6.2 - THE CELLAR
Again she was subjected to the jaw-dropping litheness of the vampire. Having exited the guest house in the same manner as they had entered, he leapt over narrow streets carrying her across rooftops and crossing large expanses of urban ground. Before long, all that illuminated their way forward was the moon.
The countryside was just a mass of darkened shapes and shadows to her untrained eyes. Occasionally, she was afforded glimpses of the River Esk as it rippled with moonbeams and the odd corrugated or slated roof of an isolated building in a field was dimpled with the light, but otherwise, she was night-blind. She clung to her protector trusting him implicitly to deliver her to their destination.
A short time later, he set her down. She looked around, waiting for her eyes to adjust. She found herself amid broken walls and low foundations of what must have been a rather stately home in years gone by.
Stretching beyond the boundaries the wild heather and other moorland plant life rustled in the night breeze; colours muted, the barest of hues visible.
“Mind your step,” Cain said as he took her hand and steered her a few feet to the left.
She didn’t mean to, but her fingers clasped his tightly, her uncertainty of the uneven ground giving way to a little shot of nerves firing up from her belly. She glanced up. The moon highlighted his face. He was smiling, understanding of her anxiety.
“Wait there.” He let go of her hand and stooped to grab something protruding from the ground. He pulled up and an iron door opened outwards. He let it fall to the side of the doorway. Then taking her hand again, he brought her to the entrance. He paused. “Are you sure...”
“Yes!” she replied quickly, refusing to let nerves better her.
He sighed heavily. “Very well. There are steps and it will be pitch down there. I know there are candles and matches available so I will get you down safely but then you must stand still until I have made some light.”
Becky nodded. Gently he helped her into the cellar. Tentatively, she descended the stairs and into the room. Her legs were shaking slightly, heart pounding in her ears.
She could see... nothing. A wall of solid black surrounded her and the final clunk of the door closing caused her to inhale sharply - her usual rationale wanting her to push blindly past Cain and flee into the night. What was she doing? This was so unlike her. Throwing caution to the wind was not her style and certainly not with some supernatural being. The rattle of chains next jarred her nerves for all she understood the reason he secured the doors.
“Are you alright?” his voice was soft, considerate.
“I may feel better once there is some light,” she replied with a jittery laugh.
The sound of him searching in the dark seemed amplified to her ears. She had never been afraid of the dark, ever, so her edginess was purely irrational, she reasoned, trying to deflect the fact she was now incarcerated in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors, below ground in a forgotten cellar with a vampire. Out of nowhere, an even stranger consideration crossed her mind. She wondered what Michael would make of it all.
After a few moments, a soft light flared, intensifying, spreading as Cain continued to ignite numerous candles.
She looked around the underground room and all nervousness gave way to compassion. She choked back a sob. The fact this constituted as home for Cain made her immeasurably sad. His requirements certainly were minimal; he had no need of the everyday luxuries and niceties that she was accustomed to, but still, it upset her to the point of despair.
The bleak, cold room brought forth an almost suffocating sympathy. It was as if his solitude and loneliness were reflected within the walls and floor of the disintegrated building; a mere shell of its former self, as was he.
Why would he feel devotion for a god who allegedly left him to roam the earth with nothing more than a diet of blood from those He deemed unworthy? Over how many lifetimes had Cain paid his dues and lived - well - existed like this? she wondered. She could only hazard a guess.
She glanced over her shoulder as he continued moving around the room making it brighter, placing candles on shelves, ledges, a rickety table and an old furnace which once served as the heat source for the former building above.
Inhaling deeply, she stepped further into the space which was his home. Her eyes drifted over the crates of dirt, the old wooden shelving, some broken, splintered, others looking oddly as strong and reliable as the day they’d been constructed. An array of strange old implements, one or two rusty, others just covered in dust and cobwebs lay strewn haphazardly over the surfaces. Quite what some were used for she knew not and didn’t care to find out either.
Old paint tins, some lids askew and tarnished, had thin trails of faded colour down their sides, dried and brittle. All these things had belonged to whatever family once lived above when it was a grand house and home. Sad little echoes of a past.
An involuntary squeal left her lips as Cain’s hands lightly gripped her upper arms when he stepped up behind her. A small giggle followed, embarrassed by her nervous reaction. “Sorry,” she said quietly, feeling incredibly foolish.
He moved around her, his eyes seemed to burn with curiosity with a hint of remorse flickering at the same time. “No need to be,” he replied, soft.
