"Where Angels Burn"
Copyright © 1999-2000, Dominic A. Wilde,
All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: This is a work of amateur fiction. The Vampire Chronicles and the characters contained therein are the property of Anne Rice, no copyright infringement is intended. The Character of Eric Draven is copyrighted to James O'Barr. Again, no infringement is intended.
This is for fun, not profit.

________________

~Daniel~

It didn't matter how much I hated the city, or how much I despised the place I used to call home. I had to go back....there was no question.

I couldn't remember her face any more.

I didn't care about the rest of them. I didn't, no matter what kind of emotional tricks of the light my mind tried to play on me, when it was dark and I was feeling partictularly lonely and forgiving. I was a good son- I sent them more than enough money to live on. Family gatherings were out, of course, since I was more apt to want to munch on one of the guests at the Molloy Family Thanksgiving Dinner, instead of the turkey. Besides the fact that there really wasn't much of a family to gather, any more. No reason pretending otherwise, is there?

We started out as a family, but we fell apart somewhere along the way.

The city destroyed us.

It was the closest thing I had ever seen to hell on earth. It was diseased. When I was a child, there was always the vauge notion that this was a terrible place- one where all of your nightmares had very real faces, and they weren't content to hide in closets or cower in the shadowy corners underneath your bed. They lived and thrived in full view, while you were resigned to wither away and die, behind the safety of a locked door.

And now, as I huddled on the fire escape- I realized that it hadn't been a child's over active imagination. There was something real here, something vile and evil and hidden- I could feel the sickness burning inside this city's heart like a fever. Like a cancer, allowed to go undetected and undisturbed for too many years...raging, just below the surface- eating the tender tissue of hope alive, and leaving nothing but decay in it's wake.

Oh, the poetic metaphors were really starting to flow tonight....

But no matter how corny I might have thought it sounded, I knew that some of it rang true. This was a bad place. I was suprised to see that it *still* felt bad, even after all of the places I had managed to call home in the past few years. After all, I had been to the worst of the worst....I had literally cut my teeth on the drug dealers in Miami. And New Orleans? It might have had a powerful undercurrent of evil, but it's beauty balanced it out.

There were no pretense's here. No beauty, no hope, and for too many- no escape.

It was raining- a light but steady mist falling from greasy grey clouds, and mixed with the rain were ashes. They clung to my hair, and slid down onto my face- into my eyes. I could taste sulfer on the tip of my tongue.

Devils Night. The city burns, and I'm home again.

That was one memory that still stood out, sharp and fresh in my mind. Being a child, watching from the apartment window as the fires raged out of control all across the city. I never understood what the flames signified. In my child's mind, I thought the flames were as pretty as the fireworks at the Fourth of July.

And from my vantage point, the view was just as good. Bright jets of orange heat dancing and twisting- reaching out with shimmering, demanding fingers...trying in vain to touch the oily blackness of the night sky.

Fire was supposed to cleanse. To purify. But not here. Nothing here was as it should be. I tried to explain it to Armand, once before...but the words I was looking for never came. Sometimes, it felt as though there were weak spots in the fabric...places where all the bad seemed to seep through, like drainage from an open wound.

But I wasn't here to watch the fires. I was here to remember.

She was inside, pacing back and forth restlessly in front of the open window, wrapped up protectively in a faded pink chenille bathrobe. Clutching the telephone reciever in her hand, undoubtedly trying to pass the time by chattering away her nervousness with a friend. Waiting for morning to come, and banish the monsters.

I was so close, I could smell her perfume- Chantily, if my memory served me correctly. Reminding me of christmases past....strong tasting gingerbread cookies with metallic candy decorations, and the feeling that everything would be alright.

Well, one day out of the year was better than nothing.

".....a year already? Oh, Louise- it was horrible. I'm thankful I'm still alive, nevermind that this place is smaller then the old apartment. A roof's a roof, after all. I still feel so bad for those two kids. But they should have known better than to try and fight the system. Still, it reminded me of Diedre all over again...."

Diedre. I should have been able to picture her face- she was the one I never wanted to forget. But all I could visuilize...all I could see.....was blood.

Dee was my older sister- the oldest of the three kids in our family. I was the youngest.....and in between, we had a brother named Morgan. The memories I had of her were fragmented, coming mostly from an eleven year old's point of view. But the few that sprang to mind burned just as brightly as the last sunrise that ever reached my eyes.

Dee had been ten years my senior- a veritable adult for all that I could remember. She had run away from home, when I was only six. She drank, dabbled in drugs, and always seemed to have a man hanging on her every word. She even managed to turn the comfortable world my catholic parents inhabited on it's ear, by giving birth to her first child out of wedlock.

She was a free spirit- refusing to let any outside party tell her how she was going to live her life.

