London by Night

An Invitation
Slotted through the doors of all London Kindred:

An Invitation to all Kindred of London.
My dear kinsmen and women, I would like to invite you all to a soirée at the Langham Hotel, Regent Street on behalf of Her Most Honourable Lady Elaine Trellion of the Most Noble First Estate, Prince of Wessex on the 5th March 2014. All Kindred are expected to attend, and we hope to see the delights that London has to offer.
Yours most Sincerely,
Herald Mortimer Bales of the Most Honoured Lance et Sanctum of the Fief of Wessex.

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Twelve Nights of Grime (Night #4)
The inevitable cute one :3

Czaka Canon! #4
17th October (Early Morning); Czaka’s Living Room

Song List
BRITISH SEA POWER Once More Now
BRITISH SEA POWER Heavy Water
LES MIS One Day More
PENDULUM Encoder

~

Give me this day, at least. This day, repeated on a cycle, for as long as it takes for me to settle and sleep. That can’t be cheating, can it? There must be other better days that I would miss along with the nightmares. But I don’t care about that anymore: I just want the peace. I want this settled peace forever now, of knowing I am loved and for one day in my life I am blissful.

Milosz forgave me. Milosz more than forgave me.

When I poured out to him, as he listened to how I’d been scrubbing myself sore over losing Hart, he leant down on his laptop keyboard and kissed it. But more than that; he shared his screen with mine and kissed the mousepad so the pointer hovered over my lips. I was stunned. It was the first time I can remember when we have shared this softness, this romance, without it being a façade for the sake of keeping us looking sweet and unsuspecting. Then I recall the true luck I have in the world: it was staged, yet it was real. We played a part of the fairytale, and Milosz and I, we grew into it. Now here we are, split across continents, and with a flicker of technology it feels like I’ve had wings burst out of my shell so I can land in his arms again. I can feel the warmth of his arms around me, all over again. I sit on the sofa now writing, and he’s sitting by me again, as we’re watching more and more propaganda bollocks, staring into the screen motionless because all our senses are focused on his arms and mine. Down to the hairs tickling each other as they rise with our arms and lungs. I feel my podgier hands moulding into his skeletal ones, and the illusion of jigsaw pieces is complete. We are a scene. But we are not fiction.

And I remember it now, but even though it’s a memory it’s not a negative memory. That’s what makes it feel so real. Against all the shit I train myself never to forget, the horrors I am not allowed to forget, there he is, holding me, the one colour photograph against all the black, white and grey outline. And he is mine, just like he reminded me when I cried tonight. Hart was ours, too, he said. I was ‘just like a grieving mother’, he chuckled hesitantly (that’s always his way). Of course it would be natural for me to grieve! How I am now… well, it’s not natural, he tells me, but we’re so far apart, of course it’s not going to be natural without each other there. ‘Just, please,’ he reiterated. ‘Don’t do yourself anything serious. Don’t do anything THEY would want to have done to you. Because then I’ll not be able to forgive you.’

I’m never going to be that stupid.

I didn’t expect him to be as forgiving even for this, anyway. Only when I opened the Skype call did I realise how terrified I really was. All the cleanliness I had pumped into me… no; my stomach filled itself with soil, like I was already burying myself. A little dramatic, perhaps, but I honestly can’t find another way to describe it… a heaviness… a bittiness… a bitterness… I was crumbling from the inside – no, that’s worse. Milosz can’t see it: there’s something worse than paranoia, that’s embarrassment!

When we logged off, he gave me the smallest smile, and I smiled back. It was one I remember from ages ago. He was leaving for work, when we were first dating, and he was so afraid he almost couldn’t leave. But we couldn’t have him leaving late, so I pushed him. That’s been us all over; me pushing him, but hoping I’m pushing him where he wants to go. I’ll be pulling him back now, though. All he has to do is get a passport forged – I’m sorry, a ‘safe’ passport – so he can make his path over it.

I’ve forged enough art in my time, I wonder if I could forge the design of a passport? I’ll take a lot of time, not at all the graphic format I’m used to. In the meantime, I should probably ask Gerardo what we could do. From previous conversations I know his entrance into England wasn’t exactly legal. He was intelligent enough for the country, regardless of their legal system, so he told me. Tomorrow, I shall go and see him. He’ll get me and Milosz together in no time, I’m sure of it. This is fate now. This is how this day lasts forever. This is how it’s going to happen.

