- by Mackenzie O'Rear
Chapter 26 - Fleeting Hope
Edited by Brien Bigelow
Illustrations by Lucas Marra
‘I’m sorry,’ said a man with an Irish accent. ‘I didn’t know he was a friend.’ Vincent could sense movement all round him. There were nervous heartbeats echoing within the chests of their owners, save for one that beat steady and calmly.
‘He’ll be fine,’ said a familiar voice. ‘He needs rest and possibly some blood.’ Vincent swam in and out of consciousness. He didn’t know how long he had been out, but suddenly he felt his head being raised, and it tilted back. A few drops of bitter blood splashed down his throat, and while the taste was off, it revitalized him nonetheless.
‘He’s coming too,’ said Corrine. ‘Everyone make room.’ His eyes flitted, open as he saw his head now lay in the lap of Maria, who smiled at him. For a brief moment, he thought he was dead and being treated by the most beautiful angel. He was brought back to Earth, when he smiled back, and his fangs scraped the bottom of his lip.
‘I’m alive,’ he said. ‘At least I think so’ The moment he finished speaking, Maria embraced him with enough warmth to make even his cold body feel something. As his vision became less blurry, he looked round to see Corrine with her hands over her mouth. She had clearly been worried about him and he felt awful for making them worry. He would have to apologise later. Behind her was a nervous man in a trench coat and…
‘You,’ he whispered. ‘From my dream.’ The girl nodded and approached him.
‘We have met, yes,’ she said. ‘Child of Set. Cloaked in darkness.’ She gave a small smile.
They all stood in a massive room that resembled an ancient study. It was tall and cavernous, with grey stones making up the walls. There was a large fireplace that had a roaring fire in it, resonating heat throughout the room. Outside of the iron-gated windows, the sun shone just above the horizon line. The last thing Vincent remembered was seeing Maria and the wolf, and he now wondered where it was.
His line of thought was broken by the sound of someone clearing his throat behind them. Vincent turned his head to see the smiling face of the strange man who had helped him beneath the asylum. He looked the same as when he last saw him in that dingy cavern, grey suit and all. He approached Vincent and bowed.
‘It’s good to see you again, Vincent,’ said the man.
‘Is this he?’ asked Maria. ‘The man from…’
‘Underneath the asylum,’ said the name. ‘I am indeed he.’
‘And the golden thread,’ said the girl in the bandages. ‘The one that tied us all together.’
‘Aw yes,’ said the man. ‘I thought I caught you taking a glimpse.’ He smiled and winked at the girl, when the Irishman stepped between them.
‘Who are you?’ he said. ‘What do you want from us?’ The old man sighed heavily, as his gaze fell. He shuffled his feet nervously, as he began to pace.
‘Where to begin?’ said the man. ‘I suppose at the beginning. I’m afraid it’s my fault many of you are in this situation.’ Vincent got to his feet, supported by Maria, and stared at their host.
‘No,’ said Vincent. ‘I’m done being in the dark.’
‘Ironic,’ said the man. ‘But I assure you I am a friend.’
‘You’re Nicholas Flamel,’ said Corrine, stepping forward. ‘I read about you back at the Asylum.’ A silence cast a shadow over the room, only broken by Vincent.
‘Flamel?’ said Vincent. ‘The Alchemist?’ Flamel sighed once more and took a deep breath.
‘I’m afraid I’m far too famous for my own good,’ he said. ‘That was ultimately my downfall.’
‘You should be dead,’ stated Vincent, confused. ‘You’re…’
‘Several hundred years old,’ said Flamel. ‘Indeed I am. You of all people should respect the idea of being hard to kill.’ The girl in the bandages stepped forward. ‘Miss Sarah Blake. I’m glad you and Finn made it here safely.’
‘What do you mean?’ She asked. ‘How is it your fault we’re here? Fate…’
‘It’s merely a suggestion,’ finished Flamel. ‘It’s a long drawn-out story, and you all deserve to hear it.’ He sat down in an armchair beside the fire. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but something in that moment truly made him seem centuries old. ‘It all started with my own obsession, you see. I feared death just as any man does when he nears the end of his life, and thus I turned to the pursuit of immortality via alchemy.’ He turned to Sarah and pointed to the bag she kept by her side. ‘I believe you absconded with a few of the pages from the book that originally was my teacher. It took me two years to fully translate, and another three to adapt and update it. To this day I curse myself for destroying it.’
