Archaic Envy: Chapter 3

I awoke with a start but quickly regained my composure as I realized where I was and that I was safe. Another regained memory now swirled around in my mind, reminding me of past events and people who were long forgotten until recently. My crossover, my sire, my extra, my heritage and my family were no longer mysteries to me. The cruelest part is that the one memory I might be able to use to retrieve them all, still evades me. I lay still for a while, not wanting to move, because deep down, I was still naive enough to hope that if I stayed lying in bed long enough, all of my memories would slowly flood back to me. It seems I’m left with a few single, solitary memories that I regain now and then.

After a while I pulled myself from my cocoon of warmth and protection, got dressed and made my way out into my living room. As I entered, the curtains opened automatically, signaling the official beginning of the evening. There he was, on the sofa, right where I left him. We slaughtered humans all the time to replenish our own strength, yet this teen had somehow managed to spark my conscience and get through to my better nature. He made me care, perhaps finding out how he made me care is what makes me so protective and willing to save him. Maybe deep down, I want to know what’s so special about him.

I don’t want new loved ones, I know that much, because if I have new people to love then there’s the horrible thought of forgetting what I already know about the ones I love who have passed on. Even vampires can’t escape the natural cycle of some memories taking priority over others, we can also forget.

We worry about losing our loved ones; we worry about the change and emptiness in our lives and hearts that accompanies that loss, but the ultimate truth is that, while our loved ones depart this world, our memories of them are still with us. As time goes on, many of the lesser moments fade into the recesses of our minds, but our lives are full of golden moments where we show our loved ones how much we care about them and they show us how much they care about us. These moments are almost infinitesimal amount of time when you compare them to the remainder of our lives, but they are precious and truly irreplaceable. Perhaps I am foolish to worry about forgetting them, because they certainly won’t be easy to forget.

What frustrates me most of all is that I cannot remember who my first love was, who my first heart break was, or how many people I’ve killed to keep my own life in motion. Vampires stay in darkness for so long and we cling to life because we hope to make more of those memories. The problem with the vampire world is that while we live for colossal periods of time, unlike our human counterparts, there is no trail or record of our existence. The loss of a vampire’s memories is not only extremely rare but it’s a travesty, because there is no trail to follow to help recover.

Not many of us decide to live past a century, so any one of us that chooses to do what I have done; if they choose to prolong their lives to their utmost, they will lose all of their companions. Many wise vampires have assumed that because we all have the potential to live as long as I have, that we are all the same, that we all will live for an eternity. Potential does not define a species, our choices and our decisions are what define us. Just as humans have the potential to kill, this does not mean that every human will choose to kill to save themselves if, in fact, they are faced with death. Those who are as old as I am are a select few; we are lone gods, even amongst our own kind. We are here because, like many humans with that potential to kill, we choose to live just as they choose not to kill.

Eternity in itself is ambiguous, because everything has it’s time and everything that has a beginning will surely have an end. The undeniable truth is that our lives, even as vampires, only mean something because there is an end in sight. Why make the most of every moment if it isn’t going to end? Life is a set period of time in an animate existence and without death, there is no life. New bloods, or vampires who are relatively new in their crossover, often speak of eternity like they will embrace each moon until darkness swallows them, but this in itself is presumptuous. They presume their own immortality; they presume that they will never face the sun’s rays, or the pointy reckoning of an assailant with skills and abilities that they cannot even begin to fathom. Even the most powerful vampires embrace the idea that just because they are the most powerful at the moment, that does not ensure their position at the top of the food chain forever. Even we are subject to the laws of reality and friction. No human or vampire survived within the direct blast range when the destructive force of the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima. We are powerful, we are ancient, we are not wearied by time or age, but we are not forever and we are certainly far from invincible.

I finally slumped down on the sofa and inspected the silent and immobile figure that lay on the same sofa beside me, where I had placed him the night before. It seems he was heading into his crossover rather smoothly, which meant I saved him just in time. I continued to hang around and inspect him to check that everything was alright until finally a loud alarm beeped from my watch, alerting me to the beginning of my meeting.

