Contd. from previous issue – Part I . Click here to read the first part
Once the initial hullabaloo on Sienna’s nature beguiling youth had ebbed they had stated socializing; that is what the invincible Jade did and with vengeance. Ethan and Sienna wooed solitude – not that they had too much of a choice to tell the truth. At every imaginable junction they were eclipsed by Jade – She of impossible incorrigibility – the ‘bubbly’ ‘spunky’ Jade in Sienna’s intimate opinion stretched out of her way like rubber woman; to prove to one and all the she was the most happening among the threesome in her family; in spite of her relatively advanced years. When the three of them went out as family and people happened to mumble a mere polite greeting it seemed like a tornado had seized Jade – She would turn the aggressive hawker trying to polarize customer akin human attention towards herself Never mind if the wares were just worthless pea- brained chatter. Jade was the undisputed belle of every ball. ‘So much for my nature beguiling youth!’ Sienna had once remarked to Ethan in amusement. If someone as much as spoke to Sienna hell and hell beyond broke loose in their house. Jade spewed flames like a dragon and demanded what they had been talking about for ‘sooo long’ and made poor Sienna repeat every line; verbatim. Sienna could now understand and even empathize with the plight of Jade’s butcher husband! Having taken every evidence into account Sienna had finally reached the conclusion that their Jade had too much vampirism in her altogether to be a mere vampire – vampire. She must have vampire in human form too; albeit a psychic one. Sienna as a mortal had known a few of that kind- Gloria of the O’sullivans was one such… Heather had been another. Such people always seem to bother others with their constant complaining. They have a clingy disposition and are a nagging pain in the head. They attract every bit of other people’s energy toward their vortex. These psychic vampires do not necessarily feed on blood but are leeches to human emotion, which is Sienna’s opinion was no loss a folly….
Now, Jade had made friends with a few men and women in the village. Incidentally she had chosen the worst hussies and louts. She pranced about in the day, drinking liquor with them and drank their life – blood during the night. Some little inconspicuous corner of the village daily listed ‘mysterious’ deaths of one or two coincidentally, they happened to be Jade’s cronies. These incidents did not draw much attention but were taken as stray happenings that struck one in a million. They were cases that seemed very remote – as if they had taken place in a different world, a world far removed from one’s own pristine one.
For reasons concealed beneath layers of their sub-conscious, Sienna and Ethan had ceased to enjoy their nocturnal exploits. But the need to survive is a strange thing- particularly paradoxical when seen in the already dead. People who might have done something considered ‘pettily criminal’ such as setting fire to a hut, stealing money or committing slander they hunted; the clean they conscientiously didn’t touch. There chain of deaths flummoxed the villagers. Who (or what) was causing these deaths they fretted. There were two points of similarity between all the victims, those with shrewd sense noted – they all had some skeleton or the other in their cupboards and their bodies bore two puncture marks at the base of their necks. Was there a serial killer with a strange fetish on the prowl? Time flew and no concrete evidence was unearthed. The villagers couldn’t continue to live in fear. So to feel secure they only had to invent an imaginary monster that killed solely the ‘bad’ people.
Now coming back to the outrageous Jade – Jade was particularly amiable with two worthies – the local village drunk cum wastrel – Chuck was the gentleman’s name and the village harlot Diana. These three could have been joined at the hip, so inseparable were they. They spent a lot of time together and did things that would have given the moral police of even Scandal Land, seizers. Some of the things were too shocking to be put down on paper. People went agape in horror at the sight of the atrocious trio running full monty in broad day light, their mouths squirting liquour on each others faces and adorable indeed were the fond games played by the three love birds. They hazed one moment… laughed hysterically the next and finally washed the whole course down with a loud wild brawl and by the time people parted their curtains to peep, the atrocious trinity would have kissed and made up and would have proceeded to their squiring agenda once more.
Metamorphosis – it is strange how this one word; rather concept can be so multidimensional, open to interpretation in many ways. Sienna had begun to pass through yet another phase of metamorphosis – she had started looking inwards, after having been sensitive only to external reality for a long time. She had adopted a faint quaint little personal ritual that brought a lot a solace. During the time when dusk nearly merged into dark, Sienna would light a few candles. Then she would wear her flowing white gown clinched by a red ribbon high at the waist. In the soft glow of candle light, she looked like the high priestess of some divine cult. She would then sit cross legged and gently close her eyes, experiencing tranquility. It was only during these times that she could clearly visualize the inner integral sienna. Then one day she felt a pulse, just a faint trace, at her finger tips. Eventually, there was a throb in the wrist; stirrings in the heart that waxed and waned with the life of the villagers; with their joys, agonies, achievements, losses, births and deaths. One could never have imagined vampires could ever feel this way, but it seems like they did. Sienna and Ethan at least did. They hadn’t exchanged a word about the transformations in them, but each knew about the other. After all, they were man and wife (oops, vampire and wife) for nothing. They were soul mates. Oh! But that’s not possible- vampires have no souls.
