The Shattered Mask


The fluttering tips of the candles seemed to dance as I waited for the priest to regain consciousness from my “bite”. Yes, just a bite. I had not been able to eliminate him, something unexplainable had stopped me. So, was I really a vampire? Once again questions and doubts began to fill my mind and what troubled me most was my new, undefined identity. At the same time I could not help thinking about what I was looking for. I had felt its presence up until a moment before; it had been there even while I was talking to the priest, as if I was to come face to face with it from one moment to another, instead now…. Nothing, it had disappeared. I desperately sought for an answer, but all I received in reply was silence, everywhere, except for the ticking of the old pendulum clock standing in a hidden angle of the room. As the priest finally came to, I left all my thoughts behind and asked him, “How do you feel Father?” “I…I remember! You tried to kill me!” he exclaimed. “Yes Father, I did, but something stopped me and you are still alive!” I replied. “You see, that is exactly what I was trying to explain to you. You have not been completely transformed yet. Now, come, we must eliminate once and for all the cause of all this.” He said waving a wooden pole. I was sure that I had taken a deep bite, but the priest did not seem to have suffered at all. He moved confidently from one end of the room to another and I noticed that the ticking of the pendulum increased. “Father, are you sure you are feeling well” I asked him. “You should be careful, I have taken a lot of blood out of you.” But he answered, “Do not worry about me; the sooner we eliminate the beast the better.” I insisted, “Father, please take a look at your wound in that mirror on the wall.” “No! Mirrors are deceiving!” he cried throwing the candle holder against it. “Or, a mirror can reflect what is standing in front of it.” was my reply. A strange silence fell between the two of us while the ticking of the pendulum kept increasing. The priest slowly whispered, “It depends on the image it reflects” and with these words I suddenly realized what was happening “Or the image it does not reflect. You are not a priest!” I exclaimed. “Well done, Varney, but once again you have been fooled by me . You do remember your name, Scott Varney.” And I did, I finally did remember my name, my life and the moment of my death. But what I could not understand was how this stranger could know so much about me. Do you remember your dear, Spanish, friend Estèban? I can assume any identity” he said laughing. I stood there in silence. I could not believe that the person standing in front of me was no longer a priest. In his place stood Estèban Camillo, a student in medicine that I had met in 1835. He was not a very pleasant type, but I had not excluded him from my group of friends. Then one evening I discovered who or should I say what he really was. He was kneeling in an alley and I went towards him because I thought he was feeling ill, but when he turned towards me, it was not my friend I saw but a terrible blood thirsty monster. In fact once I took a better look, I saw that he was kneeling next to what was probably another of a long list of victims. As a “friend” he tried to convince me into becoming like him, but I refused his offer. The last thing I could remember of my previous life was the sound of a coach arriving, horses galloping, the collision and then….darkness. “So, has your memory finally come back? A vampire with a human soul, not even capable of killing a priest!”, he said scornfully. “Perhaps I am not capable of killing a priest, but a beast like you…!” I exclaimed advancing in his direction. ”Really? Are you challenging me? Lord Varney wants to challenge me?! You have been my biggest error Varney and now the time has come for me to make up for my mistake.” He replied as he came towards me. What took place was an intense and devastating sequence of movements, full of hatred. While we fought Estèban moved so quickly that he seemed invisible and our leaps so high as if we were flying. Each and every wound we inflicted upon each other instantly disappeared but what we both tried to keep far from the other’s reach was our hearts, the only vulnerable point that once destroyed, eliminated the rest of the body. I did my best to keep my chest far from his blows, but strangely he did not do the same. At one point he actually came close to me and said, “Come, hit me! Tear out my heart if you dare!”. The situation had once again become difficult to interpret especially because Estèban was not the type to intentionally lose a battle. Then it finally came to me, the answer had been there all along just that as Estèban had said he had once again fooled me or at least he thought that he had fooled me, but this time he was wrong. He jumped from the beams of the ceiling, but I quickly stepped out of his way and in the fall his chest was pierced by a piece of wood. It seemed that this endless adventure had finally come to an end, even if I knew that It could not have been. Sure enough he was once again laughing at me and floating in mid-air. “Are you surprised? Oh, you should see the look on your face! I am not dead because my heart is not where it should be . Find it Lord Varney and you might be able to save yourself , but I do not believe you capable.” He said contemptuously. His heart was hidden there, somewhere in the room, but where. The feeling that I already knew the answer to this question once again rushed to me while the ticking of the clock kept increasing. The more Estèban moved around the room, the more the ticking of the pendulum became stronger. It seemed crazy, but it was the only response possible… the pendulum clock! “So,” said Estèban interrupting my thoughts. “Are you ready to die?” “I would not be so sure if I were you .“ I replied as I broke the leg from a wooden chair and quickly moved towards my target. From his position in mid-air he watched my movements and the scornful grin on his face became a serious look. Once I was next to the pendulum I no longer had any doubts; I could hear the accelerated beating of the beast’s heart and I could feel his fear. “What are you doing?! Get away from there!”, he cried. “Oh come now, let me see the hour of your death my dear friend.” I replied looking straight at him. For the first time I saw terror and anguish in his eyes, while the sound of the ticking became a terrible moan. I looked at him for the last time while with all my strength I plunged the chair leg into the pendulum. It made a strange movement, as if it had been alive, then a stream of blood flowed down towards the pavement . “Damn you! What have you done! May you be cursed forever!”, he yelled as his entire body shook as it had been affected by violent convulsions. He was still in mid-air when the flesh from his body was stripped away as he emitted a shriek and the spirits of all that rot dripped and converged with his blood on the floor. He yelled until what was left of his skeleton fell to the ground shattered into a cloud of dust. As for me, I was finally free from the chains that had kept me away from my new identity which I was now ready to face. The mask that Estèban had worn for so long had finally fallen for good.

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Francesco Grazioli è nato il 19 novembre 1964. Geometra, dopo le scuole fa alcune esperienze di viaggio prevalentemente negli Stati UNiti: a New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia e Los Angeles. La città di Saint Louis in Missouri lo conquista definitivamente (è la città natale dell'attore Vincent L. Price, interprete di molti film di Roger Corman, ispirati ai racconti di E. A. Poe). E' appassionato di Archeologia, Esoterismo, Filmologia e letteratura Horror Gotica. E' inoltre esperto di Uniformologia d'epoca.