“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.”
Father Michael seemed to hear the word “ever’ in the whispers and echoes of the old church. He was an older man, verging on elderly. He had been the parish priest for a decade or so, and was almost unflappable, having seen many unusual things in his long life in the church.
There was a long pause. He scratched his balding head.
“Go on, my son,” said the priest. In case the penitent was unfamiliar with the sacrament of confession, he added “You need to list your sins.”
“Please be patient, Father, I beg of you. It is hard for me to be here at all.”
“Many people feel that way,” he reassured the penitent. So far, so normal.
“Yes, I know. But I have more reason than most. I have taken the blood of thousands of people. I’ve killed many of those people.”
“You’ve injured and killed thousands?” Father Michael was shocked. “You’re a murderer? An assassin?”
“Yes. Technically. When I say I’ve taken their blood, I meant that literally. I’m a vampire.”
Father Michael was silent, considering the options. This had to either a joke, or the penitent had to be deluded. Vampires did not exist. Father Michael wondered how to handle this.
“You’re thinking that this is a joke, aren’t you? Or some sort of trick.” The voice sounded both depressed and annoyed.
“Vampires do not exist, my son,” said the priest, tentatively.
“Oh, I’m real, and as far as I know, I’m unique. You believe in all kinds of beings, created by the One whose Name I cannot say. Angels. Archangels. Seraphim. Cherubim. Serpents. Demons. Don’t you? Why can you not believe in vampires?”
“The Holy Bible…”
“Doesn’t contain everything! Does it say how many chickens Moses had? Or what curse he used when he stubbed his toe? Anyway, the Holy Book tells the history of a small part of the world around the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. My origins are in Europe, somewhere North and East of the Carpathians.”
The priest decided to get things back on track. “Son, I’m not here to debate religion. I’m here to hear your confession. You do believe in God, don’t you?”
“Sorry, Father. Yes, I believe in the One whose Name I cannot say, and his Son. But I don’t think that we have the time to discuss my beliefs. How does confession work? As I told you, I have taken the blood of thousands, and many of them have expired as a result.”
The priest shrugged off a chill. “Primarily, you have to show contrition. If you come to me, and you are not sorry for your sins, then I cannot absolve you. If I decide to absolve you, I will assign you penance, which you must perform after the sacrament. So, son, how long have you been sinning?
“How long?” the penitent seemed surprised. “As long as I can remember. Five thousand years, I guess.”
“Five thou… You lived for five thousand years?”
“Or thereabouts. There weren’t many people about at the beginning, and time didn’t seem to mean much. Some small towns. They’d be called villages these days. Sometimes I couldn’t find anyone whose blood I could take, and I’d become comatose until someone wandered near.”
The priest was shocked. “So you are…”
“Yes, I’m older than Jesus. By a long way. Of course, I can’t remember much about those early days, as both I and the humans of the time were not long evolved from animals, and our minds were not much more than animal minds.”
“You lived at the same time as Jesus? What was it like?” Father Michael suddenly realised that he was taking the penitent are face value. “I mean, if your story is true, erm, that is.”
The penitent laughed wryly. “Yes, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it? But anyway, as I said, my origins were not in that area. I didn’t know what was happening in the Holy Land, as you call it.”
“So, the fact that you are here means that you are feeling contrite. Is that true?”
“Father, I am! I regret causing the deaths of all those poor people. I regret causing injury to those I’ve taken blood from without their permission. But, unfortunately, I can’t help it. If I don’t get blood, I become comatose, and if someone gets within a few feet of me, I can’t help but take their blood. And then I come to, and find an unconscious or dying person in my arms.”
The priest shifted in his seat. He made a note to get someone to fix the cushions in the confessional. “Is your regret enough?” he asked.
“Father,” said the penitent, the words catching in his throat, “I think that I evolve as the human race evolves. In earlier times, humans have been brutal to one another. Jesus was brutally put to death, but at the same time, so were two others, we are told. Crucifixion was not an unusual method of execution in those days. But people have become kinder, more sensitive, over the years. You have laws to protect the vulnerable, and you have mostly done away with the death sentence. You have rules for war! Humans feel sorrow if a child starves, is sick, or abused, and you have programs to help those who have difficulty living in modern society. I did not feel pity for those whose blood I took, back in early times, but these days, I do. Well, I do feel pity for my early victims now! I won’t take blood from the sick, the young, the elderly, and those who have mental problems, or the just plain scared. At times, I have found it hard to keep on functioning, and have come close to becoming comatose several times.”
“Well, well,” murmured the priest.
