Darkness… The faintest feeling of floating, drifting in this vast abyss of nothingness. My thoughts, fleeting from my mind, or perhaps was it my entire being that threatened to fade away?.. Who am I or perhaps… was I? Where am or was I? But most importantly where was when? Time seemed to still, or maybe flew by so fast I could never quite grasp it. How long would I remain here, along, before..?
There! A light!
Something akin to… Euphoria washed over me as I focused on the somewhat small dot, trying to bring it closer by the strength of my own will since moving proved to be…. impossible. Silly thoughts, really. Or at least so I believed until something quite peculiar happened; the dot was growing. Perhaps it would be better to say that rather than moving itself it was moving me towards it, as it it had become the center of my gravity. It was the sun and me, lonely earth inexorably falling, or gliding, forward faster and faster to finally collide unto it, bringing with its liberation the gift of… Pain. Agony so violent that it felt as if my body was alight by flames, making me want to jerk and pull away from the source of torment, but the light remained, unforgiving in its assaulting attraction. White filled my view, so… bright it felt like my nerve endings were frying from the sheer force of it. It was so… difficult to think under this… Pressure. Hard to breathe, but I needed to. I needed to breathe…
Death… Since the apple was plucked from the sacred tree, mortality was believed to be God’s punishment… A righteous snare to keep mankind from ascending to the stars. They were all so wrong! Death is not a wicked thing, nor some holy retribution. A true punishment would be to never know its sweet kiss. Awaken from the harshness and be born once more…
Confusion, overwhelming and unbound. Thoughts crashing against one another like the waves of the Thames upon London’s sidewalks. A voice, beckoning as I gasped for air, body ablaze as I jerked upright, lost in this sea of grey. Where was I? Who was I? What happened? Who was talking? I looked around, ending face-to-face with the degraded corpse of a man. Screaming, I shoved it away, looking around for an escape path, causing me to crawl frantically towards the ramp and another blinding light. I clawed my way out of this pit of misery, scrambling to my feet with great difficulty, as if my body was made of lead, molten lead. Standing up was a hard task, even more so when the world started spinning around me. My throat was parched, my mouth, dry, rasping grunts was the only sound I seemed capable of as I attempted to walk.
Someone was calling. I did not know who but I could hear her voice, calling me, pleading to come home. But where was home? Was Jonathan my name? It must be, or so I assumed as I made my way towards the voice, catching glimpses of scarlet trails across the cobblestone floors, painting the way towards a vibrant source of light. Pulsing red in the distance, moving, almost fleeting. Whatever that was, I needed it, or so I was told by my instinctive feeling of grasping onto it and claiming it. I walked, more so stumbled, towards the crimson shine, each step bringing another wave of torment. Thirsty… So thirsty… I couldn't help but mumble, voice hoarse and heavy to my own ears, yet… Far. As that voice talked to herself, reminiscing old memories or at least I thought it was memories… Focus snapped back to the lithe form before me, the glow was so intense I could barely tell her feature! Not that it mattered as she was facing away from me. Lone light in a cold world… I needed it, but was unable to grasp it as I reached for her, ending up only shoving and startling her. But she did not run. No, she gasped in surprise and cupped my face in her palms instead before hugging me, cries of delight and relief escaping from her lips. Sounds seemed to quieten as time slowed when I felt her arms around me and her body against mine. I was slumped over, cheek pressed against her warmth. The beating noises were so loud in this peaceful moment! I was so cold… So thirsty I had barely any saliva left and my entire being was agony, body screaming to take in such violence that my lips curled, pain blooming in my gums as I returned the embrace only to sink my teeth into the soft flesh beneath.
If she screamed I barely registered it. Entranced as I was when the liquid poured down my throat, easing the ache in such a way that I shook. Greedily drinking, sucking as hard as I could like a drunk man finally having a drink after maddening wait. Bliss swiftly followed as I let go, unable to take any more even though I still wanted it, body thrumming with life and colors returning slowly as I sighed, head thrown back in ecstasy. I barely recollect gripping my chest as the pain suddenly vanished, but the mix of strangled cries, gurgles and coughs instantly brought me back along a voice that would forever haunt me.
- Oh, Jonathan… My sweet brother… What have you done?..
Mary?! My blood ran cold as her whimpers filled my mind. No… This couldn’t be right! Had I just..? No! I could still save her! Panic replaced euphoria as I grabbed the arm she stretched towards me as she was choking on her own blood, the mark of my treason etched in her throat in the form of puncture wounds left by my teeth. Mary! No, Mary… Stay with me, please! Forgive me, but please stay! I did not mean to do this! This is a nightmare, it must be! My mind was racing as I ripped a piece of cloth from my own shirt, trying to apply pressure to the wound to ebb the blood flow, but… There was no use. Even if I begged for her to hold on, praying to God for her to just live… She left me. Oh God… Oh no… Mary, no… I didn’t know what to do anymore. I had just killed the ray of hope in these godforsaken times. Sorrow crushed my heart as I gently lifted her up, hugging her limp form as I cried, denial strong within me even though the facts were there. As the pain passed I was able to slowly letting her go, kissing her goodbye while still praying that this was not right. When I finally set her down, a confused despair forever frozen upon her features, her eyes questioning me, accusing almost.
