The Damned

Reads: 9519  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 8

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 55 (v.1) - Epilogue

Submitted: December 12, 2013

Reads: 162

Comments: 1

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 12, 2013

A A A

A A A

 

 

Epilogue

 

Foxwood Hall, Yorkshire, 25th November 2011


The sky outside had lightened to grey. The sombre light crept beneath the grotesquely carved shutters, rudely intruding on their solitude, like a spurned wife walking in on a secret tryst. 


The room seemed to grow larger. Valeria remembered that there was a world outside of this great, sprawling place. The thought of facing it was unbearable. Outside of these walls, the world was thick with the corpses of suffocated words. When she walked into a room, death ceased to exist. It was a forbidden topic, and all pretended that they lived an Eden-like existence, devoid of pain and suffering, eternal and never-ending. But death was not forbidden here. She entered this house and the coat of unspoken fears was gently slipped from her shoulders. She was allowed to acknowledge that people could die. That people killed and maimed and took. That the victims could be innocents. 


This room was her favourite place to hide from their pity. It was a room made of wood. A room built on death. Think of all of the trees they had felled to create this decadent abode. There were floorboards underfoot, wooden shutters at the tall windows, solid oak shelves lining the walls. Sometimes it felt that the trees were still alive, still breathing, for the air slipped so easily into her lungs, as if all of those dead trees were still churning it out. Each breath was not a war. It was as easy as breathing. Just breathing.


It was a high room, cathedral-like in its vaulted glory. That seemed fitting. It was a place of worship, a shrine to the tomes which lined its wall. On one side ten arched windows reached from ceiling almost to floor, decadently stuffed window seats installed at their bases. Five similarly shaped mirrors were hung on the wall across from them, positioned to reflect the wild, hauntingly lovely landscape. But it was dark now, and tonight the great, glass strips were painted with the reflections of the intricately carved shutters. The images were dark, monstrous. Hell. Hellfire. Demons. Massacres. Torture. 


The bookshelves extended from the walls into the rooms, forming bays; in each recess a Tiffany lamp was placed on a small table, the lampshade inlaid with jewels. Apart from the great, roaring fire between the fifth and sixth mirrors, the lamps were the only lights in the room. They created soft, warm pools of illumination, at the edge of which rows of books melted into the darkness. 


She could feel him watching her, waiting. Their hands were side by side on the chaise longue, a mere centimetre separating his skin from hers. Separating a monster's scales from human flesh.


"Have you nothing to say, Valeria?"


There was nothing to do but meet his gaze. “Is that the end?”


“Tomorrow,” the vampire promised, the flames glittering like hellfire in his dark eyes.


It was impossible, even then, not to find him beautiful. He was an ancient hero, a king, a Grecian god. He sat stiff-backed against the gilded head of the chaise longue, his lean body draped in black, stark against the opulent velvet stuffing.His hair fell in dark curls around his perfect face. She wanted to reach forward and push it back, push back the shadows which concealed his loveliness.


But she didn't. Wouldn't. “What happens tomorrow?”


He reached out to her, the little finger of his left hand gently brushing the back of her right. His gentle intrusion lent a glitter to her fingers. Made them more beautiful. More expensive. His hands were a cluster of rubies and emeralds and sapphires, gold and silver, decorating pale, pale skin. The jewels threw a rainbow of coloured light across the backs of her hands, illuminating her. For a second, a brief second, they made her lovelier. They made her dazzle. But then she looked a little closer, saw all of the flaws the shadows had hidden. Her fingers were bare. She saw the slight cracks in her skin. All of the beauty and the power belonged to him. That seemed right. Accurate. It seemed like their relationship. She grew weaker, uglier, as she stood beside his eternal beauty.


“Our stories end, yours and mine.” He looked at her from those unnerving eyes, undressing her, laying her bare. When he looked at her like that, she always had the impression that he was looking through her skin and into her very soul. 


Valeria could read people too. She saw his intention. Understood his magic. She drew a veil over herself, masked herself in neutrality, hid behind her appearance. 


For an instant he seemed surprised that she was not transparent, that she did not shiver at his veiled threat. Did not quake inside. But he recovered quickly, more quickly than she had. He laughed soullessly. "You do not want to hear the rest of the story, do you?"


"No."


His hands clenched into fists at his sides. "All men and women are the same. Wherever they can, they choose to live in blessed ignorance. When you leave, you will try to explain and rationalise even this. You will tell yourself that I am mad. Or that you are, for people will always believe whatever gives them the least nightmares."


"Why are you so intent on frightening me?"