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Newspaper Report #6 - MURDERED WOMAN NAMED, DAUGHTER STILL MISSING
Published 19th February 2014

Murdered Woman Named, Daughter Still Missing
Words by Maya Pirillet

Police have officially confirmed the identity of the woman found dead in her burnt-out home in Adomar Road, Barking as being Ms. Anna Shaw, 32, originally of Concarneau, France.

Ms. Shaw’s body was found in the wreckage of her home last Friday. Police say the coroner found deep incisions on the body, like those a wolf or bear would inflict, across her body, with a single knife wound to her face. Police have called the results “horrific” and have increased their efforts to find the killer.

“It is clear we are dealing with someone cruel, calculated and willing to use animals capable of horrific injury to cause the maximum harm and injury to human life,” read the coroner’s comments.

Police urge the public to stay calm during this time, as “these injuries were not inflicted by animals alone. There was human influence and visibly calculated damage done to the body, meaning that these animals were being commanded to do such deeds. Wolves and bears do not roam England freely, and would be unlikely to roam into urban areas even if they did.”

Ms. Shaw’s daughter, Lucy, has been missing since the attack. Police are concerned that the attacker may have taken her for reasons yet unknown. “Lucy’s safety is of the utmost importance. If anyone has seen or heard from Lucy, we need to get in contact with them. Lucy could be the only one who can give us the key information we need to make an arrest.”

Lucy is 14 years old, 5’2 with dark brown hair. She was last seen on the 14th February, returning home with another person. Witnesses describe them as male, 5’8 with very short hair in a waistcoat and shirt. Police are keen to talk with this person. “We don’t currently know the nature of his visit to Ms. and Miss Shaw’s home. We believe he may be a friend of Miss Shaw’s, who may have also seen or heard the crime. We would very much like to hear from him and find out what really went on in that house on Valentine’s evening.”

Ms. Shaw’s burial is due to be held on Wednesday 26th February at Eastbrookend Cemetery.
If you have any information regarding the crime, Miss Shaw’s location or the identity of the stranger at their door, please contact the police on [number] or Crimestoppers on [number] urgently.

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Newspaper Report #5 - VICTIMS OF NATIONAL GALLERY MASSACRE NAMED
Published 18th February 2014

Victims of National Gallery Massacre Named
Today, Police revealed the names of the six security guards murdered during the break-in at the National Gallery that saw a £2 million installation by acclaimed architect Gio Plth stolen.
Words by Maya Pirillet

While clues and evidence are still being recovered from the Gallery, the Police have released limited information regarding the identities of the guards who lost their lives and some of the evidence they’ve uncovered.

Police named the guards as Dale Morton, 39, Paul Warring, 38, Stephen Torrington, 20, Martin Errington, 52, Gregory Vales, 32 and Roger Durrant, 21.

Tributes to the six men have been laid at the steps of the Gallery since the attack took place, and members of the public have been growing restless, wanting to know the identities of the men who lost their lives. A police spokesperson told reporters “We wish we could have shared this news sooner, but identification of some of the bodies was more difficult than we would usually expect.”

There was anger from some families of the deceased about their inability to see the bodies of their loved ones. “The police told us we couldn’t see his body” explained Olivia Warring, Paul Warring’s wife, tearfully. “They wouldn’t explain why; we just couldn’t.”

Police have since told reporters that three of the guards were found with gunshot wounds, some close range, two were found with “severe burn trauma to the head and neck” and one was found “with extremely severe chemical burns to their face and upper torso”.

The only clues they have currently found are five bones “that seem human in origin” near where the installation originally stood. They have been taken to a forensic lab where they are being DNA tested. Police say they hope to have the results back within the next week.

The investigation continues.

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Twelve Nights of Grime (Night #3)
Czaka Canon - Keeping it Clean...

Czaka Canon! #3
15th October 2011 – Czaka’s Diary
N.B. I’ve literally just splurged this and posted it, so sorry for any grammar errors!

