Title: Facade of Shadows
Author: Rick Chiantaretto
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Suspense
Publication: 1st Edition, 2006. 2nd Edition, June 13, 2014
Synopsis: Judas Iscariot (portrayed as the first of the undead), the gods and myths of ancient Egypt, and vampires all play a role in this novel of the clash between good and evil on Earth. In Façade of Shadows, the supernatural beings of Egyptian lore work together with modern-day vampire slayers to wage a pivotal battle against the dark powers of the underworld. A group of young slayers and their immortal Protector, the son of ancient gods, travel through time and space while struggling to save the population of an unsuspecting town—the first target for domination by the vampires—in a conflict that foreshadows the fate of the world. If you enjoy action, humor, tragedy, even romance involving the genre of vampires and their nemeses, this is a riveting read to add to your collection.
A Note From Rick:
Facade of Shadows was my first novel. I wrote the prologue (see below) as a short story for a high school English class, and entered it into the literary magazine competition, where it won first place. After that the novel was born, written mostly in a boring science class.
It was published in 2006 by Bedside Books, and had a great four year run before it was put out of print.
While the writing style is young and there is much I would change if I were to write it again (can’t all authors say that about their old work?), I’m going to relaunch Facade of Shadows with only minimal changes. I want the book to remain true to what it was, and who I was, back in high school.
I think the story is still valuable – the themes and plot are strong. Besides, how can I turn down the chance to become an ancient Egyptian God once again…
Julian loved the rain, not because it cleansed the world but because it made everyone’s life as dismal and gray as the clouds above, as gray as his soul always felt. The only problem was that not many people were out on such a night and he could feel his lust for blood growing intensely. Unlike the others, he hated that feeling. Killing an innocent person or turning them into one like him was not something from which he gathered pleasure. Yet the rules bound him, and he knew the rules.
Those very rules caused Julian to feel a rush of horror when he saw a shadow swiftly flash across his path on the other side of the street. Mixed with the hatred he felt for what he was about to do, he also received a distinct sort of satisfaction. He crossed the desolate road and saw a young woman tightly clutching her umbrella. He watched her for a while, curious as to why she would be out on such a night. For a moment he thought he caught a glimpse of a smile on her face. This made him pause, and he decided to follow and observe her silently in the darkness. Julian ducked into the shadowed tree line as the headlights of a large bus cast beams of light through the misty night. The woman stopped and turned as the bus slowly came to a stop. As the doors swung open, a dark man stepped into the awaiting arms of the woman, and as the man kissed her, she dropped her umbrella and forgot about the rain.
Julian knew then that he couldn’t kill her, out of respect for one he loved. He didn’t want his last kill to contradict all that he had worked for, to contradict the very reason he was out tonight. He wanted to get it over with, but wanted to add just another nameless, faceless person to those he had killed… he didn’t want to add a face that smiled with such happiness.
Which was why he felt tormented when another woman stepped off the bus. She was downtrodden, carried no suitcases or bags, and had dark hair that dripped like tears in the rain. She walked slowly, aimlessly. Julian thought that it seemed as if confronted to choose between her dim existence and death, she would choose the latter, but perhaps he was merely justifying the heinous act he was about to commit. Reluctantly he approached from behind, careful not to make a sound, and covered her mouth with his gloved hand. As she struggled to resist his firm grip, he pressed his teeth deeply into her neck. The thick warmth immediately flowed–how he loathed it. Next came the worst part–making her choose. He exposed his wrist to her and gave the ultimatum that he had received three years ago: drink or die. As he suspected, she chose the latter, and Julian was satisfied that one less monster like himself would be doomed to roam the world.
Julian had just committed an act that he himself found to be a horrible repeating memory. It was a cold night, he remembered, but that was why he had decided to take a walk. He saw the cold night air as a convenient excuse to hold her closer. They were walking along the shore of the man-made lake in the center of a park – he couldn’t remember where. Even now in his mind he could clearly see the moonlight reflecting off the calm ripples the wind made in the water. Her name was Fantasy, and to him, she came from a fantasy. He had been looking forward to that night; he wanted to prove that he and his love were fated to be together for eternity. A black velvet box weighed down his pocket, concealing a bright diamond ring, a ring that Julian had planned to use to promise his love to her forever. That love was why he chose to be like this…
Suddenly, in Julian’s fractured memory, she was screaming under some inhuman beast, her face looking at him, crying out to him. She had only been feet away, but another beast was on him, and the beast was strong. Both Fantasy and he fought, but it seemed as though no human strength was great enough to lift the creature off of his body. Julian recalled strange, chiseled teeth as they moved toward his neck bringing cold, sharp pain, as if two icicles had pierced deeply into his flesh. Then, the monster spoke to him, “Drink from me and serve my master, or die. Choose quickly!” Julian, terribly afraid of death, understood. He sunk his teeth into the exposed wrist, and drank with horror from the throbbing vein. He experienced an immediate sensation of falling. As he looked over for his love, he saw her take her last breath.
