To my dear Reverend,
I know your search for your missing daughter consumes you and your parish. Though I know this letter will not bring you any comfort, however it can at least end that search.
I have taken her with me and I will not be bringing her back. You know who I am so you know that by now she is as good as dead to you. That by the time you reach us she would die before leaving my side.
You know why she went with me, but what you can't know is why I choose her.
I could let you wonder, I should let you wonder, but I’m not the monster you make of us in your sermons. So I will explain to you why.
I hope you choke on it.
I used to be a Holy warrior.
Does that surprise you?
Yes, a holy warrior. A shield of Adam, Aegi Mortalis.
I first joined in a youth bible camp of all places. My mother sent me there to learn of the Spirit. We had all the camp favorites; archery, boating, arts and crafts, Swimming was always my favorite. A pity, that. But I got the benefit of an activity most kids didn't. I got to watch a man die.
One morning the Pastor, Father Sameal, woke up me a little before dawn and took me up past the hill behind the camp. I had no idea what was going on. Even now I don't know why he'd chosen me.
Within minutes I was standing in front of a life sized cross. I'd seen it before of course, from the camp. It was one of three on the hill, you know the story. But something was different this time: there was a man bound to it.
I thought it was a tasteless prank, what else could it have been?
But as the Sun came up that thought was banished forever. The man, who had been hanging exhausted and lifeless bound to the cross with rope, began to fight harder and more desperately as the sun peaked over the horizon. I thought he was hamming up his part in the prank, and I had seen too many hidden camera videos. So I turned toward the sun to thank god for another day, they could be shameful and vaguely sacrilegious, I was not going to take part. Suddenly behind me I heard strained screaming. I spun just in time to see his skin begin to blaze and boil as the sun touched it.
He was a vampire, explained Father Sameal. One of the children of the fallen first wife of Adam; Lilith. She had been cursed to become a demon and birth monsters when she had refused to submit to her husband.
“Yes, the creatures from the old hammer films actually stalk the night,” he assured me. “What’s worse is that these pathetic creatures aren’t willing to face stalwart heroes like they do in the movies. They never seek a challenge, preferring instead to attack playgrounds and rest homes at night. Simpler to explain and get away with; A child or an old person goes missing and when it is reported the story is written off as a simple case of overactive imagination, irresponsible adventuring, or the dementia of the old. It’s sad, but not worth pursuing for the wayward children of Adam and Eve.”
“So, another life is quietly snuffed to feed unending and unnatural hungers. We are those who have chosen to stop them. Hunt these creatures until their blight has been purged from the world. We are the Order of the Aegis.”
It was the other kids that made me want to join up. I knew what it was like to be afraid without hope of rescue. I had spent nights alone in a storm, though these creatures would prove far more substantial than the branches that scraped my window in the dead of night.
I should have known it would be painful and dangerous. Just looking at the cold and distant Father Sameal should have tipped me off. Who in their right goddamned mind shows a ten year old a man burning to death in the morning sun? It can't be excused by saying it was a one time deal. Turns out he did this sort of thing often. I was one of the lucky ones to actually see a vampire burn, but he had proven it to other children in other ways. I never bothered to ask and, thinking back, I didn't really care how he had gotten them to believe and to join, only that they were with me. Truth be told, I think I was afraid to find out what other horrors the man had concocted to make us believe, truly believe, in the impossible.
More than that sense of companionship was a sense of invitation to the occult knowings of the world. I knew something the rest of the world didn't. I was in on the secret and I was a part of a secret society. It didn't matter that there was a real threat that me and the people in my secret family could die. As a matter of fact we rarely lived into our mid twenties. I was fighting a real and secret evil.
We, the children, acted as Samael's eyes and ears. We watched for the signs that a vampire had been stalking our playgrounds overnight. We listened for kids that had gone missing and where. We watched when we visited our grandparents in the nursing homes. I had a grandmother there in that care at the time. We listened to the 'crazy old person stories'. Then, when Sunday came, we reported to him everything we'd seen. Then he would send the teens and they would make short work of the vampire, make use of those raging hormones.
Every kid wants to grow up before their time. Mommy I want to be a grown up! I’ll decide for myself what I’ll do! I’ll be a firefighter! I want to be a doctor! I want to kill vampires and revel in their agonizing death as their ashes coat my face!
Like I said, no matter how much we wanted to grow up it wasn’t likely we would see our twenty fifth birthday. My last was at nineteen. But the best, or at least the most important, was at sixteen.
I got an awesome birthday party with my family; cake, friends, music, and a computer. That was what I got for my sixteenth birthday; laptop computer. I couldn't have been happier; a private place for my journal, a place to research the monsters in the shadows, and a device to talk to my brothers. Privately.
After the party and after everyone had left I got a call from Jason, Sameal's second. He said I needed to grab the biggest Tupperware I had, hop into my new car, and head down to the church. When I told him I got a computer instead of a car he told me and I quote; "Yeah you can't drive a laptop. Just hop on your bike and get over here. Ching ching."
After riding three miles against a stiff headwind I found the church dark and empty. Every sound in the sanctuary echoed off into infinity. My footsteps ran off of each dark stained window and up into the tower. When they returned they were deeper and alien. I felt alone and lost.
So it's understandable why I jumped when Jason grabbed my shoulder.
After a laugh at my expense he took me downstairs. The Sunday school room looked like anything but; Candles were lit on every available surface and the air was heavy with the same incense that haunted the sanctuary. There were ten figures in black choir robes that covered them from head to foot giving most of them absolute anonymity. The most jarring difference was the cross on the ground with a writhing ten year old boy strapped to it. A writhing spitting angry little doppelganger of me.
Father Sameal was standing over him intoning a prayer and flicking holy water on him. Every drop burned like comic book acid. He was one of them.
I crept closer and sighed with relief. No matter how similar he was to me, same taste in clothes same hair and almost the same chin, his eyes were green to my brown. Still the resemblance was more than uncanny, it was disconcerting.
"The creature frightening you?" I looked up and the Father was smiling wryly at me.
"I-yes-no" I sighed heavily. I was afraid to let him down by admitting how scared seeing myself tied down to some wood on the floor made me. "I thought I knew him."
"Ah, It can be difficult when you knew the creature's human persona or worse the human being they once were. But remember whatever you might have think they were they are a monster now. See?" He poured out the last of the holy water on the boys face. His skin burned and blistered filling the air with an acrid smell. It made me glad for the incense. "Putting down my brothers’ remains taught me that, first-hand."
