1. The Catacombs of Volterra
Saint Marcus Day is a bittersweet holiday for me. Bitter , because that was the last time I saw my father. Sweet, because it opened my eyes to a frantic obsession that came to be my life's calling.
I've been having nightmares around this time of year ever since that day at the Piazza, when I last saw my father. The recurring nightmare always starts with me trapped inside an underground labyrinth, chased by the noise of flapping wings. Bats, I realize, fight to catch up with me as I corner the endless corridors in the dark. Running into dead ends relentlessly, I manage to push through. As I get closer to the center of the maze, a fading light points me towards what I'm unconsciously aiming for.
Not really knowing where it is I arrive at I find myself standing inside a candle light ancient crypt.
Six sarcophagi carved in elaborate alabaster rest in a chamber with walls lined with human skulls. Above the tombs a sign is carved in a language I don't understand; Latin maybe? A crest bares a V with a coat of arms exposing what looks like two trees and two moths.
As I move closer and try to decipher the symbols, the bats reach the catacomb chamber. As if in slow motion, they pause in mid air in front of me and materialize into people. Six beautiful people, three men and three women. I attempt to scream, but instead a hollow song comes out of me, like an empty screech.
And then I wake up.
Throughout the years the scene in the dream has gradually changed. Sometimes it appears that I am guiding the bats towards the catacombs, enticing them with the strange song in a secret language, my pitch pleading for a bargain. Other times I appear to be luring the bats with the same secret song, in a threatening tone, as if giving a warning.
Today I stand in the Piazza thinking about these dreams once again. It's been exactly twelve years to the day since I last saw my father. Twelve years since we moved to Volterra and the nightmares started. Twelve years since my journey begin in search of the truth. I have come a long way, mostly because I'm not a little girl anymore. I just turned seventeen, but I came to believe in the impossible a long time ago.
Right now the crowd spreads in front of me like a red sea taking over the streets, splitting into rivers of blood. People in the burgundy capes file in procession, chanting the songs that tell the story of Saint Marcus, the Christian missionary who drove all the vampires from Volterra thousands of years ago.
I stay away from the crowd, my demophobia getting the best of me. Ever since that day my father disappeared at the Piazza I skirt around them. Through the years I've tried to fight the fear and anxiety surrounding multitudes, but I always end up an observer, never a participant. So, I walk opposite the mass of people, heading home for lunch.
I smile as I pass two kids re-enacting the bloody battle of the wills between Father Marcus, sporting a wooden spear, and a vampire demon with fake plastic fangs. I head north of the Piazza, away from the Cathedral, just as the clock tower chimes to announce is midday.
That's when I saw it happened. After all these years of searching for truth and coming across peripheral evidence, here it was… proof before my very eyes. I couldn't believe it.