Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

In the Shadow of the Feast By Louise Jane King

The dogs are silent, yet still they strain towards us from the ends of their chains. It’s their masters’ eyes that snarl at us now, their semi-automatics hastily slung over their shoulders while the BBC camera is trained on us inching towards the gap in the barbed wire.

There are thousands here at the Albanian border, straddled in sucking mud, baptised in unholy downpour.

Today I'm a young woman with matted brown hair and filthy clothes. The boy in my arms is sobbing, so I avoid the soldiers’ glares and whisper into his hair. He speaks a modern version of the Aramaic tongue I first learnt two millennia ago, but he manages to understand.

‘Is daddy coming?’ he asks again. ‘I want my daddy.’

‘We're going to meet him, remember?’ I kiss his cheek. ‘Nearly there. You're very brave. He nods and nuzzles deeper into my neck, sniffling. ‘Daddy will be so proud.’

But his father isn't ahead. He’s several miles behind decaying in a ditch. But not of my doing - not this time. I found the boy cuddling his father’s corpse and scooped him up. His warmth, his trust, so invigorating.

He reminds me of a girl I travelled with in another of your wars. I’d taken the appearance of an old man then, looking like her grandfather to the SS who screamed and prodded us towards the truck.

I feasted on them because of their viciousness. But not her. I let her live. ‘It might be possible, of course, that far from being one, we may possess two selves.’ Those are your words, not mine.

I've walked among you since your history began when your ancestors saw me more clearly. I'm whispered in your folklore as demon and vampire. I'm both of those, but so much more.

I haven't yet decided this boy's fate, but I’m ravenous and must eat soon to maintain this form.

I've lived among the Austronesians, the Celts and Mongols and travelled across landscapes and seas coloured by wind, and sun and rain, following the trail of misery of your kind, displaced and persecuted by your own forefathers. And still you haven’t learnt.

Today’s refugees are no different - too easy to have the few I need without you noticing. But I only take the foolish and make them plead for their lives, and then for their death. Or those unlikely to survive, with a kiss in kindness, no suffering. Your legacy is of terror and pain inflicted on your fellow man. And you call me monster?

A sudden flak of gunfire and barking rips above our huddled mass. Women and children scream and the glob of bodies starts crushing harder towards the fence. Only a few more steps and we'll be through.

But the boy isn’t howling. He's already at peace, looking like he's sleeping as we inch through the gap.

Fear not. I will find a tranquil spot, away from all this horror, and bury him with the love he deserves.


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