THE CHILD, REVISED

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The Child
Van Turner, 1990; revised 1992


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary...


In the howling wind comes the stinging rain...

An elderly man sat alone in his large Victorian home, the fire in the fireplace keeping him warm. His big leather chair keeping him comfortable. Outside it rained.
Alex Hillman turned the page of his book and sighed as his blue eyes followed the words through round specs. He was tired and the occasional lightening distracted him. But storms had always upset him, since he was a child he remembered. And now that he was old, rain aggravated his arthritis. The medication he had taken hadn't helped any. Never did.
It also didn't help that he had moved to Whitehaven, right on the Irish Sea shore and near the Lake District; the rainiest, coldest part of England. But at least it was away from the source of his grey hair -- the city. The hustle and bustle, the traffic and the noise...


...suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping on my chamber door...

Alex was awakened from his reverie by the tentative knock at the door. He got up to answer, thinking it was terribly late for some-one to be out -- or for him to be awake -- especially in this weather.
His service revolver wasn't far away.
The dark wood door swung wide and there stood a small child, shivering in the rain. The girl was about eleven or twelve with blond hair and torn, wet clothes.


Only this and nothing more...

"What in heaven's name?" Alex asked, bewildered.
The child was ghastly white with deep, dark eyes. Her tear-streaked face was full of fear. Her nose was bleeding she was holding her left arm in her right hand.
"M-my m-mom...th-the car...we-we..."
The poor girl's so scared she can hardly speak, Alex thought. He lead her inside, saying: "Come inside, child."
"But my mom..." she started to say and began crying again.
Alex knelt down on one knee and took the girl by the shoulders in his big hands. Her red jacket was soaked through to her black T - shirt, as well as her blue jeans and tennis shoes.


Ah, distinctly I remember it was bleak December...

And she was hurt, too. She might need medical attention, Alex thought. But first things first; get her warm and dry... and calm.
"Please help my mamma," she cried. "The car turned over... and she's hurt." The girl began dragging Alex to his feet. Alex stood up, still dressed in his robe and slippers.
"Let me get my coat," he said, going to the closet. He hurried back to the girl and they rushed out the door to Alex's old car. "You will have to show me the way," he told the girl softly. "Can you do that?"
She nodded and Alex started the car. The girl pointed as he drove and it wasn't far before they came upon the wreck. The car had obviously slid on the wet road and had flipped on its side when it hit the high shoulder. It was lying on the driver's side, the wind-shield spider-webbed with cracks. The rear window was gone, most of it in pieces on the road.
Alex stopped the car and got out, the girl right behind him. It was coming down in buckets now and Alex had to kneel in front of the car to see inside. The girl's mother was lying on the driver's side, unconscious.
Alex couldn't reach the door handle nor could he turn the car over. He sat down and kicked the windshield until it shattered enough for him to peel the safety glass out.


Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer...

He crawled through the glass and grasped the woman under her left arm and by the right elbow and sat back to get leverage to drag her partially out of the car. He turned her where he could get her under both arms and pull her out.
Once Alex had her out he sat back for a moment to get his breath. The little girl came running to her mother crying: "Mamma, mamma!" She knelt down and discovered that her mother was bleeding from the right side of her head. The girl felt her mother's neck for a pulse.
"She'll be okay," the girl said calmly.
Alex stood up and said: "She'll be better if we get her to a hospital. And it wouldn't hurt you either. Help me get her into the car."


Secure yourself to heaven.
Hold on tight, the night has come...


Then, to his amazement, the blond haired woman started moaning... and moving. "It's all right, Mother," the girl said in a husky voice. "I found one."
Alex knelt to her side. Found what, he wondered. How was this woman moving with that gash in her head? "Madam, you shouldn't try to move," he said calmly, afraid of upsetting the woman. "You could injure yourself further."
At that moment, everything he knew went west because at that moment, the child's mother turned over onto her stomach and pushed herself up onto her knees.
"Madam?" Alex gulped. What the hell was going on here? "Are you all right?"


...Thrilled me -- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before...

"I'm fine," she rasped as she sat up on her knees. The girl came to her side and helped her stand up. Alex stood up as well.
To Alex's horror and fascination, the girl reached up and ran her hand through her mother's blood soaked hair. Then she looked at her bloodied fingers... and started licking them. And smiled.
"What the bloody hell kind of people are you?" Alex gasped as he started slowly toward his car.


See the face of fear running scared in the valley below...

The woman advanced on him and smiled. She seemed to have a serious overbite; her canines were too long. The girl's dark eyes turned red but Alex was paralyzed by the woman's dark eyes, set into that ghastly white face.
"What are you?" Alex croaked, backing up faster.


You better run, run, run,...

"Soon you will know who I am," she said, her voice full, sensuous.
"What are you?" Alex asked again, feeling his age, older. And the woman appeared to be getting younger. Her wounds healed as she reached for him.


Allow me to introduce myself:
My name, if you must know,
Is Death

"The world thinks Coleridge created me," she laughed. "If they only knew."
Alex's thoughts ran together, to gibberish, thinking: oh but that's impossible you can't be a vampire but those teeth and those eyes there's no such thing as a vampire and she was a figment of Coleridge's imagination...
She closed on him, grabbed and pushed him against his car, going for his throat. His last thought before he died was that he'd always wondered why Coleridge really never finished "Christabel."
And the little girl --


Nameless here for evermore...

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary...
...suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping on my chamber door...
Only this and nothing more...
Ah, distinctly I remember it was bleak December...
In the howling wind comes the stinging rain...

(Edgar Allan Poe, "The Raven")


See the face of fear running scared in the valley below...
(U2 - The Joshua Tree, "Bullet the Blue Sky)


You better run, run, run,...

(Pink Floyd - The Wall, "Run Like Hell")


Secure yourself to heaven.
Hold on tight, the night has come...

(Indigo Girls - "Secure Yourself")


Allow me to introduce myself:
My name, if you must know,
Is Death

(Van Turner - "I Am He")

 

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