It raged around him, tendrils reaching forward to lick his skin as he ran. The heat was overwhelming, smoke working its way into his throat and mouth. Behind, the cabin burnt fiercely, black smoke against the dark sky. The fire didn’t leave him; it followed, each tree trunk ahead catching as he tried to escape the flames.
The shape in front of him begged until his feet skidded in the mud and he tumbled forward. His eyes darted around, searching for any sign of water. The girl flickered, but he ignored her. There were tears on her face, as she stepped towards him.
“Get away from me!” Somewhere in the back of his mind, he was reminded that men didn’t scream. But he didn’t think he was a man. He wasn’t sure. If he wasn’t a man, what was he? “Just…get away!”
His hand reached forward, grasping for the vial in the grass. His fingers wrapped around it and he brought it closer to his chest, fumbling with the lid.
“No, no, don’t…it’s not…stop! It’s…”
X X X
If he had still been human, he knew he would be drenched in sweat. As it was, his skin was dry as he dragged himself from sleep and faced the girl sitting opposite him. She looked scared, a look he hadn’t seen on her in years.
“Jesus bloody Christ, Poison, you were screaming.”
He shook his head, running a hand through his hair. Dry. Every detail was slipping quickly away from him.
“I thought vampires didn’t dream?”
“Do you dream?”
He grinned. “There we go then.”
“It’s not the same.” She rolled her eyes, standing and crossing the room to the boarded up windows. “You know that.” Slowly, she peeled back one of the boards, glancing out.
“What do you dream about?” he asked, watching her carefully. She had been growing more and more restless as the days went by, and he’d noticed how she stared openly at every human that passed the house. Most of them learnt to control their hunger as the years went by. His companion, his friend, the once-teenage girl he had met in a house not too dissimilar to the one they were currently in, was going in the opposite direction.
“A life. A guy. Having a relationship without you or the others chasing after me to ruin it.” She glanced over her shoulder at him, and he could see it in her eyes.
She hated him.
Those eyes, one bright blue and the other a swirling mix of blue, green and grey, had once stared at him with awe. At fifteen, she had practically worshipped it. At sixteen, he had saved her life. Now, almost a decade later, she looked at him with nothing but contempt.
But she wouldn’t leave him.
She knew he could do nothing but follow.
“You’re still pissed off about that? It was years ago, Shadow.”
“Four years,” she muttered. “And you said it yourself, I was young, naive. I was in love.” Try as he might, he couldn’t contain the smile at her imitation of his drawl. “I was just never allowed to make my own mistakes, was I?”
“You know how difficult it is for us to…”
Before he could finish, she was gone, and he cursed the speed they had both been graced with. She had no idea how much he hated himself for what he had done to her, but if she had been left alone, there would have been a bigger mess to clean up after.
He climbed out of the bed, moving quickly towards the door though nowhere near as quick as she had gone. He found her downstairs, in the kitchen, sitting at the table as the kettle boiled. Coffee, strong, with just a dash of milk and three sugars.
Shadow took out a cigarette, lighting it up and inhaling deeply. Her eyes fell on him.
“I dream of other things, too,” she muttered, watching as he pulled out a chair and lowered himself into it. “I dream of Raven, and New York. And Marcus.” Even now, there was a flash of fear in her eyes as she said his name. “They haunt me, Poison.”
“Do…does it ever stop?”
“The haunting?” He shrugged. “Sure, it does. Well, more like it takes a break. But it comes back at times. Not always the same ones, though.”
She dipped her head. “I never thought looking for Theo would end up…” She stopped, shaking her head. “I shouldn’t think like that, should I? I dream of other things, too. I keep dreaming of fire.”
Poison crossed the room, falling into the seat opposite her. He took her hand, squeezing it gently, feeling just the slightest warmth coming from her skin. He turned her wrist over, placing his finger against it. There, he could feel her pulse. Dull, slow, but still there. “Your heart still beats,” he said. “That means you’re still alive. You’re not grasping onto a straw of humanity, Shadow. You’re not like us. And what you feel about them, all of them, you need to hang on to that. As long as it’s still there, your heart will beat.”
Slowly, she nodded, closing her eyes as she took another drag of her cigarette. “The prophecy…”
“Is bullshit. You’re not the end of us, and you’re not the bloody saviour either. Bollocks to all that fate crap. It’s just a bunch of stupid vampires looking for meaning in a long, meaningless life.”
“You never wanted meaning, did you?”
“And neither did Blake, or Calista?”
“Neither did they,” he replied, smiling softly.
“So if none of you believe in fate,” she said, her voice slow, carefully choosing her words, “why can’t you just let me live?” Her head snapped up, her eyes locking on Poison’s. He could see the anger there, the pain. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” Her voice rose into a screech, before she was up. The chair flew back and she stood over the table, staring down at him. “Why do I always end up caught in the middle?”
Before he could stop her, she whirled around and left, the back door swinging shut. He groaned, lifting his hands to his face. She would be back, he knew she would. But that wasn’t what worried him.
He was scared of what she would do in that state.
X X X
“You need to keep a better eye on your charge,” Calista drawled, standing at the door. She was holding Shadow’s ear, practically lifting her off the ground. Shadow was whimpering, as Calista shoved her forward. The girl fell to the floor, but scrambled quickly up, glaring at the vampire. “Have you fed?” Calista asked, ignoring the girl and focusing on Poison.
“No. I…I didn’t know when she would be back.”
Shadow shrunk against the wall, looking like a sullen teenager. He had hoped it would get easier, over time, that the impulsive, moody teenage girl would melt away to reveal a mature woman.
It seemed that if it was ever going to happen, it would be a long way off.
“Go to your room,” he said, watching as she huffed and stamped up the stairs. Calista reached out, placing a hand on his shoulder. She squeezed.
“She has had it harder than most of us did, Poison. She’s struggling, that’s all.”
“I don’t know what to do. I never thought it would be so hard.”
She smiled softly. “Being a parent is never easy, and there’s a reason we tend to go for the, well, older humans.”
“It’s the half…”
Calista laughed. “The human in her? Yes, I suppose it is. Go, feed. I will keep an eye on her. And you know I will be more strict than you. She won’t stop foot outside this house.”
“Thank you.” He bowed his head, before edging past her and out into the night.
Note: Currently a work-in-progress, this is one of many short stories I’ve done for the 100 Theme Challenge. This one is going to be added to my collection A Drop of Poison on Fictionpress; a series of short stories based on the vampire Poison as he wonders through his eternal life. As always, all feedback is welcome on this piece, and feel free to check out the stories I’ve got on Fictionpress, too, if you’ve enjoyed this or any of the other pieces I’ve posted up here.