In the one photograph of him Mum had, taken at their wedding, Dad was handsome; not much taller than me, but three times as burly, with thick, straight, strong eyebrows, and gentle eyes. There was a sadness to him, like a frightened dog, trying to hide his weakness. His mouth was firmly closed, and he didn’t seem like he was particularly talkative. His hair seemed soft and floppy, and tumbled over his ears and down his neck. Mum was standing close to him as if she could not love him more, and as if she was prepared to protect this fragile giant from anything that came his way.
When Mum led us into a basement room I had no idea even existed, and showed us Jonathan Joestar’s head, he looked exactly like the picture, except his eyes were closed, and there was nothing below the neck.
When she’d told us she kept the severed head of my father for fifteen years since his death, I’d imagined a skull, with no flesh intact. But this head looked like he’d been killed mere moments ago – no, like he was still alive. The color of his skin was normal, with a healthy glow; his hair and eyebrows and eyelashes were black, like they were wet. His lips were pursed – this was an oddly attractive severed head. Mum kept it in a beautiful glass case that she clearly cleaned often.
“Jorge, this is your father,”
Mum said, but he seemed so alive I was afraid to say hello in case he opened his eyes and answered.
“It…it is dead, right?”
“Don’t call him ‘it’!”
Mum snapped, the whip crack in her voice at least twice as strong as I’d ever heard it. She wasn’t my Mum here; she was this head’s wife.
“Sorry. But…he really looks like he’s still alive,”
I said. Mum didn’t answer. Eh? He was dead, right? “Gracious,”
Lisa Lisa said, her hands at her mouth. This all came as a shock to her, too.
“Then the rest of him…that horrible man who was in the box with us, he really…”
“You…remember? Lisa Lisa?”
“Yes. I thought it was a dream. That man was so scary, and you were so scared that I…I didn’t really understand, but it seemed like you loved each other, and he seemed like Jorge’s father, but Jorge’s father was never so fearsome he made the very air around him quiver…”
Like she loved him? What did that mean? Confused, I looked at Mum, and she looked guilty. This confused me more.
What did it mean? In that box or coffin, while I was still inside her…what happened? Mum sighed.
“If you saw all that…of course you saw it, the box was so very small. But to actually remember it? You really are extraordinary, Lisa Lisa.”
“You did nothing wrong. Heh heh heh. I suppose you did remember Jonathan’s final breath, after all.”
“…I was scared, I think. Desperate.”
“Yes. And that fear didn’t end when we escaped the ship.”
“Let me start at the beginning,”
Mum said. She had Straits and Penelope go upstairs, leaving only Lisa Lisa and myself. There was a couch, an easy chair and a table placed opposite the glass cabinet. It was clear Mum came down here sometimes, and spent time with him. Mum sat on the easy chair, and Lisa Lisa and I sat next to each other on the couch. This did not leave us facing her; the couches were arranged diagonally, like the letter V, so that you could gaze upon my father’s head in the cabinet no matter which you were sitting on. It was clear Mum would sometimes lie down on this couch, gazing at father. Just the two of them. Even now, her eyes weren’t looking at us, but at him.
We sat there a while, but Mum didn’t say anything, so I tried to process the terrifying story I’d just heard. The horrible fate of Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando. My uncle had become a vampire!
I’d been a naïve fool. The story of my parents and the mystery of my birth were something I should have thought about, doubted, asked about. But I had been too busy wallowing in selfpity to do that. Thinking about it now, I should at least have asked how only Mum managed to survive the sinking of a ship with so many passengers, especially when my father, for all his muscles, didn’t. Passenger ship were equipped with a large number of lifeboats in case an accident happened. But if the explosion had been so sudden nobody else survived, then Mum must have known about the explosion at least a few minutes before it happened. If she had known, Dad would have. If Dad hadn’t survived with her, then he must have died before the explosion, or been close to death. She must have hidden in the box just before the explosion, with no time to save anyone else. Otherwise Mum would almost certainly have brought his body with her. Mum would never leave Dad behind, even if he was dead. Lisa Lisa understood that as well, which was why she’d leveled these accusations. And this special box.
Why was such a thing conveniently by Mum’s side in a situation so dire only she and Lisa Lisa could escape? Why was it so strong it could survive a ship exploding? Because someone had needed that box, and Mum was with that someone. That someone being the vampire Dio. Mum had witnessed him killing Dad. Dad died, and only his head remained. Even though it was Dio who had been only a head right before the ship exploded.
What happened to my father’s body? There was an obvious answer, but I was afraid to think it. The terrifying man in Lisa Lisa’s memories explained it. But Lisa Lisa had said Mum and that man seemed like they loved each other. I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t want to know. But I couldn’t stand up and run upstairs. Straits and everyone were waiting up there, and they’d laugh if I ran. I’d already shown Straits how pathetic I was five years ago. I don’t want power like Lisa Lisa’s,
I’d said, sniveling. I’d refused to face this stuff. But if I ran from their scorn and went outside, even more terrifying things awaited me. The very things I’d incurred shame to avoid might get me. There was nowhere on the island for me to hide. Lisa Lisa grew impatient, and started asking questions about the very things I didn’t want to hear.
“Mama Erina, did you save Dio from that explosion?”
“Don’t think I’m being unsympathetic. Just…if only Jorge’s father’s head is here, then that must be because Dio stole his body. Right? I can see why you’d want to protect your husband’s body. You could never have known just how terrifying Dio Brando really was. You would have wanted Jonathan Joestar’s flesh to survive, even if that meant it was Dio Brando’s body. Nobody’s blaming you for that. But what bothers me is the intimacy between you, so strong I sensed it even as a baby.”
