The reawakening of Paolo de Salerna (Part 5 – Awake!)

This is the final installment of Paolo’s reawakening story.

The light started as a pinprick in the curtain of darkness.  It was sudden and unexpected after so long.  The light began to grow brighter as the hole grew bigger.  It cast weak shadows at first revealing vague shapes of moving creatures, beings that haunted him but now were even more horrible than his imagination had made them.  They retreated from the light.  At first he thought he must be dead.  Surely this was the light of heaven coming to bring him home from this long night.  He had suffered this purgatory long enough and was sure he had paid for any stain of sin on his soul.  But the recollection of one sin made him doubt.  It made him wonder if he shouldn’t cringe at the light as well.

The light grew brighter and it started to burn.  First, it hurt his eyes and he had to shade them and then he could feel the warmth on his skin and it started to heat up as if out on a hot sunny day.  The pain was more of an inconvenience but suddenly his body twisted and contorted in unnatural ways as his body was wracked with unspeakable pain.  He tried to scream but couldn’t.  All he could manage to get out was a sound as if screaming in a whisper.  The creatures around him were screaming loudly as they were burned in flame by the light but he did not burn.  Instead the ‘fire’ of pain was coming from inside trying to erupt from his body.  He tore at his skin trying to release the pain still unable to scream. 

The dark was gone and light filled the room.  It blinded him.  He tried to scream again as he felt his body crack as if he was being broken in half.  He managed a slight gurgling sound as he screamed.  He tried to give in to the pain so that he would pass out and maybe even die but the light wouldn’t let him.

And then he was screaming.  No longer was he whispering or gurgling.  It was a scream of the dying.  But there was a sweet numbness in his mouth and throat now.  It soothed him and beckoned him to something he didn’t understand yet.  Then he understood.  He was hungry.  He was desperately hungry and there was food on his lips.  He bit at it blindly and moved his arms and hands wildly trying to find what his eyes could not.  He heard someone shouting but he didn’t understand it and it felt now as if someone was grasping at him but it didn’t matter.  The pleasure of food was euphoria and it was easing his pain.

He fed for what seemed a very long time willing the feeling of euphoria to reach all parts of his body.  He no longer thrashed about and the hands holding him down eased.  He tried to look at the person holding on to him but all he could make out was a vague shape but the person was speaking to him.  It was distant and at first he couldn’t make it out but as he strained to hear he could make out the voice of a man.  The man was speaking to him asking him something.  The man was asking the same question over and over.  He concentrated a moment and the light faded a little from his sight.  He could also hear the man better and realized that he understood what the man was asking.

“Paolo, can you hear me?”

‘Paolo’, he thought.  He knew that name.  It was his name but it seemed so long ago.  When was the last time he heard someone speak his name?  But something was off.  The man was speaking to him in Latin.  It was an odd thought but he pulled a thought from his mind and remembered that speaking Latin was unusual outside of the mass.

He spoke but it was raspy and felt strange.  “Yes, I can hear you.”

The man laughed and seemed overjoyed.  His features started to come into focus as did their surroundings.  Strange candles were behind the man on the ceiling.  They were bright and he couldn’t look at them.  He moved his hands to shade his eyes and realized that it felt different then when the light first appeared.  He felt actual movement.  The strain of his muscles and the movement of his arm against gravity brought him back alive more than anything had so far.  It was then that he realized that he was not dreaming and more importantly, that what came before was a dream.  He could now see the man standing over him more clearly as well as his hand he was using to shade his eyes.  “Is this real?”, Paolo finally managed.

The man’s Latin was unpracticed but still understandable.  “Yes, my friend.  It is real.  Welcome back to the land of the living.  You have been asleep for a very long time.”

At the mention of sleep, Paolo searched for something in his mind.  Something was trying to come to him and it was important but he couldn’t remember what but without warning it came and with it a flood of memories.  He grabbed his head in agony as memories crashed upon him.  The man next to him was asking something else but Paolo couldn’t hear him.  After several long minutes the pain subsided and he could remove his hands from his head.  He looked up at the man now who was no longer hidden by harsh light.  The man had a stern but kind face except for its paleness.  It was then that Paolo realized that this man was like him and he fought the instinctual urge to attack him.  The man was looking at him concerned.

