// THE CRIMSON TOWER //
A woman with auburn hair is surrounded by the comfort of a plushly dressed bed in a strange castle.
She rolls around in the bed, not yet cognizant of her unknown surroundings. She turns over and curls the edge of the blanket into her chin.
At one side of the bed is a grey-haired man kneeling over the edge, facing the woman. His neck is bent into prayer, as are his hands clasped together, and he mumbles unknowable words to himself.
When the woman moves, he stops and looks up at her, pausing his speech but leaving his hands joined.
She hears his voice and stops suddenly, eyes blinking.
The memory of what transpired prior comes rushing back to her and she’s caught with the heat of embarrassment. What was there that she could say after what he’d given her? What words would be adequate to convey her gratitude? She’d been laid on the hospital bed, despondent over death before her time, and he’d… well… What had he done? Was she free? Was she truly free?
No longer is she covered in bandages. Her skin is dry and warm beneath the sumptuous bedclothes. Her curiosity overwhelms her and she spies the top cover, a scarlet velvet.
His voice is gentle and quiet. He unclasps his hands.
MY GIVEN NAME IS LENARD.
She’s still unwilling to leave the security of the blankets.
WHERE AM I?
He remains kneeling on the floor, looking toward the back of her head, her hair hidden underneath a nightcap.
THIS IS MY HOME.
A NEW HOME FOR ME.
YOU NEEDED REST.
The sensation of searing flesh returns to her memory and she is thankful it is just a passing thought.
She struggles for words.
I HEALED YOU.
IT IS A TALENT I’VE POSSESSED FOR MUCH LONGER THAN YOU’VE BEEN ALIVE.
I CAN MOLD FLESH AS IF IT WERE CLAY.
I PUT YOU BACK TO THE WAY YOU WERE. DOES IT NOT PLEASE YOU?
Still laying down, AVAELLE slowly moves her hand to her cheek and touches it, smooth, just barely downy with vellus hair. She runs her fingers back and forth, noticing the tickle.
She musters the courage to push herself upright and sit in bed. Motion is difficult; it feels as if she’s laid still for a year.
HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN ASLEEP?
The room is dark except for a few candles. Thick curtains cover the windows, but she has the overwhelming suspicion that the daytime has passed.
THE BETTER PART OF TWO DAYS.
YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH SERIOUS TRAUMA.
IT’S TO BE EXPECTED.
YOU HAVE NOWHERE YOU NEED TO BE. WHAT CONCERN IS YOUR SCHEDULE?
She has little to contest. But unanswered questions still hang in the air. She looks at him with a bewildered expression that pierces him.
WHAT ARE YOU?
He was used to being the outsider, but being reminded of it by her…
I’M A MONSTER FROM THE OLD WORLD.
YOUR PEOPLE CALL ME A VAMPYRE.
BUT THERE ARE MANY MONSTERS THEY CALL VAMPYRE.
THE WORD MEANS NOTHING TO ME.
BUT YOU UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF THE WORD ‘CURSE’.
AND YOU UNDERSTAND NOW THAT THERE ARE WORKINGS IN THIS WORLD BEYOND WHAT YOU UNDERSTAND TODAY.
YOU ARE CURSED?
THE PRICE OF MY ABILITY THAT I WILL NEVER KNOW TRUE SLEEP. NEVER WALK THE DREAM. NEVER KNOW A MORTAL’S THOUGHTLESS JOY.
MY SALVATION HAS BEEN PROMISED. I BIDE MY TIME UNTIL THE REVELATION.
YOU ARE… ONE OF GOD’S…
Her stomach sinks as she becomes doused in a multitude of fears; fear, especially, that the words of the Bible were true.
IN A MANNER OF SPEAKING.
She looks around the room, eager to locate a path to escape. But her action is transparent.
YOU HAVE NOTHING TO RETURN TO.
THE ONLY THING LEFT FOR YOU IS TO AWAIT THE COMING OF DAYS.
THE HARD PART HAS BEEN DONE ALREADY. MORE DAYS LIE BEHIND THAN AHEAD OF US. THE MACHINE HAS BEEN SET TO ITS CLOCKWORK.
ALL WE MUST DO NOW IS ENDURE.
I’LL NEVER ALLY MYSELF WITH A DEMON.
YOU WILL SOON SEE THAT THERE IS NO CHOICE.
THERE HAS, AND NEVER WILL BE, ANY CHOICES FOR MORTAL MAN TO MAKE. AN ILLUSION, A HOPE.
MAN IS THE SACRIFICE. BUT I WANT SOMETHING BETTER FOR YOU.
YOU DESERVE BETTER.
IF I REPENT, THEN GOD WILL CLAIM MY SOUL.
TO REPENT IS TO SUFFER. IT LIES BEFORE YOU.
