Thursday, July 12, 2012

Free Story

This is a story with the same characters as my vampire novel, The Brotherhood. If you like it, tell your friends.

Crosses
by
David B. Riley


The pasty-faced man in the brown suit and red and gold necktie stood quietly at the rear of the church. He waited for the lingering parishioners to leave the Sunday evening prayer service. Then, he approached the priest. "Father, will you hear my confession?"

"Of course," Anthony Myers said. He started for the candle alcove, then hesitated. "Don't take this the wrong way. You have a look about you. Are you Catholic?"

"You know I'm not, Father. You know I'm not."

"And you want it to be a confession because of the absolute sanctity of it?" the priest asked, already knowing the answer..

"I need absolute sanctity more than I need absolution," he explained. "My soul may be beyond redemption."

"I see," the priest said. "You're a vampire then?"

"Yes."

"You are not the first. Sit down. Unburden yourself before God's humble servant," Myers invited.

"Bless me father." He crossed himself.

Anthony Myers thought that odd, but said nothing about it. "What is your name, my son?"

"I'm hardly your son. I was born when Augustus Caesar was alive."

"It's a figure of speech."

"Flavious, though I've had many names. Not many guys called Flavious hanging around downtown."



                                                                                     ***

The computer dinged. Flavious hurried to the terminal. He had mail. He quickly printed out the order. "Thank God for eBay." Then, he did a double take-they wanted the big ugly blue one. He shrugged, pulled out a Priority Mail box, and dropped in an ugly blue wooden cross with black beads on it. He printed out a label and placed the box on the pile. "No accounting for taste."

He was no longer alone.

"You made it." It was Lucien. He looked at the row of crosses and grimaced.

Flavious asked "You ever knock?"

"You're an idiot." Lucien glanced over the computer screen and slowly shook his head. "You're actually selling crosses online?"

"Yes."

"You're an idiot."

                                                                                               ***

Flavious held his hands out under the flickering lantern. "I tell you the burns were there."

Jezebel released his hands. "I think this another of your wild stories, brother." She sat back on the bench. "It will be dark soon. We'll go and see."

"But I thought you did not believe me?" her brother asked.

"I don't. But, with all the other strange things happening lately, we'll go and see just the same," she decided.

When they arrived, there was nothing but an empty road. Somehow, Flavious had convinced himself the man wearing the wooden cross would still be there. "It was right here. Fire was coming out of my hands--sparks were everywhere."

Jezebel shook her head. "I don't know, little brother. It's very hard to believe."

Flavious put his hand over his mouth to try and get his sister to quiet herself. "Someone approaches," he whispered. A short fellow was moseying along as if he had not a care in the world. He wore a gray set of robes that revealed no particular station or household. Flavious reasoned the man was most likely a traveler--yet he carried no pack. He took a considerable leap of logic and told his sister "That man's one of them."

Jezebel immediately shot out after the stranger. By the time she reached him, her eyes glowed and her fangs were fully outstretched. Then, before she could even touch him, an invisible force seemed to push her away. Her stomach tightened and her whole being filled with a sense of dread and unease. With all her strength and courage she lunged for the little man. Sparks flew off her hands. Suddenly, there it was before her--a simple wooden cross. Her whole hand felt as if it was on fire. She withdrew and the pain quickly faded. "What are you?" she screamed.

The man shrugged. "I was going to ask you the same."

Jezebel looked at her swollen hands in disbelief. "This can't be happening." She noticed the man was some distance down the road, running as fast as his stubby legs could carry him. She had no desire to pursue. The throbbing pain was unbelievable. It was a battle not to buckle over from it.

"See!" Her brother was next to her. "It's just a cross."

She vowed, "I don't know what manner of sorcery did this, little brother. But, sure as Hades, I'm going to find out."

It was nearly daybreak when the two of them reached the mountain peak. Being unfamiliar with the area, they'd wandered around for quite some time before they were able to find it.

"Why didn't you take to the sky?"a familiar voice asked out of the darkness, from inside the mouth of the cave.

