Gabriel

Chapter 1: My Introduction and My Plan

When the sun shines brightly over charming little towns with cobbled streets crowded with horses, coaches, peddler women selling fresh-cut fragrant roses and carnations, and the sounds of shouting and a roaring crowd as they went about their daily lives. Those ordinary boring pointless errands to keep their children and spouses satisfied. I can hear the footsteps as old widows mourning over their husbands, young women and men paying their respects to their deceased parents on the cemetery grounds above me. It seems tranquil, doesn't it? Somehow ordinary in almost a romantic way. Normality comforts mortals in a way that amuses me.

As these people live out their lives, trying to achieve their insignificant goals before their time is out, I lie resting. This is the time when the murderous light of the sun returns me to my dark, damp, musty-smelling prison for a time. This does not mean that I am sleeping. Not in the sense that you would think of it. Were you to open the lid of my coffin you would see nothing different from what you would expect to see. Lying on the red, worn, molding velvet lining, you would see a cold, lifeless beautiful creature. Dead. No signs of life. My pulse is silent, my heart is as cold as the fingers that rest motionless on my chest.

But my mind spins in a whirlwind of thought, deep contemplation of those inferior to myself and my race. When I lie here, paralyzed by my one and only weakness, I am a philosopher, a writer, a poet and a dreamer. Reaching into the minds of the men and women of my time, I know more about them than any man of science or philosophy. The tension in their minds that constantly drives them to act in such a way that the old grandmothers and women of proper appearance and manners would think them 'good God-fearing Christians' and decent ladies and gentlemen of society.

But I can also see behind their mask they wear for their peers. I can see the anticipation that a man feels as he walks down the street, the picture of a perfect gentleman, knowing that when evening comes, and when his wife goes to tea and sewing with other young women no different from her, that he will see that charming your creature he wished he'd married. He sees her face when he looks at his wife. The woman whose wedding ring he wears is young and fair, but then, who ever settled for what they have?

Even as I reach into the sinful, yet passionate minds trapped in the alcazar of propriety, there is one mind that even I cannot penetrate. She is the one who is different from the rest. She is so set apart from the rest of the people around her, that she has unknowingly blocked my mind's sight. It seems so fitting that the one creature who catches my eye is the one whom I can't understand. A young thing… she seemed still a child when a person looked at her, though she possessed a lovely womanly figure. Abigail loved vibrant colors, as bright as she could wear without being frowned upon. Full evening gowns of deep emerald green and crimson red, the shade of her painted lips. Her face was such that one could not help but notices the kindness behind her large amber-colored eyes. My exquisite Abigail was loved by everyone, taken into the hearts of all those who knew her. The very worst part of it all was that, unlike the other people of her era, she seemed to take these ridiculous standards set by society to heart.

That is why I cannot see inside her mind. Hers is so pure that my unholy mind's sight cannot penetrate it. There is no shadow in the radiance of her innocence. In my state of being, I fail to understand how a human, with everything that drives them to wrong and damnation, can be so clean of mind and soul.

Light golden hair is wound tightly in a perfect circle behind her head and two locks of spiraling ringlets dangling by her face left loose. She is small of stature, and elegantly built, with long arms and fingers. Her skin is the perfect tone. It is fair, very slightly touched by the sun that has banished me forever from its warmth. And when she blushes she taunts me in such a way that nearly gives me physical pain.

That is my punishment. No matter what it may seem at the time, there are no gifts without payment. Life and even after, it is always an eye for an eye. When I was young; young and stupid, I made a choice. I was offered a gift that, at a time in my life when growing old and ugly seemed the most terrifying of thoughts, appeared to have no consequences. A decision to last for eternity, (and by this I mean literal eternity. Mortals have no concept of eternity. Only a being who has seen the other side of death can possibly imagine it) can not be made in haste.

