PRW Runner-Up Tour: Untitled by Debra Vega
This is something the human world does not know about us.
I can’t shed tears for my sister.
And so I suffer for eternity.
I could not tell you when my sister and I became what we became. Our maker never presented himself or herself to us. We had to learn the ways of our new state by ourselves. It wasn’t easy, but we had each other and it wasn’t so bad.
We couldn’t remember our names, so we named ourselves. We awakened in a place that spoke a language we didn’t understand very well, but theorized we had been taught some of it at some point.
I named myself Dolores. My sister called herself Melia.
We kept to ourselves. We didn’t have much choice. One only had to look at us to know there was something off. I don’t remember much about the early days, but I do remember screaming in terror when I looked into Melia’s red eyes for the first time. We’re so pale our skin could be made of bleached linen. We had been very young when we had turned—not children, but not quite adults, either.
Melia longed for the world we didn’t belong to anymore far more than I did. I would see her wistful look the nights we hunted, as we passed homes lit up on the inside and heard voices carrying across the wind. She always wanted to pause and listen to them, while I urged her to forget and move on.
There was one night of the year that we could easily mix in with the human world. I’m sure you can guess which one. From dusk until dawn we would walk among humans as if we were one of them.
One year we found ourselves in the kind of small town we didn’t like to linger in, because if we fed on too many people it could cause panic about a plague outbreak. But it was that night, and Melia begged that we stay and walk among humans as we did every other year.
I relented, as I always did when Melia was determined to do something. As soon as the sun slipped completely below the horizon, we walked to the center of town. Children in costumes and masks ran past us to ring doorbells. Their parents were sometimes in costumes as well, and several would complement us on ours. We always wore our usual clothing—human clothing that we would take whenever we needed it, usually from the houses of our victims. But our eyes and skin were very impressive to the humans.
One building in the center of town had very loud music and laughter wafting from it. Melia darted ahead of me before I could come up with an excuse as to why we shouldn’t go in. I followed her reluctantly.
The room was jammed with humans. Most wore costumes. We squeezed our way through them to the bar. I felt nervous in a crowd, but not one person questioned our presence. We managed to find two empty bar stools.
A girl with a pair of cat ears and painted on whiskers asked us if we wanted anything to drink. I nodded and ordered two beers. Experience had taught me you had to order something to keep your seat. I was relieved when she didn’t ask me what kind and started drawing the beers from a tap. I fished out money from the pocket of my jeans—money I had stolen from a slightly inebriated man the last time I had fed. He went home remembering nothing and probably woke up wondering how he got such a bad hangover.
It was an awkward business dealing with money and drinks and other aspects of human life. I mildly resented Melia for making me do this every year.
“Here,” I said, pushing one of the mugs towards her. “Remember, they won’t like it if we stay without drinking.”
“I remember,” she said. She even remembered to bring the mug up to her lips, pretending to drink the amber liquid inside of it. She looked excited. We don’t blush—except for a slight rosy tinge after we feed—but I could still tell.
I was excited, too, because I would need to feed soon and there was so much to choose from. I had always found humans who were slightly drunk the easiest targets. Too drunk and their blood tasted acrid. I would have to feed before the night grew old and the food spoiled.
I soon spied a quiet man slowly sipping beer. He was not in costume. Middle-aged, small, with just a hint of a beer-belly, he would be no trouble when I accosted him in the parking lot later. Even though humans don’t have a fraction of the strength we have, I find certain types easier to handle that others.
I should never have let myself become so distracted. I turned around after a moment and found Melia gone.
The small man put his beer down and spoke to me. “She took off with Ian.”
I hesitated. The only one I communicated with was Melia so conversation with humans was awkward.
“Your friend,” he said. “She went with Ian.”
I finally pushed a word out of my mouth, hoping I sounded human. “Where?”
My prospective victim shrugged. “Don’t know. Just saw them head out to the parking lot. Ian’s the one wearing the prince costume.” He waved his hand over his head. “You know. With a crown.”
I slid off the bar stool. Then I remembered humans expected a minimum of politeness from each other and nodded my thanks.
“If she’s gone, come back and I’ll buy you a fresh beer.”
I hesitated again. I knew that sort of invitation could make it easy for me to get what I wanted. Regretfully, I shook my head.
“Some other time,” he said.
I shrugged vaguely—it was still possible that I could return later and finish my business with him.
I stepped out in the parking lot, cursing Melia. I was certain she had not gone with this Ian to feed. She was fascinated by humans and needed me with her to keep her from taking too many risks.
