After realizing I was serious about Ciudad Obregón, or perhaps after seeing me destroy half a town and then drink human blood, most of the survivors decided they were going to stay behind. It was a much better option; I had killed the majority of the Broken and Cor had sent his men out during the day to finish the job. Individually or in small groups, the Broken were far less dangerous and attracting them was as easy as making a bit of noise.
The only thing that nagged at the back of my mind was that they found no trace of the self-aware Infected. I wasn’t sure if I hoped I had Destroyed them all or if I hoped they had somehow survived and escaped. I needed to know more about them, that much was certain and if there had been a dozen here there were likely to be more elsewhere.
“We’re leaving tonight?” Miranda asked me for the tenth time in as many minutes. She had attached herself to me ever since I’d bitten her wrist the night before. I had originally intended to leave immediately, but the sheer amount of work it took to organize the group of survivors had taken up so much time that I had eventually given up.
“Yes. As soon as the sun goes down I plan on moving.” I had found, with a bit of work, a couple of old Land Rovers from the early 1980’s with no computer bits. The headlights were shattered, but I didn’t need them to be able to see anyway. The only real problem was they had to be push started, but that didn’t bother me much. I had plenty of people to put to work when it was time to go.
“So you really can’t go out in the sun?” She asked.
“Not for long.” I said, not wanting to reveal the entirety of my weakness. This was foolish of course; everyone knew about vampires and sunlight unless they read those stupid sparkly books.
“You don’t seem so bad really. I mean I guess I thought you’d be more like…” She trailed off, averting her eyes and looking out at the shadows the setting sun was throwing across the section of the city that I’d destroyed the night before. I wasn’t sure if she was thinking about the Broken or how I’d obliterated upwards of a dozen city blocks or something else entirely.
“Well, I might not now, but you haven’t seen me when I’m truly hungry. Or angry.” I took the last cigarette out of the pack and lit it, wishing the sun would set faster. “Why the hell are you following me anyway?”
She blinked, as if startled I was asking such a strange question before shrugging. “I thought we were tied together or something now. I mean, you fed off me right?”
I gave her a level look. “If every human I drank from was following me around like an abandoned puppy I would repopulate this town ten times over.” I blew a perfect smoke ring, refraining from telling her that it was when she tasted my blood that the bond would begin. I didn’t trust any of these people to know that much… many of my own kind didn’t know that secret.
“Why can I sense where you are then?” She asked me.
“It’s your imagination.” I said, taking another drag, “Lots of people think there should be some sort of connection or bond between us and those we bite, but time and experience have shown me it’s purely psychological. None of the people I’ve bitten without them knowing have expressed any sort of attachment.”
Miranda met my gaze for just a moment before looking down. “I was I guess just hoping… I’ve lost so much… I wanted a new beginning you know?”
“This isn’t the beginning you want.” I said, exhaling a narrow stream of smoke, “This isn’t the beginning anyone in their right mind actually seeks out.”
“You don’t know what it’s like.” She put her face in her hands and tears leaked between her fingers.
“I don’t know what exactly?” I grabbed her chin and forced her to look into my eyes. “I have seen generations of people I cared about die. I have killed children to live. I don’t even remember what it was like to feel the sun on my skin without it blistering me. I’ve destroyed the lives of more people than you’ve ever met.”
“My babies.” She sobbed, “I let them take my babies.”
Her words hit me like a punch to the solar plexus. I had never been able to have children. “Sorry. Living forever won’t make the pain less.”
“I don’t want to make the pain less.” She said, looking at me through her tears. “I don’t think one lifetime of suffering is enough to atone for my sins.”
I considered her for a long moment, wondering why I was even thinking about this. She wasn’t anything special, didn’t have any fighting ability like Svenka or really anything else that made her stand apart. Something else was resonating between us. I decided I needed to know what it was.
“Sin is an illusion created to keep the masses afraid. I will not give you the Last Kiss Miranda, but I can give you something else.” I said, “Svenka might kill you though.”
“Is that who you are after? Is she … who is she?”
“She is my lover and my anchor. Only one other has ever made me feel the way she has and he died to save me. Died to save us… to save everything.” I said, finishing my cigarette and flicking the butt into the street. “Miranda, you don’t understand what you are getting into so I’ll let you have a taste.”
