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  • by Mackenzie O'Rear

Chapter 9 - Seekers in the Dark

Edited by Brien Bigelow

Illustrations by Lucas Marra

‘Maria,’ he said, unsure of what he could say to fix this. He wanted to explain he was looking for a cure. He wasn’t going to steal anything. He was already a monster, he could not bear to add to his list of sins in front of her. But before he could say another word, her arms had wrapped him in a tight embrace. He looked down to see her nearly sobbing into his chest. She looked up at him with her hazel eyes.

‘I was so worried,’ she said. ‘I thought I might be too late before…before…’ He hugged back with all the warmth his cold body could muster.

‘I’m alright,’ he whispered. ‘As much as I can be.’ They smiled at one another when they were interrupted by Corrine.

‘It’s a pleasure to meet you,’ she said, offering her hand to Maria. ‘I’m Lady Corrine De Marine. I’m a friend of Vincent’s.’ Maria stared at the odd woman in front of her with all her scars. Was this the woman who had Vincent’s heart? So very odd, yet exuded such a noble air. Maria could feel that odd pang in her chest from before. She took Corrine’s hand.

‘I am Maria Bellefonde,’ she told Corrine. ‘I am…also a friend of Vincent’s.’ Corrine’s eyes lit up with excitement, which made Maria feel uneasy.

‘So you’re the girl,’ said Corrine. ‘I have been wondering-!’ Before she could say another word, Vincent interrupted her.

‘What are you doing here, Maria?’ he asked.

‘Looking for clues, of course,’ she replied. ‘To help you. Which is what I assume you are doing here with…her.’ She regarded Corrine, who would not keep smiling at her.

‘We were going through the books,’ said Vincent.

‘I was going through them,’ said Corrine. ‘And I did find something.’ She led them over to the desk, where a large book lay open.

‘This is my father’s journal’ said Maria.

‘What does it say?’ asked Vincent.

‘It appears to be a recollection of the events that led up to your condition,’ explained Corrine. ‘Apparently some fellow name Richard procured a blood sample of some kind in the Carpathian Mountain Range.’ Vincent and Maria looked at one another, unsure. Corrine continued. ‘They administered it to you after you agreed to undergo a physical examination and treatment.’

‘Why would they do that?’ asked Maria.

‘There’s an allusion to some plan,’ said Corrine. But your father never outright says anything. But we might be able to find out more in the sub-basement.’

‘There is no sub-basement,’ said Vincent. ‘Just the storage area.’

‘He’s right,’ said Maria. ‘We’ve mapped every corner and we’ve never seen anything of the like.’

‘It says right here,’ said Corrine, pointing to passage. ‘There’s a sub-basement. You said there’s a map.’

‘Just the one we made,’ said Vincent. ‘And…’

‘My father’s,’ finished Maria. ‘It’s a blueprint. I think he keeps it somewhere around here.’

‘We best find it then,’ replied Corrine. They all nodded and began to search the room. It was Maria who would find it after flipping a hidden switch under the desk. They flattened it down and began to try to make sense of it. If all of the building had been a maze, the blueprint certainly didn’t help alleviate the confusion.

‘There,’ said Vincent, pointing to square. ‘We’ve never seen that room .’

‘It’s below the storage area,’ said Maria. ‘How did we miss it?’

‘We’re going to have to go down there.’ They all stood and nodded, one by one, and left the room with Vincent leading the way. None of them noticed as Corrine crossed the threshold with the blueprint, the symbols closest to the door, giving off a faint glow. Somewhere across town, the same symbols began to glow, alerting the wrong person to the supposed thieves in the asylum.

Father Grigori seethed with rage as they pieced together the clues that led to the specimen’s escape. He had walked into the laboratory with Frederick to discover absolute silence. No welcoming word from either inhabitant that had made this place his home. Only the forbidding silence.

Frederick had found the small, lifeless body of Duo nestled on the floor, bearing what could have passed for a smile on a normal face. His master leaned over the mismatch of odds and ends he had sewn together what seemed like a lifetime ago. Frederick had known Duo was not long for this world, and he always suspected he would feel some sense of sadness in his inevitable passing. Instead, he was filled with a cold contempt.

Corrine was their only viable subject, and without the resources of compatible body parts or funds, the chances of replicating their success was diminished greatly. With Marlowe’s vampire on the loose, paranoia had seized the city and continued to make it impossible to steal anything fresh enough to work with. He had the Flamel Notes at least, deciding that keeping them with him at all times would prove to be wise, but half of the problem was the weather.

