“I didn’t think it was possible, given the state of affairs,” he began, “that you could actually survive the current climate. I didn’t expect it to be you, but I always wondered when you would be ready.”
I stared at the kid. What was he talking about exactly? Was I their enemy? Was I an ally?
He thrust his peachy hands into the pockets of his tan pants. Even though he was just a child in my eyes, he spoke with authority and wise counsel, someone much advanced in my current age. “I am Dustavian, leader of this realm. Welcome to the Empire of the Dwellers, the third Empire in the world, and the most secret one at that. We have agents all over the two cities, paving the way for our return to the surface. The current climate from the wars has provided enough shelter from the smoldering sun that those of us who catch aflame can now surface properly and seek food. Those candies are a way we can preserve our blood, to regenerate our bodies once they run out of sustenance. It’s extremely hard for us to feed when so little…”
“What are you?” I demanded of him, cutting into his speech.
He smiled coyly at me. “I am the Prince of the Dwellers.”
It was all he stated about himself, which didn’t explain much, and I had no idea what that meant.
His gaze moved to the man I knew on the table. “Roderick here is a werewolf. The teenagers you see in the park are fledgling vampyres, ready to turn into full adult vampyres whenever they’re ready. I’ve been preparing them for the change, since eventually they will crave blood more and more than they do currently.”
I looked over at the teens. They all looked innocent and far too normal for them to be classified as vampyres, though the images of what happened moments earlier still rushed through my head. I had witnessed Roderick’s transformation, and recognized him now for what he was. But the other children remained kids in my sight. They never once looked the part of a vampyre. The other robed men around me shifted away slightly as I met each of their gazes, knowing that I scrutinized their every move. A minute ago, I was supposed to be fodder for a beast of the otherworld. Yet now I was met with friendship and curiousness rather than open hostility. It made no sense.
Dustavian continued his small speech regardless of the suspicious expressions his friends all wore. “There are many others that are not here, yet all are creatures of this world. There are the incubi, who feed on the fears and dreams of the people who live here in Anea, and then the succubi all live in Domestian, because that’s mostly where the corrupted hearts of men are even if the two Empire’s are slowly balancing each other out. Some of the men behind you are warlocks, who use blood in their daily arts, and they’re partly responsible for discovering the bloodied candies that maintain our bodies. Plus they also run diagnostic tests on the population searching for any of our lost brethren. When the bombs shook apart our home, we were all separated. But now we have a chance to become a third power in the world.” He glanced at me. “Now that you’re here.”
My eyes fell upon his small figure once more. The way he expressed his last statement unnerved me. What was he talking about? What did I have to do with any of this? Up until ten years ago I would have never believed any part of his story, but that was before the war and the post effects of what the chemicals did to me physically. And as far as I knew, I was the only one like that. He talked about me like we had this future together when I had no idea who or what he was.
“I have been searching for you my entire life. I had hoped to find you through the warlocks, because they search through the blood of the Sun-Walkers, but that was not meant to be. I’m sorry you had to witness Roderick’s rising,” he apologized.
It was not in my nature to ask questions that might allude to them mistaking me for someone else. They were already doing that without my help. My instinctive nature wanted to question what they spoke of, but I wanted to know more about this and why they saw me as a special figure head in their society. So I remained silent, and let them fill in the details.
He reached out and grabbed the bowl filled with candies. He popped a couple into his mouth and sighed with delight. He threw me one, but I let it hit the wall behind me. I wasn’t about to take any blood from any of them. That was disgusting in my rule book. I was glad now that they couldn’t harm my skin; I was impervious to them. The kid stared at me and the candy lying unwanted on the floor, suspicion crept into his eyes.
“You’re not thirsty?” he questioned me.
I shook my head, not daring to respond vocally with my disgust.
He smiled sadly. “I think for now, we are all dismissed. Hopefully you can keep your hunger under control this time,” he spoke to Roderick. The teenagers helped the brown haired kid from the floor to a standing position. They carried him over to the platform that led back up into the house. I turned around and walked with them, masking my thoughts from the rest. Though, once I stepped onto the platform it started to rise. Dustavian leapt up and landed beside me gracefully, once we were halfway up. I nearly jumped in alarm, but managed to mask it as an attempt to flee the perimeter. The ground floor was in my sight, and within perfect range of my jumping capabilities. I leapt up and grasped the edge. Using my enhanced strength, I pulled myself up into the foyer.
