It was quiet, too quiet and Gabriel couldn’t think. There was something about the stillness of the cabin, the way sounds echoed through the empty rooms. Everything looked the same. The fire still crackled in the hearth, the old leather armchair still stood in the corner, and in the bedroom… Gabriel hadn’t been able to bring himself to sleep in the bed since she left. Instead he spent restless hours on the couch, tossing and turning and cursing the quiet.
He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. Had it been like this before she came? Had the air felt as heavy and the days as long? Damn it, he had to pull himself together.
He wandered from room to room, but the same questions kept pushing themselves into his mind. Did his father really know something? Had Harrison just been testing him when they met at the bar? Where was Aurora, and was she alright?
He went into the bathroom and stared at his reflection but only one word came to mind; Coward. There was no denying it. It was no wonder his brother had been the chosen one. Chris had been the strong one, the one who could be counted on. They may have looked the same on the outside but inside, where it mattered, they could not have been more different.
Gabriel looked away, unable to meet his own gaze. He was sick of hiding, sick of curling up inside this damn cabin like a dying cat. He looked around and considered taking a match to the place. Maybe if he watched it burn his sins would be incinerated along with it, but that was not the answer. He needed to find the truth, not just for Aurora but for himself.
When he knocked on the door it was his mother who answered. She was wrapped in a pink dressing gown and smelled like talcum powder. “Gabriel, what are you doing out here? It’s almost eight ’o clock.”
“I need to speak with Dad,” he told her. “It’s important.”
“Is everything alright?”
He didn’t want to worry her. She had already been through more than her fair share of pain and the last thing he wanted to do was cause her any more. “Sure Ma, I just need to ask him a couple of things. It’s no big deal.”
“And it couldn’t wait till morning?”
Gabriel wanted to tell her that if he went outside in the morning light his skin would prickle and burn. He wanted to tell her that he was a strigoi and strigoi couldn’t go out in the sun, but instead he simply told her he already had plans with Aurora.
“Well he’s in the study with his books,” she smiled. “As usual.”
Slowly Gabriel made his way up the hall and tapped on the half-closed door. When he heard the sound of his father’s voice, he took a deep breath and stepped inside. The room was exactly as it had been when he was a child, lined with emerald carpet and smelling of old books. As a boy he had felt dwarfed by the towering shelves that rose up toward the ceiling. For as long as he could remember he had longed to feel at home in this room the way his father did, but even now the rows of faded spines seemed to mock him somehow.
At the rear of the room his father was sitting comfortably behind a heavy mahogany desk, his glasses perched half way along his nose.
“This room brings back so many memories,” Gabriel began as he hovered in the doorway. “I was just a kid when I used to sit outside the door and listen to you read. I loved the way you pronounced each word like it was the key to some kind of mystery.”
His father looked up and smiled warmly. “Yes, I remember.”
“You knew I was out there?”
His father put down the book he had been reading and leaned back in his chair. “You’re my son Gabriel, of course I knew.”
Gabriel nodded quietly and motioned toward the seat across from his father. “Can I talk to you?”
“Of course, go ahead. What is it?”
“Dad, do you remember that poem you used to read every night, the one about the vampire?”
“The Giaour by Lord Byron. Yes of course. Is that why you’re here so late, because of a poem?”
Gabriel thought for a moment. How could he explain why he was here when none of it would make any sense? How was he going to explain anything when he couldn’t tell his father the truth?
“In a way,” he managed. “Actually, it’s more about Chris.”
“Chris?” His father let the word rest on his tongue and Gabriel wondered if he secretly hoped saying it slowly might be enough to bring him back.
“Dad - ”
But his father cut him off. “They’re coming, aren’t they?”
Gabriel stared at his father. “What did you just say?”
“Close the door Gabriel, it’s time we had a talk.”
Gabriel did as he was asked and sat back down in a chair while his father poured scotch from a decanter.
“You can drink this by now I assume?” His father asked. “I mean, in your condition. The girl has taught you how to do things like that?”
Gabriel took the glass, threw back his head and let the scotch slip down his throat. His world was exploding and right now the only thing that made any sense was inside of that glass.
“Start talking Dad,” he managed once the alcohol had stung its way down to his stomach. “Why did you read that poem every night? Are you… Are you one of them?”
His father tipped his head and examined him closely. “Interesting that you would use the term one of them. You do mean one of us, don’t you?”
“So it’s true? You’re a…” But Gabriel couldn’t bring himself to say the word. Not in here. Not in the room where he had sat as a child. But his father saved him the trouble.
“No, I’m not. But you are and you need to start acting like one.”
Gabriel stared down at the empty glass and wondered how many drinks it would take for this to stop being real. How many drinks would it take to turn back time and make this all just go away?
