You smile to yourself, feeling proud. The master will be so pleased with you. He is bound to give you a place by his side in his new kingdom when the end comes if you continue to serve him in this way. And you intend to, with all your being you intend to.
The new girl shows promise. She might be terrified and unwilling, but there is a fire in her. And now, a seed too. A new recruit, a new Nightborn, germinating in her womb. Your son. Or perhaps your daughter, you wonder. You’re not sure if you’d rather have a girl or a boy. But it doesn’t matter much. Your child’s gender is irrelevant, it’s usefulness to the master is all that matters.
Pulling in a lungful of smoke, you revel in the earthy taste of the cigar and exhale. Five years of careful planning and waiting are now over. You’ve shown yourself to the world, by making the first move. And it feels so good, to finally be out of hiding, to finally be out hunting again.
You continue enjoying this rare occasion on which you have the time to relax. The others are busy around you, but they do not bother you. Watching them work only adds to your satisfaction, for without your efforts none of this would be possible now. Without you, the master wouldn’t even have a dozen recruits, let alone an army. And that army will only grow.
Even though you very much deserve it, the rest, after having done so much, you can barely sit still. There is so much more that you must do, so much more that you want to do. Your wounds have healed days ago, the bullets were only lead and steel. You were lucky. Damien could have killed you, but you knew the Blaze in him would not put silver bullets in his gun. Once a Nightborn, always a Nightborn.
You leave the cigar unfinished and join your brothers and sisters, unable to rest for long. Movement invigorates you, sending blood and purpose coursing through your body. And the night, oh that beautiful night, just waiting for you, to embrace you with her veil of secrets. How many dark desires are being screamed at the starless sky tonight? How many of them are desperate for a savior? How many lost souls, seeking a messiah? So many possibilities that it makes your head feel dizzy and your heart race. You feel as though you could make love to the night.
And not only that you could, but you will, soon.
It is a union more intimate than sex, more loving than a mother’s kiss, deeper than any faith. It is the union of night and darkness, one made for the other. It brings tears to your eyes just thinking about it.
Your brothers and sisters have finished with the slaughter. You help them collect the blood in clay pots, the ones you yourself baked, adopting poetry as a hobby in these last five years. With a smirk on your face, you can’t help but laugh at how handy the hobby turned out to be. The clay will preserve the blood and give it that earthy flavor. Master’s favorite.
You help the other Nightborn carry the pots to the pickup trucks parked upfront. There are three of them. All the farm’s animals have now been harvested, their bountiful yield slushing joyfully in those clay pots. You load them all on the trucks and cover them with a tarp. No need to draw curious eyes.
Before you head out to feed the master you want to check up on the girl once more. Who would have thought that having a child on the way would make you so nervous? So excited! If you could, you’d just rip it out of her womb and take a look! But no, you have to be patient. When the time is right, it will come out of her on its own. Luckily, the child is not human so it won’t take nine whole months to grow.
You tell your fellow Nightborn to wait for you at the trucks. You go to the basement alone. The lack of lights down there doesn’t bother you, on the contrary, you prefer it. You step past the rats and pause before the metal door, listening. For a moment, you catch yourself holding your breath and skipping a few heartbeats, but then you hear it. Soft sobs. Sniffing.
You unbar the door and pull them open. As soon as the sharp grinding of metal shatters the dark silence, you can hear the girl scuttering away in the corner, her sobs becoming spasmodic and louder. She panics, as she can’t see who’s entered the pitch-black room, and you smile, for you can see her perfectly well.
You take a good long look at her. Her long brunette hair clumped up, falling over her face. Her eyes red with crying, her jaw tight with fear, her cheeks sunken. Her body appears thinner than you remember it. Being fed only blood for the past week has taken its toll.
A strange sensation overcomes you. You’ve known this woman for five years now, faring her home four nights a week when she came aboard your bus. You never spoke to her, you knew her name only from her bus card and she did not know yours. You became obsessed with her, wanting to know more, creating fantasies of your own. And now, she is not only here in your possession, she is also bearing your child. Looking at her misery almost makes you feel compassion. But one look at her belly and you feel pride again. You’re going to be a father, you think to yourself.
Her weak pleading voice tears you from your thoughts. You walk out, close the door, and leave her with her nightmares. As you walk away, she doesn’t even sob.
The sky tonight is overcast. But you knew that it would be. The forecast was wrong, the April weather too unstable to give a precise estimation. There might even be another storm. Perfect time to speak with your master.
You sit behind the wheel of your pickup and drive off. Five other Noteborn join you, one sitting in the passenger seat, the other four in two more pickups. You drive over the gravel road and through the forest with the lights off. You don’t need light to see and there’s no need to stain the beautiful veil of darkness with electric impurity.
Your little convoy keeps to the back roads, driving through fields, past other farms, and the roads that woodcutters use. There is no need to attract attention to yourself. You only cross on the main road once, and while you drive those six miles with headlights turned on, not to look suspicious, you patiently endure the foulness of illumination. Once the tires touch the gravel again, you joyfully rejoin the night.