His perfect lips curved into a smile, but his porcelain white cheeks showed no hint of colour to support the gesture. "I simply want to tell you my story. You promised that you would write it for me."


"Not this story. I promised to write the story of Tom Savage, the brilliant, mysterious rock star. Not yours."


He looked straight at her, his eyes glittering in the muted light. "I am Tom Savage. In this life. But before that I was Thomas Sutton."


"Why not write the book yourself?"


"Because I want to tell the story to you."


Valeria's tongue darted out to lick her lower lip. Her heart beat with rhythmic violence against her chest. "I don't want it. Please, Tom, keep it to yourself."


He leaned towards her, placing his palms flat to the wall either side of her head. "Impossible," he breathed, his lips pressed to her ear. She felt the vein in her throat fluttering as her heartbeat increased, knew that it must be driving him wild. His tongue stroked over her racing pulse. She wanted to push him away and pull him closer. To brace her arms against him and to open her legs to him. 


He laughed softly, and sat back. "A friend once told me that there is a point in most stories from which there is no return. When all the central characters have made their way onstage and the scene is set for the drama to unfold. The storyteller relinquishes control and the characters begin to move of their own accord."


Tom's mouth curved in a bitter smile. "Conor's damnation brings this story to the edge of the Rubicon." He rested his cheek in his hand, musing. "Am I going to cross it? Perhaps it is not yet too late to turn back. To fold them all away, gently, between layers of tissue paper in the boxes of my memory?"


The tension that gripped Valeria was palpable. "Will your revelations change how I feel about you?"


"Most definitely, yes."


"Then do not reveal anything."


He turned his head and pressed his mouth to hers, his tongue stroking her lips. "Alas, no," he breathed, pulling away. "I was a fool even to consider it. I am no more able to stop this story than I am to halt the march of time. I am not romantic enough to imagine that it wants to be told, but I am honest enough to acknowledge that I want to tell it. That I must tell it."


Valeria shivered. "Don't I already know how this ends? Why waste the time I have left by damning yourself in my eyes? Conor was monstrous, and Isabel was just as cruel and selfish and wicked. He made her as he was, and she made you as she was. I do not need to know more than that."


"Do you damn her for what she did to me?" 


"Don't you? If you damn her for nothing else, damn her for that, at least. Even if all the rest of her wickedness was beyond her control, taking your life was not. She had a choice. She chose to curse you."


Thomas' beautiful dark eyes glistened with emptiness. "This curse makes monsters of us all."


"Is that what you are? A monster?"


"Some of us were good people when this began. Some of us... less good. There are those who say it does not matter how a man begins, only how he ends. Let us hope they are wrong."


"You do not seem monstrous to me."


He kissed her throat, his hands encircling her slender neck, forcing her head back. "Then you are a fool, Valeria," he breathed. Her mouth opened, but no words issued forth as he pinned her with a look from his dark eyes. "I have told you of Conor's massacre. I have told you of Ari. They are my creators. Ari's blood runs through her veins, and mine, and Conor's. If they are monsters, then so am I."


She placed her hands around his wrists, meeting his gaze. "But you are not like them. I know you. You're a good man."


His fingers loosened, falling to his sides. He sighed. "Sometimes I envy you all your pretty little notions. You are dying. You should know better. This cruel world has cheated you of all the years which should remain to you. The world is an evil place. You act as if you have forgotten that, as if you were leading a charming life, not wasting away before my eyes."


"Why must you be so cruel?"


Thomas' thumb traced a slow path down her cheek. "Because your innocence pains me. I have heard you praying in the night. I have heard you wasting the precious words that still remain to you. If there is a god to listen, he is a monstrous god who torments us for his sport. Who else would make a world like this, so full of injustice and blood and pain? Who else would wither such pure, innocent beauty?"


"Death is not so terrible."


He buried his head in her throat, wrapping his hands around the tops of her arms. "Sometimes I want to slap you, shake you, scream at you, anything to wake you from your dreams." He raised his face to meet her gaze. "No one is going to save you, my love. Death is terrible. Death is the end. It is blackness, nothingness. And before death, there is pain and suffering. The worst is yet to come."


Valeria's throat clenched painfully tight. A wracking sob escaped her. She covered her hand with her mouth, trying to force the cry, the pathetic admission of fear, back down inside of her. But her bravado failed her. Tears fell down her cheeks, their salt stinging her skin. 


Thomas set his hand at the small of her back. "Aah, don't cry now. This is why I can never bring myself to say the words. Instead of trying to tear the blinders from your eyes, I find myself pulling you close and holding on to you as if I will never let you go. I'm the one who tells you that all will be well. But every touch is a lie. I have paid you so much false coin that you must think yourself rich."


