“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.”
The Fourth Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker
The beast clawed its way up through the moist, cool soil. It couldn’t breathe, and while that added to its desperation, it did not dampen strength, will, or determination.
It was filthy as its hands broke through to the air and then heaved itself up from the grave. Mud, parts of roots, bits of gravel in its matted hair, under long, pointed fingernails, around the mouth and eyes, covering its pale, chilled skin.
Light! It shielded its eyes for a moment, but the faint illumination was glaring only because it had spent the past three days and nights in total darkness.
A room, a large room. Earthen floor, concrete walls. Electric lamps on stands at the far end near the door.
It licked the dirt from around its mouth. The taste was not unpleasant, but it did nothing to quench the insatiable, maddening hunger it felt deep in its gut.
Emptiness. All it felt was emptiness, ravenous hunger, unquenchable desire for…
…blood. It could smell the blood. There. Prey. It was a boy. The boy seemed familiar. Had they met before? It didn’t matter.
The prey was terrified. It could smell fear and blood and urine. The boy saw him, cried out, and started clawing at the door. The prey was making noises. It could easily hear the victim but struggled to understand the sounds he was making.
“Help. Let me out. I’ll do anything. Please. It’s gotten out. It’s going to get me. Help me, please!”
It was standing now on two legs. It wasn’t bothered about being nude, about the cold, the moisture. It was only bothered by the hunger. The mewing, weeping made by the prey was annoying and exciting. It bared long, gleaming fangs and hissed. The prey turned again and pounded on the door with both fists, yelling and screaming, but no longer with words.
Enough of this. It was too hungry to toy with the prey.
The predator leapt nearly half the length of the room and was on the boy in an instant, fangs not puncturing but ripping through warm human flesh. The blood! The blood was all! It was starving. Crimson life began to fill its belly, warm, beautiful, lustful. It felt its erection as it fed. The blood satisfied all of its base passions. Minutes later, its hunger began to wane. The prey was spent, dead, its life inside the predator, the child of the night.
Then it realized it was still not alone. Another was here, like him, a predator. In its frenzy, it had not sensed the other before, which could have been a fatal mistake. Once you have claimed prey, you must fight to keep it. Yet the other did not come to challenge. It only appeared after the feast was complete.
The predator crouched between the dead prey animal and the new predator. The newcomer was strong, much stronger than it was. In a fight, it would lose or be forced to submit to the Alpha. The other approached, walked into the light…
“Well done, my dear Sean. Well done, brother. Welcome to the family, another child of the darkness.”
At the sound of Antonie’s voice and the mention of his name, Sean Becker began to remember…
…and bitterly wept.
“The darkness suits you.”
He had been standing alone in the alleyway for hours. It was his first night, the first night of being part of the darkness, watching its moods, feeling its patterns. They were out there, the blood, but he was sated so they were safe. They were safe but he was damned.
He had been cleaned and dressed. Now that he had been fed, he was placid, compliant, taken from the heights of frenzy and insanity to the depths of morose depression.
Sean had sensed her approaching but it didn’t matter. It was her, the one, the one who made him like this. Once she had been called the Countess Dolingen of Gratz. Her existence as a human being ended on an evening in April 1914. Her Father forbade her to leave their Keep and join the peasants in the pagan observance of Walpurgisnacht, but she was headstrong. Dolingen had been promised to Johannes Brocken, the son of a Duke from a nearby principality, but she found him tedious and boring. She much rather fancied the boys in the village below, their strong laborer’s muscles, bronzed skin, and earthy odor.
So as the sun set beneath the western horizon on Thursday, April 30th, she slithered out the servant’s entrance, down the path, and toward the burning torches and bonfires lit to summon Saint Walpurga.
“I know the first nights are difficult, but that will pass, Sean. Soon you will understand. One night you will awaken and delight in being one of us.”
He could hear her but felt no pressing need to respond. He should be furious. She’d taken everything from him, his wife, his children, and God. Where was God? It made him nauseous even to contemplate Heaven.
Dolingen remembered the dancing around the fires as thick bellows of smoke rose into the air obscuring the frolicking figures even as did the night.
“A witch is flying away. A witch is flying away,” they all cried as the black smoke rose and twisted in the air forming images of dark evil.
