The Light of Life, So Sweet with Temptation
Chapter Three: What Haunts the Halls
Despite the echoes of the scream dying out a minute ago, everyone stayed silent and still. No one dared move as we all exchanged glances from across the foyer and in our respective rooms. Finally, Dan slowly made his way back in front of the ornate doors we had entered through, and with the spell broken, we all joined him quickly, forming a circle and looking to Dan on what to do next. He looked at us all before settling his eyes on me.
“Jasmine, is there any way to tell if that was a spiritual or mortal voice?”
I shook my head. “When everyone can hear it, it’s difficult to tell. Disembodied voices are quite a different beast to tackle versus apparitions or things only I can hear. We did get a confirmation that this place was empty, right?”
Dan nodded, gesturing behind him to the front of the building. “Mr. Walters ensured no one was living here before we all arrived. Had the place swept and everything. There’s been no signs of anyone using this place as a home in the past four months.”
I folded my arms, nodding slowly. “Then as of this moment, let’s assume it was a spirit. As far as I know, there’s only one door out of this place since the back doors were sealed up a few owners ago. If someone is here, we’ll probably find them or at least hear them leave out of the front. We can change our conclusion then. With that, though, we need to take that interaction as a warning. Engagement can, and likely will, spell violence, and we all need to be prepared for that.”
Exchanges were shared amongst the team, frustration being the initial emotion in everyone’s face though that quickly melted into resignation. This wasn’t going to be their average assignment, and that meant their normal intake of data would be affected, which is every data collector’s worst nightmare. Still, though, everyone knew the importance of being safe on these calls, and that trumps everything else. After all, no one wants to be the reason their co-worker got slashed by an angry spirit. That or get thrown over a balcony. Either or.
“How much is left of the first floor?” I look to Laura, knowing she’d have the answer.
“Just the kitchen and laundry. The first floor was split in such a way that it could be used by patients and their visitors and the staff for the needs of the facility. Not a bad design concept for such a facility, really.” Laura looked around the foyer once more, an appreciation definitely shining in her eyes. “Though I would have made some changes if I were the architect…”
Slowly, the group moved towards the entrance that led to the two back rooms, walking a little softer than when we entered the building. After pushing through the dark ornate door, we were met with a hallway that broke off in two directions, one moving towards the kitchen while the other moved towards the laundry.
“Hmmm, ‘two roads diverged in a run-down sanitorium…’” Matt looked down each side of the hallway, nodding as he considered each path. “Well… I guess this is where we do the thing no one ever thinks is a good idea in horror movies. We split up.”
“Yeah, that might be best. Cover more ground in less time so we get through all of this faster. Plus, I doubt many spirits will be back here. Except maybe those in the staff who passed while here.” I looked to Dan, watching as he formulated his plan before he made his final call on the issue.
“I hate to say it, but I think that might be best. Jasmine, are you sure about who might inhabit these spaces?”
“Positive. It’s rare for spirits to enter into places they didn’t frequent when they were alive. There’s a reason they follow the same paths from when they lived. It brings comfort, like when we follow a routine. The most we may find is an adult spirit who’s restless, in which case Simon can help them find their way.”
Dan sighed heavily before looking amongst the group, deciding who would go which direction. “Jasmine, Matt, and Father Clark; I think the kitchen would be a good place for you. I feel like with the inherent dangers of a kitchen, there might actually be some ghosts for you to find. We’ll take laundry.”
“You got it.” Lisa started off towards the laundry room, not waiting for anyone else. Dan sighed again, giving myself and my two appointed teammates a wave before running to catch up with Lisa. I looked to Simon and Matt, who both gave me a smile.
“Shall we, gentlemen?” I started down the hallway, and the two men fell in behind me, our footsteps echoing off the empty walls that led towards two swinging doors, classically associated with large kitchens.
Pushing the doors open, a dark and dusty kitchen greeted us. Despite not having been used in decades, it didn’t look too bad compared to the rest of the building, which was a surprise. The large ovens and stoves still sat where they’d been installed during initial construction, pots and pans sat stacked on top of counters, and tile lining the countertops sat mostly unchipped. Cooking utensils were still hung up on walls and in blocks pushed against the back walls, and the cookbooks with all of the recipes prepared for the residents sat untouched on the bookshelves hung on the walls. It was surprising, to say the least. Of all the rooms to be untouched, the kitchen had not been the one I would have chosen.
“It’s weird that this place is still so… complete, you know?” I ran a hand along one of the stovetops, watching the trails my fingertips left in the thick dust that had collected over the years. “Had none of the previous owners thought to start demolition with this room?”
“If I remember right, Laura said most of the remodels actually were going to utilize the kitchen to prepare fancy foods and such for patrons. Apparently, no matter if you’re turning an old building into a high-end shopping space or into a clubhouse for the local Elk club, having a kitchen to prepare food is a must-have.” Matt panned the camera around as he talked, making sure to get all the angles he needed for his editing later on. “How’s the energy looking here, Jasmine?”
I looked around the room, watching small dust particles pass through my flashlight’s beam as I glanced across the space. “I’m not sure yet. Nothing’s popped out, but we only just got here.”
Simon pulled out his bible, opening it up and finding a particular scripture before he started speaking. Though the idea of heaven and hell didn’t particularly strike me as possible, it was quite nice hearing Simon read from the holy book. His conviction in his beliefs were admirable, and even though he knew I didn’t particularly believe what he believed, he always seemed to know a scripture off the top of his head to help when I’d had a crappy day, which I’d learned was his form of love language.
Matt came to stand beside me, putting his camera down on the counter beside us. I looked up at him and felt my eyebrows scrunch up as I watched his expression. He looked around the room with caution in his eyes, scanning it slowly.
“What?” I whispered to him, breaking his concentration momentarily. He looked at me, his face full of concern, before he began surveying the room once more.
“I don’t like this place,” he whispered back, trying to be sure not to distract the priest from his ministrations.
“You never like any of the places we investigate.” I raised one of my eyebrows at him, curious as to where this behavior was coming from. It wasn’t a secret the Matt usually detested the places that were run down and creepy like the Sanitorium was, but this was the first time he voiced his feelings to just me and not to the group as a whole
“I’m serious, Jasmine. Something about this place feels off. Way worse than any other place we’ve investigated. There’s just a predatory feeling in the air. I really don’t like it.” Matt tapped his fingers against the countertop to his right, looking around as he talked.
“Matt, I don’t think it’s as bad as you’re making it out to be. I’d know if something were up. How many coffees did you have before you guys got here? That stuff always makes you ridiculously paranoid.”
“It does not!” His voice was indignant, though he kept it at a whisper.
“Matt. How many coffees?”
“Four, but they weren’t strong!” He narrowed his eyes at me, not appreciating my dismissive tone.
“Uh-huh. Just relax, man. We’re going to be fine.”
“Did you bring anything to protect yourself with? Anything at all?”
“For which beings: the mortal or immortal?” I stuck my tongue out at him and his expression soured greatly.
“I’m being serious, Jasmine. I’m worried. The rest of us always have stuff on us to keep us safe while we’re on these calls and you never do! I wouldn’t be ok if you ended up getting hurt on a call that we pulled you into.”
“I can handle myself, Matt. I appreciate the concern, though.” I looked back to Simon, who was now spreading holy water about.
I looked back to Matt, who was now facing me with his full body and not just standing beside me. He looked a little hurt, and I instantly felt bad for my behavior.
“Please. I mean it when I say it would hurt if you got injured or worse. I’ve never steered you wrong, and I know you have your reasons for dismissing me, but…” He didn’t finish his thoughts, but he didn’t really need to. I’d hurt him by treating him as the goofball he always presented himself as, and not taking him seriously when he was genuinely being serious. I looked at the counter behind him, reaching past him to grab a sheathed kitchen knife that had been left sitting out. I showed it to him before placing it in my back pocket, hoping it would alleviate his concerns.
“That doesn’t alleviate my concerns.”
I smiled, despite the heaviness of the conversation. Matt was always a worrier, especially when it came to his friends. He took on the “mom” role of the group, and he was upholding that position well with the third degree he was giving me.
“It’s fine, Matt. The place is completely empty. Mr. Walters even confirmed it, like Dan said. Plus, I have what I need to protect us from what really could hurt us tonight, ok? Stop worrying, man. You’re gonna end up with permanent wrinkles from all the frowning and thinking you do.”
“Jasmine, I think you’re being way too cavalier about this. We don’t know-”
We both looked over to Simon, who’d stopped his blessing due to our progressively louder and louder conversation. The priest had the same expression teachers gave their students when the lesson needed to pause due to incessant talking. We both gave a sheepish wave and went silent as Simon continued his blessing, giving the kitchen a pass on spiritual activity.
A dull glow caught the corner of my eye, catching me off-guard. I looked to my right to see the tiny light emanating from a small space between the industrial stove and a wall, which caused me to furrow my brows. Why had I not seen it till now?
I walked quietly over, Matt following closely with his camera. As I got closer, soft sobs began to be audible, which worried me. Once in front of the cramped space, I squatted down, getting eye level with the spirit tucked away in his hiding space.
His light was dulled, barely lighting the tiny space he sat in, though it was enough to catch my eyes. His long legs were pulled tight against him, his arms wrapped around them and his head resting against his knees, sobbing lightly to himself. I watched him for a moment before opening my mouth to speak when, suddenly, his light began to leave him. Small embers of light began to float away, turning into a swarm of tiny lights looking like that of lightning bugs flying out of a field on a late summer evening. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and for just a moment, I watched as the lights hung in the air, slowly growing in numbers.
Turning back, the spirit man was now looking at me, allowing me to get a good look at him. He was possibly in his early thirties, dressed much like a physician would be so many years ago with features that showed just how exhausting his job must have been. His eyes locked onto mine, though he no longer had eyes but rather two small lights that began to burn out as we stared at each other. His face said he was scared, but there was something else in the way he looked at me. Almost hopeful, perhaps.
“Hi,” I whispered, trying to be gentle with the spirit who faded a little more as each second passed.
“Hi,” he whispered back, his voice unsure.
“What’s your name?”
He hesitated a moment, and then quietly said “James.”
“Hi James. I’m Jasmine.” I smiled at him, hoping to ease him a little. He gave a sad smile in return. I watched as more of his light broke away from him, his figure becoming less and less substantial.
“Can you see the others too?” His voice held that hope his face had held moments ago. I nodded as his eyes began to dim drastically.
“I can’t protect them anymore. They took too much of me.” It became hard to hear him as he faded, which he must have somehow known because he leaned forward, getting closer to me. “Find them, please. They’re only children. Save them from this.”
I nodded again. “I’ll try, James. What’s happened to you?” I leaned forward as he had, wanting to be in the best place to hear an answer from the nearly disintegrated spirit. The light from his eyes was nearly gone, and then, suddenly, he was no longer there. I stilled for a moment, and then rose to see the small lights still suspended in the air around the kitchen, their tiny lights burning bright.
The particles suddenly began to tremble, and then they all flew towards me, rushing past me with an incredible speed, causing me to fall back against the stove in shock.
“Please.” James’s voice whispered in my ear as the last of the light disappeared behind me, leaving me breathless in the sudden darkness.
“Hey, hey. You’re okay, you’re okay.” Simon’s voice was suddenly beside me, his hands gripping my upper arms to help keep me standing despite my buckled knees. I took a moment while Simon and Matt helped to get me stable again before I waved them off, taking a moment to collect myself.
“What just happened, Jasmine? One second you’re talking to someone and the next the room flashes white and you look like you’ve been punched in the gut.” Matt pulled a bottle of water from his cargo pants, uncapping it and giving it to me. I accepted it graciously, drinking the contents with a shaky hand.
“There was a man here. A doctor from the sanitorium’s hay days. He just, he melted away. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Like his light wasn’t stable anymore and he just disappeared in a bright glory. He asked for us to find the other spirits, the kids, and save them. He said he couldn’t keep anyone safe anymore because someone, ‘they,’ took too much from him.” I looked at the two men in front of me, who exchanged worried glances.
“I think it best we discuss this with the rest of the team. Are you okay to walk?” Simon waited until I nodded before stepping back to allow me to push away from the stove. We left the kitchen behind and walked slowly down the hall towards laundry, quiet the whole way. As we reached the corner to turn towards the laundry room, we heard the others making their way back, so we waited for them to catch up to us. As they turned the corner, laughing at some joke, they stopped and gave us a funny look.
“Wow, you look like you saw a ghost,” Laura said once she saw me.
“Yeah…” I gave a small laugh, rubbing the back of my neck.
“Oh.” Laura awkwardly shuffled over, putting her arms around my shoulders in an attempt to comfort me. I laughed a little louder, knowing she was really trying to help even if she wasn’t the best at such things.
“What happened?” Dan looked at the three of us, waiting for someone to speak up.
“Old spirit in the kitchen told Jasmine that we gotta find and save the kiddos before he combusted and disappeared.” Matt pulled a protein bar from one of his various pockets, eating it in two bites as he gave his rather incomplete and not at all great explanation.
“It was a final request and he didn’t combust. That’s just what you and Simon saw.” I grabbed my upper arms, still feeling uneasy about what had just happened. Lisa joined Laura in embracing me from the other side, though her hug was a little more comforting.
“Did you get anything on video, Matt?” Lisa looked over to Matt while still squeezing me lightly, curiosity in her tone.
“Nothing really shows up, which is weird. Or rather, too much all shows up at once. The room looks normal on tape and then the whole thing goes white. Nothing recorded again until I turned the damn thing off and on again. Just looks like the camera malfunctioned or something, so I have nothing to offer you guys.” Matt tapped the camera with frustration, hating the fact that his usual helpfulness fell flat in this instance. Everyone else shared a disappointed expression.
“So, what didn’t they see, Jasmine? You look shaken up; what happened?” Dan stepped closer, making our little circle even smaller. I sighed, not exactly knowing what to say.
“He just kind of, I don’t know, broke apart little by little. He turned into a cloud of light and then suddenly he blew away. It was like he was a mist barely being held together and just finally couldn’t exist anymore. He said something about ‘they took too much’ and then made his request. It was terrifying because I’d never seen a spirit like that before. Spirits don’t just fade away like that, especially when they have business here that isn’t resolved. Hokey, I know, but that’s just not the way it works. We’re sentimental creatures, and anything tying us here will hold us until we let it go. He hadn’t let go, and it was obvious by how upset he was before he disappeared. Spirits are going missing here, and the others don’t seem to know to where, and that most of all is cause for concern.” I chewed on my thumbnail, trying to go through everything in my head and sort through it so it all made sense.
“Spirits are disappearing? As in, more than one?” Matt looked to me, his face a little surprised.
“There was an earlier encounter that said so, and the incident now just solidifies that in my mind.” The group exchanged glances, all of them looking unsure.
“Should we stop for the evening? Come back during a time when things aren’t so active and dangerous?” Dan looked to the group, wanting this to be a decision everyone agreed with.
“That’s not an easy one, Dan.” Lisa pulled at her hair, thinking through the options available to us in this moment. “It’s either take the safe route and lose a lot of investigative ground, since making a reappearance often means less activity, or we stay and get more evidence to work with but be in a dangerous situation the whole time. It’s not exactly black and white for us here.” Lisa looked to the others, wanting them to speak up as well.
“I think it’s worth the risk staying.” Laura embraced me tighter when she made her statement, possibly worried that I might be upset with her thoughts.
“I’m here to shoot film, but I’m weirded out by this place. I think we should come back at sunrise.” Matt leaned against the wall to his right, looking at everyone now that he’d said his peace.
“I’m here to provide blessings, which might be more useful when the spirits are active.” Simon looked to Dan, his mixed feelings showing clearly on his face. Dan rubbed the back of his neck, pursing his lips as he shook his head.
“I think Jasmine gets the final say here. She’s the one who’s running security for us, basically, so she gets final say on our safety.”
All eyes turned to me, making me feel slightly claustrophobic. I closed my eyes, letting out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. The smart answer was to leave. That’s what everyone in the movie theater would be yelling if they were watching this all from an outside perspective. But that little girl in the library… I kept seeing her toothy grin the more I considered leaving, and then James’s barely audible “please” echoed in my ears again.
“I… I want to try to find someone first.” I looked at the group, their surprised faces all turned to me.
“Does this have to do with the spirit’s request?” Dan cocked his head to the side, waiting for my answer.
“Yes. He asked that we find the children, and I’d like to at least find one whom I saw earlier. A little girl. Where are the living quarters in this building?” I looked over my shoulder to Laura, who met my eyes.
“Second floor. The children’s wing specifically is on the west side of the building due to the abundant sunlight there.” I nodded at her information, thinking through my plan one last time before addressing the group again.
“Let’s walk the second floor. There should be a lot of spirits there, and the children will most likely be in an area that’s familiar to them, especially if something is going on that’s scaring them. If we can help them move on, we can come back later and see what else we can find.”
“Are you sure? That’s the plan you want to do?” Lisa grabbed my hand, giving me silent support. I squeezed it back, assuring her of my decision.
“Yes. I think it’s important to try to find these spirits. I made a promise after all.” I smiled at Lisa, which she accepted.
“Alright then. Are we all in agreement?” Dan looked at the group who all nodded or verbalized their affirmations. “To the second floor, then.”
Quietly, we all made our way back out to the front rooms, walking to the grand staircase that led to the living quarters of the past patients. The group stuck close together, putting me in the middle of their circle which I couldn’t help but smile at lightly. They didn’t have to, but they all did care quite a lot for me, and it made me feel safer after seeing all I’d seen already tonight.
Finally, we approached the stairs and began climbing. They creaked lightly, but their structure and build were sound, so there was no worry of a collapse by any of us. Looking about, it really was a beautiful building, but there was now concern nagging me in the back of my mind that caused me to enjoy it less.
“Yeah?” I glanced back to see Lisa with a look of confusion splayed across her face.
“Why do you have a carving knife sticking out of your back pocket?”
“Oh, uh, Matt was being a mom again.” I reached back, tapping the knife with my hand while I gave her a wink.
The three other members of Matt’s team giggled, causing him to roll his eyes. Laura patted Matt on the top of his head, causing his frown to deepen. “I keep telling you to come do training with me. Laura only did one class, but even she could take someone down with just the two moves she learned.” Laura nodded vigorously to Lisa’s words, which made me laugh.
“Like I told Matt, I’m fine. Besides, you know me. It’s never the live ones that I’m concerned with.” As we crossed onto the platform of the second floor, we all fanned out, taking different sides of the hallway to investigate this new space quickly before delving deeper into it.
“Jesus, is it just me, or did it suddenly get cold? We’re in the middle of Summer. Why is the first level of this place balmy but the second story feels like it’s air conditioned?” Matt looked at me, one eyebrow crooked up in curiosity.
“Balmy?” I look at him, smirking as I did. He narrows his eyes at my jibe.
“Yeah! Balmy! That’s what it’s like downstairs! It’s a perfectly good word!”
“Oh no, it’s a fine word. How’s your grandmother, by the way? I’m sure she’s not enjoying all these balmy days, though she probably enjoys teaching her grandson her lingo.”
Matt scoffed and sashayed away, a move he did often when we got smart with each other and he didn’t have a retort. I waved him off and then looked around the second floor. This floor was dedicated to patient rooms and areas of activity, so the grandeur that was found on the first floor was not found here. Instead, it was cozy. The angles of the crown molding were softer. The walls lacked the same ornate trimmings of downstairs, and instead had a simple floral wallpaper that once brought wonderful colors to those who walked to and from their rooms. The hardwood floors were scuffed and ruined now, but in their prime were probably a beautiful dark color, helping to offset the bright walls. This would have been a nice place to call home, especially in these people’s time of need.
The hairs on my arm began to raise slightly, goosebumps forming from my elbow to wrist. I rubbed them absentmindedly, not sure where this sudden cool air came from. Matt definitely was right. It was a lot cooler in these hallways than anywhere downstairs. Odd…
Simon came to stand to my left, his bible clutched close to him. “This sudden change in the building is odd, isn’t it? It makes me a little concerned, especially after our encounter in the kitchen.” His voice attempted to be nonchalant, but I could tell he was repressing worry. I looked up at him and saw his eyes scan the hallway we stood before, trying to see what he could in the dark.
“A little odd, but the building is old, and we know how odd old buildings are, right?” I smiled at him, hoping to ease his worry. He looked at me and smiled, letting out a small laugh. I watched as vaporized air expelled from his mouth, much like when you leave the house on a cool autumn morning and can just barely see your breath hang in the air.
Time slowed for just a moment, my brain suddenly putting something together that it wasn’t willing to share with my consciousness quite yet. My face started to fall, and before I knew why my actions were so, I was turning my head, my heart stopping as I saw a skinny black arm with twisted and gnarled fingers reaching out in an attempt to grasp Simon’s coat. Following the arm back, I watched as the emaciated daemon, its beady little eyes focused solely on the man before it, begin to unhinge its jaw, revealing rows of sharp and disgusting teeth. Watching its face, there was almost jubilation on its features. It found a prey, and it was going to feast.
“NO!” I grabbed Simon’s arm in a vice grip, yanking him so hard his feet left the ground as he was tossed away from the disgusting creature, slamming into the wall to my right. The creature slowly turned its attention to me, and I saw its empty eyes. It had found a light brighter than it’d probably ever seen in its existence, and that was exciting. I stepped back, shielding Simon who was trying to piece together what was happening, asking in a wavering voice what was happening. Loud footsteps were heard descending upon us as the others became aware something was happening.
The daemon stepped forward, now reaching for me. I grabbed a small glass vial from my back pocket, popping the cork topper as I poured the powdered contents into my open hand. Lights began illuminating us from front and back as the others finally began reaching us, thrusting the creature into a light that showed just how alien it was to us. Long fingers and toes, arms that were disproportionally long compared to its body, a curved spine causing it to lean in such an unnatural way, a bald head covered in scars and wrinkles. Despite having seen them my entire life, it didn’t stop the shiver that ran up my spine. The fear that took hold of my heart.
Taking a breath, I blew the powder at the creature, just as the other four reached us. The moment the powder touched the daemon, it began to fizzle and melt. It let out an ear-piercing scream, causing everyone to turn away and cover their ears. I watched as the creature fell to the floor, dissolving into a black puddle as its scream tapered off. The pool of sludge slowly evaporated into the atmosphere, and I let out a sigh of temporary relief once it finally was gone. I watched the now empty space the creature had been, feeling my heart race in my chest. “What the fuck is going on here,” I whispered to myself.
“Jasmine?” Simon’s shaky voice broke through the fog of adrenaline that had engulfed my brain, bringing me back to what was happening around me. I turned to see Simon, flat on his butt with terror in his eyes. Guilt immediately filled me as I realized how rough I’d just been with my friend. I knelt down quickly to get a better look at him.
“Are you ok?” I looked at his eyes, his irises glowing with an undamaged light behind them. It was a good sign, but I wanted to be sure he felt fine as well.
“I’m alright. I think I hit my head on my tumble down, though.” He rubbed the back of his head, wincing as he touched the forming bump.
“I’m so sorry, Simon! I didn’t mean to toss you like that.” I brushed the top of head, ensuring he didn’t hit anything else.
“It’s fine! I’m sure you didn’t do it for unnecessary reasons.” Simon tried to laugh off the situation, but I could see him shake lightly under his coat. Damn, this was not a development I wanted.
“Jasmine, what happened? What’s going on?” Dan’s voice was by my ear, making me jump. I hadn’t realized he’d gotten so close. He helped Simon to his feet, asking Laura to check Simon’s head before turning his attention back to me. I sighed heavily while putting my hands over my face, feeling dread seep back into my heart.
“We had a leech. It… it must have come out of one of these rooms after we got up here. I didn’t see it, but it must have been here before we got up here. They move too slow for it to have followed up the stairs. It’s gone now, but…” I looked over to Matt, who wore a confused expression as I rambled on, “Matt was right. It felt cold up here because of the leech’s presence, but something’s not right. A chill is usually the only thing you feel when they’re around. This place is too cold. We need to be cautious as we continue through. They travel alone, but there’s something else at play here. Stay with a partner. Leave if it gets too cold in any particular area. Always be in communication. And…” I bent down and reached into my backpack, which had been thrown off my shoulder when I’d grabbed Simon, and pulled out several vials of the same powder I’d used only moments ago. “Use this if you or your partner suddenly feel tired or feel like you’re sinking out of your body.”
I handed a vial to everyone, saving the last two vials for Simon and Laura when they rejoined us. Matt shook the vial, staring intently at its contents. “What is this stuff?”
“A salt and silver solution. Kills the suckers on contact. Even if you can’t see them, throwing any of this around will cause them to run.”
“Salt and silver?” Dan put his light up to the vial, inspecting it closely now. “The salt I get, but I thought silver was a werewolf thing?”
“Werewolves aren’t real. That’s just lore,” I said as I replaced my own spent vial.
“Still doesn’t explain where it comes from.” I looked at Dan who stared back with an intense curiosity. I couldn’t fault him for wanting to know everything he could about this subject, but it didn’t change the fact I didn’t like talking about it.
“Allow me to spin you a tale.” I watched him nod, then continued. “A few hundred years ago in some little village somewhere in the world, people began noticing members of the community would disappear only to be found on the outskirts of the town, dead. No marks were ever found on these people, so their deaths became concerning very quickly. Luckily, this village had Healers and Elders who figured out the cause after seeing the culprits in the act of killing. Unfortunately, the villagers could not see this threat, and had no way of understanding the threat the Healers and Elders were trying to warn them of, which made the attempts of stopping the attacks fail.
“So, the Healers and Elders needed to come up with a solution. But how do you instruct people in regards to a danger that they cannot see nor understand? Well, by explaining it in the simplest of terms: a creature in the night wants to take the life you hold within you since they have none, or simply not enough. This seems to satisfy the villagers, since they can attribute such a description to something they’ve experienced before, and so they are more willing to execute the plan the Elders and Healers have in place. A simple plan, really: throw pure substances at these daemonic creatures, since they cannot stand to touch such things. The attacks eventually stop, and the instructions continue through the years.
“Now, these instructions did continue to be passed down, but when you play ‘telephone’ with millions of people through hundreds of years, details begin to get muddled and confused. This ‘life force’ the creatures wanted? Well, blood is what keeps humans alive, so that must be what the Healers meant all that time ago. This threat is a creature that doesn’t have a life force? Well, if you’re dead, you don’t have a heartbeat, right? Silver makes them disappear? That must mean it makes them be unseen, not just driven away. Eventually, these tales become legend as humanity sees less and less of the monsters themselves, and suddenly, our creature takes on a whole new identity.”
It was silent for a moment as everyone processed the information I’d just thrown at them.
“Wait.” We all looked at Matt, who had the expression of someone who’s just pieced something together. “Takes blood? Has no heartbeat? Disappears in the presence of silver? Are you telling me these things predate the creation of vampires?”
“They are the vampires. Same thing, in essence, one is just not romanticized. It’s nothing surprising, really. We assign humanity to things we can’t understand so that we aren’t as scared of that thing, or can better understand it. When we can see some of us in the thing that scares us, then it can’t be all that scary, right? So instead of a black emaciated creature that lives forever and steals the soul from within you, we have handsome men and women who are afflicted with a curse and only seek to regain some of the life they lost. A tragic story that’s build upon a shit foundation, since the thing they’re based off of was never human to begin with. The vampires we know of are a sap story, but these things? They’re the real deal, and they won’t hesitate to devour you the moment they grab you, so be vigilant. It’s not easy to shake them once they have you.”
A loud crash was heard at the opposite end of the long hallway, and everyone jumped, turning sharply towards the sound. One of the motion alarms Lisa had set up moments ago began blaring, and I felt my body go cold.
“What the hell was that?” Dan yelled, trying to get a look down the hallway with his flashlight.
“We’re going to find out,” I said, and before I knew it, my feet were flying.
Note: The content found on this website is the intellectual property of Kathryn Lucas. Any duplication, copying, changing, republishing of content under another name, and false ownership of any content found on this website is strictly prohibited. Content on this website that is shared anywhere outside of this website will require written consent from the owner, Kathryn Lucas. Consent may be acquired through the "Contact" portion of this website.
Cover photo credit: Peter H.