There’s no such thing as vampires.  Or werewolves.  Not even zombies.  Those stories of things that go bump in the night are misleading embellishments of the truth, like all tales.  The truth was far stranger.  Or, depending on how you looked at it, much more commonplace.  The trick is, most people are ignorant of the Bible, or just don’t care.

            Dorothy and Rebecca told a story, about how angels and demons waged war for the souls of humanity.  The Earth was a battleground for forces ordinary people couldn’t even see.  On the side of angels, they tried to send us signs and portents to lead us to righteousness, while demons whispered in the shadows to fuel our darkest dreams and lead us into sin.  It was always up to humanity to choose, but there were constant struggles for influence over our decisions.

            And, in extreme cases, the invisible war could touch our world much more intimately.

            “Human beings are alive because of the Holy Spirit in their bodies, they exist because of the Breath of God.  But demons are spirits too, evil winds that can enter a person.”  Rebecca said.  “They can possess someone and cause a much more powerful struggle for the soul, one a person is bound to lose without outside help.”

            “Like an exorcism.”

            “Exactly.  The priest calls the Holy Spirit to cast out the demon.”

            But while possession was like a kidnapping, an attempt to overpower an innocent, there were also people so shrouded in darkness that they actively sought the means to contact the underworld, people who were literally willing to sell their souls to the devil.

            “These people bond with a demon, and allow it free reign in the world.  The most evil people in history are examples of this, from the occult-obsessed Hitler to Nero.  Do you remember Vlad the Impaler, and Rasputin from Russia?”

            “Vlad was the inspiration for Dracula.  Rasputin was a major influence on the Tsar’s family, and some hold him partly responsible for the fall of the Romanovs.  He was supposed to be a holy man, but was known for debauchery.”

            “They tried to poison him, stab him and shoot him.  He survived all of it until they shot him in the head and threw him into a freezing river.”  Dorothy said.  “Does that sound normal to you?”

            The girls convinced me that those who willingly congressed with demons became supernaturally powerful, able to survive extreme conditions and pain.  The only way to kill one was to end its breath, trapping the spirit in the body:  drowning, or decapitation, or sudden incineration.

            “That’s where the legends of vampires comes from.  You can’t actually kill them with a stake in the heart, or sunlight.  But they do feed off blood.”  Rebecca grimaced.

            “The blood holds the life, so the Bible teaches.  Demons eat human flesh to keep their bodies alive, as they automatically begin to decay.  The blood keeps their skin fresh,” said Dorothy, her voice flat.  “They avoid sunlight if they can because it shows the condition of their skin.  Wounds don’t bleed, but the scars don’t heal either.”

            I stared out the window of the car, absorbing their story.  It certainly explained why the men at the factory had never cried out in pain.  I felt cold.

            “So I’m supposed to kill invincible demons, is that it?”  I said after awhile. 

            “They’re not totally invincible.  Some are stronger than others.  It depends on the age and the class of demon.  Rasputin was an unimportant peasant, but an elder demon bonded with him and saw a real chance for chaos in elevating a pauper.  Sometimes you get a minor demon, the equivalent of a hired goon.”

            “So, elder or minor, or whatever, how do I kill them?”

            “If you kill the body, but don’t trap the breath, they can escape to someone else.  Even animals.  That’s why there are werewolf stories.  Unless you can keep a bathtub handy, you won’t be able to drown them.” Rebecca said, trying to shake the chill in the air with a weak joke.

            “You have to take their heads,” Dorothy said.  Rebecca nodded.

`           “It sounds like Highlander. ‘There can be only one.'”  I almost laughed.

            Dorothy steered us to the side of the road and pulled to a stop.  She glanced at her friend and gave a slight nod.  Rebecca exited the car, went to the trunk, and returned carrying a case.  She sat back down and buckled her seatbelt, and we resumed driving.

            She turned to me and handed me the case.

            “It’s not even my birthday.” I said dryly.  I opened the clasps and lifted the lid.

            A short sword of Japanese design, a waki-zashi, lay in cloth alongside a Western-style revolver.  Both were in perfect condition, obviously well cared for.  I looked at these lethal weapons of the past, and then looked again at the two young women in the front seat.

            “Here’s where we find out how much reading you’ve really done.”  Dorothy said.  “Ever hear of Yoshitsune?”

            “He’s a legendary hero out of Japanese history.  They say he was trained by bird-demons, the tengu, and fought alongside a monk against evil armies.  I guess demons in Japan aren’t so bad.”

            “The monk, Benkei, was one of us.  And, ‘nice bird-demons,’ what does that sound like to you?  Even down through garbled legends.”  Rebecca asked.

            “I don’t know.  Angels?  You’re telling me that all the legends of history are part of a conspiracy to fight demons, and that I’ve been chosen to carry on the story?  If I hadn’t experienced what I have in the last twenty-four hours, I’d tell you that you’re crazy.”

            “But you did experience it.  So now this sword belongs to you, the rightful heir to a legacy of righteousness.”

            “And the gun?”

            “It belonged to a man named Jonah Chalmers.  He isn’t famous, but he deserves to be.”  Dorothy said.  “If you shoot, you have to take the head off.  You can’t kill them if you aim for the heart.”

            I stared at the weapons of past champions for a long time.

            “All right.  So when does my training begin?”

            “It already has.  If you’re still alive, you’re still learning.  Good luck.”  Dorothy said seriously.

            “Are you kidding me?”

            “Listen, every champion in history had someone guiding him.  Robin Hood had Friar Tuck, and Yoshitsune had Benkei.  A priest from our church helped them all.  Your uncle was supposed to guide you, but he’s dead.  We’re not completely trained and have a different task entirely.  You’re on your own.”  Rebecca said.  “I’m sorry.”

            “So what am I supposed to do?  How do I find the demons that killed my uncle?”

            “I’m pretty sure they’ll find you.”  Dorothy said.

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