Sienna had become the sought after village seamstress and her goods sold like cakes, hot off the oven. Mere needle and thread work on cloth, under her skilled hands magically transformed into a hypnotic eye, an ethereal feather, a ray of gold, a dainty mermaid, an ancient urn, a blue unicorn. People had started calling her a mystic enchantress all over again! It seemed as if nothing had changed. Except a lot had. Sienna, a much more mature woman now, kept her head, amidst all the praise. She simply saw her talent as something that kept her occupied when Jade and Ethan were away. Jade had her hectic socializing schedule. Sienna sometimes vaguely wondered where Ethan went.
One fine morning Sienna came across Rose Waters, a local village woman. The jovial lady was full of admiration for Ethan. “Sienna, like Ethan’s one of the nicest boys on earth,” she started. Now Rose Waters (who incidentally uses the word ‘like’ very often) has a daughter called Carol who is a very sweet girl. Her husband had died a few weeks ago in a very unfortunate accident. It is indeed sad especially because Carol is expecting. But she carried on bravely like a soldier. “Why, like only the other day” continued Mrs. Waters “I had taken Carol to a little known temple quite for away from the village you know, quite beyond the outskirts. Our local priest had suggested offering prayers for the like good of the unborn child, like, you know…” She paused. Sienna nodded a great many times. She liked listening to the loquacious Rose. Rose went on duly encouraged “It was alright like when we started out… we had like arranged for a horse and a carriage and reached there safely. But on the way back the horse refused to budge, due to like exhaustion or what I don’t quite know. We were forced to abandon it. The area was deserted so we could hope for no transport or anything to reach us home. There was no choice but to cover all those miles by foot. Carol was quite ready, she is like a great walker you know. I tried my best to trudge a little… but with all my girth and arthritis and all, I soon had to plop down on a bench by the roadside. This was by the woods and it was getting dark. Carol panicked “Oh Mama” she said, “try and walk a few steps at least. This is a particularly lonely stretch. Anything could happen…” I tried to get back on my feet like but my knees hurt terribly and I was close to tears. We heard footsteps. We hugged each other close trying to prepare ourselves for what the good God had in store for us. A figure emerged from the woods holding an axe. Our breathing quickened and we shut our eyes in fear. ‘Mrs. Waters?’ questioned a familiar voice. We opened our eyes in relief to see it was only Ethan… not some murderer or dacoit. “What’s the matter?” he asked us ever so nicely. Carol explained the situation to him. I was silent like because of the pain. ‘Oh, is that all Mrs. Waters’ he said. Then he put me on the shoulder and carried me home all those miles without any fuss. I felt a little ashamed to tell the truth because I am very fat like and Ethan looked thinner than usual. But there was nothing I could do but to thank him silently for this timely help. Carol followed he reached us home to safety. He even went to the pharmacists’ and got me my fix for my arthritic pain and before we could thank him properly with a cup of hot chocolate or something, he was like gone. ‘Ok, I must get going, Sienna’, she said panting as she spoke having got everything out in the rush of agitated gratitude. ‘But I must tell you like how proud I am to know people like you and Ethan” she said and went off. All this was news to Sienna. Ethan in the woods with an axe? Whatever for…. like?
