Marsh slammed the door of her car shut and pulled away. Half of her happy for Caleb the other half regretting her retreat. Only time would tell the outcome of her actions. She planned her escape from the crescent city as her car disappeared into the fog of mid day traffic.
“Atlanta,” She said to herself “Atlanta would be a good place to try again.”.......
‘Have you ever seen blue burn Detective?’ The ragged voice of Mr. Kinsey burned a trail across Susan’s mind as she maneuvered her cruiser through traffic. She didn’t understand the feelings behind that statement this morning. Having seen the deep blue pools of sapphire for herself, the words now seemed very fitting. They were a placid blue at a glance. Only upon a closer inspection did you see the blazing brilliance beneath them.
The words echoed in her mind again, this time however it gave her the gift of the set of eyes causing her body to shudder as a cold tingle raced down her spine. All the feelings of good will she felt towards Caleb’s friend melted in an instant as panic set in. Her heart began to beat rapidly as she cursed herself for leaving Caleb there.
She didn’t know who or what his friend was. She had never really believed in anything supernatural or the occult. There was just something about the overriding sense of calm that radiated from him she didn’t like. It didn’t seem to dissipate in dire circumstances. It felt as if it only intensified. She knew she wasn’t crazy, rationalizing that Mr. Kinsey had felt the same thing.
“Fuck,” She berated herself “You had a fucking cannon pointed at his head and he didn’t flinch!” She beat the steering wheel to vent her frustration with herself.
‘Have you ever seen blue burn Detective?’ The words chided her brain again, tauntingly daring her to act on them.
‘You know he doesn’t belong there anymore, you know to well that picture in your pocket was just a shadow….’ The calm voice that matched the eyes added its song to the cacophony in her mind, serving to frustrate her decision even more as it echoed through her senses.
‘Mama,’ a small voice squeaked in the back her mind. Accelerating her decision.
In an instant she snapped the steering wheel to the left. The tires cried their submission as the car veered sharply into the unpaved median, kicking up a cloud of dust and smoke as she did. She was going back, going back to steal Caleb away and return him to his mother. She knew that was the only way it would be right.
In her haste she failed to appreciate the loaded eighteen-wheeler barreling down the highway. The young looking driver did however notice her, and instantly slammed both of his feet down on the break peddle. The pedal only sagged limply to the floor in response.
Susan turned her head to late; there was no time for fear to pulse through her veins as the chrome of the grill met her passenger door. The defining sound of crunching metal and shattering glass registered only momentarily before she was consumed in darkness. The echoes of Mr. Kinsey’s words slowly faded into the distance as cold robbed her senses.
The force of the impact ripped the late model car in half, dumping the rear in the median and spinning the front into traffic where it slammed into a SUV. The softness of her flesh bore stark contrast to the twisted sharp steel of the tattered vehicle. Susan’s once vivacious features had grown pale in a striking offset to her auburn hair. Her luminous green eyes stared blankly off into the distance as she felt herself give way to consumption.
Abandoned and alone in the pervasive black, a feeling of dread over took her. Her lungs constricted unable to consume its vital need, causing a burning sensation in the back of her throat. Sirens could be heard in the muted distance as the darkness began to flicker with light. It was more of a pinpoint of light that grew with every radiant pulse.
Soon warmth and a golden light filled the vacuum she occupied. She let her eyes focus in the distance where the encompassing light originated. A small black speck moved in the light, growing taking on the shape of a torso, its limbs lost in the bright glare. The object was walking towards her.
As it drew closer she could see it was that of a young man. Nearly nude save for a plain linen cloth wrapped around his hips, and a deep black tattoo of an ankh that surrounded his left nipple. Susan’s eyes wandered over the sculpted figure as he continued to move towards her.
When his head finally breached the glare her mouth dropped as if to speak. She was silenced by his finger, as his hand curled around her chin. Refusing her inquisitions he pulled her into a warming embrace, steadily rocking her as the light faded taking her senses with it.
