|"I never thought it could be true. Do you mean to say that the monsters and outcasts marginalized from civilization would seek audience with a being other than our savior, Count Dracula?" Bah--such nonsense; it's just too many helpings of Killer Fish BBQ and Merman Helper 'talking.' Still, it does raise the point that some still have a choice, that the abandonment of humanity doesn't necessarily entail the loss the conscience. What if there were other rallying points besides hatred, anger and agony? Only Agent Orange can speak of such a precedence in the emotionally gripping Our Holy Mother."|
Our Holy Mother
By Agent Orange
The forest surrounding
the hill that usually brandished Castle Dracula was deathly silent.
In the dark of night, the trees transformed from grim-barked golems into shadow-clad sentinels, their crooked and knobby branches reaching through the air like spider-veins. The leaves had turned from a healthy green in the day to a putrid shade, as if the muck from a swamp had been hung upon the hooked ends of the countless branches.
The ground was littered: Leaves lay rotting wet and dry in haphazard arrangements; twigs and the occasional branch sprinkled the ground (in the former's case) and lay strewn randomly (in the latter's case); weedy patches of grass blotted the otherwise barren earth.
The most pervasive element, though, was the blackness of the night: It permeated the trees and shrouded almost every detail of the forest from sight. The darkness of the forest melded with the black of the night's sky, the full moon high above hardly more than a pinpoint of light.
In the darkness, a congregation moved.
Many shapes, most of them human or at least humanoid, moved through the black of the forest with ease, their feet finding the perfect ground to step upon as they proceeded to their destination. On the large group's edges, an avant garde to protect the coming ceremony and its participants, a ring of werewolves prowled, their eyes searching for interlopers, their fangs gnashing in anticipation of violence.
The main portion of the congregation's center was a collection of grim-faced vampires, their features as set as their intentions. They wore flowing robes and the figure in front carried with him a black-cover tome, its pages edged with decades of wear.
Several feet behind him, borne on the shoulders of stocky, armored humanoids, a coffin was brought along. Its polished surface was a deep cherry tint, darkly staining the finely-sanded surface. The edges were lined with gold leaf, granting the casket a regal appearance.
Well behind the pall bearers, bringing up the rear of the congregation (but within the werewolves' ring) were the flower-children. Garbed also in dark clothing, sporting somber expressions, they carried small wicker baskets filled with pale white petals, a stark contrast to the ebon surroundings. As the congregation proceeded through the wood, the vampire-children sprinkled their flowers.
After nearly an hour of travel, the congregation reached its destination: A clearing that normally played host to the drawbridge of Castle Dracula. Currently, it overlooked a chasm, and had been furnished earlier in the night with a wide altar and lit candelabras; the light from the dark-red candles barely pierced the overwhelming darkness.
The front of the werewolf ring parted, allowing the center-portion vampires to take the altar's area and the pall bearers to place the coffin upon stone slab. The one with the tome took his place behind the altar, watching as the congregation collected in a semicircle around the coffin, keeping a respectable distance.
Once all movement had stopped and all eyes gazed upon the coffin, the tome-keeper placed his item on the coffin's lid and opened the book, being sure not to accidentally tear the pages, his fingers moving with a reverent grace.
Finding the appropriate section, he smoothed the pages carefully and gave a quick once-over to the congregation; they were all rapt with their attention upon him. As he opened his mouth to speak, his words came in a rasping, weedy tone that shouldn't have carried to the edge of the mass of listeners, and yet they heard every word clearly.
"My fellow persons of the night," he opened. "Long have we lived a burdened existence, being nosferatu and forced the society's edge. For a good number of years now, unsuccessful though many have been, the vampire hunters have stalked us, ruthlessly stamping out 'infestations' of our kind wherever they spring up. For all this, we have lived in fear.
"Not very long ago, the Count Dracula, claiming himself lord of our kind, has been quietly rallying for a war between the dark-beings such as ourselves and the humans. Such a war would only wipe us out; between the desperate survival of the humans and the bloodthirsty warmongering of the count, we would be forced to scatter and be hunted to extinction, or we would be cut down on the battlefield.
"Only a few weeks ago, a new choice presented itself. As Count Dracula forged his unholy castle upon this very ground, he was challenged by the very person to bring us the option we need to continue living in peace. Though our savior is indeed opposed to the dark, I do not believe she is opposed to people of unfortunate circumstance living in solitude. I do not believe she would harm us for wishing to coexist with humans, as will no doubt need to happen, given the expanding habitation of the humans and the dwindling shadows we reside in."
He paused, raising a slender finger to point to one of the werewolves.
"I do not believe she would strike you down, Brahm, for wanting to take your slain lover's place in her pack and raise your young child."
Growls, murmurs, and nods of agreement briefly broke out as the werewolf, Brahm, bowed his head in memory to his lost lover's memory.
Another point of the finger: "And she would hardly have cause to vilify you, Edric, for working yourself to exhaustion digging graves for a living, and falling asleep from that very exhaustion, so deeply asleep that a vampire turned you before you could wake and fight back."
Again, more agreement from the congregation.
A final pointing of the finger, from the young man named Edric to the small flower-girl Fiona.
"And you, young Fiona, have spent nearly fifteen years in the body you should have left behind at age six. It wasn't your fault that the vampire who murdered your parents terrified you enough with death that you, frightened, accepted his offer of eternal life."
A few of the others, mainly the children, patted the "girl" on her shoulders compassionately, with everyone else giving general agreement once more.
"And there are more, my fellows, many, many more than just the few werewolves and vampires present here. Untold numbers of people from both the human and inhuman sides that only wish to live in peace with the world. Some wish to cross to the opposite side, to experience a different life but to still be at peace with the world. There is nothing evil about that."
This time, only nods; the crowd sensed that the climax would happen soon.
The speaker looked to his tome, and then said, "I have faith. This book, this Holy Bible, should destroy my hands upon contact, but I don't reject God; if anything, I'm grateful to Him for what He's given us. I am not trying to say that all this is the work of a divine being, that humans or monsters had no say in what has happened, but I do believe in a higher power, one that has the ability to inspire people to overcome great odds.
"That is why we are here, really. Despite all the horrors and hardships we have faced and probably always will, we can draw strength enough to face our problems and even resolve them. Count Dracula…humans…our own emotions…all of them can be triumphed, or at the very least challenged." He paused to rest a hand upon the coffin. "We now have a champion, someone to show us that evil is not omnipotent, someone that can understand us as people ourselves and not hate or fear us simply for our appearances."
The pall bearers silently moved in and grasped the coffin lid's edges, carefully removing it. As they stepped away, the moonlight shone upon the figure of a young woman, still in her battle attire.
"Though she'll no doubt be upset at first, Sonia Belmont will see things our way; it's in her nature."
For just a moment, the moonlight illuminated two small punctures in the side of Sonia's neck, and then a passing cloud shadowed them again.