tagNonHumanBlood or Love Ch. 05

Blood or Love Ch. 05

bynaturallysweet©

So *sorry* for the long delay. If anyone is still following, I intend to have the story completed before the end of August. Hope you enjoy.

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Jack poured blood into the cup of hot tomato soup he'd just removed from the microwave. His hands trembled as he poured, but he was careful not to spill any. The deer had definitely worn off now. He was feeling the hunger. He'd just tapped the last few drops from the vial directly onto his tongue when he felt Chamey's intense gaze on him from the other side of the room. He turned to the boy.

Chamey was lounging against the red pillows with a half-empty pizza box on the bed beside him. A slice of pizza with everything--one huge bite removed--was in one hand, the TV remote was in the other but it was poised in the air, as if the sight of Jack's food preparation had made Chamey forget all about the Syfy channel. "Who's blood is that?" he asked through a mouthful of pizza.

Jack hadn't bothered to look at the label. He knew who that salty, savory flavor belonged to. "My wife." He smiled and held the cup out to Chamey. "Wanna taste?" Not something he'd usually say, but he though it would lighten the mood. It didn't.

Chamey threw the pizza and the remote down on the bed and sat up. "Nah, that's okay. God, Jack, gross."

"Kidding, I was kidding. Think I'd part with so much as a drop of this?" He kept that same grin going from the corner of this mouth.

Chamey smiled back at him at last. "Oh well, whatever, as long as it slakes your blood thirst."

We can joke about stuff like this, really? He wasn't joking now. "It doesn't satisfy as much as it used to," Jack admitted. "I've been wanting more lately." He lifted the cup to his nose, inhaled, and took a long drink before he lowered the mug. "Fresh, hot, straight from the vein..."

When he looked up at Chamey again, the boy's dark brown eyes were wide and his lightly tan face had gone pale again. "But that will get you through the night, won't it?"

"Yeah, I think. I mean, I'm sure it'll be fine." Way to be reassuring.

"Yeah, right, so nothing to worry about." Chamey picked up the piece of pizza he'd dropped from the bed and casually bit off half of it. "Wish this place had a pool, don't you?" he said, chewing noisily. "I bet you're a fast swimmer, being a vampire and all. I love swimming. But no, we had to get a place with no pool."

Jack shrugged. "Just wanted to get in somewhere quick, something I could afford..."

"I didn't mean this place is bad, or nuthin. I love the retro look." Chamey stuffed the rest of the pizza into his mouth, unable to talk for a few seconds until he'd sufficiently chewed and swallowed. "Besides, just hanging out here with you is fun." He reached for another slice.

"This isn't fun to me. I'm worried."

"Well I ain't worrying a damn about it. That's what my Mom always says. Not really something you'd frame and put on the wall, but it keeps me pretty level. Anyway, you gotta take your mind off the blood thirst, that's the key."

Jack nodded. "Hold on a little longer and everything will be okay."

"Sure it will." Chamey pulled his backpack from the floor next to the bed and started digging through it. "Good thing I have everything I need to take care of myself in case...things...go bad." A panicked look came over his face and then deepened as he dug harder through the bag. He started pulling everything out of it, urgently, quickly until he snapped his head up, brown eyes swirling at Jack, heart pounding out of his ribcage. "You took my weapons?"

"That's right."

Chamey stood up at the foot of the bed and started backing away toward the bathroom, his brown hair standing out against the beige walls. "Okay, a little worried now. You've already gone evil, haven't you?"

Jack set the cup down on the nightstand and stood up. "No, I--"

"You took my stuff."

"I took your weapons because I wasn't sure if I could trust you."

Chamey stopped backing up. "You know you can trust me now, don't you?" he asked nervously. "I won't hurt you unless I absolutely have to."

Jack nodded, fighting to keep an inappropriate smile from his lips. "I know that."

Another long silence, then Chamey cleared his throat. "So, can I have my stuff back?"

Jack, chuckling softly, opened his bag, dug through it, and pulled out the stake and the spray can.

"What's so funny?" Chamey said, frowning and fidgeting where he stood.

"Here you go." Jack straightened up his face and tossed the items onto the yellow bedspread covering Chamey's bed.

Quickly, Chamey moved to the bed and shoved the weapons into his bag, except for the stake, which he held in his right hand. "All right," he said, sounding mildly relieved, "now let's get down to business." With his left hand, he reached over to his voice recorder on the nightstand and clicked it on. Jack tossed back the savory contents of his mug and thought about refilling it.

