I didn’t know where to look, or even how to recognize the other vampires, but I had to try. Night was coming quickly, so I started immediately looking around the city thinking that they must be staying nearby, or the people I heard talking earlier would not have known about the other deaths. Truth just followed me. She must have agreed.
We stayed in small areas, away from most people. The city had alleyways for waste between the buildings, so we spent a lot of time in those alleys. Occasionally, I’d stop someone who was walking alone and try to mesmerize them. I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, but I greeted a friend of Epi’s first, thinking I could tell if they noticed anything unusual. I spoke with her for a moment, and then looked her straight in the eyes. She was still talking at first, but slowed down to a stop very quickly. I fed a small bit from her and then looked in her eyes again. As I relaxed my gaze, she started talking right where she’d left off. It appeared to me that she hadn’t noticed a thing. This was a marvelous tool! Plus I was starting to stave off the hunger and stay in control. I was almost excited to find such hope after feeling so bleak.
I searched for hours, but I had no idea what I was looking for. I was telling Truth how frustrating the search was, when suddenly I felt a kind of humming sensation. It was a humming deep in my chest, almost near the heart I noticed a movement in the shadows near me and saw a woman fall to the ground. I raced over, but there was nobody else there. I felt the humming get stronger as I neared her. It felt like a tugging down into the shadows of the alleyway behind where the woman had fallen. I followed the sensation. There in the corner. A shadow darker than the rest. He was looking at me with curiosity, and maybe a little fear. He couldn’t have been more than thirteen. My heart bled.
“How did you see me?” he said.
“You can’t feel me?”
“F-feel you? What do you mean?”
“Nevermind. Do you know what is happening to you?”
“I j-just woke up the other day and I was s-surrounded by d-dead bodies. Something felt different, but I still don’t know why. I’m f-feeding on blood and k-killing more and more p-people. I d-don’t know how to s-stop!”
“I can help you. I’m afraid I’m the reason this has happened to you.”
“Y-You d-did this to me?
“Unfortunately yes. I didn’t know what I was doing. I also didn’t know it would cause others to hunger as I do.”
“You feed on b-blood too?”
“I do, but the gods have shown me how to control it, and I can share this with you.”
“Really? You can really c-control this?”
“Yes, come with me, I’ll explain everything. This is Truth, she’s with me. What’s your name?”
“Aww she’s cute. I’m J-James.”
She rubs up against his leg“Purr-rrr-rrr.”
“I think she likes you, James.”
James and I walked for a bit, talking about his new state of being and about how to control his cravings. I explained everything that had happened to me and about how Athena appeared to me. I told him about the group of ladies in the clearing in the woods and that we’d have to find the survivors soon. I also told him about Reena and why I had to find her first.
You see, Reena had been a teacher to the children of kings. She was honored among teachers. Her family had taught for generations, with much demand for the best to teach the children of royalty how to fit into society and how to rule. It was unheard of for anyone in her family to leave the palaces for other employment. Okay, so Epimetheus was still royalty, but he was not royalty in the sense that ruled the kingdoms of Greece. His influence had a much farther reach. Anyhow, when Reena heard of Epimetheus’s gift from the gods and his impending nuptials, she was thrilled to start a new challenge, to teach an adult everything about life and society. She gave up everything she’d known to teach me, and now I must find her and hopefully make it up to her.
As we reached the end of the alleyway, I finally thought to ask, “Do you know of others like yourself?”
“I knew of o-one other. We w-woke up at the same time, but she went a little crazy. She just started k-killing everyone close to her. She didn’t try to get me. I’m not sure why. There were people there building pyres. Those she didn’t attack went after her with t-tools and stabbed her in the h-heart. I never saw any others.”
I thought that sounded a bit off, but maybe the others were burned before they could rise. I hoped they didn’t suffer.
“Good. You’re a fine young man. Thank you for telling me.”
We decided to practice mesmerizing a couple of people, and made sure we were confident before we exited the gates. By the time we left the city walls, we were both well fed and nobody was dead.
We finally left the city walls and headed towards the mountain paths. The moon was full, so the path was well-lit, though we didn’t need it. Truth pranced along beside us singing her little ‘mrowr’ song along the way. I bent to scratch behind her ears, enjoying her company. She came along just at the right time and I appreciated her dearly. I couldn’t wait to introduce her to Reena! We would arrive at this pace just after daybreak, and I had to fight not to run, so excited was I to see my beloved Reena again.
Apparently sleep was not on either of our minds so we made good time. James told me about all the rest that had happened since his ‘change’. The town was still in an uproar and every person was talking about the market massacre. Still nobody could give one detail about who or what had killed so many.
