tagSci-Fi & FantasyGhosts Ch. 08

Ghosts Ch. 08


I was not, in fact, certain that the esterwine wouldn't affect my ability to load the dishwasher, and if it was anything like the vampire-strength brand, it definitely would. So I cleaned up the kitchen, reminded again of how very naked I was under my loose robe when a droplet of water flicked onto my neck and began to slide unimpeded down my chest. I cinched the robe tighter. I was feeling much better after eating the soup...I'd probably had pretty low blood sugar from not eating all day. I popped open the fridge door and stared at all the bright green bottles. I picked one up and savored the cool surface of the glass against my palm.

Lex- who had been ignoring me up until this moment- swiveled his head towards me with eerie smoothness, his eyes sliding up and down over me in a way it seemed I could physically feel. I shivered. Was he always going to be this creepy?

"I don't really know how that will interact with what I just gave you, or if the esterwine from last night is still in your system. It could be." He raised one shoulder in a graceful shrug and turned back towards the television. His tone was casual. He wasn't telling me not to do it.

After a moment I gave my own shrug and twisted off the cap, sitting myself awkwardly at the kitchen table as I sipped it. I really wanted to put on some real clothes, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to...ask permission? No, I didn't want to ask permission. I didn't want to set that precedent. But I also didn't really even want to put the subject of clothes-and my wearing them or not wearing them- on the table. I felt like that could have unfortunate consequences.

I took another sip of the esterwine. I couldn't even remember what the others had tasted like, but this stuff was crisp and slightly sweet. There were kints of honey and caramel and...spearmint? It was a weird combination of flavors, but they all coalesced into something that was just about perfect. There was something vaguely familiar about it.

After I finished, I tossed the bottle. I'd gone slow and was only just barely feeling it, so it must have been more suited towards my human-ish constitution. Still, I hope it picked up a little more than this.

Now that I was finished drinking I no longer had an excuse to fidget at the kitchen table, and I had lost a bit of my apprehension for the moment. It appeared that the vampire was going to ignore me. From his half-lidded, motionless fixation on the television program he could have been enraptured in the programming, or meditating. But he definitely wasn't paying attention to me.

I tried to cross the living room as inconspicuously as possible. I stopped by the bathroom first, because that seemed like an innocent enough thing to do, and the second bedroom- where the clothing was- was only a few steps away. I had a moment of nausea and terror come over me when I glanced into the shower- the door was still hanging open, and moisture clung to the walls. I squeezed my eyes shut and forced myself not to think about it. Another breakdown was useless to me right now. When I was done with the necessities, I opened the bathroom door and took a casual step towards the second bedroom. My plan was to simply stroll into the room, shut the door, and get dressed as if it were a perfectly normal thing to do. It was a perfectly normal thing to do.

I made it two steps before the vampire was breathing down my neck.

"Where are you going?"

I jumped half a foot in the air and flipped around, flattening myself against the wall.

"Please stop doing that." My voice squeaked.

He peered down at me and smiled. "Stop doing what? And answer me."

"Materializing random places!" I almost yelled it, exasperation momentarily overtaking fear. "Can't you just walk? It's so freaky."

He gave a slight twitch of a smile and then just looked at me expectantly. I swallowed.

"And, uhh...I thought I'd get dressed."

"Ahh," he purred, moving even closer to me. "And why would I let you do a silly thing like put clothes on?"

I lowered my gaze until it settled somewhere on his chest, and went very still, almost relaxed, as I leaned against the wall. I was taking a moment to appreciate the wave of esterwine distortion that was flooding my senses so that everything seemed slower, quieter and less overwhelming. Drinking had been a good call.

The vampire braced his hands upon the wall beside me as he sniffed my neck. Then he began to trace the veins with his tongue as he loosened the ties of the robe. I squeezed my eyes shut and pressed myself harder into the wall, wishing a trapdoor would magically open and pull me back inside it. Nope, I still wasn't drunk enough for this.

Still leaning, he kept his face near my face as his hands roamed casually over my body, and I felt his breath upon my cheek. I kept my eyes squeezed shut, though. I tried to keep my breathing steady.

"Now," he said softly, his voice all honey and menace. "We learned a valuable lesson earlier about obedience, didn't we?"

