Death Is Optional
In my dreams that night I looked for Haruko and Ammon, but I could not find them. Are they still alive? Could it be possible the Hunters went into the wrong room? Over the next few days I still found no answers to the endless questions that were always eating at my soul.
Syrell and I moved quickly through the forest by day while Daleth caught up by night. Since he was truly a vampire, traveling by day was not the healthiest choice for him, but there was always hope of him turning into dust at dawn. Why was it Ammon and Haruko that was taken from me? Why was I left an overgrown mosquito as a guardian? If I had a silver steak I would make the exchange from Daleth to Syrell, I am better off with a climatic anyway, at least he has the decency to do as he’s told.
To day like any other was filled with fear and wonder about what is to become of me, and most of all, my guardians.
“You’re awful quiet today.” Syrell commented. “Worried again?” I didn’t answer. Even though Syrell seemed nice enough, I didn’t want to give him any information that could hurt Zhubin or his planes. Syrell continued to talk. “It’s okay, I am sure their fine. I mean, you haven’t dreamed about them yet, right?” I shook my head in response. “Well then you have nothing to worry about, every one has to go through your dreams, otherwise they’re not dead.” but then where could they be? If they’re not dead surely they would have caught up to us by now, wouldn’t they?
“Don’t worry about them, they have survived for centuries without you. They can last a few weeks without you now.”
“I know, but without them the whole team falls apart.” saying these words aloud ignited the longing of my familiar life, not one filled with the desolation of seeing people die every day. But the the life where I knew nothing of Hunters, Guardians, and especially vampires, where lives were mundane and predictable, I would clean the house feed the cows, chickens and horses, then I would pick fruit from the trees on our island.
Back when I knew who I was, and adventure was only something boys got to have. Where my father would come home once in a great while and check up on my reading and writing and other education. Unlike all of the other girls of my time I was well educated, which meant I was worth more than just a pretty penny. Had my father decided to marry me off, the bride price would have been well over three-hundred-thousand gold pieces just for a down payment. It would have made my father wealthy beyond all means, and would have left me with a husband and children.
But no, I felt the world calling me, and I followed that calling to find what was beyond that horizon. I felt a wave of regret wash over me like a typhoon washes over a small island in the Atlantic ocean. How could I have left my father that way? With no one to care for what was left of the estate.
To this day I still don’t know how that fire started, but something deep inside me says that Zhubin was responsible for it, but proof of that has eluded me for many a century. I can still remember the flames licking up the side of the mansion, and the trees that once hung their branches lovingly over the house turned into nothing more than smoke and bursts of flame, as I come to my self I am staring into the fire that Syrell had so graciously started for our evening meal. Even though these thoughts were completely mine, I somehow felt brutally attacked by the thoughts that reminded me of that painful day, which seemed to take delight in haunting me. It is as if I was some how to blame for the loss of my home, or even possibly for the end of my father’s life. Up until now I thought these regrets were behind me, but I suppose that even I must pay for what I have done. I betrayed my family, and for that I guess I dont deserve happiness.
“. . . Asha? . . .” Syrell said as if he were waiting for me to answer a question.
“Hmm . . . ?” I snapped out of my previous thoughts and tried to pay attention to the here and now. “I’m sorry . . . What?”
“I said, ‘what’s wrong?’ !”
“Nothing.” I said trying to cover my emotions quickly before he found my soft spot.
“Nothing huh? You seem to talk to your self a lot for nothing being wrong.” Horror flashed through my mind, what did he hear? How much does he know? For a split second I tried to compose myself before I asked.
“Oh, what did I say?” my voice sounded rough and shaky, not at all like the strong calm tone that I had originally hoped for.
“I couldn’t make out most of it, but from the tone of your mutterings I’d say that you are feeling guilty.”
“Why on earth would I feel guilty?” I shot back, I couldn’t let him see that he struck a nerve.
“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you are the very essence of death. You cause millions of lives to be lost every year. It’s alright if you do feel guilty, you have a right to.” Syrell said and then pulled the rabbit out of a bag that was made shortly after the rabbits were skinned, and handed me the meat.
He was right I did feel guilty, guilty that my home burned to the ground, guilty for my parents deaths, guilty for Ammon and Haruko’s disappearance, and guilty for every person I have killed in the past five-hundred years starting with my mother. Their blood has stained my soul.
I took the meat from Syrell and tore a piece off of the chunk and put the rest back in the rabbit skin bag. Tonight Syrell successfully lit the fire by himself, and seemed to be very proud of his new found skill. The rustling in the woods once again signaled the coming of Daleth. I didn’t even bother to stand or try to act the part of a leader of this odd band of hit-men. But much to my dismay Syrell didn’t share my casualness at Daleth’s coming. In a matter of moments Daleth bounded through the large full oakes and ran right into camp. Syrell jumped at the suddenness of Daleth’s arrival.
“Would you stop that!” Syrell snarled. Daleth’s face was filled with joy as he came to a stop right by the campfire.
“You should have seen your face. You was as frightened as a jack rabbit.” Daleth laughed. Though I didn’t fully trust Syrell yet, at least we shared one common bond: a hatred for Daleth. I went to sleep that night with a fuzzy warm feeling pricking at my heart. I thought of all the ways I envied Syrell, even though he is as cursed as I am, he seemed to bare it more graciously than I ever could. He seemed at peace with himself, or even liked himself. How could he like what he has become, he wasn’t exactly evil but the things that he was forced to cause was so horrible, that is was all but impossible to accept (or even like) the outcome.