A man ran up to the twisted remains of Marsh’s car. His hand immediately darted through the broken window, searching out her neck. His fingers pressed against the warm flesh of her neck. The pulse he hoped to find was not there. Detective Marsh the only person looking for Caleb, was no longer there.
Demitri steered Caleb towards a dark gray GMC Envoy. He dug around in his pocket and hit a button that made the amber signals of the vehicle flash.
“This is us,” Demitri commented as he opened the door.
Caleb’s hand brushed across the slick painted surface, enjoying its silky feeling for a second before his fingers curled under the door handle and pulled it open. The smell of leather and coconut wafted over him as he swung the door open and hopped in. The supple leather seat cradled his body as if it were manufactured just for him.
“Damn,” Caleb sighed as he fastened his seat belt “This is a sweet ride!” he exclaimed as he looked around the interior. His hand idly touching everything: from the burl wood console to the glove compartment latch.
In his zeal he even flipped down the visor and poked around the vanity mirror. Demitri chuckled at Calebs exploration, but said nothing as he started the vehicle and maneuvered into traffic. The ride was uneventful for the most part. After the rigors of city driving it was a dull trip into the countryside.
Very dull, Caleb found himself dozing off more then once, only to jolt his head and open his eyes quickly. The route pretty much followed the Mississippi River north, to the outskirts of Promised Land, LA. Night had fallen as the headlights of the Envoy washed over the cast iron gate. It stood as the lone sentinel and breach in a wall of green ivy. Slowly it slid open revealing a dark drive dotted with gas lamps as Demetri tapped the button on the console.
Caleb was enthralled, his eyes watching as the light danced along the silver green strands of Spanish moss that hung from the centuries old Oak trees. He gazed at flickering old-fashioned gas lamps that dotted the path every fifteen feet on alternating sides. The way the trees in a manner produced a protective tunnel that led up to the front of the glowing white Federal style plantation house.
Demitri pulled the Envoy around the teardrop shaped drive until it was under the porte coacher that extended dramatically off the front of the white house.
“Welcome to Black Water.” Demitri sighed as he put the truck in park and shut off the engine.
“Black Water?” Caleb questioned as he climbed out of the GMC.
“Yeah,” Demitri explained, “The house is named for a cypress bayou that skirts the property. It has heavy peat content so the water looks black. Although rumor has it that an old southern colonel’s children drown in there, Forever staining the water black.” Demitri smiled towards Caleb.
“Oh” Caleb sounded, His voice full of skepticism.
“Yeah, there’s even a red granite pillar that stands along the manicured edge. But that’s where the union tied the poor colonel up and murdered him.”
Caleb only rolled his eyes at the old southern ghost stories.
“Believe me or not but its rattled with musket holes.” Demitri grinned as Caleb’s features lightened slightly. “C’mon” he said with a smile motioning for Caleb to follow him.
He walked easily up the red brick steps enjoying Caleb’s Awe as he stared at the exterior of the house. Demitri twisted the patina’d brass doorknob opening the door.
The door opened onto the foyer or as it was known The Red Hall. So named for the terra cotta red that covered all four walls of the foyer. The bright white plaster ceiling marred a stark contrast to the faded brick colored walls. To the left side of the Red Hall was a grand mahogany staircase. The floor was also done in mahogany planking as well as was the door moldings that led off the foyer.
A lone marble topped wrought Iron table stood in the center of the room. In the middle was a tin bucket filled to overflowing with long steam cream and red roses. Caleb’s look of wonder continued as he moved about the room. Absently following Demitri as he crossed the hall to the mahogany pocket door on the right hand side.
Caleb lingered, his hand running over the intricately carved wood, His fingers lightly caressing the Egyptian hieroglyphs there. Upon closer visual inspection he could see flakes of gold leafing. A whisper of the house letting him know its influence had been long inhabited.
He looked up from the molding only to meet eyes with Demitri.
“What’s?” he trailed off as his index finger sank into a pictograph of a hawk.
