The stainless-steel ring of keys jostled in his hand as he made his way down the winding marble stone staircase to the basement. He was determined to find the gold candlestick holders for the wedding he would be performing tomorrow. He was still wearing his habit with the white-collar, for some reason he hadn’t bothered to change after the last mass that day. He had gotten a haircut at his barber and hair shavings still laced his black shirt. The barber would always beam a smile of joy when he walked in the door of the barber shop. A retired old man whose wife had passed away, he couldn’t afford a casket, so the church donated for a simple but elegant one so his wife would rest in peace. A simple barber still appreciated the importance of his clerkship. Church attendance had wavered in recent years but he had vowed to continue God’s work. He believed in helping his flock and to save as many souls as possible. A smile spread through his face as he formed the thought. There was a light bulb attached loosely on a wire from the ceiling at the bottom of the staircase and it was turned on from the switch at the top of the staircase. The door in front of him was a thick brown oak door with an ancient, worn iron brown, key lock. He flipped through the keys and tried to recall which key it was to open the door. He tried 4 keys before the 5th key clicked open the lock and the clicking and release of the lock echoed through the staircase. He looked back up the stairs thinking maybe someone was there but he quickly dismissed it as a childhood fear and started to push the door open and cool stale air-filled his nose and throat. The musky air was settling on his clothes and he could see the dust that the door had disturbed when he had opened it. The dust danced around the light and now he reached into his back pocket and clenched the small flashlight. He glanced down at the aluminium tube and felt for the switch to turn on the flashlight. For a split second he felt anxious, hoping it would turn on. His thumb pushed on the switch and the light came on instantly.
Thank you, Ms. Turner.
he thought, remembering that the church secretary had reminded him that she had put new batteries in the flashlight the night before, which made him also think about the gold candlestick holders and hoping they were still where he left them.
The cellar was a perfect square shape, completely dark and void of light, he couldn’t see the walls. He pointed the flashlight at the corner to his right and saw a pile of boxes stacked almost to the ceiling. The wall shimmered behind the boxes. It was constructed of white chiselled stone from the quarry which was located in the next town. There were no visible blemishes on the stone, at least not with the naked eye. The Church was able to obtain several slabs of stone at a reasonable price to be able to construct the cellar. The stacked boxes were filled with accounting documents, which the Vatican required receipts for. He recalled a meeting with the arch-bishop, who very plainly and directly advised him to keep all paperwork that dealt with the business dealings of his church. After all, everyone has to pay bills. He scanned through the rest of the right wall and most of that side was empty. He took great pride in cleanliness. He didn’t believe in hanging on to things for too long. Most of the gifts his followers had given him, he had sent to the Vatican in a box marked clearly “Donations”.
The bottom right corner had an old wooden cross he had taken down from the altar and the wood was still in great condition. He assumed the cool air in the cellar had preserved it. He took several steps towards the cross to examine it closely. The beam of light narrowed and he could see the knots on the hardwood of the cross. There was no Saviour nailed to this cross, it was a symbolic cross. The new cross placed at the altar had the Saviour Jesus Christ. For him, it was a constant reminder that life always demanded sacrifice.
The veneer was still well-preserved in some places on this old cross. He stared at it with admiration. What he should have realized though is that he wasn’t alone. In fact, only a foot away was someone who was very keen on speaking with him. The priest continued a quick scan of the cellar, still standing by the old cross and on the left wall he mentally took inventory of the old confessional chairs which were now covered with a painter’s cloth tarp. He still had a desire to refurbish the chairs, even though he knew he was guilty of procrastinating on the job.
There, just behind the cross the stranger was crouched with his arms wrapped around his legs and head lowered so that his eyes wouldn’t give him away. His hair was so black that no one would see him. The length of his hair was such that it could fall in front of his face and cover his pale almost translucent skin. His veins usually gave him away, they were always very dark. Now his nostrils were overwhelmed with the smell of life. His tongue tingled with the possible taste of the sweet liquid that would soak into it and drip down his throat. He had heard the key slide into the lock and the mechanism release the lock and the wood creak and the air had changed in that second and invited a much warmer air. He didn’t mind the warmth, it was heat that irritated him. He was the bringer of night, of quiet death and so the sun for him and all his kind was the bringer of light and life. He dares not try to fight with it. The light of the flashlight seemed to grow smaller, which only meant one thing, the man, in his mid forties, medium build, with light brown hair, he could even smell the hair shavings on his clothes, was coming closer to him. Every urge and instinct was to move swiftly and feed. He fought it with every fibre of his muscles. He needed the man alive, at least for now.