She held his gaze for a few moments, time seemingly suspended; she was holding her breath. Suddenly, he broke contact and bent to pull forward an old stool, dusting it off with his sleeve. She breathed easy once more.
“This is for you, by the way,” she said, handing him the parcel she had removed from her wardrobe.
He looked at it, surprised. She wondered how long it had been since anyone gave him anything as a gift.
“It was a costume I bought for someone else, but he has no need of it now. He was about the same size as you so it should fit. Nothing too outrageous, you could get away with it anytime really, without raising too many eyebrows, I guess.”
“Thank you,” he said, accepting the parcel. He seemed unable to find any other words.
Pulling her jacket around her, she sat down, facing him.
“Are you cold again?” he asked.
“A little, yes,” she admitted, instantly feeling the chill of the old cellar seep into her bones.
He placed the parcel on the table and removed his coat, once more wrapping it around her. “I told you this was folly,” he said. “You should have stayed in your hotel where it was warm.” He glanced around. “And clean.”
“But, I want to know more about you.”
He looked at her through strands of black hair before stepping away. “Why?”
His simple question could not be given a simple answer. “When I came across you - the most... unlikely individual for me to have ever met - I sensed such pain, the likes of which I have never known.”
“What would you know of my pain?” he scoffed.
“Nothing,” she replied quickly, fearing she had offended him. “But, I sense an enormity of anguish and I guess...I guess I want to help. If I can.”
He turned from her and paced the length of the room then back, stopping in front of her. “You cannot. What is done is done, there is no way my pain can be eased.”
“Tell me more of your story. Let me try to...”
At first, she was taken aback by the severity of his rejection, then she thought it was his feeling of hopelessness which had fuelled his retort. “Cain, you opened up to me before, let me in further. I do not know how or why, but something draws me to you and perhaps if I know more, I will understand what that is.”
His eyes had reverted to the crimson black she had seen earlier, thread veins leaking under his skin like spindly roots. “What manner of woman would want to come to a place such as this with the likes of me? What idiocy possesses you?”
His words were cutting, acerbic. “Possesses me?” she fired back. Where she found the courage to counter him she knew not, but she resented his implication. “Well, here’s the bare bones of it, Cain. Aren’t you the one who came sweeping to my rescue spouting about God and Fallen angels? Is it not you who stands there now, demonstrating vampiric traits and who blindly follows a vengeful entity? The very one who condemned you? Which one of us I ask, is truly possessed here?”
He stormed forward, stopping just short of her, leaning over, threatening. “You have no idea about pain. You think your petty lovers’ tiff makes you expert on it?”
It took her a moment to question how he even knew about that, let alone overlook the harsh dismissal of her agony, but then she bolted upright causing him to shift back, a look of surprise on his unearthly features. “I get it that you have seen and suffered much but, we all have our own measure of pain and it is all very real to us. I am broken, wrapped in a blanket of self-pity which pulls me down to depths where I can hardly breathe. I am utterly pathetic, I will give you that!
“But, by picking up on that with your ‘supernatural senses’ just what were you thinking when you ordered me to come with you, eh? Was it a case of you honed in on a broken-hearted woman and thought I was easy prey? Or are you a genuine knight in shining armour, trying to save my virtue, what little of it remains? Tell me, Cain, and then just maybe my insignificant little heartache will be blown into oblivion.”
Her diatribe left her drained, gasping. She watched as his eyes slowly returned to normal and his skin lost its abnormal maze of veins and capillaries.
He dared a step nearer. “I apologise,” he said, his eyes searching hers. “I did not mean to belittle your suffering. Forgive me. I - I have forgotten how to behave. I have not had the privilege of pleasant company for...” He looked away, unable to continue.
Becky exhaled, done in by their confrontation, annoyed at his heartless words before yet still feeling inexorably dispirited for what he had experienced.
“Cain...” She was brutally interrupted by a loud banging on the iron doors. She instinctively crouched, cowering.
The vampire moved forward and knelt down beside her. She clasped his hand as another loud bang sounded. Powdered stone and dry earth fell from around the edges of the doors, the dusting coating the stairs.
Fear once more gripped Becky, her trembling now uncontrollable. “I’m sorry! It’s my fault. I insisted on coming here,” she whimpered.
Cain managed a woeful smile. “I will protect you. I swear.”
With a scream of metal, the doors then burst open and moonlight flooded the stairway.