The Devil's Gift

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III

I looked behind me, at the remains of the church, my mind with the people who lay within. I bowed my head respectfully. I gazed at their bodies, grief still consuming me. Knowing it was God who had ordered their deaths, stood by as he tore apart families and watched in silence as they died for nothing, I knew that I must unseat Christianity, ensure the truth is revealed, no matter what cost. The people must know of the cruelty suffered by God’s hand.

I knew what I was going to do. I was going to eradicate the worshipping of God. It was to be seen that no man, woman or child would ever put their faith blindly in a God that allows suffering, murder, destruction and chaos to reign free. Should they still choose to revere him, that would be their own choice and their undoing.

I picked up Benjamin, Maria carrying Charlotte and we walked slowly out of the village to the outskirts of the forest. I was not sure whether or not the house would still remain but as we edged closer, it became apparently that, although it had been hit, the house still stood.

Though I was still far from the door, I noticed a note had been pinned to it. From the distance, I read the words:

Dawn will soon be approaching, take shelter. You must not step in sunlight.

I did not say anything or acknowledge the note, but I took in its meaning, as did Maria who merely nodded when I looked at her. We carried our children to the rear of the house where we set them down gently beside a frozen flower bed. I looked at the frozen ground, with pain as my fuel, I knelt down and began to scoop handfuls of dirt away. Though the ground was frozen solid, my new form broke easily through the soil and I effortlessly carved a grave in which the children would be buried. As I tended to one, Maria dug the other. Silent tears rolling down her cheek with each fistful. It was only minutes before Maria and I were presiding over two freshly-dug graves. We were far from the graveyard of the church.

‘No prayer shall be said; they will not be buried under the name of God,’ I said, my voice catching in my throat.

Glancing up, I noticed the horizon was beginning to brighten. Time was running short, but nevertheless, burying our children was not something that would be hurried.

I picked up my son. Benjamin felt almost weightless. Looking into his eyes, I saw they were cold and grey, the night sky reflected in them. I lifted a hand and closed Benjamin’s eyelids. In that moment it struck me, I had lost everything. The only person left who I loved was Maria.

Ironically, it was the chosen lifestyle as a priest that had ultimately torn apart my life. It hurt me deeply, and I knew that this could not be allowed to happen to anyone else, no matter what it took. I would working towards the greater good, in the beginning of a new world. Within myself and Maria, a new race had been born, and it was now my duty to see it thrive. The world was going to change, and vampires would spread. It might take years, decades or even centuries. But that didn’t matter, as an immortal I had all the time I needed to complete my vision and see justice. Religion was my beast, and to truly destroy a beast you must remove its head. By infecting the Pope, I would ultimately destroy religion. It would take a lot of careful planning.

‘My beautiful daughter,’ Maria wept as she lowered her into the ground, ‘I can’t believe you’re gone, it hurts so much knowing I’ll never see your smile again. I’ll never see the wonderful painter inside you flourish. Goodnight my beautiful girl. You were truly a gift to us all.’ Maria found it difficult to finish her sentence, her voice flooding with emotion and her eyes streaming with tears. ‘Benjamin, my special boy, I love you so much, I promise you, I will make things right. There is not a man in the world that could ever live up to the man I knew you’d become. You made me so strong when I felt so weak.’ She whispered as she looked upon the lifeless bodies of her children in the grave, cold and empty.

‘My children, I am so sorry I could not save you, it will haunt me for the remainder of my years knowing I could not stop this. But with that pain I make a promise, there is not a force on this world that will stop me from seeing that justice is done. There are no words to explain the pain I feel right now. There is no action that change that. I wish you nothing but the best, wherever you are right now. If you can hear me, I love you both so much.’ I said softly, tears running down my face. My heart did no longer beat, but I knew that its last beat was for them.

We slowly re-covered the graves, each handful of dirt placed carefully on their body until the grave was full and nothing but two mounds remained visible. We went inside and with the greatest reluctance and pain, we closed the wooden boards around the windows, blocking out the garden from view.

We walked slowly to the kitchen and took a seat at the table. Never had I lived, did I believe that one day I’d be sat here grieving. With tears still falling, Maria took a seat, too. We both stared at a note that had been left on the table. A note that was not there before we left for church. Maria slowly reached out her hand, picked it up, and read aloud the words that were written.

Do you feel that burn in your throat? The one that will consume you should you fail to satisfy it? You need blood

My mouth opened with horror as she read these words, but even as I tried to resist it, a burning sensation, not unlike the pain of the transformation, began to seep up my throat. By the expression on her face, I could tell Maria was feeling the same.