‘It was your tome?” Asked Sarah. “But how did it wind up in my father’s hands?”
‘Once I was done with it, I discarded it,’ he said. ‘A man with enough resources can find things like that, so I must apologise, as it is my fault for your current condition. And your death. The last word hung in the air like a thick fog. Sarah didn’t seem angry, but she stared at him with a wary eye.
‘Upon adapting the tome into my alchemical guide,’ continued Flamel, ‘I began to experiment. I spent endless hours, creating homunculi and raising small animals from the dead. It took time, yes, and eternal patience, but I was blinded in my goals. Nothing was sacred. No taboo I would not break. But it wasn’t enough to be brought back. I had grown fond of this body, and I was very much terrified of even the briefest of glimpses to the other side. What a fool I had been then.’
‘But you succeeded,’ said Corrine. ‘You’re not stitched together like me and you’re not as pale, either.’
‘Very astute,’ he said. ‘Yes, I did succeed, as you can see. Unable to age. Unable to die.’
‘But how?’ asked Sarah. ‘The gods…’
‘You’re an interesting bunch,’ said Flamel. Vincent and Corrine were far too enthralled with the story to question anything that had been said. ‘They are prone to making deals, and as the first person to contact them in nearly a millennium, they were curious.’
‘What does God-!’ started Corrine, but Flamel cut her off.
‘Gods. Plural,’ he said. ‘The world is so much bigger than we all realise.’
‘Fine, gods,’ said Corrine, impatiently. ‘But what does that have to do with homunculi?’
‘Quite a few things,’ said Flamel. ‘You see, if one is to transcend mortal existence, he must understand what it means to fully create life.’
‘Like assembling a machine,’ said Vincent. ‘To see how it works.’
‘Precisely,’ said Flamel. ‘So the gods taught me these things. Whispering in my ear as I worked. It all came down to keeping the soul attached to the body.’ Corrine rubbed the surgical scar on her wrist unctuously asked Sarah to put a mirror onto her neck. ‘Soon, I cracked the code, as it were. I was immortal, and truly so. My wife and I would live in eternal bliss.’
‘Is she here too?’ asked The Maria. ‘Your wife?’ Flamel’s eyes went dull for a moment, as he lost himself in a memory.
‘No,’ he responded. ‘She is not.’
‘Then where-?’ Finn was about to ask where she was when Sarah elbowed him in the ribs. Flamel let out a melancholy laugh at that.
‘I’m afraid immortality is not suited for everyone,’ he said, sadly. ‘There are many among you here who can attest when it is force on a person, it brings nothing but sorrow.’ There was a brief moment that felt like all of time had been compressed into it. He looked up and saw them staring before continuing. ‘Of course, those notes I took eventually led to the resurrection of Lady De Marine,’ he said, gesturing to her. ‘For which I’m eternally sorry. Especially due to their own variation on the formulas to compensate for the lack of a full body. If I were still in that horrible phase, I’d almost be willing to praise it.’
‘I don’t care,’ said Corrine. ‘I just want to see Gregory again, and I have that chance.’
‘Yes,’ said Flamel. ‘If you can, at least some good will come from my meddling.’ He turned to Vincent. ‘As for you, Vincent Harrow. I am sorry.’
‘You didn’t do this to me,’ said Vincent. ‘Why apologise?’ Flamel stroked his hair, absentmindedly.
‘Because,’ he stated.’I am the one who told Marlowe about the vampires and where to find the last vial of their blood.’ Vincent stared at him, dumbstruck.
‘How?’ he said. ‘What?’ Flamel placed a hand up and silenced him.
‘He never knew who I was,’ said Flamel. ‘I joined that infernal society out of boredom thirty odd years ago. It gave me a strange sense of satisfaction to see them all, barely scrapping at the edge of what I had mastered centuries ago. It was then a young Albert Marlowe joined. He was ambitious, cunning, intelligent, and far more clever than it was safe to be. I saw so much of myself in him. I took him under my wing, under a false name. Tested him, making sure he was worthy of what I knew.’ He paused as he relived the memories, one by one.
‘Then what happened?’ asked Finn. Flamel looked up at him, searching for the right words.
