Although it's Fragments that's taking part in Efestival of Words 'Trick or Treat' event, I can't let Hallowe'en month pass without letting you have some vampire tricks, so an excerpt from Changeling, whereby Dreyfuss and Joanne square down at the moment of the reveal... and you have to wonder what you'd do in the same circumstances.
Psychological torture ahead, trigger warning... Joanne has been a prisoner for almost a year and knows only that Dreyfuss is insane.
Psychological torture ahead, trigger warning... Joanne has been a prisoner for almost a year and knows only that Dreyfuss is insane.
They very rarely ate breakfast in the dining room. Either they did not share the meal, or they ate on the breakfast bar in the kitchen. He had laid out the breakfast ware formally, and placed bacon and eggs on her plate. She was moving them around her plate, with just enough being consumed to avert comment. Not that anything was going to avert comment today.
‘I am pleased that you are feeling better this morning.
‘Yes, thank you. I’m much better.’
‘Good, it was unfortunate, that you became so… indisposed.’
She managed to get another scrap of bacon in her mouth, taking a drink of water to try and drown it down.
‘Joanne, I have been meaning to have a talk with you. Perhaps now would be a good time?’ He sat back, settling into the chair, the meal dismissed.
She adjusted her own pose exactly, sitting in quiet attention, moving her body slightly to angle more to him.
‘First of all, let me say that I do understand your... reticence… in the matter of your time here with me…’
She tuned out everything, but listening. If he was pontificating, best not to let something important go unheard. She found if she focussed tightly on his lips, and how they formed his words, the rest of the room would fade from her view. Slowly blink out to nothingness, and dim in colour and detail. Something she often worked on when left on her own for any length of time: how long to stare at a fixed point long enough, and watch the room fade from her peripheral vision.
‘…do you agree?’
‘Yes Jonathan, I do agree.’
Best just to repeat his phrase. If she embellished, or reduced, he could get testy. Testy?
‘Good, then I am happy for this to be out of our way. You really do have to accept this.’
She was nonplussed. He’d not mentioned whatever it was she’d have to accept. Had he…? He was looking at her for a response. She felt her way along the words, slowly.
‘I will, of course, accept anything you say, Jonathan.’
‘Excellent! I should never have doubted you.’
He really was acting totally out of sorts. She clamped down on following that thought, using her energy to keep focussed on his lips.
‘It is important you accept my true nature utterly. You should, after all, feel privileged. It is a rare, and exceptional honour, to know a vampire.’
The room exploded back into colour and detail. So sharp, and so fast was the change, she felt she’d heard a shock wave. Her breathing was faster, her palms sweating up. She ordered her body to remain still, whilst she sought to bring her focus back purely to him.
Her eyes had flared so wonderfully... the pupils expanding so quickly, it was if they were devouring the light. This was much more like it…
He leaned forward towards her.
‘I am content that you understand so well.’ He timed the pause to her heartbeat, moving into the silence as her body tipped into panic. She would taste wonderful! He reached out his hand. ‘Give me your hand.’
She instinctively raised her left hand and offered it to him. She didn’t like that this is how her body had reacted, but equally, she didn’t want to argue with it. She was still trying to work out some way to hear, and process, his madness. She had worked very hard, at refusing him the label of mad. It wasn’t a label she could cope with. Faced with such evidence of his own delusion, there was little escape: he was mad and she, in turn was utterly doomed.
He grasped her hand firmly, pulling her into his space more completely. His left hand holding it from underneath, the fingers of his right hand trailing over her opened palm, in that obscenely suggestive manner he’d first displayed last week in the kitchen. She felt her mouth flood with saliva, as the bile rose. She swallowed hard, again aware of how complex and difficult it was, to swallow down fear.
‘I had wondered, if you had not wondered before now? About how special my gifts were?’ His index finger was tracing a tiny circle over the mark on her palm. ‘About how well you heal?’
Everything dissolved. Her blood; her bones; her brain. She felt the slump as her body began to list. His hand kept her trapped to him, even as the rest of her sought to slide sideways onto the floor. She had fought thinking about this so hard, so completely. Her memories of how much damage he’d inflicted, had never been matched by her awakenings in a body different from the one her mind had fled. Bruises would look days old, and cuts and welts old and half healed. She’d known he was playing with her mind somehow, and had guessed that more than once, she’d been ‘asleep’ longer than she thought. But the inconsistencies had grown, especially since her release into the flat. Day and night had a meaning once more, and the rhythm of ‘outside’ could be glimpsed. Many times she was very sure of falling asleep in an agony of fire, and wakening with the duller pains of healing, when only one night’s sleep had gone by. Just as she’d been equally sure that sometimes many many nights had gone by, and he was giving play that only one had passed.
