The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.
~Marcus Tullius Cicero
It had been three months to the day today since I had gotten the horrible news.
Blaine was still dead, it was still not just a dream, even though it was a waking nightmare for me, and I was still struggling, even though I had made some changes in my life.
Caleb, Lilith and I were now temporary roommates and friends. No, that is a lie. Caleb and I were friends, probably because it was an open secret that he had hopes in time I would change my mind about being more than friends with him, and Lilith tolerated me because her brother was fond of me. She was nice enough, polite, but aloof and elusive. Never once did she complain about me living in her home now, at least not to my face.
I also knew – unofficially – that I used to be her competition, rumor had it that she had been pretty sweet on Blaine, but never had managed to land with him while I had graduated all the way to fiancée, which she did not like one bit. So, it was that kind of dynamic between her and me.
Yes, Caleb had a few weak moments where he tried to come on to me a little bit, nothing dramatic, and he always did back off right away, at least until the next time. It wasn’t unbearable, more a nuisance, a pester.
He was cute and sweet about it, a generally handsome man, I could see that, and he certainly had his charms.
Unless you touched him – or he you.
He was noticeably cold to the touch, always. There was no denying or glossing over of who or what he really was by any stretch of the imagination.
I missed physical affection.
God knows with Blaine around there always had been plenty of that. And now, there was nothing at all anymore.
I still missed Blaine too much and it would have felt like cheating had I given in to Caleb’s advances, and truth be told, I wasn’t all that curious what screwing a vampire would really be like, pardon my French.
The few times I tried to paint that picture in my head just for the heck of it, my imagination jumped fences and I had no desire to find out first hand how close to the truth that may have actually come.
Besides, as quiet and gentle-mannered as Caleb seemed, don’t let that mislead you into thinking he was some shy wallflower. He was basically a more refined Blaine with fangs, had plenty of game with women, and he didn’t even bother with girls whom he had the slightest doubt that they would let him go all the way – except me of course – so I didn’t feel one bit guilty for accepting his friendship but blowing him off in the romance department.
If he wanted someone to put out for him, he would find someone. No need to pity him.
“Hey.” Caleb smiled as he entered the living room where I was leafing through one of the thick tomes he and Lilith owned, by the looks of it, it was ancient.
“Caleb, from what I can make out of the flowery language this was translated from, this passage here reads – well, more implies – that you can sort of … ahem – teleport – for lack of better terms. Is that true?”
“Hmmm … why would you be reading things that clearly state they are for vampires only right there on the title? Did I hibernate that long that I missed your entire transformation? Even if, as a novice vampire, this would be well above your pay grade, my petal.” he smiled.
He was toying with me, teasing, not upset.
Caleb was the calmest, sweetest and most easy-going man I had ever met. I could barely imagine him angry. But I also knew how strong he was, so if he were to ever have reason to get angry, I would not want to be at the receiving end of that anger. It would not be pretty for the opponent and most likely the reason why he could afford the nonchalance, well aware he could finish each conflict in his favor without much effort.
Caleb also seemed to have sheer endless patience with me, my many Blaine-hangups and my quirks in general.
Had that not been the case, I am quite sure I would have never taken him up on that offer of moving in with him and Lilith. Not for one second did I ever forget what they really were, and there were so many subtle hints that they were not mortals throughout any given day, it was impossible to not notice. But Caleb was a gentleman, like he said he would be, Lilith was polite, and unless that changed, I was grateful to have a roof over my head until I could figure out how to get my own four walls again. I wanted to work again, tried several times with always the same unfavorable outcome, then crawled back to Caleb humiliated, almost like a father figure he patiently build up some of my confidence again, but this last time insisted I take more time to get in a better state of mind before I tried again.
“Nope, still as mortal as I ever was, decaying away as we speak, and well, because I already read everything else all the bookshelves had to offer – and you guys don’t even have a TV or computer. What else am I to do? Are these like secrets or something?” I pouted back at Caleb now.
“Intended to be. But yes, to answer your question, once you reach a certain level of skill and experience, you may be able to teleport. Why?” he asked while pulling the book from my hands, shutting it and carefully placing it back on the shelf in an awe-filled manner that made the writ seem precious.
“Have you reached that level?” I continued unimpressed.
“Vik, what are you really asking me?” Caleb asked suspicious.
“If you could teleport the both of us to the jungle …” I started out, but was quickly cut off by Caleb.
“Viktoria, no. Let me stop you right there. It’s going to be a no, for so many reasons. I cannot teleport anywhere I haven’t been to before, well, perhaps I could, but it is not recommended. And you have to let this go at some point. They proved to you he is gone. After all this time now, even if he had somehow gotten out, you know he would have been injured and I am going to spare you the gory reality of what all lives in a jungle. And if magically he were alive, don’t you think you would have been the first person he’d contact and tried to come home to? Let him go, Vik. For his sake and yours.”
“But you can raise the dead, right?”
“Wrong. We cannot raise the dead, nobody can. That’s why they are called ‘dead’. By definition, death is every living thing’s ultimately final stage and universally irreversible.”
“Well, you’re dead, and still alive. So, if they could find his body in case there is more left, you can make him a vampire then.”
