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Sunrise

They say when you become a vampire, you'll never see another sunrise.

That's not entirely true. Maus watches the sun rising. Sees the colors start to fade back into the grays of nighttime, the clouds pinken and the grasses green. He feels the sun in his borrowed blood, turning his body sluggish, lulling him toward sleep.

He lingers longer at the window than he should. Stays until his skin warms, until he can scent the smoke. He wonders what it would be like to immolate to ash. But he won't find out today.

Time to draw the curtains and sleep.

Longevity

"Longevity is a feature, not a detriment!"

Maus shrugged a shoulder in that boneless fashion that he knew irritated the man. Sure enough, it earned him a clout upside the head. Maus didn't flinch, which infuriated Sire more. "Can you not stop moping about the house? Writing those letters to a man dead these seven years---"

Maus clamored to his feet. "He will return!"

"You killed him yourself, boy. Your fangs in his neck. We were there." These words said not entirely unkind, but they burned.

Maus stormed from the room. An eternity without Manheim could never be a blessing.

The Reader

Maus knew he couldn't be friends with Karin when he saw her library.

"I like two kinds of books," she said.

"What kinds?" he asked, when it became clear she was awaiting response.

"Romance," she said, "and True Crime."

Another expectant pause.

"Why?" he asked obediently.

"Because there's only two things humanity does right," Karin said. "Fucking, and fighting."

"What of philosophy?" Maus asked. "Comedy? Tragedy?"

"Fighting," she said pointedly, "and fucking."

"But--" he said, picking up Untamed Cherokee Heart, "these are formulaic fiction."

"So is life's romance," she said, eyes distant. "So is love."

On that, they agreed.

Shells

Maus felt the shell before he saw it. Bleached white by the sun, shimmering ghostly in the moon. He bent to scoop it up, pale in his dark hand.

"Amazing, isn't it?" Devon asked.

Maus tilted his head, unsure of what he should be amazed about.

"The shell. You know, that's calcified. Older than dirt. Over a thousand years since the Lenni Lenape left it here."

"Ah," said Maus, and tucked it into his pocket.

"This whole island is a midden. We're standing on millennial garbage."

Fitting that the dead should walk over the bones of the past, Maus thought.
Are you more comfortable in nature or in the city?

My Dear Mannheim,

The pines which surround us whisper your name as I walk beneath them. How is it that you cannot hear them calling you to my new home? Here we live as if a century ago, in the mansion that gave birth to our lineage, in the cradle of ore and pitch and earth that once supplied a nation. The brown rivers flow like septic veins, sticky cedar waterways that once connected these little capillaries with the greater system. Now there is a great disconnect, and the iron rusts in the river bogs because there is no longer any need. Wasteful, all of it. Sire clings to the the ways of the world in the time of his youth, and yet... yet... he knows he must change.

Modernity exists just outside our dirt paths and the Devils' hunting grounds. Comes creeping, encroaching - a non-native species perhaps, but invasive - tendrils stretched into every ecosystem. This is why I was made, to what purpose - to shine the moon's light on the path they must walk, to illuminate their steps. Also, because I know how to use a computer and cell phone - oh yes, that must not be discounted in importance. How many times a day do I hear 'Maus! How do I work this confounded contraption?' Amusement, Mannheim, is a luxury - but one in which I frequently indulge. Never so bold as to let it show to them, but how I laugh when I am alone at the situation in which I find myself.

Me, born in cities, raised and educated in such - living out here in the woods like an animal. And what a fierce animal I have become, now that they no longer allow me to attend night classes. My mind turns savage, I bite at the hands that hold me here. A temporary measure, they say - you are not ready to be in a social setting, Maus. You have proven that, proven that in lack of control and in blood. But Mannheim, does it not come to blood in the end for everything? A bit of discretion, yes - I should have taken a bit more care not to attract notice. To walk among my fellow students as a shadow. But what is done is done, and now sire has taken from me the only thing which I ever desired from him- which was to allow me to have this vestige of my previous life to take comfort in. At least he cannot take you away, my dear - how could he? How could anyone ever, when you are such a part of me? He will never succeed in this cruelty, and that too amuses me.

Try to control me, to own me, punish me though he may - my soul remains ever only my own, ever free.

I will find a way to return to my education. Knowledge is the only true power, after all. Perhaps when you return, you will teach me. Come here, to these whispery pines, called by the wind echoing your name. Come here and teach me once again, for you are far more instructor than sire shall ever be. You, and only you, have ever made the world make sense for me. Come soon, Mannheim. I tire of the tedious tasks they set before me. I am lonely without you, family though they claim now to be.

Your devoted,
Maus

The consequence of truth

My Dear Mannheim,

Not so very long ago, we spoke of the consequences of truth. Why we had to keep our relationship such a closely guarded secret. I understand all you had to lose, the necessity of the lie. Though in the end, of course, I must wonder if what you lost in actuality was worth it. Would you have willingly paid the price that was extracted from you?

I do not flatter myself to believe so. My company is not as precious a commodity that such a cost be justified.

I wonder what do you think of me now? I haunt the halls of the university in the evenings, a disconsolate ghost drifting purposeless in the places where once he lived as flesh and bone. I registered for courses, in the evenings and online. Subjects that interest me, lacking discernible pattern. I sit quietly in the back of large lecture halls - no more my inquisitive nature, on which you complimented me. Oh the underlying curiosity remains, doubtless. But I must now call no attention to myself in this invisible state. Must follow the rules of my new society, that charge me to pass through their world as a shadow. Not that I ever had a wide variety of friends, but there is a loneliness inherent in making a conscious choice towards muteness. In greeting every friendly smile with a look away, a small sigh of feigned disinterest.

We are all, in our own ways Mannheim, dying for connection. Is that not the purpose of this mad, mad world - to intersect with each other, to interlock in a tangle of limbs or blows or ideas? Stripped of that purpose, of that drive of humanity, of the sound of a heartbeat - what remains? Hunger. Thirst. Sharpened to a sword's point, in the pit of the stomach and the marrow of one's bones. The aching emptiness that is never full, the feeling of being a hollow vessel, without bottom. Yet there is something spiritual in hunger, in surrounding oneself with things that could satiate (or at the very least, stave) and making a conscious choice to allow oneself none of it. To surround oneself with beating hearts, to allow oneself the memory of heartbeat . I live like an aesthetic. You would be proud of my control. There is the matter of dinner, but I do not eat on campus. How could I? These are still my people, poor creatures that they are in their ignorance that no formal education will allay.

I trust this letter will find you well, and that you will make contact in your own due time. I trust that you are thinking of me yet, as I think of you, regularly and with fondness.

--Maus