But with dawn approaching, we did not dare to scavenge the forest. No, I realized, it would have to wait until nightfall. When I thought on the burning in my throat, it became all I could think about, but I didn’t need a great deal of control for mind to be elsewhere. We did not speak all through the day, each lost in our own thoughts. I watched as a tiny beam of sunlight slipped beneath the front door. I followed it with my eyes until the sun vanished and dusk arrived. Once we were sure it was night, we finally stood and made our way to the door.

As soon as we were outside, we broke into a run. We ran into the forest faster than anyone had ever ran before, leaves and dirt blowing behind us like a vortex. We blew through the trees, dodging them far before we would’ve collided with them. To a normal person, the speed would’ve been dizzying and they would be unable to withstand the force it created. I felt endless power flow to my muscles and my feet barely touched the ground as I propelled myself onward. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I realised the sheer power a vampire was capable of. I stopped, Maria skidding up beside me, and listened carefully to my surroundings. There were noises I’d never heard before. I could not put a name to a number of them. There were barely-audible clicking noises, scratching and scraping. But there was something larger, something I was more used to. A squeal. I heard it loudly through the forest trees. The sound rebounded off the dark trunks of the trees and up towards the canopy of leaves above us.

It was a dense forest, compact, but teeming with life. I kept my eyes squinted, focused on the area where I heard the squeal. I listened harder, there was a quick drumming, a heartbeat. My throat began to burn violently and my nostrils flared as I caught a scent. It smelt off, dirty. But there was a strong odour of blood. I felt a pull towards it, something inside me was taking over and I could control myself no more.

Maria had been feeling the same sensation as me, and we both took off at incredible speed. Maria darted up a nearby tree, her fingertips digging into the trunk as she scaled it with ease. I stopped and watched her, mesmerised. I heard the boar grunt through the trees. Maria crept along a branch that was protruding over a clearing where the boar had just been spotted. Maria’s gaze turned to me, and after acknowledging her sharp nod, I disappeared up a tree just opposite her. She crept silently along the branch and leapt quietly, twisting and flipping in the cool air. I felt the adrenaline pulse through me as I too leapt from the leaves and fell towards the ground. We landed with perfect precision, on to a large boulder a few metres from the boar.

Maria’s nostrils flared as she inhaled the scent and I listened to the blood that pulsed rapidly through the boar’s veins. Suddenly, she leapt from the boulder. The boar faced her and attempted to dart out the way, but it was no match for her speed, she landed on top of it, pinning it to the ground with one steel hand. I was at her side in a split second, still marvelling at my new speed. We both bent over the boar and pierced its neck with two pairs of sharp canines, injecting venom into its bloodstream, paralysing it instantly, keeping the heart beating and the blood pumping.

As the warm blood gushed into my mouth, the burning in my throat began to fade. It seemed satisfying, and yet, to me, it did not taste right. I drank deeply. Yes, something was definitely wrong with it, it had a murky taste. It didn’t quite satisfy me fully, nevertheless, the more I swallowed, the better I felt; quicker, and stronger than before. My eyes were sharp.

In the corner of my eye, I saw my beautiful wife, standing like stone, looking solemnly through the dense forest, grief evident on her flawless face. I thought for a moment. Though we had lost everything, we were now afforded a chance to avenge our children. We were immortal. Nothing could stand between us and the destruction of all faith.

Suddenly, as though God had heard my thoughts, a bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree. Flames spread rapidly up its trunk. Seconds later, another tree caught fire, engulfing us in a haze of dense smoke. The fire quickly spread to other trees, forcing us away from the village. We were trapped. I stepped closer to the fire and found to my surprise, that despite my new abilities, I was susceptible to it. If we were to survive, we had to find a means of escape, and fast.

Maria sped off, leaves swirling into the air as she passed over them. I watched for a moment, transfixed as her legs propelled her into the air. Her feet hit the ground and she seemed to glide a few yards before she landed once more. She moved swiftly, avoiding any collisions with ease. The heat became more intense and I fled in the same direction, darting through a gap in the flames moments before it closed.

Power flowed through my legs, urging me to sprint faster and faster. Leaves and debris swirled in my wake. Suddenly, Maria appeared in front of me.

I stopped and gave a small smile; it was not easy to make my new muscles to work like this. Inside I was dying – not physically, my new and perfect body would not allow such things - but mentally. She acknowledged my smile with a look. It was now that we would begin our quest for justice.

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