The Long Game

Machinations in Empty Rooms

Mina Murray stood within the lonely emptiness of the amphitheatre lecture hall. She gazed around the still, quiet room. Simple wooden benches circled the perimeter of the room in ascending configurations. Dusty light filtered in through the high set windows.

She had once felt so centered here, so focused on her work. So determined, so confidant in her chosen place in the world.

Blood traces still painted the floor where Alexander – yes, it had been him there was no doubt of that – had slaughtered the men threatening her. Their ruined bodies had never been found, but the blood remnants remained even now. As proof, evidence of his righteously dark deed.

And the table. That flat, wooden table where many a cadaver had awaited a surgeon's scalpel. That table upon which she herself had lain. Trapped. Threatened with a bottle of burning sulfuric acid. Threatened with searing, eating pain and permanent disfigurement by those terrible men. Why, she still did not know. She shuddered at the memory.

She left the haunting table behind and walked through the wooden doors with their glass inlays. And stood now in the inner office room. More blood stains here as well.

She sighed as she looked at the marks. Alexander. During the attack, he had dragged one of them from her sight. To save her further trauma. To protect her. While he ruthlessly destroyed the man. His screams, she could still hear his gruesome, dying screams.

How could a man so caring and protective of her harbor such a brutal creature within him?

And what might have become of her then if those dead men had attacked her in the light of day rather than at night when her dark guardian could protect her?

She moved deeper into the room, touching the remaining ampoules and containers delicately. There weren't many. Most had been removed. By him, she supposed. By Professor Abraham van Helsing.

van Helsing, once her mentor, once her friend. He had been a part of all this. But why? What had been his motivation for curing a vampire of an aversion to sunlight?

Alexander, Vlad. What was she to call him now? He had said van Helsing had unearthed him to bring destruction upon those who had murdered their families.

Another shudder. What sort of monsters were these men who viciously destroyed families? Who burned people alive? How could they so completely demolish lives and escape without consequence?

She looked around the room. The sturdy desk. The once-laden, now near empty cabinets. The cold fireplace where she had once sat with van Helsing and discussed her cheek cell experiment. She had, on occasion, stayed here for hours upon end, working, studying, learning.

Now it was an empty shell of a space to her.

Her eyes finally fell upon what she had come here to retrieve. Her leather bag. It still resided where she had set it before extinguishing the lamps on that fateful night. She had placed something within it that had seemed a forbidden curiosity at the time and now she knew was of vital importance. She opened the bag and reached within. Yes, it was still here. She withdrew her prize.

The clear glass vial. Its coded text and undulating red liquid within. Alexander's blood. Professor van Helsing had attempted to convince her that it contained a Sumatran parasite that attacked dead cells, seeming to reanimate them. It had seemed so far-fetched to her at the time.

She almost smiled. Almost as far-fetched as say a four hundred year old vampiric entrepreneur with a heart of enduring loyalty and love trapped within a body full of stolen blood?

She thought when van Helsing had suggested the blood contained a parasite that he had been telling a partial truth. Alexander, Vlad, this multi-faceted being, had the intelligent brain and emotional heart of a true man. The bloodlust creature inside him of which he could not rid himself was clearly something only governable for limited amounts of time. And the aversion to sunlight was completely beyond his control, though she had yet to witness a true display of its affects.

The hospital. After the attack, he had visited her there in the early hours and fled before the rising sun. At the time, she had been affronted that he would leave when she so clearly needed him. That something was more important to him than her desperate need for a stalwart companion in what she had thought was her darkest hour.

Only now was it clear that he had risked the burning touch of the sun to be with her only a short, but precious, time. She vividly recalled him walking away from her narrow cot and crossing through a shaft of morning sunlight. Casually turning his back in a movement so smooth it was hardly noticeable. But had it burned, had it singed? Even for a breath of time?

How much had he suffered just to be with her? Just for a chance to walk in the sun?

How could he harbor such an evil within him but still be capable of such good?

For there was, indeed, much good within him.

A demonic vampire forever cursed to the darkness who endeavors to bring free, safe, wireless light giving power to the masses? Even if what Jonathan had said was true, that Alexander was working to bring down powerful men, there must be easier methods than bringing light to those in darkness.

She looked at the vial. Had van Helsing used this blood to create the serum of which Alexander, Vlad, had spoken?

If so, how? And could she somehow replicate it, improve upon it? Cure his bloodlust and his aversion to sunlight? Was such a thing possible? Or was it simply wishful thinking? And how was she even to begin such an undertaking?

She did not yet know but she suspected the blood-filled vial in her hand held the key to his salvation, his freedom.

And so, she must try.

She crept back into the shadows to the hidden room beyond the heavy, red tapestry. It was unlocked and her heart sank with trepidation. She entered cautiously and found her fears valid and realized. It was still empty, cleaned out as it had been before. Nevertheless, she methodically searched it again. Hoping she had somehow overlooked a useful treasure. Searching carefully, futilely, as one will do when something precious has been irrevocably lost.

And, of course, there was nothing. But she still held the vial. And that was something.

So she left. Placing the vial safely in the depths of her medical bag and carrying it with her, she departed the inner room and firmly closed the door. Slowly, she climbed the steps leading out of the amphitheatre. As though ascending a stairway toward the heavens to plead mercy for Alexander, for Vlad.

Quietly closing the door to this room, leaving it for the last time now. A medical physician she still endeavored to be, but enter this room of blood and fear and lies again, she never would.

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