French Roast Apocalypse – Chapter 14
Dublin, Ireland, 2010
Pitch darkness, tempered only with the whirl and thunder of sea against shore. Cool salty air kissed his cheeks. He wasn’t sure where he was as he came to himself, only that he was floating in dark, and arms held him tight as he was gently carried.
His head ached when he moved it, and there was an emptiness inside of him he couldn’t explain. Fingers touched his head as the hold on him shifted, followed by the deep wooden creaking of a door.
“He is alive?” It was a deep, sophisticated voice that he should have recognized, because it sent terror rippling through him; but for the moment he could not put a name or face to the sound, only the fear.
“He is stronger than you thought,” the voice of the man holding him replied; that voice too held the accent of nobility, of high station. He felt the arms around him tighten. “It seems the brat is more resilient than we would have believed.”
Who was this? He couldn’t place the name. He couldn’t place his own name. He tried to open his eyes, to at least get faces to put to the voices, but they would not open, not even a flicker. In fact, to his horror, he realized he couldn’t command his own body to move at all. It hurt — everything hurt, and the fire in his mind just grew hotter and more intense when he thought about it.
“The council will look here. He is a weapon and we promised he would die.” Footsteps. The comforting scent of the sea vanished and was replaced by the smell of jasmine.
“They would be foolish to try to take him.”
There was a long pause. “Still, they may. Let us put him in his father’s tower.”
“A fitting place for him, is it not?” The deep voice resonated around him, and the boy struggled to place it, but nothing came.
Why couldn’t he remember anything? Who was he? Where was he? What had he done to deserve a prison? The burning in his brain grew, and the boy felt his body convulse as flash of images flooded his mind. Voices, thousands of voices screaming in his head, and one, very loud all-consuming dark voice echoed in the well of his soul its insubstantial claws tearing at him. “To hell with you, boy! To hell itself!”
Keenan twitched and howled in anguish, his voice thin and hoarse; but his eyes finally flared open to dim candlelight.
The room jostled, and colors blurred as he was laid on a sofa. The hawk-like features of an olive-skinned man leaned over him, and hands curled around his head as he trembled and thrashed. “Keenan ! Keenan! Still yourself, brat! I, your master, command it!”
The voice bored into his brain… and that was not just a figure of speech, not just an illusion. Keenan felt something worming its way into his mind. He struggled more, terror building with his pain.
The screams grew louder and he saw them: faces, so many faces, children, women, men, old and young, all twisted in agony and horror. The horror dissolved into laughter, a chorus of voices laughing hungrily.
His master’s voice once more shouted above the din, and this time he focused. The face, the red eyes, the long dark hair, Keenan felt his heart thud against his chest. His head swam as he struggled to recall the man’s name, and his lips trembled.
The hand in his hair stroked back the blue locks from his face. “Good boy, broken, yes, you are broken, but you are still with me.” The vampire smiled thinly. He glanced over to the other man. “His mind has been shattered, but he is aware now.”
“Put him to sleep, then. Perhaps we can use this to our advantage,” a tall, massive man said from over the other’s shoulder; his skin seemed to be of a different shade than anything human should have. Was it red? “We shall tell them he lost control; the operation was a success but, after all, he was unable to withstand the strain. To an extent, that will even be true. They will accept this, and his death will satisfy their need for compensation.”
Fear filled him, and Keenan struggled to move; but the hand in his hair tingled as it tickled the base of his skull and massaged behind his ear. The fear began to ebb away; the boy settled back against the fingers. He felt his eyes droop. It was then he became aware of the voice was still in his head. They can’t hurt you now, I’m here, you foolish little prat. I’ll take good care of you.
“He is mine, and I do not wish to toss such a useful tool to the sharks,” the vampire snapped. “We will find another answer.” He gently stroked Keenan’s hair. “Keenan, you’ve pleased me. I promised you would be rewarded, didn’t I?”
Keenan remembered no promises. All he could do was stare in those crimson eyes and drown in their depths. They were beautiful like the man, and Keenan knew at once he was devoted to this … vampire. Yet there was something else there; anger? hatred? He couldn’t be sure; yet why would he hate someone who was so kind to him? He strained though the pain, and tried to speak, but nothing but soundless air whispered from his lips. The man’s arms lifted him from the sofa and cradled him close.
“You are fond enough of the little child that you will disobey a direct order?” The other older man asked sternly. He didn’t sound pleased at all.
The boy’s eyes fell shut. He was unable to keep them open now. He was too tired and weak, and the pounding of his head lured him into the dark reaches of his own mind.
“See it as you will, but it is not mere fondness. He is irreplaceable, and you know this. If and when he recovers, the boy belongs to me. I will deal with the consequences if I must, but he is mine.”
Vaguely, Keenan grasped at the words, tried to understand them, to remember. He belonged to this man. He was something for others to possess. That was right. It felt… proper. He had a master: yet… the idea of not being free to go where he wished bothered him. Why was that? He was suddenly aware that his kind needed Masters; they killed without someone to control and direct them.
The voices in his head were a distant murmur and he felt the pull of sleep tug at his brain. He would worry about these things later. For now, he felt safe. His master would make sure nothing happened to him while he slept.