Monday, June 20, 2016

The Last Ball: The Tragic Tale of the Eternal Sisters: Felicity and Katalina


 The Last Ball:
The Tragic Tale of the Eternal Sisters: Felicity and Katalina
An original story by Ronald Joseph Rossmann Jr.
Told in nine acts


Act 1:

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”
Mother Theresa

Have you heard of the tragic tale of the eternal sisters; Felicity and Katalina?
It all began on a crisp, autumn night in September of 1790, at the Vladimir Orphanage in the alleys of Southern New Orleans.  Over the years, the formerly dilapidated plantation turned wretched half way house saw its share of disease, death, poverty, and hunger; duly earning the nickname, Death’s Nursery.  A despised place, deliberately ignored by the citizens of the small hamlet.  The children imprisoned there seen no longer as flesh and blood, spirit and soul, but mere refuse, staining the townsfolk’s lives with the filth of their existence.  It had haunted the streets of the city for ten years and in that time bore the graves of over seventy children who wasted away under the weight and despair of starvation and filth.  Death in such excess that the city’s elders forced the owners to utilize one of the many acres of their expansive property to create a makeshift cemetery; a place of deep dolor and hopelessness lined with poorly dug and unkept graves and decaying wood crosses, instead of headstones.  It was most certainly a place that Hades, himself, would be proud to call his home.  With each hazy morning, the stench of mold, mildew, and the recently deceased, gleefully floated into town, invading every home and nostril.  

Mr. Vladimir, the founder of this architectural atrocity, never cared for children.  He only opened the facility to appease his young wife whose barren womb plagued her with shame and regret.  The only way she could subdue the aching guilt of her condition was delusional charity; indignantly unwanted among this stoic community.  The plantation was an anniversary gift, and so, in the shallowness of her heart, she decided to use it to save the lost and homeless children of New Orleans; futilely determined to be a mother to the suffering and abandoned.  It was a glorious and vain ambition, but midway through the reconstruction, she contracted Scarlet Fever and died soon after.  By then, the incomplete habitat housed over one hundred souls, to which, Mr. Vladimir had no intention, or concern, to continue the burden.  The city fathers, however, gave him no choice; so he operated it with the lowest of priority and compassion, employing the most cold-hearted and hateful of staff. 

It was October of 1790 when two young sisters, Felicity, and Katalina, came to the orphanage from Mississippi. Their parent’s died of influenza, and with callous grandparents unwilling to take them in, they were sent, by stage, to this earthly purgatory.  The eldest Felicity, fair skinned, like a polished pearl, crimson red hair, stark in hue, as a ruby surrounded by new fallen snow.  She was petite in frame but steely in spirit.  Her younger sibling, Katalina, refused to cut her jet black mane, allowing it to flow down the length of her back.  She was shorter than her thin and lanky sister but possessed just as much fight and fervor.  However, she always chose grace and compassion over her sister’s more direct and careless resolutions. 

Soon after her arrival, the often stubborn and rebellious, Felicity, soon found herself at the receiving end of many beatings and inhumane punishments.   Whether locked in an empty room for days without food, water, and human contact or made to stand on a stool for hours, arms raised, with stacked books teetering in each hand; her tears and screams of agony went mercilessly ignored.   While Katalina, cursed with naivety and endless sincerity, found herself continually bullied by the stronger children; left out of every game and regularly forced to forage for the scraps of food left after everyone else had eaten.  Her absent diet made her weak and pale, but her spirit remained high despite every reason for it to fail. 

It was soon after their arrival that the two decided to sneak out at night, to haunt the streets, concealed in the darkness, seeking adventure and something to fill their empty, cramping bellies. With so many children to keep track of and far too little empathy to go-round, they were barely, if ever, missed.   They scavenged various garbage cans, desperately seeking the smallest morsel to eagerly devour.  Each night they found open windows and shabbily locked doors, joyously becoming gateways of escape from their relentless misery.  If they found something inside, it instantly became theirs; theft becoming their only glimpse of control.  They would steal everything from trash to tattered garments, broken furniture to photos hastily cast away by their thoughtless, unsentimental hosts and then horde their stash in an old shed behind the orphanage.  What seemed like worthless mementos and rubbage, was greedy treasure, their only source of joy in this curse called life. 

It took very little time for the townsfolk to realize who had been invading their shops and homes. To them, these two pilfering urchins were as obscene as the rats that scurried across the streets at midnight and like those despised rodents, had to be trapped.  The sisters, however, were far more astute than their hunters and, for the longest time, avoided every snare and pitfall with ease. They were shadows just before the dawn, too quick and elusive for the curmudgeons to capture.  Unfortunately, they would soon learn, that Fate’s ploys offer no escape.


Act 2:

“Before begin on your journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Proverb

One night, the sisters found an open window at the local bakery.  Their mouths watered as they shimmied through the narrow, weathered frame eagerly imagining the days, maybe weeks of bread, cakes, and cookies they would store and then feast upon.  Hands trembling, they raced from the back kitchen to the storefront, snatching a couple of large and worn burlap bags lying on the floor, emaciated from hunger and anxious to break the forced fast of the last few days.  Refusing to tolerate their antics any further, the angry community was more than willing to starve them, so even the smallest scrap was hard to come by these last few evenings.  The miserly townsfolk concealed their trash.  Vulnerable windows and doors were nearly impossible to locate, and some even sat on perpetual watch to prevent the pests from entering their domiciles and stores. 

They crept deeper into the bakery, eyes wide, as case after case filled with delicious treats came gingerly into view.  Pausing only for a moment to mentally digest the delicious panorama, they sprint, splitting up to eagerly pillage each cabinet of its contents.  Like wispy blurs, they moved from area to area, grabbing all they could.   Bags filled to near overflowing, they begin to stuff whatever else they could snatch up into their mouths, barely chewing every delightfully enticing bite.  Each taste is a pure indulgence, a symphony of flavors orchestrating complete satisfaction.  They want to eat more but quickly find themselves full, nearly ill from the rapid fire buffet.  Physically overfed, but psychologically famished, they hoist their brimming goodie bags over their shoulders, unsure of how they are going to exit with their newfound delectable booty. 

