Excerpt – So Many Nights, So Many Sins – A Vampire’s Tale
From Dark Tales and Twisted Verses (c) A. L. Butcher
Amber firelight flickered in the small grate, casting a dancing pattern on the grubby walls of the cellar-bar known as The Cavern. It was, some said, hypnotic; others said the fire heard and saw all – for even in summer it was never truly out, merely banked to embers. Fire had been the friend and enemy of man since Prometheus snatched it from the gods, and this particular blaze had been smouldering for years. Some said decades, even centuries, and that it watched all that went on. Whether this was true Wolfgang had no idea, but it was not a normal fire, and such tales served his purpose.
The Cavern had stood on this spot for at least three hundred years, and before this, various structures from longhouse to army tent to inn had been in the vicinity. This land was old, saturated with history. And blood. Battles had been fought, lives taken, lost and even given and through it, all the Cavern stood in one form or another, and its fire burned. Creatures who lived in the twilight world of the undead were drawn to this place. Perhaps it was the blood, perhaps there was something special here. Life was a lure, to those who possessed a parody of it, but in truth, no one really knew or dared to discover. It was the sort of place no one asked too many questions or expected honest answers and so those patrons with things to hide and enemies aplenty caroused in The Cavern in an uneasy truce. The fire saw all, and so did its current keeper. For now, both the fire and The Cavern had Wolfgang’s undead patronage, and both knew it.
Wolfgang Feuerleiben turned his bright hazel eyes despondently towards the blaze and shivered; as usual, he could not seem to get warm even close as he was to it. This place, generally, was cold, as old buildings often were, even with the impressive blaze. Wolfgang had no internal heat, nor did any of his kind; but habits are hard to shake and even a vampire likes to be warm. Bodies with no inward heat found themselves stiff and slow and it wasn’t like a vampire could bask in the sun. Wolfgang surmised it was a throwback to his human past. Memories faded, became corrupted or were forgotten; it was a curse and a blessing – an elder had told him. Wolfgang considered this – ‘memories went with morality. One could not be haunted if one had no memory of past sins and past transgressions’ the Elder had said. Yet almost all his kind suffered nightmares – or rather daymares and the Vampire Scholar who’d propounded his theory had died raving in a fire of his own making. Driven mad by the guilt of split blood. It was hard to be a monster. And much, much harder to be a monster pretending to be a man.
Dark tales of ghosts of war, blood from the Autumn of Terror, the wrath of nature, an unusual murder and a cynical vampire. Twisted poetry of loss and mayhem.
Some adult themes and language.
Winner of the NN Light Book Heaven Award for Short Stories 2021