Fire was everywhere. Though my eyes were closed, I knew the flames were licking up my helpless body. Why couldn't I move or scream? Why couldn't I flutter my eyelids to witness what was going on? Did they blind me? I started to panic. I tried desperately to twitch just a muscle; for that I would be grateful. No success.
Had my time at the asylum come to an end? I was tired of being treated as a freak. By my parents, my friends, by everyone! So what if I could see the future? It shouldn't matter. I liked being able to have visions. Seeing someone else's life work out made me feel like mine could, too. I was also a little jealous of whoever I happened to be watching that day. They could make their own descisions?! How lovely that must be! I was trapped by the owners of the asylum, forced to live my life the way they wanted me to.
And if they had decided to be rid of me, wasn't there a less cruel death than to be burnt at the stake ? The fire had now spread throughout my chest, captisizing my heart and now burned most painfully of all, at the tips of my fingers.
I thought of Rodney, wondering where he was. He was the only person who had looked out for me in the asylum, my only friend. Why wasn't he stopping them from burning me? Or did he simply just get here too late? Was I just a pile of melted skin and scorched bones? It sure felt that way...
The fire raged on.
"Jasper, must we?" asked Peter.
"Maria's orders," I replied in a dead monotone. "Let's go."
The newborns had lost their usefulness to Maria. She had just informed me that we had to destroy them. Today.
This was always a grueling task. I wasn't sure what to call it, but I could somehow feel every emotion radiating out of each newborn victim I destroyed, which made the disposal process a thousand times harder for me than it was for Peter. Mostly the newborn felt crippling fear, followed by pain. I tried not to let them feel pain too long. I tried to take care of them quickly, but I still felt enough.
Peter and I rounded up all of the newborns and lined them up. It was a sea of pale skin and sinister, frightened red eyes. These were once Maria's shiny new weapons. Now they were a little chipped, a little battered, a bit dingy, and they needed to be disposed of. All of the old tools lined up, their expressions like of cows waiting to be slaughtered. Peter and I each took one, to make the task last as short as possible. As usual, I became the victim. My name was now Maud, and I was thinking about the fiancee I had left behind to join the war. I was deeply regretfull that I would never see Jane, my baby sister, who was now not such a baby anymore. And, as Jasper's teeth neared my neck, the overwhelming fear he'd been waiting for crashed down on me, almost killing me itself. I hadn't been this afraid in the war, even. Jasper's teeth sliced my throat and my head toppled to the ground.
I sighed and piled Maud's remaints in a pile, taking a lighter from my pocket. The long flames licked up his joints and covered the air with think, purple smoke. Peter had just beheaded his victim and threw its body on the fire. I didn't check to see if it was one of my friends, I just called for the next, a young girl, sixteen when changed, named Lucy. I knew her quite well. She would sometimes speak to me and I was kind to her. She looked up at me, her crimson eyes wild with fear. I hoped the grimace frozen on my face assured her that I would never choose to do this to her. "Maria's orders," I repeated, then snapped her neck.
I was surprised at how long I burned; it felt like days. Maybe I was stronger than I thought. A few times I felt like I was actually defeating the fire, somehow putting it out, but I knew it was impossible. If Rodney never came to save me, there was no hope for my survival.
Or was there? At first it was just a small change, after many long hours of burning, but I felt as if I could think a little clearer, stop imagining the world on fire. Once or twice I think my fingers twitched.
After a few more countless hours--or maybe it was days, there was no way of knowing--the fire started to fade.
My first thought was, Rodney? I pictured him with buckets of water, pouring them on me to put me out. Was there enough water to put out this fire?
Rodney and I had been a well-matched pair. Nothing romantic, of course, just friendship. He worked at the asylum and when I arrived he looked after me, sensing my abandonment by my friends and family. There was something off about him. Rodney, I had always suspected, was not human. He was always cold and his eyes were always a sinister burgundy or black. I wanted to know his secret, but he never told me.
I remember the last time I saw Rodney very clearly.
We were taking a secret walk together through the woods, trying to be sneaky about it. I wasn't allowed out of the asylum for any reason at all, especially not with a worker.