As I charged out into the parking lot, I noticed that there were several humans milling about, far more drunk than most of those in the bar. All except one were male.
The female made me stop short.
She had glowing red eyes and paper-white skin.
“Oh, there she is!” the female exclaimed. She spoke with the same ease as a human. She waved. “Come over here, sis!”
I cautiously approached the group, a bit discombobulated by her familiarity. Some of the males were not in costume or makeup, though a few had covered their skin with a chalky white substance.
The female was the real deal. She had turned much later in life than we had, perhaps in her 60s. I don’t know how I knew that. She had no lines or sagging flesh in her face. She had also been what she was a lot longer than we had. Again, I only had instinct to guide me on this, but I was certain this was true.
Melia’s eyes, glowing even more fiercely in the artificial lights, were clamped on this Ian human. As I had been informed, he was dressed as a prince, with a crown made of some sort of cheap metal perched on his dark head. He wore jeans and a plain t-shirt, but had tied a red cape around his neck. He was tall and young and had an indentation in his cheek when he smiled. Something about that seemed familiar to me, as some distant memory told me human females found that attractive.
“Melia said you’re a quiet one,” said the female creature. “I’m Barb.”
Barb? What kind of a stupid name was that for one of us? Then I reminded myself that we gave ourselves names, for reasons that seem elusive after we had become used to them.
Prince Ian spoke. “You girls have to tell us how you make your eyes glow like that. I didn’t see anything like that in the costume store when I bought my crown.”
“Oh, it’s a trade secret,” said Barb.
Melia laughed. The small crowd of males laughed, and it wasn’t the polite laughter of those who don’t get the joke.
Barb had herself a heard of minions, I realized.
“Melia, we need to leave,” I said. The words felt like old shoes plunking out of my mouth.
“Why? It’s still so early. Ian’s invited us to another party.”
She continued mooning over that damned Ian. The hell of it was, she had to know her cute little prince was doomed. Barb and her minions would rip him to pieces and drain every drop of his blood. Then they would crack open his bones and suck them dry. Barb had that kind of greedy look about her.
I also had the feeling that in spite of her easy smile, Barb was royally pissed that we had stumbled into her territory.
“Could you excuse us a moment?” I was surprised at how easily that slipped out of me. I grabbed Melia and pulled her away.
She resisted, but I kept a strong grip on her wrist. When I stopped in a dark corner, she pouted and shook my hand off.
“Why did you do that? It’s one day a year! You always spoil—“
“Shush! Don’t you realize Barb is—“
She rolled her eyes. “Of course, I realize it. She’s nice, though. Really, Dolores, I think you need to get over being so paranoid.”
I leaned in and looked her glowing eye to glowing eye. “She’s not nice. She’s going to kill your friend.”
“She is not, she—“
That’s when we heard Ian scream.
I already knew being a fantastical creature doesn’t necessarily make you smart. I was still shocked that Melia had turned out to be so entirely gullible.
And that Bard was stupid enough to proceed with a kill with dozens of humans only a few feet away.
Maybe she wasn’t so stupid. No one ran out of the bar during the attack. Either the music was too loud or people just assumed the noise was humans goofing around and having fun. Or both.
My instinct was to run away and keep running until we had put a couple of hundred miles behind us while Barb and her crew had their fun.
Melia, of course, had other ideas.
With a low growl I had rarely heard from her she took a running leap into the crowd surrounding her human friend. I wanted to do the same, if only to watch her back, but again I thought of the humans—perhaps not too inebriated to wonder how a girl could leap across almost the entire parking lot with one running jump.
She landed in front of Barb, and soon they were both howling and hissing at each other. With an exasperated sigh, I ran across the lot in what I hoped was a reasonable speed for a human.
“Stop!” I cried. “Melia, we have to leave—now!”
The two of them kept circling each other, hissing and making other threatening noises from the backs of their throats. Barb’s minions were hanging back, perhaps waiting for an order from their mistress.
The human boy was sprawled on the ground, blood already pumping out of him from the long cut across his throat.
I didn’t understand this Barb at all. Didn’t she realize this was just the thing to bring the human world down on us?
I tried that as a way to defuse the fight. “Humans!” I hissed.
The minions looked nervously towards the back door of the bar. Two or three people stared at us, including the girl with the cat ears, their faces awestruck at the tableau they were witnessing.
Oh, great, I thought. We’ll have to kill them, too. Maybe everyone in the whole blasted bar!