It is quite a long drive to the master, and you find yourself wishing again that you would be stationed closer to him. It doesn’t seem fair to you that others were assigned that position, sending you so far away, so much closer to the city. But then again, you always were one of the best hunters. And as soon as you feed your master, you are going hunting again. The mere thought of it brings you a thrill.
After a two hour drive, you arrive. The house looks abandoned. The rain is pouring down like a biblical flood and all the Nightborn are outside, reveling, rejoicing. You and your own join them. Much love is given to you and you return it multiplied. It is important to keep up with relationships amongst family.
You notice that the blood offering is already underway. You arrived a little late, but still on time. The overcast sky and the storm are prolonging the night and you cannot wait for the promised future when it will completely take over the day. Eternal darkness.
Your brothers and sisters assist you in carrying the clay pots containing animal blood to the stone circle. There you place it next to others’ offerings and smile as you notice you are the only one with clay pots. The others have brought either plastic or steel. The master is sure to notice your extra effort in keeping to tradition.
When all the blood is placed at the center of the stone circle, you see Azazel approach. You feel a sting of resentment towards him. It is he who placed your station so far away from the master, but you can’t harbor ill feelings towards him for long. Not on such a beautiful night, with heavy rainfall and crashing thunder. Azazel sees you and he nods in acknowledgment.
You sit down in the wet grass and mud, back against one of the stones. It’s cold, but your inner fire keeps you warm. Other Nightborn sit down as well, forming a circle around the blood pile. You hold hands. You close your eyes. And you listen to Azazel’s voice, as he calls forth the master.
And it happens again. What you’ve been waiting for. A presence enters into your mind and body, and it feels like making love to the night itself. It comes with ferocity and power, and you can only melt in surrender. You feel like an infant, suckling at the tit of your mother, being given life nourishment you so desperately need. Your handhold with your fellow Nightborn tightens and you feel what they feel. You can travel out from your mind and body, through the physical connection and join with the others.
And that’s what you do.
You leave your body, let others take a look at it, inhabit it, and you enter others’ bodies. You go into your sisters. You go into your brothers. You love them all. And they love you back. And you all love the master.
More than once, you're tempted to open your eyes. To see and confirm with your eyes, what your soul already knows. The master is here, his presence is all around you. He is in you. He has come to feast on the offerings of blood and the offerings of love.
And in return, he gives you his vision. You see a glimpse into his plans, the future he is going to build on this Earth. It is glorious. It is beautiful. It is beyond you. You can only cry like a child, and you can hear others crying too.
But this paradise will not come on its own, the master tells you. There is much work left to do. He compliments on what you have done so far, but when you see the magnitude of his vision, you realize it is nothing compared to the work ahead. This is a positive message for you. You know you are on the right path and must double down now. Triple down. Work even harder. Hunt more, recruit more, train the army.
Prepare for his coming.
Prepare for the apocalypse.
You lose touch of time and it is only when you hear Azazel’s voice again, that you come back to your senses. Back to your body.
You open your eyes. The storm is fading, the small hours of the night are passing. You look left and right to your brothers and sisters and they look at you. You know them, you’ve been them, and they’ve been you. The connection you share is so deep that it is beyond words. Beyond friendship, intimacy, romance, family. It is a true union. It is what being Nightborn means.
You exchange a few words with Azazel, the only one that you couldn’t travel into during the ritual. Azazel is a medium, he is untouchable to you because his soul is tied to the master on a very intimate level. A level that you envy.
You and your Nightborn collect the now empty clay pots. They are not just empty, but washed clean, not a drop of blood is left. And you know it is not because of the rain. The master drank it all, as he drank your love.
You feel like in a trance. It happens every time after the ritual and it’s a blissful experience. It will make the hunting so much more invigorating and authentic. And you’re going to have to do a lot more of it if you are to carry out the master’s orders. If his vision is to come forth, you will need to be at your best. You will need to become the best version of yourself that you can be. And as you drive back towards the city, your thoughts naturally slip to the one person that always brought the best in you.
You think of Blaze.
You remember how it was when you first met him, how lost and hopeless he was. How desperate. A perfect candidate. A perfect recruit. A perfect lover.
You wonder why he changed. Why he denied, refused, and threw away the gifts of the master, why he cleansed himself of being Nightborn. Well, that’s what he thinks, that he cleansed himself, but you know better.
Though the bullets he fired at you didn’t hurt that much physically, they hurt emotionally. You were genuinely surprised, you didn’t expect he would do that.
But you forgive him. You still love him, like you love all your brothers and sisters. And now, more than ever, you want him by your side again. You need him. You need to be the best you can be, and he can make you be that.
The night grows late as you finally arrive at the farm. You all unload the clay pots and set on the road again, this time going to the city, to hunt.
You wonder if you should pay Blaze a visit right away. Perhaps you could help him see the master’s vision. But no. You smile.
He will come to you.
He will say it’s because of the girl and his detective work. But you know better.
Once a Nightborn, always a Nightborn.