And when she died, she took all that was good about our family with her.

It wasn't the first time I had experienced death, but it was the first time I realized it could be violent, and horrible. I had been with my father, on the day her body had been found. An eleven year old boy who still believed his parents were the strongest forces in the universe- they could keep you safe. It was their job.

But I had been very wrong about that.

She left behind a baby girl named Mica, who my parents raised as one of their own. They had no choice, really- no one was sure who the baby's father was. I always thought to myself that Dee knew. She wouldn't tell, because it hadn't been any of their business. That was how she was- stubborn.

The collapse of our family hadn't taken long after that. My father turned to alcohol for comfort, and with the alcohol came a violent streak we had never seen before. The smiling, genial man I had known before disappeared, and in his place was someone I no longer recognized. I learned quickly how to withdraw, how to stay quiet. And most importantly, I learned how to hide in the basement, where he couldn't find me.

And my mother. She let herself be consumed by bitterness. It was as if all of her hope was left congealing in a pool of blood on a tenement floor, down on Gratiot. The rest of us didn't matter any more. All she had time for, was her grief.

Morgan got out as soon as he could- marrying with our parents permission, at seventeen. But he never had enough sense to leave the city, so in a way I suppose you could say he was as dead as Dee.

I could remember every other detail, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't remember her face.

It was raining harder now, the light mist turning into a steady and persistent downpour. I pushed the hair back from my face and pulled my jacket tighter around me, leaning in closer to the window for one last look.

She was still on the telephone, talking with this friend she called Louise- bombarding the other woman with her tales of woe. Talking about her poor dead daughter Dee, and the *two kids* who had died when they all had been evicted from the brownstone. It was strange, listening to her voice as it droned on and on....this didn't seem like the woman I used to call my mother. This stranger in the moth eaten bathrobe didn't seem to remember how to laugh.

I was entertaining the strangest thoughts, all of a sudden....

I could slip right through the window, and take all of her misery away. I could take her life, just as she'd given me mine. And in the process, I could pick Dee's face from her memory....

No, there had to be another way. As much as I hated the way things turned out, I wasn't about to take my mother's life. I would leave her here, with her misery- it was all she had left.....and what's more, she preferred it this way. She was happy, living in a constant state of mourning.

Fuck her, fuck this city- coming here was the biggest mistake I'd ever made in my mortal or immortal life.

Without a sound, I dropped from the fire escape onto the street below. I wanted to see these streets fill with blood....it was the only thing that would make me feel better. Well, that and Armand- but I knew he wasn't going to be able to find me, not here. I had never told him anything but the most basic details of my mortal life. He would have no idea where to start looking.

Through the back alley's, and straight into the dying heart of the city, looking for the most disgusting creature I could lay my hands on.

It didn't take long to find what I was looking for.

He was standing in front of a bonfire, warming his hands....a tall, powerfully built black man in a leather duster. Watching whoever happened to pass in front of him, looking for someone he could target as his next victim. Nothing but a thug, most definately- but a particularly viscious thug. One that I was going to enjoy tearing to pieces....

But something stopped me.

I hadn't detected another heartbeat, hadn't heard the usual sounds of another mortal approaching....but someone else was here, just the same. Another man, with his face painted like a tragedy mask. And it seemed his desire for blood was even stronger than mine.

I stayed in the shadows, and watched death as it unfolded- riveted in place and completely unable to move....because this stranger with the painted face was no more alive than I was.

I listened to the hollow timbre of his voice. I tried in vain to pick up even the faintest sounds of a heartbeat. And as a last resort, I slipped into his mind.

He was confused, and in pain- having only the faintest memories of an identity. But through his eyes, I saw *home*....the brownstone, where I had grown up.

I settled back into the shadows, and waited for my chance to find out more.


_____________________________________________

~A Neglected Cemetary in Detroit~

[wake...follow...]

It starts with an awareness of being....of having been, before. No understanding. No feelings. No memories. Eyes snap open, and the first gasp of mouldering air is sucked into lungs that have been waiting....

[.....up......to me, up.....]

Hands touch and meet resistence. Fingers hook into claws, and begin to tear through the barrier. Pushing up, through the wet earth which cakes in his eyes, fills his mouth. Night blind and nearly senseless, he finally emerges from the earthen womb that has held his body for the past year. Like an infant, he takes his first gulping breath of night air, and his throat spits out an agonized scream, howling his indignity and pain into the darkness.

[......birth.....death.....rebirth.....]

The awareness is growing, but he is like someone who has been awakened from the deepest sleep...from the depths of the darkest nightmares. His body breathes and moves, but each breath brings a fresh wave of agony. No memories yet, only terror. Trying to remember something that his mind has thankfully erased. He rolls over onto the saturated ground, icy late October rain stinging his face, and soaking through the cheap material of his burial garments. Hair plastered to his face, looking up at the night sky- face frozen in a rictus of horrified comprehension.