The creature cried out in pain and as I watched his face changed from an undead monster to a child lost and terrified. "That was a good lesson now that I think about it. I want you to imagine that it is who you thought it was."
I gaped. I had no idea how to feel. This was all I had been hoping for since I that morning on the hill. But when I looked down the creature I could only see myself just before I had learned the truth about the night. Destroying this thing meant I had earned the right to find and kill them outside the church. But to kill a little boy?
But I couldn't wuss out right then. I took a deep breath to ready myself and the vampire saw my fear. He started to gnash his fangs viciously at me. I smiled. Suddenly it was easier, he was a monster and I was cleansing the earth of evil. I reached for the stake the Father offered me. A square stick honed to a point with slivers of silver forced in at the corners. Concentrated anathema to a vampire.
I raised the instrument and his face reverted to the terrified child. Only this time I think the fear was real. He knew he was going to die. He started bawling like only a child, or a wicked mimicry, can.
I hesitated again. It was my inner child tied there to that cross. All my fear of death, the unknown screaming and straining right in front of me. I drove the stake into him and felt it pierce us both.
He screamed. He screamed a shrill piercing wail like a man watching, powerless, as his family burns crossed with the horror and pain as a limb is caught in active machinery.
His body contorted in a pain I could never imagine as all of his years returned to him in a moment. He was a teen in seconds but his bonds were tight, strong, and set for his short limbs. So as his bones grew they strained against his shackles. He yanked hard, trying to get free before the worst happened. Then it did, his bones shattered and burst through his flesh in a torrent of blood. His corded muscles spasmed in pain forcing his exposed bones to flail. As he became an old man his energy failed him and he fell back against the wood. He looked up at me face drawn in pain and desperation.
Then he died. His eyes stayed open but the fire went out. I watched in horror as his skin dried out and turned into a fine powder that fell away from his bones. His empty sockets stared back at me in accusation. And then even his bones became ash and everything that he had ever been was gone.
I gasped for breath through a ravaged throat only then realizing that I had been screaming with him. The wetness of my cheeks told of the tears that had been coursing down my cheeks. At least I hoped it was tears and not his blood. I hoped that with all of my heart.
I looked to Father Sameal and realized how little the whole episode had affected him. He was standing there solemn and calm as if he was at the pulpit was for the congregation. I couldn't believe it.
He knelt and scooped up the dust that had been a little boy only minutes before and capped the Tupperware I didn't remember giving him. I took it in shaking hands and pulled it in close to my body, hugging it like a teddy bear.
He signaled to one of the other hunters and a robed figure came over. The figure reached up and pulled back the hood to reveal long chocolate hair framing a beautiful girls face. She smiled at me and gently took my hand. I followed her meekly, happy to get away from the mess without having to think.
She took me to the spare sunday school classroom and reminded me exactly what life could be.
Hell of a way to lose your virginity huh?
Part two: Of Blood and tears.
Her name was Rachel. You don't get her last name. Apparently the girls in the group did that with guys every time either gender went through what I had. Kept us from giving up in the face of our first real horror.
She was too stunned to think about what she was doing when it was her time. When it was my turn she was terrified about being forced to sleep with someone she didn't know. When she saw my confused and disconcerted face she said, and i quote, "If I'm going to have to be a whore at least the john is cute."
We both were in a world we weren't really ready for, felt cheap for the way we threw sex around so easily, and neither of us were attached so we found solace in each other. We did all the normal things highschool couples did, shopping, late night trouble, and messing around in her car.
She even met my parents. We were together until the day we died.
I can’t forget that night, it started like so many others. We were downstairs from the sanctuary looking for the stakes. We pulled out the old yellow sofa that covered the hole in the wall we stored them in. She jumped up onto the sofa and bent over the back to get them, highlighting her delightful apple bottom. I gave her an appreciative cat call. She snapped upright and glared at me. I just smiled innocently back at her.
She huffed and went back to it, but the faint blush to her cheeks and the half concealed smile told me she liked it. She found the box she'd been looking for and tried to pull it up but it was so heavy she overbalanced and fell forward. I grabbed her as fast as I could. But that was a problem as I pulled back just as quickly and after a falling sensation found her sitting in my lap with the box in hers. I laughed, "I saved you." I said as I tried to find a comfortable position.
She smiled at me, "Oh my hero!" she crooned, "you saved me from a bump on the head! How could i fight vampires with such a nasty boo-boo?"
I nodded. "Yep, probably saved the rest of the team by that logic. I think i deserve a reward." She rolled her eyes at me but still leaned forward to gently press her lips to mine. But I wasn't satisfied with a chaste kiss like that so i grabbed her shoulders and got aggressive.
She moaned in surprise and passionate surrender. One of my hands reached up to take her chin in hand and pull her back to me without my even thinking it. She responded by grabbing my arms and urging me on. I knew we couldn't go like this unchecked in the church but every moan blasted my mind like a firestorm until there was nothing but her and those clothes between us. Hateful things. I slid my hand up her stomach and hooked my fingers on her shirt. As I moved to tear it free I heard a snicker behind us. “HEEEELLO there.” We both jumped, Rachel flopped back onto the couch. At the base of the stairs was the other hunters headed by Jason, grinning like that cat that caught the canary. Why was I always his canary?
I chuckled nervously, honestly only part embarrassed for being caught. The other half of me was furiously proud about it. I looked back at Rachel expecting to see her as red as an apple. But the look she had on her face was anything but embarrassed. She was biting her lip and her eyes were bolting back and forward between me and the group. When her look settled on me it said ' I want to go on, I want them to see it, want them to watch. But I can't. Do it to me. Please. Take me here. Let them see us.”
There was that fire again. I grinned wickedly at her and pinned her down with my hands and knees, leaned in close to her lips, and fell off to sit beside her grinning even wider. Much to her furious irritation and the surprised relief of a few of our onlookers.
I knew we wouldn't get away with it then but I filed away the idea and Rachels love of being watched away for later.
By this time Jason was laughing so hard he was having trouble standing. “Well damn!” He wheezed between laughs, “Guess you aren't that scardy little brat in the sunday school room anymore. Boy got some BALLS dominating your woman like that!”
“Chauvinist.” Shouted a blond headed girl named Jessie. I wasn't sure if she meant Jason or me but it made me laugh all the same. Jason raised his hands placatingly, “I'm just callin' 'em like I see 'em.”