Ethan came home in the evening his tread as soft as a feline’s. Sienna heard the wooden cupboard creak; as it was opened and then shut firmly. Sienna knew he had kept the axe inside. Her attack was direct. ‘What were you doing in the woods with that deadly axe?’ she asked her eyes blazing as she looked straights into his. She was stumped by the reaction. Whatever she might have expected, it wasn’t this. There was a hint of shyness in those eyes that a gentlemen might have when caught doing something noble and there was unmistakably something else- pride. Sienna instantly felt bad about the brusque manner in which she had spoken. “You know I was a wood- cuter by profession when I was human” Ethan spoke awkwardly “I had forgotten what a delight it was to work until we arrived here. And believe me Sienna’, he went on with enthusiasm- ‘when I saw folks here sweat it out during the day and enjoy their well earned rest in the evening, I was actually envious. And then the itch to work grew so unbearable, that one day I actually picked an axe and went out. I work for a minor businessman at the outskirts of the village. They have promised a small sum and I can say I have never felt so content in a long time” he said sincerely. Sienna had never seen his eyes so bright and his face so full of glow and animation but he looked thinner than before as Rose Waters had mentioned. Sienna suddenly felt something gnaw as her head – a worry worm. “Ethan” she said very slowly ‘you look weak- why don’t you accompany me on our nightly rounds, anymore? “I only hunt when I need to” he answered. His eyes had taken on a hazy far away look “which is not very often nowadays. Work increases appetite for life and love and decreases appetite for food.” Sienna listened in amazement. This philosophy sounded strange coming from the lips of a blood-sucking vampire. Yet she was stuck by the poignancy of it. Little did she know that she had internalized the same principles herself.
Sienna was taking a stroll, one beaming morning when she heard heart – wrenching sobs. They emanated from the nicely built house of the Grants. Sienna didn’t know the Grants well; but knew them to be decent people. They were a well-to do middle aged couple who owned a chain of mills. God had blessed them with everything one could want, except children. If this fact caused them pain, they didn’t show it. They were one of those people who were always smiling.
Sienna was genuinely concerned. What could have possibly happened to these people to cry as if the world had come to an end? Sienna knocked on their door.. She didn’t case if this was indiscreet. She wanted to try and help. Arthur Grant opened the door. “Oh, it’s Mrs. Preston-Grey; please do come in” – he was quiet civility even in the midst of some enormous calamity that seemed to be crushing them. His eyes were red and his face furrowed with worry. Sienna was solicitously led to the sofa. Grants wife, who was also in a bad state, managed a smile. Sienna was filled with regard for the couple who maintained their hospitality even in the face of a problem of seemingly great magnitude. “I am sorry for having intruded; but can you please tell me what the matter is?” Sienna asked. Arthur was more than ready to share his troubles: “Well, Mrs. Preston-Grey, you know we have a chain of mills which are doing quite well. ‘Yes’ Sienna encouraged. We (Catherine and I) go out of town very often on work and to look up Catherine’s parents who haven’t been keeping well…. Catherine nodded quietly and so did Sienna.
“During these times I used to let a man who worked for me manage the mills. He seemed honest and capable. So charming a mask he had donned to conceal a heart full of deceit. He had won our trust totally and completely, only to stab us in the back…
On our previous (and fateful) visit out of the village, I as usual entrusted this man all charge. Also, this time I gave him the power of attorney; the permission to sign on my behalf in my absence.
And when we returned, it was as if lightening had struck our lives. This cunning bag of tricks had some devious ploy had become the ‘owner’ of all our mills! They are now all in his name! When I confronted him, the rascal smirked in my face. I could have killed him at that moment. My blood was boiling hot but there was nothing I could do. These mills are legacy. I couldn’t let them go just like that. I went down on my knees and begged him to sell them back to me. The viper assented and quoted a hefty sum. I had no choice but to agree. Then when I was heading out of what had just a few days ago had been my own office, he called out to me ‘Hey’ and warned me that if I didn’t arrange for the sum in the next ten days he would sell the mill to the first bidder. I ran from pillar to post to raise all I could. Today happens to be the last day of the ‘deal’ and I haven’t succeeded in raising the entire sum’
Arthur slapped and held his head in despair Catherine cried afresh. “I think we’ll have to say goodbye to our mills” she sobbed.
“I assure you, dear Madam, that will not be necessary” Sienna had spoken. She had stood unto her full height. Her voice was strong and firm. For such a petite woman, she surprisingly, seemed at that moment, towering. She took leave, her chin set in determination.
She was back by mid-day with the required sum. The Grants just stared; they had never witnessed such a miracle in action before. They bought their mills back from the con-man: Lee, immediately they thanked Sienna. There were tears of gratitude in their eyes. They promised her that they would return her money as soon as they could. Sienna told them that she would be very upset if they did for she had come to regard them family.
The local jewelers goggled at the contents in the ebony-box. Ravishingly beautiful ancestral jewellery his eyes took in- pearls set in the purest gold, diamond studded bracelets, many an emerald and ruby delight. A simple wedding ring. ‘What manner of a desperate situation could a woman have been in to sell all these marvels and even her wedding ring?’ he wondered. He had asked the customer in the morning if she was really serious about her decision. Her answer had been an unwavering ‘Yes’. He was struck by the solid firmness in the manner and had yielded without another word. She had quietly collected the money and walked off.