Once again, as he always forced himself to do during these flashback ordeals, he shook the memory from his mind and focused on the task at hand. The ring he had carried for his beloved on that night long ago now hung on a thin twine around his neck, and seemed to burn into his chest as penance for each life he took or forever condemned to an eternity of living death. The reason he came out on such a night as this (and on many nights before) was to die, to reunite with his love in that great afterlife that she used to call Heaven. He wasn’t afraid of death anymore; he had already tasted it. He had considered driving a stake into his own heart, but remembered that death as a vampire resulted in eternal purgatory, where the demons even now claimed his essence. Instead, Julian chose to attempt redemption of his soul. His task, in venturing forth each night, and continuing his agonizing existence through the victimization of others, was to look for the legendary slayer, about whom it was said had the power to conjure the Protector and his powerful book, The Book of Amun-Ra. This book, named after and authored by Egypt’s two most powerful gods, contained spells that, according to myth, could weaken the grasp of the demons who controlled his tortured existence and return a soul to the body from which it was taken.
Julian walked on, pushing aside in his mind the events of the evening, knowing that on this night, the slayer would be in search of those who kill relentlessly, in search of those who become so hungry for blood that they can’t resist the desire to venture out and momentarily quench their thirst. Julian knew she was searching for him. He had only to find her first.
“Excuse me, sir,” a female voice said weakly behind him. He turned slowly as she spoke, the confidence in her voice growing, “I saw you kill that woman over there.”
“You know you shouldn’t go walking immediately after you eat. You could get heartburn!” she said, her hand moving quickly for his chest. Julian reacted with the animal-like abilities the vampire gave him. He grabbed her wrist and squeezed until the thud of the wooden stake she had attempted to impale him with made a soft splashing noise in a nearby puddle. “No one appreciates a good joke any more,” she said, glancing at the floating stake and shrugging her shoulders.
“Please . . .” was all Julian could get out before the girl’s foot caught him full-throttle on the chin, sending him sprawling backward to the ground. The girl quickly picked up her stake and positioned herself for another attack.
Julian suppressed the desire for revenge and spoke softly, the rain blurring his vision, “Please,” he said. “I need your help.”
A quizzical look crossed the girl’s face. Julian was sure this was the first time a vampire had asked for her help. “I think I know how I can help you,” she finally answered.
“You do?” Julian asked.
“Yes. I’ll help you straight into the afterlife,” she said, taking an aggressive step closer.
“No, please,” he stuttered, “don’t come any closer.” Amazingly to him, she listened.
“Just don’t move,” she ordered.
“Agreed,” Julian answered, “Allow me to explain. My name is Julian, and I…”
“Dispense with the pleasantries and don’t beat around the bush. It’s probably not for the best.”
“I figured if I didn’t explain, you’d probably kill me.”
“I’ll probably do that anyway. I suggest you continue … and make it brief.”
He complied. “About three years ago I was bitten, along with my . . . eh… soul-mate. I figured that any life with her was better than no life at all, so I chose this. But, it turned out that she felt that heaven would be better than being here with me, so she chose to die. Back then, I didn’t believe in heaven; I didn’t know what death was, but after being to Purgatory, I have learned that there must be a heaven. I know there must be. My love was not in Purgatory, so she must have gone elsewhere…” he trailed off.
Julian was astounded that the slayer was listening intently. Though she had not relaxed her stance, her voice was softer as she spoke, “So, what can I do?”
Julian explained, “It is rumored that you can contact the Protector, and I believe he can set me free.”
“Contacting the Protector is not as easy as picking up a phone. He is a Supreme Being, the embodiment of all good,” she said.
“Then you can do it?”
“…Why would I help you?”
“Haven’t you ever made a mistake?” Julian asked.
“Not one like that. Besides, the Protector is against evil, vampires, demons, and everything else that has Satan for a friend, get it? He will kill you the moment he sees you, like I should have done already.”
“I am told He can see into the heart of… people, and He will see my intent. It is my risk to take, and I beg you to let me take it,” Julian countered.
“He can see into the heart of people, not vampires.”
“You said yourself He is supreme, He will see into my heart.”
“How can you prove to me that this isn’t some sort of elaborate vampire trap? Slayer’s blood is supposedly delectable, eh, to a vampire.”
