Max

Max sat on the park bench looking up into the night sky, warm rain running down his face like tears. He could feel the aftershock of fear trickling down his spine.

He’d awoken at dusk with a cry. His head was full of his last day in the sun, the memories careering around his head. The sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield surrounded him. The metallic coppery smell of blood seemed to engulf the earth, the cries rose from the wounded and he was flanked by the bodies of his dead friends. He had revelled in the fact he was still alive, still able to fight. The defensive line had reformed, but then the blue-faced barbarians had rallied and the horde came screaming towards the thin shield line. This time his sword arm wasn’t fast enough and a blade scored its way across his front, red hot pain ran down his torso and his legs gave way as feet scrambled over his falling body. In his dream he had seen again the bright blue sky, the carrion crows circling above him as his blood ran out and the sky darkened.

His head dropped into his hands, something was coming, something evil and he didn’t know whether it could be defeated.

He’d realised slowly that the city was under attack: people had disappeared, homeless tramps, drug victims and prostitutes had been found dead, wide eyes staring out from fear filled faces. Max had read pathologist and police reports and knew the human authorities were baffled; he’d spoken to his Sire, Marcus and the vampire community was equally confused. Something was out there and everyone was looking for an answer.

He knew the dream must mean something, either its contents or even the fact that he’d had it. It wasn’t often dreams came to him, memories yes, little things he saw or did would conjure those, but dreams, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had one.

He heard the steps behind him and smelt the hint of roses in the air; he looked up as Dara Morgan stopped in front of him.

“Well met, Vampire.”

“Indeed, Witch.”

“Is it the rain you like or the silence?”

“I needed to clear my head.”

“You’ve been dreaming.”

“You know that?”

“We’ve all been suffering, there is something coming and we cannot find answers.”

“Have you looked?”

“My glass shows me shadows, a world descending into madness, a child wandering through an abandoned space, eyes gleaming with hunger, people screaming, then nothing. I cannot make sense of it.”

She sat down next to Max and they sat in silence as the rain fell. In the quiet Max’s thoughts tumbled into place.

“Dara, perhaps what is coming needs the fear, the humans that have succumbed died in fear, vampires and witches are waking from nightmares and you have a vision of screams. It is the fear that is feeding whatever is coming.”

She looked at him as a realisation came to her:

“It is not just fear, I’ve seen more anger in people, felt it rise inside me, over stupid, inconsequential things. I had thought it was just the concern of something coming, but it’s everywhere, what is here is feeding on the madness within us all.”

“If it feeds we can starve it, weakened we may be able to defeat it.”

“Max, how can we stop a city in fear?”

“The abandoned site you saw in your vision, do you recognise where it is?”

“Yes, it’s the old power plant, down on the waterfront, but surely a child can’t be doing this?”

“What you perceive as a child may not be the truth. Will you join with me to defeat this; will your clan help a vampire?”

“You ask that of me, a Morgan, when you are the reason for our whole existence. My ancestor, the sire of our family, would not have lived but for you. Ask what you will, Maximillian, the Morgan’s would die to help you.”

“I am honoured and thank you. If this creature feeds on emotions, can you block them, cut off his food supply, give me time to attack?”

Dara thought for a moment.

“We have the power to ensure that all emotions remain within each person for a while, but not for long, a person holding all their emotions inside will eventually break.”

“Then I will have to move fast. I’m guessing you’re going to say it would be easier to do during daylight, people being more fearful at night.”

She smiled ruefully, “I’m afraid so.”

“Very well, at least the creature will not expect a vampire to be there during the day, I will aim for the late afternoon, then at least I will have the night to look forward to.”

He got up and disappeared into the darkness and did not hear Dara’s whispered reply.

“I pray you do see the night, vampire, for in my vision you were surrounded by light.”

.o00o.

Max made his way up into the power plant, skirting the shafts of late afternoon sunlight that came through the broken roof panels. He could feel the power of the witches spell within him and pushed it to the back of his mind.

Walking through the deserted building he could feel another power tickling along his skin, searching for a way in. He followed its lead and soon entered the main area, a long empty space and at the end he saw a small boy. The child was rocking and mewing, his scared eyes swivelled to look at Max as he heard his steps.

“Please help me, I’m so hungry, please” it begged.

Max walked up to it.

“There is nothing here for you; it is time for you to die.”

The boy stopped crying, stood up and began to laugh, his voice changing to the rasp of a demon.

“Die? Is that what you wish for me? Do you have it in you to kill me?”

Max did not reply, simply stepped back and drew his sword. He may have learnt to fight with the short stabbing sword of the Romans, but over time his preference had fallen on the longer rapier. It was with the elegance of Italian steel that he challenged the demon.

The boy’s image shimmered until stood before Max was the perfect replica of himself. An identical sword came into contact with his and Max felt the power ripple down his blade.

“You fight me, you fight your very self, your body is now my body, your skill mine. As you weaken, your emotions will feed me, your fear and anger will be the death of you, fool.”

Max attacked, sending his blade through every move he had learnt, but every cut, thrust or lunge was parried, there was no way through.

Max could feel his strength failing and at the back of his mind was the knowledge that the witches could not hold out for much longer. He suddenly realised there was only one way to kill this demon. His blade faltered, fell to the ground and the demon laughed in triumph.

“Ready to die fool?”

The demon lunged and Max felt the sword cut into his stomach. Instead of trying to back away, he stepped forward pulling himself further up the blade.

“You have missed a trick, demon, I die, you die.”

He caught hold of the demon and swung them both into a shaft of sunlight. An intense heat hit him and light exploded around the two figures. He could feel every part of him begin to break up and inhuman screams echoed around him as darkness descended.

He woke to the feeling of rain on his face, his body ached and it was with a great effort that he pushed himself to his knees. Slowly he managed to stand up, night had fallen and around him grey dust was being washed away by the rain.

He tried to take a step, but his legs betrayed him. A strong arm caught him and the scent of roses cleared his senses.

Together they stumbled out of the building and sat down at the river’s edge.

“I owe you my existence I think.”

“You were happy to give it up for us all, I considered that a waste. We did what we could to protect you but I had no sure belief it was going to work. I was terrified that that all I would find here was dust.”

“How did you know what I was going to do?”

“I did not tell you all of my vision, if I had you may not have been able to take the step or have hidden your decision from the demon. I had to leave you with free choice.”

Max lay back, looked up at the stars and smiled.

“Tonight is the anniversary of my change, perhaps next year we could just share a glass of wine?”

Sam Portlock

 

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