The lines between humanity and vampire begin to blur, cruel animals both.
Lamenting Derrick Johnson
There is no existence in the year sleep. Vampires do not have dreams, our minds lacking some key component for them. We do not awaken like a human does, still nestled amongst sheets, the comfort of a lover or even a fantasy unknown to anyone but ourselves. We come back to ourselves just as our body finishes the arduous dig through our self styled graves, dirt clinging to our bodies, clothing ruined and hunger screaming. I have been told that the odd pain I have in my neck when I awaken is the only difference from every other of my kind, some remnant of this body‘s past life perhaps. This is how I have awoken each of the four times I have endured vampire hibernation, with the weight of invisible pain in my neck. I don't like change.
There is nothing at first, the sense of my physical body almost completely gone. I feel the world change around me. Enclosing pressure being released, the sensation of being lifted, the soft warbled sound of a squeaky wheel as I am moved. I try to move, to speak but it seems as though I don't exist in that way anymore. Bedeviled to live out my days as a disembodied head with a very heavy stone right above the area my throat used to be, feeling like a shackle for the first time. Light begins to drift into my broken vision, a landscape of ash gray with coal black silhouettes bobbing along on limbless bodies. Sound starts next.
It is a distortion of things I'm sure are supposed to be words, the different blobs moving here and there, seeming to glance at me every so often. Fear creeps over me, an old friend that is most unwelcome, my shaky thoughts straddling oblivion. I am moved off of one thing and placed in another, the weight at my throat now hanging like a pendulum. My senses begin to clear.
The blobs take on semi-human shape, one of them breaking away from the pack and coming to rest not very far from where I float, a broken consciousness in its own dark world, a warbling voice clearing as it addresses me.
"Good mornin', son, do ya know where ya'll are?" Southern, gruff and aged, the blob spoke with the stiff twang American soldiers had embedded into them by superiors.
What is this? Have I succumbed to necrosis? Why can't I move? No mouth meant no words, clearly not what this blob wanted.
"I don't rightly think anybodies home, Agent Tier, why don't you run and get that doc in here. Fix 'im up and get his jaw a wagglin'." A blob seems to break off from the southerners back and move out of my sight line. I hear garbled speech and them the soft squeak of another wheeled apparatus, much lighter than the last, a slender blob coming to a stop next to me.
I finally see color, glorious color. This new blob that stands just at my side has brought with it a tall thin pole on wheels that has something hanging from it I would be able to see even had my eyes been pulled from my head. A large oval bubble of sparkling crimson. I can not taste it, I can not smell it but I can never mistake life giving blood. A quick pinch of pressure and the blood begins to crawl toward me down an invisible pathway, an eternal moment passing in those last few centimeters...
My heart is pumping again. I get my first taste of life, be it without my taste buds, since crawling into the ground a year ago, the scintillating flavor put off only slightly by the presence of an unknown drug. Reality washes over me.
I feel the ground above and around me, passed walls thick enough even I would have trouble breaking through. A basement, then? There are various machines nearby, one providing me with the blood while another seems to be pumping something else into the line it runs through. My body is my own again, my senses screaming back to life. I feel metal at my wrists and ankle attempting to restrain me, the smell of decay coming off my clothes is a thick fog. The high backed chair I am chained to is made of thick steel, the table a few inches in front of me from a matching set, both bolted to the concrete floor. Opposite me, staring through a plume of cigarette smoke with eyes the color of ice, is an older man dressed in the garb of a U.S. General, two stars on his shoulders, the buzzing lights glaring off his bald head. He marks each sentence with a puff on the Marlboro.
"I say again, Good mornin', Son. Do you know where ya'll are?" In my haze, I had mistook the twang for American army brow beating. This guy is a hillbilly born and bred. I feel incredible, the blood fresh, taken by the technician herself, not an hour before, that image the only clear shadow I get from the life before the drug pushes the wool down. I feel.... playful. "Hello? Are ya in there? Don' go playin' mute on me, boy, act like you didn't take several swipes of talons and a few chomps of those fangs ya'll hide behind that baby face."