Song List
ELBOW – Some Riot
RADIOHEAD – Jigsaw Falling into Place
EDITORS – The Big Exit
EDITORS – The Boxer
MUSE – Exogenesis Symphony (Parts 1-3)
A DAY TO REMEMBER –This is the House that Doubt Built

He staggered through the door looking like he’d been chased by a pack of rats. I guess, in a roundabout way, he had been. One of his previous co-workers had spotted him and given him the dirtiest look. He began to walk away before he could even register the look, had started running before he could see if he was being chased.
Milosz had the worst reputation with the Stasi lads, and the best with everyone else. They all knew about Hart; a young upstart like him was hard to ignore in these parts. They knew that Milosz had taken him under our wing and that, for a time, we were a family for this spawn of Republic evil, a victim in a country where victims weren’t supposed to exist. Most of all, the one day Hart looked at Milosz and said he admired his work, Milosz shot his own profession down in flames. The thought of Hart following after him and what he did sickened him. Milosz revelled in it enough; it kept him safe, me safe, Hart safe to be deep in the Spider’s Nest and not waiting to be caught on the outside. It also gave him a kick to be the predator in a world which made you feel like you were always prey. But he was a condition of this world, he thought. He thought, “Hart is a young innocent, he doesn’t need to feel protected. Why the hell should he give up that freedom for something which looks powerful but isn’t?” Apparently Hart didn’t keep this revelation as secret as the norm, because the more faithful Stasi caught wind of it and were furious with Milosz. But they did nothing, because Milosz was too good. He was too much of a predator to let him go; a particularly thick, sticky strand of the web serving the Spider. So the eyes remained still and the minds remained fierce. There were so many, while Milosz was working, that could’ve sunk their teeth into him if they had the chance.

That became worse by the time the wall fell. Most of them went on trial for something or another, or had their careers entirely trashed. Once again, he was too good. His identity was changed beyond recognition with his experiences fully utilised, and he walked the streets a free man. The victims of the Wall falling weren’t going to let that happen. And so, this night, his paranoia began to really show. They circled him, waiting for him to crack.
Our marriage hadn’t been a secret, either. It was the one thing we could stage that still left euphoria afterwards. We felt love, we showed love. I feigned loyalty to the cause then imagined him curled up to me at night. Our sheets were a curtain of breath against the iron one that shoved wads of propaganda down our throats. We said it all to each other, this way, too. We made it overdramatic. We whispered in each other’s ears, before we finally slept during the night, the ironic statements of our counter-propaganda. Now I wondered if the Stasi had bugs in the heads of everyone, because the moment he came in I realised I had always felt terror.

Dirt made me uneasy, even then. But not in the same way it does now, now Hart appears to have died. I can’t help myself anymore. Milosz and Hart, they were my cleanser, the thing that erased the old world I lived in and helped me concentrate on the now. That positive speck in that European darkness made me feel safe in Britain, knowing I had seen compassion where I came from. But when they started hunting us, when I started looking for work abroad to fuel Milosz’ need to recluse in our house for months on end, the urge the erase all those memories became stronger and stronger.

It came out in this: what I’ve been told by Angela is Hypochondria. She didn’t tell me what I could do about it, just explained what it meant to me with a bitten-halfway smile on her face, as if she already knew I wouldn’t stop. Back in Poland I had timed my showers to two minutes, in case we had to run quickly. Two minutes now became five, ten, twenty, thirty, an hour. After the third time of being late for work, I learnt to wake up four hours after I had gone to bed the previous night, so I could shower before starting the day shift.

I worked all shifts. The National Gallery seemed concerned at first, but convinced I could cope when I never called in sick. That and the cleaning kept me erased, let me brace myself to tapping into the old darkness when I called Milosz each evening. It also meant I could use half the cleaning fluids they gave us Janitors, then claim I had used all of it throughout the day. You couldn’t deny I was efficient. The other half came home and I tried and tested what made me feel cleanest. Some stung, some felt like they were haunting your skin days after you’d washed them off. I mixed them together to find the perfect mix; many before then made my insides protest. But I was persistent: nothing my body could say was worse than letting the past crawl over my skin. Finally, I did find something which made me feel utterly porcelain. It was the colour of a sickened sea. But I didn’t care, and I didn’t care the reddening it left on me either. Everyone thought I was a sucker for sunbeds; that I missed the warmth of Europe now I was in this shit British wet. I let them believe it.

All that changed with Milosz’ face.

Before video messaging was possible, I had been able to hide all this. My voice sounded the same over the phone, so why bring it up? I knew how much he had tried to shield me from the sneaks around us. I knew how much his heart would sink if he saw that they had finally got to me. So why bother to tell?

Then Skype was invented. Milosz still loved his technology, and this invention meant he could talk to me, face-to-face, every day. Fantastic! Why would there be any reason not to install this, especially since it was free and I had sent him over a new laptop last Christmas. It would run smoothly, just like we were in the same room together. He really sold it to me. Of course I went along with it. How bad would it look if I became reluctant, over ten years after I had seen him properly? After all this phone contact, longing to see him? Back then, I thought it would look worse than how I looked. That’s how I convinced myself to bite the bullet, anyway.

