“It doesn’t take that much to transform someone. A bite or even a scratch from me; that’s all it takes. Most don’t survive, anyway. Although, over the years, I discovered a way around that problem…”- Drake.
Their train halted just outside a small stop beneath a hill. As Lyn exited the train, she realized they were the only passengers. Kalen and Godfrey carried what little luggage they had as they stepped onto the platform. The train horn blared and its wheels rolled as it picked up speed. They watched until it disappeared down the tracks into the endless country-side, its horn fading. The trills and chirring of insects surrounded them.
Lyn looked up the hill and gasped. We’re home…
She exchanged a glance with Godfrey who nodded. Kalen opened his flask and to his disappointment, lacked alcohol, giving him only a few drops on his parched tongue. He tossed the flask and grabbed the luggage.
Drake checked his watch and faced the group. “We’ve got sixteen minutes…” he said, his tone grim.
“The estate is just up the hill, sir,” Godfrey replied.
They began their ascension of the hill, passing empty lamp posts that hadn’t been lit in over a year, perhaps longer. Drake took point, leading them silently but with conviction in his steps. As they reached the base of the hill, Drake hunched over, panting heavily. He removed his suit top and tossed it at Kalen. The werewolf scoffed, but tossed it over his shoulder.
Lyn sauntered behind him and grinned. “Tired?” she quipped.
Drake caught his breath and straightened his posture. Before them was a paved roadway lined with tire tracks leading to an iron gate. Nothing had changed as Lyn saw the paper lanterns hanging from trees that lined the road. Though this time, their lights were extinguished. Foreboding pairs of yellow eyes watched them through the dark canopies as they made their trek to the grand-estate.
They passed the iron gate and the angels that rested on the stone pedestals; one of which lacked wings. Lyn shook her head and blinked. The angel’s blank faces stared directly at her. Why was one missing its wings? She pondered and concluded that perhaps she had never paid attention to it. She felt a hand on her shoulder and blanched.
Godfrey’s face was perplexed. Lyn exhaled and relaxed her shoulders. He gave her a warm, reassuring smile. “What’s done is done.”
Drake approached the ruins of the mansion, reduced to nothing more than rubble and a few columns. Its foundation survived, but not much. The precipitous steps leading to its entrance remained in-tact. In the time of their absence, nature had already begun its assimilation of the estate. Vines strangled the few pillars and walls that remained. Moss covered the floors and any wood that hadn’t been cleansed by fire.
Kalen kicked pieces of stone down the stairs and chucked a few of them at random. Godfrey stared at the ruins sullenly, his hands behind his back, and paced. The werewolf whistled a cryptic tune as he displaced piles of stone and ash.
“Home, sweet home…”
He turned to Lyn and scorned. She looked away…
“There’s no sign of anyone,” Kalen said to no one in particular.
A light fog loomed towards the mansion but was soon burned away. Drake looked up at the clear night sky. The moon’s light subverted the other stars and the clouds hovering around it. The moment was nostalgic; almost indescribable. Though he didn’t know this place, he felt as if he had lived here his entire life. Thoughts and memories of the estate manifested in his head. He realized that the ruins before him were indeed a grand estate; its majesty unparalleled.
He fell to his knees suddenly, and Lyn rushed to his side. “What’s wrong?”
Drake groaned as he heard a voice whisper. “If you knew how you were going to die, how would you live your life differently?”
He saw Anna staring at him; her face contorted into misery with blood smeared across her mouth. Lightning crackled from the gaping hole in her chest.
She looked at him and whimpered: “Drake…”
He shook his head and saw Lyn before him. She held his cheeks in her palms and pulled him towards her. After a moment of consolation, he rose.
“I know where we have to go,” he said.
They followed him past the maze of ruins. Past where the gardens once bloomed, roses and lilies of every color now burnt to ash. Past the observatory where Drake had once studied the stars and the cemetery with its two mausoleums, touched by fire. There was no sign of the decrepit apple tree that rested towards the back and they stumbled upon a bridge.
Drake stifled a gasp. The bridge and everything past it seemed like a place from Narnia. It suspended over an enchanted lake that shimmered like crystals with white swans floating across it and massive lily pads. Two lamp posts stood watch on both sides of the bridge; a tiny fire inside them glowing. Thin branches of trees growing on the edge of the lake hovered over the bridge.
Lyn and Kalen stood in awe. Godfrey, being the stoic butler as always, didn’t say a word.
“I’ve never been back here before,” Lyn said.
She looked back, and Drake was already crossing the bridge.
Lyn made a face. “Hey, wait for us!”
He didn’t look back and on the other side was a narrow passageway, clouded by darkness. But on the other end, a dazzling light showed an end to the darkness. It attracted him like moths to a flame and he proceeded.
He heard Irene’s voice echo. “I just wish that one day… Maybe one day. The world will be a gentler place.”
Then Anna spoke to him in her dying breath. “Drake… isn’t freedom painful?”
Their words intertwined in his head, and he could no longer discern them. It repeated and tormented him. Laughs, cries, screams and gentle whispers from his deceased lovers. He bellowed and collapsed just at the threshold to the passage’s end.
He stared at his palms, scarred and weathered. “I destroy everything I touch…”
Lyn knelt beside him and cupped his hands, kissing the top of them, and smiled. Her voice was congenial and soft. “When I was young, you found me and gave me a new purpose. You saved Irene and Anna. Your blood can give life too. It gives people a second chance; it gave me… a second chance.”
She kissed his cheek, leaving a bright lipstick mark on it. “You are what nature intended you to be,” she continued. “Remember, if you are a demon. Then, I am a witch…”