Blood on Roses

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Blood Curse - Roman Anderson

What did his brother mean to him? What did Hazel mean to him? What was this silent vampire thinking? How did Ashton disappear once and for all yet leave his power to him?


As far back as my memory went, I could only remember the gazes of sympathy in people’s eyes. The maids and butlers of the Anderson family manor were always extra nice to my brother and me, even though our parents neglected us. Ashton was a kind soul; he thought they pitied us because we were deemed failures by our parents. I, on the other hand, believed that there was something wrong with us.

Ashton and I were superior to all of our peers. But even when Ashton could telekinetically lift two grand pianos at the age of six, and my teleportation knew no limit, our parents still paid us no attention whatsoever. It was as if they purposely avoided interacting with us.

My younger self dedicated a lot of my time to find a possible reason. I asked my aunts and uncles, who refused to answer me, and my cousins, who only looked at me with the same eyes as the maids and butlers. Eventually, I resorted to the library.

I read through the thousands of years of Anderson family history, but nothing explained Ashton’s and my situation. I didn’t understand.

And I entirely stopped caring the moment Ashton died. I made a deadly mistake. He died by my hands.

Nothing mattered anymore. Even the maids who kindly called me “Young Master Roman” and helped me train were all gone. Hatred replaced the curiosity within me. I couldn’t remember my family as anything but neglectful and distant.

I blinked.

“Roman, are you listening?” Hailee asked with a small frown on her face.

“Sorry,” I murmured. “I had another gap. I only remember up to when you walked up to me.”

But I recalled more than that. I hazily saw an image of Hailee laughing and telling Ashton to quit joking around, but I dismissed that possibility as a dream. Oftentimes, I missed my brother so much that I saw hallucinations.

She sighed, then chuckled. “It’s fine. I was just talking about the new girl joining us tomorrow.”

“New girl?”

“Her name is Hazel Dawson,” she chirpily replied. “She’s a hybrid!”

I knew Hailee’s dramatic personality expected a similar reaction from me, so I tugged up my eyebrows to act shocked. It seemed to satisfy her. “So, you’re saying that I’ll be her mode of transportation until she gets the ropes?”

Hailee bit her lip. “You’re totally the quiet, smart guy sitting in the corner of Honors Chemistry.”

“Pardon?”

“Yeah, you’re right. This one might take longer than the usuals. After all, she’s not voluntarily becoming a vampire.”

I initially thought of this Hazel girl as nothing more than a pain in the ass. My convenient ability was always exploited as public transport, but now one of the passengers was an annoying, jittery, confused newbie. On top of that, she was going to hate me. This was worse than babysitting Kassandra Chaplain.

My impression of Hazel didn’t change upon our first meeting. Afterward, I served only as a tool, so I never spoke to her. But whenever we crossed paths, she’d smile and wave as if we were familiar. I always ignored her.

My opinion altered a bit when Harvick decided to include Hazel in a mass-scale operation to rescue important captured members. Participants included only our best, and it seemed inappropriate to add a newbie who could barely control her power.

I was speechless when she marched up to Harvick and demanded that we should cancel the mission. When Harvick implied that she was being unreasonable, her face burned. “You don’t believe me?”

I fixed my gaze to the ground. Of course, he wouldn’t. I heard from Hailee that Hazel possessed intangibility. I get that she might’ve thought it was a letdown and wanted something more befitting of a hybrid. I stood in place, dismissing her actions as a tantrum until Zachary walked up to me.

“Roman, could you go check on her?” he asked, genuinely surprising me. First, he didn’t bark out a command but requested politely. Second, Zachary cared about something. Third, this something was Hazel.

“Sure….”

His gaze hardened. “Tell her I sent you and you’d be deader than dead.”

I teleported up the staircase and tried to use my senses to locate her. After a few random jumps here and there, I caught a whiff of her scent and appeared before her. I squatted down, not knowing what expression to make. “Um…. How are you holding up?”

Hazel stared at me and asked, “Who sent you?”

