Kei. Family Matters (Deamhan Chronicles #1.5)

RULE ONE: SECRECY IS THE KEY TO OUR SURVIVAL

 

So you want to know how I ended up back in Minneapolis? Well, that story requires a cigarette, preferably menthol, and a woman I can wrap my arms around and eat later.

I don’t go for those used, hand-me-down types of meals, if you get my drift. I like my humans fresh, just like that girl I ate before crossing into Iowa from Minnesota. Her essence felt damn good entering my veins. I have to say, she was the best I’d had in a very long time.

Back in the day, after finishing a good meal, I liked to unwind and smoke some hookah with my friends. But now I’m too far away from any hookah and too far from any friends.

I am on the lam after having been kicked out of the city that I built from the ground up.

Still bitter from that moment, I haven’t looked back while fleeing for my life. I had to get as far away as I could from there. My impulse to avenge my honor had to wait, at least, for now.

Everything was fine until that human arrived. For decades, I helped strengthen the Deamhan in Minneapolis, and made sure that all the vampires feared us. Ramanga, Lamia, Metusba, Lugat – Deamhan clans didn’t matter to me. I looked out for them all. If it weren’t for me, my species would’ve vanished from the city a long time ago.

Selene and her friends released my sire, Lucius, from Limbo, and all hell broke loose. They annihilated my supporters and dethroned me. I still haven’t figured out how they managed to free him. I made a deal with Amenirdis to plant him in there. She promised me that he would never escape as long as I helped her find the two pieces of some ancient tablet, which contained the origins of Deamhan. I had no idea why she wanted something that probably didn’t exist in the first place, but I promised to help her anyway.

Selene must have also made a deal with her because Amenirdis never does anything for free. Lucius is free now and running around in my city, trying to clean up the streets while I’m hiding in dark areas, my clothing still tattered, and smelling like horse manure. Last I heard, they killed a few more of my supporters, not including the Deamhan they massacred at the Gathering a few days ago.

The Deamhan now rallying behind Lucius like he’s their messiah just don’t know how good they once had it. He started this whole mess. He wanted to co-exist. He even fell in love with one of them! But he didn’t have the guts to stand up to them like I did. Now they’ll see how hellish it can be in the city with Selene and him running things. They’ll start searching for me, trying to get me to come back; and when they do, I’ll be waiting and ready.

After all, nothing can keep me away from Minneapolis. That’s my freaking city.

 

RULE TWO: DO NOT CLOSE YOUR SANCTUARIES TO DEAMHAN IN NEED. RESPECT A SANCTUARY’S PROTECTIVE ATMOSPHERE

 

I ran out of juice just outside of Forsan, a small, shabby town located on the border of Oklahoma and Kansas. I thought I’d never find this place, but I guess my memory proved me wrong. Of course, the town looked a lot different from how it did when I left it back in 1935.

I stood there, just staring down an unfrequented narrow road. The pavement was broken and large jagged cracks, invaded by grass, ran in zigzag patterns. My eyes turned to the yellow horizon. With only an hour left before sunrise, I had to find somewhere to take shelter and rest. As a Deamhan, I felt the oncoming heat and my body began to show all the warning signs. I shivered slightly, not from the cold wind, but at the thought of being exposed in the open to the sun.

Early morning snowflakes littered the air. When the wind blew, its chilliness infiltrated my nostrils, freezing the back of my throat. I’ve lived in America for almost a hundred years and still haven’t gotten used to the different seasons. Minnesota winters were especially harsh, but the comfort in knowing I could warm myself up quickly with an easy meal made living here more sustainable.

I made my way to a gas station called “Dinky’s.” Blinking red lights that read “Open 24-7” greeted me as I approached the door.  An older woman stood behind the cashier counter, refilling the cigarette display case. Before I opened the door, I caught the scent as well as the thoughts of another worker, Pedro, who was restocking the shelves with soda liter bottles. The name, Bobbi, drifted into my mind as the cashier hummed.

I walked in and Bobbi greeted me with a wide smile, revealing yellow teeth stained from years of cigarette smoking. “Good morning,” she said.

I stopped in the entryway, unsure of what I wanted to do next. My body said “feed,” but my mind wanted answers. I came back to this trashy town for a reason: to find Nashoba.

I played nice, for now. “Good morning,” I answered, my lips struggling to pull back into a smile. I scanned the interior, and found she and Pedro were the only humans in the vicinity. Near the back, I saw old, broken soda machines. Most of the ceiling panels were discolored, while others were missing. The floor felt sticky underneath my black steel-toed boots and the smell of strong coffee was like the cherry on top.

“Can I help you find anything?” she asked.

I approached the counter. My mind dug a little deeper into her brain, just enough so that she wouldn’t feel a sting. I needed to do a quick catch-up on this town’s secrets; how it changed and what had changed about it. I picked up on the location of her home. She lived alone in a small, two-bedroom house with yellow siding. Never married, she hired Pedro to fix various problems that occurred in her home. This information didn’t really interest me until I picked up another thought: Pedro, a married man with three kids, spent a lot of time at her home, which made for interesting gossip amongst the townsfolk.

