My musings went back again to the first night I discovered vampires existed, and that I wasn't the most normal of recently orphaned teenagers in the world. I sighed and breathed automatically from deep beneath the surface of the earth. The cool air in the cave thankfully was fresh, so there had to be a source of fresh air flooding inside from somewhere I couldn't see, I pictured gusts of warm wind filtering through the cracks in the walls or something, because the usual coldness I found underground was missing. It wasn't overly warm but certainly not chilly. I was grateful for that and the moderate overall temps because if the air had started to get stale I would definitely have been forced into a quick decision, maybe to my own harm. Instinctively I knew that popping out without an airtight game plan would be very bad. So instead I settled back into the past, thankful for every little breath of air.
"Master, forgive me," the young man pleaded from somewhere around my knees. He was hunched over in an oddly formal bow and the sand I'd intentionally kicked up a few moments ago was still crusting his bloody face.
The briny scented air was now heavier and moistened with the thick marine layer of fog whirling around us, giving the early morning pre-dawn a haunted feeling. There must have been a fire pit burning somewhere nearby earlier in the evening because I could now smell the scent of burnt wood tinged with a bit of charred marshmallows. I could picture a group of folks huddled around in the night air roasting the fluffy bits of sugar over a roaring fire on the ends of straightened coat hangers and thin green twigs. It wasn't quite daybreak but somehow I could feel the sun struggling to rise from somewhere in the East.
Looking to my left I was positive that I truly could feel the sun in an odd way that I'd never done in the past. My dream was oddly realistic, but my heightened senses seemed to keep my brain firmly grounded in that it was just a dream, one that possibly was well on the way to becoming a nightmare. Also by now I figured I was probably walking in the sand next to the Pacific Ocean -- given the somewhat visible terrain of hills and mountains to the east and how the air felt to me on the shoreline. It was funny that little of my thoughts even entertained the notion of it being on the Gulf of Mexico. I brushed away the scattered thought that again floated into my dream, but then I logically figured the odds of that were not so good. My musings were disturbed by a slight whimper from the somewhat folded man currently huddled a bit too close to me for my comfort. He wasn't feigning fear but was absolutely terrified by the approaching man. Okay, for my dream purposes I settled on calling both of them vampires instead; the fangs and all, it was sort of a no-brainer. That and the younger one calling him Master sure seemed to make it a definite dream possibility -- okay, so supernatural fanged creatures were in my dream -- got it.
"Master Harry, to what honor do I owe this visit?" Yep, he was definitely groveling. If he'd slipped into medieval English I don't think I would have been overly shocked. As it was he was still whimpering softly, so much for his tough guy pose from earlier.
The vampire came within touching distance and growled. The hairs on the back of my neck raised and I was slightly disturbed. The creature in front of me was more than a little upset. Yet somehow, I knew it wasn't directed at me.
"She's bleeding! What the hell is wrong with you? She wasn't to be touched." He reached out with a swift motion and clipped the bent young man off his feet and onto his back. His hand had connected with the nearly kneeling vamp's face as if he'd aimed directly for him in the spot precisely where I'd hit him earlier. I bit back a grin, seeing that the Master Harry had indeed hit the man's nose hard and the blood was flowing freely again. Softly cursing, he brought out his now lightly-brown handkerchief to his face trying to stem the gushing blood. He wasn't very successful.
The vampire identified as Master Harry stepped closer to me and sighed while brushing back a strand of hair from the side of my head where the other creature had yanked out my hair.
"I am so sorry, my dear. You weren't to be injured; there are specific rules in place." I felt comforted and yet at the same time disturbed by the words.
"I didn't know dreams had 'rules' now," I said in a much softer voice than I usually spoke. Oddly it was automatic for me in this particular dream and it seemed like it was the correct way to talk to the vampire called Master Harry. The other vampire was still trembling while trying to mop up his bloodied nose.
"Child, you aren't dreaming, surely Rory told you that much before stupidly harming you?" The vampire's eyes were soft and somewhat kind as they caught mine. Rory's teeth, fangs and all, were actually softly chattering, as he couldn't stop shaking. My mind was having trouble wrapping around the notion that both of these creatures were from the same species. It was like I was seeing the good and the bad of vampires. That thought rang true to me.