She ran forward and embraced the man. "Oh, it's so good to see you. We haven't fed in days. I lack the strength to fly."

"Why is that?" He pried himself away and greeted Flavious. "You haven't fed either, I take it?"

"That's why we're here. There is a problem, my beloved," Jezebel said.

"The sun rises my pet." He held out his wrist. "You need strength." He looked back inside the cave, at one of the women. "Come, refresh young Flavious. And, no doubt, he'll be wanting more than a sip of your blood," he said as he patted her rounded bottom.

The sun was still up, though low in the sky when everyone inside the cave began to stir again. Jezebel found Lucien gazing off from the mouth of the cave. "The sun, I can't believe it's still up."

"Summer approaches. The dreadful solstice, when our time is taken short from us so the mortals can tend the fields and frolic in the sea." He put his arm around her. "I hate this time of year."

"And it gets so blasted hot," Flavious said as he joined them. "Resting is so hard when it's so blasted hot."

"So it is." Lucien sat on the rock. "And now, you would tell me this dreadful news of yours?"

"It's the most amazing thing," Flavious said, then he shut up. The look from Lucien convinced him he wanted Jezebel to tell the story.

When Jezebel had finished, Lucien placed his hands on the back of his head and leaned against the cave wall. "The men who wear these little crosses strung round their necks call themselves Christians. They symbolize the crucifixion of their founder from a few years back. This fellow, Jesus, had certain powers that I can't fully explain. They briefly had a fish shape, then the crosses started appearing."

Flavious twisted his neck and stared at Lucien. "You said this fellow has been crucified? Do you mean he's one of us? Can't quite die?"

Lucien slid off the rock and stretched. "No, not like us. I suspect these crosses are some sort of talisman supplied to ward our people away. I'm glad you came to me. We shall get to the bottom of this, but first let's find somewhere to feed, somewhere without crosses."

***

The little man scratched his head, trying to catch whatever new parasite had taken up residence on his scalp. He tossed another stick in the fire, then licked his fingers for what last essence remained of the rancid bird he'd found lying dead alongside the road a few hours earlier. He leaned back on the dirt and gazed off into the sky as the last flicker of sunlight gave way to the canopy of night. It was such a lovely night. He knew his serenity would be short-lived. It always was on these nights--some farmer outraged that he'd fondled a daughter, someone incensed over a missing pig. He tried to relax and enjoy the moment. As usual, that was all he had--a moment. He hated these peaceful nights. Something bad always happened.

"There's one," a woman screamed a moment later. "Over here."

The little man tried to scramble to his feet, but a powerful hand latched onto his left shoulder. "I know you?" he asked as he looked up to see if he really did.

"I don't believe so," Lucien said.

"Let go of me," the little man protested. "You got no call bothering me here. I didn't do nothing."

The grip vanished. Lucien sort of nodded and moved around to stand next to the fire. "You're right my dear, he is one."

"One what?" It now occurred to him there were three people in his camp. "What you folks want with me?"

"My good fellow," Lucien calmly explained. "We're here to kill you and drink your blood."

The little man made it three steps before Flavious grabbed him and picked him up off the ground. "You can't get away from us." Lucien was staring crossly at him. He made a gesture Flavious didn't understand.

"Get on with it, Flavious," Lucien commanded.

"But?" Flavious stared at the crude wooden cross the little man was wearing.

"Get on with it," Lucien again demanded.

Reluctantly, Flavious started to reach for the cross with his free hand. Sparks flew off his palm and he winced from the pain.

Sensing the distraction, the little man jerked free and headed for the darkness of the bushes. In two steps, Lucien overtook him and he was again dangling in the air. "Where did you get it?"

"What?"

"This object. Where did you get it?" Lucien demanded.

He looked down at the crude wooden cross. "It's a crucifix. These fellows gave it to me after they told me about Jesus."

Flavious asked. "How can this Jesus do this to us?"

"Is there some sort of incantation to make it work?" Lucien asked.

"Make it work? It's just a cross."

***

Steam rolled off the spilt blood that trickled from the tall Viking's neck as the red liquid pooled and congealed in the snow. "You let the blood flow from his veins?" Lucien asked.

