The Fifth Chapter in the Undead Life of Sean Becker
“I tell you I turned him, so he’s mine!” Dolingen screeched, her piercing voice terrifying Sean.
“I spilled first blood, marked him for our kind. How dare you challenge me!”
Marishka and Dolingen were more like animals, rivals vying for a single mate,ready to kill for him. The scene was made all the more surreal by the sparely placed halogen lamps, normally used for emergency lighting in any other environment, providing the only illumination in their makeshift crypt.
“Wait! What am I, fresh meat?”
They both turned toward Sean as if noticing him for the first time. Fangs bared and hissing like twin feral cats, they clearly thought of him as property and all that needed to be settled is who took possession.
Antonie had first laughed at this sport like a mad Nero holding the match that ignited a burning Rome. Then he crossed his arms and seemed content to be casually amused by their display. As the two female predators began to slowly advance on the object of their struggle, the Romanian waved his arms and then a dozen family members immediately advanced to restrain the both of them.
Dol and Marishka howled in rage and dismay, but even their strength was impotent against so many of their fellows.
“Yes, boy,” Antonie announced. You are a piece of meat, my piece of meat.”
Then he addressed the two women, “Who are you to battle over this or any of my other children? He is mine. You are all mine. If not for me, you would be scattered, lost, at the mercy of humanity with no place to turn and no savior to protect you. Now enough of your foolishness. The sun advances in the eastern sky. If you want to settle this when darkness once again falls, then I will hear your petitions. Now go to your separate places and rest.”
Sean could see them slowly calm down. Marishka stole a quick glance in his direction. Dol focused her attention on Antonie. Then their Master nodded and they were both released. They avoided eye contact with each other and skulked away in different directions. Those who had restrained them also wandered off.
A moment ago, the tension was electrifying, but now everyone seemed to be in a daze, sleepwalking, shuffling, and Sean was feeling the same way.
Even though they were totally isolated from the dawn outside, there were a number of other effects of the change from night into day that weighed upon them, so that fatigue and then exhaustion robbed the “children” of strength and concentration.
Those who chose to sleep in coffins returned to them and entered, while Sean had a simple sleeping bag lying in a depression in the dirt floor upon the site where he had first emerged as the newly undead.
He dropped to his knees and unzipped the bag realizing he hadn’t noticed where Antonie had gone. He didn’t sleep with the rest of them. In fact, he seemed to come and go at will, returning whenever he seemed to be needed but otherwise keeping his own counsel.
Sean was too tired to care right then. He slipped into the sleeping bag and zipped it up around him, though this was more to feel “cocooned” than because he cared about the cold. He drifted off wondering what the next night would bring and trying to pray to God that he wouldn’t be alive to see it.
“Then why was I brought here, Antonie?”
He had set up an elaborately decorated chair against one wall of their crypt as if he were King Solomon dispensing judgment to whomever came before him. In this case, Dolingen stood facing him at his right and Marishka at his left.
“Because I wished it. Do I need another reason?”
“But…it was dangerous to move here from another area. If I’d been caught between crypts with no place to hide during the day…”
“You arrived safely because it was my wish, Marishka. Now you are part of my family until I say otherwise.”
I was standing with the rest of the family, silent witnesses to the proceeding even though I was the whole point of it. I could just see one side of Dol’s face. She was faintly smiling. She’d won. I knew the second that Antonie was no longer around, she’d find a way to rub Marishka’s nose in it good and hard. They could still end up fighting. From what little I learned from some of the other family members, when two of the children challenge each other, they get pretty badly torn up. Even vampires can lose a lot of blood.
But then again, we can’t really kill each other, just inflict pain and injury. I’m not even sure how to kill a vampire, though I have more than just Antonie’s word that it’s possible. The children don’t like to talk about it. Apparently it’s very involved, agonizing, and in some cases the vampire is suspended between undead and dead realms, their soul eternally in torment and never released to Hell or oblivion or whatever is supposed to happen to us.
