Armitage - Chapter 8 - The Inhuman Truth (Part 3 of 3)
Dinner was announced soon afterwards and I was led to an elegant dining-room where the Mediterranean man served a rich meal that was both delicious and intriguing. I had not tasted anything like it and we dined in relative silence, our plates being cleared away once we were finished.
‘I trust dinner was to your liking?’ he asked after we had finished eating, leaning his elbows on the table and tenting his fingers.
‘Very much so, thank you,’ I said, before taking another sip of wine. ‘I don’t believe I have tasted anything like it before.’
‘Oh I am sure you have not,’ smiled my host.
‘This really is a magnificent house,’ I said, looking around the dining-room.
‘Why thank you,’ he said. ‘It’s home.’
‘May I ask you something though, what is it that you do to be able to afford to live in such luxury?’ My dining companion simply smiled at this question, as if my very asking of it amused him.
‘I get by,’ was his only answer. I would have pressed the matter further, out of sheer curiosity, but before I could the carriage driver cum manservant reappeared to take our plates away. I watched the silent figure leave the room once again before turning back to my host.
‘Well, it has been a most agreeable evening,’ I said, noticing the time on the grandfather clock in the corner. ‘But I really must be getting home, my wife will be expecting me.’
‘Of course,’ he said, rising gracefully from his chair. ‘But I promised you a tour of my home, and you have not yet seen everything.’ I wanted to decline, stating that it was definitely time I left, but my mind once again felt blurred and off kilter. I recalled clearly only having one glass of wine with dinner so I was sure I had not had too much to drink, but before I could collect my thoughts enough to insist that I made my way home he had come around the table and was leading me out of the dining room and down a corridor.
‘Have we not been down here already?’ I asked numbly, my words not feeling as if they were my own. My brain felt clouded, as if I could not hold on to a thought for long enough for it to crystallise, and all the while I was being led through this man’s house when I should have been on my way.
‘I have many treasures,’ he said, keeping his hand placed gently but deliberately in the middle of my back. ‘But none more precious than what I have to show you.’ We continued around a corner until we came to a door, which he opened and gestured for me to go through. Once again I felt as though I should respectfully decline, but the words would not form in my mouth, they simply rattled inside my head and died, leaving me helpless to comply to his wishes.
Through the door were a set of stone steps that led downwards, which I found myself descending, my insistent host a step or two behind me. At the foot of the stairs was another door, this one larger and heavier looking than the previous one. He stepped in front of me and unlocked the door, once again motioning for me to go through, and as soon as I did the fog that seemed to be strangling my mind lifted, and the sight that met my now focused eyes made me question whether it was reality or fantasy.
Stretching out before me was a high ceilinged room with rows of metal cages, all containing hunched, naked men. The reek of sweat and waste filled my nostrils as I took in the horrific scene with a sense of mounting dread and confusion. The men were all snarling and hurling themselves around inside the limited space of their respective cages, it was a truly disgusting sight. I felt my stomach turn as I looked in revulsion at the poor wretches gnashing at the bars, and that is when I heard the door slam. I whirled around to see him standing there, twirling the keys to the room I was now trapped in on his long, thin fingers.
‘Well? What do you think?’ he said, a maniacal smirk sitting in place of his usual calm expression, his voice changed somehow; harder, colder. Fear struck me at my very core, the man was changed into something despicable, and in that instant I knew I was in danger.
‘What is all this?’ I asked frantically, backing away from him, desperate to put some distance between the two of us.
‘What I wanted to show you,’ he said, the evil smirk remaining fixed on his now demonic features. ‘These are my babies.’ He gestured to the rows of stinking cages with an air of such twisted pride as to turn my throat dry, truly he was mad. He continued to stare into me with his cold, piercing eyes before continuing. ‘All of them were like you once; everyday gentleman, nothing out of the ordinary, until I came upon them of course.’ His smile widened to reveal a pair of elongated fangs, much longer and deadlier looking than the average person’s teeth, and risking a fearful glance towards one of the cages nearest to me I saw, to my horror, that the forsaken individual inhabiting it also possessed similar dental anomalies. I looked back to him, this demon in my presence, steeling myself as best I could for the attack that I felt sure was about to occur, but he just stood there, drinking in my fear.
‘By the way,’ he said, almost conversationally. ‘I must commend you on your pallet.’
‘What?’ I stood, frozen with fear, wondering what this monster could possibly be talking about.
‘Your dinner,’ he replied. ‘Not everyone can stomach human flesh.’
‘What?’ I felt a wave of nausea overtake me and for a moment I thought I might vomit, but I was too petrified for my body to be working properly, and all the while this devil, this inhuman creature simply stood there, revelling in the terror that he caused.
‘Oh yes, some of these fine fellows could not bear more than a mouthful, until now of course, but you fared spectacularly, well done.’