It seemed like the fear had left Chamey by then. The room smelled clear of it, and his had demeanor brightened. He dropped the stake to his side, forgotten. "If something happens to you," he said in excitement, "I'll put up a website and dedicate it to you, Jack. I mean, to Vladimir, the nicest vampire I knew for-" he checked his watch "-four hours." He launched into a serious voice with the date and location, then said, "This is Chamey Noel. I'm either documenting Vladimir's salvation or his sad descent into depravity. Telling his story will help me help people protect themselves from vampires. It's the mission statement of my website; it's my life's purpose."

"So far," Jack mumbled under his breath, but smiling, "it seems your life's purpose is to annoy the hell out of me."

Chamey grinned back at him. "I heard that you know, even without cool special vampire hearing. Well, we've got all night, why don't you start by telling me a little more about yourself? Your family? You don't have to say their names. You can make up names if you want."

Jack reached into the mug to swipe out the last few drops at the bottom, then licked his fingers clean. "My family..." He sighed. "My parents died six months ago in a car accident. My wife Ki--Karen and I moved into their home, my sister stays with us most of the time. Karen and...and Barbie...they're good. Good to me...Oh hell, you know their names, Kim and Benny...just change them for your website."

"Sure. You have my word. Hey, can I get a pic of you? Of us together?"

Jack studied Chamey's eager face for a moment and slowly nodded. Chamey grabbed up his phone and jumped on the bed next to Jack. "On the count of three. One...two...three." The flash went off in Jack's eyes, and then Chamey was up admiring the picture in his phone with big, happy eyes. "All right, this is great. Thanks! Go on, about Kim and Benny?"

"I love them so much." Jack began to talk, and he enjoyed it in spite of himself. Maybe it was because Chamey's carefree spirit reminded him a little of his kid sister, or just that he was out of his "sick house" and on an adventure. His thoughts soon drifted to the pack...his maker, Cole, and their adventures...

"Earth to vampire, Earth to vampire."

He heard Chamey's voice first. Next came the hand waving in front of his face. He shook his head quickly and came back to attention. He wasn't in a forest clearing around a campfire with blood on his hands, no, he was in a hotel...with a kid staring back at him wide-eyed... "What is it? What happened?" But he knew.

"I think you were going vamp on me, brother."

"Dammit." Jack leaned forward on the bed, hands on his forehead. "The closest thing I can compare it to is when you're having a daydream and don't realize you've drifted off..."

"Until someone smacks you up-side the head, and you snap out of it?"

He looked at Chamey. "Yeah...I guess."

The boy shrugged his skinny shoulders. "My Dad woke me up that way all the time."

Jack rubbed his eyes one more time.

"Well, that was kinda scary," Chamey said, "but you seem okay now."

"Yeah, it'll be okay." Jack went to his suitcase and pulled out another vial of blood, then grabbed two more. He dumped all three into his mug and topped it off with some V8. He took a long drink and sat back down on the bed with a relieved sigh.

Chamey watched him in silence for a while, then rubbed his head and spoke slowly. "So what's it like, being a vampire with the antidote? No parasite controlling you?"

"I told you that when the parasite had its tentacles deep in me-or whatever it does-it was like the best drug in the world...a constant high? The more red fog in my brain, the less I had a conscience, no worries, just feeding and fun. It was...well, it was bliss."

Another weird silence which Chamey broke by saying, "I imagine that's true. See, this is the kind of thing I have a whole section of my website devoted to, vampire biology. The parasite sets up its own chemical factories and pumps the host body full of junk. The chemicals change everything and give you speed, super strength, keen senses, a raging bloodlust."

"You're right," Jack sounded as impressed as he was. "You probably know more about it than I do."

"Yep, those things enable the vampire host to keep the parasite drenched in what it craves the most-human blood. And keeping its host feeling good is in it's best interest...so long as it's getting the blood. So go on, you were saying being a vampire was blissful and now...?"

Jack studied the back of his hands. A stretch of time passed before he answered softly. "A lot of things since the antidote have been a let-down."

"Anhedonia?"

Jack dropped his hands and looked over at Chamey. "What?"

"More vampire biology," Chamey said. "See, the parasite burns out your brain's dopamine pathways. Other subjects I read about who had the antidote, it caused the inability to get pleasure from normally very pleasurable activities, like eating, exercise, sex."