“Tell me about the poem Dad. Why did you read it every night?”
His father took off his glasses and folded them away inside a brown leather case. “That poem was the first published piece of English literature to ever mention the word vampire. Did you know that?”
“Yes, Aurora told me. Some of her ancestors went looking for the author to try and find the truth about why he wrote it.”
“That’s right,” his father nodded. “Her family and ours goes back a long way.”
“So you knew who she was all along?”
His father grinned, an amused look that Gabriel recognised from his childhood. “Son, there are no women like Aurora anywhere around here and I doubt there are any where the two of you supposedly met. She is a descendant and not just any descendant, she is the first born, the strongest and most beautiful of her kind. There are no other women like her.”
Gabriel was beyond frustrated. He already knew all he had to about Aurora. How beautiful she was. How special. How he had pushed her away. What he needed to know was how his brother and father fit into all of this. “Dad, just tell me what any of this has to do with us. Why did Chris die if he was the chosen one? How could that happen? I mean, was it because of me?”
“What are you really asking me Gabriel? If it’s your fault those things are coming?”
“No Dad, I’m asking if it’s my fault they’re going to win.”
“And who said they were going to win?”
Gabriel leaned back in his chair, took a deep breath and told his father about the trip he and Aurora had taken to see the Council. He told him about the vision Lucius shared and the painting that hung on the wall. He told him how Aurora had figured out Chris was the chosen one and everything he knew about the Reapers. As he spoke his father listened, nodding and taking it all in.
“When Chris died it was a great loss,” his father began. “But it was not your fault and it doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all going to perish. Do I understand why he died? No, but what I do know is that Aurora is alive and she is strong. Don’t write her off Gabriel, you have no idea what she is capable of.”
Gabriel thought about the way Aurora could control the world around her, how the animals and plants wielded to her command not because she demanded it, but because they wanted to.
“She is a powerful weapon Gabriel. The challenge is great and without Chris it will be difficult, but not impossible.”
“It’s just that all this time I thought…”
“That you were the chosen one,” his father finished.
“I really believed it Dad. I thought I could make a difference.”
Gabriel sighed and let his eyes fall over a framed photo of his brother that sat on his father’s desk. “Chris was really something, wasn’t he?”
“He was son, but so are you.”
For a time they both sat quietly, lost in their own thoughts. Eventually it was Gabriel who broke the silence. “There’s still one thing I don’t understand. Why was I changed? I mean, if Chris was the one then why did they change me? Was it a mistake?”
“Gabriel, when Lucius first approached me I was a young man, just 23 years old. I hadn’t even met your mother. It was a Friday night and I was on my way home from one of the bars that used to be down on Main Street. I’d had a few drinks and when he stepped out of the shadows, I thought I was hallucinating. With that blonde hair and those black robes, he looked like a damn Satanist. But he told me I had a great duty and that one day my son would save the world. I’ll tell you it was the damnedest thing.” He stared off into the distance as he recalled the night. “At first I just tried to take it all in. I was going to have a son that would save the world? The thing is Gabriel, when I asked him what my son was going to save us all from, he wouldn’t tell me. Instead he took my hand and told me to close my eyes, said that he wanted to show me. That was the first time I saw those things, only in my mind of course but it was so real. It was almost as if I was there. The next day when I woke up I wondered if I was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, if maybe I had imagined the whole thing. I even sat down with a shrink.”
“And what did they say?”
“That maybe I wasn’t cut out for the Army.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. “As if.”
“I appreciate that son,” he nodded. “The only other explanation I could come up with was that Lucius was real, that I was going to meet an incredible woman and be the father of an amazing son.”
“And you were Dad. You were the father of an amazing son.”
“Well if you ask me, I still am.”
Gabriel appreciated his father’s efforts, but it didn’t change the fact that Chris was gone.
“Aurora was right about one thing though,” his father continued. “Chris was the first born and when he began to excel at everything, I knew what Lucius had told me that night was the truth. I knew about the change, of what he would need to become to fight those things and I accepted it. The thing is, I never told Chris about his destiny and when he died, I never really understood why, or how a fate as important as his could be cut short like that.”
Gabriel nodded, his thoughts drifting back to the night it happened. The sound the cat had made as it attacked Chris. The noise his bones made as they snapped beneath its teeth. He shuddered in his seat and tried to shake it off.
“When Lucius came to see me afterward, I begged him for answers Gabriel. I needed to know why Chris had been taken from us.”
“He came to see you?” Gabriel leaned forward. “What did he say?”
“Nothing. All he said was that fate would have its way, whatever the hell that means.”
His father took a deep breath and leaned across the desk. “What happened next was my fault Gabriel, but it’s time you knew the truth.”