Sixteen Days of Darkness

by Tyler Raszick


            Vaclav was staring straight at it when it hit Moscow.  He was blinded instantly and would never see again.  They had said that the Koreans had done it, started the war.  Unfortunately they couldnít prove it because all international communications had been destroyed after the lights.  We recently heard a message on the radio from the President of the United States.  He said that all the powers in America and Europe were united in a war against the terrorists.  Iím not really sure who they are, but I think itís the communists.  We here in Russia arenít really sure what side weíre on.  We assume that we are allied with the European Union and the American powers, after all, we havenít been communist for seventy-three years now.  We still cannot see the sun.

            It was in mid-September, the sixteenth I think, in the year 2023, when the war started.  The terrorists launched nuclear weapons at key cities around the world, with the aim of destroying the global economy.  After the Iraq War ended in 2006, insurgents had gone into hiding and began making deals with communists who, like them, hated the successful capitalist societies of the western world.  Factions such as the Habr Gidr in Somalia and the Mahdi Army in Iraq had become increasingly rich and powerful and were able to purchase myriad black market weapons.  Apparently they had used them.

            I was born as Dmitri Kesky Crumlov in the small town of Perestroika, Russia.  I remember it snowed every day and it was never warm.  I was the son of a respectable farmer and probably one of the most handsome boys in the community.  I like to think of myself as a self-made man.  I taught myself to read and write Russian, German, Czech, and English, and there were no schools in the community.  The old man who lived down the dirty, snow-dusted path taught me algebra and geometry.  However, I donít really remember what years exactly this all was.  You canít blame me though, after all, it was at least one thousand years agoÖ

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            As I mentioned earlier, we havenít seen the sun since the day the war started.  It was the fifth day so far.  We got the BBC on the radio yesterday and it seems that they are the only news station left in the world.  The transmission came through scratchy and interrupted.  They told us today that the United States unleashed a new experimental weapon, a charged-particle cannon.  Using satellites and mirrors in space, powerful, microscopic particles were aimed at five targets around the world, obliterating them from the map.  With my shimmering brown hair tied up in a black velvet band, my icy blue eyes, and generous build, I should have been quite the ladies man.  I would have been, but I was gay.  Vaclav was my latest recruit of the many mortals I had chosen over the years to be plausible immortal lovers.  Now he was blind and fragile and weak.  I couldnít bear to see him as he was, a glass sculpture shattered upon the icy floor.  However great the pain, I had to hope that he could be cured, for my sake.

            ďVaclav, come here, follow my voice,Ē I said to him from my desk.  He feebly groped his way toward me and clambered onto the arm of the chair.  I put my arm around him and kissed his soft, cherubic cheek.  He shuddered at the touch of my deathly chilled lips.  He would be the one, if he survived this war.

If you havenít figured it out by now, I am a vampire, a minion of Satan, worker of the devilís mischief, taker of lives, a cursed immortal.  As it turns out, the old man who taught me math was a vampire and gave me the dark drink of his tainted blood on my twenty-seventh birthday.  It was complete ecstasy.  The warmth of evil spread throughout my cold, lively body eating away my immortality with flesh melting jaws.  When I awoke after my transformation, the old man was gone, along with my mortal life.  I have seen the world change many times since that day.  I have seen innumerable generations of mortals pass before me.  As I sat with my iron grip around Vaclav, I thought about what it would be like to lose him before I gave him the blood.  At that moment, the door to our secluded cottage was thrust open and a shadowy presence swooned in.

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            ďHow long hast thou longed for me, Dmitri?  How long hast time flowed since you laid eyes upon your master?Ē  The shadow stepped into the candlelight and removed a worn, grey, brimmed hat.  The buckles on his trench coat, boots, and belts clanked and rattled as he shuffled toward me.

            ďNo, it canít be you!Ē I cried, leaping to my feet.  Vaclav was thrown to the floor where his head hit the rich mahogany leg of the desk.  He crumpled up into the fetal position and slipped into unconsciousness.  Blood trickled into the grout of the cold, tile floor.  The old manís eyes gleamed at the scent of the blood and lunged for Vaclavís helpless form.

            ďTouch him and I will kill you!Ē  With my otherworldly speed and strength, I snared the old manís collar and spun around, slamming him into a mirror on the wall.  I slashed at him with teeth and fingernails until he mustered up the strength to kick me off and send me hurtling into the kitchen and landing on the table, which broke under my weight.  As a younger vampire, I wasnít as strong as my infinitely older master.  But he had lived in Perestroika, very near to Moscow, and he hadnít fed in days.  He was weakened by hunger and blinded by thirst for mortal blood.  In his present state, his normally rock-hard skin was soft and shriveled.  I fished a Bic lighter out from the remains of the table and pulled the trigger.  The tiny flame was enough.  The old manís skin ignited and spread all in one swift moment.  He shrieked and threw his arms into the air.  His eyes rolled back into his head and melted and his flesh turned to ash and he fell down, a gritty pile of ash on the floor.

            ďI never wanted the blood,Ē I paused for a beat, ďMaster.Ē  I spit on his remains and turned to my battered and broken lover.