So Sienna had sold all her jewellery the heirlooms of the Preston-Grey’s .‘Preston – Grey’s she said along with relish as the wind caught, scattered and played with her words. Really how well the name sounded. Sienna Preston-Grey. Ethan Preston-Grey. Funny, she hadn’t thought of their last names before.
She had even traded her wedding ring. She had to admit that giving the ring away had been difficult for her. This loss had been compensated for by the Grant’s happiness and gratitude. This was but a small sacrifice. She vaguely wondered how Ethan would react. How much did these ancestral memoirs mean to him? She didn’t know. But she knew in her heart that her beloved Ethan approved of good.
Thus, Sienna Preston-Grey was without an ornament. But she felt beautiful. Her heart sang.
She hadn’t hunted in a long time. Today she was famished. She smiled suddenly as a thought came to her. This rogue Lee sounded like good dinner.
The horse of desire I mounted on
And romped on it around the city of joy
Somewhere along I lost its reins
The crazed mustang neighed and ran
At lightering speed across the town
And blew me off like a vexing fly
It trampled me beneath its hoofs
These lines could very well have been mouthed by Jade. It could be said to be an approximate gist of doom, Jade brought upon herself. To mince no words, Jade’s debauchery led to her death. After having tried and tired of every high – earthy and paranormal, a void started making its presence felt at the tip of her stomach; this null spread to such astronomical proportions that something in her deranged irreversibly. She needed something… something more but knew not what. Hunting meant to be a means of survival became a thrilling escapade for kicks. Wasted emaciated bodies of the young and the old rained on the village. Streams flowed red instead of transparent. The seed of fear a stray body here and there had planted in the villagers mind, spurted into a monstrous tree of panic whose slimy branches clutched at their throats until they feared they’d died of affixation alone if not any thing else.
“What had possessed our village” they cried at the skies. They demanded answer from the rumbling thunder. What unspeakable sin had they committed to suffer this blood curdling aftermath of some creature’s bloody tricks. They could no longer take comfort in the story of the fictitious monster that killed only the ‘bad’. Even good people were getting killed.
They were afraid. But also indignant. Furious. Adamant. Loyal. They stayed put in their homestead. They believed in the Day of Judgment.
Sienna and Ethan were helpless in preventing these murderous extravagances. Jade was stone deaf to their pleas. The Preston-Gray couple suffered tremendous strain in silence.
The ones who shut themselves out to the anxieties of the real world were few- Chuck, Diana and naturally Jade herself. The first two (especially Diana) wouldn’t have batted an eye lid even if a gigantic golden fish had usurped the liquid sky, which akin to the ocean would have frighteningly rushed downwards to suffocate the earth in its watery embrace. They were drowned in them drunken splendor much as usual. Except that Diana remembered some sudden work and left. Jade and Chuck remained to enjoy each other company. Jade had consumed three whole bottles.. neat the people moving past looked like teeny- weenie ants one second… corpulent elephants the next. The trees around her danced. It was all so funny… she suddenly felt very light… the world was such a wonderful place… very much like a candy store where she could have whatever she desired. Mirth flooded her and she let off a light bubble of laughter. “I didn’t catch the joke” her companion mumbled ‘what’? asked Jade her voice three decibels higher than usual. Hush Jadey girl, Chuck said pressing a finger to his lips. I only asked why you laughed. There is no need to holler to be heard by the entire village.’ ‘Hush’ Jade nodded pressing a finger to her lips. She laughed again – this time very wildly. She looked like a child who had a secret she wanted to tell real bad. ‘You know I have a secret’, she winked conspiratorially. ‘I am sure you do, honey’, Chuck mocked ‘you are going to tell me you are a witch’ Jade was incensed. Chuck had just insulted her by calling her something as banal as a witch. “I am no such common thing, you lout” she hissed “I am a VAMPIRE and can send you the place I have been sending many others to lately. Now Chuck was drunk; but not so much so as to miss the coherency of words even if they had come from a heavily drunken woman. ‘A vampire’ Chuck pretended to look aptly impressed and awe-struck. ‘My, I am really frightened of vampires. They can do amazing things…’. ‘Yeah’ giggled Jade. She was beginning to feel extremely flattered. We can turn to rats, bats, moths, spiders wolves – anything and fly around anywhere’. Chuck’s eyes grew rounder. ‘And?’ His voice was saccharine sweet… and fake. ‘And bite, you ninny,’ she said a tad impatiently. ‘And drink peoples’ blood!’, volunteered Chuck with ghoulish delight. ‘Right’ said Jade, ‘I say, Chucky boy, you are not as dim as I had thought’ and clucked him under the chin. A broad smile spread over Chuck’s foxy face.
