French Roast Apocalypse – Chapter 07
New York City, 1980/2010
With that decision made, he felt ready to at least face what was coming.
“You can’t fool me,” he said, returning to their prior conversation, “there is no cure for someone going revenant, save blowing ’em up before they turn all the way. I’ll still raise.” Dylan’s voice dropped and he curled his shaking hand around his injured shoulder. His soul would be doomed if either he killed himself, or if she killed him. Unfortunately he was trapped in a Catch-22, damned if he died and damned if he was staked. “Revenants are hard to kill. They take a licking and keep on ticking.”
“It’s not that simple, Dylan. It’s my blood in your veins, not Keith’s, and I have no interest in making a child.” She gave him a sympathetic smile. “I’m too busy with running the muffin shop and working as a counselor to be a full-time baby sitter. With that said… you won’t become anything until you die. It’s likely that without intervention, you’d still become a mindless revenant unless you’re given the blood of a vampire sire before or shortly after your death. It’s harder after, though; it takes months for vampires to recover themselves once they experience losing their mind to blood addiction.”
She looked at him sadly. “I’m doing this very badly. I’m sorry, Dylan; you’re a part of our world now, but you can still live a long mortal life if you want. It’s what I want for you. If you live it right, I’ll make sure you won’t raise. You’ll have a proper burial so you won’t become a vengeful spirit; you can cross over the Veil and be with your loved ones.” She paused. “If that is what you want.”
He hadn’t expected that. It finally occurred to him: why in hell would they bother lying to him? He had nothing left, save for his substance-abusing uncle, and if Anna wanted anything from him, she would have used blood-bonding to do it. No deep game he could imagine made that have any sense to it.
Was she implying revenants like the priest he’d killed in Missouri could have been saved if someone bothered? He had been a murdering monster, but it didn’t have to be that way with help?
Dylan O’Brien sighed as the last suspicion of the whole thing being a plot against him fled into the wind. This is real. What Anna’s saying is true. Vampires can be just as much people as I am.
He thought of Bridget and felt his gut churn. He had killed her convinced there was no way to save her. Fighting his own guilt, Dylan closed his hands into fists. The need for denial rose again, and his mind struggled against the horrid admission. How could they be helped? They had no minds, yet Anna spoke about them as if they were homicidal sanguine junkies who could be detoxed or something. How many revenants and vampires had he killed over his lifetime? What did that make him if they were just sick people in need of help? Le Hunt returned to his thoughts. That meant that hunting vampires was not solving the problem; it was just killing people who were inconvenient to take care of, and Dylan knew what people who did that were like.
It would be just his luck to fall into the hands of the vampire equivalent of AA counselors. One of them named Bunny in a Hello Nurse uniform.
Shoving the unpleasant moral conundrum to the back of his mind, Dylan focused on himself and what Anna was saying about his condition. He was alive, but had vampire blood in him. As far as he knew, that meant he was now a renfield, a blood-slave of a vampire.
Dylan shivered, and wondered if the blood in his veins affected how he thought. He studied Anna as she watched him. He didn’t feel any particular need to please her. In fact, he didn’t completely trust her, and regardless of how analytical he tried to be he was still angry, hurt, frightened and very confused. “Aren’t renfields controlled by their masters?’
She must have expected that question because she answered right away. “Yeah, if I use our bond to force it, but I’m morally against that. Besides, you’re only a first-stage bond, Dylan. You’ll heal faster. You’ll be stronger and quicker. But you’ll return to normal in a month and can just go one living as you used to. You don’t get completely bonded unless you take a great deal of blood at once, or feed regularly from your maker.”
At least he understood some of what she was saying. He was thankful and relieved it took so long to complete the renfield bond.
Dylan’s stomach growled. The emotional stress had first made him sick, but now it made him surprisingly hungry. He picked up the muffin and sniffed at it. It smelled heavenly. “And if you do that… what happens then?”
“It’s different depending on the donor’s age, type, and power. We’re a diverse group of beings, Dylan. Anything can happen, from a one-sided soul bond to a full-scale mind control and addiction or a pure two-way connection.” Anna cast her gaze down as if disappointed in something.
“It all depends on how much blood the rennie receives. If I were to bond to you, I’d be able to see your mind, feel your pain, and talk to you telepathically. You’d be dedicated to staying with and protecting me. You’d be a living vampire, without our weaknesses like sunlight. In addition to superhuman healing and strength, your senses would be keener, you’d be able to think faster, and any latent psychic ability would be enhanced.”
She met his gaze with steely green eyes. “But it has a cost. The downside is that you’d need my blood, or the blood of another vampire, to keep alive. And I’m not going to lie to you, Dylan. It’s abused frequently. Such vampires encourage the dependence, and turn the rennie into a blood-junkie by giving them more blood than they can handle. There are those of us who treat mortals and rennies as objects or slaves. They can be cruel.”
“So hunters actually got that right. There are vampires who abuse their power.” He looked at her hopefully, and prayed. Not everything he grew up doing was murder.