I moved into the small passageway that led back to my bedroom and with the bathroom exactly parallel to me I placed both palms against the opposite wall and whispered silently “We are lone figures in the night. There are none who stand before us as equals, we are the ilumetirae.” The Verzpertillio name for our kind was one small way to protect ourselves, because if anyone were to find out our true identities, the repercussions would be disastrous.

The wall in front of me slid back and a tiny room that was cleverly hidden within the apartment was revealed. My employers were able to access some of the most technologically advanced systems in existence, the voice and palm recognition were part of this. The room itself was nothing spectacular; it housed a large monitor and camera in front of a luxury leather-backed chair. There was no keyboard or obvious touch-orientated entry because such an input type was not required for this room’s purpose. I sat down, the wall slid back into place and the screen in front of me turned itself on. The room stayed relatively dark, it was necessary for the camera to be there not only so the others could see me but because ocular scans, facial recognition and scans of the user’s extra were essential security to ensure that I was in fact, one of them.

“Nice of you to join us, ilumetiraeus,” said a voice that resonated from the speakers around me. At this point, camera feed from the others locations appeared on my monitor but I was surprised to see that the screen was split into three instead of the usual four. There was a live camera feed from their locations and then the local feed that showed me on camera but they were both difficult to make out in the minimal light although that was the point.

“Ilumetiraeus?” the second voice questioned as I noticed he was the new recruit we had voted on previously.

“It is part of the ancient vampire language you will need to learn – Verzpertillio. You already know and understand the base word itself, as you uttered it to get into the room in which you’re sitting; otherwise you wouldn’t be at this meeting. Ilumetiraeus means, quite simply, the second elder and you will be addressed as ilumetiraeintus because you are ranked fifth and last in this council,” explained the first elder, the most powerful vampire in sector six, who was my superior. Other events, it seems, made me forget that I had been asked to help explain to the new fifth.

An elder is an old and powerful vampire who has chosen to live longer than the century or so that most vampires choose to live. Above all else, we try and to sustain a balance so that vampires and humans can coexist. Our only real weapon is violence and terror, so we wield these and swallow our own emotions in order that the rest of our younger brethren may keep their hands clean. In many ways, we are the only body that comes close to that of politicians. There are also many rumors and falsehoods, which mean the wider populous of vampires knows little of our affairs. There are, of course, compensations for living such a life.

“I never even wanted to be an elder, I was quite happy being one of the most powerful hunters in the country and I certainly don’t want to join you old farts,” he said bitterly as though we had ruined his day. Hunters are trained assassins who hunt down targets for a fee. They are specially trained killing machines, often equipped with special technologically advanced equipment that supplements their extra or ability. What most people aren’t aware of is that only a small minority of hunters actually work for the elders, but the elders often support theories that suggest all hunters are on their side, as it makes them seem more powerful than they are. It makes a lot of sense; the elders can’t dispatch hunters to every vampire on earth so they use fear to scare the majority into line. Hunters, in reality, are more like mercenaries who change allegiance based on the amount of money offered, but there are still a fair few who work for the elders, because they believe they are fighting for something. Whether this is true, or whether they are deluded, is irrelevant, because the point is that they are loyal to the cause. On rare occasions, humans have even paid hunters to try and to come after elders who have been careless with their location, but elders are often ex-hunters or have abilities that could wipe out entire squads of hunters with no real effort. Even now, after all this time, I still find it hard to say ‘us’ when I refer to the elders, but it’s safer to not think of myself as an elder because any slipup could be deadly. The new fifth elder on our council is an ex mercenary hunter who had become more powerful and dangerous as time went on, so one way or another he had to be stopped.
“What? Did you think elders were democratically elected? We can’t exactly advertise and put out a bunch of ballet boxes so all the vampires can vote. Elders are chosen because of their abilities, as there are some of us who reach a point where even several squads of hunters would have no chance of ending our lives. That old saying, ‘if you can’t beat them, join them,’ has some truth to it. We aren’t politicians; in fact, the only thing we have in common with politicians is that we don’t all get along with each other. Our group works together to achieve a common goal, but we aren’t like other governing bodies amongst the human population. If anything, I guess we probably have more in common with a terrorist cell or organization,” I said simply.

