Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. –Lamentations 1:12
You don’t remember yet, he said. But you will. Soon.
He was right.
Remembering is a hurt so deep it is almost physical. Remembering faces sounds sights oh god tastes, the way familial blood felt washing over his tongue and smooth down his throat and the screams, the screaming-
Kathleen’s eyes shone with awe as she looked at him, the light behind her framing her lovely face, her fragile frame. So mortal. So breakable. How could he ever have loved this small and silly thing? “Liam,” she said, “Liam, you’ve come back to protect us, haven’t you? You’re our angel.”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “I’ve come to protect you all. But first you have to invite me in.”
Her smile must have strained her cheeks. “Come in,” she said, trusting, sweet, her upturned face glowing with life, the artery in her neck beating once, twice, thrice. “You know you’re welcome here.”
She was still smiling as he leaned forward and kissed her forehead, her cheek, her neck. “Always,” he agreed, and then bit deep.
His blunt nails bite into his face as he breathes, simply because it is a way to express, a way to release some of the pain (anguish). Our angel. Angelus. The name he’d taken for himself, mocking, careless. Angelus.
Her fault. She made me, she-
No no no. He knows better than that. Knows so much better than that. Knows everything he has done has never been for Darla with her cruel smile and elaborately coiffed hair and gentle, tiny hands. No, it has been his. For his pleasure.
I’m going to die I’m going to die it hurts please no not my fault not my-
Fault lines. He is cracking open. Just him and the forest and the gypsies. He needs to go home. Go home. She is his Sire. She will make it right.
You’re going to die, worthless, useless, you can hide but God sees, God knows your sins, every one of them, worthless filth! He staggers, catches himself against a tree. “I made something of myself!” he roars to the uncaring night.
And now this, whispers the thought in the back of his mind, Is your unmaking.
Through this holy unction may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed. No. No. It isn’t over yet.
“I am eternal,” he says, “This too shall pass.”
It is like acid poured over his naked eyes. It is like fire cracking his bones. It is like pain. I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Give thanks to the lord for he is good. God’s mercy endures forever.
The Sire’s mercy endures not at all.
She casts him out. She casts him out and he is lost and alone and wandering in the wilderness, like Jesus, for forty days and forty nights. But he is the devil and he is being tempted, and there is no one waiting for his return and no understanding to be found. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My god, my god, why have you forsaken me?
No one is making offers to ease his pain. It has not passed, and he begins to wonder if it will at all; if it might be as eternal as he is. Or else if he is not so eternal after all.
If perhaps this is where he dies.
He is hungry and filthy and ragged. The woman and her male companions are alone, and it is dark, and he needs. It takes over everything, consumes everything, twisting together with the pain and wrenching at his mind, making him writhe in its grip.
He doesn’t remember striking down the men. He does remember dragging the woman into an alleyway and plunging his teeth into her throat.
She doesn’t scream. She quivers, though, and whimpers, and he can feel her shuddering and trembling beneath him. It should give him pleasure. It feels like he’s been impaled through the gut. Kathy’s eyes stare wide at him from her face and he can hear her die all over again.
Liam, you came back to me. Our angel.
He pulls away. “I cannot,” he cries, in Romanian. “I can’t. I can’t.”
Late that night, he catches a rat and drinks its thin, disease ridden blood. It is hardly worth the mouthfuls. He curls up in a heap of his filth and whines, and does not sleep.
And does not sleep. And does not sleep. And does not sleep.
But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp.
Exhaustion consumes. It leaves nothing.
He moves fast through the dark. Considers moving during the day as well, letting one last blaze finish this all, watch the sunrise one last time. But animal instincts are strong. The urge to live is strong. He is Angelus, Scourge of Europe, and will not surrender. Whatever the gypsies have done, he will outlast.
The demon rages in his body, demanding blood. A few mouthfuls is all he can manage from any human before their fear and pain seem to infect him, invade him, draw cutting strings tight around his still heart.
His soul, Darla said. Liam – worthless boy, I wanted a man – knew about souls. Their immortality, before he knew what immortality really was.
Had it hurt like this before?
I am not him. I am not that man. I am something more.
Really? Comes the question, as he shudders in a forest with cold and aching hunger that he can’t satiate. This is more?
Wretched, pitiful thing. God sees, god knows. It is his father’s voice in his head now. His father, trying to ward him off. Oh, but I was invited. The horrified stare, the-
This is not soul. Only ghosts and he is Angelus, he will not be afraid of ghosts.
And yet he doesn’t stop running. Goes all the way to the sea, though which sea he isn’t sure. A woman finds him there on the shore, rocking and shaking, an addict starving. A wreck. Not beautiful. Not terrible. Not immortal.
“Sir?” She says, her arms wrapped around herself with her shawl, seeming shy and uncertain. She is young, and beautiful. Darla, he thinks, would have liked her. The demon hisses in desire. “Please…are you all right? Perhaps you should come inside.”
He breaks her neck and drops her body to the sand, and drops himself a moment later beside her. Her blood is still warm and she does not whimper or plead as he buries himself in her throat and suckles with all the desperation of his first waking night.