“…you and Jonathan were friends as children, right? Which means Dio was, too. I went to England, researching Dio Brando’s life. I went to the remains of the Joestar manor. I talked to people in town. They told me that you and Jorge’s father first became a couple when you were thirteen, but that Dio Brando forced you to split up. Some people even said you cheated on Jonathan. I didn’t believe them, but Dio Brando clearly did something that made it so the two of you couldn’t even look at each other. I’d always assumed the man who murdered Jorge’s grandfather and became a vampire was a violent, evil man, but to my surprise, he was very popular with people around the Joestar manor. More popular than Jonathan Joestar. He was smart, a gentleman, had many friends, both men and women. He was a rugby star but never lorded it over anyone; his teammates trusted him completely, and he always had time for his fans. He was the most popular person in town. Half of them still believe he was innocent! He was quite popular with the ladies, but seemingly never had a girlfriend. Many people seem to think that’s
because he loved you, Mama Erina.
Whatever happened when you were thirteen has become quite the romantic legend. I guess my point is…if Jorge’s father didn’t tell you anything about Dio Brando, and the vampire’s public image was of a splendid gentleman, then I can understand you being confused on the raft.”
Hmm? What was Lisa Lisa implying? The mood was too tense for me to dare ask.
Mum said, catching her eye. It was so rare for her to address Lisa Lisa by her real name that we both gasped.
Lisa Lisa squeaked.
“You are only sixteen,”
“A little girl like you should never attempt to speak of matters of the heart as if she could possibly understand. You know nothing, yet. At the least, you have no idea what there was between myself and Jonathan, and what remains between us today.”
Yikes! I’d seen her scold Lisa Lisa before, but she never got this emotional. I knew this wasn’t because Lisa Lisa had hit the nail on the head, or because her pride had been wounded, or anything petty like that. Lisa Lisa knew that too. Mum avoided letting bitterness or anger or other negative emotions show. The angrier she got, the calmer she was, the more chilly her behavior. She never smiled more than when she was faced with unpleasantness or misfortune. But now? Her anger made her act angry. And this was clearly because it involved my father.
“…but I suppose there are many things you couldn’t hope to understand because I haven’t told you anything,”
she said, her tone gentle again. I was relieved. Lisa Lisa must be as well. Except Mum had one more snap of the whip inside her.
“But that’s no excuse for speculating on puerile rumors.”
Then Mum began her story.
“Dio Brando was evil from the day I met him. Sly, cruel, and manipulative, he made no attempt to hide his lust for control. But he was so charismatic that many people unreservedly admired
his behavior. The only people not blinded to his true nature were those who didn’t want his favor, and there weren’t many of them. The vast majority approved of his brash cunning, and realized instinctively if they ever crossed him he would destroy them. They may not have been conscious of it, but they were desperate to stay on his good side. Anyone who enraged him would be cast out, tormented mercilessly by his lackeys. People saw this, and were afraid to get involved; they averted their eyes, and refused to even talk about him. So the only ones who knew his true evil – who were forced to see the blackness of his soul – were those not allowed to curry favor, not allowed to avert their eyes. Those he directly and methodically went after. This was primarily Jonathan Joestar. But only for a short period after Dio joined the Joestar family. Once he forced me and Jonathan apart, he ceased attacking Jonathan directly, and turned his focus towards me. Not that he ever did anything – he simply watched me closely, making sure I never came near Jonathan. At first, I thought he was trying to force Jonathan further into solitude. After all, when Jonathan and I first drew close, Dio had stolen every friend Jonathan had – except his pet dog. Shortly after I was forced away from Jonathan, I heard that dog, Danny, had died in a horrible, mysterious accident. Jonathan was completely alone now, I thought. But Dio completely changed the way he treated Jonathan, like he was different person entirely. All Jonathan’s old friends returned, and he began throwing his arm over Jonathan’s shoulders with a friendly smile, as if there had never been a conflict between them. From a distance, I could tell Jonathan found this disconcerting.
While having his friends back was a relief, he never was quite able to shake the suspicion Dio’s about face engendered. In other words, Dio had left him dangling on the cliffs of solitude. Being surrounded by pretend ‘friends’ he could never really trust preserved his isolation permanently. If he’d been left alone, he may well have found a real friend somewhere else. Dio had saved himself the effort of crushing each new friend individually. But…while the other boys were allowed in Jonathan’s
company, he kept a close watch on me, keeping me from getting close. More than anything, this convinced me of the truth. That no matter how much Dio tried to prevent it, I alone, if we so much as saw each other, if we so much as exchanged a glance, I could reach Jonathan’s heart. That’s why he worked so hard to keep that from happening. Knowing how awful it must be for Jonathan, unable to trust anyone around him, I wondered for a long time if I should do something. In the end, I gave up. After all, Jonathan could fight for me, but he could not protect me.”
I was shocked to hear Mum say this. I mean, Dad was right over there. He may be just a head, but he seemed so alive. Mum saw the look on my face, and laughed.
“Don’t worry, Jorge. I’ve said as much many a time while talking with your father down here.”
Ehhh? What about speaking ill of the dead…? “Heh heh heh. You see, there was something else I knew. I knew Jonathan would never let Dio destroy his life. I knew fate would bring us together again one day. But what brought that about what much worse than I had ever imagined. I became a nurse, and Jonathan was brought to my care from the fire at the Joestar manor, badly injured and barely alive. A short time later Jonathan left me again, without a word, to continue his fight. I didn’t mind. I kept the faith, and he came back to me – once again, badly hurt. He had settled matters with Dio Brando at last, and we were married. Or so I believed. But as I said earlier, Dio had survived – or at least, his head had. Once again he tried to pry me from Jonathan. Heh heh. My husband was a bit of a fool, you see.
What kind of idiot doesn’t bother looking for the body of an immortal vampire?”
Mum looked over at Dad’s head and smiled, not a trace of sadness or regret, just tenderness and love. She was an amazing woman, I thought. I heard Lisa Lisa gulp.
“Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter,”
Mum said. Lisa Lisa and I exchanged glances.
“What happened when Jonathan and Dio Brando fought for a third time, and what happened to me,
Lisa Lisa, and Jorge inside me while we were adrift on that box.”
