Tales of a Night Walker
By Bert McKenzie
Copyright 2010

Chapter 2

Time passed.  How much I could not tell.  I was awake and aware.  I tried
again to push against the lid of my confinement to no avail.  I was indeed
trapped.  And now my head hurt and my throat burned.  It felt as though my
body were on fire.  It must have been the pain that had awakened me.  But
there were no flames.  Struggle as I might, I could only lay there writhing
in agony.  Eventually I fell back into blissful unconsciousness.  This odd
awakening and slumber took me several more times.  Each time I woke to more
intense pain and thirst.  And each time I fell back again only to drift
away.  In those dreadful slumbers I knew no dreams.  Had I lain there an
hour, a day, a week, I would not know.  Time meant nothing to me.

And eventually a sound had awakened me and I was instantly alert.
Something was out there.  I could hear the scrape against the wood.  Should
I make a noise, pound on the lid or not?  Was this a savior come to rescue
me, or some new fiend come to make sure I was indeed dead?  I could do
little more than lay in the darkness and listen.

Again I heard the metallic clank of chain on the wood of my coffin.
Someone was tugging at it and moving it.  Then a loud crack sounded.  And
again.  Someone was hammering on the metal.  Whoever it was hammered on the
chain, trying to break it.  Finally there was another loud crack and I
could hear the chain falling off the wood and down the side.  Next I heard
the creaking groan of a pry bar pulling at the nails that held my coffin
lid in place.  Soon I would breathe fresh air and confront whoever was
trying to release me.  Need I be prepared to defend myself from my father's
henchmen?  Or need I be prepared to embrace my savior?  As I listened to
the sounds of coming freedom a thought occurred to me.  I was certain it
must be Armand come to rescue me from a fate worse than death itself.  My
lover had renounced me only to bide his time and save me from my father's
crazy plans to bury me alive.  Even now he was pulling the nails from the
lid of the coffin.

The last of the creaking nails groaned and I could see light in the crack
at the edge of the lid.  Suddenly the wooden lid was pulled free and lifted
and I felt the sting of the cool air on my face and the fetid smell of the
tomb around me.  The light was dim, as from a lantern on the floor.  But I
heard voices.  "Hold that flashlight up here, Arny," a man said.  "This one
ought to have something we can use.  The chain probably means it holds a
fortune in jewelry."

Grave robbers!  My life had been spared by grave robbers.  The light shown
in on my face, momentarily blinding me, and I did not move.  "Good God,
Kyle.  He looks like he just died.  He isn't even decomposed," another
voice said.

At that moment I blinked against the light and tried to sit up.  I must
have startled them because the two who had opened my casket screamed.  I
tried to speak but all that came out was a rasp.  I reach out my arm and
one of them dropped the light.  They both scrambled in the darkness,
shrieking in terror.  A thin sliver of light appeared as a door opened and
two bodies stumbled quickly away and out of the tomb.

My body ached and I felt stiff from lying in one position for so long, but
it felt good to sit up.  I chuckled at the thought of what a start I must
have given my grave robbers.  I then wondered where I was, certainly not in
a vault in a local cemetery.  There was no doubt my father would not have
me buried on our property or with the family.  Then I remembered the long
wagon ride.  I could be almost anywhere.  I looked about in the dim light
and saw my coffin rested on a stone bench.  The light, dropped by the
robbers was shining from the floor of the tomb.  I stretched and then
stood, jumping lightly over the side of the box and landing on the floor.
At my feet was the light, but such a strange lamp it was.  It looked like a
fat club from which the light poured.  I picked it up and examined it.  It
was cool to the touch, a shiny metal tube and the light shone forth from
one end in a strong beam that cast a circle on the wall.  It had a lens to
focus the light, but the fire was cold. It was an intense white and should
have been extremely hot, and seemed to emanate from a small round globe
behind the lens.  It did not flicker as I swung the club around.  The beam
of light moved as I pointed the club in the different directions.  What an
odd invention?  How would poor grave robbers come to possess such a
marvelous thing?

