(Warning! Most Bridget stories contain sex and fun and adventure mixed together. This story has none of those things. It is dark and contains extreme graphic violence. Bridget apologized to me but this is a reminder that nightmare things bubble deep inside of all of us and no one, human or vampire, is immune to them. Civilization is sometimes a very thin cloak.)
My name is Bridget O'Brien and I am a vampire.
This isn't usually how I introduce myself. After all, what do you think of when you hear the word "vampire"? You think of crumbling castles in Transylvania, men in capes, "I never drink ... wine". You see Bela Lugosi, Frank Langela or Gary Oldman playing Dracula. If you're younger you think of tunnels under Sunnydale, California. You think of the Master, Luke, what's-his-name the businessman vampire in the first episode of Angel. Or Dominic Purcell playing Dracula in "Blade: Trinity".
Okay, granted you might also think of James Marsters, Geraint Wyn Davies and David Boreanaz. Especially David. Wow. At four hundred and fifty years old (give or take) I don't usually get that carried away but boy would I like to trade neck nibbles with him.
Anyway, here's my point. Vampires are not generally classed in the solid citizen group. You don't see them as friends. You'd be out picketing if one tried to move into your neighborhood. Although there are a few exceptions to the rule, believe it or not, most of us would just as soon raid blood banks if we could and we rarely, extremely rarely kill anyone. I'm speaking of the ones I know of course. Some embrace the monster they think they've become. They didn't become one though, they already were that monster somewhere deep in their hearts.
I have always thought of myself as "good" and tried to act accordingly. I have to drink blood and it has to be human blood. I'm sorry, that's how it is and no moaning will change that. But I don't murder for blood. I'm very careful who I bite and how much I take. I have killed certainly. But I don't revel in it nor do I think of myself as a murderer. I have served the forces of my native Ireland and the forces of my adopted country the United States. I'm not a monster.
But I am. Oh yes, I keep it deeply buried inside of myself. I rarely acknowledge its existence. And when it threatens to get out, as it does sometimes, when I see innocents, particularly children, hurt or endangered, I try to maintain control over it. Sometimes it slips. The control I mean. Then I have to force the monster back inside me. I don't let it run wild. But...
Once I did. I not only called it forth, I howled with it as it gleefully ran amuck. And, what frightens me, what causes me to spend nights on my knees praying for forgiveness, is that even now, I'm not sorry I did.
I could smell the smoke long before I could see the flames. I ran, ran as I had been doing since I had awoke and freed myself from the collapsed vault under the city of Drogheda. I had been attempting to hide a group of civilians from the Ironsides sacking the city. Fires raging through the area had weakened the supports and the vault had collapsed. A stone proving even harder than my head had knocked me unconscious. By the time I had come to my senses and struggled from under the rocks that imprisoned me but also had protected me from the sun it was all over. Darkness had thankfully fallen, hiding the bodies of those I had tried to save. Searching the city, a cold hand gripped my unbeating heart as I realized that at least a portion of the invaders had left a trail indicating they were taking the road that would eventually lead them to the village where I had been born.
They moved by day, I moved by night. They were mounted, I was on foot but my greater than human strength and endurance allowed me to catch up. I was moved to nearly frantic speed by the glimpses I caught of what they had done to the people they had found along the way. The merciless invaders had spared no one, regardless of age, sex or station.
I don't hate England or the English. I did at one time though. I couldn't separate the acts of the self-righteous "Saints" from the multitude of English people who never raised their hands against my homeland. It wasn't until I met the English as people, one on one that I began to shed my hatred. You can hate a race or a nation. It's much harder to hate a person.
By the way, if you think I exaggerate the brutality to and sheer hatred of the Irish by the Ironsides, well I don't. Solemn reports were issued in England describing that many of the Irish had tails. Massacres were joyfully reported by the Lord Protector as deserving all praise to God for working such marvelous wonders. The Irish were depicted as less than human, deserving whatever happened to them. Indeed it was considered "A marvelous grace" to dispatch them.
Of course hatred breeds hatred, scaring the land and those who live on it. My poor homeland. Centuries later the wounds are still open. The bitterest curse from an Irish Catholic still is "The curse of Cromwell be upon you."
As night fell I dug myself out from under the collapsed thatch roof of a mostly burned out cottage that had sheltered me during the day. I ran now, hard, for I could see a glow on the horizon. The landmarks hadn't changed much in the last seventy-five years and I knew I was nearing what once was my home.
On the outskirts of the village I passed the cemetery, the place I had died and been reborn undead. It was also where my parents were buried. I was going to pass it by when I caught a glimpse of a lantern and heard the ringing of hammers on stone. I veered into the graveyard.
There were two men there. Their weapons were laid aside but their uniforms showed me they were Ironsides. The sounds were the result of them methodically shattering each tombstone as they reached it. I was so dumbfounded by this senseless action that I stepped into the feeble glow of their lanterns.
"Excuse me. May I be asking just what you think you are doing?"
Both men jumped. I suppose they weren't quite as confident in their armor of righteousness as they believed. They seemed to have thought for a moment that they had been approached by a demon or something. Little did they know that they were right.
One drew himself up. "Do you live here?" he demanded. His partner moved to his side and then began to circle me.
I didn't exactly lie. I smiled sweetly and gestured towards the village. "I grew up here. I made my First Communion in the church over there."
That was all they needed to confirm I was a Catholic. The one circling sprang forward, swinging his hammer at me. That was unfortunate for him. I spun him all the way around and threw him against the other man. Then my eyes lit on the tombstone they had just violated. It was my Mother's.
I left the pair of them behind me. Both were dead of course. Since they were so enamored of headstones and hammers I had arranged it so they would be covered in the remnants of the rubble they had created. As for the hammers, I just left those where I had put them. The handles sticking out sort of ruined any similarity the guys had to classically handsome faces though.
That was when I really smelled the smoke. I rushed into the village proper and saw flames licking up the side of the church. The soldiers had barred the doors from the outside. Screams came from the inside. Someone broke one of the stained glass windows trying to create an escape. One of the Ironsides moved to that and slashed out with his sword.
"Back you Papist dog. Greet the fire. You'll know more of it in hell with your sows and your whelps."
I grabbed his arm and broke it, his sword falling from his nerveless hand. I decided the window idea was a good one but it needed more room. So I whirled him off the ground and slammed him through the shattered glass. He disappeared inside and I was willing to bet he wasn't coming out again.
People started to climb out. I helped the first couple and then ran around to the front of the church. There were a dozen men in breast plates and helmets standing there. Their muskets were stacked to one side and they had swords in their hands. In the middle of the group an impressive man stood. His arms were raised, a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. He was exhorting the soldiers to smite the Canaanites and let not one unbeliever escape.
Several broken bodies lay before the church doors. Most were men, the remnants of pitchforks and other farm implements in their lifeless hands. One body still moved feebly. I saw that it was not a man but a woman. Something moved under her. I stared in horror as I realized that something was a child. A broken pike pinned them both to the ground. Nausea swept over me. Then one of the men kicked the pikestaff and laughed.
.... There is more of this story ...