“It’s an old protection spell, Wards off bad spirits and the like.” Demitri answered. “It’s carved into every doorway and window casing in the house.”
“How’d it get here?” Caleb questioned.
“I carved it.” Demitri said with a contented smile.
“It beautiful.” he sighed giving the doorframe one last glance as he tenderly ran his fingers over its combinations of hawks, snakes, feathers and, various other pictographs.
Demitri gave Caleb a sideways glance, still after so long appreciation of the utilitarian aspects of his life caught him off guard. To him it was like picking up a warning label paying no regard to the text and calling it art. Still if you stood back and viewed it as a whole; it was in a way beautiful, if not overly romanticized by western civilizations. Yet the way the depressions contrasted with the varnished wood was quite graceful. Even long after their gold had flaked away.
“You think it’s beautiful?” Demitri questioned.
“Yeah, they have a sense of restrained power.” He answered his fingers abandoning the woodwork.
Demitri scoffed at the notion.
“Any power those pictures had has faded.”
Caleb gave a lost look to Demitri’s statement.
“Words fade, their gold flakes away as the religion belonging to them crumbles. As time passes they become a relic on the wall of an art museum. Their initial importance lost to the centuries wrath. The Fates revealing to them the ultimate cruelty, their destiny of time. Alone they stand as a martyr of glory passed.” The words spilled out with a twinge of regret.
Caleb just looked on, his eyes narrowing slightly as Demitri walked past him into the front parlor. He waited a moment his mind chewing over the words Demitri spoke. They only served to piss him off. Caleb spun around and followed Demitri into the room but stopped, as his gaze was meet with books.
Thousands of them lining all four walls in custom built cherry bookcases that wrapped around the doorways, windows and, large white marble fireplace. To his right was a set of reading tables piled with even more books. To his left a black leather couch facing a 52-inch plasma television that hung only inches away from the rows of muted book spines behind it.
“Where the hell do you get off?” Caleb asked putting his momentary shock aside, still angry over Demitris words.
Demitri gave him a puzzled look.
“You presume how precious my life is, yet when asked of your own you act as if it is nothing more then a crumpled piece of garbage on the side of the road! Who the hell are you? I don’t know you. You run into my life stealing my choices and claiming them as your own. Then you bring me here and mock my appreciation of this place. What do you want from me?” every word from Caleb’s mouth increased in volume as he yelled at his host.
“I made a mistake in saving you from yourself did I? Should have left you there in a pool of your own piss and vomit?” Demitri snarled as he closed the distance between Caleb and himself. “Next time I wont be so callus and intrude in the wishes of a confused mind!” His eyes narrowed as the words spilled over Caleb’s face.
Caleb’s fists balled out of reaction and his jaw tensed. He knew to well that what he had attempted was a dire mistake. His pride wouldn’t allow him to admit this secret though. All he could do was gulp and swallow it as his mouth dried
“What do you want from me?” he croaked in a throaty whisper.
“Nothing.” Demitri spoke, his tone softening “Nothing that you wouldn’t freely give.”
“Like what?” Caleb’s hushed voiced questioned.
Demitri stepped back from Caleb. In a fluid motion he raised his arm and presented Caleb with a dagger. Its six-inch blade was pure silver, glimmering like errant rays of moonlight. A single row of hieroglyphs descended from the hilt to the point. The hilt itself was bound in black leather strapping and had a silver ankh entwined in the center of the grip.
Caleb’s hand approached the dagger as if he were in the bowels of a museum, reluctantly grasping and hefting its weight from Demitris palm. He turned it over in his hands several times absorbing every detail. Once done his eyes slowly met Demitri’s.
On cue Demitri steadied the heft of the dagger in Caleb’s left hand. He then gently grasped his right hand and drug his index finger down the etched pictures, reading them out as Caleb’s eyes followed their combined hands.
“Balanced Loyalty in Sacrifice does lie. What squandered a gift both shall die.”
Their eyes once again met. Caleb’s gaze riddles with questions he could not ask.
