Chapter 5: I freak out around elevators
No matter how hard I tried to get myself to get into the elevator to go back to my room, I just couldn’t do it, I was scared.
I told Zaiden that I would just stay up on deck while he slept the rest of the day away and that I would be waiting for him to come for me after dark. He didn’t pressure me and left me there.
Most of the other humans had gone back to their rooms, maybe feeling safer there or maybe to go cry their eyes out. If I were to go back to my room I know I would fall in the latter category. I didn’t allow myself to think too much about what was really happening.
I made myself at home on one of the deck chairs next to the pool and without worrying that I was still wearing my pyjama bottoms with a jacket that clashed with it and boots that didn’t go with either, I fell asleep.
The sun was nice and I dreamt about bright colours that flashed in front of my eyes.
A shadow passed over my face and I only relaxed when it was gone. A moment later the shadow came again but this time it didn’t go away. “Wake up, you can’t sleep here.”
I was disoriented and half asleep when I answered her, “Go away Janessa, I don’t want to get up.”
“Actually, my name is Nadine.”
My eyes snapped open and I was momentarily blinded by the sun as I looked at the girl in front of me, “Sorry.” She wasn’t a vampire; was my first assessment. She was lean and seemed a little younger than me. She had beautiful blue eyes and long blonde hair.
“Usually you offer someone your name when they introduce themselves to you.” she said.
“Oh,” I smiled bashfully, being caught staring, “I’m Ash.”
“Ash.” she said slowly, “Cool name.”
“Thanks. So,” I said, looking at the broom in her hands and the cloth hanging out of her pocket, “You work here?”
She nodded, “Every day for the last five years.” My mouth fell open and she laughed, “Don’t worry, it’s fine. It’s not so bad here. We picked you up in New York, yeah?”
I nodded grimly, “Unfortunately.” she sat down on the deck chair next to mine. “Where are you from?”
She shrugged nonchalantly, “I don’t remember.” she only continued speaking when she saw I was watching her curiously. “You know what royals are right?” I nodded, “They only drink the blood of children, that’s why other vampires aren’t allowed to drink children’s blood.”
I felt nauseous, “That’s messed up.”
“They are gentler than other vampires though. I think a royal chose me when I was about four and I came to live on the ship. I was his food for six long years before I became too old for his taste and I was demoted to being a cleaner. So I was too young to remember where I came from but I do wonder sometimes.” Nadine looked up to the sky with a sigh.
That sounded awful but something about her math didn’t make sense to me, “But the vampires haven’t been in charge for that long.” I said with a small frown.
She laughed again, “You really think they just popped up suddenly eight years ago? They’ve been around for more than a millennium, planning their invasion and getting their own politics sorted out before attempting something so big.”
“I’d never thought of that before.” I admitted quietly. That meant people have been suffering because of the vampires for a lot longer than I’d initially thought. “You said the royals are gentler?”
She nodded, “They are more in control since they are the oldest vampires.”
I nodded slowly, that made sense. Nadine knew so much and there were so many questions I wanted to ask her. I decided to ask the one that was bothering me the most first, “What does it mean to the first noble?”
“The first noble is the first vampire created by the royal of his country. So he has the most power. The power decreases from there. Nobles are created by royals and ‘common’ vampires,” Nadine made quotation marks in the air “are created by nobles.” she frowned, “Why do you ask?”
“My master told me that he was the first noble.” I admitted, understanding what Zaiden had meant when he’d said that he was rather important.
Nadine looked impressed with me and she patted my shoulder, “Bravo, I’m impressed; you are the second most important food item on this ship.” She puffed out his chest, “Of course, back in the day I’d been the most important food item on the ship…”
I laughed and playfully punched her shoulder, “Are we allowed to swim?” I asked Nadine, trying to find a lighter subject to talk about. It was easy to talk to her and I found it hard to believe that she was a complete stranger.
“I don’t know what your master allows.” She said slowly, “But I don’t think he’ll mind. You should ask him rather than risk it.”
“Wise words.” I agreed, “Shouldn’t you be working?”
Nadine shot up, “Oh crap! I completely forgot!”
I laughed, “I’ll help you if you want.”
“No!” She said harshly and I was taken aback for a moment. She sighed regretfully, “I’m sorry I snapped at you.” she looked me in the eyes. “One thing you must understand it that the chosen ones don’t work. They aren’t allowed to.” She said quietly.
“Oh.” I said; feeling a bit deflated. I smiled at her again, “But surely I’m allowed to follow you around to keep you company while you work?”
