The Books of Darkness
by Robert N. Stephenson
|Table of Contents|
The night was warmish, heavily clouded and dark. A mere smudge of the moon looked down on us as we made our way back to the car. The thump, thump, thump of the nightclub music punctuated the air. I was glad to be away from Hindley street, and away from the gangs that lurked in its darkened corners. Sarina held my hand as we walked towards the car, isolated in the dark street. I felt good, confident and at ease with her. The Crazy Horse had taken my mind off things.
“Someone’s following us,” Sarina said, gripping my hand. I went to look behind. “Don’t look, just get the keys out so we can get in the car before they get to us.”
“A gang, by the sounds of it.” We quickened our steps, heels clicking on the pavement.
The sound of running came from behind. I turned. A group of young men were running towards us. It looked like an an Asian gang, but in the poor light I couldn’t tell for sure. Sarina pulled me forward, we started to run. The men were yelling, laughing, running. We got to the car.
I couldn’t get my keys into the door. My fingers didn’t work. Hands shook. I was grabbed from behind and dragged to the footpath and thrown, pinned against a wall. I could see Sarina standing at the back of the car with four men surrounding her. The men had knives. I felt the blade of my attackers against my throat.
“Goddamn dykes,” one of the men said as he pressed the knife harder against me. I recognised him from the club. I couldn’t escape. I wanted to scream. But the knife.
“We’ll do the young one first,” a man in a cap said, as three of the men near Sarina pounced.
“No!” I managed. The men holding me yanked my arms back. It hurt.
Sarina struck out. The first man dropped at her feet, blood steaming from his nose. But the other three grabbed her arms, pinning her to the back of the car.
“You bitch,” the man with the bloody nose said, getting to his feet. “We’ll cut you so bad no one will want you.” He raised his knife and slashed, striking Sarina across the face. She didn’t make a sound. Blood ran down her cheek. The men laughed. “Drag her here,” he yelled to the two holding me. I struggled. They were too strong; I, too weak. “She can watch what we are going to do to her. Feel a real man inside you, eh!”
Sarina twitched her shoulder, a quick move. She grabbed one of the men , bit him on the forehead. It was fast. Silent. He collapsed. The bloody nosed man lunged, driving his knife into Sarina’s stomach. She kicked up, her knee striking him in the balls. The men holding me let go and raced at Sarina. I ran to help. I was pushed to the ground. She bit another one, he fell. The remaining arm-holder released her and stepped back, his long knife at the ready.
Sarina turned and kicked one of my two attackers in the head. He cried out. The second threw himself at her, knocking her down. I froze. This was it.. I wanted to scream for help. My voice caught. I couldn’t breathe. Sarina moved swifty. Grab, bite; grab, bite. It was over in a moment. Sarina was on her knees, a knife was sticking out of her chest; blood was everywhere. The six men lay unconscious about her.
She pulled the knife free and drove it into the leg of the man who’d cut her face. He didn’t react. “That real enough?” she said, spitting on the man.
I couldn’t move, breathe, think. She grabbed me, yanked me to my feet. I stared at her, the blood across the cheek, on her chin.
“We have to get out of here,” she said. I felt cold. She dragged me to the passenger’s side of the car. She climbed in the driver’s side, unlocked my door and pushed it open. “Get in,” she cried. I stared at the door. “Get in,” she yelled. I climbed in and closed the door. Pain stung my face. She’d slapped me.
“Why’d you do that?” I felt hollow, voice dull, empty.
“Seatbelt,” she said starting the car.
I buckled up as she hit reverse, driving over one of the men. Sarina dumped my handbag in my lap. Blood flowed from her chest, out of the stomach wound. Blood, so much blood. She drove us home. The cold grew worse. I was sweating and felt cold.
Sarina parked in her space under the building then dragged me into the lift and into the apartment. The door, securely bolted, became a protective wall. I was shivering. Shock. I turned to Sarina, her face bloody, red rivers ran down her neck. The front of her dress was wet, blood dripped from the hem.
“We have to stop the bleeding,” I managed to say, breaking out of my numbness.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said, taking my face in her hands. “How are you?” I must have been crying because she wiped my eyes with her thumbs. “You’re safe now,” she said. “You’re safe.”
I didn’t feel safe. Sarina gave me some tablets and made me wash them down with water. She led me into the bathroom and turned on the shower.
“The water will relax you,” she said, helping me undress. Gently she guided me in and under the warm stream of water. I just stood there, the water hitting my face, getting in my eyes. I felt light-headed and put my hands out on the tiles above the taps. I tilted my head until the water ran down my back. I cried. Cried hard. I could have been raped. I could have been dead. I kept seeing images of the men, seeing them attacking me, stripping me, raping me. It didn’t happen that way, though it could have. My knees wobbled, it was hard to stand. I shook with deep sobs. My mind replaying the scene over and over. The blood, so much blood.
The shower door opened and Sarina stepped in. I threw my arms around. Sobbing harder. She held me, pulled me in tight. I buried my face in her shoulder, water flooded my eyes.
“It’s okay,” she said over and over while stroking my head. “It’s going to be okay.”
I pushed back, looking down, blood was washing from between her breasts, her belly. “We need to get you to a doctor,” I said, barely managing to get the words out.
Sarina rubbed her hand over the wounds, the blood sliding from her body. There were no wounds; skin intact, perfect. I looked to her bloodied face. There was no scar across her cheek; it was as if she hadn’t been cut at all. It was too much, I couldn’t deal with it. I burst into tears again, audible crying. I howled into her chest.
