Chapter 32

A new novel in the making.

A New Novel in the Making

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Ever Young. Novel by Stefan Stenudd.

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Treacherous Longevity

Caroline's room is quite dim. The curtains are still closed. The first thing Caroline does when she enters is to put her school bag on the desk. Next she checks under the bed. Aaron lies there, sleeping. Caroline stretches out a hand and touches his shoulder gently. At the very moment her fingers reach him, he opens his eyes.

"Good morning, Aaron," she greets him. "Or should I say good evening?"

"Good evening to you too, Carr," he replies and manages a hint of a smile.

"Have you slept through the whole day?"

"What time is it?"

"A little past four o'clock."

"Then yes," he says and stretches both arms and legs, letting out a big yawn.

"Where's Reuben?" Caroline asks.

"I have no idea. He never sleeps, in spite of his age."

"His age? Isn't he the same age as you?"

Aaron laughs, as he gets up from under the bed and makes a few stretching movements.

"He is way older than me. A hundred years, I bet, or even more."

"A hundred years? But he looks like a teenager."

"Well, so do I, and I'm twenty-six."

"You are?" Caroline wonders, glancing at his face and then his body.

Aaron pushes his chest forward and throws out his arms to the sides.

"Hard to believe, isn't it?" He smiles, showing just about all his teeth. "But you know this. I haven't aged since I became a vampire. Not a bit. No one does. That goes for Reuben, too. He looks the age he had when he was transformed."

"I knew that, but I still thought the years would be visible in some way, considering the life you guys have to live. All the difficulties, they should mark you in some way. In your faces, in your eyes."

"Nope," Aaron states in a cheerful way. "We're all Dorian Gray."

"The Oscar Wilde story?"

"You've read it?"

"He had that portrait changing instead of him. The painting documented all that he had gone through. Time just has to make its track somewhere."

"For us, that painting is in our minds," Aaron explains and knocks on his temple with the index finger. "We age in here. It would probably be better to have a painting. Then you can simply look the other way and forget it for a while."

Caroline sits down by the desk and starts to unpack her bag.

"So Reuben is a hundred years old," she says, almost mumbling.

"Or more."

"How much more?"

"He wouldn't tell me. I asked him again and again about his age, but he was quite secretive about it. Although a hundred years is quite a lot for a vampire — quite a lot — I got the strong impression that it wasn't news to him. I've never met one that old before. We have it in us to live forever, but we just don't. It's not that easy."

"But Reuben did?"

"Obviously. He found a way. You know, feeding only on virgins, and so on. He's mighty careful. That would be necessary. And he's got the power."

"Yes, you talked about that before I left this morning. What power?"

"He can do things," Aaron replies as he walks over to the desk and leans on it. "He made you sleep through his feeding for months. I couldn't do that. People tend to wake up. Their subconscious warns them, or something. And you saw how he could keep that dreadful boy off at the bar, the other night."

Caroline shivers a little at the memory.

"I thought the boys were just not interested in us. They had another victim."

"That they did, but there was still something there, the way their leader retreated from our table. Trust me. I know the difference. Those kinds of boys usually don't care about anybody. Really not. And have you seen how Reuben pushes both me and Fred around when he feels like it? As if we're mere puppets."

"I can't say I've noticed."

"I sure have. So has Freddie. Ask him."

"I will."

Aaron leans over to the window and parts the curtains minutely, to take a peek. A beam of sunlight bursts in, casting sharp shadows in its way. Aaron quickly closes his eyes, grunts and lets the curtain fall back.

"It's well known among vampires that the longer you live, the more powers you get. Nothing very spectacular, normally, but small tricks and abilities to help with your survival. It's quite simple. The longer you live, the better your odds are on living even longer."

"Then there should be many very old ones."

"Well, that's in theory. Even with those little extra powers, survival is extremely difficult. I haven't met anyone who lived long enough for the growth of those powers to make a significant difference. It's a rat race. Most of us don't make it."

"So, who is the oldest one you've met — except for Reuben?"