She closed her eyes for a minute, then opened them and began.
“The scene on that ship was like something from another world. The dead were attacking the living, and every room, every corridor echoed with screams, horrible groans, and sinister laughter. The smell of blood and the palpable heat of madness filled the air. And in the middle of all of that, Jonathan and Dio Brando fought. It was all over in a flash, right in front of my eyes. Jonathan accepted his death, but when I vowed to die with him, he pointed to baby Lisa Lisa, where she lay crying, and told me to save her and live. I could not refuse, so I picked up Lisa Lisa, and climbed into the box. You could tell at a glance it was no ordinary box. It was a bomb shelter, shaped like coffin, large enough for an adult to climb inside. I could lock it from the inside. Just before I shut the lid, I looked back, wondering if I could somehow get Jonathan inside, but he had Dio’s head wrapped tightly in his arms, and no longer had the strength to stand. Jonathan was so much heavier than me I could never move him in time, not with the machine room looking ready to burst at any second. And Jonathan was using his last strength to hold Dio captive. There was no chance I could have pried Dio lose and saved Jonathan’s body alone. ‘Be happy, Erina,’ he said, and his smile pushed me into the box. ‘Think about it, Jojo!’ I heard Dio cry. ‘I can grant you eternal life!’ I closed the lid, and locked it from the inside. As I did, there was a thunderous roar, and an explosion flung the box away. Lisa Lisa was crying in my arms, and I tried not to scream. I remembered a lullaby I’d heard as a child, and tried singing that. The cushions on the inside of the box were very soft, and I had an idea the box belonged to Dio Brando, so I wasn’t as worried as you might think. Dio Brando, for all his faults, was a clever man, and would take precautions. There were several more explosions outside the box, and we were flung up, down, right, and left, but the sturdy iron frame and thick cushions absorbed most of the impact. In time, the box began to bob gently.
We must have fallen into the water, I thought. If anyone else
survived, I would have to try and save them, I thought. So I opened the box. I knew full well that anything floating on the water might not be human at all, but one of those moving corpses. But I allowed myself to hope that Jonathan’s body would be floating nearby, and I had to look. I first pressed my ear against the lid, trying to catch the cries and laughter of the dead. All I heard was the sound of water lapping, so I turned the key, and opened the lid a crack. There was no sign of any horror. Through the gap I could see the sky. The sun had just set, and it was a beautiful shade of purple. The sea breeze slipped in with the light, and it was if it carried all the madness and horror away with it. Relieved, I opened the lid, and sat up. To my surprise, we were over a hundred meters from the remains of the ship. I looked around, but saw no survivors, living or dead. I put my hand in the water, intending to paddle back to the ship. And then I saw a hand under the box. It tried to grab my arm. I recognized it. I knew that arm, that hand, those fingers.”
“I snatched my hand out of the water, and tried to close the lid again…but then I realized Lisa Lisa wasn’t lying next to me. ‘Erina Pendleton,’ a voice said. I turned, and the terrifying face of Dio Brando was floating on the surface of the water. Below his head was a body that had not been there a moment ago, and that big, burly body was wearing tattered, burned clothing I knew only too well. Dio must have escaped Jonathan’s grip as the explosion hit, and stolen his body. The grief and terror were so strong I wanted to cry, but I could not afford the luxury. Dio had Jonathan’s feet impaled on a stick of wood embedded in the tattered side of the box. A wave of fury crossed me at the thought of him being so rough with my husband’s body, but I did not dare voice my anger. I could not do so because what had been Jonathan’s arms were cradling little Lisa Lisa against what had been Jonathan’s chest, and Dio Brando had his fangs bared. ‘Or should I say Erina Joestar?’ he asked. Half his face had been blown away in the explosion, but that
only made his half-smile all the more terrifying. Dio’s head seemed to be barely keeping a grip on Jonathan’s shoulders. He offered me a deal. ‘Your choice,’ he said. ‘Baby Lisa Lisa’s blood, or mine.'”
“I had promised Jonathan I would save Lisa Lisa’s life. I told him if he laid a finger on him, I would pull his feet off the stake and leave him adrift in the sea. I didn’t think he had the strength to fight me, and if he had, he would not have needed to steal Lisa Lisa and try to bargain with me. ‘Then there is only one answer,’ Dio said. I said nothing, but I knew I had to accept it. Giving baby Lisa Lisa to a vampire was not a choice I could consider. ‘If it helps, think of it this way,’ Dio said. ‘You aren’t keeping me alive. You’re keeping your husband’s body alive.’ I let this pass, but made him promise not to turn me into one of those horrible living corpses. ‘I will duly honor whoever saves me life,’ Dio said. ‘The same honor I gave Jonathan Joestar I give his wife.’ But the only honor he’d tried to give my husband on that ship was a swift and painless death. This was Dio’s arrogance. I held out my arm, and allowed him to feed. Then I took Lisa Lisa, and rested in the box. Dio Brando was not a man prone to restraint, and had drunk so much blood I could barely remain conscious. Before I shut the lid, Dio said, ‘I thought my meeting with Jonathan Joestar was fated, but it appears destiny guided the three of us together.’ I did not answer him.”
“Dio spent that night struggling, in terrible pain. I heard him thrashing in the water, climbing onto the lid and dropping back into the sea, fighting for control of the body. Sometimes he yelled at it, other times he screamed like a madman, shaking the lid, and there was nothing I could do but clutch Lisa Lisa and tremble. Of course Dio was in pain. He was trying to merge with a body nothing like his own, not even the same blood type. I was a nurse, and I knew
that would have been impossible for any normal human. The human body rejects foreign tissue, and attacks it. If the blood type matches, a blood transfusion is possible. But organs and bones are not so easy. Trying to screw a head onto a different body was unthinkable. After a long time, I stopped hearing Dio’s voice, and he stopped thrashing about. I hoped Jonathan’s body had rejected Dio’s head, and Dio’s attempt to steal his body had failed. I hoped to find him reduced to a severed head again. I hoped his silence signaled failure. But after a long time, I heard Dio laughing, and my hopes were dashed. Jonathan’s body would not be released. Dio shouted, and this time I heard him clearly. ‘The world is mine! OK, OK. The way to heaven? Hmph! I will get there!’ The pride in his voice made me sick with fear. Trembling in the darkness of the box, I began wondering how I could possibly bury this devil.”
