The story of a vampire and her fledgling. Forgive her--she's not the most polite of characters...
Vampires hunt differently. All of us. You’ll hardly ever find two vampires that hunt the same. Most go for the miserable-looking, brooding artist types though, simply because they’re damaged, in one way or another. Honestly, they’re more like the damned than any other breed of human. Also, those types aren’t normally missed when they can no longer be found.
I didn’t hunt like that. At least, not then. Maybe I’ve become jaded in my old age.
Derek had been a complete stranger to me. I hadn’t watched him, hadn’t stalked him. I knew him in no way at all. He’d simply crossed my path on a night when I wasn’t particular about who I was killing.
I watched him from the bench in the park as he made his way back from class. He carried himself in the way that made me shift forward in my seat a little to watch him. He had a hidden confidence that would spark now and then as he passed people. His gait was aloof and simple, as he was in no hurry to get back to his dorm. He would flash a small grin at his fellow classmates as they passed, some to go party, some to go sleep off their latest mistakes. He greeted them all with the same non-committal grin.
As he passed me, his gaze caught mine for the briefest of moments. That small spark of confidence flared again, as he seemed to silently dare me to try something, maybe speak to him, or throw out some insult. Then he simply looked away and continued on.
I watched him for a moment. I remember, because it was then I noticed he was bow-legged. The observation made me smirk before I stood and moved into the shadows, taking my time in following. He was in no great rush and neither was I.
He’d whistle a hollow tune now and again, letting the solemn notes drift into the night. He had moved further into the park before I realized that he wasn’t heading back to his dorm. It seemed to me that he had no clue where he was going. He stared up at the sky as he walked, not seeming to care where his feet took him.
I followed a little further behind, my steps making no sound as I crossed along the concrete sidewalk. He let another low whistle emit before sighing and looking down at his feet.
I pounced without hesitation, launching myself into the air and slamming into his shoulders. He stumbled forward with a grunt, his books violently spilling from his grasp as he flung his arms out to catch himself. I landed atop him, my knee sharply driven into the small of his back. He groaned and tried to raise up. I allowed him a moment of freedom before my arm hooked his waist and I threw him down again, this time on his back.
He ripped at my clothes as I clambered atop his chest, trying to throw me aside. The first thought that came to my mind was that, for a mortal of such small stature, he was abnormally strong. As I thought this, his fist connected with my temple. I snarled in rage and backhanded him with a sharp blow to the cheek. His head snapped to the side and I took the chance to drive my fangs into the underside of his throat.
He whimpered slightly and tried to throw me off again, but I had him pinned and he was going nowhere.
His nimble fingers tangled in my hair and he pressed his jugular harder against my mouth--almost an unwilling act for him. I knew he was in pain--a lot of it--but I also knew that a streak of arousal was zinging through him like he was a lightening rod. It was a gift--is still a gift--to be able to trick the mind in such ways. He was in control of nothing. Not his mind, not his body. He was my playground and I loved it.
He writhed beneath me as his heart rate began to slow. He was struggling to breath, struggling to think. His body was shutting down.
Suddenly, in one last valiant attempt to save himself, he drove his knee into my stomach. The force and surprise of the act wrenched me off his artery and in the split second I was drawn from my attack, his own blunt teeth latched on to the exposed skin of my shoulder.
I knew I was bleeding immediately.
I howled and fell over him, bracing my palms flat on the ground. I heard his heartbeat slow as my blood pumped into his mouth and down his greedy throat. He thought he was saving himself, but in reality, he was killing himself faster than ever.
I gripped his neck and squeezed, closing his windpipe in one simple flex. He gagged and tugged at my wrist, but I could see it was too late. His eyes grew wide for a moment before a scream erupted from him as my blood took over his body, killing off his own cells and replacing them with the tainted blood that ran through my veins. His own body was eating him alive and he didn’t even know it.
I backed away, watching him squirm. I’d had the chance to kill him. The lighter was in my pocket and vampires burn like a sack of dried leaves. I’d had the chance, but the blood trailing down my shoulder and staining the strap of my shirt stopped me. Never once had a victim fought so hard to stay alive. Never once had one refused to give at the hands of imminent death. He’d become the only exception, and he was going to be mine.
His back arched off the ground as another scream bellowed from his chest. From where I crouched, I heard his heart stop, quickly followed by his lungs. For a lapse of mere seconds, he was suffocating before his entire internal system shut down and he was dead.
I remember thinking that he looked like a doll, tossed in a corner, the way his limbs were splayed and his mouth agape in a bellow that would never sound. Tears fell from the corners of his lifeless eyes, and I wondered where he’d gone. If he’d made to God’s feet.
In the time it took me to step toward him, his chest rose in a gasp and his vision returned. If he had reached Heaven, he’d been torn out of there with no chance of ever returning.
Awakening from physical death is terrifying. I remember waking up on an abandoned rooftop, and screaming for hours. When a person isn’t strong enough, coming back can scar them for the rest of eternity. I gazed at him and wondered if he’d make it.
The whole process annoyed me.
“You don’t need to breath. Stop panting,” I snapped, digging in my back pocket for the ever-present pack of Marlboros. He noticed me for the first time and twisted away, clamoring to his feet, his gaze wild, his breath racing.
