It begins in nothingness, an undying shadow in a world of lights. That’s what I am, or at least, what I was. But as time draws out here in the diluted vastness of my prison, my limbo, my mind, just me… I don’t know what I am anymore. I cannot even trust that I am really here, wherever that is.
How did I find myself in this place, drowning in this eternal nightmare? Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short: I was a slave. I hated life and all of those that encompassed it. And when a dark savior arrived and offered me a way out and limitless power, I took it. I became a vampyr, and then I became the very thing that I hated, and I relished it.
But for all that I had been shown of a new and dark world by the very architect of that darkness, by Lilith, by my maker, there had been and angel of light – one incredible woman who had given me a glimpse of love, and compassion, and humanity – Tina.
I had two choices: continue to live in fear and anger or embrace those things that make life worth living. I chose to abandon my maker and her darkness, and in the process, I betrayed her and left her with a grudge so profound that I lived in fear of her retribution. But in my hubris, I had believed her to be dead, and she had perpetuated that lie, like so many others.
As a result, for a time, I had it all; I had Tina. But the lie and fantasy all caught up to me. It had been my own fault. I should have been vigilant and patient, but I hadn’t. I saw life and I took it, despite the fact that it hadn’t actually been available to me.
Would I change how I’d handled the situation with Lilith if I could? Yes. I’d have kept Tina and myself hidden until we knew that she was dead. But hindsight is 20/20 and knowing it now changes nothing of the past. Tina is still gone and I’m still trapped and asphyxiating. This is Lilith’s punishment.
It wasn’t enough to kill me and separate me from the love of my eternity. No, Lilith had to leave me in perpetual torture so that I could ponder my life and my mistakes. I get it. She wants me to regret betraying her. There was a time when I might have, but I haven’t for a long time and I never will again. All I can think is that I never got to marry Tina. That is not my only regret, but it’s one of the deepest. It cuts to the bone. I wish I’d had the chance to marry her.
I would laugh at myself and at Lilith if I had the strength. Is it insane that of all that’s happened, not marrying Tina is what hurts the worst? No, it’s not strange. Bullets don’t lie, and Lilith shot herself in the foot. Her punishment has had the opposite effect. Given what she’s put me through and how I’ve struggled to overcome it, I know that my love is real and lasting. I knew it before but now I feel it in every pore, every cell, and every synapse, even… no especially as they fail. I should thank her for proving it. With my final breath, no matter how many times I take it, it is Tina who is in my heart, in my mind, and on my lips.
The water is almost unbearably warm, like acid, especially against my back and inside my lungs. And I can’t help but hope that eventually my mind will shut down, but it hasn’t, not yet, even while everything else has. How I wish to look into Tina’s hazel eyes right now. How I wish to feel the soothing embrace of her warm body against mine at this very moment. We had an eternity together; we planned an eternity together, and yet, here I am… without her, my eternity a watery grave and perpetual death far removed from her. There is no life without her – not for me. Or maybe… maybe this is all just indicative of what it means to be without her.
“What the fuck… Hey, there’s someone down there!”
There’s a rushing sound in my ears and I can swear that there are voices, but I know that it’s not true. I must be losing my mind now. I’m certainly ready. Everything feels unbearably hot and it’s disorienting. The ocean starts to murmur low and strong. The waves are speaking to me, and causing my brain to seize up.
I have no idea how much time has passed, but I must be to that point of no return for the ocean to have conjured up its voice. I breathe in as much as I can to speed along the drowning, but the choking sensation is different this time. I feel like I’m heaving, but I can’t get a grip on whether it’s real or not.
“Holy shit…,” the ocean says.
“She can’t be alive. I-I mean, look at her…”
’I’m not, not really. You of all entities should know that.’
The ocean ignores my reply. “Fuck, can’t you see that she is?! Don’t just stand there, go get help!”
And that’s when I hear it, like a siren’s call. The ocean taunts me, mocks me, as she reveals her heartbeat. It’s steady and strong, wet and delicious, and it pounds in my ears like a war drum. My teeth ache, my skull is splitting, and the heady aroma is all encompassing. It seems so real, too real…
Everything in me tries to reach out to it, to tear into it and find life. The stark blackness covering my eyes turns red, my mind collapses in on itself, and something charges through me, but I have nothing coherent to cling to. Blood is all I see and all I think. I can almost feel it, almost taste it, hot and thick and insatiably delicious.
