A New Novel in the Making
I'm working on a new novel. Here's the 27th 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
Maybe the Only One
It is early morning. The first frail light of dawn is blocked by the closed curtains in Thomas' room. What little light shines through above and below them is not enough to chase away the darkness in the room.
On the floor beside the bed, Fred is lying on his back. He is in his underwear, sound asleep and snoring rather loudly. He doesn't wake up, although a dark figure slowly crawls on top of him.
The door opens silently. There is no light from the corridor, so it goes unnoticed. Caroline sneaks in and closes the door behind her as carefully as she has opened it.
"Fred, are you awake?" she whispers into the darkness. "I'm sorry, but you know you must leave before my parents get up."
She waits until her eyes get used to the gloom, blinking several times. Then she steps further into the room, where she can spot Fred on the floor and the figure on top of him, though they are little more than shadows in the dim light leaking in from around the curtains.
"Reuben!" Caroline calls out, almost shouting. "What are you doing? It will kill you!"
She hurries to turn on the ceiling light. The dark figure on top of Fred lifts his head from Fred's neck to look at Caroline. It is Aaron. There are tiny drops of blood on his lips, also on Fred's neck. Aaron smiles at Caroline, with an expression of mischievous delight.
"Good morning, Carr."
Caroline rushes to them. She grabs Aaron's shoulders and lifts them, to keep his teeth off Fred.
"Oh, my God, Aaron, you didn't know!"
Aaron seems more amused than worried.
"What didn't I know?"
"Fred's got HIV. I found out last night."
"Oh." He seems rather indifferent, just mildly curious.
"Don't you understand? HIV, the AIDS virus! My brother got it from him, and he was dead within seven months. With you - how fast will it go?"
Aaron looks down on Fred, still sound asleep.
"It was worth it."
"How can you say that? It was dreadful enough with Thomas, I tell you, but with those of your kind, it's horrible. You said so."
"It's quick," he corrects her. "Is that really worse?"
Caroline stares at him in bewilderment.
"Do you want to die?"
"I have no intention to. Who knows, maybe I'm lucky, and the disease won't get to me. But if it does, I'll make sure that it wasn't for nothing."
He turns back to Fred, who shows small signs of waking up. Aaron exhales in his face, which makes his sleep deepen. Then Aaron bites him anew. Caroline still has a grip on Aaron's shoulders, but she is not strong enough to hold him back.
"Don't be a fool!"
"I'd be a fool not to feed on this delightful creature. Can't you see how good he tastes?"
"There's no taste to HIV."
"Well, if I didn't get it from what I already consumed, I never will. And if I got it already, why interrupt this splendid meal?"
Caroline lets go of him and stands up.
"You don't know what you're doing!"
Then she spots Reuben, who is standing by the door.
"Reuben, can you see what's happening? I keep telling him that Fred has the virus. It's like he doesn't understand."
She grabs Reuben's arm and starts to pull him towards Aaron and Fred lying on the floor. But she can't move him an inch, as if he had been glued to the floor. She keeps trying with even more force, to no avail.
"He already knew," Reuben says.
"What?" She stops pulling but holds on to his arm.
"Aaron knew that Fred carries the disease. He was standing right behind me when Fred confessed to you. Aaron heard it as clearly as you and I did."
Caroline lets go of Reuben's arm and starts rubbing her cheeks with both her hands.
"This is just too much. Far too much. Fred, you, Aaron - are you all crazy? Am I the only sane person here and you've ganged up to make me as mad as you? I've had it up to here!" She holds up her hand in front of her nose, but then she raises it as high as she can reach above her head. After holding it there for a moment, she returns to rubbing her cheeks. "Enough is enough. Whatever it is that you expect of me - forget it! I can't do this anymore."
She sits down on the floor with the speed of gravity, as if collapsing. Her hands are still on her cheeks, but she has stopped rubbing them. Her eyes are wide open, staring at nothing. She is breathing rapidly, her chest pumping.
Reuben looks at her with his mouth open, but not a sound comes out of it. Aaron has lifted his head from Fred's neck to watch Caroline closely. He seems to be just as surprised and confused as Reuben. Then he turns his eyes to Reuben, curving his eyebrows into a stern expression and nodding his head towards Caroline.
As a response, Reuben lifts his shoulders and opens his eyes as wide as Caroline's eyes still are. Then he kneels down to put a hand on Caroline's back.
"I'm sorry," he says to her with such a low voice that only she can hear it. "We didn't mean to. We really didn't. You shouldn't suffer because of us. We sure know that you have your own cross to carry. You shouldn't be mixed up in all of this. So, please excuse us. We didn't realize how this would hurt you."
He pauses, looking closely at what he can see of Caroline's face, which is partly hidden by her hands on the cheeks. She has closed her eyes. Reuben's hand on her back remains, not moving at all. Aaron doesn't take his eyes from them.
"Caroline," Reuben recommences very softly, "do you want us to leave?"
