Sip, Swap, Steal, Stop
That’s the biggest pumpkin you’ve ever seen! You were out searching for a pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern when you found one so big you could sit inside it.
You could sit inside, wait for kids to come by, and then pop out and scare them!
But how to get this pumpkin home?
You jump back as the top of the pumpkin pops up and a sweet, spicy smell bowls you over. A shapely lady emerges laughing, dripping in sticky pumpkin pulp. She leans forward atop the pumpkin shell and looks you over.
“Hello, darling,” she says. “What can I do you for?”
You’re thrown off by the overwhelming smell, and as you stare at her you’re thrown off by her question. You mutter and collect your thoughts.
“Sorry, I was just–” Is saying you were looking for a pumpkin to carve such a good idea? “I was looking for a pumpkin to take home.”
“And you were startled–even fascinated–by my size, I imagine?” She laughs. You look over the large pumpkin then back at her.
“Are you an alraune?” you ask. She grins.
“I just might be, sugar. And I’d be happy to go home with you, but–” She looks around then beckons you closer.
She leans forward as if to impart a secret; you walk closer, her sweet scent pulling you closer.
“Well,” she says, “I’m not exactly in a position to go anywhere easily with my size, you know?”
She slides a hand from your cheek to your chin, coating your face with pumpkin syrup.
“But if you like”–as her heavy scent drops you into a haze she slips a couple pumpkin-tasting fingers into your mouth, spinning you into a daze–“I could take you home instead, my darling.”
Home sounds nice. Pumpkin home. Her arms reach around you.
Wait, no! That’s not what you want! You snap out of it and step away. You fall back, your legs held down by something wrapped around them, and then someone pushes you back up.
“Careful, sweetie.” Another orange girl, thinner, stands you up with an arm around your shoulders.
This girl’s hips end at a big yellow flower at the end of a thick vine wrapped around your body, trailing away to the pumpkin fruit.
“Oh yeah, strictly speaking, sugar,” says the big lady, “I’m not an alraune.”
“I’m more of a liliraune,” the smaller woman says.
“Meet my flower side,” the large plant girl says. You try to lean away, but with her vine and arms wrapped around you the smaller girl easily kisses you on the cheek before kissing your lips. Her scent and taste practically wipe out your sight, your vision completely out of focus
“How about a taste, cutie?” says the smaller girl. The big lady scoops out some pulp from the gourd and hands it to the smaller one, who opens your mouth and slides the pulp in.
It goes straight to your mind, shocking you into sweet, melting pleasure. You hang limp in the vine.
A dark fog fills your sight and your mind floats in the pumpkin void, leaning against the pumpkin girl. You feel as if you’re in the wrong place, but as the vine lifts you into the pumpkin gourd and sinks you under the big pumpkin lady into the pulp you feel right at home.
You came out there to take a pumpkin home… no, you came out there to take yourself home to a pumpkin… Your mind soaks in the pumpkin syrup, the pulp fed to you by the pumpkin woman as you disappear into her embrace under the pulp, a pet of the pumpkin patch.
The city is a dangerous place at night. You never know what kind of monster you’ll run into. Vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts… or me, prowling the night looking for my next victim.
Prowling the night looking for someone to take and ravage.
I don’t really know what I am, to be honest. A shadow. A formless void. I barely know what I do–stalk the streets, find my lone victim. Destroy their mind with madness and leave them empty as I scatter their bodies to the wind.
It’s all I know.
And I’ve found tonight’s victim.
A petite lady with a parasol, walking down the street alone. A dangerous thing to do on any night, but when I’m here it’s a death sentence.
Do I slither? Do I stomp? Do I soar? I simply scatter, first here then there, shifting through space as if I’m outside it.
When I’m certain she’s alone I make my move. I rise from the shadows around her, a terrible visage to behold, a roar bellowing from me for her only, to make it clear the end is here. She steps back, staring.
I charge to strike.
I am faced with light.
The lady holds her parasol forward, light glimmering from it. Not only that, she spins it, a pattern spinning, a spiral…
I’ve never seen such striking light… I get so little light… spiraling light… All my thoughts to attack, my terror, my wrath… They ebb.