But all that comes later. As my immortal enemy set into the horizon, giving way to the soft , gentle embrace of night, I woke. My eyes opened only to see the confines of my coffin. Had I needed to breathe, I would have long since suffocated. There is no air and the smell is terrible, even I admit it. When I try to move my arms and legs after these rests by day, they ache and tingle with that horrible numbness that the living experience when their limbs fall asleep and, for a time, I am too weak to let myself be free of it all. Finally, I can shove the lid off the coffin and claw my way though the earth to my domain of darkness. The soil is already loose from my many comings and goings, and the surface is disguised with a simple illusion. It makes things easier than having to leave a reason for a grave to remain freshly dug every night for years on end.

Then there is the unbearable feeling of being absolutely filthy, covered in the damp earth, and my first priority is a bath and a fresh change of clothing. There is a place, a small house on the edge of the town, where I can return each night for these hindering annoyances. It's a shame really, that I cannot live there, for it's a lovely little place for someone like me and my purposes. As far as the mortals know, the house was inherited, but no one lives there. It is simply looked after and kept in nice condition. No one ever questions it. They never knock on the door to speak with whoever may live in it. They accept it as someone else's affairs that ought not to be meddled in. Society, at this point, is a convenience for me.

When I have cleansed myself of the dirt and the smell of the grave, I clothed myself in a suit of dark blue velvet. Perhaps it does not adhere to the fashions of the time, but it suits me quite well. I glanced in the looking glass, The figure looking back at me is, even by human standards, pleasant to the eye. Straight black hair is always kept neatly back from my face with a black ribbon. My height is not impressive, but I am not wanting of it either. My skin is unnaturally pale, sometimes looking sick and sallow when I have not fed well, and my vampire eyes are a dancing, leaping, brilliant green flame

Vampire, yes. That is the word I meant to use, and what I have become. This is my blessing and my curse, the reason behind my long lived youth. But unlike most you will read about in fictional novels written by ordinary mortals like yourselves, I am no longer a blood thirsty killer…. Or… Let me rephrase that. I AM blood thirsty. I long for the taste of the elixir of human youth and beauty. My own silent heart begs for it to course in my cold veins and make my body live again. What I intended to say is a quite different matter than blood lust. I am not a killer, and, though I greatly desire it, I do not allow myself the pleasure of living human blood. I am beyond it, superior to the ignorant generations of vampires with the same uncontrolled feeling of power. When you no longer fear death, as I found, the respect for life is lost. Life has no meaning when you are set apart from it, and it is so easy to reach out and take it from the fragile creatures from whose bodies we are born. They cannot fight us. We are physically and mentally superior. There is only one way to regain the respect for mortal life, pointless and short as it may seem. The love of a living human being is enough to change a cruel and wicked heart like mine.

Vampirism is more complicated than most humans think, and, contrary to false fables and fairy tales, we are not bound or repelled by holy artifacts of any kind. The blind faith people hold in these superstitions created as randomly a drunken sailors tall tales of his amorous encounters with mermaids and sirens. One of these superstitions is that vampires can only survive on the blood of a young mortal. Blood is an addiction, a strong desire that drives us to hunt and kill. It is similar to a cat, if you think of it. Feral cats hunt and kill to eat, and they enjoy chasing and tearing the life from the creature weaker than itself. But a cat who has seen the comforts of a home with people learns that life is sweeter if they eat what thy are offered freely without killing, though the urge to hunt may strike them occasionally and sometimes it is impossible to refuse.

In this way, I describe myself to you. I am able to take everything I need from the living without even touching them. Simply put, every living creature creates a barrier of energy around itself, and, in humans, it also contains a certain kind of energy that allows those who are trained in controlling and manipulating it to perform supernatural feats unexplained by mundane logic and science. I prefer to call it magic, though you may call it what you wish. Most never even know it's there. It seems at most times that they offer this life force to me with outstretched arms.

