Life is a funny thing. Even in death. The more you get, the more you want. At first, you’ll be happy just to hunt. Just to kill. But soon, you get inventive. Shall I kill killers today? Or thieves? Prostitutes? Children? Shall it be a quick death? A slow death? A sip? A feast? Before you realize, you’re in full swing. Discretion never meant anything to you in the first place. You’ll feed right there in the night club. A perfect scene to stage a murder. There among the cacophony of lights and the dissonance of guitars. There among a hundred not-witnesses. What does it matter, as long as you arrive at your coffin before the sun comes up?
Sometimes, when you try to avoid the most obvious dangers, you fall prey to the more insidious ones.
Gone are the days when I lived wild. When I was a young vampire high on the remnants of my human blood. Nighttime fumblings with strange women in dark alleys easily transformed from sexual endeavors to nutritive ones. Sometimes they were combinations of both.
Blood was never enough for me. I would always combine with alcohol and drugs. Deep during the night, on Harley-Davidson motorbikes, speed and light trails would combine to produce psychedelic episodes of epic proportions. In those moments I was a true Modern Vampire of the City. A creature of the night. You cannot experience true hedonism until you’re free of the fear, of the inevitability, of death. Being immortal, I went all out.
But sooner or later however, you realize that actions have consequences, even in death. Spend so long avoiding the Reaper, He soon finds you.
The members of my Coven were hunted down and slaughtered like dogs. Squealing and yelping like pigs before the butcher. I never fully realized that there is no grace in death. No. Not until I watched my brothers die.
There were the heroes of dark fantasy. The Van Helsing’s and Ben Mears’. Heroes not unlike knights of folklore, facing goblins, giants and dragons. Good and evil were never blurred lines to them. And glory and fair lady were always one climax away.
And then there are the animals known as hunters. Perhaps the greatest sign of their cruelty is their creativity. I had been captured once by hunters. Death did not come as I expected. Instead, I was skinned. My body was the canvas. The hot knife was the brush. And the hunter was the artist. A dark artist indeed. The echoes of my screams complimented perfectly the sadism of the act. As the sun rose, and my consciousness faded, I thought that I would not live to see another sunset. However, I woke again at night, to see that my wounds had healed, and that the hunter had come, once again, with his knife. The prolific Picasso. The resilient Mozart. It was then that I realized that those who died during the hunt were the lucky ones.
As fate would have it, I escaped. I was rescued in fact. The various vampire factions in the city had decided to put aside their differences in order to battle the rising threat of the hunters. The enemy of my enemy. However, I had had enough. When you’ve almost been tortured to madness, you come to realize that there’s absolutely nothing poetic about burning bright and fading fast. The hunters had asserted to me just who was top of the food chain. The message was clear. I fled.
Hilton was a small town. Right about in the middle of nowhere. The people were plentiful and simple enough to promise sustenance without trouble. Provided I didn’t get too excited, I would live for decades without arousing suspicion.
Here in Hilton, I experienced for the first time in death, just what it meant to feed for survival and not for pleasure. In the city, I could feed several times a night. However, in Hilton, I never ventured beyond a body a week. And it wasn’t always humans. Sometimes cows, sometimes pigs. Sometimes I didn’t even kill, I just fed. Word travels fast in small towns. Get too excited and soon you’d have mobs, torches and pitchforks.
I made my nest deep underground in an old well. The water had long since dried up and the place was full enough of rodents that would sustain me in times of difficulty.
The life I would have in Hilton did not promise to be glamorous but it would be long. If there’s anything I learnt in captivity, it’s that I want to live, even as a dead man.
Fast forward several months and we come to my current predicament. It wasn’t simply death by sunlight or by hunger, but rather, a cruel combination of both. I had exactly three days. Three days after which the sun would rise, never to set for eighty-two days. Never to set for eleven weeks.
I should have seen this coming. I should have known. But in the midst of the hunt, I attuned my senses to focus on the dangers before me, at the expense of the awareness of less immediate dangers.
In the city, I was so attuned to the cycle of night and day and night and day. How was I supposed to be aware of the planetary revolution? Of the shifting axis? How was I to know of the summer solstice? However, ignorance is no excuse and nature is unsympathetic. The midnight sun was coming for me. Bright, unforgiving and seemingly eternal.