I feel them before I let my eyes graze them, six humans armed with large guns. Shot guns of some caliber or another. I've never been very much for these loud, crude inventions of man. But when they are so close to your proximity with murder in mind, you notice the little things. The stocks were equipped with grips, a large magazine and switch for different fire rates. Briefly, it seemed to be a piece of art, almost a still life performance piece, my eyes falling on the slim framed eyes of a single soldier behind a protective facemask. No performance there. I give him a soft tooth smile and roll my head to crack the stiffness out of my neck, bringing my gaze back to the general.
“Let’s have a chat, me and you, what do ya say?” Not really a question. But why not? I was once told to interact more, that I have the wrong opinion of my food.
“Sure. But, I don’t really like jewelry.” I stretch, metal snapping off my body with barely a twitch. Such a silly idea, that they could hold me with such weak workings of men. There is no change in the man’s demeanor, no glimpse of fear.
“Could have fooled me, what with that necklace yo’ sportin’.” He chuckled to himself. “ ‘Sides, didn’t think those would even rate that high on you. No, you a special case, ain’t ya?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that, Sir. Truthfully, not a whole lot of this makes sense to me. But you want to chat, so why not? I have just about forever.”
He seemed taken aback for a moment, the cigarette paused just outside of his lips.
“ You really don’t know what you are sittin’ in the middle of?”
“Just a guy looking for a way to make it to the sixties. Didn’t know it was a crime to do that buried in the ground. Law change that much in a year?” The laughter was instantaneous, rippling through the crowd, all but the woman in the lab coat. She put out buckets of fear. “Comedy too then?
“No, no, not like that, son.” The general regains his composure, taking the time to light a new cigarette. “Jus’ the situation. Tell me, what year is it?”
Something about the way he says it. That’s the question they ask mental patients at asylum isn’t it? Is he trying to be funny?
“1955. Why?” This time there was only chuckles.
“I guess, some reports can be believed. I thought it was my superiors havin’ a go at me. You are a bit out of time, if ya’ll forgive the turn of phrase. The year is 2012. The lot I pulled ya out of? Been a long time since anything occupied it, other than dusty fields. Where ever you think this conversation is gonna lead, you are one hundred percent wrong. I think I used the wrong words, when I said chat. I think, what I should have said rather…” He raised the hand holding the cigarette, the man in a black suit, tailored to hide a gun, pressed something on the small square he held. “Was interrogation.”
Electrical current snapped through my entire body, a low hum that grew steadily while I twisted and contorted. A few seconds of pure agony before another gesture takes it away. It hurts, a bone hurt I have rarely experienced in my long life. This isn’t really about information. Just fry the freak day and I’m on the barbeque. Still. That stuff from the tube was very relaxing. What’s a little mild physical agony between new friends?
“Well, that was something indeed.” I take the cigarette, fresh lit, from between his lips before the guards can move their fingers the inch it would take to incite a rain of new pain. The first drag is nice. I cough for theatrics, tasting all the new and interesting poisons in the brand. “Wow. Added a little kick with your daily dose of death huh? Not unpleasurable. Perfect for an after torture treat. Shouldn’t you be asking questions if this is an interrogation?”
“Rightly so. Is your name Derrick Johnson? Are you a vampire? Were you born in the lower part of Britain in the early 1500’s?” They all were made to sound like questions but what he really said was ‘I know who you are and I can kill you’. See what we can do to clear up that misconception.
“A vampire? Why no, Sir, I myself am a turnip.” This time it is the woman who giggles, a high pitched sound that surprises the general. “Oddly enough though, my turnip parents named me Derrick Johnson, so maybe you just have a bit of misinformation.”
It doesn’t hurt nearly as bad this time, the current that worms its way through every section of my skin, deep into my body again. This time, my nerves simply fuse with the energy, my muscles no longer tensing the point of tearing. I crush out the smoke and take the pack from beneath the General’s hand, this time my movements slow and deliberate.