 “Felicity!” Katalina suddenly gasps. “The window!”  

Felicity looks up to see their point of entry now tightly boarded up from the outside. 

“Oh God, it’s another trap!”  She gasps.

“What do we do now?”  Katalina cries.  

“We have no choice, we have to run to and through the front door,” Felicity commands with the determination of a seasoned captain. 

She sharply grabs her sister's arm, leaving their prized cornucopia behind.

“Run and don’t stop!”  Felicity demands. 

Their manic escape is quickly thwarted as they exit into the arms of the angrily awaiting mob.
Before they can react, they are bound and beaten by the furious posse.  Furiously dragged from the store to town’s square the two waifs are violently locked into the stocks for all to view and mock.  The relentless throng of the irrational horde endlessly pelts them with rotten fruit, putrid trash, and wet manure.  Soaked with the vulgar smells and textures of excrement and scum the two weep, tears burning like acid as they mix with the atrocious concoction now covering them like a slimy, vulgar second skin.  Felicity looks up from her hunched posture and glares through the fiery assault bombarding her tired eyes.  She strains to see her attackers, her ears flooded with their taunts and profanity.  The vile brew drips into the crevices of her lips, tongue retreating to avoid the hellish taste of her shame.

“I curse you all!”  She struggles to scream as more of the repulsive residue oozes into her mouth, steadily slinking down her throat.  “I will have my revenge!”  

Her growls are quickly muted by the heavy hand of the constable who led their incarceration.   He strikes her two more times for good measure.

 “You will have nothing because you are nothing!”  He scolds. 
     
Blood streams down her forehead, dancing with the rest of the fluids she is engulfed in.   Katalina cries out to her, but her sister has surrendered to the exhaustion, disgust, and pain.  Katalina weeps as the constable provides her his demented form of discipline as well.   In time the scowling and violent crowd subsides leaving the two battered and bruised siblings to suffer alone in the courtyard, chilled to the bone by the crisp night air.  

“We are in hell, it is certain now,” Felicity barely whispers.

Katalina has neither the strength nor desire to respond.  Hopelessness has taken hold, crushing their bodies and spirits with the heft of regret and solitude. 

“We are truly lost and alone,” she weakly continues. “There is no one to save us now.” 

Katalina groans, her heaving sorrow too painful to bare.  Her body stands contorted and twisted by her shackles and wooden constraint.   

“We are utterly alone,” Felicity mutters, drifting out of consciousness again.

The air is still but sharp as the moon rises illuminating the scene in its eerie glow.  All is quiet but the sounds of approaching footsteps, confident and determined.  A shadow falls over their limp and fragile frames. A tall, slender figure looms over them, shaking his head.

“Tsk, Tsk. Tsk,” he sighs. “What have these backwards fools done now to condemn their souls?” 

His large top hat nearly eclipses the moon.  A silver-handled snake's head cane draped over his arm near the elbow.  A black wool overcoat covers his entire body, with only opal leather, silver-tipped boots peering from its hem.  His exposed skin is ghostly, far whiter than the moon’s silent luminance, as it glistens in the night's hue.  Removing his gray glove, he gently touches Felicity's bruised face then brushes away her matted hair.   She does not respond, there is nothing left to give.  In her barely lucid state, she thinks this must be the gentle strokes of death’s cold hand gently inviting her to the end of all things.  His dark and empty eyes soften.

“No, my child, your story is not over,” he whispers, bending to her ear.  “It has only just begun.” 

He rises and stares up at the grand ball of ivory brilliance smoldering among the shimmering stars. 

“It has only just begun!”


Act 3:

“Nothing can make injustice just but mercy.”
Robert Frost

Nicoli Eripmav came to this small town a quarter of a century ago.  He appeared suddenly and mysteriously one misty and bracing October dusk.  It was not long after his arrival that he came to occupy the Brandywine Manner, the plantation home of the wealthy widower, Thomas Weane.  Weane sold his estate for reasons unknown, but most of the populace was well aware of his affection for gambling.  He had been particularly fond of card and parlor games.  Some say he owed more than his soul was worth, others whispered about an affair with a lonely spinster who died under mysterious circumstances, a case that remains unsolved to this day.

Nicoli was rich beyond comprehension.  He completely and miraculously refurbished the mansion, making it the most majestic and architecturally ornate in the entire city.  Nicoli was a most generous man, as well.  Over the years, he selflessly donated the funds to build the town its square, a new jailhouse, and school.   He gave liberally to local law enforcement as the depressed economy spawned a surge of crime from the petty to the perilous.  A new steeple for the church was his most recent act of charity.  The simple townsfolk adored him, deeply respecting his counsel and wisdom.   So intoxicated by his open coffers, that upon noticing his repeated absences during most daytime happenings, the council, with unanimous support from its voters, moved all of its parades and celebrations to the evenings to facilitate his nocturnal schedule.   Of course, his steady financial support of such events and endeavors could also be perceived as a motivating factor. 

Nicoli had no wife or children, he was agonizingly alone, living in his manor filled with an abundant amount of empty, expensively decorated rooms.  Those who had the privilege of visiting this magnificent estate often wondered why?  Why a man who seemed to have everything was so wholly isolated, surrounded only by the cold company of soulless possessions.  Many admirers called on him, but none accomplished more than a pleasant evening that included a grand tour of the vast estate, the finest English tea, and veiled conversation.  It seemed the polite but secretive gentleman had little or no need for romance.

But recently, the usually calm and reserved Lord was engaged in a war of words and actions with the owner of the unsanitary and unwanted local orphanage.  Despite his best efforts to pour needed money and assistance into the facility, the cold and cruel Vladimir refused his generosity at every offering.   Even when Nicoli brought wanting parents into the establishment in the hopes of adopting some of the unfortunate offspring, Vladimir made it as tedious and uncomfortable as possible for both the adoptees and their potential parents.  Many simply walked away, while the rare few battled until they were able to wear the old malcontent down and finally rescue their choices from that sorrowful habitat.

The sheer number of poor and lost children, however, seem to eclipse every victory as a continuous sadness hid in every corner, with its tears staining every floor and wallboard, saturating the air with desperation.  Nicoli swore he would find a way to take possession of the orphanage and do so at any cost.  It was the first and only time the stale souled Vladimir feared anyone or anything.  

