Still being finished, please read, I really would love critics & helpful advice.
OK. I don't care anymore. I'm doing what I want, fudge to the consequences, I decided. The night was on.
In the little town of Cologne, MN, I trudged through the black street kicking at the old cracked pavement in a desperate attempt to release the horrible energy flowing around inside of me. I was angry enough to scream and it was blasted cold. The temperature was -10 degrees Fahrenheit. I had no jacket, and I was in a short sleeve shirt and light denim jeans. I was crying, and I hated myself for it. It didn't help my tears kept freezing on my face the second they came out. All I could think was that I had to go somewhere. For one minute, I had to get away. I knew it was childish, but for my sanity, I gave in. I'd run outside at two in the morning and my skin was already bright red because of it. I knew I would suffer, but I didn't care. It didn't matter. Everything I had known, all my ambitions, had taken me nowhere.
My grandfather had just died. Five years ago, my grandmother had died. It hurt more than I wanted to show. Without my grandfather, I'd finally reached a point I felt hopeless.
I suppose I knew it would happen in the end: they had both been heavy smokers, but had quit to save their lives. My grandma had been the pillar of the family, and the joy of my grandfather. They had been soulmates, in every sense of the word.
Then, it happened.
My grandma had had her first stroke. It stopped the whole family in their tracks, but we all wondered if that would be the end of it. Turned out it wasn't. Two years later, she had another one. She survived, but one month later, had a third stroke. She was weakening, and everyone knew it.
It was one week before thanksgiving. As always, our family set about getting all the food buying between members. We all were going to drive, fly, or row to my grandparent's house and then plan for Christmas. We were all exited and wondering what kind of news would be brought around from everyone.
That night, I received a phone call. My grandmother was dead. I stopped in horror. I dropped the phone, and cried. I cried so hard, I promised never to cry again. I knew that I couldn't allow myself this misery, not if Thanksgiving was still to come. I took a deep breath, and tried to continue to go on, and not become withdrawn. It was hard, with people laughing around the street, and my friends at work talking about their plans. I just turned around, took a breath, and talked about Nebraska, and visiting my grandfather.
The next day, I got another phone call. I winced, remembering how awful news seemed to come over the phone. I picked it up and received MORE wonderful news. We were no longer having the Thanksgiving get together. I tried to act calm, and I think I managed it. When I put the phone back, I took ANOTHER deep breath, which came out more as a sob, and went outside for a walk. Walks always seemed to calm me down, and Minnesota wasn't what I considered a gangster kind of place, so I wasn't afraid to risk it. I went to the small park on the end of Meadow Street, and sat on a swing. I looked out at the fall leaves, and calmed down. Tomorrow, I'd go see grandfather anyway, celebration or not.
I'd packed up all my necessary junk for traveling, along with ten of my favorite novels, and drove to Nebraska. After about six hours of nonstop driving (except for one gas station) I reached Norfolk, Nebraska. When I reached his house, I saw grandpa. He looked miserable enough to cry, but that's not what got my attention. A small cigarette stuck out of his mouth. I stopped, pulled for the break, and jumped out of the car. He looked up at me with eyes as dead as I knew grandmother's were, and I knew he was dead inside. I understood why he didn't want guests, but I knew he was handling this wrong. It was as if he didn't really comprehend who I was, and for a second, I didn't think he had. Suddenly, a small, tiny bit of life appeared in his eyes.
"Anna?" he asked quietly.
"Y-yeah, hi," I said, matching his tone with a choking throat. "You--you know, she wouldn't like knowing you're smoking. You both worked so hard . . . you've gotta hang on to life! If not for yourself, for dad, for me . . . for g-grandma," I half sobbed.
"She's dead. I can't hang on for someone who's dead. I've gotta let go. I've gotta get away. I've gotta go. For her..." he said, crying soundlessly.
"But you've gotta live! All of us care! W-we want you around! We're sad too, but there's a world going on, and we've got to be a part of it! Please, don't give up!" I kept trying, but nothing I said or did made any effect on him. In fact, he pulled up the cigarettes and told me that that was how he was going to die.
Five years was more than any of us had thought. Five years, with nothing to possibly cheer him up with. Eventually, he stopped eating and went into the hospital.
The whole time, I hadn't cried. I tried so hard, so many times I'd lived and lived, and I didn't know if I could keep pulling it off.
Today was not a good day on the phone either. I'd almost gotten rid of it for spite, but I knew that would just be stupid. My first phone call, I'd lost my job. I was angry, mad, and downright ignorant of why, but I was a contract lawyer, so my life was pretty flexible, so I'd just taken a famous deep breath of air and trudged on. But grandpa, now that was harsh. I knew I couldn't do anything, and I'd always tried to be anything but helpless in every part of my life. I was famous among the lawyer population (not that I cared, it had just happened) for finding big loopholes, and thought to go on to much more. My love of reading and finding errors lead my friends back in school to think I'd be an editor, but my love of politics and law lead otherwise. Now it all felt pretty far away.
Slowly, I stopped running. I looked around and tried to figure out where I had run off.
I looked around me, trying to stay calm. I reminded myself I wasn't in a place like California, I was in a remote, little, ity-bitty town in the Metropolitan area. No one came out to places like here, right? I started thinking about horror novels of people dying in small little towns. What if that would be me? I shook myself, and stopped that thought immediately. I was just being stupid.
