Eric went over to his pile of wood scraps. He picked up several pieces of wood and put them next to Bill on the work table before sitting back down in the chair.
For the first time that night, Eric let his ire for the vampire on the table fill him completely. He might have promised not to torture Bill physically, but he knew other ways to make the vampire suffer before he was dead, and he was going to make him suffer.
Eric spoke in a cold tone. “It is good that we are done with our questions and answers for each other, Bill. Now we can get on with the rest of our night.”
The Viking saw his enemy’s eyes cloud with fear. The Viking vampire relished that fear and smiled sinisterly at his captive.
“You have hurt my wife, Bill. And you would have hurt my son,” Eric spoke icily.
“I am vampire,” was Bill’s only response.
“As am I, Bill,” came Eric’s acid reply.
The two stared at each other for a moment before Bill had to turn away from Eric’s gaze.
Eric allowed Bill a few minutes more to stew in his fear.
“Did you know that I am a woodworker, Bill?” Eric finally asked.
Bill turned to Eric in surprise at the shift in topic.
“It was Sookie’s idea that this space be made for my work,” Eric said, looking around the large workroom. “Hunter is learning too,” Eric spoke with pride in his voice―the pride only a father could have. “He has shown real aptitude already and even helped his Uncle Jason finish a chair while I was incapacitated recently.”
Bill continued looking at Eric in confusion.
Eric picked up one of the scraps. “This is the wood Hunter and I have been using to fashion our outdoor furniture.” He moved it so that Bill could see and smell it before he smelled it himself. “It is redwood. It smells lovely, doesn’t it?” Eric continued, “This is, of course, not a piece of one of the giant redwoods, though they are not so ancient when compared to me. They average only around 700 years.” He gave Bill a little wink.
Eric mused, “The giant redwoods are like vampires―you know? They are resistant to death―more and more as they age, in fact. The oldest of them can withstand fire and disease, and they produce few cones, just as a good vampire should make few children. It was farming and special breeding that produced this wood, Bill, but it is still extraordinary in its own way—though perhaps not as distinctive as its larger relatives.” Eric held the wood up higher. “This wood will resist the elements and last a long time outside. Hunter is especially fond of the smell of this wood. It reminds him of a time that his mother took him on a picnic at a park near their house in Santa Fe.”
Eric put the piece of redwood to the side and picked up another piece. Bill’s eyes followed Eric’s every action.
“This is oak, Bill.” Eric chuckled. “My people thought that this wood was beloved by our god, Thor, for it was the tree that always seemed to be struck by lightning.” Eric rolled his eyes dramatically. “Yet―the trees almost always survived those strikes and still thrived. The oak is a symbol of strength and courage in many cultures, including among Vikings,” Eric said, setting the wood fragment next to the other one. “I am making Hunter’s bedroom furniture from this wood because he has already proven his strength and bravery to me―despite the fact that he is so young.”
Bill was still looking up at Eric in question. “Why the fucking lesson, Northman?” he asked in a stilted voice.
Eric smiled. “I am trying to decide what kind of wood to use to stake you with, Bill,” Eric answered conversationally—congenially even. “Should I choose from these two, or should I go on with the,” he paused, “‘fucking lesson?’”
“Go on,” Bill whimpered quickly, holding on to the fragments of his life for as long as he could.
“Excellent,” Eric said. “Now where was I?” He picked up a piece of walnut. “Ah—this is black walnut.” He showed it to Bill and then held it above his nose. “I’m afraid the scent of the lumber is not nearly as lovely as that of the leaves and fruit of this tree, but it is still nice—is it not?” Eric looked down at Bill, who gave the tiniest of nods.
Eric continued. “I am using this to make the furniture for my and Sookie’s office. Once the bookshelves are completed, I will fill some of them with my favorite books, which I have collected over the years, so that Sookie can use them when she gets back. And I will leave some of the shelves empty so that we can fill those together.” Eric couldn’t help the slight catch in his voice or the slight smile curving on his lips. “Sookie is so thirsty for new knowledge, Bill. Did you know that she will be returning to school? She missed an appointment for what are called placement exams, but I have been told that those are easily rescheduled and that she will be able to take them and then enroll in the very next semester once she is back.”