Gravestones. A cemetary. The first real flash of a memory. But it is too soon, and his mind cloaks the memory in shadows.

[...stand...walk, to me....i have been waiting for you...]

There is a voice inside his head, commanding him to move. It is insistent, and there is no question whether or not to obey. On unsteady legs, he scrambles off of the ground, out of the mud, and grasps a low hanging tree branch for support. He clings there, afraid to let go...afraid of everything....

[.....look at me....look at what has called you back to this place...]

The crow cocks it's head, regarding his terrified charge thoughtfully. It has always been this way, in the first few moments after rebirth. They know no more than infants- all memories are intact, but the mind will only give them up in tiny, painful portions...when the psyche is ready. This was the most difficult part of the job, keeping them safe until the memories come back, and they understand what it is they are to do.

The frightened, ran soaked figure cringes away from the bird- sensing something in the hypnotic, black eyes that is too difficult for him to grasp. It is like looking into the eyes of eternity itself. But he feels something....safety. Protection. His body continues to tremble, but the fear has begun to subside. These tremors are being caused by the cold, and hesitantly, he lets go of the tree limb- wrapping his arms tightly around himself for warmth.

[......follow.....]

With a triumphant cry, the bird lights from the branch and takes to the air. The dance has begun, and soon the streets will flow with blood.

The figure follows, taking his first steps like a child learning to walk again.....stumbling, falling- but determined. He isn't sure of the destination, but again- he knows enough not to question. As he loses his footing and falls, he catches sight of the bird overhead- circling patiently. Standing, again- making sure of his balance, willing his legs to be strong, and not betray him- he tears off the jacket and shirt....burial garments, I can feel the mourners, I can feel their sadness burning my skin!....continuing on, letting the freezing rain wash over him. Arms wrapped tighter, shielding himself as much as he can from the elements.

[....here! for you.]

He hears the note of satisfaction in the bird's cry, and sees that it has landed on a dumpster. It is waiting for him. A gift. He cocks his head as he draws nearer, and with no more words passing between them, he understands. He takes the boots from the dumpster, and pulls them on over bare feet that have gone numb from the cold.

[......follow!.....home.....]

A building. A fire escape. And the crow......*his* crow, is waiting. The bird looks upward, and he understands. He begins the ascent, hands and feet finding their marks with more and more precision. Upwards, and onto the roof.....towards a door that will lead inside, and away from all of this icy rain.

A shock of electricity passes through his fingers as he opens the door, and the feeling of having been here before......of having known and loved this place once, ripples through him. He is hesitant, relishing the feeling of having belonged here- but the crow sqwaks impatiently. Together, they slip inside.....the dark bird leading the way.

Down flights of stairs, through hallways littered with trash he stumbles, skin beginning to tingle and burn as it adjusts to the different temperature. He continues on, not needing to be told...*remembering*....remembering the hallway. Something old, something from a dream. Another life. And when he sees the aged paper skeleton hanging on the door, grinning back at him as if in welcome......he knows he is home.

He tears through the yellow police tape, and turns the door handle. Gingerly, having finally mastered the art of walking, he steps across the threshold- and looks into destruction.

Broken. The window.....she fell in love with that window, I can remember- it's why she wanted this apartment. A view of hell itself would have looked good, I can remember her voice as she said it! But who....is......she?....everything left in the apartment had been destroyed. His eyes take it all in, mind battling with itself to remember. As he stands, locked in silent contemplation, a white cat makes it's presense known with a welcoming *meow*, rubbing against his legs. Gabriel! He reaches down to take the cat into his arms, and the moment his fingers come in contact with the soft, white fur.....

something was wrong, the sounds coming from behind that door- i could hear pain in her voice. stepping inside, only to see a vision of hell. not even two steps in, seeing her...seeing them...but before i could reach her, a knife inbedding itself- cutting deep.....falling, a million miles away from her. hearing her anguished cries, her bloodyfuckingSCREAMS! wrenching the knife free, and trying to crawl towards her.....towards the sounds, because my eyes are blurred, and unfocused. trail of blood on the floor, my blood...but doesn't matter, almost there.....can hear her calling my name. she is concerned for me, crying for ME!, and i can't see her. doesn't matter, I can feel her, and she is close. want to touch her, tell her everything will be alright- a bad dream we'll wake up from when the alarm clock shocks us awake. but THEY pull me away from her, pull me to my feet....i try to dig in my heels, but there isn't any strength left in this body. in front of the window, like some hideous parody of the crucifixion- outstretched arms...gunshots, tearing- pounding into the already too weak flesh of this goddamn BODY....falling. falling....

[....you remember....]