Each molecule of the ocean screams as it runs red with life giving sustenance. I feel pins and needles rake through my nerves, and I breathe in trying to force death upon myself again, but there’s nothing, nothing but blood and screaming and madness. I’m mad, but I’m alive. I guess the joke really is on me.
My smile reached my eyes as I felt a hand slide down my back. I couldn’t help it. It was our anniversary. One-hundred and fifty-three years. Twenty-five years is silver. Fifty years is gold. One hundred and fifty-three is… well, it had to be a record. I supposed it could have been argued that it didn’t actually count. It hadn’t all been consecutive, not by a longshot. Neither of us had even known that the other was alive for most of it. But that didn’t change the fact that my heart had always belonged to her, even when I hadn’t believed that I had one.
But she agreed to marry me. I couldn’t fathom it, but she would be mine in every way, just as I had always been hers. I felt a gently radiating happiness swell up in me as her hand gripped my shoulder to turn me towards her and lift me. Lift me?
Pain, there was so much of it that I couldn’t even think. My head lolled and I tried to open my eyes, but even the low light was blinding. I could only catch small glimpses of shadows, legs, concrete, and blood as I was unable to crumple in on myself.
Blood was dripping in a trail as I was jerked to and fro, each movement sending agony through my limbs and head. I was trying to vomit, but nothing would come up, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I realized where I was and why. Anger and terror clutched at my heart and squeezed all of the good memories from my mind, reminding me that Tina was gone, I was about to die, and Lilith had won.
The human mind is a strange place. The vampyr mind is even stranger. But that’s the price paid upon birth, in both instances. We are born dying, and then in dying we are born. Even with the knowledge that death is inevitable, the mind still finds the will to look past truth and live in denial. But all things are doomed, even the immortal. I knew this, but somehow I could still believe it to be sudden, as if this end had somehow crept up on me. It hadn’t, but I still felt that way.
“Here.” That’s all that Lilith said, but it was enough to send a jolt of panic through me. Her voice was short, medium-toned, and empty. It had always been that way. Why hadn’t I noticed that emptiness before? Maybe I had. Either way, I knew it now.
I was going to die, and all I could think of was Tina. She would surely die as well, or maybe she was dead already. She didn’t deserve this. It wasn’t fair, and not just because I was biased. I wasn’t just thinking of myself. The world needed her. She would change it – make it compassionate and warm and tolerant, just like her. She’d just needed time, and she’d had it, at least until now.
I was dropped onto the concrete. The air escaped my lungs and I felt like I would pass out, and I almost did, but a deep sting pierced into my arm, the muscle beneath it growing warm and slightly fuzzy as the dizziness of impending darkness passed and I was holding onto consciousness, almost as if it was against my will. “That’s right. I don’t want you to miss the fun, lover.”
Fun. Wonderful. I knew her idea of fun. It used to be our fun, and as such, I deserved this, whatever it was that was coming. How… how was she keeping me awake though?
“I’ve hooked you up to some fresh blood. It will make things more… interesting.” I could barely see her as she brushed the matted hair from my face. She smiled – that empty smile that I used to relish but now only left me void and cold. ‘Just let Tina live… please…’
She laughed, the sound so much less empty and the effect hauntingly familiar, only now entirely terrifying. ‘Please, just leave Tina-’
“Shhh, don’t think, just feel…”
She dug her finger into the first of the wounds in my skull, slowly spreading the spongy tissues with her finger to widen the gap and play in it before finally digging the wooden bullet that was lodged there out. I screamed. I couldn’t stop myself. She had always been in my mind, and that had always been a painful place, but this was an entirely new level. It took long moments for the misery to stop, and I then realized how much I missed unconsciousness.
I wasn’t afforded much of a break before she started on another bullet-hole, pushing it further in, wiggling it around slowly, making the anguish so unbearable that I thought that maybe I’d actually died and this was my hell.
She sounds of screams and hysterical laughter echoed in my head, the blood soaking into my muscles and healing as she went. I had no sense of time, but I knew that she’d changed the blood bag at least six times. I knew because those were my resting periods. Then she’d return to her work, tormenting me before relieving me for some unfathomable reason that would surely only spur her to the next step of her plan.
The real fun began when she got to the bullets that had been expertly placed near my heart. She pushed one so far up in my chest that it was scraping against the muscle. The sensation sent vibrations through my soul, as if it were trying to disconnect from my body. It felt as if there were bugs writhing in my chest, and I could feel every dragging push as the splintered tip was used to etch a delicate script into the fleshy surface.