The first night we used it, he could’ve divorced me there and then.

Thankfully, fate has been a kind soul to me. I still have him by my side.

I almost didn’t need to explain. I could see that old brow of his – my, how he looked so much older now – working away, cogs whirring behind like a supercomputer, adding up the possibilities and finding the answers. He said the word Hypochondria before I could. He knew why. The only thing he got wrong was the fact I was using the stuff they gave me at the National Gallery. I tried so hard to convince him that it wasn’t his fault. I don’t think he’ll ever buy it, now he’s seen my skin this red. The explanation ended in pleading, in forgiveness, in uneasiness, in logging off. In washing my sheets five times after I had cried myself out on the bed.

Three days he put up with this; the third he made me show him how I was doing it. He made gulping sounds like he was going to cry, throw up or both at once. Rubbing it on my arms and cheeks was the worst for him. He asked me when the hell this was going to stop. He challenged me to consider if I even knew how much I could be hurting myself. Tired of seriousness, I mused, “It isn’t over until the fat lady stings”. That got me slammed on three counts: one, I had lost too much weight in his opinion; two, pain is too late to worry; three, why the fuck was I punning at a time like this… he forced me to promise that I would never do serious harm to myself, accidental or not, otherwise we were through. I promised. We never brought it up again.

I think we’ve recovered since then.

I write this because I’m afraid of breaking it again. Since Hart’s death I’ve had to wash, scrub and erase myself even more, and I can’t even bear to look in the mirror. But I have to talk to Milosz again. I need the comfort of his face again. I need to do it tomorrow night, and not put if off any more than that.

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The Thorn Bush
After the Court at Rose Manor.

“And you’re sure they were diablerised?” He asked, his brow furrowed.

“I felt her, Peter. Just like you did. You know what that feeling means; hell, you felt it what, two times?” Replied the brown-haired woman with a sigh, her hands crossed in her lap demurely, drowned by the huge oaken chair she was sat on.

“Three.” Responded the man, Peter, as he sat across a similar chair, his legs across the arms; his fine suit crumpling, the bow tie undone, its ends hanging down his torso. He frowned. “How many of ours entered the room?”

The woman faltered, counting them on her fingers. “Edith and the new girl; the model, waited for Eleanor there,” she began. “And then Eleanor joined them. Then the new boy and Lucetta dashed off, and Laurence followed… so…six in total?”

“Six.” He spat bitterly. “How many survived?”

“No-one knows for certain. There are rumours that the new boy and his childe escaped, but these are as yet unconfirmed. Eleanor didn’t.” Spoke the woman, softly, her eyes never moving from her lap.

“Neither did Lucetta or Laurence. I felt them go too.” Peter frowned, fire in his eyes. “As for Edith, the architect and the model…?”

“We’re uncertain, yes.” Finished the woman. “The room was covered in ash. Determining how many bodies was almost impossible.”

Peter rose from his chair. “So what stopped you from joining them?” He asked, eventually.
“What?”

“I said,” he repeated, the fiery glint in his eye growing, “what stopped you from joining them? What stopped you from coming to their aid?”

The woman stood, scandalised. “You dare question me on my motives?” She hissed, her once demure appearance giving way to one more akin to a succubus. She leant forward, her palms flat on the table. “You dare question me when you were the one gallivanting with some whore all evening rather than supporting your family on their first night in power!”

Peter sniggered. “My, my. It seems the pussycat of the family finally grew some claws. Shame they’re too little, too late.” He remarked, with a raised eyebrow and a cruel smirk, swivelling around in his chair to sit upright.

Enraged, the woman strode around the large dining table, and stood in front of him. She leant down, placing her weight on her hands; lowering herself to his eye level and whispered dangerously. “I stayed where I was because I was asked to. Lucetta knew what she might have been getting into. She gave me instructions on what to do should what has happened, happen. And it’s a good thing too, because you wouldn’t know where to begin.” She finished, looking him up and down distastefully.

Peter’s eyes met hers and he spat his words at her. “You think you’re so clever and powerful, don’t you, lording it up over everyone else? You think everyone’s forgotten how you were embraced, don’t you? Well I haven’t. You’re nothing more than the worthless little ghoul you always have been. You don’t deserve the Rose name.”

Peter suddenly found a knife at his heart; the woman glaring coldly at him. “Pathetic.” She began, thinking better of it and putting her knife away. “How you ever got embraced will always remain beyond me, Peter. My past has nothing to do with this.”