She smiled as well, “I’m sure the vampires can’t ban that.”
For the rest of the daylight hours I trailed after Nadine while she cleaned the deck.
She was a fascinating person and I considered her a friend. She offered to get me my lunch that had been delivered to my room when she heard of my fear. Only then did I realise how hungry I was and I gladly told her my room number. When she returned with wide eyes she told me she’d forgotten how luxurious the chosen ones’ rooms were.
It was strange how she referred to me as one of the chosen ones, it made me feel like I was the lead character in some book.
We were just saying our goodbyes as the sun started to go down, because she preferred to be locked up in his room when vampires roamed, when the air turned cold behind me.
Nadine looked at the vampire behind me and I turned around to face him. I smiled “Zaiden. You’re early.”
His eyes moved from Nadine to me and he smiled, “I was hungry.”
I didn’t even have time to comprehend what he meant by that before his fangs sunk into my neck. I stiffened a scream as he drank my blood. It stung terribly and I held onto him for support. It didn’t feel like he was going to drain me. He licked the wound when he’d had enough. The first thing I noticed was that I hadn’t passed out and I looked at him questioningly.
He smiled, “I like to leave some so I can have it right before sunrise.”
I nodded, “I understand.” When I looked back to where Nadine had been standing there was no one there and I frowned at her sudden disappearance.
Zaiden licked his bloody lips when he looked at me, “You’ve made a friend?”
“Yeah, she seems nice enough.” I said.
Zaiden and I joined a few other vampires who were also sitting on the deck and some humans brought us food. I ate like I’d never had food before and the vampires all laughed at me. There wasn’t much to do but listen to the vampires as they talked through the night. I merely sat there half asleep at Zaiden’s side while all the other humans the other nobles had stared at me and my ‘strange’ ways. I was exhausted so it wasn’t surprising that I fell asleep after a while of listening to their insignificant chatter.
“Hey.” Zaiden prodded my cheek, “Wake up.” He said in a singsong voice.
I groaned and opened my eyes slowly, “What’s going on?” I asked with a voice that crackled with sleep.
“I have to go sleep now.” He said as he pulled me to my feet, “You should also get used to sleeping at day and staying awake at night. I was bored with my other company and I only let you sleep because you’ve had a rough day.”
I yawned and rubbed my eyes, “Oh, sorry. I’ll sleep today.”
He patted my head “Good girl. You can sleep for the next two days if you want, your co-workers have to have a chance to work as well.”
There was a pause in our conversation and I took the time to wake up completely and understand what he meant by what he’d said. Zaiden watched my neck longingly and I sighed as I tilted my head, “Go on, it is the only purpose I have.”
Zaiden didn’t have to be invited twice and I winced at the throbbing pain. Over his shoulder I spotted a set of curious green eyes watching us.
It was the vampire whom I’d taunted a few days prior the who one who I speculated had healing spit. He was looking right at us with some unreadable expression in his dark eyes.
I quickly looked away from him, pretending I hadn’t seen him.
When Zaiden had had enough he held me tightly, “Are you alright?”
“Bit dizzy.” I admitted.
“No, I meant are you alright staying up here?” He repeated his question for me to understand.
“I’m going to have to face my fears sooner or later. I’ll scrape all my courage together later in the day and go inside.” I gave him a reassuring smile.
“Be careful not to go to the lower floors, ok?” He said firmly as he turned to leave.
“Of course.” I said “Good…day?” I said uncertainly and he laughed as he walked away.
“Good day.” and then he was gone.
I could still feel magical healing spit vampire’s intense green eyes on me so I went to watch the sun rise on the other side of the deck. Once I arrived at the other side I realised that it must be where all the common vampires had their food. Unconscious bodies were lying everywhere and a few last vampires hovered over them. Blood was everywhere and I suddenly understood why Nadine had made such a quick getaway the night before. It was sickening.
I felt nauseous as I spun around and headed back to where the nobles had been the night before. I felt safer there and I wanted to lie down.
I made up my mind to take the elevator and go to my room.
The plan was fool proof until I arrived at the elevator. I stared at it and I couldn’t bring myself to go any closer to it. I paced the floor in front of the elevator nervously as I grew frustrated with myself. I knew what the reward would be if I got below deck: a nice soft bed with two days to do whatever I wanted, but I couldn’t do it.