When Nicoli challenged the old man on why he refused to release the facility, Vladimir only countered with silence.  This wasn’t about the sentimentality of a widowed hermit.  No, this was about a vacant soul owning something others wanted and merely having the power to deprive them of it.  Yet, another example of his inexplicable pettiness and cruelty.

Then, two young girls became the newest inhabitants of this ungodly limbo.  Just a couple of small, insignificant vermin cloaking themselves in the darkness of night to rummage through the dankest of corners for the tiniest scraps to fill their empty, aching bellies.   Their loneliness and hopelessness haunting the dusk as it whispered through the cold, damp wind.   He felt them immediately, their quiet but constant anguish and futility of existence.  It tormented him in the silence, filling his mind and heart with a heavy, crushing pain.   Nicoli knew they were destined to become part of his family, to take their rightful position as his only daughters.   He knew it more than he knew himself.

The years, decades of empty wandering through the hollow halls of time would finally end.  The isolation and meaningless of his never-ending agelessness would be now be occupied by the warmth and light of fellowship and compassion.   An eternity of quiet desolation now suddenly interrupted by the sweet song of companionship.  They needed his support and mentoring as much as he needed their mere presence.  The vibrancy of their life would illuminate the tomb of his, resurrecting a soul long abandoned and forgotten.

After he brought them home, freed from their bonds and torment, not a single soul complained despite their outrageous disdain for the two annoying imps.   No one would dare chance offending this powerful and benevolent spirit.   For if they did, if he left, this town would indeed die a swift and remorseless death.

It took weeks for him to nurse them back to health.  The toll of their torture and shame took great pleasure in ravaging them down until only the faintest of heartbeats remained.  Each morning his team of attentive nursemaids brought them their meals, each with a crystal chalice of the sweetest nectar, neither had ever enjoyed.  It’s luscious juice composed of every flavor existing all at once in a beautiful menagerie of color, texture, and taste.   With each sip, they found renewed strength of body and mind.  Their physical wounds healed quickly, but their spirits took longer to mend, nearly broken under the oppression of a community of hate.

No one was innocent; they were all guilty of the scars of scorn now etched deeply into their once innocent hearts.   As each season passed, however, thanks to the compassion and salvation of their new benefactor, they found something they thought would elude them the rest of their days.   The one thing that meant more than warmth, breath, time, or treasure.  He gave them a gift that no one else ever thought of offering.

Hope!

Little did they realize, how much more he had imparted unto them? 

How life would never be the same, even by its very definition. 


Act 4:

“No object is mysterious.  The mystery is your eye.”
Elizabeth Bowen

It was months after that horrific night, and their acts of atrocity were almost all but forgotten.

But not for Felicity.

Their wealthy savior had fully adopted the young ladies, showering them with gifts and graces.  He transformed them from dirty, ragged rogues to beautiful, educated, articulate debutants who had not only been accepted by the once resistant townsfolk but, unbelievably, adored.  It is truly amazing what a little polish and prepping will do, especially when wealth and prominence are applied. 
How quickly sins are forgotten when inebriated by the wine of excess and entitlement.  After all, it was half a year ago, and Nicoli had nearly drowned the town in charity, providing for needed building repairs, constructing a new stockyard, and numerous donations to those who provide for the less fortunate.   Using his contacts, he established the city as a hub for sea trade bringing overwhelming prosperity to this once unexceptional province.

He finally purchased the orphanage with the help of public dissent and Vladimir’s failing health.  Almost overnight, it went from tragic eyesore to a proficient and superior facility servicing every orphan with the highest levels of care and accommodation.   He brought in the finest staff with remarkable pedigrees and education.  Even with all of the improvements to service and structure adoptions remained puzzling low, but with the institution in such an efficient and comforting state, none questioned it or even whispered a complaint.

Despite his unconditional generosity, Nicoli remained unseen over the last few weeks with his daughters acting as his liaisons.    Again, the girls had garnered profound admiration from the town’s populace.  The elders poured their gratitude upon them publicly and at every instance.   With each meeting, the air was filled with abject humility and overt appreciation.   In their minds, the selfish and vulgar acts they had mercilessly inflicted upon these two helpless children must have been repented for by now.

In their minds.

It was October of the new year when the mystery began.  It started with the disappearance of one or two of the orphans but by mid-month, the number had increased into the teens.    The constable was perplexed, as there were no clues as to the reasons or whereabouts of the missing

Could they have simply run away? 

Left of their own accord?

That seemed impossible with the strict and consistent security protocols and relentless commitment of the staff.    There was no evidence of kidnapping, forced entry, or even a struggle.  No witnesses to interview or valid crime scene to meticulously review.   By the last week of the fall month, a total of twenty children had vanished without a shred of proof as to why.

With All Hallows Eve fast approaching, the town was distracted from the strange happening by the upcoming Fall Ball that  Nicoli and his prodigy had planned.   It had been a staple of the season since the wealthy Lord had taken possession of the plantation.   He majestically decorated every square inch of his palatial manor, serving an immaculate cuisine.  The air would be saturated with the most angelic ballads and melodies by an armada of talented minstrels performing classic works and contemporary favorites.   It was a spectacle of autumn hues, delectable scents, and the joyful laughter of all who attended. 

And this year would be no exception.

Felicity had taken the reigns of all of the planning and preparation for this year’s festivities.  She intended it to be the grandest of all of the balls hosted to date.  The decorations were more extravagant, the menu riddled with specialties from all around the globe, costumes crafted by the most nimble masters, and musicians renowned throughout the world.  She spared no expense to create a celebration of the decade, maybe the century.

While her sister, orchestrated the magnificent party, Katalina spent her time at the orphanage providing assistance anywhere needed.  She was neither impressed nor attracted to such social indulgences, remaining shrouded from such trivialities by her kindness and humility.  Her heart was larger than anyone’s who had ever lived in the small town.  Katalin’s life was dedicated to helping others, even at her young age.   There was not much time or desire for anything else.   She had grown distant from her sister but not by choice.  Katalina’s relentless volunteer activities and Felicity’s continuous social and public engagements made it difficult for the two to meet, even by accident.