“What are you?” I hear the lady ask. My only answers are rage and pain. Even if I could speak I would have no answer through that. As the spiraling parasol takes all my attention, a question comes to me… Why am I?
The lady moves her parasol and I follow, transfixed.
She leads me into a secluded alley, my wrath at bay and replaced with curiosity and charm. I’ve never felt this way before. I feel… calm.
She pulls away the parasol and holds out a pendulum. Already lulled, I find myself watching the swaying pendant, following its movement.
“I know what you are,” she says. It’s more than I could say. “You’re the beast, the recent monster terrorizing and attacking people.”
It’s all I know.
It’s all I knew… before tonight.
I slowly drop to the ground, following the glint of her pendulum. She reaches out a hand.
She pets me, gently stroking and scratching where I’d never felt such a soft touch. I’d only felt the pounding of attacks before.
“But you don’t have to do that.”
It’s all I know… because I know nothing else. What am I? I don’t know. I am a formless void.
My rage at being nothing turned me into a monster. It was all I know.
Now I feel something new…
“Just relax, my big friend,” she says. “It’s time to start anew.”
My wrath at being empty fades, as my emptiness is filled.
I am no longer nothing.
Now I am something…
I am… a pet… I am my master’s pet…
No longer empty, but now full of my master’s control…
No longer enraged at the endless chaos of nothing, but content and controlled with my master’s orderly love.
You clamber around a sand dune, kicking up sand behind you as you run across the desert. The night is dark, clouds blocking the starlight, but your eyes have grown accustomed to the dark. Not as accustomed, unfortunately, as your pursuer.
“You can’t run forever, you know.”
“The sand slows you down, no doubt your legs are tiring. It’s so considerate of you to pump your blood for me, though.”
You glance back into the sky, where the vampire floats along reclining.
They’ve been chasing you across the desert all night. You have nowhere to run to.
You turn forward and your spirits rise. Around the sand dune are stone ruins, a pit leading down stairs to an underground passage. You grin and speed up, the ground becoming more steady as you near the exposed floor of the ruins.
The vampire scoffs. “I think not.”
They flip and swoop at you. You lunge and dive to the open passage, scraping your arms and legs as you roll onto the stairs. A moment later the vampire shouts. You uncurl and see them outside the hole, rubbing their face.
They extend a hand to the passage. Their hand stops.
The vampire scowls and crosses their arms. “Well, aren’t you going to invite me in?”
You turn away and step down the stairs further into the ruins. The vampire calls for you to return but you don’t look back. Hopefully there’s another exit to the ruins away from them.
It’s dark in the ruins, darker than outside, and darker the further you go. You bump into stone a few times, stinging your scraps; you touch one and realize it’s bleeding. You hope that vampire can smell it and it drives them crazy not being able to come down there.
A sudden flash of light stings your eyes and you clench them shut, slowly peeking out until you’re accustomed to the sudden light. You’re in a wide room with stone tables, a big fire burning in a central lamp.
You take a closer look at the lamp. What set the fire?
Is there someone else in here?
You look up. Was that a thud?
You leave the fire. You need to find a way out of here, it’s making you paranoid.
You enter a doorway, turn down the hall, and scream at a towering mummy standing before you.
You jump back, knock into the wall, and scramble back into the wide room. The mummy follows around the corner and puts its hands to its head.
“Oh, dear!” the mummy says. “You’re injured!” She approaches, and you scurry backwards. “Here, let me help you. You need some bandages.”
“No! Stay away!” You continue to back away. In the light of the flame you can see a red cross is painted on the bandages over the mummy’s chest. Atop her head sits a nurse’s cap.
Somehow the idea this mummy is a nurse doesn’t make you feel any safer.
You don’t have time to think about that before falling backwards into one of the stone tables. In the moment you’re disoriented the mummy lunges forward and pulls some bandages from her and around your leg where you’ve been bleeding.
“Just hold still, sweetie,” she says.
As she wraps and tightens the bandage around your leg you feel a soothing tingle. It feels like a soft, creamy balm is seeping through your skin. You can’t even feel the stinging cuts on your leg anymore.
You also can’t feel your leg much at all anymore. You yelp and pull away.