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            Vaclav was slept for two days.  I spent every night at his side.  I donít know if he would have survived, but either way, on the third night of my hopeless vigil, the planes came.  Only with my supernatural hearing could I hear the F/A-22 Raptors miles above us.  These planes are stealth fighters and/or bombers capable of carrying heavy payloads very rapidly, and undetected.  I donít know how the terrorists got their hands on these but I do know that they could fly them.  The entirety of southeast Russia was enveloped in flame.  Scientists on the ISS (International Space Station) could see the lights from space.  Anything and everything above sea level was obliterated.  Except me.  High above the death, my ghostly specter levitated, and for the first time in many years, I cried.  I cried for Perestroika, for Russia, for the world, for all those I had ever loved, for Vaclav, and most of all, for myself.

            I willed myself to fly.  The cool air on my face was tainted with the burning of Gaia herself.  Ash, flame, and other demons tore at my face, my clothes, and my very soul.  Soon I realized that I was above the water.  The smell of salt tingled in my nostrils and cleared my sinuses of the death that polluted them.  I needed no air to breathe.  It was a stupid mortal habit.  I swept my cape back and plastered my hands to my side.  I plunged into the ocean at a speed that would have broken every body in a mortalís body, but the force of it did not affect me.  The water was a black veil on the world.  I wanted to stay here, to hide, to forget, but as I floated aimlessly, suspended by the currents, I acknowledged the fact that the water was as dead as everything else.

            I floated for three days and I washed up on the shore of what had been Japan.  There was a small boy sitting on the beach staring at me as if my body washing up was nothing out of the ordinary.  As I picked my head up and groggily looked around, I saw why.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of bodies were strewn up and down the beach, mourners crying and praying over their hapless companions.  The boy peered away from me to the form on my right.  Long, jet-black hair stuck to the soaked body of a naked young woman.  The tattered remains of her traditional, religious kimono were gathered at her ankles, knees, and shoulders.  I turned over her wet, frozen body and stared into the face of a dead mother.  There was a deep gash in her stomach, just below the belly button.  Dark, dried blood curdled at the edges, and the flesh was burnt and ripped.  The boy began crying and yelled at me in Japanese, a language I donít understand.  I naturally assumed he was calling me a demon and screaming at me for desecrating his motherís body.  Children have a sixth sense.  They can sense those like me, the undead.  It is an unnerving feeling; one of helplessness, to know you canít keep your darkest secret truly hidden from human instinct.  I wandered into a clinic that was being used as a makeshift hospital.  Blood covered what were obviously once white walls.  Doctors and nurses alike were crying, wailing in fact, and giving up.  There was apparently no more medicine; all of these people would die.  I wanted to help!  I wanted to scream!

            ďGod!  If you exist take me now!  I donít want to live anymore!  I am done with my life!  I revoke my immortality!Ē  I barged headfirst through the door and leapt into the air.  I checked my watch and saw that it was 4:58 AM.  The sun would rise soon and I would end this Hell on earth I called life.  Hanging in the air above the ocean I waited for day to break.  But it never did.  It was the eleventh day since the first bombings and the sky was blacker than ever.  The sun would not rise!

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            On the third day of my endless wait (the thirteenth day since the first lights went off) the thirst in me grew so great I went just about mad.  It was a personal policy of mine to never kill the innocent.  I could just tell who was and who wasnít.  That day; however, I didnít care at all.  In a small village farther down the beach, a young coupled nursed a year-old baby.  There was so much life in the house!  I tore down the wall with my bare hands and snatched the young woman from the manís arms.  My fingers dug into her small waist and I pressed her to my body.  I carelessly plunged my teeth into her neck and began to drink.  Her entire life was a novel, mine for the reading, and we became one being, me and her, her and me.  This fantasy was interrupted with a loud crack and a gunshot to my head.  I dropped the womanís body and stood horrified at what I had done.  The blood had flown down her chest and onto her shirt, and my claws had torn her back and sides.  The man shot me again and this completely enraged me.  I grabbed his genitals and tore them off.

            ďNow watch your child die!Ē I bellowed, fire in my eyes.  He wailed painfully and tears streamed down his face.  I hurled the infant across the room against the wall, and the man began to try to crawl away.  With a wail of my own I grasped his ankle and pulled him underneath me.  I lay down on top of him and pulled his head toward mine by the hair, and then I broke his neck and began to drink from him, just as I had his wife.

            I collapsed after this psychotic episode and slipped into an unconscious state of delirium.  When I awoke, two days later, I let out yet another wail, this time at the horror of what I had done.  Where was the sun?  I wanted to die!  I was no better than those who had dropped the bombs, fired the particle cannon, or flown the planes!  I was a monster, truly from Hell, a minion of the Devil.  And after I wailed, I cried.  I cried this time for everyone, everyone except for me.  The next day, the sixteenth day since the war had started, the sun came out.

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            I write to you now before I go to my doom.  This chronicle, I hope, will convince others that the dark gift is no gift at all.  Rather, it is a curse.  It is a curse to never die, if you must endure life without those you love.  As I write these last few lines, the sun is beginning to poke in through the fog of war and I will finally end it all.  And now to you, my loyal readers, I bring this saga to a close.  Even now I feel the heat swelling inside me!  The apocalypse has taken the world, and swallowed me, the immortal, with it.