“What? So you don’t answer to anyone? You can do whatever you want?”

My superior decided to answer this question before I could: “Oh no one said that, every ‘first elder’ in each of the six sectors is also on a higher council, they are sometimes called continental elders, but each sector is only in power because this higher council permits it. For example, if a vote passed in a sector council, like ours, that would result in all humans finding out that vampires existed, then the high council would dispatch one of its senior members to dispose of all of us. The higher council is formally called the Quorum of Seven.”

“Wait, they would only send one member? Seven? I thought you said there are only six sectors or continental regions.”

“There are the six continental elders who are the heads of each of the six councils and there is also the supreme elder who is the oldest and most powerful vampire in existence. Continental elders are some of the most powerful vampires alive and wiping out a bunch of lower level elders would probably be no problem, because there are massive differences in ability the further you go up,” my superior continued, as he tried to explain further.

“So you’re a continental elder? You’re the oldest and most powerful in our region?”

“He’s a couple of months older than I am and usually an older vampire is ranked higher because the older a vampire is, generally the more their extras or abilities have developed,” I said.

“How old are you?”

“Presently? 221,” I said and although we couldn’t make out any specific detail from the pictures on our corresponding monitors, I was reminded that, like my superior and I, our new recruit was a half life or teenage vampire, which in itself was humorous. In a way it made me feel like Peter Pan, a boy with eternal youth. Maybe many elders were half lives, because most adults who turned into vampires are clever enough to not live this long, or perhaps all adult vampires are insane long before they reach our age.

“What’s in it for me though?”

“We make a lot of money, not that money is important to us. It’s just a means to another end, just another way of controlling the humans. We do, however, live in luxury and we make decisions to protect ourselves and the vampire race itself. You are here because you are too old and powerful to be left unchecked. The theory is that if you are on this council and you have your own territory, you will be far less likely to do something stupid, like lead an uprising or rebellion. We need a fifth member so that when we vote on a proposition, there cannot be a draw, it doesn’t matter how many members the sector councils have as long as that odd number of members is maintained. You are here for that reason and because you are strong. Either choose to be a member on this council and follow the rules, or die,” I said honestly.

“Alright, alright – fine,” he said, “but I thought elders were ‘perfect’ vampires who have the ability to learn it all. I’m powerful, but far from perfect.”

“Haha,” I laughed to myself. “Knowing a many extras in itself doesn’t make a vampire powerful, it’s about finding a select few extras that work with the user’s own extra in a way to make the user more powerful. I thought a hunter, of all people, should know that.”

“Alright, fine, I’ll do it… so what happens now?” he asked hesitantly, suggesting that he was worried there might be some kind of initiation test.

“I’ll be the one teaching you all the rules and how things work. A messenger will tell you when and where we’ll meet, just don’t be late,” I said finally.

“So it’s settled, I’ll see you in the next full member meeting, second will meet you soon enough to teach you the ropes, but in the meantime, welcome to the sector six council… don’t fuck up or you’re through,” said my superior with a hint of a smile, although it was tricky to tell, as he was in the same dark shadow as the rest of us. After a moment’s pause, my screen divided itself into only two parts, meaning it was only me and the first elder left. “Envy, I need you to—”

“Oh? Haha so I’m Envy now?” I asked with a sly grin.

“You know as well as I do that I have a responsibility to uphold the traditions and formalities so that they aren’t forgotten. On the other hand, that doesn’t stop me from being your friend. You’re the only one left…”

“Aw Timeless – I’m glad to see you haven’t gotten rid of the niceties altogether, your sweet and soppy side is still there, bubbling beneath the surface.”

“I love it when you use my new name.”

“Once you use a name for a century or so, it does get a little tedious, doesn’t it? I sympathize, but you will always be Rias to me.”

“Just as you will always be Octavius to me… I think the fellow who thought up ‘that’s my name, don’t wear it out’, was wiser than most people know.”

