Cashew felt numbed inside as he slowly made his way around the room, collecting new supplies that he will use in the next week, drearily, with the faintest presence of mind. He used a minimum consciousness to go through his list - the list he had previously scribbled on when he was still full of anger and ambition at killing Monsuta in the name of revenge. Neither the sewing kit, the wires, the tape nor the pair of straps that Cashew picked up had any connection to his actual thoughts, which in all honestly were a huge mess, if they were there at all. The constant strain he felt mentally and physically this time around in town had finally accumulated to a point where Cashew might as well have been a walking corpse, and Monsuta was no better. He hadn’t spoken to anyone since both had told their findings, while Monsuta was casually having a conversation with a terrified Shirley. Upon the moment that the two were about to leave, as if under a spell, Shirley waved them a dreamy goodbye and went back to her experiment. Cashew didn’t think much of it, not much of anything actually as he functioned like a machine, robotically following their usual routine of going back to the mansion, and eventually they made their way to their horses.
A collective whispering from around pulled Cashew back into the world, slowly taking in sounds and smells once more, and getting a fragment of conscious thought back for a moment. He first heard the dull and heavy footsteps that their feet made as they were dragged across the ground. Then he took note of the slow turning of pages and sighs that Monsuta managed to express whilst reading a book (more out of out of habit as there was obvious lack of interest). Then Cashew noticed how he felt an emptiness in his own heart, looking up and around to see a grey world, void of colour and feeling. It was at that moment that he found that the initial whispering actually came from the villagers. They were unusually scarce, hidden within shadows of windows and alleyways, as if hiding from something or someone. Cashew would even say that they looked scared of himself, and cowered even more as the two men passed. He used what little energy he had left to try and strain his ears for distinguishing what they were whispering about.
“Looks like him doesn’t he?”
“... brought too much suffering, he has”
“...same feeling, doesn’t he?”
“He certainly looks like him.”
These comments continued the whole of their journey through town and Cashew realised that they were all directed towards his companion. It only struck him after Monsuta had fallen asleep on horseback and they had left the city center that today was the last day of summer and it was supposed to be the busiest market day of the week, yet none of the villagers had set up their shops, and not even the children nor elders were out playing and enjoying the fresh air. In fact they all looked more shrivelled, as if stress and lack of sleep had caused their skin to retrieve into the recesses of their very bone; as if a sickness had possessed this part of the land, and some type of disease plagued their lives with which not a single soul who lived here could escape.
At a similar time, Cashew also realised that he was going back to the abode of a vampire. It had not fully struck him yet how bizarre of a fact that was, especially with him returning willingly even after knowing that. Cashew was simply doing as he had done for the past couple of months upon returning from town, and didn’t even register how fragile his life was around such a predator. A slow, sickly panic began to rise in his stomach, rising up to his throat and nearly suffocating him. He frantically began to tug at his horse’s reins, trying to turn the animal around, but it was to no avail. The creature sped swiftly on, not even with the slightest twitch from the sudden tugs, and continued obediently down the path her master had ordered. Cashew despairingly looked around and was seriously considering jumping off and risk breaking a leg when his eyes fell upon the sleeping face of Monsuta. His thoughts immediately began to subside, and he remembered that if the other wanted to kill him, he could have done so easily. Cashew realised that in the countless nights that the two spent together, the blonde had never once extracted any of his blood, nor had he shown any threat or danger towards him. It was the same man who had employed him, the same man who had shared his hobbies and his interests with him, and the same man who could express looks of joy, surprise and sadness with the most genuine of heart.
“Then I must truly find out if Monsuta is really the monster all those books about vampires had portrayed, and I will get the answer from his own mouth.”
They arrived to the mansion not long after, and to Cashews mild dismay, before he had a chance to say anything, Monsuta had motioned for him to sit in the living room and wait for him till he took care of the horses. Cashew did just that, and the next time the two met, his mind was fresh and full of new determination.
“Answers, yes. And when you give...”
“Those answers, you will give some too.”
Sitting on opposite ends of the couch, there was an air of stiffness in the room, but soon enough the slow and short conversation grew and grew.
“I guess I will start from the fact that I am a vampire,” Monsuta shifted uncomfortably but nevertheless continued. “I am indeed the monster that you perceive, with sharp fangs and a desire for blood. I can’t taste normal, human food and my eyes change in accordance to the moon. As I’ve mentioned before, they serve as a reminder that every 10 years, there is a checkpoint, of sorts, to which we vampires get a strong urge to drink blood. Our eyes will flash a couple of moons before the event, as a warning, because if we don’t drink anything on that day, we have a high possibility of loosing all control over our bodies for the next few days- turning into some sort of monstrous fiend, driven only by instinct and primal urges. This is problematic, as you can imagine, since it brings a lot of attention to us and is the reason you have terrifying stories of us. There are a handful of vampire identities which were exposed this way and have since been hunted down, even though this phenomena occurs because that vampire didn’t want to drink human blood anymore. I assure you that even myself, have been blood-free for the past 20 years and will continue to do so, locking myself up from the world with the help of Sasha and Alphy on the week of the red moon. You will go back to town and if you so wish it, and it is perfectly understandable if you do, then we will never see each other again.” Monsuta let Cashew think about what he just said for a few moments before he continued. “Now that you know you are safe from me, the next thing I would like tell you is why I have decided to not drink any blood for so long.”
This was when Monsuta’s expression took a dark twist and Cashew could see just how much he was straining to keep his composure. “I believe that you deserve nothing but the truth, after all the things you’ve gone through and especially with what I... did to your family. Trust me, if I had known I would never have asked you...”