The priest reached out with his hand to caress the wood and jolted back and turned around shining the flashlight at the doorway.
The light shined on the first few steps of marble and there was nothing else. The dust danced around him now. He had unsettled it when he had jumped back. He had been sure he felt someone in the room at that moment. The back of his neck prickled with goosebumps.
“Get a grip Ben.” He said to himself.
The stranger felt the heart begin to pump faster and the man’s veins swelled with adrenaline. This was the exact moment he would strike and let the adrenaline course his own veins. It was in many ways, erotic and sensual. It would fill him with strength and energy. Now his mind was filled with the rest of the human smell, but not so pleasing. He now knew what the man had eaten for dinner. His voice had filled the room and along with it his breath. It wasn’t the mashed potatoes with grilled vegetables that made his mouth tingle, it was the medium rare steak that had been consumed. It had been cooked perfectly. The chef had done a masterful job. Not with the cooking but by leaving it slightly rare, he could smell the iron in the blood which heightened his taste.
Ben looked upon the cross again and revelled in the workmanship again. A few seconds past and he started to shift his weight turning to the left. The soles of his shoes were hard leather and so the shift had started the grinding of the dust on the stone floor. That’s when he saw it.
It took him a few seconds of disbelief but his smile was bigger then ever. There just to the side of one of the confessional chairs, not covered by the cloth tarp, the flashlight illuminated the candlestick holders and the room seemed to glow with gold. His eyes opened wider, his massive smile showing off his teeth on his face.
“Please turn off the light.” The stranger’s melodic voice echoed in the cellar.
It wasn’t bad enough that the man filled his ears with the grinding noise of his shoes but now he had filled the cellar with the reflection from the gold candlestick holders that felt like the sun. It was too unbearable. He lifted his head slightly and his hair parted enough so that his eyes could now gaze upon the man in black. His pupils almost closed completely, which wouldn’t matter because he could also see with his sense of smell. The wondrous thing about a Being of the night is that, if you lose one sense, the others work better and compensate quickly.
Ben jerked around with a horrific fright. He pointed the flashlight from where the voice came and could see nothing. The voice had filled the room, it could have come from anywhere inside the cellar. He frantically scanned the room back and forth to find the voice. His mind was playing tricks, he was sure of it, the childhood paranoia once again manifesting itself. The priest had the sensation as if the cellar was closing in on him and his instinct was to go to the doorway.
Ben stood perfectly still and held the flashlight tightly in his hand. His knuckles locked around the aluminium tube, shaking slightly from the overdose of adrenaline.
“Calm yourself, I don’t want to hurt you.” Came the voice again, this time with warmth and assurance.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, please show yourself.” Ben was frantic and getting overwhelmed.
Ben had sensed movement in the right corner and flashed the light in that direction. The figure was moving with fluid motions and seemed to pass through space like water. Slow and deliberate, the Bringer of Night stood up and made his way around the cross and stood off to the right of the light. Ben could see movement but couldn’t make it out, it had happened so fast. The figure straightened out his posture and lifted his head. He slowly lifted his right hand and carefully moved his silky black hair from his face and opened his eyes with command.
“I won’t hurt you.” He said with purpose.
He was there, but not there. Maybe this was what they had spoken about in seminary school, if you believe in something long enough, you begin to have visions. You begin to get messages.
“Speak your name.” Ben was desperately trying to sound as commanding as the dark figure. The stranger could sense the quivering in the priest’s voice.
“My name is Marcus. Please I need to speak with you.” He asked with his best tone of politeness.
All Ben could see were two pale blue eyes staring back at him.
“How did you get in here?” His brain began to figure out the situation and the level of threat had lowered. Ben believed the strangers claim, there was no danger here.