I smiled as Rachel turned a glare on me, “Yeah well there is a price to pay for EVERYthing. And boy you WILL be paying it.” Which only made me grin wider. Jason chuckled the last of his laughs out as he spun a chair around and sat on it backwards. “Alright, alright, time for business Aegi.” Short for Aegi Mortalis, what we called ourselves. Let's get to this.” From there he launched into the nights hunting plan.
A hunt and a visceral battle followed. I would love to sing the songs of our bravery and might with every glorious detail. But it would all be a pretty lie. In truth my memory still fails me for anything else that night. The next thing I remember is waking in hell.
My eyes slammed open as my lungs dragged a long breath that felt like razor blades scoring my mouth and throat. A mouth and throat nearly closed with long dried blood. That breath tore out of me in a nearly soundless scream that became louder as it lasted and began to shower my face with flakes of my own blood. There was a fire inside me and not the flame of lust that Rachel stirred in me but a funeral pyre burning me from the inside out. It began at my heart and burned out toward my limbs. I looked at my body and saw no flame but it burned inside me all the same until my entire self screamed with it. The fire lasted for what seemed like a lifetime and all at once it was gone. Replaced by a smouldering world of cinders and pain.
I laid motionless as the heat faded, but it didn't stop at a normal body temperature like I had expected. It continued to drop, passed frostbite, pneumonia, and even death. I laid there, in mounting disbelief, until I was as cold as the stone I laid on. As soon as I gave up on ever returning to a normal temperature I realized something the made me call out in a long keening wail. The core of my being was hollow like I hadn't ever felt, hadn’t thought I could ever feel. Somehow I wasn't just imagining it: my soul was gone.
Soon other screams began. They were the same mind rending screams of agony I had been calling out only moments before. But this time they were a song sung by a dozen other familiar voices. Unlike mine many ended with a horrible bubbling noise as if while they screamed someone had pushed them under the water to drown.
The bubbling always overpowered the scream until there was silence. Only one voice rose and fell as mine had. A voice I vaguely recognized. I was curious but the loss of my soul robbed me of motivation and kept me from investigating. Then there was a scream of pain and the sound of flesh tearing and viscera splattering. That was when I heard a girl start weeping softly. It quickly rose to a full throated pitiful wail.
Something about it overcame my lethargy and I painfully fought to my feet. The air was thick and heady with the smell of blood. The reason for that quickly became obvious.
All around me the other hunters lay dead or dying. James was the closest and blood was still trickling out of his open mouth onto the ground. The wound at his neck was ragged and fatal but dark scar tissue had healed over half of it.
Jessie was still moving just beyond him. Her back was arched off the ground in pain and she was twitched violently. Blood flowed like a river from her mouth obscuring her face and turning her long blonde hair into an angry red mess. Both eyes were pulled open as far as they could, even though one had the blood flowing over it like a river. The spark of life was gone from the one visible eye, but when I came closer it swiveled and focused on me.
Her face changed from pure agony to desperate need and pleading as she reached out with one arm for me. That made her body overbalance and fall toward me. In spite of the racking and uncontrollable spasms she clawed her way toward me. Then she stopped. Her eye stayed in place in her head as her head dropped to the ground hard and her hands relaxed. The pool of blood around where her head laid soon slowed its growth.
She was never going to move again. But somewhere the crying continued. Someone else was alive, or at least they weren't dead. I stepped over Jessie, realising distantly as I did that I wasn't reacting like a sane person should.
My interest in all of the dead around me, even the deaths of friends, was clinical and cold. I passed the headless desiccated corpse of an old man that, judging from my sword sticking out of the ground where his head should be, was a lot younger looking when I had met him. But also judging from the fact that my sword, my only weapon, was still there he was likely one of the last people I had met before this nightmare began.
That was when I found the person who’d been crying. There was Rachel rigid in the fetal position and shaking with every sob. The way she was lying she couldn’t see me as I approached. When I came around her I spotted the dry lake of blood she was laying in. I followed it back to her with my eyes and spotted an ax soaked with new wet blood laying beside her torn and ruined belly. I could see into her flesh. I had once told her that I wanted to know everything about her, inside and out. But I never wanted to know what she looked like on the inside. All the reds and greens of blood and bile pierced the cold fog in my mind and forced my heart to give one hard painful thud.
Emotion flooded me; Terror for her safety, horror at the extent of her wounds, and a heart tearing pity. It was the most bittersweet moment in my long life, in spite of everything she was alive. I came around in front of her, unsure of what I could do for her, but needing to do something.
As soon as she saw me she reached out and grabbed me. The pain of doing so hurt her so badly that she shrieked and whimpered but she still took hold of my leg and pulled. She slid toward me a few inches before I caught on and stepped close to her. “It hurts... it hurts so much... Can we make it stop?” She asked as I knelt down into her arms. I wanted to tell her I could make it stop.
I wanted to but I couldn't. "I don’t know, I don’t even know what’s going on Rachel.”
She smiled for a millisecond before the pain robbed it from me. “We lost... We died... We came back.”
I’m ashamed to say it took me a second to figure out what she meant. “You mean...we...”
“Yeah...we’re fangers now.” She said.
I was stunned.
I had gone from personifying the burning light of good to being one of the shadows that skulk the earth.
I was evil.
My soul was gone for real, surrendered to Satan as payment for my new life. Payment I wasn’t ever ready to give. Payment robbed from me to pay a debt I hadn’t asked for.
Another shock of pain made Rachel gasp, pulling tighter to herself, and pulled me back to reality. “We can still do something about it though.” She said through gritted teeth.
I thought I knew what she was saying and I hugged her knowing that I couldn’t kill her. I would have rathered her hunting children than dead.
“If we can kill the vampire who turned us within a week we have a chance of regaining our humanity.”
That was not what I was expecting. “Really?” she had been doing the hunter thing a year longer, and her memory was twice as sharp as mine, so I trusted her judgement. “Yeah. But I can’t kill anyone like this...”
I looked down at her belly and realized it was recognizably better than before. “I think we just have to wait it out. I’m going to go-”
“No! I-I can’t be alone right now... When you’re not here I’m not...myself... Please?” So I did. I stayed and I held her for hours. Until I felt my body slowing, whatever unnatural essence that was animating me draining. I knew the sun was rising. I held her closer and together we passed into our second death together.
