This Dreadful Deed
by PAUL H. KOGEL
t must be here…somewhere,” I repeated over and over to the rhythm of my heart. I inched my way through the graveyard, taking one trembling step to every fourth or fifth beat. I knew better than to come here before dawn, but I had to know where she lay and I could not wait for her transformation to be completed. Oh sure, I could wait. I could save her mortal soul even if she turned, but could she ever forgive me for allowing her to change, even for one night, when it was in my power to prevent it? God only knows what horror she might endure, or what horror she might cause another during a dark, unholy night.
I jumped at the hooting of an owl. I might have chuckled at my folly, had I not such grievance upon my heart. Sarah is a goddess to me, and to lose her is the end of life, as I know it. I can still see, in my mind’s-eye, the way she would look up at me and smile that smile of beckoning, daring me to come close and embrace her. Oh God, I cannot bear the thought of losing her to the undead. And so help me, I shall not bear it. As God is my witness, I will not allow it.
“God, give me the strength,” I whispered, through trembling lips. “Help me to find the tomb and rid my beloved Sarah of the devil’s curse, and to win her back into your Holy Arms.”
Lightning flashed and thunder rolled through the night as I cinched up my cloak against a sudden bitter-cold gust and halted in my tracks. It was as if God had heard my prayer. I stared at the entrance to the crypt. My heart leaped, and then stopped beating for a chilling moment. I had arrived at my destination.
The yawning entrance was dark. The shape of a cherub or perhaps a gargoyle, roosted upon the sill, obscured by dark mold. Was he at watch, perhaps on guard? Or was he just resting after his journey into hell? The billowing low-lying fog hid the cold stone steps from my view, but I instinctively knew they were there, leading down into the bowels of the earth. The iron-picket gate swung slightly in the wind, squeaking an eerie welcome. My knuckles were white as my left hand gripped the wooden stake and the fingers of my right hand closed on the short-handled sledge.
I swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and with dread, began my descent into the cold, hollow grave. The moon’s half-light that had barely lit my way vanished inside the crypt. I looked about, and finding a torch in a sconce, cautiously set aside the sledge and stake, my only means of protection. Glancing about with trepidation, I quickly used my flint-stoke to set the torch ablaze. The light danced with the shadows in sordid delight, but the dance could not obscure the large gray stone, which housed a coffin in the center of the crypt. The name carved on it was not that of my beloved. The writing was plain and easy to read: Calvin DarClay. As I retrieved my weapons I tried to spit at the name, but failed. My throat was parched and dry. He was to blame. He took her from me.DarClay the Damned.
As hatred flooded my soul, I thought for a moment I should have brought two stakes with me, but I realized that he would not be here. He would be about in the night, seeking out his next victim. He would be sliding quietly between the dim street-lamps, slipping into shadow as he found his way to an open window, or unlatched door. He might even be lurking in a darkened alley, waiting for an unlucky lady-of-the-night or an unfortunate drunkard to pass his way. No, he would not be here; he would be about his evil deeds. But I would get him too. After I have freed my Sarah, and in the light of day, I shall return for him. I shall plan his demise carefully, for at that hour, salvation will not be my goal.
As I passed beyond DarClay’s coffin, the light dimmed and I thought I heard a fluttering sound behind me. I quickly turned but saw nothing. Nothing, that is, until I noticed a bat hanging from a rafter above. It sent a shiver down my spine. It stretched thick, leathery wings, and then folded them around its body, as though resting.
“Strange,” I thought, “for bats should also be on the prowl at this hour”. But I gave it no further thought—bats were not my purpose this night.
I could hear the pulse of my blood surging through my veins as I inched my way deeper into the crypt, stalking into a place further against the back wall where the torchlight just barely reached. There I could see a wooden box lying in a recess of the wall. Once I was upon it, I still could not see within, for it held its darkness too firmly. However, above it, in the wall, hung another sconce that held a small candle. Once lit, it shed just enough light to allow me to examine the contents of the box.
Again my heart skipped a beat, as my sweet Sarah lay sleeping within, seemingly in perfect peace. A tear blurred my vision and I swallowed hard to keep from crying out. I can’t remember ever seeing her look so lovely. Her dark hair laid combed and plumed in stark contrast to the white silk pillow. Her lips were ruby red, her cheeks pink with blush, but her skin was pale beyond its normal hue. She wore a gown of silver and gold and light-blue slippers were upon her feet. Her arms lay at her side, and I could see she was still breathing, albeit shallow and labored.
“Oh sweet Sarah,” I mourned, “why by the wings of Satan has he done this to you? Why would any soul wish to harm such an angel?”
But I knew in the twisted mind of Calvin DarClay, there was no wish to harm, as mortals would consider harm, but to preserve for some demonic eternity. Oh, but at what cost. Ultimately, such a price is measured in blood, and life, and the loss of one's immortal soul. What a terrible price indeed. I shall see to it that Sarah does not pay such a price.
I was again startled by a fluttering sound behind me. Upon turning, however, I saw only the same bat, once again drawing his wings about him. I sighed my relief, “Dear God, how I hate bats”.