I smiled, realizing I just discovered my resting place for the day. “I’m looking for someone,” I said. “His name is Nashoba.”

“Nashoba.” She repeated the name to herself in thought. “Doesn’t sound familiar.”

“Are you sure? Think long and hard, Bobbi.” I placed my hands on the counter and leaned toward her.

Startled, she swayed her body away from me. She wondered how I knew her name, but answered that question when she realized she was wearing her nametag. The tips of my fingers began to vibrate slowly as I felt the thick, psychic energy permeating from the counter’s surface.

The imprints left over by human customers before me revealed a long, twisted history punctuated by mothers and fathers, little children, drunks, and drifters. Lugat Deamhan fed this way, devouring leftover psychic traces like a bottom feeder does on the ocean floor.

“I’m sure,” she replied. “The name doesn’t sound familiar, but then again, I don’t personally know a lot of people around here.”

By now, I knew everything I could about Bobbi. She didn’t know Nashoba. I began to think perhaps he finally left Forsan, despite swearing to me that he would stay in this shithole until the day his immortal life ended.

Having the location of Bobbi’s home, I made up my mind to go there, seeking a safe place to sleep. It wouldn’t make any sense to kill her in this gas station with her human coworker watching.

I nodded and walked out, toward the direction of her home. Once I moved out of human sight, I traveled as fast as I could – Deamhan speed – and arrived at her home within moments. After breaking the door with ease, I stepped in to find it surprisingly quaint and small.

The interior was nothing like my abode in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. Entering her bedroom, I came upon a small, unmade bed with dingy sheets. My acute sense of smell picked up the stench of sex and tobacco, and I could tell they hadn’t been washed in weeks. Her hygiene made me rethink how edible she looked, but my hunger prevailed. I rummaged through her dresser drawers, curious to know what else I could learn about this woman. I pulled out lingerie, old magazines, and a ruffled dress. I finally turned my attention back to why I came to this house in the first place.

Near the bedroom was a closet, which I also examined, before deciding that it would suffice as cover until sunset. I stepped in, closed the warped door behind me, and climbed over old boxes filled with children’s toys and Christmas decorations. I finally inched my way to the back wall beside the dehydrated remains of a mouse stuck in a trap.

Never in my life did I imagine that I, Kei, would have to resort to a human’s home for my personal sanctuary. I closed my eyes, planning out the next step in my journey. I also wondered what I would do if I found Nashoba, the one I sired decades ago and left at the mercy of vampires. He had to be out there somewhere in this little town, I could feel it in my gut. Even though I broke our bond, I still had what I called a “Deamhan sense.” It’s what dragged me back to Forsan. Perhaps he could sense me as well?

I sired him back in 1935 and had the impression he wouldn’t survive his first night. The vampires tracking me would no doubt kill him, which would allow me just enough time to make my escape. He meant nothing to me when I first met him. He was just a walking, talking meal that satisfied my hunger. I left him defenseless, but somehow, deep inside, he knew that I played him and danger was coming.

He told me he wouldn’t leave Forsan. This area was sacred and no white man would take it away from him like the Europeans did to his Native American ancestors. I warned him that he wasn’t dealing with any ordinary white man. Deamhan weren’t men. Still, he remained adamant. As I left, I remembered thinking that he wasn’t prepared to defend himself. Boy, was I wrong.

Birthplace or not, that Choctaw had bravery written all over him.

 

RULE THREE: DO NOT KILL ONE OF YOUR OWN

 

“Oh my God! Oh my God!!!”

Her annoying, shrieking voice woke me just minutes before sunset.

Sometime during the day, Bobbi decided she wanted to clean her house after she left work, starting with her closet.

Still groggy, I watched her turn before she ran straight for the kitchen. The clattering of silverware finally snapped me out of my drowsiness and slowly, I climbed over boxes, making it out of the closet just in time to see her return, gripping a large steak knife in her right hand and a cell phone in the other.

“What the hell are you doing in my house?!” She screamed at me while her whole body shivered in fright.

The way humans react to strangers always amuses me. I heard her heart racing and tested her by taking one step forward. She screamed at the top of her lungs and shoved the knife in my direction, slicing the open air.

“Stay back, you!” she screamed.

From where I stood, I could tell the blade wasn’t sharp enough to cut through butter, let alone flesh. The handle was barely sturdy.

I took another step forward.

“I said stay back!”

You can tell a lot about someone by looking into their eyes. Hers revealed panic and worry while her mind raced with images of rape.

I may be a killer and torturer, but I don’t rape women.

What was it about me that often made humans perceive me as a rapist? It wasn’t the first time I’d been called that. I didn’t look like one. I liked to wear my brown hair slicked back to keep the tiny strands from my face. I still wore the same clothes I was wearing the night that Lucius and Selene crashed my Gathering: a black leather jacket, blue jeans, and a white shirt – all chafed, frayed, and ripped. Rather than rapist, I looked like Fonzie from Happy Days.