In the time it took for him to blink, my hand was clasped tightly around his throat, crushing his windpipe and shutting off his air. He struggled still, clawing at my hands. I grew more agitated and popped the cigarette between my lips, letting it dangle from the corner of my mouth, before adding an extra palm to his neck. “Listen,” I growled, keeping the fag pinched between my lips, “Any more pressure and I’ll ruin your larynx. You’ll have a hell of a time talking after that, so I suggest you hold still and listen. Stop trying to breath. Your heart doesn’t work anymore. Your lungs don’t need air. So fucking quit it.”
We glared at each other for a moment before he relaxed and I released him. “Who are you?” he asked, his tone even.
I pulled my lighter out of my pocket and lit up before exhaling a cloud of smoke and looking at him.
Honestly, I’d planned on leaving him. I’d planned on walking away and leaving him to fend for himself. I wasn’t a deadbeat vampire. I had things to do. And being burdened by a fledgling wasn’t one of them. “Mischa,” was all I replied.
He turned his eyes skyward and shrugged, before saying the first thing that got me to let him stick around: “Unusual name. I like it.”
So I quirked my brow at him. He shrugged again and I decided to let him trail me for awhile, just to see how long it took him to annoy me enough to kill him.
I jerked my head in a gesture to follow and he obeyed. He bent to pick up his books and I tugged on his shirt collar. He stumbled but stood, looking at me with his brow raised. “Trust me, you won’t need those where we’re going.”
He fell into step beside me and never looked back.
A year passed and he was still around. In that time span, I’d learned that his mother was killed in a train accident, traveling from Ohio to Illinois when he was nine, and that his father had committed suicide when my fledgling was twenty-two, in 1998. Also, I learned, he was nothing like me.
“You do know that we’re predators, right?” I snapped one night. He pulled a shirt over his head and shook out his shoulder-length sandy hair.
“Yes,” he said simply.
“You understand that predators kill, what with the growling and the ‘grr’?” I curled my fingers into mock claws to demonstrate. He nodded and moved past me, into the next room. I snarled in frustration and turned to follow him.
“So, your problem with killing is what?”
“It’s not the killing,” he growled, growing agitated. “I kill just fine. I just don’t like the struggle.”
I shook my head and leaned against the wall. His gaze leveled my own for a moment, his gray eyes slowly absorbing the red tint from his shirt. I envied those eyes and their ability to obtain tints, no matter the color. I questioned sometimes if they’d done that when he was human, but never out loud.
“I failed,” I murmured as he walked out the door, leaving me with nothing but his echo. I listened to his steps fade away before I slipped out of the room.
Michael tossed the cigarette off the building and shrugged. “You shoulda’ just killed him.” At my disapproving look, he shrugged again. “You didn’t have a problem with getting rid of Emery.”
His words stung a bit. When I’d been younger, I’d made another fledgling, intent on finding a companion. After I’d sired Michael, he’d run off, drunk with power, and I’d been alone.
Emery had been a man I’d found in a bar, begging for attention. I figured that if his need for intimacy was that strong, he’d have made a good companion for eternity.
He lost his mind in the first six months of never aging, never having to shave or being sick. I lit him on fire and shoved him out of a window, glad to end his misery and mine. He was ash before he ever hit the ground.
“That’s different,” I said after awhile. “Emery was still human in his head. Derek isn’t.”
“Sure he’s not,” Michael offered.
“It’s in his nature to kill. We feed off the struggle. I don’t get it,” I sighed. Michael stood and I eyed him. His feathery black hair moved slightly in the breeze. His five-foot-ten lean frame seemed like it might topple off the building any moment.
“You shoulda’ killed him.”
He moved away and after a moment, I heard him leap from the rooftop and land softly in the alley below. I hung my head and searched the city beneath me.
I didn’t want to kill him. As much as I loathed his existence from time to time, I didn’t want to be rid of him. And therein laid the burden of the mortal coil I never escaped: pity.
I twisted and used the man’s own momentum to propel him away from me. He slammed harshly into the nearest dumpster with an angry grunt.
Derek may have strived to avoid conflict, but with me, it just wasn’t worth it if the prey didn’t scream.
The man righted himself and charged me, switchblade drawn and ready, the pointed steel tip intent on bedding itself somewhere in my abdomen. I attempted to flip him away again, but as he brushed past, he twisted his wrist and drove the blade into my ribs.
I snarled and shoved him away, looking down at the hilt of the blade protruding from my side. I felt it sitting there, keenly aware of its presence, lodged comfortably between my ribs and tearing into my lung. My gaze rose to meet my prey, and it struck me just how beautiful he was.
He was set evenly on a five-foot-eight frame, with narrow features and green eyes. His red hair haloed his head like a burst of flame, even in the dark back street. He had a tattoo edging up his forearm of a dragon, it seemed, with blood falling from its jowls.
Our eyes met. There was no grin in his features, no temporary victory in his eyes. He was calm and deliberate. Had I been human, I wouldn’t have been the first he’d killed. He was a predator, just as I was, and his mind set was of just that--a collected killer.
I pulled the steel from my side with nothing more than a wince and tossed it towards him. He watched it fall, looking unimpressed. His gaze rose to meet mine and a smirk flared across my features. “Pick it up,” I ordered. He knelt, even taking his eyes of me, and retrieved his weapon. He was a cocky thing. To trust your enemy enough to stop watching them was how even the most skilled wound up dead. He straightened himself and looked at me, expression patient, if not amused.
