I awoke in the innermost room of the cave where Emilio had led me after a time of unconsciousness I barely had a concept of. My hunger was mercifully gone, I had taken drinks from a dozen or more of Emilio’s followers, but I could feel terrible loss in its place. I vaguely recalled the destruction of the second unit of soldiers who had found me after the horror of the first sunrise I had seen in a millennium. The pain from which I knew my lover had saved me from; likely at the expense of her own life.
“Angel? Are you awake?” A voice that trembled with suppressed fear asked.
“My name is Ren.” I said, thankful that I healed to the point where my words no longer sounded like they were being dragged from a burning building. “How long have I slept?”
“For an entire day Angel.” The voice said, still quavering.
“You have no need to fear me. What is your name?” I asked, “And please call me Ren.”
“Mi nombre es Maria.” Came the quavering reply, either she had a limited grasp of English or else she was reverting to her native tongue when frightened. I guessed the latter.
“Thank you Maria.” I said, realizing there was hardly any light in the room. Although the darkness was no impediment to my vision I was certain my companion was unable to see anything. I saw a pair of worn jeans, threadbare white t-shirt and abused leather jacket lying next to one of those horrible looking robe things Emilio and his followers wore. I pulled on the jeans and t-shirt, patting the pockets by habit, checking for things that weren’t there.
“Tienes sed?” She whispered, forcing the words out. Are you thirsty? Now it made sense. Emilio must have left her here for breakfast. He didn’t really understand how my vampire body worked and that was just as well. I didn’t trust him very much; fanatics always make me nervous. I only really needed to feed when I was exhausted or had burned the life force of the creatures I had fen on
“Do you have a cigarette?” I asked, ignoring her question about thirst. She didn’t move from where she crouched by the opening. “I’m not going to hurt you Maria” I said and since she didn’t offer a cancer stick I went in search of a more likely donor. I knew Emilio was a smoker.
The few people I met in the all but ran away from me. No surprise there, but I could now much better understand the importance of keeping our kind a secret. This kind of behavior was annoying; it made me look at them in contempt… and it also aroused my predatory instincts. Seeing prey running away always made the wolf want to give chase.
Since there was only one way out of the bit of the cave system I had been in, finding Emilio was quite easy. He was standing in the dying rays of a sunset at the mouth of the cave speaking to an assembled group of people. As much as I craved the ritual of a cigarette I wanted to avoid a crowd of fearful, or worse adoring, people even more. The physical addiction of nicotine had vanished with the normal functioning of my human circulatory system.
I leaned against the wall, the distractions of the moment gone allowing me to really feel what was missing. The needs of my body were sated, however I still felt empty. Svenka was gone, I hadn’t seen any sign of her at all after I recovered from my frenzy. What had caused it anyway? I hadn’t been hungry, instead my last clear memory was of my lover soothing away my need to destroy, calming the overabundance of mechanically augmented thalmaturgic power within me.
Memory struck me like a hammer. Someone or something had attacked us with a glow that was as hot as the rising sun to my sensitive skin. Whatever it had been, Svenka had saved me from being destroyed by covering me with her own body, even as I had begun to blister and burn. My instinct and brutal strength had allowed me to burrow beneath the soft sandy ground and there I had survived.
She didn’t react to the sun’s rays though; she wasn’t one of the undead. But the fact remained that I still couldn’t reach her. She was either too far away, unconscious or … I had to concede that she might be dead. I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the rough wall of the cave. A tear fell from the corner of my left eye, burning as it forced its way through a tear duct that had long since stopped being functional.
During our last conversation, Svenka had claimed that I couldn’t cry. She wasn’t precisely correct. We could still shed tears after death, but it wasn’t the same.
“Why do you weep?” Emilio had approached without me hearing him, both a testament to his stealth and my distraction. His eyes widened as he saw the trail of red down my face. We could cry, but the tears were blood.
“For things lost.” I said, wiping the blood off my face in a dismissive gesture, my voice cold. “I have work to do. Do you have any leads on freak activity in the area?”
“Freaks? You mean those Demons you destroy my Angel?” The fervor in his eyes began to shine, and my unease at his attention returned.
“Yeah, call them what you will.”
“No my Angel. You have destroyed all in your path. We have always followed you, we do not presume to predict your movements.” Emilio said, his eyes downcast.
“It doesn’t matter.” I said, slightly relieved that he didn’t know things I did not. “I will find them on my own. You all should stay here, I’d hate to risk you. It’s dangerous where I tread Emilio; more dangerous than you can imagine.”
“We have nothing to fear with you leading us Angel.” He said, all but bowing to her.
“I am no angel.” I whispered.
“With you walking before us, the road is perfectly smooth and flawless.” Said Emilio, as though he hadn’t heard me, “As smooth and perfect as glass.”
“I’m going and you are staying here.” I said, forcing the emotion from my voice. “Any who follow will die, either by my hand or by another.”
“It would be an honor to die by your hand Angel!” Emilio said, white spittle gathering in the corner of his mouth. “Any of us would gladly open our hearts to serve your purpose!”
“The whole point is to not kill humans.” I said, “I’m trying to fix this, not make thing worse.”
“You are fixing things Angel. You cleanse the world of their filth with your holy light.”
“Do you have any vehicles?” I asked, trying to change the subject. The sun had just set… it was time for me to go.
“Of course not Angel, your presence renders electrical things inert.” Emilio showed me his wrist. His watch had stopped at exactly the moment when I had saved him from the small horde of undead that had been on the road outside of Heroica Guymas. Shit.
I spun on my heel and walked to the cave entrance. The people outside were separating and going about menial tasks after Emilio’s… sermon or whatever. One of the men had a hand rolled cigarette in his mouth.
“Can you roll me one of those?” I asked. He turned toward me, stumbling back in surprise when he saw who had addressed him. When he looked at me in confusion, I pointed to his cigarette. I really should have spent more time learning world languages, but growing up in Russia hadn’t offered many opportunities and I’d never wanted to leave the United States after I’d immigrated.
He handed his cigarette over and I took a deep drag, exhaling smoke out my nose and sighing in satisfaction. My options were limited. I couldn’t contact the messenger from The Tribunal without the blood on the piece of paper he’d given me the night after Hex had died since it had burned away with my old clothes. I would have a very hard time accomplishing much without someone to watch my back now that Svenka was gone.
Tonight would be about looking for answers. Who had tried to kill me, where was my lover and how was I going to call in the cavalry if I needed them? Damn, I shouldn’t have waited so long. Taking the last drag on the cigarette, I pinched the end off and crushed the ember underneath my bare foot. Turning to look down the hill, I gathered myself and leaped in the direction of the town I had most recently destroyed, easily clearing the tops of the trees.