Anna studied him. “Yes, and no. They got some things right, Dylan, but completely out of context. Now, enough of the gloom and doom, you need to rest. ”
Out of context was better than nothing, he supposed. The young hunter bit into his muffin. Crumbs sprinkled over his clean sheets. He wondered what the as-yet unseen Jasper would think. From the sound of it, he liked things clean. He wondered if Jasper was obsessive-compulsive or something. Thoughts of cleaning made him glance over to his clothing and his boots. They looked clean, save for the old ground-in vampire bloodstains on his boots. Jackson’s blood was gone.
He swallowed bits of muffin, and felt his appetite wane as he thought of his friend and sister. “Did you… Did you guys take care of Jack and Bridget?”
Anna looked at him, sadness reflected in her gaze. “I couldn’t find their bodies, no. Keith cleaned up.”
“They need proper burials.” Dylan said, suddenly worried. “I staked Bridget; someone’s gotta take off her head, and Jack… Jack, he’ll become a revenant ghost.”
“I’m sorry, Dylan. We have our best people looking for them. But our best guess is that they were tossed in the Hudson, and won’t show up maybe for weeks.”
The thought of Bridget’s and Jackson’s broken bodies floating bloated in the dank, polluted Hudson River made him ill with grief-driven rage. “Why the fuck did you let them go then?” he asked suddenly. He clutched the blankets with his fingers so tight he felt the fabric tear.
“Because if I killed all of them your spirit would never be at peace. And I thought your friend wouldn’t want you to become one of the monsters he hunted.”
No, Jackson wouldn’t want him to be damned, just like he didn’t want to condemn his friend. Dylan hunched his shoulders. Hunting Keith and his pals down would avenge his friend and sister, but it wouldn’t bring them back nor would it allow them to rest. Dylan drew a breath. “I wanna have a service for them, bury what’s left of their stuff on sacred ground. Can we do that?”
“Yeah, when you’re well we can do that.” Anna said gently. “I’ll see if Liam can arrange a private service at Saint Paul’s for them. And so you know, my friend Jason went through your room and got everything you owned. I’ve got the stuff back at my flat.”
“Thanks.” The words came out as a whisper as melancholy set in. Dylan slumped in his bed, and studied the holes in his blankets. He had barely put pressure on the fabric, yet it was torn like tissue paper. If his fingers tore a sheet that easily, Anna was damn right about him having super strength.
“Yeah, I wanted to give you options. For yourself and, well… you’ve gone through a lot.” Anna stood up and stretched with one hand on her back and the other high over her head. “Will you be okay? I know what it’s like to have friends and family die, Dyl; it’s hard, one of the hardest things there is to live with.”
A reply wouldn’t come to him. He missed his parents, and wished he hadn’t dragged his family and friends into his plans. None of them deserved to suffer the way they had. His parents died before they could remake their relationship, Mom died before she and Bridget made up, Jackson’s parents died fighting an enemy brought on by Dylan’s stupid idea. Jackson died because he wouldn’t leave friends behind; he could have been safe in Mexico by now.
And Bridget, poor hyper, bouncy, geeky Bridget, died a monster with a stake in her heart, without even the chance of redemption.
And what had it all been for? To film the murder of a bunch of redeemable beings, including a child in Le Hunt.
Was he going to be okay? Dylan watched a tear roll off the tip of his nose to the blankets. “No. No, I’m not okay, I’m not going to be okay, I don’t think I’ll ever be okay, but I’ll live.” Monsters had slaughtered everything important to him. “Actions have consequences; just wasn’t ready for this. Thought… I thought everything would be better. I… I thought I knew what I was doing. What was right.”
The women pushed the bed rail down and sat down beside him. Cautiously, she wrapped an arm about his shoulders and pulled his face close to her. He was too overwhelmed to object and sank into her. He buried his face against her neck as he cried.
“Bloody hell!” Anna swore softly. “You’re blaming yourself, aren’t you? Dylan, you’re still a child. Honestly, you shouldn’t blame yourself. You had no idea how far he’d go. Blackwell is bad news. Behind that cheerfully sweet southern gentlemanly facade is a monster that even scares vampires.” Her hands stroked his back in sweeping circles as she spoke. “I’m not going to ask you what you did that pissed off Blackwell, you don’t need to ever tell me, but I know for a fact that whatever you did, it sure didn’t have to result in the deaths of your friend and your sister. Blackwell and his family are the buggers responsible for this, and they’ll pay for it someday. ”
So at least some vampires didn’t like Blackwell. He wondered if they liked the Feds, or this League Organization? Bunny had claimed they weren’t with the League.
Dylan shook his head, and drew a shivering breath. Truth was, he needed to tell someone. He needed Anna to know he had set out to destroy her people by revealing them to the world. It had been his way of hurting them back after they hurt his father in Vietnam. No, he hadn’t known the truth then, but people like Blackwell had to fall and lose their grip on the governments. They had to pay for destroying his family, and turning him into a murderer. Even if his father had succeeded in killing Wilfred, the Blackwell Empire still existed, and he had children, and grandchildren and punks like Keith to carry on his sick legacy. Dylan wasn’t done with his vengeance. With the truth, he’d do it without hurting the innocent vampires like Anna and Minami.
