A Moment Before Midnight (A Naverro Vampire Tale)
By Aziza Sphinx
Pain snatched Nicolay from the darkness, his hands immediately going to his throat. Frantically he searched for any marks, any sign that what he had just experienced was real. For centuries nothing had disturbed the Dark Slumber. The intricate part of him inherited when he became the undead engulfed him in security, allowing him a time of peace when he faced so much turmoil.
Lately though, something crept into the darkness. The sleep no longer offered comfort; instead it bred fear, deception, and death. Dreaming was forbidden by the Dark Slumber, and yet for the past two weeks dreams slithered their way into his mind’s sanctuary.
“It must have been a dream,” he said, shaking his head.
His shoulders relaxed and relief overcame him as he realized he was safe in his lair. Initially searching the room with eyes, he only saw the dark outlines of the few items in his sparsely furnished home. The silhouettes of the unlit candles hung in the distance as well as the shadows of the contemporary chair and desk set and the armoire that occupied the other side of the room. He then searched the room with his power, spreading it first in one direction, then in another and ultimately in a circle surrounding his sarcophagus.
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
The rays of the setting sun beat on the walls of his lair, trying desperately to cook the flesh of the corpse Nicolay had become, but he was well hidden and safe. Centuries had passed since his rest had been interrupted, and even then, the dreams had been nothing like the one he’d just experienced.
This one had been more than just some light images dancing around in his mind distracting him from the solution to an unknown problem. This one was laced with hatred and violence and had the makings of a child’s nightmare hours after watching his first horror movie and consuming gobs of sweets. Never before had the images been so vivid, so lifelike.
Even when Kaida had called him, it was a subtle nudging, just enough to get him to explore the possibilities of the situation. But not this time. This time the message was very clear; someone wanted to get to him. Someone was reaching out to him, urging him to take action, to follow some pre-ordained path. Whatever it was wanted more than just to make him choose, it was forcing him to react.
He lay back down, trying to calm his mind into clarity, attempting to recall the details of the haunting dream. He closed his eyes and concentrated, searching through the still vivid images. Just as if he’d stepped back into the dream, the vision of the temple surrounded him. He stood before a bloodstained altar in the center. The place seemed all too familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite figure out why. In all of his six hundred years, he didn’t recall ever visiting a temple.
He visually searched the walls, admiring the engravings. The engravings were also familiar. Looking down at his arms and then back to the walls, he noticed the markings were identical to the tattoos covering his body.
He’d never known life without the tattoos, and from what he was told, he’d probably had them even before he was old enough to remember. His adoptive mother had told him they’d adorned his body from the day he came to her as an infant. As he grew, so did the tattoos. They never distorted. Like magic, the images were always in direct proportion to the changes his body experienced.
For years he had searched, trying to find someone, anyone, who could tell him the meaning of the pictures, but to no avail. He’d searched libraries in over a hundred countries, reading book after book of modern and ancient civilizations, passionately searching for another who may have shared his plight, knowing he couldn’t possibly be the first to be blessed, or cursed, with the markings.
In his days as a young man, the days prior to the change, he’d contacted archeologists, hoping someone had discovered markings similar to his on the walls of some hidden tomb. Each letter he received painted the same picture: no one recognized the markings. No one was able to shed light on where he had come from, who his people were, or why had he had been sent away.
He’d finally come to realize the images were those of a people long lost, long forgotten. Images of a people who’d chosen to remain hidden in the depths of history. He had given up after three hundred years, accepting the markings as a part of him, a detail defining who and what he once was.
Once again, Nicolay attempted to remember any additional details of the dream. The images momentarily eluded him, but then she came to him, appearing in his mind like the light of a firefly in the pitch-black night. He couldn’t see her face, but her scent filled his nostrils, soothing his mind. Even as he relived the memory of the dream, her scent surrounded him in his lair, following him from the depths of his mind into reality.
She wore a long cloak made of animal skin which covered her from head to toe. The hood draped carefully over her face, hiding even the slightest of silhouettes. She held something out to him, something square, quite possibly a book of some sort. Initially hesitant, although not quite sure why, Nicolay finally reached out and took the object from her. It was then he noticed she was adorned with many of the same tattoos as he.
Who was she?