She had chosen to ignore it utterly, lest she go mad herself. This had been a conscious decision, made when she began to wonder if he’d actually really hit her that hard, after all. Had she really bled? Had it happened? Was this life real? Was she in a mental ward somewhere? She’d locked it all out of her mind: to hold it in even the slightest measure, would be to drive herself insane. To question how much pain she’d endured, was to question everything: she did not question on this.
It had been exceptionally hard to keep to this, during the past few days, whilst her shoulder had burned and ached so. The memory of lying on the floor, not breathing, the fire that had laced across her back. Yes, it had hurt, but nothing matched the memory of the hit...
‘Do you not wonder about all the little injuries, all healed up? Your shoulder?’ He raised her hand up, and licked his tongue over her wrist, the tip of his tongue playing over the veins.
She looked away, had no choice. All was needed to deal with the scream, to stop the scream: the scream could not be released. She must swallow the scream.
The movement on her hand became more playful, more… sensual. He was licking and tonguing and teasing her skin. The licks became slow, playful bites. His teeth pressed down on her here, there. His mouth took control of one of her fingers, and he sucked down then moved on. She kept her face turned away, still working on the absence of scream.
When he finally cut down, into her left wrist, she hardly felt it. She was so far into adrenaline overload, he could have done much worse, and she’d still not have felt much. The rush of her fear-soaked blood into his mouth was ecstatic. He drank down eagerly, licking and pulling the wound open bit by bit. Sucking out every drop he could without actually opening a vein. He deliberately smeared his game out, along her hands and fingers, and his mouth. He felt the tingle as her blood settled onto his lips. He finally drew back, dropping her hand, and twisting back in his seat to sit more normally at the table. He dabbed his lips with the napkin, making slow and deliberate show of her blood staining up the cloth.
Her hand stayed where it fell, on the table between them. Her head was bent away from him, her body slack against the chair. She could have been mistaken for a corpse. The fire her blood had poured into his stomach was utterly, utterly divine. She tasted wonderful.
‘Pass the water jug please.’
Once more, her body instinctively did as he bid, with no reference to her mind for consent, or refusal. She was so terribly glad of this, so happy for the instant obedience, she forgave the betrayal. How could she have fought this so? Obedience to him was such a wonderful relief... the burden of choice was removed from her. She took the prompt and poured water into the tumbler at his setting. Some for herself. He was using his napkin to dab the blood, her blood, from the corners of his mouth and lips. Then, he tucked it back onto his lap, and began to butter a soft morning roll.
She re-seated, also fixing her own napkin in place. The cold and congealed remnants on the plate defeated her, and she pushed it away, reaching instead for a pastry. That could be moved about and pretended at with ease.
She could not help drying her hand and wrist upon the napkin, removing the last of her blood, and his saliva. There was a small cut on her wrist: it was not bleeding. There was no need to wrap it, to compress it. She pushed her hand onto her lap, under the table, and drank from her water glass with the other. She could be fine, could obey, as long as she did not think. She would not think about what he said, and how there could have been pain, and blood, but no injury there now. She would not think on it. It was a trick.
‘Do not worry. There will be no infection, or bleeding. Vampire blood protects against all that. It will heal very quickly.’
As she slowly forced the pastry into her mouth, and down into her guts, tears welled up into her eyes, and spilled soundlessly down her face, dampening her blouse and the napkin.
The next few days passed in torpor, her actions supported by her routine. Her mind appeared frozen. Her body moved through the different phases of the day, the meals counter pointing the emptiness. When he spoke, she obeyed. When he moved, she followed. He spoke to her incessantly about his being a vampire, and what that meant for her. She took everything silently, passively. Three times he took blood from her left wrist. Three times she didn’t react. He beat her twice, both times savagely, as her heat in his veins was causing him immense problems with his temper. He managed to not feed from her, after the beatings, which could have killed her. She took the beatings silently, and for once, he cursed that. That had not been what he was looking for: he required reaction from her, some sense of independence. He was not going to allow her such a total retreat: he knew this was as much game plan as anything else. Her heartbeat, breathing and scent betrayed her: she was aware. She was just choosing not to show it.
After a week, when her appetite was failing badly, and she began to show signs of serious dehydration, he acted. He was not happy with how fast he was having to act, he felt his hand was being forced, which did not sit comfortably with him. However, he would not be deceived in this fashion; the word ‘fool’ was not one to be applied to him, under any circumstance. Besides, she would sink into real atrophy if this kept on: that he had seen before, many times. Sitting her at the breakfast bar, he poured a large glass of raw goat’s milk in front of her. Her hand reached forward automatically, to do his bidding. He staved her off, and she sank back in the chair. Lifting his wrist over the glass, he slashed it open, and his blood spilled in. Nothing came from her, not even a flare of her pupils. He stirred the glass until it became an even pink colour. Then he pushed it towards her.