It was said that no young woman should be kissed until past midnight, and then under an apple or cherry tree. He was there at the edge of the firelight. Dolingen had not seen him before. He wasn’t one of the village boys. He was as pale as the moonlight with eyes that smoldered like the fire’s embers. He wore a mane of ebony hair, like the night itself, dark slacks, boots, a light-colored shirt opened wide to expose his chest.
Dolingren had felt aroused all evening wondering which of the boys she would choose to slack her lust in some nearby meadow or in the concealing shadows of a tree. The night had made the decision for her. She walked toward him because it was so obvious he had been waiting for her.
His hands were cold but they were slow. He never gave her his name, but she wasn’t interested in it or him, except for what he could give her during the final hours of Walpurgisnacht. Her dress slipped to the moss-covered ground and he gently removed her undergarments. She shivered both because of his touch and the chill of the night. A mist was rising. He laid her down in it, the both of them finally nude.
Her nipples had become erect even before he had first touched her. Her tummy quivered. Fingers parted her thighs as his lips and tongue lingered over her throat and then her full, rounded breasts. She mewed as he parted her other moist lips and ran a finger around the rim. Then he discovered her swollen center, the tiny fleshly peak of her woman’s passion and squeezed, gently at first, and then he pinched.
She nearly climaxed, but that was only the beginning.
“I…I’m sorry Sean, but it had to be. You were chosen.”
He was looking down at the pavement now. It was the same asphalt as the street ahead of him, but he could see bricks, and before the bricks, cobblestone. He could see the world as it is and also as it was.
“You were chosen by another of us. It has been in your blood for a long time as the world measures time.”
“In my blood.”
“Come with me, Sean. There’s nothing to see out here.”
“I disagree, Dol.” He looked up, out the entrance to the alley at the street beyond, the world he used to belong to. It was after midnight and yet cars still drove by every few minutes. Pedestrians were more rare, much to their good fortune. “I can see everything.”
This time it was a command. He had not only become a child of the night, but he was her child. When her voice took a certain tone, she could not refuse her. He turned and saw her for the first time since he had emerged.
He expected her to look the same, and in one way she did. However, he sensed her as he had sensed Antonie. She was a predator. She hunted in darkness. He had been her prey and now he was what…her slave? He couldn’t articulate the sensation, the awareness of relationships. He was not free, but her ability to command him wasn’t absolute.
He had tried to break free before and failed. He cried out to God and He didn’t answer or worse, His answer was “No,” which damned Sean for an eternity. What good would breaking free accomplish now? Even defying Dol would not free him from his life in the darkness, his hunger for the blood. If he left, where would he go? He had no place left except with her.
The family lives in what used to be a large warehouse near the waterfront facing the East Bay. The top floors are occupied by what’s called an “artist colony.” The City of San Francisco turns a blind eye to the squatters, the flagrant electrical, sewage, and fire code violations, and just about everything else that makes the place dangerous, for the sake of progressivism and sanctuary.
It’s a perfect place for the family. That’s what Antonie calls us. He is our Father figure. He’s the oldest among us, far older than Dolingen who was born in the last years of the 19th century. There are a mix of us, men and women, older and younger in terms of how long we’ve been “children of the night.” For some reason they don’t like to use the word “vampire.”
Neither do I.
Every night I awaken ravenous, crazed by hunger and the thrill of the hunt. Either Antonie or Dolingen brings me someone, some prey to feed upon. On my second night, I tried to completely consume my prey as I had the first night and Antonie backhanded me in the face, knocking me to the floor. Filled with rage, I started to leap at him, when Dolingen, Verona, Bobby, and two others grabbed me and held me down.
“Now get this through your head, boy. I am your Father. You will do as I say. You will eat what I give you and only the portion you are provided. You will not kill unless I tell you to kill. If you cannot obey, I can send you into the final death. I am your god now.”
He’d been bending over me. I was still being held fast to the floor. The bottom level was only for us. The people from above never came down here. I don’t know if they suspected, but they knew enough never to get curious.
Antonie stood up and walked away without another word.
