Freedom’s Blood – Part 2 of 5

FreedomsBloodI arrived in Baltimore later that same day, ravenously hungry. I drank a bum. Killed him, of course. That was what my sire had done with his victims, myself excepted. I was merely continuing as he had taught me. Besides, the bum was near death anyway. He’d polluted his body to the point that his liver was about to fail. It was one of the worst meals of my life, to that point and to this day. Still, I was sated, and had time to be choosy with my next meal.

On the evening of my second solo kill, I went where most of the city went for food – to the market. Lexington Market, in this case. Only I had no interest in the fresh fruits and vegetables arriving by wagon from remote farms. The meats caught my eye, but then my nose assessed them, and I was shocked by my revulsion. They were dead. Since my change, I could no longer bring myself to consider dead flesh. It stank to me as spoiled food would to you.

In the wee hours of the morning, however, the market was stocked to the gills with my food – people. The farmers arrived hours before dawn with their produce, readying themselves for morning and the arrival of customers. Most of them weren’t appetizing. Old. Tough. Dirt under their nails. Scented with manure. (The presentation of the meal matters for my kind too.)

Is it too trite that I selected that staple of male humor, a farmer’s daughter? Fresh. Young. Clean. About sixteen. Her eyes were clear and green like spring maple leaves, and her teeth had not had time to go bad. Beneath her simple, home-crafted dress, newly erupted breasts pushed at their constraining fabric, and firm buttocks moved seductively with each step she took.

I was hungry now on two counts.

I waited in the shadows across Eutaw Street until the male members of her family moved away. Fools. I would never have left her alone in the city. I approached, said hello.

She smiled at me, a flirtatious but honest smile. “Don’t you have work to do for your father?” she asked, assuming I was from one of the other farm families. Certainly, I was still dressed as a laborer.

“I’m… not with my father,” I said.

She appraised me. “You’re a little young to be here alone. Your master, then.”

“I’m not here to work,” I said. “I’m hungry.”

“You look a little thin,” she admitted. Then she frowned, and seemed to be considering her options. “The market’s not open for a few hours, but I could – “ She reached for an apple.

“No,” I said. “I – I wanted something more than that.”

“I’d like to help,” she said skeptically, “but you don’t look like you have any money.”

“I have something valuable to trade. I could show you.”

“Well – “

”Only I don’t want to show you here. Someone might see. Let’s go over there.”

I pointed to a dark corner some yards away.

Her face became suspicious. “You’ve stolen something, haven’t you?”

“No, honestly, I’ve not. Just come over here.”

“Well – “

”Please?”

I suppose I looked young, innocent and harmless enough that she followed me. Do I flatter myself to say that perhaps I also looked attractive enough, despite my scruffy condition, to have lured a pretty girl to a dark corner? Perhaps. Anyway, she followed me.

“Well?” she demanded, “What is it you have?”

“I told you I was hungry,” I said simply, and fell upon her. She yelped when I tore her dress to the waist, exposing the breasts I’d admired beneath. I was not disappointed when they came into view, but I had a more immediate goal than the admiration of her body.

When she saw my fangs, she screamed at the top of her lungs. I was too crazed with blood lust to care. I lowered my head, pierced the area around one nipple with my teeth, and nursed at her breast. She struggle beneath me, kicking and clawing. At first, this disconcerted me. I was never a boy given to cruelty.

As her blood flowed warm and soothing into me, however, her violent attentions became welcome. The pain of her nails raking my shoulders and arms, the heat of her body as it bucked beneath mine, quickened my pulse and drove the excitement of conquest to new heights.

It was then that I learned my first, painful lesson about being a vampire. While I was intent on my gratification, the girl’s father and brothers had returned. Bad enough I was killing their daughter and sister, but the state of her clothing made them believe I was committing an even graver offense. (Humans. I don’t get them.)

They leapt upon me, shrieking more loudly than the girl. I heard other voices expressing concern and interest. A mob would certainly form. I could smell that the girl had died as their fists drove into me. Fools again. They had worried more over revenge than the safety of their own.

I had to escape before the situation became unmanageable. I drank my fill of the youngest brother. The other two I simply killed quickly as obstacles. I fled, hearing the screams and cries of horror as the drained bodies were discovered. They followed me through the cold, night air as I ran through the shadows of Pratt Street. They echoed in my mind as, engorged, I crawled beneath a dock at the harbor and fell asleep.

 

* * *

 

When I awoke, I was appalled – appalled at my own actions and my own stupidity. I was not old enough to have gone on benders while still human. I didn’t realize at the time that the sensation was very like that of a man awakening with a terrible hangover, and realizing that he’d bedded his host’s ugly wife in the back room at a party the night before.

I realized quickly that I’d made all the worst mistakes of the vampire on that one kill. I’d left evidence. I’d allowed myself to be discovered. I’d let my passions govern me, drunk on the flavor of my victim’s fear, and on her sexual attractiveness. I’d made no attempt to control the situation, or the girl’s responses to it. I knew that a vampire possessed a hypnotic gaze which silences, but I’d gotten too caught up in the moment to use it. Now, no doubt, there would be constables and angry mobs out searching for a monster.