“Before the sun rose, Dio knocked on the lid and woke me up.
When I opened it, he said, ‘Let me drink one more time before the sun rises.’ I held out my arm for him to drink.
When he was done, he said, ‘You must be hungry. It’s hardly fair for me to gain strength while you dwindle, and I need you to keep making fresh blood.’ He showed me a fistfull of fish he’d caught. Then he grabbed a bit of broken ship floating nearby. A light shot out of his eyes, setting the wood on fire, and he used it to cook the fish, and handed them to me. I knew that light was the same thing that had stolen Jonathan’s life. Yet now it was saving mine. I took the fish from him, chewed them, and fed them to Lisa Lisa. From her size, she was only three months old. It was a gamble, but she was losing strength quickly. I had lost a lot of blood, and had very little strength. I was starving, but I couldn’t bear to take food from Dio.
When he saw I wasn’t eating myself, he said, ‘You may not wish to eat what I provide. But if you’ll feed this baby, you should feed the baby inside you as well.’ At the time, I had not yet realized I was pregnant. But I had been aware of a change in my body. I never
expected to hear such news from him. I was shaken by this, but my feminine instincts told me he was telling the truth.
When I was done feeding Lisa Lisa, I ate the rest of the fish myself. I had no choice. ‘Eat well, make lots of blood – so much I can’t drink it all.’ I had no intention of dictating how much blood he could drink. Our deal was made, and I had nothing further to bargain with. Dio had recovered enough that he could easily kill me if the whim struck him. At any rate, the fish were delicious. I ate quickly, chewed, and swallowed. My stomach set to work, and my body started making blood. I could feel my pulse growing stronger. Blood is the power that keeps us alive, and gives us our strength. Not surprising it gives vampires powers humans could never have. Once I had eaten my fill of fish, Dio began gulping down sea water. ‘Once it has entered my body, I can change it as I please,’ he smirked. He turned the water from salt to fresh, then reached out his hands, slipped Jonathan’s fingers into Lisa Lisa and me – just like he did to feed – and injected water into our bodies. ‘The sun will rise soon. I can’t do anything while it’s out. I can’t have you dying of thirst. Once the sun rises, close the lid, and avoid exerting yourself in any way. The box is designed to maintain a comfortable temperature no matter what happens outside.’ Dio began to move back in the water, to hide under the box. But I stopped him, and told him to get in the box. Not in the same compartment as me or Lisa Lisa, of course. I had worked out that this box had two layers. The depth of my berth compared to the height of the outside made it clear there was room below the cushions for another person. An emergency second compartment seemed like a precaution any smart vampire would make to avoid the sunlight. Holding Lisa Lisa, I moved onto the open lid, and Dio climbed out of the water. ‘Did you think you’d be more likely to get your chance in this box than the water, Erina Joestar?’ he asked. He’d seen right through my scheme. There was nothing I could say. Underneath the box, Dio could easily escape. If he swam down a few dozen meters, the sun could never reach him, and he was a vampire – obviously he could do that. But if he was in
the box with me, all I had to do was open the lid, and the sun would pour in. Dio knew exactly what I’d been thinking. He shook the water off, and said, ‘Let me remind you that I can kill you at any moment. I can tear that baby to pieces, I can reach into your belly, tear out that embryo, and eat it while you watch. Remember that. Remember it well. The only reason I don’t is out of respect. Like I said. Each tiresome scheme you attempt lowers my respect for you. If I cease to respect you, I will inflict the greatest indignity upon you.’ I was frozen with fear. Dio leaned close, and whispered in my ear. ‘You wanted me in the lower compartment. It was so obvious. Are you really that stupid? No one that simple-minded has any right to Jonathan’s hand.’ Those words went straight to my heart, and tore right through me. ‘You will be punished. I’ll take back what the fish gave you.’ His shoved his fingers in my neck, and drained my blood again. Our deal had ended.
Whatever pretense we had of equality had crumbled in an instant.’
“‘Further punishment,’ he said, and snatched Lisa Lisa from my arms. I was too woozy to resist. He then threw me face down in the second compartment. The cushions inside were just as thick, so it didn’t hurt that much, but Dio must have seen me try and shield my womb. ‘If you really are stupid, that baby will die,’ he said. He replaced the partition, shutting me in the bottom of the box. I heard a click a moment later, so I assumed he had closed the lid to keep the sun out. In the darkness I put my hands on my belly, and tried desperately to stop myself from passing out. If I lost consciousness, I felt my bodily functions would fade so much the baby would die. After was seemed like a long, long, long time, I heard Dio’s voice through the cushion. ‘Don’t you dare die, Erina Joestar. If you die, I’ll have to eat this baby.’ The thought of little Lisa Lisa in his hands made me desperate to communicate that I was still alive down here, but my voice was a hoarse whisper, and there was nothing hard to tap, just soft cushions that absorbed all sound. ‘You can’t just make
this easy?’ he growled, and flipped the box, so it was resting upside down. Now I was lying on my back, unable to move. Right before my eyes, a small door I’d never noticed slid open, and I could see the blue sky up above. The white clouds and dazzling sunlight did wonders for my spirit, and I was able to lift myself up to the little window, and peer out. Sitting on top of the box was a bird, its wings torn off, and its body roasted. ‘Eat that. Make blood,’ said Dio’s voice beneath me. I did as he said, wondering as I ate how Dio could open this window, and prepare this meal without entering the sunlight. I was too dazed to think clearly, and no answer came. I understood only one thing – that Dio had some power I didn’t understand. And this new power could grab a bird out of the sky in broad daylight, light a fire, and cook it. None of that could be done while hiding under a box in the water. None of that could be done without leaving the compartment beneath me, which Dio had not done.”