All this succeeds in is sending you collapsing to the floor off the table’s edge.
“Now, sweetie, you need to hold still or you’ll just hurt yourself even more, and we’ll have to use more bandages.” She leans over the table over you and twirls the bandages around your arm.
Your arm goes numb, falling limp to the floor as it tingles. The tingling vibrates through your body and up into your head. Your thoughts keep orbiting how soothing the bandages feel, but you pull away. You try to pull the bandages off, but it’s stuck fast as if glued to you.
“Don’t take them off yet, you’re still healing,” the mummy says. She pulls you back onto the table, her bandages entwined around you. “I think we need to get this great big wound bandaged right here.” As you pull away she yanks you forward and wraps bandages around your head.
You feel the salve soaking your head, soaking your thoughts. It’s so calming and soothing, for a moment you believe your wounds are just being attended to by a friendly nurse. You shake your head, trying to get your thoughts in order, and you reach up to remove the bandages.
You can’t lift your arms. You can’t feel your arms. You look down and see not only have they been bandaged up, but they’ve been bandaged to your torso, your desert robe removed so the bandages can touch the bare skin or your torso. Your breathing slows. Calm falls over you.
You try to shake away the calm, kick at the mummy with your free leg, but she avoids it and pulls you up by the bandages, knocking you on your back. You try to shout but you discover your mouth is stuck, the wrappings now covering your face. Your range of vision drops, blurry.
The more bandages she wraps over you, the calmer you become, the deeper you fall into a daze. She wraps her bandages over your torso, binds your legs together, binds you to her. You drift away, limp; the nurse is doing her job bandaging your wounds. You should remain still.
Soon you’re as covered in bandages as the mummy, head wrapped up and senses numbed, only the balm of the bandages sensible to you. Your clothing removed so the bandages can touch all your skin, arms held tight against your torso, chest bound tight and breathing shallow.
Your legs are stiff and heavy with several layers of bandages, another layer binding them together. You lay on the table, mind blank, head full of the belief that you’re there to heal and you shouldn’t move, shouldn’t think. Only one area of skin is exposed to the air now.
Bandages cover and the salve coats every inch of your skin, excepet for the right side of your neck, just above your shoulder.
With you bound and immobile on the table, connected to the mummy’s seemingly endless bandages from top to bottom, the nurse takes a pair of scissors.
One-by-one she snips each bandage, cutting the connection between you. With each snip your mind drops deeper, darker, an empty void, until you’re completely severed from the outside world, confined entirely within the world of bandages.
The mummy nurse chuckles and leaves you.
She walks up the steps to the ruins entrance, the night still dark. The vampire sits on a fallen pillar, tapping their foot. When the nurse emerges she waves to them.
“Trick or treat?” the vampire says. The nurse waves them inside.
“Come on in, doctor.”
The vampire grins.
“Thank you, nurse.” They walk down the steps and follow the mummy into the ruins. In the room below she extends an arm to your prone, wrapped-up body.
“Your patient is ready, doctor,” the mummy says.
“And a wonderful job you’ve done restraining them,” the vampire says.
They approach you and look you over.
“Hm, yes, yes, I see we are going to have to take a blood sample.”
“I’ve already prepared a spot for you,” the mummy says. The vampire slinks to your exposed neck.
“Wonderful, nurse, an outstanding job.” They run a hand over your neck.
The vampire bites in, draining your blood, unheeded by your mindless, bandage-bound form…
My vampire girlfriend smiled, first at the building then to me. “Here’s the place,” she said. “Are you excited yet?”
I rubbed my face. “I’m still not completely sold on the idea, to be honest, but”–I chuckled–“I guess it won’t be hard to sellm e once I’m inside.”
Hilja laughed. “We don’t have to do that, more than anything I would just like to learn from other vampires dating humans. I mean, my dad only knows so much, and it is pretty old knowledge.”
I chuckled but frowned. Considering Hilja’s… circumstance of becoming a vampire… I was surprised she wanted to meet others. But she had become more accepting of being a vampire lately. I smiled; perhaps in part from dating someone who loved that part.
Well, we weren’t completely sure if her father had ever dated anyone, so some perspectives could be good.
