daughter if she doesn’t cooperate with him.)
Lydia considered her options as she made her way through the confusing
labyrinth towards her new office. She was not in any hurry to report for work;
her throat hurt at the thought of what sort of “tasks” were in store for her.
It occurred to her that, since his office was on her way, she should go in
and see how Ned was getting on. She was still very concerned about his state of
mind. There was also the worry that he would inadvertently leak some information about
her, and their shared nightmare of that night, that would be detrimental—not
only to her, but to him, and to the rest of the people in these buildings.
Vlad had ways of destroying people inwardly without actually doing them
physical harm. She had seen that starting to happen in her own son during this
ordeal. The destruction would be spiritual, not physical—and no one would
be the wiser. It wasn’t too hard to imagine that that was happening even now,
slowly but surely. She determined that she would not trust anyone who had
had any contact with Vlad. That would probably comprise everyone in this
company. She was completely and utterly alone, at least physically.
Determined to make sure Ned was getting over his fright, Lydia walked up
to the security office door and knocked.
No answer. Well, he could be out on a call, or just a routine walkabout.
She turned to walk away, deciding she would come back later. But to her
surprise, the door opened on silent hinges. After waiting a few seconds for Ned
to poke his head around the door with that silly grin on his face, Lydia became
puzzled when the doorway stayed empty. She pushed at the door, which swung
“Hello?” she called as she entered. She blinked in the dim light. The
ceiling lights were off, and the only light came from the glowing screens of the
security monitors behind Ned’s desk. His chair was turned towards them; Lydia
wondered if he’d fallen asleep. She came around the desk, which she noted
with some surprise was clear of soda cups and cafeteria trays. It occurred to her
that she had never seen his office without food debris scattered everywhere.
“Ned? You awake?”
He was sitting in his chair, eyes on the screens. But there was something
odd about the way he was staring ahead without moving, and the fact that he
hadn’t responded to her alarmed Lydia.
Had he had a stroke? Was he dead? Her heart in her throat, she shook his
He didn’t move a muscle, but after a moment, he blinked slowly. Then he
looked up at her.
“Hello, Lydia. I thought maybe you’d come and visit me.”
There was something about his demeanor that instantly put her on guard.
There was no emotion on his face or in his voice; he was usually very joyful at
seeing her—or anyone, for that matter.
“Ned? Are you okay?” Lydia looked closer into his face.
Another pause. “Oh yes, I’m terrific. No problem. Can I help you with
Lydia’s mouth opened and closed. She stuttered, “Um . . . I . . . did you send
someone to clean out my cube? Because Kim told me some maintenance guys
she’d never seen before put all my stuff in a box and . . .”
“Oh, yes. I did that. They were new.”
He went back to staring at the monitors. After a few moments, Lydia said,
“Oh. Um. Okay. Just wondered.”
“I’ll—uh—see you later then.” She backed toward the door, her eyes still
on Ned. She didn’t know what to make of his behavior, and was thinking of
calling the medical personnel, when he spoke again, still in a monotone.
“You really don’t have anything to worry about, Lydia. Everything’s okay. I
was scared. But I’m okay now. Silly of me—it was all explained away by some
Now Lydia was really scared. She raced toward the door, but suddenly he
was right beside her. He grabbed her arm and spun her around. Lydia gasped.
He had never laid a hand on her before!
“Would you like them to explain it all to you too?” He smiled then, and
Lydia felt the floor go out from under her. His eyes went scarlet, and she could
see the pointed tips of fangs in the dim light.
Before he could make the next move, Lydia had the door open and was
attempting to get away. He held her in an iron grip, pulling her towards him,
backing back into the office. She could feel a scream welling up from deep
within, as she pulled with all of her might to break his grasp.
“Ned!” The sudden call came from down the hall. “The men’s room needs
more toilet paper!”
Ned shook his head, returning to a normal visage. He glared at the man
who had called him.
Breathing a silent prayer of thanks, Lydia used that distraction to get away.
It took all her will not to run as fast as she could, screaming in terror the entire
way. She looked back, thoroughly frightened, as she turned the corner; he was
still watching her, a smirk on his lips.
Not unlike her first encounter with Vlad.
Judas stumbled blindly towards the city walls. His desolation engulfed him in a fog of despair.
Forgive? Who? How?
Himself? There was nothing to forgive. Was there?
Yes. Maybe. He hadn’t lived his adult life the way he’d been brought up. He didn’t see where it was worse than anyone else’s, though. And he had always been in control, always his own master.
Forgive God? God was supposed to be perfect and all-knowing. Forgiveness would mean He had made an error. Or was he looking at it the wrong way?
It suddenly occurred to him in a different light.
He stopped walking to think about this new idea.
To forgive life meant to let go of the past, and leave these events in God’s hands, knowing by faith that He is in control. Not to let the past own you, but to ask for His strength, and to move on. To say “yes” to Him, because He knew what He was doing, even it made no human sense at the moment.
Suddenly it was crystal-clear to Judas. A burden lifted from his heart, and he walked with more of his usual confidence.
