In the Pale Moonlight (Prelude)

Kevin wakes up to find his world is turned upside down. Can he adapt or will he crumble?

(This is the prelude to a much larger story I plan to write. If it gets enough of a following I will expand this story)

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1. Time to begin again

When I awoke I was more than a little surprised. I had expected to be dead.

As far as I knew, I was dead. I’d had my throat near-enough ripped out and I’d felt my life ebb away, along with my blood. Yet as I lay there, running a hand across my throat, I felt not even a scar.

My clothes were still bloody, which only added to my confusion. What added to it even more was my location.

When I’d passed out (died?!) I’d been in a dark and murky alley way in one of the more run-down areas of Sydney. Wherever I was now, it was a far cry from there.

The room was expansive. And expensive. I couldn’t be sure (since my knowledge of art is poor), against the cream wallpaper I swore I could see two Van Gogh paintings hanging on the walls, along with several others that I didn’t recognise. The bed I was lying on was a plush, comfortable thing, and the bedposts looked like they’d been carved to fit the mattress perfectly. Even the light fixtures appeared to be made out of gold, and the carpet (a royal-blue) looked well-maintained.

There was a window, but I wasn’t sure if I felt up to getting off the bed and taking a look. I took a deep breath- surprising in its own right- and became aware of the scent of nearby flowers- only there were no flowers in the room. I could also pick up what smelled like steak (medium rare), and a mixture of other foods.

With the revelation that my sense of smell was heightened came more. I realised that the lights were barely on- yet I could see quite clearly. In fact, my eyes were better than I ever remembered them being.

I felt… better. Glancing over my arms and legs, I didn’t need to strip away any layers to realise my muscles were bulging- not obscenely, but there was definition that hadn’t been there prior to my… death?

My mind was racing. Where was I? Who had brought me here? Who had attacked me and why did I feel stronger?

I decided to test my body- I swung my legs over the side of the bed. My old leather jacket felt clammy from the blood, so I hastily took it off. My t-shirt (Armani, a treat to myself) was ruined. I removed that too- and realised I had something of a six-pack developing- I’d certainly not had that before!

I jumped off the bed. My shoes sank a little into the carpet, and I walked slowly to the window. It was night, and a half-moon shone in the sky. Tall buildings- buildings I recognised- told me I was still in Sydney. At least something was familiar to me.

My ears picked up the sound of cars below me- I was reasonably high up- an apartment block maybe? Or perhaps a hotel…

A new sound attracted my attention. Footsteps, one set, pretty close, and getting closer. They were light, yet unmistakable. Slowly but surely they got closer- were they heading to my door?

I was braced for a conflict. I didn’t know why, but my instincts told me to be ready for a fight. I wasn’t much of a fighter so where that instinct came from I didn’t understand.

Here I was, shirtless, clueless, and with no idea where I was. I felt stupid.

The door handle went down- someone was indeed entering the room- the door swung inward, revealing a sight like no other.

The woman was dressed in a business suit- white, button-up shirt, grey jacket, and a short grey skirt. She had blonde hair that was tied back. Lightly tanned (hardly surprising for a Sydney native) and smooth skin. Hazelnut eyes that looked mischievous as she looked at me. Her shirt was a size too small, if her assets were anything to go by, and her legs looked silky smooth. She smirked at me, perhaps humoured by my shirtless state. I gave her a sheepish smile.

“Err, hello.”

“Hello. I’ve come to answer a few questions you might have. I suspect you’ll have a few.” Her accent was local. She closed the door behind and moved gracefully on heels (oh boy) to a coffee table and sat herself down on one of the large, comfy black leather chairs.

“My name is Louise. What’s yours?”

I coughed. “Erm, Kevin.”

Louise smiled, revealing brilliant white teeth. “You don’t sound too sure.”

“No, it’s definitely Kevin, and, um, yeah, I have a few questions. Where am I?”

“The Shangri-La Hotel, seventh floor. We’ll be relocating soon though.”

Well, that explained the luxury. The Shangri-La was a five-star venue.

“Ok, how did I get here?” I asked.

“A couple of our people carried you.”

What a helpful answer… “Err, ok… um… you know, this is all a little weird, could you just explain things to me?”

Louise gave me that smile again. “Of course. You were laying down a side-alley, dying, having lost a lot of blood. We found you, helped you, and brought you here. Do you remember anything?”

I did, as it happened, but everything was a blur. My mind was still foggy- I had the vaguest of memories of being jumped, of kicking and punching and of pain- but not much more.

“I… I was attacked… I must have been knifed in the throat or something… thank you for saving me.” The least I could do was say thank you.

