(Serial and Milk: Available Darkness is a serialized horror thriller co-written by David Wright and Sean Platt. A new chapter appears here each Friday. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them here.)
Abigail’s body moved with alien instincts. She was surprised by her hands locking on Lydia, and startled by the energy, which surged into her fingers, then flowed through her arms and into her brain.
Memories coursed through Abigail’s mind like a torrent of waves bursting through a dam. The images were foreign; memories from another life lived—Lydia’s life, unfurling before Abigail as she feasted on the energy swirling from the woman’s emptying shell.
The memories overwhelmed Abigail.
Lydia’s older sister, Vicky, took her pink dolly away from her “she’s mine!” Lydia was hurt. Then, another memory, of Larry and she, in bed. Larry was casually puffing on a cigarette while drawing lazy circles on Lydia’s breasts with his fingers and whispering odes to her beauty. Then, she watched, through Lydia’s eyes as her boyfriend, Tony bloodied his knuckles against an unmoving wall. Fury rose from him like vapor and Lydia was afraid…
Then, darkness extinguished the memory.
The energy stopped flowing and Abigail sat, hunched over, staring at the charred corpse beneath her.
Lydia’s memories continued to flicker like a strobe light in Abigail’s mind, threading through her own images of yesterday, weaving all thoughts into one incomprehensible tapestry.
Lydia as a girl again, this time walking to school, alone. She was fiercely proud not to need an escort. A big girl now. Though school was only two short blocks away, you’d think it was two miles, the way her mom kept carrying on. Lydia had made it almost all the way to school when she caught a movement in the corner of her eye. She turned just in time to see her mom, about half a block behind her, ducking behind a car. Lydia flared. “Mom, how could you?”
Grief clawed at her throat as Abigail experienced and mourned Lydia’s life, which had been reduced to moments remembered in her dying gasps.
Abigail’s body had never felt more alive, but the intoxication of power did nothing to soothe the decay she felt in her mind and soul. She wanted to weep, but no tears would come. Sadness washed over her, as another flood of memories seeped through her system. She struggled to focus on the here and now. Then, she heard a familiar voice—John!
She stood and turned, desperate for sanctuary from the darkness swallowing her soul.
John’s back was turned to her as he stood over Larry. They appeared to have been fighting. She noted the gun on the floor behind Larry. He noticed her first, eyes wide and mouth slightly opened. Then, John turned to her; a cold sadness sculpted his marble face.
She struggled to push words from her mouth, though breath would’ve been a good start. “What happened?” she finally managed.
“You were hurt,” John said, as he cautiously approached her, “You were dying. And I… saved you.” He looked at the floor; it was easier than her eyes. “But I turned you into…this.”
Abigail flinched as she remembered the pain that had shattered her insides. She’d been shot in the back. Panic pounded through her body as she noticed the blooms of dark crimson, which stained the front of her shirt, coated her hands and blackened her fingernails. She pulled up her shirt, searching for wounds, and then reached back with her fingers in an awkward search for any sign of puncture.
“You’re all healed,” John said.
Suddenly, Abigail became conscious of her exposed flesh, pulled her shirt down, and glanced down at the ground.
“I am so sorry,” John said, “it was the only thing I could do to save you.”
“So, I’m a vampire now?” she asked.
John turned to Larry, who now stood next to John, for an answer.
“In short, yes,” Larry fixed his stare on Abigail, “You will likely have the same abilities and same weaknesses.”
“You mean,” she flicked her eyes at Lydia, “I’ll have to do that again?”
Larry looked down and pursed his lips. His chest surrendered into a sigh, “I’m afraid so.”
Abigail shook her head, slowly at first, then furiously from side to side.
“No, no, no! I can’t do that again!”
Her knees hit the concrete. Tears were only seconds behind.
John knelt beside her. He wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her close. She flinched at first, then realized his touch was no longer a danger to her. They were, after all, now the same. A small wave of soothing relief fluttered through her body and caused her to shudder.
She was finally able to root into the embrace of her angel. So strong, so comforting. The opposite of every other touch she’d experienced in her recent history.
Abigail continued to cry.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered into her ear, brushing the damp hair from her face. “I’m here for you.”