Father Grigori had told Frederick the storm was his, but it wasn’t something that could be called on whenever they pleased. Coaxing a form of nature like that had risks he wouldn’t specify, as if Frederick believed any of it anyway. Everything had fallen into place so easily, and now everything had scattered to the winds, never seeming to overlap again.

‘We should have locked her up,’ said Father Grigori. ‘She had too much freedom.’

‘How were we supposed to know Duo would betray us?’ asked Frederick. ‘He was always loyal to me.’

‘Loyalty? Loyalty is nothing compared to fear,’ explained Father Grigori. ‘I have seen this. I know this. What do you know?’ Frederick was beginning to get riled.

‘Grand words,’ replied Frederick. ‘Yet all you ever seem to bring to the table are excuses.’ They stared down at one another, static permitting the air between them. They were soon interrupted by a knock at the door. Frederick gave Father Grigori one last look before opening it to reveal Marlowe, accompanied by a small man with dark circles under his eyes, whom Frederick had once known as Francis Blake.

‘Hello, Frederick,’ said Marlowe. ‘May we come in?’ Frederick nodded and let the man enter. They didn’t get far before Father Grigori was upon them.

‘I demand you relieve this man of the Flamel Notes,’ said Father Grigori, pointing at Frederick. ‘And give me them at once.’

‘How dare you!’ said Frederick. ‘After everything we’ve accomplished!’

‘Gentlemen, please,’ said Marlowe. ‘I am aware of your plight.’ He began to pace around the laboratory, stopping at the body of Duo. He regarded it with disgust, before continuing his walk.

‘It is a shame she got away,’ he said. ‘I am very disappointed in that. So much promise.’ He turned to them sharply, catching them off guard. ‘We’ll simply have to reacquire her.’

‘How do you propose we do that?’ asked Father Grigori. Marlowe smiled and walked over to Blake.

‘Frederick, you remember Blake,’ asked Marlowe. ‘From our little club?’ In truth, Frederick recalled the spoiled noble throwing quite a rage when he had been told he couldn’t join them in their research.

‘I recall,’ said Frederick. ‘Why his here?’

‘Why doesn’t he show you?’ said Marlowe. ‘Go on, Blake.’ The man pulled out his aged tome from his bag and placed it onto the table. Frederick and Father Grigori approached it and began to flip through it.

‘This is familiar but useless nonsense,’ said Father Grigori.

‘It shouldn’t be,’ said Blake. ‘It’s the same tome Flamel had used in his research.’

‘Can’t be,’ said Frederick. ‘This is ancient. You could be bluffing,. After all, neither of us can read Sanskrit.’

‘I can,’ said Blake. ‘And I used it to bring someone back from the dead.’

‘Nonsense,’ said Father Grigori. ‘You lie.’

‘He isn’t lying,’ said Marlowe. ‘And unlike you two, he did it in his basement alone. You’re even using some of his supplies.’ He pointed to the golden sarcophagus in the middle of the room.

‘Unfortunately,’ said Blake. ‘you’ll notice some of the pages are missing.’

‘It would appear none of your creations are very loyal,’ said Marlowe.

‘OUR creations, doctor,’ said Frederick. ‘I believe it is one of yours that’s still making things so difficult for us.” Marlowe’s eyes grew dark as he stared at Frederick.

‘I am taking care of it,’ said Marlowe. ‘Same as always.’

‘See that you do,’ said Father Grigori. ‘I would like to see this…this…what is the word?’

‘Vampire,’ said Frederick. ‘And I agree.’

‘So it’s true,’ said Blake. ‘There really is a vampire running around?’

‘He didn’t tell you?’ said Frederick, indicating Marlowe. ‘Well, I suppose you should know if you’re going to be part of our little group.’

‘We can save the explanations for later,’ said Marlowe. “We have work to do. Things to salvage. If Blake is to believed, he may have a way of leading us to our walking corpses.’

‘It’s true,’ replied Blake. ‘But I need time to prepare. And…I’ll need an offering?’

‘What kind of offering?’ asked Father Grigori.

‘The traditional standard is human sacrifice,’ explained Blake. ‘But in reality a large enough animal will do.’

‘We’re seriously not trying more mysticism, are we?’ asked Frederick. ’Is he going to call up a storm as well?’

‘Frederick,’ said Marlowe, walking casually up to him. ‘What choice do you have? You both wasted the only cadaver I could give you. So unless you know something I don’t, which is highly unlikely, you will do as Blake says.’

‘I will be happy to teach him,’ said Father Grigori. ‘I can lead from here.’

‘No,’ said Marlowe. ‘You are just as much a failure as Frederick. Blake will be taking the lead. Give him everything he asks for and more. Is that clear? Frederick and Father Grigori both stepped forward to protest, but were stopped by a look from Marlowe. ‘I will ask again: Is that clear?’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Frederick.

