Hopkin awoke in darkness. For a moment, the pitch black consumed his thoughts, leaving only the sound of his heart beating like a moth trapped in a jar.
Breathe in, breathe out. Panic wouldn’t help him escape.
His fingers slid on the ground around him. Pockmarked cement and behind him a rough metal wall. Some sort of cell? A cold, wispy echo of air above him proved there was enough room to sit up, so he did, his legs trembling. Beads of sweat trickled down his back beneath his traditional vestments of black trousers, black shirt, and round white collar.
“There’s a chair behind you, priest.”
The man jumped, startled, his arms flailing out. One of them connected with a hard surface. Pain shot through his palm. More careful inspection revealed a metal folding chair with a cushion on the seat. He gingerly eased himself up into the chair. If he was going to die soon, he might as well be comfortable.
“Better, yeah?” The voice was feminine, with a trace of a gravelly drawl. “I wish I could say this would be a short visit, but that’d be lying. However, I get that you have a whole flock to oversee, so I promise it won’t be more than a few hours.”
The priest gulped. “A few hours? What do you—what do you mean? What am I doing here?”
A soft chuckle, coming from across the dark expanse. Or from right in front of him. It was too dark to tell. “Think back, Father. What’s the last moment you remember?”
“I don’t see what that has to do with—“
“Just. Think.” A sigh. “Please.”
Something in the plaintive undertone pushed Hopkin’s mind into action. “I had just received a call. A shut-in, new to our congregation, wanted to make a confession and couldn’t come to the sanctuary. I was on my way to meet her…”
“And so you have.” Now he could feel the woman in front of him, her warm breath blowing across his face in another, heavier sigh. “I’m Lucy. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been five years since my last confession.”
The priest blinked, but his mouth automatically formed an answer as his hands made the sign of the cross. “Go on, my child.”
“I’ve killed fifty. Seventeen men, twenty women, and three children.” Her voice caught. “The children were the hardest.”
“Wait!” The woman’s words sank into his mind, then rose to the surface once more, swirling in eddies of confusion. “What you’re saying is impossible. You’re a murderer—and to kill that many people—why confess—?”
A pause. “It’s complicated.”
While part of the priest recoiled in shock, another part numbly did the math. Leftover accountant skills from the time before his call to ministry. “Seventeen men, twenty—twenty women, three children—that doesn’t add up to fifty people.”
“They weren’t all people.”
“What were the other ten?” Hopkin braced his arms against the sides of the chair, not quite wanting to hear the answer.
“Vampires.” Eerily calm. Matter-of-fact. “Human, but badly twisted. Separated from everyday life.”
His heart froze for a moment. Abruptly beat faster once more, as the ridiculousness of the woman’s statement sunk in. Then an explosive laugh burst from his throat. “You can’t be serious. Vampires are creatures from mythology and fiction. Metaphors for the decay of life and the isolation of sin.”
“Yes, you did preach a homily on that a few Sundays ago. It was one of the reasons I chose you. You weren’t afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“To speak about the unspeakable, and treat it seriously. To engage the monsters around us. I appreciate that.” There was warm breath on his face once more. The priest feared that if he reached out, he might touch the crazy woman. “I can speak about it too, but for me, it isn’t a leap of faith.”
“Because I’m a monster. I’m a vampire.” Lucy inhaled. The only sound the tip of her shoe tapping on the floor. “And I’m about to do something very bad. Even for me.”