He sneered at her. “Of course it does. All sired ghouls cause trouble for their sires. Don’t you remember the cautionary tale of John, Janet and Beatrice, or Daniel and Elsie? Or, in more recent memory, what about Daria and her puppy dog Zangor, or Laurence? Eleanor’s dead. You’ll be next.”

Her jaw clenched as he mentioned Daria, and she glared at him. “Is that a threat?” She challenged. “Do you remember how few of us there are now? Is threatening me going to strengthen your position, Peter? Come now.” She tutted.

“You’re the weak link, Maria. Admit it. The Roses need an army, and you’re too pathetic to even try and attack me, let alone anyone else. You’re soft, spineless and stupid.” He retorted, spitefully.

She laughed coldly, and called to her ghouls. “Jessamine! Talia! Our bags, if you please.” She raised herself up, towering above Peter. “Good luck with your crusade.” She snapped, curtly, every word dripping with sarcasm. “I pray you will need every last drop you can beg, borrow and steal.” Her ghouls appeared, luggage ready, and she nodded to them. “Thank you, girls. We no longer require lodgings here. Let us be on our way.” As she walked to the door, she turned sharply on her heel and looked at Peter. Her face was twisted and mangled, demonic and cruel, her eyes boring straight into his soul. “You will rue the day you crossed Maria Rose.” The monstrous image said, in something just above a hiss and a whisper. “I will not forget your treachery.” And with that, the door snapped shut, and she was gone.

After a few minute of calming himself down, and trying to make sense of that monstrous visage, Peter stood up and looked out of the window. “The Roses need an army. The architect may have escaped, along with the model.” He frowned, and then his frown broke into a smile.

“Oliver – take me to Laurence’s. He was kind enough to leave me a gift before he departed. I intend to claim it.”

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Newspaper Report #4 - BODY FOUND ON MAIDENHEAD ESTATE
Published 18th February 2014

Body Found on Maidenhead Estate
Police call in extra support from surrounding counties.
Words by Maya Pirillet

Earlier this morning, the estate of Mr. Clive Deveraux was cordoned off by police. When asked, they explained that an anonymous call had come through of a body lying in the entrance hall. When police arrived, the door was open and reports were confirmed.

Police refused to comment on the identity of the victim, but did tell us the body is NOT that of Mr. Deveraux, and noted that similar knife wounds were found on the body as those found in Barking on the body of Ms. Anna Shaw on Valentine’s day evening.

Ms. Shaw was found dead in a blaze at her home in Barking, where both animal and human influence was seen. According to sources, this attack was purely human but displayed the use of a similar weapon as that in the previous attack.

Police have called in specialist squads from Cambridge, Leicester and Bristol and are looking at the potential to form a new task force “focussed solely on serial crimes, mainly of a brutal nature.”

Anyone with any information regarding the Deveraux or Shaw cases is urged to contact the Police on [number] or Crimestoppers on [number].

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Magazine Article #1 - MISS UNIVERSE MISSING?
Published 19th February 2014

Miss Universe Missing?
Liliana Vincenza, five times Miss Universe, didn’t turn up for her latest show!
Words: Robyn Indigo

At the world renowned Gucci Catwalk – one very noticeable person was missing. Liliana Vincenza (suggested by some to be acclaimed architect Gio Plth’s latest girlfriend) failed to turn up and take her spot as the prima donna model to open the show.

Rumour has it that she is planning on retiring and settling down with Gio and moving to the Bahamas. Aww! But, if she misses too many shows – especially big ones like this – she’ll lose her financial and advertising supporters, who rely on her being there to make a good impression to their audiences!

Liliana’s agent was unavailable for comment, so we’re left wondering: where has she gone?

[With this article, there is an image of Liliana leaving Gio’s apartment with him taken about a month ago, and of the empty catwalk at the show.]

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Helena's Letter to Alice
(As mentioned in "The Unquiet Night")

Alice,

I know right now you must be in a lot of pain, and I wish I could be there to help you through it all, but it is better for you and your siblings to remain with Mr. Avery for the time being.

I know you know me as a slave to Mr. Deveraux, but some things you were told are wrong and they need to be sorted out. Mr. Deveraux is not your father and I am not his slave. The people in that house last night are not enemies, they are friends. I know this all sounds horribly confusing, so I’ll try and make this as simple as I can.

