Date: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 3:58 PMTitle: Half Life Author: Northlight email: temporary_blue [at] yahoo.ca Fandom: Vampire High (http://www.tvtome.com/tvtome/servlet/ShowMainServlet/showid-2365) Summary: Then and now. Karl reflects. Spoilers: Not really. Set before "A Grave Matter." Rating: Hard PG13/light R. Distribution: Sure, ask. Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with anyone remotely connected to Vampire High. Date: Dec. 9-10, 2002.
Stripping off your t-shirt. Summer sun warm against your back and shoulders. Basketball gritty with dirt and sand. Sweat slick against your spine, salty against your upper lip. Twist and stretch and your arms reached, wrist flexed. Thud of the ball against the backboard. Quivering against the hoop. Falling.
Yes! John hooted, slapped at your back. You grinned, wiped the back of your hand against your damp forehead. Wild pounding of blood through arteries. Green scent of fresh-cut grass, air rushing through your lungs, filling your chest and you were so supremely arrogant, so damn certain of your own vitality--
You can feel dawn coming. You tense and it takes determination not to recoil from the sun, even surrounded by tightly-packed earth and buried beneath stone. You climb into your coffin (you'd fought not to laugh the first time--what a cliche!) and shut out the world and the sun but you can't help but think. You hadn't ever realized how much noise people make, even at night, and you miss it now. No one coughs or snores or wakes up at night to weave their way to the bathroom--not here, not anymore.
You dig your nails into dry, cool skin. Your sheets at home used to smell like laundry detergent and sleep and you. Your coffin traps stale air and a peculiar lack of scent. The sluggish thump of your heart still surprises you, so slow you can barely feel it. If you found a basketball and your friends and stood on your driveway now--you could beat everyone in seconds, play for hours and never sweat, never start your heart to pounding.
Scribbling in the margins of your history exam. Dark wide marks, daggers and lightning bolts. Drew messy circles around A, B, C when Mrs. Berry turned faded blue eyes in your direction. Boring old hag, you thought and scowled at her narrow back and didn't she realize that you were going to be a star one day?
You failed your exam. You stuffed it into your school-bag without looking at it. You got to football practice in enough time to slam your locker and call Mrs. Berry an old battleax while your buddies nodded and came up with crude insults that made you snort. And you stepped onto the field and forgot about Mrs. Berry and your failing grade because you could hear the roaring crowd in your mind and what was history to you when your future was so very bright?
The others aren't so very different from the kind of people you knew in high school. They slot easily enough into your stereotyped categories: the brooding romantic, the rebel, the beauty queen, the soft-spoken wallflower. You can almost forget what they are, sometimes. And then someone will say something, an off-hand reference to people who died decades before you were born, of events that you know only through old movies and the history books you'd barely looked at.
What does history matter, you'd sneered. Now you're staring at a book, old and musty with pages that feel gritty against your fingertips. You have an assignment due in hours and all that you can think about is that the only people left to you in the world have lived through things you hadn't dreamed of caring about. One day, you think, your life--your family and friends, your favourite bands and sports teams--will be history and you'll be the one left holding onto memories no one else will care to know.
Cassie. Sunlight made her hair shine gold. Her arms wrapped around your neck. Slick mouth that tasted of strawberry lip-gloss. Pretty and popular and you'd loved her as much as a teenage boy could--you hadn't dreamt of forever with her, but you'd woken up shaking and sweaty with the image of bare skin and parted lips.
You did your homework together and went to the only restaurant you could afford. She drank Pepsi and hated green peppers on her pizza and she would cling to your shoulders when you rolled her back into the couch cushions and nuzzled her breasts. You used to feel smug when you told the guys that you and Cassie had never watched a movie the whole way through.
You left marks low on her neck.
When you think of Cassie now, you remember to graceful lines of her throat. Long and slim and she cocked her head when she was deep in thought. You wonder what she tastes like and when you dream of Cassie now, you wake up shuddering and wild with the thought of her arched neck. You press your hands hard against your eyes because you don't want to think of Cassie like that, you shouldn't, you can't stop it.
You're younger than all the rest, barely dead, but you've had time enough to do things that you aren't proud of. Hunger drove you from stillness, propelled you past wood and earth and grass and into the night (you'll never, ever admit that you used to sleep with a night-light). You didn't understand--hardly do even now--but you knew what to do and you hardly noticed the girl scream when you grabbed her and--
You left jagged marks on her neck, deep and messy, and fell to your knees next to her body and dry-heaved until your stomach ached.
You puked for hours, the first time you really got drunk. Clinging to the toilet seat, warmed with the heat of your sweaty hands. Sour heat climbing the back of your throat, shuddering shoulders, raw from the inside out. Your mom stood in the bathroom doorway, shook her head when you finally found the strength to lift your head. She took you by your arm, tucked you into bed and only had to remind your sister not to yell twice.
The beer didn't taste quite so bad the next time around, in Tom's basement, you and your buddies and an X-rated film snagged from John's brother's stash. Threw back your head and took deep gulping drinks and stopped choking and spitting before too long. Crushed empty beer cans and stacked them on the floor, watched them grown. Hit them with your foot when the woman on the screen gasped and screamed and didn't notice them topple to the floor.
Woozy and flushed--and God, what a rush!
You're still human enough that the thought of drinking blood sometimes makes you queasy. Wrong! Monstrous! And you're so damn hungry that your teeth itch and your hands shake and you suck at the inside of your cheeks until you can't taste a trace of blood any longer. It's sick and inhuman and you can't help yourself--you'd kill at the sight of a bare neck and titled head.
You had heaved and shuddered next to the body of the first girl you killed. And you were already anticipating the next time before you stopped shaking, before your maker hauled you to your feet and struck you so hard your head snapped backwards.
You're still human enough that you don't want to be. You're inhuman enough to miss what you were. Human and not, and everything you are and everything you are not is threatening to drive you mad. Dead a year to the day and you want to go home.
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