Turning about again, I set my mind on the task and lifted the wooden stake, placing its jagged edge at the point of her heart. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath dreading the deed I must perform; yet knowing in my heart I had no choice. With a trembling hand, I lifted the sledge and paused as another roll of thunder sounded. One more deep breath and I opened my eyes and was about to strike, when again the fluttering sound came from behind me and a sudden rush of wind struck at my back.
Before I could think, strong arms enfolded about my chest. I was stuck firmly in the grip of a vice. In my horror, I tried desperately to turn to see my assailant but his grip was too powerful for me to overcome. I was jerked violently backward, which forced the hammer from my hand sending it bouncing across the cold, hard, concrete floor with an echoing ricochet. I glanced down at the arms about me and saw black sleeves with snow white hands protruding out from them. The long thin fingers, tipped with dark talon-like nails, sported a black onyx ring with the shape of a silver bat. I knew immediately it was Calvin DarClay’s ring. Fear gripped my heart with its icy fingers and my body and soul froze in its embrace.
“Dear God in heaven,” I cried in silence, for breath could not escape my lungs, “surely I am undone.”
Then, to my horror, his left hand slipped up to my neck and I screamed with pain as his sharp fingernail cut deep into my flesh. At that moment I saw Sarah sit up, apparently awakened by the scuffle. She turned her head toward me and grinned with a macabre smile, trance-like and morbid. Then, dear God, it happened. I felt the pain shutter through my whole body as DarClay’s fangs bit down into my bloodied neck. A strong wave of nausea swept through me, and my head began to spin as dizziness flooded my mind. I felt my body begin to sway and my legs began to fail me. Suddenly I felt myself flying through the air as DarClay flung my body across the chamber as easily as one may swat a fly. I hit the floor with a tremendous thud, but to my surprise, felt no pain of broken bones. I skidded to a crashing halt against the sarcophagus and lay in a heap there in the dust of the crypt.
When I looked up through clouded vision, I saw him turn toward Sarah but quickly he spun back toward me, his coal-black cape flaring wide. He looked at me with blood-red eyes and I think I saw fire at their center.
He stretched out his hand toward me and said, “Tell me true . Have you come to save her…or to join her?” Then he threw back his head and laughed so wickedly, it echoed throughout the chamber and drove my heart deeper into my chest.
I tried to rise but staggered backward, falling again to the ground. The chamber was still spinning and I could not find my footing. But upon reaching out for my balance, I discovered to my amazement, I still held the wooden stake in my hand.
“Makes no difference,” he continued. “I have decided that you shall join her.”
With that, he leaped through the air. I tried in vain to lift the stake to a height that would impale him, but in my weakness I was too slow, and he fell upon me. I screamed in agony as his fangs once more found their mark. I felt the source of life; the blood of my father, flowing out of me and nearly fainted away. Nevertheless, I fought for control over my body against the hypnotic pulse of the monster that weighed me down. He lifted his head to the ceiling and cried out with a horrifying, beastly sound, gleeful of his conquest. At that moment I felt his weight lighten and managed to free my arm. With all the strength I had left in me, I cried out and thrust the stake at his chest. It struck its mark and I felt the warmth of his blood on my hand as it shot out of him in a gush.
He looked down with wide-eyed astonishment, unable at first to comprehend what had happened. For a moment there was silence. His eyes met mine with a look of confusion, and then shifted to the stake protruding from his chest with my shaking fingers still firmly wrapped around it. He tossed back his head and cried out with an ear-piercing scream.
I watched as his flesh disintegrated into blood, muscle and bone. He turned to dust before my eyes, hanging in the air for a brief moment before blowing away, as another gust of wind swept through the chamber and thunder rolled once more across the night sky.
Through the haze before my eyes, the last thing I saw was Sarah, still sitting up and smiling at me. I must have fainted away just then, for I dreamed a dream of madness. It was an abstract dream, but I remember darkness, moonlight, gravestones, and blood. There was a whistling wind, hoots of an owl and screams in the night. It was all meshed together, intertwined in horror and agony.
When I awoke I felt strange inside, as if something within me was missing. There was lightness in my head and emptiness to my soul. Even though I felt like this, I also never felt so alive. There was strength in my body, firmness in my muscles, clarity to my vision and energy and youth flowed through me as never before. I sat up, bracing my back against the cold sarcophagus and looked over at Sarah’s box. She was sitting straight up and pointed with a snow-white finger to the entrance to the crypt. I stood and looked toward the door and there I saw the morning sun shining in across the floor as far as it ever would in this dark place. I turned back to Sarah as she spoke.
“You never answered him, my love,” she said, in a voice that sounded like it came from afar. “Have you come to save me or to join me?” She laughed aloud, showing long, sharp fangs and laid down, disappearing below the rim of the box. Her transformation was complete.
I lifted myself into the sarcophagus and sat where once Calvin DarClay had lain. “I must change the name upon my bed at my first opportunity,” I said, and laid myself down to sleep.
© 2006 Paul H. Kogel. All Rights Reserved.
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