If a bird flies over my head in the next five seconds, I promised myself, I’ll do it. Ironically a whole flock of birds flew over my head just as I’d finished bargaining with myself and I groaned. I took a step closer to the elevator and lift my hand up to press the button but I let it drop to my side again.
I kicked the doors with all the strength my weak legs had in them, “Stupid! Die! Die!” The one thing that had completely slipped my mind as I was panicking about getting to my room was my dear old green eyed friend.
“What are you doing?” he asked with an amused frown.
I crossed my arms over my chest in a frustrated motion. I was embarrassed that the one I’d taunted had seen me have my breakdown. I didn’t understand how I could have even forgotten about him, “Nothing.” I huffed.
“Well I’m going down now so…” he lazily pointed at the door I was blocking.
I stepped out of his way, “Please, go first.”
“You are aware that more than one person can fit in an elevator at a time, right?” he asked as he came closer.
“Of course, I’m just…” I trailed off, my mind not helping by coming up with a nice lie.
“Waiting for something?” he offered.
“Sure.” I said, thankful for his assumption.
He leaned against the wall next to the elevator, “Then I’ll wait with you, my little PA.”
“What?” I exclaimed. I didn’t want him to wait with me! What was I even waiting for? My courage to pull itself back together?
“I’ll wait with you to pull yourself together.” He said nonchalantly.
“How did you know-” I started, absolutely horrified when he cut me off with his stupid velvet voice.
“You were having a complete breakdown about pushing the elevator button and you mentioned something about your fear to Zaiden earlier.” He raised a brow and smirked evilly, “So elevators, hu?” I didn’t answer him and he said, “Interesting.”
“You were eavesdropping?” I asked him accusingly and he merely shrugged, “Zaiden is the first noble you know, he won’t like you listening in on his conversations, he might kill you.”
“Are you worried about me?” He grinned cockily.
“No,” I resorted plainly, “I’m threatening you.”
“I’m absolutely terrified.” He said and put a hand over his heart in mock. “Do you really think I fear him?”
“I fear him, so I think you should too.” I stated pigheadedly and only realised how stupid it sounded the moment it was out of my mouth.
He snorted and looked towards the rising sun.
“Shouldn’t you get going?” I asked as I nodded in the direction of the sun.
“I’m waiting with you until you take the elevator.” He stated stubbornly and we fell into a short silence, “I’m Alexander, if you were wondering.”
“I wasn’t.” I snapped at him and wondered how long he was prepared to stand so close to the sunlight. Admittedly I had briefly wondered what his name was since taunting him on that fateful day.
“Too bad then, you know now anyway.” He tilted his head when I didn’t say anything, “What’s yours?”
“None of your business.”
He shrugged, “Fair enough.” He smiled, “I’ll call you Noyb then for short.”
I fumed and shot him a hard glare. The sun continued its steady pace into the air and the shadow he was standing in was getting smaller by the minute and I hoped he burned.
It didn’t seem like he was getting nervous at all. He merely watched me and I watched the sun. The sun was about to touch his foot when he asked, “Are you waiting for the sun to burn me?”
“No.” I answered too quickly for it to be true and he smirked.
Alexander stood up straight and walked right into the sun, “Sorry to disappoint you, Noyb, but the sun doesn’t hurt me all that much.”
I cursed him under my breath.
“So now that you know that… will you take the elevator?” Alexander’s eyes challenged me.
“Fine.” I snapped and without even thinking about it I hit the button.
We waited a moment for the elevator to come to us and I was calm until the doors opened. My breath froze in my throat and I stiffened completely.
Alexander held open the door with one hand as he watched me with a confused expression, “Well?”
I tried to move my shoulders to loosen them up but it was harder than I thought it would be. I shifted around uncomfortably.
He abruptly let go of the door and made his way to my frozen form. He scooped me up in his arms. I instinctively put my arms around his neck to keep myself from falling, “Close your eyes.” he ordered.
Even if I wasn’t sure what he was doing I closed my eyes. It barely felt like we were moving at all but he suddenly set me down on my feet again. I opened my eyes for a brief moment, only to see that we were inside the elevator. Alexander pressed my face into his chest and held me tightly against him, “Don’t look, close your eyes and relax.”
I closed my eyes and supported myself against him as I heard the doors close. The elevator started moving and silence surrounded us for a moment.
“Breathe.” He told me huskily in my ear.
I sucked in a breath and realised I hadn’t been breathing at all since the doors had closed.
“Good.” He said when I let out a shaky breath. “So why the bizarre fear of elevators?” I shivered as I thought back to that day and my breathing became edgy again. His grip tightened, “Stay calm, you’re fine.”