“I am Paolo de Salerna.  I died in the year of our Lord thirteen hundred and forty eight and I am a Vampire.”  Paolo cried.  Tears of blood flowed freely from his eyes.  He couldn’t understand why he was crying but his body willed it.  Only later would his mind understand what his body already knew, that it had reawakened after a very very long nightmare.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

After an hour Dr. Latimer could still not fully acknowledge what he had seen.  To see Paolo reawakened was almost too much.  It meant that everything John Moore had told him was real and this wasn’t a game and it wasn’t a made up story.  Like Paolo he was awaking from a very long sleep but where Paolo’s had been physical his had been mental.  This shattered every notion he had about how the world worked and it called into question the very foundations of science and religion.

Henry had watched Paolo reawaken and waited in the observation room for about 30 minutes before John gestured to his guards to come in.  The guards then proceeded to help Paolo get dressed while John left the room and came around to the observation room opening the door.

“I’m sorry that you had to see that?  I know what this kind of thing can do to a man of science but unfortunately it was necessary as a final piece of evidence to convince you that I was telling the truth.”

Henry continued to stare at Paolo.  “I know.  The screaming scared the hell out of me but I am starting to understand.”

“I am pleased to hear it.  He will need your help in the coming days.  He does not yet know how long he has slept but he will find out eventually and he will need you to help explain it all.  He will also need you to fit in.”

Henry turned to John.  “But I don’t have a place for him to stay.”

“I have taken care of that detail.”  John reached in his coat pocket and pulled out a small bound journal.  “In this you will find some notes on Paolo’s history as well as instructions from me as to when and where you are to meet with him in the next few days.  Eventually you and Paolo will work out your own schedule but for now I have provided some direction.  He will be staying with a trusted ally for now.  Her name is Sonja Sandragaard and she will be expecting you tomorrow evening.”

Henry took the notebook and put it in his pocket.  He turned back to Paolo.  “He didn’t seem at all happy to be woken up.”

John also looked through the observation room window.  “You have to understand, Henry.  Many vampires revel in their condition, especially the young ones.  They see their immortality as a blessing and will embrace the beast willingly.  But Paolo, like all of us in the Mystikoi, understand perhaps a little better than others the true nature of this curse.  Paolo was a man of God and was willing to die in the service of the Lord.  That was taken away from him when he was turned.   Now he cannot be sure of heaven’s grace.  In modern times this may not mean a whole lot to some, even to good Christians, because they have so many other distractions but remember that Paolo has 14th century sensibilities.  Deep down he is devastated by his condition.  He would wish for death if he didn’t think it a sin to do so.  Our only hope for salvation now is to find our way to God through understanding and enlightenment.  We believe there is a way to lift the curse but we have yet to find it.”

“So will he always be sad?”

“No, I don’t think so.  It is not something we dwell on night after night.  It is never far from our thoughts but in the end we are all survivors and Paolo will cling to life as he knows it just like anyone else.  But again you may not recognize it for awhile.  You are not likely to recognize or understand how a man from the 1340s thinks.”  At this John turned to Henry and smiled.  “However, knowing of you what I do, this might be a wonderful opportunity for you to understand history in a way that is normally not possible.”

“I thought you said he wouldn’t remember anything.”

John crooked his mouth in thought.  “Well it is curious.  Vampires are variable in how they respond to sleep but Paolo seems to remember more than I would have expected.  Indeed, I would have to say that it is unheard of among our kind for someone to remember so much after being asleep so long.  I think you will find that he will remember things as if they happened only months ago considering that to him they did only happen months ago.”

“How is that possible?”

“How is any of this possible?” John answered.  “I don’t know but if I had to guess I would say Paolo has what you would call a photographic memory.  But no matter how it happened it will likely not help much as you try to get him caught up to the year 2010.”

“So do I meet him now?”

“No, you will meet him tomorrow.  He is still a little disoriented and I am not at all sure that the danger of a feeding frenzy has passed.  My bodyguards can handle themselves well enough but even they are not out of danger.  The urge to feed is often overwhelming when a vampire has gone so long without sustenance.”  John watched as his guards were helping Paolo into a wheelchair to be moved out of the room.  “Anyway doctor.  It is only a couple of hours until sunrise and I must get Paolo in a safe place before then as well as myself.  Get some rest yourself.  Please read over the notes before you meet Paolo tomorrow and if you have any questions I have left you my cell number for you to call me.”  John walked over to Henry and shook his hand.  “It is a brave new world, Henry.  Welcome to the party.”

“Thanks, I think.”

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