Chapter the Thirteenth: Meetings and Theories
“Who am I? What am I? These questions, ultimately, served to fuel my revenge.”--Belle Deveraux
“See, unlike you, I don’t compare myself to others.”
Marcus blinked. “What?”
Jared shrugged. “I’m just saying. You know, try not to worry about what other people think. It really impresses them.”
“Are you even listening to yourself? Do you hear the crazy coming out of your head-hole? The paradoxes alone…” Marcus shook his head with a smile.
Jared rebounded. “Okay, to put it another way… let’s see. Ah, I know! I’ll quote Alicia Silverstone quoting some actor that wasn’t Mel Gibson quoting Hamlet--”
“You’re giving me a headache.”
“Ahem. ‘To thine own self be true.’”
“Okay. Thanks for the obscure reference, and the ridiculously long set-up. But what’s this have to do with our conversation about your love-life?”
Jared held up two fingers. “Well firstly, I wanted to get off topic.”
“So done. Go on.”
“And second, I wanted to make a serious point. I really used to worry about what others thought about me. I tried to fit in. Worried that I’d never be able to find the right girl because of the way I acted, which is admittedly…”
“Nuts? Bonkers? Totally effed up?”
“I’ll go with eccentric.”
“So that’s your cover for always eating everyone’s food.”
Jared waved his hand derisively. “Shaddap. So anyways, here I was wondering if I would ever have a normal relationship, because I was always putting on an act o cover up my eccentricities. But I came to a point where I realized: I’m me. And I’m not gonna change. There is a basic element to my composition that won’t change no matter what happens to me. And I shouldn’t shun that; I needed to embrace it.” Jared paused to take in a fork-full of chocolate cake, one of his favorite items at the coffee shop. Then, between chews he said, “To thine own self be true. Think about it. It makes you truly happy. To thine own self be true.”
Marcus stared at Jared for a long time, then crossed his arms and nodded. “That is very profound.”
Marcus leaned forward. “You do realize you are eating my cake, right?”
Jared looked to the plate. “Whoops, sorry ‘bout that.”
Trent’s consciousness slowly drifted to reality. The walls of the Venetian dining hall slipped away like water down a drain to reveal a night sky. Trent blinked a few times, and then turned in a slow circle to survey his surroundings. He was on a rooftop. “What?” he muttered to himself.
“You’re an odd one.” A female voice, high-pitched yet husky, out of nowhere. Trent let out a surprised sound and spun to see the woman who had coolly uttered it. Impossibly standing where he had glanced just moments before.
This woman looked strange. It was a lot of little things that Trent couldn’t notice all at once, that he would notice more concretely on subsequent meetings with this woman. First there was the face, small and pale, framed with golden locks. The cherub-like beauty reminded him of a doll in the worst possible way; a strange Lolita-like visage. At the edges of her cheeks and temples, a faint (so much so that Trent wouldn’t have noticed it in the darkness of the night save for his unusually heightened senses) web of veins made a circuit, jutting towards the center of her face. It all served to put emphasis on her pale blue eyes, which stared at him, through him, and to distant worlds with purpose.
Her outfit seemed equally strange. It seemed to a peculiar collection of black leather straps, occasionally showing a glimpse of pale, sometimes scared flesh or even metal. Her only accessory was a golden locket. As she ambled with a strange and painful gate towards Trent, he felt intense panic. “Where did you come from?” he demanded.
She continued along her path, until she had walked past him. Trent followed her progress, ready to bolt, feeling like he could break a door down if he had to. This woman, whatever she was, reeked of danger. Regardless of her seemingly dangerous potential, she simply looked out into the Atlanta night. “I had intended to ask you the same question. What is your genesis, boy? Is it the same as mine?
Sheila sat down with little ceremony. “Okay,” she sighed, “lets get this over with; I want to get some sleep tonight.
Jared and Marcus looked at her, then each other, wondering who would begin the awkward questioning first.
“Uh…” started Jared. “You look good.” Jared winced at his own inaneness, while Marcus gave him an exasperated glare.
Marcus decided to try, “Uh, Sheila. Listen. We think something happened to Trent. Something… not normal.”
“Maybe… even… paranormal?” interjected Jared with a weak smile.
“No, it can’t be like that; it has to be something with a rational explanation,” replied Marcus.
Jared shook his hands in front of him to gesture frustration. “Okay… how do you rationally explain the gunshot wound disappearing? And the descriptions? Even Sheila didn’t describe anything that I would mark down as rational in my ledger.”
“Gun shot wound… disappearing?” questioned Sheila quietly.
“Um, yeah, that’s part of why we wanted to talk to you. Trent healed fast. I mean, faster than you should be able to, right? There isn’t even a scar now.”
Sheila shook her head. “That’s not possible. What you’re saying… if I hadn’t have sensed that thing during the attack, I don’t think I could even lend you as much credence now as I am…”
They all jumped a little when a new voice joined the conversation. “Pardon me,” came the twenty-something male voice in an English accent from the next table. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conundrum.” They looked to the next table over. There, a young man with blonde hair and a well-worn trench coat was sitting, facing them with an expectant smile. “I have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. As luck would have it, tonight I happened among your friend, and I think I may be able to lend a theory or two…”
In a tone that was cautious, Marcus spoke for the group, “I’m sorry. You are?”