He mulled these thoughts over as he approached the gates.
Other thoughts crept in, thoughts of a more present nature. Such as, where to lay his head for the night. There was no way he could go back to the brothers, at least until their anger against him had subsided. He hoped that the revelation he himself had gotten would also be revealed to them. He’d wait until he could reason with them, and relate all that had happened to have caused this tragedy-turned-triumph.
Just before the gate was a small encampment. The campfire flickered on two people enjoying its warmth. Judas was about to pass them by when a glint of gold sparked and caught his attention.
He stopped and turned toward the camp, his heart fluttering.
Could it be?
He held his breath, waited for another movement.
That glint of gold. It twinkled off the woman’s headdress, reflected in the firelight.
Jayla! Judas grinned widely and strode over to where she sat, plaiting reeds by the fire’s glow.
It had to be her. The same stance, the deft handling of her craft, even how she bent her head as she worked.
He was about to hail her, when she looked up and lifted the veil.
Judas froze, stifling a scream. Lilith looked out from beneath the scarf, her eyes maliciously triumphant, her smile scorning him.
“Oh, Judas,” she purred, “what have you done?”
The sardonic voice in the darkness in front of him made the vampire leap in surprise. He hissed, fangs and talons ready to tear up whoever had been fool enough to let him out.
The voice, and the body it belonged to, moved toward him in the darkness. A distant memory made him pause.
Could it be? Lilith?
She sauntered over to him, dimly glowing with her own ethereal light. He didn’t recognize her at all, but knew it was she beyond a doubt. The clothes, the hair, the demeanor—all very strange. But they could not completely conceal who she was, at least not to the eyes of one who had spent eons with her.
She smiled. “Welcome to the twenty-first century, um…okay, which one of you is driving?”
The beast stood confused. ‘Driving’?
Then it hit him. ‘Twenty-first century’? Twenty-first century?!
Just like that, over a hundred years and more of existence, gone in a flash. It had to be true; he’d never seen such clothes on a woman before. Imagine, a woman wearing trousers!
“Well?” Lilith sounded amused. “Are you going to say anything? Or did Vlad take away your voice before he left?”
“You know about…?” He could only get out a squeak after so many years of silence. His throat was beyond parched from lack of sustenance.
“Oh, yes, we knew. He popped right into Hell when he was, shall we say, ‘liberated’ from your body. Made a terrific impression.”
She peered closely at him. “So, which one are you? Looks like—oh, yes, how could I forget those big, brown, anguished, I-hate-myself-and-everyone-else eyes? Must be Judas. Am I correct?”
He nodded, dazed. Not a few minutes ago, he was in the world inhabited by the undead, and now here he was slammed face-first into an unknown new one. He couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
Lilith was pacing, her eyes looking at the floor, tapping her lips with a finger.
“Shut up. I’m thinking.”
How can I do what she wants if I can’t understand what she is saying?
She rolled her eyes, noticing his confusion.
“Okay, listen up. For over 100 years I have been inhabiting this world while you’ve been holed up in an inaccessible room. So, let me do the thinking. We have things we need to do, and I need you to just follow my lead.”
Judas shook his head to try to clear it. Such strange language, and so unexpected from a woman, even if it was Lilith.
She continued pacing. “First, we need a new name for you.”
“I am Judas.” The statement was strong, decisive, and unquestioned by the soul of Cain, hiding in the background of the monster’s mind.
Lilith gave him a half-smile. “Um, yeah—no. Even in this day and age, people avoid that name like the plague. We could go with Cain, but that means he’d be in control, and he wasn’t so good when he was just in his own body.”
The primitive features of Adam’s son appeared on the face and snarled. He opened the mouth to hurl insults, but was subdued by Judas’ stronger personality.
Lilith stopped pacing, finger pointed up. Then she lowered it at Judas. “We’ll call you CJ. Cain and Judas. That’ll work for this time period.”
“I will make my own decisions!” barked the beast. “I was in control of myself for many hundreds of years…”
“And then you got jumped by who knows who, some Hunter, no doubt, had the Vlad kicked out of you,” she chuckled at her own joke, “and got put in deep freeze until now. Yes, really great judgment calls there.”
A new question finally made itself known in CJ’s mind. “How did you know I was here?”
Lilith looked at her fingernails, admiring the red paint on them. At least, he thought it was paint. He salivated, thinking of what it might be…
Finally, she answered him. “Oh, we’ve always known where you were.”
CJ felt the anger of two frustrated souls welling up rapidly within him. It burst from his lungs in volcanic wrath.
“WHAT? You’ve KNOWN? Yet you left me here for over ONE HUNDRED YEARS???”
“HEY!” Lilith yelled back. She advanced on him, painted nails now her horrible claws, beautiful face transformed into her real visage. CJ stumbled backwards, momentarily frightened into silence.
Smoke rose from her. She looked like damnation triumphant as her eyes bored holes into him. “There was this little matter of something wedged into the keyhole. A piece of that CROSS!!! And how can any of us get past that, you tell me! It certainly kept you from getting out!”