Stupid.

I credit myself that I realized my mistakes as quickly as I did. It’s because I learn from experience that I’ve lived to have so much of it. I did not repeat those mistakes with another victim.

It was not my stupidity, however, that troubled me most that clear evening as I wandered beneath the stars and beside the waters of the Chesapeake. No, what troubled me most was that I had taken a young and innocent life. With the bum, I had performed an act of charity, ending a miserable life which was of no value to its owner or anyone else. With the girl, I had murdered. Then I had, in my madness, killed three poor, dumb souls who had only sought justice.

I could have borne this, but for the beliefs already ingrained within me. Beliefs which have deepened as, over the centuries, I have furthered my studies. I mentioned earlier that I was a reader, and a voracious one. No amount of physical pain could stop me from carrying a book everywhere I went, and opening it whenever no one required my attention.

At sixteen, I had read all of the Greek philosophers. I had read Locke and Rousseau. I held a firm conviction that Man was a free creature, with a divinely granted right to pursue happiness and produce wealth, free of molestation or interference by others. Unprovoked violence, theft and tyranny were therefore wrong. I could not escape the conclusion that imbibing the blood of a man, woman or child – taking his or her property – was… wrong.

At that time in history, the greatest villain we knew in America was King George III. I realized that I had, unwillingly, been made kin to this villain. Most, if not all rulers are like unto vampires. They need your life’s blood in order to enhance their own situation, and consider themselves perfectly justified in taking it, based on their need. If King George’s oppressive taxation of the Colonies was wrong, then what I had done to that innocent child was equally so.

And so I could not rationalize away murder, and so it was in Baltimore that I established for myself a firm code of behavior, which I have since never broken.

Vampires must kill to live, and so I had to diverge from my philosophical forbears. I had to become a moral authority unto myself, assuming the power of life and death.

Could I feed without ever killing? Not really. There are three possible outcomes for a vampire’s victim. The first is death. The second is one-time or limited use of the subject, followed by a period of rest and eventual recovery. The third is conversion of the subject to vampirism himself. Option one can be distasteful. Option two is dangerous, as living victims can betray you.

Option three is, in my opinion, highly unethical. I have never sired another vampire, never allowed a subject to taste of my blood. Why? Because vampirism confers a great deal of power. We can become invisible. We can transform into bats, wolves, and mists. We’re very hard to kill. Worst, we can enslave the will of a free person. I have never met another in whom I would entrust such power.

Unable to sustain himself, therefore, on living victims, a vampire has no choice but to occasionally kill. The only alternative is starvation. So I kill.

I take responsibility for my own actions. I do not claim I should be forgiven my killings because a kind of insanity (hunger) seizes me and makes me kill. If I happen to eat your brother, I do not fault you if you try to stake me. I’ll just try like hell to prevent you doing so, and I’ll probably arrange a cash settlement to compensate you for your loss. Two centuries of dabbling in the market have left me filthy rich.

Do I think I can just eat people and then pay their relatives, as if the world was my restaurant? No, I don’t. But you’d be amazed how many family members would happily accept going rate for a dinner entree in exchange for the life of a loved one. I’ve even had requests…

I do not feed off the innocent, or anyone with dependents or loved ones of any kind. I kill only those who are better off dead, are dying anyway, or who have forfeited their right to live.

The dying and better off dead include the failing elderly and long-infirm. A steady diet of these, however, leaves one listless. They have been close to death for so long, drinking of them is close to drinking the blood of a corpse. Dangerous indeed! A healthy diet for my kind requires the regular consumption of blood from the healthy and vital… or the recently so.

A character in a Monty Python sketch once lamented that “there simply aren’t enough accidents.” From my point of view, however, the number is sufficient. In America, I keep a fire and police scanner with me always. When it notifies me of fatal or potentially fatal accidents, I quickly travel to the scene or the destination hospital.

These feedings leave no evidence, as there are frequently open wounds I may use, rather than puncturing flesh. The victims, when conscious, do not object to my ministrations. My hypnotic ability relieves some of the pain, and death, obviously, shortens its duration.

The final category of moral killings I allow myself can be satisfying. Oh, get that look off your face! Can’t a man enjoy his food? I refer, of course, to revenge killings. Perhaps I should call them equity killings. These are people who have forfeited their right to live by committing murder. (I am well aware that I myself am in that last category.) Civil Society dictates that all thefts should be punished by making the thief render restitution. If the thief steals someone’s life, well, what does he have to give in return but his own?

I make it a point to follow murder cases, often conducting my own investigation. I investigate murders to learn two things: One, the identity of the murderer and two, the desires of the victim’s family. If the family does not wish the death of the guilty party, I go about my business. If they do, and the murderer is not executed, I act.

Finally, you ask, why do I not eat politicians? For the same reason you do not eat dog food. If you do eat dog food, I apologize, and send me your contact info via this publisher. You’d make a wonderful politician-eating vampire, and we need one.

To Be Continued

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