‘As you wish,’replied Father Grigori.

‘Very good,’ said Marlowe, clapping his hands. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some important matters to attend to.’ He walked past the two and patted Blake on the shoulder before exiting out the door.

They all looked at one another suspiciously, before Blake stepped forward and began to flip though the book.

‘Well, gentlemen,’ said Blake. ‘Let us begin.’

The three descended into the never-ending hallways of the asylum. Corrine was baffled at how easily Vincent and Maria navigated down to the storage area without getting lost. Even with her own perfect memory, she found herself looking at the blueprints just to make sure where they were going. The whole facility just didn’t make any sense. The outside had made it seem as if it would be a normal medical facility, but the inside twisted and turned like a nest of snakes writhing together. Where you would suspect one hallway to end, another one seemed to meld into existence from out of nowhere.

They finally reached the storage room at the bottom of the asylum. Vincent opened it to reveal a large collection of unused medical supplies, fresh and unstained. Gurneys were stacked against the windowed wall, casting the room in striped shadows. Rows of glistening apparatuses filled bin upon bin, sharp and lethal. It all gave off a feeling of the pristine and untouched, waiting for the first taste of blood.

‘I don’t see a door,’ said Corrine. ‘Are we in the right place?’

‘It’s probably hidden,’ replied Maria. ‘Spread out. Let’s see what we can find.’ They all took a corner of the room and began to probe the various walls. As they searched, Corrine approached Maria.

‘Any luck?’asked Corrine.

‘Not so much, I’m afraid,’ replied Maria. ‘The blueprint said there was room here.’ She looked at Corrine and saw her faded scars.

‘You can ask if you like,’ said Corrine. ‘I need to get used to them.’

‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-!’

‘They aren’t mine,’ she told Maria, and explained what had happened to her. When she was done, Maria stared curiously.

‘How is this possible?’ she asked.

‘I’m not sure,’ replied Corrine. ‘But I’m alive again. I can feel all those people under my skin.’ She held up her arm and let her scars reflect the streetlights through the window. She moved the fingers on her donated hand.

‘I can feel its history,’ she explained. ‘It’s very tragic It belonged to someone who could play the violin, or at least I think it did..’

‘How so?’ asked Maria.

‘Look at it. It’s still a young hand, cut down in its prime. I can hear it whispering melodies to me. Great sorrowful arias that are now silent to the world.’ She stared with soulful eyes at her transposed hand as Maria looked on at her.

‘I can see why you’re friends with Vincent,’ she said. ‘You’re very sympathetic to the rights of others.’

‘Vincent has been very kind to me,’ said Corrine. ‘Someone had better snatch him up before it’s too late.’ Maria turned bright red at hearing that. Before she could respond, Vincent interrupted them, as a wall opened up.

‘Found it,’ he said, and froze, a look of fear encapsulating his face. Maria walked up to him.

‘What’s wrong?’ she asked. ‘What’s down there?’

‘I don’t…I don’t know,’he said. ‘But I smell…I smell…’

‘Smell what?’ asked Corrine. He turned to them, his eyes wide with hunger.

‘Blood,’ he whispered. They all turned to the uncovered stairway leading to the bottomless darkness. ‘You should both stay here.’

‘We’re not going anywhere,’ said Corrine, grabbing his hand. Not to be outdone, Maria held his other hand.

‘It might have answers,’ she said. He nodded and began to lead them down into the depths. It quickly became too dark for the girls to see, so Vincent took the lead. Every step seemed to echo in the cramped hallway as they went further down. They reached the bottom after what seemed like an eternity, despite its only being a few minutes.

‘What do you see?’ asked Maria.

‘A door,’ replied Vincent. ‘Ancient and made of iron. There are strange symbols all over it.’

‘Can you open it?’ Corrine asked, squeezing her compatriot’s hands nervously.

‘I think so,’ he replied. He let go of their hands and walked forward, slowly turning into mist and seeping between the cracks.

‘What’s happening?’ asked Maria. ‘Vincent?’

‘He’ll be with us shortly,’ said Corrine. ‘I hope.’ A few second passed as the large door whirred to life. Unseen mechanisms moved and whirred, as the door creaked open to reveal the glow of torches lining a hallway, illuminating the figure of Vincent. He took a torch off the wall and handed it to Corrine.

‘This way,’ he said. ‘Stay close.’ They walked down the hallway into the darkness. As they walked, they would make out what appeared to be prison cells and observation rooms on either side. Maria looked into one and gasped.