“I devoured the bird, and once again the fresh blood came rushing through my body. At last my mind started working. The first thought I had was that if there were birds, we must not be that far from land. That improved our odds of rescue, possibly in the near future. I had only to survive until then. And somehow protect Lisa Lisa that long. I had given up all hope of killing Dio at sea. I was only interested in survival. Not to save my own life, but for Lisa Lisa, and the child inside of me. But whatever spirit the new blood brought me was dashed away with a single roar from Dio. ‘Hey! Shut the door and get back inside the box, you awful cow! Don’t let light inside my box! If you’re done eating, get back in your hole, bitch!’ Nobody had ever spoken to me like that. I’d never associated with anyone who used language like that. It was as great a shock to me as being struck by lightning. But Dio did not even allow me time to reel. ‘I’m sick of your dainty bullshit! You could have eaten the fish and that bird raw! I could have jammed them
straight into your stomach rather than let you feed yourself! The only reason I didn’t is out of consideration! Yet you can’t even show me the same in kind? Cut the damn sunlight off!’ Such a torrent of abuse. I hastily closed the door.
With it shut, all I could do was lie there in the darkness, and listen to Dio rant. I knew nothing of ‘true suffering’; being a nurse just proved I was ‘a hypocrite’; deep down I was really ‘phony’, ‘slow’, and ‘a plague that drags people down the more you try to help’. That’s why Jonathan died, he said. ‘The reason I had to kill Jonathan begins with you.’ ‘When we were children, I just made a little pass at you, and Jonathan lost his damn mind, attacked me for no reason. That’s why I had to kill him.’ ‘Jonathan was a good guy. If he’d never attacked me, we would have been real friends. Brothers. But you made sure that never happened.’ ‘The reason Jonathan died was because you used him to get at me.’ ‘You killed Jonathan Joestar.’ I could argue with none of this. I just stifled my voice, and cried as quietly as I could. It was agonizing. I wanted to yell back, but…I couldn’t. I was so unused to being treated like this that in the back of my mind, I started to wonder if maybe he had a point. After all, I had just lost my beloved husband in a way that hardly seemed real. I was not in control of my emotions. And Dio took advantage of that. He didn’t let me think. He kept the harassment going for hours, violently changing his manner to keep me off balance. If I started crying he’d fall silent for a minute, then change his tone. ‘I said I would show you respect. I’m sorry. I couldn’t control my own emotions. I said things I shouldn’t have. Closing the door was better for you, as well. Like I said, what I can do during the day is limited. If you were dehydrated, I’m not sure I could save you. So I wanted you back in the box as soon as possible, before you started to sweat.’ Earlier he’d claimed he could do nothing during the day. But he’d been able to flip the box, cook a bird, and feed it to me. I was too afraid to challenge him on this. His behavior was bizarre, unstable, and unpredictable. The more Dio told me about how everything he did was for me, the more I apologized. Saying what he wanted to
hear. ‘I should have thought of that. I’m so sorry.’ All I wanted to do was get him to stop blaming me, then explaining how I’d betrayed his respect and enraged him. But apologizing just made him change tactics again. ‘You’re sorry? Sorry for what?’ ‘You don’t even know what you’re apologizing for. Are you mocking me?’ ‘I’m showing you respect, and you’re ignoring it!’ The hidden door flew open, and I was dragged out of the box. How he did this, I didn’t know. Something grabbed a handful of my clothing, but I couldn’t see what. This invisible thing threw me into the water.
We’d been on our honeymoon, and I was dressed for dinner. In an instant, it was soaked through, and heavy, and tangled with my limbs. I couldn’t swim in that, not as weak as I was; I sank like a stone. Dio left me until I had nearly drowned, then his invisible power yanked me out of the water again, and put me in the box. I coughed up water, shaking, and he demanded that I show ‘remorse’. I said anything he wanted me to say, desperate not to get thrown in the water again. Then his voice turned sweet again. He explained how worthless I was, how much I deserved to be drowned, or have him feed on my blood, how all of this was done for my benefit, out of kindness. He fed me enough to restore what he drank, and then began screaming at me again over nothing. By noon I was completely under his control. I didn’t want him to drown me, didn’t want him to drink from me, and nothing else mattered. Then for some imagined slight Dio demanded I choose between drowning or having my blood drained. Letting him feed was far less painful, but I was worried about the baby, so I had to choose being thrown in the ocean. For most of the day he tortured me with the water. And between he would feed. Either punishment pushed me to the brink of death, but he would always force me back to life. Sometimes I genuinely wished he’d let me die. But Lisa Lisa and the baby inside me kept me alive. I wanted to survive. I had to survive. I would do anything to survive. Before the sun set all traces of my identity had been destroyed, and without even seeing Dio Brando once throughout this whole ordeal, I even agreed to marry him.”
“No matter what I did I could not please him. The fear was so overwhelming I nearly vomited every time I heard his voice, but he’d drop me in the water if he noticed, so I had to put my face underwater and throw up as quietly as I could. Dio’s punishments and assaults continued. I was not allowed to rest safely in the box. I became dehydrated, and then sunsick. I was running a fever, unable to think, unable to understand what was happening to me. I didn’t even know who I was. Dio had denied me everything.
When the sun sank below the horizon, Dio opened the lid of the box, and appeared before me. He’d been sipping my blood since sunrise, and his burns had almost completely healed. His skin and hair were glossy, and against the clouds of dusk he appeared to be a very handsome man indeed. My eyes did not see Dio Brando, but someone who owned me completely. I was his toy to do with as he pleased. There was a part of me oddly proud that my owner was so beautiful. His strange power held me just above the surface of the water. Dio looked down at me, and smiled. ‘You’re wet, filthy, ugly, and good for nothing but your blood.