I prowled toward him and he boxed up, immediately on his toes, hands in the air, knife gripped perfectly. I momentarily regretted the fact that he was going to die.
His wrist snapped back with no more resistance than a twig, and he howled in pain as the bone within broke. The switchblade clattered to the ground with a metallic ‘clang’ before he crumpled along with it, cradling his ruined appendage with his free hand. He looked up at me, and I was stunned. No hint of pain was evident in his eyes, just a calm acceptance of defeat. It had been a long time since I’d respected my prey, but I had to admit, he was a warrior, for whatever reasons he had.
I came down upon him with a reverence that surprised me. I was as vicious as ever, but my method was clean and practiced. I broke his skin neatly and not a drop of his blood seeped out between my lips. He lost his reserve in the end, finally clawing at my face and neck with his good hand until his protests dwindled. His life passed into me with no attachments left to that dark alley. He fell limp in my arms and I pulled away. I pondered upon his past for a brief second. I wondered why he was as noble--or perhaps, stupid--as he was. But the thought was fleeting and gone as quickly as it’d come. I left him there on that filthy ground, with not even a name for the walls to remember him by.
You’ll never hear me say that I was surprised when that child dropped from the rafters and landed before me, her small body issuing a dull ‘thud’ as it hit the hard ground.
The warehouse was old and abandoned, just like the rest of the neighborhood. There was nothing in it now except for blank wall space. I tilted my gaze upward to find a pair of green and a pair of gray eyes staring back. “I’d hate to know what you did to get her,” I said casually, gesturing to the now-very dead girl.
Derek dropped first, landing cat-like in a crouch, followed by Michael. I was impressed that they were together. Most nights, you couldn’t find a better example of enemies. “Hello, darling,” my brother said slowly. “She’s precious, isn’t she?”
I flicked my gaze toward Derek, who looked away. I knew damn good and well that his guilt was consuming him, greedily biting at him from the inside out. He turned away after a moment and headed out of the building.
As I watched him go, disdain filling me, Michael cleared his throat impatiently. I dragged my gaze away from Derek’s vanishing form to the pompous being that was my brother. “Fine,” I sighed, “I’m game. How’d you get him to do it?” Michael smirked, an expression that was often a mirror of my own.
“It wasn’t hard. I already had her. I was just in the mood to share, and it wasn’t like he was going to resist.”
It was then I noticed the bruises around the girl’s wrists and ankles. She’d been shackled somewhere, weeks it looked like from eyeballing her weight, until the point where she begged for death. Michael liked them that way.
“You’re bent,” I said softly. All he could do was grin at me, conceited in the fact that he’d dragged Derek into even more torment by watching him feed off a child. Michael was always one for torture, even when he was human. As a little girl, I’d watched him stone a cat to death and then write poetry about it, somehow making it beautiful instead of the evil it really was. He was insane-- I’d figured it out by the time I was twelve. I suppose it was a great part of my reasoning for loving him as much as I did.
Suddenly, soft footfalls met my ears. I expected to turn and see Derek padding up behind me, to whimper in my ear and ask me to return to the flat with him. He couldn’t thrive in his guilt alone most times. Instead, I turned and saw Stella entering the room, moving fluidly through the shadows. Her fiery hair and emerald eyes reminded me briefly of my prey from earlier in the night. He could’ve been her son, had I been ignorant to the fact that her son was dead, due to the fender of a Buick when he was six. The tattoo inked delicately on her bicep was his only memorial. She’d said that no one had buried him anywhere. I had never prodded beyond that point.
I looked at her tattoo, the way I did every time I saw her. It was of a long-stemmed rose. The petals were blood red and the small black pint underneath read ‘Kyle’.
Michael found Stella after a failed suicide attempt that left her hanging from a window, barely alive, and he sired her. Afterwards, she’d attempted to kill him twice before falling in love with him.
Michael licked his chops and smiled when she embraced him. Stella glanced down at the dead child and pouted for a moment, her ruby lips falling into a small frown. “She was my favorite,” she murmured, before pulling away and embracing me. She’d always liked me much more than I liked her. I stiffened at her touch, but returned the hug with the least effort possible.
Suddenly, there was the loud clamor of whoops and hollers as Michael’s gang entered the building. They were all dressed the same: white T-shirts and jeans. They surrounded us and I let off a growl. I didn’t like them, despite their direct association with my brother. They were pigs, as far as vampires went, slaughtering whole families at a time and indulging in the most grotesque blood orgies almost nightly.
One nipped me lightly as he passed and I snarled, spinning around. He dodged my swinging fist and let off a laugh like a hyena. The others joined him, their voices ripping into the walls and stale air of the building.
They weren’t my breed. Believe it or not, vampires come in breeds, like dogs, only different. You’ll hear canines categorized as a ‘working breed’ or something to that effect. Vampires are classified as one of three things. A vampire is either seen as part of a gang, or coven, as most would call it. He or she is either a loner or mated. These classifications can be interchanged and switched around. For example, a vampire and its mate can be part of a gang, but a lone vampire is only seen at that: a loner. A vampire by itself is considered a loner, even if it does have a mate prowling around somewhere. But the most important fact to remember, is that when not interlaced somehow with each other, these breeds by themselves do not get along. At all.