“Funny and resilient cuss, ain’t ya? Don’t slobber a whole lot like your brothers either.” I light a cigarette, noting the surprise in the general’s eyes. His lighter had just been in his pocket a second ago, after all. “Move a bit better too. Don’t let it fill ya with warm and fuzzies, all that power ya think ya lord over us.”
“Whatever do you mean? A lowly turnip like me…” He cuts me off, this time his gesture giving permission to a guard to my right, his tag reading Roberts. The stock of the rifle felt as hard as it looked, the force he used enough to break my nose but not enough to draw blood. I smile. “Yay! Now the beatings have commenced. Do you have more rhetorical questions? Perhaps the woman is going to do something clever next?”
“I kinda like you, ya crazy blood sucker. But listen here son..” My cigarette struck him between the eyes, the red hot cherry tip crushing against his flesh. His jump makes me smile.
“Let’s be clear here, ‘General’. For me, curiosity is a driving force, what with me not being burdened by the same humanity you have. I am a vampire, as you know, as you also know all the rest of my information, I am sure. This buys you a little patience from me, though you have disturbed my rest. But call me son, boy or anything else condescending and your armed friends won’t get the chance to use their ugly guns. Electrocute me. Beat me. Doesn’t mean anything to me. The rate I heal, even the silver ammo I am positive you have would barely stop me. So please, ‘General’, have some damn decorum.”
He turns red as I light another of his cigarettes, three more to go. Why not, as good a countdown as any other. Shame looks terrible on his wizened features, confusion only adding to the ugliness. Not everyday someone who looks like they could be a grandchild talks to this man in such a manner. May has well have slapped him.
“Now, why don’t you just lay it all out ‘General’, and we can get about the chat I wanted from the beginning.” I blow smoke rings at him, watching them break on his face giving me a buzzing of happiness at the back of my mind. The little things.
“I suppose you are right, sir. I have forgotten myself, given that you have awoken in strange times. My name is General William Anderton. The men you see around you are my squad, set to do as they are told by me and only me. What you are doing here and why it is beyond your capability to be making any kind of threats.” He takes out another red and white pack, already opened and lights his own. For a moment, he seems to consider what he is going to say to me. I begin to scratch the surface of the table, the high pitched sound somehow comforting. “I have brought ya here to answer questions regarding the reemergence of your kind amongst mine own. Questions pertaining to any and all available information you might have on the vampire known as Caistro of Candlehine.”
The name is a wet slap on a cold cheek. Whispered tales amongst villagers, the last words of the only of my kind I’ve met. Keeping him alive seems like it should be priority but I can almost taste the lies that lace his words. I can see his pulse.
“So you brought me here, not something that was easy, despite the advanced years, to trade ghost stories? And ask me questions about a group of beings I have never met before? I would think those stars on your lapel mean you have better things to spend your time doing.” Two left. Not long.
“There are no ghost stories that I am interested in. I can assure you that he is a very real monster that is posing a very real threat to this world. As to how I spend my time, I take orders just as everyone else does, no matter the stars on my shirt. You, ya’ll just another assignment to be checked out of my tablet. Stop wasting my time.” Another gesture, another tap at the small control by the man in black. The walls slide away, panels only made to look like concrete, covering enormous lights behind thick glass. “Silver? You think I would rely on the accuracy of these men and your kinds allergy to protect me?”
“So you’re going to take my picture instead? I know that photographic technology was better than this when I went to sleep, I’m sure you could have gotten a smaller camera and flash.”
“What you see are Ultra Violet projector lights, each capable of reaching a level of luminescence equal to a pure ray from our star. One word and ya burn like an ant beneath a magnifyin’ glass.” Smugness becomes him less than shame.
“Interesting. How long have you seen yourself as a bullying kid killing innocent creatures?”
“Even in the face of death, jokes. Never known your kind to be so relaxed, even with Belladonna in their system. Talk to me vampire or, humor or no, you stop being useful. Useless things tend to die around here.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” Anger sneaks up on me, something I have a real problem with. My fingers cut the surface of the table, barely a flex of my arms tearing free the moorings. I spin it to the left, cutting into the men through sheer force. Three guns come up to aim at me and I take them away, snapping each before tossing it aside.