The door of the vault stood ajar, the one through which the grave robbers
had made their rapid escape.  I walked to it and pushed against the old
metal.  The door resisted, but slowly opened with a loud groan.  I stepped
out into the fresh air and found myself in a cemetery, surrounded by many
such vaults, and a number of smaller headstones.  I carried the odd torch
with me, the beam of light swinging at my side as I walked among the old
stones, no sign of my unfortunate rescuers in sight.  I wasn't sure why I
carried the unusual torch, for although it was night, the world seemed
quite bright to my eyes.  It was as if my vision had somehow been enhanced,
allowing me to see quite well in the dark.  I continued walking past the
graves, thinking to find the end of the cemetery and then find a horse and
see if I could make my way back home to confront my father, but the
cemetery was much larger than I had ever imagined.

As I strode through the grass, I noticed how the old stones seemed to give
way to new headstones.  The newer ones were polished to a shiny gleam, as
of smooth marble, but they didn't all look like marble.  They were all
variety of colors and styles.  I stopped to look at one and was shocked by
what I saw.  This must be a bad prank.  The dates on the stone said 1875 to
1929.  These were dates far in the future.  It was only 1823.  I continued
on, seeing a large iron fence in the distance.  I looked again and the
dates become even more outlandish.  When I got to the fence one of the
nearby stones had a death date of 1953.  What manner of crazy cemetery was
this?  Had my father buried me in a grave yard tended by madmen?

I followed the fence until I came to a large gateway.  It marked the road
into the cemetery, but an unusual roadway like none other.  It was paved in
a smooth black stone that showed no joins between the pavings.  It was as
if the roadway was one gigantic stone.  I stepped out of the gateway and
looked at a sign that stood beside them.  "Mount Hope Cemetery" it read,
"Founded in 1812," finally a date that made sense.  But this was much too
new of a cemetery to be this large and I had never heard of Mount Hope.

I turned to walk down the road, in hopes of finding a horse when I saw in
the distance, two bright lights.  They almost looked like carriage lamps,
but they were incredibly bright, and approaching faster than any carriage
could.  I stood by the side of the road and as what I thought was a
carriage approached, I could perceive the lights were mounted on some sort
of metal machine.  It ran along the roadway on wheels, like a wagon, but
there were no horses, nor visible method of conveyance.  The machine came
closer and closer, emitting a strange growling roar.  It zoomed past me
with the speed of wild horses at full gallop.  The tail end of it had two
matching red lights that rapidly dwindled in the distance.

This was my first introduction to the modern world.  I sat by the side of
that roadway in the darkness.  In another hour three more of the wild
machines flew by.  I was perplexed and considerably frightened.  I had no
idea where I was, nor how the world had changed while I slept.  Dawn
approached as I sat there unable to comprehend this strange new world.
Small birds began chirping in the trees and the sky began to brighten from
dark blue to a rosy pink.  As it did so I began to feel uncomfortable, as
if my body was rejecting the coming daylight.  Soon the golden sun would
begin to rise over the trees on the horizon.  As the skyline brightened in
anticipation I felt an intense pain, as if I had developed an allergy to
the light.  A moment of panic hit me and I pulled my jacket up over my head
and ran back into the cemetery.  I knew not where to flee from the burning
torture of the dawn.  The brighter it grew, the more painful it became.  I
ran and ran until I again saw the mausoleum from which I had come.  The
door stood open and the darkness seemed to welcome me.  I ran inside and
pulled the door shut to just a crack.  I then sat on the bench beside my
coffin.  What had happened to me?  Was I truly in some strange future
world?  Had I actually slept for more than a hundred years?  With my head
down I sat and waited in the darkness for the sunset when I could again go
to explore this strange new world.

That day, waiting in the darkness of the crypt, was perhaps the longest day
of my young life if indeed I was alive and if indeed I was still young.
Can someone be young who had slept in a coffin for nearly 125 years?  As I
sat there I began to realize the awful truth.  I felt my shoulder and could
feel the wound there.  Removing my jacket and shirt, I examined myself as
best I could in the gloom of the vault.  It felt as though something had
bitten me on the shoulder.  It was then that I knew what had transpired and
what I had become.  I was a cursed creature of the night, a vampire.  One
of our slaves called them night walkers.  The strange foreigner that my
father had brought to the engagement party must have been one as well.  How
my father was associated with such a creature I could not imagine.  Yet I
knew my father had many ties to what men in polite civilization would shun.
The man may have been a shrewd businessman, but it wasn't always because of
his business skill.  He would cheat, lie and steal to improve his
situation.  We children often joked that our father would sell his soul to
the devil, and perhaps that is just what he did.  He had made a bargain of
some sort with this creature of evil, and at my party he had prepared his
trap and waited.  Had I but played the role of the dutiful son, I might
have been spared.  But as I was caught in the position of sinful lust, my
father unleashed his evil plan, allowing his own son to be given over to a
vampire.

