Just One Sunrise


Ryan Rose

The television woke him up.
The local news was just coming on. He checked his watch. Eleven p.m. Good morning, Claudius, he thought to himself.
He was hungry. Or was it thirsty? He never knew what to call it. They should teach a class for this, he thought. He laughed at that.
He walked to his window and raised the shade. He could see the lights of Coronado across the bay. He looked down at the cars ten stories below. "This is the only part I like," he said aloud as he jumped. He almost cursed himself as he felt his bones distorting and his skin shrinking to cover his smaller frame. I really need to change before I jump. Someone might see me.
But no one saw him. All they saw was a bat, though some thought it was unusual to see one that big in San Diego.
Claudius Leigh came to rest in an alley between two bars. He hung from the fire escape, listening for the sound of heels that would most likely signal a hooker. The girls that visited the bars didn't wear heels very often. He really didn't like hookers that much. Their blood was often dirty. It wasn't that he would get sick. He just didn't like the thought of carrying all those diseases, like a bug or something. Besides, hookers often gave him stomachaches. But he hadn't had anything to eat/drink in two days and he was famished. Besides, they paid the rent.
His ears perked up as he heard the click of hooker heels coming down the sidewalk. He let go of the fire escape and fell towards the pavement, feeling himself slow as his body disintegrated into a wisp of smoke that lingered in the alley.
The hooker didn't notice the smoke in the alley. She was more intent on making her own as she lit up.
"Hi. You done for the night, or can I get a midnight snack?"
The hooker turned and saw the man behind her. She hadn't heard him. She was slightly startled, but he was handsome and she needed some money, so she turned on the charm and snuffed out her cigarette.
"Well, how much of a snack you lookin' for? You want the quick bite before you go back to bed, or you want the full-blown meal?"
"What can I get for five?"
"Five what?"
"Fuck me!"
"That was the idea."
"For that kind of money you can have anything you want."
"Shall we do it here?"
"Whatever you say."
Claudius paid and watched as the girl lifted her skirt. There was nothing underneath. He dropped his pants and entered her. He pressed her against the wall and worked his rhythmic motion, trying to keep just the right pace so as not to finish before he was ready, but to ensure that she went all the way. He kissed her neck and sucked, giving little nibbles under the pretense of giving the classic high school hickey, but in reality trying to feel her pulse with his lips. He found it and started to give her a hickey there.
He felt himself nearing the end. He was trying to hold it back, because at the same time, he could feel her blood growing hotter and her pulse quickening. He slowed briefly to increase his endurance, then gave several deep thrusts that took her to the edge. He felt the familiar flutter and heard her start to moan. He clamped his hand over her mouth and at the same time bit deep. He didn't want the jugular. He was going for the corotid artery with its fresh, oxygenated blood.
He felt her struggle a little as his teeth sank in, but she was still in the midst of an orgasm and couldn't put up much of a fight. He was glad. He was hungry/thirsty, and he'd just finished up himself and was in no condition to stop her from getting away. He felt the rush of hot blood in his mouth. It tasted good. He pulled his teeth out and sucked as hard as he could. The he remembered that the blood would clot faster that way, so he put his teeth back in and slowly worked them in and out to keep the blood flowing.
The girl stopped struggling and slowly grew limp. He slowly grew full. He again pulled his teeth out and sucked so that the blood would clot. Then he let go of her and let her sink to the ground as he pulled up his pants and wiped his lips. He bent down and grabbed her purse. His five hundred dollars were in there, but only five bucks extra. Damn, not a very good take. Oh well. He had to do something with her. She wasn't dead. Even if she was, he couldn't leave her there. He picked her up in his arms and took to the air, hoping no one would see him. He headed for Tijuana. He would leave her in an alley there. Let the Mexicans worry about vampires. Americans know better.
As he neared his apartment building, he felt himself shiver and he momentarily fell towards the ground. That's weird, he thought. It's not cold.