Vampires, by default, lose consciousness when the sun comes up. Provided you have enough blood in your system, you wake up once the sun sets. A fully grown human being has enough blood to sustain me for about a week, but the solstice promised to be several times the length of a week.
The danger was very real. The sun would prevent me from hunting. Without hunting I would run out of blood. Without blood I would never wake.
Desperation is a funny thing. You could call it a facet of madness. I didn’t want to die. I just didn’t. However, I knew that if I went to sleep I would never wake. My options were thin. I couldn’t skip town. The next bus would arrive in Hilton the day after the Summer Solstice began. I had just one option left.
It’s very funny. Something you would read out of an old fantasy novel really. A “ritual”. Something I picked up during my brief affairs with the elder ones. At the time, I listened just as an indulgence of their weird habits. I was skeptical of such things at first, but later, it occurred to me that a walking, talking, flying dead body is in no position to be skeptical. My desperation further pushed me to try it.
The ritual seemed simple enough. A small concoction. A tiny price to pay. Bloodsucking monsters? 24 hour days? Human sacrifice seemed a fitting addition to this debacle. Just three people. Three people and some minor casualties. Maybe.
The people of Hilton are very religious. Old fashioned in a way. It’s the type of town where everybody knows everybody else by name. For this reason, I rarely ventured among the living during the night. I lived purely as an animal. Sleep, rise, hunt. Repeat. But my project meant I had to break this routine. A price to pay for my continued existence.
The child was fairly easy. Early as dusk came, I rose from my well, to prowl the school playground. The dying light did not bother me, since I hid in the shadows. Unseen but seeing. When playtime was over, I followed two young boys as they walked home. I had no time for games. I did not frighten them. There was no talk of “did you hear that?” At a fairly isolated location, under the cover of trees, I swooped down.
You would think a virgin would not be difficult to find in a small town high school but it would shock you. I employed the same strategy I used with the children. Waiting in the shadows at dusk. Eventually, one girl isolated herself from a pack. Foolish, I thought, as I began to follow her. When I got close enough, my heightened sense of smell told me that something was amiss between her legs. In anger, I fled. I searched desperately for another child before they all went indoors. A maiden, innocence, and the light of the lord. No age had been specified. In time, I found one, and returned quickly to my well. I had already killed the first child and drained his blood into a chalice. The second child constituted my supper that night. The fate of the former would befall this child. The child was kicking and screaming. Crying. Perhaps in life I would have felt for the girl, but as a vampire, you tend to see all humans as what they ultimately are: fodder.
My incisors had already been claimed by hunters. In order to puncture his veins, I drew my knife.
Two nights had passed and the final night had come. The summer solstice was upon me. Light of the lord, your time has come.
I did not have to rise early in order to hunt the priest. I waited and waited until midnight. My stomach rumbled and though the urge to drink from the chalice was strong, I resorted instead to the rodents. Finally, the hour came, and I rose from my well. All black, like a true harbinger of death.
I flew slowly over the town. It was such a small town. Full of so many innocent people. Yet, no town is fully innocent. Each settlement, each gathering of humans, has its own dark secrets. And as I flew over this town, I sensed that evil was taking place elsewhere. Incarnate in other forms, in other shapes. Under the cover of the night, behind locked doors, and under the institution of matrimony.
Eventually, I came to perch upon the roof of the church. The priest was within. I could smell him. I stood on the roof, and surveyed the town for a final time. And then I went in.
The pastor was kneeling before the altar as I entered, praying. Deliver us from evil. I smiled.
I waited till he had finished. Finally he rose. Sensing me perhaps, he turned.
“Ah son. What brings you here this time of the night? ”, he said. I sensed that deep behind his bravado, his fear was beginning to take shape.
I decided to humor him.
“Father I have sinned”, I said. The sarcasm was imperceptible in my voice.
“Well, it’s never too late to bring your woes upon the lord,” he said. “Come, join me.”
He took a seat at the pew. As I started my long walk down the aisle, I began to imagine in my head just I would kill him. Perhaps I would snap his neck. Perhaps not.
I sat down at the pew with the priest. He looked gaunt. Worn, even.
