5.5 - VESSEL
Snapping on the light, she closed the door quietly and hung his coat on one of the hooks next to the mirror in the vestibule.
Her heart hammered like a captured bird. A complex storm of emotions ran riot - panic, suspicion, gratitude, sadness among many more. Her curiosity, nonetheless, seemed to creep to the fore. She simply hoped it would not be her undoing.
Nerves piqued once more as she turned and saw him standing in front of the dresser. He was tall and lean, he didn’t look particularly athletic although he had adequately demonstrated otherwise. His long black hair served as a curtain, hiding most of his face from her as he stood looking over her collection of lotions and make-up. He picked up her perfume. He seemed engrossed in the decorative bottle.
Watching him in the mirror she moved slowly into the room. His eyes looked up and caught her in the reflection. They stared at each other in silence then carefully he replaced the bottle and turned to face her.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
A ridiculous laugh escaped her, sounding almost caustic. “I guess. Considering.”
Nodding, he noticed the armchair in front of the window. “May I?” he asked, gesturing to the seat.
“Of course, please do.”
She could not contain her nervousness, hands wringing, eyes darting. Inwardly, she was cursing herself for being so pathetic. Something resembling logic told her if he’d meant to kill her he could have just dropped her from one of the rooftops - providing, of course, death was what he had in mind for her. Then again, from what she’d witnessed - his metamorphosis as it were - she then thought perhaps an entirely different kind of demise awaited her.
Ludicrous though it seemed and no doubt fuelled by the weekend theme in this particular town, she wondered if she was in the presence of a vampire. And to think she had just invited him into her room! Stop being so stupid, her inner voice chastised. Your mind is running rampant! She desperately tried to quash her irrational thoughts but the image of Cain changing the way he did and the fact he had practically flown through the air with her was making practical thinking impossible in itself.
Tentatively, she moved across to the bed and sat on the edge, facing him. In the next instant, she bolted upright. A farcical need to be mannerly overtook her. “Sorry! Can I get you something to drink? Tea, coffee?” Blood, she thought, then again scolded herself.
He smiled, charismatic. “No, thank you.”
She sat back down.
He then opened up the conversation, his voice soft and unassuming. “I will tell you what I know, which, I admit isn’t a great deal where the Fallen are concerned.”
She had asked for an explanation, so she would hear all he had to say, no matter how impossible it sounded. “Alright. But, you implied this Samael made time stop?”
“I am not going to ask how, I am not scientifically knowledgeable to understand, but why did he do it?”
A smirk toyed with the corners of Cain’s mouth. “He is of a powerful genus, Becky. The angels are messengers and soldiers of God. To put in layman’s terms they have magical powers capable of doing both beautiful and horrific things. The Fallen, however, were cast out from Heaven. A disagreement, shall we say. They create havoc only. They corrupt, they harm, they distort not just people but time itself if it suits their purpose.”
“For not knowing much about them that’s quite specific,” she opined.
“It is basic only. I heard stories of them when I was a boy and I’ve read about them too as the years have rolled by.”
She nodded. “So why did he do it this time?”
Cain shifted in the chair. He took a little time to answer, but his response was based on his supposition. “I am not completely sure of their intent but, I think they are trying to recruit me. I sense something untoward and I know from having spoken with him, they are still fighting the war.”
“War?” she asked nervously.
“With God. For all they have been ousted they continue to attempt to defeat Him by trying to turn him against His talking monk -” He stopped abruptly offering an apologetic look. “Humans.”
She waited to hear more. He was silent. “Why today?” she asked. “I sense there is something you are not telling me.”
He looked at her, eyes dark and sorrowful. “He knows I will not harm the innocent. He was demonstrating that he would.” He paused and glanced at the floor.
If he had expected her to respond, he was going to be disappointed. She sensed she was not the only one swimming somewhere between uncertainty and uncomfortable.
He took a deep breath. “That is what I know of them.”
She inhaled deeply. Fairy story or not, she felt even more unnerved. Her mind was ticking over what he had just told her and the point she could not move past was the mention of the angel wanting to ‘recruit’ him. She needed to find out what Cain’s part in all of this. “Ok. Fine. Well, now for you. I know your name. You have rescued my bag and my phone so I have witnessed quick reflexes. And I know you can run like the wind and are capable of some pretty impressive parkour.”