It must have been a sight.
I felt nothing, knew nothing, until the hellfire returned. But this time it wasn't the same. It was no less intense but somehow it didn't have the hold it did before. I was even able to stand before it had released its hold on me.
I looked at her and realized her belly was smooth and perfect.
She saw me looking at her belly and she looked down. “Oh thank god.” She muttered.
I laughed scornfully. “I don’t think he can hear us. No soul to pray with.” I had never felt so far from god before and so alone.
I grabbed Rachel's hand for comfort and when she gave me a small smile I knew she was thinking the same thing. “We need to find that vampire.” She said as she stood as shakily as a newborn colt.
“No we need help. We are new vampires and aside from my sword everything we had to fight them with had silver in it. It will burn us on contact.”
She sighed down at her ax with its silver inlays running from the grip up through the blade.
“You’re right.” she muttered as she looked up and around. “We can get out there.” she said pointing at a cave mouth about twenty feet up from us.
“Alright let me get-” I stopped as she crouched and leaped all the way up in a single bound. “H-how...”
“We’re vampires you dork.” She said turning back to face me with a prideful, playfully mocking smile.
I felt like an idiot. I bolted over to my sword, took it, scabbarded it, and was back in place in the space of a second.
“Wow.” I felt powerful, really powerful.
“Come on.” she said walking out into the night.
“Hey wait up!” I soared up after her.
We were miles out of town and if we were going to get help we needed to go back to the church. Rachel didn’t agree. After a short but heated exchange I convinced her. I think she knew it was the best thing to do the whole time but she was ashamed to show her undead face there.
I understood that. I was too. How couldn’t we be?
We walked along the trail for an hour noting with pity that the car we’d used to arrive was gone. Probably stolen by the vampires or some other teenagers.
It was a quiet walk. Neither of us could find something to talk about that didn't end up on the subject of vampirism so, after a few abortive attempts, we didn’t talk much. I started looking at the stars until I saw the dark green of the treetops turn a bright yellow green.
Headlights. The car stopped ahead of us and a voice called out, "Rachel is that you?" I stepped in front of her protectively, paranoid after the trauma we had just been through. A flashlight beam winked into existence and fell onto us.
"...and cinders?" That told me two things, first was that he was a hunter from our church and second was that I probably didn’t like him.
Cinders was a malicious little nickname I had earned by way of having recurring, vocal, nightmares about the first two vampires I had seen die and a nasty habit of falling asleep on our downtime at the church.
If he was calling me that name at a time like this he’d never bother to learn my real name. I relaxed enough to step away from Rachel but I still wasn't happy. It was hard seeing through the flashlight glare but I managed.
It was Jordan. Not exactly my favorite of the Aegi. He never made fun of me but not out of compassion, he was spineless. He never went hunting. His job was to scout and to check on the hunting parties that went missing, which explained what he was doing there. Normally I wanted nothing from him but that night...
"I have been looking for you guys for days, almost a week!" I heard what he was saying but I also heard something else. "I started where James said you would be hunting but there was nothing there but footprints and tire tracks."
It was percussive and rhythmic, like a drum only, much too faint and lacking the bass a drum would have.
"Wait... where is everyone else?" the rhythm picked up a little and I looked around for its source. Rachel was looking around too. So she could hear it too.
"What are you looking for?" The rhythm spiked again and I suddenly knew what it was. My eyes locked on his jugular, pulsing, fat and full in the soft moonlight. Every pulse matched the rhythm.
We leapt on him. His skin offered no more resistance than beef jerky and I tore it away from his neck in the same motion. His blood sprayed me and I tossed the wet limp flap of skin over my shoulder with a flick of my head. I latched into his flesh with my fangs and teeth, viciously tearing at it to increase the blood flow. I sucked at it like a greedy child. He fought back but he was no match for me and his struggles became more feeble with every long suck.
There was a pulling on my shoulder and it was strong. It even got me away from the blood for a second. That just made me lash out and push the interloper away. I heard a surprised shriek but I went back to my feeding. I was enraptured and feeling orgiastic with the blood I was pulling from the wound flowing full and free.
Then I was pulled away and suddenly I was looking into Rachel's terrified face. That snapped me back to reality and a red haze receded from my mind that I hadn't even known was there.
"Hey! That's a PERSON!" She screamed into my face. Horror overtook me as I became aware of the blood congealing all over my face from my mouth down onto my chest. I turned to look and found Jordan torn apart. His face and neck was nothing more than torn gristle and blood. His shirt was torn open and his stomach wasn’t any better.
I looked at Rachel and her mouth was also tinted red and some unidentifiable piece of meat clung to her cheek, but she was clean compared to me. Throwing her off must have given her the chance to her regain her sanity. "He's dead." she said sounding just as lifeless as Jordan was.
"Rachel i-" I began before she cut me off.
"He is dead and WE killed him." Her voice was taking on a shrillness of alarm.
"He was one of us!”
My mind rejected that idea, he was a coward while we risked our lives slaying monsters. You are that monster now. I thought as I looked back at the mess we had made of the sixteen year old. The feeling of superiority and honor vanished the moment I saw him. “No...we are them now.”
She shook her head fast in a panic to reject that idea. “No no no no not yet we aren’t. We can still be us. It’s not too late.” Her eyes were wide and she was talking faster and faster with every word.
I reached out and grabbed her hands. “You’re right we’re not lost yet. Come on...He had a car we can get into town with it.” The faster we found and killed the creature that had robbed us of a good christian death the faster we could go back to our lives.
She nodded and looked over at the still blazing headlights. I hadn’t realized until that second how much hope I had surrendered. I had come dangerously close to rationalizing Jordan's murder. Plain and simple. As I wrapped an arm around her and headed for the car I realized that she had more humanity left to her than I did. That humanity had made her pull back and freak out in horror. I loved her and feared for her because of it.
The drive felt shorter than it was and soon we were back in town. We stopped at my house and, finding the lights blazing, I had to slip in, steal a new outfit, and slip out silently. It felt as though they had grown sluggish and dull witted, making it simple to steal in and out. I couldn’t let my family see me for what i had become.
When we pulled up in front of Rachel's apartment all the lights were out. Since it was just passed eight we assumed her family hadn’t come home yet. When she snuck in to get a change of clothes I followed.