Adding to her solitude was the sad fact that she had not seen her loving father in weeks.   She was told by the rather secretive staff that he had gone across the sea to Europe to further establish trade relations.  To say she was skeptical would be a significant understatement.  Katalina had also instituted her own investigation into the missing orphans, although it seemed, she was the only one still concerned with the matter.  Felicity visited the orphanage on a regular basis, as well, but never when her sister was present.  She had developed a close relationship with the staff, one that kept them bizarrely distant from Katalina.   The once very responsive and gracious team seemed bizarrely aloof these days.

Despite her tenaciousness, Katalina was unable to gather any new or more detailed information regarding the disappearances.   She found the staff quite uncooperative when she questioned them.  Her suspicions’ grew with each passing day.

What were they hiding?  

Where was her father? 

Why such secrecy? 

Could it all be all connected?

So one night, a week before the ball, she decided to throw caution to the wind and truly dig deeper into the matter.  Katalina planned on sneaking into her father’s office, a place forbidden since she and her sister arrived at the manor.   In light of recent events,  his warnings had to be voided.  She needed to know where he had gone and deep within her soul, she knew that locked room would hold all the answers.

Answers she would later wish she never came to know.


Act 5:

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

She quietly opens the window and slithers in from the outside.  To enter through the hallway unseen would have been impossible.   It was a colder night than usual, but the frigid air would not discourage her from her cause.  The room was pitch black, total darkness, and yet she found herself slowly but steadily able to pierce the void as the room came into an eerie yellowed focus.   Stepping down off the small ledge into the office, she scans the crisp outline of every item in the immense space.   The window silently and gently closes behind her.

Her bare feet recoil on the chilled wood floor, but it only lasts a moment.  Her nightgown provides little warmth, however, she finds herself less and less affected by the prevailing temperature.  It is not a new sensation, she has noticed subtle changes in her behaviors, the effects of the environment, easily ignored at first, but with each day, becoming increasingly poignant.  Strange, indiscernible deviances, like her addiction to that sweet and tantalizing juice.  She could never put a particular taste too, void of a description to actually define it, even with her evolved vocabulary.  Somehow she is stronger, faster, sensed everything around her.  Very little escaped her attention now, smell, taste or touch seemed so undeniably acute.   Everything was amplified, renewed.  She was rediscovering the excitement and energy of even the most mundane objects or experiences.

Slowly but steadily traversing the floor, she is immediately intimated by the massive looming bookcases surrounding her, standing like towering inanimate guards rather than archives of literature, prose, and legacy.  So many books, all so old, you could almost feel the history surging from their worn leather bindings, ancient tales whispering in the dark.  She reaches the gigantic, oak desk in the middle of the room, its chair like a throne with crushed red velvet nearly glowing against the backdrop of the night. 

How can she possibly see that in the dark?

The desk’s top is clear without a single item loitering upon its vast antique surface.  There are three sets of drawers lining each side, all with an individual brass keyhole.  She swiftly tries each one, but they are locked, as expected.  Katalina cautiously pushes out the chair.  It makes almost no sound. 

Curious! 

But how?  

By mere appearance, it must weigh twice as much as she does.  Yet it effortlessly glided across the floor as if on taught satin.  She pulls on the drawers again, using all of her strength.  Their tarnished handles cooperate little.  Katalina crouches down, peering under the behemoth.  Using her nimble fingers, she searches its underbelly for a key that might be attached to its bottom. 

Nothing! 

Katalina then frantically inspects the two interior sides with the same result.    In frustration, she slams the right side hard, temporarily forgetting the deadliness of traveling sound.    Cringing, she prays the reverberation hasn’t brought attention to herself as the old mansion echoes like an empty cavern.   Suddenly a small plank of wood drops from the center of the desk, falling to the worn Oriental carpet below it.  She slides under the wooden monstrosity to view what has been exposed.  The tips of her fingers tickle the newly exposed, perfectly formed hole.  She feels some sort of lever, a large smooth switch.  Taking a deep breath, she flips it to the other side.  There is an abrupt, but tiny clanging sound and then the hum of a small ball descending down a hollow tube. 

What has she done now? 

The object reaches the bottom and rolls forward inside the desk making contact with something metal.  Another quick click and the top drawer pops open.

Has anyone else heard the sounds? 

She pauses to ensure her mission has not been jeopardized.    Slowly rising up, she glances into the drawer as her eyes round like porcelain saucers.  Standing, she reaches in to pull out a barely bound scrapbook dripping with articles and keepsakes.  Her heart races as she places it on the desk.

The answers must be in here!

She is correct.

They are answers she could have never prepared herself for. 

Answers that will shatter time and existence. 


Act 6:

“There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”
Jean Racine

As she cautiously opens the tattered and musty book, a hand roughly grabs her shoulder, viciously pulling her back.   Screaming, she drops the book to the floor.  It slides across the antique hardwood floor, scattering papers everywhere until it impacts a bookshelf on the other side of the room.  Katalina is spun around only to face the angry stare of her sister.

  “What are you doing!” Felicity rails, breath cold and harsh. 

Katalina is speechless.  Her sister’s grip tightens.  

“Let go of me,” she finally musters the courage to speak, swiping her sister’s hand free of her shoulder.   

The two face off, fear replaced by rage, curiosity by guile.

“We aren’t supposed to be in here!”  Felicity scolds.  “You know this!”  

“I don’t care!” Katalina fiercely counters. “There is something strange going on around here and I want to know what it is!” 

Their argument resonates like thunder within the large office, much to neither's care. 

“It’s all in your head, you silly girl,” Felicity continues. “Now get out!” 

“I will do no such thing!” Katalina indignantly rebuttals. “What are you hiding?” 

Felicity steps back. “What in the world would I be hiding?” 

“Whatever was in that book for starters,” Katalina answers, pointing to the path of yellowed, aged parchment now littering the floor.

“That is father’s book!” Felicity howls.  "If he had wanted us to see it, he would not have had it locked up in his desk!” 

Katalina huffs and then quickly stoops down maniacally collecting the papers.

“Well, I have to know!”