Once again, I was genuinely surprised. It was the first time I saw her in a different light, where she wasn’t a panicky newbie. I leaned backward and sat down, mirroring her body language.

“He said he’d murder me if I told you, but Zachary asked me to check up on you,” I admitted. The hope and bliss in her eyes were hard to miss. It seemed that something was going on between those two.

I thought about what she said to Harvick and asked if it was true. She was silent for the longest time, not that I minded. I waited until she perked up and said, “Yes, I possess the power to grant my own wishes.”

For the third time, I was genuinely surprised. It’d been years since I experienced this much emotion in one day. More importantly, she was telling me something no one else knew. I watched her, slightly fascinated, as she explained her situation to me.

Hazel beamed brightly after I agreed to help. Her tone shifted ever so slightly whenever she spoke of Zachary.

I stood in the far corner of the battlefield, observing each ongoing fight. Whenever one of us appeared to be in trouble, I teleported over to relocate them in an advantageous position. I always helped keep the number of casualties as low as possible. Since I wasn’t an offensive type, this job suited me well.

I kept track of the time as I flashed back and forth. Each second ticked by very slowly as I waited for the five-minute mark. At the last minute, a hunter lunged at me. She fought like an Elitist, and I didn’t have that kind of time to spare. Before she could land a strike, I vanished and reappeared in the tunnelled hallways. I followed Hazel’s instructions to the furthest room in the southwest wing.

I saw a floor porcupined with arrows, presumably anti-vampire. I easily brought Hazel, Zachary, and the Pureblood they rescued up to the roof, but just like the first time Hazel experienced this day, it was closed. That wasn’t part of the plan.

“Roman, go inform the others that the mission succeeded and find out why Akechi closed the portal. Hazel and I will go back and look for Hailee. If you find Vivian, tell her to locate Hailee,” Zachary commanded.

“Understood,” I replied. This was no time to argue with his bossy attitude. Our main communicator was missing, and our gate to escape had disappeared. I brought Hazel and Zachary back inside.

“Good luck, Hazel,” I whispered. She didn’t seem to hear me over the noises of battle and anxiety. I briefly noted that that was the first time I acknowledged her by name, then teleported to the mansion, bringing the rescued Pureblood with me.

I set him down on the sofa, then fetched him a juice box of blood. “Rest up. Everyone else will be back soon.”

He coughed, clutching his side and tried his best to smile at me. “Thank you.”

I nodded, then reappeared back at the battlefield. I only left for two minutes, but the scene changed drastically. There was an unsettling mixed scent of blood in the air. I teleported to the closest body I saw; it was Celia. Her entire chest had been ripped out. Beyond her were many others that I recognized.

My stomach contents suddenly regurgitated to my mouth. This brought back one too many memories. When I glanced at someone with a clean knife wound straight through the chest, I was reminded of Ashton’s limp body turning into ashes.

I threw up. I didn’t even know vampires could vomit.

Hazel, I suddenly remembered. I teleported into the atrium where I dropped her and Zachary off, only to fall right into a trap.

Four walls sealed me into a box. Immediately, I realized that this room was fused with the gas that weakened a vampire’s senses. The walls were put up to dense the gas in a short time.

My appearance triggered an alarm. Needle-thin spikes poked out of the ground. I hissed in pain. At the very same time, a gigantic net fell from the ceiling. The massive net weighed down and pushed my body into the needles. White-hot burning coursed through my arms and legs. In addition to the gas, substantial blood loss prevented my ability from functioning properly. Around me, some ten vampire hunters held down the net, one of them barking orders.

Chief Arthur Carrington. Just my luck! At least it meant that Hazel didn’t get cornered by her uncle this time. I hoped she and Zachary were safe.

The spikes receded, but the net grew tighter, forcing me to lie down flat on the ground. The weakening gas was harmless to humans, but it doubled my vision in just a few seconds.

“He’s still not knocked out even in this density. This one’s definitely a Pureblood.”

“Yeah, but we can’t keep him. Teleportation’s too dangerous.”

“Shame. All this good blood going to waste.”

