It is raining. It is always raining here. Why does it always have to rain?
I stared in front of me at the curtain of water falling from the sky and let my mind wander as far as it needed to go. Processing everything that Heather had just told me.
Since I had been a little child, I had wanted to know. I wanted to know what had been there before me, before my time. Before our time.
And suddenly, all at once, I found out. The truth.
It had shattered my heart.
I knew I wasn’t responsible for the actions of my ancestors and that it was in no way a reflection on me personally, but it changed me.
It changed the way I looked at myself.
Since I had met Heather, I had already started to look at myself differently, but those had just been little cracks in a mirror. But this? This was like a sledgehammer demolishing my mirror and image into dust.
I always had advocated for the humans. That they were intelligent and more than just animals. I had inherited those beliefs from my father.
But a small part of me had always felt otherwise. A part of me felt superior. Not just towards the human race, but to virtually everyone around me. That, now that I had inherited from my mother.
Over the course of my life, I had managed to reconcile those two opposing beliefs and fused it with my personality.
Heather? With her story, she undid everything I thought I was and everything I thought I knew.
Humans weren’t the peace-loving and intelligent race I had believed them to be. No, they were cruel and selfish and had been their own doom.
And I wasn’t superior. I was just a modified human. A product of a test. I was created by human hands.
We all were. We were a human creation. And even though we had started out revered and loved, in the end we were nothing more than a faulty car that needed disposing off.
And the knowledge that we bested the humans when war came, made it almost even worse. Victory could be considered as a good thing, but a war doesn’t declare who is the best or who is right. It only shows you who is left.
We were what was left.
How was I supposed to accept this?
I shivered as a cold breeze blew through my hairs and I hugged myself tightly.
Great. Now I was getting cold. Like a human.
It just had been so warm underground, my body must have already adjusted to that temperature and the heat.
‘ Fantastic.’ I muttered to myself, standing up and walking out of the abandoned building.
I gazed up to the sky and breathed in the scarce air. It felt like I hadn’t been up here for a long time, but it had probably only been about two weeks.
Usually, that would be one night sleep for me. But down there, two weeks were fourteen nights of sleep. And even though I wasn’t tired when it was bedtime, laying still as I was wrapped around Heather made me sleepy enough to take a short nap.
After all, there was nothing to do as she slept. When we stayed at my place, I watched TV or read books or listened to music. But down here? There was nothing to do.
She didn’t have any possessions of her own. The rooms were strictly for sleeping and a morning routine, but apart from that, there had been nothing to do there.
I longingly looked in the direction of my city. I couldn’t see our buildings or the city, but I could see the enormous cloud of smoke hanging above it. A sight so familiar, I never thought I would miss it.
And then I looked back at the forest and the tree that hid the entrance to another world. Heather’s world.
Suddenly, without any warning, I felt torn.
For the first time after I went down, I realised I wasn’t as happy as I believed I was. I missed home. I missed my house. I missed my father. I missed my friends.
I looked up to the sky, wondering how long I had been standing here. My sense of time had become really messed up since the human world and I wasn’t able to tell how much time had passed.
I stared at the city again. I knew that if I ran as fast as I could, it would only take about four hours to go back and forth. Four hours weren’t much, but I could visit my father briefly and relax in my own couch for a minute.
I would be able to visit Lily in the hospital and sit with her for a little while.
I could pop by the library and say hi to Darren, see if there had been any trouble lately.
It would only take a minute.
‘ Were you just gonna leave without saying goodbye?’ a soft voice spoke.
My head snapped in the direction of the sound and I found Heather staring at me. A strange look in her blue eyes as she gazed at me and breathed out white clouds of smoke.
‘ N-N-No… Of course not. I-I… No, no, I wasn’t leaving.’ I stuttered, feeling how my cheeks blushed red.
‘ You look like you were about to run off.’