Screaming, memories flooding in faster and faster, burning open every pathway that exsists, like an electrical charge. But something is different. He becomes *I*.

[...tell me your name, shadow warrior...]

Draven. My name is Eric Draven

[...and what is our purpose?]

For I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.

[....yeeeeees. now, prepare yourself, shadow warrior- Eric Draven. we have much to do, and time is short.....]

~Eric~

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the crow swoop down and snap an unfortunate cockroach up in it's beak. I wanted to ask if there was time to stay....I wanted the chance to look around. So much here..and it hadn't all become clear yet. I wanted to curl up on the floor with Shelly's memory, and never move again. Every time I turned, something new caught my eye, and a new memory flickered and flared to life.

Hers wasn't the only face I remembered.

Faces and fragments of words, of phrases spoken....blood mixing with tears and cries for mercy. Rage pumped through my veins, cold and slick. Comforting. I would make them all pay.

The tragedy mask hanging above the vanity struck me with it's irony...it had lost it's mate somewhere along the way, when we had moved in to this place. But unfortunately, it was only paper mache, meant for decoration, and not to be worn. Fingers touch, caress.....and more memories come flooding back, of her...of happiness. Love and light.

And I hate- I can feel it flooding out of me in all directions, poisoning everything in it's wake. I hate, because I had forgotten her. Hands reach for the whiteface that still sits on the vanity, unused....it had been waiting for a Halloween that never came. I smear it on, covering any last trace of what used to be human in me. Black lipstick for a death's head grin, in rememberence of the happiness that had been lost.

Looking in the mirror, my reflection fills me with an emotion I can't name.

Satans Clown.

I shed the last of the death raiments, and slide into the old leathers that still fit like a second skin. This Hangman is finished joking....I am death, and tonight everyone will get the chance to dance with the grim reaper.

It is time....will you lead? Because I'm not sure of where to go first...

[...you have to ask, shadow warrior? follow me...see through my eyes...]

Across the rooftops, I find that my strength is only increasing. I can run faster than I've ever been able to, before. My reflexes are as sharp as knives- easily, I can jump from one building to the next. With this rage comes a new confidence, and I'm finding that I don't have the patience to wait much longer.

When you view the night through eyes clouded with cold fury, even this slum is beautiful....

In the city, where angels fear to hover and devils come to croon, the sex of the night lets down her black narcotic hair under a yellow opium moon....

My thoughts are abruptly cut off by the sharp caw of the crow- he has found the first, and together our eyes see him down below. A dead man, warming his hands in front of a fire.

I have to take a moment to remember this one, even if the memories tear at my insides sharper than the knives he carries. He is big, and brutal- and the bastard is taking his last breaths, whether he knows it or not.

Free fall off of the building, tumbling head over heels into the alley down below. Fitting, somehow......another fall, delicious sensation of vertigo as I let my mind spin out of control, and focus on the rage. Embrace it.

He hears me laughing, and is immediately furious. This only makes me laugh harder.

"What the fuck you all painted up for, crackhead, huh?"

I don't answer- what's the point? The dead don't have anything useful to say. I continue to advance on him....watching as he stiffens. He's not used to people who don't cower when he speaks.

"Halloween ain't 'til mañana."

He sees me now, and his posture is defensive. He thinks he's ready. And this silence is a direct challenge.

"C'mon!"

As if I needed permission.

He is as strong as I had expected, but I'm stronger....and this confuses him. His blows bounce off, uselessly- but I enjoy playing it up, giving him the shouts of pain that he's grown accustomed to over the years.

Don't let it ever be said that I'm not an attentive dance partner...

But we weren't alone in this alley. There is another, standing in the shadows....watching. I'm not sure how I know this, but I'm certain that he's not alive. It's the eyes, I think- they seem to be absorbing the firelight from the overturned barrel, and reflecting the light back at me, in violet flames. He is completely still- for a moment, I wonder if he's a statue...but then he shifts, crossing his arms over his chest, and I can see the beginning of a smile on his face. A smile of approval? He nods his head, almost as if he's telling me yes, I was right.

I don't have time for this.

I'm distracted, but I manage to finish what I started...draining the life from this piece of street trash, filling his body with his own knives. The rage begins to cool, and my bloody vision clears.....but the other is still watching. Again, the thought that he isn't alive....he is like me. And I wonder, suddenly, if he wasn't waiting for his own piece of Tin Tin. Surely, there had to be others besides myself who wanted to see this thug dead, by his own blades. Maybe I've broken some un-named rule

He shrugs his shoulders casually when I look back at him, and I realize I'm intrigued. Are there others? I would like to find out.

I'm sorry, friend....I don't know the rules yet.

But my guide is calling me, cawing impatiently, and I know where we're going next.

Follow me, if you can keep up.

<<