While I allow you to live, give me all the blood you have. You don’t have my permission to die.’ Beneath that crimson sky, I at last saw Dio for who he was. My mind finally realized the man standing there was Dio Brando. And I remembered. I was Erina Joestar. My maiden name was Erina Pendleton. And I realized one other thing. During the day, when Dio had been placing me under his control, I had wondered if he desired me as a woman, but of course he didn’t. He was Dio Brando. Even when he’d been rough with me to tear Jonathan and me apart, he had never actually cared about me. He had simply been trying to isolate Jonathan Joestar. I had simply been a tool, a pawn to make that happen. Even now, he had not broken my spirit because he wanted me. He didn’t care about me. Not ten years ago, and not now.”
“Sitting on the lid, Dio used his mysterious power to bring me closer to him, and turned me upside down, dangling in the air. ‘Give your new husband a kiss,’ he sneered. ‘Of your own free will. Make it a good one and I might give you water and food.’ No sooner had the words left his mouth than my hand shot out and slapped him across the face. I scarcely even knew that I was smiling. ‘I can’t do that. There’s no muddy water to wash my lips with.’ …I will refrain from explaining what I meant by that, but resisting him like this, as strung out as I was, seemed to catch Dio off guard. He looked surprised, and did not react immediately. It was but a moment, but I had time to think. He was the same man he’d been ten years before. His core hadn’t changed. He was doing the same thing. Repeating what had happened ten years ago. He was dominating me to isolate Jonathan Joestar, to make him feel powerless. He wanted Jonathan Joestar to see what he was doing to me. So Jonathan Joestar must be close enough to see me. Dio Brando had been a vampire without a body. He’d stolen Jonathan Joestar’s body. So what had happened to Jonathan Joestar’s head? Had he left it on the exploding ship? With his obsessive nature? Of course not. He would have taken it with him, and then humiliated his wife in front of it. That was the sort of monster he was. And he had the power to keep Jonathan alive, even as a severed head. Dio Brando was a vampire, and he’d turned the ship’s passengers into living corpses. He must have done the same thing to Jonathan. He’d turned him into one of those horrible monsters from the ship. This thought made me shake with sadness and fear, but it also gave me strength. I took my eyes off Dio, and looked around me, trying not to betray my intent. There were any number of ship fragments floating near us. The waves had not drawn them away. This seemed odd – odd enough.
Was Dio’s strange power keeping them here? He wasn’t just keeping them in case he needed a fire. If he wanted that, he could have moved a number of them into the box, or used his power to pile them on top of the lid, and let them dry. I had watched
him lighting the wet wood, and it took a considerable amount of time. So he wasn’t keeping them floating here for use as firewood, but to hide something underneath. Just has Dio had hidden beneath the box. I looked again, searching for something large enough to hide Jonathan’s head. But before I could find it, Dio reached his hand out, and wrapped it around my throat. ‘Your tongue is sharp, Erina Joestar. Heh heh. So be it. The night has just begun. I can take my time, and let you know just how dull you are, and just how pathetic your violent outburst was.’ I stared at him in silence, thinking. A few moments ago I had been so terrified of him. But not any more, not now that Jonathan was at my side. Jonathan Joestar was here with me. That thought alone made me myself again. It didn’t matter if he was a monster, or the living dead. Jonathan was Jonathan. My husband. I would not allow myself to grovel before another man with him watching. I knew that Dio would continue to torment me. Even if Jonathan had become a monster, if any trace of humanity remained within him, he would not want to see me treated like this. But he had no way of escaping…unless somebody allowed him to die. As his wife, that was my duty. This was an awful thought. But I felt certain Jonathan would not be able to bear turning into one of those ugly monsters I’d seen on the ship. So my first order of business became escaping from the grip of whatever power kept me suspended in the air. That was easy enough, as long as I could bear the pain.
When Dio had this power throw me into the ocean, it often left me to my own devices. Especially if he was sure I was too exhausted to swim. My spirit might have returned, but the fear was still very strong; it was all I could do not to tremble or throw up. But I managed to look calm long enough to say, ‘Hold your tongue. You are no longer human, and have no right to speak that way to me.’ Dio’s grin vanished. ‘Not that you had any right to speak to me when you were human. You spoke and lived and behaved like a gentleman on the surface, but you never were one. You have an inferiority complex about your impoverished origins, and that prevents you from improving yourself as a human. Let me
tell you, Dio Brando. Your poverty did not make you a villain. Your relationship with your parents did not make you what you are. Lack of education or wealth had no bearing. You were doomed by your own inability to look beyond the surface of anything, by your shallow mind, and by your overwhelming self-importance.'”
“As I spoke these words, I realized I wasn’t just trying to make him mad. I meant every word, and genuinely believed I was speaking the truth. And Dio’s reaction made it clear I’d touched a nerve. For several moments, he remained shaken. Then he yelled, ‘Shut up, you bitch!’ and used his mysterious power to shove me under the water.
When I had almost drowned, it yanked me out. He yelled at me again, and shoved me back under so hard I almost passed out when I hit the water. But I could not afford to lose consciousness here. I desperately shook off the blackness, opened my eyes underwater, and looked for Jonathan. But there were so many bubbles around my body I could barely see. As soon as the bubbles began to thin, I was yanked out of the water. Dio’s fury – or rather, his consternation – was tremendous, and I was in and out of the water, swallowing it and coughing it up so fast the water coming in and the water coming up met in the back of my throat and formed a whirlpool. I had no choice but to endure it, though it was hardly endurable. But I had to keep myself conscious and alive. I nearly suffocated on the sea water and vomit, but just before I did, Dio’s power let go. I was flung a good ten meters away, and hit the water with a thunderous splash, and sank into the churn of the ocean. As I cleared my throat, I caught a glimpse of something under the debris near the box. My husband’s head, Jonathan Joestar’s head, bobbing up and down. It was far away, and I couldn’t make out what kind of monster he’d become, but peering through the murky waters, I knew I had to do my duty as his wife, and kill my husband.”