“I will find something to change into while you go shower that stuff off you.” I could tell she was still having a hard time rationalizing what we’d done from the tone she used to describe Jordan’s remnants. She referred to it like it was dirt from a soccer field and I was willing to bet that if I had pushed her to name it as human she would have lost it again.
“We don’t have enough time. We need to shower together and grab the first thing you find.” She looked out at me from her closet with a frown.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
I grinned. “Of course I would, but it’s also the truth.”
She sighed, grabbed a pair of blue jeans and a black band tee, then tossed them both into the bathroom across the hall. “Go on I’ll be there in a second.”
I tossed the clothes I had brought in onto the ground beside hers and stripped. Then I turned around to lean on the door frame and smile at her. She was digging around under her bed looking for something. She was almost as messy as I was and I loved it. When she came up with a pair of pink panties and white socks her jaw dropped.
“Come here, let’s get presentable.” She stood up but didn’t come forward. I still had a lot of blood on me and I think that’s what held her back, because her eyes were radiating lust.
I walked over to her, trapped her between me and the dresser, and kissed her hard. She resisted for a second, blood smearing on our lips and locking us together even more intimately, before she closed her eyes and kissed me back. There was a fire there that night that we hadn’t ever seen before. I tore at her clothes and her nails were raking blades on my back. I still don’t know if she was completely undressed when we stumbled into the shower. I reached back and spun one of the handles. The rush of cold water slowed me down enough to fix the temperature of the water before turning back to her.
When I picture the image that can instantly drive me mad with lust, force me to abandon any thought, any project I’m working on, until I am desperate aggressive need for a woman it is the image of her that night. Blood caked her hair into thick clumps that stuck to her face and framed it perfectly. The same blood colored part of her face and ran down onto her full round breasts. But the water hit her stomach and cleaned the blood from her. Wasting it.
Lust and hunger, nothing but lust and hunger. and her eyes said the same thing but still the fear stopped her. It didn’t stop me. I rushed her aiming for the breasts. I couldn’t think of anything else. She held her hands up to stop me but I grabbed them both and held them to the wall behind her.
“s-stop...” She muttered with all the feeling of a distracted student. I licked and bit her taking all of the blood from her body. Her restrained and sometimes strangled moans made me need to take her so when I had moved up to her face I did. One solid stroke I was inside her and she missed a breath before I kissed her. As soon as she recovered she bit my lip and grabbed me to her body . My lip bled. She began licking the blood from me and kissing me in a fevered switching. She wrapped a leg around my waist and pulled me into every stroke. Many times she tried to say something in the moments her mouth wasn’t pulling blood from my body or kissing me, but every time it was gibberish or a half word.
We spent more time than we should have like that. Time played a big part in our salvation. I would say wasted but is time spent with your lover, especially within her, ever wasted?
After the shower we felt clean and looked it too. I gathered the clothes we’d left on the floor. We could take them to the church, they were prepared for battle devastated clothing like those. But when I grabbed her shirt from the ground my hand went right through the hole where she’d been killed. I looked up at her lacing up a pair of sleek thigh high black boots. She looked up at me and smiled. Her fangs glistened.
I repressed a shudder but she caught it anyway.
"What?" She asked
"The church is sanctified." I muttered.
"We aren't. Not anymore...."
She opened her mouth to say something but the reality of the situation left her silent. Slowly she reached up and rubbed a long wickedly curved fang.
I lowered her hand with a finger on her arm. "I'll do it."
She looked at me with a sudden gratitude i hadn't ever seen on her face and i realized that the pain of a vampire on holy ground wasn't what she was afraid of.
"I wonder what they will say."
Part three: Coming of ages.
The church was dark and lonely when our headlights fell on it. In fact it reminded me of that first night so long ago. Memories of what we had done to that boy, vampire as I was, made me shiver under waves of fear and dread. I looked to Rachel, needing support to face the Aegis, and saw fear on Rachel's face. She had been with the aegis longer than me and it was frightening that, with what she knew, she was so scared.
She looked at me, concern joining the fear in her eyes. I swallowed my emotions and smiled reassuringly. Only one of us needed to be afraid, the one going in. “I’ll just talk to the ‘Padre’ and explain what is going on.” As soon as I said padre her face become skeptical. I knew it was too friendly but I have to forge on. “He values our souls almost as much as we do.”
“Don’t lie to me jerk.” She growled, her growl actually sounded like it echoed in the car. I had to go, our humanity was fleeing us much too fast already. Fleeing her much too quickly.
“I have to go.” I said as I pushed open the door and rushed, damning myself for the fear obvious in the crack of my voice.
She grabbed my arm. I wrenched it away and the fabric tore between us like paper. She gasped and I ran.
The moment I stepped onto the grounds it felt like I was swathed in fire. It faded to the overbearing heat of a sauna quickly but I could not ignore it. Beyond that there was a pressure coming from inside the church that pushed back against me when I tried to push the doors inward. The pressure didn’t lessen when I came in the door. It became so intense I could feel it like a fist in my chest.
The vestibule was empty but I still felt as though I was being watched. When heaved open the doors to the sanctuary I found the pressure to be rolling off of the big crucifix. The eyes of the savior seemed to be judging me, but that could have just been the way the moonlight fell on them through the window.
I had to wonder -still wonder- what his judgement was.
I walked past the crucifix with my eyes fixed shamefully on the ground. The doors on either side of the rear of the stage lead to the back rooms and stairwells. I descended the stairs to the youth room.
I knew Father Samael would be in his office trying to explain why we were still gone to our parents or researching another text on demonology. He had a theory that he could find Lilith and that by ending her end the entire vampire race. He lived in his office.
I could go to him, but he would only see my fangs. I needed help convincing him, I needed the other Aegi.
There were only a few Aegi in the youth room and two of them jumped up when I came in from the stairwell.
Michael noticed me from the couch before the other two. “I guess Jordan isn’t as useless as I thought.”
“Oh my God! Cinders! You’re alive!” Deborah squeaked.
I smiled warmly, overtaken by the friendship in her voice, forgetting I now had fangs.
“VAMP!” Quinn shouted. Suddenly three people were on their feet ready to attack. None of them had their weapons, but that didn't make them harmless.
“What happened to Jordan?” Michael was always strategy first. It was the reason he was the head of the second team that Father Sameal was putting together.
“How is he just standing there? Why isn’t he burning?”
“Because we’re not totally lost yet. Not really fangers, we still have a chance to reclaim our souls!”