Well, I thought, that's what got me here in the first place, so I guess it'd suit me.
By now, my arms were so red, they were almost purple. I started massaging my arms and thinking what I could do now that I was lost, cold, and abnormally stupid in the middle of Minnesota. I sighed, and heard a voice behind me.
"Hey, you ok lady?"
I turned around and was face to face (well not quite, he was much taller than me) with some body building freak with blonde hair.
"Don't call me lady, I'm not THAT old. What the world are you doing outside at 2 in the morning? Won't someone be worrying about you or something?" I paused for a second and considered him. "You look like a model. You oughta be sleeping. I've done contracts for people like you, and you'll need all the sleep you can get, if you're the ordinary sort,"
He paused and looked at me like I was some sort of alien.
"I'm not a model, and it's 3 lady. And I'm not the one you should be worrying about," he said in a weird way.
I looked down at my now almost purple skin, and laughed. For some reason, he gave me an odd look when I laughed. "Yeah, I know, I'm turning purple, but don't worry, temperature doesn't affect me THAT much. Hey, do you know where Meadow Street is? I'm slightly lost," I said sheepishly.
"Sorry lady, but I've got other plans for you," he said. Suddenly, realization hit me. This guy was a perv! I took a few steps back from him and slowly realized he wasn't alone. There were a few more model people behind him looking at me...hungrily? Cannibals aren't located in Minnesota, are they?
"Um, sorry, not interested!" I said and ran. I knew I was just going to get more and more lost, but I had to go SOMEWHERE. The perv and his lackies were getting closer. I pulled my soccer skills together and ran faster. They were pretty darn fast. Ok, if they wanted something, they'd get something: a good, old-fashioned but-kicking. I stopped turned around and kicked the first guy in the nuts. He fell down and grabbed my leg.
I started to scream, and the perv clamped a hand over my mouth. I bit him. He yelled, and dropped me. I scrambled up, but those stupidly smart lackies had me trapped between them. They pulled out weapons and gave me a look assuring me yes, there were cannibals in Minnesota.
"HELP!!! CANNIBALS!!! SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I shrieked. They stopped, and laughed. They moved in for me, but stopped for some reason. Just as I was about to charge them and make my escape, I saw why. A dude with almost as little clothing as I had (no winter clothing on, but he DID have a leather jacket) wearing shades (at 2...ok 3 in the morning) came up behind them. Ok, this guy WAS a model, and if not, someone needed to get on that!! He looked like he was a few years older than me, with chestnut hair, and dark black eyes. My heart thudded madly, no idea why. Probably adrenaline. For some reason, I was sure he'd help me.
He turned, looked at me, and laughed. I stared at him, and so did the perv squad. He recovered, and spoke. "Miss, these people are far worse than cannibals,"
All of a sudden, the chestnut man attacked. Them pervs never had a chance. He pulled out his own weapon (sword) and attacked the blonde man that had started this whole mess. He drove his sword straight through the man's heart! Before I could be correctly horrified, the guy turned to dust. Yes, dust, not a gory mess of blood and guts (thank goodness for that at least). Forget horrified, I was terrified.
"It's a hunter!" one yelled.
As chestnut dude got up, the rest ran off. As they did, he turned to chase them. Then, my senses cleared.
"Stop!" I yelled.
"What is it, miss?" he asked, not unkind.
"Are...are you ok?" I asked. Slowly I came to my senses. "You killed a guy! With a sword! He's dust! What kind of sword can DO that? For that matter, where can I GET one o' those?! I could use one!"
He laughed loudly and stopped as he looked at me. "Anything I can do for you? You look really cold, miss," he took off his jacket and handed it to me slowly.
"Oh, I can't accept this . . ." I said, looking at it like it was all the gold in the world. "You'll get cold, and that's no way to treat a hero!" I said laughing. "Wait a minute! You're changing the subject! Why did the man--"
He leaned over to me, and. . . and . . .oh! . . .He kissed me. That guy . . . I stopped talking . . . and although I swore off kisses as a stupid thing no one wants and everyone does . . . I wanted more. I grabbed him, returned the kiss, and there we were, kissing in the middle of the street at 3 (by now probably 4) in the morning and suddenly, he pulled away. I became very shy suddenly, and looked at him.
"T-thanks . . . for saving my life and all . . ." I said. "I'm kind of lost. Do you. . .do you know where Meadow Street is?" I asked quietly.
With a deep look in his black eyes, he pointed at the street sign. I'd been on Meadow Street the whole time. Suddenly, he looked at the horizon and got a weird look in his eyes. He looked at me and ran away. I looked down, and noticed his leather jacket.
"Wait! You forgot . . . you forgot this . . . " I finished quietly, realizing he couldn't hear me by now. I put the jacket on and was instantly warmer. It smelled like him. As I walked home, I realized he'd gotten me to stop asking questions pretty fast. I cursed, and hugged his jacket closer. At least I had a hint . . . on the jacket were 4 words: Hunters of the Night. But what the heck did that mean?
I reached my house and just as I was about to go in, I realized I didn't even know his name. I walked inside, and guessed I'd probably never see him again.
Or would I?