BUT YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE.
THAT IS WHY GOD HAS SENT YOU TO ME.
I HEALED YOU, I BROUGHT BACK YOUR BEAUTY. THAT WAS NOT IN THE PLAN. BUT MY SINS ARE MY OWN.
AVAELLE gets up from the bed with surprising force. LENARD stands up, with his hands outstretched as if to calm a startled mare.
Seeing his efforts unsuccessful, he sits down on the edge of the bed, his body faced away from her.
She stands still except for her heart fluttering rapidly in her chest.
I WILL REPENT!!
YOU DON’T HAVE THE STRENGTH AS YOU ARE.
HE KNOWS THIS.
HE KNOWS ALL.
HE WANTS YOU TO JOIN HIM IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
THAT’S WHY I’VE BEEN SENT.
TO SEE THAT YOU MAKE IT THERE.
I’LL NEVER JOIN A DEMON.
BUT YOU KNOW THAT THE DEMONS WERE ONCE GOD’S SERVANTS, IN THE BEFORE-TIMES.
YOUR PEOPLE CALL ME VAMPYRE.
IT WAS YOU THAT CALLED ME DEMON.
The woman uses her standing position to yell as loudly as her enfeebled form is able.
LET ME OUT! LET ME GO!
LENARD remains calm, unaffected by her screaming.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO, AVAELLE?
Her mind searches for the answer. Somewhere, anywhere…
TAKE ME TO THE SEAT OF THE ALL-MAKER!
WHAT YOU ASK CANNOT BE DONE.
I’LL TAKE YOU ANYWHERE, ANYWHERE YOU WANT.
I’LL TAKE YOU BACK TO YOUR SCORCHED BOARDING HOUSE IF THAT’S WHAT YOU DESIRE.
IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?
A vision of hellfire dances in her mind.
YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN.
SIT IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
LAUGH AND SMILE AND PLAY.
LENARD holds out his hand toward her.
IT COULD NOT BE SO EASY.
WE WERE MEANT TO SUFFER.
THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF SUFFERING.
ALL YOU NEED TO DO NOW IS TO TAKE THE FIRST STEP.
Seeing that there is no obvious path to escape, AVAELLE collapses on her knees, nightgown fluttering about her form.
Despair grasps at her heart.
WHY HAS GOD FORSAKEN ME?
YOU ARE AS CLOSE TO THE END AS YOU HAVE EVER, AND WILL EVER, BE.
JOIN ME, AND I’LL PULL YOU UP.
I WILL PRESENT YOU IN THE END DAYS.
US TOGETHER. ALWAYS.
AVAELLE hangs her head, her face buried in her hands. But no tears rise.
I’LL CURSE YOU AS I’VE BEEN CURSED.
BUT IT IS NOT FOREVER. NOT FOR US.
WE NEED ONLY ENDURE UNTIL THE MAKERS ARRIVE, JUST AS HAS BEEN PROPHESIED.
WE’LL HAVE FUN. I PROMISE.
GOD DID NOT MEAN US TO HAVE FUN.
WHO ARE YOU TO SPEAK OF WHAT GOD HAS INTENDED FOR HIS PEOPLE?
JOIN ME, IN THE VAMPYRE’S CURSE.
YOU KNEW WHAT I WAS, THOSE MANY YEARS AGO.
YOU HAD NO WORD FOR IT, BUT YOU KNEW.
She dares not look up, and instead continues to stare at her knees, sunken to the floor.
I KNEW YOU ONLY CAME BY DARKNESS OF NIGHT.
I KNEW YOU REFUSED FOOD AND DRINK.
I NEVER SAW YOU ONCE SHIVER FROM THE COLD.
AND YET YOU LIED WHEN YOU SAID YOU FEARED ME.
YOU WERE YET MORE CURIOUS.
She sits in still shame.
SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY.
SAY WHAT YOUR INNER VOICE DESPERATELY WANTS.
THERE ARE NO LIES WHERE I COME FROM.
I’LL JOIN YOU.
In an incomprehensible rush, LENARD leaps from the bed and kneels in front of AVAELLE, firmly grasping her around the shoulders. He bares his fangs and quickly presses them into her neck and his hands are like ice around her. The heat slides from her body and all-too-suddenly, it is those very same hands that seem the only warmth between them.
Her limbs slacken and she again feels exhaustion threaten to overtake her consciousness.
He pulls off her neck and whispers to her.
TAKE THIS AND MAKE ME YOUR VICTIM.
It is increasingly difficult for her to maintain focus on his actions, but from his pocket, he removes an almost impossibly shiny scalpel.
He takes her hand in his and raises the blade to his neck, where he makes a small incision. His hold of her shifts and he places his hand on the back of her head, pushing her limp form against him.