By Johnny Nys
Published: May 14, 2008
Updated: May 14, 2008
Summer was a bad season. The sun went down far too late for Carl's liking. He could only rise at midnight, when that celestial body was well under the horizon and couldn't harm him any more. He didn't have Frederick's resilience. Of course, Fred was far older, had taken much more blood into him. He was the master and Carl merely his fledgling. A reason to love him and hate him at the same time.
As Carl came out of his hiding place below the cellar of his bar, Fred had already returned from the hunt. "About time you woke up," he said. "I was getting bored."
"You could sleep as long as I do," Carl suggested.
"Nonsense," Fred said. "There are only so many hours in the night and I want to use them all."
"What more is there to do than hunt and drink your fill?" Carl asked. "What is the point of our existence?"
"What is the point of the life these mortals have?" Fred asked him. "Except to provide us with what we need, of course. What was the point of your life before you met me?"
Carl shook his head. "Survival, I guess."
"A bit futile, don't you think?" Fred said. "You were going to die anyway. That's the trouble with mortality."
"Settle down then, raise a family."
"Not much happening in that field, now was there?"
Carl thought about Lisa, his ex. No, there wasn't much happening with her anymore. Not since that damned bodybuilder had shown up.
"Perhaps we will be around long enough to come up with a decent answer," Carl said.
"Perhaps," Fred said. "Now get out of here. You look rather pale."
Carl nodded and left the cellar.
The bar was closed. He had put up a notice of ongoing renovations. He no longer needed to work, because he no longer needed money to buy food. He no longer needed food.
That wasn't completely accurate. His body, preternatural as it might have become, still needed some form of sustenance to keep running. He needed blood instead of meat, blood instead of soup. Nothing but blood. And he could get that for free.
The bar, however, was a good hiding place. For now.
He roamed the streets, looking for the perfect victim. He already knew her name. Now he only needed to find her.
There she was, just asking for it. She left the party all alone, walked down the alley toward the canal, looked at the reflection of the moon in the water. Clearly a troubled heart, this one.
What was wrong? Where was her lover? Her newfound Romeo? Still at the party, perhaps, his drunken nature finally come to the surface. He sensed something like that around her, but Carl had a difficult time getting a reading from her. Even when he said he hated her, subconsciously he might still be too close to her for such a thing.
Carl followed her with unnatural stealth. She was aware of nothing: his footsteps, the rustle of his clothes, his breathing. Those sounds didn't exist.
He was a predator, clear and simple. She was prey, even more simple. She could give him the blood and hers would be extremely sweet.
But was she, really, only prey?
When Frederick had taken his life through trickery, he had been angry at first but soon he realized the possibilities granted him. Love was lost and glory had always been out of reach. Too many sins before his little death. And never a promise of a true immortal soul.
Life on this earth could very well be all there was. Life as a man had been one big struggle. A struggle for existence, a struggle for acceptance, a struggle for love. This woman's love. Carl's ex girlfriend, Lisa, who had once called their love immortal. Liar.
Existence as this creature he had been turned into was a gift. An escape from that struggle. Fighting was over, now he could simply take.
But could he, really?
He hid in an alley, waiting for her to pass by. He could smell her perfume. He had always hated it when she put on too much. No reason for it. When they were together, he should have been the only one able to smell her. Why would she want to reach the nostrils of other men?
That non-existent reason, however, became very much apparent when she had left him for some guy she had met at the gym.
Carl had tried to find out who that guy had been, but Lisa never mentioned a name when she came by to drop off some of the personal belongings he had left at her place; a book, a pair of slippers, a favourite pillow cover.
That had been two weeks ago and the last time he had seen her.
There she was, approaching the corner. One more step and Carl grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him.
The shout startled him, because it didn't come from Lisa.
He heard footsteps, running. Three different rhythms. Three people coming to Lisa's aid. Damn.
When they appeared at the alley's entrance, Carl shoved Lisa into their arms. The middle guy caught her, the other two jumped aside. The middle guy stumbled and fell backward. Lisa fell on top of him. The other two stood apart, watching, perplexed.
Carl didn't hesitate. He leapt from the alley and grabbed one of them by his collar. The other one he smashed into the wall. He pulled them close, pressed his nose against the man's neck, opened his mouth and bit down.
The rush of memories overwhelmed him.
Flashes of the gym sprang into his mind. He was inside the victim's body, inside his mind. He saw Lisa training on a bicycle. He turned his head and saw the other two men standing next to him. Instantly he knew their names. The one he had smashed against the wall was Frank. The other one was Danny.
The scene changed and now Lisa was going to the showers. He saw Danny follow her.
The scene changed again. All four of them sitting in the cafeteria. Lisa sitting on Danny's lap. Frank laughing.
Carl let go and the images vanished. Disgusted, he dropped the man. He turned toward Lisa and Danny.
Danny was looking straight at him.
So this was the one. This was the reason Lisa had left him.
"What's going on?" another voice approached. Carl recognized the authority in it. A cop on a graveyard shift. How fitting.
He fled, back into the alley, up the wall and down the other side. He returned home, leaving Lisa and Danny, unharmed for now.
Frederick was waiting for him at the bar, listening to CD's. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"I thought you couldn't read my mind," Carl said as he slumped down in one of the chairs.
"I can see it in your eyes," Fred said. He walked to the sound system and turned off the music. "You messed up, didn't you? Somebody saw you?"
Carl nodded. "And not just anybody." He told Fred what had taken place.
For a while, Fred was silent. Then: "I can't believe you went after her."
Carl shrugged. "She deserved some payback."
"And look what it got you," Fred said. "You killed two people and let the witnesses live. That's stupid."
"I panicked," Carl said. "When I drank from the one, I saw something I shouldn't have seen. I saw how she betrayed me. There's a difference between being told about it and actually seeing it happen. It's something no man should ever have to see."
"But you're no man," Fred said. "Not anymore. You keep forgetting that. You have no business dealing with issues of love and betrayal. You're a vampire, same as me. We transcend those things. We don't need love to go on living."
"Perhaps you don't," Carl said. "I think you've been a vampire too long."
"One day, you will be too," Fred said. "Then you'll see my point."
Silence once more. They could feel the sun approach in the east. One more hour and it would be time to go to sleep again.
"He'll come looking for me," Carl said.
"Lisa's boyfriend. Danny Space is his name. I could hear her scream it inside her head. She had left him earlier tonight, but I think me attacking her brought them back together."
"That's a true shame," Fred said. "But you don't have to worry. A mere mortal is no threat to you. You have the strength to crush him like a bug."
"We'll see," Carl said.
"Yes, we'll see. Perhaps it will be something for both of us to enjoy …"