Felicity drops down to stop here, but Katalina pushes her to the floor; it is painfully obvious by her expression that Katalina was a lot stronger than Felicity had expected her to be.   Katalina continues to swiftly collect the remnants of the book.

“Stop, Kat!” Felicity demands. “Just stop!” 

Her commands only fuel Katalina’s determination.   Within literal seconds, she has gathered every scrap and shuffles them back into the remains of the book.   Standing, she faces her sister again. 

“You won’t like what you see, trust me!” Felicity warns. 

“So, you have seen it!”  Katalina growls in disgust, “You lie too well, dear sister, you always have!”   

She slams the book on the desk, blowing the hair out of her face.  

“You won’t understand!” Felicity threatens.  

“Just shut up!”  Katalina screams and opens the book, hastily but thoroughly scanning its contents.
  
Her breathing begins to increase in labor with each passing moment.    Every article and picture, as disheveled and random as they are, start to tell a story, one that spans time and reason.  The pictures and etchings of an ageless man, reveal a soul unencumbered by the heavy hand of the years and decades, remaining pure and nubile as nature moves forward altering all but his form.   With each word read, whether, by newsprint or the hiccups of ancient inks, she realizes who her savior truly is.   Her mouth drops as does the book from her trembling hands.  It slides back to the floor; its contents oozing out yet again.  Eyes vacant as her mind, she is lost, unable to process the truth, like trying to digest cork or sawdust.  She glances over to her sister; a smug smile washes across Felicity’s face.   

“Well, now you know, child,” Felicity snickers.  “You never did listen to me, that’s why you have to learn so many lessons the hard way!”

Katalina is still unable to garner the wherewithal to respond to her sister’s surprising and disconcerting arrogance.  

“And what do you think that precious juice was?” Felicity purrs. “That life-saving nectar you are now unable to resist, live without!” 

It is all coming together; Katalina is overwhelmed with a horrifying mixture of fear and nausea.  

“You had to know,” Felicity giggles. “Or are you really that thick?” 

Her mind racing; the equation now as acute as two plus two, but her spirit still refuses to accept it. 

“We are no longer those weak little things haunting the streets of this cursed and simplistic city!”  Felicity boasts.  "We are so much more!  More than we could ever have been without him!”

“Are we dead,” Katalina is finally able to mumble.  

“No fool!”  Felicity snaps. “We have been reborn!”    

“But they are supposed to be dead,” Katalina mutters quietly. “That is what the stories say.” 

“Fables told by superstitious fools!”  Felicity mocks. “Bedtime stories to scare children into obedience.  This is the truth!” She continues her scornful lecture. “Truth that has indeed set us free!” 

Katalina vomits violently; her chest feels like it is going to explode.  

“Grow up, Kat!” Felicity chides, backing up from the putrid smell filling the air and assaulting the senses.  “The quicker you wrap your feeble mind around this, the sooner we can move on!” 

Katalina vomits again. It singes her throat like spoiled vinegar.

“Move on to what?” She sputters.

“To what our destiny has always been!” Felicity announces. “What shame and poverty kept us from!”   

Katalina continues to dry heave.  Bent over, her small frame is riddled by the pains of cramping.   Falling to her knees and clutching her stomach, her arms wrap tightly around her abdomen.  

“Don’t you see, dear sister,” Felicity bloviates. “He gave us an amazing gift, and we have to use that gift.  It would be a sin not too!” 

Katalina looks up, eyes drenched in tears. “You call this a gift!” 

“Yes, Kat,” Felicity answers without pause, “the greatest gift!” 

Katalina spits a few more times to free her torrid throat from the remaining sting.  

“And we are no longer alone,” Felicity sinisterly continues, “in this gift, in anything!”

Katalina tries to stand, her legs are weak, body trembling, nearly uncontrollably.   

“We will never be alone again!”  Felicity cackles, raising her arms high, towards the ceiling.  

Her incessant, eerie laugh haunts every inch of the room.  Katalina finds her feet and stands defiantly; she forces the shaking to stop out of sheer will.   Before she can speak a word, the room comes alive in light as dozens of candles appear illuminating the faces of all of the missing orphans.   Katalina freezes in sheer terror.

“You see, sister,” Felicity stands upon the desk, “we have a new family now!”  “One that will never leave or betray us for all eternity!” 

Their eyes glow red, brighter than a candle flame.  They all smile at once, in some great visceral chorus, their fanged teeth tickling their pale lips. 

“And this is just the beginning!” Felicity announces.  “Our family will only grow larger!”

Katalina searches the room as the ominous figures stare blankly back at her. 

They are all vampires.   

She is a vampire. 

But how? 

Why? 

And where is father?

Felicity jumps down from her perch and gently places her sister’s pale chin into her cold hand.   Her deep gaze confirming the fears hidden within her silence.

“He didn’t share our vision,” Felicity whispers, “he would have only gotten in the way.” 

Katalina shutters.  She has read her intimate thoughts.

But how?

“It had to be this way,” Felicity callously consoles.  “You need to trust me.  Trust me just like you did on those wretched streets not so long ago.” 

Tears rain from Katalina’s tired, tormented eyes. 

“His death has guaranteed our immortality,” Felicity wipes the dampness away with her finger, carefully stroking Katalina’s cheek like a lowly pet.

“And now his death,” Felicity hums, “will ensure that they pay, every last one of them.”  “Those who couldn’t find the care to feed us will become our greatest feast!” 

Katalina’s eyes expand; the revelation comes swift and sharp, piercing her thoughts and soul like a steel blade.  She looks into the eyes of her sister but what stares back is a dangerous stranger who radiates of hate and death.


Act 7:

“The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague.  Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins.”
Edgar Allen Poe

“Now listen carefully, my dear sister!” Felicity ominously begins.  “I intend on getting even with this little, pathetic, unimportant cesspool of a town.  I will repay them for every insult hurled at us while we were defenseless, locked in those cold wooden stocks!  I will repay them for every ounce of garbage and slop they covered us with as we labored in their unjust imprisonment.  I will repay them for every meal they stole from our mouths, every second of peace they ripped from our souls, and every tear shed thanks to their profanity!” 

The brightness of Felicity’s eyes vacate, they quickly become black voids, lifeless, hollow, shrouded with pure, unbridled rage. 