She seemed to never grow bored of it, my pain, but she eventually ran out of bullets to remove and stripped away the still desperately needed blood. I could finally breathe, but I was in too much shock to move and she knew it. That didn’t stop her from breaking my limbs in several places to keep me immobilized. She was nothing if not cautious.
I didn’t know what to think when I could finally focus through the pain and on her. She seemed almost sad, but it was in that empty way that was so indicative of her. Her hair was short – boyishly short, and small patches of flesh in various places over her neck and the underside of her jaw were missing, though healed. One of her eyes was stark white, and the intense blue of the other was offset by a pinkish hue. She looked gaunt, as if the emptiness inside of her had begun to wither her body and make itself known in the physical.
I wanted to feel sorry for her. I’d destroyed her trust, and obviously her body, but she’d perpetuated this war, lied to me, kept me in the dark. I just couldn’t understand why, and so I tried. ‘It didn’t have to be this way…’
She tilted her head at me, studying me with intent curiosity and possibly bemusement, and for a moment I thought that she might actually be considering my words. ‘Why can’t you just stop, Lilith? You don’t have to do this…’
She was implacable, so I soldiered on. ‘Look at me. You knew who I was.’ I tried to laugh sardonically, but my body wouldn’t allow me to. ‘You made me, but I learned, and so can you. There’s more than this… nothing, Lilith.’
I would have sworn her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “You really think… t-that there’s… hope?”
I’d never seen her so doe-eyed. I’d never heard her voice so sweetly innocent. I’d never seen her cry. But it was all there: fat tears and a damaged heart displayed on her sleeve. I wanted to tell her that there was always hope, that it was true, but I knew that this was a joke to her, part of her fun.
She laughed. It was devoid, just as expected. “You’re pathetic.”
That was expected as well. She was more stubborn than I was, and that was saying something. I felt sorry for her. Compassion is one of those things that sneaks up on you. There’s no hiding it or stopping it. It’s like breathing, if you only allow yourself to come up out of the water. She wouldn’t, and I wished that she could.
She rolled her eyes before tittering and shaking her head, her own pity coming through. “What did they do to you, dear one?”
She stroked my face again and I felt bile rise up in my throat. “We had the world at our feet. Why would you choose to lower yourself and live like the animals? You’re dark, and twisted, and wonderful. That’s why I chose you. You can lie to yourself, but not to me. I am your maker, and it’s still there…”
I knew what she meant and I knew that she was right. A part of me would always delight in darkness, and that part thrashed as it tried to go to her, to cling to her. It cried out. She was my maker…
She grinned. “Don’t fight it. You have a gift. It’s who you are. Don’t let them ruin you any further.”
She was my maker and if that wasn’t enough, that primal call – that pull, to love her and to be devoted to her was intensely strong. But I was stronger. Tina was stronger, and she was with me, no matter how far away, no matter whether she was alive or not. Nothing could change that.
I watched the pseudo compassion drain from her face, leaving her with a rage that glowed behind her disfigured eyes and burned into my own. She gripped my face, sighing as she said, “You leave me no choice.”
I panicked. ‘Take me, leave Tina…,’ was the last thought I had before she snapped my neck and I was smothered in darkness.
I wake and try to open my eyes. I know that it won’t work; I haven’t been able to move for a long time now, but I still try. It’s instinctual, like breathing… breathing? I snap up, my head swimming and my muscles protesting as I pull in great gasps of air only to wind up choking on it. Will there ever be a time that I’m not choking? Air… there’s air… I turn and heave. Again, it’s instinctive. I watch as nothing but a few trickles of blood fall from my lips as my muscles spasm and convulse violently.
I collapse again, something hard pressing into my face as I breathe, truly breathe, and try to wrap my mind around my circumstances, though it’s not working. I feel weak and off balance as I push up from the floor. I haven’t had weight in what feels like forever, and I wonder if I can do this, but I force myself to.
I collapse heavily against the nearest railing and take in my surroundings. A red light is flashing and stinging my eyes. The low hum of gears and technology whirs loudly around me. But outside of that, there is nothing, no noise, not even a single heartbeat.
I’m alone, somewhere… somewhere that is not water, somewhere that is not entirely agony. I frown and try to remember something, anything, but the last thing that I can recall is going mad… and blood. Everything was blood and chaos. It was all I could think and smell and taste.