While Selene thought of me as a conceited, little brat saved by Lucius one solemn day back in Tralee, Ireland in 1848, I saw myself as the leader of a social movement underway. I stood by the side of my fellow Irishmen, protesting against the British occupation of our homeland. I let every man, woman, and child know that I, Malachy O’Byrne, was part of the Young Ireland social movement, and I refused to be ignored.

Our women were raped, tortured, and killed. My mother, Johanna, suffered greatly along with my little sister, Eliza. I couldn’t stand by and let it continue. I became more involved and more radical, just another human who felt the need to protest, fight for equality, and be treated like any human being. Looking back at it now, as a Deamhan, I believe I just wasted my time. Humans would always be humans. There would always be death in this world. The ultimate goal was just to make sure you weren’t the one standing on the pointy end and suffering because of it.

I stood there, watching Bobbi shake her weary hand at me as if the knife were the only deciding factor of our confrontation. I yawned and leaned against the wall, unsure of what I wanted to do with her. I woke up hungry, but not for her. I craved a woman with a little meat on her: young, luscious, and ripe with psychic energy. Bobbi didn’t have that.

But I couldn’t ignore my cravings.

“I’ll call the cops. You just wait right there!” She waved the knife at me again. “You… you… you pervert!”

“Go and call them.” I proceeded to walk in her direction, taking a sharp right to move to the other side of the room. Suddenly, it hit me. It was the same idea I had when I first met Nashoba on his farm. After hiding out several days in the back shed, he surprised me with a shotgun aimed straight at my skull. We chatted for a few minutes as he threatened to kill me and I dared him to, before I easily subdued, drained, and sired him as a thank you of sorts.

I didn’t have anything to thank Bobbi for, but having another Deamhan by my side, just in case I didn’t find Nashoba, would be the first step to rebuilding my minions. I just had to get over the hump that she didn’t smell like the type I preferred to eat. But desperate times called for desperate measures. I couldn’t think of any human who’d turn away a chance at immortality. It’s all the rage these days. Teenage girls just scream over cute, young-looking, pale men with sharp fangs, and dream about these “vampires” entering their homes during the night, seducing them, and falling in love with them. Thinking about those estrogen-filled desires made me chuckle. Who’d want to be a vampire when you could be a Deamhan! It’s like choosing to be the prey instead of the beast.

Moving at breakneck speed, I grabbed the knife and phone from her grasp and threw them both to the ground. I did all of it before she had the chance to blink. Her mouth widened enough to catch flies, showing some of the human fear that I loved seeing.

“See what I did there Bobbi?”

Shell-shocked, she didn’t reply.

“I know you saw it. Tell me you saw it.” I wanted to hear her say it, but she couldn’t speak a word.

“I can make you into what I am. I can make you immortal. You’ll be fast, strong, and unafraid of anyone and anything.”

“What?” She spoke in a high, squealy voice.

“I can make you immortal. It’s easy really.” I paused. “Well, actually it isn’t. Some humans don’t survive the transformation.” I scanned her. “But you look suitable, I guess. So, you want me to?”

She screamed and lashed out at me. Driving her fingernails into my skin, she scored long, deep scratches that healed immediately. Angered, I grabbed her by her arm and easily tossed her across the kitchen. Her back smacked against the fridge and she fell to the floor.

“I guess I can’t make you.” I walked over to her. “Stupid move, Bobbi. If someone offered immortality to me, I’d take it in a heartbeat.” I knelt beside her and she lazily raised her head.

“Well, actually I did, and I don’t have a heartbeat.” I slipped my hand underneath her chin and raised her head. “I’ll give you a second chance, that’s it. Bobbi, do you want to become immortal?” I’ve sired plenty of humans in my time; too many to count, and not once did I regret doing so. Each human served me in different ways. Nashoba was my getaway card. Bobbi would be my… well, maybe she could be an extra pair of eyes while I remained in town, if she awoke from her transformation in time. The more humans a Deamhan sired, the more support he had, even if Deamhan weren’t generally known to be reliable. Broken bonds didn’t matter.

I waited for her to throw herself at the offer, but instead, she opened her mouth and screamed again.

And again. And again.

She wailed, trying to move her body away from me. Tears poured down her face. She raised herself up from the floor by using the fridge as support.

“Please, don’t hurt me.”

I stood up slowly. “I didn’t say anything about hurting you. I asked you if you wanted to be immortal. Are you listening?”

She tried to run past me, but I blocked her way. She moved to the left and I followed her.

“I have money. It’s in my room. Just please don’t kill me.”

“I don’t want your money.” I exhaled loudly, grinding my teeth.

“Please, just go. I won’t tell anyone, I swear.”

This was turning into a cat and mouse chase, and frankly, I was bored from repeating myself. I reached out, grabbed her by her scraggly hair, and pulled back, yanking with such force that I heard her neck snap. I let go and her body fell to the floor like a limp noodle.

Standing over her, I took the time to admire my handiwork until I realized that I’d just killed a potential meal.

“Damn it, Bobbi,” I snarled as I kicked her corpse. “Now look what you made me do.”

 

Kei. Family Matters. Deamhan Chronicles #1.5 is available on Amazon

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Thank you for taking the time to read the first three chapters of my novella.

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Happy reading!

~Isaiyan