Jezri's Nightmare Books

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Punishment

Continued from Lycan Attack

Punishment
by Lisa McCourt Hollar




We searched the woods for as long as we could. The changing color of the sky as the sun began to show signs of rising drove us indoors and the catacombs, though no one was ready to rest. Lucas was in a rage and took his anger out on me.

Attacking me the second we entered the catacombs, Lucas grabbed me by the throat and slammed me against the wall, holding me there with my feet dangling in the air. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you on the spot!” 

“Lucas,” Veronica said, grabbing an arm and trying to force him to release me. Lucas swiped at her with his free hand, sending her flying backwards. She landed on the floor next to a living corpse. The creature, once a man, but barely more than bone, gnashed his teeth at her, hungry for anything. Veronica gently pushed him away, then as an act of mercy snapped his neck, ending his suffering once and for all. 

Lucas’s fingers dug into my throat. I no longer needed air to breathe, but the pressure on my larynx was incredible and I wondered what would happen if it were to be crushed. Would I die? Perhaps he would rip my head off and then I could be with my lovely Caroline. I had missed her all these years, managing to live after she departed this world, knowing I would see her again when my time came. Suddenly doubt entered my mind. I had been contaminated by evil; my soul was now in question. If I were to die, would I be with Caroline or find myself instead in the devil’s grasp?  I couldn’t allow myself to die, not whilst my fate was in doubt. Grasping at his hands I struggled to release them from my throat.

“What’s the matter,” Lucas snarled, his lips pulling back to reveal his teeth, “have you decided you want to live? This life after all is not so bad?”  He laughed, amused at my apparent change of heart. “Or perhaps you are just a coward, unwilling to brace this life, but unwilling to accept death.”

“I am not afraid,” I said, managing to get the words out, despite the increasing pressure on my larynx. I could feel his nails digging in, piercing the flesh.

“Lucas,” Linda said from behind him, her voice quivering. Her thoughts were bare for all to read; she wanted him to spare me. For some reason this reached through his anger and he released his grip. I dropped to the ground, my legs crumpling beneath me. My reflexes at that time were not what they are now.

“I cannot let his lapse go unpunished,” James said, speaking to Linda. I realized he didn’t want to hurt her; could he possibly have feelings for my daughter? This thought came as a surprise to me. “Because of his failure to guard our borders I have lost a valued member of this coven as well as another being injured.”

“You could chain him,” Marcus said. He had been sitting quietly in a corner, while one of the human slaves tended to his arm.

“NO,” Veronica said, moving between Lucas and myself. “He would never survive. He’s not strong enough. Even older vampires have perished from chaining.”

I had no idea what they were talking about, but I didn’t like the sound of it.

“Then if he dies, he dies, but if he survives he may remain in the manor. Otherwise I will kill him now.”

“Why not just send him away,” Veronica asked.

“He doesn’t deserve that mercy,” Lucas said, turning to snarl at Veronica. “And if I did send him away, what of you? Would you remain here or go after him? I cannot risk losing the most valuable member of the coven!”

“Then leave him be.” Veronica knew as she said this he would never just leave me, but she said it anyway. I appreciated her effort. 

“If you are going to chain him, it will need to be soon,” Marcus said. “The sun will be up before long and we will not be able to enter the chamber.”

Lucas stood quiet a moment, then his eyes flashed a decision. He looked towards Raul and William, who responded to an unspoken signal. Each grabbing me by an arm I was dragged through the catacombs. We passed the sleep chamber and after a series of turns that took me down some very dark passages where there were actually skulls embedded in the wall, I found myself roughly deposited into what I can only describe as a dungeon. There were chains anchored to the wall and before I could completely understand what was about to happen, I found my wrists shackled. 

“We will check on you tonight,” Lucas said, the contempt in his voice indicating he was hoping he would find me unwell. I wondered how being chained to a wall could harm me. Then the shadows in the room shifted and looking up I saw the opening that would let in the sun.