In all honesty, I was sure my father only wanted my death.  But remembering
the conversation I heard at my wake, I realized the evil creature went
beyond his commission and in some way performed an act that assured I would
likewise be resurrected as the undead, a thing of evil.  And now I am
condemned to walk the night and live off the blood of innocent victims.
This was the price I was to pay for desiring the love of another man.  It
may have been my father's doing, but I felt I was ultimately responsible.
All this went through my mind as I waited in the darkness of a tomb.  I
awaited the sunset when I could once again emerge from this dank repository
to stalk the earth as an abhorrent creature.

By mid afternoon I felt a great pain in my stomach and throat and knew the
pangs of the blood thirst.  I craved sustenance, but I feared what food
would satisfy me.  As the time wore on the thirst grew to be excruciating.
I felt weak and lay on the floor in agony.  I knew as soon as the darkness
came I would have to find something to assuage my desire.

Eventually, I looked out the crack in the doorway and saw that all was in
shadow.  It must be time.  I slipped outside.  I was surprised to find the
sun had not yet set, but it was close to the horizon and well behind trees.
It did not cause me pain as the early dawn light had in the morning.  I
marveled at the truth.  Apparently there were many myths surrounding what I
had become.  One was that I must lie dormant in a coffin during the day.  I
had not done this.  Another was that I would be unable to move from my
grave until sunset.  Again this was not true.  I found that as long as I
avoided the direct rays of the sun I was able to move about.  Perhaps there
were other untruths to this life.  Perhaps I need not feast on the blood of
the living.  Maybe I only needed real food, having been sleeping in that
box for some time.  I began to wonder how long I had actually slept.  There
were so many questions yet to be answered.

A movement caught my eye.  Only a few rows of tombstones away, I saw a
woman.  She looked young, perhaps 18 or 19, certainly no older than the mid
20s, with a sweet face, but she was dressed very oddly, almost as a boy.
She wore a brightly colored top which looked more like a shirt than
something a girl would wear, and tight black trousers.  Her long, straight
hair was tied back from her face and hung down her back in a single plait.
She was kneeling by a grave, and at first I thought she was a mourner in
prayer.  But then I observed her place a piece of paper against the stone
and rub it with something, perhaps chalk or charcoal.  She must be an
artist, for I had seen grave rubbings in my youth in an exhibition in
Richmond.  I thought to speak with her, but wondered what my reception
would be.  At the thought of approaching her, my throat burned with a
hunger and thirst.  A strange desire came over me.  I felt a burning need
to approach this lonely girl by stealth.  I knew she could satisfy the
craving and stop my suffering.  She could provide me with what I needed at
the moment.  She was in shadow, and by following a slightly circuitous
path, I might be able to come upon her.  I immediately embarked on the
journey.

As I approached where the girl had worked I found she was gone.  Instead I
observed the grave stone she had been rubbing.  It held a chilling epitaph.

      "Remember, friend, as you pass by,
      As you are now, so once was I.
      As I am now, so shall you be.
      Prepare for death and follow me."

Was I dead?  Had I followed the course of human life to the inevitable end
in death?  If so, why was I still moving, thinking, walking the earth?
This was just not how my life was supposed to be.

Apparently finished for the day, the girl had packed up her artistic
supplies in a small wooden case and then left.  I could see her in the
distance walking back toward the gate.  Silently and keeping to the
shadows, I felt compelled to trail along behind.  Unknowingly she led me to
the gate of the cemetery.  She paused there for a moment, looking back into
the darkening graveyard.  I quickly slipped behind a tombstone and blended
in with the shadows.  Then we moved on, the two, she in the lead and I, her
shadow trailing behind.  We followed the roadway for a short distance to a
bench beside the road.  My hunger flared as I stood in the shadows of a
tree and hid by some large bushes not far from where she sat on the bench,
apparently waiting for someone.  I thought to approach her but before I
could I heard footsteps and drew back further into the shadows of the
overgrowth knowing my hunger would not allow me to wait long.