“I could have been raped,” I cried.
“But you weren’t,” Sarina said, holding me. Running her hands down my back. “Nothing happened to you.”
“But I could have been. If you hadn’t have been there. If I was alone...”
“You’re okay, Diana. You’re fine.” Sarina turned the water off and helped me from the shower and into a black toweling robe. She led me into the front room and eased me onto the sofa. She pushed a half glass of scotch into my hands, then, wearing a robe of her own, sat on the coffee table in front of me. Her hands were on my knees. I couldn’t get the images of the men to go away. I couldn’t stop crying.
“Just try and relax,” Sarina said. “Have a drink and relax. It’s over now. We’re safe.”
“How can I relax!” I screamed. “We were just attacked. You were stabbed.” I gulped some of my drink, spluttered and gulped again. “I’ve never been attacked before.”
“I know how you feel...”
“You don’t know how I feel.” It came out cruel, but I didn’t intend it to.
“They stabbed me.”
“But you aren’t even human.”
Sarina sat watching me. She helped me lie down. I stared back at her, her perfect face, her unscarred face. She sat silently, letting me deal with what had happened, making sure I wasn’t alone when the tears started up again. I couldn’t speak. The scotch had calmed me, but my stomach felt knotted and tight. I wanted to vomit, fought it back, let the nausea pass. We just sat there staring at each other. The black of the room closed around me, tried to swallow me as fear, real fear tensed in my neck.
“Eighteen ten,” Sarina said after a long silence.
“Eighteen ten what?” I asked, on edge, unsure of everything.
“Rio de Janeiro, November twelfth, 1810. I was raped.” Sarina didn’t look at me. “Romero Sanchez, gagged me, tied me to a bed and raped me.”
“I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.
“He stabbed me twenty times before leaving me for dead. I swore never to let it happen again,” she said, voice just above a whisper. “I don’t have super-human strength, like the vampire movies. Like you, I am just a woman. I learned how to defend myself.” She sighed. “I do know how you feel.”
“Did you report the rape to the police?” I lifted myself up on my elbow.
“I tracked him down and cut his throat,” Sarina said blandly. “He was just another unsolved crime from that time on.”
“I felt defenseless tonight, useless, I couldn’t even help you.” I said, now sitting up. Sarina’s story made my attack seem trivial.
“I can teach you how not to be. First we have to sort out some business.” She stood. “It’s been a tough night all round. Come on, let’s go to bed.” She helped me up. We cleaned our teeth and held each other on the bed. Our gowns gave me a semblance of protection against the dreams I knew would come. I would have liked to cut those men’s throats.
I couldn’t sleep. I left Sarina in bed, her breathing slow and deep. I wondered what type of dreams she would have after five hundred years of life. Maybe she didn’t dream. I stood at the window, lights off, looking down on the sea and the jetty. In the lights running out into the water I could see the rain, sweeping across the view. The window, wet with sliding drops showed just how I felt. In another time the view might have been beautiful, now it looked grim, depressing.
I looked into the darkened region near the pylons. Was he there, watching? Did he ever sleep? I felt old and tired and I looked much older than the eternally beautiful Sarina. What did she see in me? Or was it just circumstance that kept us together?
The shock of seeing Sarina heal shouldn’t have been one. She’d told me about it, but seeing it, experiencing it myself, put the whole idea into a new light. This woman I liked couldn’t die, not easily anyway. How long would I have with her before I became too old?
Tonight there were no bobbing boat lights, even the hardiest of fishermen wouldn’t chance such a choppy sea. The night drew me in, sucked on the negativity I felt. I thought of my father, and what he might have done if I told him I’d been attacked, nearly raped. Would he have held me like Sarina had done? Would he have said everything is going to be alright to his baby girl? For now I convinced myself he would have. I still loved him even if he didn’t love me. I have wanted to call him so many times. To pay him a visit and sit down over a cuppa and catch up with life.
“Can’t sleep?” Sarina said coming up behind. She put her arms about my waste.
“Come back to bed,” she said, kissing the back of my head. “We have a lot to do later this morning and you need your rest.”
“How did it feel getting stabbed?” I touched the back of her hand.
“It hurt,” she said. “I might heal fast, but I still feel pain.”
“Does your mind heal the same way?”
“Do the bad thoughts go away?” she asked.
“How do you deal with the memories, the horrors of life?”
“Pretty much the same way you would, I guess.” She turned me around. I looked up into her face, eyes bright, smile gentle. “Sometimes the soul I feed on helps me heal mentally. If it’s a good soul, good energy.” She kissed my forehead. “Someone like you.”
I rested against her, taking in her clean soap smell. Her arms draped about me like a comfortable blanket. I could hear the rain against the window and thought I could hear the buffeting of the wind; the buffeting my life was taking. I had to take some control back from the craziness.
Last night I’d frozen in place, emotionally spent and mentally numb. Before getting involved with the Opie incident, before meeting Sarina I was in firm control of my life. I knew where I was going and what to do to get there. Right now, wrapped in Sarina’s arms, I was struggling to think of what to do tomorrow.
I started to cry again, softly. I didn’t know why. I knew it wasn’t the attack, and wasn’t about the book, or about Jacko. I felt like this before going onto anti-depressants, when life looked more desperate. I really didn’t know what to do. I knew what would make me feel better, make Sarina feel better. Stepping back slightly I offered her my wrist.
Copyright © 2009 by Robert N. Stephenson