VS Chapter 11

The gloomy atmosphere did not lift over my little town. The clouds continued to gather overhead, getting heavier as each day passed, casting all of us in an eternal twilight. A light drizzle seemed to fall all the time.

I hated this awful weather. I missed sunlight, I missed taking Alice outside to see the birds. I missed climbing the big tree behind the shop. Now I just sat looking out the window. I watched the little church across the street, and the pub down at the corner. They were both filled due to these troubling times, people drowning out their sorrows one way or another.

"There was a lightning storm late last night." Father told Mother as he lingered over breakfast one morning. Kirsten was already downstairs running the shop, and Alice was asleep in her bassinet.

"Was anyone hurt?" Mother asked in concern as she poured herself a cup of tea.

Father chewed his food slowly. "No people." He said after a moment.

Mother sat down next to him at the table. "What happened?"

Father turned his eyes to me. He wouldn't talk if I was around. I picked up my plate and put it in the sink. Then I left the room, hanging out by the doorway and listened.

"It was over on Dawson's land. The lightning knocked down a few trees. Hit the barn, too."

I heard my mother gasp. "And the horses?"

Father shook his head. "A few managed to escape the fire." His voice lowered and I strained to hear him. "But, they were hit by lightning as they tried to escape. They're all dead. It's as if someone was doing it on purpose somehow. Dawson is ruined."

"I just don't understand." Mother said sadly. "What's going on here? I phoned my cousin, Doris just yesterday. She said the weather has been fine all week. Perfect sunny days, she says. And she's just in the next town."

"There's talk going around, that we're being punished." Father said solemnly.

"For what?" Mother scoffed. "We've always been such a peaceful little town."

"They say that it's God's work."

This only made my mother more skeptical. "God has no reason to punish us. There are no sinners in this town." I heard her chair scrape across the floor as she got to her feet. I hurried away from the door, heading downstairs.

The shop was empty, save for Kirsten behind the counter. She wore a pair of goggles, her dark hair tied back, as she inspected the complicated innards of a radio.

The bell on the door jingled as it opened. I turned to it. Father Crowley stepped into the shop, a large bundle wrapped in paper under his arm. He was whistling a jaunty tune. Well, at least someone in this town was in good spirits.

I walked over to the clergyman. "Good morning, Father Crowley." I said politely, but without much feeling.

"You don't sound as though you are having a good morning." Father Crowley answered. I didn't know what to say, not accustomed to hoisting my troubles on others, so I just shrugged. "How can you look so glum on such a beautiful day?"

I looked past him, out of the big shop windows. The weather was still just as gray and just as wet as it was when I woke up. I looked back up at him, raising one eyebrow. I reminded myself that he was English, and therefore unusual, and to be pitied. "Have you brought your radio with you today?" I asked.

"Indeed, I have." He set the paper package up on the counter. My sister Kirsten scowled at it as it encroached on her workspace. Her expression changed entirely as she looked up at Father Crowley. "Could you take a look at this for me?" He asked her, his voice all funny and soft.

As I watched, Kirsten's cheeks slowly grew red as she stared at Father Crowley. This was an expression I had never seen on my sister before, and it confused me utterly. I studied the priest for a moment, trying to discern exactly what was so riveting about him. He did stand out in our little community with his dark eyes and black hair, but I didn't see anything exceptional in his features. Perhaps it was the way he looked at Kirsten, his gaze piercing, and his soft voice.

Something clicked in my mind. Ah, I thought, this is what Mother calls 'charm'.

Kirsten turned her attention reluctantly to the radio as he unwrapped the rain-spotted paper. Then her professional interest took over. "I don't think I've seen a radio this small before." She remarked. The radio in question was slightly larger than a shoebox. The smallest one we had in the shop was a tabletop model about the size of a lamp.

"I bought it in London." Father Crowley said. "It's the very latest model."

Kirsten was already taking off the back. "The insides are all familiar." She announced. "I think I can fix this."

"Excellent." The priest smiled broadly. "I shall pick it up later today."

My sister glanced at the radio she was already working on. She smiled widely. "All right then."

"Hopefully you will have time for my sermon today." He said. "I haven't seen your family in my church yet."

I frowned at that. Father Murphy hadn't even been dead a month and he was calling it his church already. "Today's Saturday, Father." I spoke up. "We've only ever gone to church on Sundays." In reality, we hardly ever went to church. Father always said he didn't like wasting good working hours sitting in an uncomfortable seat and hearing all the different ways we were going to Hell. That didn't mean we were against the church or God. We prayed at home, and Father read to me and Alice from the Bible. It was true that when we did go to church though, it was on a Sunday, with the exception of Christmas Mass.

