About fifteen minutes later, Coline entered the room she and her friend Kelly shared. Kelly hadn’t been around when Lucania had come to gather the people, but now he was here and he looked at her as if to ask what had been going on.
“Lucania’s new child…Linden, that’s her name… she woke up. Lucania wasn’t too nice about it.”
Kelly nodded. “How’s she doing?”
“I dunno. Not too good. I sent Gladys in to install a lock on the inside of the door, so she can decide for herself when to come out and who to let in.”
“Good,” Kelly said. He scratched the back of his bald head. “Although, you do realize… that Lucania might just break in? Or go in through the window?”
Coline sighed. She had thought of that, but looking out the window at the trees and grass in the back yard, she realized there really wasn’t much to be done about that.
Linden hadn’t left her little corner yet, but she was starting to feel a bit more at ease now that she noticed nobody was bothering her anymore. The girl that had informed her she was installing a lock on the inside of the door, so she could decide for herself who to let in, hadn’t talked to her anymore and just left her by herself to think.
Sometimes, she had to make quite a lot of noise, banging with a hammer against the iron, but that was all. It seemed like she was improvising a complete new lock out of a random piece of iron.
After a while, Linden slowly got up. She didn’t think she’d made a sound, but the girl immediately looked at her over her shoulder.Lindenwas encouraged with a smile and a nod.
The girl wasn’t as old as she had appeared to be the first time Linden had seen her. She probably wasn’t even as old as Linden. Her hair was black and worn in a pony-tail. She was quite tall and had a muscular, strong body. She was Asian. Linden knew that from her skin color and the shape of her yellow eyes. The eyes still freaked her out, but the girl’s smile was so friendly she hardly thought she was a threat.
“Hi,” the girl said cheerfully when Linden had come close enough for her to be sure she wasn’t too afraid to talk anymore.
Linden mumbled something back at her the girl couldn’t understand.
“I’m Gladys. You’re Linden, right?”
Linden nodded quietly. Then, she carefully mentioned the color of Gladys’ eyes.
Gladys just nodded. “Yours are yellow too, you know?”
“What?” Linden asked, startled. It was the first time she had spoken out loud, that Gladys had heard. Even her asking about the color of her eyes had been little more than a whispered sound.
“Oh – hold on…” The Asian girl reached into her pocket to get out a small round mirror with a crack in the glass. “You must think I’m vain or something, but this is just something that I found last night and brought home…”
Linden took the mirror from Gladys’ extended hand, holding it in front of her face and looking attentively into it. Gladys was right… her eyes were as yellow as everybody else’s. What had happened to their former blue color?
“How… why…” she stuttered.
Gladys spoke softly. “I know what a shock it is the first time you see it. It’s been almost seven years ago since it happened to me, but I still remember it.”
Linden looked up from the mirror at Gladys’ yellow eyes. “Seven… seven years?”
“That’s right,” Gladys said and she grinned. “Quite a long time, isn’t it?”
“Yeah…” Linden breathed. “So you were… how old were you?”
“Fourteen,” she said.
“Fourteen??” Linden looked back at herself in the mirror, though she didn’t like seeing herself like that. She opened her mouth and looked at her teeth. She saw a definite fang on each side, though it wasn’t as large or sharp looking as Lucania’s had been. With a tremble, she quickly closed her mouth again and went back to studying her eyes. “So that means you’re… like, twenty-one now?” She certainly didn’t look that old.
Gladys had been quietly watching Linden study herself in the mirror. “Well – sort of. It’s been twenty-one years since I was born, that’s for sure… but physically, once you’re a vampire…” She saw Linden cringe at the word. “- Sorry about that…” Linden waved it away. “Once that’s happened, your body doesn’t age anymore.”
Linden looked up from the mirror again. Gladys explained it a bit further. “I still have the same fourteen years old body that I had when I was bitten. All that develops from now on is your mind, I suppose.”
Linden felt at her neck. “Do you…” Linden cleared her throat softly before continuing. “Do you still have the wound?”