This was my next intention. I stepped out of my little house onto the street where a tired, ordinary looking man is finishing his task to light the lamps along the streets for the few people who are out and about after nightfall. The streets were still slightly wet from the rain that had fallen earlier that evening and as I came to the bridge, I noticed the light fog that hovered over the city taking on a yellow glow from the faint lights flickering from the windows and street lamps. I love the silence that is the night here. There is almost no one out at this time of the night. My feet tapping on the stones of the bridge echo beneath it in the emptiness.

But there are those lonely souls without meaning or true pleasure in their lives save the tavern every evening and the false joys that drink can offer them. When I stepped into the room I saw nothing different from what was to be expected. There were a few rough looking men sitting at the table, some of them drunk and some of them more sober.

I glanced around the room and picked out my victim; a tall, beefy man with an unkempt, brown, thick beard. He was somewhat soft in his head with his drink, but not completely senseless and I sat down beside him. "Good evening," I said politely as I held up my hand to call the bartender to bring us another drink.

He looked up from his mug at me as if he was trying to recognize me. "Who are you?" he asked me.

"My name is Gabriel," I answered, "You don't know me, don't worry that you don't know my face. Just here for a chat… something to make the evening a little more interesting. It doesn't seem that you have much else to do to me."

"Be my guest. Don't see what you could want from me, but I wouldn't mind having someone to talk to."

I smiled at him a little, "Good," I said, already knowing what his response would be. The man soon came with a mug of ale for each of us and I placed a few coins in his hand before he left us. I thought for a moment, not really knowing what to say to him.

"David…" I began, plucking his name from his mind, "Tell me, what is your opinion on-"

He looked at me oddly, "I didn't tell you my name," he said, sounding suspicious, "And I don't know you…"

Now was my time. As his interest grew and his attention drawn away from his own conditions and sorrows I am able to, with my mind, draw his psychic energy into me. It is, even though it is not actually visible, as a river of blue light flowing from his center, just under his rib cage, into mine. I smiled at him and looking straight into his eyes. "That's true. You don't know me. I didn't say that I didn't know you. I can tell you your deepest fears, your most desperate wish. I know you well, my friend."

"Don't believe you," he answered, "Easy to say something like that, but I know you're pulling my leg."

"And why would I do something like that?" I asked, "Do you think it gives me pleasure to state absurdities to someone who I could already see was not in the right state of mind to believe them? If such was the case, I could have sat down next to one of the men who can barely hold his head up and told him I am God and he would believe me. I am not that kind of man. What I tell you is nothing less than the Gospel truth." As I spoke, he as drawn more to me, I could feel his energy, this unused psychic river of strength making me stronger where he became weaker.

"Why should I believe you? What good does it to me?" he asked.

"I would think that talking to someone who knows and understands you is better than to be sobbing on the bartender's shoulders when you've lost your senses completely to your drink, isn't it?"

"I suppose, but if you know so much about me, then tell me something, just to prove a doubting fool wrong," he said with a faint smile.

"Very well," I said, and thought, all the while draining him more and more, "Your mother passed away when you were small… six years old, if I'm not wrong, and your father remarried the same year to a woman you despised. He wanted her money. When you grew up, you came to London for work, and became a stable hand for five years straight…"

He stared at me in dismay, a dazed, almost far off look in his eyes, and I knew that soon he would fall asleep to the sound of my voice as I stole his strength and exhausted him.

"Now your wife has left you on accusations that you were seeing another woman. The accusation was false, but the magistrate found you guilty and she now has custody of your son…" I looked back at him and smiled. He was fast asleep. He'd wake up in a few hours with an awful headache and assume he'd drunk too much. He wouldn't remember me, or if he did, it would be as a dream or a drunken hallucination.