I nodded very slightly, eyes still closed. I hadn't realized how close I'd remained to tears until I felt the lump forming in my throat. He wasn't doing much except running his hands up and down my sides and occasionally stopping to explore my breasts. I'm not sure how long we stayed like that: me, flattened against the wall, eyes squeezed shut, him lightly exploring me with his fingertips in a gruesome imitation of a gentle lover. After a while he gave my nipples a final tweak and released me, stepping back.

"Go into the bathroom and get the lube that I used on you earlier. Then come meet me in my bedroom."

He said it as casually as if he'd just ask me if I could grab him a can of beer out the fridge, but this was all sexual intimidation and control. A distant part of myself, unaffected by fear, added "way hornier" to the expanding list of how second-gen vamps vastly differentiated from first gen. Most of me crumpled inwardly.

Lex left me, shutting his bedroom door behind him. I opened my eyes slowly, glancing around with tear blurred vision, and immediately cinched the robe tight around myself. It made me feel slightly more put together. I spotted Jack curled in the corner with his back to me. His ears were alert-he was awake, but he wasn't getting involved.

I glanced longingly through the door of the second bedroom- just a step away, and the bags of clothes on the floor that I had never reached. I'd been so close. I fruitlessly wondered if I would have reached them after all, if the vampire had been just slightly more engaged in whatever he'd been watching on TV. I couldn't tell the extent that he was playing with me- it was too effortless for him- but I was beginning to think that he might just do whatever interested him most at the moment.

Retrieving the lube from the bathroom was difficult. I made an effort not to look at the shower, but I was having an increasingly hard time not replaying the night's events over and over again in my mind. By the time I reached the bedroom, bottle clenched tightly in hand, I was shaking all over. I opened the door and pushed it open, greeted by darkness and the dim blue light of the lamp. I made no move to go inside, even though I was sure he expected it. I'd frozen up. I was shaking too hard. My gaze seemed to be stuck somewhere around my feet.

Strong arms grasped me and I jerked, surprised by the sudden embrace. I felt my fingers being untangled and saw the bottle of lube placed on the nightstand, and then his hand grasped mine in what was intended to be comforting contact He tipped my chin up until I was meeting his eyes again. They were black as night, but there were small crinkles underneath them. Smile lines.

"Good girl." He whispered.

Perversely, some part of me relaxed at his statement. His demeanor was gentle. I allowed him to lead me into the bed and pull the covers over us. My body remained stiff as rolled onto his back and nestled me into his side, but he wasn't doing much other than rubbing my back. After a while, the raw fear began to ebb and I felt nothing other than a persistent, gnawing anxiety that was probably going to characterize my life here. I opened my eyes and glanced around. He had his other arm thrown behind his head in a relaxed posture, looking up at the ceiling. His breathing was steady, and noticeable as my cheek rested against his chest. He shifted slightly and patted my back, apparently noticing that I wasn't having a panic attack anymore. While I was retrieving the lube he must have removed his shirt and pants, because my face rested on warm, bare skin and my legs entangled with bare, slightly hairy man legs.

"Feeling a little better, Pieyla?"

I gave a little nod, but flinched when he moved his hand to brush some hair out of my face.

"Just relax," he soothed.

I took a breath and spoke impulsively. "I'm not going to be able to do that without another drink."

Hey, he had said he wasn't going to make me face him sober. I was a lot more sober than I would like to be.

Lex completely froze for a moment, then laughed almost delightedly. In the dim light of the room, his smile and affectations seemed so human and unthreatening that he could have easily passed if it had not been for the frightening black wells of his eyes. But I felt somewhat relieved, because he wasn't responding in anger. He kissed me on the forehead and then grinned at me, but his fangs were barely visible.

"I have something a little better. Or maybe not better, but just as good."

He disappeared for a moment, leaving me alone in the bed while he rummaged in the duffle bag in the other room. I hugged my arms around myself and rubbed up and down the soft fabric of the robe. I was very glad that, even though he wasn't allowing me to put real clothes on, he wasn't forcing me to be naked at the moment.

Lex returned, still smiling, with a colorful glass pipe and one of the biggest, most beautiful bags of weed I'd ever seen. He held up the bag and showed it to me, then began packing a bowl on the table against the wall.

