To Fear the Dawn: Chapter 26
Warnings: implied sex, partial nudity
“Vidcund!” Charity shouted, running over to where Vidcund was standing, dumbfounded, with his brothers. “What happened?” she begged. “Why isn’t Reginald human like the rest of us? What went wrong?”
“I don’t know,” Vidcund said slowly, his mind racing. Why did the formula not work on him? What is different about him than the other vampires? What did I miss? What could it possibly be?
Suddenly, an idea occurred to him. “Unless....”
“What?” Charity cried. “What is it?”
“Well...” Vidcund thought hard about how to explain. “Okay. This vampirism is a virus, we’ve established that beyond any doubt.”
“So you say,” interrupted Sargent Mace. The remaining policemen were gathering around Charity and the Curious brothers, wanting to hear what was happening, although Reginald still stood some ways off, in shock, alone. Sargent Mace folded his arms and jerked his head back over his shoulder, indicating the vampire. “I want to know what the hell just happened back there!”
“I’m trying to tell you!” Vidcund said irritably. “The vampirism is a virus. We know that. We also know viruses cause illness. But what causes the virus itself? No one knows.” He took off his glasses and wiped his eyes tiredly, realizing how exhausted he was.
“Yes, that’s it.” Pascal said, comprehension lighting his face. “That’s the problem, then.”
“I’m sorry,” Charity said, looking from Vidcund to Pascal. “I still don’t understand.”
“No one knows where viruses come from.” Pascal explained. “No one has ever known. We can find the microbes, identify them, catalogue them, study them, see how they work, and make antigens that will kill them, but where did they come from in the first place? How did they form? What made them? It’s a medical mystery that has never been answered.”
“What we’re saying,” Vidcund said, putting his glasses back on and looking at Charity seriously. “… is whatever that intangible factor is, it’s in him,” he indicated the vampire, who was still standing with his back to them, staring down at the ground, his arms folded, saying nothing.
“You mean...” Charity turned and looked at her husband in horror.
“He’s the originator of all this.” Vidcund said. “Whatever viruses are killed off in him will only regenerate as fast as they’re eradicated. He can never be made to be human because he wasn’t human to begin with.”
Charity began to cry. “He is! He has human qualities! He has the ability to love, to feel!”
“That may be,” Vidcund said, sighing wearily. “But he is not human, he never has been, and he never will be.”
Charity continued to cry softly. Vidcund closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Much as he hated to think that the woman he loved was in love with the vampire, the fact remained it was so. She needed comfort now, not antipathy. Vidcund walked slowly over to Charity and put his arms around her.
“I’m sorry, Charity.”
“Are you certain of all this?” Charity sobbed.
“It’s the only explanation,” Vidcund said quietly. “He can't be cured, because he’s not a human with the disease, Charity. He is the disease.”
“We’re packing up,” Sargent Mace said to Pascal and Lazlo some time later. “This is no longer a hostage situation; there’s no longer a need for us to be here. I’d advise you all to do the same.”
“What about him?” Pascal asked, indicating the vampire.
“One of my men is going over to talk to him now,” said the Sargent. “There’s only a few hours left until sunrise. I doubt he’ll do any killing tonight, but we still need to decide what to do with him.”
“Who gives a damn?” Pascal asked, folding his arms angrily. He still had not gotten over the fact that Charity was in love with that… creature. He had been so certain she would fall for him. He had, after all, been doing everything he could to achieve that end, including keeping her away from his own brother, although he’d never admit to that.
“If you want to know my opinion,” Pascal said to the retreating police officer’s back, “I think we ought to...”
“Easy, bro.” Lazlo said, patting him on the shoulder. “They’re not asking for your opinion.”
“Well, they need to make sure that they... ”
“It’s not up to us what happens now,” Lazlo interrupted. “We’ve done about all we can. I say we take the cop’s advice and head out.”
“What about Vidcund?”
Lazlo looked for his middle brother and found him standing away from everyone else, holding Charity close, talking to her quietly. “We’ll leave it up to him.”
“Charity, you need to think about your future!” Vidcund insisted. For the last several minutes he had been pleading with Charity to see reason. “You can’t stay here now!”
“He’s my husband!” Charity sobbed. “I took vows to him and I can’t break them! He can’t help what he is, and he was a vampire when I married him…”
“...and he turned you into one as well!” Vidcund interrupted with exasperation. “Don’t you see, Charity? That was his intent all along! He meant for you to be like him, and now you’re not. You never will be!”
“So I’m supposed to just abandon him now?”
Vidcund lifted her chin so that she was looking into his eyes. “You’re supposed to think of what’s going to happen to you! For once in your life, damn it, think about yourself!”
“I can’t just leave him...” Charity choked. “I can’t!”
“Charity, you deserve more than this! You deserve a normal life, with a normal husband! A husband that can sit down and have dinner with you, for God’s sake,” Vidcund clutched Charity’s hands for emphasis, “...and you deserve to be able to have babies!”
Charity wiped her eyes and said nothing.
“You need a husband that will grow old with you.” Vidcund continued in a quieter voice. “One that you can share grandchildren with. Charity, if you stay here, you’ll be denying yourself everything you’ve ever wanted from your life! Please, please don’t do that to yourself!”
Charity still could not speak, but she lay her head on Vidcund’s shoulder and let him hold her close.
Vampires not only possess excellent eyesight, they also have the gift of nearly supernatural hearing.
Reginald had not moved from the spot where he had so ill-advisedly taken the Vamprocillin because he hadn’t needed to. He could hear everything that was going on around him perfectly.