The hunters chattered amongst themselves as one of them aimed a sword to my back. The blade penetrated my lower back, purposely missing my vitals. I tensed up to avoid satisfying their desire to see my reaction.

“Hey, how many stabs do you guys think will kill him?”

The others excitedly put in their bets. My gray vampire orbs glowed in unprecedented rage; I’d never felt so disgraced in my life. The hunters didn’t view us as living beings. To them, I was lower than plankton, lower than vermin.

“That’s enough. Go back to your posts.”

I glared up at Carrington as he shooed away the crowd. He held his scythe against my nape without a hint of sympathy or mercy lingering in his eyes. I met his gaze head-on as he raised his weapon and chopped down.


The mission was easy. Too easy. We broke our record in completion speed. The Ones trusted Harvick too much to question his source of information. So did I, but I wanted to know. How could he possibly have known where the captured were kept?

I wracked my brain, trying to figure it out. When nothing made sense in two whole days, I teleported to Harvick’s office. He was staring intensely into space before noticing my sudden presence.

“I don’t understand,” I said bluntly. “What happened on Monday? How did you know?”

Harvick’s shoulders fell when he saw me, almost as if he relaxed. “Roman.”

“Yes?”

“Sit down. I’ll tell you.”

Well, that was a lot easier than I expected.

A few minutes later, my jaw reached the ground. “Hazel and Zachary did that? I did that?”

Harvick shrugged. “She provided solid proof.”

“An ability to grant any wish…,” I murmured. My mind instantly drifted to resurrection. If Hazel really tried, could she bring Ashton back?

“It’s not as omnipotent as it sounds,” Harvick interrupted. “Each wish takes a toll on her equivalent to the request. If she wished someone back alive, she’d most likely have to exchange her life for it.”

I deflated like a stabbed balloon. “I see.”

The next time I saw Hazel was about a week later. She tagged along in my mission in Vancouver. Every time I looked at her, I saw Ashton’s shadow. Agreeing to help her during, apparently, her second time reliving last Monday was the second time I willingly went out of my way for someone. The first time was for Ashton. We weren’t allowed to go outside, but the idiot snuck out so often that covering for him became my second nature.

I blinked. I was wandering down the coast with Hazel. The last thing I remembered seeing was a glass door. It was one of my memory gaps, but at the same time, I recalled bits and pieces of what happened during the time I should’ve forgotten.

Just then, Hazel let out a long breath. Confused, I glanced at her. She beamed at me, then said, “Thanks, Ashton. I feel much better.”

I halted and stared at her unblinkingly. For once, I adopted Zachary’s tone and demanded, “What did you just call me?”

A crazy thought suddenly entered my head. If it were true, a lot of inexplicable incidents could be explained. I panicked and grabbed Hazel’s arm, recklessly teleporting us to a rooftop. I used a trick to confirm my suspicions.

“Roman always had a feeling that you were there. He was just too afraid to admit to himself, and since no one said anything, he dismissed it as the shadows of his past haunting him. He doesn’t deserve to live painfully for the rest of this eternal life. At the very least, he’d know that he’s not alone. Since you can see things through his eyes, I’m sure he can do the same for you, too.”

She met my glare with burning flames in her eyes, the fiery shimmer in them reminding me of Zachary. She flawlessly hit everything I avoided in my subconscious. Any doubts I might’ve had about her flew out the window.

I suddenly recalled the many moments that Hailee shared gossip with me. These days, she always came to me with a giddy expression and said Hazel and Zachary could be a thing. It made sense now. Amused, I brought Hazel back with me to the living room of the base. “I finally understand why Zachary’s so infatuated with you,” I said, leaving it at that.

The moment I teleported to my room, I sent a weary glance at the mirror in the bathroom. One second, I stood by the sink. In the next, I found myself leaning on the door.

Ashton was trying to confirm Hazel’s words.

I rushed to the desk in my room. My hands trembled as I pulled out a piece of paper and dug through the drawers for a pen. I sat myself down and waited. Not too long after, I suddenly saw two words written on the paper.

Hey, Row.

I let out a shaky breath and, for a second, my eyes stung. Only Ashton ever called me Row. For lack of better words, I wrote, You’ve been here the whole time.