A man came walking down the sidewalk and paused as he saw her sitting at
the bench in the evening gloom.  He looked about to make sure they were
alone, not seeing me hiding in the darkness.  The man then grabbed her from
behind and pulled the struggling girl from the bench.  She managed one
short scream before he clamped his hand over her mouth.  The girl continued
to struggle, but was obviously no match for this stranger.  He began
forcing her back toward the shadows of the trees lining the street.  Her
eyes wide in fear, she continued to try and fight him off.  With one hand
he held her firmly to his body while the other was still clamped over her
mouth, stifling her cries.  "Stop struggling and don't make a sound or I'll
slit your throat," he said in a rasping voice as he dragged her further
toward the bushes.  A gasp escaped her lips as he removed his hand and
began tugging at her clothing.  I was shocked at the obvious assault going
on but a few yards from me.  Ashamed that I had thought to do much the same
thing in the blood lust and craving that had seized me, I now watched the
man forcing the girl back toward the shadows of my hiding place beneath the
tree.  I could see her eyes wide in fear and smell the tang of sweat on her
assailant.

"Please, please don't do this," she pleaded, tears running down her face.
Why didn't she fight back or attempt to flee?  The assailant no longer held
her but was busy trying to unfasten her boyish trousers.  I could wait no
longer and acted on instinct, stepping up behind him.  Suddenly the girl
saw me step out of shadows.  She began to tremble with fear, worrying that
her attacker had a partner to assist him.  The man had no idea anyone was
behind him as he tried to attack the girl.  I reached out and grabbed her
assailant, surprising him and pulling him from her.  He immediately turned
and the two of us began to fight.  The girl saw me pull her assailant into
the bushes, and she turned to run.  She got as far as the bench and
stopped.  I had come to her rescue.  She couldn't just leave me.  She
didn't know what to do.  Was there a pay phone somewhere in the area so she
could call the police?  There were strange sounds coming form the bushes
where the two of us disappeared.  To the girl it almost sounded like a dog
fight; it was an animalistic growl as the bushes shook and shuddered.

The man began to struggle, but was no match for me.  He grabbed me by the
throat and began to squeeze, but I brushed his hands away as if he were a
child.  Then I bent him back easily, not even feeling the blows the thug
was trying to inflict.  Instinct again took over as I smelled the fear now
and heard the man's heart thumping wildly in his chest.  It was exciting
and the thirst in my throat burned even stronger.  I could see the carotid
artery pulsing beneath the skin of my victim's throat, inviting and
inflaming me, and I leaned down pressing my mouth to it and bit, tearing
the flesh.  A strangled gurgle escaped the man's lips as I tasted the warm
blood.  It excited me further and I drank, sucking the hot taste into my
mouth.  It quenched the fire in my throat and belly and I continued to
drink as the man struggled less and less in my arms.

In a very short time I dropped the lifeless body to the ground and stood,
licking the last of the life-giving liquid from my lips.  I looked down and
saw the man's blood staining my shirt and jacket.  I pulled a kerchief from
my pocket and wiped my chin as if I had just dined on a succulent meal,
then walked back from our hiding place in the bushes toward the roadway.
Standing by the bench the girl stood in the light of a streetlamp that had
apparently been lit as the darkness grew.  I stood there and looked at her
and knew not what to say, but wondered where the lamplighter had gone,
perhaps to find a constable.  After a moment of silence she spoke.
"Th-thank you," she stammered.  "Where did he g-go?"

"Do not worry," I answered wiping my hands on the bloody kerchief and
stuffing it back in my pocket.  "He will not bother anyone further."

It was then that she noticed the blood on my shirt.  "Oh, my God, you're
hurt!" she exclaimed and ran to my side.

"No, no I'm fine," I said, not knowing what to tell her.  How could I
explain that I had just killed her assailant by ripping his throat and
drinking his blood?

