I’ve been toying with this idea for a little while, essentially since someone from my past had a whole faux conversation with me about how this might happen and why. I don’t remember most (if really any) of our original conversation, and unlike most other correspondence with my friends, this actually happened aloud, so it’s lost to space and time. But I’m going to try and recreate a pivotal moment for one of my lead baddies from one of my novel projects. I’ve always loved the concept, and it’s about time I get the scene at least first-drafted onto “paper.”
God, I’d forgotten how much I liked this character.
My whole body was shaking–with rage, with fear, with horror… I forced myself to my knees, a mockery of servitude and piousness but if I couldn’t even force myself through the motions then what the hell was I truly doing.
Most merciful God…
Hah. The laugh wrenched out of my chest, half caught in a sob. Merciful. If this supposedly Lord God was so damned merciful, he would have let me die.
I confess that I have sinned against you, by thought, word, and deed…
Did it matter that this had been trust upon me? That I had not chosen this fate, this curse? I knew that I was beyond redemption, but was it truly my fault that I was? The stories told that Jesus had forgiven even Iscariot, the one who betrayed him, who sold him to the cross… I was no less evil than he, yes?
No, I was far more wicked. Judas at least had the decency to kill himself when he learned the horrors he had brought. I was too cowardly even to do that. Judas had no other way of redemption, being turned away from the temple with his blood money cast on the floor. I’d sold my soul to the Devil and there was no return for me.
By things I have done, and things I have left undone…
I could still taste the copper on my lips, and it made my stomach wrench. I wanted to vomit.
I wanted more.
That made me want to vomit all the stronger.
I was sick. I was jaded and lost and vile and wicked and condemned to an eternal life of hell for a sin I did not wish to commit. My hands clenched into the wood of the pew in front of me, nails digging into the grain. I only paused when I hear the creaking of the wood beginning to give way. I was stronger now; I had to be careful.
Some compensation for all that I’d lost.
“Mssr. Eminsky? I thought that was you.” The soft voice from behind me made me start, wrenching my nails in the pew where I’d dug them and making me hiss. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s no bother, Father.” It said something that a hell beast such as myself was in a church often enough that the priests knew me by name. “I still find little solace in prayer.”
“May I?” The older man gestured to the seat next to me, and I nodded, giving him leave to sit with me. “You say so often that you are forgotten by the Almighty, Saul, and yet I find you in here quite often. For someone who claims to find so little solace in prayer, you do it quite often.”
“The exercise of prayer isn’t for solace, Father. It’s for repentance. Not that He’s listening to me anymore.” Did He ever listen? How could I believe that He did, when a steadfast child of His son was turned into this…this…abomination?
“Saul…” As much as the tender tone grated on me, I knew it came from a pure intention. “How many times must I assure you? The Lord has not forgotten you, His son. He simply has a new path for you.”
I couldn’t help the barked laugh. “A new path. Father, I am a hell-spawn creature of the highest degree. I am so ill-wanted by the light of day that the touch of it burns my skin. I cannot survive without stealing life from those around me. I am everything that He despises in this world, and yet you want to tell me that I can be forgiven. That He has a place for me in His kingdom.”
“Because I truly believe that He does, Saul.” The priest set his hand on my shoulder, and though the touch was slight, my mind ignited flames around it. Nothing so good, so pure, could touch me anymore and live. “You have told me that this…illness was thrust upon you.”
I swallowed and nodded. “Yes.”
“You were assaulted, infected without consent–informed or otherwise–and changed against your will.”
“Thank you for reminding me.” My voice was flat.
“What I am reminding you of, my friend, is that the Lord will not blame you for that in which you did not have a part to play. He cannot fault you for your illness any more than me my short stature or my brown eyes. You are not forgotten, my friend. If I believe in nothing else, I will believe in that, and I will continue to hold you in my prayers.”
I let a beat of silence go before turning to him, eyebrows furrowed. “You truly mean that.”
“Mean what, my friend?”
“All of that. That you believe I still have a place in His eyes. That you will pray for me, though I believe myself to be completely forgotten by my Creator…and that you consider me, of all things, your friend.”
“Of course.” He smiled at me, a gentle thing that warmed my dying heart as much as it wrenched it. “Your own beliefs do not need to affect mine. In fact, I would be a poor example for a man doing God’s work if I allowed the concerns of others to sway my faith so easily.” He chuckled. “No, my friend, I know you are a devout man of God, even if you were not a member of my parish before now. I can see it in your eyes, and in your heart. And that is why I call you friend, and that is why I believe you are still held close to the heart of the Lord.”
I let out a slow breath, but managed to muster up a smile for him. “Thank you, Father. If ever I am convinced…it will be because of you. Because if a man of God I respect as much as you believes that there might be redemption for those of my kind…then perhaps there is.”
“Good. I’ll not worry about you too much then.” He winked, and I chuckled. “May I pray with you, Saul?”
“Certainly, Father. Shall we?” We walked the short distance to a prie dieu in an alcove to the left of the altar, where I knelt and the father stood in front of me, resting his hands against my head.