"Oh, I get pleasure from sex," Jack said quickly, thinking of his last night with Kim. "But eating? On the antidote, blood no longer tastes the same and normal human food doesn't either. Everything is bland. I just eat enough on a liquid diet to keep me alive. As far as exercise, after having super strength and speed and then being reduced to your average human? Think about it. Yeah, I don't get that much pleasure out of life anymore."

"But you've got a loving woman who'd do anything for you," Chamey said, his voice insistent. "You've got a great family. I'd give anything--"

"Things were getting better after a while, it's true. But nothing quite compares to being out there...free, wild, powerful." He didn't know why he said that, other than it was exactly how he felt about it in that moment. Shame lit through him.

Jack said nothing, but drained his blood and vegetable juice. He was thinking about having more. Slow down, just slow way down.

"So tell me some things about vampires I don't know," Chamey said, watching him stare into the empty mug again.

"I wish I didn't ever have to think about vampires again." Jack sighed, and set the cup down on the nightstand. "But what do you wanna know?"

"You've mentioned your maker and the pack. It's a strong connection, I take it."

"Yes, definitely. It is for me. Or it was."

"So if you slipped back into that world, of darkness and mayhem, would you try to find them?"

"My maker, Cole...I don't know if he's still alive, but I'd try to find him. The last I saw him, he was heading for the Caribbean. We'll have good times there, Jack, he said..."

"Yeah, I bet." Chamey stood up. "Hold that thought." He headed for the bathroom, then stopped. "On second thought, don't hold that thought, drop that thought. Think of something else, nothing to do with Cole or blood or, you get the idea." He disappeared into the bathroom.

Jack sat alone in the room, and his thoughts went to Kim. They were never far from her. He wanted to hear her voice one more time before it was all over. He felt so homesick for her in that moment that it hurt from his heart to his stomach.

He heard the toilet flush and the water running, then Chamey came back out and flopped down on the bed and gave a tremendous yawn.

Jack stood up and stretched. The night was making him feel energized.

"Where do you think you're going?" Chamey said, and pointed to the bed. "Sit. Let's talk some more. I need a lot more vampire info from you for my website. We've barely covered anything. So tell me how you got turned."

Jack sat back down. "There's not much to tell. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Grabbed off the street, more or less. What do you want to know exactly?"

"What did it feel like? Not the biting part," he said quickly, "but the turning part."

Jack sprawled out on his back and stared up at the blank white ceiling. "Turning was...uncomfortable. The process takes some time, and it's not pain-free. But soon you start to feel good. Real good." He lifted his head up to Chamey. "After you get the blood...it's like nothing can compare. Hey, what are you doing?"

"Nothing, I'm listening." Chamey had curled up on his side and closed his eyes.

Jack felt something akin to panic rise in his chest. "You know you can't fall asleep, Chamey. You have to stay up all night with me."

Chamey opened his eyes and looked over at him. "Oh, I will. I know that falling asleep with you in the shape you're in would be a disaster." He gave another yawn. "This is all way too fascinating for me to get any sleep tonight."

Jack climbed off his bed and moved over to Chamey's. He leaned over the boy. "Laying there is the worst thing you can do. Get up and walk around some, get the blood pumping."

"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" Chamey smiled lazily up at him. "Stop staring down at me, man. You're creeping me out. Anyway, trust me, I can stay up all night, no problem..."

* * *

"Chamey... Chamey..." His late shows were over, he'd already read the local newspaper and had a cup of tea, and now Jack was leaning over Chamey's bed once more, shaking him. "Wake up!"

"What?" Chamey came awake suddenly, grabbing the stake near his hand and swinging it at Jack's heart.

Jack snatched his wrist, immediately stopping the stake's advance. "No, it's okay, everything's okay. Calm down." Slowly, he lowered Chamey's hand with the stake to his side.

Chamey's brown eyes went big and wild as he turned to the clock. "I fell asleep? Oh man, I'm sorry. I can't believe it. Why'd you let me go to sleep?"

"It's okay, I thought you could use a little." Jack let go of him and Chamey sat straight up with shock on his face.

"You're still good, right? You didn't go out and slaughter anyone?"

"No, no, I was fine, just my usual boring stuff. Promise."

"But how do you know? That's the whole thing about the red haze, it pulls you in, you don't know what you did til afterward..."

