Don was a vampire. Immortal, allergic to garlic, and particularly fond of his coffin-style bed. As such, he made it a habit to occasionally outline some portion of his history lest he forget it all. The habit started after his first war, before, as vampires joked, he “converted” to their kind. Back then, he wrote what really happened during the fierce battles, and he hadn’t stopped writing since.
Today he wrote about the last century. About the stares and hushed whispers that trailed after him like a shadow. These were normal for the vampire community, at least in smaller towns and cities. Species of all types veered from their path, some businesses refused them entrance, and they faced what many considered the worst prejudice of all: exclusion from historical and political meetings of any kind.
They knew the truth about history’s fallacies. Knowing too much made them dangerous, and so they were treated as such.
Don cared little for this brushing aside of their wisdom. Personally, he felt vampires let their blood rushes go to their heads rather than their hearts. His cousin insisted differently and once ushered him to a “vampire freedoms” meeting.
Hundreds of vampires from every nearby village, town, and city convened to discuss the impending conflict between vampires and the other species. At the front stood a richly dressed man.
Don remembered sketching a rough image of his suit coat and face. In the drawing, spittle flew from his mouth, a dash of red anger seared his cheeks, and eyebrows slanted low and furious. The pettiness made him chuckle during the meeting. His cousin didn’t seem to appreciate his artistic sense of realism.
“Sh!” his cousin hushed. “I can’t hear.”
The man shouted, “We know their pasts, and we can shape their future. But if we don’t unite, we will fall. Already they have support from governments, and citizens are quickly banding against us. Need I remind you? Who was it that fought by their ancestor’s sides in the Old Ages?”
“Us,” The crowd cried.
“Who knows better than anyone what’s best for this people and this world?”
“So who should be leading this people? A gathering of young swine who write the pages of history to suit their needs and stamp out the voices of those who know the truth… or us?”
Hundreds of vampires reared their heads and screamed, “US!”
“So are we going to sit back and let them overrule us with their laws? What right do they have to keep us from entering their schools, their stores, their parks? If we don’t teach them, they will never learn: those who know best are they that have seen all!”
Amid the chaos, a voice disagreed, “If we show them how dangerous we can be, they won’t give us rights, they’ll destroy us.”
Don left the meeting when the uprising between those who wanted to fight and those who didn’t came to blows. Political vampires were the worst. They had a demonstrated a strong point though. Persecuted civilizations could only tolerate so much before giving up or getting angry.
For the majority of the past century, Don chose to ignore the issue entirely.
Day and night he spent his time holed up in his grandmother’s attic. It was a pleasant existence. Nobody bothered him, and he bothered no one. Life stayed simple, and that appealed to him. Yet, immortality had its negative effects. The most prevalent of them: boredom.
Solitaire, art, and books got old after a time. Thankfully, sleeping rarely did. So he slept until his grandmother called him for a monthly meal before ascending to the attic for another month-long nap.
Yes, it was a simple life, but it was boring.
Four years ago, that had all changed.
Don looked up from his journal as the visitor used the spare key and let himself in. A head topped with blond hair peeped around the door to survey the apartment. His eyes stopped on Don.
“Heya,” the visitor nodded in greeting and pushed the door against a mountain of various ancient collectables keeping it shut.
Don leaped from the couch. “Careful! You’re smashing my box of dragon teeth. Stop. Stop!”
The visitor slipped through the slim crack of space he had created and closed the door behind him. Don dropped to his knees and examined a blue container at the base of the pile. It looked unharmed. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Beside him, the visitor tapped one foot against the inside of his opposite foot. “Eh-heh. Sorry, Don.”
He knew the visitor meant no harm, but those teeth were priceless. “Sorry?” Don buried his face in his hands and released an exasperated groan. “Sal, do you have any idea how long it took me to collect all of those? I should have died at least three times when getting that one from the sea serpent–”
“I thought that was a horn,” Sal commented.
“That’s not the point!” This wasn’t the first time Sal had done something similar, and Don knew it wouldn’t be the last. He truly wondered why it took months of repetition before words stopped bouncing off Sal’s thick skull and sank in.
He wanted to reaffirm that Sal knew to be careful with his things, but something dropped into his hands. It was a sealed plastic bag bloated with dark red liquid. On the front, the bag was stamped with the official blood bank logo.
His stomach growled.
Don stood, trying not to sound as placated as he suddenly felt. “If you think I’m going to accept bribery as an apology–” He stopped.
Sal gave a wan grin as Don visibly flinched back. His friend looked awful. Azure eyes lay dull inside dark rims of sleeplessness, and a slight smell of dirt and sweat clung to the creases of his clothes. Over one shoulder was his black duffel bag. He held it loosely, letting the weight of it skew his posture.
Another fight with his brother?
It wouldn’t be the first time Sal hid at his place to escape home life. Don had lived most of his lifespan alone. He had no idea what it must be like having an older brother raising him, but since knowing Sal, he figured it must be rough.
Sal canted his head. “Huh?”
Don took another approach. “Are you taking up residence on my couch tonight?”
“‘Taking up residence’?” he muttered, an amused expression giving his smile more luster. “Nah. Jus’ thought I’d stop by and hang out a while. Hope you don’t mind.” He dropped his bag by the door, not waiting for a response.
Sal tiptoed around stacks of boxed treasure to reach the living room. There he flipped on the TV and started up the game console. Leaning against the couch, he melted into the floor.
Don watched him before sighing and placing the blood pouch in the cooler. Wordlessly, he retrieved his journal and settled into his couch crease, folding his legs under him as he leaned into the armrest. Sal ignored him as Don silently observed the back of his head.