‘One day,’ started Flamel. ‘I was finally going to reveal to him all my secrets. I was going to give him the secret of immortality. I would finally have a companion to share the infinite with. When I got to his home, he greeted me with open arms, as he brought me downstairs to his makeshift laboratory. Down there…I saw such horrible things. What he had done…That poor girl…’ He stared off into the distance. He eventually looked back up at the others. ‘The man is a monster. I left the country and fled to the far corners of the Earth, ghoping to never cross paths with him again.’
‘But…The blood vial…’ said Vincent. ‘You said…’
‘I told him where to find it,’ finished Flamel. ‘Indeed I did. It was one of our drunken nights, after a long day of research, and I told him everything I knew about the power of the vampire. It was such a little thing back then, I never thought he would actually pursue it.’
‘Why didn’t you take it and destroy it?!’ yelled Vincent. ‘I am a monster because of a drunken night. All because of you.’
‘Yes,’ said Flamel. ‘It is all because of me. And no, there is no cure for your condition, before you ask. I’ve been researching it longer than many have been alive.’ Vincent stood and looked like he was about to throttle the old man. His eyes glowed that mysterious red, as mist poured from his body. Flamel looked up at him with eyes that showed true remorse.
‘I wouldn’t blame you,’ said Flamel. ‘Perhaps I would even thank you for ending my own wretched existence.’ That caused Vincent to back down, knowing full well the old fool was not to be blamed. Flamel stood up.
‘I should have destroyed the blood,’ he said. ‘But I had hope. The stories I had been told…but that is for later. For now, we must prepare.’
‘Prepare?’ asked Corrine. ‘Prepare for what?’
‘It would appear,’ said Flamel, ‘my former student is set in reclaiming all of you, and he has the means to do so. I never expected for him to track you this far, but his resourcefulness is astounding.’
‘He’s being guided,’ said Sarah. ‘By a sympathetic spirit.’
‘What spirit would sympathize with them?’ asked Finn. Sarah looked into his eyes, as something had dawned on him. Vincent could hear his heart race as his expression fell. ‘Oh. That explains a lot, then.’ Flamel stood before them all.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I brought you all here in hopes of creating a haven for you all. Instead, I have trapped you, with your backs against the walls.’
‘What do we do?’ asked Vincent, fearing Richard was among them now.
‘I’m afraid that’s up to you,’ said Flamel. ‘I have run for so long, I understand how tempting it is to quit.’ Maria stood.
‘No,’ she said. ‘We’ve all run for too long. It’s no way to live.’ She walked over to Vincent and grabbed his hand. ‘I’m not giving you up.’ Sarah turned to Finn.
‘You can run,’ she told him. ‘This isn’t your fight.’
‘Like hell, it isn’t, Rags,’ said Finn, slapping her on the shoulder. ‘I didn’t drag your bandaged bottom across several countries just to give up here.’ He turned to Flamel. ‘And you still have some explaining to do about me.’
‘I will do my best,’ said Flamel. ‘I am a…family friend so to say.’
‘Right,’ said Corrine, clapping her hands. ‘Then let’s see what we can do.’ They all looked at one another, and felt a small stir of hope rising. Flamel gestured to the doorway.
‘Follow me,’ he said. ‘We have until tonight.’ Corrine, Finn, and Sarah all followed him out of the room. Maria was about to head out as well, when Vincent saw her hand was covered in a bandage and he could smell blood. He stopped her and looked at it.
‘That was your blood that brought me back,’ he said. ‘You shouldn’t have-!’ Before he could finish, she placed a hand onto his mouth, just like she used to do back when they would spend time together at the asylum. She then leaned in and kissed him, gently, yet filled with so many feelings that had been left unsaid. Maria pulled her lips away and put a hand onto his cheek.
‘No more running,’ she said. ‘I will always be by your side.’ She took his hand and led him through the door, where they almost bumped into Corrine, who turned a bright shade of scarlet. They laughed and walked down the corridor, ready to fight for their new freedom as their enemies, who walked in the light, marched forth.
Martha was on edge. She watched the castle and felt the power emanating from it through the ether. Her brother was in there somewhere, the guard dog serving a whole host monsters who deserved to be put down, just like him. If it was up to her, she would burn the whole castle down and listen for the screams like a symphony made for her.