“You are not to come visit him,” Lucas said to Veronica. Opening her mouth, she looked like she was going to argue with him, then thinking better of it, shut it. 

“There’s not enough light to kill you,” Lucas said, “as long as you stay in the shadows, it will be painful though.” Then turning, he left, William and Raul following. Veronica hung back a few moments, fear in her eyes. 

“Stay deep in the shadows, and no matter what you hear, don’t look at the light.” Then she was gone and I found myself alone in a room that was beginning to brighten. Averting my eyes from the sun, I stared into the shadows, shrinking myself as far into their depths. I wondered what Veronica meant by, no matter what you hear. It did not take long to find out.

The screams began a few moments after the sun flooded the chamber. I didn’t know how much light it would take to kill a vampire, but there seemed to be a great deal of it. From where I was chained, the shadows protected me, but if I were to relax for even a moment my arm might slip into the light, or a foot. What would happen if I looked into the light? More than likely my eyes would burn, I decided, so holding myself stiff, I concentrated all my effort into avoiding even a single ray. Then I heard screaming, coming from the light.

It was a woman’s voice and she was begging someone to help her. She sounded so like my Caroline that for a moment I almost turned to see if she was there.  It couldn’t be her though; she had died giving birth to our daughter.

Then I heard my name, surrounded by the screams of my deceased wife, begging me to help.

“James! Please help me!”

“How could this be? It had to be a delusion. The sun was frying my brain.

“James, I didn’t die! They took me from you, imprisoning me here! The pain is unbearable…” Her voice trailed off. I started to turn my head, but then stopped, Veronica’s warning echoing in my mind.

“Please James, help us.”

“Us,” I wondered.

“Daddy please!” Linda’s voice this time, the sweet voice I remembered from her childhood, not the cruel voice I had heard in her this past week. “Daddy, please, I’m here. That bitch out there is not your daughter! I’m here!”

I wanted to turn and look. I remembered another time I had heard her plead like that, “Daddy, please!” She’d worn pigtails that day. It was her 5th birthday and she wanted a doll she had seen in the window of the mercantile. I couldn’t say no and had paid the outrageous sum of a quarter for the doll that was made from rags and had button eyes. She had loved that doll. When the stitching tore and the stuffing began to come out, Martha had sewn it for her. I had buried her with the doll in her arms.

“James,” Caroline’s voice called, “please look! Come join us here. We are waiting for you.”

Then more screaming. I heard my mother whimpering in pain as demons attacked her, my father screaming at me that I was an abomination and that he was ashamed of me. I hear voices of people I had never met, calling me a coward. And my wife, over and over again, begging me to help at first, then blaming me for her death, telling me how much she despised me.

Linda told me what a failure I had been and how I had driven her into Lucas’s arms. Caroline told me that she too lusted for Lucas and that Linda wasn’t even my daughter, but the spawn of Satan. She told me how she fucked him every day that we were married and that he was a better lover than I had ever been.

“You’re worthless,” she spat at me. “I had to kill myself just to get away from you!”

Depression began to set in. They were right, I was worthless. I had failed to protect my daughter.

“That’s right,” Linda taunted me, “it’s your fault that I’m a vampire. If you had shown me any kind of love at all, I wouldn’t have needed to find it in Lucas’s arms.”

“You drove our daughter to this!”

“No,” I screamed, covering my ears, but their taunts only increased in volume, penetrating my mind. I was ready to give up, throw myself into the light and take whatever punishment God had for me. Then the screaming stopped as suddenly as it started. Realizing my eyes were squeezed shut, I opened them. The light had receded. Night was about to fall. My face was wet; I had been crying. Touching a finger to the moisture I pulled it away and looked at the sticky substance. Blood. My tears were made of blood.

“I see you survived.” I looked up at Lucas, who appeared disappointed to see me alive.

Continued in An Unexpected Reunion
copyright© 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar

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