The Great War finally over, the Goryeon Conflict nearing its conclusion, the world has begun to sink into some sort of stability again.
I’d really thought the Secret would be spread. I thought the chaos of war-making would have spread the Truth beyond the boundaries of the violence, but it had remain kept. I came back to Amerrka and life seemed to resume where it had left off, much the same as things had been – with the exception of a pervasive fear that seemed to linger in the air like a smell of gasoline leaking from an engine.
SEBASTIAN ERIKSSON was one of my children, now a long time grown, who had been travelling throughout the world through the years of conflict. He’d met the Vampress SVETLANA OBOROVSKY and the two had moved to NEW YORK CITY together.
I’d seen them some times since their relocation. SVETLANA was not one of mine, that much was certain. Nor was she descended through my line. But there was something strange about her that I could not place. The nearest suspicion I had was that she was descended through a line of feral Conduits, perhaps the Cat, but that the Cat had a blood Addiction was new information for me; the line was anything but vegetarian, but it was a strong family line that I was reluctant to believe had fallen in such a way.
SEBASTIAN had surprised me when he’d told me that the two were due a child.
A child? This affirmed my belief that she was indeed a Conduit.
Rather, two children were born to the pair in the late winter of 1961. And to the surprise of both myself and their parents, the children seemed markedly normal. They bore the dark hair of their mother, of old Muskovy heritage, and the bright eyes of their father, from new-old Yeurop. But most notably, they had no unusual shape to their cuspids. How could that be, their parentage being what it was?
It was a cold evening when I’d decided to make a first visit to the family.
I came bearing gifts. Fresh fish, still barely alive, occasionally squirmed within their icy packing.
I rang the doorbell of their East-Side flat, but I knew SEBASTIAN already knew of my arrival.
And I waited for someone to come let me in.
In a few minutes, SVETLANA appears at the door with child in arm. The two were twins but the parents kept two different hairstyles on the girls to aid in telling them apart.
This one, held on SVETLANA’s hip, was OPHELIA.
PLEASE, COME IN.
SVETLANA is a muscular woman with her dark hair pinned in a careful updo. She seemed to have taken on a more conservative mode of dress since the birth of her children, often choosing dark colors with plain motif. It was a sharp contrast to the common dress of the era.
THANK YOU, SVETLANA
IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU WELL.
AND WHO IS THE LITTLE TYKE?
OPHELIA, upon realizing she was being addressed, buries her face in her mother’s arm.
SVETLANA tries to gently wrest the child from her spell of bashfulness.
SAY HELLO TO THE COUNT FOR US.
TELL HIM YOUR NAME.
But the little girl says nothing.
SHE’S JUST BEING A LITTLE SHY TONIGHT.
SVETLANA breaks into a wide smile of parental pride.
IT’S NICE TO MEET YOU, OPHELIA.
COUNT VLADISLAUS STRAUD IS A FRIEND OF DADDY’S.
She then turns to me and tries to use her free hand to motion me inside the building.
PLEASE, DO COME IN.
SEBASTIAN WILL BE SO HAPPY TO SEE YOU.
The pair maintain a comfortably sprawling apartment on the fifth floor of the building. SVETLANA enjoyed a small fame from her political commentary and short stories. SEBASTIAN had taken up painting in the moments he wasn’t preparing finger sandwiches and juice cups for the children.
He seemed to exude an aura of peace I had not known of him in his younger years, always then eager to be sparring in wars of ideals. I hoped today’s quiet was genuine.
SVETLANA set the girl down on the floor. Playing with blocks on the floor was the other child, ESTHER, busying herself in an ornate dollhouse.
She barely acknowledges my entrance.
GO PLAY, GIRLS.
IT WILL BE BEDTIME SOON.
Since discovering none of the hallmarks of the Vampire upon the children, SVETLANA had insisted the children be raised in the way Mortal children were; she herself suspecting that the children were, in fact, Ordinary.
But it seemed not to bother SVETLANA in the slightest. I even suspected that she was glad her children were not born with the Affliction. She merrily dressed them in bright clothings and sent them to daily playgroups under the watchful eye of a babysitter.
SEBASTIAN enters the living space from an adjoining corridor. He seemed to have been working on one of his paintings, lightly splattered with contrasting color.
I BROUGHT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY A GIFT.
THANK YOU, COUNT.
PLEASE FOLLOW ME INTO THE KITCHEN.
I notice the small face of ESTHER appear from behind the dollhouse, peeking out to spy us as we walk away.