When I was a kid and going to Sunday school, I was always afraid of Hell. I thought that if I did any little thing wrong and didn’t repent right away, I was going to burn forever after I died. Kids have a hard time being good on a day-to-day basis. Adults too for that matter. As I matured, I fell away from the faith and only returned in the latter part of my sophomore year at UCLA. It had to do with Marishka interestingly enough. She’d left something behind. Now I realize it was related to a curse, but I didn’t know that then. I did know that I needed something. I felt soiled, dirty and not because of the sex. I talked with some kid at a Campus Crusade for Christ booth in the Student Union and then one thing led to another.
My parents couldn’t have been happier and at the time I felt pretty good about it, too.
Now I realize my conversion to Christianity was a holding action, at least that’s how I interpret it. I was fighting a losing battle against something I didn’t understand, something Marishka did to me, whether she meant to or not.
I’m kind of glad she didn’t take possession of me or whatever this kangaroo court is supposed to do, because there’s a part of me that wants to kill her.
“Thank you, Antonie. May I now resume with my apprentice?”
“In good time, Dolingen. Sean is indeed your apprentice, but for this evening, I have decided he shall proceed in Marishka’s company.”
“What?” There was outrage in Dol’s voice, but the instant she expressed it she knew she had made mistake and she immediately composed herself.
Antonie didn’t say anything with words that his scowl didn’t communicate.
“If there are no other matters requiring my judgment, then you are all free to depart. Marishka, Sean awaits you.”
Sean could only describe Marishka as approaching an albino. She was African-American, but she possessed only very light coloring. Her hair texture, facial structure were consistent, but her curse was uniquely displayed. She all but danced over to him, now being the one to smirk, leaving a disgruntled Dol behind.
Marishka embraced and then kissed him deeply. “You’re mine for the night, lover. What’s your pleasure?”
“You probably shouldn’t piss off Dolingen. If you think she’s just going to walk away from this, you are dead wrong.”
“Emphasis on dead, Sean? I’ve missed you so much.”
“Really? Up until a month or so ago, I hadn’t spared you a second thought.”
“Oh, but I’ve always been with you, Sean.”
“Yes, thanks for that. I appreciated the loss of my virginity, the loss of blood, and being cursed by a vampire.”
She looked down, arms still around Sean’s neck. “I…I didn’t know that would happen.”
“What did happen, Marishka?”
She looked up, smiling again. “Want to show me around the City?” I haven’t been here in a long time.”
“Sure.” He knew she wasn’t going to tell him. Maybe she didn’t know.
Sean hadn’t been out alone since he had turned. As Dol’s “apprentice,” which he hadn’t realized was his role until Antonie mentioned it, it had been her responsibility to teach him the “ways” of the children of the night. He was already learning how to hunt. Going out with Marishka tonight, he would have to take the lead. She was more experienced, but he knew the territory.
It was early as Sean and Marishka left the shelter. The only place he could think to take her was “Delirium.” Later when there were fewer people about, they could hunt for suitable prey if necessary, but the steady influx of people at their unique bar would probably take care of that problem.
Marishka immediately joined one of her “sisters” (they’d never met before but vampires know their kind) and three men and after a bit of conversation, they retired behind a door in the back and to the rooms beyond.
Sean had learned that a sizeable number of both male and female vampires worked as prostitutes. The money was good and it made acquiring prey all too easy. Of course, they had to give a cut of their earnings to Antonie, but there weren’t a lot of other ways for them to generate an income. He’d seen Mariskha produce a purse so did that mean she had money to spend?
Nothing Sean possessed in life stayed with him including his clothes, wallet, and wedding ring. His cell was taken from him by Antonie and put on the AC Transit bus Sean was supposed to have been on when it exploded and crashed over the side of the Oakland Bay Bridge. Most of the world thought it was an act of terrorism. ISIS was even so bold as to take credit for it. However, it was really a plot to cover Sean’s disappearance the night he was turned.
Seventy-two people were murdered just to conceal the disappearance of one man and to keep humanity from suspecting the existence of vampires.
“I bet you could show a girl a good time.”
Sean was startled out of his self-absorbed and morose mood by a voice and a pair of arms encircling his neck from behind. It wasn’t one of them. He turned. A hooker. How interesting. She actually expected him to pay her. She smelled good, her blood was strong.
“Candy, in case you were wondering.”
She was reasonably attractive, between thirty and thirty-five, beige overcoat and little enough on underneath. How had she even heard of this place? Oh, of course. Antonie had probably arranged it. Easy income for her and much less danger than walking the streets, or so she thought. She was the specialty of the evening on the menu and didn’t even know it.