What have I done? This horror… It’s a nightmare… I was numb, sadness filled my being as I stared forward, unable to look at her anymore. This was my fault, wasn’t it?..
- You done killed her, you beast!
An angry shout, then a shot. Pain blooming in my shoulder as I begged for them to let me explain. But what was there to explain? There were so many! Dark clothed men and women shouting for my death as I was forced to flee. Forced to leave Mary in a damned mass grave. Because that’s what it was, wasn’t it? All these bodies piled up on another… And I left her there, without any choice, again! Frustration mixed with panic, a hearty cocktail that drove me forward and down to the sidewalk. Forced to run for my life, by fear of it being taken away so soon after gaining it back, and leave my poor Mary to rot. So I ran, for if I could at least do one thing for her, it was not to die shot down like the rabid dog they thought I was. Surely they could be reasoned with! I just had to convince them not to shoot me. Simple enough, I thought. Right… As easy as convincing a military officer that’s scared of needles to not rip the IV needles out… I ran through dark alleyways, through blocked off streets, nearly getting shot multiple times before jumping down a narrow passage between roads that seemed safe enough for me to gather my thoughts even though I still heard them roaming above.
Oh, Mary, what have I done? I could not think about her now. I had to get moving or they would find me and I was certain they had another way of talking than the one I prefered. One with bullets… And a machete, apparently! I dodged out of the way as one of these bastards lunged at me, ripping a growl from me that was everything but human before I grabbed the first thing that fell into my hands and then proceeded to riposte. The man grabbed his throat with both hands as I struck, gurgling as blood came gushing out. I felt terrible but he left me no choice! I ran through what I thought was sewer tunnels before going up another flight of stairs and startling another man that tried to shoot me down. I cut him down too, muttering an apology as I made my way into what looked like a foundry. Wait, I knew this place, but of course that thought too was cut by more yells. What was wrong with these people? I was just a man that was sick! I had to run between cauldrons of molten metal, bullets bouncing against the casts before cutting down two more young men down. There was an intoxicating smell mixing with that of the heat which I could not exactly pinpoint, so I decided to try and figure out where I ended up instead. The place was huge, but seemed… abandoned? The state of disarray of the place surely did not help me thinking otherwise as I made my way to the back, coughing a little as I pushed forward. This must be Dawson and Dawson’s-…
As soon as I made my way through the back doors I was welcomed rather warmly with a gun pointed at my chest. Startled, I tried to plead with this one man whose face was obscured by a hat and a scarf, but I could see the disgust in his eyes very clearly as he ignored my questions. I tried to tell him that I meant no harm, that I needed help, going as far as to lift my hands in a sign of surrender as I tried to slowly approach him.
- Die, you fucking leech!
Clicks. The gun would not fire. I did not know if it was a sign meant to push me forward but I’d be damned if I missed that occasion! He panicked and tried to flee, visibly afraid of me, but why? I needed to make sense of all this and this man would help me! He needed to! I grabbed onto him as he tried to run past me, throwing his gun aside, and he fought surprisingly well against my grapple but I was determined to have my answers.
- Shut up, beast!
He didn't have to be so rude… He ignored my questions on his people, which was to be foreseen, so then I tried to ask him what this was all about as he struggled to put me into the light. And the Pain. The damnable agony akin to the one I woke up to, but worse, bloomed from the exposed skin on my arm, ripping a cry from me. What in God’s…
- The sun will do the rest of the job!
I had enough of this madness! My skin was… charring! Under the sun’s light! I shoved the man away and ran, telling them to leave me be. To be fair, he probably did the same, scurrying to whatever hell hole they crawled out of to torment me. Gasping as the pain receded after a moment or two I pushed myself to keep moving even after this stunning misadventure. The sun.. It felt as if it was burning me to the bones! If that was so then I needed to find somewhere to hide and fast, for dawn was quickly approaching.