To that point, a sip and swap. She’d found a sort of club for vampires who brought their own partner-thralls (heheh) and rotated, having a taste from each. Apparently it was quite casual, and Hilja hoped to just meet everyone before trying the eat part, so to speak.
We entered and followed directions down a staircase, through several hallways, and I wondered if we were even under the first building anymore. Eventually we reached a door with two red marks painted on top, and Hilja knocked on it.
A peephole slid open, revealing two red eyes. I guess that meant we were probably at the right place. Hilja said something I didn’t understand, either another language or gibberish, and the door opened to show a tall, thin man in a cardigan.
“You should accentuate the A and wobble the W more, but close enough. Welcome!” He smiled, showing his fangs. Behind him an array of armchairs and small sofas were arranged around a table, a small kitchen set in the corner. It looked less like secret basement meeting chamber and more like a studio apartment. 5 more people milled about inside.
“My name is Alexandro,” said the vampire at the door. He put an arm around a short man sitting on a chair. “This is Ben, my partner.” Ben waved.
“Hey, glad to meet you.”
Alexandro extended an arm to a bespectacled vampire with a cape. “This is–”
“Octave, at your service.” He bowed, waving a cane to us, and looked to the thin lady standing next to him. “Penelope, dear?”
“Hello,” Penelope said, only looking at us for a moment before turning back to Octave.
The third vampire, brawny in body, extended a hand to us. “I’m Valentina. Charmed to meet you.”
After we took her hand the last person, who looked like Valentina could lift her with one hand, waved wildly from the kitchen. “I’m Wina! Nice to meet you! Hope you have a good time!”
“Thank you, everyone,” Hilja said. She introduced herself, then put an arm over my shoulder to introduce me as her partner. For a moment I lose myself in her touch, her soft sweater and strong hold. I would be fine with just a quiet day alone with her, but I would do anything for her, and she wanted to meet other vampires.
“There are refreshments in the kitchen if you like,” Alexandro said. I thanked him and took a look, while Hilja started talking to her fellow vampires.
The refreshments looked out of place next to each other. Wine and finger foods akin to a fancy ball next to peanuts and a sandwich foods. Consideirng peanuts and meats were high in iron, that made sense. I got a glass of water and jumped back when I turned to see Octave watching me.
“Ah, my apologies for startling you,” Octave said. “I do hope you don’t feel awkward among many vampires.”
“No, no, I’m fine,” I said. I smirk. “I mean, I feel awkward among a lot of humans, too, so it’s par for the course.”
“A shame,” Octave said. “It would be precious to see you displayed as a pretty, following thrall.” He tapped his cane on my chin. I blinked.
“Oh, um, thank you.” I couldn’t imagine Hilja doing that. We were rather private about it. Who would she even, um, display me to?
“That is what’s nice about the club, though,” Octave said. “You have others. You can try public things in a private setting.”
I blushed. Had I said that stuff out loud?
“So you haven’t met other vampires before, have you?” Octave asked.
“No, sort of, well–” I rubbed my head. “Just her dad, I guess.”
“Ah! So she’s a natural-born vampire,” said Octave. “Surprising.”
“Well, no, she’s adopted, that is–” I glance at her, laughing with Valentina and Wina. “Sorry, she could tell her story better than me.” And should, really–I didn’t feel proper telling it.
“No worries,” Octave said. He patted me on the head. “It’s nice to see you’re a good thrall.”
I forgot where I was for a moment, just feeling the hand over my head, the nails twisting through my hair. I felt a shifting and an arm, and my legs gave way to a soft feeling. I snapped out of it with a clap and realized I was sitting on one of the sofas next to Hilja.
“All right, everyone,” Alexandro said, clapping his hands, “are we ready for the swap sessions?”
Hilja raised her hand. “Alexandro, I was wondering if we could sit out this part for now. We just wanted to meet you, talk with other vampires and their partners and get to know you first.”
“That’s fine,” Octave said. He stood behind a chair Penelope sat in, arms on her shoulders. “You can merely observe, if you prefer, it’s not like a rite of passage.”
“That said,” Alexandro said, rubbing his chin, “it can be dangerous for only one human and vampire to do it repeatedly.”
“You always have to be careful with this,” Ben said. Alexandro nodded.