As he stepped in his window, he checked his watch. Three thirty-seven? He didn't think he'd been out that late. Oh well. He was tired again, so he drew the shade and turned on the television. A movie was on. He didn't know what it was, but he was watching a sunrise. He instinctively covered his face and shrank away. He reached for the remote control and changed the channel. He knew the sunrise on t.v. wouldn't hurt him, but it was so bright that he forgot for a moment. He wished he could see just one sunrise with his own eyes. He'd seen a few when he was a kid, but that was a long time ago. He didn't feel like watching t.v. He set the sleep timer to wake him up at eleven the next night and he went to sleep.
"-ations of the island indicate that it is not volcanic, prompting many scientists to wonder how it could appear so quickly."
Claudius awoke to CNN coverage of a new island appearing in the Pacific Ocean. Of course, the island was sharing coverage with the massive tsunami that had just wiped the Midway Naval Air Station off the map. When he thought about it, he realized that the tsunami would be headed his way as well. Maybe he should go somewhere. But this island had him fascinated.
"According to reports a massive earthquake triggered the tsunami that destroyed Midway. It occurred at about three thirty a.m. yesterday morning. Some seismologists are saying that the epicenter is in the same area as the mysterious new island. Wait, we have just gotten reports of more activity around the island. We have an airplane standing by to give us live footage."
He watched as the plane circled over the island. There was a little hill in the middle. He was momentarily distracted when he saw a ring of small volcanoes erupting a mile away. I thought they said the island wasn't volcanic, he thought. The island caught his attention again as he caught a flash of red on the side of the hill. The camera zoomed in, so that the whole world could see the glowing red doors on the side of the hill.
Claudius Leigh knew. The island appeared at around three thirty, the same time he'd shivered. He knew and he knew what he had to do.
He didn't bother to change as he jumped out his window. He had to get to the church. He smiled as he flew over the streets of San Diego. A vampire, servant of the Devil, going to a church, house of God.
There were no lights on in the church. But he could still see the crucifix in the stained-glass window, and it frightened him. He never knew why he was afraid of the Cross, other than the fact that he was a vampire. As he drew closer, he began to feel sick to his stomach. Now he knew why he was afraid, and it pained him. He'd been raised a Christian, and to be afraid of -and made sick by -the very object that symbolized Christianity made him sad.
He landed on the steps of the church. He tried to land, anyway. He was too weak to make a proper landing. He walked up the steps to the door, but five feet away he felt as if he was going to puke, so he took a step back.
"Father," he yelled. "Father, come help me!"
He ran up to the door and pounded on it with his fists, and then he doubled over and vomited, the little blood that was left in his unholy stomach running red on the concrete. There was a terrible pain in his stomach and he kept heaving, making the pain worse. He didn't see the priest open the door, didn't hear his exclamation, didn't feel it as the priest dragged him in. But he opened his eyes and saw that he was in the church.
"Father, take me back outside," he groaned.
"Do it!"
He felt the priest drag him out the door and slowly, gently, down the steps. He felt a little better. He stood up and faced the priest.
"Father, I need your help."
"My help? How? Why?"
"You've heard of the island? Out in the Pacific?"
"Yes. Why?"
"That island is the Devil's work."
"How do you know?"
Claudius could see that the priest didn't believe him, so he smiled, showing his teeth.
The priest covered his mouth and uttered something under his breath. He turned and ran for the door of the church, but was stunned when the vampire dropped out of the sky in front of him.
"I need your help. The Devil is coming. I can't beat him back myself."
"Beat -beat him back? You're a servant of the Devil!"
"Not by choice. Are you going to help or not?"
"W-what do I need to do?"
"Get a crucifix and a jar of holy water -and keep them away from me!"
He checked his watch. It was nearing eleven thirty. Sunrise was around five thirty, so they had about... nine hours to get to the island, beat the Devil, and get back. He didn't like the thought of that. If they were in the air at sunrise, he would drop like a rock. Even if he were only five feet in the air, he would never survive. He would turn into a pile of ash. He knew from experience. He'd once failed to close his shade all the way and he'd suffered a bad burn at dawn, though the sun was only on him for a moment before he closed the shade completely.
"Father, I think we should wait till tomorrow night. We won't have enough time to get it done tonight."
"Tomorrow's Sunday. I have mass-"
"It's tomorrow or the Devil takes your soul. There's no way we can stop him after that."
"Alright. Where do we wait?"
"My apartment."
"How do I know you won't...?"
