The Vampire

"Thirst tells you when to go, where to go, how to go and even who to go with... This is the most exciting and scary time in any vampire's existence, and it's where I'll begin my story."

Cia craves for blood in the streets of New York, under cover of the darkness she's forced to live in. She's perfectly clear on what she is and how she must take care of her own needs. And to help her, she has her Mentor, the grumpy Lacien. The two of them exist together, do everything together, and it's driving Cia crazy. Until she meets a human, who seems to pop up out of nowhere, knowing all there is to know about what she is and how she manages to remain undead.

And for a while, everything's good. Until things start twisting in directions Cia had never foreseen, which forces her to reconsider everything.

WARNING: Due to request of some readers, there is no age line. However, the story does contain certain elements that younger readers might consider offensive.

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10. The Zoo

Being mentored by Lacien meant I had to stop sulking and talk to him eventually. But I was going to take my time, and it was going to be on my terms, I decided. The result, as you might’ve guessed by now, was absolute silence for several days in a row. Now, I’ve never been one for wasting time, and this time was no different. I spent all my nights out with Aleksander so I could avoid my irritated, very, very quiet Mentor at home. Whether he went out hunting or not I had no idea, but he was always home when I returned just before sunrise.

He never said a word when I came back. And for a change his utter silence was nicer than his usual cold, dark comments about where I’d been or where I was going. I preferred keeping what I did with Aleksander a secret, not because I was embarrassed, but because I knew Lacien’s reaction would be strange, even for him. Aside from having kissed me unexpectedly those few times in the past, and aside from slapping me across the face, he never acted out of order when I was around. When I came home in the morning, he would be up and about, walking around like a man from the nineteenth century, posture wise. He would fold his hands behind his back, roll back his shoulders and set his chin a little higher than usually. And then he’d walk slowly and stiffly, due to the way his arms restrained his natural smoothness of motion.

Since I enjoyed his silence, I didn’t think it would be okay for me to complain about his way of holding himself all of a sudden. But in secret it was driving me absolutely nuts. Not alone did it make him look the arrogant jerk he was, but it made me feel even more like a stupid child than I already did. And worst of all, I knew he could tell, even if he said nothing.

But all was good with Aleksander. I was with him on one night when the first snow came tumbling from the skies in late December. The sight was breathtaking, and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw a young couple playing around in Central Park, the girl’s long hair a tangled mess, the boy’s nose red from cold, both breathing hard with laughter. I could literally hear their hearts beating, dunk, dunk, dunk-dunk. And I could see the flush of fresh, clean blood in their cheeks. Aleksander gave my hand a soft squeeze with his own, which was gloved.

“You’re being a little bit quiet,” he noted, glancing at my face with a concerned wrinkle between his brows. “Is everything alright?”

I nodded, not wanting to open my mouth. It had been a while since I’d last fed, and I was starting to feel it for real now. How long had it been? Two nights? Three, perhaps? I didn’t remember, but I had been training myself up. I was feeding less and less now. In the beginning I would feed whenever I went to see Aleksander, just to make sure I wasn’t going to suddenly attack him. But I’d managed to control myself until this point, and I knew that if I didn’t breathe in his scent too much, I would be perfectly fine. And so would he.

We had agreed on terms for our so-called dates. Since I couldn’t, and didn’t want to, eat human food, he would’ve eaten beforehand, and I would have made sure to test my need for blood before seeing him. And I had, but the Thirst had come sneaking up on me from behind, well hidden behind the fact that I was having a good time and forgot to be careful with how close I was to Aleksander. Another thing he had promised me was that if he’d worked out, it had been hours before he met up with me.

I found it harder to restrain myself when the humans had just come from the gym, practically still sweating, their blood slamming through their bodies like it was being pushed by a very large, very insisting drum. Once I had needed to feed again when Aleksander had come directly from the gym, and he’d promised never to do that again when I found him later, crying with all my still-beating heart.

“C’mon,” he called, a few feet ahead of me. I broke into a slow jog and came to a stop beside him.

He was standing next to a tall wall, which stretched a good three feet above his head. I didn’t see what there was to be so excited about, but his broad smile told me that something great was going on. So I made an effort and smiled, trying not to breathe, and making sure my fangs weren’t visible.

Suddenly he started climbing, clinging to the plants that reached the height of the wall and eventually threw themselves over the top to the other side. They shouldn’t have been able to carry him, but he was very swift and moved with ease, so he managed to get to the top before I’d had time to consider what we were doing.

Smiling more broadly now, I took a step back, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, and jumped. I pulled myself up when my hands connected with the horizontal surface, and soon enough I was seated across from Aleksander. He looked very handsome in the dark, and I was glad the winter brought longer nights and shorter days so I could see him more. But lately he’d been having those dark circles around his eyes that meant he slept too little. And I knew it was all my fault.

“Welcome to the zoo.” He gestured down to the animal cages around a gravel path.

