A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the 24th chapter of it. Let me know what you think about it. You find a Facebook comment form below the text. I post each new chapter when it is completed. The first chapter is here: Chapter One
Dying Is Terrible
Caroline has no more than entered her room and turned on the light, when there is a double knock on the window. It is not very discreet. Fred is outside, pressing his face to the window and gesturing at her to open. She is quick to close the door behind her.
"God, I'm popular, all of a sudden," she mumbles.
She puts her hands on her hips and takes a good look at Fred outside the window. As soon as he notices that she is not moving from her spot, he knocks on the window again, even harder this time. He opens his mouth as if to shout. With a sigh, Caroline steps up to the window and opens it.
Fred stares at her. His face is twisted in anger.
"Where have you been? I've waited here for hours!"
Caroline hushes him.
"So what else is new?" she replies with an inkling of a smile.
He continues with a lower but just as angry voice, as he climbs into the room.
"You've been out with that freak, I bet. Where is he?"
He looks at the closet door.
"I don't know," Caroline replies. "I left them at the gate. I guess they headed back to town."
"I met another one."
"Another one? With the same delusion, you mean?"
She grabs his shoulders and looks him right in the eyes, waiting for him to calm down and focus on her.
"Fred," she starts with a firm voice, "it's not a delusion. They are vampires."
Fred shakes her hands off his shoulders and takes a step back.
"How do you know?"
Fred sits down on the bed and crosses his arms.
"You know? That's fine, then. End of discussion. You know."
Caroline ignores his bitterly sarcastic tone.
"I took Reuben to a youth shelter. I thought they could help him. That's where we met the other one. His name is Aaron. He took us to a sort of bar for vampires, where there was a whole bunch of them."
"A bar for vampires? Come on! They sit around seeping Bloody Mary?"
"Actually, I didn't see them serve anything at all. Probably, vampires can't drink much else than blood. They're quite sensitive."
Fred moans and falls back on the bed.
"Yeah, the poor things."
"You heard Reuben. Sunlight blinds them, they're not immune to disease, and it's so difficult for them to feed that many starve to death."
Fred lets out an exaggerated sigh.
"My heart bleeds for them," he mutters. Then he lifts his head to look straight at her. "Now, tell me what made you convinced that they really are vampires."
Caroline gets thoughtful and sits down on the bed. Fred waits, keeping his eyes on her.
"First, it was Aaron," Caroline explains. "Finding another one, just like Reuben."
"There's more than one lunatic in the world, Carrie."
"Then it was that bar. The people there, all of them the same as Reuben - pale and skinny, with that gloom about them. And the place itself, the atmosphere of it. So dark, so... hopeless."
"That could just have been your imagination. How many bars have you been to?"
Fred pauses for a moment, his eyebrows twisting.
"There are some weird bars, I tell you. Really weird." His lips turn into something vaguely similar to a smile. "Really weird," he repeats.
Caroline makes no sign that she hears him. She takes a deep breath through her mouth.
"Then there was the killing."
Fred stiffens. His smile disappears.
"A group of child vampires killed a woman who had made one of them vampire. They ran a wooden stick through her heart!"
She pauses to shudder. Her hands grab her thighs like claws.
"Reuben pulled me out of there just when it happened," she continues. Her hands release the thighs to fall on the bed. "It was quite a shock. But you know, since they were so strange, all of them, it didn't feel that real. Like on TV or something."
She turns to look at him, with an expression on her face that signals confusion, and not at all horror.
"Maybe it wasn't real," Fred suggests. "It could have been your imagination."
He lays his hand on top of hers and starts to caress it. Caroline shakes her head.
"Not a chance," she states firmly. "It's kids. They hate it. Vampires don't age, so they remain kids forever. That's what they hate. So they hunt their makers and take revenge on them."
"That's what Reuben told you?"
She nods. Fred's hand moves slowly, as if casually, up her arm.
"He's just a kid as well, you know."
"No, he's a teen," Caroline objects. "Teen vampires are the most fortunate of all. Everyone envies them. Their aging is halted at the best time ever."
His eyes wander from her neck down, as he sits up and moves towards her until their hips touch. His hand reaches her shoulder. Caroline makes no sign of noticing.
"You want to be one?" she asks.
"Sure. If it's all true. Don't you?"
"I think so, yes," she replies hesitantly. After a moment of silence, she adds with sudden conviction: "I know so."
Fred glances at her face, which is full of determination. He hugs her from the side, turning his body towards her and sinking his nose into her hair.
"Let's do it, then!" he whispers right into her ear. "Let's become vampires. You and me, we'll be the envy of them all."
He kisses her neck very lightly and then opens his mouth to make his teeth touch the skin of her neck ever so gently.
"I could get used to that kind of feeding," he says. Then he kisses her neck again, this time remaining longer.
Caroline doesn't react at all. She stares at the ceiling, with tears in her eyes.
"I already know enough about dying," she says. "Do I ever! My poor brother showed me. It's torture. Nobody should have to go through that. Nobody!"