And when it is over he curls into himself and weeps his first tears in more than a century.
Snivelling weakling, he imagines he can hear the demon snarl. But there is no real separation between himself and it. They are one and the same, and he burns with hunger and shame together.
He leaves the girl on the beach with the tide coming in, and heads south, toward the sun.
The girl on the beach by the unknown sea is the last. After that it is dead, congealed blood in bodies unburied, or else rats with their taste of misery, disease, and emptiness. It is never enough. He is never satiated, never full, always aware of the hunger gnawing at him with blunt but insistent teeth. Do not forget. Never forget.
He goes south until he nearly reaches the desert, not sure why or where he wants to go, what his own intentions are. There is always the sun. The thought never quite leaves him.
But no. He still thinks every day that it will pass, it will fade. The pain will ease and become less, and leave altogether, and he will return to Darla and his childer, his rightful place. They were only Gypsies. What can they do to him?
And yet it continues. Unmoved, untouchable. He can’t fight back against it and he can’t change it.
And if this is all you’ll ever have? If this curse lives as long as you do? What will you do then?
Survive. It would be unworthy to do anything else. He is Angelus. There is nothing he is afraid of. (Except an eternity with this pain that he can’t fight.)
He does not contemplate too closely.
He kills his first vampire months (or is it years? All time is the same now, too long) afterward. Barely a whelp, he is as conspicuous as he is arrogant. He recognizes Angel and apparently his disgrace is still unknown, because the whelp seems inclined to treat him expansively rather than with disgust, though he can see the eyes on his ragged clothes, his too thin face.
“Times not treating you too well, Angelus?”
He twists the vampire’s head off before he stops smiling. Looks down at the heap of dust and feels no guilt or doubt or uncertainty.
Nothing else either, though. It is that name, he thinks, Angelus. The name he took from his sister’s dead body, a girl long dead and still longer forgotten, from a village he dismantled piece by piece.
He misses Darla. He misses his father, Drusilla with her charming madness and even William’s eternal insolence. He wonders if Darla has killed William as she always threatened to. But no, he would know if that happened. He would know.
Whatever else he does not know, which seems to be everything.
For years he did not dream, on the rare occasions he slept. Now he does. Every night his eyes close and it is a feast of blood and screaming and agonies that happened and never happened, all mingled together. Tonight it is Darla, teasing her hands over his bare chest striped with rapidly healing welts. He is panting with pain and lust.
“You are the most beautiful thing,” she says, and bends her head to lick the leaking blood from one gash. The whip coils lazily from one hand as the other tweaks his nipple, then twists. Her lips curve in her beautiful smile. “I want you to remember whose you are.”
He bares his teeth and laughs. She knows how to tease pain even from this strong, nearly invulnerable body, knows how to mix it with desire even better than he himself can manage – but she reserves it, mostly, for him. “How could I forget?”
His wrists twist involuntarily in their bonds over his head. Darla snaps the whip and moves around behind him, licks another wound. “Do you want me?” she asks.
“Yes,” he groans, and she comes around again, looks up at him, and her face changes. The Gypsy girl stares wide-eyed at him and smiles. Her teeth are stained with red, and then they elongate into fangs.
“Was it worth it?” she asks. “Did I taste sweet enough?”
The rip-tear of her fangs into his neck is anything but intimate. She feeds messily, blood sliding around her lips and down his chest, sucking and suckling until he can feel himself fading out. Her nails carve slices of skin out of his back as they drag downward. Her hips rut against his.
“Mine,” she says, “Minemineminemine. Angelus.”
She lets him go, lets him fall. He can hear a woman weeping. He is almost certain it is Drusilla. “You know why this happened,” says a purring voice. “You were such a wicked girl, full of wicked thoughts. The Lord punishes the wicked.”
“I will do better,” she pleads, “I will do better. Please. Tell me how I can do better.”
The village of Galway is empty. Its people are running scared, rabbits waiting to die. He sits in the house with his arms around his sister, listening to the dark. “If we are quiet,” Kathy says, voice wavering, “They won’t come. We painted the symbol over the door. The angel will pass over us.”
The door opens and he is looking at his own face as he has seen it reflected in the eyes of his victims. The smile is terrible. The smile is bloody. “You can’t come in,” he gasps. “You must be invited.” Kathy turns her face into his shoulder.
“But I was,” Angelus says, and looks straight at him, and for a moment he can see his own body slumped in the doorway, chin to chest, dead dead dead. “You invited me.”
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Kathy pulls away though he tries to hold her. “You were always a bad son,” Kathy whispers. She goes to Angelus. They kiss passionately, his (own) big hands at her breasts and sliding lower…
What you are and ever have been. What we once were informs all that we have become.
Drusilla wraps her arms around his neck. “Come home, Daddy,” she says, croons. “Come home.” Her teeth are gentle, and he can hear her trembling with fear.
He wakes up.
They are not his anymore. He feels no kinship with them, no connection. No approximation of what he once thought love. He looks at them and feels nothing but loathing and disgust and most of all shame.