‘I am both vampire, and your master. Drink of me. Take of my body, my blood.’
She stood up, turned her back, and walked to her room.
Well satisfied with his judgement, that he had called her out, he placed the glass into the fridge. There was to be no hiding from this. She would accept his authority. She would bend her will to his, even as she sought refuge in closing down her mind. If she wanted to dabble with melancholia and depression, he would supply it for her in abundance.
The fridge and cupboards took a little while to empty, but he wanted that done first. Second was closing down the steel shutters on all the windows, locking out the light, hence the need to empty the fridge first. He took the light bulb out of the fridge, and from most of the sockets, leaving just enough light that she could not fall over her own feet every two seconds. The heating and hot water went next. Finally, he dimmed the lights in her room and bathroom, and spent a few fiddly moments getting the cameras to switch to infra-red, just in case. There would be no wrist slashing or rope swinging when he was not present.
His plans set, he moved through the days with exactly the same rhythm as before. Three meals were laid out, all of them in the dining room, and she had to sit through them. Not that it took long to eat a slice of bread or a small bowl of boiled rice, or a cup of gruel. Her forcing herself to eat had been cured by a few days of actual hunger. Hunger will not be denied, and she had never really understood, or experienced that. She now ate everything in front of her, and scraped the bowl clean. When he had not objected, she licked the bowl out. She drank copious amounts of water, to try and stave off the hunger, but soon found this made her ill and did not fill her as she had presumed. Water was not food.
She tried not washing, or dressing to his standard. He laid raw her lower back, without the subsequent benediction of his blood, and left her to heal as best she could on the calories allotted her. She had resumed grooming.
He made a point of telling her he had not used his blood to heal her quickly, and that he would continue to leave her to heal without him. She had been soaking the blouse off her back in a cold water shower for a week, before it healed enough not to leak and stick to her.
Every day he filled a glass with the milk and his blood, and left it in the fridge. At every meal, it sat by her plate.
The long hours she had spent sitting in the living room, watching the sunlight, had become long cold cramped hours in the hall, looking at the faint line of daylight that he allowed to spill under the closed study door. He kept the shutter up in there, and left the electric lights to blaze, so that when he opened the door, light spilled everywhere into the darkness that enclosed her. Which was then firmly closed off from her when he closed the door behind him.
By the end of the second week, she was talking and crying out in what little sleep she could manage. She often burst into crying as he left a room. Silent sobs and a flood of empty tears, spilling down her cheeks, unchecked.
He took blood from her every two to three days. He would flick open her wrist with a scalpel, and drink a toke: a token. Again, he would comment that he would not be gifting his own blood to heal her, and left each little cut to heal on its own. He explained that he could take blood without pain, but since he was rejecting his truth, he chose to do it this way. When infection took hold, he administered antibiotics. Each time she had to swallow a capsule, he reminded her that if she accepted his blood, his nature, she would be healed by now, and out of pain. She never commented, but the hand was always raised to him on request: he had her body completely. Her mind, her spirit, was almost his.
Three weeks in, his sleep was disturbed by a slight ping, and he quickly took the back route into the study and the screens. She was in the kitchen, standing in front of the fridge. She opened and shut it several times. Her hand reached in once, but withdrew. She closed the door and returned to her bed, curling up in a ball under the sheets, crying and rocking.
She lasted another two days, which somewhat impressed him. It was at lunch, a bowl of plain rice, when she broke into wracking sobs. He remained calm, letting her take the lead. Her hand reached for the glass. She was shaking so much she spilled some as she tried to lift it. She needed to use her left hand, to steady her right one, as the tumbler was lifted, and brought to her lips. Again, some slopped out the sides, staining her top. It took a few moments before she could stop crying well enough to let the glass touch her lips. She drank, and swallowed. He let her have two mouthfuls, before taking the glass from her.
‘Not too much. You will not cope with the richness, right now.’
She nodded to him, tears continuing to spill down her face, her chest rising with the effort of trying to calm.
‘Go through to your room, and lie down. I shall bring you something else in a few moments.’
She retreated, still holding onto her sobs. He basked in the glory as he set the flat back to rights. Shutters up, heating and hot water on. Light bulbs replaced, although he switched them all off. Her eyes might take several hours to re-adjust. The restocking of the fridge and cupboards took a little time, and he heated through some clear broth for her and put it in a flask as he went. Finally, he moved the light levels up in her room, before going in with a tray containing the flask, a yoghurt and a banana.
She was under the sheet, silently rocking to and fro. He placed the tray down, and lay down beside her, gathering her in his arms, she turned to him, and cried some more. He stroked her hair, and sang lullabies to her as she shook.