Oh, I was in rare form that day, bound and determined to drive myself and everyone crazy still trying to get Blaine back. The very same Blaine that lay buried in the cemetery next door and whose grave I visited several times a day now. Yeah … did I mention I was obsessed with trying to reverse that fact somehow?
“What?! Vik, that is not only disgusting, but also as impossible as it is illogical! You cannot turn corpses, and even if you could, most likely patch-worked corpses puzzled together with what you scrape off some jungle floor after a serious explosion would hardly qualify. And I am not technically dead, thank you very much, or I wouldn’t be standing here speaking to you now, would I? Vampirism does not equal death, it’s just not that simple. It is a different form of life, a transformation of sort, or even a mutation if you so will. Even the term ‘immortal’ is a moniker, while we won’t die of natural causes and have a sheer unlimited life expectancy, under the right – or better: certain adverse circumstances – vampires can, in fact, perish – you could call it dying – which means they will be just as irrevocably gone as mortals would.”
“So what good is being a vampire then?” I sighed resigned.
“What good is being a mortal?”
“Ah .. Can you really not use any of your powers to help me?! Anything in your chest of tricks?”
“Tricks? I am not a magician, and what powers do you think I possess, Vik? Whatever I may or may not be capable of, none of it could turn back time, nor get Blaine out of your head to finally let him get his deserved eternal rest. Do you think he would be happy knowing you torture yourself like this?”
“Do you think he would be happy knowing I gave up on him like you have?! Some friend you are.” I shook my head. Ballsy, wasn’t I? Careless would be a better term.
“I haven’t given up on him, but I answer to reason. And I have no reason to believe he is not dead. Neither do you, aside from wishful thinking, which is not an exact science. That’s how I am a good friend. I keep you grounded, at least I try my best, even though I am almost ready to admit you are a hopeless case.” a small smirk turned the corners of his lips slightly until he saw I was at the verge of another emotional eruption.
“Caleb, I need him back! This is killing me!” I sobbed.
Caleb said nothing, but rushed over to me, and held me. Gently, patiently, rocking me like you would a crying toddler while whispering words of encouragement.
I will admit it felt good. I wanted to fight it, but I had been so desperate to be held again, I let it happen, ignoring the chill creeping up on me when his icy body pressed closer up against mine. Whatever making love to a vampire would be like, calling it ‘heated’ would never be anything other than ironic in my mind.
When we separated we just stared at each other. One of those gazes, you know it’s too long to be polite but you cannot ‘not’ look.
Caleb seemed to come to the same realization, and was the first to break the odd spell.
With a raspy voice, he swallowed, cleared his throat, then told me
“Word of advice, if you ever encounter any other male vampires this up close and personal, do not look directly into their eyes. We are masters at hypnosis.”
“Oh. Ugh. Good to know. So did you?” that part I had missed. Oops.
“Did I what?” he smiled.
“Well, do you want to sleep with me?”
“NO!” I exclaimed.
“Then there is your answer.” he smiled.
I smiled too. Realizing he was just teasing me felt like the most normal thing in my life right now.
“Look Vik, I told you, I would be a gentleman. And I have been, with a few minor, and as I think forgivable, slip-ups. I hold myself to higher standards than to prey on a so clearly emotionally confused young woman, but clearly, there is something between us. Just like there was before. You just need to allow it to grow. Maybe if you do that, once you are ready, as your horizons grow, the desperation you currently feel, the sadness and loneliness with shrink. I can wait. I have nothing but time.” he said as he lead me to the couch and pulled me to sit next to him.
“Not that again, Caleb. Look, I think you are amazing, honest I do, and some lucky girl will hit the jackpot if you ever decide to settle down, I absolutely adore you – as a friend. That’s it. There is no sequel at the horizon for what almost happened between us. I never intended to lead you on, if you think I did I am truly sorry, and I will admit that you are a tough act to pass up on, but I am just too much invested in Blaine, I don’t think I’d ever move on from my loss. But, can I ask you something very personal?” I added the last part mostly to change the subject. Well, and because it admittedly had been on my mind ever since he brought it up a long time ago, and again more recently.
“At some point you told me that some women are into being bitten as a part of your intimate act with them. Were you serious then? Or was that just you talking yourself out of the dog house with me after you tried to bite me?”
“Indeed I was telling you the truth. You seemed outgoing enough that I just assumed you might be one of them. At the very least open to the idea of trying it once.” he grinned.
“Oh my gawd that’s just … no. So, there are tons of female vampires running around, thanks to you? Each time you bang some hussy with an odd fang-fetish you chomp down and voila, one more for the books? And you thought I was like those women? Ugh! I am retroactively appalled and insulted now.”
“Apologies again then. And no. As amusing as your idea of some conveyor belt style production of new vampires may be, turning doesn’t happen automatically as soon as you break skin or drink blood, it’s a deliberate action, a ritual that takes some time. Plus, code dictates once you turned someone, you are responsible for teaching your offspring the rules and how to exist as a vampire. It’s a lot of work and I am not too eager, truthfully also too lazy, to embark on that in such wholesale numbers you seem to have in your head, but I appreciate the boost to my male ego. Joking aside, just like mortals, vampires live by a rather strict code.When you drive a car what other than codes, laws and fear of punishment is keeping you from just running over people? Some vampires break code, just like some mortals break laws. I don’t. Never have and never will. Neither will my sister.”
