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Beautiful and Deadly

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Steve was reading when a small, quiet noise pulled his attention from the novel. He cocked his head, listening, wondering if a stray dog had gotten into the kitchen again. With a sigh, Steve set his book aside and went to the door of his little room. The hallway outside was dark, lit only by a single dim lantern, but Steve had no problem walking the familiar path. He glanced into the kitchen but couldn’t see anything. The rest of the dormitory, his office, and a few meeting rooms were similarly empty. A nervous feeling fluttered in Steve’s belly as he continued his search, even though he knew he had no reason to worry inside the church.

Steve walked out into the sanctuary, the pillars of the arcade and the pews of the nave lit by pale moonlight streaming through the windows. A block of silver moonlight shone through the open front door. Steve frowned. He never locked the doors to the sanctuary but visitors knew better than to leave one of the large double doors open. He went to close it when a tiny whimper had him spinning around, his heart in his throat. A figure was collapsed on the steps to the chancel, huddled before the altar. Steve hurried up the arcade. “Are you alright?” he asked as he neared the figure.

The person wore a long coat, their hair dark. Steve knelt and reached forward, easing a careful hand around a cool cheek. Coarse facial hair rubbed against his fingertips and some sort of warm liquid slicked his palm. “Sir?” asked Steve, afraid the man was injured. The man’s head tipped up and Steve froze, his hand still cupping the other’s cheek. Red eyes, dull as dusty rubies, stared up at him out of a colorless face. Warm, wet blood covered the man’s lips and smeared into a neat goatee. “Vampire,” breathed Steve, frightened and thrilled by the creature’s red eyes.

Steve knew he was going to die. He knew that any second the vampire would lunge forward and tear into his tender throat. He didn’t know how the creature had gotten into the sanctuary. The undead and other soulless creatures were not supposed to be able to enter holy ground. But here the vampire was, eyes red with bloodlust and cloudy with pain. Steve knew that no one escaped a vampire once it had its sights upon you. So it was a great surprise to Steve when the vampire’s eyes fluttered weakly closed and the creature slumped down onto the steps again.

Steve remained still, a rush of astonished breath escaping lungs that had been paralyzed just a moment before. He blinked down at the vampire lying before him. The harsh tang of copper assaulted his sense of smell and Steve finally noticed the widening pool of dark blood under the vampire. “You’re... hurt,” he muttered, half confused. Vampires were not injured easily and killing one was almost impossible. Steve had a sudden vision of snatching up a piece of wood from somewhere and thrusting it into the vampire’s chest. He’d be a hero for getting rid of one of the deadly creatures; but the mere thought of harming the helpless being made bile climb up his throat. He wouldn’t be able to bring himself to do it, not while the vampire lay unconscious.

Something howled from outside and Steve jerked to his feet, heart pounding anew. Steve could see through the still open door the shadow of something large and four legged pacing outside on the narthex, eyes gleaming sickly yellow. Other, smaller shapes roamed out beyond the yard along the low stone wall and the street. They started yipping and barking excitedly. The big beast howled again and Steve was across the sanctuary and slamming the door closed in a heartbeat. He fumbled the large wooden bar up across the entry and stumbled back against one of the pews, gasping in fear. The noises from outside rose and fell, making the hair on the back of Steve’s neck prickle. The sounds drifted from every direction and Steve thought that they were circling the churchyard. He looked quickly from window to window, sure that one of the creatures would come crashing through at any moment. Steve began to mutter the Lord’s Prayer, barely audible as terror tried to halt his tongue.

After what seemed an eternity the sounds lessened and then stopped. Silence fell over the church. Cautiously, Steve crept to one of the windows and peeked out but he couldn’t see anything. The beasts seemed to be gone. With a sigh Steve stepped away and looked at the creature still slumped before the altar. Had the pool of blood widened? He couldn’t be sure. Steve slowly walked through the nave until he stood by the vampire again, staring down. Finally Steve decided that the vampire had come to the church and that the church’s function had always been to provide sanctuary to whoever wished it. He didn’t know what those beasts had been outside but he was fairly sure the vampire at least wanted nothing to do with them.

Steve carefully worked his hands under the limp body, sure that any moment the vampire would awaken and Steve would have an armful of snarling creature with very sharp teeth. But the vampire remained unconscious and Steve left the sanctuary for the dormitory, drops of blood falling to the floor with every step. He gently laid the creature on a bare bed and left to fetch supplies. How does one give medical aid to a person who is technically already dead? The blood did not seem to clot, from what Steve could see. A small pool had already gathered under the vampire’s left side. Carefully, Steve pulled at the long leather coat, finding several long tears in the material. He peeled back layers until he could see the wounds in the vampire’s side under the ruined silk shirt. There were three deep gouges that tore through the vampire’s pale skin, starting mid-back and traveling over his ribs to his belly. Steve thought of the beasts that had been circling the church and winced.

The wounds bled freely and Steve worked quickly to get the vampire out of his clothing. He tossed the ruined coat, vest, and shirt into the corner. How much blood could a vampire afford to lose? Could he die if he lost too much? But he was already dead. The vampire’s chest was still and Steve repressed a shiver. He threaded a needle and set to work on sewing up the wounds. Half way through the vampire suddenly shifted and let out a whimper. Steve froze, bloody needle posed above flesh, as the vampire worked his mouth, revealing a pink tongue and sharp fangs. Then the creature seemed to settle again and Steve slowly continued, eyeing his patient warily. As Steve finished he covered the stitches with ointment, even though he had no idea if vampires had to worry about infection, and warped clean white bandages around his torso. He stepped back, bloody to his elbows, and stared down at the vampire, looking so much like a corpse. Steve gagged and raced from the bedroom to be sick in the washroom.

Dizzy and still nauseous, Steve returned to the bedroom where the vampire lay with a bucket and a scrub brush. Red had already begun to dot the white bandages. He cleaned the floor of the bedroom, feeling exhaustion creeping up on him. He went to the sanctuary, lighting a few lamps so he could see, and washed the blood from the chancel steps. He dumped the dirty red water down the sink drain in the kitchen, not wanting to chance going outside. There had been no more barking or howls like before but Steve wasn’t about to test if those beasts were still out there. Steve rinsed out the sink and slumped against the counter, mind on a numb repeat that he had a vampire convalescing in his church. He must have lost his mind.

Steve shuffled back to the dormitory. He peeked in on the vampire but the creature was as Steve had left him. Steve cleaned himself and left his bloody clothing in a heap in the washroom before collapsing back into bed. He sank into sleep effortlessly.