She thought he might also be crying, but couldn’t bear to look up. She nuzzled her head into his chest and allowed the tears to flow as she pondered a future of killing to survive. Then, she thought of the sun she would never see again. The only sun she’d seen in years was the waning sunshine the evening before. Now she’d never see it again. For some reason she couldn’t understand, this made her cry more than the thought of killing more people.
They embraced for an eternity until Larry’s shuffling and pacing drew their attention.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” he said.
John pulled away and looked down at Abigail. His eyes were wet, she noticed. He had been crying. For a moment, their eyes locked, exchanging some unspoken truth between them, something she could not yet give voice to, perhaps a kinship in their curses.
“Okay,” John said, turning to Larry, “we’ll get in the back. Let‘s find that safe house.”
Larry took a moment to say his goodbyes to Lydia, or what was left of her, and Abigail felt a sting in her heart as she watched him kneel beside her.
Abigail crawled into the back of the van and quickly fell to sleep, swaddled in the strength of John’s arms.
As John slowly drifted to sleep, he thought about the look in Abigail’s eyes right before they crawled into the van. There was something there, something that whispered only to him. Perhaps it was the incredible sadness within them, he thought. But John knew better. Two had become one. His darkness had swallowed her light, like cancer that spreads through the body.
He grieved for her loss. All he could do now was be there to help her. But, he wondered, how could he help her when so much of his life remained a mystery?
His mind dwelled on the missing pieces of the puzzle that was his past. Who was he? How many people had he left dead in his wake? Why did he choose to have his mind erased? What was he running from? Who was the bald man who sought to capture him? What secrets did he harbor that so many people were willing to murder to get?
Where was Hope?
Too much to contemplate, he felt his mind would soon crack beneath the pressure. Then, as he slept, something clicked inside the vault that kept his memories.
PART TWO: INTO THE PAST
October 2, 1999
St. Augustine, Florida
John woke from a nightmare, shivering. His sopping shirt sticking to his chest, again.
He’d had the same dream for nearly two weeks, now. In the dreams, he had returned to his killing. The monster within him, the one he’d taken so many measures to bury, had clawed its way to the surface.
He rolled across the empty bed to see the soft blue neon face of his alarm clock. 2:07 a.m.
He slid from bed, the cold hardwood floor greeting his bare feet like a splash of water. For the hundredth time, if not the thousandth, he reminded himself that he really needed to get a good pair of slippers.
He opened the bedroom door. The hallway was dark, save for a sliver of light bleeding from beneath the door to Hope’s studio.
She’d also been unable to sleep recently. He wondered if she was having some sort of reaction to his nightmares. Or perhaps it was just the artist in her, demanding its muse to be fed out at odd hours.
He opened her door slowly, not wanting to surprise her in mid stroke. She wasn’t painting though. She was sitting on the floor, face in her hands, and crying.
“What’s wrong, honey?” he said, quickly falling next to her and wrapping an arm around her.
Her cry grew more intense as she hugged him tightly.
“What is it?” he asked.
He looked around the studio for the source of her tears. While the studio was well stocked (or cluttered, in his words) with paintings, blank canvases and a small store’s worth of art supplies, it had no TV or radio or even a phone, which ruled out a sad song, TV show or phone call heralding bad news. Hope liked to work in solitude. Whatever the source of her tears was something she’d been holding inside for some time.
Finally, she spoke, through a snort, “It’s silly.”
“No, tell me,” John said, his hand stroking her hair and down her back. She was wearing one of his shirts, a blue and yellow Wolverines tee.
“It’s the painting,” she said.
She pointed towards the window, where one of her two in-progress paintings stood on an easel. He couldn’t see what the painting was. It was facing the large picture window, which overlooked a scenic lake. For all its beauty, the shimmering pool had never been a source for one of Hope’s paintings.
“I don’t know,” Hope said, “It’s not like anything I’ve ever painted before. And for some reason, as I was painting it tonight, I just became overwhelmed with sadness.”
“A painting?” John asked, wanting to laugh, but not wanting to offend her in a moment of genuine pain.
He stood up and approached the window. One painting was an apple orchard at midnight, which she’d started seven months before but had yet to finish.
The other, the inspiration for her tears, was unlike anything he’d ever seen her create before. It was almost surreal in its nature. The painting was of a nude man with long dark hair, who looked a bit like John. He seemed to be floating against a dark violet background of churning storm clouds. His hands were outstretched, red rings of something spinning around them.
And he was suspended by two incredinbly large white angel’s wings.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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