Bill looked up at Eric as the Viking began to look more closely at the piece of walnut wood in his hand. “Just look at the rich color and depth of this wood, Bill. I chose it for the office because it is symbolic of wisdom and intelligence. I knew that Sookie would like that symbolism since she will be starting college.” His smiled turned to a smirk as he looked down at Bill again. “I’m afraid, however, that given its link to wisdom, I don’t deem it appropriate for you, Bill.” Eric carelessly tossed the piece of walnut over his shoulder, and it clanked on the concrete floor behind him.
Eric next picked up a piece of mahogany and showed it to the vampire on his table. “This one is mahogany, Bill,” Eric said as he let Bill smell the piece. “Isn’t it divine? It is also a symbol of strength in many cultures and takes a very long time to mature. It is connected with magic by some peoples. Look at the colors, Bill.”
The Civil War veteran looked at the wood obediently.
“Do you see them?” Eric asked.
Bill shook his head in confusion, “See what?”
Eric smiled as he looked at the piece of wood. “Sookie’s eyes―they contain some of the brown that is in this wood.” Eric closed his own eyes and remembered the discussion that he and his wife had had about mahogany. “Sookie chose this wood for our bed, which she ordered me to make―by the way.” He chuckled. “She really is fucking incredible, Bill. It is a shame that you missed it.”
Eric got up and took the mahogany to the other side of the workshop. “I do not think you deserve the mahogany, Bill,” Eric said in a low voice as he moved his fingers over the smooth wood. “This one is for Sookie and myself—alone.”
Eric slowly returned to sit down next to Bill and stared at him for a few moments.
“Is there,” Bill squeaked, “any more?”
“Yes,” Eric answered, picking up another piece. “This one is rosewood. It is sacred in many Asian countries and has long been used to make rich furnishings. Like mahogany, it is rare, but,” Eric winked at Bill, “I know people.”
Eric breathed in the scent of the wood and then held it over Bill’s nose, “The smell is sweet―don’t you think?” He smiled, “I made the executive decision to use this wood, along with the mahogany and cherry wood, to make our bedroom furnishings.” He chuckled. “Sookie will most likely be perturbed that I did not consult her, but she will forgive me when I tell her, Bill.”
“Tell her what?” the Civil War veteran asked, fearful of what Eric might say.
Eric chuckled again and stood up, placing the rosewood lovingly next to the mahogany. “Do not worry, Bill. This is not to be your wood.” He paused as he ran his fingers over both woods as he brought them together. “For some peoples, rosewood is the wood of love. It is also symbolic of healing, Bill. Sookie is a healer―did you know that? Her magic healed me that night at the Festival of Tolerance. I thought she had used it to save you at first.” Eric shook his head, “Even then, I should have trusted our love and the bonds we had made. But I despaired at first, feeling as though I was not worthy of her.” Eric turned and walked back toward Bill. “You know how that feels―right, Bill?”
Bill didn’t answer.
Eric walked back over to sit down. “Unfortunately, the cherry wood I ordered is not here yet.” He smiled. “But that one wouldn’t have been for you either, Bill. When I think of that one, I can think only of my wife’s perseverance—her will.”
Eric picked up another piece of wood. “Now this, Bill, is a real candidate. It is bald cypress. Did you know that it’s Louisiana’s state tree?”
Bill shook his head.
“No?” Eric asked. “Well―it is. The oldest known plant in the Eastern part of the United States is a bald cypress tree in North Carolina.” He winked at Bill again. “It is much older than even I am. But it is not that good for indoor furnishings, I’m afraid,” Eric added. “And it has very little scent.” He put the wood next to Bill’s nose before continuing. “Still, it is an impressive tree―good for shade and excellent for carving. I found the tree I took this branch from near here, and I admit, Bill, I am leaning toward this one to stake you with.”
Eric put the scrap down menacingly next to Bill.
