- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 12 In Tenebris, Libertatem
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
Vincent sat on his island of a prison, trying to ignore the ever-growing hunger that was building up inside him. The swirling waves were muted against the rumbling of his stomach, echoing through his very bones. It was madness and pain like he had never experienced with nary an insect to swallow for even the most minor of reliefs.
The worst would be yet to come. The starvation would overcome him, and he would be reduced to nothing more than a conscious corpse, unable to move or even die. That was what they wanted on the other side of the door. A weakened beast that could not fend for itself, nor die, no matter how much he would want the sweet release. He was trapped inside his own head, no longer able to recall his name.
His appearance had changed drastically, though he wouldn’t have been able to tell. His eyes had gone completely bloodshot, while his skin became as pale as moonlight, clinging to his bones and revealing the ever darkening veins and bones. His instincts were overtaking him, little by little, with his monstrous transformation.
The only thought that allowed him to keep any semblance of higher thought had been that of Maria. No matter how much being with Richard had hurt him, he needed to think of her. He would try to remember little details about her. Things he had forgotten when they first met, like how she held her books when she read, or how she tried to hide her excitement when she saw strawberries. At one point, he had etched her face into the stone below him with his fingernails, which had become hard and sharp enough to do so.
Vincent had been doing his best to drown out the sounds of hunger by reciting a recipe for apple tart she had taught him, when the door behind him slowly swung open.
‘Come to gloat more, have you?’ said Vincent.
‘I shouldn’t think so,’ said an unfamiliar voice. Vincent whirled around to see a small, portly man staring back him with a pair of dull, grey eyes. He smiled at Vincent behind, a fluffy, grey beard, and nodded.
‘Who are you?’ asked Vincent. ‘One of Marlowe’s men?’ The man laughed. ‘No, my dear boy, I am not,’ said the man. ‘I am a friend, here to offer some advice.’
Marlowe stood over the ruins of the now-burned asylum. Years of hard work and dedication, research on thousands of occult topics, a nearly endless supply of subjects to experiment on, all gone. It had been the pinnacle of occult science and mysticism, and now it was only a pile of ashes being blown away by the sea breeze. He took a deep breath, internalizing all his rage when he was approached from behind by Bellefonde and Richard.
‘Would either of you like to explain this?’ asked Marlowe. Bellefonde shuffled nervously in place, when Richard came forward.
‘It was that creature you made,’ said Richard. ’It did this.’
‘I assume you’re referring to Vincent,’ replied Marlowe. ‘I did hear about how he bested you.’ Richard became infuriated at the mere mention of his failure.
‘That thing you created did not best me,’ said Richard. ‘If I had been prepared-!’
‘Then I assume you still would have been defeated,’ interrupted Marlowe, slowly turning to the pair. ‘You have brawn and cunning, I will give you that. But you are nothing compared to what I have made.’
‘How dare you,’ said Richard. ‘How dare you compare me to that thing.’
‘Vincent,’ said Marlowe. ‘And he will pay soon enough for what he has done.’
‘Then let me do it,’ said Richard. ‘Let me be the one who makes him pay.’ Marlowe smiled at him. A rabid dog is still useful in a fight, after all.
‘Very well,’ said Marlowe. ‘You will have your chance. Now as for how he escaped…’
‘Maria had nothing to do with it,’ said Bellefonde. ‘It was another woman that was with them. I didn’t recognize her.’
‘Did I ask you?’ said Marlowe, causing Bellefonde to recoil. He turned back to Richard. ‘Is it true she had a hand in his escape.’
‘Yes,’ replied Richard, nervously. ‘We’re keeping her at the estate locked in her room. I plan to question her later. Forcefully, if need be.’
‘You will do no such thing,’ said Bellefonde. ‘That is my daughter you are talking about.’ Marlowe raised his hand, silencing them.
‘Question her,’ he said. ‘A wife must be subservient to her husband, after all.’
‘Now see here,’ said Bellefonde. ‘After that, the wedding is off. I will not have my daughter marry this…this…animal.’ Richard turned on him and drew his pistol, aiming it between Bellefonde’s eyes.
‘Pick your next words carefully,’ said Marlowe. ‘The animal seems to be offended.’
‘The wedding will go as planned,’ said Richard. ‘She is mine.’
‘It would do well to keep up appearances,’ said Marlowe. ‘It would be best. Perhaps you should take leave for a while, Bellefonde. It would do you good.’ Richard holstered his pistol as Bellefonde stared at them. ‘I’m glad that we could come to an agreement.’