Inside one of the rooms with a window appeared to be a decaying corpse of a woman in a tattered dress. An iron chain dangled off her bony neck and looked as if it had once been attached to the wall. Between the corpse’s dead eyes, the unmistakeable mark of a bullet made itself known.

‘What is this place?’ asked Maria fearfully, before following the others. As they walked, the oddities inside the cells began to increase. Corpses with odd proportions. Stitched together animal parts that vaguely resembled their original forms. Glowing vats of strange creatures. Mummified corpses that stared at them with empty eye sockets. As they passed each one, they noticed corresponding clipboards hanging next to each cell, all stamped with one word in large, red lettering: FAILURE.

One cell had featured a large circle, painted in blood on the wall and marked symbols known to no mortal language. Embedded in the centre of the circle appeared to be half of a skeletal corpse, its features still contorted in a fearful scream. It seemed the poor thing had been pulled into the wall, only to be trapped there by some unseen force. Vincent said nothing, but he could feel something old and ancient emitting from the macabre scene. A force beyond recognition, powerful and undying, and, much like himself, craving blood.

‘Let’s move on,’ he said, ushering them forward. They walked past the numerous horrors until they reached what appeared to be the end of the hallway. A final, large cell stood before them, filled with the corpses of strange creatures. They were all pale and hairless, with pointy ears. Their eyes were opaque with signs of blindness. Their hands and feet ended in long, sharp claws. Vincent stared at them.

‘They smell…Familiar,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why…’ He was entranced by them, and something deep inside him filled with an unexplained sadness. He walked up to the bars and knelt down, reaching out as he did so.

One of the creatures in the pile looked up, still alive. Maria would have screamed if Corrine hand’t covered her mouth in time. The creature sniffed the air, before slowly crawling along the floor. It came right up to Vincent ,who, without hesitation placed his hand upon the monstrosity’s cheek. It seemed almost comforted by the action, closing its eyes and nuzzling his hand as a cat would, letting slip a low, guttural purr and revealing rows of razor sharp teeth.

‘What is it?’ asked Maria. Corrine handed her the torch and pulled the clipboard from the wall. As she read, her eyes widened.

‘They’re…They’re vampires,’ she said. ‘They were injected with samples of Vincent’s blood shortly after his escape.’

‘But they’re nothing like him,’ said Maria. ‘How can that be?’

‘These people asked the same question,’ said Corrine. ‘But they never found an answer. According to this…They show animalistic behaviour, unable to think the same way when they were human. They crave blood, and seek it to excess, even though when they have their fill they will inevitably-!’

‘Die,’ interrupted Vincent. He lowered the creature’s head to the floor as its purring ceased, dead. ‘Poor things. And there are so many…’

‘They tried to replicate what success they had with you,’ explained Corrine. ‘They never succeeded.’

‘Good,’ said Vincent. He stood and looked at his companions, his expression filled with sorrow and pain for the pile of corpses behind him. ‘Is there anything about a cure?’

‘I’m afraid not,’ said Corrine. ‘They were never looking for one.’

‘Vincent,’ said Maria, taking his hand in hers. ‘We’ll find a way. I promise.’ He looked at her and nodded. It comforted him just to have her there.

‘We should go,’ said Vincent. ‘Before I burn this place to the ground.’

They made their way up to the storage room, making sure to darken the torches and hide any sign they had been there. As they exited the hallway, they heard voices above.

‘It can’t be,’ said Vincent. ‘No one is scheduled to arrive for another two hours.’

‘Listen,’ said Corrine. ‘Scotland Yard. They’re looking for someone. They know we’re here.’ Maria took the map from Corrine and pointed down a hall.

‘Go,’ she said. ‘I’ll keep them busy.’ Vincent began to protest when she stopped him. ‘They won’t harm me, I’m the administrator’s daughter. Now go!’ Vincent and Corrine nodded at one another, before they left. Vincent walked up to Maria and threw his arms around her.

‘Thank you,’ he whispered. ‘We’ll see one another again soon…Holmes.’

‘I should certainly hope so, Watson,’ she replied. ‘Now go.’ Vincent and Corrine fled down the hallway, narrowly avoiding several groups of Scotland Yard. They made their way to the exit and into the London fog. Before long, they were safe and sound in the abbey, none the wiser. Corrine had tried to convince Vincent to rest, but he refused until he saw Maria and her father enter a carriage and drive off.

They sat there in silence, both thinking the same terrible thought. It was something they both felt strongly, despite all they cared about still being within the city, but the time had come. There was no safety in London and soon, they would need to leave.

Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company

Victorian Nightmares 2018

All Rights Reserved

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