Feeling much better than I had when the evening had begun, I placed a few coins on the table by his head. I knew he would need them, and I left. By now, all the lamps had been lit, and there was the pleasant flicking from them down every street. My way lay down next to the Thames, and as I walked by the river, there were a couple of carriages that passed me, but otherwise it was quiet, just how I loved it. I'm not sure why, exactly, but no matter how hard I try to avoid it, I always end up walking down the same streets to stand under the same window every night. It is odd how I almost unconsciously put myself through the same routine of torture every night, and never regret a moment of it, no matter how it tugs at the strings of my heart. There is a large house on the river made of deep red bricks and tall, white stone pillars at the entrance. I have attended many balls and masquerades in this manor, always posing as a young, insignificant count or such with very little of the right blood to give me my title. There are simply so many of them that it is very easy to get away with. I always came for the same reason, and, consequently, the same reason I was there that night. Two windows to the right on the second floor, a candle still burned, late as they hour was, and under this very window, I have stood for hours every night ever since I had been introduced to her. As I think on it, it couldn't have been less than a year from the night I had met her. It was Abbegail's window, and as I stood beneath it, I could see her figure through the thin, lavender curtains, as she moved about the room. In my eyes, she was the essence of perfection. The scent of her nearly drove me to madness. It is a madness I fear I shall never understand. It is a feeling I do not know how to describe, for it is not lust, but I cannot see how I could love her either. It has been said many times that vampires, cursed creatures that we are, cannot feel such emotions. And were it not for that, I cannot comprehend how I could love someone that I knew no more of than her silhouette behind a curtain. The only sufficient words that I can find for it is insane fascination. She has become an obsession, and, as everyone knows, obsession leads men down only one path to catastrophic destruction.

Then, as I watched, she is alone. I can't help but wonder what thoughts filled her head when no one was there to look past her eyes to see what she was pondering. And then I began to wonder if I could read her thoughts, if they would bore me, since her mind clearly lacked the wickedness that would allow me to see them. Was it innocent naivety that kept her mind so pure, or was she simply too stupid to understand the evils of mankind enough to think about them? Now this was a new thought, and one that would not let me rest until I had an answer of some sort. I would have to find a way to meet Abbegail personally. And though my mind was disturbed, this thought alone, and planning it was enough to occupy my mind for the rest of the night, and, just before the morning hours approached dawn, I purchased a single white rose and climbed the wall to leave it on her window sill while she slept.

Somehow, now that I had done this, my mind was more at ease. I felt slightly less angry at myself for these secrets I held and I left the house and her window behind me, walking slowly and casually down the empty cobbled streets.

Just before dawn, the fog lifted off the river and, gradually, there were more signs of life again throughout the city. I knew then that my time was over and that I had to retreat to the cool, damp darkness of the earth. Then I saw a few more people on the streets than I had through the night, half asleep men and women opening their shops before the light of the sun rose, hoping to make the best of the day. There were lights in the churches as the few people who lived behind their walls knelt for their morning prayers. And I, in the last few minutes of darkness, bury myself again…

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The day had been hot… unusually hot for that time of year, too early for heat like that, and when I had finished my work for the day, I had taken Angel, the chestnut stallion my working the stable for the last year had earned me, out of the little town and into the woods for a swim in the river. I knew no one would miss me. After my work was done, and I had had my share of the supper in the evening, no one would speak to me or question what I did. I was a hired hand, not family. I didn't matter. And that was how I liked it. I liked my privacy.

The woods that night, after the sun had set, were very alive, noisy with the calls of owls and crows, and the distant, barely audible sound of wolves howling. All was exactly as it should be. I reached a point at the river where it bent and there was an eddy where the water would pool during the day and become warm, like a bath. The reeds would conceal me from sight if anyone should come along, though no one would at this time of night. And Oh! How lovely it was to sink my head beneath the comfortably cool water and rinse the dirt and sweat from my body from my hard day's work. The feeling of my own soaked hair clinging to my neck and shoulders was marvelous. I could have stayed there all night long without a second thought.