She whispered in the ear of the one named Blake, who had called her, but he was so obsessed over retrieving his precious daughter that nothing got through to him. The same was said for Father Grigori and Marlowe. The latter of the two was like a brick wall. Frederick had shown promise shortly before he died, though watching him get dragged away into the shadows had amused her. He simply didn’t have the convictions and grip she had. That left Richard jealous.
He was a kindred spirit in almost every way. He was a ruthless hunter, with boundless passion for causing other pain. Once she knew the kind of man he was, it was only a matter of time before she slipped into his mind. She whispered into his ear, intensifying the hatred that was already there, for such creatures of the night, like sweet nothings told to a lover. It was effortless to her, and he barely noticed she was there.
But it was’t enough for her. Martha came to realize it wasn’t enough to see her brother dead. She wanted to be there, as his soul was ripped from his body, as she laughed. She wanted to make sure she was the last thing he ever saw. It would take all of her efforts and expend the last of the wax in both candles, but it would be worth it.
The four men had gathered at the local tavern and were making their little plans, her own mad dog ready to run wild. She had done her part, showing them where they had all gathered in the castle, and it was only a matter of time. They would attack at night, infiltrating the castle through an entrance known only to Richard, where they would split up and hunt their various prey. As a fellow hunter, she thought it was a good strategy that only failed due to the lack of bloodshed. But then again, that was what she had Richard for.
They even chose to attack at night, not only because they would be at their most prepared, but because their only concern would be her brother, who would be powerless on the new moon. Just as weak and vulnerable as he used to be. Martha had taken pleasure in telling them all about that secret of his. The plan was all coming together.
As the nervous energy she felt flooded her ethereal form, waiting for her moment, the memories erupted inside her like a geyser. That night in the forest, attempting to teach her brother ‘how to hunt.’ He knew so little about what she and their father had planned. It would have been so simple. So easy. But then, that damnable wolf had attacked and spared that wretch. He was supposed to be dead, and she was supposed to be alive in Ireland with her rewards.
The fates had gotten it wrong and she cursed them for it. He was a useless weakling, not even her full brother. A half-brother, begotten by her father and that awful woman. She could still remember how her stepmother had looked at her, like something was wrong with her. She remembered feeling so relieved when she had contracted that illness and finally passed away. A stroke of luck none could have seen coming.
But then she had to leave the land to her son, that damnable Finn. A child had no place inheriting such rich land, after all her father had done for her. What was worse was, being so sickly, he lacked the good favour to simply die. She remembered watching him as a young child, asleep in his bed, wondering why he wouldn’t just go.
Her father had warned her they simply couldn't get rid of their problem, especially after he had botched the first attempt. Finn should have at least caught pneumonia, but he persisted. He grew up, narrowly avoiding countless tricks and traps, as if the gods of Ireland themselves had favoured him. The villagers had always called him a blessed child for simply surviving.
But what about her? They had never looked at her with the same adoration. Instead, they watched her closely, as if they were waiting for her to stab them. She might have done so , but that had not been the point. She had soon garnered her own reputation in various competitions, won truthfully or not, and that should have been enough.
All her life, that was how people saw her. The little monster, disguised as a girl, while her brother had been lauded as an angel. She had detested the comparison as a child, but as she grew she began to enjoy it. The look of hate on the villagers’ faces turning to terror whenever she rode into town. Even her father had been impressed.
She relished it, and if anyone dared challenge her, sure enough, something bad would happen to them. A barn would catch fire, or cattle would get killed in the night. Like a shadow, she and her father lorded over the people and their power would have been absolute if they controlled the proper land. It all came full circle to Finn,who had been holed up in his nice little castle with his precious little, bandaged whore.
Martha came to hate Sarah almost as much as her brother. But that would all be solved soon. Blake had his own plans that would benefit her and that would leave her free to torment her brother into madness, and hopefully suicide.
Martha looked out the window and saw the castle in the distance. A massive fortress that would have been beautiful back in its time. Now it was just an obstacle that needed to be overcome. She dared not move from the group, lest they required her services, but that didn’t bother her. Like Richard, she was a hunter who knew how to bide her time. And the hour would soon be upon them.
Presented by Lake Arrowhead Repertory Theatre Company
Victorian Nightmares 2018
All Rights Reserved