Catching his eyes with mine, I felt a tug of something inside me that I quickly pushed down. No need to fall prey to a vampire's gaze. The thought flipped through my mind unbidden. It felt right, and like it was something I had to pay attention to that the universe was trying to explain to me in my dream. Disconnecting the random thoughts, I focused back on the two vampires. My glance went right over Rory since I found him pathetic and not worth my attention despite his attempts. My subconscious had apparently decided that old Rory was little more than a prop now and there wasn't any sort of attraction for me. This new player, Master Harry, was more real to me in the dream and captivating me. I felt my pulse pick up with interest at the man. Shaking my head at the idea of vampires, I firmly responded.
"Yeah. Sure. Right. And vampires are real. He sputtered something like that before yanking out a chunk of my hair." I defiantly glared back, figuring it was my dream and screw the vampire myths my brain kept trying to push into my sleep. I was so going to toss every bit of food out once I got up. Obviously I'd been drugged pretty well by something I'd nibbled last night at my parents wake. I was amazed that I hadn't seen a newspaper reporter in my dream yet, what with the entire cast of anchor teams from the local news all parked on my front lawn wanting me to cry for them. If it doesn't bleed, then sobbing orphans made for great top lead stories. I shuddered at the thought of being gristle for the mill.
Master Harry looked disturbed as he met my eyes, and then a slight frown marred his forehead as he looked deeper into my eyes, as if he could pierce my very thoughts; and then he leaned in towards me while seemingly casually stroking my hair again -- lightly and to me, it looked like he had done it unconsciously, as if he hadn't intended to touch me but automatically did so without realizing it.
I laughed, "So, you're what, like are trying to cast a spell on me?"
My laughter caught him totally by surprise and his fingers dropped away from my hair while a puzzled look flew over his face.
"Yes, Master?" The voice was thick with blood and the vampire called Rory was now actually sitting upright, no longer on his back, on the sand dabbing ineffectually at his rapidly swelling nose. The blood was still dripping and falling into the sand where it was almost immediately disappearing into the grains with only a dark stain to show where the blood had gone.
"You didn't get her to hear you did you?" Somehow I heard emphasis on the word hear as if a louder whisper overshadowed the word. Rory cringed and said, "No, Sire. She's extremely resistant."
Master Harry started laughing, "She's more than that."
Looking at the pathetically bleeding vampire he said, "Be gone. I don't know who was stupid enough to pick you as the ambassador for this meeting but they truly failed. I won't speak of this, but if you are at all interested in keeping your skin, I would tell them before someone else did." There were hidden messages in the words that I wasn't able to interpret.
It didn't matter. The vampire called Rory slowly pushed himself up from the sand and walked away from us with his head hung low. His nose was still dripping blood and he headed towards the unseen houses away from the ocean. The fog thickened and surrounded him before he was more than ten feet from us. It was like he completely disappeared in a blink of the eye. If I hadn't been dreaming it probably would have bugged me but as it was I didn't much care.
I looked at Master Harry and said, "So you also are a vampire. Hmmm ... and you also say this isn't a dream." They truly weren't questions but he treated them as such. Meeting my eyes he formed his answer.
"Yes, I am. And no, this isn't a dream. You shifted here for whatever reasons. Rory was supposed to guide you into the new world you found tonight with little drama but comfort and skill. He seemed to have failed rather spectacularly from everything I have seen." He shook his head and closed the space between us with nearly no noticeable movement. I don't think I even breathed and suddenly he was a kiss away. I sucked in the salty smoky air and said, "Aren't you a little close?"
Laughing, he stepped back a mere inch or three and said, "I guess I was. But you aren't what I expected."
Again I felt that much more was being hidden than revealed. I hated that feeling. I kept my features still and waited to see what more the vampire was going to say.
He saw I wasn't going to reply and said, "I'm sorry for your first experience with vampires to have been so horrible. I am Harry. Since Rory didn't know how to treat you let me say he's not the best representative for vampires. I'd be shocked if he made it to tomorrow given how he treated you."
There wasn't much for me to say so I just smiled.
"You aren't a typical teenager." He offered. His comment sat between us awkwardly as I wondered why he felt he had to say that. No teenager feels typical -- we all feel like social outcasts even prom queens. I wanted to say something like 'duh' but his demeanor didn't seem to welcome such a reply.
So yet again I waited. I didn't feel the need to fill the empty air. I saw another fish of some kind arc into the pre-dawn sky and fall back into the ocean. It was somehow peaceful.
"Right, Esmeralda. Okay, I am also sorry that your adopted parents died. They were good guardians for you. But now it is the time for you to become aware of your potential. They didn't know you were special but nevertheless they treated you well." Harry paused and smiled. The fangs looked natural in his smile and another fissure of concern raced through me. This was not an ordinary dream.