“Have you ever loved?” he asked.
“ . . . Yes.”
She walked up to him. Julian prepared for a strike, but instead the only thing thrust at him was her hand. “I’m Cynthia,” she said, “and I can’t believe I am going to do this for a vampire.”
Julian marveled at all the lighted candles that stood around the room. He thought about counting them, but knew that the sea of tiny flames would only engross him. There were other objects too. Vials of colored sand were scattered throughout the room, and at the front was a table covered with more sand, whiter and purer than anything he had ever seen before. It made him wonder about what each object represented.
“Sit here,” Cynthia commanded, gesturing toward a triangle drawn deeply into the cement floor. “Don’t breathe so hard. If one of these candles goes out, the whole thing is screwed.” Cynthia walked to the table and drew two triangles which crossed at the center like an hourglass in the sand with her fingertips. She then defined the lines with the colored sand from around the room. Red, green, blue, and yellow now stained the white with impurity. She took the last vile of black sand and came toward him. “Don’t bite me,” she said sarcastically.
Julian couldn’t hold back a smile as she sat next to him, “I don’t understand all of this,” he said, becoming instantly serious.
“Well,” she started, “I don’t get it all either. I do know the candles represent light and truth–there are exactly 50,000 of them.” She caught the amazement in his eyes. “If you think that’s neat: they all light themselves. The white sand represents the Protector, perfect and pure. He is Horus, the Egyptian god, the god that injured Set. The colored sand represents you, stained with the evils of this world. You see, the white sand can encompass the evil, and can make it pure again. The black sand in the vial that I am holding represents me. I am purity and evil combined in all colors. I’m good, because I fight for good, but I am nowhere close to perfection.”
Julian was in awe, and set silently for a long moment while Cynthia seemed to meditate on the words she had just spoken. Finally, Julian became impatient, and asked, “Shall we begin?”
Cynthia snapped back into reality, rolled her eyes, and nodded her head.
She pulled the crystal lid off the vial she held, and poured two piles from it, one in front of her, and the other in front of him. She then carefully removed a handful from the remaining sand and threw it in a complete circle around them. The flames of the candles caught each particle, making the whole room appear to burst into flame. It was beautiful; the orange light dancing around them made Julian feel invincible. Then the light show stopped, the candle flames wavered into oblivion, and the colored sand on the table returned to the pure white that it had been before Cynthia began the strange ritual.
“I don’t think it worked,” Julian said, troubled.
“I always answer a slayer’s call,” a voice echoed, stepping from the shadows. He carried with Him a large book that glistened gold in the moonlight that streamed behind Him from a nearby window. His voice sounded like a choir, perfect and flowing. He snapped His fingers, and all candles in the room again erupted into flame. “I hate the dark,” He stated.
“Sir . . .” Julian began, but when the Protector raised His hand, the gesture could have silenced the entire world.
“I know why you have persuaded this slayer to contact me,” He spoke. “You wouldn’t be standing here if I thought your actions were in mockery of me, or her.” The Being continued, “I know your desires, your fears, your hatred… and your love. You must understand however that returning a soul is no easy matter. It takes perfection. You chose this life; why should I exhaust myself to end it?”
Julian balked, truth refusing to be told. Finally he burst, “Because I didn’t know how much I loved her until she was no longer at my side.”
There was a pause, the Protector lost in thought. “You have impressed me. Finally you speak the truth. For that, you shall be rewarded. Look!” He commanded motioning to the window.
Julian did as told, his fear withering away as joy took its place. He was finally going to see her again. In the sky Julian saw trillions of stars. Then, he saw one star dash across the sky, then another, and another. Soon hundreds came at a time, assembling at a single point directly in front of him. Julian was soon embraced by light and had the strange sensation of falling. When he was able to regain his footing he stood facing a figure that was more beautiful than he remembered. Fantasy touched his cheek, a tear of joy rolling down her own.
“Hi there,” she said in almost a whisper.
* * *
“So where did you send him?” Cynthia asked the Protector.
“To his fantasy,” He replied, with a satisfied smile at the clever play on words.
Cynthia looked at Julian, who lay unconscious and dreaming on the floor. “Wasn’t his heart pure enough?” she asked.
“Of course my friend,” He answered, “but he is a vampire, and I have rules too. I cannot return a life that he willingly chose; I cannot undo what was done.”
“Must I?” Cynthia asked. “Won’t you?”
“It is your job,” He responded.
Cynthia looked at Julian once more; he looked so peaceful. She tore her eyes away from his face, took the stake from the Protector’s outstretched hand, and thrust it into Julian’s heart.