I was just a boy when I found my mother dying. I had spent the day playing alone, as I often did. At an age when friends were easy to make, none of the other kids in the village wanted me as a playmate. When I asked my mother why, she told me that children were cruel. I now understand this to be an eternal truth.

I usually came home right at dusk and I would eat dinner before getting ready for bed. I would sit with my mother and tell her about the adventures of my imagination as I had played them out that day. I once told her I had been bitten by a werewolf and that my curse would transform me on the next full moon. My mother did not like to hear about her son being converted into a monster. I never understood why such stories bothered her. The story was only make believe, after all.

My father was never present to hear my tales. I would see him briefly as he was stepping out each night. If I asked why he had to go, he claimed that he was attending to personal business, but he never explained or offered more detail. When I voiced my wish that my father could be home at night—if nothing else, I would have felt we were safer with him in the house—my mother assured me that his absence was necessary.

“Your father would never let anything happen to this family,” my mother once said. I did not like to think that my mother would lie to me, but I doubted her statement. Because of my father's odd schedule, he often slept throughout the day, so I spent hardly any time with him. But as my mother kissed me on the top of my head, I chose to believe her. I was lucky to have a mother I could trust.

If I was ever late coming home, my mother made a point to round me up. I used to think she was lonely because she knew my father would be leaving soon, but one night I saw the concern on her worried face and heard the same concern in her worried voice.

“You are not to be out at night, do you understand?” Her hands were on my shoulder and she shook me as if to ensure that her plea got through.

“Why, Mother?”

“Just do as I say.”

“I won't really turn into a werewolf,” I tried to assure her.

“That's not what I'm worried about.” I saw the tears in her eyes, and I was pained that I had caused my mother such distress, though I didn't know how I had done it, so I hugged her and I promised that I would be sure to be home by nightfall.

But one night I broke my promise as I ran toward the house, guided only by the light of the full moon. When I got to the front door, I took a deep breath and braced myself for my mother's disappointment. I turned the handle and opened the door at a crawling pace. I expected to hear my mother cry out my name and then proceed with one of her emotional lectures. But with the front door open, I heard nothing. From the foyer I saw overturned furniture, paintings knocked off walls, dishes and other items shattered across the house.

A body lay on the floor in front of me. I heard my mother moan and I ran to her and knelt beside her and asked if she was all right.

My mother looked up at me, her eyes red. I grabbed and held her hand.

“What happened, Mother?”

“I'm so sorry.” Her voice cracked. Tears were forming in her eyes. They forming in my eyes as well.

“What are you sorry for, Mother? Who did this to you?”

“He is what he is. He can't be blamed for his nature.”

“What are you talking about?” Hearing her talk such nonsense was almost as painful as seeing her body broken.

“How can you be so naive?” My mother pulled her hand from mine.

“Your father is a vampire. A monster.” She closed her eyes. Once she had collected herself, she opened her eyes and continued, “I thought he could be something else, something more. I thought I could change him. You must get your naivety from me.”

As I knelt beside my mother among the evidence of the worst inside my father, I looked for a way to show that I could be something good.

“If Father is a vampire, then that means I can save you, Mother.”

She shook her head.

“Please, Mother,” I pleaded as I again grabbed her hand and held it.

“I cannot live on with my sin.” This is what I had become—no longer her little boy, but her sin because of something that my father had done. “I am destined for damnation. Let me meet my fate. I will not deny it.”

“I can be better than Father.”

“I hope so,” she whispered. “I hope so.”

My mother could not have stopped me if I had insisted on biting her and saving her. I leaned down and considered kissing her as a vampire, but I kept my fangs hidden and kissed her on the cheek, hoping that in her last few breaths she was somehow able to see me as her little boy again.

#fiction #flashfiction