Barb must have noticed them, too. She stopped circling Melia and jerked her head. She and the minions took flight. As in, they turned into bats and flew off.
It wasn’t just the humans staring who stood there with their jaws slack from shock. I had never witnessed such a thing. I didn’t even know minions could turn into bats.
I didn’t have time to contemplate this new power Barb had shown us.
The girl with the cat ears said, “Wow. How did they do that? Will laser lights or something?”
It was Melia who thought fast, for once. She approached the cat-girl and said, “Wasn’t that awesome? She said they worked in the movies. Special effects, you know.”
“Is Ian all right?” one of the men by the door asked. I realized it was the small man I had spoken to earlier.
“Yeah, yeah, he’s just goofing around,” said Melia.
“That looks like blood,” cat-girl said.
“Nah, just ketchup and some other stuff mixed with it.” It never ceased to amaze me how easily Melia picked up human vernacular.
She kneeled on the asphalt and bent over Ian. It looked as if she kissed him, but I knew she hadn’t. He sat up straight, taking a deep breath. This was now possible because the gash in his neck was gone.
Satisfied, the onlookers made their way back into the bar, including my erstwhile target. Ian still looked human, almost perfect. His eyes and skin would change over time.
He still had blood inside him. Since she had turned the evening into a complete disaster, I felt perfectly justified in pushing Melia out of the way and taking some of what was left.
I lifted my head, feeling the usual warmth spreading through what used to be usable veins. “Quiet! You have no right to complain.”
I dearly would have loved to take more, but we had to get out of there.
We each grabbed an arm and pulled him up off the ground. He looked dazed, but otherwise the same as before the attack. He did not protest as we each slung one arm over our shoulders and led him out of the parking lot. Some people called out to him.
“Hey, Ian, got lucky times two, eh?”
“How much beer did you inhale, buddy?”
As soon as we were out of sight of the bar, we ran. Ian had no trouble keeping up with us.
We headed for the forest rimming the town. There was a cave where we had stayed earlier in the week. We made it just as the first rays of the sun began crawling up over the horizon.
We pulled Ian in with us and dropped him hard on the floor of the cave. If he had still been in his human state it would have hurt his behind horribly. Now, he was like us—he didn’t feel pain.
Physical pain, that is.
The boulder we had used to block the mouth of the cave was still there. I easily pushed it into place, then flopped on the floor next to Melia and Ian.
In the darkness we could see each other perfectly well. Ian looked tired and confused. Was that how we looked at first? His eyes weren’t red yet, but they had begun to glow.
“You silly fool,” I hissed at Melia.
“Why? He’s one of us now. He can stay with us.”
“Sure, great. You’ve made yourself a nice boyfriend. Except you enraged a creature with powers I’ve never seen before and a herd of almost equally powerful minions.”
She made a dismissive gesture and crawled over to Ian. “You’ll be all right. You’ll get used to everything soon. It’s not so bad, really.”
He still squinted at her confusedly. “Who am I?”
Her eyes glowed more brightly as she smiled. “Anyone you want to be. Isn’t that exciting?”
It had been a long time since we had been newly formed and had forgotten some of the problems adjusting. I almost felt sorry for Ian. His ravenous hunger was the first issue. We had to teach him to control his urge to drain every victim dry.
He also had trouble adjusting to living only in the night.
“I can never see sunlight again?” he asked in a mournful tone. He had fed a couple of times so his eyes were now red.
“No,” said Melia. “But you miss it less and less over time.”
He looked at us accusingly. “You made me this way.”
This annoyed me. “We saved you. You would have died otherwise.”
He shuddered, perhaps remembering his first feeding. In spite of urgent need, the first time is traumatic. I almost resented the reminder.
“I wish you had let me die,” he said.
I knew whenever he spoke like this, it hurt Melia. Her eyes grew wide, but of course no tears fell.
Why, why did you seek out love, I wanted to ask her. Humans are made for love, not us.
We slipped into our usual routine after a while. Ian—who insisted we still call him that—seemed to accept his fate. He had lost his cheap crown the first night in the parking lot, but for some reason wouldn’t stop wearing his cape, even as it grew dirty and ragged. Since we avoided humans as much as possible I didn’t object to it. I knew it bothered Melia because it was his one souvenir of his former life.
She stayed by his side constantly, helping him with all the adjustments, minor and huge. He only acknowledged her grudgingly. He rarely even looked at her.
He spoke to me, though.