“It’s a warning, for you to give enough, and for I not take to much. In balance everything will be fine.” Demitri spoke as Caleb’s Hand slipped from his.
Caleb nodded slowly his palm closing around the leather bound hilt. Maneuvering the blade to his right wrist.
“No, no.” Demitri cooed his hands clasping Caleb’s and gently pulling the blade away. “Here.” He moved his hand up to calebs neck and ran his index finger across the tawny muscles there. Caleb inhaled a sharp breath. The gentle scrape of Demitri’s finger caused a shiver to cascade down the ridges of his vertebrae.
Caleb’s eyes locked on to the razor sharp edge of the blade as it sent a reflection dancing down his face. His eyes slowly changed their scope. Inching from the blade up Demitri’s chest, to the softness of his check until his eyes locked squarely on the vivd blue ones before him.
They were more vibrant, almost emitting their own light instead of just casually refracting it. There they stood burning with a misplaced lust. Not for the flesh but for the apex on Caleb’s neck where just under the surface a vein throbbed with every beat of his heart. It was only a slight tremble undetectable to the naked human eye. Yet Demitri’s vision locked on to it like a hawk stalking a field mouse.
Caleb slowly moved the silver dagger to his neck, laying it along the ghost of Demitri’s scant touch. He groaned as the blade bit into his flesh. The world went dark as his eyes snapped shut in response to the pain leaving only the sensation of warm blood flowing down his neck.
A groan escaped his chest as Demitri’s lips clamped down on the wound. His hand slowly wrapped around to the small of Caleb’s back and pulled him tightly against his own flesh. Leaving only two layers of fabric separating them. Caleb pawed fiercely at Demitris shoulder. Trying desperately to hold on, fearful if he let go he would fall away from Demitri and his promise of a new life. Wanting more of the exquisite pleasure and pain the being he clung to provided.
His mind tried to rationalize the conflict he felt in the act of grasping another guy so close. How this act could be interpreted so wrong by parts of his body that raged in its cotton prison. His mind hated the idea. His body led by his rapidly beating heart only wanted to claim Demitri’s space as its own.
Demitri halted, his tongue lashing broadly over the slit, Sealing the wound and cleaning the remnants of the offering. Caleb’s knees gave out as a wave of pleasure overtook him. A warm hot breath washed over Demitri’s shoulder as Caleb collapsed unto him.
He carried Caleb to the large leather couch and laid him down. He watched the sleeping teen intently as he went through the slow ritual of undressing him leaving him clad only in his boxers. Caleb was in a state of semi consciousness as he was undressed. Blurred images of endless rows of books lining the walls the occasional flash of flesh, Sights that were broken by the all-consuming darkness of mind.
His nostrils assailed by the scent of aged glue bindings and worn leather. Sounds of his breath echoing through his ears aided by the soft rumpling of the couch as his weight shifted. A consuming cool feeling spread across the surface of his skin as the crisp linen was laid over him.
Caleb snuggled into the cool sheet as he adjusted his weight on the couch. Drifting further and further away until the room that surrounded him was but a memory of the day. Demitris stood and watched the gentle rise and fall of his chest. Listened to the rhythmic melody of his breathing in the long shafts of moonlight that poured through the large windows. He stood there for what seemed like hours, pondering the person before him. Had he made the right decision? Did he steal him away from his own fate?
Slowly he cupped his palm on Caleb’s cheek. Knowing the one thing they now shared would answer all questions. It would erase all misgivings and accusations. His fingers gently stroked down the soft flesh of Caleb’s cheek. Causing the resting youth to snuggle into his palm.
“Time” Demitri whispered as he slowly retreated from the room. Sliding the pocket doors closed.
Somewhere in the dying night Caleb’s eyes jolted open. The familiarity of his surroundings took a moment to sink in their richness appearing different in the wash of silver light. He awkwardly stumbled through the room’s veil of darkness. Led like a moth by the soft bluish glow of a computer monitor.