“We? We who?”
“Rachel and I. We are the only survivors of the strike team.”
“No one survived.” Came a disturbingly calm voice from the stairwell behind me.
I spun around and there was Father Sameal holding both a war ax and a silver short sword aloft ready to strike me down. "Where is the other vampire?"
I knew what he was doing. As a vampire, especially a fledgling, I should leap back in a bestial fear response right into the waiting clutches of the other hunters to be held down with bodies and silver crosses.
I felt the fear flood my mind but, with a deep breath, I held my ground. "Hello Father."
I heard at least two crashes behind me as the others leapt at nothing. They had to leap preemptively as humans are much slower than vampires, they would be much too late if they had waited to see my reaction.
I fought off the urge to smile.
Sameal's expression shifted as he dropped the weapons from an aggressive posture to defensive in front of him.
"I'm not an animal or a demon.” I muttered
"You, vampire..." He said as he leveled the sword at me. "...are both and less than either."
I heard the Hunters get to their feet as quietly as they could, a cacophony. God we were fools, vampires were far greater than we gave them credit for. Fast, powerful, aware, and ancient; man is like a child to the vampire.
Or a rabbit.
I shook off that thought before the monster could take hold. I could probably take the father, master hunter or not, but in the process the others would certainly kill me. But, more important than that, I needed their help, didn't I?
"My soul hasn't fled. The week hasn't passed. We're not of Satan's hordes yet. There is yet hope of re- redemption." I stumbled looking for the right word. I hated the weakness of it.
"How long has it been then?" His weapons never swayed even slightly.
"How long ago did you send us out? " I asked, thinking he shouldn't need to ask.
Suddenly he swung the weapons in an arc that should have severed my spine at the shoulders. It never connected as I ducked under and took hold of him by the neck. He tried to hit me again but I disarmed him with a jab of my elbow and a vicious grip on his left wrist.
Everyone was frozen with indecision. I could kill him before any of them could react and they knew it. If I did they would kill me, so I couldn't kill him and I knew it.
And when I saw the sneering look he gave me I knew: he knew all of that and more.
I wanted to hurl him down the last of the stairs before I devoured him just to tear that expression apart into tiny shreds of flesh. I needed to.
I snarled and threw him to the feet of his hunters. It was satisfying, in a way. Not nearly so much as devouring him would have been, but satisfying.
Quinn and Anthony helped the father to his feet without looking away from me. It made for an awkward operation, completed with only minimal flailing.
“Six nights ago.” he snarled as he stood.
I let a smile quirk my lip. Tonight was our last chance, but we truly did have one more chance. "I can sense the monster that gave us this...sickness-" That's the word Rachel would have used but it wasn't right.
Father Sameal cut me off, "-curse."
That wasn't right either. "-curse. If we find and kill it soon-"
"-you'll be back to normal!" Quinn finished for me. I nodded.
The father gave me a soul searching look. Too bad I lacked one.
"Where is the other one?"
"She's in the car." I fought off the impulse to say more. She was in the car because she was afraid and ashamed. He hadn't said they would help, until he did we were vampires and they hunters. Her fear and shame are weaknesses they could exploit.
If I kept up my act they would think we were fearless.
I met his gaze hard, afraid to flinch.
"...are you the serpent or the penitent?" He asked himself.
"Trust you? I've only just met you, cadaver, and like the serpent before you, speech ought to be impossible for the dead. So every word from your mouth issues from a forked tongue. How can I trust you?"
I snarled, "Don't then, bring everyone to make us tow the line. I don't know how many fangers we will need to kill, so superior numbers is a good idea."
He looked at me for a long time before nodding slowly. "Finding a nest is nearly impossible at times. I can’t walk away from information like that, trap or no. Let's go slay some demons."
The drive from the church was tense.
At first the Father wanted to separate us one to a vehicle, which would have left the odds at four to one in the car and two to one in the truck. I didn't trust him enough for that. I knew if we were split up it would be a bloodbath. So we compromised, she would sit in back with two of the Hunters and I would drive with the Father in the passenger seat next to me.
He held a silver dagger and his crucifix in his hands the whole way.
The feeling of where the vampire that had sired me was a tingling warmth. Something like the sun on your skin after getting out of a freezing stream. A feeling I sorely miss now. Pleasure like that is easy to follow, so it wasn't long until we found the new lair.
Seems the cave we had raided was too rustic for the hemophages. They had holed up in an elementary school. Convenient for them that it was summer, though I found the remains of the janitor later on and he had put up a pretty good fight for a fifty year old.
The second we were out of the cars the division between us expressed itself in how Rachel and I held ourselves and stood apart from the rest of the group. I kept them all in view at all times.
“Here is the plan:...” Sameal said without preamble, “You two, corpses, will walk in through the main door. Draw their attention. We will stage ourselves at the windows. I’ll be following you two so I can tell my people where to stage. Try anything sinister and I’ll end you myself. Try to tip off the other monsters I’ll end you. Try to-”
“Yes, yes you’re just waiting for an excuse to use in your prayers, so be good. I know you Father. Despite the fact that you think I am dead and gone, I know you.”
He gave me a hateful look when I cut him off. I don’t think had ever done that to him before. “So long as we understand each other, demon.”
I snarled and spun on my heel. I was done convincing him of what we were. He could think whatever he liked, I was going to regain our souls, and then I was taking Rachel away. He could fight his own Midnight war.
Rachel followed dutifully. Her face was twisted with fear and her flashing eyes betrayed her paranoia. I wasn’t sure if she was just afraid of the creatures who had once, already, slain us of if she was losing herself. Either way the way to make her better was the same.
They had broken the lock on the front door so entry wasn’t a problem for us. I heard conversation cut off down an echoing hallway to the right. “They know we are here.” I muttered. I heard the hunters slip away ‘silently’ through the trees. They were louder than newborn elk.
The hall had a large main office to our right, fully exposed through large bay windows made to create the feeling of openness. The halls had children's art projects posted sporadically on the walls. They weren’t very good even for children so they were likely the projects left behind at the end of the semester. Many were torn violently from the wall and lay in bloody tatters on the ground. The image made me shiver in fear for the kids that would go missing in the following year.
We stalked down to a threeway hallway junction. I had no idea which way the monsters would lie. If we went the wrong direction they would be on us. Rachel and I were fast but they would be older, more powerful. I felt my creator near, but as close as we were that was all I could tell.