“Yes, without a change in the cycle they can become too used to each other. It can lead to an over reliance on each other, an obsession bordering on addiction.”
I laughed and glanced at Hilja. “Couldn’t be us!” Hilja laughed. Of course, we’d almost fallen right into that trap ourselves. If it weren’t for her dad…
Hilja’s smile dropped to a serious look, and she leaned closer. “Would you be comfortable doing the sip and swap? I don’t–”
“Yes,” I said. I blinked. Did I say that? Was I comfortable with it? Yes. Huh. Apparently I was.
“We’d like to join, then,” Hilja said.
I stretched my arms up. “Just as long as y’olks have brushed your fangs, of course.”
Valentina snickered. “Of course, and have you washed your neck?”
I grinned. “I’ll have you know my neck is”–I waved my hand in in a circle–“like a thing, a thing, um, someone give me a joke.” The group laughed.
“Like a fine wine glass, perhaps,” Octave said.
“Which is to say,” I said: “probably stained, actually.” Another laugh.
“Don’t worry,” Ben said, “safety is our utmost concern.” Wina grinned.
“Safety first, fun second.”
“Hilja,” Alexandro said, “have you ever enthralled someone else before?”
“I don’t–” She looked around at them. “Not really, no.”
“Then why not start with my dear Penelope?” Octave said. He patted her on the head. “She’s light as a feather, but sinks like a weight, the perfect practice starter.” Penelope tittered. Alexandro spoke up, suggesting I start with him.
“I’m long-practiced and gentle at it,” he said. “If you haven’t been hypnotized by another vampire I can give you a slow, controlled trance to ease you into it.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said. Once the others were paired I leaned up off the couch.
“No, no, stay there,” Valentina said. “We start with our regular partners, to drop you into a starting trance, before we make the first swap.” Hilja turned to me and grinned.
“Ah, that’s good.” She held my chin and I already felt shivers. “We get to start in familiar territory, then.”
“Very familiar,” I whispered. Hilja smirked then shushed me.
“I think it’s time for you to drift a little, don’t you think?” A glow shone in her eyes, the red growing vivid. My laugh stalled as I stared into her familiar eyes, the red growing and glowing into my eyes, her dark, swirling pupils expanding to steal my attention and contracting to draw me closer. Hilja laughed.
“Now, don’t you think,” Hilja said. I gave a breathy laughed.
“I, won’t think,” I said. I think I still had some control, I think that was tongue-in-cheek, but I was certainly sinking into a state devoid of thinking. Only following. Her glowing eyes filling my mind, stilling my thoughts.
“Sway down, down, gently down,” she said, sliding closer to hold a hand on my shoulder, her other moving to my cheek. “Sink in the safety of my eyes, my darling.” I sighed; she gave a little nod and I followed.
“Uh-huh,” I muttered. “Sink in safety your eyes…” I was definitely sinking into her power at this point. Hilja giggled. She frowned and leaned closer.
“One more time to be sure… Full honesty: you’re completely fine doing this, right?”
Most of my mind was soaking in her spell by now, but a small part wasn’t. That must have been the last waking part, which was completely focused on this sip and swap activity.
“Absolutely,” I said. Hilja smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
“Then drop,” she whispered. Her spell flooded my mind and I dropped limp on the couch. I floated on a lake of Hilja’s love, buoyed by the safety her presence in my mind gave me. She would keep me safe. As long as she was there I was tethered safely.
The lake shifted slightly, but I remained floating, still as a leaf.
A hand touched mine, and I opened my eyes to a new pair of red eyes, pulsating slowly like a soft sunset.
“Stay relaxed,” Alexandro said. He held my hand, another on my shoulder. “Just slowly rise, up, up.” He lifted me out of the lake and held me with an arm, guiding me down a path. “Let’s go for a stroll, down a winding path.”
His eyes were much like Hilja’s, radiating a red glow that filled my head while his pupils pulsed, the swirl in his eyes taking hold of my mind, a hold as gentle as cradling a baby.
“The path is long, but I can guide you,” he said. “I’ll stay right here and keep you safe.” I felt a warmth fall over me, felt my veins streaming its blood.