Mr. Deveraux was not a nice man. He did some horrible things to people who didn’t deserve it. One of the most horrible things he ever did to me was take you all away from me when you were little – so little you can’t even remember it. The people who came over the other evening were not enemies. They wanted to help me stop Mr. Deveraux from ever hurting anyone else; from ever hurting you or Ellis or Rory or Tyler. They didn’t mean to hurt you, and they stopped as soon as they realised what had happened. I am so sorry I let you get hurt like that.

As strange as it sounds, I am your mum. I always have been and I always will be, and now that Mr. Deveraux is no longer looking after you, I can try to be that mum if you will let me. I can’t look after you now as there are even more people looking for me, who will hurt you first if they find you. Mr. Avery is going to be there to look after you while I’m gone, but I will always be around, somehow; somewhere.

My phone number is [number]. Call me if you, or any of the boys need anything. I can’t promise I’ll be there right away, but I can promise I will be there as soon as I can.

Take care, my daughter.

I love you. I always have, and I always will.

Helena.
xxx

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The Unquiet Night
Helena's Reflection on the Battle with Deveraux

[TRIGGER WARNINGS: Harm to children, Physical Abuse, Suggestion of Sexual Abuse] Oh, and Bad Language!
(Songs: Having Lived, Moonwisher, Born a Stranger, Lament of a Stranger, Once Upon a Memory– Ken Gao)

You can only forget a nightmare once you’ve woken from it, and sadly, sleep was an escape from the nightmares I faced. Sleeping alongside Merris and his daughter was a much needed respite from Deveraux and his particular band of “needs”, but it was never going to last, as much as I tried to kid myself that it would.

He called me early in the evening, demanding to know my whereabouts. He was too angry for me to be able to reason with him. To be honest, I don’t think he wanted to reason anyway…he’s like that. He shouted down the phone about the dishonour I had brought on him; that he knew I was involved in the coup and how he couldn’t believe I had “disregarded etiquette” and “swanned off on my own” to aid “a savage and his piece of meat”. I bit my tongue, as I have learnt to over the years, and promised that I would be on my way. His parting words made my heart sink in a way I had not experienced for five years. “Meet me in the main hall. Do not keep me waiting. You know what to do.” Shaking, I composed myself. I couldn’t let Merris or Lucy see me so rattled. Merris would more than likely take it on himself to defend me, and Lucy would seek to do the same. I did not wish for them to get into harm’s way on my behalf.

Apparently Merris had read my mind, though. As I returned, he asked what was going on, and I decided it was easier to tell him than to hide it. In that place, apparently “privacy” was the bathroom, as Merris and I sat there as I explained. I didn’t tell him everything; just enough that he would understand why I needed to leave. By the time our conversation had ended, he had told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn’t returning to Clive on my own. I didn’t argue. Why would I? I loved being with he and Lucy. If I got the chance, of course I would want to stay by his side, looking after Lucy with him.

Merris made a call of his own, and explained afterwards that the Hound would be joining us all on our trip to Deveraux. I’m not entirely sure I can explain how I felt. I guess I felt unwilling to allow her to join us; she had sided with the Roses and caused Lucy to endure even more trauma and injury through her actions, but at the same time, she was following orders that would have meant her suffering punishment had the orders not been followed. I guess I was more worried about how Merris and Lucy would cope with having her joining us.

When she arrived, Merris went to speak with her. I watched as Lucy walked down the stairs and spat something out to her. I almost wanted to rebuke her, but I couldn’t help but feel that maybe that was the start of her healing process with that particular aspect of the trauma she had suffered; being able to respond to her injurer may have started her on the process of potentially accepting what happened, even if she never quite built bridges following that…

We got into an old flatbed truck and headed off. The Hound chose to sit in the trailer while the rest of us sat in the cab. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more frosty space. Conversations between Merris and the Hound were icy and clipped, barely more than four sentences long each time. Merris refused to tell the Hound any information at all, which ended up prompting me to respond with some basic information. Merris asked to borrow one of Lucy’s flick-knives and our driver seemed so focussed on recreational drugs that I doubt he heard much else.

We reached the estate, and everyone prepared themselves. I told everyone to wait outside while I entered; there was less chance of Deveraux jumping on the defensive if we surprised him. He was expecting me. That much was known.

As I removed my jacket and placed it in the van, Merris transformed into a robin again, and sat on my shoulder. He weighed next to nothing, yet his presence calmed me so much.

