My whole body ached especially my head. The birds were chirping too loudly for so late in the morning and there was a strange smell in the room, an odd combination of mildew and iron that mixed unpleasantly with the chicken soup’s salty residue. Despite all that, I was nauseatingly hungry, it didn’t help that I could hear a cat nearby eating with gusto licking and sucking and gulping. Must be that awful tiger striped thing Ruthy had badgered her mother into keeping. It wasn’t supposed to be in my room. I considered opening my eyes long enough to throw something at it, but the thought of all that light on my retinas decided me against it. It sounded like a much better idea to stay put and wait for this migraine to pass or someone to bring me some aspirin, whichever came first. Until I heard a pained voice whisper, “That a girl, good job, ooch don’t hold back.”
My eyes flew open of their own accord filling my head with punishingly sharp light. Crying out I tried unsuccessfully to move my head away from the source. “Shhtshshtsh,” the voice soothed, “It’s ok, don’t panic, everything is fine.”
Desperate to see I blinked frantically, still unable to move my head, all the while, words intended to comfort and encourage came from whoever owned the voice. Slowly the purplish black mass blocking my vision dissolved, bringing into focus, first an unfamiliar stone wall yards away and then a pink toned muscular forearm right in front of my face. I tried again to jump back to push away, but was held in place by reinforced pressure on the back of my head. “Nope, not yet just take a little bit more. I promise everything is going to be alright.”
It was then I discovered the sounds of greedy feasting were coming from me, licking and sucking blood from the wrist pressed to my mouth. Writhing I fought madly all the while lapping furiously at the freely bleeding wound, I was disgusted and orgiastic. Overcome by both I bit down hard, which worked more effectively than struggling. “Little bitch.” He swore jerking his arm away.
I was free. After being momentarily frozen by the sight of the ageless man hanging upside down in front of me, I attempted to escape. Scrabbling at the covers at my knees I fought to throw them off, only to discover the fabric balled in my fists belonged to a dress I hadn’t worn in years. Why would I have gone to bed in such an absurdly formal dress and my best shoes as well, even more befuddling, why were they both so tattered and dingy. Reminding myself that these riddles were the least of my worries I refocused on getting away, realizing when I tried to swing my legs over the side of the bed exactly what was off. “I’m in a coffin.” I shrieked looking wildly at my surroundings. “A coffin inside a mausoleum.”
Screaming incoherently and scrambling madly I fell to the floor taking the coffin with me. Crawling out from under it I made for the door, he caught me effortlessly, lifted me to my feet and shaking by the shoulders snarled “Shut up.” Twisting, kicking and scratching I kept up a steady stream of screaming, calling for help as loudly as I could till he punched me square in the face. I shook it off quickly; it wasn’t like this was the first time I’d taken a punch. In the quiet that followed I could make out voices outside the mausoleum.
“You can’t tell me you didn’t hear that father.” Rumbled one.
“Yes, yes I heard it.” Answered another in a higher register. “I think it’s much more likely to be cats fighting somewhere up in the woods rather than restless spirits.”
“It wasn’t coming from the woods father,”
“Calm down I’m still going to do the blessing. It’s not like it’s going to hurt anything to re-consecrate the ground if it will make you feel better.”
My capture had clamped a hand over my mouth wrapping himself around me like a python during the exchange. Now throwing us both to the floor he swore. “Damn it Lillian.” Pinning one of my ankles under his knees he bent to the ground filling two bags with dirt while I continued to struggle and yell. “They can’t really hear you.” He informed me pulling me to my feet and shoving a bag in my hands. “Hold this.” Wrenching free from his grip I bolted for the doorway, only to be thrown back from it with explosive force. “That’s right.” He growled pointing a finger and grabbing a rucksack I hadn’t noticed before. “You see what you’ve done. We already can’t get out that way. Now unless you want to be trapped in here for years follow me.”
Then he jumped straight up onto the ledge of a large window set thirty feet above us, holding out a hand for me once he landed. “Hurry up, hurry up.” he ordered. Flabbergasted I looked from him to the doorway and back again, but made no move in either direction. Losing patience he swore again jumped down grabbed me round the waist folded me over his shoulder and jumped back up and out the window almost all in the same motion. Just as we landed in the grey leaf litter a priest came round the end of the building mumbling prayers and flinging holy water, spaying us both lightly. Only it wasn’t holy water it couldn’t be, it had to be lava, tiny droplets of hungry molten lava that ate through the fabric of my dress and into the flesh on the back of my thighs.