From somewhere behind a tree, someone squirmed and slapped his head in frustration. Ethan had witnessed the exchange and had a fairly good idea of its outcome. If Chuck happened to blurt all this out in front of any living soul, it would spell the end of not only Jade herself but of himself and his sweet wife, Sienna as well. Trust Jade to have been so utterly careless. Anyway there was no use lamenting over spilt milk. He’d do what had to be done.
Chuck’s gait was staggering but his mind was steadfast. No less than the hen that laid golden eggs was the news that had fallen into his kitty. He was determined to reap all the benefits of this entire harvest. This hussy Jade! She’d seemed fun at the beginning but lately he had started feeling life was nicer before she had arrived – Diana had always given him had frosted peach- laced special smiles, but this Jade always made him look like a buffoon. The two women often made jokes and laughed at his expense – Diana had started acting pricy lately all thanks to this hussy always calling him ‘bozo’ or ‘ninny’- how he hated that. He’d show her he was no ninny. At his will he could usher a tempest in her world. He’d tell the entire village… he’d tell the tabloids. He maybe they’d give him good money, he thought avariciously. But he thought he’d start with telling Diana. Yes that was a good idea. She’d start giving him her special smiles again – soon. He rubbed his hands vigorously in pleasant anticipation. Lost in his reverie, he cut across the road and started walking in the direction of Diana’s house. Suddenly, something with heavy beating winds swooped low and then pirouetted to stand face to face with Chuck. No one heard Chuck’s cries for help.
Ethan reached home in a frenzied state. That had been close. Had the man as much as hinted all this to somebody… then… he shuddered to think of what might have been the consequence. But it was all over. Ethan shut his eyes for a moment- was it really? A disturbing thought suddenly flitted across his mind. What if Jade had prattled this in front of anyone else? Sienna walked in. She noticed his anxious brow. She shut the door behind her and sat down beside him. He took both her hands in his and looked into her eyes. They talked for a long time.
Diana appraised herself in front of the mirror. Yeah, her skin looked smooth. She tousled her hair… preened.. Applied some lipstick and pouted…. She liked this particular shade… frosty- peach it was called; Chuck had said it made her look very pretty. The thought of Chuck evoked a tiny prick of guilt… may be she was being too severe on the poor lad since Jade had joined them… teasing him so ruthlessly and all. But she’d make up for that….
She looked out of the window dreamily – something caught her eye… she squinted to see better in the murderous sunlight… it was a man- looked a lot like Chuck…. funny…. What was he doing lying here? Was he drunk? Suddenly alarm bells sounded in her innards. No… this wasn’t one of his drunken stupors. Something was definitely wrong – she rushed out and turned the man around. Chuck was dead.
It was time for serious congregation. Ethan, Sienna and Jade assembled around the round table in the hall; a single candle lit between them. The candlelight ceased to lend its ethereal glow to their faces, which bore a ghostly pallor. For once jade was listening. She now understood how her flighty confession could have finished them. They mutually decided that Jade should attend Chuck’s funeral. After all they had been very dear friends in the eyes of one and all. Her absence would definitely attract attention not to mention suspicion. Jade agreed.
The village cemetery was located close to Diana’s house. The village wanton lot were at the funeral i.e. all the aforementioned louts and hussies i.e. those who were still alive and breathing. They all carried rosaries in their coat pockets as was the custom in the village, followed even by the morally depraved. Jade dressed in black mourning, stood next to Diana as the priest read the last line……. “From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust”. Diana sobbed inconsolably. Jade gently led Diana to her house. They stepped inside; Jade sat the grieving woman on the sofa. Tears were rolling down her dress, damping it. ‘I’ll get a handkerchief’, Jade mumbled not meeting Diana’s eye. ‘It’s in the drawer in front of the mirror’ Diana rasped in between sobs. Jade went to the drawer and started rummaging among the contents. All of a sudden she heard the sound of breath sucked in quickly, in apparent shock. She turned to see Diana staring at the mirror, paralyzed. Jade looked into the mirror to only to see Diana’s horrified face reflected. And there was no Jade- naturally vampires cast no reflections, everyone knows that. Something changed in Diana’s stance. Before Jade could even move, she had bolted outside and nimbly locked the door. Jade was trapped -inside. It was a matter of seconds before Jade’s truth was stripped naked in front of the funeral crowd. They listened silently. Their expressions were cold and hard. Unsparing. They fished rosaries out of their coat pockets.