“Am I ugly?” he asked, as he stretched his paler than ever arms out in front of him.
“Am I? Is Melia?” I answered with a touch of impatience.
He squinted at me as if he had never considered the idea. “No. You’re quite—ethereal, in your way. The eyes, though—“
I sighed. “I know.”
Melia’s eyes glowed with anger. “Why are you taking Ian away from me?”
We were alone together, in the cellar of an abandoned house. The night was still young. I trusted Ian enough now to go into town to scope out places to feed. We had been waiting for him to return.
“He likes you better than he likes me.”
I waved my hand dismissively. “He’s just resentful because you turned him. That won’t last forever.”
“Why does he talk to you and not me?”
“Because otherwise he wouldn’t talk to anyone.” I realized talking was becoming much easier for me, a by-product of having another party in our group.
“I thought you were my friend.”
This enraged me. “If you’re so worried about it, I’ll set out on my own and you can have him to yourself.”
Her eyes grew wide with hope. “Would you? Really?”
My own eyes grew wide from an increasing pressure behind them I knew I couldn’t release.
It’s funny how fast everything can change. I didn’t even hesitate. I climbed up the cellar steps and left the broken-down, musty house without ever looking back at her.
I told myself in the days and weeks and months that followed—perhaps it was years—that I was better off alone. In some ways, this was true. Melia’s fascination with humans had always slowed us down. With no one at all to talk to, I grew silent again.
I suppose the one human trait we never lose is a desire for company. The loneliness started to creep into me like a virus. I swallowed my suffering as best I could.
One night, something happened as I was about to feed on a very old man. I had spied him through a window dozing in front of a television set. No one else seemed to be about. I easily popped the lock of his front door.
As I bent over him, his eyes flew open. They locked with mine for what seemed like eternity. I tried lulling him into a semi-trance state.
Something went wrong. He stayed awake. I was further shocked when he spoke to me.
“I know you,” he said in his croaky, old man’s voice.
I didn’t answer.
“Your name is Carolyn. You and your sister Lucy went to my high school.”
I shook my head.
“Yes.” It was almost an accusation. “You went on vacation with your parents and never came back. No one ever found out what—“
I cut him off by sinking my teeth into his neck. I was far from hungry at that moment, but the only way to quiet him, as well as to make him forget, was to feed.
I had to control myself to keep from draining him completely. The last thing I wanted was to become responsible for a new creature, especially this one. He knew me, he knew my old life.
I left enough blood in him to keep him from turning. Even though he would have forgotten the encounter, I was not sorry when he clutched his chest and groaned. Within moments, his eyes glazed over.
The memory of that incident stuck to me like a burr under a horse’s saddle.
She was my sister, she truly was my sister.
My sister Lucy.
I was Carolyn.
Snippets of memory would hit me without warning—of a woman’s voice, a sweet one, reminding us to put our sweaters on before we left for school. Of a man’s deeper voice with a way of making other people laugh. They would argue sometimes, but then they would make up and laugh together.
I would feel the pressure behind my eyes again.
I don’t know how long it took before I decided to find Melia—Lucy—again. I didn’t know at first how I would go about it. Then it occurred to me that I had eventually drifted to the place where we had come from, or perhaps a place close to it. If I had done so, Melia could eventually, too. Something told me I had ended up at that old man’s house because it was near our old home.
It was not in my nature to stay put. I wandered in and out of towns on the periphery of the one the old man had lived in. Sometimes I went further afield. I always came back.
One night, as I wandered through a field close to the old man’s house I felt a prickling sensation at the back of my neck for the first time in a long time. I grew excited. Could it be Melia and Ian?
I chose a direction ran. The feeling grew stronger and stronger. Something almost akin to joy crept into the heart that no longer beat blood through my veins. I saw dots of glowing red in the distance. I headed for them.
As I drew closer I was certain one was female. There looked to be more than two. Perhaps Melia and Ian had picked up more creatures along the way. Some of us roamed in groups, I knew. Or maybe they had decided to create a few minions.
I stopped dead.
I recognized the female, and it wasn’t Melia.
It was Barb.
“Sis!” she cried. “How nice to see you again! You remember my friends, of course?”
She swept her pale arm around to indicate her minions. There seemed to be more than before.
“Yes.” I felt as if I would choke on the word.
She smiled—the kind that had not one drop of friendliness in it. It made me want to draw back my lips and hiss and growl at her, but controlled the impulse.
“I don’t like when someone spoils my fun,” she said.
