he Rise and Fall and Rising Again of Father Michael
Chapter Two

"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been six hours since my last confession."

"The Lord is always giving and forgiving, my son. Speak your confession so that your sins may be released."

"Father, since I awoke and made my confession earlier this evening, I have taken the lives of three mortals in the act of mortal sin, and have vanquished the soul of one immortal to the hell it has earned. I have broken my vow to myself and my God not to take the lives of mortals, but the hunger grew, and I knew of nothing else to do. I pray for forgiveness of my sin."

Father Joseph sat in shock as he listened to the confessions of the unknown on the other side of the frail confessional. The voice was smooth and even, but choked, as if under strain to maintain the calmness evident in the calm tone.

"I pray for forgiveness, Father."

"My son," said Father Joseph, "tell me of these sins, that they might be released." Joseph didn't want to hear, but the idea fascinated him, and it would give him time to think.

"I awoke at sundown and rose from my slumbering hideaway. I felt the thirst immediately, and knew I had to eat. I put on my cloak and walked swiftly downtown, where I knew I could find dinner worthy of my offering of peaceful sleep.

"My first meal was a multiple rapist. Even as he tore the clothes from his sixth victim in as many nights, he laughed and joked about his hobbies of rape and dismemberment. He called Jack; I can only assume after Jack the Ripper. Just as he was about to commit his sin, I pulled him away. He stared at me in disbelief and said, 'What, Father? You want first dibs?' He laughed. I put the girl, no more than sixteen, to sleep with a look, then bit into Jack's neck, pulling the blood from his jugular, tasting the adrenaline and the drugs he used to forget his sins. I pulled his body away from the girl and called an ambulance for her. She arrived at the hospital safely and awoke, remembering his face, and nothing more. Her nightmares will last only a short while.

"The second course of my meal was had in a condemned building where several families had made their home. Two thieves, desperate for money, had killed one of the children, a young boy, and then demanded payment for the lives of the others. Of course, the families could not pay. The guns were silver, Father, like the candlesticks on the altar there, but polished steel, not precious metal. I jumped through the window after scaling the three floors, shattering glass and sending one of the boys flying into a wall, knocking him out. The other shot me without hesitating, three times in the chest. I let him put his fingers in the bullet holes before I dug into his chest and pulled his heart out. He watched for just a second as I ate it, then he died. The other died of internal bleeding before I could feed, but that was just as well; he was the one who had shot the young boy before I could get there.

"The last life needs no forgiveness, Father, but I want you to know that we exist, so I must tell you. For several weeks I had felt a presence around this church, just outside, a lurking, hiding thing, not like me, but the same kind of creature. I watched from the tower after midnight mass and saw him pull Mrs. Jackson into the alley. You know Mrs. Jackson, don't you, Father? The one found murdered downtown? With her neck severed? I watched that happen, Father. This creature was faster than me, more dangerous. I could not stop that killing, but I could prevent others. I watched him night after night for a week, following him, tracking him, watching him feed... never the same part of town, always after a service. I had the advantage, though: I awoke two and a half hours before he did. I don't know why, but I awake each evening at sundown, while he must remain another two and a half hours, hidden here, in the catacombs of the old church. So, tonight, after my feeding, when I was strongest and most vital, I came to the church, entered the catacombs, and found him, stretched out, still asleep. There was no sound, no heavy breathing- this creature had ceased to breathe long before I became vampyre, but I could sense that he knew I was there. I also sensed his helplessness. I reached into his resting place and dragged him from it by the neck. He was dried and empty, needing food. He was weak.

"'Would you like me to hear your confession,' I asked him, 'before I send you on your way to hell?' His eyes fluttered, but still did not open. I pulled his head off his body. It took all my strength, even after two feedings, to do it, but I pulled his head off. Police will find it and the shriveled husk of his body in the Chattahoochee tomorrow.

"Father, I know that murder is wrong. I am not as strong as I thought I could be, but I am learning. Controlling the hunger is the hardest, but feeding on vampyre is most rewarding. I grow stronger, more able to control the craving for mortals. My first mortal asked me to kill her, Father. She had suffered in an accident, was there, lying in the road, body severed almost in half. I could touch her and feel the injuries inside her. She could not live without machines. I held her in my arms. I heard her confession and absolved her as my duties demanded. I then killed her with a quick snap of her neck. I did not drink her blood, Father. Since then, several others have asked me to do the same. They see me, and they know that I am their death, but they greet me warmly, as a friend. They converse with me, then, when they know it is their time, they ask me quietly to lead them on their way to the afterlife. I cannot refuse that, Father. I will go from here now. Please, tell me my penitence."

Father Joseph, stunned, could not speak. The tale was grisly, but satisfyingly just. He could not believe in vampyres, but he had heard of the bodies sucked dry, of the deaths of the hospital patients, of the murders and rapes. He vomited and reached for the curtains, but as he pulled them back to expose the confessor, he felt a strong wind and knew, even as he pulled the curtains, that there would be no one there.

"May God have mercy on your soul, son."