"It left me alone for a while. I worked through a few more vials of blood though," he admitted.

Chamey dropped the stake on the bed and rubbed his eyes. He yawned, then slowly got out of the bed. He jumped up and down a few times and stretched. "I'm going to do a kata."

"A what-a?"

"It's something I do in karate. Just watch." Chamey went through a series of controlled gestures, turns, blocks, sharp strikes, kicks, until he finally ended with a bow and then fists at his sides. He turned to Jack and smiled. "I'm awake now," he said.

"That was pretty cool."

"Yeah, I know. Hey, you wanna practice some moves with me?"

"Uhh," Jack shook his head slowly. "Probably not a good idea. At least not tonight."

"Yeah, you're right. We don't wanna tear the place up. Do you like to play cards?"

Jack smiled. "Love cards."

Chamey sat on the foot of Jack's bed and they played hearts, spades, blackjack, and poker and talked. But as time wore on, Chamey was sinking lower and lower into the bed again.

"Come on, Chamey" Jack said, dismayed, "you gotta stay awake now. You should have got some energy drinks."

"Hmm? I'll be fine. It's just that I haven't slept for like three nights in a row. Just crazy stuff going on at the house." Chamey threw his cards down, got up and strutted back and forth around the room for a few minutes. He did rapid-fire jumping jacks, dropped to the floor and did push-ups, then leaped to his feet again and started dancing to music from his iPod.

Jack sat and watched in amazement as the boy gyrated, turned, head-banged, and whirled. Jack hadn't considered himself to be much of a dancer, but Chamey was so bad he made Jack feel better about his own lack of moves. It amused him to watch.

Finally, Chamey collapsed onto the bed, panting, heart thumping, and cast a big-eyed looked up at Jack. "Well, I think that'll do it, keep me up for a while longer."

"It was certainly entertaining."

"I know, they always said something like that about me at the school dances. Then he surprised Jack by blurting out, "What about your victims?"

Jack stiffened. Chamey's abrupt question was taking his mind to territory he did not want to get into. "What about them?"

"Who were they? People you knew?"

Jack shook his head. He wished he could avoid this, but by the look in Chamey's eyes he knew it wasn't going to happen. You knew all along it was coming, sooner or later. And maybe he needed to talk about it. A little. Maybe. "We weren't even close to home. I tried to stay in the woods and do the animal-blood thing, but it didn't work well. Not for long. And Cole didn't help. His humanity was fading fast. He...uh, he started bringing people back to the camp. I tried to resist, but...it turned into a blood bath...and after a while, I joined in."

"Oh." Chamey seemed to struggle to keep his voice level. "How many?"

"I don't know. One night after another started blurring together.""

"You've got to have some idea how many people you've killed."

Jack felt a rush of anger flow in behind a scattering of red in his vision. He opened his mouth to change the subject, but Chamey sat up straighter and fired out the next question that hit Jack like a poison arrow. "Did you kill any kids?"

Jack stood up in a second, took a few steps, then turned and spoke much more calmly than he felt inside. "No."

"But...how do you know for sure when you can't remember how many you've killed?"

"I just...I know, okay?"

"No, you don't."

He felt the sudden urge to lash out at Chamey, knock him into the beige wall at his back. He stayed where he was. God, what was wrong with him? Victims, kids, that's what. He was sure there hadn't been any kids, but with that red haze blurring so much, but how could he really be sure? If he wondered about it too long, it might drive him crazy and he'd still never know the truth of it. All he could be sure of was that didn't remember any kids.

But there had been others. Men, women... He hadn't been able to talk to Kim about the killing except in vague terms, and thankfully she didn't press him. He knew she didn't really want to believe he'd killed people. He didn't want to believe it either.

"No," he said in a soft voice. "No kids." He ran a hand through his hair and moved back to the bed. He flopped down on it, quiet under Chamey's stare. Maybe he could put those memories out of his head when he was lying around on the couch at home, but now, in a strange place away from Kim and with his mind hazing up like this...

"Hey, I believe you man," Chamey said, fluffing up his pillow. "I understand that's a hard topic. I'll let you off the hook for now. Maybe we'll come back to it another time, you know, when you're ready."

But Jack wasn't as ready to forget it as he thought he'd be, because more than ever, he didn't want more victims. "Maybe we should find a Walmart or someplace we can get rope. No, chains. Chains. We need thick ones."

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