I sit here, puzzling over the fact that I must have finally transcended into full on desiccation and dementia and knowing that this less hellish realm must be a lie. But it’s better than drowning at least. This place wreaks of death and carnage and blood… just so much blood, and I’m forced to pause and take notice. The blood has to be real. The smell of it is so thick on the air that I’m reminded of the Civil War. Is this hell?
I stand and it feels amazing to be fully erect, to breathe, to be able to think beyond my memories and my life with Tina- Tina…
I feel the first tendrils of a dark and abiding panic attack seize up in my guts. Tina… I-I have to find her. What if she’s trapped and suffering? What if it’s worse? What if she’s dead?
My hands reach up to run through my gnarled hair. She can’t be dead. Lilith wouldn’t… she couldn’t… Yes, she’d have killed her and made a spectacle of it. I fall to my hands and knees and heave again. It’s unthinkable… impossible, but that’s Lilith.
Tina… I squeeze my eyes shut; my heaves become sobs which become angry tears. I heave again before the spasms finally release and I can stagger to my feet, breathing heavily as I try to focus on anything that will help me find that one last sliver of hope to be had.
There’s nothing, nothing but anger – pure, blinding, and all encompassing. And there is nothing that I can know for certain; it’s all just speculation. Well, there’s one thing that I can know: I will find Tina, one way or another, and no matter what, I will kill Lilith.
I shake as my anger ebbs. I feel anxious. I have to find her, and I need to start now. I look around me, frantically searching for a way out of this place. The floor is a series of large metal grates, creating suspended walkways that weave around thick metal pipes, levers, and knobs. Large shoots of steam burst into the air in random places and the red light is disorienting to my overstressed eyes.
I feel as if I’m in the belly of a robotic beast as I wind my way through the enormous bowels of a ship maybe? I turn another corner, dodging another jet of scalding water and finally see a crack of bright light streaming in from an open doorway in the distance. I stop as it illuminates the mess that I hadn’t noticed because I’d been so focused on Tina.
There are body parts everywhere, lives ravaged and torn from mortality, and there’s little blood. As I progress, more and more carnage comes into view, and I realize what’s happened: I’m not mad. This place isn’t the tortured imagining of a mind that’s snapped. No, it’s the terrible truth of a creature so overwrought with hunger that it lashed out with fatal results. Whoever these people are, they’d found me, and I’d slaughtered them. I don’t remember it, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.
My soul grieves as I dazedly make my way into the light. It’s worse out on the port landing, and it only worsens with each step that I take through the complex. I’ve killed every single person on this oil rig, drained them and tore them apart. Four sprawling levels of butchery prove as much. There’s not a single person left alive, and my count has reached somewhere in the hundreds.
I stagger into one of the less messy living quarters, the first one that I find where death isn’t so grotesquely on display, and berate myself for what I’ve done as I sit listlessly on the tiny bed that’s little more than a cot.
I didn’t mean to; I don’t even remember it, but that will mean little to the families that will be left with the grief of this monstrous tragedy. I weep for them, for Tina, for me, but it’s the kind of weeping that doesn’t have tears. I can’t help myself as I shake. I can’t help anyone or anything, not the dead around me and not even Tina.
I’m far too angry and exhausted and bereft to think or move, so I just sit. I hate what I’ve done, and I hate Lilith for driving me to this end. I have no idea what to do or how to process it all, so I just shut down.
I wake slowly, my body feeling lethargic and intensely sore. Even after the enormous amount of blood that I’d consumed and some rest, I’m still weak and I’ll need more. I sit up and scrub my face with my hands. They’re rough so I pull them away to look at them. Blood – caked on my fingernails, staining my skin a vibrant crimson, and saturating my clothes. There are bits of brain, bone, and other viscera clinging to me, and I feel sick.
I swallow thickly and look around the silent space that was once a living person’s private sanctum, noticing a photograph on the table next to me. I pick it up, stroking a finger over the glass to memorize the faces of the women captured there and leaving a crimson smudge. They’re young, maybe mid-twenties. The taller of the two has her arms wrapped around the smaller brunette in front of her, her blonde hair short and choppy and her blue eyes gleaming with happiness as the brunette presses her lips into a tanned cheek. They’re both wearing leather jackets and standing in front of a motorcycle, a desert vista spread out behind them.
I open the frame and pull the photo out, reading the delicate, cursive script on the back and memorizing anything I can about this person that I have harmed. I don’t know why, but I feel like it’s owed and it’s something, some small penance.