"There's another one just over that hill. I cannot eat any more now," Flavious said.

"You took two?"

"Yes, I took two." Flavious placed the board on his victim's chest. Then he placed the second on top to form the shape of a cross. He touched the lumber freely. "This, it confuses me."

"You are an idiot," Lucien said.

"Why won't it work?"

Lucien started back toward the home they were renting. "These people still worship Odin and Thor. They've never heard of Jesus. That's why we came here. That's why your cross will not work."

"That can't be it. It makes no logic to me," Flavious insisted.

***

When the others had cleared out, Flavious approached Father Albert. "Father, do you wear a cross around your neck?"

The young priest looked puzzled. "During services. At social gatherings like tonight, I do not."

"Oh." Flavious seemed so disappointed. "I didn't know about Lutherans. Catholics sleep with the blasted things. He grabbed the priest and plunged his fangs into the man's neck. When the priest was dead and his blood consumed, Flavious stretched the cleric's body out on the floor of the town hall. He broke off two boards, arranged them as a cross, then touched the display without incident.

"Still at it?" a voice asked. It was Lucien.

"What do you mean?" Flavious asked.

"You've been obsessed with crosses since your first one. Give it a rest," Lucien said.

"But, I make it and nothing happens. If he had one on him, it would be like the aurora in the arctic sky." Flavious kicked one of the boards away. "There would be sparks and pain everywhere."

"I've seen your room. You must have a hundred crosses," Lucien said.

"And I made each one. If I drop one on a sidewalk, and some chap comes along and picks it up, it will protect him."

Lucien shook his head. "Give it a rest. Accept what is."

                                                                                ***

Flavious peered down at the huge pile of lumber. "It's all here?"

"Yeah. Will you sign for it?" the truck driver asked.

Flavious signed the invoice, then accepted the pink copy.

"Thanks pal."

Flavious paced anxiously in the barn, until the Menses brother's truck pulled up an hour late. "Okay, I've gotten the supplies. Build it."

"I'd feel better if we had a permit," Joe argued.

Flavious grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and lifted him off the ground.. "We've been through this. I'm paying you very well. Build the damn thing."

"Better get started then," Joe said.

"Finally."

They were finished just after dark. Flavious raced up the hill to inspect it. It was the most perfect cross he'd ever seen. And he was so glad he'd gone for the light colored pine. The massive cross was indeed everything he'd ever dreamed of. He handed Joe Menses a thousand dollars. "Now be back at five A.M. and I'll pay you the rest."

Flavious sat quietly on the hillside and waited. Just after five, the Menses brothers returned.

"Are you sure you really want to do this?" Joe Menses asked.

"Absolutely," Flavious answered. "Let's get on with it. The sun will be up in a few minutes."

The men attached him to the cross bar by securing his wrists with chain. Then they hoisted him upward and snapped him into place. "Bet the Romans never had this."

"Bet not," Flavious said. "Now pull the burlap away."

"How long you gonna stay up there?" Menses asked.

"All day. It's Good Friday all day," Flavious said.

"All rightee then." Joe pulled hard on the cloth. It fell away from the cross just as it was designed to. Instantly, sparks began to fly off the wood, lots and lots of sparks. "What the?"

"Fear not. It is meant to be. Leave me now!" Flavious yelled.

A car screeched up. The brothers looked at it, then at their handiwork, then they fled in their truck.

"Get down from there!" Father Myers screamed.

"Not possible." The sparks almost covered him as if he were a pyrotechnic display. "Even if I wanted to.

"The cross won't actually kill you," the priest said.

"It doesn't have to." Flavious' gaze was now elsewhere. "Behold."

The priest looked back over his shoulder. The first rays of sunlight were slicing through the dawn sky. In minutes, the vampire's flesh was smoking. His ear-piercing screams forced the priest to cover his ears. Then, finally, silence. The vampire crumpled up into a burning ash, which blew away on the morning breeze.

Father Myers knelt on the ground. He wondered how many priests had ever tried to pray for a vampire.

No comments:

Post a Comment