Aria studied the tall Scandinavian dressed too well in leather and swords that dripped from his body. His long blond hair fell well past his shoulders, and the beard made him look too much like the warrior type. The greatsword on his back and the scimitar at his waist added to the look of a Swedish warrior. Wide shoulders and large arms confirmed his constant use of the blade.
“Hi,” the Scandinavian smiled. “I’m Norry.”
“Where’s my Guinness!?” Angela shouted.
“You drank it, Ange,” Norry said addressing the Captain.
“I didn’t. You took—”
Aria steadied herself on the back of a chair.
“You drank the last bottle yourself,” Norry said.
“Guys,” Stani said.
Norry and Angela looked in time to see Aria drop to the floor and Norry jumped, catching her just before she hit the ground.
“When was the last time she ate?” Angela asked.
Aria held her head unable to steady her nerves. The room was spinning, churning her stomach.
“You did drink my Guinness,” Angela shouted. “I can smell it on you!”
Vomiting, Aria sat up and bathed Norry in her insides. The last thing she heard before passing out was Angela’s laughter.
* * *
Aria’s head pounded with every movement creak above her head. Consciousness flooded back as she noted the scent of cinnamon in the warm air. Aria moved. The last few hours, days, or weeks finally paid their toll and every joint screamed in protest. The taste of vomit lingered in her mouth as she attempted to sit up in the dark room.
Aria turned to the gentle voice and was greeted by Stanushka’s bright smile.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“Below deck,” Stani said. “Sorry about them,” Stani said, rolling her eyes as if embarrassed. “The Captain tends to forget there are others who aren’t used to the zom—”
“Oh please don’t use that word,” Aria said, dropping her throbbing head back to the bed.
“You don’t like zombies?” Stanushka asked.
Aria was feeling sick again.
“I don’t—” Aria pursed her lips. A wave of tears burned her eyes.
“Hey,” Stani soothed. “You’re alright.”
Aria shook as she quietly cried.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Stani said, rubbing Aria’s arm.
“What—” Aria took a deep breath, forcing herself calm. “What happened?”
“Yeah, I guess it is a lot when the crew put it as they did.” Stani smiled and Aria dug her fingers into her eyes as more tears fell.
“A year ago our government received communications from an unidentified alien source.”
“A year ago?” Aria gasped.
“They kept it quiet,” Stani explained.
“How did you… Did you work for the government?”
“The Professor did,” Stani said. “His team was the first to receive communications.”
“And they didn’t tell us?”
Aria thought for a moment.
“World panic, terror, chaos, apocalypse… We needed a plan,” Stani said. “And so they said nothing. They needed a plan to present to the press and the public.”
“So… then…What happened? Why?”
“Communications broke down,” Stani explained. “According to the Professor, things appeared to be going normal. But he stumbled upon a signal that well… he wasn’t supposed to hear. He learned their true purpose. When he tried to explain things to his superiors it was too late.”
“What did he hear?”
“While under the pretense of establishing friendship and trade, the Weeches launched a full scale invasion. When the Weeches revealed themselves to the government, they insisted we keep things quiet and suggested a plan that would prepare the public for their arrival. The government loved the idea and worked it into a mission to Mars. While preparations were made, the Professor caught on to their true agenda. The Weeches were buying themselves time in the guise of trust. Before the Professor could take it to the head of his department, the Weeches had already landed. The communications and negotiations were all a ruse. While the main office focused on negotiations, the Weeches, in truth were already infiltrating. They quietly moved in and took over all before anyone had grown wiser. They began with the military bases around the world and media. Then they took out the governing body.”
“They took out our organized militia and communications. No one saw this coming.”
“But the government knew. But because the media was gone, they had no way to warn the public or prepare them…”
“Or protect them.”
“But…” Aria’s head spun as she tried to imagine the walking rotters as capable of establishing an undercover and discreet operation. “How could something like… that…” Aria jabbed a finger at the nearest port hole. “… sneak up on anything?”
“Those aren’t the Weeches exactly,” Stani said.
“Well then what are they?” Aria sat up and spun her legs about on the bed wincing as her belly flipped.
“We’re not quite sure,” Stani said. “The office that the Professor was working for went under before the research got that far. What Sudan does here is continue what he started in Washington.”
Aria sighed. A fresh wave of tears threatened her composure.
“The Professor thinks they are a kind of foot soldier responsible for harvesting on behalf of the Weeches. Or maybe their fighters… We just don’t have enough information yet,” Stani said.