Eric got up again and walked over toward the side of the room. He picked up a little tree limb that had not been with the others and walked it back over toward Bill. “This is a piece of one of the peach trees that was placed recently into the yard.” He smelled the wood. “This one―you don’t get to smell. It is,” he paused, “special to Sookie and me. Did you know that a peach tree is a symbol for marriage?”
Eric looked at Bill until the Civil War veteran shook his head.
“I didn’t either, Bill. But I learned recently that in some Asian cultures, it is symbolic for the abundance and happiness emblematic of marriage.” Eric smiled. “We didn’t even know that. Can you believe it? All that talk of peaches, and neither of us had any idea.”
Bill shook his head, not following what Eric was talking about.
The elder vampire seemed to be in his own world as he placed the peach branch tenderly next to the mahogany and rosewood.
Eric went back to Bill’s side and sat down in his chair, thumbing the redwood, the oak, and the bald cypress thoughtfully.
Eric began speaking in a low voice after a while. “I am going to enjoy killing you, Bill.” He sighed. “Sookie has made me promise to deal out death sparingly, but I think even she would understand this.” Eric’s voice was becoming more and more cold. “I want you to know that I feel certain that if there is a hell, you will be in it, Bill.” He sighed, “Perhaps, I too will eventually be there, and if I am, Bill, I want you to know that I will find you there. And I will do to you there what I want to do to you now.” Eric paused, “I will make you suffer, Bill. I will make you suffer as greatly as you would have made my wife or my son suffer.”
Suddenly, Eric looked up and saw Godric standing on the other side of the workbench, once again bathed in a white light.
Eric’s maker spoke to him, “Revenge is never the answer, Eric. Anger will never sate you.”
Eric scoffed as he looked at Godric. “Again Godric? You choose now to come? Again―you failed to come when you could have actually helped.”
Bill was looking at Eric as if he was crazy.
“You will never heal if you do not let go of your anger, Eric,” Godric said.
Eric seethed. “What would you have me do? Let him go? Let him live as I let Russell live? Bill wanted Sookie! He was going to,” Eric stopped and looked down at Bill in a rage. Eric couldn’t say the words, so he just finished his thought, “to Hunter.”
“I am not talking about this one,” Godric said, gesturing toward Bill, who was now looking around the room but seeing no one other than Eric there.
“You speak in fucking riddles!” Eric said as he got up and turned his back on Godric.
When Eric turned back around, he was both relieved and disappointed to see that Godric was gone.
Bill was looking up at Eric, “You are fucking crazy.”
“Maybe,” Eric nodded. “Sometimes. But I’m also the crazy mother fucker who is about to end you,” Eric raged.
“I thought Russell was the insane one, but you are fucking irrational,” Bill yelled out.
“It’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness I lack. Not rationality,” Eric said coldly. [Italicized line taken from Kill Bill.]
The Viking walked over to his tools and grabbed a carving knife. He sat back down and picked up the oak wood.
Bill cringed as Eric began fashioning the end of the wood piece into a sharp stake. The Viking didn’t say anything as he whittled away the wood to a point.
Bill, on the other hand, writhed and struggled against his silver binds despite the fact that his right leg was virtually gone and he had no means of escape. “Eric,” Bill’s voice was begging, “Sookie will never forgive you for killing me.”
Eric stood up and held the oak stake out for his inspection. He looked down at Bill. “That is where you are wrong, Bill. Sookie would do anything to protect our family―anything. And so would I.”
Eric took in his struggling enemy.
“Please,” Bill stammered, as a red tear rushed from his eye.
Eric spoke in a faraway voice. “You are right that Sookie would wish for me to have some compassion for you, Bill.”
Bill looked up at him hopefully, “Yes, Eric. I swear—if you let me go, I will leave Louisiana forever. You will never see me again.”
“That is not the kind of compassion I mean, Bill,” Eric said. “And I know that I will not see you again after this night.”
Bill’s look of panic returned, and he once again struggled against his chains.