“Was just ‘bout to turn in before you came in son.” He began. “Now, you can tell me all what’s troubling you. But before we begin, share a drink with me.”
He reached into his robe and brought out a bottle. I raised my eyebrow in skepticism.
“Can’t blame an old man for havin’ a little sip now and then, can you?”
It smelled like common booze. He took a long drink and then handed me the bottle.
I took a sip. He seemed satisfied.
“Now what was it you wanted to talk about son?”
“Father”, I started, looking down.
“Father I have-”, I paused. My head was spinning lightly. A brief dizziness caused perhaps by the swift motion of my head when I decided to look away.
I choked. A burning sensation had started in my oesophagus. My body felt heavy. I fell towards the ground.
The periphery of my vision consisted only of blurred lines. I turned to face the priest, and in my confusion, I could just make out, what looked like a smirk on his face.
“It isn’t holy water if that’s what your wonderin’. Holy water is good, sure. But for some robust types, it just goes straight through their system.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening. I turned away, trying to organize my thoughts. To consider my options. My strength was fading fast. My insides were on fire.
“When the Rudolph twins disappeared, I thought it was nothin’”, he started. “Just kids being kids. I thought they’d soon be found.”
“Then, I started to get real suspicious when little Clarice Withers also went missing yesterday.
“A younger hunter might not have caught on this soon. But when you’re as experienced as I am, and you couple those disappearances with complaints of sick livestock and amnesiac wives, you just know, there’s a bloodsucker in town.”
The priest was standing over me now, a shotgun in hand.
“Small town like Hilton, we don’t get many of your kind around. But guess you got sloppy. And I can almost understand your haste. With the summer solstice comin’ and all.”
My senses began to go haywire. I could hear spiders beneath the floorboards. The sound of their crawl threatened to split my head. Far far away, a thunder strike all but shattered my eardrums. The priest was still talking. His slow speech cut through my sensory overload like a knife through butter.
“Maiden, Innocence and Light of the Lord huh? Figured you’d get me easy? I don’t blame yer though. How’d you know that weak old Father Castor was a retired hunter?”
The whole town must have heard me screaming. Tears gathered in my eyes and saliva dripped from my mouth. My now destroyed leg further slowed my crawl.
The priest quickened his pace.
“Back in the days, I used to live for the hunt. Nights spent crafting traps just to hear some ol’ bloodsuckers squeal. But I had to give that up. I couldn’t keep up anymore. No, not after I lost my left foot.”
I was getting desperate now. Frantic.
“Got caught in one of my old bear traps. They had to amputate my leg. I had to give it up.”
The bones in my chest had mostly been smashed to bits. My screams barely made a sound this time. The air would not rush into my lungs.
“I decided to move back home. Serve the lord a different way, you know?”
He picked me up and pinned me against the wall. He wasn’t nearly as weak as he looked.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”
In one swift movement, I reached into my cloak, took out my knife and stabbed him in the eye.
“YOU MUTHAFUCKIN’ BLOODSUCKER!”
Nobody had to tell me to take this opportunity. With a burst of strength I started to flee.
I couldn’t fly. Not while I was this weak. Not like this. Instead, I leapt, fell, crawled and leapt again.
In time, I made it to the town graveyard. Beyond which was the high school, beyond which were some abandoned buildings, beyond which was my well.
I propped my body against a gravestone. I couldn’t navigate by sound since my senses were going haywire. Miles away, I could smell the blood of the priest as he bleed all over the floor. Fireflies cut through the air like airplanes.
My nerves were failing and I had no energy left to take to the sky.
I couldn’t die here. I just couldn’t. Was fate so cruel as to draw my attention to the impending danger of the summer solstice just to let me die of a gunshot wound?
I lay there for a while. That thing called hope kept me in mental cycles in which there was a possibility of escaping this predicament. A squirrel will run up to me. A bird will fly over me. Their blood will rejuvenate me.
As time went on, my expectations were becoming increasingly unrealistic.
My brothers will find me. Robert Long’s hysteric wife will come for a midnight stroll. This is all a bad dream.
My vision was failing. My breath was slowing. One of the last things I saw before I lost my sight completely were the shadows. Shadows which were deepening. Shadows which were lengthening.
The midnight sun was rising.