could comprehend the mentality behind their decision making. They didn’t want to remember, they wanted to live in the now, and remember only the events since the Program. Why?
The first novel ended with a few things I thought would be explored more in the sequel. For example, the epidemic was spreading, affecting adults, not only teens. Such themes, to my disappointment, were not addressed in this novel.
In The Treatment, just as many if not more questions are left unanswered. The reason behind the suicide epidemic starting? An answer is offered, one that sounds more and more like Suicide Club (a girl suffering from depression seemingly convinces her friends to kill themselves together with her), but the answer is dispelled just as quickly as it is offered: “The Program is breeding suicide” (319). The constant fear of being admitted into the Program drives teens to depression. So, was there ever an epidemic?
Forgiving the mother
Sloane seems to forgive her mother, at least after some hesitation and therapy, for admitting her into the Program. I think she had to forgive her mother. If Sloane had taken the Treatment (as she contemplated), then she never would have forgiven her mother, because her mother was the greater evil. Greater than the Program. Not knowing what she lost of herself in the Program makes it easier for her to forgive, because she is of the belief that her old life was full of so much pain, enough at least to warrant treatment. The new Sloane may believe her mother’s choice was for the best. That, and having James’ memories to help, builds the foundation for a closer relationship.
The one thing that confuses me most about this novel is the lobotomy. Not the why, but the how. Specifically, how did the Program manage to get permission to perform such a treatment on minors? Was that part of the admission stage? Because that itself raises more questions. As I understand the process:
1. You can be admitted to the Program by a parent/legal guardian, or
2. The Program just snatches up at-risk teens.
Concerning 1., so the parents sign a waiver, or give permission for any treatment to be made, including invasive and dangerous procedures like a lobotomy?
Concerning 2., how is permission, of any kind, granted? They are minors. Do they belong to the State? Do they seek parent’s permission? Can a parent refuse? (Both the lobotomy and/or the Program altogether.) Perhaps this was answered in the first novel, to my recollection it wasn’t. I am open to debate.
Perhaps in the world of the narrative, the Program does not need permission?
How the hell did he get the job as a handler? Why was he offered the Treatment by Dr. Evelyn Valentine? Was he a playful little kitten before he turned evil?
Bloody coward! Instead of giving Sloane the option of taking the pill (and leaving fate in her hands), along with all his cryptic messages about whether or not she’d forgive him, why not instead just tell her the truth about who he is? I would have kicked him in the boingloings!
If you’ve experienced betrayal, you’ve experienced the worst feeling in the world — unforgivable — and I completely understand Sloane not wanting to speak to him again.
Part of me is disappointed the ending was not a sad one. With a story/plot such as this, I couldn’t believe the ending would be anything but sad. I was waiting for a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-type ending.
I won’t lie though, I wanted those crazy kids to make it out of there, but the realist, the pessimist, in me didn’t believe it to be possible. The orchestration of the escape (right before Sloane’s lobotomy) seemed too smooth.
Enough about the story.
I was certainly not disappointed by Young’s style. As I mentioned in my review for The Program, I thought her writing was beautiful but unembellished, and complemented by gorgeous imagery. Even when it was macabre it was gorgeous, for instance how Realm talks of his suicide attempt.
One of the most beautiful, yet sad lines in the novel is when Sloane ponders whether she is “just a replacement of the girl [she] used to be” (75). It also sounded like a nod to Young’s other series concerning the Program, The Remedy. But, it’s when Dr. Arthur Pritchard comments on the reality of human nature, that I get a chill down my spine: “Human beings are cruel creatures. And what we don’t understand, we tamper with until we destroy it” (133).
A revelation just hit me: the Program seeks to rid sympathy and empathy. Sloane and James (all characters for that matter) try so hard not to let depression conquer them, they forbid themselves from crying, from feeling what is most natural — sympathy; a capacity to understand. When one hears sad news, the other stops themselves from feeling lest they should be considered ‘at-risk’.
It is heartbreaking to imagine that ‘normalcy’ means being deprived of sympathy or empathy.
I rate this book a Fox in Socks.
10. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë
9. Wormwood: A Drama of Paris – Marie Corelli
8. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
7. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
5. Fox in Socks – Dr. Seuss
4. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
3. The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
2. Dune – Frank Herbert
1. Fallen – Lauren Kate
0. 50 Shades of Grey – E. L. James
Read more about the scale here