So immersed was I in the pleasure of my bath that I had not noticed that the woods, meanwhile, had fallen completely silent. The quiet in the woods can leave a person with their spine tingling. It is a terrifying feeling to be alone in the woods when it is quiet. But even then, there is the call of a bird in the silence to cause the person to call out and jump in their skin, only to realize that the cause of their fright is a sparrow in the trees. Now it was completely silent. There is no way to describe the feeling of complete, dead, utter silence, when the only noise to be heard is your own breath and heartbeat. Even the river, it seemed, had hushed its soft whispering. I quickly dressed myself, and only when I started riding again, did I notice the abnormal stillness.

My spine tingled and I kept glancing over my shoulder, though I knew there was nothing there to see. In that quiet, there would have been no way to miss the sound of something or someone following me, though there was that sensation one has when they know that they are not alone, when a person feels eyes upon them, though there is no one there but himself.

When I got deeper into the forest, the part of the path where the trees were thicker and blocked nearly all the silver light from the nearly full, waxing moon, I began to feel more than just the slight unease I had felt. It grew to a terror that gripped me entirely, making me tremble, causing my hands to shake as I held the reigns in my hands. I turned my head to look behind me once more, though I knew I wouldn't see anything, and when I turned my head back to the trail, there he stood, just as if he had been waiting there beside the trail for some time, leaning comfortably against the trunk of a tree. He was a tall, thin, pale-looking man, with auburn hair which, in the wind, some of it had come loose from the black ribbon that held the rest of his hair from his face. I could not see the color of his eyes at that point, his face being covered with the hood of a large cloak.

"Rather late for a person to be out alone, isn't it, young man?" he asked me, though he didn't move.

"Perhaps it is a little late, but I am going back to the village now," I said, pointing down the trail.

He laughed, "Where you will…?"

"What do you mean, sir?" I asked, confused by his tone.

"What do you plan to do back at the village? What have you there to return to?" asked the man.

"Everything I have ever had," I answered, "I-"

"You'll just continue cleaning stables and grooming horses for room and board?" he asked, interrupting me, "Is that what you are going to do with your life?"

"I can't think of any different way… it is better than begging in the streets, which is what I was doing before," I said, defensively.

"But you could have more, boy," he said, "You could become so much more than you master, more than any other human being. Your youth could be eternal, your strength boundless, and more."

At that moment, I thought that I was about to scoff at his suggestion and ride on. I had, by this time, dismissed him as a madman. It seemed to be the most logical conclusion to be drawn at that point, when I needed a conclusion. I was still disturbed from the fright, and the surprise of seeing this man just appear right in front of me.

I tapped Angel's sides gently and rode past the man then, glancing back at him to be sure that he wasn't following me, and nor that he had not disappeared entirely and I had not only imagined him. He stayed, watching me until I had turned around a bend in the path.

Though the woods were still just as silent as they had been, I felt then a little easier in my mind as I left him behind. As I had nearly reached the village, as I came round that final bend, there he stood, the same man, sitting down on the ground and leaning back against the gate. He lifted his hand to me as I drew near.

"Perhaps I didn't make myself clear earlier," he said, "I was offering you a choice… most don't get a choice, my friend."

"Yes," I answered, "And I declined your offer."

"It is not an offer to be declined or accepted, boy," the man said, standing up and coming nearer. He held up his hand to my panicking horse, and the beast calmed, letting him stroke his muzzle and nickering quietly, "Here is my offer. I can kill you, and they will burry you. Your life will end, and in a few years, no one will remember your name or who you were, and there will never be a story to be told about your life. Or I can kill you, and give you my blood, make you my immortal child, and you will rise again, your story will go on for centuries, millennia if you are one of the lucky ones. You will have the life you deserve, without judgment or duty, free of the laws of mortal men. Our laws are different from those of men. That is my offer."

I looked him in the eye, "You are a vampire?" I asked, somehow neither shocked nor frightened. It seemed so logical at that point that there was no surprise by which to be scared or astonished.

"Very astute of you. Most people recognize that before I actually tell them, though. I don't imagine you know much in the way of folklore if you did not recognize that fact sooner."

