Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2161123-A-Psalm-At-Dawn
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #2161123
A vampire story.
"Farewell, my friends, I'm bound for Canaan,
I'm trav'ling through the wilderness."

- Irish folk song

"Well well well."
- John Lennon

A Psalm At Dawn:

    Ethan’s first death was given, not taken. It came to him in a wash of terror and ecstasy, and blood. Of course, blood. It was the last time he would experience such mortal sensations. Rage, hunger, and a cold rendition of delight took their place, but blood would forever remain a feature of his existence.

    He was given his death the same year as a group of solicitors and merchants declared their sovereignty, in ink and gunpowder, to a king who presumed to rule them from across the Atlantic. But these revolutionaries were forgotten to him on the night of his dying. In fact, Ethan’s world was only as big as the wattle and daub home he shared with his brother, Lonn, where Death had found them. There was only the teeth at his throat, the blood running down his neck and pooling in the shallow indent between his shoulder and collarbone, and his brother shivering beside him, waiting for his turn. The dull throb of exsanguination faded in rhythm with his pulse, and Ethan died seeing stars…

    … and then he was given his death. He woke with it crusted on his lips. Its taste, like iron and corruption, was in his mouth.

    Across the sod that served as the floor of their simple home, his brother was rising. Ethan could see the wound at his throat and the dark blood caked around his mouth and chin. They were alone.

    “Lonn?” his throat was raw and dry.

    “Is it still here?”

    “I do not think so,” Ethan replied.

    “We are cursed…”

    To that, Ethan gave no response. There was a foulness he felt in his spirit, but there was also a new found strength. He watched as his brother rose and went to the basin to wash the blood from his face. Ethan licked his lips.

    “We are unclean, brother,” Lonn said, drying his face with a cloth. “We must be purified in the light of God’s creation.”

    “The dawn?”

    Lonn nodded. Outside the birds were already singing and Ethan knew the sky would be lightening.

    “It could mean our destruction.”

    “What is this existence, if not destruction?” Lonn snapped. “Brother, we are unclean.”

    Ethan made no reply. But when the dawn came, neither could summon the courage to step outside.

    They took to sleeping in the daytime. At night Lonn would read the bible by candle light and make the occasional comment about myths from the old country.

    “Nan said they would slay them with iron, those that bore the curse, and bury them face down with a stone wedged betwixt their teeth…”

    Ethan hardly spoke at all. Many days he would wake from sleep to find his brother standing by the door, his hand on the latch, the faint glow of sunlight seeping through the chinks in the wall. But in the end, they would both go back to sleep.

    All the while, their hunger was growing.

    The first night they had tried to eat, and wretched. It was only a simple supper of hardtack and preserves, but they could not keep it down. Even the water came up. Five days later, irritable and ravenous, they began with the chickens. There was no question as to whether they should be cooked. The blood was thin, and sickeningly sweet but it held them over for another five days. Next came the goat. The taste was thicker, richer, and though Lonn later said the sound upset him, Ethan found that he enjoyed the way the kid screamed when they set upon it under the yellow lantern light.

    By then their teeth had started to change to a mess of jagged shards, more suited for rending flesh than puncturing it. Gorging themselves on the goat had made them sluggish, and when Lonn suggested they turn in early, Ethan agreed. But as they left the barn, he could not help but note all of their livestock was gone.

    There were still a couple hours before sunlight when Ethan rose. Heel to toe, he crept passed where his brother slept on his pallet and quietly left. It was nearly three miles to the McDermott farm, but even in the dark, the path was well worn, and Ethan knew it by rote. There were hares on the farm, he knew. Fat rabbits McDermott kept in a hutch that would hold them over until they could decide what to do next. He reached the farm in a little over an hour. There was still enough time to take what he came for and make it back before dawn if he was quick about it. But as he came to the edge of the wood, something caught his eye.

    One of McDermott’s daughters, had risen early to milk their goat, and just stopped to rest, setting down the two heavy pails she carried. Aileen, he believed was her name. That seemed right as she was the youngest and the girl before him appeared no older than ten.

    Perhaps I could convince her to sell me a few of the rabbits, he thought, patting his pockets to see if he had brought any coin. I could beckon her to here so her father would not spy me, and then- But what then? Send her back for the rabbits? Ethan found that his mouth was watering, and he could not take his eyes from the pale flesh of the child’s throat.

    “What are you doing?”

    Startled, Ethan turned to see his brother standing behind him.

    “Why were you looking at her.”

    “There are rabbits in the hutch.” Ethan replied, smiling.

    Lonn’s expression was grave. “Why were you looking at her?” he asked again.

    “We have no food,” Ethan answered, his smile gone.

    Minutes passed as the brother’s stared at one another. When the expression on Lonn’s face changed from revulsion to sadness, he spun and took off running back to their home. Ethan watched, puzzled, but with the violet creeping into the eastern sky, came a grim understanding. Ethan sprinted after his brother, chasing him through the woods and twilight.

    By the time they reached the house, the sky had turned a faded no-color, trying to be blue; a finger of pink light crested the horizon. Having the lead, Lonn darted inside, slamming the door behind him, and calling out: “Forgive me, bother.”

    Ethan cursed, reaching the door just in time to hear the soft thud of the latch. He threw his shoulder against the wood, and shouted when he found it unyielding. The heat of dawn was on his back.

    “Open this fucking door, right now!”

    “I cannot brother,” Lonn’s voice replied from within the house, “not until you’re with God. Then I will join you. Pray with me, brother, please. The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

    Ethan looked around in panic. There was the barn, but it was really nothing more than a enclosure, a gate serving as its eastern wall. It would not hide him from the dawn.

    “He maketh me lie down in green pastures…”

    Ethan kicked the door once, twice, three times. Violently he tried to fight his way in but the door would not open, and Lonn kept praying.

    “... I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff…”

    At the back of his neck the skin had began bubble and blister. And in that moment, in his panic and rage, Ethan reached within himself, and found the blood. It shuddered in his veins and rang in his head; the sound of ferocity, and triumph, and the screaming of a dying goat. His soul touched it, coiled around its power, and his smoking skin was forgotten.

    "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies..."

    Ethan crashed through the door in an explosion of sawdust and dirt, just as his skin begin to burn. Lonn was knocked back by the force. His brother stood over him, teeth barred, wreathed in flames.

    Just as death was given, it was taken. In the end Lonn thanked his brother as he faded, but implored him to return to the sunlight. Instead, Ethan dragged his brother’s pallet to a shadowed corner and slept, smoke still rising from his skin.

    He woke in darkness and looked within himself. The blood was there, and when he touched it, Lonn’s voice filled his ears and his burned flesh began to heal. Ethan dressed in darkness; it was his brother’s way to light candles. When he was fully clothed he set out for the McDermott farm.

    He had no taste for rabbits.
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