“Gregory! Gregory? Come now, it is time to wake up!” A warm voice spoke resolutely in my ear. I rolled over in my bed and saw her. Emmella. My glorious wife. Her long, wavy blonde hair was in a loose ponytail draping across her shoulder. Her intelligent brown eyes radiated passion as she stared at me, making me smile back at her. I sighed deeply to indicate how cruel she was for having woken me up, even though I no longer minded anymore, and slowly pulled myself into a sitting position. She looked at me as if she had just won a battle of the wits. In fact, in a way, she probably had.
“Hahahahaha! Now I suppose I am getting somewhere!” she said seductively. She sighed beautifully and stared out the window with a bright glint in her eyes. “What a lovely day today! We need to fetch Anna! It’s such a beautiful day for a ride…the horses would love it…as would the rider!” she remarked fondly. “Oh! I know! We can all go out together! Now Gregory dear, you’ll need to call for your horse to be suited! We can’t have you going out like—”
“Emmella, stop! You are all ready wearing me out and it hasn’t been five minutes past my awakening!” I laughed out. I sighed teasingly. “By god, I haven’t even eaten anything yet! You’re just too exciting for me…what am I to do with you?” I grabbed her and gave her a fond kiss on the lips and let her go. We stared at each other for a few moments, and then she slowly pulled back.
“So I’ll see you soon?” she said quietly, not a shy quiet, but a distant, reflective quiet, like she had pulled back and was thinking of something no one but she would ever know.
“All right, see you soon,” I said, knowing I couldn’t properly seduce her if she were somewhere else entirely: who’d enjoy THAT?
As Emmella left, I headed for our indoor hot spring. I undressed, rapped a towel around myself, and slowly sank into the warm water. There was much to be thankful for when it came down to them. Because of the hot springs we discovered on our property a year ago, we had gained a respectable amount of money to live off of, for hot springs had become very popular among the current nobles. The water smelled slightly sulfuric, but it felt wonderful. I slowly finished, grabbed a towel, and looked for my clothes. My servant had picked out my finest garments: a deep red vest with a white undershirt, complete black riding breeches. I quickly dressed and left for the entryway.
As I reached the grand staircase, I looked around carefully: no one was there yet. I sighed in relief and left for my favorite place in our house: the dining room. As I sat down, my servant, Brandon, was already waiting for my order. Normally, I don’t differentiate between servants very well, but when it came to Brandon, it was different. He was both our cook AND our waiter. A very good cook at that. Once, the very lord proceeding over our village came for a visit, and even he had only good things to say about his work.
“Good morning, sir,” he said pleasantly. “You look ravishing this morning. What’s the occasion?”
“A jaunt with my wife and child,” I said sighing: I loved my family, but mornings did nothing for me.
With a nod of understanding, he continued. “Well, perhaps I could make your morning a bit more cheerful. What say you to a breakfast ham and a scrambled egg platter? I’ll even throw in some bacon,” he finished, smirking as he watched my face light up in delight.
“Say no more, that sounds amazing!” I said joyfully. “What a wondrous day it is!” he laughed as I spoke and left to prepare my food. I leaned back in my chair and started anticipating the hot meat and the perfection of breakfast. Then, I heard a slight shuffling behind me.
I turned around and saw my precious daughter Anna. She had just turned five a month ago, but I swore she had already grown up. She had long red hair with a crimson ribbon tying her hair back out of her eyes. Her dark brown eyes shined with excitement as she ran up to me.
“Father!” she cried as she gave me a hug. This was the first time I’d seen her in a few days. Emmella had taken her to piano lessons, dance lessons, and so many other classes it made my head spin. I lifted her off the ground and swept her around in a circle. I set her down and gave her a kiss.
“Hello Anna! How are the lessons treating you?” I asked eyeing her questioningly.
“I’m first in every lesson, of course,” she answered proudly.
“Very good! I’m impressed!” I said warmly. Her deep brown eyes sparkled like her mother’s, and I felt the urge to laugh. I successfully suppressed it, and kept on. “In fact, you’ve done so well—”
“We’re going out riding together. Yes! Mother told me so, but I didn’t believe her,” she said happily.
“Why not? I can think of no reason for you to doubt your own mother!” I exclaimed.
“Well, you’re really just not a morning person,” she said almost chidingly. “Which is really an awful shame, for I believe the morning is the best part of the day, myself,”
I laughed loudly. “Anna, if you were blonde, I’d swear you were your mother!” I said jokingly. She smiled and just then, my nose told me food was on the way. A huge platter of food came, with Brandon carrying it all with just one hand. It was a miracle he could hold it all without dropping it, but, as always, Brandon was amazing at what he did.
“Ah! Food! Sit down Anna, sit! You can help me eat some of this! I’m sure those tutors of yours don’t let you eat near enough! You may have your mother’s mind, but you have MY stomach!” she laughed and complied happily. We each ate up to thirds, left for the entryway together, and met up with Emmella.
“Good job, Anna!” she said jubilantly. “You found your father, and he is even ready to go for a change!" she replied with a smirk. "The horses are ready for us. We may go when we please,” she announced beaming.
“That’s wonderful!” said Anna, and she ran out for the stables, and we both laughed.
“Gregory, she certainly is a lot like you,” she said fondly.
“Nay, her stomach, maybe, but her figure and intelligence are yours and yours alone,” I said and she smiled. I offered her my arm, and we left together for the stables.