‘We should find out who the other woman is, as well,’ said Richard. ‘The one with the scars.’
‘I believe I may already have an inkling as to who she might be,’ said Marlowe. ‘I will take care of that. For now, do you what you must, and await my orders. Is that understood?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said Richard. Marlowe looked towards Bellefonde, who nodded nervously.
‘Very good,’ said Marlowe. ‘Now then…’ Marlowe stopped when he noticed something in the ashes. He walked over to it and began to move the debris with his cane, until he uncovered a large pile of black ashes, sticking out against the gray.
‘What was housed here?’ asked Marlowe, turning to Bellefonde.
‘The…um…the failure of the vampires,’ answered Bellefonde. ‘The ones born of Vincent's blood.’
‘So that’s the trick,’ whispered Marlowe. ‘Not as immortal as we thought. Very well. I take my leave of you, gentlemen.’
Marlowe turned away to leave them in the ashes of the asylum and headed towards his private carriage. He got inside and sat on the plush interior, before banging his cane on the roof. The carriage was soon in motion, as Marlowe stared out the window, watching as the sun rose over the people he hated so much.
He watched as they emerged from their tiny little homes to go about their tiny little business, never daring to want more from the life that was slowly leaving him. It reminded him of his father, a simple farmer who had been pleased with the lot in life he had been given. He still remembered the day he poisoned him for the small inheritance.
The carriage dove over the cobblestones of London, weaving its way between the various straights and narrows of the city. It had not been long before richer houses soon gave way to the poorer, with a notable smell of rot and waste filling the air. Marlowe pulled out a handkerchief and held it over his mouth and nose, though it only barely helped.
In the distance, he saw the tower of Frederick’s jutting up from the slums. He banged his cane on the roof once more to signal the driver to stop. It stopped just in front of the door to the laboratory, allowing Marlowe to disembark, before going off to circle around. It would continue to go round the various blocks until Marlowe signalled it, thinking the less people associated him with this place, the better.
He stepped out carefully to avoid the mud, until he came to the front door. He knocked thrice before a slat in the top of the door slid open to reveal a pair of angry brown eyes.
‘Father Grigori,’ said Marlowe. ‘If you’d be so kind.’ The sound of multiple locks being undone filled the air, before the large door swung open, revealing the large Russian.
‘Good morning, Doctor,’ said Father Grigori. He pushed passed him and entered the laboratory.
‘Where are your cohorts?’ asked Marlowe, scanning the room.
‘Upstairs,’ said Father Grigori. ‘This way.’ He led Marlowe up a staircase, where Frederick was busy scribbling away, while Blake was carefully measuring out beakers of mercury.
‘Gentlemen,’ said Marlowe. Blake stood to attention, while Frederick continued to write. ‘How is your progress?
‘We are doing well,’ said Blake. ‘I have yet to find a spirit guide, but we still have time before the proper lunar cycle.’ Marlowe nodded at him.
‘Good,’ he said. ‘I suppose you’ve heard about the incident last night.’
‘The asylum burnt down,”’ said Frederick. ‘Some are saying it was your vampire.’ Father Grigori scoffed.
‘Yes, Father Grigori?”’ said Marlowe. ‘Is there something you’d like to say?’
‘Vampires,’ replied the Russian. ‘Foul, archaic things.’
‘Are you familiar with them?’ asked Marlowe. Father Grigori shrugged.
‘In passing,’ he responded. ‘They are parasites. I am above such things.’ Blake interrupted them.
‘I know some,’ he said. ‘The oldest recordings of that species date as far back as ancient Egypt.’
‘It’s just a hallucination,’ said Vincent. ‘How else would he have gotten past the guards?’
‘I have my ways,’ replied the man. ‘Just as you have yours. Freedom is only a valve turn away.’
‘What are you babbling about?’asked Vincent. ‘What valve?’
‘Surely, this water flows from somewhere,’ replied the man. ‘And thus it must be controlled somehow. Right outside the door in fact.’
‘Then be a dear and turn in for me,’ said Vincent, his eyes glowing, as he stared at the man. ‘If you’re truly my friend, as you so claim.’
‘Ah,’ said the man, beginning to pace. ‘If only it were that easy. You see I’m not really here, and thus that won’t work on me.’