I had an idea, “Master! Your Children need you! We are new to the night! Teach us!”
“What are you doing?” Rachel and Sameal hissed at the same time. I had no doubt the Father was fingering his weapon, just itching to use it on us. I signaled for silence. I heard whispered conversation coming from the hall to our left. “Come on.”
The conversation remained just muted enough that I couldn’t pick up anything more than “Trap?” “...mine and…” “...stronger…”
We turned the corner into the hallway and the conversation died. I sushed over my shoulder, knowing that if I could hear them they certainly heard us.
I came to the last door in the colorfully decorated hallway.
"5th grade, class C" was emblazoned in black on the frosted glass window of the door.
My hand griped the door handle and froze. When I tried to lift it the handle felt heavy, like someone was holding it down from the other side. But i couldn't see anyone in the other side of the frosted glass. I looked down to find I’d released the handle and my hand was shaking.
It was the first time i would be in a room with a true vampire since they had killed me. The very monsters in the next room, too. I didn't even know if we had killed any of them, we hadn't checked for their corpses on the way out because there wouldn't be any.
A sharp prick followed by the burn of silver in my back made me gasp through my teeth. I turned to see Sameal urging me forward with his weapon. His eyes held a tension I wasn’t prepared to test.
I turned the handle. Locked. I twisted it angrily and something broke with a metallic snap. The handle wouldn’t move anymore but the door drifted inward slightly.
A shadow flashed past the window so quickly even I nearly missed it.
I opened the door and stepped into the classroom, and Rachel followed.
When I was young I thought that the teacher’s desk was a frightening place. That night, with only moonlight trickling in through the frosted windows along the far wall and knowing that there were two monsters in the dark, I would have given a lot to only have had to deal with forgetting to read a chapter of Frankenstein the night before.
I could only see one of them: A man leaning lazily and seemingly unconcerned against that very teacher's desk, but I knew there were at least the two. I stepped into the room and a fog I hadn’t noticed in the dark parted for my passing legs.
He smiled up at us as Rachel followed me into the room and allowed the door to close. “You both look much better than last I saw you.”
“I imagine so,” I responded, “considering that you had just eaten us.”
“Which justification would you like? The ‘we were defending ourselves from attackers’ or the ‘everyone’s gotta eat?’ You’ll have to find a justification yourself, eventually.”
“Soulless monsters don't need justification.” Rachel spat.
“Now, see, justification is something for the heart. Mine may have quit beating but that doesn't make it dead. As for a monster…”
“You’re a monster first thing on the evening.” Said a feminine voice that came from all around the room.
“Hilarious coming from the mummy I have to exhume every night. Well done giving yourself away you old bat.”
Rachel looked around with a totally bewildered look on her face.
With a flash of insight, I caught on. “Rachel. She's the fog.”
She leapt back through the fog permeating the room. Pointless.
“Told you, Elaine.”
“Watch yourself Don. I won't be spoken to that way by the youngest in the court.”
“Ok A: There isn't a court anymore, there barely was one to begin with. And B: I think she's the youngest now. She was the last to fall and last to suckle at your breast, yes?”
The fog flowed and writhed up around Rachel’s leg like a serpent followed by a languid “yeeees…”
“Get off me you pervert!” Rachel shrieked.
It was humiliating that they were talking like we weren't even there, weren't important enough to address. But, their bickering told me something. The vampire that had cursed Rachel, and probably me too, was the woman in the fog. She was the one that just had to die.
Of course, she was the one of the two I hadn't the foggiest idea how to kill.
I hoped I could find out before the mortals got us all killed.
“That’s a great trick. How do you do that?”
The fog flowed about the room and I noticed that one area was always thicker than the rest, pushing all the other fog about it. It was about the size of a person if not the shape of one. That had to be her.
“Vampire magic.” She said simply. Which explained exactly nothing.
“Be careful trying it though,” Don said “I can’t quite catch the knack and if you screw it up you’ll end up in a pile of...well that’s not a subject for children.”
Rachel looked at me and reached up to grasp at nothing at her neck. I could almost hear her saying, “The crucifix. Silver disrupts magic.”
“Which is why it hurts…” I mumbled.
Don looked at me, eyebrow quirked. “...where are the others?”
I held my shock better than Rachel did. She stood up straighter. Great poker face, babe. “We’re the only survivors.”
“Oh I’m sure…” Said the fog, before speaking almost right into my ear, “...but you didn’t answer his question, love.” I realized the fog was thickest next to me only after she’d spoken. She was frighteningly easy to lose track of.
I brushed her off as an excuse to see if I could touch her. “There are no others.” My hand passed right through her.
I looked to be sure I had passed through the dense fog where she should be and saw a shadow pass the far frosted window.
The mortals were in position. This was about to get uglier.
With luck we could be sure to bring down one of the immortals, but two be harder. My powers, even limited in comparison with the elder immortals, would be my best advantage in killing them. But if I killed the one that sired me I would lose those powers, or pass out on the spot.
“So Elaine-” I began.
“LADY Elaine.” The fog echoed haughtily.
I ground my teeth for a moment, and Don smiled in response. “Frustrating, isn’t she? Imagine a hundred years with-”
Father Sameal decided that was the moment to strike.
The chirp of walkie talkies sounded from the hallway behind us and outside the windows.
“I told you adopting hunters was a bad idea.” Don said as he turned and snagged Deborah by her wrist out of the air as she burst through the window.
He flung her at me like a projectile as Elaine responded, “I know, but she was too pretty to die marinating in juices like pork.”
I caught her just as she began to scream. It forced me down on one knee.
Her crucifix struck my hand and pain burned there.
I snarled in pain, as Father Sameal said, “- silver on the fog! One of the monsters hides in it!”
Through the pain I knew I had to decide on a target. My hand testified to the fact that I couldn't touch silver, and destroying Elaine would weaken us midfight.
Deborah leapt to her feet, morning star in hand, and looked at me with a mix of concern and fear.
“...which leaves…” I muttered as I saw a hand grab Deborah by the shoulder and clench.
She screamed and bones cracked.
I pulled her away with one hand and swung my sword at Don's face.
It was clumsy, but it forced him back a step and freed the girl.
His condescending smirk infuriated me and I swung the sword down at him. He dodged it easily as I had to get up off my knees to perform the attack, giving him ample warning.
