Playing Dead part 1
He lay sleeping in the dark.
Body at rest yet never truly at rest with his heart pumping, lungs breathing, nerves energized with thoughts triggered by dreams and nightmares alike. No, he was never truly at rest. Not as I was or would be if I could rid myself of the demon implanted where my soul used to hibernate.
He smells of antiseptics, barely the scent of the man that had haunted me as I lived and now summons me in death.
"Rupert?" He calls out softly, his voice a whisper of what I remember.
"Only the meaty parts." I amuse myself. "I'm here, Ethan."
He tries to sit up but his half naked body fails him and he slaps back down to the unforgiving tile. "You came for me?" he asks in a broken voice straining to hide emotion.
"You came to free me?"
He shifts painfully sideways to try and see me through the dark. It's futile. I see his eyes are milky, deadened from the absence of light here. Just another thing the soldiers took from him. That I took from him.
"I've waited for you," he wheezes. He hasn't much time.
"You've no need to wait any longer." I move closer. He grins, face creased with age but not so far from what I remember.
"I knew you'd come."
"I need you," I admit without inflection, without emotion and he jolts with surprise at my proximity. I bend down to try to calm him with a hand only to have him swipe it away.
"Took twenty-five years for you to figure that out, you bloody bastard."
"Only one night, actually; eighteen minutes, thirteen seconds and my long abandoned soul, to be exact."
His eyes close, burdened by my grim reality. Then he gloats, "Always knew she'd be the death of you, mate."
"My disillusioned sense of duty to a dead establishment sealed my fate, not the Slayer."
"The Slayer. So formal, Rupert. What's happened, then?"
"What's happened, indeed." I sigh a useless breath and chuckle at the ironic justice of it all. "My former student turned foe now aims her stakes in hunt for her former teacher turned devil. It is the way of her world. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Or so I've been taught and told." I gesture the sign of the cross. With it comes a rattling through my bones and a hollow ache in the vacant space that once housed my soul.
"Better hope you didn't teach her everything, old man." He grins. How very cunning of him.
"That's why I need you, Ethan. A skillful sorcerer. My dark mystic." I kneel as I would to worship a deity. "But my intentions must be clear on this so I'll give you a choice. One not presented to me but I feel nonetheless obligated to offer in balance of some metaphoric scale we weigh between you and I."
"Choice?" He shudders as I stroke my fingertips along his bare shoulder.
"A slow death by fabricated chemicals and torturous tests, trapped within these sterile walls of a government military facility."
"A deathly rebirth granted with the admission of a single submission."
"You'd turn me, then?"
"If you'll accept me and the fate I represent."
He chuckles helplessly. "I've accepted less with such reverence."
"Then you've made your choice?" I can feel the echo of his pounding heart in the faint pulse under my fingers. It's enthralling. He hasn't any idea his authority over me now but he'll realize it soon enough.
"A choice to die by their hands or by yours? I would gladly throw myself upon your sacrificial alter, Ripper."
It brings a smile to my lips. "You always were the willing servant, Ethan."
"Willing, yes. Servant, no. Ever the inspiration, my dear boy. Inspiration."
"And you will be again… to me, to them, to all of those unfortunates who would seek to spare themselves a dusty fate at the hands of a self righteous Slayer. That's what you will give to us."
"Perhaps it's my failing mind but I don't quite follow, Ripper?"
"Survival of the fittest, Ethan. Or at the very least, survival of the meekest."
"Who could be more humbled than a corrupted Watcher facing his doom at the pointed end of a Slayers mercy?" He moans as I carefully cradle him in my arms so I console him with a whisper. "You will be my salvation from her pitiless damnation."
"I suppose today is as good a day to die as any." His half blind eyes pin me through the darkness and I can see the reflection of my yellow stare in his gaze. "Tell me what day it is."
I offer a fang filled smile. "It's Halloween."
"I should have known."
He smiles sadly as his head falls back, silently giving me permission. My fangs sink and I drink as he slowly crosses from his world to mine. My freshly wounded wrist presses to his lips, pouring my blood borne poison down his throat as I continue to feed. I stop only when death steals his breath and stills his heart. He makes a handsome corpse. Minutes pass and I still hold him, cradling him as I would a child in my arms. When his eyes reopen, I welcome him to the world with a gentle whisper, "Happy birthday, Ethan."
He called it a rebirth but it was more a reinvention. I am myself but with a strangers body. Thoughts remain; memories that trigger emotions that still storm through my silent veins even though true life is absent. I am but figments of the faulted man I was before. More concrete now than clay and I decide it's an improvement. I'm confused yet stronger, hyperaware of what life surrounds me that I lack.
I open my eyes to darkness and see everything. There is a spider in the far corner of the cell, the only freedom I'd witnessed for over four years. There is a breeze coming from the vent above, sending stale dust to dance on shadowed air. And there is Ripper, holding me in his arms with a tenderness I haven't experienced since our youth.