Fred puts his hand on her cheek and turns her face towards him.
"Then we won't," he says and kisses her on the lips.
"But how?" she asks, speaking right into his mouth.
Fred backs his head.
"What do you mean, how? That Reuben, I'm sure he'd do anything for you."
"It needs to be two."
"That other one you met today, then?"
"Aaron. Yes, he even suggested it."
"But I think Reuben is against it."
Fred lets out a frown.
"I don't see how he could refuse you," he says and kisses her again.
He presses his body against hers. She neither responds nor stops him. Fred moves one of his hands down to her waist. Still she does nothing.
"Refuse what?" a sharp voice inquires.
It is Reuben. He stands by the short side of the bed. Both Caroline and Fred are startled. Caroline twists her body away from Fred. He sighs and falls down flat on the bed again.
"Reuben, when did you get here?" Caroline asks with a hint of anxiety. "I didn't hear you come."
"What is it I can't refuse?"
"Her," Fred mutters.
Reuben sits down on the bed, finds Caroline's hand and strokes it between both of his.
"What do you want from me, Caroline?"
Caroline stares at his hands as she struggles to get it out.
"I want to be one of you," she finally says, looking Reuben right in the eyes.
Reuben removes his hands.
"Me too," Fred adds with a grin.
Reuben glares at him. Fred flinches. His smile disappears. Reuben turns back to Caroline.
"We want to live forever," Fred replies, ignoring that the question was not for him. "Did you even have to ask? We want to stay like this - young and carefree. Who wouldn't? Nature is cruel, to make us grow old right after reaching our prime. Whatever it takes, who wouldn't want to halt it, to remain like this?"
He spreads his arms proudly, where he lies flat on the bed. Caroline avoids Reuben's eyes, but he has turned them to Fred.
"Carefree?" Reuben inquires, pronouncing the word elaborately. "There is no such thing. We all have our torments. Who wants to carry them forever? You don't know what it is you ask for."
"I'm willing to risk it," Fred insists, his voice now more assured. "I know what I'm headed for, as it is. Getting old, living more and more on memories. Dying is failure, the unavoidable misery at the end of this long, painstaking downhill slope called life. Anything but that."
Caroline suddenly gets tense.
"Dying is terrible!" she exclaims with a sigh, emptying her lungs completely.
Reuben straightens his back, as if preparing to stand up. He speaks quickly, but with emphasis on almost every word.
"Do you think that just because your body remains the same, you don't get old? The downhill slope is the same - just so much longer. Do you really think that it's not painful, when you don't see the end of it? Think again! Any burden is easier to carry when you know that it's for a limited time, only. Everything becomes unbearable when there's no end to it. Everything!"
Fred and Caroline listen in silence, not moving an inch. The silence continues for a while, when Reuben is finished speaking. After some hesitation, Fred speaks up.
"Well, if so - wouldn't that go for the joys of life, too? When you can rest assured that your pleasures will not cease and the prime of your life doesn't have a built-in countdown, only then can you truly enjoy it."
"No joy lasts," Reuben replies with a surprisingly dark voice, as if coming out of a cellar. "Nothing is amusing forever."
"Hey, wait a minute," Fred protests, sitting up in the bed. "Are you telling me that all the bad things get worse by time, and the good things get worse, too?"
"Come on! That doesn't make sense. Either both pleasure and pain increase by time, or they both diminish, so that life as a whole gets more and more dull. You can't convince me that it adds up in any other way."
Reuben looks at him with a sad expression that seems to be one of pity.
"That's just it," he says slowly. "Dull. To live for eternity - a dull life. How would you like that?"
Fred looks at Caroline and smiles vaguely.
"Oh, I'm sure there are things that never get dull."
Caroline doesn't notice his comment. She looks away, full of her own thoughts.
"I've seen dying," she mumbles, barely audible to the others. "There's nothing worse than that. I don't know about pleasure, that much. But I've seen the pain. If the end is like that, I never want it to come."
Reuben takes Caroline's hand again and presses it to his chest. He gets as somber as she is.
"Me, I've died only once," he says and blinks hard. "And that was for a short time. But I've witnessed the death of others, more than I care to count. Some of them did so in anguish, screaming of pain until the last spark of life was extinguished. Some died in such fear that their bodies continued to shiver even after life had left them. There were others, though, who died with a beautiful smile on their lips, so much at peace that I was sure I heard angels sing."
"You've died once?" Fred asks, unsure of having heard it right.
"When I became a vampire."
"You have to die for that?"
Fred becomes thoughtful. Absentmindedly, he runs his fingers through his hair, as if combing it.
"Is there a risk of dying for good, instead of turning into a vampire?"
"There is a risk," Reuben replies somberly, "but with you it's of another kind. Remember, vampires can die, too."
Fred shuts up, bothered. Caroline observes Fred's change of mood, and ponders it for a moment, before turning back to Reuben.
"What about me?"
Reuben squeezes her hand a bit too hard for her comfort.
"Your only risk is regretting it. And that's the worst."
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.