“Yeah – I think so. Did I tell you I remember my crossover now? How we first met… it’s all clear again now. I still can’t believe we managed to get out of that one alive, the chances of an extra manifesting itself that early on is extremely unlikely, even if it was for defense purposes.”

“I had hoped that you wouldn’t remember that particular memory, it’s one of many that are better left forgotten. Have you remembered anything else about how you lost your memory? Not just for your sake, but if there’s someone else out there with the ability to edit memories, it could be dangerous.”

“I know, but I still don’t remember how it happened.”

“A shame,” Rias, or Timeless, as he was known these days, said with a long sigh that signaled the end of our friendly reminiscing as he assumed his position as my superior. “You know what you need to do, right? Everyone voted unanimously that your abilities would suit the job the most. So—”

“I know what needs to be done. I’m to commandeer transport up north, convince the head of our new government that not only do vampires exist, but that he needs to keep our existence secret. Furthermore, you want me to teach our new recruit and investigate the missing vampires in the region. I’ll move a couple of mountains while I’m at it, shall I? Why am I doing all of this again?”

“You’re an elder, there’s nothing you can’t do. It’s not like I can do it, you know how busy I am with the Quorum of Seven and we all agreed that as the only other former hunter, it was right up your alley. Just don’t let slip to any of your former contacts who you are now; otherwise your next assignment will be assassination,” he said with a sense of finality, which told me that I would be going, whether I wanted to or not.

I sighed deeply and said “Until next time then?”

“Until next time – remember to keep in contact via encrypted phone link whenever you get a chance.” After my friend’s last words resonated from around me, the screen turned black and the wall slid open once more, allowing me to exit back into the narrow passage between my bedroom and living room. I was about to head to my bedroom to pack an overnight bag when I realized that I had completely forgotten about the young teen still lying on my sofa. There wouldn’t be much I could do if the crossover process went wrong, even if I was present the whole time, but if any of the other elders caught wind of it… I just had to hope that they didn’t. On the other hand, we’re all so secretive; the possibility of anyone else knowing what happened out in the street last night is highly unlikely and an irrational worry on my part.

I walked back into the living room, picked him up and carried him back into my room. I laid him gently on my bed and pulled a duvet over him. He might as well be comfortable while I was away, that sofa would no doubt leave sores if he was left in the same position too long. Changing one’s appearance during the crossover period can often prove permanent, so it’s best to be cautious. I proceeded to pile a few clothes into an overnight bag, donned my full length leather coat and pulled out one of my many disposable cell phones to call a cab. I could have afforded a limo or something far more extravagant but the truth is, a taxi is far more inconspicuous.

“Where too, little man?” an old taxi driver asked me as I climbed into the backseat of his taxi outside my apartment complex five or so minutes later.

“The airport,” I replied with a roll of my eyes. I sometimes forget how young I still look to anyone who doesn’t know how long I’ve been alive. The suggestion that one can tell how old someone is by looking into their eyes is wishful thinking at best.

“You sure you have enough young fella?” he said with a patient smile. It was at this point that I pulled a rather large wad of brightly colored New Zealand currency from my pocket and waved them in front of his face.

“I’m sure I’ll find the cash… somehow,” I said sarcastically. Now I know he was just trying to do his job and he did it in the nicest possible way, but it was still so patronizing. He was a cockroach in comparison to me; I could stomp him beneath my boot with no chance of resistance on his part. There was no plastic glass or partition to stop me slipping forward and ripping out his throat. The taxis in this part of the world weren’t a lot different from normal cars; they had a taxi sticker on the driver’s door, a neon light on top that glared at anyone who drove by and a few more electronic gizmos on the dashboard.

He didn’t say much after that, although he did try to maintain a polite level of small talk, which I easily lied through while also telling him my parents were meeting me at the airport. If I had been unfortunate enough to crossover any earlier in my adolescence, moving around and doing simplistic everyday events such as catching a taxi would have been far more challenging.