I walked in and called out to Deveraux. Merris went and sat…somewhere. I wasn’t looking as I was focussed on my domitor descending the stairs. He slapped me for my insolence in undermining his authority, and I looked at the floor. My thought was that if I accepted it; if I allowed things to continue as they normally would, he would be lured into a false sense of security. I hoped he would send me to his room with one of the children, which would enable Merris and the others to surprise him as his back was turned.

That didn’t happen. He slapped me again and asked where the other kindred were. I suppose when you’ve lived around vampires for so long you almost forget they create that uneasy feeling when they’re around. Merris leapt into action at that point and things suddenly began to get messy.

Merris blinded him in one eye, a gash straight across his eyeball. I felt my urge to defend him rise in the pit of my stomach, but I forced it away. After all he had done, I was not about to turn on Merris to defend the bastard. The words of my physician’s oath ran through my mind and I threw it to the back of my mind. “I’m not on duty” I began to say to myself. “I’m not on duty, he is not my patient.” It became a kind of mantra; a reason for not interfering as I normally would.

And then he called the others…and they came. There was a large quantity of them but two caught my eye: Alice and Tyler. He had called the children too. I was almost too angry for words. He had brought my children into the battle, to fight me.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse. I summoned the local dogs to join me, and Lucy did her best to incapacitate Clive further…and then the Hound threw something. At Alice. I…in all my years of practice…have never seen something do so much damage in so little time. It almost looked like parts of her were melting away, as if her flesh was butter on a hot pan. I froze, shouting at them to not hurt the children; pleading with them to not hurt the children. I couldn’t take my eyes off her…the pain she was in; the damage that had been done…

And then he called more of them. Rory and Ellis came into view. I ran over to Alice with my medic’s bag and tried to do my best to stabilise her. Her breathing was ragged and laboured, and I did what I could. Slowly, her breathing calmed and her pulse began to settle back down. I could hear fighting behind me, and I turned to look. I sent my dogs to protect the children and I sent a few to engage with the adults so they couldn’t engage with anyone else. In the doorway I saw the Hound’s companion summoning cats, and I hoped he would aid me in my attempts.

The rest of the battle passed by in a blur. Something happened to Deveraux, though, as the rest of the ghouls stopped to look. He was lying on the floor, torpored, Tyler, Ellis and Rory were sat sobbing around his body. Merris was kneeling down with Lucy, a knife in the leg of the ghoul near her, holding her tightly. I looked back to Alice, who, while no longer bleeding, looked in a hellishly bad way. The Hound told the ghouls they could go; they were now free, and when no-one moved, I looked over to my children, sobbing over “Daddy’s” body. I felt numb. All I was to them was a slave; someone to be waited on by, someone to order around. I was done with it all. I had gained my freedom…but I had still lost my children. I walked out, and saw the others follow me.

While they walked off, all a little shell-shocked, I imagine, I sat by the door. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone. I could hear Merris and the Hound inside. Rory was shouting at the Hound, and then Merris and the Hound were arguing about who was going to send Clive to Final Death. As the argument prolonged and prolonged I found myself wanting to scream at them both; to stand in the doorway and shout “Fine! Fine! If neither of you want blood on your hands, I’ll take the fall! I’ll finish it! Now get out and let me do what neither of you will!”

The more they argued the stronger that image got. Eventually the Hound came and sat with me for a moment. She told me I was free. I wanted to tell her to piss off. “Free?” I thought bitterly. “Free would be leaving this place with my children and having the chance to be a mother; to be their mother. Free would be knowing I was seen as what I was, not as what they had been told I was. Free? Pah.”

I tried to explain. Eventually she walked back in, and the conversation continued. By this time…I was done.

I stood up, and mentally apologised to myself. I was going to break my physician’s oath and lose all right to call myself a paramedic. I was going to end another person’s life not out of necessity or the impossibility to save them, but out of revenge. Out of spite. Out of hatred. Out of anger, betrayal, sorrow…grief.

Neither of them noticed me. Neither one of them batted a single eyelid until I had already picked the knife up from the now-dead body of the other ghoul. Merris tried to reason with me; tried to get me to hand the knife over so I didn’t have to do it. I wanted to laugh in his face; a hollow, empty, dead laugh. “Why?” this dead shell of a person thought. “Why do you want me to hand the knife over? So you can “save me from myself” by doing it yourself? Why, only a minute ago you were arguing with the Hound, explaining why you wouldn’t do it yourself…why do I make the difference?”

