Chapter six – What we’ve been through
So guys, in this chapter the incident with the vampires from Raven’s childhood is explained. But it’s not a happy story, so if you don’t like that kind of reading, just scroll all the way down from when the flashbacks begin and I’ll explain what happened at the end.
The early Thursday morning. Zephyr military base had just come to life, with the sun slowly rising and birds greeting the new day with their songs. The entire week had been silent and uneventful. As a result, my squad had been put on stand-by and wandered around the military grounds, waiting for action. I had retreated back into my barrack, sorting out what little possessions I had.
‘They’ve captured one! They’ve brought one back alive!’
The sudden cries of excitement distracted me from my business. There were only one tiny window in my barrack, so I couldn’t see what was going on outside. But the heavy noise of engines shutting down signalled the return of another squad, probably one of the few Special Task Forces. But what was with all the commotion? What had they brought back?
Curious, I dropped my things on the bed and grabbed my pager, stuffing it inside my pocket as I pushed the front door open and headed outside. The space around the barracks was pretty much abandoned, but a crowd of people had gathered near the entrance of the base, where a row of armoured cars had gathered. The soldiers seemed to be buzzing with excitement.
Just what was going on?
‘What is this commotion about?’ I asked, grabbing one of the closest soldiers by the shoulder. Behind me, I could feel the sun emerging from behind the hills.
‘M’am!’ he said, saluting as he saw the rank on my uniform. ‘The fourth Special Task Force- squad has returned, m’am! And they’ve radioed in ahead that they’re bringing a vampire along with them.’
I diverted my gaze from the young soldier and looked at the front gate, where the Colonel had already placed himself. Next to him, a short row of armoured vehicles appeared. They were driving slowly, and in the middle of the row was a car with an open back, pulling something that looked like a cage.
‘Sir!’ I said, running to the Colonel with as much dignity as possible. ‘What is going on, sir?’
‘Ah, captain,’ the Colonel greeted me. He was smiling and seemed very content with himself. ‘You’re just in time. A few minutes ago, the fourth squad returned from their hunting mission. But instead of killing the creature, they’ve managed to restrain it and bring it back with them. No one has ever managed to achieve that. This might prove to be just the breakthrough we need.’
‘We’re bringing a vampire into our military base?’ I asked. ‘What if it escapes? We’ll be sitting ducks!’
‘Am I supposed to send it to a public prison, then?’ he reacted, his smile disappearing from his face within a heartbeat. ‘That’s way too risky. We’re perfectly capable of containing it here. Don’t question my actions, captain!’
‘My apologies, sir. I was out of line.’
At that moment, the vehicle with the cage on top of it drove past. My gaze was pulled towards the thing behind the titanium bars. It was crouching on the bottom of the cage, with muscles tensing up underneath its ragged clothing. Inhuman, piercing eyes glowed inside its face and it hissed at us with a tone that clearly said it wanted to kill us all.
‘We’ll secure it underground and then we’ll interrogate it,’ the Colonel nodded, watching the creature pass by.
‘It looks feral to me,’ I said with a frown. ‘Are you sure we will even be able to communicate with it?’
Over the years, I’d come across these monsters a lot. They all had the same fangs and inhumanity over them, together with the aura of a killer. But, while some were a bit like animals in their behaviour, others seemed smarter, somehow. Especially the ones that wore clothing- they were still monsters, beasts, but smart beasts. In exceptional cases, I could have sworn they were talking to each other. But I had no idea what made some smarter than others, and seeing how we’d never managed to capture one before, there was still no research on these things.
‘We’ll have to find that out for ourselves,’ the Colonel merely responded. ‘Get these men out of the way, captain. We’re taking the beast underground.’
I turned away from the Colonel and directed my attention to the crowd of soldiers that were still staring at the vampire. They were baffled, most of them forgetting the training they’d had and staring at the vampire openly.
‘Men! Get back to your posts!’ I yelled, getting their attention. It took a few tries to reach them all, but a few seconds later they pulled themselves together again and quickly ran back to their stations. I saw Derek disappearing into the gym, together with a group of soldiers who were just as buffed up as he was. Tybalt and Hao were still watching, but on a safe distance so they wouldn’t get in the way. The only person missing was Yurick. Had he already run off, like the other soldiers?
I looked around me a few times, until I finally found him standing near the bushes at the edge of the path. He followed the moving cage very intently. I took a better look at his face and blinked.