We were walking along when Rodney's head suddenly whipped up. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared; for a second he looked so deadly. I was terrified. I followed his stare to a dark figure a hundred or so yards from us. I blinked, and suddenly the man was right in front of us, inhaling deeply. I flinched back from him ; he scared me. I suddenly knew this was an enemy. A vision flashed in my head. The man was there and I was in his arms. The man lifted his eyes and they were bright red. They glowed with my blood. I'm dead, I thought in horror, waiting for the man to act. At least I'm free from the asylum. At least I won't be burned at the stake.
Rodney still looked ready to kill, but suddenly he tossed me onto his back and ran with inhuman speed as far away from that man as he could. Eventually he stopped following and we hid in a cave that night. Rodney didn't sleep, but I did, waking occasionally.
The day after that was when the asylum must have found us and burned me.
Peter and I were about halfway through the newborns. Each of us tore another head off, picked it up, tossed it into the fire, with the body following quickly. It was so monotonous, but it never failed to horrify each of us.
The next victim in line stepped forward. She was a short little thing, with white-blond hair almost matching her skin. Her eyes were terrified, like the rest, but she also was watching Peter with a hint of pleading in her eyes.
Peter's form became very tense, and the emotions he was feeling towards her were tender and protective. I wasn't sure what to call it, as I had never experianced that kind of feeling before.
With a quick appologetic glance towards me, Peter shouted, "Run, Charlotte!" She bounded away, swift as a deer, faster than a cheetah. Peter followed and soon they raced side by side, eventually disappearing from my sight.
I turned toward the two hundred newborns with a sense of disgust. They all looked at me in a pitiful way, as if they were hoping I'd escape with them, too. Most of them were, in fact. This would take longer than planned without Peter. I was happy that Charlotte and Peter had escaped this horrible place where Maria ruled with a cruel hand, but this didn't lessen the dread or hate I felt to kill these newborns.
For one instant, Maria's angry face flashed in my mind. Red eyes glowing, lips pulled over teeth. Yes, she would kill me if I let these innocents go. While the thought of my impossibly horrible life ending was an intrueging thought, I couldn't treat a woman with such disrespect. I brought forth another victim.
The feeling of defeating fire grew stronger with every minute. I was able to think for minutes at a time, without loosing focus. I wiggled my toes and fingers, basking in the pleasure to do so again. The last few minutes of fire were directed at my heart. Was the asylum actually sticking a coal rod to my chest?
The fire stopped all together. I was in awe. I had forgotten what it felt like to not be in pain. I opened my eyes, searching for the pole I was surely tied to. There was nothing. Maybe it had burned up? Then I realized I was in the same cave that I had been in with Rodney a few days ago. It had just rained, and a puddle lied in front of the mouth of the cave. But first, tucked in a crack in the cave, was a note:
I regret to leave you feeling so confused and alone. I promised myself I wouldn't, but it's proved hard to keep that promise. Remember the man; his name was James. I'm going to try to hunt him right now, to make the world safer for you. I don't think I can win against him, but you are in no danger anymore. He, you, and I are vampires, in case you haven't figured it out. You would have eventually. Your blood smelled appetizing to him when we last met, and he was going to kill you. I regret ending your life this way, but I couldn't let him hurt you.
Until we meet again, if ever,
I held the note close to my chest, then tucked it into my pocket. I didn't resent Rodney at all, in fact I felt wonderful! I peered in the pond and was stunned by what I saw. I was still myself, but I was so much more beautiful!
After a few more hours of exploring my new self, I found out that I had the same inhuman speed as Rodney, and all of his qualities.
I was busy playing in the forest, weaving a maze between the trees and climbing them, enjoying freedom, when a sudden vision made me freeze.
It was a group of young vampires. One of them was honey blonde, tall, and muscular, obviously a leader, a soldier perhaps? He was standing infront of all the others, who looked terrified. As I watched in frozen shock and horror, he took one and bit its head off, throwing it into the fire. Did he just kill another vampire??? I couldn't see anything wrong with the group of vampires. By his grimace, I could tell that he didn't want to hurt anyone. Who was forcing him to, and why?