The only thing keeping this gang of vampires from ripping me, a lone vampire away from her mate, apart was Michael, who just so happened to be their leader.
Despite my bother’s ranking though, one pounced on me, his elbows hooking my shoulders. I roared and threw him off me, crushing his skull against the nearest wall. He fell limp but would heal in a matter of minutes.
They all advanced, ready to defend their fallen brother, and I stared at them. All of them were male, and they all looked like Michael. Or, tried to look like him. A wave of dyed black hair inched toward me and all I could do was laugh, even though I was well aware that they were greedy for my blood. Michael barked out the word ‘stop’ just as the first in the group came nose-to-nose with me, his hackles raised, fangs bared. He didn’t back away. That wasn’t his order. He was just told to simply stop and that was all. We glared at each other.
They were sheep. All of them. Michael was herding them all into the same, pointless direction. He wasn’t going to bring them to any greater level of immortality. He was just their shepherd, keeping them as safe as he could while they were stupid enough to follow him.
A rough snarl escaped me and I turned away. I wasn’t afraid. Just disgusted.
As I walked in, a guttural rumble escaped my throat at seeing him. I shut the door and glared at him as he leaned against the wall of the entryway. He let out a low growl in warning, telling me not to start, not to pick a fight. I ignored it and stalked toward him, baring my fangs.
Perhaps it was the primordial sense of being the weaker one of us that caused him to hit me first. I didn’t know then, and I never will know. He never would talk about it. But as it were, his fist connected with my chin and I felt my jaw unhinge from the force. I felt the bone stitch itself together as I faced him. Injuries like that were inconsequential to a vampire of my age and power. They were nothing more than a lapse in time.
I struck him back with no hesitation and no regret afterwards. The back of my hand slammed into his mouth and his head twisted to the side. The blood that seeped from the corners of his mouth enticed me to drive further into the oncoming argument. I was aware that I had his full attention, now that he was staring at me, an expectant look flirting with his features, as if he was waiting on me to hit him again. If there was one thing that could ever be said about my Derek, it was that he was glutton for punishment in all the worst ways.
I didn’t strike him, though the thought was tempting. Instead, I spoke, and in no way, did I try to hide the anger in my tone. “You are a killer, Derek,” I said, stepping closer, intentionally invading his space. His hazy eyes narrowed to slits as he watched me. “It’s how you survive. If they struggle, it’s because they are the weak ones. It’s how it’s supposed to work. Forget it again, and I will kill you.”
Don’t think that I didn’t love him. I did. I loved him from the first time he’d fought back, and I loved him for fighting back now. But I wouldn’t allow a weak being to roam, no matter what I felt. My love for him was an immortalized love that would never vanish. I was in his blood and he was in mine. There was no escaping it. But if he was going to survive with me, he’d learn how to kill, or he’d be killed. With that said, I would’ve walked away. The rant would’ve been over, and I would’ve retreated to the bedroom. But he took a menacing step of advancement toward me, and I palmed his chest, shoving him back against the wall. He threw my arm away, and I reacted quickly, slamming my palm into the underside of his chin, crushing his teeth together. I heard more than felt his fangs chip, and he looked at me, stunned and angered. He believed that his fangs were the only thing separating him from his prey, and now they were damaged. For the moment at least. By the time I spoke again, they were healed. “You’re a demon,” I whispered. “You are that creature. It lives in you and there’s no escaping it.”
Before I could continue, his lips came down on mine, his hand cupping the back of my neck. I felt my own lips split under the pressure of his mouth before he shoved me away. His tongue flicked out and lapped at the blood that had fallen from his lips before stepping forward and shoving me again, making me stumble backwards. He advanced again and shoved me once more, before my back connected with the opposite wall of the hallway. He was immediately in front of me.
Once again, his lips were crushing against mine, his fingertips brushing over the most sensitive parts of my body, his fangs digging into my bottom lip. I felt a whimper escape me, and was shocked. I was normally the stern, quiet lover.
He broke away, his palms pinning my wrists to the wall above me, his lips next to my ear. “Are you a demon too?” he murmured. The question confused me slightly, causing me to furrow my brow, but he cut me off before I could reply. “Does it live in your blood?” He was pressed so tightly against me that I could feel every plane and curvature of his male form. The sharp lines of his hips pressed into me, a little above my own. His arousal was evident, not masked by the thin fabric of his black cargos. My eyelids fluttered for a moment in the dark hallway, of a rundown apartment that was not our home. I searched for a response, something, anything. I was lost in the place between anger and seduction, where nothing I did made sense. I nodded. It was the only thing I could do.
I tried in vain to release my wrists, the last of my anger bursting through me. I wouldn’t allow this. It wasn’t going to end this way.
I writhed and pulled, not liking the confinement, feeling like a smothered dove, as cliché as that sounds. I would jerk away, only to have him pin me again, all the while grinning sadistically. I’d try again, and I’d fail. His strength as a vampire had grown over the year, and I hadn’t noticed until I’d try to escape and he’d stop me. “Good,” he growled at my response, twisting my wrists to the point of breaking, where I leveled my gaze with his. “Because I want to taste her.”