I made my way outside, more careful than ever with these lunatics around. As silent as I tried to be, one lone vigilante spotted me, aiming a… Was that crossbow bolt on fire? Oh, for God’s sake… I dodged out of the way and did little work of this man as frustration finally took over. I had enough of these games! I needed to find shelter! So I ran to the first red door adorned by the words “Keep Out” written in white chalk over its red painting, slammed it open, then closed it swiftly and roughly as I entered. Panicking, I looked around for anything to block the door, deciding to push an old and sturdy library shelf before the entrance, keeping the brutes from entering. I heard them shout and run outside but fortunately they seemed to have lost all tracks they had on me. Finally some peace…
The place seemed abandoned and nobody replied when I inquired, so I looked around. I did not feel like snooping in a space where nobody lived in was that terrible, no, not after all this had happened. I found an intriguing manuscript by a certain Carl Eldritch who was supposedly the leader of something called “Priwen” and the piece described morbidly the effect of the sun upon… Leeches. I folded the paper and put it in my pocket. It looked to be a misplaced page of a book, a book I could probably find and use as a reference of the barbaric methods these Priwen people used in their witch hunt. For that was what it was, was it not? A witch hunt! Otherwise that could mean that… No! I would not think of this. Not now. I looked around some more, an odd smell tickling my nose but I brushed it off as I tumbled upon a frame with a lovely couple smiling at the camera. It sparked something in me as I saw myself embracing my poor twin sister again. Her words haunted me even now… Mary. I’m so sorry… Whoever did this to us, I will find them! This I swore as I set the picture back, noticing the glint of something on the desk before grabbing it. Five shillings… Surely nobody would mind if I took it? I pocketed the coins and walked into another part of the house.
I was not expecting the gruesome scene that met me, but I had at least found the source of the sickenly sweet smell. It came from the decaying remains of a woman whose body was scarred and mangled by some sickness I had never seen before! The cause of her death was obvious; a shot to the head, probably to end her misery. In her hand, I found a watch that reminded me of the one that I had. Another flashback, but… This time I saw myself and what I assumed were gravediggers before they apparently pocketed my property and made a terrible undertaker pun then proceeded to throw me into the mass grave. Even though one of them had reservations towards graverobbing, it did not keep him from getting persuaded to fence my watch! But, wait… That was impossible! How could I have seen something that happened during my coma? Maddening…
I looked around some more, deciding there was little I could do for the woman at this point and, after retrieving a bottle of alcohol, I made my way upstairs. The house was in a pretty bad shape, but I was somewhat thankful of the boarded up windows keeping the sun’s rays away from me. Some doors were blocked by a mountain of furniture, so I settled to go into the only room whose door was opened, ending face-to-face with my own reflection glaring back at me with weary eyes and… My God! I looked so filthy! My clothes were stained with dirt and unknown oils and although my skin was free of scars and blemishes I did not have before, it looked clammy, dirty and there was blood absolutely everywhere. To think I ripped a piece of this shit to try to help Mary… I would have made things worse, had she survived! This left me thinking about what got me here, glimpses of a fateful night came to my mind before memories came rushing back. I was walking back home after being back from war to come and tend to my sickly mother when a voice had suddenly risen from the darkness, calling to a child of the dark to take scent, or whatever that meant. Then vivid pain at my throat before my strength vanished and I was left alone in the cold, dying…
Twelve dreams for the red queen that sleeps under the crown of stone. That she might linger longer, her eyes as white as bones. A prayer for the summoned by warring song, a child born from the darkness must take scent of his path.
Startled by the recollection of the words spoken, I snapped back to whatever reality I was stuck in, noticing the puncture wounds at my neck under caked blood. Bite wounds… Just like Mary’s… I shook the thought away, the memory hurting and annoying me at the same time. I found another five shillings on the drawer besides the mirror before making my way further in the room. I was getting tired of all this misery… Probably as tired as the man that laid crooked in his chair, dead from a shot to the head that he inflicted upon himself. I retrieved his gun, it still had bullets and could prove useful for what I would plan next. So the wife and the husband were reunited ultimately in death, I assumed. These thoughts were confirmed by the man’s diary that provided me with some insight on the woman’s disease. She had caught a virus akin to the flu, but it worsened and seemed to have turned her feral then impotent, which resulted in her current state and then her husband’s. I found a syringe on the table near the man. Not sure what I would do with it yet, but… Whatever I could get my hands on would help. I pocketed the syringe and looked at the gun again, flashback from war this time. How grand. Yes, I was a military surgeon, I remember now. The memory is sour as I recall telling the other medic that killing was a hell of a lot easier than healing, but I was fooling myself. It never got easy, no.
I looked around to make sure there was nothing hiding in here besides me and then looked at the bed. If there was one thing I remembered from having nightmares as a child, it was that normally when the beast caught you or killed you, you ended up waking up. Now, since I had no want of going against the mad men outside, there was only one alternative remaining. I was too much of a coward to go to my death or just wait for it, so it will be by my terms and mine only. I took a deep breath, sat on the bed, glared at the man’s peaceful expression before I finally laid down, taking another breath before pointing the gun directly at my heart. Rational thoughts only… I fired.
There was a great deal of pain before darkness welcomed me again, perhaps for one final time if I had been wrong…