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The Monster Within (Part 3)

Contributing Authors: TheShyThespian 

Vincent continues his journey into a new century...

Special thanks to the brilliant, TheShyThespian, for writing this series with me. We hope you enjoy Vincent's journey through the times.

Damn me, God! I hadn’t meant to kill him — or had I?

After wandering the streets for God knows how long, the events continued to swirl inside my head as I struggled to settle upon one emotion. Since the unfortunate incident, I had been racked with hurt, rage, shame and guilt. An innocent tree bore the brunt of my frustration with its trunk stained red from my pounding, bloody fists.

My body, of course, healed the wounds in moments — it was a shame, really, that I wouldn’t ever be made to suffer the physical damage I inflicted on others. My eyes clenched shut, trying to unsee what had just happened. Mortified, I had immediately left her home when she told me to go. Since that moment, my mind had tortured me with recurring pictures of her bewildered, stricken face; her eyes gaping wide with fear and horror. Fear and horror of me, and what I had done.

Oh, my dear Elizabeth, how has it come to this?

Of course, it would only be a matter of time before the police came to my estate. Possibly, they were already on their way. I had no other course than to keep walking with no clear direction in mind. Once again, my state of mind changed. Dear God above, he was beating her for Christ’s sake! Was I really supposed to do nothing? Rage bubbled up inside me at the memory of him striking her. HE was the monster! Him! Not me!

No doubt he had heard of our love affair. Shame overtook me once more at the realization that this was entirely my fault. I should have never involved myself with her. But the thought was unimaginable; how could I not have involved myself with her? It had seemed the most natural thing in the world.

In despair, I continued walking for what seemed like an eternity. Still in a daze, I discovered that my feet had naturally led me back to my home. I very much expected to see the police lying in wait for me, but all was disturbingly quiet. Why were they not here? I wondered.

There were no unfamiliar scents; no evidence of my grounds disturbed. I paused, looking around, thinking this was a quite curious turn of events. I had anticipated an attempt at arrest the moment I arrived. Resisting the urge to return to the scene of my recent crime, I instead simply went inside to await my fate. Defeat, absolute defeat, was the mindset that finally settled upon me.

I remained at home the whole of the next day, waiting — waiting for the inevitable. But no one came. The front page of the newspaper screamed my hideous crime at me, but I could not bear to read about it. Then, on the second day, I was surprised to hear a carriage approaching. I breathed in deeply and immediately picked up the scent of her perfume. Elizabeth!

Rushing to the door, I flung it open to greet her. She stood there looking quite ragged with her eyes red and swollen. There was no sign of a smile upon her face.

“Elizabe—“

“Stop!” She put her hand up in warning, stopping me in my tracks. Her voice was devoid of all emotion. “I have come only to tell you that the police will not be looking for you, Vincent.”

“Why not? I don’t underst—“

“I lied, Vincent,” she interrupted again. “I lied for you! I told a story of three vagabonds entering my bedroom from the balcony to rob me of my jewels and to — to rape me. I told them my husband died a heroic death protecting my honour!

She spat the last word with an ironic sob.

I shook my head in disbelief. “Why?” She had perjured herself to the police — for me! “Why would you do that, Elizabeth?”

“Because I — because I loved you, Vincent.” She hung her head, but no tears fell for me.

I thought I would disintegrate at the sight of her distress and I reached for her again. Shuddering, she backed away, stabbing me in the heart with her retreat.

“Please, Elizabeth! Allow me to comfort you!”

“Do not — do not touch me, Vincent!”

“He was hurting you! What was I supposed to do?” I wanted to make her understand!

“He was my husband and he was disciplining me because I had humiliated him. He was perfectly within his rights, Vincent, and he did not deserve to die!” She raised her eyes to face me now, her jaw trembling. “How did you even…” She stopped herself with a shudder, then continued in a monotone. “Never mind. I want to know nothing else about you, Vincent. I came to say you are safe and to tell you goodbye.”

Her voice had started to crack on the last word, and I could see that she was close to breaking down. I had done this to her through my despicable actions. She was giving me exactly what I deserved. But…

“Please don’t go, Elizabeth,” I pleaded, reaching my hand out. Again, she backed away. The light had left her eyes — they appeared dead — just like her feelings for me.

