3.1 - THE SCENT OF MELANCHOLY
White fluffy heads of cotton grass performed a ghostly dance, buffeted by the late autumn breeze. In between, patches of sphagnum moss declared areas of marsh, where bog asphodel offered up a scattering of yellow stars.
But, predominantly the blooms of heather presented a rich purple carpet across the landscape. A forlorn whistle rushed through the coarse, brittle branches as the wind crossed the expanse known as the Yorkshire Moors.
Hidden amid this natural decor, walls barely identifiable as having once belonged a fine Victorian house lay in ruins, scattered among the moorland plants. The majority of the ancient stone, slate and wood had been pilfered over the years for more ambitious architectural creations elsewhere. What remained of its one-time reception rooms and parlour floors had been overgrown by the voracious plant life and so the one-time family home was but a memory of days gone by.
Oddly, the old iron doors which led to the cellar had survived such thievery. A dusting of moss and bracken had kept them hidden from prying eyes.
Except, that was, from the eyes of a vampire. His vision, like most supernatural beings, was superior to that of mortals. Securing temporary accommodation, in the most unlikely of locations, was something of a speciality for Cain. He sought out and discovered places where no-one, or at least very few people would venture.
First light, and as always, after a spell of hibernation then his first banquet of blood, he needed to rest. His revitalised innards required a settling-in period, a time of adjustment. So, he’d returned to the secreted cellar. After a few hours of sleep, he would be ready to explore and hunt once more.
His preference for hunting at night had nothing to do with literary theories and stories about creatures such as he. He could walk during the day, the same as any other being. He would not combust nor turn to ash in the sun’s rays. But he did have an aversion to it; albeit of his own making.
For, by his hand, Havel had been robbed of greeting spring’s gentle light and basking in a summer’s warmth. Cain had condemned his brother to eternal darkness.
The guilt he bore for such a crime was heavy, unrelenting, crushing. His punishment, on reflection, was nothing short of what he’d deserved. And, in a feeble, perhaps pointless demonstration of remorse, he had denied himself the gloriousness of the sun. The wrath, he’d imagined, was merely its blinding glare, having spent most of his immortal existence in the dark.
Sleep, however, was elusive and troubled, but not for the usual reasons. He was plagued by an image of the woman he had met during the evening. As his conscience had declared, he’d felt drawn to the air of melancholy wrapped around her. He’d sensed it earlier in the evening; a tug, a jolt, insistent and potent.
First he’d saw her sitting at a table outside a bar, her attention taken by something or someone behind her. He’d remained rooted for a few seconds, watching the most minute of movements - her hair flicking over her shoulder, her hand as her glass slipped from her fingers, the pulse in her neck as her heartbeat had fluttered erratically. Then he’d fled before she’d turned back to find him staring.
Later, he’d briefly met her again, this time outside another venue. But, by then he was focusing on his ‘work’ and he had all but dismissed her; fixated on his first kill of the evening.
A few hours later, he’d picked up on the scent of melancholy once more. She had been targeted by a petty thief. He’d swiftly ended the young man’s attempt at robbery, and whispered a warning in his ear. And so, Cain had been a hero. It was a role he rarely played.
Had their meeting been ordained? He’d wondered. But to what purpose, could it possibly serve? He tossed and turned some more.
He’d sensed a deep hurt in her although she’d tried to mask it. A mortal pain; one which he had not experienced himself for many centuries. The sound of her thundering heart had him fleeing once more after tricking her into turning away from him.
But, still, she’d invaded his thoughts.
His other kills had been reckless, sloppy. He had paid no heed to the flailing arms and strangled screams as he’d dragged victims 2, 3 and 4 to the lighthouse. There he’d simply tore them open and drank, dumping the carcasses on top of each other.
He should have disposed of them there and then. But, he was on a rampage, blinded by bloodlust and the vision of a woman’s face.
When he did return to the pier to clean up his mess, there was no sign of the bodies, just a blackened mark where he’d left them and an odd little man standing at the far side of the lighthouse looking out over the sea.
He could not understand. Where had the bodies gone? Not wanting to attract unnecessary attention, Cain had silently slipped away again and returned to his temporary home.
And now he lay, eyes slowly sliding shut. The sun had made its ascent and a few hazy beams filtered through the gaps around the iron doors.
Like a giant foetus Cain lay curled up in his box of earth. Involuntary spasms shook his body then suddenly receded. Finally, the inky blackness of sleep claimed him.
Above his resting place, some two hundred yards away, Samael landed soundlessly, his feet cushioned by the springy moss. He crouched and listened.
There! He smiled as the slow, steady breath of a slumbering killer sounded from beneath the ground.