Pietro: Salient Suffering
Lying on the floor of the dank, dark cave, Pietro replayed the scenes of the day in his head in a desperate attempt to make sense of them. Power coursed through his veins while he remembered the scholar chained submissively in his dungeon. Intense fear followed with the remembrance of the scholar’s regeneration after having had his throat slit. Pietro assembled the pieces of his memory like a puzzle. He had lost all track of time, and some of the pieces were missing. He had felt quite justified in ordering that the creature be burned at the stake, and now he found himself trapped in a similar life to that of the one he had ordered terminated only a few short hours ago … Or was it days?
He could not bear the torment of thinking about his sister, Marcella, both beautiful and clever, the onetime jewel of his father’s eye. Pietro had discarded her nearly lifeless body to the Gypsy healer after she contracted the black death, fearing that he himself would fall victim to its merciless wrath. Never had he conceived that she could have survived, yet she was still young and more beautiful than ever. A now powerful and vengeful enemy, Pietro had been but a rag doll in her grasp. The frustration in his mind was rivaled only by the burning sensation in his chest, a burning he knew would have to be appeased.
It was with considerable humiliation and disgust that Pietro resolved himself to the fact that he would have to consume a rat—or rather its lifeblood. He summoned up whatever willpower he could muster and set himself to purpose.
There in the dark, he heard the telltale squeaking of his prey. To his great surprise, he could also hear the rhythm of its tiny heart. Pietro lay quite still, waiting patiently as the rat approached. It was not long before the gruesome feast was at his feet. He reached out and grabbed the creature. For a moment, he was moved by the struggle of the rodent as it scratched and clawed for dear life. The intense burning in Pietro’s chest soon put an end to the struggle as he gave in to the need he had no ability to deny. Sinking his teeth into the furry body, he drained the hot, metallic-tasting fluid almost instantly. Tossing the empty husk to the side, he began to feel less repulsed with this new means of survival and more soothed instead.
After repeating this gory ritual over and over during his first week, Pietro came to a place of acceptance within his mind. He vowed that he would not shrink from his new life, because even more detestable to him than his new diet was the thought of Marcella’s conquest over his spirit.
As a new vampire, Pietro sat in his dank, self-imposed prison both lonely and sulking. Time and again he attempted to reach out timidly toward the light of day at the cave’s entrance, only to be subjected to the sizzling of his flesh. His fingers healed, but he grew more and more fearful of the sun. At least he was full, the decaying bodies of his tiny victims strewn all about the cave as evidence of his feasting.
Pietro heard someone approach, and in spite of the dimness within the cave, his sister Marcella’s face was revealed to him.
“Sweet sister, how kind of you to visit me in my loneliness.” He scowled.
“I see that you are not totally lifeless. Perhaps you are beginning to enjoy consuming rodents? Tell me, brother—how do you find your new accommodations? Is the cave filled with all the comforts of home?” Marcella taunted him.
“Is this to be our new relationship, Marcella? You the powerful and I the subservient? Leave me to my dismal surroundings. Your company is nothing but a painful reminder of the life I have lost.” Pietro could easily recall that not so long ago it was he who played the heartless master to his sister’s suffering.
“Oh, I do hope so, Pietro—after all the joys of life that you have squandered, not to mention those you’ve stolen from me. I will make it a point to visit often just so that I may revel in your misery!”
With that, Pietro lunged at her throat, determined to dispatch the source of his cruel pain. To his dismay, with imperceptible effort, Marcella brushed him away as one might flick away a fly.
“You are pathetic. Have you learned nothing, dog? I could destroy you without so much effort as it takes to fasten my shoe, you that deserve no mercy. My purpose here is to instruct you in whatever limited capacity your personality allows. Surely you have questions. I will answer two,” she announced.
A glimmer of hope began to rise in the corner of Pietro’s mind; perhaps he could alter the events that had transpired.
“What must I do to get my old life back? How may I be returned to my family?” he asked.
Marcella’s melodic laughter rang out, enveloping the space surrounding them and penetrating his brain like a thousand tiny daggers piercing his flesh.
“What a fool you are, brother. What is done can never be undone. Your family has mourned your loss, the church service has taken place, the pyre lit. You are nothing but a sad memory for them. You cannot be a part of their lives ever again. Would you steal your son’s opportunities for happiness and success?” she scolded.
“No … I meant only that I wish to look upon their faces once more,” Pietro confessed, unable to lift his gaze from the cave floor. “They were my most worthwhile accomplishment.”
“That life is over. Making them aware of your existence could only bring them ruin. You must set your mind to another purpose—perhaps even some way to redeem yourself.”
“In your eyes, how can it be possible? You say I have stolen from you, yet you make no effort to explain. Tell me, sweet sister—how am I responsible for your losses?” he demanded.
“You took our mother, for one. Her memory means nothing to you, but I loved her … needed her!” Marcella raged.
“How can you hold me responsible for an accident of birth? I would have loved her had I been given a choice,” he said, using his most persuasive tone. His intensified emotions caused him to consider that there could be another point of view other than his own.
“And what of the Great One? You never bothered to find out who he was. Unleashing all your jealousy and insecurity, you had him eradicated like a common criminal,” she accused.
“He appeared a monster to my human eyes. How could I have known him to be otherwise? He refused to answer my questions. Surely you see my point,” Pietro stammered.
“No, brother, I do not and will never see your point.” She looked as if the very words burned her tongue. “He was our ancestor. He watched over us all … watched over me. Saved my life after you had me discarded like soiled linens or trash.” Marcella turned from him. Lost in her grief, she laid a hand on the wall of the cave as if to steady herself. Instinctively, Pietro moved closer in an attempt to comfort her, but she regained herself before he could complete the gesture. His once quiet and proper sister now seemed the epitome of strength to him.
Marcella spoke numbly, in little more than a whisper. “I’d gladly crush your skull if that would return him to me. As it is, I will take my leave of you.”
Pietro felt denied an opportunity to make amends, but before he could articulate an answer, she had vanished, leaving him to his thoughts and company of rats. Feeling empty and alone once again, Pietro tried to digest all the information relayed to him by Marcella. He wondered if this sharing of knowledge was intentional. Questions began to surface in his wounded mind. Had she meant for him to be remorseful? Was he indeed the namesake of that creature he had so mercilessly dispatched? Had his actions cruelly impacted his son? Would it ever possible to mend the rift between him and his sister? Alas, he had no answers, only more questions to keep him company. He felt no better off than before the appearance of his angry visitor.
Dejected and restless, Pietro made a decision to venture forth from his gloomy sanctuary.