“I regret every single drop of blood I’ve taken from humans! Well, not every drop, it’s true. I’ve told one or two people that I’m a vampire, and from the kindness of their hearts, they have permitted me to take some of their blood. Somehow such freely given blood tastes sweeter than those drops I’ve had to steal over the years.”
“Have you prayed to God? Have you asked forgiveness from Him?”
“I cannot say His Name. I cannot talk with Him. I’ve tried many times. I’ve scoured the Bible looking for references to vampires, but I’ve never found any. There are many references to taking of blood, but they seem to relate to slaughtering of animals. It took me a long time to be able to even touch a Bible! Maybe, some time in the future, I might be able to mention his Name.”
“If I absolve you of your sins, then you will have to stop committing them. What do you say about that?”
The voice from the other side of the confession box, seemed resigned. “I cannot guarantee that. As I said, I become comatose if I do not get blood, and then I can’t control myself. I’m not even conscious.”
“But you can persuade people to willingly give you blood? Hmm, the question is, is it a sin in itself to take blood, or just to take blood from those who do not give their permission.”
“Father, if it is a sin in itself to take blood, what about those nurses who take blood donations? And if that blood is tainted by sin, is it right to transfuse it into people?”
“Hmm. Can you take the blood of animals?”
The priest sat back. “I’ll have to consider this question. I will need to pray for guidance. Can you wait?”
“I’ve waited five thousand years, Father.”
Was this the ‘unforgivable sin’ wondered the priest? The ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’?
The penitent was not despairing. Indeed, he was hopeful of forgiveness, otherwise he would not have even come to confession.
He apparently did not believe that he could obtain forgiveness on his own, that was sure. He regretted his previous blood-taking it is true, but did that make him contrite?
He was not obstinate in his behaviour. It’s true, he believed that he could not change, but he had tried to compensate for his nature, by trying to accept only ‘donated’ blood.
In spite of his claim to predate Jesus, he apparently accepted the reality of the Faith. He couldn’t pray to God, he said, but he wanted to.
“Do you envy the spiritual welfare of others?”
The penitent was puzzled. “Well, certainly, I do.”
“Do you hate them because their sins can be forgiven, and I might decide that yours cannot?”
“No. What would that achieve, Father?”
“I’ll think and pray for a while, again,” said the priest. It was not the unforgivable sin, he decided. If the penitent was capable of sinning, the he could be absolved of his sin.
The priest prayed. He didn’t use words, but ‘let his spirit flow out’, in his words, and opened himself up to his God. He had found this to an effective technique, but sometimes his questions were not resolved.
Was the penitent a human? If he wasn’t, then he could not have his sins forgiven, could he? He talked like a human, and the priest could not believe that a creature of Satan could express the feelings that he had felt through the grill. He felt sorry for him.
He made a decision.
“If I absolve your sins, would you do your penance?”
“I swear that I will, so far as I am able. What would it be?”
“To say some prayers.”
“I cannot mention… you know.”
“I’ll leave the prayers to you. Pray to Our Lady if you can. And secondly, I would like you to dedicate your life to help those who suffer from diseases of the blood.”
The penitent laughed. “I already do that. I cannot give blood, but I work in the hospital when I can.”
“So, I can’t believe that I am doing this, but do you feel sorry for your sins, and do you regret offending God, who deserves all our love?”
“Then I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
The priest heard the penitent softly say “Amen.” He waited for the inevitable squeak and tiny groan from the door to the penitent’s side of the confessional, but it did not come.
“You may leave now, son,” he said. There was no answer.
He exited his side and looked at the door on the other side. It was closed.
“Did anyone come out of this box?” he asked a woman who was seated in the pews. She had a clear view of the door.
“I haven’t seen anyone, Father.”
He rapped gently on the door. There was no answer. He cautiously opened the door which made the familiar squeak and groan, but there was no one in there. The priest smelled polish, and old wood, and dust. He caught a whiff of something ancient as he stepped into the compartment, and he closed the door which made its usual noise. Suddenly he felt the weight of all the confessions that had been spoken there. There was a sense of claustrophobia, and he quickly opened the door.
As he stepped out of the compartment, he thought about the penitent. Was the penitent really a vampire? He felt somewhere deep inside himself that he was. Had he just sent him to Hell? Many church sources said that vampires will end up in Hell, but other sources said that they didn’t have souls, so they couldn’t go to Hell or Heaven. But he had absolved him from all his sins, so, if he had a soul, and he had ended his days here, then he would go to Heaven!
“Is everything OK, Father?”
He realised that he was just standing looking into the compartment of the confession box.
“Yes, yes. Miriam. I’m just thinking about something. Sorry. I was just lost in my own thoughts.”
He wandered through the church still thinking. It occurred to him that his next confession could be interesting, but he felt no fear. He smiled.