"Father, there are only three things that get absorbed directly into the blood from the stomach: water, aspirin, and alcohol. Just drink some of that holy water. Then I can't touch you."
Claudius watched as the priest drank some holy water. He wasn't taking any chances.
When they arrived at his apartment, Claudius sat the priest down at the table to make a plan.
"The Devil won't be coming out himself. He'll be sending demons and that sort of shit to do his dirty work, then he'll come out and take over. All we have to do is keep them off long enough to close the door. You'll have to close the door. That okay with you?"
"That's fine," the priest answered.
"Okay, sunset is at eight thirteen tomorrow night, so be back here by eight. No later, got it?"
The priest simply nodded his agreement.
"I'll get up at about twenty after and we'll go. That good with you?"
Again the priest nodded.
"You can leave the crucifix and the holy water here."
"But won't you-"
"There's a box in the closet. Here's the key. Open it up and the stuff in there."
He handed the key to the priest and watched as he dug out the box. The key was inserted in the lock. The box was opened and Claudius felt a wave of nausea wash over him. He heard the priest take a sharp breath.
"A Bible? Why do you have a Bible? You can't even read it!"
"I can't, now. But I could. Now you must go back to the church. Say a prayer for me when you get there. I'm hungry."
He turned and jumped out the window.
The priest found the key to Claudius apartment in the church mailbox. He let himself in at five to eight. He sat watching Claudius until he was startled by the t.v. coming on. Claudius woke up and looked at him.
"Good morning, Father. Get the box."
The priest had never flown before. He was afraid of flying. Yet, here he was flying at hundreds of miles an hour with a creature of the night. He wasn't cold, as he should've been. More of the creature's dark magic he supposed. He almost smiled. Two thousand years after the birth of Christ and he's thinking like medieval monk. He didn't even believe in vampires. That used to be the case, at any rate.
The clouds opened up beneath them and Claudius Leigh dove for the ocean.
"Can you see it, Father? The island?"
There was no sand on the island, and Claudius had to land softly so as not to injure the priest.
"It looks like the doors are already closed," the priest said.
"That's because they haven't been opened yet. They will be soon. I can feel it."
They walked up to the doors and Claudius touched them. They were red hot. As he turned back to the priest, he heard the doors open. He turned to look.
"Carla? What are you doing here?"
Carla Fitzwater ran up to Claudius and embraced him.
"Oh Claudius! I missed you so much! No one told me you were coming! Where have you be-"
"Carl Fitzwater," the priest asked. "Little Carla Fitzwater? I haven't seen you since you wer-"
Claudius saw the look of rage on Carla's face and saw her eyes glow as red as the door.
"What the Hell is he doing here?"
She didn't wait for an answer. She leapt at the priest and, before Claudius could do anything, his head hung limply and at an angle that forbade life.
She turned to face Claudius, the storm in her eyes growing more intense every second.
"Why did you bring him here? He had no business here."
"He did. He had to close the door."
"And what were you going to do?"
"Protect him."
"From what? Me?"
"If you tried to stop him, yes."
"We loved each other once, Claud. We still have a chance, you know."
"We do. Just step aside and let me close the door, and we can spend the rest of our live together."
Carla looked at him as if he were insane. Claudius looked at the body of the priest. He noticed the stake that had fallen out of his robe. He obviously hadn't completely trusted Claudius. Not that I blame him, he thought.
"I can't do that, Claud, sweetie."
"Carla, you said it yourself. We loved each other once. We went to church together our entire lives. You can't turn your back on all that now."
"Why not? You did. You bit me, remember? I was your first meal, wasn't I?"
"You jumped out the window. I didn't push you. You could've stayed with me, but you left."
Carla swung her arm at Claudius' face, her nails catching skin. "Fuck you!"
He leapt at her, his hands reaching for her throat. He didn't know what good he thought strangling would do. It wouldn't kill her. I'm glad Mom's not here, he thought.
The two struggled for what seemed like several minutes before stopping to rest. Claudius could see the red glow in Carla's eyes. He could also see her eyeing the stake that had fallen out of the priest's robe. His eyes caught the box containing the Cross and the holy water. He could feel the key in his pocket. She was closer to the stake than he was the box. It was a race to see who could get to their respective weapons first.
