LIKE ALL NIGHTMARES, I wanted out.
Naked and barefoot, I sprinted along the uneven rain soaked pathway, my mouth dry and thirsting, terror constricting my throat and threatening to choke me. I tasted freedom as though for the first time.
A cold salty sea mist hit my nostrils and I shook my head trying to repel nature’s sting. Night wrapped her arms around me as I fled past the grey crumbling wall, bolting left under an ivy-colored archway, descending faster down slippery stone steps.
Don’t look back.
Taking two at a time, I landed on the grassy bank and ran onward, following the sound of crashing waves.
I struggled to recall this place and how I’d gotten here, my memories seemingly just out of reach and my rambling thoughts making no sense and threatening to sabotage my focus.
There was no time to question.
My gut insisted someone was closing in and dread shot up my spine forcing me to run faster. Rustling dead leaves swirled around my feet causing me to stumble. Quickly, I found my footing again, crunching over a pebbled beach toward the vast ocean, crashing six-foot waves onto a dappled-grey shoreline and rolling them into foam. The force with which I hit the icy water shoved my shoulders back and snatched my breath.
This was no dream. Descending further, spiraling into the darkest depths, the ocean buffered against me and with outstretched arms I thrashed blindly to stay afloat, braving to glance back.
The towering rogue wave broke over my head, dragging me lower and delivering me into the path of a riptide that snatched me further into the blackness, sucking me into the swirling undercurrent and forcing seawater down my throat.
Drowning me . . .
Surrendering to the infinite darkness, I passed out.
Unsure of how much time had passed, my eyes opened to a blanket of white cloud revealing pockets of stars and a glimpse of the thumbnail moon, only for it to soon shy away. The night chilled my bones causing me to shiver and pebbles scratched my back.
Turning awkwardly, there was that same castle rising out of the granite, an intimidating symbol of supremacy conveying the gut wrenching realization.
I’d not made it.
A grinding pain in my right shoulder blade; I cradled my arm with the sudden awareness I’d dislocated it.
With mixed feelings that I failed to understand, I took in that dark silhouetted castle looming large on the horizon, trying to recall why it instilled such trepidation. My mind scrambled to piece together memories of having wandered along its sprawling corridors, losing hours within its age-old library, reading my way through its infinite collection of well-worn books, each one pulled from the antique mahogany shelves. With nothing but quiet for company.
More curious still was a faint recollection of whiling away endless days in there, waiting until sunset so I could return to the highest tower once more and paint my beloved nightscapes.
Daylight, that part of my life I’d long given up, exchanging her burning mortal kiss to become night’s lover, surrendering to that endless promise of eternity.
As only a vampire can.
With an unsteady hand I stroked my clean shaven jaw and ran my fingers up and over the rest of my body, relieved to find that other than my arm there were no other injuries. Using my good arm, I staggered to my feet trying to distance myself from the waves spraying foam.
Across the shoreline Penzance lit up the night skyline, the sleepy town still, quiet, and desolate.
I turned and there, standing serenely staring back at me with dark brown eyes, was a tall young priest.
“Jadeon?” The stranger stepped closer.
I went to give an answer, but had none to give and considered diving back in to get away from the one whom I assumed had been chasing me. He reflected an easy confidence that went beyond his thirty years. He still hadn’t blinked.
Trying to judge if I could trust him, I struggled to hold onto the faintest memories that dissipated like cruel whispers clashing with each other, tightening my throat.
“You’ve hurt your arm,” he said. “Let me help you.”
Ignoring the pain, refusing to reveal any weakness I asked, “Who are you?”
“Father Jacob Roch.” His fingers worked their way down each button of his long, brown coat and he slipped it off. “Here you are.”
Cautiously I accepted his coat from him and pulled the left arm through, wrapping it over the shoulder of the right, unable to lift it.
He made a gesture to help.
“I’m fine.” Though clearly I wasn’t.
“You’re adjusting, even now.”
He went to answer but stopped himself as though unsure. Rubbing my forehead I tried to find the answers and not be influenced by the man who I had no reason to trust.
Far off lightning lit up the night sky, and a few seconds later came the crack of thunder.
The sound of footfalls signaled someone fast approaching. Over the ridge a young man appeared and skidded to a stop when he saw us.
“Steady, Alex.” Jacob gestured for him not to come any further.
Alex’s expression was one of horror and I tried to decipher whether it was disgust or hate. Lost in a fog of thoughts I tried to recall how I knew him.
“Let’s go inside,” Jacob said.
The rhythm of the ocean sounded like it was now inside my head and my legs weakened. My feet gave way.
My mind blurred, threatening to slide off. “Who am I?” My face struck the pebbles.
“That’s what we’re going to find out.” Jacob’s voice grew distant.