Drusilla is overjoyed to see him, but as she embraces him and he can’t help but shudder, she draws away, and he can see in her mad dark eyes the uncertainty, the wonder that perhaps this is not who she thinks it is.
He wishes a little he could feel the same way. He is still who he was. And that is the problem.
“Daddy,” she says, “Where were you?”
It is a question he would sooner not consider, so he brushes it off.
William doesn’t seem to have changed at all. He is still sullen, but with the edge underneath of nervousness and fear, as though he expects to be punished. He can see the closeness between him and Drusilla. Perhaps that is where it comes from. He has been replaced.
He cannot care.
Darla touches his face with just a hint of her nails and whispers, “Angelus.” He wants to scream. Wants, somewhere deeper, to rip her head off for making him into this, and isn’t sure what this is. If it is the demon or the filthy, wrecked soul protesting.
This isn’t his anymore.
Will kills a Slayer, and he takes his leave. They will rejoice and celebrate, and his unease will only grow; the disgust and self-loathing amplified to levels beyond bearing. These things that he has made. He cannot love them, but he cannot kill them either. He needs to go. Somewhere. Anywhere. Not here.
He runs again, and wonders if he will ever stop. Or else how long he can keep this pace before it becomes too much.
(He is Angelus. He is immortal.)
(Angelus. What a mockery. He isn’t that, now. He is nothing, now.)
In his dreams there is always someone screaming.
The journey is too long and he can almost feel pieces of his mind flaking off day by day. Like peeling skin. Like a good pastry.
He yearns for blood. The rats on the ship learn quickly to avoid the hold, and there were few of them to begin with.
He jumps overboard when he smells land and swims the filthy harbor to shore. His clothes are already rags. Pulling himself onto a dock, for a moment he considers just lying there. It is a few hours to sunrise. He made it to the New World. What is he supposed to do now, but die here rather than there?
The need for survival wins out. He scuttles into the shadows like one of the rats he eats.
New York is even filthier than the boat. There are more humans, and so there is more misery and suffering and pain and death. He can smell them dying around him every day, and feels heavy and hungry. Always hungry. It will never leave him, the hunger.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.
Restores my soul. A thing he doesn’t need, doesn’t want. If he could rip it from himself –
If he could find someone else to do it.
Take this cup from me.
He snarls to chase some children from a dirty basement and claims it as his own. Not so long ago, he thinks, I could live anywhere I liked.
He wonders what Darla and the rest are doing. If they wonder where he is. If they are still in China, or if not, where.
He dismisses the thoughts, but they circle overhead like vultures, except that vultures will never claim his flesh. He listens to the city, smells the people and their death and filth, and does not sleep.
He almost misses the screaming.
There are other vampires here. They shy away from him, wary and disgusted by his pathetic figure. They expect him to die. Sometimes he thinks he keeps living to spite them. Them and Darla and even sometimes himself, and perhaps that is insane but he suspects that he is a little insane more often than not.
He must be, to live like this.
The name Angelus has not belonged to him for years, now. He is a thing without a name, in filth and squalor, not dead and not alive but somewhere in between, and it is not freedom but a chain and a cage and a lock that he can’t find.
He found a clan of Gypsies here, once. They knew what he was and he only escaped narrowly. There will be no help from them. From anyone.
He used to savor being alone. He used to curse when his childer disturbed his quiet, the time he kept to read, or think, or be. But there is a difference between being alone and loneliness.
He has them, of course, to keep him company. The screamers, the faces of all the dead. Someday he thinks he will not be able to rise under their weight and he will simply lie in the basement and wait for death to catch up.
At least the rats are fat here.
One night he stumbles and falls on the way back to his nest and simply lies there, too hopeless to get up. Someone pauses; a young man, he can smell him. “Sir,” he says, “Sir, can you get up?”
“Forget it, Jim. He’ll be dead before long. Filthy street scum.”
He changes face and rears up to lunge at them snarling. They scuttle back. He can smell their hearts beat blood pumping and it is too much. He twists and sinks his teeth in deep, blood spurts into his mouth, down his throat sweet rich life.
Why does it matter, he thinks. Why does it matter if they haunt me? There is no reason to care, no reason to-
There is a ring on the man’s left hand, his ring finger. A gold band.
He is married.
Perhaps he has children.
“You’ve come back to me, Liam. You’re our angel.”
He shoves the man, Jim away, roughly, and staggers back. He wants to retch. His mouth is full of blood but it has gone sour. He yearns for more and is repulsed by the desire.
He wheels, and retreats. Farther. Farther. Farther. He goes deep into the sewers and weeps bitter tears. There is nothing left of what he was. He understands that now. There is nothing left at all.
He may as well surrender.
She walks down the steps, talking too loudly. Her hair is bright and her expression is youthful and animated.
Or maybe there is still something.
It has been so long since he had a name. Angelus is far behind but needs to be remembered. And he knows what it needs to be.
You’re our angel.
No; anything but. But the name that she gave him had stuck one way. Perhaps it would stick another.
And he would become someone.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." –Acts 5:19-20