If you have read my novel, Lucifera's Pet, you may remember that Lucifera became a vampire on October 13, 102 AD. It was 3:30 in the morning to be exact.
Why do I know the exact day and time of a made-up character's conversion to vampire? Because I'm a freak like that.
Just go with it.
To celebrate Lucifera's dark birthday, I am publishing the entire first chapter of my upcoming novella, All Hallows, right here. It is completely raw and unedited. Please read and let me know what you think. Specifically, is it compelling enough to get you to read chapter 2?
All Hallows: Chapter 1
Sophia wanted to die. She prayed for the Lord to call her home every day for the better part of a decade. On a chilly October evening death knocked on her door.
Few who knew the elderly woman would have guessed that she went through life each day hoping it would be her last. She had outlived both her husband and their three children by ten years. The frontier was harsh and life was so very fragile. Except for Sophia’s, it seemed.
She had endured two bouts of influenza that killed more than a dozen people younger than herself in the formerly quiet mining settlement of Deadwood, South Dakota. Every morning she awoke to pain so severe that it took her an hour to work up the strength to get out of bed.
She had just said “amen” for her nightly prayers when she heard the rapping at her door.
Three knocks came in a deep, methodical rhythm. It was precisely how she figured death would sound.
With the pain she usually felt in her joints oddly absent, Sophia slid out from under the covers and put on her housecoat. She took her time walking to the door. There was no need to hurry. Death had been waiting for eighty-nine years. It could wait a little longer.
She placed a hand on the lock, but hesitated. It was well past midnight and all but the rowdiest of outlaws had called it a night. Still, no one would be foolish enough to knock on her door if they planned to rob her. If she screamed people would come.
“Who’s there?” she asked through the closed door.
“You called and I have answered, Sophia.”
The voice that replied was warm and calm. It was the voice of a young woman. Her slight accent was European, but Sophia couldn’t place the country.
She opened the door.
A blast of cool air brought a shudder from the woman. One look at her caller brought another.
The young woman was wearing an extravagant maroon dress, cut lower than it should have been at the top and clinging scandalously to her waist and chest. Her black hair was pulled back in an ornate fashion and cascaded down her body as though she had just arrived for the ball. She was a stunning beauty to be sure, but it was the same beauty that could be found in the eyes of a mountain lioness just before she killed.
“Who are you?” Sophia asked.
“Call me whatever you wish. You know why I am here. It is your time.”
“You are death, then?”
“If you like. Invite me in and I will give you what you seek.”
Sophia hesitated. When presented with promise of the sweet release of death she found herself wavering. Were things really that bad?
Her thoughts drifted to her only friend, Adam. The odd man surely wouldn’t miss an old woman who had lived long past her expiration.
She looked back into the eyes of the girl, fully prepared to tell her to go away. What strange eyes they were. So green that they seemed to glow in the moonlight.
The girl wasn’t real. She couldn’t be.
“Sophia.” A new voice greeted her. This one was deep and masculine. It was so familiar. Sophia turned to find her husband standing beside her. He wasn’t old and worn down as he had been at his death. Instead he was as healthy and youthful as he was shortly after their children had been born.
“It’s me, Sophie. And look.” He stepped to the side revealing two cherubic boys and a beautiful little girl.
“My babies!” Sophia took a step forward with arms outstretched to embrace the husband and children who had left the Earth many years before. Her heart swelled and pounded with joy.
The girl outside smiled.
As Sophia’s hands neared her loved ones, they began to fade. Her husband disappeared and her children dissolved into darkness before her eyes. They were still as dead as they had been these long torturous years.
Sophia looked back at the temptress in the doorway. “Even death wouldn't be that cruel.”
The young woman outside said nothing. The wind blew, rustling the fabric of her dress and her long, black hair. She should have shivered from the cold, but instead she was motionless, as only the dead can be.
Sophia knew she should close the door and pretend that it was all a dream. No good could come from the thing outside. Still, she could smell the tobacco from her husband’s pipe and hear the echoes of her children’s laughter. It had seemed so real.
The two women stared into each other’s eyes in silence. Sophia suddenly found the girl’s enigmatic smile infuriating. The cold began to take its toll and Sophia’s joints started to ache. She stumbled and looked back towards her waiting bed.
The woman outside did not move.
Sophia let out a sigh as the weight of many painful years of courage in the face of harsh life drained from her.
Finally, she spoke. “Come inside, demon. Take me to Hell if that’s what you came for.”
The woman stepped across the threshold. “My name is Lucifera, and life has shown you enough cruelty. I bring you this.”
Sophia’s husband appeared before her again. This time, he walked towards her and took her in his arms. Stunned, she pushed against him, finding that he was flesh and not the apparition from before.
“Oh Jonathan.” Sophia buried her face in his shoulder and wept tears of joy.
She barely noticed the sharp pain in her throat. Her husband rocked her gently in his arms and stroked her hair as the life poured out of her body.
Sophia died happily.
The vampire felt the life leave Sophia’s body but continued to drink. She relaxed her mind, allowing the effort she put into tricking the old woman’s senses to fade away while she savored the last drops of blood.
Human emotions exhibited such distinct flavors. It had been some time since Lucifera had tasted happiness. It was far too sweet for her pallet. She much preferred when her victims died in terror. Fear was both salty and sour, and most delectable. Still, she was a guest in this town and she had to be respectful, at least for the time being.
With only days to go before the ceremony, Lucifera was beginning to like it in Deadwood. She had tried to be a good guest and feed as neatly as possible. The others were far less considerate. Downright sloppy, even. In the grand scheme, it was of little importance. Chance favored the possibility that all of existence would be cast into a void of nothingness in less than a fortnight.
Lucifera placed Sophia in bed and closed the front door on her way out. Impending apocalypse or no, she saw no reason to be uncivilized.