Claudius dove for the box at the same time Carla went for the stake. However, Carla had a few extra seconds to search for the hammer while Claudius grabbed the box. She was already coming toward him when he stood up.
He turned around to see Carla, stake in hand. He fumbled in his pocket, searching for the key. Before he could get it, she leapt at him, ready to drive the stake home.
The box left his hands; seemingly having its own mind as it flew toward her head, striking her in the right temple. The ground reached up to break her fall, but only succeeded in hitting her head.
Claudius ran to the box, grabbing the key as he went. He could see Carla getting up, albeit slowly. He checked his watch. I'll be damned, he thought. It was nearly a quarter after five. He only had around fifteen minutes to do what he needed to do.
The key slid into the lock and the lock clicked. The hinges creaked and Claudius fell to his knees. He felt like he had to puke, but he held it back. He could see that Carla was also affected, but not nearly as much. He closed the box again, but didn't lock it.
He stood holding the box and watched as Carla slowly got up. She reached down and grabbed the stake and hammer. He opened the box and, amid a sea of nausea, grabbed the crucifix. He felt it searing his skin, and he gripped it ever tighter. The pain was almost unbearable.
Carla stepped back in fear, and at the same time stared in awe at Claudius. He slowly advanced. She slowly retreated. The Cross burned ever deeper into his hand. The pain was no longer unbearable. He couldn't feel a thing. He checked his watch. It was twenty after five. Ten minutes until sunrise.
He stopped to gather his strength.
Carla wasn't expecting it when he leapt. He knocked her to the ground and held the Cross to her forehead. She screamed in agony as she saw the smoke drift past her eyes. As the Cross burned her, it cauterized the wound, lightly sticking itself to her head. This gave Claudius the moment he needed to grab the stake.
He pinned Carla to the ground and, grabbing the hammer, put her out of her misery.
He yanked the crucifix from her fore head and walked over to the box. Holy water in hand, he headed for the doors that had illuminated the nocturnal fight.
Holding the Cross in his smoldering hand, he approached the doors and touched the crucifix to the crack between them. As he thought, the metal on either side of the crack quickly turned white hot and melted, sealing the crack. He slowly worked the Cross toward the ground, sealing the portal.
A corner of the Cross served as a pen, the ink molten metal, as Claudius wrote on the door:

Nunc nox, mox lux.
Scribit, fiet.

Opening the jar of holy water, he sprinkled some on the doors. He watched as the doors cooled and simultaneously saw the fingers of his mangled hand blister as if touched with acid. He looked to the east and saw the first sign of pink on the horizon. He glanced at the jar of holy water and a thought entered his mind. Picking it up, he took the lid off and, in three large gulps, drank it.
He fell to the ground as the pain filled his body and nausea spread over him. He vomited, but even amid his anguish, he noticed that it was all blood and no water.
With all of his strength, he turned to face the coming dawn.
The orange sun peeked above the horizon, a child looking for the cookie jar. Claudius felt the warmth as the first rays struck him. He knew it would only last for a second, like the warmth one feels when they focus the sun's rays on to their hand with a magnifying glass. He waited for the burning to begin. But it didn't. He just kept getting warmer as the sun rose higher.
In his agony, he'd dropped the Cross and he reached out with his good hand to grab it. When he did, he immediately dropped it with a start. Then he picked it up again and felt a wave of happiness wash over him, even as he lay dying on the ground. The Cross did not burn.
He knew now what was happening. The holy water had "cured" him. He would die. He had already been dead. Now he would die again. But he would die a man, not a demon. He smiled. Just a day or two ago he'd wished he could see just one sunrise with his own eyes. Now he was.
The pain that had spread through his body, filling his veins and arteries, ceased. He looked up at the sun, and summoning all his strength, got to his knees. He folded his hands and, for the first time in three years, said the Lord's Prayer.
As he finished, his legs gave out and he fell back to the ground. He could feel the Earth rumble beneath his body and he knew what was coming. He crossed himself and waited.
The blast was larger than that of Mt. Pinatubo. It raised many questions, as scientists around the world wondered how a non-volcanic island could explode with such force. No one ever knew about Claudius Leigh.