I’d never been to Central Park Zoo before, because Lacien had never seen a point in that. We weren’t humans anymore. If we wanted to go see large predators or cute little rabbits - he’d made a face when he mentioned the latter - we could just get on a plane and see them in their real habitats. I would’ve liked that, but the zoo seemed a little more… sophisticated and human.

Aleksander jumped down into the gravel and reached a hand out to me. I took it and dropped down beside him, landing lightly on my feet. Sometimes it was very, very sweet to be a vampire, I decided. Even though since I’d started seeing Aleksander, I had more and more often wished I was just a regular human being.

“Thanks,” I managed.

“Lucy, what’s wrong?”

It had sounded strange the first time he called me that. Lucy. But he had decided that he didn’t want to call me what Lacien - and everybody else - called me. So Lucy was my new nickname, and I quite liked it. It sounded much more ordinary and human than Cia did, I thought.

“It’s nothing,” I said hastily, trying to ignore his scrutinizing gaze.

“You’re a terrible liar,” he commented. “You know you can tell me everything, right?”

I nodded slowly and let out a deep breath, which was really stupid because reflex bid me take another breath right after that. It sent my throat throbbing with pain, and my tongue felt even drier than before. His sweet scent. The scent of warmth, of blood, of life… It appealed to me the way the smell of flowers might appear to human girls.

Clasping a hand over my open mouth, I felt my fangs coming out and piercing the skin of my palm that curved slightly inward, toward my lower lip.

“Oh,” he said, obviously realizing what the problem was. “Should I… run for my life?”

At that, I chuckled painfully and pulled in my fangs with the sheer force of will power.

“I’m not going to kill you,” I told him - and myself, and the Thirst - stubbornly. “If I keep my mouth shut, I can keep all the symptoms to myself.”

I could see him blushing as well as I could smell it in the air. The scent seemed to creep into my sensitive nose and whisper in my ears that right in front of me was a perfectly healthy human being with loads of scarlet blood running through his veins.

“Could you… drink my blood?” he asked, raising a hand to his neck, as if to pull back his thick scarf.

“No!” I said, and a monkey made a scared, annoyed sound. “No, don’t. Please. I couldn’t.”

“But I’d allow it. I don’t want to see you like this if it can be avoided.” I could see that he was sincere, and it made me relax a bit.

Sometimes I wonder if emotions, feelings have the biggest power of us as vampires. Power enough to put a lid on the Thirst itself for some time. I’ve never quite figured out the answer to that question, but I thought it was true when I stood there before Aleksander.

“You don’t understand,” I said quickly, then remembering that I was talking to a human and therefore slowing my speech slightly. “I don’t know what would happen. Most likely I wouldn’t be able to stop, and that’d kill you in less than four minutes. Another scenario is that you’d get Turned.”

He frowned, nodding.

“I don’t think you’d kill me,” he offered gently.

“But I’m not willing to take the chance,” I told him firmly.

He glanced around. And then turned his eyes back to mine. I liked it when he made eye contact because I could read his emotions easily that way. And right now he seemed hopeful.

“What about animal blood?” he suggested.

“Animal blood?” I had never really considered the possibility when I was near an animal, probably because they smelled far too disgusting for my fine nose that the prospect of feeding on them made me want to throw up.

Still, if I was going to keep seeing Aleksander, eventually I would have to figure out a way to avoid feeding on someone he might know from somewhere. And what better way was there to do that than to feed on animals? I knew that would make me seem less like a dangerous predator and a barbarian to him as well, and I’d make a new discovery to brag about to Lacien.

I had once asked him why he didn’t do just that. It would be much easier, going about stealing blood from butchers and the likes. Even living away from humans would be easy, since there were more animals where there weren’t any human beings. His response had been a dry laughter and some low muttering I hadn’t been able to decipher clearly enough for the words to make any sense. So in conclusion, I didn’t think Lacien actually knew what would happen if he opposed his instinctive lack of lust for animal blood.

“It’s worth the try,” I said, shrugging.

What would be the worst thing that could happen? That I threw it all back up again? It didn’t seem like such a bad price to pay. And besides, if it did work, I’d found a nice solution to many of my problems.

“Well, this would be the ideal place, then,” Aleksander remarked, looking strangely pleased with himself. Much like a child finding some sort of useful tool lying around in the grass.

I grinned, trying to smell my way around. We started walking simultaneously, side by side. Contemplating taking a bite out of a snake made me want to empty my stomach. Its poison smelled almost like the poison that sometimes slipped out of my fangs when I was really Thirsty. So I moved on, keeping a safety distance to Aleksander, just to be sure.

Mammals smelled a little better than the reptiles. Pigs especially had a scent - underneath that of mold and wet fur - that kind of resembled human blood a little bit. I told Aleksander to continue around the corner, just so he could avoid seeing the blood dripping across my lips and smeared over my cheeks.