“Interesting. So are you telling me that all those women like pain while they’re …. you know … with you? Why would you want to hurt while you … that. I mean, you’re already plenty different from other men, really don’t see while they need things weirder.” I sounded as befuddled as I felt.
Some people were just crazy weird, like those women, and that’s coming from someone like me, sitting in a house with vampire siblings, talking about odd sexual practices with the one of them who wants to bed me. Yeah, if that birds and bees talk didn’t qualify me for the weird & crazy award, then I got nothing.
Caleb finally managed to stifle his laughter long enough to answer.
“I just want to keep talking about this with you because you really seem to see me as some sexual deviant who beds large numbers of women nightly and that amuses me to no end. My male vigor and I thank you for that token of confidence. To answer your question though, I really cannot say for sure, for obvious reasons, but have been told there isn’t much pain, more an odd sensation of sorts. Would you like a demonstration so you can find out for yourself?” he offered winking.
“OH HELL NO! Thanks, still no.” I told him, my eyes widened.
Caleb just chuckled.
Yes, I knew he was teasing and joking. But I rather made myself crystal clear to him, before we ended up with some ‘misunderstanding’ that had me spending eternity sleeping in a coffin next to him and his sister, my nights filled with having to nibble on random people’s necks. A thousand times no to that.
Oh, but I can do weirder than that yet. It can be topped still. Just you wait. It’s coming. Buckle up!
I was at the cemetery again, this time later in the day, it was almost dark, didn’t matter, I now lived next door with two vampires. Not too much left that could still shock me.
So here I was, talking to Blaine’s headstone … or maybe this remains, either way I was telling him about my day, when I felt watched.
Looking up I found my feeling confirmed, I still winced as my hunch was confirmed.
Another homeless person, ragged and visibly rank-smelling – you could almost see the green noxious cloud enveloping him – as he stood there near the gate, swaying in the breeze thanks to obvious intoxication of some sort.
That bum was not the first or last to end up sleeping his buzz off here, that happened quite frequently, much to the delight of the local vampire population. The homeless that ended up here were the vampire equivalent of food trucks. Not the most healthy meal, but it came to your doorstep. Most vampires would ‘thank’ them for their generous ‘donation’ by leaving some money, a win-win arrangement for both sides and the reason the homeless came here. Don’t shoot the messenger, I am just telling you my observations and personally, the homeless crept me out as much as the vampires did, both could be unpredictable, just for different reasons.
I looked away while being mindful of the man’s presence, he didn’t move, just stood there. He wasn’t the first to act strange on this cemetery, mourning and pain did strange things to a person. I would know first hand.
But that guy had such an odd presence, I feared he could be another vampire, one of those renegades Caleb warned me about, he had also cautioned me that not all of them would be as civilized as he and Lilith were. If only Caleb were here, he could detect if that guy really was another vampire or not – and deal with him properly. Unpleasant encounters with hostile vampires was not something I was eager for.
The guy didn’t move, didn’t leave, didn’t approach, didn’t say anything to me, just stared, so since he apparently wasn’t leaving, I decided to get out while the going was good, made it all the way to the gate when he stepped into my way. Dang it, here we go. Crap!
My heart was beating fast, I was scared while wondering why. I had nothing to live for. Instinctual behavior, I suppose. Should I scream, hoping Caleb would come?
Terrible stench radiated off him like a halo of old sweat, dirt and the overall impression of an abandoned public restroom, it literally took my breath away, then finally my mind began to override my shock pulling me back into reality.
I pushed him away from me as hard as I could, causing him to stumble backward while I ran to Caleb’s home.
I didn’t stop running until I was in my room, well, Caleb’s room, which he had kindly made available to me, trying to get my bearings about me, but eventually the silence became deafening and I went downstairs, found Caleb in the kitchen.
“Good. You’re here. I was just about to fetch you, as I have something to show you. Come.”
I postponed telling him about the encounter for now, Caleb took me down a flight of stairs, out of respect for their hospitality I had limited myself to only three or four rooms in their home. In other words, I had no idea where we were going.
Evidently, this was where Caleb had been resting ever since he had graciously relinquished his room and bed to me. There were two coffins in this basement. One more ‘feminine’ than the other, and there was the distinct scent of Lilith’s favorite fragrance around it. The siblings apparently didn’t mind sharing a basement to ‘hibernate’ in quiet unison.
No amount of cute, handsome, sweet and nice could ever make me feel all right with that aspect of Caleb and Lilith. I shuddered at the mere imagination of sleeping in one of those things. No thanks.
“Vik, I need you to remain open-minded now, okay? Do not freak out, I understand this may be a bit tough on you.”
With those words Caleb took my hand, held on with an iron grip until I realized why he had brought me down here. It was too much.
“Oh God!” was all I could mutter.
Comfortable darkness had already engulfed me.