Jade heard the sound of thundering footsteps. Sweat drenched her body as they opened the lock. Her lips went dry as she heard the ominous sound of the door being unbolted. They marched in with purpose. Their eyes spoke murder. They approached her, rosaries held like missiles in front of them. Jade inched backwards. She desperately clung to the wall like a trapped animal. But the inevitable reality was that it was over- for her. The rosaries unleashed a torret of lightening that pieced and seared her core. Jade screamed. It was just a matter of time before her body crumbled and turned to ash.
So that was it. Jade was dead. Her unveiled truth made the cautious villagers carry torched of suspicion, the beams of which were always directed towards Sienna and Ethan; obliquely in the beginning. Not that the villagers were not civil. They were- their lips mouthed mechanical platitudes. But it was their eyes that were a dead giveaway – they shifted to and fro with a vigilance which made Sienna and Ethan’s stomachs clench in unease. Amongst the genuine well- wishers they could count only Rose Waters and daughter and the Grants. Their conversation was pleasant and natural as before and they made no mention of Jade. Probably the Preston – grey couple found solace in this. The villagers in their massive fear psychosis had become obsessed about the manner in which they dealt with those who had recently died. They placed poppy seeds, millets or sand at the graves (anybody could be a vampire going by the recent turn of events, they reasoned) apparently to keep the vampire occupied the whole night by counting scattered grains – a distraction from the creature’s predatory ways. Those who as much as raised a voice against the church were promptly banished because there was many an evidence to show that such characters often become ‘those’ creatures, i.e. most vampires were believed to have been people who had rebelled against the church.
The day Jade had died Ethan had come in looking extremely gaunt and pale.
He told his wife that he had renounced hunting people, for nourishment- the sponge who had been the risk that could have blunted Jade’s ‘Secret’ in public had been his final victim. And that had only been an act of desperation. That night the veil of reserve that had somehow always hung between Ethan and Sienna lifted. He laid his heart bare for her to see. He told her of the crisis that had been searing within and ripping him of late- the primeval battle between the spirit and the flesh, his rekindled love for mortality and the sacrifice of all cynicism that the wretchedness of forced vampirehood had bestowed. His lust for blood that clashed scimitars with his spirit. The triumph had been the spirit’s. Ethan’s spirit had emerged victorious- turning his being into something sublime, while his physical body languished day by day.
It was heart- wrenching for Sienna to see this once exquisite creature reduced to near cadaver- to a pitiable state of emaciation. There were hollows of dark beneath his eyes. Sad she might be but Sienna was also proud – her vampire- husband had proven himself worthier probably than any human- husband could have.
She kneeled on the ground.
He kneeled too. Brought his face close and fluttered his thick lashes against hers.
Their tears merged and splattered on the floor – the fused expression of their sorrows, celebrations, love and newly spurting spirituality.
If only these pristine drops could wash away their sins. Sienna wanted this moment – so beautiful… so true, to go on forever. She felt truly intimate for the first time with the man that had been hers for over twenty years.
Ethan’s tear cleansed gaze shifted to her ring finger – he questioned the absent wedding ring. Sienna told. She also swore that the man, who had wronged the Grants, had been her last prey and vowed never ever to hunt again, even if it meant disintegrating into nothingness. At this moment Ethan answered the question Sienna had been plaguing him with for a long time. He had chosen her given his instinctive ability to sense real strength of character – it may have lay dormant for sometime – but now she had justified his belief in her fully and completely and he loved her now more than ever before.
“The mills of the God’s grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine”.
Unfortunately the Preston – Grey pair’s innate goodness that had surfaced couldn’t purge them of their bloodied pasts. They were not insolent enough to except leniency in any department of the Almighty they wanted their destinies to take the course God had chalked- however good or bad. They had ceased to be judgmental anymore. Little did they know that through their current paths they were moving steadily towards self-actualization -that is the best any entity could realize of his potential in every arena of existence.
