Two days had passed since the vampires had left and Anderson had already made his choice. He had contemplated carefully during his waking hours; the truth had tormented him while he slept. Could he carry the Lord's Cross until the end? Share His Pain? His Death?
He was a disciple of Iscariot. He was not a failure, he had merely followed his Creed. He was an assassin, not a martyr. He gritted his teeth and attempted to free himself. The muscles of his arms and neck strained, finding impossible to release himself from the nails.
He should step down from the Cross.
He was Judas who hung himself.
He would not die for the sins of the world, but for his own.
Anderson paused and breathed deeply, immediately regretting his foolish action. The festering corpses decorating the fields were not an encouraging prospect for his battle. It unnerved him, he who had presumed himself a connoisseur in the subject. Assassins were familiar with quick death, no matter how loud their victims scream or how messy the kill is they were clean. But none stay to see them root. The pestilence was not related with the glory of serving the Lord.
A fluttering noise distracted him; Anderson looked up. A black figure was flying in his direction from the direction of the cold, dead sun. It was decidedly bigger than the ravens that had harassed his post and pecked the fallen bodies. A humanoid silhouette became clearer and clearer. A yellow uniform stained with dried blood, messy blonde hair and innocent eyes filled with confidence and tragedy.
One of the Draculinas, Seras Victoria.
Anderson opened his mouth to demand to know about her Masters. To ask the motive of her visit but he could not articulate a word. No sound came from his dry throat. He tasted the 'vinegar' the Devil forced him to drink each time he moved his lips.
"They-" Seras paused, shooting him an unreadable look. "My Master and Sir Integral want to know your choice."
He frowned and struggled on his cross. The little Draculina with a human visage would be the last one to mock him. But Seras did nothing of sorts. She approached, freeing him from the nails, helping him to get down and to recover the balance. Anderson had no choice but to accept her aid; his muscles had atrophied and would not hold him. She took Integral's lance next, the spear was still hanging where the woman had viciously struck him.
"She wants it back," Seras explained, dropping the silver weapon to the floor when it burned her. "They will seek you out, Father Anderson." He looked at her darkly. "My Master told me I should pass the message to you."
Anderson could not thank her even if he wanted to. He gave a nod of understanding and started to walk away.
"Anderson!" she called out after him. He paused for a moment to glance at Seras for a brief instant "I am sorry."
We all are, even your Master.
He touched the holy nail buried in his heart before placing the bony splinters inside the pockets of the ragged cassock and left. He wandered aimlessly, famished and delirious. He was seeking a temple to throw the silver pieces; to finally hang himself with the rope of straw.
He was Judas Iscariot, the Betrayer. He would not die crucified.
Days could have passed, even weeks, months, or entire years. The permanent full moon and dead sun above did not move, the winds were always cold and he was hungry. No one was around to feed him or quench his thirst. The city was bigger than Anderson remembered; the number of victims was greater than he estimated. Finally, he found a small Catholic Church, the walls outside were stained with smoke and charred citizens lay on the steps, but it was enough for him.
Anderson ascended the steps, exhaustion wore him down when he reached the gates to open them. The parish was darker than the world outside, the candlelight had been extinguished, but he was no longer human despite how he lied to himself about his new state – he could see.
There were no corpses inside the church but horror struck him closer, hit a comfort zone he would not like to admit. The colourful stained glass was shattered, the statues of saints had been melted down, the guardian angels had turned into gargoyles. Anderson advanced towards the altar, surveying it in his unwanted silence; he yearned to scream but was not able to. The Virgin carried no child and was completely nude, blood streaking her cheeks; the cross where Christ should be hung was empty and turned upside down.
Alexander Anderson collapsed in front of the altar; the weight of the entire world was on his shoulders. He carried his own sins but why could he feel everyone's somehow? He stood and slammed his fists on the altar; the wounds from the nails had not regenerated, and his blood stained the white mantle.
He wanted to speak with his Lord, to answer his doubts, to lift his sorrow, but he could not remember his prayers, nor a word from the Bible. His mind was blank. The hunger intensified; he searched for the wafers and wine to satisfy himself with a holy meal, to commune with the Saviour. He dipped the wafer in the wine and voraciously glutted himself on it. His eyes widened at the flavour and Anderson spat it out instantly. The bread was human flesh and the wine tasted like blood. He looked at his wounds, noticing more missing.
He was Judas, he came to throw the thirty pieces of silver. He was Iscariot. He would hang himself in a moment on a hill. Once his legs stopped trembling; once he mustered strength to pray; once he had remorse in his body.
Anderson sat down, clutching his legs and put his head down on his knees. The blood and flesh were vinegar; he had lost his voice. He could not find any remnant of the Kingdom of God inside the New Babylon.