The stables had originally been a large storage house when we had first moved to England. Emmella and I had worked very hard together to build it up to what it had become. Emmella had cleaned out all of the remnants of the storehouse and I put together the wood décor and stalls for horses. I even built an arena to practice jumping. Needless to say, it was a very important building for both of us, and was also what lead to us finding some of the hot springs we now rented out.
Suddenly, I was wretched out of my memories by a loud scream that pierced through the morning: my daughter’s scream. My heart started racing wildly. I ripped my arm free and sprinted towards the noise. “ANNA! ANNA! ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?!? ANNA!”
“FATHER!” she screamed. I became more frantic and ran faster. Something was terribly wrong. Then, I saw it: the sables. I raced up the path looked around for her.
“ANNA! WHERE ARE YOU?!?! ANNA! ANSWER ME!” I yelled. No response. “ANNA!”
I looked around wildly. I knew she had to be here. I knew it. I ran to where I knew the horses were and saw a body. A limp body. My Anna. “A-Anna? Anna! Are you ok? Wake up! Anna . . . ” I hugged her and stopped making noise. I slowly set my daughter down and looked around. Someone had hurt my Anna. I knew it. “Show yourself, you bloody coward!” I screamed, trying to lure the evil monster who did this out into the open. Suddenly, I heard an insane laughter all around me. I wildly spun my head in circles trying to figure out what was making that horrible laugh.
“Are you sure you want that . . . human?” he said in a demeaning voice. More laughter. I became enraged.
“How dare you speak in such a manner! You are as human as I, though an evil man to have attacked an innocent child. Come! Face me!” I yelled spitefully.
He laughed the hardest he had yet. “AS YOU WISH!” he yelled.
The second he spoke I heard him to my right and just barely had enough time to dodge it. I looked around for a weapon, and noticed a pitchfork in a small pile of hay in the corner. I grabbed it and turned to face the man, except he didn’t look like any man I had ever met before. He had bright blonde hair and white eyes with no pupils. His teeth were very large with a tint of dry blood in the corners. This man is possessed, I concluded. I launched at him with my pitchfork and he dodged it with such ease I felt completely mismatched. But it was too late for speculations now.
“Come now, were you not eager to face me SECONDS BEFORE? CAN YOU NOT HANDLE THE PRESSURE?!?!?! HAHAHAHAHA! WORM! FILTH! HUMAN, YOU SHALL PAY FOR YOUR IDIOCY, AND WEEP FOR IT IN THE YEARS TO COME!” He swung down, and this time, I was ready. I held up my weapon, ready to guard myself. But instead of coming at me, he smiled and disappeared. I stopped, looking around wildly. How did he do that? Then, I heard a voice behind me.
“I win,” he said smugly. He leaned forward and bit me on the neck. Suddenly, I felt an intense pain in my neck. I screamed for everything I was. My very life was flashing before my eyes: my wife, my daughter, everyone and everything that I held precious.
And then, it came. Kill. I needed to kill. I needed to have blood more than anything in the world. Death, blood, and food. Nothing else mattered. I uttered an inhuman shriek and bit myself. Blood. Very good. But it wasn’t enough. I needed blood. I NEEDED BLOOD!
“There’s meat in the corner if you want some blood,” someone said behind me.
FOOD! Must get food. Suddenly it hit me: memory. The possessed man: my life. I couldn’t kill. Not humans . . . no! I can’t . . . Anna . . . not Anna . . . NO! I need blood . . . I can’t hurt Anna . . .food . . .Anna . . . FOOD . . . ANNA . . .
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed, curling up in a ball. I had to fight myself. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this. I heard the man laughing as he watched me, but I didn’t care: I had to stop myself. I had to.
Then, suddenly, I heard a gasp from the doorway: it was my wife, Emmella. My heart skipped a beat. My mind. Gone. MEAT! I rushed for the Anna and the kill. I laughed inhumanly, even as I fought. I opened my mouth, sinking my fangs into flesh . . . I had my blood. I didn’t care about anything but blood. In the back of my mind, I heard screaming. It only drove me into a greater excitement. I started drinking blood faster as I laughed loudly, feeling alive and sated. Then, I looked at my victim: it wasn't Anna . . . it was Emmella. Her body had shielded Anna from me. Her eyes stared at me, horrified.
“W-why? G-gregory? I . . . I loved you . . . ” she cried. “I really . . . really . . . loved . . .” her hand met my face, no, Gregory's face, with a final loving pat, and she fell limp . . .dead.
I stopped. Time stopped. I had killed her . . . I . . . I . . . I ate her?!? A monster . . . I’m a monster . . . I . . . I need to run! I need to get away! Anna…NO! I tried to get up, but I heard a laugh behind me.
“Nope. You’re not done yet. You still need seconds!” he laughed mockingly.
“No! NEVER! I’d rather die!” I said shakily.
“Oh really? Then I’ll do it for you!” he swooped down for my daughter.
“NOOOOO!” I yelled. I hadn't thought of that. I ran as fast as I could, but I didn’t make it. He sunk his fangs into her and started to eat. All of a sudden, Anna woke up. She started to scream, making me run even faster. I punched him out of the way. Then I saw the bloody mass of what had been my daughter seconds ago. Horror hit me, and also . . . hunger. The blood: it was getting to me again. I fought it off, this time successfully, but I knew it was too late: She was going to die.