Slowly I managed to sneak into the outside part of the pigs’ enclosure, even though they were lying inside, snoring. I pinched my nose with my forefinger and thump to avoid the smell as I crept closer. Would I have to wait long for one of the pigs to find its way outside? I sat down, glancing through the window at the pile of fat farm animals in there. They looked kind of cute with their large pink snouts.

And then one of them moved. Lazily it turned toward me and waddled on four legs through a hole in the wall and outside in the cold winter night. It hesitated before exiting the warmth of the house, and then grunted in dismay as it kept its pace toward the trough in the far corner of the enclosure. Slowly, I crept up behind it and prepared myself for letting go of my own nose so I could grab the animal with both hands. It was rather large, so I’d need both hands to make sure I had it under control.

When I put my hand close to its neck, it screamed like a human child and tried to back away, only to bump its rump in my legs. I almost went over, trying to catch my balance with one hand on the back of the neck of the pig. Then I gathered myself up and glanced around quickly. No security cameras, luckily. Hurrying, I made short process with the pig. It was quite hairy, so I had no trouble getting a hold of its thick neck. Squeezing hard I heard the bone snap, and it stopped struggling in my grasp.

I sighed. If possible I felt worse for killing an innocent animal than I did for killing a human being. At least humans make mistakes and hurt other people one way or another. Pigs are just pigs. They’re animals grunting around on four legs, rolling in mud, drinking and eating because that’s what they’re programmed to do. And they’re almost at the bottom of the food chain, wanted by most large predators for dinner. Especially humans.

Lowering my face, I pulled the hairs aside and let my fangs sink into the rough skin, sucking as I did so. The first mouthful made me pull back and spit. It tasted the way I imagined garbage cans did, metallic with an edge of rot and decay. Still I forced myself to feed until the pig was dried out. My stomach was in an uproar, and my mind felt clouded when I finished. Thinking I’d need to dispose of the pig, I lifted it with newly gained strength, climbed out of the enclosure and tossed it into the polar bears’ pool not so far from the enclosure.

At least I wasn’t Thirsty anymore, and as I washed the blood off my hands and my face at a well, Aleksander came back. He was grinning broadly when I turned to look at him. And somehow the look on his face made it all worth it. The nausea I could live with.

He offered me his hand, smiling inquiringly.

“Did it work?” he asked.

“Seems like it,” I said, thrilled with my new discovery.

“How did it taste?” he laughed.

“Awful,” I admitted. “You know, when I was a human, I used to go out with the garbage where I worked. It tasted sort of like that garbage smelled after a few days.”

“So you’ve now taste liquid garbage,” he pondered aloud. “What an interesting experience that must be.”

“I could make you some, if you’d like,” I suggested, but seeing his shocked expression I corrected myself, “Fluid garbage, I mean! What kind of a person do you think I am?”

“Oh.” He sent me a cheeky smile. “Not at all the kind that had made blood-sucking a lifestyle.”

I slapped him very, very gently, keeping my power in check so as not to hurt him. Humans were so fragile after all. While he rubbed his arm, I took a chance to glance around at the animals in the zoo. In the night only the nocturnal creatures were truly out, and because it was winter several of them were hiding inside. But even the smell didn’t overpower the beauty of the setting, with artificial plants along the path and eyes watching from every angle, sleepy as often as not.

The temperature was dropping, and the animals were curling up against one another as we made our way through the zoological garden. The chill crept under my relatively thin clothes and made me shiver, and Aleksander put an arm around me almost as a reflex. Only I noticed what was off about the situation.

I shouldn’t be freezing. A moment earlier I hadn’t at all been able to feel the cold. And it shouldn’t have affected me that I was still nauseous after my animal feast. I wasn’t supposed to feel the cold. And even Aleksander, who was a human, didn’t seem to notice the change in temperature. He looked perfectly warm and happy, and even though I should have been able to do it, I couldn’t feel the warmth radiating off his skin so close to mine.

“Are you okay?” he asked when I stopped dead in my tracks, locking eyes with a cheetah in its large cage.

“Freezing,” I told him, trying to prevent my teeth from chattering violently.

“That’s…” He seemed to reconsider before going on, “That’s not normal. Not for you. Can vampires get sick?”

“I hope not,” I said bluntly, trying to focus my vision on the blurred shapes around his face. “It hasn’t happened to me for a hundred years. And Lacien never mentioned it.”

“So maybe he just didn’t think of it?” he suggested.

“Evidently,” I stammered.

“You don’t look well either,” he said softly.

“I’ve got to go home,” I decided, though the decision filled my chaotic and fuzzy head with guilt when I saw the disappointed look on his face.

“Do you need me to go with you?” he asked kindly.

“No,” I said. “I’ll be fine on my own. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Lucy,” he promised me. “We’ll see each other when you’re well again, right? Maybe even tomorrow.”

“See you,” I said, preparing myself for the run of my life.

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