He understood why the cure had not worked upon him. Hearing it explained by the scientists, it made perfect sense. He understood, but it did not comfort him. He was lost now, and he knew this. In a world where a cure for vampirism existed, he had no place. Anyone he Turned would soon restore themselves back to a human state.
From this moment forward, he would forever be alone.
Even his wife would leave him, one way or another. If she didn’t do so now, she would with the passage of time. For a being who had lived for so many centuries, one human life span was as the blink of an eye. All too soon, Charity would age, and eventually, she would die. Reginald did not know if he could bear to witness that.
He had overheard parts of her hushed conversation with the scientist, Vidcund Curious, and although he hated the man for some inexplicable reason, Reginald had to admit his arguments were valid. If he, Reginald, loved Charity so much, why would he sentence her to such a fate? To the vampire, Charity’s life would be all too short, but to her… it was the only life she would have. Didn’t she deserve to live it the way she had always dreamed?
I have no place here any longer, he thought to himself. Not just here, but in this world.
Reginald sighed as a SWAT-uniformed police officer walked cautiously up to him. “Yes?” he asked tiredly, without turning around.
“Sir,” the police officer said, “as the medication did not appear to have any effect, we need to discuss what’s going to happen now. We... uh... we may need to bring you into custody, to prevent further deaths, until we can decide what your future holds.”
Reginald turned and gave the man an laconic smile. “I do not have a future,” he told him. “...and you are not taking me anywhere this night.”
“I don’t think that’s up to you,” the officer said, laying a hand on one of his weapons. “We have a duty to the public to protect them, and...”
“It is less than three hours until dawn,” Reginald said. “You have my word there will be no further deaths from me. I have no desire to feed.”
“Sir, I hate to tell you this, but your word doesn’t mean much. We have to make sure you aren’t going to just take off on us and...”
“Post one of your slayers outside my property if you wish,” Reginald said dismissively, waving his hand and turning away. “Tear down these walls, drain this moat… it does not matter. I will remain here.”
He walked over to where the scientist, Vidcund Curious, was standing near the retaining wall and holding Charity close. Vidcund looked up at Reginald balefully as he approached, and made no efforts to pull away or release the woman he loved.
Reginald now realized what Vidcund and Charity were to each other. He understood she had loved the scientist once, perhaps she still did, and that Vidcund Curious had desperately loved Charity all this time. The vampire felt a tired anger rising within him, but oddly, he also felt a sense of comfort. Charity wouldn’t be alone.
Ignoring the scientist, Reginald reached out to his wife and lifted her to her feet. “Come inside, my love. We have much to discuss.”
As Charity no longer had the capability to transform into a vampire bat, Reginald conveyed her inside his home the way he had first brought her.
Reginald knew it was not going to be easy, what he had to do.
Inside their home, Reginald poured them each a glass of wine and kissed Charity long and deeply, as though he was trying to imprint the feeling of her lips on his. Tears streamed down her face and he kissed them away.
“Reginald...I’m so sorry...” Charity sobbed.
“Shh, my love,” Reginald breathed. “There is naught to be done, save one last thing.”
“What do you mean, ‘last’?” Charity asked worriedly. Something in his voice frightened her.
Reginald sighed and walked to one of the tall windows, pulling aside the heavy curtain and looking out at the darkness. “The sunrise is a beautiful thing, is it not? And I shall see it for the first time when next it rises. I can think of no better way to perish than to behold what has been denied me my entire life.”
Charity cried out and clung to him as the impact of what he said hit her. “Reginald, no! I love you! You! Just the way you are. I don’t care that you’re still a vampire!”
“I, however, do.” Reginald said softly. “Charity, do you not understand? If I remain as I am, in order to survive, I will continue to kill. My entire existence will be one murder after another! I have decided I can no longer live that life, and I will not bind the woman I love to it either.”
He gently held her head between his hands and brought her lips to his, sighing softly.
“Do you realize, dearest, that for the rest of our days together, I would need to rinse the taste of blood from my lips before I could even kiss my wife? I cannot fathom that! Not for you. It's not the type of life you deserve, and not the type of marriage you deserve...”
“Reginald, I love you...” Charity choked. “You are my husband. I made vows to you.”
“You made vows to remain my wife until we are parted by death.” Reginald reminded her gently. “You will not be breaking them. When I am gone, you will be free to move on. To find the happiness you deserve, and to live a life that’s not bathed in blood.”
As she continued to sob, Reginald softly wiped her tears with his fingertips and kissed her. “The time for my kind has passed now, Charity,” he whispered. “...but come, my wife. Lie with me one last time before dawn, lest you forget how much I loved you...”
“I could never forget,” Charity whispered. “Never...” and, sobbing quietly, she let him carry her to their bed.
Some time later, Reginald held his wife curled close to him. She had fallen deeply asleep after their lovemaking, and, because of the drug he had placed in her wine, Reginald was satisfied she would remain asleep until long after sunrise.
He relished the feeling of her drowsy warmth so close to him under the coverlet, and he realized, as he held her sleeping body, it was something he had never done. As vampires, they had always slept separately. It was yet another reminder of what his wife would forever be denied, should he choose not to go through with what he had decided to do.
The dawn was coming.
It was time.
Reginald slipped from the bed, noting the horizon in the east was becoming ever so slightly lighter. It was, heretofore, his sign to retreat to the safety of his coffin, and for a moment, he had to remind himself to no longer flee.
It was a vampire’s due to fear the dawn. Reginald, instead, steeled himself to face it.
What was human in him would see the sun at last.
To Be Continued...