Tainted Blood

  Vampires have ruled the world for several decades. Ever since the sun set and never returned, the fanged families have grown and prospered. No longer forced to hide away they became intertwined in normal life until media and then government institutions were infested then led by them. The humans quickly understood their place or were ferried to detention sites in Australia, the smallest continent now what it once had been long, long ago. The world and its people have generally become resigned to their fate, many living quite normal lives in the shadowed world.

  There are rules now. Gone are the days of humans attacked in the alleys or dark woodlands. With their rise to power, the vampire leadership established a relatively humane form of feeding. Every day, each and every human above the age of fifteen passes through neighborhood clinics to give half a pint of blood. This not only negated the transformation that comes from being bitten, but ensured the vampire food supply could be maintained indefinitely.  

  A slip in judgment still occurs now and then and a human is forced to join the ranks of the Chosen as they had called themselves ever since The Darkening. Punishment was always dealt swiftly upon the instigator, though the penalty was slight compared to the physiological toll the new born vampire would go through in pulling away from all they knew and becoming a part of those respected out of fear. 

  In large part, the world has continued to revolve in this manner with no incident for many years. Those small and desperate resistances were quickly snuffed out and the new generations of humanity and vampire alike grew up knowing nothing else. Into this world, a pure vampire by the name of Alexander was born. His parents were middle class Chosen, with some of the perks of the elite and all the disadvantages of the lower born. His was a generically happy childhood. Until the day of his Claiming.

  When a vampire comes of age, generally around the age of 14, they are taken to the Spire, the government seat of the ruling class, to taste his first human blood. Prior to this all necessary growth could be sustained with the consumption of animal blood as it fit the needs and kept the demand for the more protein rich human blood at a manageable level.

  The Claiming was a day-long experience as the first human blood swept through the drinker and purged their bodies of the animal presence. Once complete, they become true Chosen and immediately feel the effects. Human blood give a substantial boost in strength and nearly all other aspects of a vampire were elevated to, in comparison, nearly a god-like state.

  Though all vampires go through the Claiming, all Chosen are not equal. Human blood was not uniform. Synthetic, concentrated, and in many instances, diluted bloods effect the outcome and those with the money could effectively buy a better life and higher standing for their offspring. Then there were the blood types with the rarest sought after for particular heightened effects.

  Alexander was to receive a middle grade batch to go with his social standing. Part synthetic, pure and diluted bloods swirled in the chalice placed before him. A label read “Equal parts A Positive, B Negative and O Positive.” It was the same that had been placed before his parents during their own Claiming’s and they stood behind him flashing wistful glances towards the higher classes and their greater bloods. Not that they were not proud. Having a child become Chosen was something to be celebrated in all households, regardless of society rank. The more Chosen a family bred raised their status inside their applicable mandated hierarchy.

  A murmuring filled the huge chamber as the Chosen High Leader and her offspring slowly made their way to the raised platform facing the assembled young ones. With a slight raise of a hand she swept a hush across the room and spoke the simple words of welcome to those about to be Claimed. With a bored look she and her assembled family took their seats and the Claiming began.

  Row by row they drank from the gilded chalices beginning with the high class families and slowly moving back through the middle and lower classes. As the time came closer for Alexander, the screams began. The Claiming was intensely painful and often sent the Claimed into fits and uncontrollable spasms until the new blood completely purged the old.

  Excited, Alexander had been thinking about this day for years and had just completed the indoctrination required for prospective Chosen. This is what he lived for, what all the years before had prepared him for. Shaking with excitement as nausea played with his stomach, the lanky brown haired lad held his Chalice with white knuckled fingers.

  Finally it was his turn. He slowly brought the cup to his lips and let the scarlet contents slide down his throat. Instantly stars exploded behind his eyes and he blacked out.

  When he awoke he was surrounded by his parents and medical personnel. He caught the eye of his parents and grinned up at them but the look on their faces stopped him cold. Consuming fear was written on their faces, but the worst was a hint of revulsion. He began to ask what was wrong but the nearest doctor jabbed him with a needle and he lost consciousness again.