“Please continue, I’m here to hear the truth.”
“Well, of course. Right. Then I’ll tell you about what happened 20 years ago. My brother, sister, our parents and myself were out satisfying our thirst in the name of the red moon. It had been a couple of decades by now since I was sick of killing and of being a vampire, but my parents were extremely hard on all of us, hammering down nearly every day on the fact that to kill is in our nature and we must uphold our status of top-predator as our only goal. My siblings had long stopped questioning and justifying their actions, and our parents utilised their preachings to turn them into hellish killing machines. Nevertheless, they were my only family and I still held them all dear to my heart. Every passing day made me sicker as I killed and killed. I began to never sleep in fear of the nightmares, but I stayed in fear of the consequences upon my life from leaving. As eldest son, I got to choose the last family that we were to feast on for that night, and I chose yours as I only sensed two bodies inside, as opposed to the usual five or eight that the rest of my family picked. For some reason you were terrified before we came, and the loss of your scent cost you your parents. My mind and soul was so tainted by then, that my conscience began to manifest as a physical pain. It was then that I secretly pledged that I would kill no more after the death of your parents. I no longer cared if I lived or died from the consequences, and is therefore why I took a memoir from the place that I spilled last blood, a spoon, to remind me of that. But that night something unimaginable occurred, where I had no clue that by leaving earlier than the rest of my family, I would find myself alone for the next 20 years. You see, a mere human had managed to kill my mother, my father, my sister and brother all in one night. It is unfathomable that such a thing could have occurred. Nearly a whole family of vampires, and not just any vampires for we had a long and prestigious lineage, to perish and so instantly? Such a thing has never happened in thousands of years! Free at last of my responsibilities, I took my most prized belongings, mostly books and my sister’s piano, and moved to a forest to be alone. I found that this house was an hour away from a town that had been untouched by the wrath of vampires and I realised that I could atone more by increasing my suffering if I had a living, breathing human by my side. Then when I got to know you, I finally realised how my family could have died - you, Cashew, have a rare alteration to your blood which makes it odourless in high amounts of fear. But even if this allowed you to be undetectable, you still had to somehow kill the vampires... which you did using your rusty knife.”
Cashew’s confusion from the last sentence only increased with Monsuta’s unreadable expression. It was stone hard and cold, but without the slightest hint of hatred and anger as he told his tale.
“I merely used a knife my mother had gifted me before her moments of death...” Cashew managed to mumble, “I... I was overcome with grief and rage to think of what I was doing and killed them as if they were any normal murderer... first with your sister, and then two more who came round the corner... it’s actually quite ironic that I took this job to kill your parents, only to find that I already had.”
“And it was exactly because of that knife, a special kind of rust mixed in with your unique blood and sweat of desperation, which poisons a vampire’s blood in seconds. An element of surprise may have also been in your favour. Actually, another reason I took the spoon was because I’d heard of this rumour that vampires could die from rust and even wished that the spoon would poison me, but it seems that it never did.”
“Well that’s because that spoon is made of stainless steel, you goof” Cashew stretched and rose to get rid of a cramp in his leg. He proceeded to walk around the room until flopping back down onto the couch, rubbing his face with his hands. He thought for a while, letting his expression simmer down to a blank, cold slate to match that of Monsuta’s, before he perked up once more. “If you wanted to repent or whatever, why did you choose an “odourless” human? Isn’t that against your purpose?”
“Lets say my interest for your rarity got the better of me... and I sort-of chickened out since having a human that smelt all the time would mean there’s a higher chance of me to kill them, and that disgusted me.”
“Fine, then here’s one more questions, I only killed three people, never four. And it wasn’t entirely myself which killed them. My memory is extremely hazy, but someone possessed my when I touched a strange ring and soon after I blacked out. Any ideas?”
This statement brought a long silence to the room. Monsuta stared wide-eyed at Cashew, till Cashew thought that his eyes could go no wider.
“That is news indeed...” Monsuta finally whispered. “It sounds like you touched a special ring which my brother took over and controlled you with. I was never... close with my brother. Compared to my sister, he had been far worse with murder, easier to manipulate, and that often resulted in us falling out. Take my advice and if you see someone with my exact appearance except with black hair, avoid him at all costs.” Monsuta then looked up uncertainly at Cashew, as if debating on how he should phrase the next thing he wanted to say. “Of course, now that I finished with the most important details, if you would like to leave, I completely understand and could bring you a horse immediately. I could move entirely if you wish, so as to be further away from you, Shirley and Merl, and will restart my repentance, truthfully this time, with a different human being who’s blood I can smell...”
“There you go again about repenting!” Cashew suddenly jumped up with annoyance, “look, it’s not your fault you’re a vampire. If you even think for a second that you can get rid of me after all the hard work I’ve put into the garden and trying to kill you, then you’ve got another thing coming. If it holds you any comfort, you said my blood smells sweeter than any one else’s sometimes, correct? Well then be satisfied with what you’ve got until you get struck down by me. Only me, you got that?”
The sudden outburst caught both of them off guard, where even Sasha and Alphy, who were listening not far away, dropped their mouths wide open.
“You really won’t go? Even after all that I’ve told you today?” Monsuta jumped up with his old expression of juvenile happiness rushing back into his face.
“Weren’t you listening?” Cashew retorted, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden, “and don’t you dare look so happy, in fact, go find a needle in a haystack for all I care! Hopefully you’ll die of boredom, but with your annoying luck, you’ll probably find it in no time.”