"Church is not just for Sundays." Father Crowley turned to me. "It is especially important in these troubling times that the community come together as a whole." He brought his hands to his chest. "Together, we are strong enough to face any adversity."

"You are absolutely right." My father said, behind me. I turned and looked at him in surprise. "Now is the time more than ever for everyone to be united. Dark, terrible things are being done, and it is through the strength of our faith that we will persevere through them."

Father Crowley's lips pulled back across his teeth. "So then I shall see you all there?" He asked.

Father nodded. "We'll be there."

I stared at Father Crowley. There was something wrong with his smile. If you could even call it a smile. As I looked, I saw that he had sharp, wicked fangs. I let out a piercing shriek, stepping backwards away from him. I walked right into a shelf and fell to the floor.

Mother was hurrying down the stairs, she saw me and was at my side at once. "Katrina, what happened?" Father, Kirsten, and Father Crowley were all looking at me strangely.

I pointed at Father Crowley. "Mother, he's-" I looked back at Father Crowley, but I could not see his fangs any longer. He just looked at me quizzically, his face a perfect mask of innocence. I looked back at my mother. "He had fangs, Mother." My voice quavered. Tears filled my eyes.

Mother put her arms around me and soothed me, whispering shushing noises in my ear. "My apologies, Father Crowley." I heard my father say. "Katrina has always had a very active imagination."

"No apologies are necessary. Who knows what stories have been passing over that child's head of late, it's bound to make anyone jump at shadows. All the more reason for a positive experience."

"Quite right." Father agreed as he showed the priest to the door. The bell jingled and he was gone.

I peered over Mother's arm, up at Father. He didn't look at me, and instead went to help Kirsten behind the counter. He was ashamed of me because I had caused such a scene. I bit my lip as more tears threatened.

A faint crying sound came from upstairs. Mother looked up. "That will be Alice, woken by all the commotion."

I sniffed hard. "I'll be okay Mother." I pulled away from her gently. "You tend to Alice."

"If you say so." Mother kissed my forehead and helped me to my feet. Then she drifted up the stairs.

Being in the shop with Father and Kirsten right now was unbearable, so I followed Mother upstairs. I sat by the parlor window with the light off and looked down at the street. I saw Father Crowley standing outside of his church, talking to someone who was under an umbrella. I watched as they talked for a few moments, then the rain picked up and the person with the umbrella left. Then, Father Crowley looked up at me.

I ducked quickly, then felt foolish. How could he see me from so far away, and in the rain? I peered back out the window.

He stood on the steps of the church, hands in his pockets, watching the shop. I could swear he was looking right at my window. The rain beat down on him, but he didn't seem to mind. Drops of water fell from his hair, dripping down his collar. I found him odd and frightening at the same time. I remembered seeing his fangs and shivered. Rather than thinking I had imagined them, I was convinced that he still had them and he was just hiding them somehow.

I don't like you, I thought. Father Crowley smiled.

I blinked, then rubbed my eyes. I was up on the second floor, so maybe I hadn't seen him properly. When I looked again though, he was turning and walking back into the church.


Mother put me in my nice dress for the sermon. "Who holds Mass at night?" I complained irritably. Mother had not heeded my pleas to stay behind. I wanted nothing to do with Father Crowley or 'his' church.

"Nighttime around here has become a dangerous time." Mother said softly. "It should not be so for a small town like ours. Night should be a time of peace and rest. We're going to get that back tonight. Father Crowley is going to help us do that."

My frown furrowed my brows tight. "Everyone seems to like Father Crowley a lot." I observed.

Mother looked me in the eyes. "You don't?" I shook my head. "Why not?" I shrugged. Mother patted my head as she stood up. "It'll be fine, you'll see."

Just as the five of us left the shop, and as Father was locking up, the church tower bell began to toll. It's deep gong blanketed my little village and sent a tremor into my heart. I looked up at the sky and found the clouds that had hung overhead for so long were gone. The moon was bright and full, and to me, it's light was unbearably cold.

We joined a crowd forming across the street. Seeing everyone all together, I realized then just how many people lived in our village. There were even some people that I didn't recognize.

