It’s time for another sneak preview from my short story collection FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR.
This collection of short stories is available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.
FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR contains 15 short stories, 7 reprints and 8 original stories, plus a wraparound story that ties everything together. I wrote this with the old Amicus anthology horror movies in mind, films like DR. TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971).
Today’s excerpt comes from the story “Reconciliation,” a tale of a vampire seeking religious redemption, or is he? Incidentally, “Reconciliation” happens to be my very first published short story, published back in 1998 in the vampire anthology THE DARKEST THIRST by The Design Image Group.
For your reading pleasure, here is an excerpt from “Reconciliation”—-
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been 200 years since my confession.”
The priest, 62, thought his ears had betrayed him. Leaning over, he pressed his left ear and the left corner of his mouth against the screened window which separated him from his visitor in the darkened confessional.
“How long has it been?”
“Two hundred years,” the dry male voice repeated.
“I’m afraid I don’t under—.”
“I am a vampire.”
“A vampire? You mean one of those things from the movies?”
“Would that I were just a Hollywood creation,” the man said, “then I wouldn’t need to be here.”
“Why are you here?”
“To confess my sins.”
“Then perhaps I should hear your confession.”
“Thank you, Father.”
The vampire took a deep breath and began.
“I am disillusioned with the world, Father. It used to be, way back when, that the worst crime, the worst sin, was murder. Then we had Nazi Germany, and the world went crazy. They paved the way for the madness we have today with their attempts at obliterating an entire race, an innocent race, and nearly succeeding. The Nazi legacy is all around us. Look at `ethnic cleansing.’ The Middle East. Terrorism. The tribal wars in Africa, where families are slaughtered daily, where babies are beheaded in front of their mothers. If I were a horror fiction writer I’d be told by my editors that the things I just described were too sick for print, but these are true atrocities, having happened not in the dark ages, but here and now in the 21st century!
“And things are no better in this gun-happy country we call home,” the vampire continued, “where we lose 16 children a day and 40,000 adults a year to people wielding guns, from disgruntled men who take out their frustrations on the world by shooting into crowds of innocent bystanders, to playing children who accidentally blow their best friends’ brains out! Children. I feel for them most of all. Abused, sexually assaulted, forced to— I won’t even go there! Damn pornographers! Sex and violence, Father. We’re a nation addicted to both. How else can you explain the fact that women here are raped every day? Every day! What kind of a world allows these sort of things? The kind that makes the types of sins I have committed in my lifetime fodder for a Disney movie!”
The priest shifted in his seat. The vampire noticed.
“But I digress. You must think me crazy.”
The priest did not comment.
“I did not come here today to ramble about generalized atrocities, but I cannot help myself, I am so sickened by it all. I ask you, how can I not be horrified by the world in which we live, a world gone mad?”
“Yes,” the priest said. “The world is a difficult place to live in these days. But, the world is not in this confessional with me. You are. Is there anything that you have done that you would like to be absolved for?”
The vampire hesitated before responding.
“Yes. There is something. Some things. That I need to ask forgiveness for.”
He did not elaborate.
“Go on,” the priest said, “and rest assured, that whatever these things are, if you are truly repentant, the Lord will forgive you your sins.”
“Yes, the Lord will forgive— it makes sinning so much easier, doesn’t it? When you can say you’re sorry and have your sin washed away as if it never happened. Very convenient.”
The priest opened his mouth to disagree with this cynical comment, to make the point that reconciliation is not about condoning sin, but getting past it, when the vampire beat him to the punch and spoke first.
“I have never harmed a child, and I’m certainly not a rapist. But I am a vampire, and as such, I have done things that I am sorry for. Terrible things.”
The priest rubbed his chin. He was disturbed.
Disturbed by his visitor’s repeated assertion that he was a vampire.
It was an assertion he did not believe. However, it was quite possible that this man believed it, and in all sincerity thought himself to be a vampire. If this were the case, then this man may have committed acts which he might be sorry for, which would explain his need to seek God’s forgiveness. For this reason, the priest listened.
Waited for any indication that this was merely a joke. And if and when he received such a sign, the confession would be terminated.
The vampire continued, “I have lied to women. Promised them anything they wanted. From money to marriage to simple companionship. I even promised one young lady a book contract.”