“No, that just heals like usual. Even quicker, actually. You shouldn’t have it anymore either…”
It was true that Linden didn’t feel anything special where she was bitten with her fingers. She still felt a bit of an uncomfortable feeling there, though. She tried to maneuver the mirror in such a way, that she could see her own neck. She didn’t see anything there.
Linden took a few steps back and sat down on the table. “Can you… explain?”
“You mean, like, everything?”
Gladys looked a bit taken aback by the question, but slowly nodded and walked over to sit down next to Linden, making sure the girl knew she wasn’t going to hurt her, just in case.
“Well, first, you’re gonna have to accept that you are in fact a vampire now. But, for the most part, vampires aren’t as bad as the stories tell.”
Linden, thinking about the yellow eyes and the pointy teeth she even had, herself, felt like she had little choice but to believe these people. For a second, the thought of lenses and fake teeth rushed through her, but then she thought she would surely have felt that. Just to be sure, though, she quickly felt at her teeth. It was really sharp and she almost cut herself, and it certainly wasn’t fake. It didn’t even move in the slightest. But… what if they were glued in or something? And it was very possible she had lenses in too, now that she thought about this more – how else could she see this clearly? She had lenses before, too and knew the difference in how well she could see between wearing them and not wearing them. Each time she convinced herself it was real, she started doubting again.
She reached up with her finger and shakily brought it to her eye. Very lightly, she brushed by her eyes to feel if there was a lens in there. Though it felt colder than usual, she realized there was in fact no lens in there.
She decided to save the doubt for later and first listen to what Gladys had to say to her. Maybe it would help her decide what to think of it.
“Alright, just tell me,” she said.
Gladys started talking, and though she paused from time to time to allow Linden to reply to something, she was the only one talking for a while.
“Okay… well, I think many things you’ve heard about vampires are true, but some things aren’t, and there are some things people don’t generally know about us too. But, and I’m starting with the worst bit here, as you should know, it’s true that we have to… drink blood. That’s what keeps us alive. If you don’t drink blood, your body runs out of it after a while and you die. First… first, you get increasingly weak, you get tired more quickly, get out of breath more quickly… then, if it goes on, you could get dizzy and faint, you can get heart failures, all kinds of ugly things happen to you. The good news is… you only have to get new blood once every month or so. And you don’t have to take anything in but blood. In fact, any food will probably just harm you. Water’s pretty much the only thing that’s okay.
“We can’t be exposed to sunlight, that’s true as well. Don’t ask me why, cause it just makes no sense to me, but our skin just burns in the sun before you know it. I think it supposedly had something to do with ultraviolet rays, but I don’t know why that’s different to us than it is to humans. It’s okay though, cause once the sun’s about to set, you’ll fall asleep before you know it. You just have to make sure you’re inside or something, before that happens. Anything that shields you from the sun will do, but it should shield you well… so, just a layer of clothes over your entire body probably won’t be enough. Too many ultraviolet rays will still get through.
“You can’t get back to your original life, that’s probably the most important thing to remember. You can’t ever see anyone of your old life again. Or, well, I should put it differently… you could, of course, nobody would stop you, but I… I very very very strongly urge you not to. Trust me, I know what it’s like from my own experience, and it doesn’t make you happier. The best thing is to just… accept that you can’t as soon as possible, and get on.”
Linden didn’t believe at that point that she would be able to just accept something like that. You couldn’t just ask someone to give up on their family and friends and start a whole new life, against their will. She was sure she’d go back, vampire or human.
Gladys saw Linden was having a hard time taking it all in and handed her the glass of water that was standing to her left, to the girl to her right. Linden took it from her silently and took a gulp.
“Now, I think that’s it for the bad stuff, more or less. There’s upsides to it too, you know, to being a vampire. First of all, your body’s much stronger overall. Practically in any way possible, except for the sunlight thing that is. Vampires are physically stronger, faster, they have more stamina than humans… they heal more quickly, their senses are much keener… I think your body makes up for that by sleeping much deeper than humans during the day. You’re gonna have a hard time waking up while the sun’s up in the sky – in fact I only did it once, and I still couldn’t stay awake for more than a few minutes. Good thing, probably, else I could’ve gone outside in the sun.