"No, you're bleeding," she persisted and grabbed me, pulling me toward the
bench.  At that moment a long metal machine pulled to stop at the curb.
Doors on the side hissed opened and she tugged me toward the contraption,
pulling me inside and up a few short steps.  She reached into her pocket
and pulled out some change, dropping it into the coin box.  The man sitting
behind what looked like a flat ship's wheel nodded, and then she dragged me
back along an aisle between rows of empty seats, pulling me down beside her
on a bench.  The machine pulled away from the curb and began to move along
the roadway at a dizzying pace totally disorienting me.

"Where do you live?" the girl asked as she took a closer look me.  I'm sure
I looked like hell, my shaggy blond hair was unkempt and my clothing a
mess.  My dirty, blue velvet jacket and high wasted pants, with a white
ruffled shirt looked to her like I had come from a period play.

"I have no place," I answered her softly.  I almost laughed at the thought
of saying my most recent home was a bed in a large vault in that cemetery.
"What I mean is I am new here."

"Well you'll come home with me," she said authoritatively.  "It's the least
I can do for you."  She took my hand and then gasped.  It hand felt like
ice to her.  "Your hand is so cold."  She reached up and touched my brow.
It was equally cold.  She really began to worry, noticing this, the blood
on my white shirt and the extreme pallor of my skin.  She thought I must be
losing a lot of blood and could be really seriously hurt.  "You must be
going into shock.  Hold on, it isn't far.  I can find a doctor."

"No!" I said quickly.  The last thing I wanted was to be examined by a
physician.  What would he find?  Would he find a live man or an animated
corpse?  Would he hear a heartbeat?  "I'll be fine.  I just need to rest a
bit."  I'm sure I sounded like a man who had something to hide.  The girl
sat back in silence but continued to worry.  "I wanted but to ask a
question."

To her I'm sure it seemed as though I spoke in such odd phrases, almost as
if I were reciting lines from a play or something.  "Well," she said
looking sharply at me.  "What's the question?"

I was almost afraid to speak for a moment.  "What year is it?" I asked
softly.

The girl stared at me in concern.  She thought perhaps I was in shock and
was loosing a grasp on reality.  And maybe I was.  She didn't quite know
how to respond.  Finally she replied as though she thought I meant what
year was I costumed as, "You look to be dressed for the early 1800's.  Are
you an actor?"  Even as she asked the question, she felt it wasn't the
answer.  She just didn't know what to make of my very odd appearance.

I smiled and nodded.  "1823 to be precise," I said.

"How did you come to be in this remote part of town," she asked, "and
dressed in a costume from 1823?  There are no theaters in the area."

 "I am afraid I was lost.  I was attending a masquerade and somehow ended
up here."  The girl must have thought that the road outside of Mount Hope
cemetery seemed a very strange place to have a masquerade party.  She knew
I was lying, of that I was sure.  She no doubt wondered what I had to hide.
I had to come up with a more reasonable explanation.  I tried to explain my
messy state.  "I was set upon by brigands and now have no idea of where I
might be.  If you may show me to an inn or public house, somewhere I may
refresh myself, I won't trouble you further."  Now she seemed genuinely
concerned perhaps because I seemed so confused.  I can't imagine what she
must think of me, how I came to be here and dressed in such funny clothes
and uttering conflicting and confusing explanations.  I slumped back in the
seat as tears began to trickle from my eyes.  I felt so lost and so
vulnerable.

"It's okay," she said and gently placed a hand on my shoulder.  "Look,
where did you come from."

I pulled the bloody cloth from my pocket and dabbed at my eyes, determined
to tell her the truth.  "Thank you for your kindness," I replied.  "I am
Jefferson Wesley Smythe, III.  My father owns a plantation a few miles
north of Richmond."

"Richmond," the girl said.  "You're just a bit south of there.  And I'm not
aware of any plantations, perhaps some large tobacco farms."  She reached
out and took my cold hand again.  "Glad to meet you Mr. Smythe.  I'm Sarah
Kitterage.  You certainly are playing your part to the hilt.  It's like you
could have stepped from the pages of history.  You could have come from
1823."

"Please, when is it now?" I asked in a thin voice, the voice of a lost
child.

"1955," she replied confidently.  I groaned and then leaned my head back
and closed my eyes.  I slipped into unconsciousness and knew no more.

 

 

 

 

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