“Never do that, Sean.” Dolingen whispered in my ear. The others loosened their grip on me as they felt my muscles relax. I felt the lust and anger begin to subside. Antonie was my Father but Dolingen was something else.
“He protects us, Sean. He takes care of us. Without him, we would be discovered, one or two at a time. In the past, the people knew about us, how to hurt us, how to send us to the final death. Today, we’re just legends and make-believe creatures in movies and on television. He makes sure it stays that way.”
“The first night. I remember. They boy. He was dead. I…I…” I was sitting up now. I could remember every detail of his face. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old. He was the same boy Boris and Petrov had that night, the night I was turned, the night…
I was sobbing, my face in my hands. I was disgusting. I couldn’t stand myself. I hated the taste of blood in my mouth. I wanted to vomit, but the darkness inside me refused to surrender the blood.
Then I sat up straight and looked at Dol. “The boy. Is he one of us? Did I do it to him like…”
Tears started streaming down my face. Dolingen took me by the shoulders. I noticed that her hands no longer felt cold.
“No, my dear. No you did not. We…well, we can’t have too many of us. We would be noticed more. Antonie is very strict about that. You saw.”
“You heard Antonie speak of the final death. Even the children can be sent into that forever sleep if the correct methods are employed.”
“You mean a stake through the heart and that sort of thing?” I was surprised that I’d just tried to make a joke. There was absolutely nothing I found funny about any of this.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that, Sean. However, there are ways we can be destroyed or in Edmundo’s case, prevented from turning in the first place.”
“How did he…?”
“It is enough that it was done, Sean.”
Edmundo. I never knew his name. Just a runaway, a street kid, turning tricks in exchange for money, drugs, or a place to crash. The kind of person who makes perfect prey. No one would miss him or if he did have a family waiting for him to come home, if he never did, they would have to believe the life he chose led to a bad end. They wouldn’t be wrong.
We’re walking arm in arm South of Market toward a small park. It’s late January and there aren’t many people around at this time of night, but there are some. We enter off of Sherman Street. There’s a public bathroom to our right. I can hear noises from inside.
“Are you hungry? There’s one for each of us.”
I looked down at her face. Her fangs are bared. I suddenly become aware of the strong smell of blood. That’s why she suggested we go for a walk tonight. She wants to teach me how to hunt.
I’m hungry but not ravenous. I still feel like I’m in control of myself and not a vicious feeding machine. Is this what it’s like for her and for them? You have to know when to feed and how much to take. That first night, I woke up starving in the extreme. I would have done anything, hurt anyone to fill the hideous hollowness inside of me.
I turned toward the bathroom. Two people, two men. I could smell sex. It was late enough for the park to be almost empty. In the summer, there’d still be hundreds of people around, tons of kids. There’d probably be a baseball game being played on the field to the east of us. The children’s playground was just at our left.
I looked at the restroom and felt hunger and pity. I don’t think Dol knew what pity felt like anymore. She led me by the hand and we entered. One man was on the floor, pants down around his knees, buttocks raised into the air. The other was behind him. Their hips were keeping time with each other. Both were making tiny noises. The one in back was so involved in his pleasure that he didn’t hear us come in.
Dol grabbed him and ripped him away from the other man, throwing him against the urinals. She hissed and screeched and was on his neck in an instant. Unlike when she had taken me, except for the very last time, there was no subtly or finesse. She clutched at the prey and drank.
I looked down at the other man. He had rolled over and was trying to sit up while also pulling his pants up around his butt. He was terrified and couldn’t take his eyes off of me, even though he was hearing the sounds of Dol ravishing his anonymous partner.
The scent of blood, sex, and fear excited me. It was as if my brain had suddenly been flooded with drugs. All I wanted now was to feed. My prey was helpless, trapped, defenseless. I opened My mouth and my victim screamed.
It was an hour later. Sean and Dol were walking back toward the warehouse. To anyone looking at them, there might be a pair of lovers going home after a late night. Of course, no one could see the turmoil inside of Sean’s heart.
“Those poor men. We didn’t have to…”
“Oh please quit your complaining, Sean. Yes we did have to feed. They were simply convenient.”
“Convenience food? Like a Whopper?” He was giggling at the ludicrousness of what his life had become.
