Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sneak Peak: A Vampire's Reckoning

V.M.K. Fewings


THE POWERFUL, DISTURBING images—portraits of memories, a lingering resonance drawing together, fragments of consciousness—at times, I find myself reliving those fateful moments, surrendering to the consuming, agonizing details of June of the year of our Lord 1803.
I falter in the chill of the night, in the fractured stillness within the great pillars of Stonehenge. Exhausted from my journey, caught up in terror, the darkness engulfs me. But I will not flee, for the promise I have made, I cannot break—my life for that of another. I fear mortality. My apprehension intensifies.
The wait is over.
It is time to wake up.
I want to lead you to safety, distract you, and destroy the clues that lure you into my world. It’s too late for that now. This shakes me to the core. It’s impossible to turn back the clock, but I still crave peace, still want to gauge this feeling. Reassuringly, my expression does little to reflect such. In fact, all that my presence conveys is the demeanor of a twenty-five year old Englishman, and it easily disguises the enigma of my ageless, chiseled features.
Within those dark Wiltshire woods, hidden from view, I leaned my frame against the trunk of a large tree and stared, memorizing each groove and fissure of Stonehenge.
Scattered thoughts; a multitude of ways to begin.
Unable to stay still for long, I started pacing. Sunrise was only an hour away. A waning moon provided meager light. My gaze darted nervously. These murders had been committed to gain my attention, and it was working.
By my own hand my involvement was set, the consequence of my actions drawing me in. I watched the police exploring the area near the dead girl, positioned face up on the sacrificial stone. Though not foreign to death, I hoped I wouldn’t throw up on my tailored Savile Row suit. The mud on my shoes bothered me and the drizzling rain didn’t help.
Once apprentice to The Keeper of the Stones, such was the catalyst for all my nightmares. This was not how I envisioned my life unfolding. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s just that these were the darkest of days. Sharing it with you provides some comfort.
I should not start here.
My aim is to earn your trust, so that you gain insight and are able to comprehend the unfeasible. It’s important that this is documented. How ironic that I now reveal what I once strived to keep hidden. Time has proven that it is safer for you to have this knowledge, so that you can prepare.
You want proof. I shall provide it, if you give me an open mind. After all, you have come this far. Therefore, I scribe this for you, in the sanctity of my study, here in St. Michael’s Mount in Marazion.
Travel back with me.
The smoke and mirrors of my youth now seem such a brief moment in a long and unordinary life that passed with timeless ease. Those were the years when I knew only innocence. Cornwall, my birthplace, was renowned for its pleasant bays with their golden sands and bleak, sprawling moors.
Heritage made me the lord of a great castle that had been in my family for generations. This immense and towering mansion, grandly structured upon a small island east of Penzance, rests steadfast—as if a part of the very circular island it was built upon. The only access is by foot at low tide, or boat when the sea is in. Once, as a boy, I got caught when the tide turned. It never happened again.
Within these ancient walls, I grew up and took living in such a place for granted. Not so much now. The grand castle had once been a monastery owned by British Royalty during the Reformation, only to be sold again by Queen Elizabeth I to my ancestor, the Earl of Salisbury. The famous ancient vision of the Archangel Michael on the island had even inspired the occasional zealous religious pilgrim. Nevertheless, my father had been reluctant to encourage such an invasion, even one
as passive as Christian visitors. He used large hunting dogs to keep the unrelenting observers away and the staff in.
In my mind, I wander the corridors, settling in the Great Hall with its low beams, arched windows, and stone walls, bestowing gothic sconces and ancient relics—typical of an affluent and powerful family of its time. Great tapestries hang fast on the walls—priceless paintings positioned this way and that in order to catch or avoid light. Exquisite Roman rugs strewn over the cold stone floors, and candles light the rooms, casting unfamiliar shadows over everything. During fierce winters, the cold is unrelenting, hence the thick walls and grand hearths within.
The castle’s history is as varied as its many rooms—a regal ballroom, which has entertained kings; an armory, which held the weapons used for their battles; lavish bedrooms fitted for visiting dignitaries, a large kitchen, and modest servants’ quarters. The rooms facing south overlook the terrace and provide a good view of the gardens below. The castle’s imposing towers, once used by loyal castle guards as sentries, look out over the ocean.
Now in the twenty-first century, the posts stand empty. Very often, I like to go up there to breathe in the fresh sea air and admire the view. On occasion, when inspired, I even take my paints and a fresh canvas to capture the dramatic Southern nightscapes. My artistic nature is a good contrast to my athletic pursuits. I am a worthy fencing opponent.
I have traveled, yes, but this is home, where I feel most comfortable; yet still I am unable to shake off the eerie calm of the place. Visitors seldom come here, though when they do, they are excited to take a tour and explore the rare artifacts that have withstood the test of time.
Human nature is appealing when presented in its purest form, but I seem to move in circles that reflect the darkest of realms. By following this venture of self-discovery, I unveiled a supernatural truth. Indulge me again and allow me to wander back, for perhaps soon all I will have will be the memories of my beloved castle.
The library and reading rooms are favorites of mine. Alex, my younger brother of two years, and I received our many and varied lessons within these very tenements, presented by the finest of teachers. We were lectured in the arts, sciences, languages, music, and mastered horsemanship and hunting. My father ensured that we became proficient swordsmen, rounding out our education. Renaissance at its best.
When our lessons were over we spent our time playing, tirelessly investigating each room; but we stayed clear of the servants’ quarters for fear of being smacked around the head by the moody cook. We became familiar with the castle’s lower chambers, even venturing into its cold, gloomy cellars, bravely exploring the dungeons where criminals had once been held before being condemned and escorted away to suffer their fate. Only rusting shackles are left to convey what horrors these rooms have witnessed. As boys, our imaginations ran wild, though our play never matched the reality of what happened down there.
Although we had the run of the castle, there was but one room to which our father had banned our entrance. We did of course try to turn the huge brass handle of the large imposing door, but alas, it remained locked, its secrets kept hidden within. All we could do was wonder what lay inside such a chamber, until inevitably we became distracted. My fascination with that room was to be my undoing. My present irrevocably dissolves into my past.

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