“Why did you make these promises?” the priest questioned.
“Why? So that I could become intimate with them. So that I could hold them, kiss them, sleep with them.”
“Are you married?” the priest asked.
“No. I’m not confessing to adultery, Father. I’m confessing to the reason I wanted to sleep with them.”
“What was the reason?”
“I needed their blood.”
For a moment, neither the priest nor the vampire said a word.
“Father? Are you still there?”
The priest answered with a question. “Are you confessing to having murdered these women?”
The vampire paused.
“I do not like the term, `murder.’ It makes what I have done seem less from necessity and more from passion, and this, Father, is certainly not the case.”
The priest ignored the comment.
“Have you committed murder?”
“I have taken lives, yes,” the vampire admitted.
The vampire hesitated but then responded, his voice deep, dark, and threatening. “More lives than you have touched with your sermons, Father. Many more lives!”
The vampire’s voice suddenly choked with emotion, “I have been drinking the blood of innocents for 200 years!”
The priest was unimpressed.
“Let’s call it quits, hmm?”
“Excuse me, Father?”
“With this performance. I’ll give you two thumbs up, and then we’ll call it a day, hmm?”
“Come on! I know why you’re here!”
“What do you mean?” the vampire asked, sounding very uncomfortable.
“I mean, I know Halloween is just two nights away!” the priest answered, sounding angry for the first time. “The joke’s over! Go home!”
“You disappoint me, Father. I thought you a wiser man. You do not believe me then when I say that I am a vampire? That I need to drink human blood to survive? That I have drunk the blood of women the world over for 200 years?”
“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe that if you don’t leave this confessional in the next 10 seconds, I’ll sound the silent alarm by my side, and the police’ll be here before you can say Bela Lugosi!”
“A silent alarm?” the vampire said. “I had no idea.”
“Obviously,” the priest said. “Some people may consider the sacrament of penance a matter for the dark ages, but our security advisor isn’t one of them! Now, will you please leave? While you still can.”
“I assure you, I am being completely sincere,” the vampire said, his voice indeed resonating with a clear and honest authenticity. “I was born in the 18th century, and I am a vampire. Do you have a light in there with you, Father?”
“A light. I would like you to look at my face. Please, indulge me, and do not yet sound your alarm. I need the forgiveness of God. Please.”
The priest remained silent.
The vampire squirmed, shifting his position for the first time since the conversation had begun.
“I beg of you, Father. Look at my face before you pass judgment. Keep your finger on the button if you so desire, but wait until your eyes have seen the likes of which few men have seen and lived before you press it. If only for a moment, if you dare.”
The vampire heard the rustling of the priest’s frock in the darkness- he was moving his arm, reaching for something. The silent alarm, the light switch, or both.
Both rooms of the confessional were suddenly bathed in light.
The priest, seated in a comfortable chair, turned to his left and gazed into the screened window. He gasped.
The face staring at him was chalky white, and the pale flesh of the man on the opposite side of the partition contrasted drastically with his combed forward dark hair, hair as black as ink. His eyes were wide and red, as if the whites had been cracked open like egg shells, spilling bloody yolks into the empty sockets. His nose was long and straight, like a nail, and his lips were coal black.
“Please extinguish the light now,” the vampire said. “It pains me. My eyes. Please.”
The priest’s habit rustled again, and once more the confessional was draped in darkness.
“Do you believe me now, Father, after having seen my face?”
“Nice make-up,” the priest said, “although, frankly, I’ve seen better. Must have bought your stuff at Wal Mart, huh?”
“Do not joke!” the vampire raised his voice, for the first time losing his composure. “Please, Father, you must believe me!”
“Why? Why do I have to believe you? Is that part of the prank, huh? Get the old priest to admit he believes in vampires? So you can broadcast it to all your friends?”
“No. It’s not that way at all.”
“Well, what way is it, then?” the priest asked.
“I — have sinned! I— need— true forgiveness from God!”
The confessional nearly shook. The vampire’s body was vibrating with anxiety.
“True forgiveness from God,” the priest repeated. “That’s a curious statement coming from a vampire.”
If you’d like to find out what happens next, feel free to order a copy of FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com and as a print edition at https://www.createspace.com/4294076.
As always, thanks so much for reading!