“F-father?” she said quietly.
“Y-yes?” I said, trying to keep the tears down.
“I . . . I didn’t . . . do well in art class,” she said quietly. I actually laughed at the absurd thing she had just said.
“It’s ok Anna . . . It’s . . . It’s ok,” I cried. She looked at me, relief spreading across her face. I felt so numb I had already forgotten the man. As I clutched my daughter to my chest, he struck me from behind and stole Anna from my arms. I reached out for him, but missed. He sprinted away, my dying daughter in his arms, and I . . . I was helpless to stop it.
Hours went by. I lay across the floor, unmoving and unfeeling. I had become a monster. A murderer. A cannibal. I cried, and time seemed to endlessly go by. Suddenly, I realized I had to go. If I stayed here, I would only murder my former friends and servants.
Getting up hurt horribly. I stumbled forward as I walked out of the stables and into the forest. This would be the perfect place to go: most people avoided it like the plague. There were many rumors of wild bears and wolves roaming around, as well as many other dangers. If I hid in there, no one would have to die. I had to get there. I limped in a little ways further, and finally staggered, falling over. This would be the end of me: it wouldn’t take long for something to smell the blood which drenched my clothes. I smiled as I realized I would soon rejoin my wife and child.
Then, just as inner peace had almost hit me, a horrible, gut-wrenching thought hit me: what if I wasn’t going to see them again? Murderers don’t go to heaven, do they? With no options left, not even death, I lay there, completely at a loss of what to do.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man, staring at me, pity lining his face.
“S-Stay back! I’m a monster! Please! Run for your life!” I said, crying.
His look of sadness only deepened. He walked forward, grabbed my neck, and twisted it around, revealing the bite marks I had gotten from the man in the stables. He sighed deeply and looked me in the eyes. His eyes were dark black, and bore into me like he knew everything I’d done tonight. I looked at him, wondering who this man was.
“You’re not evil, you know,” he said quietly, making me listen closer.
“I’m responsible for the slaughter . . . no . . . the devouring of my very wife and . . . and watching the same of my daughter. I am a monster. I don’t deserve anything,” I said shakily.
“It wasn’t your fault. Come with me. I can help you,” he announced. I stared at him numbly. Could he really do that? He extended his arm to me . . . and, having nowhere else to go, I left with him.
Hope. Was it possible to have something so wonderful when you’ve such done horrible things? SHOULD it be possible? I shook my head and continued to focus on keeping up with the stranger. His pace might have looked like a walk, but he had the speed of a runner. I looked over his features. The man was old, amazingly old, probably in his forties or fifties and looked every year. Not many lived to his age in hard times like this, so I was dazedly interested in how he managed it. Wrinkles consumed his face and his wispy white hair lined his forehead. It was his eyes that scared me: they looked so sad; I knew he’d seen many tragedies in his time. I am probably just another one, I thought silently.
I limped as fast as I could and tried to focus only on moving forward. If I did that, the pain in my heart alleviated slightly even as the pain in my legs intensified. It was almost dawn. Dawn of the day after I lost everything. How could the days go on? How? No, I yelled at myself. Just focus . . . focus on moving forward.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, we came upon an enormous castle entirely surrounded by a fence as high as a watch tower. The castle was mainly composed of marble, brick, and stone, stretching on for ages. I stared at it in wonder, amazed by how an elegant castle such as that was hidden this forest. The man walked up to a gate with a path behind it leading up to the castle. He reached for his chest, pulled out a necklace, and inserted the piece at the bottom into the lock. The lock fell to the ground with a heavy “clunk” and he headed toward the castle. I hesitated briefly, then realized I had nothing to loose by following this man. I resigned myself, and went in through the gate. As we walked up the path, I stared at the fence. There were pointed spikes on the top of it, but something bugged me about it. Then, I realized what it was: the spikes were tilted at an angle that would suit keeping things in more than out. I twitched involuntarily, but headed on anyway. Where else COULD I go?
We reached the front steps and quickly went inside. The man paused only to take off his shoes, then, without a word, he moved onward to another room in the house. Quickly, I threw off my riding boots and dashed after him. When I caught up, I relaxed slightly and took in my surroundings. It seemed the interior was just as eloquent as the exterior. Beautiful oil paintings of many differing types stretched onward, as did beautiful dark wooded doors, fancy furniture pieces, and tiled flooring fit for very kings. Finally, the man stopped by an enormous brick fireplace. But the fireplace wasn’t the amazing part of the room: there was a large life sized painting of a beautiful woman with blonde hair and black eyes. She looked slightly sad, but, even so was breathtaking. The man sat down in an armchair beside the fireplace and let out a grunt as he was relieved of carrying his weight. He looked up at me for the first time since he had told me to follow him and motioned to a seat identical to his on the opposite side of the fireplace. Slowly, I sat down and looked back at him.
The man’s sad expression had disappeared. He now looked at me with a face devoid of emotion, save intensity. His age seemed to disappear as his pitying, tired features changed into the very features which ever warrior would praise: his chin was up; he looked bold, and full of pride. He was no man to mess with. He cleared his throat, and I knew he was about to speak. I turned my full attention on him, and, seeing that, he began.