Ethan left home when the cock crowed and returned only when the night descended heavily- his hands were rough and calloused. His lips and gone dry but still moved in prayer. He was a damned soul; he admitted but us one ever too damned to make amends?
Sienna worked endlessly with needle and cloth putting her dark death blood into what transformed into bewitching creations. Her bloodless cheeks and frame shrunken by half made Ethan giddy with anxiety and guilt. He felt he was shirking this duties as a husband by letting (and leading by example!) his wife waste away in such a pathetic manner. Once or twice he persuaded her to take nourishment, the oath be damned! Sienna looked in his eye unflinchingly and asked if we would do the same. Ethan’s eyes dropped. He never forced her to break the oath after that. The couple remained steadfast in their decision. They were single minded in their purpose.
The animosity was out in the open now. Nobody (except Rose, daughter and the Grants) acknowledged the Preston – Grays anymore. They used tried and tested methods to keep ‘THE VAMPIRES’ away which included spraying mustard seeds on the roofs of their houses. But Ethan and Sienna lived on with courage. They faced Ostracism now, when then hearts were pristine pure. Call this the irony of fate or their penance. They bore it and with equinanimity.
Ephemeral early infatuations and fluttering attractions aside, there now blossomed between our protagonists love – honest and strong, which arises only when life-changing adversities have been witnessed, faced and fought together. When the relationship between man and woman goes beyond merely sharing a home and touches the loftiest pinnacle imaginable. A metamorphosis cannot be greater than this.
With the winter fast approaching, Sienna and Ethan’s decline had become rapid and more apparent. Woolens refused to embrace their bodies and the fire by the hearth didn’t warm their hearts so forbidding was the chill in air and ambience. In the midst of such as ordeal the Preston-grey couples’ heart glowed to see a smiling woman, with a pamphlet in hand, at their doorstep. They were invited than day for the ‘Charity Night’ where ‘Generous People’ were requested to donate anything that could help the poor and the destitute. They promised that they would be present.
Sienna and Ethan put aside three fourths of the earnings of their hard toil and packed up twenty shawls that Sienna had embroidered. They reached the venue mentioned on the pamphlet – 45, Cherry Lane.
There was no one there. The sparrows that had twittered cheerily were silent. Winter was here. They must have migrated to sunny lands distant. But why does the wintry gnome of wind that mischievously howled so hush? If some thing was uncharacteristic of the characteristic the Preston-Grey twosome, didn’t note. If something was amiss, they did not know.
It was as if this arduous journey of metamorphosis had robbed them of their instinct. All that was left was naiveté – pure and childlike.
‘Have we got the timing wrong or the date…’ the (regressed) pair wondered with an innocence that was almost pathetic.
Then they heard.
The ominous clattering footsteps like horses’ hooves. The villagers approached. Their faces emanated miasma. Their bodies spoke vendetta. It was then Ethan and Sienna realized deception. The judgment day the villagers had spoken about had arrived.
Life had come a full circle. The villagers were the blood thirsty ones now. Ethan and Sienna closed their eyes for a second and opened them. They were peaceful and stoic as ascetics. The rest was muesli of images and voices. Someone spat on their faces. Verbal filth was hurled. They were beaten up without mercy. There were voices of protest coming Rose Waters and the Grants, beseeching the furious crowd to leave the Preston- Grays alone. They seemed to be pleading and persuading- there must be some misunderstanding that could be sorted out. Sienna and Ethan were good people. Their voices became faint as they were roughly pushed aside. The mob in its fury had lost all comprehension and mercy. Somebody drove a stake through Ethan’s heart that already weak and repenting, obediently crumbled. Sienna beheld his liquid soul floating, a little above his body and had energy for a lone tear. They then flashed a crucifix in front of her eyes she collapsed half unconscious. They presumed her dead and left.
Rose and Carol came rushing forward followed by the Grants. Carol was sobbing inconsolably. Sienna had just enough breath in her to beseech them to save their souls – Ethan and her soul that had by some inexplicable miracle flourished in the body of these two vampires. Had a speck (of soul) somewhere been retained sometimes to germinate so full- fledged? In the intervening period Ethan’s soul had varnished and was not to be found. Rose water led the heavily pregnant Carol away as all this had been too much for her. Further torment could be detrimental to her, in her present condition. Sienna breathed her last and lay peacefully next to her husband’s remains. Her soul- as lucid as water- rose in the air while Arthur and Catherine incarcerated it in a bottle and took it home; caressing it tenderly all the way as if it were a baby. Sienna’s body too soon disintegrated to cinder- ash, like Ethan’s. By the morning, the wind had swept them away like winter leaves leaving no trace of what was Sienna and Ethan…
A week later Carol gave birth to a bonny baby boy. They named him Chris. Rose often wondered where Ethan’s soul could have gone and still regrets not having been able to save it. Little dose she know that it had entered her daughters embryo on that fateful night of Ethan’s demise.