When I blinked again, several paragraphs covered the page. I glanced at the alarm clock in my room. It’d been over half an hour since I wrote my sentence.

There’s something you need to know that I’ve never told anyone else. The last time I snuck out of our room, I overheard our mother speaking to our new butler. He didn’t understand why the entire household treated the two of us like outcasts, even when we demonstrated prodigious abilities. Our mother said that she couldn’t be happier that her children were strong, but twins born in the Anderson family were cursed.

ONE OF THEM IS BOUND TO DIE AND TRANSFER HIS POWER TO THE OTHER.

I eventually figured it out. Everybody in the household looked at us that way because they knew that one of us soon faced death. Our parents avoided interacting with us to lessen the heartache they’d feel when one of us dies.

One of us was destined to become dual-ability-wielding. A vampire like that was fearsome and would attract far too much attention for the conservative Andersons. For generations, the “twins curse” was passed down by word only. The lack of documentation prevented other families from finding out our secret. Instead, word spread outside that the Andersons were cold and loveless. It helped us stay safe, that is, until the vampire hunters broke in. To this day, I don’t know how they found us.

Next, me. The truth is, I’m not actually here. You alone can wield my telekinesis, but since you never knew it should happen, you never attempted to use it. If you try now, you’d be able to. “Ashton” is only a dissociative personality created to protect you. I’m not “consciously alive” or anything like that.

Ashton is dead. I am dead. Eventually, as you come to peace with yourself, I believe I would disappear. And that’s the way it should be. I’m just glad that I got to live ten more years with my little brother beyond my death. Knowing that you’re surrounded by good people relieves me. Besides, you’re almost eighteen. You can take care of yourself now.

For so long, I didn’t let you know that I existed. As a seven-year-old, I was scared that I’d disappear once and for all if you didn’t need me. I delayed the truth and waited until you were ready to accept that my death was inevitable. But that delay kept prolonging. There was always so much malice and sadness in you. I didn’t know what to do. Can I ask you to forgive me for that, Row?

Before I knew it, the page was stained with two drops of tears. I quickly wiped my face. I tried to telekinetically pull my alarm clock to me. Just as Ashton said, it worked.

I turned back to the letter. I could plainly imagine his sanity fall apart as he approached the end. His handwriting was that of a child’s, but his language and depth of emotion definitely didn’t belong to a kid.

“Of course I can’t hold a grudge against you for something like that,” I said aloud, to which I responded, “I’m glad.”

I froze for a second, then picked up the pen and scribbled Don’t do that. It’s weird.

My own voice replied, “Why? This is incredible! Also, I write slow, so….”

I sighed, chuckling, then put the pen down. “You turned out exactly like I thought you would, Ashton.”

“Funny and totally charming?”

“Childish and annoyingly jolly.”

“Hey!”

I smiled. “But I guess totally charming works, too.”

After that, we spent hours talking to each other. To the outside world, I had a perpetual grin fixed on my face and talked and laughed to myself. Before I knew it, a few days passed, and my stomach grumbled.

“Gotta eat,” said Ashton, though with my voice.

I left our room and made my way to the kitchen. I ran into Hailee, who just opened the fridge. I beamed at her. “Hi, Hailee!”

“Hey, Ashton,” she greeted back, smiling. She tossed me a juice box.

I caught it with my left hand, then returned to my usual monotonous voice. “Bye, Hailee.”

“See you later, Roman.”

“Wait, what?! Roman?” I heard Hailee burst out in surprise five seconds later. Ashton snickered out loud.

“You’re so childish,” I remarked.

“You played along,” my own voice responded. Someone who just passed by glanced back in confusion. But I had to admit that I was having fun.

Just as my hand landed on the doorknob, I suddenly remembered. “Oh, Hazel.”

“Hm?”

“I haven’t seen her or Zachary in a while.”

“Ah, them,” he murmured. “They got into a huge fight, apparently. Both of them are off somewhere to take a break.”

Ashton opened the door and walked us into the room. I then stopped us. “Wait, how do you know?”