“They were alone and obviously meeting clandestinely. It was perfect. Even if they could remember what happened to them, they would still be unlikely to tell.”
“We take but we also leave behind. Our victims often don’t remember the circumstances of the feeding. The wounds heal within hours unless they are severe, and often the prey only recalls feeling weak and disoriented. Antonie forbids us from taking from the same prey more than once. Repeated encounters leaves them…dependent.”
“You sound like you’re teaching school, Dol. These are living, breathing people who we’re hurting. We use them like food animals and then throw them away.”
“In the vernacular Sean, you make that sound like it’s a bad thing.”
“How can you joke?”
“How can I not? What would you have me do, weep after every meal? Sean, we are who we are. This is how we live. Like all beings we must consume to survive. You call them food animals and so they are to us. However we do not have to kill to eat like they do.”
“I think I’d rather starve.”
“Ha. You say that now that you are sated, but Antonie told me what you were like the first night.”
“I don’t want to be reminded, Dol. Don’t you get how hard this is for me?”
“I wasn’t born this way either, Sean. Of course I know.”
They both stopped talking. It was pointless to argue but the silence was worse. He was strangling in depression and remorse. If only he could die. If he had the courage, maybe he could find a way. Poor Helen. Aaron, Jilly, and Lizzie, they all thought he was dead anyway. Nothing he did now would make their grief and loss worse, but he had to find a method of releasing himself from this unliving hell.
Even if he could get away for a little while, get to a phone, call them, what would he say? He’s not dead but he can never come home? No, it would make things worse than what they’re going through now.
“You’ll forget them in time, Sean.”
“Are you a mind-reader now?”
“I don’t have to be. You are still incredibly obvious. We all leave our loved ones behind when we turn, that is unless…”
He stopped walking. They were across the street from the warehouse. It would be dawn in thirty minutes. “What?”
“Often if we remain in the vicinity of our former lives, we are drawn to them and they to us.”
“I don’t like where this is headed.”
“You will be tempted to see them in the mistaken belief that somehow you could say your farewells. If you truly love them you will not do this thing. You can never rejoin them in life but reckless actions could result in them joining you in…”
“No! I’d never do that to them. Shut up. Shut up. Never talk about my family again.”
He ran away from her toward the warehouse. The sky was just beginning to brighten on the Eastern horizon. Sean knew she’d follow. Like him, she had nowhere else to go. He rapidly descended the stairs to the lower level. They all had an area where they slept. Many had coffins but they didn’t need them as long as they were near the earth and in complete darkness when the sun rose.
At the foot of the stairs he stopped. He sensed Dol walking slowly behind him. Only one of their kind could have possibly heard her. All Sean wanted now was the oblivion of sleep and to forget for a few short hours the horror of his existence.
Antonie was there and he was in front of another figure. “Ah, you’ve returned just in time, Sean.”
“Sun’s coming up soon, Antonie.” He didn’t want to deal with this egomaniac now. He always seemed so cheerful except when he was threatening to destroy you.
“Not what I meant, but you are correct, of course. Actually, I wanted to re-acquaint you with and old friend.”
He reached his right arm behind him with a certain amount of flourish as if about to bestow a great award. “I’m sure you remember…”
She stepped into the light and it was her. She hadn’t changed in twenty years, but of course, she wouldn’t change in another century. Time was frozen for the night children. She looked up at him and smiled shyly, as if she were an old girlfriend who wasn’t sure if her first beau remembered her.
“Hello, Marishka.” He was surprised at how calmly he was taking seeing her again.
Then something from behind pushed him aside. Sean staggered but maintained his footing and then saw Dolingen crouched and baring her fangs at Marishka. “Stay away from him!”
“Oh what, Sister?”
Sean hoped Antonie would stop what was about to happen between them but instead he stepped back and laughed hysterically.
This is Chapter Four of the Sean Becker Undead Chronicles. The previous chapters were:
Sean Becker succumbed to nightfall and has now emerged as a vampire. He has killed and has learned to feed off the blood of human beings. But what does the reappearance of Mariskha mean and why does Dolingen consider her a threat?
You can find out more about Dol, as well as Verona and Bobby in the story Stop Me From Falling.
The next chapter in the series is Without God.