I cried out as his fangs broke my skin.
He didn’t delve into my mind. He didn’t alter my thoughts, trying to trick me into believing that I wasn’t in pain. He simply fed, drawing mouthful after mouthful of my blood into his throat and swallowing heavily. The burning in my veins made me scream. I was being emptied of everything but my soul, that was trying to rip its way out of me.
A small grunt came from him as my blood flooded his system, mingling with his own. Since the night I sired him, he’d not tasted my blood. And now, he was being overtaken by a power that was two centuries older than he. He was experiencing my knowledge and my memories that were escaping me through my blood. He knew things now that I’d wished him never to think of.
It should’ve destroyed him. The amount of undiluted power that was pushing itself through his body should’ve destroyed a being as young as he, but he was strong-willed, as stubborn as ever, and he drank on.
I felt as though I’d die my mortal death again just as he pushed away, letting go of my wrists and tumbling backwards until he hit the floor. My blood fell down his chin, dripping on to his throat, contrasting deep scarlet with the pale lucidness of his skin. My palm flew to my neck and I felt the puncture wounds closing as I dropped to my knees.
I snarled like a caged animal, angry and wounded, barely keeping myself keen to my surroundings. I was tired--so tired--and I barely saw the grin he flashed my way, with his fangs tinted red. He was high on the power.
He crushed himself to me and found my lips with his own. I tasted myself slightly as his tongue ran along my bottom lip. He grabbed at the hem of my tank-top and yanked it up, pulling away from my mouth just long enough for the fabric to pass over my head. He pulled me into his lap like I was some crippled plaything, and laid my head on his shoulder. “You,” he whispered, running his tongue along my collarbone, “taste like strawberries.”
My lips moved back to his, almost on their own. The kiss was weak, however, as my strength had gone along with my blood. I mumbled something, and he chuckled, a deep rumble within his small chest. “Don’t worry,” he purred, “I’ll take care of you.”
He released me and removed his own shirt. I was limp in his lap. I felt helpless, and it annoyed me. It still annoys me to this day to think of it. He cupped the back of my neck and drew me to the tender place where his neck and shoulder met. His palm and fingertips splayed across my back, urging me forward. His other hand cupped my cheek, holding me in place. Suddenly, I needed no further invitation. I opened my mouth and broke his skin with my keen fangs, driving through the sinewy tissue that laid beneath his lucid flesh.
His blood coursed through me and my veins ignited with returned power. I was quickly regaining my strength as I drew the blood from him. His arousal became so evident, it was almost painful.
I broke away, refusing to let him be weak. I wanted him ready for everything I was going to do to him.
Every wonderful, horrible thing I was going to do to him.
As I sat alone on the roof, I relished the peace.
Rooftops normally belonged to Derek. At least in NYC. He occupied several a night, surveying the city and the people below him.
I’d never seen why he’d enjoyed watching. I’d never understood it. I liked to be in the action. It wasn’t in my nature to be a spectator. It was boring. But as I sat there, I finally started to understand.
People are ignorant. It was that simple. They walked the streets, never once thinking that evil was among them. Why would they? Hell, they lived in New York City. They had other things to worry about. But they had no idea that true evil was just above them, picking them off, one by one.
I understood why Derek loved his perch.
It made him God.
“Why are you up here?” His voice grated on my nerves. I was angry at him for overtaking me. I was angry at myself for being overtaken. I was so angry, despite the fact that I had just crawled out of bed with him.
“Not loathing my existence, that’s for sure,” I growled, facing him. The hurt was evident in his pale eyes, as was the anger flaring within him.
“She was a child, Mischa. A little girl, and I killed her. How am I supposed to not be guilty?” He paused to sweep the hair out of his eyes. “My God, she was just a child.”
“Yes, Derek, mock God. He’s renowned for helping the damned, isn’t he?” I snarled and shoved past him.
“What did you want me to do?” he asked quietly. I spun and glared at him.
“Be a vampire, Derek. Be a demon. If you can’t do that, then I don’t want anything to do with you.” His eyes widened slightly and he took a step forward, as if to check me for injuries, but the only marks on me were the ones he’d put there, and I wouldn’t allow him the satisfaction of seeing those. He reached out toward my arm and I stepped back. “Don’t touch me,” I whispered and turned away.
If he was going to wallow in self pity, I was going to let him do it alone.
I sat at the bar, nursing a nice bit of alcohol and smoking some cheap brand of cigarettes I’d picked up from the seven-eleven. As a vampire, I can consume mass amounts of malt beverage before even getting a buzz. Needless to say, I was still so very sober. And still so very angry. I was nowhere near in the mood for the player that approached me. “Hello, dear.” His hand was on my shoulder before I even looked at him. I tensed and let out a muffled growl as he leaned against the bar next to me. “Are you feeling lonely, pet? You look it?” I slid my gaze to him.
He’d been a jock in high school, probably a football player. He was muscular, with a short crew-cut, and a designer sports jacket. He winked at me before calling to the bartender and demanding two drinks. “What’s your name?” He asked.
“Mischa,” I said grumpily.
“Oh? Is that German?”
Some odd colored drink slid before me and I rolled my eyes. A fruit drink. I hated fruit drinks. Still do. I prefer hard liquor. Whiskey, vodka. Not some apple-tiny. I let it sit there as he took a large gulp of his own.
