by Trynda E. Adair
I stepped into my dark apartment, closing out the bright hallway lights. My eyes blinked immediately to soak up all the darkness they could. Toward the end of the night, they had gotten so sensitive I had to wear sunglasses just to read. This evening had flown by so fast I hadn’t realized I’d stayed an hour after my security guard shift ended. It wasn’t until I felt a familiar tingle creep into my fingertips turning a page of the diary I’d gotten lost inside.
The deadbolt slid shut, and the chain latched in place.
This evening had flown by. It wasn’t until I felt a familiar tingle creep into my fingertips that i realised i’d stayed an hour after my security shift at the museum ended. My hand eased back and forth across my jaw; It had started to ache just as I pulled out from the parkade to drive home. It would have stopped for a drink, but honestly, I just wanted to get home where I could read in comfort.
The silk wrapped diary tucked in my messenger bag steered my thoughts away.
The latest piece added to my collection was almost too good to be true. For months I had combed the underbelly that remained of our society. All the trading and grasping for information about the elders of legend, had finally paid off with the diary of an ancient vampire name Chthonia. The story of how her maker betrayed her and the struggled years early into her curse had me glued to the century old pages.
The smell of damp stale earth and smoky Myrrh oil burning drifted up on the back of a fresh breeze. All the hairs across the back of my arms and neck stood into the air. I’d scattered candles around my apartment before leaving for work, but none of them had been lit and I was certain all the windows had been closed firmly.
My keys clattered to the ground as I grabbed a knife resting on the countertop.
“If I were you, I’d put that down.” A low voice crawled through the doorway to my living room.
“Who are you? Why have you come here?” I called back, gripping the handle of the kitchen knife tighter. I breathed long and deep through my nose.
It was another vampire; a very old one. I remembered the musty smell clearly from my last meeting with an Elder. How could I forget anything from the day Nathair-uisge finally collapsed, and I became an orphan?
“You’ve recently acquired something that belongs to me. I’d like it returned.” I could hear the deep growl vibrate around his words. He had slight accent, but not one I recognized; even in all my years of travel.
“I’ve acquired many items recently.” I hadn’t, but I wasn’t about to tell my intruder that. These items were too rare to come along often; these ancient creatures hid their traces well. “But you won’t get anything from me if I don’t get a name.”
I inched toward the open doorway with a flicker of warm candlelight coming from it.
“If this is where our bargaining begins, you may call me Behemoth.” I froze. My stomach dropped and the knife in my hand trembled lightly. The name was scrawled in ancient Greek script on the first page on Chthonia’s diary. He was the one who saved her from slavery to a Roman vampire and betrayed her trust when he’d passed his curse onto her. From the words I’d read, Behemoth was a vampire with a little patience and never tolerated violence toward humans in his territories.
I stepped into the doorway and saw his tall frame bent toward the wall where a map hung, covered with pins and blue yarn.
“I see you’ve heard of me.” Behemoth said. One of his slender long fingers plucked at the blue string leading from Rome to an ivory bust of Chthonia.
“–Would you mind not touching that. Yes, I’ve heard of you. I’ve heard of many things.” I stepped forward, jerking my free hand from it’s terrified stupor.
He straightened and turned, silver cat-like eyes locked on me.
“So I’ve been told. I expected something more…” Behemoth paused to look around the cluttered room. Stacks of thick ancient tombs cluttered the space; some holding stacks of old scrolls, others with yellowed pieces of stray paper atop them.
“— Like an archive?” I asked, irritation instantly colouring my tone.
“Yes.” Behemoth said leaning over a yellowed paper curling at the edges.
“Yeah, well, a single bedroom apartment will have to do. The depression wasn’t so easy on some of us.” It wasn’t hard to tell he wasn’t struggling for money; The warm smelling leather gloves and dark wool designer trench coat hanging from his shoulders said it all.
“From what I understand, it was more than just The Great Depression. Perhaps some of us should learn to manage our assets better.” He ran his fingers against a thick leather bound book, “or control our obsessions.”
“I’ve already gotten a lecture about carrying on being a scribe after what happened.” I waved hand at the scrolls and books.
Behemoth’s laugh was low and something in it struck me as eerily sinister as he looked up at me again. “I care nothing for that. I’m here for the diary intercepted while it was in transit, to be exact.” His eyes darted to my purse for a second. I don’t know how he knew where I’d stashed my newest prize, but it was clear I wouldn’t be fooling him if I lied.
“The only diary to come into my collection was written by a woman named Chthonia. Since you are neither, I would say it’s not yours at all.” I lifted my chin slightly.
Behemoth abruptly appeared a foot away.
I tightened my grip around the still cool handle of the blade. Here I was speaking with this primordial vampire only mentioned in a handful of legends and I’d forgotten he could end my immortal life before I even knew.
“Watch your words, Tallon. If you know of me, then you should also know how dear she was to me.”
“Was?” I questioned.
He was quiet for a moment. I almost missed the sadness pull at the edges of his eyes before an emotionless mask fell into place.
“Yes.” It was only one word, but one that made me wonder what lay behind it.
“Well,” I started, “I don’t just give away the works in my library.”
A smile touched the corner of his mouth. It wasn’t a secret that I liked to trade for information, anyone from one of the clans could tell you that and they had.
“And if I allowed you to study the originals?”
I turned my back to Behemoth so my excitement wouldn’t betray me. I’d noticed the first two centuries looked like they had been copied into the diary, but assumed whatever she’d written on was destroyed.
“Originals? Those would be interesting to see…” I said stepping over a leaning pile of books beside the doorway, “But there’s something I would prefer.”
“And that is?” Behemoth asked. I could hear the annoyance in his voice, but it was too late to turn back now.
“Let me ask you a few questions.”
“You want to interview me?” Annoyance turned to bewilderment. I looked back to see a stone-like face with a raised eyebrow where four white scratch marks crossed his face. The scars struck me as strange, but it was difficult to see the face behind a name sometimes. Behemoth wandered back around to the world map pinned with various pictures and notes, connected with bright blue yarn I’d found left in another apartment years ago. “Why? To trade your knowledge of me to someone else?” He looked at me from the corner of his eye.
“For my pleasure only.” I said with ease. Information was only valuable if you were around to enjoy it. I saw countless generations of devotion wiped away by Rome’s war dog Suetonius; Then when my clan went into a tailspin and the chaos swallowed the records I’d worked for centuries to grow. Yes, I knew this well.
There was only the sound of candle flames flickering until I focused towards Behemoth and heard the faintest of heartbeats, but it had to be from the next apartment.
“Then you may have my afternoon, orphan.” A smile lifted the corner of his mouth and he disappeared from my sight.
My hands dove into my purse and pulled out the silk-wrapped bundle. The deep breath I held rushed out.
I held the diary tight and headed to close the balcony door when I noticed a new piece of paper pinned over Rome on the map. I saw the address written in old world calligraphy and knew I’d be on a plane next week, even if it meant my rent had to be late this month.