‘You opened the door just fine,’ said Vincent, annoyed. ‘I must admit I expected my imagination to be a bit more thorough in the details.’
‘Why ask me to do what you are fully capable of yourself?’ said the man. ‘It’s a simple matter for one such as you.’
‘More nonsense?’ asked Vincent. ‘I cannot cross running water. I’m stuck here.’
‘You can’t,’ said the man. ‘But part of you can. Here.’ The man gestured to the door, which slowly opened to reveal a series of lead pipes lining the hallway. Vincent could hear the water flowing through them, before he saw just a little ways down the hall, a large iron valve sticking out from the largest of the pipes. ‘Now you must focus. Up until this point, you’ve worked on instinct. Wish to be over there turning the valve.’
‘How do you know so much?’ Vincent asked.
‘The men in this horrible place are not the only ones that study the occult,’ said the man. ‘Your people had quite a rich history before they were wiped out.’
‘Do you know if there’s a cure, then?’
The man shook his head. ‘A complicated question you must discover the answer for.
Now, do what I told you to do. And I would hurry. Your rescue party should be here soon. Once you’re free, seek the ship in the nearby harbour called The Demeter. From there, I would seek the origin of your affliction. But be wary when you land in Istanbul. The Ottomans never quite forgot about your kind.’
‘The Carpathian Mountains,’ said Vincent. ‘That’s where they found the sample.’
‘Precisely,’ said the man. ‘Best of luck to you.’
‘Why are you helping me?’ asked Vincent. ‘What do you have to gain from this?’
‘All will be revealed soon,’ said the man. ‘Now hurry.’ The man nodded and went down the hallway, Vincent listening to his heartbeat, until it was long gone. He then turned his attention to the valve and imagined himself turning it. He did his best to drown out the sounds of hunger, and put every ounce of his being into the thought.
As he focused, mist began to rise from his body, and slowly traveled across the water. It twisted and unfurled in and around itself, swirling in front of him. It spread until it reached the door and flowed inside, filling it all around.
It soon reached the valve, and curled around it. Vincent began to sweat, his head beginning to ache, with every other part of him screaming for release when it slowly began to move. Inch by inch, it gave way to the supernatural force until it couldn’t be turned anymore. Vincent collapsed on himself, and watched as the water slowly drained until it was gone completely. He laughed as he got to his shaking feet and bounded across the chasm onto the outcropping with the door and exited.
As he ran silently down the hallway, he listened for anyone who might be nearby. For some reason, there was a mass concentration of people above him in a panic. As he was listening, he rounded a corner and ran into two figures. Vincent jumped and bared his fangs, until a familiar voice stopped him.
‘Vincent! Thank God,’ said Corrine. ‘You’re here, she said.’ Vincent looked around and saw Corrine and Maria starring back at him. The latter’s eyes began to fill with tears. Just as he was about to say something, she flung her arms around him and held him close.
‘I’m so sorry,’ said Maria. ‘I didn’t know…’
‘It’s okay,’ said Vincent, looking into her eyes. ‘I know you didn’t plan that. Now, what’s going on?’
‘Well,’ said Maria, looking nervously at Corrine.
‘We needed a distraction,’ said Corrine. ‘So we set the patients free. And one of them seems to have set the asylum on fire.’ Vincent’s eyes went wide, as he tried to comprehend what they were saying.
‘We should probably hurry before someone comes down to check,’ said Maria.
‘Right,’ said Vincent, still stunned. ‘Let’s go.’ They lifted Vincent and helped him get through the underground portion of the asylum until they reached the door to the storage room. The blaze had engulfed most of the asylum, casting an orange glow over everything.
‘Oh dear,’ said Corrine. ‘I hope everyone is okay.’
‘Right now, we need to get Vincent to safety,’ said Maria. ‘He’s barely hanging on.’ It was true, Vincent had collapsed as soon as they reached the world above. He was breathing heavily and couldn’t help but listen to the rushing of the blood through the veins of his rescuers.
‘Right,’ said Corrine. ‘Let’s go.’ They supported Vincent again, and began to make their way through the maze of the asylum, making sure to avoid the raging inferno. They made their way to an exit and breathed their first breath of fresh air. Vincent fell to the ground and began to dry heave, when several figures walked up to them.