“Lord God, thank you for the gift of Your son Saul. Thank you for leading him through these difficult times, and for always being at his right hand through the trials set before him. Keep his heart strong for what lies ahead, for the strife that society might bring him, for the hatred that comes with ignorance… Help Saul to remember, even in his darkest moments, that there is always a light–Your light–at the end of our path, lighting the way. Help him to remember how You led Your son Jesus through his temptations by the Devil, silent but sure in the wilderness. Strengthen him to remember the man who shared your name, who took his sin and turned it to good. And as the sun rises each day, and Saul struggles to remember his place in Your arms, be with him as he sleeps, and guide his dreams to tranquility and peace. All of this we ask in the name of Your son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and may the blessing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you this night, and remain with you always. Amen.”
“Amen,” I echoed softly, still feeling the traces of the man’s thumb against my forehead, the sign of the cross etched into my memory. “Thank you, Father.”
“No, thank you, Saul.” I stood and the priest shook my hand, holding my hand with both of his and that same soft smile turned up to me. “I hope that you can find peace. But as you search for it, know that my door, and the door of Ss. Gabriel and Michael are always open to you.”
“And I appreciate your kindness immensely.” I bowed to him, and got a serene nod in return, and strode out into the night.
I visited that church often. Father Alexander was a rock for me, the only glimpse of hope in a blackened world. Whatever we were, we were damned. We were the stuff of fiction, demons and monsters, and I could not believe that there was salvation for any of us…except when I was with him. I was sure that the only call I was hearing was one to eradicate my kind–and myself–from the world…until I prayed with him. Father Alexander was the only one I believed, because I could see how strongly he stood in his conviction. He was a devout man of God. If he could see good in me, then perhaps…perhaps he could see what I could not.
But my hope was short-lived.
I came to the church one night, knowing that there had been a service and thus, the father would still be there. The congregation was filing out, chattering amongst themselves, paying one solitary man no mind as he headed against the current. But standing in the church, I could not see him. I asked a few standing near me, but they all said that he had held the service, and stepped out immediately after, claiming illness. No one was concerned.
Something felt wrong. Something had happened.
Once the crowds had dispersed and I could use my abnormally keen senses to my advantage, I took a deep breath, looking for anything out of the ordinary.
Blood. I could smell blood, and a great deal of it. My feet barely touched the ground as I followed the scent–and stopped dead when I reached its source.
Father Alexander lay slumped against the side of the church, still in his vestments, crimson spreading so fast I could not tell where he’d been wounded. My mind reeled at the scent–I was famished and had not fed in days–but I forced myself to push that aside. Holy blood could speak nothing good for me. “Father,” my voice rasped as I knelt next to him.
He reached a wavering hand out to mine, and I took it, firm in my grasp. He was cold, shaking, pale. “Saul…my child, my friend. I am so sorry.”
“Sorry–no, Father you have nothing to apologize for. Why do you say that? What happened? How…” But I could see how. There was a vicious gouge in his throat; someone had gotten greedy and impatient, and bit hard rather than clean. He’d been attacked–by one of my own. Another damned wretch. “I can save you.”
“It’s far too late, Saul.” And heaven and hell be damned, I knew he was right. He’d lost far more blood than I could re-feed to him, particularly as dry as I was. He coughed, and a new ebb of blood trailed down his front. I swallowed back my instincts and grabbed at his stole, folding it and pressing it against the wound. “Please…my friend, I know I am dying.”
“I can’t let you die out here alone.” I hated how difficult it was for me to speak. How choked my words had become. “I’ll get you a doctor.”
“No, Saul.” I’d gone to stand, but he wouldn’t let my hand go. “Please…just stay here, with me. And perhaps, once I am gone…I can continue to be of one final use to you.”
My chest chilled in horror. “Father, no. I…I couldn’t. I wouldn’t dare.”
“I’m offering it to you, my friend. The blood will do me no further good. If there is any left that might help you continue on…then please, by all means, take it.” His voice was growing fainter, and I held the makeshift bandage closer. “I have done my service…and now it is time for me to return to my Father in heaven.”
“How can you still say that?” I could not tell if my voice shook with anguish or fury. “How can you still call me friend when something just like me has done this to you? Something of my ilk has wrenched your life from you?”
“Because you did not.” Such a simple sentence, and yet it cut me to the core. “Perhaps there are some who cannot be saved, Saul. But I do not believe that simply because you are burdened by this affliction, this means that you are lost.” He coughed again and my heart seized. “Please, Saul…whatever else you do, whatever you may believe as you continue on, I hope that you remember me, and my faith. I will be with you until the end, my friend. I will always watch over you.”
“I want to do more.” I couldn’t keep the tears from falling, dignity be damned along with me. “I can’t just leave you here.”
“Then stay, and pray with me, as I wait for my Father in heaven.” And so I sat, my hands slick with reverent blood, letting holy words fall from my lips until the truly blessed one could no longer say them with me, and then I watched as his life left him.
His eyes found mine, at the end, The last thing he saw in this world were the eyes of a demon, a murderer, a condemned soul.
And as his spirit left this world, so did my hope of redemption.
My kind had done this. Had taken something truly good and pure, and defiled it. Ruined it. Desecrated it.
No more. I would not allow another to die because of this. Taking the last of the priest’s…my friend’s…blood as my final strength, I rose with a new calling in life.
I would bring the plague to an end. Even if I had to kill each and every one of us myself.