It was late by the time Aiden Romely stepped out of Thai cuisine in Bloomfield. “Shit, it’s cold” he muttered as he flipped up his collar up. Once, a long time ago, Thai cuisine had the best curry in the greater Pittsburgh area. That was when it still sold human food, and if he thought long and hard about it, he could remember very human details from all of those years ago. The taste of spicy green curry as it flooded his mouth, the always busy lunch time, the fan splayed across the back wall. Yes, he could remember. What he remembered the most though, was that that was where he met Brinela.
Now it sold a delicacy of a different sort, and she was long gone. He let his thumb linger on the corner of his mouth, and then he wiped away reminiscent blood from dinner, wondering why he kept torturing himself all these years later.
Brinela, “I insist you call me B. Everyone does,” was a striking girl. The most striking he’d ever seen. Long wavy brown hair, laughing blue-green eyes, and a body to kill for- wasn’t that the truth. He could still hear her voice contemplating the lunch menu out loud and blocking the nearly 7 person queue behind her. Even the ever patient staff seemed to be getting antsy. He remembered reaching out after approximately 4 minutes and tapping her on the shoulder with the intent of asking her to stand aside so the rest of the line could order their fantastic takeout. What happened was totally different. His bright blue eyes met hers, and after a split second, he asked if she wanted to eat lunch with him. It was that simple. And he’d been paying for that memory for nearly 80 years.
He stood at the corner of Pearl St. and Liberty Ave. and lit a cigarette, a past habit he wasn’t willing to rid himself of, just like the memories of B. He took a long drag and eyed the street; it was almost dead at this near dawn hour. Every day at this hour he tempted fate. Every day he’d contemplated waiting for the sun to rise. Every day he thought of ending the pain. And every day, he realized that there was hope that she was still alive and would come back to him.
No one knew where they came from, but they came with such force that the general population figured that all the world’s governing bodies had hid their existence, and they felt like morons for it. It was of no matter though. They came and that was that. The day the Cruentus Vorares (Cruvores, as they were soon to be known) rolled into da ‘Burgh, their presence was all over the news. Taking over every capital city in the world, they, via streaming, made it known that they were here to stay. If you didn’t like it, you died. The English translation of their title was Blood Devourers. The vamps were real, and the stories told about them had little to do with the truth-except that they fed off of blood and the sun was their enemy.
“Oh come on!” Aiden shook his head of shaggy dark hair, offering a big toothy smile. B, once again exclaimed, “Come on! You’ve got to be joking me! My parents are way worse than yours. That story can’t be true!” Aiden picked up his fresh spring roll and waved it in her direction, “Oh my dear, it’s true, and you do not know the half of it.” He dipped it slowly into the sweet sticky sauce and just like that, B had captured it and popped the entire thing in her mouth. His disbelief was mixed with erotic amazement, “WHAT?! I can’t believe you just did that! That was MY spring roll you know!” It was this moment that he watched her eyes laugh as her overly stuffed mouth couldn’t, and this moment that he knew he wanted to be with her forever. He was 29, she was 26. The cruvores hadn’t come yet, and he had no idea that his idea of forever was limited.
He inhaled his cigarette again and stuck his hand out for a cab, one of the last to be out until day break. The world in which he lived was a bleak one, and not just because B wasn’t in it. One which, if you weren’t born a Cruvore, you had little say in what became of you. Slavery was back, and any ex-human was immediately made a slave to a Master. There were only three possibilities to what your future looked like, and each was bleak. The first was nearly the worst, and that was to remain a food source. Pending on the wealth of the Cruvore, you might be cryogenically frozen, placed in a refrigerator (to stay alive but cold), bled to death, or kept alive and warm to be bitten at least twice a day, which was none too pleasant. The second was being turned into a cru member. These lucky folk (like Aiden) were errand runners. Fed only by their masters, they would be put to death if they got too strong, as would anyone caught feeding them. And finally, there were those few who were shipped away. Rumors flew about what they were needed for. Most said it was to feed other Cruvores in those areas of the world where humanity was sparse. Others watched the patterns and fought to keep their human memories alive. These memories told cru members that Cruvores had criteria for those going over. That only the best looking and fittest members of humanity were on those ships. The theory was that they were the ones used to give birth to other Cruvores. B was one of those.
It took a lot of effort to remember. It took slicing up his arms, bleeding his own life out to keep his mind clear. It took finding any type of writing utensil and paper, which was always dangerous, and then reading until re-committed to memory, after which the precious piece of paper had to be destroyed. Aiden could recall the day the raids started in Pittsburgh.
Brinela it seemed, was all for Aiden’s version of forever. They’d been living together for 8 months and he was to propose the next day, at Thai Cuisine. He got the ring put into a fortune cookie worried that if he’d gotten it put into a spring roll, she’d have eaten it. It was winter, and yet the sun was shining. She was wearing her favorite knitted hat and their hands were gloved and linked. They’d stopped for cappuccinos and he could only foresee the brightest of futures, after all, the Cruvores had done nothing to change the way regular people lived. When the attack came, it was like a dark fog, penetrating every street corner. Only black could be seen from satellite cameras. Wearing some type of protective material to keep their sensitive skin from burning, the Cruvores managed to bag and snag almost all humans around in less than 30 minutes. It was chaos. People were herded into pens like pigs. Aiden and Brinela were separated close to the start of the segregation. These beings knew who they wanted and where they wanted them. They had a meticulous attack prepared.