I sat down in the woods, still watching, mesmerized.
Maria came back just as I was finishing up. I regretting speaking to her of Peter's dissapearance, but it had to be done.
A knock on the door of her room made me feel silly. She could hear me from ten yards away; why knock? "Come in, Jasper!" she sang.
I entered with shaky, human-like steps. Why not cut to the chase? "Peter has gone," I said quietly.
Maria's lips pulled slightly over her teeth. She let out a small growl. "Why?" she asked.
"He felt...very strongly...about one of the newborns."
Maria hissed. "How could you let this happen, Jasper?"
"I don't know...I'm sorry, ma'am."
She brooded for a moment, feeling resentment and fury and she wanted revenge against Peter. I stiffened. Then her pessemistic feelings turned hopeful. Her eyes suddenly brightened. "Never mind. It does not matter! I still have you and as long as nothing happens to you, we will be fine." She was thinking about how I was the most talented and experianced vampire she owned, and I could easily do all her bidding without Peter's help.
I wasn't sure how I felt about this. I knew that I was Maria's favorite--the emotions radiating from her only backed up the truth--but I didn't want to owned. It didn't feel right, a vampire to own a vampire.I knew that I could track down Peter easily and travel with him, wherever he was. But I didn't want to be impolite to the woman whom I served, and that was the only reason that kept me there for so long.
Many weeks passed by, and they were blurry and meaningless.
One day, I left to go hunt. I took a detour through the woods and who happened to be standing there? Peter and Charlotte! I smiled at him. "Peter. Why have you left Maria?"
He gestured to Charlotte. "I have found something much better," he told me, and he described a seemingly wonderful existence where you ruled yourself and your choices were your own. I was intruiged, and I traveled with Charlotte and Peter for a time being.
The feeling of happiness from being separated from Maria didn't last long. I could feel my life was not complete. I was searching for something...but I didn't know what.
Some days were better than others.
I was happy to be alive, even if I was a vampire, and I knew that if I ever ran into the workers at the asylum, I would be strong enough to escape their grasp.
I hated to hunt people. It was wrong. I tried to resist, but I got too thirsty and just attacked without thinking. I felt like a monster.
I continued to watch the young man, who's name was Jasper Whitlock, carefully. He had finally escaped Maria, the woman who he was working for. He was traveling with two other vampires, Peter and Charlotte.
He looked happy...and yet he was depressed, I could tell. He obviously didn't like to kill humans to satisfy his thirt, either, and he also felt like a monster.
Oddly enough, without ever meeting him, Jasper became my only friend. He was the only one of my visions that I held onto, that I wanted. Others came and went, but I barely glanced at them.
I could also sense that Jasper's life was not complete. He was unhappy and he was looking for something, but he didn't know what it was himself. This made me strangely annoyed. I set out in his general direction, but he never paid attention to where he was, so I relied on his surroundings.
I picked up on the ways of vampires pretty quickly. I learned to stay out of sunlight, to keep clear of human civilization (except when neccesary), and I explored my speed, sight, and amazing reflexes.
Sometimes I watched Jasper hunt so I knew how to better. He knew how to do everything better than me! I wasn't used to that.
Finally a subconscious realization in Jasper's future gave me what I needed. He didn't know he was looking for me, but I knew, and was happy, but I didn't fully understand. How could he know I was out there without ever meeting me? But the future worked in strange ways and I was more determined than ever to find him.
I could tell that Peter and Charlotte were worried about me. They were alerted to my depression and it made them anxious. I tried to pretend like everything was fine, but it was impossible to mask it completely.
The hunting became too much. I was tired of draining victim after victim of blood, so much worse feeling their pain than a vampires.
A few months of this and I had had enough.
I went to Peter one morning and hesitated outside his door. We were living in an abandoned cottage with a few rooms way out in the middle of the woods, away from most humans. There was a hiking trail nearby, though rarely used.
"Come in, brother," I heard Peter say.