“Welcome . . . now what would your name happen to be?” he said in a strong, confident tone.
“ . . . Gregory, sir,” I said. “From Gregory Stillard’s hot springs,” I said, slowly reverting to my practiced, everyday greeting. The normalcy of the simple introduction made me feel odd, almost as if the whole thing had just been a horrible nightmare.
" . . . I see. Then you are of some standing after all,” he sighed and continued on, as if he hadn’t spoken. “Gregory, ‘eh? Then welcome, Gregory, to my humble home. I trust you find it to your liking?” The dreamlike feeling intensified as I continued onward.
“Oh, of course. Your home is very beautiful, but the location is a bit . . . intriguing. Don’t you have any problem living in these woods? The villagers all say this forest is . . . well . . .haunted,” I finished dumbly.
He laughed, but it was a cold, humorless laugh with more than a slight edge of bitterness lodged inside of it, which sent chills up my spine. “Well, they don’t know how close they are. But it is more hauntING than hauntED . . . as you probably have already found out,” he said, with a meaningful look.
“What . . . what are you talking about?” I said, feeling nervous.
He looked at me with disgust and shook his head. “Don’t play dumb! You’re very family is dead because of that blasted vampire! By god, you’ve been BLOODED man!” he yelled, pounding his fist into the fireplace.
I stared at him in shock. Blooded? What did he mean? “Vampires? That’s just a bedtime horror story for young children! And what do you mean by “blooded”? I said nervously. “Will I . . . am I going to be like this forever? Am I going to try . . ." My voice gave out and I attepted to finish my though. "to try . . .” I broke off again, shuttered, and finished my thought almost inaudibly. “Will I continue killing innocents like this?”
He stopped, his features loosening slightly. Then, as if nothing had happened, he regained his composure, and turned to face me again.
“First thing’s first. You’ve probably been wondering who I am,” he turned to me and I nodded slowly. “Well, here I go, try not to interrupt for a while: I’d rather not have to pause and explain every other fact I present to you, so keep your questions to yourself until I am finished. Understand? Good. Well, here I go then,”
“My name is Robert Haanglings. I am the sole owner of all the forest land in the vicinity,” I stared at him, shocked, opened my mouth to say something, then quickly shut it, remembering what he’d asked of me. He eyed me, pleased I hadn’t said anything. He continued: “It is an immense property, with much work needed to keep it up. Doing it all myself, it’s even harder,”
I nearly glared at him: His answers only lead to more questions. I restrained myself from squirming in my seat and listened harder.
Mr. Haanglings looked at me, amused, as if he knew exactly what I was thinking, and kept going. “I have lived here many years in my home, if only for one thing: to keep an eye on the creatures that have slowly been thriving in my forest, creatures you shall soon learn much about: the vampires. This job of watching over the forest has gone through many generations of the Haangling family, but will end with me, as I have no children. He stopped, looked at me, grief returning to his eyes.
“Now, with you, I have failed my duty, the duty of all my ancestors…keeping people like you safe from them. The vampires are a dying breed, and one not to be underestimated. There are many insane vampires, yet for every insane one you meet, there is a kind one to counteract it,” Haangling said, with reverence in his eyes. I scoffed. Kind murderers? I found that hard to believe. His eyes flashed and he assumed a thoughtful voice.
“I know there is much, much reason for you to doubt me, but truly, as you yourself found out minutes ago, vampires can’t help the urge to seek blood. It can break minds…the need for blood,” he looked at me as comprehension hit.
“Y-you mean . . . I . . . I’ll forever be a murderer, too?" I paused, thinking the very sobering thought. "Is there no hope?” I asked, with gut wrenching pain in my chest. A killer: forever. I’d be the same as the beast of a man that created me, allowed me to kill my wife, and took my daughter himself.
“Do not speak of vampires in such a way! I will NOT tolerate it!” he said, steel in his tone. “And did I not tell you to wait until I was finished to speak?” he said, but I could tell he didn’t mean it as harshly as he tried to make it out to be. “Do you see that picture above the fireplace?” I looked up slowly and nodded. “That beautiful, kind woman was my very wife. She suffered many hardships and tried to do good things. Her name was Madda, and she, too, was a vampire. I looked at him shocked.
“But . . . why? She’d be a murderer too! And . . . she could hurt you . . . and . . . and . . . how could you marry someone like that?” I asked unbelieving.
“You’ve only seen one side of the species. You can’t assume you know everything about them, meeting only one insane vampire. What if THEY assumed the same of humans? Would you say all humans are virtuous? Aren’t their murderers and cruel ones in our race as well?” I looked down angrily, but I knew he was right. Still, I refused to accept it. I’d never forgive them, for their breed had led me to ruin. Putting aside the resolution I’d made, I continued to listen.
