Friday, July 26, 2013

A Mother's Love

Goody Tremaigne walked slowly down the path that led to Watley Commons Cemetary. The shuttered coach lantern she carried in her gnurled left hand emitted barely enough light to prove useful. Her booted feet made not the slightest scuffle as she made her way slowly along.

For her part, this was not so much an attempt at stealth as it was a reflection of her slight stature and indeterminate, albeit obviously advanced, age. No one in the village of Watley-on-the-Green was so bold as to publicly speculate on the matter, but it was whispered that she'd had the same tightly-pinned bun of steel-grey hair and wrinkled visage for as long as anyone could recall.

As she approached to within a long stone's throw of the cemetery, she stepped to the side of the path and knelt, both slowly and painfully. She set the lantern on the most stable spot she could find and closed the shutters fully. What little illumination it had provided was snuffed out without a sound.

Reflexively dusting her hands on the apron of her woolen dress, she rose to a standing position. Trusting to providence to spare her a turned ankle, she trudged the short remaining distance to the cemetary's iron gates aided only by the wan light of the stars.

Remaining in the scant cover of the gorse bushes lining the iron fence, she peered cautiously into the cemetary proper. Amidst the weathered headstones and adjacent to the squat stone crypts, she spied a large, dark form not far away. Goody Tremaigne allowed herself a wry smile.

While Constable Eamon Slayde had, indeed, been a man of strong build and considerable power in his prime, he was far beyond that prime now. Too many plates of boiled beef and potatoes had settled Slayde into a more ponderous state. A gruff voice and an excess of bluster were his most formidable qualities now.

Her eyes having adjusted to the night gloom, the woman could discern that Slayde's bulk was balanced on a low stool. His head lolled against his chest and a low rumble of snoring drifted toward her in the still night air. In one meaty fist was gripped an ancient blunderbuss and in the other, a stoppered clay bottle. A faint reek the Goody knew to be whiskey wafted her way, wrinkling her nose with disgust.

It was hardly a secret that only his office kept Slayde from reproach for his intemperance by the clergy and leadership of the village. Goody Tremaigne only knew that, on this night, the Constable's intemperance worked, very much, in her favor. If she were cautious, she could reach poor Edwyn's resting place without disturbing Slayde and do, what she knew, must be done.

Her thoughts flew back to the...insanity that had overtaken the rational minds of the people of this sleepy, backwoods village. The unexplained disappearance, the previous week, of two young children and their governess without so much as a trace had frightened the simple folk. The discovery of their three bodies, torn and ravaged as if by an animal, in the woods to the west of Watley-on-the-Green had incited open panic.

When repeated hunts through the heavy woodlands had failed to find any trace of such a beast, the speculation began. It was superstitious claptrap and none laid claim to having first spoken such a thing, but somehow the notion came about that the deaths were the work of a vampire.

Despite Reverand McRae's protestations to the contrary, the frightened villagers cast their gaze about them for signs of this undead menace. That gaze had, eventually and tragically fallen on her dear son Edwyn.

Voices shouted that Edwyn was never known to have been seen by the light of day in anyone's memory. The Reverand tried his best to explain albinoism to the poorly-educated folk with no success. Others railed of strange slurping noises heard coming from the open windows of the Tremaigne's cottage. Goody Tremaigne scoffed that if poor table manners were proof of vampiric powers, then most of the village, as well as her son Edwyn, were apparently numbered amongst the evil undead!

The night the mob had come and dragged Edwyn from her home, Goody Tremaigne had been too paralyzed by shock to intervene. The Reverand, Constable Slayde and the village council had all been absent when the mob came. Edwyn was thrown to the hard ground and, in front of his horrified mother, the slim albino man died screaming as the heavy wooden stake was pounded through his writhing body.

Although McRae, Slayde and the others of power had arrived only minutes later, it was far too late for poor Edwyn. In deference to Goody Tremaigne and to assuage the Reverand, Edwyn's body was spirited away and promptly entombed in his family's crypt. Slayde was tasked to guard the crypt while the council conducted a formal investigation, aided by a government functionary they had hastily sent for.

Goody Tremaigne was outraged to learn that Edwyn's body had been interred with the vile stake still transfixing his chest and demanded redress of this. The embarassed council had lamented that it was simply not possible. They insisted this would result in rioting and worse amongst the, already, agitated small community.

Thus, Goody Tremaigne found herself this night, huddling amongst the gorse bushes, determined to do for herself what the fools would not. She would restore her dead son's dignity by removing the brutal instrument of his demise.

Scant minutes later, she stood in the crypt and wept silent tears for her boy. Her hardened hands softened as she stroked his pale face. Then, with sudden resolve, her hands hardened again as she snatched at the wooden spike and pulled it forth from Edwyn's shattered chest. Unable to endure the sight of the ghastly wound, she turned about, sobbing.

Her voice cracked as she whispered, "How could those fools have thought such a thing of my Edwyn?? How?!?" Her voice trailed off as she heard a noise behind her.

She glanced around and nearly fainted at what she saw. Edwyn was sitting up on the stone slab upon which he had reposed only moments before. His delicate hands tried vainly to smooth his torn shirt over the rapidly-healing wound in his chest. As he stood, his mother stepped backwards, falling to the hard floor.

"Trust me mother, no one was more surprised than me that the idiots of this village stumbled upon the truth quite by accident. Ah well. They say that even the most inept pack of hounds run down their quarry every once in a great while. Well, the circumstances scarcely matter now. I shall have my revenge upon them all soon enough. But first things first mum. I am absolutely famished after all that business with the stake and healing myself and all. But come, dearest mummy, and let your darling son give you a final kiss before I go, eh?"

Goody Abigail Tremaigne was far, far beyond speechless as her vampiric son, Edwyn, fell upon her, ripping out her wrinkled throat with his wicked, gleaming fangs.

This story was written for the Friday Frights website where I am a regular contributing writer. It is presented for the monthly theme for July: Vampires. Additionally, this story is but one of many that will be included in my anthology collection Raising The Stakes coming soon via Visionary Press Cooperative. 

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