“I knew this was my one and only chance to act. I had to do it while I was far away from Dio and the box, before he noticed what I was up to. My body and mind could not take much more torture; I would not physically be able to act much longer. Further violence would almost certainly lead me to lose myself again, become Dio’s toy again, and allow myself to suffer all manner of indignities with Jonathan watching. I wanted to avoid that at all costs. So I surfaced, coughed violently, emptying both stomach and lungs, and then pretended to faint, allowing myself to sink beneath the water. I knew Dio would not pull me out immediately, and I guessed he was so angry he would leave me to drown until the last possible moment. Once I was a few meters below the surface, I began to swim as fast as I could. I was never the best swimmer, and my dress was heavy and made it hard to move at all, but I thrashed my legs and arms with all my might, desperate to reach Jonathan and kill him. At last I reached Jonathan…and my resolve proved to be for naught. Floating beneath the remains of the ship, in water still tinged orange from the sunset, was the head of my beautiful, beloved Jonathan Joestar – not a monster, but looking for all the world like he was still alive.”
“No matter what he’d become, after a day in the water, I expected the head’s flesh to have decayed, his skin nibbled away by fish. So this miraculous sight made me gasp. I was transfixed. I had been so focused on laying my monstrous husband to rest….and he not only wasn’t a monster, he didn’t even look dead. Hesitantly, I reached out my hand, and touched Jonathan’s head. The living corpses on the ship had growled furiously, attacking anything living indiscriminately, but Jonathan’s eyes remained slightly open, not looking at me, not trying to bite me, not moving at all. I took him in my arms, and held him close, feeling the softness of his hair against my cheek. My husband was so different from what I’d expected that
I lingered too long, and Dio’s mysterious power found me. It grabbed me by the collar, and yanked me out of the water. ‘You knew Jonathan was down there?’ Dio roared. ‘You fool! Do you want your husband to eat you!?’ This, and the panic in his voice surprised me, but Jonathan’s head was cradled in my arms, smiling gently, saying nothing. He did not seem like he would ever attack me. Perhaps even more surprising was that Dio tried to yank Jonathan away from me, as if trying to rescue me from him. ‘No!’ he yelled, and that invisible hand of his tried to snatch Jonathan from my arms.
We struggled for control of him for a moment, but he soon stopped trying. The hand let go, I got my arms back tightly around the head, and then I turned around to find Dio staring at Jonathan. ‘What’s going on…?’ he whispered. Clearly, Dio found Jonathan’s condition as surprising as I did. I could never have killed Jonathan with him still looking this beautiful, but from Dio’s reaction, it seemed I might not have to. The relief was so great I nearly fainted. But if I fainted, there was no telling what Dio might do to Jonathan, so I persevered. Dio set us down on the lid of the box, where he and Lisa Lisa stood. ‘Jonathan…how long will you pursue me? How long will our fates remain entwined?’ he muttered, glaring at Jonathan’s head. I knew the danger was not yet over; indeed, Jonathan’s arrival had sent Dio into a fit. ‘I won’t allow it! He’ll get in my way again! I can leave no part of him! Erina Joestar! He’s already dead!’ I knew I had to protect my husband’s head until this passed. I grabbed a piece of driftwood, and turned to face Dio. ‘I won’t let you touch Jonathan!’ I cried. I put the sharp end to my throat, and stabbed it into the side of my neck, piercing my jugular. As a nurse, I knew this wound was fatal. I had dug deeply to ensure it would be. I drew the jagged piece of wood all the way around, across my wind pipe, and opened the other vein. I needed to release a great quantity of blood at once. Blood filled my vision, spraying out in arcs. I could feel it coating my shoulders, warm, and wet. Good, I thought. The wound had to be deep enough to kill me instantly. Dio screamed. ‘What are you doing!? You stupid bitch!’
Heh heh heh heh. I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud. He was so predictable. I knew it. I knew Dio couldn’t kill me.”
“The first sign was when he tried to separate me and Jonathan – he believed Jonathan was a monster, and tried to rescue me. Given Dio’s obsession with Jonathan, his unnatural fixation on causing him grief, then letting Jonathan eat me seemed like something he would welcome, or at least not stop immediately. But in that instant, he’d blurted out his true feelings.”
You fool! Do you want your husband to eat you?