The room he stumbled into was mostly sparse. In the middle of it sat a large desk. One side held a stack of mail, the other the twenty-inch LCD display that caused the soft blue glow. The monitor was currently cycling through live cctv feeds of the grounds and house. The wall behind the desk was one large Audio Visual cabinet. It was a rainbow of small leds that signaled power and various other functions of the components that were all lined neatly like soldiers.
Caleb reckoned this little office was the nerve center for the whole house. The neat arrangement of satellite receivers, tuners, Video on demand processors and, stereo amplifiers made things like the hanging TV in the other room possible. More likely then not the whole house could be controlled from this one little room with the advent of modern technology and a little tinkering Caleb could probably turn on every television in the house and tune them all to the same channel.
He was half tempted to get in the computer and start messing about. But the dryness that spread across his soft palette demanded his full attention.
Caleb continued to explore the ground floor of the house until he found the relatively sparse kitchen. It appeared as it had one time been a regular room but was turned into a kitchen for the house. A vortex of cool air swirled around his feet as he swung the door open and peered inside. He rummaged around pulling out a bottle of Orange juice and took a hefty swig before placing it back in and closing the door.
As he turned around he noticed the French doors leading outside were open. The warm and cold temperatures conflicted against his skin swirling in a tantrum. The crisp, sterile air of the house was seemingly pushing him away as the balmy air of dawn welcomed him, easing him gently onto the moist, manicured lawns. His feet lost in the thin layer of creeping mists that floated across the grounds like a phantom fleeing the light.
He slowly crossed the grounds. Vaguely aware of the increasing dampness of his cotton shorts and the sheen of sweat spreading across his chest and back. He remembered how most people bitched about the humidity. He wouldn’t, It was a constant in his life, always there, always ready to embrace him. Standing in the balmy dawn was like being fixed in the breath of God. You could feel it wrap around your limbs and cradle you from the world.
Caleb eased himself down onto the dewy grass at the edge of the swamp. The scene was surreal, lushly manicured lawns butting up against the wilds of the cypress swamp. The waters were stained a murky black, and in the placid morning its surface was slick as glass. Tall cypress stalks stretched above the lacquered surface. Their gnarled, weathered, gray branches resembled the wretched, twisted hands of a giant old woman with rags of sphagnum moss hanging from her sleeves.
The glassy surface was broken by a ripple every so often as a frog or other wildlife delved into the dark water.
He sat there in the quiet of the breaking dawn. His mind wandering across all the questions that it ached to have answers to. Why did part of him despise Demitri while another couldn’t bear the thought of leaving his side? Just what did the future have planed for him? What would Seth have said about all this?
“Bullshit!” the memory of his brother’s voice brought a quick smile to his face.
But the answer the memory gave him was fitting. It would be a hard story to tell much less believed.
“Serene, Isn’t it?” Demitri’s nearly nude form appeared from behind the eroded granite pillar.
The voice startled Caleb causing him to jump slightly. It wasn’t the peaceful tone rather just the presence. He gazed up at the figure starting at the shins. His view moving slowly up over the blue and cream striped boxers. Over the taught stomach, His eyes stopped at his chest, mesmerized by the striking black ankh tattoo that surrounded Demitri’s left nipple.
The clash of the dark ebony against a field of golden tan was remarkable and left Caleb momentarily speechless.
“Ye-Yeah” Caleb stammered as he caught himself starring at Demitri’s chest “Lets me think.”
“About? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“You, this place, what all of this means.” He said as his eyes returned to the bayou before him.
“How so?” Demitris gaze followed Caleb’s to the dark shadows of the swamp.
“Part of me hates you, but it wont let me run. Every time I get the thought of leaving a terrible hollow burns in my chest. It tells me if I go I turn my back on my salvation.” Caleb gave Demitri a sideways glance judging his reaction. “It knows if I walk away or run, Ill only be the shell you saved me from becoming, and I don’t want that.”
Demitri nodded his head as Caleb spoke.