“I came through the church when you were having dinner in your residence and made my way through your lock on the door to the cellar.” Marcus grinned at his explanation. Only another of his kind could appreciate the difficulty in what he had done. Marcus moved closer towards Ben.
“What do you want Marcus? I don’t have anything here for you. If you would like food or money, I have it upstairs.” He motioned to the doorway and took a step, he suddenly felt the most unusual sensation around his left hand. Marcus had reached out to take Ben’s hand, his slender thin hand clasped on to the warm skin and he felt his cold blood warm slightly. The urge crept back in but Marcus quickly ignored it. He leaned in close to Ben’s ear and said,
“I don’t need your food or money.” Marcus was close enough to smell Ben’s blood through his neck. It was alive. He could feel the pumping of the blood from the heart through the aorta up through the neck to supply the man with his ability to breathe. Ben stopped and became alarmed at how close Marcus had gotten to him. Ben turned towards the voice, still unable to see Marcus fully.
“Then what is it that you want?” Ben attempted to stay clam.
“I have betrayed my kind.” Marcus lowered his eyes, for the first time he had heard himself say it and for the first time he might actually believe it. Marcus brushed it aside quickly and blamed it on a residual human emotion which he no longer had any use for. Ben took a deep breath and cleared his thoughts. This man was no threat, he needed help.
“Would you like to give Confession?” Ben asked with sympathy.
“I just told you what I did. I confessed.” Marcus stated innocently.
“I am a priest. There are proper ways to give confession. I can sit with you and you can tell me what happened.” He paused. “Let me help you.” Ben placed his flashlight on tope of some boxes and the light lit up the white stone ceiling, but he still couldn’t see this stranger, not completely. He reached over with his other hand and placed it over Marcus’ hand that held Ben’s.
Marcus could feel the warmth surrounding his cold hand. It enveloped his entire hand and he could even feel his wrist warm up. It excited him but also made him feel at peace.
“Yes, I want to confess.” Said Marcus lifting his eyes again.
“Father.” Ben claimed.
“My father is dead.” Marcus announced.
“No, call me Father, as a priest my title is Father, Father Ben to my followers.” Ben explained.
“Father Ben.” Marcus said as if learning 2 new words.
Ben knew he couldn’t leave the cellar now. So, he gestured to the doorway letting Marcus know he was going to sit on the bottom step. Marcus released his hand and let Ben go to the doorway. Marcus stood in the dark. It was better that way. Ben sat down on the bottom step and looked into the cellar. He remembered his flashlight and grabbed it from atop the boxes before heading to the doorway. He shined the light into the cellar and saw nothing. There was no man there just the items in storage.
“I’m over here.” Marcus smirked. Ben jolted again. Marcus had moved into the empty left corner beside the doorway. Ben shined the light into the corner.
Marcus was wearing a dark blue suit with a navy-blue tie. His shoulder length hair was combed back. Everything stated well-groomed. He would be considered a wealthy business man if it wasn’t for his very pale skin.
“Are you sure you don’t want something to eat?” Ben was concerned about the pale skin.
“I’ll eat later. So how do we start?” Marcus inquired.
The priest explained to the stranger how a confession worked. The priest wouldn’t say much and the confessor would explain his story and actions and how it made him feel.
“You can start when you are ready.” Ben told Marcus as he adjusted himself on the step.
Marcus stared at the priest and began his story.
“I died 200 years ago at the hands of one of my own. I was a poor student. I wanted to die. I wanted nothing of life. I became who I am one night, with the help of a woman who wanted to give me the gift of death.”
Ben began to realize who he was talking too. What he was talking too. He said nothing though and allowed Marcus to continue.
“She told me who she was. What she was. She would become my Queen. I would follow her for some years until I was comfortable in the night. I have not slept since that marvellous night. I only need shelter from the sun and just before sunrise I must feed.”
It was the way he said “feed”. As if it wasn’t only for nourishment, but with great satisfaction and longing. Ben knew he was in the presence of something nonhuman.
“There is one rule, one vow we make to all of our kind the first day of becoming immortal. If one breaks the vow, then banishment, or death must be the punishment. Which brings me here to you.” Marcus took a moment before he continued. The priest still scanned the cellar to try to get a proper look at the stranger.