“Hailee talks to me a lot, which is why you often see her first after your ‘memory gaps.’”

I raised the juice box in my hand to my mouth. “I hope they’re okay.”

Ashton fell silent for a minute. Rather unusual. I asked, “Ashton?”

No response.

A sense of dread immediately flooded into my chest, and I clutched my head. “Ashton? Ashton, don’t leave me again! Answer me!”

My own voice responded once more, “I’m here, I’m here! Sorry, I spaced out.”

I exhaled in relief. “Spaced out? What were you thinking about?”

“I’m just surprised you were worried for their safety.”

“Whose?”

“Zach and Hazel.” Ashton walked to the bathroom mirror and smiled at it as if he was speaking to me directly. “You were isolated and detached. But do you feel a slight sense of belonging now?”

I stared back at my own dark brown eyes. They shifted down, avoiding Ashton’s gaze. “I guess so. Well, they turned out to be very different from my first impression.”

“It feels good to be able to trust others, right?”

My eyes shot up to meet my own. I was about to ask how he knew what I was thinking, but I reasoned that it was probably because he was my inner conscious.

“You haven’t had that feeling for ten years now,” Ashton said, more to himself than to me. I wracked my brain to figure out what he was thinking, as I still had no access to his thoughts. I blinked at the mirror, waiting for him to speak until I abruptly realized.

“You think now that I have friends to trust, I don’t need you anymore?” I questioned, almost accusingly. His silence was enough of a response. My mouth opened, but Ashton’s words flowed out, “I am born from your weakness, from your inability to accept that it wasn’t your fault. I’m only the incarnation of your desire to have a loved one by your side. My vanishing is a good thing since it means that your wish is fulfilled and––”

“You can’t be replaced,” I said, shaking.

“You didn’t replace me,” he quickly clarified. “More like you’re finally willing to start again.”

“But your death was my fault! If I didn’t panic––”

“Row,” he interrupted. I hesitantly locked eyes with myself in the mirror again. “I don’t want you to wallow in this forever. One of us was bound to die at a young age. If anything, I left you alone. But now, you’re no longer on your own.”

I stared, unable to reply. I had lived for years, wondering if Ashton blamed me for that night. My instinct was to say no, but I couldn’t convince myself. Now here he was, speaking in my voice, telling me that he was glad I was the one to survive.

I exhaled softly. “Okay, I’ll think about that.”

A smile cracked on my lips. “Yeah.”

For the next few days, Ashton appeared less and less. The more I came to terms with the past, the more he faded.

I stuck a straw in my juice box, then walked into the dining room. Hailee sat there, anxiously scrolling through her phone. She didn’t seem to pay attention to the screen, only rapidly going through page after page.

Usually, I’d instantly teleport away from what appeared to be a troublesome situation, but this time, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

Her gaze darted to me. “Oh, Roman. Hazel won’t tell me where she is. Zach can’t find her, either. If this continues another day, we should get Vivian. She could be in trouble.”

“How is flipping through some web page on your phone helping?”

“I just do that when I’m stressed!” She coughed. “Grab me a juice box, please!”

I nonchalantly used telekinesis to open the fridge, levitate a box, close the fridge, and set it down on the table. Hailee’s jaw dropped. “Uh… Ashton?”

“Nope, still me,” I mumbled. “Ashton’s gone.”

Suddenly, both of our ears picked up the loud thumping sounds on the surface. We glanced at the ceiling. “I’ll go check it out,” I said, then teleported. I hid on a tree and saw a large band of vampire hunters speeding past us in several cars. Two trucks followed behind; the kind that carried the silver cage used to contain vampires.

I teleported back to Hailee and explained the situation. She quickly connected her telepathy to Zachary. Her eyes darted to me in uncertainty. At the same time, France burst in through the elevator. I almost forgot he existed. Seeing us, he zoomed over. “Where’s Hazel? Where’s Zach?”

France and I both turned to Hailee, who, after spacing out for another minute, said, “He says she’s fighting him, using Devyn Dawson’s weapon.”

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