She stared at a small, square painting of a frozen lake, a tumbling gothic fortress behind it. There was a small golden plaque at the bottom of the frame. She couldn't read the words. Her tears blurred her vision. She wiped her eyes, but more fell. The letters were unfamiliar anyway. The inscription was written in a foreign language. Greek, perhaps. Or Russian, judging by the frigid scene. Still, her tears flowed, in a steady, seemingly-endless stream.


"Oh, don't cry, Leria. Please."


Valeria drew in a deep, shuddering breath. She bit down on her lower lip, trying to quell the tremble which betrayed her. "Then don't say such awful things," she choked, rubbing furiously at her eyes and her cheeks. "I can't condemn the world as you do. I don't want to. I am not blind, but nor am I a cynic. I want to believe that bad things happen only so that we can recognise the good." 


"How can you be so like her?" He shook his head. "How can you be such a fool, Valeria?" 


"I am twenty-one years old. I have been alive for 252 months. The last six of those months have been pretty terrible. But 246 of those months were very good. Who knows how many more months I have left to live? Even if I die tomorrow, six out of 252 seems like a charmed existence. Looking at it that way, I don't think that I have much to complain about. I only wish that the world did not seem such a dark place to you. You're a good man, and the world would seem like a good place if you would only let it."


They were silent, at an impasse, neither willing to be converted to the other's opinion. She let her eyes wander across the room, unwilling to meet his dark gaze. There was a neon sign on the wall between two  bays, gauche and at odds with the archaic opulence of the décor. It was the sort of sign you would find outside a greasy café, a little dive tucked away between a seedy bar and a lap dancing club, the sickly smell of grease and smoke spilling like perfume from the cook's sweating pores. It flashed on and off, on and off: neon yellow, electric blue, magenta. 'Hello there', it screeched. Except that the 'o' and the 't' no longer lit up. They were silent, dead. It no longer screamed a welcome, but a warning. 'Hell here' it cried, a maniacal signpost, erratic and crazed. 


"Your sign needs fixing."


"Does it?" Thomas' lips clamped together with the power of a vice, a dark blood red.  "Don't be fooled, Valeria. I'm the devil in disguise."


"I don't believe you."


His jaw visibly clenched. She watched the muscle tick with an odd disconnection. He looked away as though he were unable to stand the sight of her. "I told you; people believe whatever gives them the least nightmares. You are the same as everybody else. I do not judge you for that. I simply recognise it."


"And I recognise the good in you."


He took Valeria's hands in his, violently shaking his head. "Perhaps there is still a trace of it, but the monster is simply lying in wait. Night follows day and I follow him. There is a constant war between the man and the vampire, but the man can feel pain, and the monster feels nothing. When life deals him a mortal blow, the man is fighting an uphill battle, staggering, wounded, weak, and that's when the vampire swoops."


"When I die..." she swallowed. "When I die, will you fall again?"


Torment shadowed Thomas' features, eliciting a vicious satisfaction from somewhere deep inside of her. "Don't die, Valeria," he whispered. He kissed her with a terrible, sad hunger, and she kissed him back, trying to fix the taste of him and the feel of his skin against hers in her memory forever. If death was going to rip them apart, she wanted to remember, at least.


 Her fingers buried themselves in his long, dark curls, twisting them around and around, binding him to her. "I want to stay with you forever," she breathed, her blood turning to honey in her veins.


Thomas turned his head sideways, tearing his lips from hers. "Forever is a long time," he murmured, his lips to her temple. 


He misunderstood her. She did not ask for what he had. She wanted eternity, but not an eternity like his. Valeria wanted only to be with him. Never to be parted. It was, for her, as it had always been, since that first night. He had walked her home, and then he had left her at her door. He had looked at her for a long moment. She had been terrified. And she had been hungry. She wanted him to kiss her, to take her to bed. But his eyes had darted away, his attention dwindling. "Goodbye," he had murmured. Then he had walked away. Easily. Thoughtlessly. That was when she knew. Though he struck the fear of god into her, she would have died for one more moment drowning in those bottomless pools of darkness. 


But he had come back. He had given her a thousand such moments. What she wanted was a thousand more. Ten thousand more. A never-ending reel of perfect moments spent with him.


She pressed her forehead to his chest. "What's it like, Tom? To live forever."