"You are the spawn of the devil, I know that. If you are going to take my life, then take it completely. I want no part of your unholy alliance," I answered.

"Spawn of the devil?" he asked, "Do you go to church every Sunday, boy?"

"Yes, sir. Every Sunday, when I can."

"Boy, I have existed since before the Romans invaded England and the Pagan tribes of England still lived in wooden castles. In those centuries of my life, I have seen no evidence that such a being as the devil exists," he said, "I am simply a creature with a gift… the gift of immortality, with the curse of parasitism. That is all I am. There is nothing more or less holy about me than there is about you, my friend."

"Then why are you offering me this fantastic gift?" I asked, "If, as you say, I am nothing in my life, then why do I deserve such a gift?"

The vampire smiled at me then and he thought for a moment, as if trying to think of a reason himself. After a time, he said, "I think that you deserve the gift because you have never truly lived, and I am offering you the choice because I was not given one myself. I will return to you tomorrow night. You must have decided by that time, or I will make the choice myself."

"Meaning that you'll murder me?" I asked, a little uneasily.

"I can't be sure. I imagine it will depend on my mood at that point in time. Good evening, young sir," he said, and, without anything to explain how it happened, he disappeared from in front of my very eyes…

That morning I didn't rise, not even when they sent the made to wake me, I stayed abed until the early afternoon, not wanting to be troubled by the thought of the vampire's proposition. When I woke, I began to wonder if it had not been a dream. When I thought it over, it all seemed more like a dream than reality, from my bath to the moment I had come back and lay down to sleep. None of it could have been real. Yet, as I pondered it, there was a lingering fear, unlike an ordinary nightmare. I couldn't stop thinking about it, even as I hurried though my chores due to my late start, I found myself considering what he said. There I was. I was nothing.. I was just someone who looked after the horses. Only the innkeeper, his wife, and the maid who made sure that I was taken care of knew my name. I didn't have the means to make a life of my own, nor did it seem that I ever would at this rate. I had no gifts with which to apprentice myself to, and even if I had, no one would take on an apprentice of my age when there were younger boys who were less expensive to keep and who easier learned a trade. I would always be a stable boy… maybe one day, I would be the stable master one day if I was very fortunate. There was no purpose in my life and, though it had never occurred to me before, then it terrified me.

Evening fell all too quickly, it seemed. The sun set into the gray haze that had gathered on the horizon signaling an approaching downpour. It seemed that my last sunset on earth should have been spectacular. It should have been something with so much color and splendor as to make me rethink the beauty of life, but as I sat outside the stables, there was nothing to see but the faint white light behind the clouds and I could hear the faint rumble of thunder in the distance.

Soon it was dark again and a light drizzle fell. Everyone went inside to sit next to the fires and wait out the storm in comfort while I awaited the vampire, whose reality I was beginning to seriously doubt. When the rain started to fall harder, I gave in and when indoors, my clothes soaked through and chilled to the bone. When I had changed into dry clothes and I had let myself relax somewhat, I asked Sophie, the maid, to bring me something to eat and a glass of wine. I dined eagerly. I hadn't realized how hungry I had been until I started eating, but I was famished.

After taking my meal. I lay down on my bed and took a book from my shelf and started to read by the light of my candle. Slowly, the incident (or dream if that was indeed what it hand been) had left my mind entirely. I had managed to distract myself from the thought of it. Soon I knew everyone had fallen asleep. There was not a sound to be heard in the building excepting the quiet rustling of the paper as I turned the pages of my book and the faint crackling fire which I had been feeding periodically.

Before I could even turn to see the cause, the fire died completely, and the few candles that had been burning in the room all went out at once. The only light left in the room was the faint glow from the embers of the fire. By that faint light, I saw a shadow cross the room into the shadows where I could not see the figure that cast it.

"You thought I wouldn't come?" he asked. I knew the voice, and I knew who it was even before the lights had gone out.

"I was beginning to doubt it," I answered.