But as I missed him the sword bit into one of the desks and showered sparks. We both turned to look at the sword, glowing a soft red and stuck in the desk.
The wood was peeling back in red curls and the steel was melting.
I smiled wickedly at him.
His smirk was gone. “That's a new one…”
Fire leveled the playing field a bit, and might even kill Elaine if it came to that. I swung the blade free of the desk. The air wavered where my blade passed, like air over summer asphalt. Don had leapt back a considerable distance and looked to be considering his options while everyone else tried to deal with a monster they couldn’t see. It wasn’t going well for my allies, but I had a new advantage I intended to press.
My anger faded as a lazy confident grin crossed my face. I swung my blade at Don in a feint and the air didn’t waver. Neither of us missed that fact; the fire of my sword had faded.
It was his turn to smile as he took a step forward.
I heard Rachel cry out behind me and I turned my head to check on her. Don struck in that moment and my arm screamed in agony as a stripe of open flesh split my shirt and arm. I retaliated with the sword in my good hand. Don stepped back with an arrogant smile that only existed for a moment before his face warped into brown, black curls and rising boils.
My sword burned again, red hot and audibly hissing as my blood dripped down onto the hilt. It was my fury, my anger, heating the sword. My advantage could only hold so long as I retained my anger.
I was afraid for Rachel, but I couldn’t afford to feel that right now. I could only focus on Don. He was, after all, centuries older than I was. I couldn’t lose my advantage.
I thought about how he and his twisted lady Elaine had stolen our lives from us, our innocence of the darkness of the world. Dropped us into this nightmare twisting allies into untrusted cocombatants. How they were doing something terrible to Rachel.
My vision began to redden again and the sword with it.
Don took a wary step back, his eyes shifting from my face to the sword.
“Yes...not so much fun when you aren’t dealing with mewling cattle, isn’t it?”
He didn’t respond, only slashed for my eyes. I blocked him with only a fraction of a second to spare. He was still faster than I was, but I was angrier. I couldn’t afford a moment to check on Rachel, but I wanted to. Badly.
He grabbed the desk he had been leaning on and flung it at me over his head. I split it down the middle with another blinding shower of sparks. When they cleared he was gone. I looked into the middle of the room to see Rachel, Sameal, and Deborah swinging about with their weapons. The flash of silver in the weak light warned me against joining them while making me worry even more for Rachel.
Then suddenly I was crushed up against the wall, my sword sizzling uselessly as it burned away example posters.
“You’re strong, but so very distractible.” Don breathed into my ear. “You could have been so useful to me. With you at my side I could have cowed even Elaine. Then we could have really changed the world. Vampires are superior you know, and we could take our place above humanity if only we organized.”
I snarled as I tried to free the sword from the wall, but he slammed me back into it with a chuckle. “Even now you’re not giving up. You could still be useful. Tonight is your last chance for this. If I’m right, you might not even have that much time. But I’ve always been terrible with time.” He pressed his hand against the back of my neck and the lights began to dim. “You’ll be mine by morning. Then we can start on expanding that category, together.”
WIthout warning my whole body lit up in pain. I cried out, matched by three other voices: Don, Elaine, and Rachel. Don had released me and we both crumpled to the floor. Against the ground strewn with broken window glass, Sameal had a woman I hadn’t seen before pinned with his silver dagger. It had to be Elaine. The weapon stuck out of her neck, crossguard pressed deep into the skin. Anthony, who I hadn’t even seen join the fray, had just finished walking to the pair above them with his sword high on his shoulder.
“Terminus bestia.” he said as he swung the blade bare inches passed Sameal’s head and clean through Elaine's neck.
The flash of pain returned and three voices shouted their pain: Don, Rachel, and myself. This time, though, I had seen it coming. I pushed myself to my feet and took hold of my swords grip.
Here’s the thing about tradition: people in the know can use it against you. As I said “Terminus…” Don leapt away from me, right to the open hallway door.
I shuddered with exhuastion as he ran from us and Deborah chased him out into the hallway. I should have followed her, she was injured and no hunter was a match for a vampire one on one, but I was suddenly just so tired.
That’s when my ears caught my attention. Even with the addition of Anthony, there should be two heartbeats in that room.
There were three.
Rachel’s heart was beating. I dragged myself back to my feet and lurched over to her. Tears flooded my eyes as I fell beside her still form. Her chest was heaving, and beneath that her heart was beating. She turned a pained and exhausted smile to greet mine. “She turned me. Now…”
I couldn’t speak for choking joy.
“I was dead...then undead...I-I cheated.” She said in ecstatic disbelief.
“Yes, you did.” Said father Sameal. His tone chilled my stolen blood. I turned my head to see him rip the dagger out of a rapidly aging corpse and heft himself to his feet. “Congratulations on the retrieval of your soul. A rare feat. But, you were ordained to die that night.” Anthony walked quietly behind him as he crossed the room to use looking as confused as I was. “In order to put this evil to rights, your soul must reach the gates as soon as possible.”
I knew what that meant, I reached for him, but as exhausted as I was he was faster. He was fresh and, aside from bruising, uninjured. His dagger blocked my hand, point inward. I howled in pain and he slashed at my chest sending me backward. He grabbed the sword from Anthony, and, despite Rachel’s terrified shriek, brought it down on her neck. “Vade deus meus filiae pauperem.” He said.
I was dumbstruck. He looked over at me with sadness in his hypocritical eyes. “She’s with God now. Come, let’s retrieve your soul you can join her. You’ve earned a place in heaven, but it falls to us to claim it.” Anthony’s sobs were the only sound in the room.
“She was…” I said as I rose to one knee and reached for my blade. “...with ME!”
By the time Deborah returned, empty handed, to the street we’d parked on the flames had consumed the entire school.
One of the trucks was ticking as the metal of the split engine block cooled in the night air. The other was gone.
You must be wondering what this has to do with you and your daughter. Well, Sameal was meticulous in keeping records. His home was a treasure trove of information on your order. How did you think I found you three states away?
Your daughter isn’t Rachel, we both know that. But she looks so much like her that it is uncanny. I have grown lonely moving from place to place over the last few months. Her similarity to my lost Rachel will torment me. But maybe that is my penance.
You’ve taken so many children to fight your Night War, it is only fitting you should lose one of your own. Don’t come looking for us.
One night she will come for you.
This war is far from over, despite what you tell your acolytes. It is only entering a new chapter, one that your order wrote for all of mankind.