There was anger in his eyes, visible for everyone and clearly aimed at the thing in the cage. I’d never seen Yurick like that. He’d encountered vampires before, and then he’d always been calm and collected. What was different about this one? Or was he just upset because they’d brought it into the base?
And then was something else in his eyes, too. Was it… determination?
I watched Yurick as he kept his gaze on the row of cars until they’d long disappeared out of sight. Then he turned his head, saw me looking at him and turned around abruptly. He walked away and vanished between the barracks.
Something was not right with him today. And it had to do with that vampire that was just brought in.
That afternoon, I went to the Colonel’s office to find out about the interrogation. There were a lot more patrols walking around than normal, I noticed on the way there. Probably on orders from the Colonel, to increase security. They shot mean looks to everyone that passed by and I was sure that more than one normally accessible area had now become off-limits to the lower-ranked soldiers.
Fortunately, my own rank was still high enough to be let through. I walked through the corridor without being stopped once and, before long, reached my destination.
‘Is the Colonel in?’ I asked the soldier standing guard next to the door. ‘I need to speak with him.’
‘Yes, m’am,’ he nodded, seeing the rank on my uniform. ‘Please enter, m’am.’
I walked past the soldier and knocked on the door shortly, before pushing it open and stepping inside.
‘Ah, Raven,’ the Colonel said, as soon as he saw who it was. ‘Thank you for your hard work. I take it you’re here to talk about our new intake?’
‘Yes, sir,’ I said, saluting.
‘We’ve brought it as far underground as possible. The interrogation should begin shortly. I’m afraid I can’t allow you to be present during the questioning, but we’ll make a report of anything that happens.’
‘What if we can’t get it to talk, sir?’ I asked.
‘That’s either good or bad, depending on how you look at it. It could be just a waste of time, but it will be good to know they are incapable of communicating.’
I thought back of my previous encounters with vampires. Even though no one here would admit it, vampiric creatures that were able to talk seemed a lot more threatening than creatures that weren’t able to. It was really impractical how little we actually knew of them. Then again, the last thing I wanted was to find out more about those killers.
Back on the Colonel’s desk, a pager began to beep.
‘Looks like we’re all set,’ the Colonel said, grabbing it and stuffing it in his pocket. ‘Our talk ends here, captain. Wish me luck.’
I nodded and saluted him again as we both made our way towards the door. Within a few steps we were outside. The Colonel carefully locked the door behind him, greeted me one last time and then took off in the direction of the elevator.
I watched him go. I’d known in advance that I wouldn’t be allowed inside for the interrogation. That wasn’t part of my role in the army. But we’d never captured a vampire before. We always killed them- that’s what we were trained to do. Kill them and clear any evidence of them existing. Having a breathing one so close- it made me restless. My instincts told me to get rid of it, but there was also something else, something deeper.
If that creature could really speak, there was something I had to ask it.
That same evening, after I was sure the Colonel had come back above ground and the interrogation had ended, I made my way towards the dungeon. We called it that, but it was really just a military prison, going three stories underground. The creature would be at the very bottom of the dungeon, as it would be the hardest to get out that way. I’d have to take the elevator down and rank my way through three security doors.
Before I even got close, though, something happened. The upper hallways were pretty much abandoned, as was always the case during the late night.
But when I reached the elevator area, there was already someone there. I couldn’t see his face, but he was not wearing any kind of uniform. As he bent over to the lock, I could hear him fiddling with the controle panel.
I quickly took my weapon out of its holster and pointed it at the male figure. He froze when he heard the click and turned his head towards me.
‘Drop whatever tools you have and put your hands up in the air. You’re arrested for breaking into a restricted-‘
He seemed just as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Quickly, I lowered my weapon. Staying silent, I waited for him to explain himself, and when he didn’t, I opened my mouth instead.
‘What on plumbob are you doing, Yurick?’
‘I need to get to that vampire,’ he growled. ‘But the lock won’t let me pass.’
‘Of course it won’t let you pass. You don’t have the authority to get in there. Now step away from the door.’
I expected him to obey and step away, as he’d obeyed me from day one. He was well-trained like that.
What I did not expect was him exploding in anger and bringing his arms up as if he wanted to hit someone, not even taking a single step away from the door.
‘No! I need to get inside. Don’t stop me!’