And then, turning on her heels, she walked out of my life forever.

1890…

The abrupt ending of my relationship with Elizabeth took a huge toll on me. I had not felt like this since those horrendous hours of confusion after I was turned. I retreated from society and roamed the length and breadth of Britain with no real purpose in my reeling, stricken mind. I wanted to drown my sorrows, but alcohol did little for me. Not for the first time, I used sex to fill the yawning emptiness. Sex and, of course, blood — which was always at the centre of my cravings. And once again, I used prostitutes to satisfy my disconsolate lust.

This time, however, there were no fancy brothels for me; the seedy alleyways were much more suited to my maudlin temperament and fulfilled my needs perfectly. My heart yearned for Elizabeth, and in truth, I could not bear the taste or feel of another woman’s lips upon my own without bile swiftly rising in my throat.

And so, this was my life once again — aimlessly wandering without motivation or thought, living as a depressed leech upon an unresponsive society.

1897…

How time passes when you do not care. How unexpected is the catalyst of change when it finally happens upon you?

Somehow or other, I eventually found myself in the seaside town of Whitby, one-time home of the great explorer, Captain James Cook. Whilst there, and with great surprise, I ran into my old friend Mr Stoker, whom I had always admired for his creative spirit. Indeed, we both found ourselves staying at the Royal Hotel situated on the town’s Western Cliffs. Seeing him somewhat lifted my downed spirits — at least temporarily, for our conversations had always proved refreshing in the past. Dare I say that it even felt good to be stimulated by someone other than a low-minded prostitute for a change.

His family was not due to arrive for several days, so we spent some time in discussion together. As we strolled along the town’s cobblestone streets, I discovered Bram (as he now asked me to call him) had a penchant for Gothic architecture — just one of the many things it appeared we had in common. We both enjoyed the sights offered by this busy little port, such as the dramatic ruins of the Abbey perched high on the East Cliff overlooking the town. All were welcome distractions for me.

He was gathering inspiration for a story he was writing. At first, he was quite secretive — worried perhaps, that I might pilfer his ideas. He was too excited, however, to stay silent for long. And using my subtle influence, he soon began to reveal his thoughts.

“Do you know of Vlad the Impaler, Vincent?” Bram asked whilst we walked.

Ah — the conversation was taking an interesting turn! Of course, I had heard of Vlad Țepeș and his lust for blood. Indeed, I knew the story very well, and I had often wondered about his origins.

“Yes, I have some knowledge of him,” I replied cautiously.

“I have been researching him for my book. He was quite a gruesome figure.”

I was not quite sure how to respond, so I kept my counsel. The word “gruesome” was quite an unfavourable term which some would undoubtedly also apply to me. We paused our chatter and seated ourselves on a bench overlooking the harbour. He scribbled away in his notebook, writing the words “imposing ruins”, “dark silhouettes”, “brooding structures” and the like. I surmised that this was indeed to be a story of a darker nature. Then I spied the word “vampire”. At that moment, the fog started rolling in from the sea, quickly and suddenly blanketing the small town in a veil of white mist. The people wandering the streets became dark and shadowy silhouettes themselves. What a perfect backdrop for a story such as his!

I chuckled at the absurdity of it. Oblivious, the monster he was so eager to create in fiction was in fact real and seated right next to him. Bram broke from his scribbles and eyed me curiously. I shook my head and chuckled again, glancing at the pulsing vein in his neck. It would have been so easy to sink my teeth into him and drink, the suffocating fog covering my dirty deed; he would have no idea what was happening. For a moment, I was startled at my own amusement, and dare I say it — temptation! Deciding I was dancing a little too close to danger with my friend, I wished Bram well with his book and took my leave of him, citing an early rise the next morn.

And for the first time in months, I felt an urge to do something!

The early 1900’s…

I had become severely depressed. My life, such as it was, had become meaningless. I was tired of England and its dark, repressive ways. My chance meeting with Bram had, for some reason, lit the tiniest of flames within me, and, restless now, I nurtured this minute flicker. I wanted to move on; I needed to find enlightenment.