“Sean. Shall we go? We can settle on things in the room.” He offered to lead the way.
“Fine by me. You know your way around here?”
He took her by the hand and walked her back. As he passed the bar, Raquel, one of the regular bartenders and interestingly enough, not one of the family, nodded and said, “Room 14.”
Sean nodded in return and took Candy into the hall. He found the indicated room and sent her in first, then closed the door behind them. The only illumination was produced by several candles placed on a nearby dresser and the twin night stands.
Candy turned to face Sean, “Now about the deal, lover boy…”
That’s as far as she got. She was facing a vampire, not a John. She started to scream when she saw the fangs but as he stared into her eyes, she stopped, mesmerized by his gaze. She had been taken by his kind enough times to become automatically compliant when the feeding was about to begin. He took her standing, not caring for the seduction and the sex, at least with her. She’d wake up with the price she’d been about to demand in her purse, provided by Raquel or one of the other employees.
He was quick and took only what he needed but still felt shame about getting an erection during the act. As he finished, Sean suspected that Marishka was more in the “partying” mood and he’d end up having to wait for her. He’s pass the time talking with Raquel when she wasn’t serving alcohol to the mortal patrons.
Sean wasn’t sure how they ended up at 16th and Mission, but Marishka was leading him into the BART station.
“Where do you want to go, Marishka? Were’s less than a mile from home and that’s nowhere near where BART will take us.”
“I thought you could take me to your other home.”
She was smiling as she looked back and kept on tugging his arm. He didn’t understand for a second and then had the ghastly realization.
“No, you can’t mean that.”
“Come on, Sean. I looked at the schedule. The next train headed for the East Bay will get here like in five minutes.”
At the foot of the stairs he stopped and she couldn’t budge him, not without exerting more than human strength. “No, Marishka. Are you crazy? I can’t go back. None of us can go back. You must know that by now.”
“I can’t go back, Sean. It’s been too long for me, but you can. Won’t they be surprised?”
He pulled his arm away from her, turned, and started walking back up toward street level.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“Away from you.”
“But all I wanted was to…”
He turned halfway up and looked back at her. “I know exactly what you wanted you cold-hearted bitch. Isn’t it enough that you did it to me? Now you want my whole family?”
“They aren’t your family anymore, Sean. They could be part of ours, though.”
He closed his eyes and summoned the horrible vision of his wife and children all gathered in the crypt. He hadn’t seen any children down there, but he knew it was possible, that it had happened before, at least in rumors.
Rather than fight with Marishka in publically, he turned back and walked upward again. She caught up to him on the sidewalk.
“Okay, we don’t have to. I just thought that it would be fun.”
“You are the craziest, most horrible person I have ever met. Even Dol told me never to go home again and never, ever to see my family.”
“Sean, you know who we are. One thing we aren’t is nice. We left all of that behind when we became part of the family.”
To anyone listening to them, Marishka and Sean might have been talking about belonging to some strange cult, which in San Francisco was hardly out of the question.
“If you’re part of Antonie’s family now, so be it, but I’m not going to have anything to do with you from now on. I’m going for a walk and you’re not coming with me. I’ll be back home before dawn.”
The last part went without saying, but he told her anyway, as if he still owed her something. He started walking west on 16th toward the Castro. It was still early and he had plenty of time to waste while trying to get his mind straight.
“See you later, Sean.” She was waving pathetically at his receding back while standing on the street corner. Marishka had drunk her fill back at “Delirium,” but she might scare up some more action later on just for giggles.
Sean kept walking. He knew nothing about her from twenty years ago or from anything she had become since. When they went to school together, she seemed lonely, shy, and in need of a friend. Now she was like a psychopathic party girl with a homicidal bent. She actually thought it would be fun to turn him loose on his own family?
“Just keep her away from me, God.” Sean winced. He couldn’t even pray anymore. Just thinking the word “God” was painful.
On an impulse, he turned south on Valencia and then west again on 17th. Was he walking randomly or somehow did he intend to go to the Cornerstone Church near Dearborn? He didn’t remember how he knew the church was here. It was a Wednesday and like a lot of churches, they had evening services and other activities.