The gusts were gone by now, as the night crept over the land. I was free to leave, but there was only one place for me to go to now that I didn’t want to stay one more minute in this house and the world I stumbled upon. If Roderick had been just dead and not a blood-crazed werewolf, I would’ve stayed at the mansion until the daylight hours returned once more. But I wanted nothing to do with these new creatures. I wanted my world back. I opened the door and disappeared into the darkness.
It took me a second, gaining my bearings and realizing I wouldn’t be able to return home right now, as the portal locks were in place. My room was closed off as well, because it was attached from the inside. My mom and dad wouldn’t worry over my safety because they understood that whenever I was locked out, it was elsewhere I stayed. They knew I couldn’t be harmed by the toxins that harmed them. In the wake of the war, a new law forbade the people from going outside their homes or lodgings until the daylight hours returned and the toxic levels dissipated. At night the toxins were at their worst, especially with the dust storm that blew in. But I was different, and the government knew this. I had special privileges that allowed me to be out at night as the toxicity of the air didn’t harm my body, but I usually stayed indoors most of the time.
I ran away from the mansion, hoping to put some distance between the two of us, so that I could think about the night’s events. I fled past the old cemetery and the deserted grocery store; two landmarks from before the war that survived the destruction in this district. I jumped up onto a dilapidated two story building, ran across the roof, and landed back down on the other side with ease. The ground cracked underneath my feet, but all I felt here was solace. The abandoned courtyard used to be a garden before the chemicals were used. Now it was full of lifeless tree trunks and cracked pathways. A stone Angel, now decayed and broken, filled the center stone bowl where a fountain once played long before the war. It too, along with the rest of what used to be decoration, had died and withered. They were relics from better days.
I envied them. They were allowed to be forgotten, but I wasn’t. Maybe that was why I came here often. This place was secluded from the outside world. There was no one here to judge or envy my extraordinary abilities. I would be left in peace for a long time. I briefly surveyed my surroundings, a harsh lesson I had learned eight years prior. Two doors led from the garden into the abandoned hospital, though the building was condemned and shut down as the windows and doors were now boarded up. The only way into this secluded spot was the way I got here; from the top of the building. It was sheltered somewhat by the structure, even if the building itself had nearly collapsed from the war. No one would be able to see me from the street or reach me in this place. I was safe here, guarded by the cemented walls.
I walked forward, stopping at the fountain. I sometimes wished I had seen this place in its prime, but this wasn’t the district I had been born in. My family used to live in the Lux district, home for the wealthy and the important. But post war they moved to this district, and left their old life behind.
Light footsteps landed on the cement pathway from the other side of the statue of where I stood. I froze, not knowing who disturbed my peace. The intruder walked around the fountain and a head of blond merged into my view.
The kid smiled at me. “I didn’t think you’d come here.”
I frowned at this behavior. Didn’t he know that I wanted to be left alone? He had followed me and kept pace with me as well, which was such an amazing feat because no one else could do it. The other teenagers never were able to follow me anyplace, although they tried, a lot. But maybe that was due to their handicap of being a fledgling vampyre and not a powerful adult. Now that I thought about it, what was the kid other than the Prince of the Dwellers? He obviously wasn’t like the others, but he never really stated what he was exactly which made him dangerous. Maybe his genetic blueprint made up for his ability to keep pace with my abnormally fast speed.
“I know you wish to be left alone, but I figured that you wanted to exchange our experiences. You obviously want to know more about me and how it was I found you. Besides, I want to know how you knew who I was. From the first moment I saw you in this district, that first day you met my gaze, you knew. I saw this realization in your eyes. Not many have the power to see through my disguise, but you did.”
He walked closer, closing the distance between us. I was more prepared for this than I thought possible. An exchange of words I could do. I was good at speaking my mind, but he suggested we exchange something else, though I didn’t know what, and was afraid of what that something might be.
He brought his arm up to his mouth and opened the vein on his forearm using his teeth. He held out his bloodied arm to me like an offering. I had seen enough to know what this was. I took a step back. I wasn’t drinking his blood, not now not ever. Did he think I was one of them? A Dweller? Was that why he was here?
He lowered his arm and looked down at the ground.”So that’s how it is.” He sighed heavily, but his form shifted as the air expelled from his lungs. He grew taller and thicker. His blond locks and sapphire eyes retained their brilliance and shape, but his face distorted and grew more masculine, aging; older. Eventually the child form was gone, transformed into a man, the same man that pushed the beast onto the teen in the room and saved me from the wrath of the werewolf. But what struck me odd with a feeling that I felt quite disturbing was that in this form he was gorgeous, far more handsome than I first perceived.
He reached out with his arm again, though now it was magically healed, and offered me his hand.