"The only rule about this stuff, is that you have to share."

I looked at him incredulously.

"Can you get high off it?" I wasn't aware of anything-other than esterwine and nicotine-that a first-generation Vamp could be affected by. But Lex nodded.

"I definitely can. And I like to. Frequently." He chuckled and took the first hit.

A vampire pothead? Well, if it made him more mellow, I was definitely down. When he passed the lighter and pipe to me I grasped it with eager monkey-fingers and lit up, sitting with my legs pulled against myself in the corner of the bed as I smoked. We passed the pipe between us in silence for a while, until it was done, and then he lay the pipe on the nightstand and got into bed next to me, pulling the covers over us again, and I tried not to cringe too much as he took me in his arms, drawing me close to him.

"Feeling a little calmer, now?"

I nodded even as my body stiffened up against him. In truth, I was feeling calmer. I was actually starting to feel really fucking high, and I wondered what kind of super-weed it takes to get a vampire stoned.

"This has kind of...an enhancing effect on the esterwine. You're going to feel pretty high."

Ah. Well, I was pretty okay with that. I looked at the vampire, who had resumed his relaxed posture, starting at the ceiling with a half-lidded gaze, but I could tell that the weed was affecting him. He didn't look like a cat lounging on the furniture- he was even more boneless, more relaxed than that. He looked like a cat had melted. It suddenly struck me as quite absurd, and I giggled. He turned and grinned at me.


I shook my head, scooting back from him but he just squeezed me closer to him and kissed the top of my head, chuckling.

"Tell me," he coaxed, "It's alright. I've told you, you can say whatever you like. I'm not going to punish you for words." He stroked his fingers down my back, which was thankfully still covered in the robe.

"You look so chill...I just thought"- I shrugged-"it looked funny. In the moment."

He smiled. "I take my comfort seriously."

We lay in silence for a while, everything floaty and surreal, the sounds of our breathing beginning to harmonize and fill the whole room. Finally I said-

"I can say anything to you? Does that mean I can ask you questions?"

Some of the black had receded from his eyes, so I noticed as they slid towards mine. Those shifts in appearance didn't seem to follow any logic that I could discern. He smiled slightly.

"I suppose."

I swallowed, shifting uncomfortably now that he'd turned the full force of his attention on me.

"Was that human blood or vampire blood on you earlier?"

He raised an eyebrow and then chuckled. "Why on earth would it be vampire blood?"

I sighed and spread my hands- "Why would it be human blood!"

But he just frowned at me like I'd asked a very stupid question, which, in the fear-dulled swing of my high, was just more exasperating, and I groaned in frustration.

"Are you really going to be this unapologetically evil all the time?" I demanded.

He was laughing almost immediately, and looked at me as if I was daft.

"I'm a vampire!"

But I shook my head. "You're not like the others."

He sobered and his eyes narrowed to unreadable slits as he nodded in agreement. "That's true...Second-gens are a bit different."

He didn't seem inclined to elaborate, so I didn't push, but then he reached down and began running his fingers up my leg, pausing to trace circles on my thigh.

"Brent has a theory," I blurted.

His fingers stilled on my skin, and then it was his turn to sigh.

"Well if you're trying to make me lose my erection, you probably picked an appropriate topic of conversation there."

I didn't say respond for a beat. Was he angry at me? I wouldn't be too devastated if he lost his sexual appetite for a while, that was for sure. After a moment he removed his hand from my leg and shifted, propping his head up on one arm so he could watch me as I talked.

"No, go on. I want to hear this now. What was Brent's theory?"

I swallowed. I realized suddenly that this was possibly sensitive information to possess, even if it was all conjecture. It could be bad news for Brent if I blabbed to a Vamp about what he suspected. But I wasn't at all sure that I cared much about Brent's safety.

"Well...I mean what we're intended to believe, that vampires showed up just 80 years ago for the first time...I mean, no one really thinks that, do they?"

"You'd be surprised at what people will believe, just because you tell them to."

"True..." I relented, "but still...there is a huge cultural library of shit involving vampire-like creatures- you've got Dracula, Buffy-"

He snorted, cutting me off. "Dracula and Buffy are the cultural references you're going with there, really?"