“Name’s William. Will to my friends, and I have a few. I think I know what is happening to your friend. As it so happens, I was with him tonight, until the point where he… well… I’m going to go with the term disappeared for what I saw. May I join you?”
“What do you mean?” asked Trent.
The strange woman sat on the parapet of the building and swung legs over the side. She sighed. “Are you a monster like me?”
“Who are you?”
She glanced back at him with those pale blue eyes. “My name is Belle. Please, answer my question before I lose my patience.”
“I… don’t know what’s happening to me… What do you mean by monster?”
“I mean, do you kill? Do you drink the blood of others? Are you… insatiable at times?”
“That’s crazy. I would never--”
She cut him off, “I can smell the blood on you right now.” Trent glanced down. To his horror he saw that his t-shirt and hands were stained maroon. Blood. He realized he could smell it too. It was suddenly so overwhelming that he felt nauseous. Belle continued, “I could also smell that you are like me. You’re dead, aren’t you? One of the damned. Yes, you’re just like me.”
“What are we?” Trent whispered. “Vampires?”
“That’s a human story. We don’t fit so simply into their little stories and superstitions. But they have a few things right. We prefer the night. We are dead. And we are something to be feared, for we cannot stop ourselves. We must kill.”
“This is impossible.” Trent sank to his knees.
Belle gave a short, sardonic laugh. “Impossible? I wish. I wish I still had my humanity as much as you will. But we have to come to terms with what we are. The sooner you embrace it, find a purpose, the sooner you can gain some semblage of peace.”
“Purpose? My only purpose is to live a normal life!”
Another laugh. “Ah, the optimism of youth. You know, you’re luck someone is here to tell you what you really are. I didn’t have such a luxury. For the longest time after that bastard turned me, I didn’t know what I was. All I knew was fear and hunger.”
Belle‘s didn‘t show the slightest bit of surprise when Trent began to sob.
After about a minute, he collected himself enough to mutter, “I have a life. I can’t be like this. I have friends an… and…”
“All of that is through now. You are only a danger to mortals. I killed my first two sets of foster parents without even knowing it.” She spun back around. “Listen. I don’t like people. But you’re hardly a person now, and I find… you remind me of how I was, so very long ago. So, why don’t you let me help you? I can give you the purpose you need. I’ll help you see that you don’t have to despair. There is such power… What do you say? After all, you can’t go back to your life. Believe me, you will find only pain among mortals. It‘s only a matter of time before they realize what you truly are and try to hunt you down.”
Trent rubbed his eyes. “What kind of purpose could I possibly find now?”
Belle smiled. “Well, for one thing, you can get revenge on whoever did this to you. Lord knows that’s what has kept me going through the centuries.”
“Look, your friend is a spook of some sort.”
The group eyed Will incredulously. “Spook?” said Marcus.
Will leaned back a bit and stretched nonchalantly. “I believe he’s a revenant or ghoul or something. Quite possibly even… well I hate the word, it’s soooo stereotypical…”
“You think he’s a vampire,” stated Jared.
“Well, he certainly shows the signs. Not that there are too many signs for this sort of thing. In my experience, they’re all different.”
All the other present at the table gave each other the look. The look that people give each other when someone says a racial or bigoted slur in polite company. Let’s patronize this crazy person and get out of here as soon as possible. Marcus cleared his throat. “Um, look, we appreciate your theory but it’s late so maybe we should just--”
“I know what you’re doing. I’ve seen people do it a million times before. Something strange happens, and they just try to rationalize it. Or even deny it. Look, there is no scientific explanation of how your friend got shot and started walking around a few days later as if nothing happened. Unless nanobots come in pill form these days. You should know what I’m saying is more rational than anything you will come up with.” At this point the placed his hand on Sheila’s. “You felt it, didn’t you? I’m right, aren’t I? You can con a parlor-trick sorcerer. You did feel something… where? Ah, at the hospital, yes? “
Sheila slid her arm away from his hand. “Yeah,” she whispered.
“Well, there you have it.” Will leaned back again. “Look, I’m sure you guys are gonna have to warm up to the vampire theory but--”
“Shelia, there was a blood transfer, right?” Marcus suddenly interjected.
“Yes. Of course, he was in bad shape.”
“Is there a way you could find out where the blood came from? That’s what we wanted to ask you about, I guess. Any clues as to foreign elements affecting him.”
“Sharp tack, this one,” said Will. “Okay, look, I’ve got a test in history tomorrow, and it’s an essay, which is easy to bs, but be that as it may, I’d better go.” He stood up. “Let me know if you kids find anything interesting. I’ll be ready when you are.” He dug through a few pockets and pulled out a wrinkled business card. Without ceremony, he flicked it into Marcus’ pie. “Oop. Sorry, anyway, that’s my number. Give me a ring when you come around; I have a feeling it won’t be long.”
As he walked off, Jared pulled out the card. “Ha. Crazy.”
“What? Asked Sheila.
“It says ‘paranormal investigator’ under his name.”
Marc sighed. “So, anyway, about the blood…”