She felt the words as they rumbled through his body, as if they came from inside of her. "It's the strangest existence. There are too many memories. Everywhere you go, the past overlays the present in your mind. Two pasts, or three. Every landscape is layered over with its first incarnation, its second, its third. Sometimes I feel the most curious sensation; that the memories are more real to me than the present. I slip away without warning, am disappointed when I open my eyes to see that I am stood in the 21st century. The fabric of time is always changing, like the fashions that come and go. The clothes seemed to fit more easily before. I am beginning to feel at home in the past, only a visitor to this strange and blanched experience we agree to call the present."


"When you remember, do you remember her?"


"Isabel? Of course. How I loved her! Whatever else one might say about my little Devereux, she did know how to make men love her when she cared enough to try. I think of her always."


There was a piano in the room -  a great, ancient, beast of a thing - and he moved to it then, sliding out from beneath her, his fingers trailing absently along the keys. There was a vase on top of it, blooming with white roses. A neat circle of pale petals lay around the venetian glass, like splotches of ivory paint on the jade green lacquer.  He swept the petals from the top almost angrily. His ringed fingers spread across the black and white keys in a distracted, absent fashion, teasing an exquisite deluge of notes from the archaic instrument. 


He watched Valeria carefully, his eyes burning. "I haven't forgotten. I remember everything."


He began to play, the timbre of the melody tragically beautiful. The sound was soft, eerie, piercing. Utterly ethereal. Unbearably sad. The subtle, stirring music did something strange to her. It became the governing orchestration of her own life, her own suffering, her own terror. She bowed her head, felt the damp brush of tears on her cheeks.


Thomas' hands fell still. "I cried, too, the first time that I heard it."


He glanced upwards, a haunted look glimmering in his dark eyes. A picture of a girl playing the same green piano hung above the instrument. "If only she had been here to play it. She would have listened, and then she would have gone to her bed for days, tears spilling down her cheeks. She would have taken the melody inside of herself, felt every part of it, swallowed it whole. When she emerged, she would have played it all, from memory. Yet her version would have been darker, more beautiful. The sound she made would have destroyed me."


Valeria studied the picture more closely. The girl's head was half-turned to glance over her shoulder. Heavy, almost-white hair spilled down her back like poured paint, falling to her hips. She looked at the painter as if she adored him, glancing prettily from beneath curling lashes. Pale eyebrows arched delicately over beautiful, feline eyes rimmed with darker lashes. Her red lips were slightly open, pouting. Her cheeks were ivory brushed with pink. There was something delicate and fragile about her unearthly beauty, as if merely to touch her would have broken her into a million pieces. "Who is she?" 


In the light of the flickering fire, Thomas' beautiful face was hard, his dark eyes vengeful. He stared at Valeria with a rage so cold and cruel that it frightened her. "Anastasia Volotsky. She was the Mistress of Music. There will never be another who can match her talent."


"Play for me again, Tom," Valeria whispered.


He nodded slowly, his sculpted lips pursed. He sank on to the piano stool and pulled her into his lap. His arms snaked under hers, reaching for the keys. He rested his head on her shoulder, and the entrancing melody once more filled the grey dawn. His fingers were light and gentle, expertly moving along the keys, no sheet music to guide his hand. 


 "How do you remember all of the notes?" she murmured, watching his hands as if entranced. His skin was pale against the yellowed keys, so light that fresh fallen snow would look dirty beside it. His movements were effortless, assured. 


 "I remember everything," he said, in a low, rough tone. "My memories are a terrible burden."


Valeria heard the sadness and despair beneath the words, and her heart hurt for him. "That's why you have to tell your story, isn't it?"


Her gentle sympathy brought a derisory sneer to his lips, instantly transforming him into something intensely frightening. "Do you think that you understand me now?" he snarled, his beauty both unnatural and breath-taking. He was a nightmare in motion. Poetry personified. 


Valeria could not tear her eyes from him. From the first moment, the very first moment, she had been ensnared. She saw that she had never stood any hope of escape. 


She flexed her fingers. Only a little. Just as a reminder. The fire roared in the hearth, snaking its fiery tongue across the wooden boards. The sound was almost human, like an angry bellow. It's burning fingers reached for her vampire. It was a warning, subtle and slight. "Don't I?" she asked, giving no acknowledgement of her threat.


He laughed under his breath, shaking his head. "The music touches you, doesn’t it? It's called 'Where Do I Begin?' Ironic, really. I do not know that myself." 


Valeria's hands curled into fists, and the flames crept back into the hearth. "You tell me why I'm here."


A dark smile tugged at the corner of Thomas' lips. "Because of Ana. This is all for Ana."

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Jordana J Sacks. All rights reserved.

Chapters

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply