Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 96)
It was strange how the word shifted things, made the story sound less like a history lesson.
“They burned a lot of innocent people—of course, the real creatures that he sought were not so easy to catch.
“Carine did what she could to protect those innocents. She was always a believer in the scientific method, and she tried to convince her father to look past superstition to true evidence. He discouraged her involvement. He did love her, and those who defended monsters were often lumped in with them.
“Her father was persistent… and obsessive. Against the odds, he tracked some evidence of real monsters. Carine begged him to be careful, and he listened, to an extent. Rather than charge in blindly, he waited and watched for a long time. He spied on a coven of true vampires who lived in the city sewers, only coming out by night to hunt. In those days, when monsters were not just myths and legends, that was the way many lived.
“His people gathered their pitchforks and torches, of course”—she laughed darkly—“and waited where the pastor had seen the monsters exit into the street. There were two access points. The pastor and a few of his men poured a vat of burning pitch into one, while the others waited beside the second for the monsters to emerge.”
I realized I was holding my breath again, and made myself exhale.
“Nothing happened. They waited a long time, and then left disappointed. The pastor was angry—there must have been other exits, and the vampires had obviously fled in fear. Of course, the men with their crude spears and axes weren’t any kind of danger to a vampire, but he didn’t know that. Now that they were warned, how would he ever find his monsters again?”
Her voice got lower. “It wasn’t hard. He must have annoyed them. Vampires can’t afford notoriety, or these probably would have simply massacred the entire mob. Instead, one of them followed him home.
“Carine remembers the night clearly—for a human memory. It was the kind of thing that would stick in your mind. Her father came home very late, or rather very early. Carine had waited up, worried. He was furious, ranting and raving about his loss. Carine tried to calm him, but he ignored her. And then there was a man in the middle of their small room.
“Carine says he was ragged, dressed like a beggar, but his face was beautiful and he spoke in Latin. Because of her father’s vocation and her own curiosity, Carine was unusually educated for a woman in those days—she understood what the man said. He told her father that he was a fool and he would pay for the damage he had caused. The preacher threw himself in front of his daughter to protect her.…
“I often wonder about that moment. If he hadn’t revealed what he loved most, would all our stories have changed?”
She was thoughtful for a few seconds, and then she continued. “The vampire smiled. He told the preacher, ‘Go to your hell knowing this—that what you love will become all that you hate.’
“He tossed the preacher to the side and grabbed Carine—”
She’d seemed lost in the story, but now she stopped short. Her eyes came back to the present, and she looked at me like she’d said something wrong. Or maybe she thought she’d upset me.
“What happened?” I whispered.
When she spoke, it was like she was choosing each word carefully. “He made sure that the preacher knew what would happen to Carine, and then he killed the preacher very slowly while Carine watched, writhing in pain and horror.”
I recoiled. She nodded in sympathy.
“The vampire left. Carine knew her fate if someone found her in this condition. Anything infected by the monster would have to be destroyed. She acted instinctively to save her own life. Despite the pain she was in, she crawled into the cellar and buried herself in a pile of rotting potatoes for three days. It’s a miracle she was able to keep silent, to stay undiscovered.
“It was over then, and she realized what she had become.”
I wasn’t sure what my face was doing, but she suddenly broke off again.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“I’m good—what happened next?”
She half-smiled at my intensity, then turned back down the hall, pulling me with her.
“Come on, then,” she said. “I’ll show you.”
SHE LED ME BACK TO THE ROOM THAT SHE’D POINTED OUT AS CARINE’S office. She paused outside the door for a second.
“Come in,” Carine called from inside.
Edythe opened the door to a tall room with long windows that stretched the entire height of the walls. The room was lined by bookshelves reaching to the ceiling and holding more books than I’d ever seen outside a library.
Carine sat behind a huge desk; she was just placing a bookmark in the pages of the book she held. The room was how I’d always imagined a college dean’s would look—only Carine looked too young to fit the part.
Knowing what she’d been through—having just watched it all in my imagination while knowing that my imagination wasn’t up to the job and it was probably much worse than I’d pictured it—made me look at her differently.
“What can I do for you?” she asked with a smile, rising from her seat.
“I wanted to show Beau some of our history,” Edythe said. “Well, your history, actually.”
“We didn’t mean to disturb you,” I apologized.
“Not at all,” she said to me, and then to Edythe, “Where are you going to start?”
“The Waggoner,” Edythe said. She pulled me around in a circle, so that we were facing the door we’d just walked through.