‘You’re not allowed to, Yurick. Step away from the door. I’m not going to tell you again.’
‘You don’t understand!’ His face had turned white as a sheet and I could see him clenching his fists. He was trying to control his anger frantically. But anger at what? And why?
At that moment, Yurick turned around again and grabbed the electronic lock, trying to force the door to open.
I leapt at him and pushed him away from the lock with all my strength, pinning him to the wall.
‘Are you out of your mind, Yurick?! They’ll have you executed for treason!’
‘Get off me!’ Yurick protested, much louder than I was comfortable with, and tried to throw me away.
‘Don’t you get it?! This might be the only time you can get close enough to talk with one. I have only one chance!’
He pulled away again, this time successfully breaking loose. I lose my balance from the pull and quickly took a few steps back.
‘What are you talking about?’ I asked.
‘That’s none of your business!’
‘It is my business when my underling tries to break in to a highly guarded area. What are you trying to do?’
‘I said, that’s none of your-‘
‘Spit it out, soldier! What are you trying to do?!’
‘It’s my sister, okay!’ he snapped. ‘My twin sister got bitten by one of those things when we were young. She died! She died and I vowed I’d take revenge for her by killing the thing that drained her!’
He looked at my with pure rage in his eyes. A rage, I suddenly realised, that was familiar to me.
‘Well,’ I said, putting my weapon away, ‘That’s one thing we have in common.’
It took a few seconds for that line to reach his mind. But eventually it did, and Yurick looked at me with a big question mark on his face.
‘Now what are yóú talking about?’
‘I know about the pain of loss. It’s all you can think of. But if you let your emotions run freely like that, you’ll never be able to avenge her.’
‘What do you mean, you know?!’ Yurick suddenly yelled, losing his cool for the third time in five minutes. ‘What could you possibly know about loss?! You’re the heartless captain! You never show loss to us, you never show anything! Why would you know anything of what I’ve been through?!’
The memories of fourteen years ago suddenly broke through my barrier. They came through more powerful than ever, and left me breathless. I saw the lightning, the inside of the closet, Ivan’s pure look of agony as he pushed my sisters into a corner-
‘You think I don’t know?’ I said softly, trying my hardest to ban all emotion from my voice. And failed. The barrier I’d built up around myself so carefully over the years had gotten severely damaged by the flashbacks. This wasn’t good. I had to retreat somewhere safe and fix the cracks before I’d break down. But instead, I focused myself on Yurick.
‘You think I’ve always been like this? I’ve lost my entire family, Yurick. They’ve all vanished from my side in one night. Instantly. So don’t you dare say I don’t know anything about loss.’
‘You… you have?’ Yurick asked, in a completely different tone than before. ‘Seriously? Why didn’t you tell us? When- I mean… how? What happened?’
I shot him a long and icy look.
‘Do you really want to know?’
He hesitated. It only took a few seconds.
‘Yes. I need to know. Please tell me, Chief.’
Now I had no choice. I had to think back, reach for my past. Something I had pushed into the depths of my mind for all these years. But I couldn’t stop from doing it now anymore, either. Slowly, I closed my eyes and recalled the faces of the people I hadn’t seen for so long.
‘We were a family of seven. My parents, me and my two sisters and brothers. We were close, my siblings and me- closer than most siblings are. I’d grown up without knowing anything else than us being together. They were my entire world.’
‘It was at the end of winter. The cold hadn’t completely disappeared from the lands yet, but our village was tired of the snow and decided to hold its first spring fair. My siblings and me weren’t allowed to come. We were grounded for trying a classmate upside down a tree the other day.’
A tiny smile appeared on my face together with the memory.
‘Our parents left us on our own, with a babysitter on the way, as they went to the fair by themselves. They had been gone for a few hours when it happened… three vampires broke into our home.’
I saw the memory in my mind: bright and painfully clear. The door swinging open and knocking the potted plant on the ground. The rain, swirling into the hallway from outside. Ivan grabbing me and pushing me into the closet, saying-
‘Raven, don’t open the doors! Promise you won’t come out until I come get you! No matter what you hear!’
He ran off, leaving me all by myself and the next moment the monsters came in. Hissing, with glowing yellow eyes and black claws tearing at their own clothes. Hellish, blood red hair swirled around the head of the leader vampire. Without reservation they forced their way in, eyeing my brothers and sisters as they slowly backed away into the furthest corner. Out of the leader creature’s mouth came words; hissing, snarling words that I couldn’t understand. My body froze in fear as I got absorbed into what was happening before my eyes.