It was obvious that he’d played the field for a very long time. He was analyzing me, watching how I fingered the rim of my glass, looking at my posture, how I tapped the ashes off the end of my cigarette. He was watching me, and it made me bitter. Had I been in a better mood, he doing what he did probably would’ve ended differently.
He touched me--a simple brush of the back of his knuckles against my cheek.
I reacted quickly and had him pinned to the bar in a matter of seconds, his nose slamming into the glazed wood. He grunted harshly and then cried out as the blood started to drip.
Everyone at the bar backed away, eyes on me. The bartender took a step forward, intent on stopping the fray, but I sent him a glare that stopped him, the toe of his boot barely touching the ground.
That part of my body belonged to Derek. He was the only one allowed to touch me like that.
I leaned down to level my face with the man as he struggled against me. His gaze met mine and he was immediately still. I smirked at him, the corner of my mouth quirking upwards, just a little. “Try drinking a man’s drink, you pussy,” I sneered. “It might give you better luck with the ladies.”
What can I say? I’ve always hated jocks.
The apartment was empty when I arrived back. The door was ajar and I pushed it wide, stepping inside, my Converse light on the ratty carpet. I didn’t bother closing the door. I just stepped inside and I knew. His scent was fading. He was gone and wasn’t coming back.
I tucked my unruly hair behind my ear and gazed around. I didn’t feel alone. I didn’t feel empty. I didn’t feel. I padded back into the bedroom and eyed my surroundings. His clothes were still there, hanging like ghosts in the closet. I dropped my gaze and slouched on to the bed. It sank beneath me, the springs ready to collapse any moment. I listened to them whine under my one hundred-forty-five pounds and it calmed me.
I was in no disarray. I wasn’t confused. The situation was simple. I’d told him if he couldn’t be the demon I’d wanted, for him to leave. He listened.
“I heard there was a fray at the bar.” Michael’s voice itched in my ears. I brought my palms up to my forehead and sighed.
“He touched me,” I said simply.
“Well, he was alive long enough to know he’d done wrong then.” This perked my interest.
“He’s dead?” Michael nodded, a satisfactory gleam in his hazel eyes.
“Cartilage through his brain. A little brash, but whatever works, eh?” I sighed. It’d been a long time since I’d killed someone by mistake. Not since I was Derek’s age. “He was in shock while you were talking to him. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.” I stood and let out a gruff snarl.
I wasn’t worried about the law. Human police couldn’t touch me. If they found me, it was because I let them. I was angry at myself. I was never renowned for being a thinker. I follow my instincts. I follow my blood--which, ironically, doesn’t always flow in the direction of my brain. I was angry at myself for killing the man. I was angry for losing my cool, losing my temper. I hated myself. “I didn’t mean to kill him,” I snapped.
“ ‘Didn’t mean to kill him’? You sound like a whimpering schoolgirl.”
I spun to face him. Michael believed that we vampires were the higher race--the higher beings. He believed that all humans were lambs for slaughter--that they just walked around, waiting to be picked off. He felt no remorse when one of them died, by our hands or by their own. They were our pawns, the game pieces that gave us reason to go on. He gave them no credit. He respected nothing.
I raked my nails across his face before I even had the conscious effort to do so. He stumbled back, grinning. He chuckled, reaching up and touching the welts that ranged over his cheek. I stepped back and looked at him.
We were mirrored images, my brother and I. Our raven hair was jet black, with no color in between. It wasn’t a dark chestnut brown, masquerading as black. It was pure lake-at-midnight. Our faces were angular toward the chin and round about the cheeks. Our eyes curved upward naturally, masking us as mischievous-looking no matter our expressions. Our lips were poised and small, looking to be permanently frozen in our trademark smirk. The only difference between us was eye color. He was blessed with our mother’s ivy green orbs, round and almost child-like. I was handed down my father’s chocolate-colored gaze, that could portray any emotion known. I often think I got the better deal.
The lead pipe connected with my spine at the small of my back just as I heard it breaking air behind me. My vertebrae shattered, sending me to the floor immediately. My limbs were frozen in the human form of paralysis as the bones stitched themselves back together, and I lay there helpless. I watched as a pair of leather boots moved past me to Michael’s railroad treks, and I knew it was Stella, before ever even smelling or seeing her.
My spine was mending itself, connecting fiber to fiber. I twitched my foot and it happened again. The pipe came down, on the back of my neck this time, with such a force that my vertebrae broke through my windpipe. I wheezed at the momentary pain before all feeling left my body. I was paralyzed again, this time from the neck down. “I guess I’ll just have to keep breaking your back, Mischa,” Stella said. I heard her tap the pipe against her palm before another ‘swoosh’ pulled at the air and it connected with my temple, almost flipping me over. My skull was split, and I knew it. I felt the crack form from the hinge of my jaw to the top of my cranium before my vision lost focus and I was shoved into an oblivion of darkness.
I woke up dazed, like from a catnap. I wasn’t in pain--my own body made sure of that--but I was pissed off. I was chained in a cage, with the rancid scent of rotting flesh surrounding me. It made sense, as I gazed around. Human carcasses lay still chained to the wall, mixed in amongst the still very much alive humans with gaping wounds in their flesh from one mouth or another. They took glances at me and looked away quickly, knowing what I was. The only one that dared to hold eye contact was a young boy, only twelve or so, with a dislocated shoulder.