And so I returned to Europe. At first, I was unsure where my meanderings were taking me. But then I realised that I needed to find some meaning to my life — or rather, to my existence. More specifically, I wished to know why the things that had happened to me had happened.

Almost inevitably, I found myself back in Florence. I wanted to find my family — my mortal family. Had my name lived on? I had not dared return to find out following the years when I first became a vampire — who knows what I would have done in my thirst and confusion. But surely, with three sons, I would have descendants? I was unsure what I would do, but I wanted to see!

Alas, it was not to be. Months of searching proved disheartening and, ultimately, fruitless. My old home no longer existed and I could find no record or other evidence of my family. It seemed that my line — like me — had disappeared with no vibrant, beating hearts, no burning embers to show any kind of legacy from my mortal life. There was no more sign of my being than the hole left when you withdraw your finger from a cup of water.

And, looking in the mirror, even the physical evidence of my birth had been strangely diluted; whilst my features still bore some remnant of the Mediterranean, I had long ceased to sound like a resident of the Italian north.

Who was I then? I was nobody; I’d never existed. Yet this realization actually began to heal me in some bizarre way — it forced me into the present and made me look to the possible future laid out in front of me. It was strange, but now I could accept that my life would continue whether I wanted it to or not. For a moment, I wondered what had become of the one who had created me — Lilah. For a long time I had hated her; hated what she was, and what she had made me into. Now — now my thoughts and feelings started to become muddled. I was confused. It was odd, but over the years there had been occasions — brief moments here and there where I thought I had glimpsed her. Had my mind been playing tricks on me? Or was it perhaps wishful thinking, my subconscious telling me what I refused to consider openly?

Confused, I made my way north to Vienna. I had heard of someone there who I thought might be able to help me make sense of these reactions. I had read a number of his papers and was particularly interested in his thoughts around something called ‘dream analysis’. Whilst I had no need for ordinary sleep, I was beginning to be haunted by persistent daydreams of Lilah. Try as I may, I could not discern their purpose. No day passed where I did not see her face within my mind.

And so I became acquainted with the theories of Freud. Perhaps the Austrian might have some insights for one such as me. Some answers to my questions; why now? I had tried to forget her for so long, so why was I consumed — tormented — with thoughts of her after nearly four hundred years?

Inveigling my way into his circle took some time, a little charm, and a sprinkling of money spread in the right places. It wasn’t the first time, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. Over a period of a few months, I got to know him quite well. He was opinionated and a little full of himself, but intriguing and knowledgeable nonetheless.

I found myself invited to his weekly discussions with friends and colleagues where he revelled in holding court and giving his opinions. There were some very robust discussions — particularly with his friend, Carl Jung — another fascinating individual with interesting ideas about the human psyche.

I confess that, whilst befriending him, I managed to surreptitiously offer myself as an interesting case for study. Siggi liked to puff on his cigar whilst shooting questions at me about my daydreams. In the course of our conversations, I managed to disclose much about my relationship with Lilah and how I had fled her company — disguising, of course, some of the more difficult details that he would not understand.

It was a challenging game that I played. I very carefully trod that difficult path between openness about myself and my ‘dreams’ whilst, of course, concealing or steering away from things that would almost certainly lead to ridicule or the lunatic asylum — or even worse, a desire to study me to a level beyond that with which I was either comfortable or willing to acquiesce.

His conclusions were startling. In divulging the intense sexual response my body had to thoughts of her — a somewhat difficult and shameful thing to reveal in the early twentieth century — Siggi surmised that I had repressed a deep-seated need to be with her. I was somewhat shocked — surely I hated her, didn’t I? She had ruined my life, and I had fled from her clutches!

Siggi’s response when I articulated these thoughts shook me to the core. He rather abruptly stopped his note-taking and, looking at me with absolute certainty said:

“You need to seek her out! Seek her out — find this Lilah and confront her!”

I sat opposite him and pondered his words. Was he a genius, or a madman? Would he dare even suggest such a thing if he knew who or what she really was?