“Who are all of you?” Aria asked earning a grin from Stanushka.
“Just a group of… well… we’re kind of an assortment—”
“An imbroglio,” Angela said cutting off Stanushka. At the base of the steps, the Captain stood with an apple in hand.
“Sorry we came off strong,” Angela said handing the apple to Aria who accepted the fruit. Within a few large bites the apple was gone. “We are whipping something up in the kitchens for you. Feeling better?”
“When was the last time you ate something?” Angela asked.
“The night my father…”
A lump stoppered Aria’s words and she dug her fist into her brow.
“What happened the night you lost your father?” Stanushka asked.
Aria thought back to that night.
“It was raining,” she began. “Pouring, actually. Then it stopped… suddenly like—” Aria shook her head. “Like something paused the rain. There was a whistle. It was so loud… It hurt so much, I fell. When I looked out the window, it was pouring again, but… my father was gone.”
“And you saw no one?” Angela asked.
Aria shook her head.
“How did you end up on Singer Island?”
“Singer…” Aria stopped.
“Singer Island,” Angela repeated. “Yes. With Caius and his clan.”
“Who…” Aria thought back to the night she met Caius. She truly had no idea how she came to be there when she woke or where even there was. “I don’t know,” she said. “After my father vanished I was alone… but the… Weeches… They came and… I would have been dead if…”
Aria couldn’t say the word. ‘Vampire’ sounded just as ludicrous as ‘zombie.’
“Caius was there,” she continued. “He saved me.”
“He didn’t save you,” Angela said. “He was saving his dinner.”
Aria hugged her stomach wishing it would stop flipping.
“I’ve been to Singer Island,” Aria said. “Once… years ago. It was crawling with tourists… not Dracula.”
“When the Weeches invaded, Caius moved in and cleaned house,” Angela explained. “We think he liked the Gothic look of the place. Made him feel right at home.”
“I don’t…” Aria dropped her head into her hands. “Did Caius come in then with the Weeches?”
Angela and Stanushka exchanged a look.
“Perhaps we should see if dinner is ready,” Angela said. “Stani?”
“I got it.”
Stani was up in a moment. Her gun hung affectionately at her side as she climbed the steps back to the main deck.
“We are part of a small group that hunts Caius’ clan,” Angela said.
“Slayers,” Aria said.
“Eh,” Angela shrugged. “In a way.”
“Vampire is the best way to describe what Caius is, but vampire is only the stories that developed over centuries to describe what he really is. Mortal’s explanation for something they don’t understand.”
“So then… What is Caius… really?”
“They don’t drink blood, if that’s what you’re asking,” Angela said with a grin. “They are cannibals… kind of. They would be if they were human. There are no silver bullets, no garlic, no crosses or holy water. Those were superstitions developed by religious Men who turned to their gods to protect them. And garlic was once used only as a standard medicine to treat a range of ailments.”
“They thought it was a disease,” Aria said.
“Exactly. They do lack a tolerance to light, but that is because of where they live and their evolution and not because of what they are. They do not turn dead. No bats. No coffins. Caius is immortal. He and his clan just… don’t age. But they can be killed as easily as you or I.”
“If there really are vampires, then why don’t we know about them?” Aria asked.
“We did once,” Angela said. “Mortals are terrified of that kind of power. So we specialized in hunting them down and killing them. They would have gone extinct if they didn’t go into hiding and encourage the stories that we know today.”
“Because Caius has us at an advantage. He has centuries of training under his belt. While we only have one lifetime to master any one field, Caius has an infinite number of lifetimes. His clan has had the time to master each and every skill known to man. That puts him at a slight advantage.”
“But…” Aria’s hands went to her neck. Two pair of small punctures had scabbed over, but there was no denying what she had seen.
“The canines,” Angela said. “That’s what gave birth to most of the rumors. They don’t use them to drink blood like bats. We all had canines once. Over the years we evolved and our canines diminished. Theirs didn’t. The canines are venomous—”
“Like snakes,” Aria deduced.
“Yes. The venom paralyzes their prey. That’s all. It renders them unconscious for… easy dining,” Angela smiled at the thought and Aria swayed. The room was still spinning. “Those with allergic reactions have died from the venom. Hence the rumors. And an anecdote can be made… just like an anecdote for snake venom. In fact… that’s what the Professor is working on at the moment.”
“But… don’t you need the venom to create an anecdote?” Aria asked.
“Yep,” Angela said. “And therein lies our problem.”
“And our solution.”
Last edited and updated 15 August 2016
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