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  • by Mackenzie O'Rear

Chapter 14 - Old Grudges

Edited by Brien Bigelow

Illustrations by Lucas Marra

It was dusk when The Demeter made port in the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul. A city that had seen its country grow in power for nearly four hundred years, standing tall over countless battles and conquests. It was quiet as the ship slowly anchored itself in the harbour, before it began to unload its cargo.

Corrine had to move fast, moving between the hustling and bustling of the sailors as they unloaded the coffins. She helped guide Vincent’s onto a cart, before absconding with it in all the chaos that came with commerce.

As she moved through the streets of the city, she could hear the sounds of growling from the coffin grow intensely with each bump, and immediately came to regret waking him up so early. She had thought at the time, with all the rest he had gotten, he would be calm. Instead, it seemed as though she had awakened a hungry beast with a dinner bell.

If it hadn’t been for her three hearts working in tandem, she would have never moved at the pace she did, with the heavy cart in tow. Corrine looked desperately for a way out of the city, somewhere nice and secluded, where she could unleash her companion to hunt animals in peace. If he could get his fill, the Vincent she knew would return, and the beast would recede.

Unfortunately, she was in a foreign land, with no idea where she was going. It was nothing like London or Paris or any land she had ever travelled to. She began to panic, and decided to simply pick a direction and go as fast as she could.

Corrine ran through what looked like the most secluded street, the cart bumping and rocking as she picked up the pace. Everywhere she went, it seemed like more and more of the city sprang up to meet her in a never-ending array of stone. Before she could try and think of another plan, she turned a corner and ran into two men.

They stood there, wearing green uniforms with red caps, swords dangling from their sides. One of them, the older of the two, had a thick mustache and deep eyes that seemed to pierce through everything they looked upon. The younger one looked barely old enough to wield the weapon he clutched so tight. His senior looked at Corrine, as she straightened herself out.

‘Burada ne yapıyorsun?’ said the man. Corrine looked at him in shock, until he spoke again. ‘Bana cevap ver.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ she replied. When she spoke, the senior officer sneered in disgust.

‘English,’ he said, spitting to the ground. ‘What are you doing here?’ Corrine’s brain began to race with lie after lie she could possibly tell the man.

Finn and Sarah walked through the back streets of Paris, purely out of habit, as there was no one to recognise them in the new city. They were safe for the time being, being far away from whatever they had felt that night. Even Finn could recall the shiver down his spine he had received when the wolf had been in charge. It made both of his selves uneasy and anxious.

Even with Sarah and her abilities by his side, he could feel as though something were watching him. Martha’s spectre hadn’t been seen in some time either, and while this would usually call for celebration, it only added to the tension in the air. Sarah, who had seemed so knowledgeable about the affairs of the spiritual world, was at a complete loss, urging them to keep moving forward to their divined destination.

Finn had suggested they keep to the wilds of France. Stay on the outskirts and out of sight, but the idea had been immediately shut down by Sarah. Her reasoning had been twofold. Not only would passing through Paris be faster, but by being one of the most populated and bustling cities, they could blend in much easier. But that was only part of the reason she had wished to travel through the city.

In truth, she simply wished to be in the city of lights. It was a remnant of her days before her resurrection. Sarah could recall serving guests at her father’s gatherings, listening to the nobles go on and on about the world she had never seen outside of London, let alone her father’s home.

During one such event, she had been doing her usual business, passing trays and keeping out of sight ,when the woman she thought was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen walked into the room. The woman was pale and thin, and adorned in the most lavish jewelry and furs that had ever graced the elites. But what had caught Sarah’s eye had been the woman’s dress. A soft, pale gold piece that was not so much worn as draped over its owner. To Sarah, anyone could have looked beautiful in that dress, even a lowly little thing like herself.

The rest of the evening, Sarah would silently stalk the woman and listen to the tales of her many travels, but it was only when she mentioned Paris that the mood changed. The woman explained her dress was the latest fashion from there, but that was only half of it. When she spoke of it, her features softened and her voice grew quiet, as if she were being reverent at church. The woman spoke of love,lights, music, parties, dancing, and turning away countless suitors. At the time, Sarah had been so enraptured by the woman’s retelling she had knocked over a plate of food, which had earned her a beating as well as banishment from the rest of the evening’s affairs.