‘What are you?’ I asked, stammering somewhat from the tremulous fear that struck my soul. Part of me knew the answer to this question, the part that still believed those old childhood tales of monsters and demons, but the rational side of me would not allow the thought to take seed. Still, the asking of this question seemed to amuse him greatly.
‘Why my dear boy,’ he said, chuckling evilly. ‘I would have thought it was obvious. I am your demise.’
And with that he struck.
* * *
I thought I was dead, or would have had I the capacity for rational thought, but at this point I must beg the reader’s indulgence, as my tale grows hazy for a time. At first I had no idea what had happened to me, or indeed what was now happening to me, I felt sure that he intended to kill me, but as time wore on the realisation crept into my mind that I was in fact not dead, at least not in the strictest sense of the word.
For you see, I was now a vampire.
I know this now through the advantage of hindsight, I could not have known at the time I was sired, for I knew nothing then, nothing other than the insatiable hunger and rage that filled me so violently. I remember very little from the beginning, just that every emotion, every drive, every urge had been replaced by this anger, this hatred, this uncontrollable desire to destroy everything around me. It was not as if I could see myself from some neutral standpoint and wonder in helpless amazement at what was making me act this way, there was nothing of me left. Every aspect of who I was had been abruptly swept away and in their place was this void; I was a creature, an animal, and had it not been for the monster who sired me I would have remained that way forever.
I do not know whether to thank him for what he did for me, the very idea now seems almost laughable, but had he left me in the initial state I would have stayed a soulless, remorseless beast for all eternity. Do not get me wrong, I am indeed a monster, but if he ever did anything for me it was bring me back to the shores of humanity, or what passes for humanity with creatures like us, and allowed me to regain a semblance of who I once was.
The only problem is that it worked too well.
Since becoming a vampire I have obviously been endowed with an abundance of time, and one of the things I have done to pass the decades is to read. Anything and everything I could get my hands on I would devour, learning and re-learning about the world that I once belonged to, and I feel it prudent of me to clear up some misconceptions about vampires as perpetuated through popular fiction. We are not graceful creatures, nor are we tragically beautiful children of the night, or any other of the sickening clichés that have been bandied about in the last hundred years or so. We are monsters, pure and simple. We are death, we are terror, we are fear, and to think anything else is to be hideously misled. Being a vampire is not some romantic venture bringing everlasting youth and beauty, it is the violent stripping away of everything you hold dear, being transformed into some unholy bestial abomination that is forced to exist within the shadows.
That is, unless you are brought back.
Once a person is sired their soul is instantly damned, forever cursed within a foul shell of living death, but this is just the beginning. Being sired did not mean that I was a vampire proper, at least not yet, it would take time for me to remember how to comport myself correctly in order to be able to hunt in society, which after all was my sole purpose now. The incredible hunger that drove me did not subside over time, I just learned how to control it, and this is thanks to the one who made me. For all the loathing and disgust I hold towards him and every one of our kind I know now that considering what I could have stayed as I do owe him some form of twisted thanks. Had I been left in the beginning stage I would never have become a sentient being again, never been able to exist in the real world, not that I really do now, but what little ability I possess to pass unnoticed would never have been mine.
It is hard to imagine but there is actually something worse than being made a vampire, and that is being made a vampire by a creature who has no intention to fully sire you, meaning they do not intend to take the time and effort required to bring the animalistic creature you have become back from the jaws of savagery and remind you how to act like a human being. In this way I suppose I was fortunate, if you can call it that, the one who made me never made light of the demonic process, he only made those who he fully intended to train back to civility, some sort of grisly hobby you might say, but in my time I have come across poor, feral creatures who were sired and then left to fend for themselves, it is never a pretty sight.
So my training began, what little I can remember of it, and as time passed I started to notice more thoughts entering my mind, more varied and coherent than the constant drive to simply kill and feed, and by the time I became aware of the world around me again at least two decades had come and gone. We were in a new century and I was once again walking on two legs, speaking in almost full sentences, I was even wearing clothes again. I was becoming something akin to my old self, but with all the thoughts that were now swimming lucidly through my head there was something nagging at me.
‘I…I had a wife,’ I said one day, carefully forming the words as though they were sticky and cloying in my mouth.
‘A daughter too,’ he said airily. ‘Pretty little thing.’
‘What…?’ I began.
‘Happened to them?’ he said, finishing my unspoken question. ‘Well I couldn’t very well have them poking around asking questions, could I?’
‘What did you do?’ I asked, feeling the anger and dread rise inside me like a wave.
‘What did I do?’ he said, laughing to himself. ‘My dear boy, you should be asking what did you do.’
And then he told me.
I killed them, I killed them both.
* * *
Madeline couldn’t read on any further, the tears were welling up inside her eyes and as she attempted to disengage from the unbelievable story that she had just read she felt the presence of someone else in the room.
‘So now you know,’ said Sebastian, who appeared from the shadows.