“I just don’t understand what you are. At first I thought vampire. But everything about you says no. You radiate this great heat when a vampire’s skin should be cold, your not a sickly pale color and, you bask in the light of the sun. The only vampiric things you’ve got going are the immortality and the whole feeding thing.”
Caleb looked Demitri in the eyes fully.
“Even the feeding thing is off though. It seems that its more an act of dominance the a source of food.” Caleb stopped and thought on his words. “Not really an act of dominance, more like a token gift.”
“Has anyone ever told you how insightful you are? No, I’m not a vampire. But maybe I could be the origin of the myth. I can’t tell you for sure I never had the fortune of meeting Bram Stoker. But it is typical human nature to twist and distort that which they don’t understand.”
“So there are no vampires?” Caleb Questioned
“I never said that, but again we really don’t hang around in the same circles. There could be. Ive spent my time in the shadows. Finding families that would shelter me and keep me safe. Hide me from prying eyes. I lived with those families for generations. As time passed and lives grew more hectic I found it easier to hide in the open. Neighbors no longer know each other. In this anonymity I thrive.”
Demitri stared off into the distance memories of the long past fluttering through his mind. Countless faces, but each one with a name and a story he could share. Time just wouldn’t stand still long enough for him to relay the perks and restraints of its progression.
“What about money? I mean all this had to cost something”
“Its there, a good amount of it. So there’s nothing you need to worry about.”
“How?” He continued to question.
“If you really want to know.” Demitri started
“I do.” Caleb interjected.
“Black water is part of a larger academy of sorts called Fallen Angels.”
“I’ve heard of it,” Caleb spoke “They deal with run-aways and the like”
“We prefer to think of them as kids who have wandered down the wrong path in life, but yeah a few of them are run-a-ways. They teach discipline and respect to the kids make them into respectable adults.” He spoke slightly correcting Calebs misconception.
Demetri answered with a slight nod of his head
“Anyhow the academy owns the house, it’s a few of the kids job keep the maintenance up on it.”
“Do they know about you?”
“Yes, a few of them do. They are the ones that care for the house and its immediate grounds.” Demitri chuckled
“Why are you allowed to stay?” Caleb asked in wonder.
Demitri laughed a little at the memory of it.
“A long time ago I had the audacity to pluck a child from the grip of the Mississippi.”
Caleb winced at his own memory. A reaction of pain Demitri had noticed.
“His family vowed to be forever in my debt. They made good on their promise when I asked for a place to stay. The great-great grandchildren of that young boy have continued that vow. I in a way have become a part of their family. I do consider them family. They call me their guardian angel. I have protected their offspring for generations. Funny thing is I consider them family now too.”
“That’s where the money comes from?”
“Yes that family founded the Fallen Angels Academy, and they still run it. I guess it was penance in a way. A stranger helped them so they in turn helped others.”
Caleb picked at the grass and tossed pieces of the blades idly as he listened. Demitri squatted down. Planting himself on the moist grass next to Caleb. Allowing a comfortable amount of skin contact that Caleb leaned into. The two stayed quiet, listening to the sounds of dawn on the bayou.
“Don’t leave me.” Caleb finally sighed his eyes dropping once again to the patch of grass he had been nervously picking at.
Demitri smiled as he threw his arm around Caleb’s shoulders pulling him closer.
“Never.” The simple word brought a shy smile to Caleb’s lips and a bright sparkle to his sage green eyes.
There in the humid dawn strangers became friends, each of them accepting to rely on each other through the course of time. As the daybreak faded to twilight and into years they where there, by each other’s side.
* * *
The steady beep of the EKG bounced of the sterile white walls. Its droning beeps becoming rapid as the patients eyes opened to the alien surroundings. Her throat involuntarily gagged around the plastic tube that lodged between its muscles. With in moments a kindly looking African Nurse was by her side soothing her forehead.
“Shhh, Now Honey.” She cooed as she stroked Susan’s hair. “Every things gonna be just fine, you’ve made it this far. It looks like you’re almost out of the woods.”
to be continued.......
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