“I met a man on the street and he asked me for a cigarette. I told him I had none and began to walk away but then I could feel his heart. I felt his blood rushing through his veins. The veins in his neck bulged and my instinct came over me. I stopped and began to talk to him. I knew I wanted him, I had to feed on him and I was ready to take him, there, on the street with all the others watching. My hunger was powerful.” Marcus paused. He suddenly noticed what Ben was wearing.
“Why do you wear the white-collar?” he asked curiously.
“It’s to show my calling to God. It is a symbol of faith and commitment.” Ben explained with pride.
Marcus smiled. That’s when Ben first saw the fangs. They were only slightly longer then the rest of Marcus’ white pearly teeth, but he could see they were razor-sharp.
“So, what happened next?” Ben interrupted his own thought. Marcus looked down and Ben could see Marcus collecting his thoughts.
“He had told me he was on his way home to be with his wife and that is when I told him I would be pleased to see his house. I knew at that moment I was going to feed on him and his wife. I told him I hadn’t eaten and that a home cooked meal was something I hadn’t had in a long time. The man was generous and invited me in because his wife would have something ready for us.
The woman was eager to please. I do remember the house smelling of food, I must say it simply was unpleasing to me. It masked their smell. As the woman stayed busy and finished up in the kitchen, I finished up the man in the living room. I approached him from behind and clamped my hand on his neck and swiftly paralyzed him with my bite. I adore how efficient that first bite truly is. They used to make noise when I started. I have found the perfect spot on the neck to be able to stop them from making any sound.” Marcus stroked his own neck as to show the priest the perfection of his technique.
Ben swallowed, time froze at that instant. This wasn’t a man or an animal of any kind. This was a predator. There was no equal. He allowed Marcus to continue. Marcus grinned with self-satisfaction,
“I left the limp body of the man on the floor and went into the kitchen. At this point my strength and energy were higher. I could now smell the woman from the doorway of the kitchen. She stood by the oven with her apron on and I didn’t notice it then but I should have heard it. I could smell her skin; her blood and I felt her heart. Her blood rushed through her body. I could have stopped at the man and left the woman alone. I wanted to leave her alone. But I was there. The hunger over took me. I grabbed her by the neck before she could realize what was happening. I took my time with her. When I bit down on her, the eyes were open and I could feel her heart race. She tried to speak, but only a quiet hissed breath escaped her mouth. Her blood was sweet and filled my mouth. It pumped into my body. I then stopped for some reason. I released me jaw from her neck and that’s when I looked into her eyes and I could see her eyes crying for help. I held her in my arms and then I bit down on her neck again. That usually isn’t what I do, you see one bite and I usually finish them off. I fed on her until her heart was weak but…” Marcus looked down again so as not to show the devious smile.
“What?” Ben was hypnotized with interest.
Marcus was still standing in the corner when he paused. He looked at the priest and stepped forward away from the corner. His steps made no sound. There was no hint of his movement unless you were looking straight at him. Ben continued sitting on the stone step, he watched Marcus move, as if he was gliding. This predator moved with such grace. Ben seemed mesmerized with the movement. His gaze never left Marcus but as he watched him his thoughts continued on the dead man lying on the living room floor. If he had been there he would have given him his last rites. Ben became preoccupied with the dead man’s soul. Marcus stopped in middle of the room and faced Ben. The priest could now make out his figure. He was a tall man, taller than Ben, with medium build but slender. The light from the doorway seemed to light up Marcus’ skin. Ben noticed no body hair. His face was chiselled with noticeable cheek bones but there seemed to be no evidence of malnutrition. For all that Ben could tell, Marcus was a healthy young man, if you looked past the pale skin.
“Do you have children, Father?” Marcus peered at the priest. His tone was deliberate and serious.
“No.” Ben said quietly. Though there was a time when just before he was anointed as a priest that he had asked himself whether on not he would ever want to have children. After taking a night of prayer he realized that his congregation would all be his children.
“I wonder if they, the children I mean, all deserve to live.” Marcus asked with conniving curiosity.