“I will suck the life from them, dine upon their flesh and bone, and drink deep from their veins until all life is drained while complete and total fear is realized.  They are my prey.  I will tear them apart mercilessly, their shrieks and cries will fuel my hunger and satisfy every desire.”

Katalina stands, still woozy and weak, but undeterred. 

 “These children, the lost and abandoned, will help me.  They too will take pleasure from their pain; find joy in their suffering and sorrow.” 

The orphans hiss in delight, their blood red eyes pierce the darkness, illuminating their faces in a horrific crimson glow. 

“Soon they all will belong to me!”  Felicity chuckles.  “Just like the staff!” 

Katalina is paralyzed, numbed by the glut of her sister’s heinous revelations.

Could she have converted them too? 

But how?

“With the very same juice, our father gave to us, my dear sibling!”

Again, Katalina’s own thoughts betray her.

 “But you have to know by now," Felicity explains, “that it was not any nectar of fruit that saved us.” 

Katalina gulps down her fear and ignorance, it settles in the pit of her stomach turning a truth that chills her soul and tortures her mind. 

“It was his blood!” Felicity announces with glee.  “His deliciously sweet blood that made us whole made us more, made us gods!” 

Katalina feels the vomit revisit at the base of her throbbing larynx. 

“His blood gave us eternity!”  Felicity joyously touts.  “Now, I have done the same with my minions.”  

Minions? 

Who is this creature standing before her in glorious cruelty, this beast who at one time wore the garments of her sister, her best friend?

“Tomorrow night, they will come,” Felicity dances around the top of the old desk, “from all around this idiotic town.”  “They will come to celebrate their ignorance at the Ball we have so graciously scheduled.  When they come, they will dine upon such a wondrous buffet.  They will dance to the sound of the most ethereal harmonies.  They will sing and laugh as if it is the last day they shall live.  And it shall be, dear sister, it shall be!”  

Katalina tries to speak, but Felicity’s voice is too potent, easily eclipsing hers.

“At the stroke of midnight,” Felicity drunkenly continues, “my minions will arrive, surround them from every angle.”  “Before they know what is about to happen, it will happen.  They will be engulfed by a wave of hungry shadows that will bite, rip, and tear at their fragile skin, allowing their blood to flow, like rivers of wine, drenching my spawns’ porcelain faces, eager lips, and the floor below.  They will die slowly, with a historic agony as they are drained of each precious ounce.  It will be a majestic massacre!”

“No, sister, I won’t let you!” Katalina finally finds the courage and strength to object.  

The room falls deathly silent as Felicity smiles madly. 

“And how, child do you propose to stop me?” 

Felicity leaps of the desk and stands nose to nose with her sister, her eupnea like poison.  

“I am as strong as you are,” Katalina defiantly reminds, “born of the same substance that our father gave you!” 

Felicity stands there, at first, in silence and then, begins to chuckle quietly, which slowly builds again into a full cackle, savage and terrifying.  Katalina remains unfazed by her sister’s maniacal behavior, folding her arms tightly across her chest.  Felicity turns away and takes a few steps forward, still laughing as tears begin to stream down her snow white cheeks.  The orphans join in, softly, slowly, steadily, giggling in delight at Katalina’s nonsensical defiance.  Felicity methodically turns and stares at her sibling, her glare could melt marble.  Katalina refuses to acknowledge the rising anxiety in her stomach.

Felicity breaks the silence, “Child,” she begins as her smile turns quickly to a diabolical snarl, “you will never be as strong as me, not even in my weakest moment.” 

Suddenly, Felicity is behind her in a flash, her hands wrapped tightly around her sister’s delicate neck.  Katalina can feel the air struggling to escape and the biting introduction of pain resonating around her tender throat.

“I can snap it like a dried twig,” Felicity whispers as Katalina gasps for the slightest hint of oxygen.  “It would be as meaningless to me as those unfortunate and decrepit souls.” 

Katalina grabs Felicity’s hands, but her hold is solid, like iron, a bitter reminder of those awful stocks.  

“I should snap it,” Felicity continues to hiss, “but I will cease, only because of father.” 

With that said, she releases her sister who collapses onto the floor desperately wheezing, trying desperately to catch her breath.

“But you will never challenge me again,” Felicity demands, looming above her.  "Never!” 

Katalina cannot respond.  Her sister begins to laugh again and dismisses her audience.  Within seconds, they are alone. Before Felicity exits, she turns to her wounded sister, who still has not taken a full breath.

“You will stay in your room if you wish not to witness my sweet revenge,” Felicity instructs with all the confidence of a seasoned matriarch.  “When it is over, I will fetch you, and you can feed off the remains.  How predictable.  It seems that is all you have come to know and deserve.” 

Katalina coughs but still has no voice. 

“But, child, if you attempt any more nonsense…”   

Felicity’s presence seems to overwhelm the room, even the darkness appears to retreat. 

“Then you will become just that…scraps!” She growls. “Scraps for my minions to share and enjoy.”

With that, she spins around and leaves Katalina alone in her agony, both physically and in the innermost of her spirit.  If such a thing exists within her anymore. 

How did it all come to this? 

She always knew of her sister’s anger.  She blamed the world for all of her circumstances.  Now that ire has been amplified by her new, hellish condition.  

Was her madness the result of that vile combination?  

Would she succumb to it as well? 

Is her sister merely a future reflection of what she was to become?   

By the next full moon, Felicity would have her revenge. 

How in the world could she stop her?

She had already proven her hate far outweighed Katalina’s compassion.  She had to figure it out.  If she failed, the bowels of hell itself would open and spill out flooding everything and drowning everyone in their own blood and terror.    Only she could prevent it. 

It is an impossible task!


Act 8:

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

The townsfolk begin to gather on the grounds early this year.  Their costumes speaking of stories of love, hope, fear, and death.  Whether simply crafted or elaborately ornate, their mere presence delights the eyes with their tales of fancy and fright.  The air fills with the delectable smells of the endless buffet lined with all manner of meats, fresh fruits, vegetables, and sweets of all varieties.  Music floats above them, tantalizing their ears as they dance among the topiary and marble columns.  It was everything Felicity had promised it would be.  The guests are joyously ignorant to the fate that awaits at the stroke of twelve.