"Can't you?" his ears perked up at the girlish voice. It sounded mocking despite its seeming youth. "Can't you find the Kingdom of God?"
His eyes traveled until he met the force. It was a young girl of no more than thirteen. She was standing in a pure white suit with a red tie and a fuzzy hat. Her hair was long and straight, black as the abyss he felt immersed in; her skin was pale and ghostly and her eyes were glowing crimson.
Nosferatu! His aggressive instincts came alive. She smiled toothily with pearly blunt teeth at his puzzlement and approached.
"You don't remember? You are in hell, Father Anderson," she taunted, her eyes gleamed and she dodged the golden goblet he tossed in defense, making an irritated expression. "That was not nice, Messiah. Have you forgotten what you said about children?" she asked, huffing.
He blinked and tried to recall. He thought about his orphans, awaiting his return to read another parable.
He thought of the children of London who would join their ranks if they were still living.
He thought of Enrico Maxwell, decades ago, spiteful because his parents abandoned him. All alone now, he had let him face the end alone.
Anderson's hands covered his face in shame, he could not cry, he had to recall the words.
"He did forget!" the girl giggled and pursed her lips in a coquettish manner. "We should refresh his memory! Come see him, Countess!"
Countess… Anderson stared at the girl, the effeminate boy. It was Alucard. He ignored the killing impulse against the Devil to face the oncoming Draculina. His heart ached when he listened to the light footsteps and the sensation increased when he could see the once human and adult Integral Hellsing.
Integral looked older than Alucard but not much more, a year at most. Her hair was loose and her eyes still blue. She had a black jacket and a matching long skirt of the same shade. On the top of her head there was a hat with dark roses and a half shredded veil.
"Anderson," Integral addressed him, she looked so young, but her gaze was aged, even beyond Alucard's years. "Have you really forgotten?"
His expression softened and he quit gritting his teeth. He nodded in admission, almost in defeat.
"You forget your own words, Messiah!" Alucard shouted, whistling and laughing. Anderson shot him a disdainful look. He was not a Messiah, he was Judas, he needed his coins and straw, he had made the right choice. "Look at the cross, Anderson. It's empty." He did not look; he would not accept it. "I wonder why…"
He knew. He would not and could not say it aloud. They both came closer; he glared at them hatefully. Her choice, his actions. They had destroyed the Kingdom of God.
Integral sighed, shaking her head. "Will you fight us? You made your choice already," she gestured towards the Ccross and then to the saliva-soaked flesh and blood. "You are in hell and muted, Messiah. Allow us show you Heaven."
"Welcome a little child, you will be welcoming yourself and the one who sent you," Alucard added for good measure. His memory tingled, that twisted quote. "Spread your arms for us. Welcome the orphans of God."
No children, those are costumes, you are monsters! You were never children!
Wordlessly, they exchanged a glance before shifting; their forms and clothes started to change. He hoped they would become adults, but he was foolish to dare to be hopeful in a hopeless land. Their bodies shrank even more.
Alucard stood as a young boy with messy black hair and sad brown eyes, dressed in a ragged cloak. Dirt covered his cheeks, bruises were on his arms and legs. Integral recovered her glasses, her jacket was gone, and her skirt was blue now. She had a scared expression, bright tears stood out in her eyes. Her shoulder was bleeding and she had an angry smack on one side of her face. They were holding hands, looking desperate, lost…
"We were children once," Integral pointed out. "We were chased or incarcerated by our own blood."
"We were betrayed and burdened. Raped of our innocence," Alucard continued as both continued to advance. "They taught us to kill."
"To make the impure suffer."
They knelt and curled around him, one to each side. Anderson froze as their heads leaned on his shoulders.
"We needed to stop being children for God," Integral murmured in a mournful tone. "Why aren't we inside His Kingdom. Why do you reject us?"
They stared at him, expectantly. Anderson loathed himself and them for those looks, so innocent and broken. They were torturing him. And he could not do anything but embrace both against him, knowing they were smirking against his sleeves.
"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
The words came to him so suddenly, his eyes on the ceiling of the fallen Church.
"I remember…" Anderson spoke in a whisper, his throat hurt to articulate some words but it would pale in comparison to what he would feel next, when Integral's shark-like teeth sank into his tender neck.
"We know," Alucard said before he took out the nail from his heart and let it melt along with everything that remained holy. He kissed his lips as Integral fed off his blood and her hands touched his inflated flesh. "Welcome to our Kingdom, Messiah. It's time for you to ascend out of your personal Hell."
Anderson moaned, vision darkening. There was no more struggles, failures or coldness – only bliss. Yet the blood somehow still tasted to vinegar to them.
Edited by Dreadnot. Thanks for the feedback everyone.