“One… step… at… a… time,” Alexandro said. “Each step a little lower, the path on a slight incline; you falter, but don’t worry, I’m here, keeping you stable as you go down, down, step-by-step…”
“Down… step…” I gave a lazy smile. This was familiar, and yet new; a lazy thrill rolled through me, an excitement that never bubbled enough to pop me out from dropping under.
“Just enjoy the shining sunset,” Alexandro said, rising up so my head fell back, “the hypnotic colors holding your attention.” He brushed a hand along my neck, and I shivered as he kissed it.
“Now drop,” he said, “but don’t worry; I’ll catch you.”
I felt myself go limp, and I felt the bite on my neck, a sinking shiver as something was taken from me, something I willingly offered to such a gentle host, inviting me on such a pleasant walk down into darkness as the sunset faded and I slipped into a restful trance.
I lay floating among the clouds for a bit, drifting in soft darkness. Between sips the vampires gave the thralls a resting break; I assume they asked Hilja how her sip was and how the thralls were.
The clouds burst and I dropped into the lake, staring into Octave’s eyes.
“Now, my dear,” he said, “stare deep into my eyes. Let my power wash over you, wash into you. Sink down, sink deep.” For a moment I tried to splash out of the water, but I went limp right after. This lake was thick, thicker than my mind, thoughts running slow. I had been gently dropped earlier, but now Octave was dragging me down into his control.
“You can feel my searing eyes tear into you, burning away any resistance you have.”
A pressure hurt in my head, and I tried to latch onto my thoughts, but they slipped away every time. I felt further pressure as Octave patted my head, but this seemed to relieve the pressure in my head.
“You really are a good thrall, aren’t you?”
I finally latched on to a thought.
“I’m a good thrall…” I said. My eyelids rose and lowered in time with the pulse of Octave’s piercing red eyes, his light piercing my mind. He scraped his nails along my neck, and I felt a shivering to my core.
“You want to be a good thrall to a strong master, don’t you?” Octave said.
“Good thrall… strong master…” I said. I could feel him poking around in my mind, pulling thoughts, pushing others away. It felt like he gently scratched my mind… sometimes it felt like he stabbed it, but the gentle scratching pushed that away.
“That’s what you crave, isn’t it?” he whispered. “The girl hasn’t been nearly controlling enough for you, has she?” As he patted my head it felt like he pushed me under the lake of his power, drowning me in his control.
It was where I belonged.
With a bite at my neck I felt him puncture my mind, embedding his presence into me. I floated in the lake, limp and listless. He made no command, and I made no move, blank and still.
After less time than the previous break a snap shot through the darkness, and I opened my eyes, hearing the vampires chatting in a corner of the room. My vision was hazy and warped, but I sat up. Across the room Penelope sat up, and she quickly stood up and offered me a hand up. I didn’t know what was happening, but a stronger force told me Octave was summoning us. I took her hand and stood off the couch.
Octave left the group and slinked to the door, summoning us to his side with a flip of his hand. He put a hand on each of our shoulders.
I belonged here, next to him.
“Shall we take our leave early, my pets?” he asked. He opened the door.
“Oh, you’re up!” a familiar, but distant in my mind, said. “I thought we were doing more rounds.”
Octave turned to Hilja, pulling at Penelope and me to face her, too.
“I’m afraid we must go,” he said. “Many things to do, you see.”
“Oh, okay,” Hilja said. She looked among us three at the door, expression cloudy. “It was nice to meet you, sorry you have to, uh, go–” She reached towards me, but Octave pulled Penelope and me closer.
“Of course, when I say we,” Octave said, “I mean me and my two pets.”
“Your t–” Hilja’s mouth dropped and she shouted, “What?”
“Oh, they didn’t tell you?” Octave held my chin to turn me to him. I stared into his eyes like they were a television screen. “You’ve decided to become my thrall and leave her, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” I said automatically.
“Such a good thrall deserves such a good master, after all.”
Hilja grabbed me by the arms and shook me.
“This isn’t a funny joke!” she said. “This isn’t something you should joke about?”
“Uh?” I looked at my master Octave. He placed his staff between Hilja and me.