Katalina weeps in her room, the weight of what is to come suffocating her essence. 

There is no hope!

She would not be able to stop the incarnate evil that her sister had become.  Every strand of music haunts her, each burst of laughter only embellishes her tears.  It is pure torture.  Felicity had converted all the orphans now; she knew it deep within her heart.  The staff had turned too, anxiously, but patiently waiting for their moment to strike.  This had become a house of darkness and hate, instead of beauty and solitude.  It was no longer the home of her father or the man she knew to be as such.  One he had built and cared for.  No, it was a veiled tomb silently awaiting its new residents.  Everyone was here now.  The streets were empty, homes barren, stores closed for the festivities.  The entire community had gathered together for their collective funeral, disguised, just as they were, hidden in a twilight masquerade.

She peers out her window to witness their joy and frolic; it is the most horrifying thing she has ever seen.   The massive grandfather clock in the main hall strikes eleven and eerily chimes that many times.   The beautiful sound now mutilated and reformed into the melodious laugh of a madman.  Felicity appears and makes a masterful speech welcoming them all, inviting them into the main hall for the feast to begin.  

Little did they know it is they that are about to be the main course? 

Katalina did not know where the orphans were hiding but she could feel them all around her.   Their hunger calls to her in the shadows like the siren’s song.    She had to resist it!  She refuses to become one of her sister’s minions; a soulless, lifeless drone, purged of all free will and purpose.

Suddenly a whisper pierces her torment, “I did not free you to be weak!”

The barely recognizable voice echoes in her tiny ears.  She frantically searches the room to find its source, but she is alone, wholly alone. 

“I did not free you to be weak!” It repeats, just slightly louder than before. 

She stands and searches again, but nothing has changed. 

Maybe she has finally gone mad. 

“You are stronger than this, stronger than you know!” It continues.

But from what direction and why? 

Katalina feels a welling in her soul as if something is forming within her belly. 

“She is weak, her hate has made her weak!” The voice is louder now, more pronounced.  “She knows it has, and that is why she fears you, and you alone.” 

Is it her own voice, courage scolding her for cowardice? 
  
No, it is a man’s voice, familiar, strong but calming. 

“Find your strength, find it now, or you will damn yourself to the same darkness, the same end!”  It calls out a final time and then the room falls deadly silent.

Without a doubt, she now knows whose voice it is now. 
 
It is father's, she is sure of it. 

Was he calling to her from his grave, or merely her own confidence mimicking his familiar tone and quality? 

Either way, she knows what she has to do.  

Whatever is being conceived within her, fueled by his encouragement, has now blossomed, and her bravery reborn.  Defiantly glaring at the locked door before her, laughing at the collective splinters, she knows with an indescribable certainty they will not be able to hold her back.

Her father’s words still ringing, unfaded, within her mind.  The realization that if she does not act, only death awaits to permeate her entire essence.   Death not of her body, but her soul, spirit, identity.  To do nothing, will make her as mindless as Felicity’s disciples, and every drop of blood shed tonight will stain her hands as deeply as her sister’s.   She looks up at the clock, half past.

There is still time!

But it is fleeting!

Felicity looms over her guests at the top of the grand staircase, her smile widens as each minute ticks away.  As they sit at the myriad of large round tables, covered by the most elegant linen table covers, surrounded by the rarest of crystal goblets and delicate china, devouring their meals with ravenous delight, Felicity’s disdain and ire grows.   As does her bloodlust, eclipsing any remorse that would stay her hand against her upcoming revenge.  Her servants concealed in the shadows and perched in the rafters of the vaulted ceilings above.  They eagerly await their master’s command, salivating at the mere thought of the blood that will drench and titillate their tongues.  The staff serves each and every guest young and old, generously delving out their portions to thicken the blood and fatten the flesh.   Felicity basks in the moment, in her newfound power, something she had never dared to dream of until now.

For so long she was a pathetic nothing, a burden, unimportant, and insignificant.  Starving, dehydrated, poor, forced to beg for every meal, as few and far between as they were.  A tattered, cold, and dying soul, void of hope, abandoned, unloved, praying for death as the only source of real peace.  Now, she was whole, healthy, and superior.  Now she had everything, all the control.  In a few more minutes, she would take everything from them, with no life spared no matter their age, gender, or providence. 

And there is nothing to stop her, nothing!

She giggles and then covertly motions in the air as her disciples begin to descend from the ceiling, scaling down the walls.  The servants put down their trays and untie their aprons.  Felicity watches as the orphans surround the dining hall from a distance, staying just out of sight.   Of course, even if they were more conspicuous, it would not have mattered.  The townsfolk are so distracted by their false sense of safety and overzealous revelry that any threat, no matter how pronounced, would have been inadvertently ignored.   Felicity takes a deep breath and sighs in unchecked satisfaction.  Her time has come, and theirs is over.    She reminisces one more time about her history of pain and shame cumulating into that shameful, unjust night in the stocks.  It quickly wipes away any mercy or concern that may still be clinging to her cold, dead heart.  It is an easy task.  

Five minutes to go. 

It is five minutes too long!


Act 9:

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that, in the process, he does not become a monster.
Nietzsche

Just at the height of her arrogant introspection a voice cries out bellowing through the massive hall.  It possesses an unfamiliar strength and determination. 

“You are all in danger!” It announces. “You must leave now, or you will die!” 

The noise of the crowd’s trivial chatter engulfs the command.  Felicity scans the room to identify the voice’s source.  Suddenly Katalina appears as if she was abruptly transported there out of thin air.  She lands on one of the large tables with a thud, shaking it violently.  The crowd is immediately stunned by her sudden appearance and collectively gasps. 

“Leave, or die!” She growls, eyes on fire! 

She bares her newly formed fangs shimmering like mother of pearl.   Her face is stone, frozen in a terrifying glare that violently fills and pierces the room.

One guest screams, then another, and another.  As more and more bear witness to her ferocious presence, their reactions undeniable express an unbridled fear.   They begin to scatter from the room, knocking over tables and chairs.  Crystal shatters as it impacts the floor, shards streaking across the vast space.   They exit full speed in droves, trampling those that are frail as the exodus reaches a frantic pace.  Katalina cackles as the melee reaches its fullness and screams with delight.    Her shrieks assault every sense and occupy the entirety of the massive space.