Sean stood across the street from the gray building. Most of one wall was covered with a mural that had a representation of the famous “hands” from Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” which he painted on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The word “Loved” was also on the wall.
“Do you still love me? Do you even know me? I’ve talked to you for a long time. Sometimes I even got the feeling you were listening and on occasion, that you answered me. Can you hear me now?” He looked up into the partly cloudy night sky. “Can you?”
Nothing happened. He didn’t expect anything to. He thought about going inside, but as he took a step forward, nausea knotted his stomach. Then he remembered the prostitute’s blood that was still digesting within him. How could he possibly imagine entering His presence being who he was and what he had just done?
No. There had to be a way back. To hell with the curse. He took another step and almost doubled over. Sean grabbed a street lamp and held on until the queasiness passed.
“I guess I can’t go back, can I?” He was whispering into the darkness. He looked up and people were starting to file out. Services must have ended. Even if he could somehow make it inside, it was too late anyway.
He felt relieved as he started back down 17th and away from Cornerstone but he was still trembling and his eyes were moist with tears. Sean really did love God or he thought he did. He had sinned terribly in so many ways, especially in his lust for Dol. He tried to remember what the Bible said about unforgivable sin as he crossed to the north side of the street. A few seconds later, he heard a car horn.
Sean looked over and saw that a small economy car had stopped. The driver was rolling down the passenger side window. “Excuse me,” he called out. Sean supposed he wanted directions and walked over.
“Can I help you?” Sure. He was the friendly neighborhood vampire about to tell a lost driver how to get where he wanted to go.
“Actually, that’s my line. I’m Pastor Gerald Tran from Cornerstone Church. I couldn’t help but notice you back there. If you wanted to come into the church, you’d be more than welcome.”
If only he knew. “Thanks, Pastor. I appreciate the invite, but some other time. Besides, you’re closed.”
“The church is closed, but I’m not. Buy you a cup of coffee or tea? When’s the last time you had a good meal?”
Sean resisted the urge to say dinner was called “Candy” and he’d had her just a few hours ago. “Pastor, you don’t even know who I am and you’re inviting me into your car?”
“Sure. You look like you could use a friendly ear and that just happens to be my specialty.” Tran opened the door and pushed.
“I must be crazy,” Sean muttered and got in.
They ended up at someplace called Boba Guys on 19th. They didn’t serve coffee unless you counted the Coffee Milk Tea, but then it didn’t matter because nothing on the menu sounded remotely appealing to Sean.
“Are you sure you won’t let me buy you something?”
“You’d be wasting your money Pastor, but thanks.”
“Call me Gerry. I’m one of the Associate Pastors so I’d rather have people call me by my first name and call the Head Pastor “Pastor.”
“So why me, Gerry?”
“So why you? You were standing across the street from the church for a good fifteen minutes I’d guess, like you were arguing with something inside of you whether you should come in or not. How long has it been since you’ve worshiped?”
“Actually not that long ago. Christmas. Feels like a lifetime.”
“But something happened.”
“You could say that.”
“Anything you’d care to talk about?”
“Well, no. Not really.”
“You’ll have to talk to someone eventually. How about God?”
“Actually, that’s what I was debating about. How do I talk to God now?”
Gerry took a drink of his chai tea and seemed to really enjoy it. Sean found anything he might have eaten or drank before at least unappealing if not disgusting, but he missed a good cup of coffee.
“You know, a lot of people think they’ve done something so horrible that God will never listen to them again. I promise you, nothing could be further from the truth.”
If only he could explain to Gerry that he was sitting about a foot away from a real life, or real undead vampire, a creature of darkness. Sean still wasn’t sure if the curse were purely supernatural or if it had a biological cause, like some sort of blood disease. In either case, if he could convince Gerry of who he was, the young Associate Pastor might rapidly change his opinion about who God was inclined to listen to.
“I wish I could believe that, Gerry.”
“You can. If you want, we can pray together right now. Let’s hold hands.”
“Let’s not, Gerry.” As with all of his kind, his hands and the rest of him were perpetually cold. That wasn’t necessarily revealing, but he’d already gone too far just sitting here with him.
“That’s fine. We can bow our heads.”