‘ I-I… I was thinking about it…’ I confessed truthfully. I owed her the truth. ‘ But I was gonna come back! I promise! I was only thinking about a quick visit. It is only a couple of hours after all. That is nothing.’
I saw how Heather pulled up one eyebrow questioningly, accusingly.
‘ Well… For me, I mean. As a vampire. Because an hour is like nothing to us. I mean, not nothing, but it is short. Sho-…’ I rattled, trying to justify what I said, but she interrupted me.
‘ You miss home?’
I let out a sigh. ‘ Yes.’ I said, looking down at my feet. For some reason, I felt ashamed and guilty, but I couldn’t make out why.
Was I feeling guilty because there was no reason for me to feel homesick since my stay with Heather had been nothing but pleasant? Or was I ashamed because I was longing for a place that was built on the corpses of humans?
‘ That is understandable…’
‘ I can’t help it, this is just how I fe-… Wait. Did you just say you understand?’
‘ Yes, I do. When we lived in your flat, even though I liked being with you, I felt homesick too.’
‘ But you never tried to run back home.’
‘ That is because I wasn’t about to jump off your balcony.’ she grinned, the soft look in her eyes indicating that she was only teasing. Still. She was right.
‘ Ouch.’ I winced, holding a hand over my heart and pretending I got stabbed.
Heather smiled and walked towards me, placing a hand over mine. ‘ Listen, it is perfectly okay for you to feel homesick. You should have said so. But I know that this isn’t just about that. We still need to talk about what I told you.’
I nodded, reluctantly admitting she was right. This feeling had just been amplified by the urge to run away. Run away from everything she told me.
‘ I just… I always thought we were superior, you know?’
‘ Well, technically, you are.’
‘ No, not in the way that I thought. I never realised…’
‘ Never realised what?’
‘ That we were so vain. So short-minded.’
‘ Who, vampire or humans?’
‘ Both… We prided ourselves in being strong and fast. We build our world to accommodate and enhance these features. From when I was really young, we were told that from all the species that had been on this earth, we were the most superior of all. And all because we are strong and beautiful.’
‘ And that is bad?’
‘ Not bad, but just extremely shallow and pathetic. We aren’t smarter, or emotionally more stable or connected to ourselves. We aren’t socially a better tribe than any before us, nor are we psychologically stronger or philosophically more advanced. The only thing that sets us apart from humans is our physical abilities. And time. We have so much time. Time we stole. Time we don’t deserve…’
‘ Hey, that is not true. The world you build isn’t that bad. There are no wars and there is no hunger. There is nobody homeless and there is as much equality as possible.’
‘ That goes for your world as well.’
‘ But the difference is that your world still supports individuality. Mine doesn’t.’
‘ I guess… But still. We are so shallow. I mean, look at me. I am ten times as old as you, but mentally. Mentally? We are still the same age. Tell me how being strong or beautiful is better than that…’
Heather placed both her hands on my cheeks and softly pushed my head up, forcing me to look in her eyes.
‘ The fact that you considered beauty and strength as a superior feature isn’t your fault. People have been obsessed with beauty and physical features ever since ancient times. That is how it’s always been. And you have nothing to doubt about. You are smart and mature and kind. You are so much more than just strong and beautiful. ’ she whispered as she placed her forehead against mine.
‘ No buts. Nobody is free from an appearance. Our appearance is the cover to our story. But it is just a cover. You know that what truly counts about a book is the story it holds. And you shouldn’t apologise about having a beautiful cover because your story is way more beautiful or interesting than anything else.’ she added, looking so fiercely at me that I couldn’t but believe her.
‘ Thanks…’ I whispered, closing my eyes as I felt a faint smile break through on my face.
‘ We aren’t our history.’
That one sentence made my head snap up and for the first time since she had found me, I dared look in her eyes with the same intensity.
‘ No, you are wrong. We are our history. We are the results of our history and we carry the victories and defeats with us. At least, we should. Because that is the only way we can learn from it. By holding ourselves responsible and accountable for all the damage that has been done by us.’