Felicity’s angst reaches unspeakable heights as she helplessly watches her well-formulated plan collapse under the prowess of Katalina’s intrusion.  Her disciples are motionless in confusion, unable to react to the events transpiring so effortlessly before them.  

“Katalina!”  Felicity screams. 

Katalina turns to her sister and snarls.  It is at that moment, the bond that had linked them together, by birth and blood, tears and siblings suddenly become more than strangers but bitter enemies.
Felicity springs from the step, launching into the air, soaring toward her sister.   Katalina scoffs as her sister glides through the air.   She abruptly ascends, crushing the table that was below her feet into fragments.  They meet mid-air, colliding into one another, as they streak across the rafters impacting a wall across the room.   The aged wood and fragile tile crumble as they strike.   They wrestle across the wall, suspended high above Felicity’s stooges.  Their claws dig deep into each other’s flesh, tearing it as if it was wet paper.   Katalina attempts to bite her sister, like a high-strung viper but misses as her sister flips her around and they rapidly plummet to the floor below.

Hitting the floor at full speed, tables and chairs violently disperse and china and crystal reign down all around them.   Felicity tries to bite her sister’s exposed neck but fails as her sister grabs her face and buries her talon-like thumbnail deep into Felicity’s left eye.  Black blood spews from the wound bathing Katalina in its sticky sheen.  Felicity screams in agony, as Katalina rakes her jagged nails across her cheek exposing muscle and bone.   Felicity picks her sister up and tosses her across the room, power fueled by unimaginable pain.  Katalina slides across the floor slamming into the wall breaking past its structure and sinking deep within its construction. 

“Kill her!” Felicity bellows to her toadies. “Tear her apart!”

Her minions break the hypnotic spell they were under and howl in delight.  They swarm towards Katalina, who has disappeared into the ruins of the wall.   The hole is instantaneously covered with a black shroud of bodies desperate to feast upon her flesh.    Their numbers are so great; they physically appear as one entity moving in perfect, vicious unity.

    “There will be nothing left,” Felicity chuckles, wiping the ever-flowing blood from the lacerations on her face.

Suddenly the room is filled with the shrill screams of Felicity’s horde as they scatter like roaches exposed to a burst of light.   They spread to every corner of the room in a flash as Katalina emerges from the rubble with a makeshift cross created with remnants of wood.  It sears her palms, smoke streaming between her fingers.   She sobs in agony as she boldly holds up the crucifix to successfully ward off her attackers.

Felicity gasps as he watches the mob helplessly divide like frightened rats.  Katalina drops the cross and lurches forward soaring through the air and tackling Felicity to the ground.  This time, her strike hits its mark.  She sinks her sharp fangs into the soft nape of her sister’s neck.  First biting down and then snapping forward ripping a bloodied, vile hunk of sinew from her throat.   Felicity tries to scream, but it is muffled by the flood of blood filling her throat.  Katalina strikes again, crushing her sister’s jugular.  The crunching sound makes the minions cringe in terror.  She pulls forward again exposing the entirety of Felicity’s open throat.   Felicity gargles in her own blood, her ability to breathe utterly vanquished.

Katalina thrusts her left hand into her sibling’s chest, shredding flesh and shattering bone until she holds her sister’s barely beating heart in her fist. 

“I release you, dear child,” Katalina whispers, mercilessly yanking the organ from Felicity’s body, casting it across the room. 

It slams against the wall and splatters.   Felicity groans as life violently evacuates, and her limp body begins to turn to ash.  Within an instant, Katalina is covered in the dust and debris that was once her enemy, her only sister.    The minions screech as they begin to violently dissolve, liquefying before her eyes into pools of vile, putrid red and black slime.

Within seconds, the hall falls silent with only the smell of death and decay loudly calling out to her.  
“It’s over,” she sighs, collapsing to the floor.  

Her hands ache; she knows the burns will never heal.   She gladly embraces the silence, rolling over and staring at the ceiling.  The delicately crafted mural above her tells the biblical story of Cain and Abel in brilliant color and detail, unmolested by the careless hands of time.   It is as if it were painted just yesterday.  

“How ironic,” she ponders.

There is no remorse! 

What was done, had to be done! 

Her sister died long ago, whether it was from the virgin sip of her father’s blood or the rage that began to consume her from their first step in this nowhere town.   She had abandoned her just like everyone else.   Suddenly her quiet contemplation is rudely interrupted by a man’s voice.

“Is anyone here?”

She recognizes it right away; it is the constable who arrested them so many months before.    The man who so easily and harshly bruised her cheek with his prejudice and animosity.  She slowly rises and sees him.  He spots her too.

“Katalina are you okay, what happened here?” 

She realizes he was the only one who had not attended the twisted gala, patrolling the empty streets with a bottle of bourbon and a flask filled with ignorance.

“Nothing,” she smiles, “nothing at all.” 

The confusion on his face is undeniable.  

“Are you alright, this place is a horrific mess,” he gasps. “The townsfolk said there was a monster here.” 

He cautiously approaches her, “It sounded ludicrous, but now that I see all this.”

Katalina glides over to him.

“No, not a monster,” she purrs. 

He stops in his tracks, memorized by her stare and gentle, angelic voice.  
 
“Then what?” He puzzles as he becomes mysteriously drowsy. 

“Justice,” she whispers, standing behind him and running her nimble fingers through his hair, knocking off his hat.

The constable is suddenly paralyzed where he stands, unable to understand why.  

“But that doesn’t matter now,” she seductively continues, “you are just in time.” 

“For what?” He can barely muster the words.   

She stands before him, her soft, subtle lips only inches from his face.  She peers deep into his eyes, beyond his very soul. 

“Dinner,” she coos. 

Fear fills the man’s heart, but he cannot react, frozen under her spell.

His screams fill the hall, carried throughout the estate on the winds of the chilly night.  The sound of his bones cracking and the complete violation of his flesh the only underscore.   She delights in her feast, drenching herself in his succulent blood and terror.

The night is young, the ball may be over, by her celebration has only just begun.



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