He grinned, cocking an eyebrow. “Put like that, I don’t sound too bad.” He exercised a ripple of soft laughter.
She pressed on. “More disturbingly, you have fangs, talons and your eyes go black.”
His laughter stopped, instantly. “Yes. A condition most unsettling for you I imagine.”
She just stared. “So, who and what are you. Exactly!”
She expected a dramatic pause, but he didn’t hesitate. “I am Cain, son of Adam and Eve and brother of Abel.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Everyone had heard about Adam and Eve and their sons at least. The temptation to say ′You’re kidding′ and other less polite dismissive phrases hung on her lips, but she remembered he’d asked if she was familiar with the Old Testament. Obviously now, its reference had not just been relating to the Fallen.
Her eyes blinked slowly, the implications of what he had just told her permeating her sceptical mind. It was surreal, but for now, she decided to play along. “I thought you were just a story,” she managed.
“No, I am real. As were my parents... and my brother. My family were part of a small tribe who lived in a settlement near Eden. And no, we were not solely responsible for populating the world as the Good Book likes to imply.”
“I should hope not!” A slightly hysterical giggle escaped her; her mind suddenly flooded with images of hideously deformed people had such procreation occurred. The human race would have wiped itself out aeons ago had that gene-pool been allowed to progress, she surmised.
Cain grinned. But, his mood soon became sombre once more.
“How are you still...” For some bizarre reason, she could not finish her question.
“Here? Now? Walking, breathing?” he asked.
Her brow creased and a flush spread across her cheeks. Still, she played along. “Yes.”
“I am marked.”
She inhaled sharply as she recalled the anonymous warning she received the day before - Look not upon him for he is marked. “What do you mean by ‘marked’?” she asked boldly.
He then told her the tale of the ultimate offence which had been offered up by his brother; the blood sacrifice. He revealed how their faith did not permit such an offering, it was forbidden. More poignant was the way he related the utter desolation which consumed him once he found Abel had violated that faith.
When he spoke of his unshakeable belief in God and how he had only wanted to do what was right - to make amends for Abel’s sin, she felt tears welling at the passion in his voice. He had never intended to cast a fatal blow, he told her. Details of Abel’s death noticeably affected him still.
She sat riveted as he spoke of being punished by God - ‘marked’. He mentioned a messenger who relayed his sentence and the task God had set him.
Her heart was hammering. She had not expected to be so enthralled by his story but he’d sounded so convincing. It was impossible not to feel sympathy for him. His desperation to prove himself to his God sounded agonisingly futile. For all she did not share his beliefs, she could not deny his conviction was moving. But, this was 2018. Such stories were exactly that - fables, yarns, fiction scribbled on pages and passed down over generations.
When it seemed he had finished, she spoke. “So, I am sitting here in front of the first living ...” She shook her head. ”Sorry! I didn’t mean that I meant, well - actually, I don’t know how to describe your existence. But you are saying you’re a vampire, aren’t you?”
He held her gaze, steady, his face impassive. “Yes.”
She was at a loss, however, there was no denying what she had seen and experienced with him. Suddenly he rose from the armchair and crouched in front of her.
When he spoke again, it was softly. “I am not dead, Becky,” he informed her candidly. “I am immortal and I have lived a million lifetimes. I am more of a...vessel, shall we say. Many of my senses and abilities have dulled, some have become redundant entirely. Others have peaked, formed, altered, evolved. But, I am alive.” He leaned forward. Hesitantly he reached for her hand.
Her initial fear was dampened, replaced by an unexpected sympathy. She did not flinch nor object as his fingers touched hers. She allowed him to take her hand and place her palm upon his cheek.
“Granted, I do not feel it nor look it at times,” he continued. “But neither am I your fanciful being of fiction, the bizarre creation of Man’s own fears and ignorance. I am the personification of sin. A killer, a beast, yes. I have been justly punished by the most powerful being and I have spent my life in His service trying to right the wrong I did.”
He lowered her hand, gently closing his fingers over hers. He sighed heavily. “But, my greatest fear, Becky, is that there is no forgiveness, no road to redemption. I may be merely cursed to walk this earth forever.”
His eyes swam in a well of emotions, his torment etched into the lines on his face, a scripture of agony.
She watched as streaks of crimson traced down over his cheeks. The enormity of his anguish could not be denied although its foundations were from a belief she did not share.
But, at that moment, without doubt, she at least believed he was a vampire.