Their kitchen is impeccably clean and well-kept. SEBASTIAN sorts the foodstuff in the refrigerator to allow room for the fish to lay flat. I give him the fish and he slides it gently into place.
I KNOW YOU AND SVETLANA ARE NOT ABLE TO LEAVE THE HOME OFTEN THESE DAYS.
WE MAKE DO.
I knew SEBASTIAN as a Vampire of notable thirst; that he would go without during such a period of high activity would have surprised me.
WE HAVE OUR FRIENDS.
WE THROW PARTIES.
The pair were socialites and enjoyed the company of Mortals, but I had been unaware if such lavish festivities had continued since the children were born.
I AM GLAD YOU ARE WELL.
I had little to say. I would often advise against gatherings where such unequal numberings were found, knowing the two loved the charade of entertaining. It was too true that Mortals were capable of surprising feats of strength when threatened, and if they grouped together, they could certainly find a way of destroying an enfeebled Vampire. I wanted none-such tragedy to befall any of my children, least of all Sebastian and his young bride.
But he was headstrong and I knew he felt confident at working a room, selecting just the right Mortal to pose as this night’s Victim.
YOU ARE STILL KEEPING UP WITH THOSE OLD FRIENDS?
A NUMBER OF THEM NOW HAVE CHILDREN OF THEIR OWN.
IT IS GOOD FOR ESTHER AND OPHELIA TO HAVE PLAYMATES.
Her speech was calm and words carefully chosen. She seemed to assume the children were eavesdropping.
THERE ARE A NUMBER OF POETS IN THE CIRCLE AS WELL.
WE HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH FRIENDS.
WE HAVE NO CHOICE.
The finality with which he speaks informs me that he has no fear of his lifestyle, but merely intends to ward off my judgement.
IT IS GOOD FOR THE CHILDREN TO PLAY WITH OTHERS THEIR OWN AGE.
IT WAS A LUXURY RARELY AFFORDED TO ME IN MY YOUTH AND I OFTEN SUFFER FOR IT.
NEVER KNOWING THE TRUE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP.
THE GIRLS HAVE EACH OTHER, THANKFULLY.
THEY HAVE THEIR LITTLE DISAGREEMENTS BUT THEY DO TRULY LOVE EACH OTHER.
IT MEANS A GREAT DEAL TO ME THAT THEY ARE SIMILAR IN AGE.
AS YOU KNOW, I WAS A GREAT DEAL OLDER THAN MY LITTLE SISTER AND WHEN OUR PARENTS DIED, IT MEANT I HAD TO STEP IN AND CARE FOR HER.
SHE MISSED OUR MOTHER DEARLY.
I DID, TOO, BUT IT WAS NOTHING LIKE WHAT TATANYA FELT FOR HER.
I WAS OLD AT THAT POINT.
HAS TATANYA MET THE GIRLS?
SHE IS SUPPOSED TO BE COMING HOME EARLY NEXT YEAR, IF ALL GOES WELL.
THAT WILL BE WONDERFUL.
I HOPE YOU’LL INVITE ME SOME TIME AFTER HER ARRIVAL. I SHOULD ENJOY SEEING HER AGAIN.
I had run into TATANYA OBOROVSKY several times during the Great War. It was a small world for the Extranatural.
OF COURSE WE’LL HAVE YOU OVER.
I AM SORRY WE HAVE NOT HAVE HAD YOU OVER BEFORE NOW.
I WAS OVER-PROTECTIVE OF THE GIRLS.
Of course the idea that she’d welcome a group of Mortals into her home but insisted on keeping me at arm’s length irritated me, though wasn’t entirely unexpected given her recent, somewhat fanatical adoption of the lifestyle.
IT IS OF NO MATTER.
Time passed slowly for me, but all points seemed equidistant once passed. I had remade friends after decades and more, and grudges seemed fresh after centuries of distance. What was five years?
I AM GLAD TO SEE THEY ARE ENJOYING LIFE’S FRUITS.
IT IS THEIR DUE.
At that, a small set of footprints enters the kitchen. All three of us look down at the small entrant.
It is ESTHER. She has long hair flowing down her back.
She seems to ignore me.
SEBASTIAN, who had been standing in front of the refrigerator, moves out of the way.
She retrieves a glass from a cabinet and opens the cooler door to remove a carton of milk. She pours the glass about two-thirds full and hands it to ESTHER.
THANK YOU, MAMA.