At the top of the steps, the two huge wooden doors of the church opened. Father Crowley was at the left door, and a young man I had never seen before was at the right. He looked to be in his late teens, and had black hair just like Father Crowley's. I looked back and forth between the two of them, and saw even more similarities. Perhaps they were related.

The crowd filed inside and I was suddenly at the top of the stairs. Father Crowley smiled down at me with his perfectly normal, straight teeth. I narrowed my eyes at him before looking away. I focused on the young man, comparing him to Father Crowley.

He was thinner, and much paler. His cheekbones were more pronounced, and his cheeks were sunken in a little. His eyes were a glassy black, and his stare was vacant. Despite all that, I still found him sort of handsome. My parents were chatting with Father Crowley, Kirsten staring at him raptly, so I introduced myself to the young man. "My name is Katrina." I said boldly.

"Lucifer." The young man looked down at me, as if just discovering I was there. My eyes widened a little and he smiled faintly. "Just kidding."

"-my brother, Alex." Father Crowley was saying to my parents, stepping up just now. "He's been helping me in cleaning out the church, Father Murphy was many things, but tidy was not one of them. He chuckled softly.

Father laughed. "I've sat in his parlor, so I know what you mean."

Alex shook hands with my father, both of them nodding to each other in that mysterious way men do. "You're Mister Riley, Sir?"

Father looked mildly surprised. "My fame proceeds me, I see." He said in good humor.

"Gabriel has said much about you." Alex said, the corner of his mouth lifting at some private joke.

Father Crowley shot him a sharp glance. He coughed in that polite way one does to draw attention to himself. "We should start soon."

Alex nodded his head towards my father. "I'll see you inside." Then he turned and vanished into the church.

Father Crowley was excusing himself when a small figure peered out from behind him. It was a boy, a couple of years younger than I. He tugged on Father Crowley's shirt. "Father, I'm hungry." He said pitifully, not looking well at all. His black hair was shiny with sweat. His face was pale and drawn and his movements were sluggish.

Father Crowley turned immediately, kneeling down and placing his hands on the boy's shoulders. He spoke softly, in a reassuring tone. Unfortunately, his voice was too low for me to hear.

The boy looked around Father Crowley at me. I realized then that I was leaning towards them slightly in my attempts to overhear. Father put a hand on my shoulder and steered me into the church. I looked back, over my shoulder. The boy was watching me intently, his eyes a strange dark red. I looked ahead quickly, suppressing a shiver.

Every pew was filled and the hum of many people talking filled the church all the way up to the high ceiling. I slipped my hand into my father's, nervous about getting lost in such a crowd. We found an empty pew and shuffled in.

As we sat down the large doors closed. They made a loud noise that echoed throughout the church. Everyone quieted down and turned to the altar expectantly. Father Crowley stepped up and started speaking to the congregation. I didn't hear a word of it as Alice began to fuss at that exact moment.

Mother tried to shush her without drawing too much attention. Thankfully, everyone's eyes were focused on Father Crowley. "What's the matter?" I whispered to Mother.

Mother shook her head. "I don't know, she won't calm down. If this keeps up, she'll start to cry." She tried bouncing ALice up and down lightly, but Alice continued to fuss.

I held my hands out. "let me take her." I said. "She looks tired. I'll walk around with her for a bit." Mother handed me Alice gratefully. "Where's her blanket?" I asked.

Mother looked around, then sighed. "It must still be back at the shop."

"I'll get it." I said, standing up.

"Hurry back, it's dark out." Mother reached her hands out to take Alice back.

I didn't hand my sister back. "It's only across the street, and I'll be able to walk Alice while I fetch it." I smiled. "She'll be asleep by the time I return." I promised.

Mother had been half listening to Father Crowley. She focused her full attention on his sermon now. "All right, be careful."

Luckily, I was at the end of the pew, so it was easy for me to get into the aisle without disturbing anyone else. Though from the look of everyone, I could have yelled 'Fire!' and they would not have turned away from Father Crowley.

I looked over at him. That man might have just too much charisma, to be able to mesmerize people like this. I guessed it made him a good priest.

Alice tugged at my hair ad I looked away from Father Crowley reluctantly. She looked up at me with her blue eyes, tears brimming the corners. "Let's get you your blanket." I told her.

The large front doors of the church were closed tightly, and I didn't think I could open even one on my own, so I looked around for another exit. Alice laid her head on my shoulder, enjoying the rhythm of my steps. I went through a doorway, down a hallway, and soon found myself in a back room, and I was not alone.