The night the Grants saved Sienna’s soul, they placed the precious bottle lovingly by the side of their bed. In the morning they had found the bottle lying open, usurped by some nuisance wind. They grieved that they lost dear Mrs. Preston-Gray’s soul forever. Little do they know that she is still very much with them. Nine months later, Catherine, who had yearned for a child for eighteen years of married life delivered an angelic baby girl. This event was hailed as a divine occurrence, as it was pronounced and confirmed by many a medical practitioner that Mrs. Grant could never conceive. The Grants were delirious with joy. They named this lovely (even if late) gift of God, Greta.
Here are excerpts from the diary of young Greta Grant, who often forgets that the diary knows her well by now and keeps introducing herself again, every now and then.
“Hi, I am Greta Grant, the Miller’s daughter. I am thirteen and attend the local school. Father worked himself into frenzy after he saw my mid-term grades. Well, I’ve got a ‘C’. That doesn’t sound too good I admit, but come on I haven’t failed, have I? My friend Eva got an ‘F’ in all her papers. Her old man had a fit after having seen them, I believe.
The principal keeps having my parents come over to school. She keeps complaining about me and says I need to be tamed. I am commonly accused of being over- imaginative and given to telling absurd tales. Well, why would I tell wild made up stories – I only tell what I recall of my previous birth. I believe I was this lady turned vampire turned lady called Sienna before I was me(Heavens! How clumsy I am at explaining things!). And I vaguely remember flying… with someone I loved, by my side… I do not recall who. Vampires … wings… all balderdash, they chide not meeting my eye. And this Sienna lady was dark they argue. I don’t recall even having mentioned she was dark and that sometimes makes me wonder… do they know more than they pretend to? Are they hiding something from me?
Anyway, I am strikingly fair- my skin is white like a rabbit’s and my pale blond hair falls lank over my shoulders like spinach – I hate it. I am real ugly you know- all legs and arms- I look like a “Maypole”- my long feet resemble sausages. My mother says I’ll be pretty when I grow up. That this is just a phase. I love mamma.
You know other day, mamma bought beautiful antique jewellry which had been lying with the local jeweler for a long time, because not many could afford it. She paid a fortune for it. She says they are all to be mine after my wedding oh! How happy that makes me. I just love all that jewellry especially that wedding ring of plain gold….”
Greta’s getting late for school. She closes her diary. Chris is outside, waiting impatiently for her. They walk to school together everyday. They are in the same grade. Greta had a kind of a crush on him. She feels she has known him for eternity. But she had never told anyone. They’d laugh at her and probably call her ‘loony” or something as mean as that. As it is her fascination for the occult has drawn enough laughs.
“Hello Maypole” he greets her. “Hi Shortie”, she retaliates. Chris just about reaches Greta’s shoulder even though he is a couple of months older. Boys growth spurt often begins later. Greta, content for now, uses this to her advantage and calls him ‘Shortie’ or ‘Little boy’ whenever he calls her “Ladder” or “Maypole” or anything. “That shuts him up pretty quick” according to her.
As they pass a particular clearing in the woods, Greta gets and intense sense of Deja vu – she known she’s been here before… with Chris. Her white skin turns paler.
“I say Greta”, Chris says suddenly, uncharacteristically serious, “I could swear I have been here before with you… at some other time. Not while going to school or anything.”
Greta Stares at him in awe. She starts to say something, but the words get stuck in her throat. They walk for a few minutes in silence. Chris seems immersed in thought. “You know Greta, he says after a while. I sort of like you. We could marry when we grow up.”
Greta’s cheeka turn hot and she feels even awkward than she usually does. “Oh, ok” she says trying to sound careless “i.e – if you ever plan to grow up – Shortie”. She sticks her tongue out at him. He lapses into his habitual sulky silence. But Greta knows it won’t last long. He will be talking to her soon.
As they hear the school bell ring a little distance away, they hold hands and run as fast as they can towards school.
You can read other works of the Author in her blog Nemesis and Multifacets by following this link
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