Eric’s voice was almost hypnotic. “Sookie would want for me to give you a moment to prepare yourself and to speak to your god if you still have one. I will give you three minutes to do these things, Bill.” Eric paused and looked down at his enemy, “You may yet die as a man—a human.”
Bill was startled by Eric’s words for a moment, but then he stopped struggling against his chains and nodded to the Viking. “Thank you,” he said in an almost inaudible voice.
Eric stepped back and waited. He closed his eyes and thought about his wife.
Meanwhile, Bill tried to calm himself. Eric’s words were sling-shotting through his mind—to die as a man, to die as a human.
It was true what people said, Bill realized. When death was imminent, one really did see the major moments of his life pass before his eyes, and to a vampire those memories were overwhelming. He remembered the faces of the people he’d killed, especially during his younger days with Lorena and then later as he’d nested with Malcolm and his crew. He remembered glamouring and securing people for Sophie-Anne that he knew she would kill. He remembered planning his seduction of Sookie and then his hope that she might redeem him.
And in between all those things, he remembered thousands of long nights, many of which were spent feeling disgust at what he was forced to become or guilt at what he had done. The face of the young stripper he had glamoured for Russell to feed upon and kill shot into his mind. She’d said that there was no point loving anyone or anything, and the look of total desolation in her eyes was what had influenced Bill to choose her. She had been ready to die. She had said, “I know the truth about life; it is a hell I will never get out of alive.”
He too had known the truth that night—the night after he’d once again given into his vampiric urges and fucked Lorena—and he’d answered the girl, “No one does.” That statement was never more true to him than it was now.
Eric’s words once again tore through his mind. Die like a man. Die like a human. He closed his eyes. Could he? Could he in the end find a scrap of humanity? Did the fear boiling up inside of him indicate that he could still feel like a human did?
Yes—his life flooded his eyes, but Bill pushed aside his vampire life. His life had once before flown before him: the night Lorena had made him vampire. And that was the memory he finally grasped to—that flow, the flow of his human life.
He saw his time fighting in war. He remembered his elation when that terrible war was finally over and he could return home to his family—home. He remembered the faces of his children. He remembered his happiness when each one was born. Sarah had looked like a little angel and had had her mother’s eyes. Thomas was the spitting image of Bill’s own father and was named for him as well. The little boy had grasped Bill’s fingers tightly moments after his birth. Bill remembered feeling such pride in both of his children.
And Bill remembered his Caroline. She had such a grace about her movements. She could sweep into a room without his even hearing it, and every time he looked at her, he was struck by her loveliness. Bill remembered how she looked on the day of their wedding in her beautiful white gown; she’d been carrying irises. He held to that image. Yes—seeing her like that was the way he wanted to die.
“Are you ready?” came Eric’s voice from the side of the table.
Bill opened his eyes and took in the Viking. “I am,” he said. “Thank you.”
Bill spoke again. “I have a request, Eric.”
Eric smirked a little and then nodded again, “Naturally.”
Bill smiled as he remembered saying the same thing to an amnesic Eric when he’d been about to die. “Will you tell Sookie that I am sorry?”
Eric narrowed his eyes and took in his fallen monarch. “I will.”
Bill nodded and looked relieved.
“It’s time,” Eric said.
The expression on Bill’s face didn’t change.
Eric spoke softly, “I chose oak, Bill. That is because I want your last thought the be regret―regret that you never had Sookie as I have her, regret that you never understood her worth, regret that you are the kind of monster who would consider exploiting a child like my son,” Eric’s voice broke a little. “This oak is for Hunter, Bill.”
The Viking looked into Bill Compton’s eyes one last time, lifted the stake, and thrust it through his enemy’s heart.
Eric sat next to Bill’s remains for a long time. Compton—in the end—had died a good death.
The Viking felt great relief that Bill would no longer be able to hurt Sookie or Hunter. He felt he’d done the world a favor in removing one such as Bill Compton, one who was so delusional as to see all his acts―even the ones that would exploit a child―as justified.
But Eric felt no other satisfaction in having taken Bill’s undead life. And the Viking’s anger only grew at that fact.