“You weren’t knifed Kevin.” Louise’s voice took on a more serious note. “You were attacked by… something unique. Something fast, powerful, and dangerous. Something that bit you, and would have drained the life from your veins had we not stepped in. We would have acted sooner, but we had no way of knowing where he was. I’m so, so sorry Kevin.” The sincerity in her eyes filled me with a cold dread.

“Sorry, what for? I’d be dead if not for you!” I replied.

“Kevin, since you came to, have you noticed that your senses are sharper? You feel, well, different somehow? You have both a blessing and a curse- the reason you feel this way is because of what bit you.”

“And what bit me?” I asked a little harshly. I wanted answers.

Louise looked me dead in the eyes. “A vampire.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. A vampire? What a ridiculous notion! Yet on Louise’s face was the look of the truth, and in my gut, I couldn’t help but feel she was right.

She didn’t react to my laughter. She held my gaze, and the more I looked into her eyes I more I knew the truth.

“Great, so I’m a soulless, blood-sucking monster?”

No.” Replied Louise angrily. “Those are misconceptions that could not be farther from the truth.”

I held my hands in the air and staggered toward the bed. “Then why did one of you attack me?”

“Try to understand. For us, the instinct- the hunger, to draw blood is powerful. Despite this, if you are of a fundamentally good character, a person of strong will, you can overcome this desire. For some though, that hunger, that need, is overwhelming.”

I whirled round to look at her. Louise continued.

“If someone is turned, someone of weak morals or someone who struggles with self-control, it’s far more likely they’ll end up hunting. Every time they give in to that hunger, they risk exposing the rest of us. We watch the ones we think are most likely to break, and try to stop them before they do. In this case, we were too late. We faced two choices- let you die, or save you.”

“So you ‘saved’ me by turning me? Great…” I should have been grateful to be alive, but my mind wasn’t working properly.

“We could have left you to die. You’d be another statistic. Would you have preferred that?”

I felt sheepish. “No. I’m sorry, it’s just…”

“A lot to take in. I know. When I was turned, it took me time to adjust. At times I wanted to die. Other times, I felt that desire for blood burning in my veins. I wanted to sink my teeth into the first person to walk by. It’s tough, but I know what you’re feeling and what you will feel, and so do the rest of us. We will help you.”

It was so much... too much really. My brain felt fried. What did this mean for me?

“I… I need to speak to my mum and dad…”

No. You can’t. You can’t see them, or anyone else you knew. It’s just… too dangerous, for you and for them. How will they react when they find out what you are? It only takes one person to blow the lid on our world and we’ll be hunted from every quarter.”

My hands went to my hair, and I stumbled toward the window. My eyes were drawn to all the people below- even at night Sydney was busy, filled with revellers going to and from parties and clubs. They all looked happy.

“So, what? I have to cut myself off from everything and everyone I love?”

“That’s the price of immortality.” Said Louise quietly.

I fell quiet myself. I just didn’t have any idea what to make of my situation. My life as I knew it was over. Officially I’d been declared missing. My family would probably appear on those news appeals, in floods of tears as they asked for me to come home. The thought of my mum, crying, as she pleaded… even the thought of that was enough to move me to tears of my own.

“Could I still simply die?” I didn’t know where the question came from. It just spilled out of my head.

“If you wanted to. You could starve yourself, or drive a wooden stake through your own heart. A few of us have taken our own lives- I won’t lie, it can be a glorious life, but a harsh one at the same time.”

Well, at least she was honest.

“Would you want to die?” Louise asked. It was asked so casually…

I needed a moment before I could answer that question.

“I think… I need time. I have to think.” I looked back to her. “This is all just… crazy!”

The smile she gave me now was soft. “Yes, yes it is. Take some time- but we can’t stay here. We have a safehouse- it’s a chance to meet others who’ve been through what you’re facing, and the surroundings are more comfortable.”

More comfortable?” I blurted out. Despite all my confusion, that was the question that popped into my head.

Her smile was back toward her fiendish best. “Oh most definitely."

 

Louise took my hands in hers and turned those chocolate eyes right onto mine. "Come. Join me- join us- talk to your new brethen. Take a moment to understand what awaits you. It won't be easy, but in the right circumstances you can have a life again."

I felt so unsure. I glanced out the window again. I thought of my friends, of going down the pub with them- something I could never do again.

"Come with me Kevin. Even if you only talk to us for a few minutes, it will help you decide what you want to do next. But first, you need to find a shirt- you look rather... distracting, looking like that."

Despite myself I grinned sheepishly. "I uh, don't have any clothes."

"Look in the wardrobe." Louise smiled back. "There are a few clothes stashed away for times like this."