‘NO, Ciel! Let him go!’
‘They never stood a chance,’ I mumbled. ‘Even with my brothers protecting them. Ciel was grabbed first.’
I remembered him being grabbed and pulled away from the others. He screamed and hit and wiggled, but couldn’t break free. Ivan jumped at them to help, but a single blow of the redhead’s claws ripped deep into the flesh of his arm. Red blood was flung against the wall.
‘As soon as he started bleeding, the vampires went mad. They just lost it. I don’t know what happened. But if they had been able to control themselves, that control was gone at the first drop of Ivan’s blood. They lunged themselves at my brothers and sisters…’
My eyes grew big with fright and a silent scream passed my lips as I saw the blood stain our wooden floor. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening. I heard Ceci scream and pressed my back hard against the back of the closet, trying to disappear in it. I wanted to shut the door, but they’d see it, they’d see it…! I felt myself trembling with pure fear as the disaster in the living room was lit up by another lightning strike. There was red everywhere. So much blood-
‘No, NO! NOOO!!!!’
A wave of nausea came over me and I quickly pulled myself out of the memory. Yurick was still sitting next to me, a look of horror in his eyes.
‘Chief… I… I had no idea.’
‘As it turns out, all of that blood is the only reason I’m still alive,’ I continued, breathing deeply to regain control of myself. ‘If they hadn’t spilled so much and gone mad with the scent, they’d have noticed there was another child hiding. But they didn’t.’
‘How… how old were you when it happened?’ Yurick asked cautiously.
‘Eight. My brothers were ten, and my sisters twelve years old. They were about to have their milestone birthday.’
‘And what… what happened after that?’
I refused to think back to that day a second time. Instead, I forcefully shut off my emotions as I always did and told Yurick the next disaster with a cold, stoic voice.
‘My parents found us that same afternoon. It took them three seconds to realize something was very wrong, and fifteen minutes to realize I wasn’t in the living room with the others. It must have been a terrible sight to behold, although I don’t remember anything of the events afterwards. But my mother… she couldn’t handle it. She’s been in Landgraab Psychiatric hospital ever since, crying about a curse and saying it’s her fault. She doesn’t recognise me even if I go to her.’
‘And your dad?’ Yurick whispered.
‘He’s moved to a home near the hospital where mom is, I think. I haven’t seen him for years. Ever since that day, he has been unable to look at me. My childhood psychiatrist said I reminded him of his other children too much. I ended up leaving home at fifteen, to find the vampire that took my family from me… and that’s how I ended up here.’
‘Revenge,’ Yurick nodded, getting up again. ‘Just like me. I never knew… we’re the same.’
‘We are. I really understand what you’re going through, Yurick. But you can’t get anywhere if you let your anger take over randomly like that. You need to be reserved, rational. Do you understand?’
‘I… I understand,’ he finally said, bowing his head. ‘I’m sorry, Chief.’
‘It’s all right.’ I got up as well, grabbing my military pass from one of my pockets. With a swift swipe, I pulled it through the electronic lock. The light flashed green, and a heavy, metallic click indicated the lock had been opened.
‘Chief? What are you doing?’
‘The thing that killed your sister. Is it the one that’s down there?’ I asked, ignoring his question.
‘No. I was hoping to talk to it and find out where he is.’
‘Good. That was my plan, as well.’
With a soft squeaking, the elevator reached our floor and the doors slid open, revealing the empty cabin. I walked in with confidence.
‘Well, then, it’s time to go and get some results. Are you coming, Yurick? Oh, and if you could kindly keep this a secret from the Colonel and other captains. You know, if we don’t want to get arrested.’
He looked at me dumbfounded for a moment. Then that expression was gone and a big smile crossed his face.
‘Say… Chief. You’re amazing, you know that?’
He smiled at me again and joined me in the elevator. With a short shake, the doors closed and the cabin began its long ride down.
For anyone who scrolled down: the vampires that broke into her house when Raven was eight, killed all of her siblings, but didn’t notice her hiding in the closet.
So they left, and Raven was eventually found by her parents. Her life changed forever though, and she left home at fifteen to seek out the vampire that killed them and take revenge.
Yurick related to her situation, and both of them head down to the dungeon to find out what the captured vampire knows.