“So, because we heal more quickly, diseases aren’t as much of a problem anymore. Whatever it is, even the diseases that humans generally label as incurable, your body will get rid of them, in time. You don’t die of them. The only way you can die is by getting into the sun, not feeding in time, or somehow getting your heart damaged in a way that’ll cause it to stop beating.
“Another thing that comes with being a vampire, that can be either good or bad… is because you use your five senses more strongly, you experience things more strongly and your feelings are more intense. So you can enjoy things more, but you can suffer from things more too. It all depends – there are things that aren’t so much different, like being in love I guess – that’s usually not based on sensory information so much, so it’s not all that different. But I enjoy running more than I did when I was still human, because it’s a feeling I get based on information my senses pick up. In part, at least. Though I think the fact that I run a lot faster and don’t get tired as soon helps a lot too.
“A very important thing to remember is that we’re not at all as morbid as people think we are. Although there is one person who lives here, who calls himself Vladimir, who’s made it a point to be as much like a vampire from a human’s story as he can. But it’s not like that until you make it like that.”
Gladys looked at Linden with an expression that said she was done talking, and Linden nodded at her without knowing why.
Gladys reached out an arm and put it around Linden’s shoulder. Still a bit jumpy, Linden almost ducked away, but barely stopped herself. She wanted to trust Gladys. She even allowed her to reassuringly press her head against Linden’s left shoulder for a second, before she got up again. “Well, then,” she said, “I suppose I should get back to work on the lock?”
“No, wait,” Linden said. “That can wait.”
Gladys looked at her questioningly.
“I… I want to go out to look around. Could you go with me?”
The second Linden and Gladys set a foot outside that building, eyes were directed at them. There were two younger teens, a boy and a girl, standing halfway the large field. It was almost fully dark, but Linden could see that they were naked, and she could hear that they were whispering to each other, though she couldn’t hear what they said. But they were almost 200 yards away, and it was extremely weird to Linden to hear them whisper at that distance. Still, it was obvious to her that it was them.
She looked around slowly, still within arm’s reach of the door. They seemed to be in a large open field in the middle of a forest. Trees were all around the field and the buildings behind her and to her right. She could see only one path leaving the open field and entering the forest, which was to her left and in front of her. It made an almost immediate turn to the right, continuing on away from her, out of her sight.
At the very back of the field, about four or five very young children, all younger than ten years old, were playing. There was a small playground over there, with a few swings, a slide and a climbing rack with climbing ropes. Linden was ever more amazed at how far she could see through almost complete darkness. It made no sense to her.
The weird thing was that, although she was now confident that she saw pretty well even in this darkness, she was still afraid of it. Maybe it wasn’t so much of a realistic, well-grounded and rational fear, but something she talked herself into, or someone else did. Maybe the media. Like it was something that was between her ears.
These thoughts weren’t new to her; a lot of times when she had been afraid late at night – that time when she was out camping late and everybody wanted to stay up really long, sit around the campfire and tell ghost stories; when she was with her friend Ebony, who always wanted to stay up and play Monopoly until the sun rose, and then go to bed; or even when she was just at home in her bed and she had just seen a scary movie, or the wind was blowing really loud outside and there was a lot of rain, or maybe both. She told herself nothing could happen, and she believed it even, but still, every little sound scared her and she wanted nothing more than to just be asleep and not wake up until it was all over, and it was light again, warm and secure.
It wasn’t much different now. Though she was strengthened by her current experiences in her hopeful belief that she was only pretending there was something to be afraid of, she was still afraid. That wasn’t just because of all these strange people around, or because they had told her she was a vampire, but also in a large part still because of the darkness. What if it was true, if she really was a vampire and she would have to live in this darkness for all eternity? She didn’t think she could really live like that.
“Hey,” someone said from next to her all of a sudden. She’d let her thoughts wander off, and hadn’t noticed someone move in and close up on her.