"Oh, I knew one well," he says with a sigh. "She was twenty-one when she became a vampire, and died at seventy-four. That's over fifty year of sucking blood for a living. Outstanding! She was powerful. But that still didn't save her. I watched her die."

"What could she do?"

"Her breath was wonderful, for one thing. It smelled like a whole garden and could make a big strong man fall asleep instantly, even though he was wide awake and angry, too. I saw it. And she moved so naturally, so relaxed, she was unstoppable."

Aaron falls silent, turning inwards to his memories.

"So how did she die?" Caroline inquires after some time.

"She took a bite at me," Aaron replies, staring at the closed curtain. "She was desperate to feed after a long involuntary fast. I guess she thought she was old and powerful enough to manage. Well, she wasn't."

"Why didn't you stop her?"

Aaron shakes his head.

"I told you about her breath. I was asleep. That she managed."

Again, Aaron becomes silent. Caroline waits.

"I woke up just in time to see the final stage of her deterioration," he says with a dark voice. "Not a pretty sight, although she was a raving beauty. I could have told her, if I'd woken up in time. But she was too powerful for her own good. Maybe that's what gets them. When your power increases, so does your trust in it. But that's a mistake, a fatal mistake. There's no guarantee. No easy way."

"Reuben seems to have it easy."

"Really?" Aaron asks and looks into her eyes. "Do you really believe that?"

Caroline shrugs her shoulders.

"He doesn't seem to suffer."

"Oh, but he does! And you know it. Have you ever seen him laugh or even smile? And I don't mean the kind of smile you show others to make them feel a little better. Have you heard him tell a joke or sing or whistle? Has he ever said something cheerful to you?"

"I haven't known him that long at all. Just a couple of days."

"I've known him for a couple of years and only heard him joke once. That was this morning, after you left. And it wasn't really a joke, just something ironic. Nothing we laughed at."

Caroline finds herself clasping her hands and resting them on her lap.

"I don't laugh much," she says. "And I'm only fifteen."

"But you want to."

She is surprised and contemplates for a moment before speaking.

"I guess so."

"Of course you do! But Reuben doesn't want to and doesn't expect to. That's the difference, and that's another reason I think he's very, very old. Maybe even more than a hundred. He's fed up. He manages to stay alive, but he's lost the ability to enjoy it. He even told you so, remember?"

"He said that's what happens at length. Everything gets boring."

"There you have it. He was talking from personal experience. I bet the guy is a hundred and fifty. I bet he was born way back in the 19th century. Among the cowboys. That's why he's so simpleminded. Reuben the hillbilly-boy."

Aaron chuckles. Caroline doesn't.

"I bet he goes as far back as that. No wonder he gets bored with life."

"You wouldn't?"

"After a century and a half, who knows? But I don't live his kind of life. I do stuff, I dare stuff. So, I'm not bloody likely to reach that age. I won't live long enough to get bored. Disappointed, yes. Frustrated, agonized and bitter. But bored — no way. I won't last that long. And that's fine by me."

Caroline opens one of her schoolbooks, glancing at it with no particular interest.

"Maybe you should take death a little more seriously," she says.

Aaron is about to comment, but stops himself and looks at her.

"Probably," he says and steps away from the desk. "Now, where's that hillbilly?"

© Stefan Stenudd, April 2014

To Be Continued

All the chapters posted so far:
  1. Light and Dark

  2. Mumbles

  3. Don't Touch

  4. Not a Word

  5. Swings

  6. He Talked to Me

  7. Was It Quick?

  8. Flossing, Too

  9. The Lower Canines

  10. Two Dots

  11. The Creep

  12. The Goth Stuff

  13. Nine Months

  14. Like a Rat

  15. Morning

  16. Some Things Take Forever

  17. If He Doesn't

  18. One Little Thing

  19. Another One

  20. Playing It Safe

  21. The Netherworld

  22. Never Grow Old

  23. It Sounds Trite

  24. Dying Is Terrible

  25. Just Kids Playing

  26. He Didn't Know

  27. Maybe the Only One

  28. I Don't Hear It

  29. Honesty

  30. Secrets

  31. I Care

  32. Treacherous Longevity

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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.