Had he just thought that? Did he really believe in innocent vampires now?
The tears streamed down his cheeks and he cried so hard he hadn’t noticed when he wrapped his arms about Anna. He just needed someone to hold on too: even if she was a cold, undead monster. He honestly couldn’t say he was any better. He was a living monster who hadn’t considered even talking to the very creatures he killed.
No, instead he snuck into their bedrooms when they were the weakest, and killed them while they slept. Sure, many were in tombs, and he was certain some had been real monsters, but what if many of them weren’t? What made him different from Blackwell?
Would Anna have been able to save Bridget?
If he accepted Anna’s words, Bridget’s blood stained his hands. He hadn’t saved her soul. Agonized, Dylan forced himself to face the inevitable truth. He had murdered Bridget, killed his baby sister, who had just needed time, time and someone to help her.
Slapping his face with a hand, the boy moaned and choked on the rising lump in his throat. When he opened his mouth to speak, he just cried even harder. He felt his heartbeat quicken as his heart grew heavier. He hated the Blackwell family for what they had done, but he also hated himself. His weeping became heavier and Dylan started to heave. Agony ripped through his chest with each sob.
Soft voices echoed around him, but his grief was too great, too overwhelming to allow him to make sense of the words. Instead he clung to Anna tighter, and ignored the pain. He desperately needed to know he wasn’t alone at that moment. Everything and everyone he knew were gone, it wouldn’t get any better, and he just wanted to die.
“It’s okay, Dylan.” Anne said, her quiet voice soothing and sympathetic. “We can’t change what’s happened, but you can make it better. You’re young. You have an entire lifetime ahead of you. But you need to rest. Bunny’s got some medication to give you. It will help you to sleep.”
Sleep? Did he want to sleep? Before he could object, the cold tingle of medication rushed into his vein from the IV. “It’s okay, honey, can’t have you stressing your lung much more after having surgery on it early this week.” Bunny brushed the traces of bangs sticking out of his bandages from his forehead. “Your family and friends would want you to heal.”
“They’re gone, all of them. I should have known better. I should have…”
“Dylan, we can talk about it later. You need to sleep.” Anna lowered him to his pillows and pulled his blankets around him. She took his hand into her own and held it. “You’re knackered.”
Listlessly, Dylan stared at Anna and Bunny. How could they expect him to move on from this? “I killed my sister, my little sister, when I should have been protecting her. I can’t ‘move on’ and I can’t sleep, not knowing everything I’ve done was for a lie.” He forced the words out, slurred with exhaustion. His eyelids drooped heavily and it was a fight to keep them open. “You don’t want to help me, Anna, none of you do, hell, I don’t want to help me anymore, not after what I did…”
“I damn well know what you did, Dylan,” Anna said firmly. “But you had no idea, really, of what you were doing; I can see it in your eyes. If you had known the truth, it would have been different. You have a good heart. Don’t give up on yourself before you have a chance to use it.” Anna’s fingers tightened. He went to open his mouth when she pressed her fingers to his lips. “I’ve been around the block a few times, boyo; I know a good fella when I see one.”
She thought he was a good fella. The classy, flapper, muffin café owner who could kick the shit out of vampire punks in tap shoes, thought he was a good fella. Why would a liberal woman like her think he was good? He had killed her people regularly.
Unsure if it was the drugs or his insane grief, Dylan found himself looking at her, and returning her fingers’ squeeze. The last thing he remembered was her smile as the room faded into grey numb nothing.
It had to be the wine, Dylan thought with a deep melancholy as he emerged from the revenant-memory and found himself back in the present with Doc Sacco. Revenants were things of the past; they didn’t so much remember as re-live, experiencing the past that drove them as though it was real, even when they were just telling it to someone else. He still could feel the sensation of Anna’s fingers in his. Even then, when he had believed the world betrayed him, he had trusted her, despite her fiery nature. They had almost never agreed about anything. She was night, he was day; she was a bohemian, he was a warrior; she loved the city, and he preferred the country. She followed the path of peace, he the path of revenge. Yet, despite their differences, she stuck to him. She balanced him.
The revenant closed his fingers, the lingering memory of her firm grip fading from his mind. “I damn well forgot how fucked up I was. Not that she was perfect, we both had our problems back then. She had a hell of an ego and thought she knew it all… I guess I knew where Qui gets it.”
Sacco laughed. “She fought with Liam often enough, that is for certain.” The ghoul squeezed Dylan’s shoulder as he stood up. “Well, no one knows everything, not even Anna. And Dylan… I think you needed to talk about that.”
Not trusting himself to speak, Dylan nodded. The Doc was right, as he usually was.
Sacco smiled and nodded. “Well then, I believe it is time to watch some Cagney.”
Her ego was likely what got her in trouble in the end, Dylan thought. Doing something crazy-brave, probably. There was, after all, one thing they had in common.
Picking up his wine glass and the bottle, he followed Sacco.