It took me several long moments before I decided how to proceed. I finally figured that he wanted to discuss something important with me, maybe explain what happened back at the mansion, and this was his way of offering peace. Besides, he couldn’t harm me, as I found out that even Dwellers could be harmed by my immunity. I grasped his hand. For a cold-blooded Dweller or whatever he was, I never expected his skin to be warm and full of life. There was actual blood pumping beneath his exterior, and I knew he had a heartbeat. I don’t know how I would’ve proceeded had I suspected that he was a walking corpse.
Before I could fully react he pulled me closer to him and wrapped his arms around my body in a tight embrace. I was too stunned by his expression to move. “Thank you for coming back.”
Wait, what? Back? Back to who? Him? And where did I go to exactly?
“Our reign will be glorious,” he whispered in my ear.
Whoa, wait what? Whose reign?
Suddenly I felt his hand brush my hair away from my neck, and his head leaned into the cresses of my skin. I imagined him preparing to bite into me like I’d seen with the vampire movies from the old world. I briefly wondered if my skin wasn’t impervious to him, but it was only for a second. I stiffened in his arms, as he kissed me lightly where my shoulder met my neck. I relaxed somewhat clearly confused by all of these strange moves. And I was prepared to let him hold me until he was ready to talk, but that was before I felt a prickling of something sharp on my skin. He was trying to bite me, and my sensory nerves responded.
I quickly refocused and pushed up against him with my body. In one swift move I grabbed his arm, swung him around, and threw him onto the ground. His back hit the cement sidewalk and cracked it further. My hand reached around his neck in preparation to strangle him, because no one harmed me.
He didn’t flinch from the pressure I exerted, though I expected him to. Instead he smiled wide as my fingers closed around his neck, and gazed up at me. But within the time span of one second, he was out of my reach and standing back upright, having eluded my grasp. I leapt backwards and crouched, waiting for his next move.
He attacked me outright, and then we danced, quite literally. I would sidestep his moves and try to take him out with my hands and feet. He copied the same abilities, but we narrowly missed one another over the next several minutes. Eventually I paused and allowed him to get near me so that I could overpower him, because fighting from a distance wasn’t helping anyone. But he wasn’t quite fooled by my hidden actions. In the end, he pushed me up against a wall of the abandoned hospital. The bricks groaned from the weight of my body exerting force. Again he closed in the distance between us, and put his hands on both of my shoulders to prevent me from going anywhere, as I couldn’t move my arms well. His face leveled with mine, and he smiled once more.
“You’re ready to let me in. Quit stalling,” he joked playfully.
When he spoke, I clearly saw his fangs descend in his mouth. He planned to use them on me, and try to puncture my skin. No wonder my gut instinct was to throw him to the ground. The thought of him taking my blood sickened me. It wasn’t natural.
“No,” I spat out. I was not going to allow that.
He sighed and closed his eyes briefly. I used the temporary distraction to push against his arms with my torso and hands, propelling my legs forward. But he surprised me yet again. He grabbed my shoulders and whirled us both around until he pinned me up against the wall once more, this time using his body as the barrier between the wall and my freedom. Even in my disgust and panic I felt the toughness of his skin as his hands caressed my face. Despite knowing he was just as strong and resilient as my uniqueness his skin was soft compared to what I thought it would be. And he was muscular too. His abs rippled against my stomach, and likewise with his arms. I didn’t think he could hide this astonishing figure into that of the small child he turned himself into when he was around the others. What was that about anyway?
His blue eyes pierced mine and I relaxed within their depths. There was no getting out of this; he was going to make sure of it. I would find a way to eventually get away from him, but until then I remained where I was. I had found someone at last that was a match for me, and though I wanted to fight on just to see how far I could go, I wasn’t completely ready to die yet.
“Why are you being so difficult?” he whispered to me, his voice full of concern.
I didn’t know how to respond. What could I say to make him go away? He obviously cared about me in a way I didn’t think could exist between two different creatures such as us.
“I can’t help you until you let me in,” he sighed.
Help me? With what exactly? “I don’t need your help,” I whispered back.
“You are still new to this world, love. You need to know what I’ve been through for you,” he stressed.
“I’m not your love.” This was getting ridiculous. I was not his love. I had never been in love with someone or something like him.
“But you are, and you always will be.”
I sighed. There was no derailing him from this thought.
“Who are you?” I demanded, moving on to a better topic.
“Finally,” he mused. He bit open his bottom lip, letting the blood pool there for a second before leaning in.
The kiss was instant, but even though I didn’t want him to kiss me at all I froze. I no longer saw him standing before me. He was not here anymore. I was not in the courtyard either. I was somewhere else, somewhere completely different.