You know when you wash and wash and yet still don’t feel clean? You scrub at your skin until it turns pink and raw and to the naked eye it looks perfectly clean, yet you know it isn’t? You can see it. Every mark, every filthy blemish, every stain that reminds you of what you have done; of what you are.
Standing in the toilets back at the base, I feverishly worked the soap over my hands and face, desperate to rid myself of the blood, some mine, some belonging to the now-dead vampire.
Murderer, whispered my vampire mother in my ear and I gasped, looking up into the cracked mirror and seeing nothing but my pale, stricken face.
My mouth was swollen and red on one side and felt tender to touch. My eyes were tinged-pink with broken blood vessels from straining to vomit until there was nothing left inside me to vomit up apart from my internal organs and I think I had come pretty close to expelling them from my body too. I couldn’t look into my eyes in the mirror for too long. I didn’t like what I saw there.
Still, I could hide from my own reflection but I couldn’t hide from what still lingered in my head. Images of the Nathaniel’s knife in my hand, it’s blade buried in soft flesh. Remembering how I had done it without even thinking about it. Like it was nothing.
Hey, no biggie, I just killed a man.
Not a man, a vampire, I could hear Nathaniel’s words echoing around my head. Survival of the fittest.
Really? Is that how it was? I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe it so much. Yes, it had been them or us. Either we survived or they did. Yet, we has gone there with the intention of killing them. It had been a hunting expedition.
It was a slaughter, hissed my mother.
“No,” I groaned, grabbing handfuls of hair in my clenched fists and rocking slightly on the balls of my feet.
I grabbed for the soap again and began to run it over my hands and arms, sure I must have missed some blood because I still felt drenched in it, despite copiously washing every inch of visible skin. Why didn’t this place have a shower? I needed to scrub myself everywhere. I needed to strip my hair of the stench of death. I needed to be rid of these clothes. When I looked down I could see the dark stains smeared on my jeans and t-shirt. Everywhere I looked I could still see the blood.
With a cry, I grabbed the door handle and fled the bathroom, running down the hall into the dorm room looking about desperately.
Martha appeared behind me. “Are you okay, Sarah?” she said softly, sensing my alarm.
“I don’t have any clothes. I need to get these clothes off,” I said, clenching my fists by my side.
Martha ran her eyes over me. “Um….okay, you’re a bit smaller than me but I’m sure we can sort something out…”
“I don’t care,” I snapped “I just want these clothes off me now!”
Something in my face must have triggered Martha into action and she quickly began pulling stuff out of her rucksack. “I don’t have much, I’m sorry,” she said handing me a khaki shirt and black jeans.
I grabbed them off her and began to desperately yank off the blood-smeared t-shirt and jeans just as Nathaniel appeared in the doorway. I didn’t care that he could see me half-naked. I wouldn’t have cared if the whole world could see me in my undies at that point, I just needed the clothes off of my skin. I couldn’t bear it. He didn’t look away, just stood leaning against the doorframe, his hair falling across his eyes as he watched me frantically trying to button up Martha’s shirt.
“Sarah…” he began to say.
“Shut up!” I hissed, whirling around to face him. “This is all your fault! You just couldn’t leave me be could you? I had a life you know. I was just starting to feel settled and normal and you had to rip me away from all of that. What right did you have? So here I am yet again being dragged into somebody else’s plans for me and I’m not even given a choice!”
“You had a choice, Sarah,” Nathaniel said, not even flinching at my unbridled anger. “I asked you to stay. You didn’t have to.”
“You threatened my friends! What did you expect me to do?” I spat.
“I expected you to make the right choice for your friends,” he said, shrugging. “That’s the thing about life. It doesn’t always revolve around you. You have to make choices that will effect others. Your friends earned a reprieve because of you, why was that the wrong choice?”
“Because it was no choice at all! None of this would be my choice.”
“You didn’t have to come with us today. I don’t recall anyone forcing you into the van. I don’t recall anyone forcing you to enter the sub-den and I certainly don’t recall anyone forcing you to pick up that knife.”
His tone was so matter-of-fact, so emotionless, that it was all I could do to not fly across the room and smack him in the face.
“You’re twisting everything! Was I meant to let him kill you?” I gasped.
“Well I would hope not,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “And thankfully you made the right choice.”
“That’s just it! There was no choice. Either I killed him or he killed you. What else was I meant to do?”
“You didn’t have to use the knife, Sarah. He was the only one left. You could have jumped on him and we could have over-powered him together without the use of any weapon. You could have called for help. But you didn’t. You did the first thing that came naturally to you and that was pick up the knife.”
“It is not natural to kill people!”
Nathaniel stepped into the room and I could see the first signs of anger creeping into his eyes.
“Not people. Vampires. Stop confusing the two. They are vampires. You know what they are and you know what they do. Are you happy to let them carry on torturing people? Torturing children? Because that’s what they do Sarah. You think age matters to them? They kill indiscriminately regardless of age, gender, race. They don’t care. We are all fair game to them.”
“But that doesn’t mean we should be the same!” I growled. “You are making us like them.”
“Don’t you ever compare us to them! They are the killers, Sarah. They are the murderers. Are we meant to let them do as they wish? Does it not matter how many they kill?” he snapped.
“Of course it matters….” I began.
Nathaniel butted in, moving closer to me. “They killed your mother, your grandmother, your friends and yet you still stand here and say they don’t deserve this? Those vampires we killed today were responsible for countless deaths, Sarah and they had been getting away with it for months. A endless stream of desperate people going in through those doors and never coming out. People like your friends. Some dying there in that cesspit of a house. Some being fed to the den, abused, tortured, treated like fucking animals. And you say we are like them?”
“Look I hear what you are saying…”
“No you don’t. You don’t hear and you want to know why? Because all you hear is him. Michael. Your hero. Years of suffering wiped away by one man. One vampire who would have you believe they are not the monsters you grew up knowing they were.” His face was just inches away from mine now, his eyes blazing and fixed onto mine and try as I might, I couldn’t look away. “Remember, Sarah. I’m begging you. Remember what they did. Remember what they did to you and to your loved ones. What they took from you. How they made you feel. The pain they caused. Look at your scars. Remember how each one was inflicted because I am telling you now, they will inflict a thousand more given half the chance. Don’t let him make you forget.”
Copyright (c) Lindsey Clarke 2012