I stepped inside his room. He had just changed into fresh clothes for the day.
"Peter..." I hesitated. He cocked his head, curious. "I have to leave." I told him quietly. It broke my heart to do it, but I had to wallow and be alone for a while, I thought.
"Ah." he groaned quietly, reluctant. "I expected this. We will miss you Jasper." I gave Peter and Charlotte a quick hug. "I love your company very much," I told them. "I just have to leave."
Peter and Charlotte stood in the doorway of the cottage as I left.
By nightfall I was just outside of a city; I didn't know which one. I slept in a cave that night, trying desperately to kill myself with starvation. I hadn't hunted for days, and my eyes were already black.
I stared up at the stars at the entrance of the cave, looking at the stars, trying to find the meaning of my existance in them. Why had I even been created? What made me so important to Maria that she had to end my life and change me? And what would I live for during the rest of my hopeless life? I wished I could go back to fighting in the war, to come home and be a hero to my town. That's all I ever really wanted.
So many questions...and not a single answer.
Ah, so Jasper had left Peter and Charlotte as well. He was completely alone, another thing we had in common. I saw him in a cave, looking at the stars. What was he thinking about?
I was more desperate to find him. If only he would pay attention to where he was! He could be minutes or days away, I didn't know, and I was impatient.
I spent days just watching Jasper, seeing what he did. I found out he was trying to starve himself to death, but I didn't think it was possible to accomplish. He mostly stayed in the cave, thinking about his life, I assumed.
Finally, finally, after days of endless watching, I saw the answer I was looking for. He had gotten too thirsty to resist anymore, each breath he pulled in brought a new scent, and he was desperate for a human. He walked the few miles to an old diner that only got a few customers a day. He walked slowly, trying to find the willpower to turn around and control himself, but he couldn't.
I knew the diner he seeked, it was just downtown from where I was right now. I beat him there by a longshot and took a booth by the window to wait. I tapped my feet impatiently against the concrete floor of the diner as the minutes ticked by.
I saw his approaching figure from a mile away. He was much taller than I'd thought, his hair was almost silver in the shadows of the cloudy day. And he had the most desperate, wistful, regretful, ashamed look on his face. It twisted my cold heart, causing me pain to have him in pain.
Soon he entered and took a seat by the counter, not noticing me. I hopped up from my seat and started towards him, a grin lighting up my face for the first time since I had changed. This was what I'd been waiting for. Jasper Whitlock, my true love.
So here I was. There were more people in the diner than planned, about ten, and I couldn't murder all of them; I didn't have the heart to. But I was so thirsty and I couldn't take just one and leave the rest. It was all or nothing. I tried to leave, but the warm fragrant smell of the humans swirled around me in the small diner, filling my head, gluing me to my seat. I inhaled deeply and suddenly stiffened as I caught a smell that was not human. I whipped my head, searching.
It was another vampire, a woman so startlingly beautiful that I could only stare like a moron while she got closer.
Did she mean to attack? I couldn't decipher her feelings. They were similar to the ones Peter felt for Charlotte, and yet he had never attacked her.
Suddenly she was right in front of me, smiling a heartbreakingly beautiful smile.
"You've kept me waiting a long time," she said in a high, tinkling voice.
I started to feel guilty that I had somehow angered her and I ducked me head in shame. "I'm sorry, ma'am."
When I looked up again to see what she'd do next, she was holding her had out towards me.
Without making sense of what I was doing, I took her hand. For the first time in almost a century, I felt hope.
"I'm Alice," she told me.
"I'm Jasper Whitlock, ma'am," I said.
I traveled with her, my little pixie, and my life finally felt complete.
And I knew the answers to my questions. I had been created to be given a sense of right and wrong. My life with Alice was right. My life with Maria had been wrong. Maria loved my skills I had learned as a soldier, not me. I had misread her feelings. Though I never loved her back, it was still a pleasant feeling to be loved by someone. I had been a tool for Maria, nothing important to her. I had values, sure, but there was no sense of companionship between us. And I would live with and for Alice forever.