“There is only one joke here,” he said, “and it is an imitation vampire.” He snickered; Hilja pulled on me but Octave kept me in place. “You’re not a natural-born, are you? You’re a secondhand effect, nothing more.”
“He’s controlling you!” Hilja said to me. “You’re stronger than this; you were stronger than me, in the elevator, remember? You gave yourself to help me, not taken.”
“The elevator?” I asked. I remembered. I met her in an elevator. She was so afraid then. Octave would never be afraid. He was stronger. It was safer with him.
I remembered a mirror, too. My skin pale, expression weak. Hilja was afraid, then, too… but afraid for me.
Octave pushed Hilja away, and she stumbled back, stare frozen. He tapped me on the head and I forgot the mirror. Hilja didn’t matter. I obeyed Octave. I must obey Octave. He turned around to the door and snapped for us to follow.
“This is what you get for meeting out of your league,” Octave said. “You deserve to be a minion, not a free agent.” He stepped out the door.
Someone whirled him around and punched him to the floor.
“What the hell, Alexandro?” Octave shouted. Alexandro stood above him, looking at him like he was dirt.
“Master?” Penelope crouched to his side. I moved to follow but Valentina spun me around, her eyes glowing like dark suns.
“Blank,” she said, that single syllable embedding into my mind and blasting away all thoughts and feelings. My mind and body went limp in her arms, and she placed me on a chair.
“You are not welcome here anymore, Octave,” Alexandro growled. “This isn’t how vampires should be. There’s no place in the future for vampires who only take.”
Octave scoffed. “There is only a future for vampires who only take.” He stood, pushing Penelope away. “It is a vampire’s place to take, you fool.” He clenched a fist. “We take blood.” He grabbed Penelope’s shoulder. “We take someone’s will.” He waved a hand to Hilja. “We take someone’s humanity. We take; that is how we live.”
“No.” Hilja stood straight. “It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s how vampires lived a century ago. We can live with humans now, not over them.” She looked at Alexandro and Valentina and smiled. “You seem to have learned that.” They nodded. Octave sniffed.
“That’s a weak way of thinking. Strong wills control the weak, and I am not weak.”
Hilja shook her head. “Vampires aren’t strong. I’ve learned that. We can’t control ourselves. With the help of humans, maybe we can.” Octave scoffed and turned away.
“Pathetic. I don’t need you.” He walked away and snapped his fingers. “Come, Penelope.”
She stepped after him but looked back into the room. Hilja stepped foward.
“You don’t have to go with him,” she said. “You don’t have to be under his control.”
Penelope looked between her and Octave, uttered one syllable, and Octave snapped his fingers again. Penelope shook her head and followed him.
Hilja turned to me. I lay on the chair, hearing but not comprehending everything.
“What do we do?” she asked.
“It’s up to you,” Valentina said. “Your connection seems strong. I’m sure you can bring them back to their senses. Pull them to your eyes and remind them of your best memory together.”
Hilja nodded and slid onto the chair next to me. She held me close in her arms, and a sense of safety enveloped me. As long as I was in these arms, everything would be okay.
“Look into my eyes,” she said, pulling my gaze to her deep, glowing, pulsing eyes. I felt her soul pour into me, entertwined with mine. “You’ve trusted me before. Too much, in fact, when you thought I was in control. But now you need to trust me, trust me to take control so that I can give you control. Trust me to give you back control like you had in the elevator…
I blinked, and I was sitting in the elevator. She was scared, losing control, and she would attack me if she did. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was she was scared, and she needed someone to be there and give her what she needed.
I walked across the elevator, sat next to her, and gave her my trust. I gave her my trust that she would stay in control with my help.
Now I could stay in control with her help.
“Hilja?” I asked. My eyes drooped, staring into her beautiful eyes. I lay on the chair as she hugged me, kept me safe. My head felt light, but the hole was healing.
“Are you back?” she asked. I gave a half-smile.
“Where did I go?”
Hilja smiled. “Nowhere. And now you’re here.” She stopped her hypnosis, and I blinked.
“That sounds like a trip to nowhere.” I grinned. “Well, I’m still here, so I guess I did go nowhere.”
Hilja laughed. She hugged me, and we kissed.
Together not as we should be, but as we wanted to be.
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