‘ But.’ Heather protested, thinking I was going to a dark place, but I wasn’t. In fact, I saw everything more clearly than I had before.
This time, I cut her off. ‘ No buts. We are our history. And that is a good thing. We are a good thing. Don’t you see?’
She shook her head, looking at me quizzically, not following my train of thought.
‘ You and me. We are both the result of human greed and in our past, we fought. Humans and vampires. They fought till the death, trying to eradicate each other as completely as possible. And yet, here we are. In love.’
I saw how things finally clicked for Heather and a shimmer appeared in her eyes.
‘ We are defying the odds, aren’t we? You knew about this story, about our history. Yet, you fell in love with me, someone you were taught to hate. And here I am, fully aware of what has happened between our ancestors, but my feelings for you haven’t changed one bit. To me, we are equal.’
‘ I feel the same way.’
‘ Don’t you see? We have a once in a lifetime opportunity here. We can’t undo our past and we can’t undo the horrible things that have happened. But we can do better. We can learn from our faults and live better. I mean, what we are doing right now, one day this will be history. So let us make great history!’
‘ What are you saying?’
‘ If we can do it, anyone can do it, right? I don’t see a reason why humans and vampires can’t live together. I am sure that we could learn from each other and grow and become stronger together. All of us. There is so much the humans could teach us and so much that we could show them. I mean, this can only turn out beneficial!’
I couldn’t help the excitement that bubbled up in me. I had always been fascinated by history, but now that I knew what happened, I realised that living in the past wasn’t an option anymore.
I wanted to move forward. I needed to move forward. Instead of studying and reading history, I wanted to make history.
This knowledge I just gained, this was what we had been looking for for the past centuries. This was our missing link. And now that we knew, now that I knew, I couldn’t just let it stay knowledge. I needed to turn this into something.
‘ Wow, slow down there. What you are talking about is crazy! Yes, we are making this work, but we are just two people. Getting two societies to merge is something completely else. I don’t think it can be done.’ Heather protested, her hands held up as to ward off the ideas spouting from my mouth.
‘ But come one! This could be the big breakthrough we all need! We could all live above ground. We might be able to bring back more animals and figure out how to get the earth green again. We can figure out how to make the humans live longer and give you property and personal things. You can all become individuals again!’
‘ I know it sounds good in theory, but you are getting ahead of yourself. Stop and think about it. Really think about it. I am sure that there were vampires and humans in love with each other when it all started out. I am sure they tried to keep the peace, but the vampires and humans just didn’t mix. What makes you think they can do it this time?’
I looked up at Heather and the doubtful expression on her face. She truly didn’t believe this could be done, but I knew that if we tried, it would work.
Why wouldn’t it?
Although our appearances, norms and customs were different, we came from the same place and we had the same mental capabilities.
‘ But this would be great. This could turn into a new world. We could make the new world! There will be more diversity, more personalities, more individuality. If we succeed, we could make you all stronger and get you to age slower so you can live in our world and we could figure out how to get pregnant and live together in such a tight-knitted community. It would be the greatest experi….’ I abruptly shut my mouth before a forbidden word came out.
‘ Experiment…’ Heather finished my sentence, throwing me a look filled with disappointment.
I shamefully nodded and scratched the back of my neck. Damn, I got caught up again.
‘ I sound like one of those scientists, right? Wanting to modify things for the greater good, but who am I to decide what is the greater good…’ I muttered, biting my lip as I thought back to how the scientists must have felt when they started modifying and transforming humans.
‘ I think… That if somehow our worlds are forced together, I would feel more reassured, knowing there are people like you. I would like to believe that if a merger couldn’t be avoided, it would be a peaceful one. But that being said, I don’t… I don’t think we should put that into motion…’
I nodded my head, admitting that she was probably right. ‘ I guess I got ahead of myself. But…’
She looked at me questioningly and I couldn’t help but stare back at her, completely mesmerised. The rain had turned into a soft drizzle and there she stood, illuminated by the evening sun in a haze of stray droplets. Her beautiful blue eyes shimmering brightly, brimming with life.
