Contrary to what they think, it is not impossible for us to enter churches. My Eamon can, because he was Jewish – which he says makes for amusing surprises if someone tries to ward him off with a cross. I can, to an extent, because in my humanity I was not Christian. Our tiny pocket of Yorkshire adhered to a far more ancient faith. Although crosses can still singe my flesh, which I find fascinating. It is a mystery. I don’t mind. I like mysteries. And the flesh heals quickly.
In my way, I love the churches. So much beauty in their construction. So much faith. The great cathedral in York was begun by men whose great-grandsons would be old before it was completed. How deeply the men had to believe in the necessity of the work, in the sureness that the world – or at least York – would still be whole in the years to come, so that the church would someday know the sound of singing voices inside, the shift in the air as the heads bowed to pray to a god they never saw, but knew with no question was there to hear them.
As lovely as the great churches are, I have always been more fond of the smaller ones. They have a quiet sort of honesty I respect. Places of simple beauty, built for those in the parish to come and offer their simple prayers. Of course, they are not so simple. How could they be?
I know not all of them really believe. They never have. I cast no aspersions nor make judgements – simply state facts. I believed in my Yorkshire gods, but I believed in the healing power of plants more. I saw them at work.
I know the humans’ prayers don’t inoculate them against seduction from us. Mors used to find many of his meals after Vespers, or confession. That pocket of time for many when they felt clean before seeking out new trouble. Especially so when they were prostitutes, which was most often the case. For me, it’s never been quite that easy.
It is a funny thing, some of the men who go to church, who wear or carry a cross as part of their attire and yet have no real religion in their person. There was a man in the parish of All Saints, in London, who was rather ostentatious in his church-going but infamous as a procurer. For some years, he was a decided entertainment, given as he was to fits of temper that could be heard for miles. And nearly always after church. Eamon and I and occasionally some others would tail him, watching. Sometimes teasing.
But when he finally beat a young girl to death for not bringing him enough money, I became bored of his antics. There must be a limit. I lurked near the church door before the midnight mass celebrating the birth of Christ. I like the smell of holly. This was a test – would he enter and worship, or would his desire for me and the business I could bring him be a larger draw? And on this holy night, he chose me.
I let him guide me away from the church, the opening hymns accompanying our stroll, making it a sort of dance. Which of course it was, only he was not the leader.
“What a remarkably beautiful girl you are,” he informed me. I smiled.
“Thank you, sir,” I responded – and I’m afraid I simpered. But he appreciated it.
“I have not seen you before, are you recently arrived to this parish?”
“No sir, I have been here quite a while,” (about thirty years at that point)
“Then I have been looking in the wrong spots, but I have you in my sights now. And believe me, I will not let you go,” he grinned at me in a manner meant to both excite and terrify. This was his method of seduction, and quite effective for an impressionable girl, particularly as he coupled it with admirably skilful strokes to the cheek and back. What untouched girl would remember herself and pull away from such attention, and from one of her betters? I pretended to swoon against him.
“I shan’t let you go either,” I promised. And it was quite true. I had extended talons that pierced his fur-trimmed cloak. He saw my red eyes and knew what was to become of him. He cried out, “Vampire! Vampire!” but the congregation had reached a crescendo and no one heard him. I suffered him to fumble for his crucifix and thrust it against my flesh. It did hurt, but I refused to flinch. Indeed, I winked. That rather unhinged him.
The hymn finished, and so did I.
There was a collection box by the church door. I left the cloak inside it. The holes could certainly be mended.