  This time he woke in his bed in his family’s modest brownstone to the sound of arguing. Swinging his legs to the floor he crept to the door and listened. It was his parents and several other relatives and the conversation was heated. Alexander pushed open the door a crack and was able to make out the words. They were arguing about him. The words tainted and impure caught his ear and he was suddenly afraid something had gone wrong at the Claiming.

  He stretched and bounced on the balls of his feet testing his muscles. Everything felt exactly the same as before. Terror radiated through him. Where was the power that had been promised him? He suddenly felt as naked and vulnerable as a worm wriggling on a rain soaked sidewalk.

  His parents found him curled in a fetal position on his bedroom floor and after many minutes were able to persuade him to get up and come with them. They were surprisingly quiet and nice after the anger Alexander had heard fixed on him earlier. Numb with the shock, he allowed them to clothe him and walk him to the waiting capsule, one of many that made up the city’s transportation system. Inside the quiet tube Alexander turned to his parents, “What is wrong with me?”

  Unable to even meet Alexander’s gaze, his father replied slowly, each word soaked in disappointment and fear, “Your body would not accept the Claiming. Only the unclean blood is at home inside you.” He shuddered to a stop and Alexander’s mother had to continue, “You are tainted and it was decreed you are to be culled from the Chosen through the death of our ancestors.” Tears trickled down her beautiful and cold face.

  Alexander sank against the cushioned seat. He began to remember the stories told to him as a small child. At the time of The Darkening there had been whispers of vampires whose bodies rejected human blood and forced them to live in the fields and forests and live off the animals that lived there. Due to their separation during the fall of the sun the “pure” vampires that had lived in the shadowy world of the urban centers called the forest dwellers tainted and unworthy of inclusion in the first gathering of the Chosen.

  The tainted began to consolidate and soon rose up against the Chosen. It was a brief and bloody struggle that ended with all adult tainted killed and their offspring incorporated into the remaining vampire society. Since that time there had been rumors of the taint returning to individual vampires, but if that was so, each time it had been dealt with quickly and quietly.

  How could this be? Alexander shook his head and a whimper escaped his lips. Looking at his statuesque parents who stared out the windows at the city rushing past, he asked, “Where are we going?” With a frown, his father bowed his head, “You must leave the city. You will be taken from us if you stay. Please, do not ask further questions and respect our actions.”

  Alexander fell silent, knowing he would not be able to pry anything else from them. He knew they loved him in their way, but they like all their fellow social equals, were rigid in there adherence to the rule of law. If they only saw the two choices sending him away or allowing him to die the death of their ancestors which would see the accused staked in the approaching sunlight to burn and wither in slow agony. Even in this time of eternal darkness, Synthetic sources of solar-like sources were kept for such retribution as necessary.

  Through the windows the high rises and the main city began to recede and they hurtled through the squalor and filth of the human areas. Soon enough the capsule slowed and they came to a stop at the entrance to the city. Barred gates and high walls kept the outside world away and forced those humans that may wish for change to remain. Alexander’s father held up his papers to the guard that stuck his head in the window and they were soon picking up speed as the rail car moved through the fields and forests of the outer world.

  He slept then, exhaustion fueled by the emotions that threatened to tear him apart. Alexander woke to the tiniest inkling of light. He stretched in the cramped quarters and saw that his parents were gone. Even as the tears threatened to fall he knew it had been their only choice. They were Chosen and their need to feed on Human blood restricted them to the city. He stood and walked the length of the capsule, finding small flagons of animal and human blood in the refreshment station. After he gulped down the animal blood he felt energized and went to the large bank of windows in the front of the car to get his bearings.

  With a shock Alexander saw that the muted light that had awakened him did not seem to be synthetic. The harsh white light of the city was far removed from the hint of warmth in the twinkling light in the far distance. He stood gaping as the vehicle raced across the lowlands and out over the ocean, following a long straight rail that disappeared in the same glow that transfixed him.     

  Looking at the map that filled one of the walls he saw the capsule moving across the Atlantic towards the southernmost stretches of the African continent. Where was he going, he wondered. As the capsule rocketed towards his unknown destination he began to blink in the growing glare as yellow light traveled across the waves and lashed the windows of the rail car. Though the light was muted and faint, it was more than his large eyes had taken in at one time.

