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When I arrived at Father Calvin's room his door was closed and locked. More unusual still, there was no light coming from the crack underneath. He always, every waking moment, kept his room as bright as day, and it was not yet night. He should well have had his window shades slung wide. I did not even have to see his face to know that something was very wrong. When I did see his face this guess was confirmed. He was pale and drawn, his eyes wide and searching. He peered at me through the small crack that he had opened his bedroom door for a long moment before he admitted me. When I stepped in, I saw that he still wore his high collar. "Please," he entreated, late. He closed the door as silently as he could. "Thank you for coming Father Mark." "Of course," I replied. I was disturbed by his apparent distress. He seemed skittish, as though frightened at shadows. "What seems to be troubling you?" "Tell me," he begged. "How long is it until sunset?" I looked at my watch, but I already knew the answer. He had mentioned sunset as a deadline in his frantic message. "About thirty minutes," I replied. He cringed. "I got here as quickly as I could." "I pray it was quickly enough," he sighed. "Did you...bring it?" His failure to speak the name of what he had asked me to bring was also troubling, but I drew the cask of holy water from my satchel anyway. He gazed at it in reverence, as though it might save him, or destroy him. But when he reached to take it, I drew it back. His look then was one of a frightened animal. "Please, Mark." "First tell me what is wrong," I said. "Nothing," he said. I could not help but snort. "Father Calvin, your room is dark for the first time in all the years I have known you. You look like a fox in a trap, and you have asked me to bring you holy water in the last moments before sunset." Chastened, Father Calvin stared at the ground for a long moment, then stood as tall as his five and a half feet would allow. "I have seen evil, Father," he said. "I have seen it, and I have not passed through it unscathed." I did not reply, nor did I hand him the small flask. I simply waited for him to continue. After a long, strained moment he did. "A woman came to the confessional this morning," he said. "She was a very young woman, or seemed very young. Perhaps the age of your nephew." I nodded. My nephew was a strapping lad of no more than nineteen. Father Calvin and I had both comfortably entered our forties. "She did not speak for a long time after sitting down. I thought perhaps she had to admit something that embarrassed her. But when she did speak, she simply asked a question. "'Have you ever sinned, Father?' she asked me." He shrugged his shoulders and wandered toward his window. His fingers traced the line of his curtains, aching to see them open, but he drew back before allowing himself to swing them wide. "I told her that no one was without sin, and that was why God's forgiveness mattered so deeply." "Well spoken," I replied. "Did the womanchild confess to evil deeds, Father?" He shook his head, two brisk shakes. "She performed them," he said. "Before my eyes and on my person." I very nearly laughed. "Are you telling me that-" "No!" he gasped. "No, there was no lust in this girl. None at all. But she stood after my words and walked to the entrance of my half of the confessional. She flung the door wide and stared at me. Though there was little more than curiosity in her look I have never felt so naked." Father Calvin ran a shaking hand through his hair. "She reached a hand toward me, and for whatever reason I said nothing. Perhaps there was something in that look that told me to fight her would be dangerous. I let her take my collar and unbutton my-" "And you're sure there was no lust in this girl?" I tried to keep the incredulity out of my voice. Could it be that all of the fear, the shame, had come from being so molested by a girl in the church? "'The lord will forgive you,' she said to me." Calvin's eyes had grown lost. He had reached up and slipped off the collar. "'You have nothing to fear.'" He looked at me, and his eyes were startlingly intense. "Please give the bottle to me, Father Mark, please. Before it's too late." "The lord will forgive you, Calvin," I said. "Please, let me take your confession." He was already shaking his head. "If the girl touched you-" "She did worse," he said. His collar had fallen from his hands to the ground. "A thousand times worse." When he unbuttoned his shirt, I could see the two small holes in his neck, small and almost bloodless. The skin around them was raw with scrubbing, but no amount of cleaning could make those two holes disappear, or could alter what they implied. "Calvin," I said. "She told me to call her Mother," he said. "She said that she was ageless, alive before Christ. She said that she would care for me, teach me all I needed to know." "Calvin," I repeated. He reached his hand out for the flask once more. "You mean to take your own life?" "It is the only way!" he said. "She told my my conscience dies with my first sunset. She told me I would worry no more about forgiveness as there would be nothing more to forgive. Mark, I could kill people. I cannot let that happen." I hesitated for as long as I dared, then held the flask toward him. He took it, unscrewing the cap and holding it to his lips, but he did not drink. His brow was furrowed and his eyes lost. "The sun is setting in mere moments," he said. "I feel my body longing for darkness." I nodded and watched as his heart and mind battled his decision. "Will it work?" he asked, almost a whisper. I shook my head. "I do not know." His hand touched his forehead, if to sign the cross, but he did not complete the gesture. "It hurts now," he said. "It hurts to make the sign. I had to remove my rosary." I nodded, fingering mine where it lay in my pocket. I looked at my watch. "Three minutes to sunset," I said to him. "Calvin, are you certain?" He nodded, swallowed hard. "I have to," he said. "It is the only way." Before he could think on it further, he slipped the flask to his mouth and drank. He choked, coughed, gagged. The container clattered to the floor as he released it to claw at his throat and stomach. "Mark," he gasped. "God, Mark please!" I reached out and caught him as he fell, carrying him to the ground. Tears and water were running in turn down his face. "God, please..." I held him in silence as his convulsions faded to rattling sobs, and then silence. The sun had set. Calvin sat up. "I am alive," he managed. "Yes," I confirmed. "How?" he asked. It seemed a mere curiosity. There was no betrayal in his voice. The pain had subsided. It did not take long for the pain of contact to subside. "Holy water, consecrated spaces," I said. "Those things can't kill something like us." "Us?" he asked. Here, his tone was one of actual surprise. I smiled, pressing my fangs forward so that he could see I was a friend. He smiled back, but his fangs did not emerge. He would need help to feed until at least the third or forth night. "Does it always hurt?" he asked. "Yes," I said simply. "As time passes it will grow softer, and what remains will become a sort of pleasure. Pain...has a way of shifting. Your maker will teach you to relish all you receive, pain and pleasure both." "Pleasure?" he asked uncertainly. So the priest in him had not yet died. "I cannot wait to see your face as you first feel the moonlight on your skin." "Moonlight," he repeated. I smiled and we got to our feet. I helped him undress and did the same, then a soft scratching of nails on glass brought another smile to my face. "Come," I said. "That will be Mother." I took his hand and led him to the bedroom window and the start of his new life.
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