Ben began to sense the conflict with the predator. Many of his parishioners had come to him asking, why. What are we here for? What is my destiny? Why has God forsaken me? For Ben the answer was simple, he studied for years and even his teachers wouldn’t be able to answer the question. He only knew one thing that was absolute. God’s will be done. He had to be humble to allow God’s will to be done. At that moment Ben got up and brushed his pants with his hands. He now could see the torment in the tormentor. This predator had killed for 200 years and since that fateful night he had lost his conscience, his soul. Now he was fighting to get it back. A memory entered his mind, it was his mothers’ moment of death. He had spent all night with her praying when she had confessed to her only son that the man he had thought was his father, was not. Ben was so conflicted at that moment but he kept his composure and absolved his mother of her sin. Years after her death he had found out she had committed adultery and had left only her diary with the truth. No one in the family knew. Ben never told his family. After all she had said it in confession, he could not break his code.
Marcus had been studying Ben for sometime and he could see the priest in thought. A normal person would ask what that person was thinking but Marcus didn’t have too. He had abilities. One was what we call, hypnosis. But for Marcus it doesn’t work the same way. All predators in the world have a way of distracting their prey, even dinosaurs did it and Marcus had read all about them, he thought they were the ultimate killing animals. His thought was of complete respect for them.
The other ability, which he used often when searching for prey was the ability to read thoughts and emotions. It was the way his kind was able to move around without having to see. He found that if he didn’t look at the prey with his eyes, he wouldn’t question whether they deserved their fate.
So, the priest doesn’t know who his father is.
“What is?” Ben asked snapping out of his memory.
“You never replied to my comment about children.” Marcus did not let on about the priest’s memory.
“As a Christian, we all believe children are sacred. They have an innocence we must cherish and protect.” Ben was still thinking about his mother. “You need to finish your story.” Ben threw it back to Marcus.
“Yes of course.” He smiled. “The woman,” he did another short pause. “Her heart was slow and faint but I could hear a strong heart beat, fast and still full of life. For one second, I thought maybe there was someone else in the house but I had quickly scanned it when I arrived and I knew in my mind there was no one there. Except there was someone there. There was someone close to me, so close I could hear them. I dropped the woman’s body on the floor and I took a deep breath through my nose. I trust my sense of smell more than my sense of sight. Unfortunately, we, my kind, have horrible eyesight. Again, I knew there was no one in the house. I looked down thinking I was going mad and there on the floor I had found all the proof I needed. The woman’s body was not the same as what I was used to. Yes, her face had the same features and her breasts showed through her shirt but her,” Marcus gestured with his hands where his stomach was, “it was slightly bigger then what I was used too.”
“Oh my God.” Ben interrupted. Marcus continued,
“I crouched down and placed my hand on her abdomen and I felt it. It was joyous. The heart was strong and this thing was also moving. I could feel the legs and arms moving inside her. This was so new and wondrous for me.”
“Stop.” Ben couldn’t bare to hear anymore.
“I had to see it. I had to smell it.” Marcus paused and his voice turned cold.
“So, I cut her with my finger nail.” Marcus showed Ben which finger he had used and propped it in front of Ben’s face.
“I said, STOP!” Ben’s face was pure rage. His voice rang through the cellar. There was no echo. The stone muffled the sound from escaping. And that is when Marcus knew. This is what he was searching for. This is what he had always wanted. No sound, no light. This could be his home.
“I want you to leave.” Ben demanded. The priest stared sternly at Marcus. “This is a house of God. There is no room for you here demon.” Ben commanded with a stiff jaw.
Marcus moved swiftly and directly at the priest. Marcus grabbed the priest’s neck and jerked it back. Ben felt himself out of balance before he realized Marcus was on him.
“Demon you say. I am no demon. Your mother is the demon for being a whore Father.” Marcus hissed the words into Ben’s ear. Ben’s eyes widened and he instantly knew what had happened. The monster had played him from the start. He knew his mother’s betrayal and also how she contemplated ending the baby’s life.
“Sometimes, it is better to play with my food before I eat.” Marcus allowed the ruse to come to an end. “You were my favourite meal tonight, and I must say the baby was oh so very sweet.” Marcus’ eyes glistened in the light from the doorway.
“I forgive you my son.” Ben stayed committed to his duty.
“I don’t need forgiveness Father, I am the devil you humans deserve.” Marcus opened his mouth and displayed his fangs.