"Happy Birthday, Ethan."
He smiles down at me with an ageless face. I reach out to touch him then touch my own.
"It'll be some time still," he explains softly. "Your body will rebuild as you feed."
"I feel…" there are no appropriate words. "Odd."
"I did as well. The adjustment… the evolution takes some getting use to."
My senses are frenzied, as if I were a computer on data overload. I smell sounds, hear scents and taste visions. I am flesh contained chaos. It's all so surreal, I can't possibly comprehend what's happened to me and it's probably best to remain that way.
"Well now that you've damned me, Ripper, shouldn't we be planning our escape?" I ask, speaking with the strong voice I'd practically forgotten.
"No need. They'll be coming for us."
Booming echoes shake the walls. I hear gunfire and screams as the floor quakes beneath us. Then I smell blood, my first scent of the intriguing elixir, and I crave it above all else. With an explosion, a wall reduces to rubble and I see the crinkled brows and twisted horns of a demon horde standing at attention just beyond its dust. Ripper releases me to approach the visitors.
"You've done well, Jacobs," he says with a kindly nod, as if speaking to one of those children he used to sit when bound to the service of the Slayer.
"Thank you, Sir. The sublevels have been neutralized per your orders, sealed shut and the sewer accesses barricaded. Roberts and Wiles are working the pipes as we speak," the vampire soldier informs him confidently.
"And the perimeter?" Ripper asks as he offers me a hand. I accept and with a powerful tug, I am upright and testing the stability of my new body for the first time. In a word, it's miraculous.
The sound of gunfire and screams down the darkened corridors washes all confidence from the young vampire's face. "I'm afraid we've lost half our men, Sir. All that remains are the two on the pipelines and us."
Rupert takes a quick inventory of the faces present and turns grim. "Thank you, Jacobs. Leave us for a moment."
"You promised us our comrades, vampire," one horned demon growls in objection. "That was the deal." He pushes through the others to be heard.
"This wing is vacant, Sir. Mr. Rayne seems to be the only captive here," Jacobs informs him and the protester grunts his disapproval of the news.
Rupert offers a mild smile. "My apologies for our unanticipated misfortune, but we'll be holding to the plan as originally formulated."
"Fuck you, blood rat! We will…"
It happens in an instant, the beasts head twists viciously in a blur of motion. The sound of fracturing bone and torn tendons answers the demons unmet demands and it falls dead to the cell floor. Rupert brushes his hands along his jeans, as if offended for being forced to such dealings.
"Any other objections?" He asks, calmly acknowledging the remaining soldiers. All stand silent at attention with Jacobs particularly pleased at his commanders brutal disciplining.
"Very well. Jacobs, spare my friend and I a moment alone, please." Rupert requests again and with a nod, Jacob commands the soldiers to leave. The team steps beyond the fractured wall and waits as Rupert returns his attentions to me. "Ethan, I hate to impose so soon but we only had numbers enough to compromise the installation."
"Numbers falling even as we speak." I smile. "A suicide mission for me? I'm touched, Rupert." How quickly I take to teasing him and with a roll of his eyes, I see he regrets his decision to turn me. "Far be it from me to stand in the way of progress."
I'm as eager to test my skills as he is to see them. It's been far too long and though I feel weakened still, I have an undeniable confidence. I stare down at a solitary pebble glistening near my bare toe, focusing my mind as I have done thousands of times before. But it is different now. There's a weighty silence within me that I've never experienced before, all interferences vanished with my breath, all distractions gone with my life. I have a newfound clarity that allows me to concentrate tenfold and with a twitch of energies, I feel the old magicks reawaken.
"I suggest you have your men stay close. This won't be… pleasant."
Rupert directs his militia to return, keeping careful watch for the enemy.
I carry out my long premeditated designs for revenge with a single phrase whispered gently through smiling lips. The entirety of the installation is cast into hell. Flames erupt down passageways in a sort of creeping creature that takes to burning all who dare stand in its way. Mortar and brick collapse in to seal the fate of the human inhabitants inside. Water veins burst, drowning any possible survivors of the previous threat. Desperate cries gurgle and pale then all fall silent. Chaos is realized and I am satisfied, safely contained within the energies shield sheltering my new old friends.
"That'll do, Ethan." Rupert grins crookedly. He's pleased, as well he should be.
That's when I feel it, the absence of remorse. I know I should feel some sense of guilt that I snuffed out so many lives with mere words, but my conscience pays it no mind. What I do feel in abundance is justice for what I suffered at their hands. Though their deaths are foremost on my mind, mourning them is not. What a heavenly freedom I've been gifted with.
I dust off my hands and smile. "Come then, Ripper, introduce me to the night."