“I ain’t scared of you, “ he spat. “Leech.” I snarled at him, and to my shock, he took a step forward, the only thing holding him back was the shackle attached to his ankle, with the other end securely bolted to the wall. I felt like I was in a zoo, being watched and documented. I counted seven--seven people alive in this…dungeon. Six were dead and rotting. One of the seven, and old woman, lay shivering and moaning, distressing in the throws of her own demise. I knew they were Michael’s. He kept them there--in that basement--until he wanted them. And if they died waiting, he found more. Always more.
“Only the good ones get the cage,” he continued. “You ain’t gonna’ be here long.” He wasn’t speaking in comfort, but out of sheer spite. He knew what I was, and yet he thought I feared my brother and his cronies. He was trying to scare me.
I flew against the chains attached to my wrists, making the bolts jump in the wall, toward the bars that trapped me in. It was a large cage, like the one for the tiger at the carnival, with plenty of room to pace. But I was chained in the far corner, away from the humans, away from the boy. He stood at the opposite end of the cage, taking a small step back as I raged toward him. I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t out of control. I wanted to scare him into shutting up.
I flicked my gaze to a middle-aged woman who was also in a cage, though a smaller one. She was reaching through the bars to the old woman on the floor, who was now dead. I could smell the new death through the old. The younger woman started screaming for her grandmother and crying. I sighed and studied the others. Two pairs of people were chained side-by-side. A man and a woman, a man and another man. Both couples, trying their best to comfort their partners, promising to find a way out. The weaker ones of the couples cowed at my presence, trying to clutch to their butch mates. I let off a grumpy rumble and they tucked in on themselves. Again, just to scare them into silence. But then, the boy spoke again.
“You’re the sister, ain’t’cha? The one he talks ‘bout all the time?”
I settled into my iron chains and little and allowed him a small nod. “Yeah.”
“I ain’t scared of neither of you two,” he said stubbornly. But then he seemed to think for a moment. “But I really ain’t scared of him.”
“You should be,” I said nonchalantly. “He’s the one that’s gonna’ kill you.” He shrugged with his good shoulder.
“I don’t care,” he announced bravely. Ah, yes. A tactic used by prey in all animal kingdoms. He was smaller--weaker. He made himself look bigger and stronger to be left alone. It would never work.
“You’d be better off letting me just break your neck,’ I said, a little snobbishly. “Rather than the ways he’ll find to get rid of you.”
“You shut up!” the granddaughter roared, facing me in her cage. It struck me that they were family. The now-dead grandmother, the mother, and the son. It was all so very Michael-esque. I made a mental note to lecture him for being predictable later on. “Just shut the fuck up! Leave him alone!”
The boy faced his mother. “Let her talk, Darcy.”
Ah. The son called the mother by her first name. Family trouble.
“Hush up, Brandon!”
The couples were squirming in their corners, uncomfortable with the argument. Brandon faced me again.
“You ain’t gonna’ touch me, bitch.”
New Yorkers really are lovely creatures.
It wasn’t my style to fight a kid. It wasn’t my style to hunt children. But I found myself breaking the chains that held me with a powerful jerk and speeding to the head of the cage, my arm through the bars, palm closing on his throat before he had time to draw his next breath. He tensed and tried to arch away, but I held fast, not trying to hurt him, but trying to quiet his pubescent voice. Force was not going to work with these humans, whose fear was calloused by months of beatings. So I calmed my voice and tried to speak evenly. “Shut up. They’re talking upstairs and I want to know what they’re saying.”
Immediately, all breathing softened. They were just as curious about what their captors had to say as I was. Michael’s voice drifted down to me from the heave floorboards.
“I’ll damn well do what I please, leader or not,” he growled.
“You aren’t going to win this time, Mich. They want me. They want a woman’s touch,” Stella said proudly.
“They want to touch a woman,” he returned sharply. “Your confusion is making you naive, love.”
“I’m taking over, Michael. She dies at Dawn.”
I heard Stella walk away, the clipping of her boot heels loud enough for all of us to hear. Michael left as well, so I wasn’t surprised when the door at the top of the stone staircase opened and he prowled down them, ignoring his whimpering hostages, and making a B-line to me. I didn’t move away from the bars--not an inch. “Hello, brother,” I offered. He shoved Brandon out of my grasp, making sure to plow into the boy’s wounded shoulder, to make sure he stayed back, before facing me.
“Join us, Mischa.”
I barked out a laugh. It wasn’t the first time he’d tried to bribe me into joining his gang. “Now isn’t the best time for jokes, Michael. I’d like to get out of this cage eventually.”
“Then you join us.”
He wasn’t joking. His voice was grave, the same voice he’d used two centuries ago, when I was still a child, that cancer had taken our mother. Hundreds of years later, his tone still made my stomach drop. I shook my head slowly. “No.”
“This isn’t my scene anymore, Mischa! I’m not controlling what they do! This is Stella’s show now, and she wants you dead.”
“So I heard,” I said, jutting my chin toward the ceiling. He stared hard at me.
“She’ll kill you and I won’t stop her.” He made sure I heard his choice of ‘won’t’ instead of ‘can’t’.