James hadn’t been as overwhelmed by his hunger as I had since I was so shocked by it at first and, I’m guessing, because I fought it so hard and went without for so long once I knew what that hunger was. He’d fed right after turning. There had been a guard on shift by the bodies and everyone just assumed he had fallen victim to whatever had killed the first victims, which, in a manner of speaking, was true.
Because of how he’d started, or so we presumed, he’d been able to eat every other night without going into a frenzy as I had done. Or maybe it was just because what I experienced was stronger, or maybe even because I had never been truly human at all. Whatever the reason, I was glad for his control and that there had been no other massacres of which I had been the cause.
At some point I’d have to verify that and go find the ladies I’d turned in the woods. I hoped, since I saw how they fed on the deer, that it wasn’t a horrible lack of control. Yes, they’d been driven when they’d smelled the blood, but I didn’t think any of them had lost total control. Maybe they had though. What does it take to feed on the neck of a beautiful animal such as a deer?
Then again, what does it take to feed on a human neck? I wondered what had possessed James to try that since he hadn’t lost control like I had, but … I was afraid to ask. It was nearing dawn and we were almost to my old home. I was nearly giddy with hope that Reena would be there. She was the only thing left that was familiar to me. She was my only family.
As the sun crested over the horizon, James started to struggle. He was visibly tired now and he seemed to be sensitive to the light. I was beginning to fear he wouldn’t make it.
“When was the last time you slept?”
“S-sleep? I guess I’ve become a night owl. Daylight seems to d-drain all my energy away.”
“So this isn’t lack of sleep it’s because of the daylight?”
“I guess so. I hadn’t really th-thought about it. I just get so t-tired during the day, so I sleep.”
“Do you think you can make it? We should make it by full sun up.”
“I think I can. I’m tired, but I ain’t asleep yet,” he laughed.
I decided to take a slightly longer path, but it kept us mostly in shadows the rest of the way. The trees were just starting their turn to the subtle golds and ambers, peaches and oranges of the annual descent into winter. The colors never lasted long, but I enjoyed them while they lasted. Within a week, they would be brown and crispy and falling from the trees. I’m glad I didn’t miss this in my attempt to run from the world. It was my first time to see it.
I remember my sense of wonder at how the trees had changed, practically overnight. I almost forgot about Truth and James walking alongside me and even about how anxious I was to get to Reena, so lost was I in the new wonders of trees changing colors. I didn’t know it would last such a short time. Perhaps it was a foretelling of how my next days would pass.
I could finally see my old home, though it was off in the distance yet. I started to shout with joy! Then James fell. I’d forgotten he was struggling. When I looked over, he was breathing heavy and sweating. The sweat was pink tinged. He was losing what we’d fed on the night before. We were so close, but we’d have to wait. I’d have to get him under cover and help him recover. I looked around to see if there was some sort of shelter. I found a slight drop off, maybe ten feet, on the dark side of the mountain not too far away. I led him there and laid him down under the small cliff side and there we rested until night. He was asleep almost immediately. His breathing was raspy at first, but after an hour or so it returned to normal. I watched over him and waited. Near sundown, a raccoon decided to make its way around to the warmth of the remaining daylight. As it passed by, I raced over to it. In the blink of an eye the raccoon was unconscious.
I still wasn’t used to how fast I could move when called for. Maybe we should have come up the mountain faster, then James wouldn’t have suffered so. But then, maybe he couldn‘t zip around like I could. I’d have to ask.
Just before sundown James woke with a gasp. He startled me a bit.
“Are you hurt?”
“Hurt? No. Where are we? We didn’t make it to your home?”
“No, just as it came into sight, you fell and you were almost unconscious, so I brought you here for the day. Here, try to eat on this. You were sweating pink, so you may need to replace some of what you lost.”
“Raccoon? Can you eat animals?”
“I’ve fed off of deer. It’s not quite as satisfying, but it should keep you till tomorrow.”
James took the raccoon and gave it a try. He already looked far better than he had that morning, but now he looked vibrant. Such a vast difference from how he’d been this morning. I was still amazed by how resilient we are. I found myself wondering yet again if I, if we, could die at all.
“I’m sorry you didn’t get to see if Reena was at your old home,” James said.
“It couldn’t be helped. Has this happened to you every day?”
“It’s never happened before. I’m not sure what happened.”
“We need to keep an eye on that. Do you think you can travel now?”
“I feel fine now. Let’s go. I’m anxious to see this Reena that is so special to you.”
“The road is back this way.”