  Not only that, it was the intensity of the light. He returned to his seat and shut his eyes and lost himself to the rhythmic sounds of the cable car. He drifted in-between sleep and consciousness. He woke weary, with his eyes still closed in complaint. His eyelids did little to dull the glaring light and he cautiously opened his eyes to find the interior of the capsule drenched in golden light. Pain shot through his head and a migraine throbbed against his eardrums. Reaching over to a nearby console he dimmed the windows and covered his eyes with his hands and turned his head against the seat back.

  He sat this way for many minutes until the pain in his head began to fade to a dull ache. Slowly he tried opening his eyes and held them open to the light for several moments at a time until he could look around without searing pain. The cabin of the rail car was awash in the warm glow that had its source far ahead towards where the water met the now bright blue sky.

  It did not make sense; everything Alexander knew told him that this was sunlight. The schooling he had grown up with had shown before and after reels. But the sun had vanished those decades ago. Stunned, he looked at the map again and saw that he was halfway across the Pacific that stretched from Africa to the wastes of Australia. With a shock he knew. He had been sent to the place the unused and unwanted humans had been deterred. Those that fought against the vampires grip in years past.

  What would be done to him? Would they rip him apart in retribution for what his kind had done to these humans? But they had the sun. Alexander held his head and tried to think, rocking in the silence. Fear of what was ahead was quickly fighting for supremacy against the fear of what the Chosen would do back home. He must have dozed again, his brain allowing his body to rest before it broke from the stress. He suddenly felt the capsule slow and gradually come to a stop.

  He squeezed his eyes shut against the piercing light and waited with pounding heart. The doors opened and he tensed as he prepared for the worst. Noise burst into the cabin as the seals opened. Voices droned and yelled in a chaotic mess of sound. He huddled against the seat with his arms around his knees and waited for the pain to begin.

  A hand, now more touched him, prodded him to his feet and others held him upright. He gave up, emotions drained away until he was at peace with what was to come. Voices spoke, quietly then louder as hands patted his shoulders. A voice called for an object of some kind and something was placed on his face. Lips brushed his ear, “You can open the eyes, friend,” a voice thick with accent whispered. “You have nothing to fear from us.”

  Gingerly, Alexander opened his eyes. Surprisingly, the glare was gone; panes of darkened glass rested on his nose and cut the light to a manageable state. Slowly, the figures around him came into focus. Three men and two women were gathered around him. Their clothes were foreign and comfortable looking and they all had weathered golden tan skin. The faces were blunt and largely forgettable but beauty shone from the look in their eyes.

  Where Alexander had been prepared for hate and rage, was gentleness and warmth. Who were these humans, as they were of course those common things? “Please come with us,” one of the men said softly, “We have been waiting for this moment, come share it with us.”

  Alexander slowly walked into the sunlight supported by the adults. Surrounding the simple rail platform and stretching towards the sky all around were countless shipping containers in haphazard stacks. Simple fabricated stairs and a confusing web of walkways connected the rudimentary doors of the ramshackle living quarters. It looked deserted, though it must have been able to hold thousands.

  The humans allowed him to take in the view for several minutes before one of the women beckoned towards a nearby ladder. Alexander numbly followed the band of rather healthy looking folk as they made their winding way up ladders and stairs until they neared the tops of the nearest containers. As they drew close to the open sky, Alexander began to hear the muted clamor of many voices.

  The light was blinding as they reached the heights and stood breathing heavily. As he eyes acclimated, Alexander gaped at the sight. As far as he could see in all directions, humans walked, stood in animated groups, and sat in dilapidated old lawn chairs. They were all turned away from the newcomers facing the brightening sky. The inky blackness that had wrapped the world in cool slumber was giving way to oranges and reds or burning flame.

  As they watched, on the far distant horizon, a great golden orb winked into existence and ponderously rose. Alexander and many of the standing humans fell to their knees in awe as the pulsating ball of flame ate away at the pitch of night until all was brilliant streaks of multi-colored light. Unable to take it all in, Alexander turned to the humans nearby, “What is happening?”

  With a glorious smile, one of the men said gently, but with underlying fire, “The world is changing my young friend. Yes, the world it is changing.”