“As for your question of whether or not she’d hurt me . . . she took great lengths to keep me safe from herself so we could be together. I’ll give you the option to use the same thing she did to become safe: it is as close as a cure as I can offer to you . . . but, I must warn you now, as much as it could save your sanity, it could also hurt you. If you had lived your live before, in relative respect for your fellow man, you may be saved,” I looked up, disbelievingly, wondering if it could really be possible for me to go back. “But,” he said warningly. “If you have lived your life in a way you have harbored hatred, greed, or malice towards any, you will not be so lucky. You will be contorted into a monster even the insane vampires would fear. You would go on a rampage which no one would have any chance of stopping. If that should happen," he paused meaningfully, "I would kill you on the spot,” he announced without faltering. I shivered, with no doubt that he would follow through. “Regardless,” said Mr. Haanglings, “it is your choice to make: take the treatment, or continue as you are. I warn you: either path is dangerous,”
“There is no choice in my mind: I wish to be normal,” I said resolutely.
“I see,” he said, “I thought as much,” he stood up. “Come, we must get started. But before we begin, you must understand something very important: when you are blooded, your body changes in appearance drastically, to the point you may not recognize yourself,” He turned to the portrait of his vampire wife and then me.
“This, in case you were wondering, was a portrait of my wife before she took the treatment. All vampires have blonde hair, and black eyes, regardless what they may, or may not have naturally been. You are no exception to this, regardless what you once had. Also, as you might have noticed, your teeth, like all vampires, have grown to accommodate your new tastes. And, though not a physical trait, there is something they must be very careful of: no vampire can stay in the sun. If one would try, they would be dead within minutes. The only reason you escaped the fate of death when I found you was the fact the blood hadn’t completely taken to yours yet. If you hadn’t taken refuge in the dark forest, you would have died as well.
“Though they are basic traits, the knowledge may save your live. Even if you survive the treatment, your life can never go back to what it was. Take it from someone who saw that truth,” he said sadly.
We will see about that, I thought.
“Well then, let’s get going,” he said resigned. We walked down a dark stone-lined corridor lit only by a tiny lantern that Mr. Haanglings had carried along. The dank area had a feeling of death and torture about it, and a faint smell of blood was embeded within it. It was driving me mad, and I was sure Mr. Haanglings could feel it. Suddenly, he came to a stop ahead of me. I ran up to him, and he nodded at me as he pulled a key out of his pocket. Mr. Haanglings unlocked a small door I hadn't seen in front of him and pulled it open. I was hit with a view of a large spiral staircase leading far, far into the earth. He took the lead after stooping down to fit through the door, and I followed him. Eventually, we came to yet another door at the end of the staircase. He opened it and stepped through it. I tried to see past his dim lantern's light further into the room, but it was so dark it was a miracle I could even see where the door was. I sighed, realizing there was no turning back now and followed him inside.
“Come,” he said quietly. I jumped at his sudden breach of the solid silence, but followed him into the room as it got more and more menacingly dark around us. Just out of the lantern’s light, I noticed objects that looked like some of the king’s torture devices, as well as a large assortment of weapons, some rusted with red blood. I shivered and wondered if I was mad. Just as I pondered leaving, he spoke again.
“Well . . . here we are,” he said quietly. He approached a door with no doorknob, bit his finger, and let a drop of blood fall against a small grey cup lying on the floor.
“Open. I, Robert Gale Haanglings demand it,” he chanted quietly. The door shuddered, and after a second or two, it swung open of it own accord. I jumped, wondering if the man was a sorcerer of some sort. If there were vampires in this world, I realized much else could also be true.
But all my thoughts stopped immediately when I saw what was behind the door. Pale, blue candlelight surrounded a small, perfectly circular bowl about 3 yards in diameter. I felt compelled to find out what it was and stepped forward.
“Don’t move!” he whispered fiercely. “I must explain a few things very quickly. You are about to be tested on everything in your heart, both good AND evil, and, depending on what it finds, it will give you form. As I said, evil things, like hatred, greed and malice shall destroy you. Only the good can find happiness in the Gakto WO Mira . . . in English, the Bowl of Night. You will see yourself as I described, a vampire, so be careful not to reject yourself, or it will reject you as well. You have been warned. Now . . . you may go,” he said quietly. Suddenly the lamp went out and I couldn’t see Mr. Haanglings at all. I took a deep breath and walked forward.
As I drew near, I noticed the bowl was full of water. One half was the cleanest, most pure water I had ever seen. The other, the most disgusting. It was black and smelled of rotted flesh, and I falter slightly. I shook it off and continued onward. Then, a strange impulse hit me: touch the water.
I did so. For a moment, nothing happened. I suddenly felt foolish and decided to take my hand out of the water. It didn’t budge. I pulled harder, but instead of getting farther out, I was being sucked inward. I let out a scream, but even as I did, my vision blurred and when back. Suddenly, the water sprang out of the bowl, an amount that stunned me, considering the bowl’s apparently small size, and surrounded me. It slowly got closer and closer to me until I saw a reflection: a blonde man with dark black eyes and fangs the size of a sharks.
That wasn’t me! That couldn’t be me! The water began to turn chaotic and get closer. Then, Mr. Haanglings’ warning came to me; I couldn’t reject myself: I was still Gregory Stillard, but now I was Gregory Stillard . . . the vampire. The water became calmer, and I sighed in relief.
But my relief was short-lived. The water surrounded me, grabbed me, and pulled me into the bowl. I screamed and tried to fight it, but it was no use. Try as I might, the water was just too strong. It was too late for me. The water mercilessly swept me away, ignoring my attempts to fight it off. Was this life? Was this death? I didn’t know, for I was nothing. My last thought was sorrow I couldn’t take the place of my wife or my daughter. Then, I gave up, and the water felt no resistance as I was swept along wherever it wished.