“God damn it to hell, lights!” My world explodes in white, a single report of gunfire and a silver screams its way through a freshly made furrow in my cheek.
I crumple inward, my body dislocating joints instinctively to hide my sensitive eyes. I skitter, like a roach, across the floor and unfold myself in front of the suit. The gun comes to bare and I snap his wrist as if I was brushing a fly. The gun slides across the floor, his glasses sliding onto my face as I retake my seat before he has time to cry out his pain. I light the final cigarette, licking the blood spatter from my hands. Somewhere in all of the excitement, what was left of my clothing has flaked away.
“Now. Our chat.” I glance at the female tech, the shock on her face delectable. “I assume everyone is paying attention. I was willing to be polite, to carry on a conversation. I thought that it might be fun and you all do seem to be well informed. But I will not be teased by fables and nightmare stories. Sunlight? What kind of fool pays attention to old wives tales?”
I stand and slowly approach the General, who cowers in his seat.
“All that bravado, all that smug staring at me, even when I tried to show you how not in control you were. You wear that suit with a sense of pride, I can smell it on you but beneath that, you reek of the lies you try to propogate with those cold blue eyes. So, Mr. Soldier, American hero, tell me.” The bones in my jaw grind and crunch as they realign, my teeth lengthening as my eyes darken. “What do you think your patriotism tastes like?”
Tastes like cheap scotch and bad cigars.
I drop his body to the side, nothing more than useless meat and bones now, energy coursing through me, eradicating their drug. I turn to my very captive audience, hearing the agent moving toward an odd looking console. I toss him into the four other men and lean next to the door he guarded.
"Now, lady, gentlemen, please pay some strict attention to what I am going to say to you. I will not repeat myself." I pass my gaze over where their eyes should be and step forward slowly. "Information equals life and, as I have made perfectly clear, I know a liar when I see one. So, quality counts. Who's first?"
They all stare at me, barely recovering from the shock of what had all ready occurred. I meet shaken gaze after shaken gaze until I come to one that doesn't even waver under my pupils, their expanse almost coating the whites of my eyes. I've broken many creatures with a simple gaze before, not even trying in most cases. His tag read Roberts and his hands were steady on the pistol and blade he wore. His attack, under normal circumstances, would have cost him his head but I like a committed man, unbreakable, challenging.
He flinches when the head of the man next to him slips off his shoulders, spraying Roberts with a thick red mist. I lick my talons clean, tapping one on his goggles.
"You will be telling me everything, I think. At least, everything that really matters. Touch those weapons again and I will cease asking questions and start to interrogate you and your compatriots. Speak when you are ready but, just in case the impression isn't strong enough." I hold up a single finger, my claws retracted and my jaw crushing itself back into my human disguise. "One more trick for you, my adoring audience."
The human epidermis is a stratified squamous epithelium, to use words once hammered into me, as if I needed a second reminder of anything, composed of proliferating basal and differentiated supra basal keratinocytes which acts as the body's major barrier against an inhospitable environment, by preventing pathogens from entering, making the skin a natural barrier to infection. It also regulates the amount of water released from the body into the atmosphere through trans epidermal water loss.
However, a vampire's skin, while seemingly identical in consistency and appearance, has a very different use. Disease is just life, attacking any level of my cells equaling it's demise, bacteria meeting a similar fate. I do not sweat, nor have any oily excretion from my skin. No, every surface breach of the top layer of skin for my kind is another hungry mouth that feeds on almost everything it touches. I close my eyes and reach out, not with my hand but with my mind, touching every drop of blood in the room with a brush of my thoughts. Come to me. And it flows, off lights that still blaze, from beneath table and from remnants of human life, over my naked flesh and into bottomless pits to be devoured by my hungry essence.
The room almost shines.
"Let's begin with clothing. Hard to take me seriously with my bits swinging in the wind. First to give me pants, wins life. My word."