Regardless, I admit I enjoyed his company immensely. I very much valued the time I spent with him and his friends. Siggi, Carl, and I, in particular, spent more than one evening smoking cigars, discussing politics and, I confess, enjoying the relaxing and uplifting effects of drinking water laced with cocaine.

The year I spent in Vienna gave me much to think about. More than anything, I sensed the need for a more radical change; something entirely different — a completely new start. The political climate in Europe was becoming volatile, and I could sense the oncoming of hostilities. When I was finally ready to leave, I felt new energy filling my being; the flame in me was burning brighter. The time was right to move on.

Thus it was that I decided to try my luck in the New World.

I won’t bore you with details of the journey. Suffice to say that crossing an ocean wasn’t as simple as you might think for one such as me. I made landfall in New York in the spring of 1914. This was the land of opportunity. Immediately I sensed its appeal. Here, perhaps, I would be able to find freedom from my past.

During the following years, I roamed this new continent, exploring with wonder and deliberately ignoring anything to do with the depressing slaughter on the other side of the Atlantic.

I look back at those years and smile inwardly. I saw so many wonderful and beautiful things: canyons and mountains, deserts and valleys, rivers and forests. And the people — the people were a refreshing change from the squabbling Europeans with their unwarranted sense of superiority.

Following the Great War, I spent some time in the vibrant city of Chicago. I lived in a townhouse, enjoying the cities offerings, and looked with hope towards a brighter future.

And then I became sick. I hadn’t known it was possible for I had not suffered from disease or illness one single time since I had emerged from my transformation. But for the first time in over five hundred years, I was unable to rouse myself, so ill had I become. I had been infected with a virus, and I wasn’t the only one. Millions were dying, not just in the United States, but all over the world. I did not realise it at the time, but I believe I was close to my end. I was in a fever, not unlike that when I was first turned. I was also alone — there was no one to tend to me, and I could not exactly call on the doctor.

The fever was so strong that at one point, I started hallucinating. I could see angels hovering above me — a beautiful face that reminded me of Lilah. I wondered for a moment if I wasn’t in heaven. But then, even through the muffled haziness of my mind, I realised with a start that that was not a place I was ever likely to be going.

The vision leant toward me and spoke.

“Drink, Vincenzo — drink!” The words were soft and kindly and it seemed silly to fight them. I remember my teeth grazing skin and a sudden, powerful rush of the most potent liquid that had ever passed my lips. I sucked greedily, feeling an instant influx of energy into my contaminated system, and a new will to live welling up inside me!

The visions stayed with me for some time, though it is difficult to say exactly how long. All I know is that afterward I began to recover, and actually felt some relief at being well again. Clearly, I still had some zest for life.

But full recovery took a lot longer than I anticipated. And even this new land had its annoyances. Within the year, Prohibition had been introduced and the mood of the country changed. Much of the bright life that had drawn me here was driven underground and became secret and furtive.

Of course, time for me was relative, and I could quickly see that Prohibition wouldn’t last forever. It simply wasn’t working as it was intended. But just as I thought the end was in sight, during the fall of 1929, disaster struck in what came to be called The Great Depression; a drastic fall in stock prices drove people out of business and into poverty overnight.

They were a strong, hard-working people, these Americans. But this really seemed to knock the stuffing out of the country. Of course, they weren’t the only ones — this economic crisis affected the whole world — but here, it seemed a particularly hard hammer-blow.

America was in the midst of a huge recession, and if one read the newspapers, one could sense another global war on the horizon. I sighed; would people never learn? Had the Great War been for nothing? For surely, another war now would only be a continuation of the last ghastly, foolhardy enterprise.

Enough was enough. I decided that it was time to rest. As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t need sleep — not in the normal sense. But every century or so, a great weariness overcame me, and with it a desire to pause for a while. One might almost compare it to a form of hibernation.

I found somewhere where I would not be disturbed. Somewhere secret and safe from prying eyes and inquisitive noses. Hopefully, when I rejoined the world, it would be a more inspiring place. And so, I closed my eyes… and slumbered.

 

(To be continued…)

 

 

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