"Have you made your choice, then?" He stepped closer so that I could partially see his face by the little light that was left.

"I…" I realized I hadn't actually reached a decision. I hadn't hardly thought about it at all. I had been trying to forget the whole thing rather than thinking about his offer.

"No?" he asked.

"No." I said. It was pointless to lie. I knew he was already sure that I had not.

"Then I have decided for you," he said, taking my arm in his and leaning down to bite my wrist.

"Wait!" I said, pulling my hand away from him, though his grip was so strong that I could not break away from it.

"I told you that I would decide, boy… You should have thought better yourself."

"Might I at least know your name before you kill me?" I asked. I have no idea why I cared at that point. I believe that I was sure he would kill me, but nonetheless, that is what escaped my lips.

"My name?" he asked, laughing very quietly so as not to wake anyone. "You are an unusual one. My name is Gerard…" With that, he pulled my arm up to his face again and bit down hard and fast into my wrist, his teeth closing around my hand as if he was going to tear it off completely and I did cry out, but before it could wake anyone, he clamped his free hand over my mouth and nose so that I couldn't even breathe. I lost consciousness and, in those final seconds before the world went black, I was sure I had died completely. I knew in my heart that I was never going to wake. And I wasn't afraid of dying. I was afraid of him, yes, but it was not the death that frightened me.

But I did wake. In a manner, anyway. I came to that semi-consciousness of a dormant vampire. I felt cold.. Not chilled, but my body was cold. My skin was cold. I wasn't breathing, but neither was I choking, and my heart was not beating. My eyes wouldn't open when I tried to see where I was. And I was thirsty. This thirst I cannot begin to describe. It was not as if I wanted a drink, it was a desperate desire for something particular that possessed my entire body. As I lay there, I could think of nothing else but that. I had to have someone's living blood, and yet I could not move my limbs. It was as if my body was dead and my mind still alive.

After hours of lying there in that agony, what seemed like days, I heard a fain scratching somewhere near me. Above me. My eyes opened now, and my limbs moved a little, but they seemed heavy. I was weak, but I was alive, if that is in fact the word that I should be using. There was a sound outside, a loud moan, and a door was opened and I saw light. But I did not just see light. I saw color within the light like what one sees through a prism when the sunlight falls upon it. When my vision returned somewhat more to normal and I could recognize the face that regarded me from in front of the lantern I saw that it was none other than my vampire attacker. He smiled at me and heaved me up out of the hole in the ground I'd been lying in. I glanced around me seeing the stone crosses and the sculpted angels who watched over the eternal resting places of the dead. I heard a loud., horrible, despairing, wailing scream when I glanced at the black marble headstone behind me and saw my own name etched into the stone, at which point I realized that the scream had escaped my own lips. I cannot describe to you the horror of seeing your own name on a gravestone. It was the most utterly genuine realization that I was no longer among the living,. In that moment I came to understand that I would never again live amongst mortals as I had, and I believe I wished more than anything that I had chosen death over whatever this existence was that I had now.

"Good evening. How was your stay in Hell?" asked Gerard.

"Hell?" I asked, still a little too shaken and unsteady to understand what his point was.

"Did you see the Devil? An eternal burning fiery pit where the souls of the wicked endlessly burn?" he asked.

I stayed silent, just staring at the letters engraved into that black stone, wishing they would suddenly change and bear some other's name. I couldn't think of anything else. My life was over. I was dead… at the age of 19. My life was over, and yet I was not at rest. The shock didn't lessen for more than a month

At last I started to come back to my senses a little and caught on to what he meant: "No… no devil and no hell," I said, "No heaven either… no gates, no angels, no light… just dark. That's all there was."

"I told you, Gabriel. You could have taken my word for it, but I wanted you to see it for yourself… the other side of death. Not many die who can tell what it feels like," Gerard said. Welcome to eternity. And now… you must drink." He dragged a dead human body into the light of the lamp…