I spread my hands in a 'what do you want from me' gesture, and he scowled.

"Right," he agreed, sounding a bit grumpy. "There are lots of people who think we were here beforehand-or that we've always been here. That's nothing new. Does Bren't theory differ from that in any way?"

He seemed bored, and almost a little tired, as though I'd intrigued, but already disappointed him. Geeze, he really was terribly prone to boredom, wasn't he? Perhaps I could use that to my advantage, somehow.

"Brent thinks that vampires were here almost all along- at least long enough that humans were never really top of the food chain. He thinks that they were genetically manipulating humans even then."

That must have been a twist for him, because his attention snapped back to me as if it had been stretched on a rubber band.

"But," I continued, feeling a little encouraged by the notion that I might actually be getting in on the secrets of the world here, "he thinks it went on at a much smaller scale than say, what happened with the the F-virus. He thinks that a group of Vamps arrived here 80 years ago, as well, just not..."

The way that the vampire had sat up, pulling his legs underneath him Indian style, then cocked his head to the side in that completely unnatural way was really creeping me the fuck out.

"Go on," Lex encouraged, his voice soft. Okay, maybe striking up a conversation was a bad idea. I just wasn't going to look at him while we talked.

"He thinks that the two subspecies of vampires- first-gen and second-gen – are genetically separated by at least 5,000 years, and that's taking into account their ability to modify themselves." I couldn't explain it in the scientific terms Brent had used, but I was doing my best to relay the meaning.

"And which kind," the vampire asked, his voice as smooth purr, "was the one here all along?"

I took a breath and plunged on, curiosity momentarily blocking out other emotions. "Brent said he hadn't met many second-generation Vamps, but that they seemed the most likely candidate."

"And why is that?"

"Umm..." I was looking everywhere but the vampire. "He said that they were better adapted to the planet and blended in better with humans. At the same time, they all basically fit the human definition of a psychopath, causing a reign of terror that created a whole mythology, inspiring ideas of the paranormal, ideas of evil, influencing religion..."

I trailed off, because while in the safety of the Center, when Brent had explained his ideas as we passed a joint on the rooftop it had seemed quite intriguing. Now, it felt like I was telling a ghost story in which I was the inevitable victim. I looked at my hands...in my peripheral vision I could see the outline of him beside me, his head cocked at that abnormal angle, and I began to get that creeping, terrible feeling that I usually only associate with hallucinations. But the monster was right next to me this time, and he was very real.

"Look at me," he was saying, but I felt like a child being forced to peer under the bed with full knowledge that the boogeyman would be there, and I squeezed my eyes shut. I felt strong arms grab me and I went stiff as a board as he lifted me.

The drugs must have been giving me time skips, because the next thing I knew I was on my back on the carpet of the living room floor, and Lex was cuddling up next to me.

"Hey." He turned my face to his. "I had to move you. You're just determined to have a bad trip."

Dawn had broken, and the sun was streaming in through the windows. Some piece of glass or water somewhere was acting as a prism, because I saw rainbows dancing on the back of the couch. We were sprawled on the floor in a band of warming light. With the sun reflecting off of his features, the vampire looked strikingly human. I could see the whites of his eyes. I could even make out mildly brown irises, and there was almost nothing threatening about his features. I reached up and touched his face. I was high as a kite and I wasn't coming down any time soon.

"It's an illusion." I drawled.

"Mmmhmm." He kissed my fingertips. "And it's a damn good one. It makes you feel better, doesn't it?"

It did make me feel better. I nodded, and he nodded back.

"We'll keep it for a while, then. No bad trips for you." He stroked down the side of my neck with his fingertips. His fingers felt cool on my sun warmed skin.

"So you think I'm an earthborn monster, then?" he asked mildly. "Some legendary horror? Am I Dracula? Nosferatu?"

In the sunlight he was so much less scary, that I giggled.

"Well not you, specifically."

He put on a look of mock offense and spread a hand over his chest.

"You don't think I could be Dracula?"

"Uhhh..." I pursed my lips together. He continued to put on offended expressions. It was weird for a vampire to have a sense of humor in the first place. But when he wasn't being terrifying, he was actually kind of a dork. Weirdly, it reminded me a little of Brent.

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