I hated work. It drained me and kept my instincts on high alert. There were so many people—so many memories whispering and slithering about.
It gave me hunger headaches.
I was standing in the backroom as people around me chatted during their break. I hated listening to the chatter of my coworkers.
“You should take a seat, don’t stand there and stare at your phone,” Karla, a small woman in her forties who was my manager, said to me as she walked past. My stomach retracts. She was cheery and talkative, but memories from getting bullied years ago in high school slid over her cheeks, sides, and back—her memories murmured about her getting slapped and kicked repeatedly. Once upon a time, I would reach out and grab strips of the memories making their way out of her to take a bite, but I was sick of them now. It was one of those things you lost affinity for overtime.
“Wern, Haruto is here.”
My head shoots up from my phone screen at the mention of that name. A co-worker laughs in the background.
“Are you sure Wern doesn’t love that man?”
I ignored the comment, tucking my phone in my pocket before making my way out of the break room. My break wasn’t over, but I didn’t want to risk the chance of Haruto getting what he needed and leaving. I only got to see him twice a month.
I walked into the main room, breathing deeply as my eyes darted around in search of him. As usual, the room was dotted with people waiting for their appointments. A lot of people who came were seemed defeated and quiet. It made sense, filling the forms for food assistance seemed to be a demeaning experience for most.
I guessed that was what had first attracted me to Haruto. He had walked up to the desk with a large smile and a chatty demeanor. His English pronunciation was poor, and so was his writing, but I had been very eager to help him fill out his forms for food assistance and give him his schedule, and not because of how happy he seemed, but because of how that exterior happiness clashed with what the memories and emotions that bubbled on his shoulders and chest told me.
Child abuse. Rape. Trafficking.
I had seen all those things flicker in the memories that dropped from him and sneered on his limbs and body, and yet the happiness he presented didn’t seem fake. I wondered why. I still don’t have an answer but if I had to guess it seemed like he was happy to get his life on track. As someone just working in the foodbank I couldn’t access a lot of information from him, but the coworker who had done his food assistance interview kept mentioning bits and pieces about the people they spoke to—including Haruto.
“He was trafficked here as a child—sold,” my co-worker had said, explaining Haruto’s confusing immigration status that we had to sort out first.
I had remembered just shrugging and walking away, but that information stayed with me—much like everything about Haruto did.
My chest fluttered at the sound of my name. I looked towards its direction, and sure enough, there was Haruto sitting down at the far end with his cheap android phone in his hands and a smile on his face.
I smiled, raising a hand to wave at him before looking down when my stomach stirred. I looked up again, noticing that he had stood up and tucked his phone in his pocket.
“You cut your hair,” I almost whispered to myself when he walked over to me, both hands in his pockets.
“Yes,” he said, cocking his head to the side. “I made it like yours.”
My chest squeezed up again, and I blinked, trying to give myself a moment to pause and reflect. I can explain many things, but how I behaved and interacted around Haruto wasn’t one of them.
Of course, when I met him, one of the first things I had noticed was his memories. It made me extremely hungry. Haruto is not like the other humans around, you see—memory intensity wise anyway. He’s dripping with things from the extreme. They overflowed. He leaves bits and pieces where he sits and when rests his body on surfaces. Some of the memories bumbled with a hint of red freshness, some of them greyed out and cracked, hinting at their oldness, and a lot of them slithered like liquid plastic or steamed around certain body parts.
He made me so hungry, but I wasn’t in the slightest interested in eating him.
He wouldn’t exist anymore if I did, and the idea—the idea of his non-existence—made me more upset than I was hungry.
My friend, Vincent, had once asked me if I was lonely when I explained my confusing behavior. Vampires didn’t have mates or packs—and clans were something for corpses with vampirism. We were solitary creatures, but like most other beings, we experienced loneliness in some form.
Vampires have done horrible things because of loneliness.
They’ve stolen children and people they claimed to “love” and made them immortal and their own by infecting them. There are vampires that actively lie to themselves. Creating pseudo families out of corpses, and appropriating the happiness of creatures without the curse of Lilith.
We were damned from the moment Lilith spilled her blood on the land and created demons. Amongst those demons were our ancestors.
Demons are the living embodiment of the seven deadly sins, vampires specifically, are an embodiment of gluttony. Other demons encourage these sins, while we feed on them. Other demons more graceful than us—more deserving than us. Less pathetic. My mother once mentioned to me sometime in the Second World War, that maybe one day God would see us differently—see that we were more victims than perpetrators.
I was twenty-two then, but small, like a human five-year-old. I had been young, yet skeptical of my mother’s words. I remember staring out into the darkness with her, watching as the bombing continued and left the roads in a mist of smoke and red fire.
“Is something wrong?” Haruto’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts. I looked at him with wide eyes before shaking my head. I seemed to think about the past a lot when I was around him.
“No, nothing,” I said, as my eyes focused on the little bead of a memory sitting on a scar on his collar bone.
I saw a small child quivering on a bathroom floor.
I saw a man stand above the said child with a belt ready to lash.
My stomach squeezed up.
“Nothing at all,” I repeated, looking into his dark eyes with a smile. “I should go and get your food supplies,” I said, using that as an excuse to leave the man I had been so excited to see.
There is one thing I was more afraid of aside from God’s wrath, and that was getting caught by humans.