“A taste of what?” She asked, tears still leaking from the corners of her eyes.
“A taste of the horror that is immortality. Most can’t handle it. I have the feeling that you won’t last long, but that’s your concern, not mine.” I gestured toward the building, “Come on, do a shot of Mezcal with me; I promise it’ll make you feel better.”
She followed me into what was left of the building I’d destroyed the night before. I walked into the room that had once been a bar and snagged the last bottle of Del Maguey Arroqueno off the shelf. With a flick of my thumb I broke the top off the bottle, making sure to allow the jagged edge to cut me enough that I would bleed. The two shots I poured had a slight reddish color as my blood mingled with the alcohol.
“To misguided trust and unfortunate circumstances.” I said, raising my shot glass.
“To Miguel and Angelina.” She said, raising hers in return, “My they forgive me.”
“I hope you can feel the same for me.” I said, pouring myself another shot and waiting for what I knew was coming. Miranda sat down hard, falling backward to land slumped against the wall. She looked at me, her eyes becoming unfocused like she’d just shot heroin.
“What. Was. That….” She trailed off, only able to stare into my eyes. After over a minute without blinking, she finally shuddered and closed her eyes. “I can feel you. Really feel you.”
I could, of course, feel her also. I had plenty of practice and though I buffered myself against her emotions I felt the tears waiting to claim me. How could she resist this emotion?
“How can you stand the pain?” Miranda asked, looking at me with tears streaming down her face, “How can you … why aren’t you crying?
“What?” I was surprised, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Oh gods… the sorrow.” Miranda closed her eyes, but tears continued to stream down her cheeks, “I never imagined… I never thought…”
She was losing her mind and I knew the only way to help her was to take on some of the burden she was experiencing. Even though I didn’t want to, I opened myself to her. Her pain became my pain, I allowed it to course through my mind. It was almost more than I could take.
“I never had children.” I said, my voice flat.
“How are you not crying? Right now?” She repeated, looking into my eyes. “I’m bawling my eyes out and you’re there like this pillar of ice.”
“You don’t have any idea.” I said, “You have the sorrow of one generation in your veins. I have the pain of several.”
“How…” Miranda turned her tear stained face to mine.
“Time to go.” I said, “The sun’s down.”
“What do you mean?” She asked, stumbling to her feet.
“I warned you.” I gave her a feral grin, “Most can’t handle what I have to offer. You have lost your children and your husband. I have lost lifetimes of friends and family.”
“You never had children.” Miranda said, looking at me and smiling through her tears. “I may feel pain but you will never know the joy. I am sorry.”
Her emotions washed over me and I realized I was a fool for thinking I knew all there was to know. I cried for what my mother must have felt for me before she died. I wept for the things I’d never known. The things I would never know.
“Your babies.” I said through the tears I couldn’t stop from coming, “I wish I could have met them.”
“What?” The surprise in her voice was palpable, “I thought-“
“I know. You thought wrong and so did I.” I said, “There’s so much more.” This was what I needed from her. I needed to balance my destruction with her love of life and creation. Oh, Svenka wasn’t going to be pleased… or maybe she would get some perspective from it as well.
Taking a deep, shuddering breath I reached into one of the pockets on the tactical vest I’d appropriated from Cor’s extra clothing stash and removed a fresh pack of cigarettes from it. Miranda was stumbling after me, dazed and unsure of herself.
“Don’t worry too much. It’ll get better.” I said, lighting the cigarette and moving toward where Cor’s mercenaries were loading one of the trucks. “Maybe try and sleep it off… although I’d recommend getting up at around midnight. If you’re traveling with me you’ll need to keep my hours.”
“Ren. We’re ready to move out.” Cor said, giving my companion a dismissive glance. “We have a lot of ground to cover before sunrise.”
“Let’s go then.” I climbed in the first truck, pulling Miranda into the passenger’s seat and Cor got into the second. We each had a half dozen people, a mix of mercenaries and civilians. It was going to be a long drive. I grinned, feeling hopeful for the first time since Svenka and I were separated. I was going to find her and then I was going to make the ones who hurt her pay.