I didn’t answer.
Barb raised her eyebrows. “I see, you’re not sorry. I suppose I’ll have to make you sorry.”
“No, you don’t,” I finally got out. The time alone had made speech difficult again, but I had to get out of there and back to searching. “I am—sorry, I mean. I never wanted to interfere.”
“And yet you did.” She jerked her head at her minions.
They fell on me.
I woke up in another dank cellar—how many had I stayed in over the years? Decades, going by the age of the old man. If Melia and I had lived out our lives naturally we would be old women now, I realized. Perhaps we would have had children and grandchildren. Perhaps we would be dead by now, like that old man.
I was certain I would die now. I was surprised that Barb and her gang had not dispatched me already.
“I have a surprise for you”
Barb’s glowing eyes advanced on me from the other side of the cellar. She seemed to be alone. No minions.
I felt weak. I realized they must have drained me of whatever blood had been left in me from my last feeding. The hunger was like a lion roaring inside me.
I heard a familiar voice from another part of the cellar.
“Can I see sunlight again? You promised.”
I went very still. It was Ian.
Barb said, “Yes, dear, of course. Very soon.”
This time I didn’t even try to suppress the growl in my throat.
“Where is my sister?” In spite of my weakness, my mounting anger made me feel as if I could leap across the cellar and take the bitch down.
“Dolores? Is that you?”
“Why did you come back? You promised to stay away.”
Her words shattered me. I tried to remind myself that when we had turned she had been very young. Not a child, not yet an adult. Yet I thought our human relationship and years of wandering the world in this strange state would have made her more loyal to me than to a silly boy she had barely known and who could never returned her feelings. The pressure behind my eyes became unbearable.
I realized Barb was gone. This frightened me more than anything.
“Oh!’ Ian cried. “Sun!”
Someone—one of the minions, I assumed—had pulled open the cellar door. In spite of my weariness I frantically crawled away from the light that spilled into the room.
Ian was an even more worthless specimen than I had previously thought. He not only didn’t try to get away from the light, he ran towards it, his tattered red cap flapping behind him.
I had never seen what happens to one of us who unfortunate enough to be touched by sunlight. He didn’t explode. He didn’t burst into flames. He merely disintegrated into pile of ashes.
Melia screamed out his name. Then the little fool ran to the spot where her one true love had expired.
“Melia, wait, you’re really my—“
She never heard me. Within seconds, she had also disintegrated, her ashes mingling with his.
My own screams were silent ones. Slowly, more light poured into the cellar. I had crawled as far back into the little bit of darkness that was left as I could. I waited. Waited for the sun’s killing power to reach me and the screaming inside of me to stop.
The door suddenly slammed shut and darkness surrounded me again. Barb was back.
“Ah, young love. So tragic.”
“She was my sister,” I whispered. “My true sister.”
Barb made a tsk-tsk sound. “A double tragedy.”
“Why don’t you kill me, too?”
“That wouldn’t be as much fun.”
She stayed in the cellar with me until sunset. I did nothing, only felt cold hatred forming a knot inside me that seemed to be made of steel.
When darkness fell again, they carried me outside.
Barb’s smirk told me she was confident that I was now too intimidated by her to ever seek revenge. That I was too weak at that moment to make a move against her and her toadies.
She obviously had never loved anyone, either in this life or her other life.
As the two minions set me down, I leapt to my feet and with one swift movement sank my teeth into the closest one. I didn’t get much blood, but it was enough.
I knew I had only one chance. I had to destroy Barb. Once I did, that would release the others from her power.
I had surprise on my side, but Barb and the others quickly recovered.
It wasn’t quick enough.
In all my years—decades—as a hunter of human blood, I had never taken a victim down the way I took Barb down.
I knocked her over and ripped her head off in one swift motion. Then I tossed it deep into the woods. I picked up a thick branch from the ground. Raising it high over my head, I brought it down in a slashing motion and drove it deep into the remaining torso.
The minions stared at me in awe. The glowing of their eyes began to diminish. I knew I had succeeded in destroying her.
They began to look confused. I ignored them. What happened to them next was their problem.
I was tempted to go into the cellar and gather up Melia’s—Lucy’s—ashes. I thought better of it. Let her stay down there with her Ian, I thought. It was what she would have wanted.
She was silly and foolish, but she was my sister and my only friend, so I forgave her. I took off into the night,, knowing I would never come near that place again.
We have no tears, so we suffer more.
I can’t shed tears for my sister.
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