Sal rarely divulged his problems, and Don rarely asked, but his aura was leaking faint waves of discouragement and exhaustion. It reminded him of those vampires so long ago who had given up and submitted themselves to the harsh treatment of society. He hadn’t helped them then.
But Sal wasn’t in that situation; whatever the problem was, he’d find a way to deal with it. Don sighed hard and let go of his worry. He had lived long enough to learn how to turn off his concern for others. Maybe it made him inhumane, but it was useful when living outside Kaigne.
Kaigne…He hadn’t lived in Kaigne very long. As Sal slashed through monsters on the screen, Don propped his journal on the armrest and wrote about the first time he heard of their city.
“Kaigne is different.” The excitement in his cousin’s eyes had made him dizzy. “It’s a place of modern reformation. They accept our kind there. They accept everyone there.”
Kaigne. The Dreamsky City. The City of the New Age. The city where every species was welcome under a blanketed community of peace and acceptance. It was a place too good to be true, but one that granted hope nonetheless.
Don held onto that hope and moved east.
All the rumors were true. Lycanthropes, goblins, elves, sirens, cyclopes, satyrs, fairies, giants, orcs, and hundreds more species lived in general harmony in the superstructure of this massive city of fulfillment. Everyone brought with them their own magic and culture, but not one Slayer – a hunter of monsters – pursued the citizens with the bloodlust common to the rest of the world.
For a time, Don enjoyed trying to merge with the community, but he soon discovered this place grew its own type of rot. Ecstasy.
Everyone held the city to a high standard, and for the most part, it satisfied their desires. But everyone had a different meaning of the word “peace”.
The longer Don watched, the more he realized this place wasn’t a paradise at all.
So he made his own paradise. The memory of when he moved into his apartment was blotchy, like someone had dripped water onto the drying watercolor canvas of his memory. He’d drawn an outline of the place, knowing it would never be clean again, and after a week of moving his dragon’s horde of treasure, it wasn’t. But it was a place he could once again avoid the troubles of his world. As long as he had jewels to pay rent, he would stay and sleep through the rest of the New Age.
It worked out well. Once again life was simple like he preferred, and no one bothered him. That is, until one morning…
Sal shifted on the floor. “What?”
“Do you remember how we met?”
Sal paused then laughed. “How could I forget?”
Don waited expectantly, but after a beat, Sal turned to him with an odd look of embarrassment and amusement. “No, seriously. How could I forget?”
He caught sight of something. He snatched the thick red journal from Don’s lap and turned it over. “What’s this?”
Don reached down, plucking it from Sal’s sticky fingers. “I’m working on my memories.”
The corner of Sal’s lips slid upward, revealing teeth set in a terrifying grin. “Things starting to get fuzzy again? Must be hard remembering everything when you have everything to remember.”
“Are you calling me old?”
Sal shrugged off handedly, but his eyes sparkled with renewed energy. “I didn’t say that.”
“What about you? You’ve been alive only a few years, and you can’t remember one day?” Don quipped.
“I’ve spent more time living than remembering.” He jibed, “But I suppose you can’t help being dead.”
“Undead,” Don corrected.
Don’s lips pinched together. “I’m immortal. That’s different then being dead. I’m undead.”
Sal stopped at that, and his grin fell. Don saw the momentary spark in his countenance flicker and die.
He hesitated, wanting to say something, but what? Sal hated “emotional stuff”; asking outright was sure to bring on an argument because there was only one thing that could get Sal down.
When confrontations arose, Sal faced them head on, normally with a grin that made his opponents wonder who shoved him off his rocker. Family problems were different. Those brothers were close. Anything that caused dissonance among them tore Sal up inside, no matter who was at fault.
Thus he faced these moments with utter denial. He might run away from home every other weekend, but he never complained about his family. To accuse them of a misdeed meant to bring upon yourself the wrath of a violently inexperienced magic user.
But this was twice in one week.
Don’s eyes narrowed, and his fingers pinched the couch leather as his hands curled inward. Was he willing to risk it?
Sal glanced away, eyes seeking the glow of the TV screen. Slowly, he replaced his fingers over the controller’s buttons.
Don clenched his teeth, already regretting his decision. He hated drama, but while he could ignore the fall of his people, he wouldn’t ignore his friend.
Start slow. “Did something happen?” Don cautioned.
A deflated puff of air whispered, “Yeah.”
“…You know…” Don started, “I don’t write down everything I see and hear.”
Sal shut down the offer immediately. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
From the watercolor canvas of Don’s memory, a detail came into sharp focus.
“Do you need help?”
Sal froze. For a moment, Don hoped Sal might explain, and he hoped against hope that he wouldn’t. He wasn’t good at “emotional stuff” either.
But Sal shook his head and half-laughed in answer. “A little quiet too much to ask for?” Then quieter, “And maybe let me crash on your couch tonight?”
“If you promise not to snore,” Don agreed, relieved that his decision to help Sal hadn’t led to more. Immediately following the relief, guilt swept through him – not for trying, but for not wanting to try.
This was hard.
Sal had already returned to slaying monsters on the screen. The opportunity was gone, and Don wondered if his small offering to restore peace in just one person’s mind had done any good at all.
Eventually, he reopened his journal to the last paragraph.
Life was peaceful, quiet, until one morning as I was walking to a blood kiosk. There in the streets I met someone.
He tacked on the sudden remembrance.
He was clutching a little boy’s hand, and they both looked afraid. The older one told me his name was Salvaleo. He asked for my help.
Don thought a moment, pen hovering indecisively over the page, then wrote a fitting summation of the past three years.
Life hasn’t been the same since.
A/N: Have you ever had one of those days that you KNOW you should do something, but you aren’t willing to deal with the drama? Yeah…
Copyright © 2017 Dante Morose