Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Children of the night

Anton was a pious young man studying to be an Anglican priest, but in seminary he began to develop alarming symptoms. After a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with MS. Anton was devastated by the news. He felt somewhat bitter, as if God betrayed him. Here he was planning to devote his life to God. There was also some fear of premature death. More disconcerting was the apprehension that he'd never have a wife and kids. Indeed, he told his girlfriend to look for someone else. But what really left him distraught was the prospect of losing control of his body and his mind slipping away. It filled him with panic. 

There were rumors of a vampiric serial killer terrorizing the city. Victims were exsanguinated. Authorities figured it was just a psychopath imitating a vampire, but Anton sought out the killer just in case he was a real vampire. Anton was desperately hoping that the vampire, if that's what he was, would cure him of MS by turning him. So he spent many nights pacing dark alleys and deserted sidewalks, hunting for the vampire. Then one night he discovered the vampire–or was it the vampire discovered him? He was terrified to encounter it face-to-face. 

He didn't remember much about the actual transformation. It was like a delirious trance. When he regained full consciousness, like emerging from a coma, the MS was gone. Indeed, his original body was gone. 

Contrary to urban legend, the vampiric body wasn't like a fresh corpse. It wasn't even a human body. It was ectoplasmic rather than protoplasmic–a simulacrum of a human body. 

Although there was a fleeting sense of relief that his plan succeeded, the cost of his solution dawned on him by stages. A darkness entered his soul. A shadow self.  

Becoming a vampire sealed his damnation, but as an immortal, damnation is a long ways off. That was a distant forboding. At first the cost was more immediate. He'd have to break off connections with his parents and siblings. He couldn't very well remain ageless while they aged. And he couldn't very well explain to them what he had become. He had become a monster. 

His body was nearly impervious to harm, but that had a price. His body was impotent and insensate. He had no sense of touch. He couldn't father children. Insensible to cold, immune to pain, but by the same token, insensible to physical or sensual pleasure. His body was just a shell for his darkened soul. He wasn't quite alive or dead. As he discovered, the vampiric body didn't need to feed on blood to survive or remain youthful. The bloodlust was a divine curse. 

Over the decades he moved from town to town. Rather than prey on the innocent, he became an avenger of blood, picking off violent criminals–who were in plentiful supply. Muggers, murderers, rapists. Homicide detectives chalked it up to a vigilante, but because he could materialize or dematerialize at will, it was impossible for them to catch him. 

The only hazard to his body was sunlight, not because it had any natural effect on his body, but a spiritual effect. Another divine curse. 

Yet he missed sunlight. He feared it and craved it. An enticing but fatal emblem of all he lost. 

He used to attend an evensong service to bask in the candlelight. It gave him a sense of connection with the life he put behind him. 

In the daytime he hid in the crypt. He came out at twilight, morning and evening, to gaze at the dim sunlight filtered through the stained-glass windows, before it became to bright or faded. That's as close as he could get to daylight. It filled him with aching regret. He wept each time for the few fleeting moments he could glimpse the sunlight behind the stained-glass windows. 

Even then he had to stay in the shadows to avoid direct contact with beams of light. One time he lingered too long, transfixed by the dawning light. It burned his eyes out. The pain was indescribable, but being a vampire, his eyes regenerated.  

Homilies by progressive theologians amused him. They ridiculed the supernatural as backward superstition while, unbeknownst to them, they were preaching to a dangerous  supernatural being. He toyed with them. He took mordant delight in turning their dreams into nightmares. Appearing in their dreams as the monster he was, hunting them down.  

As his existence became increasingly unbearable, he began to wonder if God might forgive a vampire. Could a child of the night become a child of the light? The thought haunted him with hope and terror. If he renounced his condition, if he died a penitent vampire, what awaited him? Would he go to hell? Or would he slough off the monster, shed the shadow, and become human again? 

Finally, he recited a confession from the prayer book, went outside at night and sat down in the church graveyard, facing east, waiting for the dawn. Would he at least be free–or doomed for eternity? An hour later the horizon began to lighten and brighten. It burned his eyes out. Was this a harbinger of hellfire or refining fire? It was too late to turn back. 

When the groundkeeper came by that afternoon, he saw the scorched outline of a body on the grass. An outline in the shape of a cross. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Idiot

Cædmon was a strange boy. No one knew who his parents were. He wandered into the town one day as a little boy. The townsfolk assumed he was abandoned. He slept in barns and bathed in the creek, eating wild fruit and whatever scraps some townsfolk would share with him. He seemed insensible to cold. 

He never spoke a word. The townsfolk assumed he was "slow". Indeed, the boys called him a "retard!" By common consent, he was the village idiot. A few of the townsfolk were protective, taking pity on him and treating him with kindness. But the boys used to beat him up. 

As a teenager, he was amiable but aloof. A handsome lad, girls were curious, but he didn't reciprocate their interest. He seemed to be intently observant. Once he rescued a child from drowning in the creek. Another time he recovered a lost child. He had uncanny tracking skills. He had greater affinity for children than adults–reinforcing the assumption that he had the mind of a child. 

He had a mysterious affinity with wild animals. He could summon birds. They'd perch and sing on his outstretched palm.

One day there was a solar eclipse, followed by a lunar eclipse and a meteor shower. The countryside was convulsed by earthquakes. Sinkholes opened up in town, swallowing homes and cars. Lightning strikes set trees and crops on fire while twisters appeared out of nowhere. The town was plunged into darkness apart from the hearthlike wildfire and flashes of lightning. It seemed like the end of the world was upon them. 

Then Cædmon became luminous, unveiling his hidden identity as one of God's angelic reapers, winnowing the wicked from the righteous, as the town became a threshing floor for Judgment Day. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019


Tony's teenage son Jeff was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. Jeff desperately needed a heart transplant to survive. He was put on the waiting list, but he might die before a donor heart became available. 

Shortly thereafter, Tony was diagnosed with cancer. An aggressive cancer that's almost uniformly fatal. It seemed like the family was cursed. 

It then occurred to Tony that he could donate his own heart to Jeff. He'd stay on life support until the sedation wore off. That way, father and son could say good bye after surgery. 

Jeff was extremely resistant to the proposal, but Tony was doomed anyway, so this was his chance to give the gift of life to his son. A parting gift. For the rest of his life, Jeff would carry around his father's heart. He'd be living off his father's heart. When he put his hand on his chest, he could feel his father's heart pumping blood through his veins, to keep him alive.