“Then you condemn me to death,” I said simply.
“You condemn yourself to death!” He roared, slamming his palms against the bars of the pen. “Listen to me--”
“No,” I snarled. “You listen to me. I will not join your make-shift coven. I won’t be put on a leash. And I refuse to be Stella’s bitch. If that’s not okay with you, fuck off.”
His emerald gaze deepened for a moment. “You expect me to watch you burn?”
“I expect you to absolutely nothing. Like always.”
The words stung him. It was evident. We had been close until mother died, and he stopped caring. I found no reason for him to start now. He heaved a sigh and spun around, eyeing his cast of unwilling audiences. They quivered at his gaze. He reached over and quickly broke the chain holding Brandon down. The boy struck him in the jaw with his good hand, only to have Michael break his face-plate with a swift backhand. The boy fell into shock, his small body unable to handle such a tremendous amount of pain. Darcy screamed from behind her bars, crying and begging as Michael lifted the boy’s nearly-unconscious form from the floor and carried him up the stairs. Darcy vomited, the grief too much to handle. Her reflexes churned and she convulsed over and over until she trembled with the effort to breath. She’d lost her family. I knew not of her husband, and I didn’t invade her mind to make his presence known to me. It was not for me to see, and what was more, I didn’t care.
I simply wished that I had broken the boy’s neck.
I could hear his muffled screams coming from above me as Michael tore at his face with a broken guitar string.
Day was swiftly approaching. I was growing light-headed and slack at it’s imminent arrival. The hypnotic slumber always struck us, wherever we were--it still does. It’s the damnation of the damned. If we cannot seek shelter, we drop where we stand, unable to remain conscious, and the sunlight destroys us. I felt it coming, and I wasn’t afraid. Even as I heard the thudding of feet above me--several pairs--I was not afraid.
They came into the basement, Stella at the lead, and swarmed the cage, eyeing me with malignant eyes. They wanted my blood--wanted to bathe in it. I only sneered back at them.
“It’s nothing against you, Mischa,” she lied, “I just have to be top dog in this city, and I’d never win in a fair fight.”
“There’s no such thing,” I grumbled, my thoughts fogging over. And yet, this gang wasn’t affected by the oncoming sunrise. They snickered and howled as she unlocked the cage. They trampled the old woman’s body and rattled the cage of the distraught mother. They slapped a choke-chain on me (it was Stella’s favorite toy) and yanked me forward, binding my hands together with string--the same steel string Michael had used to finally slit Brandon’s throat. I’d heard the blood spatter on the floor and grimaced at the mess.
I eyed the mother as I was pulled by. She wanted to be me. She wanted to be led off to her own death. It was her only escape. Her only hope.
I looked away.
We were in a bank--a run-down bank. It had been contorted into a nest for the ravenous creatures that flanked me, nipping at my hocks and forcing me forward. I snarled and bit back, but my fangs might as well have been broken. They shoved me out the front door and into another cage, in the middle of the street. A small cage. Smaller than the mother’s. They locked me in, double padlocked and the actual bronze lock of the cage. Even with my strength, I knew there was no escaping.
They backed away, retreating into the safety of the nest, but crowding at the glass door, waiting impatiently for the sun to rise. Stella walked away. She wasn’t interested in seeing me die. She simply wanted it done and over with.
I lifted my gaze and spotted Michael on the roof, crouched low and watching me. I knew he would dare not make a move to save me. He knew what his followers--Stella’s followers--were capable of.
I flipped him the bird. For old time’s sake.
And then a movement caught my eye. A figure edged up beside him and panic struck me.
Derek was eying me as well, sandy hair framing his face and moving in the slight breeze. He turned toward Michael for a moment and then retreated, out of my sight. He did what was right by him--or so I thought.
He leapt from the building just as Michael disappeared and the sun broke the horizon. Derek’s movements were slow. Sleep was biting at his veins, but he ran still, in the shadows forming on the street. In his left hand, he held a crowbar. In his right, a single key. He reached me and I heard the doors of the nest burst open. He broke the padlocks, yanking them away and had the key in the last lock when the first monstrosity reached him. Derek flailed backward, catching the creature in the eye with the hooked end of the crowbar. Blood spewed and he pulled harshly and the young one’s face broke, from the inside out.
The door was unlocked. I was almost unconscious.
They say in Antarctica, when two sled dogs fight, hundreds of others will gather around and wait to devour the fallen. It doesn’t matter if they’ve run together, or if they were all of the same litter or bloodline--the fallen, if grounded just for a moment, is killed by hundreds of mouths descending down upon him. He doesn’t fight back, doesn’t cry. He just perishes by his breed’s will to survive.
I remember thinking that as Michael carried me away. Derek fell away from sight under the score of vampires that plunged upon him. They fought until the sun broke the rooftop and devoured them all. They screamed. I could hear each distinct voice ring out in pain and hatred. Except for Derek’s. My ears fell upon silence from him as the flames ate them up.
I learned many things.
Love means nothing in war.
Family isn’t to be trusted.
I often wondered what would’ve happened had he not looked at me that night in the park. I wish I could say that there was something else that drew me to him--something romantic or poetic. But he just looked at me, daring me to challenge him. In the end, the challenge came and he lost.
He was just like me after all.