“What with the blood gushing out of my neck, I swiftly lost consciousness, but eventually, I woke up again. Dio had given me blood, and used his mysterious power to heal the wound on my neck. I was woken by the sound of Lisa Lisa crying, and found Dio collapsed next to me. He had injected me with most of the blood he’d drunk, and while he remained conscious, he was as weak as he’d been when he first emerged from beneath the box. Perhaps even worse. This time he didn’t even have the strength to take Lisa Lisa hostage. He’d come close to sacrificing himself to save me, and he looked relieved to see me awake again. I first checked the condition of my wound. As far as I could tell, the gash on my throat had been sewn together, the work as fine as any surgeon. Despite myself, I was impressed. ‘Where did you learn to do this?’ I asked. Slumped against the corner of the box, Dio glanced at me, and rasped, ‘In a book. I liked reading. I read all kinds of things, taught myself anything that might be useful.’ For the first time, I felt I understood just how alone Dio had always been. Outwardly, Dio had been surrounded by friends, the life of the party. He’d never seemed like someone who would have time to read. But now I
could imagine him slipping away early. His friendships were shallow, for appearances only; alone, he had nothing to do but read. Nothing Dio’s ambition granted him was real. He had no one he could share his real feelings with, nothing he’d genuinely accomplished with his own two hands. His life was hollow. This, I thought, was why he’d been so fixated on Jonathan. Jonathan was stuffed full where Dio was empty; he’d grown up to be a man who made genuine friends he could honestly share his honest emotions with, a man who threw himself body and soul into everything he did. Growing up in the same house with that, how could Dio not compare himself to Jonathan? The frustration this comparison caused him was perhaps the one genuine emotion he ever felt. And because he was unused to such emotion, he grew confused, and was driven to kill Jonathan and steal his body. If he wanted to be like Jonathan, he should have just told people how he felt, and made himself a true friend. The life he’d led before joining the Joestars had made Dio Brando who he was, and true friendship was almost certainly an impossibility for him…but Jonathan Joestar was not the sort of man to push someone away just because they’d committed a crime. If he’d allowed his feelings to show, some solution would have been found. Thinking about it, it occurred to me that Dio had been expression those emotions as clearly as he knew how. Hurting Jonathan, trying to kill him – these were a backhanded way of expressing his admiration. Had he felt that for anyone but Jonathan, he would never have admitted it. I had seen the results of their conflict myself, and was seeing it now, here on this little box. One had become a severed head, and I could not even tell if he was alive or dead. The other had become a vampire, and stolen his rival’s body, but had given his blood to save that rival’s wife, placing himself at the brink of death as well. I hugged Jonathan’s head to me, looked over at Dio, and found myself shedding tears for both of them. I was overcome with sadness, grief, and pain. I made no attempt to wipe the tears away, letting them roll down my cheeks. His voice hoarse, Dio asked, ‘Are you going to kill me?’ ‘I will not,’
I said. ‘Do you cry because you pity me?’ he asked. ‘You may have saved my life, but I could never pity you. I just wondered why you and Jonathan had to end up like this, and I couldn’t stop myself.’ ‘It was fated,’ Dio said. ‘Does it have something to do with the way to heaven?’ I asked. He made a face. ‘You heard that? Damn it…if I could kill you I would.’ ‘Is not killing me a condition for getting to heaven?’ He did not answer. Instead, he said, ‘Do you know what blood is?'”
“When I did not answer, Dio said, ‘Blood is power, Erina Joestar. Make blood to live. This is good for me. And what is good for me is good for you.’ Dio knew. He knew the wicked thought that had entered my head when I held Jonathan in my arms.”
Her long, long story drawing to a close, Mum looked at Lisa
“I could have killed Dio Brando there and then. But I didn’t.
When the night ended, I put Dio in the bottom compartment, and when a ship rescued us, I had them weigh the box down and sink it. This is my sin. I could not kill Dio. Even though I would have killed Jonathan if he’d been a monster. You see, I had hope.”
Hope? What part of this story led to hope? Lisa Lisa’s face was grim.
“Not hope that Dio would regret his actions and become a better person. That man is incapable of such a thing.”
Then what kind of hope? Mum turned to look at my father’s head.
“But as long as Dio is alive, then Jonathan’s body is too.”
I felt a bolt of electricity run down my spine. Her eyes looked on my father, Mum said, “Jonathan is not dead. And I did not want to lose the chance to get his body back. I
believed that day would come, and I’ve been waiting here in the hope that it would.”
This was why Mum had stayed living in the Canary Islands, never returning home to England. She wanted to remain with father’s head, near the sea where his body slumbered. But this also meant the vampire Dio Brando was still alive. And…the only way anyone would ever get a chance to get father’s body back was if they faced him directly. Even if he was locked in a box, on the brink of death, he was a vampire; and from what Mum told us, even without moving his body, he had some strange power that allowed him to do all manner of horrible things to her. He seemed incredibly dangerous.
Lisa Lisa said.
“This mysterious power Dio had…it seems to have shown up when he stole Jorge’s father’s body. That’s not a power vampires have, and he didn’t do anything like that when he was fighting Jorge’s father.”
“Then you’re most likely correct. That first night, when Dio was outside the box, he seemed very confused. That might have something to do with it.”
“Mm. Um. Powers like that…some people are born with them, and others get them after something dramatic happens, an injury or the like. The Hamon masters call these Spirit Hamon, or Stands. A strange name, but people with this power can see the power standing next to them, like a ghost. So…I don’t think Dio was just confused that night. You make it sound like he tried talking to it, and tried fighting with it. In other words, he saw this ghost-like thing, and didn’t know what it was. Stands often look like people.”
Mum was hardly in a position to know for sure. Her story done, the three of us went upstairs. Penelope looked terrified, and threw her arms around me, refusing to let go.
“So many people died! Jorge, I’m scared. This island is a scary place.”
Hunh? I was scared too, and the way Lisa Lisa was looking at us was scarier, but what was scariest was a fire that had broken out in the one church on La Palma, in which seventy people perished.
Why they were in the church in the middle of the night, nobody knew. But the doctor who’d treated my wounds had been there, and Lisa Lisa said everyone who’d died there had seen the man with black wings, the man who looked like a moth. And the walls of the burned down church were covered in drawings of a man with giant wings who looked just like their descriptions.
When the sun rose, we went to the church.
“So this is the Mothman…”
Lisa Lisa said. I shuddered.
“Don’t give it a scary name!”
“I didn’t make it up.”
Still. I couldn’t stop shaking. Every wall of the burned out church was covered in pictures of the Mothman. Countless pictures. Before the fire had started, everyone there must have been frantically covering the walls in drawings. The very thought sent a chill down my spine.
“These are drawn in the ash from the fire. They were using their own fingers as charcoal sticks. These people had been turned into zombies, and drew these pictures before the fire killed them again.”
Even though Penelope was still clinging to me, I’m pretty sure I let a drop of pee lose. Just one, I swear! “It may well be this happened because we’re here,”
“Jorge, let us return to England. You can come too, Penelope.”
Eh!? Seriously!? “Really? I can come too, Erina?”
“I’d love to! Jorge, say I can come!”
I was pleased as punch. I could finally leave this awful island.
“But are you sure? About leaving father’s body?”
“I’m sure when the time comes, we’ll be brought together.
Whether I’m living close by, or far away. That’s the power we have.”
Blood is power.