After a time, we pulled up in front of the domestic terminal of the airport and after handing the driver a generous helping of the colored currency he craved, I headed through the double automatic doors into the airport. I had purposefully used a small overnight bag to store all my items because I could take it on the aircraft as hand luggage. The next problem was finding a flight that would take me to Wellington, the capital. I surveyed my surroundings and discovered on a monitor nearby that a plane was departing for Wellington in five minutes. Perfect. I proceeded to the security gate at the end of the terminal and a young security officer greeted me with a smile.

“Hi there, can I see your boarding pass?” he asked kindly with a smile that was no doubt, yet again, because I looked so young. Once I saw that the other security staff were all out of earshot, I made my move.

He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt so I was able to place my hand on the bare skin of his arm and my hand emitted a faint red glow as I whispered “I’m the son of a pilot. Take me to gate five.” Years of experience with the extra meant I was able to make the glow far less noticeable, but perhaps it would vanish altogether if I had all my memories and understood it better. I can recall a lot about my extra, but some of its secrets still evade me. I don’t suppose it helped me much to speculate. The words I spoke were merely a guide that helped me to focus the ability itself, he was not listening to my vocal request but rather a deeper emotional-based request that attacked him on a subliminal level.

The words themselves aren’t a command; I can’t manipulate someone’s will or bid them to do something they would otherwise object to. I can only trick them into believing an event has already occurred or believe in a decision they think they’ve already made. In this case, I simply had to implant a memory of a phone call from a pilot whom he already knew; one who happened to have children, whom this security guard had never met, so it was even easier. A memory amender like myself has to keep in mind that, like when someone tells a lie, it’s best to keep as close to the truth as possible. The more fictional a memory is, the more unstable it becomes, which can create unforeseeable irregularities and consequences.
Needless to say, the guard led me through while avoiding the metal detectors, explaining that I was the son of a member of staff. It was sometimes difficult to be precise with implanting memories into someone’s mind. The true challenge wasn’t necessarily making the person believe the memory, but making those around the person believe. In this case, it seems that the fictional memories I used were perfect and the security guard acted as if it was a regular occurrence, which it probably was.

We quickly passed duty free, many seated people waiting for flights, monitors that were attached to the ceiling with metal brackets and we managed not to draw too much attention to ourselves. I noticed on the monitors that we had less than a minute until departure so I walked a bit faster. We soon arrived at the gate where a flight attendant wearing a skimpy blue uniform requested my boarding pass.

“Oh he’s the pilot’s son, miss, I’m sure it’s all sorted,” the security guard said with a genuine smile. That’s what made this so much better than a lie, no one could see through his acting because he genuinely believed what he was saying.

“Right this way,” replied the flustered flight attendant who obviously just wanted to get on board and get on with her job.

At this point the security guard turned round and headed back towards the security checkpoint and the young women walked with me onto the aircraft as another took over checking the last passengers as they boarded. We slowly walked through a small tunnel-like corridor that was attached to the aircraft and before the flight attendant could get any further, I grabbed her arm and my palm emitted the same red glow. No words needed to be said this time; removing a memory was far easier than implanting one, but then again, destroying something is nearly always easier than creating it. I quickly removed my hand and she walked ahead of me, round the corner and into the waiting aircraft. She promptly worked to help other passengers get to their seats and I skulked in past her and headed to the back of the plane as I attempted to hunt for a spare seat.

I found an empty seat right at the back and after putting my bag in an overhead compartment; I sat next to a young gentleman in his thirties who had fallen asleep already. Late night domestic flights never seem to be sold out so if you can make it past security, you get a free ride anywhere in the country. Even if there hadn’t been a spare seat, I could have always ‘reminded’ someone that they wanted to get off the plane. As the flight attendant finished the preflight check she walked up and down the aisles, closing all the overhead compartments. She stopped when she got to the back and looked at me with a smile. Not because she remembered me, but because I still looked like a kid.

Young vampires are always given a hard time because they never got to live full lives before they crossed over into darkness and into this terrible life, but no one questioned or suspected the innocent black-haired teen sitting at the back of the plane. No one noticed as I slipped onto the aircraft and certainly no one questioned the fact that I was the pilot’s son. Youth, it seems, heralds many rewards.

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