The water stopped. I opened my eyes. Though I was underwater, I didn’t feel water in my eyes. Then, slowly, I tried to take a breath. It felt like the most pure air I’d ever breathed had rushed into my chest. I exhaled, and all of a sudden, a beautiful feminine voice rang in my head.
Who are you? She asked.
Gregory Stillard, I replied.
No. WHO are you? She asked again.
A husband. A father. A murderer. I answered.
Better. But what is it you what? Power? Money? Love?...Revenge? She mused quietly.
Revenge? I asked quietly.
Yes. She said, her voice changing. I can make you strong, strong enough to slaughter the one who made you a vampire. No one will have the power to stop you…and riches…there will be many riches. Come, you need revenge. For your wife. For your daughter…for yourself. You deserve it. You’ve EARNED it. Is that what you want?
Yes…I spoke…I must have power…for my wife—no! I suddenly thought violently. No! I don’t wish that…no more death…no more…
Have you killed? She asked happily. Are you evil?
No! I’m not…I can’t be…but…I…I…I want…revenge…
A maniacal laughter surrounded me. I felt like I was loosing myself. Images started flashing vividly in my mind…blood, hate, anger, weakness…I felt it all. My body grew to enormous proportions: I was taller than eight feet and had the strength of more than thirty men. My teeth, which had already grown fanglike, became true fangs with more than twice the power as the man who’d destroyed my life. The very man I’d kill. Dead wife. Dying Anna. Flesh! Blood! Meat! I need them . . . I NEED THEM!!!!!
I opened up my mouth to roar out a savage cry when suddenly, through all the images, an image appeared in my mind. My wife, smiling as I held her in my arms. My daughter looking up at me as a newborn. My family. A happy family. A living family. Tears rolled down my face. Why? Why did they have to die?
Perhaps there is hope for you yet, the child spoke.
Then, the blackness started to shift. Everything that had been dark became a shinning white. A calmness settled inside of me and for one second I felt pure again.
You are not condemned, the girl spoke. I breathed slowly. Would I become normal again?
No, she spoke, reading my thoughts. You are good, but evil as well. A true shade of grey. You shall not forget that which was you heart’s desire, but remember, you have a kind side, too. When you make your decision, you shall become that which suits you best.
Wait! What do you mean by-
Darkness again. Where was I? Was I in the black room again? I heard a man shifting near a doorway, and I realized I was back again. The bowl of water lay at my feet and I sat in a daze wondering what had happened. I licked my teeth: they felt normal. What had the girl meant?
“Mr. Haangling?” I said quietly.
His neck whipped around so fast I was surprised he had not killed himself. He looked at me with amazed joy in his eyes.
“By George, you’ve done it! You’ve actually—wait a second,” he said, joy turning to speculation. He brought his lantern up to my face and stared at me for a second.
“What happened? Your hair’s brown and your teeth are normal . . . but your eyes . . . ” he looked at me intently.
“She said I was not good enough,” I said quietly, cursing myself and all vampires. He swore and started pacing back and forth. He looked honestly baffled what to do. Finally, he turned around to me.
“Are you . . . hungry?” he asked cautiously. My eyes widened and I punched him. How dare he! I glared at him, willing for him to get up so I could attack him. To my amazement, he started laughing.
“I apologize, but it was necessary. At least she gave you control over your diet. You are not allowed to eat meat though, just in case certain things would . . . resurface. Do you understand my meaning?”
“I could never eat meat again anyway, not after . . . ” I stopped, my throat catching.
“No need to go on,” he stopped again and looked thoughtfully at me. “Well, now that you know the horror of an insane vampire . . . I must ask you a question,” he said quietly. “Firstly, I must say, I am getting old,” he took me off guard when he said that, but he persisted onward.
“Being old, I am much less apt to getting around from place to place. I no longer have the strength to help people like you who are the victims of insane vampires on a regular basis. Already, many have migrated without my knowledge to the point they are on entirely different continents than I . . . and yet, they thrive,”
“Then should we not tell people and warn them!?!? They used me to kill my family! Is there no way to stop them?” I said, pain edged in my voice. His sharp eyes met my desolate black eyes and I realized I’d interjected on him. I calmed down and allowed him to speak.
“Many have tried to warn humans, but you yourself know the result: vampires are a myth past down through the generations. Far from the easiest thing to persuade to truth, no?” he said, referring to my very own words to him earlier that night. “But as to a way to stop them, that does exist,” he said quietly.
“Tell me!” I snapped.
“You,” he answered simply. I stared at him dumbly.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked quietly.
“As of this moment, many men and women have faced the same trial you just did and came back human. These particular humans have spread out across the globe and, unbeknownst to any, they protect others from the horror you went through. If someone does get bitten, you must realize if they kill or devour humans for fun, or if they are struggling to fight themselves. Also, you must protect all other creatures from insane vampires." He looked at me intently. "Insane vampires become soulless, and the color leaves their eyes the color of bone and with unforgiving jaws to cause mayhem. They are a menace and must be stopped. Join us. It shall benefit many,” he ended.
I didn’t have to think about my answer; it came immediately—
CRACK! My head started to distantly hurt. The world . . . was slipping away? What . . . what . . . WACK!