We both shrieked with pain and he threw me off of him. I landed on my backside in the dirt, legs stretched out before me I sat up, frantically rubbing and tearing at them, some vague notion of ripping them off completely filling my head. On hands and knees he howled like a thing possessed, the priest apparently oblivious to our ordeal continued his prayer now aiming the vial of holy water at the building, just to the left of where we writhed. Grasping my ankle the ageless man used it to pull himself to my side just before the priest sent another wave of burning liquid where he had knelt.
Still growling at his pain the ageless man tossed me back over his shoulder and took off running, not stopping or slowing down till we came to the old cholera sanatorium at the edge of town. Shut down nearly a hundred years ago the brick of the building was barely discernible amid the tangle of vines and moss attached to it. Without hesitation he leapt through a glassless third story window and straight into what had obviously been one of the wards.
The low narrow bed frames typical of the time still stood in two mostly straight rows many of them even sported mattresses, sheetless and stained with rampart rodent damage, but still.
“Stupid bitch.” he yelled flinging me down on one of the least disgusting beds.
“Stop swearing at me.” I yelled back pressing my still burning thighs against the cool damp mattress.
“I apologies it’s just that having half my face melted off for no good reason makes me a bit cranky.” He bellowed, turning to display his injuries, the sight finally succeeded in shutting me up. The burn pattern created an irregular border outlining the left side of his face. The skin round the edges was blacked and curling like scorched paper, the flesh, muscle and fat appeared to be liquefying. It sizzled and bubbled and stank, as I watched globs of flesh ozzed off his chin hitting the floor with a mucus like splat. Cheekbone, jaw and teeth shone through in spots, the eyelid was completely gone exposing all of the white, it roiled and bucked, a stream of tiny clear bubbles formed and broke at the corners, adding to the overall gooiness of the area.
“You mean there’s a good reason to get half your face melted off?” The rhetorical question came from the far side of the long room where a big man and a slight woman, clearly friends of my abductor strolled toward us.
The woman’s bearing; coloring and body type put me in mind of Hawaiian royalty while the man had the squat broad structure of a mountain warrior, complete with a bushy black beard and sparkling dark eyes. Grimacing he examined his friend’s injured profile close up. Though the ageless man looked down on him from a good six inches above his stocky muscular frame made him seem far more threatening, physically anyway. The new comer lacked the brooking sense of menace that seemed to be a part of my nemesis as much as his green eyes or golden brown hair. “Wow Iollan.” The shorter man exclaimed. “I mean I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s improved your looks but it hasn’t exactly hurt them either.
The ageless man, Iollan apparently, rolled his good eye. ‘Come now Tzumar,” the woman chided “don’t provoke him, he’s having a hard enough day already.”
Laughing unpleasantly at his friend’s predicament Tzumar’s survey swept over to me. “Then again,” he murmured sitting on the bed next to me he took my hand, “if there ever was a reason to get half your face melted off it would be you my lady.”
Snorting I pulled my hand away, wondering how or if I should bring up the fact that the back of my legs were still burning fiercely.
Leaning closer Tzumar reached as if to cup my face whimpering in mock distress, “My lady is not beguiled by my charm. Why?”
“I have never found it charming when handsome young men tease wrinkly old woman.” I told him slapping his hand away.
“She thinks I’m handsome.” he announced to no one in particular.
But the woman turned to Iollan with a look of confused disapproval. “You haven’t told her, shown her?” she asked.
“Between trying to contain her and dodging flying holy water it must have slipped my mind Sitka.”
As he spoke she picked something up from a
nearby bedside table, dusting it off she shooed Tzumar off the bed and took his seat. “Lillian you are one of us now.” she explained gently, putting a small shaving mirror into my hand and guiding it up for me to look in.
The face that looked back at me was one I hadn’t seen in almost eighty years. Clear sharp blue/green eyes, full pink lips, shinning reddish blond curls and most shocking of all luminous, unwrinkled, porcelain skin. Literally not believing my eyes I put a hand up to my face for conformation, sure enough the image in the glass mirrored my actions. Dazed beyond coherency I turned to Sitka silently begging for an explanation.
“Yes,” she said smiling, “You are one of us now. You are Vamp-ire.”