Sarah didn’t care at the time. When she had gotten to her quarters, she imagined herself in that dress, in Paris dancing among all the handsome men and rejecting them each in turn. She let her head be filled with visions of the Seine River, overlooked by grand buildings, listening to the bells of Notre Dame ring throughout her very soul. It felt as though it were a city where dreamers were drawn to have their greatest wishes fulfilled. That night, Sarah had fallen in love with the very idea of the city and how, if she could only get there, it would embrace her with the love she had never known in London.

Now that she was there in the very heart of the city, she didn’t know what to make of herself. Her new life had been so different now that she lacked a beating heart, as well as the emotions that seemed to be tied to it. She was empty inside, which should have made her keep a clear head. Everything should have been logical and practical, yet she could still feel the remnants of excitement and such, rumbling around inside her. It was as if the memories themselves carried something with them that echoed and reverberated within her very being. It was all so confusing to her. She was beyond humanity, but it seemed like there was something that didn’t want to fully let go of it, pulling her between two worlds.

When she came to a loss, she heard a small voice echoing through her from one of her hearts, followed by a memory from its former owner.

‘Commerce,’ she said. ‘My husband and I have come to do business. He went on ahead and I’m going to meet him.’ The senior officer squinted at her suspiciously, when his apparent trainee stepped forward.

‘Lost?’ said the trainee. ‘Do you need help?’ He spoke in broken English, and that seemed to comfort Corrine.

‘No,’ she said. ‘Just need to get going before he worries.’ She smiled at him, and just as he was about to leave, his senior stopped him.

‘Commerce?’ said the senior officer. “‘Where are the papers?’

‘My husband has them,’ Corrine said. ‘If I could just find him…’ The senior officer advanced on her, his hand at his sword.

‘No,’ he said. ‘We come to…arrangement.’ He held out his hand, expecting a bribe. Corrine’s eyes went wide.

‘My husband has all the money,’ she said. ‘If you give me your name…’

‘No,’ said the senior officer, which seemed to be his favourite word. ‘We come to arrangement. What in cart?’ Corrine’s three hearts began to race, flushing her whole body a bright red. The officers stepped back and stared.

‘Nothing,’ she lied. ‘It’s empty. We’re going to use it once we set up shop.’ Just as she had said it, Vincent growled and scraped at the inside of his coffin.

‘What that?’ he said. ‘You said empty.’ He made to move towards the cart, when Corrine stepped in front of him. His eyes filled with rage at her audacity. He raised his hand and slapped her to the ground, where she fell, stunned. The trainee knelt down and tried to help her, as the senior officer made it to the back to the back of the cart. He pulled the tarp away to reveal the coffin.

‘Stop,’ said Corrine. ‘Please.’ She tried to get up, but the trainee stopped her. The senior officer began to rip at the ropes and chains, pulling them off the coffin. When he was done, there was a moment of silence as the growling stopped. The coffin burst open, and Vincent leapt onto the senior officer.

He had changed in his confinement. His pupils were slit against blood red eyes, sunken further into his head. The fangs had grown several inches, and glistened in the night. His hands now ended in razor sharp claws that had left the interior of the coffin in shreds. His skin now cringed to him, revealing not just his ribs, but his organs bulging out and pulsating. Mist flowed from him constantly, as he heaved.

Sarah had done her best to hide the conflict within her from Finn, but his senses were sharp. It had all come to a head one day, when they had walked past a dress shop and Sarah had caught a glimpse of something that had made her free in her steps. Staring at her from a window had been the very dress she had seen that woman wearing so long ago. It had been displayed in a large window that allowed her to see her own face staring back at her.

She walked up to it, unconsciously and posed with the dress. Even lacking a heart, her muscles and sinew remembered doing the same motions in her quarters. Tears began to pour from her eyes, and she was sure if her heart hadn’t been in a jar her bedside it would be breaking. Her hand found its way into her bag, and she could feel the warmth emanating from it, along with a soft pulse. ‘Not here. Not now.’ The next thing she knew, a handkerchief was being offered to her by a smiling Irishman.

She ignored it and threw her arms round him, holding him close, desperate to feel the warmth he gave off. The shades of her emotions were flooding her mind, as she clung to her companion, frozen within herself. Finn broke her out of her paralyzed state by pushing her away. He furrowed his brow, concerned.

‘You okay there, Wraps?’ he asked, wiping away her tears. ‘Does that dress say something mean to you?’ She shook her head, finding she simply couldn’t lie to him, when it could become a liability on their journey.