“Annual Mojave trip, 2012.” I close my eyes as I set the photo and frame back on the table in shambles, just like what I’ve done to their lives. I murdered this person. She’ll never hold her lover again, or travel through the desert with her. It tears at me, but I can’t undo what I’ve done, and I can’t bring her back, or any of them. I deserve to die, and maybe I will, but first I have something to do.
Finding Tina won’t be easy, and finding Lilith even harder, but all I have is time, time and anger and determination. I stand and make my way into the tight space of the bathroom. Whatever it takes, I can’t sit still any longer. The person in the mirror is someone else that I murdered a long time ago, but she deserved it. Her eyes are black and cruel, her hair matted with the same blood spattered across her clothes.
“Those people didn’t deserve to die!”
There’s nothing – no response – just the distant ebb of waves against the stilts of this waterlogged city and the haunting cry of the dead around me. She smiles at me, her face contorting as two snow-white fangs mock me. She’s a monster, and I hate her because she’s me.
I slam my hand into the mirror with a crash that seems to echo out across the ocean and sends my fist through the metal of the wall behind it. This small destruction and the pain that follows do nothing to cure my self-loathing, but at least I don’t have to look at her anymore. She may be alive, and I may need her yet, but she’s chained up until such a time. What’s worse is that I know that she saved my life. But my life wasn’t worth all of this.
I feel like I’m on fire; the rage inside of me is so intense that I feel like my very veins are shrinking against my muscles. It has nowhere to go and I deserve to burn, so I let it scorch through me and focus on the only thing that I can do: find Tina.
As always, she’s the only thing I have to keep me moving, to keep me pushing forward. I strip off my tattered and bloodied clothes and step into the small shower stall, hoping that the stream of hot water will lessen the throbbing ache in my soul.
It does nothing but rinse the evidence of my sin down the drain in red torrents of swirling gore. If only it were that easy to be free of it. It takes nearly and entire bottle of body wash, shampoo, and conditioner, but the water eventually runs clear again, and I can run my fingers through my hair without having to pull clumps of flesh free from the knotted mess.
I make quick work of drying off, combing my hair, and finding some travel toiletries to brush my teeth. I rummage through the small chest of drawers, finding some clean underwear, socks, faded, low-rise jeans, and a black tee-shirt. I slip them on, and while the woman in the photo was a little smaller in the breasts and waist, the clothes are comfortable enough.
I sit on the foot of the bed again, and pull on the black biker boots sitting on the floor at my feet. They’re heavier than what I’m used to, but they fit perfectly and seem durable, and durable is what I need. I don’t plan to stop until I find Tina, and something in me knows that finding her isn’t going to be easy.
I make my way towards the door, and spot the short-cut leather jacket from the photo. I don’t know why I stop or pick it up, or why I decide to pull it on. It fits snugly, the bottom tapering above my hips and the cuffs flaring out over my wrists. The lapels are wide and stylishly cut, and the zippered pockets may prove to be useful.
It feels strange, perverse even – stepping into this woman’s clothes and seeing a small glimpse into her life. I’ve taken so much from her already, but I can’t bear to leave it here to burn with the remains of its owner and the memories tied up in it. I shake it off and remind myself to focus. Tina – there’s nothing else to worry about right now. All other things have to be lesser, at least for the moment.
I work my way down the winding metal hallways, stepping over corpses and doing my best not to look at them. I feel calloused. I killed them so that I could live. The least I can do is remember them, and I will, always. That is the price of having to live with what I’ve done. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I don’t have time to hate myself or properly grieve over these people, not yet. Tina will always be more important than anything, and even as I hate to admit it, she is more important than what I’ve done here. I will pay for this for the rest of my life, however long that may be.
I locate the escape boats on the bottom level of the rig, using the winch to release one into the water and starting its engine. I probably know more about oil rigs than most of the dead people littered around me. Such is the nature of immortality and indiscriminate study. Oil rigs are dangerous. They require constant monitoring because one shift in pressure can cause disastrous results, and that’s what I need to cover this up.
I feel like a coward as I step up to the control panel for the blowout preventer, and seal the wellbore, watching to be sure that the mud pressure starts to plummet. It does, and the disembodied voice of warning sounds throughout the rig. I jump over the second-story railing and land easily on the bottom port, quickly releasing the dock rope, and slinking into my boat.
I rev the engine and cut through the water, not looking back as the massive explosion rocks my craft against the current moments later. My murmured, “Forgive me,” is the only penance that I can offer as I escape and set a course north, for Tina.
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