‘Maria, what are you doing?’ asked her father. At his side stood Richard, who was pulling for a pistol. Before he could get a shot off, Vincent was on him in a flash. He grabbed Richard’s wrist and twisted, forcing him to drop the gun to the ground. Richard tried to swing at him, but Vincent dodged out of the way and let him hit the ground. Vincent was on top of him, pinning his arms to the ground and forcing his head back. He bared his fangs, ready to feed, when Maria spoke.
‘Stop!’ she pleaded. ‘Vincent, don’t. You’re not the monster he is.’ Vincent looked up at her and saw her pleading eyes.
‘Just like a good little pet,’ said Richard. ‘Do what you’re told and let go.’ Vincent raised his hand and punched Richard in the face, knocking him out. Maria approached him, and placed a hand on his face, when he did something she never expected. He kissed her.
Then he stopped. It was over, and she was back in the real world. Maria stared at him, her eyes practically sparkling, before Vincent turned and began to run, with Corrine by his side, as Maria’s father picked up the pistol on the ground. He aimed it at Vincent’s back, when Maria stepped in front of it.’
‘Maria, dear,’ he said. ‘Get out of the way.’
‘You lied to me,’ said Maria. ‘You told me you didn't know where he was.’
‘To protect you, love,’ pleaded her father. ‘It was the only way to protect you against the monster he is now.’
‘He is not a monster,’ said Maria. ‘No matter how much people like you wish he was.’
Vincent and Corrine disappeared down an alleyway, as Maria’s father lowered the gun, an ashamed look falling over his face.
Vincent was leading Corrine to the docks, when they stopped.
‘What are you doing?’ asked Corrine. ‘We need to keep moving.’
‘We need to leave London,’ said Vincent. ‘Like we planned. We need to get to Romania.’
‘How are we going to do that?’ she asked.
‘There,’ said Vincent, pointing to a ship. ‘The Demeter will take us where we need to go. Istanbul.’
‘How do you know this?’ asked Corrine.
‘It’s a long story,’ he said. ‘But I need you to trust me’ She thought for a moment, then nodded. Before long, Vincent had ‘convinced’ the captain to allow them onto the ship, where they would embark on a journey that would take them far away from anything they considered home. They stood on the deck, as the lights of London faded, with Corrine pretending one of them was Gregory’s, and whispering a quiet goodbye.
They were safe for now. But being what they were, it was a condition that would never last long. Their creators would make sure of that. Chasing them to the farthest ends of the Earth if they had too. There would be no rest. No comfort. Only pursuit.
‘I see,’ said Marlowe. ‘Then perhaps this one will interest you if I say there’s a chance he’s working with your reanimated corpse.’ Frederick dropped his pencil and looked up.
‘Are you sure? he asked.’What do you know?’
‘Nothing much yet,’ said Marlowe. ‘Only that she had scars along her body.’ He drew his finger across his neck and arm.
‘Those match Corrine’s,’ said Frederick. ‘What else?’
‘We have someone in custody that may be able to give us more,’ replied Marlowe.
‘Let me speak to this person,’ said Father Grigori. ‘I will make them talk.’
‘No need,’ said Marlowe. ‘We have a man with similar talent on the job. I simply wished to mention it, and to drop this off.” Marlowe reached into his jacket pocket and produced a vial of dark red blood.
‘Blood?’ asked Frederick. ‘We have quite enough of that around here.’
‘I’m sure you do,’ said Marlowe. ‘But this vial is from the vampire, Vincent. I wish for you to ‘This will be helpful,’ said Blake. ‘I will keep it safe.’
‘May I see it? asked Frederick. ‘I would like to examine the blood of such a creature.’
‘No,’ replied Marlowe. ‘I doubt there is anything, you could tell us we didn’t know already. That and this is the last sample.’
‘I see,’ said Blake, watching the blood dance in the vial. ‘Then we shall use it for our purposes and nothing else.’ Frederick opened his mouth to object, but was cut off.
‘Very good,’ said Marlowe. ‘The sooner the better.’ He turned to leave but stopped just short of the stairs. ‘Oh, and if any of you fail, I can assure you your membership to the club will be terminated.’ He left the building, as the others looked at one another, unsure. No one left the brotherhood without giving up something valuable. Some were able to buy their way out with information or gold, those who realized too late they didn’t have the stomach to do what was necessary. But those who couldn’t provide that compensation disappeared.
Marlowe hailed his carriage, as it was making another round and got it. He placed his kerchief over his face, and they were off. One way or another, he would have his prize. Even if it meant he had to tear apart the world to do so.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
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