She looked up, startled, stepping back a bit in a reflex. A boy a bit younger than herself, maybe fourteen years old, was looking at her. His hair was short and reddish brown, with a bit of a golden color in it as well. His eyes, of course, were of that same color of yellow as all the others’ eyes Linden had seen so far. His lips were orangish pink, the color of the towels back home, and seemed dry. He seemed to think so too, cause he licked them. He wasn’t very tall, but not exactly short either and not thin, but not chubby or muscular either. “He-hey…”
“Hi,” he said again and stepped closer, extending his hand. “I’m Rodger. With a D before the G. Nice to meet you.”
Linden shook his hand reluctantly, and a bit confused somehow. His hand was gentle, but not quite weak. “Nice to meet you,” she said.
“Well then,” Rodger said with a shy smile and an aversion of his eyes that lasted for less than half a second. “I’ll see you around, right?”
After a few seconds of processing, Linden replied, “I… I guess…” With that, Rodger left her and went back to whatever he had been doing before.
Another person, a girl, came over to introduce herself. She was thin and tall and she had long legs. “Heya,” she said with a high-pitched, light voice. “I’m Suzana, and you’re Lindenright? Nice to meet you.” She also extended her hand and Linden shook it. Her handshake was strong and self-assured, but soft in a friendly way. “Good luck with everything,” she said before nodding at Gladys with a smile and leaving.
Linden looked away at Gladys, who grinned at her and put up her thumb. “See, you’ve made friends already. It’s not so bad around here, really.”
Linden returned her smile weakly and took a deep breath before putting a few more steps outside.
She looked around again. They were definitely at some kind of farm, though she wasn’t so sure if it was still being used as one. The biggest building was the one in the center. It looked like any other farm she had seen in her life. It was kind of large, made of stone but with a straw roof and a wooden door, a chimney that smoke was coming from and a few nice green windows.
Gladys saw her looking at it. “That’s were most of us sleep during the day,” she told Linden. “There’s lots of rooms with beds in them. I don’t quite know why, but I think Kelly would know more about that, and Jenny, and maybe Coline as well. They’ve been here really long, although well, I’ve been here longer than Coline.”
There was only one large field in the area the trees confined. When she saw there didn’t appear to be anything growing on it, and when she realized that everybody was just walking over it, she realized it was probably right that this place wasn’t actually being used for any farming anymore. It was a very weird place for a farm to be standing in the first place though, used or not. Being seemingly in the middle of a forest like this and all.
There were four other buildings and they were all lined up on one side of the field. The one she had been in until now was the one most to the right if you stood in front of them. It was a simple, rectangular-shaped wooden building, almost as simple on the outside as it had been on the inside. Between this building and the farm itself was a large wooden building, of which the black planks that made the roof made it look like a stable. There was a really large entrance to it, but it was closed and Linden couldn’t see inside.
“That’s the stables,” Gladys said. “There’s horses inside. You wanna go in and see?”
Linden shrugged. She hadn’t wanted to go to anyplace specific. “Okay.”
“Cool,” Gladys said and they started walking to the dark green door with the crooked surface. “I actually really like it in there and I’m there a lot. So if you’re ever looking for me, and I’m not in my room…” She opened the door by pulling it to the side with the handle on the side. “..You have a good chance of finding me here.”
The smell of manure, mixed with stray, came out as soon as the door was opened. Linden didn’t mind it much, she’d smelled it many times before and was used to it. It was dark in there as well, but as soon as Gladys set a foot inside, closely followed by Linden, the lights on the ceiling lit up one by one and everything inside got visible. There were many small cages that each held one horse. The animals could put their heads outside over the wooden wall, that had a door in it and was only half the height of the ceiling. “Aren’t they cute?” Gladys asked.
“It’s so light here…” Linden said, but she was looking at the horses and also thought they were cute.
Before all of the cages was a vessel with water in it that the horses could drink from. “The water is usually refreshed by me, Kelly or Jenny.”
Gladys had walked over to stand before one of the horses, a white one. It looked really pretty with its manes hanging down over its neck. Gladys had extended her hand and was petting the animal over the manes, from the upside down. The animal snorted softly and licked Gladys’ arm where it could reach it.
