That was death.
Simple, really. It came with dark eyes and flowing hair. He hadn't died with dignity.
He remembered, vaguely, the first memories after that death. The silk around him, the gaslight orange on the paneling. The dim hush of words in the room. There was the soft touch of a small hand. His sister was gently, delicately wrapping something around his stiff fingers. Her long hair hung over the coffin, trailing under her black veil.
He saw it, somehow, sensed it, without opening his eyes or taking breath. It was the first stirring of his new life.
Then there was darkness, and there was darkness forever thereafter.
. . .
There was no air, no space, no light. And yet his lungs did not ache. His eyes snapped open, in the negative space around him. Instinctual panic, the claustrophobia filled him. Just as when he was a child, locked out of the way in a closet. Strange memories encircled him in a second, discontinuous and random, yet all centering on the theme. A dying dog in the street one night, the disdain in a woman's eye. The smell of death in the clothes of an old, broken porter. Christ Church's ancient grave to Saint Friedswiede, who held the image of the stony building in her primitively carved arms. And far above her, Saint Michael, the archangel, the holy warrior stared with a dread and certain conviction forever in the back of his memory.
It was an instant, and then he drove himself in the direction he could only hope was up, fear welling up in him, and a new thing he did not know. It filled his veins and his muscles and his bones. It lusted to escape and broke through the wood using his hands, with a strength beyond his own.
The earth caved in upon him, loose and moist, and he clawed upwards. He bit his tongue and the blood startled him. His flesh tore on the shards of his casket. Like a wild animal he burst from the grave, covered in dirt and blood. A bruised, soiled rose petal fell from his collar as he darted his gaze through his surroundings.
The crooked stones, the silent pines stood in rows around the iron fence. He could see the martyr's monument in the distance, where they had suffered and died on Broad street, where nothing stirred now. The college gates he knew so well, where he had taken his exams so shortly ago, were locked and barred to the night.
And then there was her.
White and graceful arms, delicate in a lace shift and shawl. Dark, loose hair. Beauty beyond all others.
It was her day, her special day. She had gotten just what she had wanted.
And she walked towards him, and whispered to him.
"William..." she said.
And she kissed him. And everything wonderful and terrible followed.
. . .
She opened the door to the crypt, which yielded on its weak hinges. Her wide-heeled boots rapped on the stone floor, and she stepped out of the sunlight, which cast itself in long rays across the stone. She checked her wrist watch, unsure if he'd be awake this early in the afternoon. She felt a bit tired. Her day had been long, her days were always long. And were they really ever hers at all?
"Spike?" she said, looking about. The television sat blankly in the corner. His coat was draped over a chair.
She descended the stairs to the lower level, where the crypt joined the tunnels. She could smell the lingering musk of cigarettes in the air, where it clung in the bed linens and oriental carpets.
And she saw books on the shelf, and her curiosity lead her to the desk on which the bookshelf stood.
A left-handed guitar leaned against it. On the desk, a few papers. They were blank, save one. It had a small sketch on the corner. A bird in flight. It looked free, for such a dark place.
The books surprised her. Classical tragedies, she recognized the shapes of the names in their Greek. Beside them, a worn paperback. "Atlas Shrugged." Ayn Rand. Beside that, a little dark box. She turned its key.
Photographs. On the top, there was one of her and her sister. It made her unsettled somehow, to see herself as he saw her, to know he loved her in whatever way he could. Any love, in its way, frightened her after everything that had happened. The edges were bent. She quickly turned it aside. Then, there was a face she remembered. Druscilla, looking nearly human. It was a Polaroid. She sat comfortably on the arm of a tree somewhere. She wore a loose cotton dress, and a daisy was braided into a strand of her hair. She was smiling, looking pale in the nightime flash of the camera.
Then there was a heavy pewter frame, closed by a hinge. When she opened it, she discovered a locket on a chain. It was heavily tarnished silver, and had design of doves engraved around a garland of lillies on its face. In the locket was a piece of redish, dark hair. As she tried to clasp it shut, she lost her grip and it fell to the ground. She knelt to get it.
A hand took it as she reached.
"Feeling inquisitive today, aren't you luv?"
He shrugged, carefully replacing the hair and clasping the locket shut.
He looked at her earnestly, twisting the chain unconsciously around his fingers. "Well, 'least you didn't knick anything-- you didn't, right?"
"Wait-- why would I--"
He smiled ruefully, and she was silent a moment. Their attention turned to the picture she held in her hand. He looked at it with what seemed to her to be a calm, even distance.
"Who is that?" she asked, pointing to one of the people depicted in the faded brown image. He was in the picture, and looked strange to her-- timid, shrinking somehow behind his wire framed glasses. He was standing above a grave-faced matron and a young girl, seated on darkly carved chairs.
"That's my sister," he said simply.
And she was quiet again, somewhat uncomfortable. She couldn't remember why she'd come here to begin with.
She began to walk towards the stairway, and he called her back.
"Dawn," he said.
She turned around. He paused a moment, as if deciding something that had been left undetermined a long time.
He walked up to her steadily and placed the chain around her neck, and clasped it under her hair. Then he turned, shut the box on his desk, locked it with a turn of the brass key. She smiled slightly. And she climbed the stairs, and left again.