I had never seen anything so beautiful.
I never wanted this moment to end. No, wrong. I never wanted my time with her to end.
But seeing as things were right now, there was a good chance we wouldn’t make it.
We came from two different worlds and if we couldn’t reconcile humans and vampires, there was no middle ground for us. And that would have been okay if we could just pick a side, but there was no place for us both in one of those worlds.
We couldn’t stay down there. I didn’t age. People would start to ask questions. And that was the least of my worries. I couldn’t exist in a world where I didn’t exist. I wouldn’t be able to work, or study, or take up a hobby. I wouldn’t be able to make friends or meet Heather’s family. All I would be able to do, is watch how everyone around me withered away from old age.
And she couldn’t stay up here with me. She wouldn’t be able to do anything here. Everything was too high up or too far away. And there would always be this lingering fear that someone would find out she was human and hurt her. Or worse, if I took her back and the council found out the human was back, they would most definitely lock her up, outside of my reach for more testing and I could not allow that.
And even if there was a physical middle ground, I would only be able to spend 1/10th of my life with her. Maybe even less, because she would mature as her years were shaved off.
Because becoming mature isn’t about the years you have lived, it is about the years you think you have left.
And with every year that passed, I wouldn’t change much. But Heather, she would.
We liked to pretend that our age didn’t matter, but when you want to spend your life with someone, it does matter. Because you want that life to be as long as possible and as fulfilled as possible.
Given our situation, that would mean going way too fast for me or going too slow for her.
In ten years, she might want kids. For me, kids could wait another decade. But she didn’t have that sort of time. And that being said, I wasn’t even sure we would be able to have kids.
Adopted maybe, but I didn’t know if Heather’s DNA would match with mine and…
Wait. Why am I thinking about kids?
I stopped my train of thought going to places it shouldn’t go. This was not the time to bring this up. We still had plenty of time to enjoy together before kids would become a real issue. We first needed to figure out how we were gonna make us work before thinking about involving more humans… No, vampires… Humpires? Vampans?
What would a mix between a human and a vampire be called?
Not the point!
‘ So… Do you want to go back down…? Or are we going up?’ I carefully asked, looking in both directions before returning my gaze at her.
‘ I… Can’t we do both? Go up at times so you can visit your friends and family and then go back down, so people don’t suspect I am leaving?’
I nodded slowly, thinking over her offer. For now, that seemed like the best option. After all, I could easily not see anyone from my world for weeks or a month before they got worried. But if Heather was more than a week away, they would notice her disappearance and get suspicious again.
If that happened, they might find the vents and close them off, separating us for ever.
Heather was right. It was probably for the best to keep the two worlds apart. At least for now.
So to avoid that we both needed to maintain a presence in our respective worlds, as not to raise any suspicion.
‘ So, that means that we should be spending our nights down in your world, right?’
‘ I believe so… Unless…’
‘ Well… You don’t really need the sleep, so you could use the nights to go back up to your world and do the things you need to do?’
‘ Hmm…’ I hummed, going over that idea. It wasn’t half-bad. After all, in her eight hours of sleep, I could fled back home, have four more hours to myself to keep up appearances and then go back to spend the day with her.
That could actually work. Except for…
‘ But then we won’t have any bed time together.’ I concluded, ruling out this idea. I didn’t want to give up the only time we were truly alone.
After all, in her world, we were never really alone. Everything was communal and even though we could isolate ourselves by going to the museum and to the waterfall, we were always on guard, making sure we weren’t drawing attention to us.
I cursed at myself for not considering all this when I first started looking at her differently. I could have avoided this whole conundrum if I had just stayed away from her.
But then again. I didn’t really want that. I was glad I hadn’t stayed away from her. I liked her and all the trouble she brought along.
She was worth it.
Now I just needed to find a way to make this work…
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