He was right, I was fine now. I was used to them drinking my blood but that first experience had just been too traumatic for me. “Vampires.” I managed to say, “No place to run.”
He didn’t say anything for a long time but eventually an, “Oh,” escaped his lips.
I felt us stopping and heard the doors opening. I opened my eyes. He steadily led me out but didn’t let go of me, “What happened?” he questioned.
I hesitated only a moment, “The first vampire who drank from me trapped my sisters and I in an elevator.” I sighed, “Fifty seven floors later we were all passed out on the cold metal floor. There was blood everywhere and my sisters’ screaming had been piercing in the small box.” I looked him in the eyes, “It might not sound so bad to you but to little old me,” I shivered, “It was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen.”
Alexander’s eyes were cold as he watched me, “How old were you?”
“It happened on the day I turned eight.”
He hung his head, “I’m sorry.” He pushed my head back into his chest again.
“For what?” I asked, completely bewildered by his words and actions.
“I took some of your blood on your birthday, the anniversary of your worst memory.”
I laughed and wriggled out of his grasp. I put a decent amount of distance between us before I spoke, “Don’t worry about it. I’m used to it by now, I just freak out around elevators.”
He frowned, “You should try counting the multiples of the floors that you pass really fast and fit in as many as possible before the number changes again and then start anew with the new number.”
“I’ll try.” I said, “Where’d you hear about that?”
“I just came up with it.” he smirked.
“Do you know how to get to your room?” he asked seriously.
I hesitated, but I didn’t want him to help me so I said, “Yes.”
He watched me intently, “You’re lying.” I was about to protest when he continued, “Don’t lie again, your heart rate quickened too much for that to be the truth.”
I kept silent.
He sighed, “I thought so.” Alexander started walking away from me and waved me over, “Come on then, I’ll take you to your room.”
I followed him for a moment before I froze, “How do you know where my room is? How did you even know that this was the floor I needed to be on?” I was outraged, was he stalking me?
He sighed again, “You are a handful. I knew the floor because you were chosen by a noble and all their…um…”
“Food?” I offered in an irritated tone.
He smiled, “Food is on this floor. I don’t know where your room is but I’m going to follow your scent and lead you to where you lingered the longest.”
I narrowed my eyes at him; he was to cleaver for his own good. “Fine then. Lead the way.”
We didn’t speak as he took hallway after hallway and came to an abrupt stop in front of the map of the boat. He looked down at me, “You were here for a while.”
I tapped the map, “You don’t happen to know how to read one of these, do you? Zaiden doesn’t.”
“Sure.” Alexander said, “You want me to help you, Noyb?”
I scoffed angrily at the name but let him help me anyway.
When I finally understood the map I knew where my room was but I rather let him lead me anyway because I was curious as to if he would find it on his own.
He was about to pass my room when he stopped and looked at me, “This is your stop.” He said.
I nodded. “I’m impressed.” I admitted.
“So do I get to know your name now?” He asked, sounding quite hopeful.
I thought about it for a moment before I shook my head, “Nope. I don’t tell strangers my name.” I opened my door and stepped inside.
Alexander looked inside and made an impressed sound, “You’ve done well for yourself.”
“I try.” I said with a smirk.
“It’s too bad you don’t fit this room.” He continued.
“Why not?” I asked angrily.
“It might be because of what you’re wearing.” He said slowly as he looked me up and down.
The heat crept into my cheeks even though I fought against it, “Oh, shut up.” I tried to close the door but his foot was in the way.
“I’m just kidding.” He said, “But there should be some more…” he regarded me again, “Appropriate clothes in the cupboard for you.”
“Ok.” I said unsurely, “Good day to you, Alexander, and thank you.”
His lips parted in shock when I said his name and thanked him. He smiled and shrugged nonchalantly, “Think nothing of it. See it as payment for being my PA.” just like that he turned and started walking away.
I stepped into the hall again, “You still haven’t told me what that means.”
He stopped and turned to face me again, “I suppose I haven’t.”
“So what does it mean?” I asked excitedly.
“Tell me your name and I’ll tell you.” He bargained with a sadistic grin on his smug face. His eyes looked so alive in that moment he almost looked human.
“Never.” I told him with a sense of finality.
Alexander shrugged and walked away again, “Your choice.”
I went inside and the first thing I did was yank the closet open in search for something else to wear.
My cheeks were still on fire when I finally found a shirt that I deemed appropriate.