 

When I was dressed (I found myself a nice, crisp clean white t-shirt, a tad boring but I didn't care at this point), I gave the hotel room one last look. This was where my new life had begun. It was stupid to be sentimental over some place I'd barely spent any time in, but that was how I felt.

Louise held out her hand and I took it. Together we left that charming little room and made our way down the corridor, to the lift, and out of the hotel.

 

There was a car waiting for us- blacked out windows, belonging to a big black Jaguar. The cream leather seats inside were a bit tacky to look at but every comfortable. Louise strapped herself in and I did the same- weird to think that doing up a seatbelt was still important, considering a car crash couldn't kill me.

Louise noticed my look as the car pulled away- the driver was behind a screen and I couldn't see him (or her).

"Just because we can't die from most things doesn't mean we can't be hurt. If we crashed, you could still end up in a great deal of pain from broken limbs or injuries- they'd heal quickly, but they would hurt until they did. Trust me, it's better to buckle up."

"Noted." I didn't know what more to say after that. The journey down the night-time streets of Sydney continued. I had not a clue where we were heading- someplace outside of the city? Somewhere nearby?

As it happened, the car stopped just ten minutes later, outside an apartment block- quite a tall one. I didn't immediately recognise the district, but from the buildings and cars around me it looked like an expensive area- and I wasn't exactly familiar with money.

"This is us. Thanks Wheels." Louise slid a few dozen dollar bills into a small cut-out in the screen. 'Wheels' did not reply as Louise and I got out the car. They simply drove off once we were clear.

"Welcome to our nest." Said Louise. "This is what we call home- well, most of us. By the way, you'll find other... beings in here, aside from vampires. Some of them look human, like us- some of then definitely don't. It's best not to stare."

Great, how many more surprises would be unleashed upon me?

"Um, ok." Was the only reply I could muster.

Louise led me inside. The foyer was large, like the hotel we'd just been in. Deep purple carpets, elaborate chandeliers of crystal that gleamed in the light- plush chairs and sofas for people to gather in- even a bar all graced the room. If this was just the entrance...

"Wow. So, we, uh, live quite well then."

"Some of us have been alive for a very long time, and when you've lived the lifestyle of the rich for any length of time, it's hard to give it up." Replied Louise. The man behind the desk at the entrance (a very sturdy man with dull grey eyes and a classic bell-boy's outfit on) nodded at us as Louise headed toward a lift- the big doors were made of glass, and the lift seemed to go up forever- it even had its own, mini chandelier.

“Off to the ninth floor.” Louise smiled and pressed the button. We started ascending.

“You mentioned other… beings? Like what exactly?” I asked.

“Oh, werewolves for one. They don’t like vampires very much but we tolerate each other for the greater good. Try not to piss them off. Witches, warlocks, succubae- don’t kiss them, it really isn’t as pleasant as it might seem- and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just stay close to me.”

“Right.” Jeez, could this get any weirder?

The lift doors opened and we were back into what appeared to be hotel corridor, except to our left was a large pair of double doors that looked like they’d been carved out of stone. They were big and looked very heavy, except Louise walked up to them and with a firm yank on the big brass knockers, the doors pulled open.

She grinned at me. “We’re all a lot stronger than we look.”

The sight that greeted me reminded me of the inside of some of the nightclubs I’d been to. Laser strobe lighting danced across the ground. Neon light strips ran along the length of a large, curving bar area to the right of the entrance and to the left was an expansive dance platform filled with revellers. The black floor had lots of dashes of bright yellow and pink- a weird combination that reminded me of puke, if I were being honest.

At the rear of the room several big, wide round chairs provided comfort and respite for the dancers. However, what struck me was the appearance of the various partygoers.

Many looked human. I guessed these to be vampires and werewolves, and probably the witches and warlocks. Others… well, others I could not even begin to place.

Creatures with scaly green and blue skin and cat-like eyes glared at me. Others had horns protruding from their heads and looked built to take on tanks. Still others had smooth red skin and tails(!). What were these things?

I felt afraid. Some of these creatures were looking at me with yellow or red eyes that looked extremely hostile. I kept myself close to Louise as she pushed her way through the crowd toward the seats. I felt stupid as well- relying on her to protect me.

Seated in front of us was a man who appeared middle-aged, but I already understood that looks could be deceiving in this place. The best description I could offer up for his appearance was that of an older version of Gerard Butler- a bit more weather-worn and with more grey hairs. He was dressed quite casually- a salmon-coloured shirt and plain black trousers- and he had a harem around him of several women, who appeared to be in awe of him.

“Who is he?” I asked quietly.

“Diodore. Very old, very experienced at this life. We don’t exactly have a leader, but if we did, it would be him.”

Diodore. Would he be the man to help me sort out my new life?

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