* * * * *
Over the next few days Syrell and I became very close, I almost even confided my past to him, a subject that was not even discussed between me and Ammon, of whom I have associated for many a century. It seemed that the closer Syrell and I got it, the more uneasy he became. Was it because the Hunters were hot on our trail? Or something worse that he was hiding from me? From these I couldn’t tell, it didn’t seem likely that he would keep something of great importance away from my knowledge. After all we told each other almost everything! . . . or so I thought.
We had settled down for yet another night under the bright green foliage. The red and yellow flames licked up the leaves, pine-cones, and sticks that I had gathered for the night. Syrell had killed yet another animal of the forest; this time it was a small fawn, he had gutted it and had cleaned and tanned the pelt, and then gave it to me to keep warm during the cooling nights. I was curled up under the deer skin blanket, and I huddled as close to the fire as I could possibly get without singeing my skin. Once again there was a rustling in the woods, it was no doubt Daleth waiting to frighten Syrell one more time. Syrell stood with uneasiness,
“Who goes there?” he shouted as he removed one of his gloves from his hand and stepped cautiously forward.
“Does the words ‘old boss’ mean anything to you?” a voice came from one of the shadows that covered most (if not all) the details that could have confirmed who the stranger was.
“Daunje!” Syrell gasped. “how did you find me?” is voice shook with horror. He flashed me a look that said ‘get ready to run’. The figure stepped forward, and revealed his identity as the light from the fire was cast on to the face of the stranger. But yet something seemed familiar about the figure even in the dark. Could it be? No, that can’t be right. Syrell said his name was Daunje, not . . . Zhubin! It was true, Daunje (or rather, Zhubin) had come to find me. To give me the next location to where I was to appear next. Even though I saw Zhubin’s appearance my eyes were still trained on the campfire, Zhubin tossed a small sack at me, and without looking I caught it promptly.
“How much?” I asked as if it was as normal as ever to have someone throw a bag of money at the side of my head.
“Forty gold pieces!” Zhubin sounded as if he were proud of this amount for my work. But anger welled up inside me as I started to look into Zhubins bloodshot eyes.
“That’s it?” I shouted at Zhubin “. . . after my perfect performance, that is all I have to show for it?” After all my hard work, the only amount I get is a measly eight thousand dollars? Ammon and Haruko gave up their lives for eight thousand dollars?
“That’s not a bad price for one person!” Zhubin defended.
“But hardly enough for three.” I shot back. Zhubin looked astonished.
“Alex Haavade, Ammon, Haruko.” I counted them off one by one, slowly so that Zhubin could see the whole picture.
“They were not your doing Asha, so you receive no payment for them.” he spoke calmly even though I knew the news of Ammon and Haruko came as a shock to him as well.
“Wait! . . . you know him?” Syrell asked.
“Not only does she know me, she is my right hand!” I smiled at Zhubins compliment, and then looked carefully at Syrells face, hoping that what I saw there was forgiveness and understanding, for working for Zhubin. But instead all I saw was disappointment and distrust. I knew then our short lived friendship was soon to come to an end. The hatred in his eyes was very clear, although I wasn’t sure whether he was angry at me or Zhubin. Syrells gaze fell on me.
“How could you work for him?” he asked, his voice was filled with that same disappointment that was in his eyes earlier.
“I was fourteen! I had nowhere else to go.” I defended. Surely he couldn’t blame me for making a mistake, could he? Am I really at fault for all of the things that have happened?
“And he has no right to blame you for that.” Zhubin said quickly.
“SHE is not the one I am blaming.” Syrell retorted and then looked pointedly at Zhubin.
“Are you suggesting that I should leave a little girl lost and alone in the world until her eventual death?”
“Yeah, it would be nice. Just for once, if you would leave us humans alone and not tamper with our lives.” Syrell added. Come to think of it, I would be better off if Zhubin had never found me that night in the woods, that night after my house burned down.
“She chose her fate, and so did you. Only you chose to be a rogue with no purpose in life at all, and she chose a life filled with adventure and financial benefits. She could actually be my heir when my time comes.” Zhubin bragged.
“And what would she in inherit? Alcohol? Drugs? . . . or maybe if shes lucky she will get command over the vampire gang that are so willing to do your bidding.” Syrell retorted.
“Actually . . . I don’t think I will need your services in the near future.” Zhubin stepped forward with his hand outstretched towards Syrell. I let out a small gasp as I saw what was about to happen, Zhubin was going to kill Syrell, as he did away with any that defied him.
“You wouldn’t dare!” Syrell said clenching his fists at his sides. “Haven’t you been paying attention? You can’t kill me! Not unless you bring bad luck on your pet over there.” he said as he jerked his chin at me. “One touch and she’s done for.”
“Do you honestly think you got those powers because of your own ability?” Zhubin smirked and stepped forward one more step towards Syrell, but that was enough, Zhubin grabbed Syrell by the neck roughly and leaned in by Syrells ear. The look on Syrells face was one of being drained of all one’s power and immortality. That look of complete agony of having one’s energy being forced out of your body, to leave not but an empty shell. Then just as I thought Zhubin was going to suffocate him I heard him whisper.
“Do you want to know a secret? . . . I gave you that power, and I killed your parents. They were causing too much trouble! I’m the reason you exist boy. And now I am the reason that you’re going to die. Just. Like. Them.”