After a moment of stillness, she shakes her head minutely. Both Reuben and Aaron immediately show signs of relief. Caroline slowly raises her head and opens her eyes.
"So, why would Aaron still bite him? Does he want to die?"
Reuben looks at Aaron, who glances at Fred, still sound asleep.
"There's just one explanation," Reuben says. "He knows he won't."
He stands up and walks over to Aaron, where he leans down until they face each other closely.
"How come, Aaron? How come the virus doesn't affect you?"
Aaron fiercely stares right back at him, but there are drops of perspiration forming on his forehead.
"I couldn't resist. This gorgeous boy is truly one of my kind. A rascal, a Narcissus, venom to any man's sanity. I couldn't stay away."
"If his blood could kill you, you would."
Aaron smiles in an introverted way.
"Of course. There's more than one Narcissus around. Well, not that many, but enough of them to find one without the disease - although they seem to attract it more than others."
Reuben grabs Aaron's upper arms and pulls him off Fred, lifting him right up on his feet as easily as if he weighed no more than a pillow.
"So, how come?" he asks, staring right into Aaron's eyes.
"Your strength," Aaron mumbles, "there's a story to it, isn't there?"
Now, Fred shows small signs of starting to wake up. But Reuben keeps his eyes fixed on Aaron.
"Answer me!" he demands.
"It's really very simple," Aaron explains. "I already had it when I was transformed. That made me immune."
"You had the virus before you were turned into one of us?"
Aaron just nods. A smile is starting to form on his lips.
"What with those two who made you?"
Aaron shrugs his shoulders, what little Reuben's firm grip allows.
"They died within hours. Not a pleasant sight."
"But how could they feed on you - didn't they know, didn't you tell them?"
"Look at me. How could they resist?"
Reuben's grip on his arms tightens.
"I'm just kidding," Aaron hurries to explain. "Please, this was before the disease became big news. None of us knew. I was a carefree kid, an idol at the clubs, in the few happy years before heaven tumbled down on it all. I danced like Salome, and made love like Ganymede to any god-like creature who caught my fancy. I didn't know, they didn't know, nobody knew."
Reuben lets go of Aaron. Then they notice that Fred is awake and stares at them.
"Can anybody tell me what's going on?"
Both Reuben and Aaron ignore him. They continue to look at each other, Reuben sternly and Aaron with a slight smile lingering on his lips. Caroline turns to Fred.
"Aaron drank your blood, although he knew you've got the virus."
"He bit me?"
Fred strokes his neck with both hands, and inspects them. He finds a tiny drop of blood.
Nobody else cares about him. Caroline, too, returns her attention to Aaron, who seems mildly amused by it all.
"You bastard!" Fred growls.
He jumps up and leaps at Aaron. Without looking, Reuben nods his head in Fred's direction, and he collapses, falling flat on the floor. Fred tries again, with the same result. He lies still, in shock, and stares at Reuben, who keeps his attention on Aaron.
"Transforming when you already have the virus makes you immune to the disease?"
"As far as I know," Aaron replies. "I've been around for almost a decade since then, and nothing has happened to me. No sign of the disease."
"Are there others?"
"I've met a few. Like me, they keep it a secret. It wouldn't do any good to tell others about it. It changes nothing for them. Once you're a vampire, if you didn't have the virus beforehand it will kill you. We tried with this one guy, who insisted on it. He had the theory that we would be the vaccine, the antidote, for all vampires. So, two of us fed on him together, although he was already a vampire. That blood had a foul taste, I tell you."
Aaron makes an impression of spitting, while the others wait impatiently for him to continue.
"At first, he was fine, joking about the faces we made after drinking his blood. Then it set in. The virus spread like fire in his body. He was so surprised. In three hours, he was dead."
Aaron glances at Reuben, whose face has become even more pale than usual.
"Sorry, Reuben, but that's how it is. You must have it before you are transformed. So, why should I torment those of our kind by revealing that there is a cure - but for them it's too late? They would only hate me for it."
"How many like you are there?" Reuben asks, his voice hardly strong enough to reach beyond his lips.
"Through the years, I've only met four. That's all. Maybe there are others that I'm not aware of. I can't go around asking, you know."
Fred has listened with increasing interest.
"And those four?" he butts in.
Aaron looks at him, amused.
"Dream on, Freddie. Two are dead. That I know. Even with this advantage, it's hard to survive as a vampire. The other two I haven't met again and I suppose I never will. For all I know, they may also be dead by now. Once the news of the virus was out, every vampire became cautious. Few vampires start with a threesome, and since the first feed would kill them there can't be many immune vampires made. Maybe in the early eighties, before anyone knew, but not since the word got around. I may be the only one alive with the immunity."
There is silence. Aaron's eyes go from face to face of the other three.
"Do you see? Now you all know, but are you any better off for it? Not at all. It means just one thing: I can feed on Freddie. To you it means nothing."
"Don't!" Fred commands with sudden anger.
"So, stay awake," Aaron replies and bursts into laughter.
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