The boy I had seen earlier was in this room, which appeared to be an office. He sat in a large chair behind the desk, his feet not even touching the floor. He swung them lazily till he saw me, then he stopped. "I'm hungry." He told me, staring at me with his dark red eyes.

I backed up quickly, feeling more than a little creeped out. "Excuse me, sorry, wrong room." I blinked and the boy was standing in front of me, looking up, as he was shorter than me by several inches.

"I'm hungry." He said, his tone changing from pitiful to threatening. His eyes glittered dangerously.

I took another step back in alarm. The boy lunged, reaching out for me and Alice. The speed he had just a second earlier failed him now. I sidestepped, dodging him easily. He tripped and fell to the ground in the hall.

He looked up at me and hissed, showing sharp fangs. My eyes widened and I backed up even more. I ran into someone, and looked up.

Alex stood behind me, looking down at me. "What's the rush, little one?" He smiled. Then he caught sight of the boy. "Lucien!" He moved around me and was at the boy's side faster than my eyes could follow. I took my opportunity and escaped.

I hurried down another hallway, trying to figure out which way I had come. Alice kept her head on my shoulder, staring at my face quietly.

Questions buzzed around in my head. What was wrong with that boy? He had obviously been sick, but why the fangs? Was he even human? I had seen Father Crowley with fangs as well. Was Father Crowley even human?

I needed to get back to Mother and Father.

I came to a corner, then stopped before turning. I could hear footsteps coming towards me. I looked around, and saw a door. I opened it and hurried through, shutting it quickly behind me.

I was outside. I blinked in the sudden darkness, my eyes adjusting slowly. I had come out behind the church. There was a lot of land back here, and I could see the cemetery in the distance. Alice had slid down to my hip. I hefted her up to my shoulder again. That was when I heard the screams.

They were muffled, coming from inside the church. I immediately tried to go back inside, but the door I had come out of was locked. I decided to go around to the front, and began sprinting across the lawn.

As I neared the corner, a tall figure stepped around, blocking my way. I skidded to a stop, my feet slipped on the wet grass and I fell on my backside. Alice, frightened, began to cry.

"What's going on!" I cried in a panic. "What are you?!"

"Something you will never understand." I recognized Father Crowley's voice. "We are monsters."

I looked around. There were more shadows on the lawn than there had been a moment before. Inside the church the screams had stopped.

Fear clutched at my heart and my throat, strangling both. "W-why are you doing this?" My voice came out quavering in fright.

"It's simple." Father Crowley answered. "We're hungry."

I was only a child back then, confused and scared. Things were happening too fast for me to cope. I got to my feet with difficulty. I lashed out in anger. "You're the ones that murdered those people, and killed all those poor horses!" I shouted, tears in my eyes. "You could you have gone somewhere else! Anywhere else! Why did you come here?!"

"Why not?"

I glared up at him, clutching my baby sister in my arms. Alice wailed on, her voice carrying over the church grounds, drawing the dark shadows nearer.

Father Crowley's figure blocked out the moon, leaving a silver halo about his head that shrouded his face completely. "Your parents are dead, and you cannot escape. Just quiet her down and come along."

"No." I said, sticking out my chin stubbornly. "I won't ever forget this. One of these days I will kill you."

"A little girl like you, talking of murder?" He whispered. "I've just told you your parents were dead, where are your tears? Your despair?"

The tears were there, just barely held back. Adrenaline and fear kept the despair back. I continued to glare at him, not trusting myself to speak anymore.

He laughed softly. "Very well then." He lifted one hand to his shadowed mouth. He grunted softly, then reached out to me, his forefinger extended. Blood dripped from the tip.

My body did not move, even though I was screaming internally at it. Father Crowley pressed the tip of his finger to my forehead. I felt him draw a small cross in his blood, then he drew away. "The others will smell my blood on you, and they will not harm you unless they wish to challenge me. You are now marked as mine."

"What about Alice?" I demanded, caring nothing about his reasons for sparing me. "Mark her too!"

"No." He said in a dead voice. The wind picked up then, stirring his long black coat.

"Then kill me now!" I shouted. My family, my village, was dead and dying. The only thing I had left was Alice. If she was to be taken from me as well, there was no point in being spared.

"No." His voice was final.