“This is Kelpie,” she said. “My favorite. I’m trying to learn how to ride her, but it’s tough. Suzana’s good at it; she’s helping me.”
Linden walked to another cage on the other side of the stable. There was a horse there that was dark brown and black. Linden was intrigued by its dark black eyes, that didn’t appear to be staring at her, but she couldn’t be sure. She thought they were very pretty. She was just reaching out to pet the animal on the snout softly, when something moved in the back of the cage, near where the beast’s food receptacle was standing. It startled her, and when she looked at it more closely, she thought she could see a human being sitting there, tucked away in the corner. It was a guy, probably around 20 years of age. His complexion was very pale even in comparison to the others around here, and his hair was pitch black. He had rings everywhere – in his ears, in his lip, on his left eyebrow and probably on a few other spots too that she couldn’t see. He was dressed entirely in a very colorless color of black. His yellow eyes made the whole of him much more freaky than it already was. He was looking at her, his eyes open really wide, staring like a deer after picking up a sound.
As soon as she saw him, he jumped up, leaping over the horse, the half wall and Linden, landing behind her and rushing out before she could even turn around to see where he was heading. The horse whinnied nervously and moved around a bit uncomfortably, and Linden reached out quickly to comfort it.
“That was Stefan,” Gladys said. “He’s only been around for two weeks now, the newest before you.” She rubbed the skin just above her eye, below her eyebrow. “He’s not responding too well to the situation, I guess you could say. Doesn’t talk to anyone, runs away as soon as he’s spotted. He never actually left, though.”
Linden shivered. She was cold suddenly. Gladys noticed and took a few steps to close the door again behind the fleeing boy. The horse had calmed down again and was now hanging its neck over the half wall to drink out of the drinking vessel.
“How did he jump that high? And that far..?”
Gladys smiled audibly, though Linden didn’t look at her. “Well, I told you, we’re physically improved a bit. I could do it too, and I bet so could you.”
Now, Linden did look at her. “You think so?”
“Sure! Look…” In a quick motion, Gladys bent through her knees as deep as she could go without actually sitting down, then sprung up, flying up through the air and touching the ceiling, that had to be at least twelve feet high, with her extended hand. She landed safely, almost without even bending through her knees when she touched the ground again.
Linden quaked again, but this time she didn’t feel cold. She was just shocked to see a human being jump that high. She had seen it with her own eyes this time, so there was no doubt about it, Gladys had definitely jumped up to touch the roof. How could she possibly do that, unless… unless what she had told her was true, and she really was a vampire, with improved physical strength. Suddenly, she felt like she had to get out of there.
“I’m gonna… go back to the err, where I woke up, okay?” she said, and Gladys seemed surprised for only a second. Then, Linden got a silent nod and threw a final look at the dark colored horse that Stefan had been behind before leaving.
She walked out of the stables and was stared at from a few sides before she hurriedly disappeared into the wooden building she came from. It was cold and dark outside, so she made sure to get back in as soon as possible, without wasting any time.
She didn’t find the rest she had hoped to find inside, though. She hadn’t seen anyone, but she felt the presence of someone inside, somehow, as she faced the door, her back turned to the room after closing the door. Upon sensing this person, she froze for a few moments. She knew just who it was, she didn’t have to look around; it was Lucania.
“Hey… little girl…” that dreadfully familiar voice said. It was as if that woman’s mere presence was enough to put goose bumps all over Linden’s body. The image of that body jumping her – the first image Linden remembered of her – made her want to get out as soon as she possibly could. But it was as if her mind was read. “Don’t leave yet… let’s talk for a while.”
Linden was still frozen, hand on the doorknob. She didn’t want Lucania to want to talk to her, all she wanted was to be alone and be afraid of what was happening to her by herself. What did they have to talk about? Lucania attacked her, and she had actually fed on her. As far as Linden was concerned, they stayed as far apart as possible.
“Linden?” Lucania pressed on.
Linden opened the door again and walked out as calmly as possible, without having once looked at Lucania. It was already getting lighter slowly. Although it was still frighteningly dark, she walked out on her own into the night, without stopping, and turned left to hide between the trees to evade the others.