It took Aiden nearly 30 years to build up the courage to escape his Master, and it was surprisingly easy to escape. When he’d run as far from the Shadyside prision his Master called home, he laughed out loud. Then, a single thought crushed his spirits: what if Brinela came back? So he lingered in Pittsburgh, finding others like him, other refugees. They built up a community and had their own restaurants opened (albeit in the back way). Their mission was to understand the enemy. Trying to see if they could sustain themselves on anything other than human blood, they experimented with all forms of life on earth. It was a sad day when they realized they must have human blood. Next was creation of weapons to kill the Cruvores. The logic was based on the only two facts the Cruvores had let known- they needed blood and couldn’t go into sunlight. The cru members weren’t sure if it was UV which affected the monsters, or some other element of sun. Again they took to experimenting on themselves. It turned out it was simply vitamin D. They had allergies to the vitamin and their reaction was of epic proportions, they seize up and die with the right amount. There was an abandoned warehouse on the Allegheney that they used to stockpile the stuff and another which they used for a lab. It was just about biding their time and learning enough Latin to be fluent. Aiden had a pretty good hold on the language, having been one of the first to be turned. They listened to the Cruvore’s news, whispered conversations, and internet feeds. It seemed that the higher race expected no resistance from the ex- humans, or if they did they were smart about not posting it all over the news.
Aiden looked like a Cruvore proper. Generally, the slaves were undernourished and had markings from being whipped. For some reason, his Master’s chain whip never touched his face, only his back. He was lucky because all Cruvores were sickeningly beautiful and he had been very good looking in his human days. So, once he managed to escape his life of slavery, only the oldest of Cruvores could tell there was something off about him. Stealing clothes from Masters, setting up a home in various lofts and apartments, never staying too long, he managed to do quite well for himself. It was this last move when he had felt particularly nostalgic, that he moved back to Aspinwall into the condo that he and B lived in. They always left a key hidden and those seemingly smart Cruvores had been none the wiser.
When he got out of the cab, the first rays of color could be seen streaking across the horizon. He paid the cabby swathed in black with stolen money and he let himself into the condo. Immediately, he knew something was amiss. Upon a cursory glance he saw that nothing had been moved, but there was a smell in the apartment. A, human smell? He tried to be quiet, but as the scent filled his nostrils, and yes, it was most definitely a human smell, his black blood flowed with intensity. Tracking the scent through every room in the small apartment, he did stop to wonder what the hell the human was doing. He found her hunched in a ball on the floor of in his walk in closet.
Of their walk-in closet.
His voice croaked out her name, “Brinela” and she looked up at him with those very human eyes, the ones who used to laugh and all he saw there was fear.
Her heart beat slowed and almost faltered at his beauty. He hadn’t aged a day since they last saw one another. He was a bit leaner, but that had not taken away from his enormous frame, his hair still had a dark gloss to it and his eyes, although still bright blue, were now outlined in red. He was a cru member and she had no idea what was coming next. He reached out to touch her and she cringed into the wall. Aiden was so shocked at seeing her, he barely registered her cringe. He thought he was hallucinating again. There were times in the early days of his escape when he starved himself and saw visions of B. Now that she was here, he would do anything to keep her. He swept her up and hugged her. Inhaling her smell, he recognized she didn’t smell the same, but failed to recognize she didn’t hug him back but stood stiffly in his thick arms.
“B, B, my B. Are you really here?” He was looking at here face, running his hand up and down the length of her spine, feeling her body pressed against his. She gently pushed him away and saw that he was crying. Cruvore tears looked metallic, as there was limited salt in their bodies, so the discharge was silvery. Reaching up she wiped them away and slowly tilted her face up to his. She gently kissed him on the lips, and his response was hesitant, like he was still dreaming, then, he deepened the kiss. They came away panting and he thanked heaven that he had just come from dinner.
“Aiden,” she took his hands in hers, “I have to tell you something.” He watched her eyes now fill and brim over with tears. Human ones at first, but the more she cried, the more they became tinged with silver. He already knew what she was going to say, already knew what was happening to her. “I have one of them in me.” She hiccupped. This was the first time since she’d been woken from a cryogenically frozen state, since she’d been inseminated with one of their sperm, that she’d let herself acknowledge what was going on. Aiden pulled her back in and held her tightly, crooning to her, “Shhh. It will be okay…. We will be okay…. I won’t let anything hurt you, not anymore.” They stood this way for a long while, rocking back and forth. He told her his plan. He’d contemplated any and every state she could have possibly come back to him in. There was a plan for the three of them, and he was almost 100% sure it would work. She looked at him with hopeful eyes and felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. A fear of his rejection had plagued her thoughts these few years, and it finally gave way to the true love she hoped would still be present.
He picked her up in his arms like a child and went to the mattress that he left in the condo. Placing her down, he said, “I should never have waited this long, and it might seem futile now, but I’ve been waiting, and dreaming and hoping you’d find a way back to me.” She looked at him with tired happy eyes and he put his hand into his pocket pulling a small thing out, “Marry me Brinela.”