"Then I'll do it myself." I knelt down and sat Alice up on the grass. Her crying petered out to a whimper as I took her face in both of my hands, gently forcing her to look away from Father Crowley, to me. I pressed my still wet forehead to hers, rolling our faces slightly, carefully copying the mark over. I pulled away cautiously, hoping she wouldn't jerk or move and mess it up. She remained still, looking up at me with her blue eyes, under a dark cross of blood on her brow.

Father Crowley hissed. It was a terrible sound, ten times more horrifying than the boy's had been. "You have no idea what you've just done." His voice became monstrous with rage.

I flinched and covered Alice with my body, squeezing my eyes closed tight. I would protect her to the very end, even if my small body only gave her a few seconds of defense.

When no attack came, I cautiously opened one eye, peering around. Father Crowley was gone, as were the dark figures on the grounds. Overhead, heavy clouds gathered, much more quickly than was natural. They soon blocked out the cold light of the moon. A deep mist crawled along the grass, and a light drizzle fell.

Without waiting around to see what had happened, I scooped up Alice in my arms and ran. I ran away from the church, but not into town. I knew that they would be roaming the streets, looking for whomever had missed the sermon.

I reached the cemetery, which appeared to be deserted. While holding Alice, I pushed my shoulder hard against the heavy metal gate. The door opened only a little, but enough for me to squeeze through.

The smell of moss and damp soil filled my nose as I moved quickly among the large headstones. Thunder rumbled overhead, dark and ominous. I came upon a mausoleum and pushed at the stone door. The light drizzling grew to a heavy downpour and Alice started crying again as rain ran down her face.

The mausoleum was shut tight, so I gave up and moved to the next one. Lightning flashed overhead, followed closely by a loud crash of thunder. Alice shrieked in terror, gripping her tiny fingers into my hair tight enough to hurt. I managed to get the stone door opened. I scurried in and shut it behind me.

The sound of the thunder was muffled instantly by the thick walls of the stone crypt. I sat on the floor, leaning my back against the cold, rough wall. I began rocking Alice, making meaningless shushing noises with my mouth, praying that no one or no 'thing' heard her. She eventually cried herself out and fell asleep on my shoulder.

I sat on the hard floor, staring at the door. My body ached too much from the fear, and the running, and carrying my sister that I wouldn't have been able to rest even in my own bed. So I sat there without moving, surrounded by the dead, and I watched that door all night.

Hours dragged on, but I knew not how many. After an eternity, Alice woke, crying weakly for food.

I got to my feet, my muscles screaming in pain and weariness, though some were numb and cramped. I pulled the door open slowly, with what little strength I had left. As the door cracked open, sunlight streamed in.

Alice and I blinked, our eyes dazzled by the light. Warm air kissed our cold and clammy skin. With new strength I pulled the door open and stepped out into the sunlight.

Our rainy and cold spring was over, summer was here. Though my body felt relief in the warmth, it could not penetrate my heart. I took Alice back into town, heading straight home while avoiding looking at the church as little as possible. The streets were deserted, empty of anything living.

I changed and fed Alice, then myself. Afterward, I tore up an old curtain and fashioned a sling out of it. This I used to wrap around Alice, then I tied her to my back. This left my hands free for what lay ahead. I hesitated and waited till Alice napped on my back before entering the church.

I don't remember what happened next anymore. I no longer recall the horror I found inside of that church. My mind has long since buried the images of my parents, my sister, my friends and neighbors, all massacred.

The next thing I remember clearly was when they found me, days later. I was behind the church, digging graves. I had filled the cemetery, leaving stone markers instead of headstones. Some had names scratched into them. Those were the graves for the people who were still together enough to be recognized.

Alice was strapped to my back, and at first they did not believe that she was alive. She had become still and quiet over the days out in the sun. I was half alive myself, more concerned with digging graves and feeding Alice than my own well-being.

They were from the next town. No one had heard from my little village in days, and some had come looking. I hadn't been able to phone anyone myself because, back then, phones routed to an operator, and I hadn't reached Lucielle Byrne's body yet. That I was aware of.

They took Alice and I away that day, though I tried to fight them. My mind was fevered and I wasn't rational, wanting only to finish the job I had started. It was after they took Alice away from me that I went with them. We were both taken to an orphanage, where we were eventually split up.

I didn't put up a fight when Alice was adopted before me. I had realized by that time that she was better off without me. Something inside of me had been broken, and it showed to all who knew me. Alice had a chance to live a happy and normal life, never remembering what had happened to her parents. I let her have that chance, while I devoted myself to other pursuits. I would hunt the dark things that had slain my entire village, for myself and for my sister.