I asked him to leave with Lucy. She was traumatised enough without seeing what was about to be done. Yet he refused. There must have still been the tiniest of sparks of life in that cold mind of mine, as I almost felt a weak smile. He still wanted to save me. He still wanted to be there for me…even when I couldn’t be there for myself.

The Hound moved and I looked at her, coldly. I told her in no uncertain terms that if she intended to finish Clive off she could leave. Much like Merris, I felt angry that she might be thinking of such a move after proclaiming how she was so unwilling. She began to spin a spiel about Doctor Who and teleportation and stuff. It was only when she left and Lucy started shouting about the TARDIS that I realised what she had done. As Lucy ran, the children followed. She had provided the perfect diversion for the children.

Merris and I were the only ones left in the room, and I gently pushed him aside as he reminded me, once more, that I didn’t need to do what I was about to. I ignored him. As I bent down to do the deed, I felt that pang again; telling me not to, rising up inside me, trying to force me to stay my hand. I fought it. I fought it time and time again as I slashed and stabbed and hacked. Every time it reared up I fought it back with another thing he had done. The list was endless.

No matter what I did, it just seemed like I wasn’t doing enough to bring it to an end. Then I felt him kneel down behind me, and wrap his hand around mine. Merris guided my hand adding the tiniest amount of extra force; extra direction…extra strength of will. Slowly but surely, Deveraux eventually succumbed to our strikes, and crumbled into ash. I was drained of energy, and I didn’t even have the strength to laugh or weep.

Merris picked me up, carrying me to the truck. Had I been in a better state of mind I might have made a comment about brides and thresholds, but I was too exhausted and emotionally drained to think in that usual, joking manner. He sat me in the truck, and then turned into the wolfen form I have seen him take previously. I used my powers with animals to converse with him and hear his words, and explained to the Hound exactly what he was after. He eventually returned (after I had to ask the Hound to let him back out (the scratching on the door was almost (not quite) intolerable)) and the children quickly leapt at the thought of having this stray dog join their games. Merris gambolled around with them all for a while before leading them back to the van. I returned to the house and picked up Alice’s comatose body. I think we all refused to leave her. I got the Hound to wrap her up in my coat to keep her warm in the truck bed.

We split into two groups as we left: The children stayed in the truck with the Hound and her companion, while Merris, Lucy and I got in the taxi together. The Hound had found a place for the children to live, and we made our way to James Avery’s home.

Ellis, Rory and Tyler went in with the Hound, her companion and Lucy. Merris and I were made aware of a room we could operate in, and we took Alice upstairs. The Hound offered to help, and while I was loathed to have the woman who did so much harm to my daughter in the room helping me save her, I almost wanted her to see the time and precision required to save her life. I wanted her to see the results of her actions.

We were up there for two hours. I saved as much as I could. Alice’s arm was non-existent and after many stitches, she would have huge scars and perhaps muscle weakness for the rest of her life, but, damn it she was alive. We left her sleeping, and I placed a note next to her bed. I don’t know if she will read it, or if she will believe it…but it’s there.

We left shortly after that; I didn’t want the pain of saying goodbye to get any larger. On our way back, I offered Merris and Lucy the option of staying with me for the future, rather than living in the dilapidated pub they had come to call home. After some deliberation, it was decided that they would join me, and we popped back for a short time to the pub so they could collect their things. I stayed in the car, and after a few minutes we were back on the road.

Merris kept catching my eye in the reflection on the window. He offered me the chance to talk if I wanted it. I thought about it, but then thought of Lucy. I glanced at her and then shook my head. He seemed to get my meaning, and we agreed to chat about it later.

When we arrived home, I set about making the house sun-proof. Thankfully, and that’s not a word I often use in conjunction with Deveraux, Deveraux had based himself at mine when renovation work was undertaken on the estate and he required somewhere safe to stay. I’d had to buy blackout material then, and there was still plenty leftover. We settled Lucy down to bed and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt; I was tucking someone else’s daughter into bed while mine were with a stranger.

As Lucy began to sleep, I invited Merris to sleep in a bed, rather than on the floor for the day. He seemed rather taken aback, but assented. It was when I offered him a choice of joining me in my room or using the spare room that he seemed to have the most issues. Eventually he decided he would share with me, and I threw him some old clothes to sleep in that I hoped would fit. As we both settled for the night, I began to open up about what I had done, how I had felt…everything. I found myself sobbing on his shoulder as he held me. We stayed like that for some time, and eventually I found myself drifting to sleep. The last thing I thought, as my eyes began to droop was soothing.

“At least my nightmare is over now. Now I can dream again.”

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