Sean complied but he started trembling again.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you now as two of your precious children. This man feels so far from you and I beg you to show him how…”
Sean was suddenly seized with violent stomach cramps. He was slammed against the counter top and then he used both hands to push himself away and out of his chair. He gritted his teeth as he hit the floor, staggered to his feet and toward the doors hoping he wouldn’t vomit blood. He was back out into the night and on the sidewalk next to the curb. He stopped for a minute, sweating and out of breath. He didn’t think those things could happen to him anymore.
“What happened?” It was Gerry.
“You shouldn’t follow me. I tried. I just can’t do this.”
“I can get you to a hospital if you’re sick.”
Sean turned back toward him and whatever the Pastor saw obviously frightened him. To his credit though, he stood his ground.
“I don’t need a doctor, Gerry. I’ll be fine. I just can’t do…do that.”
“Pray? Everybody can pray. If they couldn’t, no one would ever become a Christian.”
A Christian Vampire. Sean couldn’t picture how that would work.
“Gerry, you’ve been very kind and I appreciate everything you’ve tried to do, but if you understood who I am, you’d know this is one time prayer isn’t going to help.”
“I’ve witnessed to every kind of human being you could possibly imagine. I’ve sat with prostitutes as they came off of heroin, other drug addicts, alcoholics with the DTs, people in the worst possible situations, deep in their sins, and I haven’t seen one who, if they were truly willing to repent, couldn’t cry out to God. Please, let me help.”
Gerry put his hand on Sean’s shoulder and he almost pulled back, probably because he could feel how cold he was right through his jacket.
“I wish you could, Gerry. I really wish you could. What I’m into isn’t anything like that and I seriously doubt there’s anything you can do about it.”
“It’s not about what I can do. I can’t do a thing. It’s about what Jesus can do. Let his grace help you. I know he’s willing.”
Sean wasn’t sure Gerry was right. Even sitting next to someone praying out loud almost sent him into convulsions.
“I have to go, Gerry.”
“Can I at least visit you later? Do you have a place to stay?”
“If I want to talk to you again Gerry, I know how to find you.”
“I know this sounds cliché, but I will be praying for you. Can you tell me your name?”
“Better not, Gerry. Anyway, if you’re right, God knows who I am.” Sean felt a pang for an instant but it passed. Then he turned and walked east down 19th. He still had time to walk back to the waterfront but he decided he’d had enough “adventure” for one night.
“God bless you,” Gerry called after him.
Sean felt bad about walking away, but there was nothing else to do. Getting into the Pastor’s car had been a mistake. He was hoping maybe that talking with Gerry would help but only made things worse. Every step he took away from Gerry made him feel better, just like walking away from the church.
Yeah, he felt better, and also completely alone.
Sean got across the Bayshore Freeway using the bridge at 18th and Utah and then walked past Downtown High School. He jogged a few blocks south to 20th and found himself near the Potrero Branch of the Public Library. It had closed hours before but something attracted him to it. He stood in front of the darkened building and didn’t know why at first. Then he realized there had been someone here, someone like him.
He hadn’t known any members of the family to visit a library, but you never knew. He was starting to recognize each of their children by their unique scent and tried to place this one.
“Oh no.” He didn’t recognize the odor but she should have, even if he couldn’t attach it to a face or a name. That meant there was a vampire in San Francisco who was not part of the family and not under Antonie’s control. Who was the vampire and if it existed apart from the family, what could that mean for Sean?
This is Chapter Five of the Sean Becker Undead Chronicles. The previous chapters were:
Sean Becker rediscovered Marishka and she tempted him to visit his family again which he knows would end in disaster. But if he can’t go home, could he go back to God? That’s a question this story begins to answer. You’ll learn more about that and about Sean next time.
Oh, I’ve noticed that sometimes I slip into “first person,” letting Sean tell his own story. I did this in the last chapter and decided to separate those portions from the rest of the narrative by horizontal lines. In this chapter, I also italicized that section. I don’t know why I do that, but I’ll pay better attention in the future, though mixing up tenses might not be so horrible if I occasionally want the reader to slip inside the vampire’s head.
You can find out more about Dol, as well as Verona and Bobby in the story Stop Me From Falling.
The next chapter is called Incendiary.