‘I…I don’t know,’ she said. ‘I feel sad. I think. Or do I remember feeling sad?’ She went on to explain everything that had been going on inside her since they had landed in France. The pain of being torn apart by both feeling and unfeeling. The memories that seemed to awaken things within her. All of this meant something she wasn’t sure she was prepared for. Finn had sat there, silently listening to everything she said, only nodding occasionally to show that he had understood. When she was done, he placed a hand on her shoulder.

‘I cannot say I know what you’re going through,’ he said. ‘I don’t understand much of it. But we’ll get through it. You’re helping me with my little problem. That means you’re a true friend. So I’ll do the same for you.’

‘Thank you,’ she whispered. ‘I…I appreciate it.’

‘It’s what I do,’ he said. ‘Besides, the wolf seems to like you just fine as well.’

‘I think I wanted a dog at some point,’ she said with a genuine smile. ‘I suppose you’ll have to do.’

‘Is that a joke?’ asked Finn, sarcastically. ‘I didn’t think you had it in you. I think I’m proud.’ They laughed a little, before standing and continuing their journey through the city, Sarah a little less burdened than before, yet equally worried.

‘Why do you separate yourself from the wolf?’ she asked him.

‘Cause it’s not me,’ he said. ‘It’s a monster I turn into.’

‘Are you so sure?’ asked Sarah. Finn paused and looked at her.

‘What are you getting at?’ he asked. ‘One is animal and the other is me. There’s a difference.’

‘What do you know of the wolf?’ she asked. ‘Or is it unknown to you?’ Finn sighed and scratched the back of his head.

‘Myths and legends,’ he said. ‘Faoladh in my tongue. Men cursed by the devil who served as protectors and guardians and the like. Nothing like the beast I got.’

‘Why do you say that?’ she asked.

‘Cause the one that bit me, murdered my sister,,’ he said. ‘That’s not guardian. That’s no protector. That’s just a killer with fur and teeth.’

‘I see,’ she said. ‘But you protected me from that man back in London, child of Anubis, Finn. ‘ Finn looked away, unsure of what he was hearing. He could still vaguely recall the incident, before he regained himself, covered in the cad’s blood.

‘That’s different,’ he said. ‘As I said, the wolf likes you.’ They stood there in silence for several moments, before Finn looked back at her. ‘Come on. We need to reach the outskirts by nightfall.’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I agree.’ They began to walk again, and as they passed the various wonders of Paris, Sarah took one last look at it all, absorbing this new memory and the feelings it brought her. She thought one day, she may return here and answer some questions she was beginning to ask herself.

Meanwhile in Finn’s mind, he was struggling with a burning question Sarah had ignited within him. One he might have asked himself earlier, had he not been so preoccupied. He asked himself: If he was Finn, who was the wolf?

The thing that used to be Vincent sniffed the air before looking down at his prey. Once he seemed to find the scent he was looking for, he swooped down and bit the senior officer on the neck. The man tried to scream, but Vincent clenched his long fingers round his throat, preventing him. Vincent gulped and undulated, as he drained his victim of every ounce of his blood, until a withered husk of the man was all that was left. Vincent stood once he was done, revealing some of his body had turned back to the man Corrine had known.

‘Izcacus!’ screamed the trainee. He got up to run, but didn’t make it far before Vincent pounced on him. Vincent leaned in close and sniffed the air around the trainee, who winced. Vincent then looked up and seemed to shake himself out of his neatly trance. He saw Corrine and walked towards her.

‘Corrine?’ he said. ‘What’s going on?’ she looked round him and saw the trainee stand and begin to run away. She grabbed Vincent by the hand and looked into his eyes.

‘We need to go,’ she said. ‘Now.’ They ran as quickly and quietly as they could, until they found shelter beneath a bridge. Vincent still seemed to be weakened from the journey, and fell asleep before he could ask any of his questions. Corrine covered them in the darkness, and held him tightly, afraid to let her friend go.

The morning came, and the city became alert with fear. The trainee didn't hesitate, spreading word of the monster he had seen drain the blood of his superior. All of the Ottoman Empire seemed to rally to the cause once word had spread, cutting off the city entirely. It seemed the words of the strange man had come true, for the eldest people had remembered. A long forgotten grudge against the monster that had held them from their conquest. Upon seeing the drained body, they knew what had entered their city, and anger welled up inside them.

In their minds, their ancient enemy had come back for revenge. For years, the had prepared for such an occasion. Their secret police had been born for such a task. And now, Vincent was once again on the run. This time would be different, though. They didn’t want to study him. They wanted him dead, and they would burn the city to ashes just to see it happen.

Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company

Victorian Nightmares 2018

All Rights Reserved

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